David Thomson on Films: Tinker, Tailor, Boredom, Why?
December 20, 2011
“Homeland” ended its first series on December 18 in a ninety-minute episode, as if it had so many loose ends to tie up, and so much to deliver before “the event of the TV season” closed. A couple of months ago, I welcomed the suspense, the plotting, and the human interest of “Homeland,” but I wondered even then if the series would go crazy with its own narrative.
TNR Film Classics: 'Miracle on 34th Street' (June 2, 1947)
December 19, 2011
Last week I voiced a hope for morebright nonsense on the screen, and this week Miracle on 34th Street was previewed for early release. It is a charming film, in part about a budding romance between Macy’s and Gimbel’s, but mostly about Santa Claus. The old gentleman (named Kris Kringle) is completely real, though the state of New York tries in a fine, big, foolish trial to prove he doesn’t exist. The point, developed quite deftly, is that if a few maladjusted people were able to prove Kringle daffy enough to be committed, they would have to prove most of the world crazy along with him.
December 19, 2011
Hedy’s Folly avoids the pitfalls of other books about Lamarr, starting with the star’s own memoir, Ecstasy and Me. These volumes ultimately fail to ca
David Thomson on Films: An Unsparing Portrait of American Breakdown
December 13, 2011
There are advertisements and reviews out there that tell you to expect comedy in Young Adult. You deserve a sterner warning. Yes, the picture is written by Diablo Cody* (of Juno and TV's “United States of Tara”) and it is directed by Jason Reitman (of Juno and Up in the Air). But, if you recall, Up in the Air had George Clooney as a cool, amiable flake whose job it is to tell people they are fired, and who is set back (to zero?) when Vera Farmiga’s colder character tells him that their love affair of convenience and intricate travel schedules is going nowhere.
How many major black-and-white movies can you think of that have been made in the last five years? I can think of five: The Wild Child (1970), The Last Picture Show (1971), Paper Moon (1973), Lenny (1974) and Young Frankenstein (1974). In all five, the decision to use monochrome was both calculated and special. There was a time in the not-so-distant when using color was the choice that was calculated and special. What happened and why? For one thing, television.
David Thomson on Films: Why Does This Movie Want Us to Feel So Miserable About Sex?
December 06, 2011
What do you expect from a film called Shame with an NC-17 rating? Right at the start we see Brandon awake in the pale blue sheets of his bed. He gets up, goes to the bathroom, and turns around. He has a penis, and I suppose it is Michael Fassbender’s. So many of the things an actor brings to a picture are his parts, and it is up to us and the whole project to decide whether they also belong to a credible and interesting fictional character. Brandon exists alone in a Manhattan apartment with those bed sheets and his situation.
TNR Film Classic: 'Kramer vs. Kramer' (1979)
December 02, 2011
Last week a note on what a pair of good actors can do for a weak romantic script. This week a look at what a crackerjack cast—first-class all the way—can do for a middling contemporary drama. Kramer vs. Kramer, based on a novel by Avery Corman, was written by Robert Benton who also directed. I don’t know the book: the script tells, in lithe dialogue, the story of a New York couple who split. The struggle is not about the divorce, which as such is never glimpsed, it’s about the custody of their small son.
The Most Tender Tribute Marilyn Monroe Has Ever Received
November 29, 2011
Some time towards the end of this delightful entertainment, the realization dawns of how much courage Michelle Williams needed in accepting the offer to play Marilyn Monroe. Yet an hour earlier, I had been asking, “Oh, why do it? Why take on this child monster yet again, in the year before we will be inundated with memories and garbage at the fiftieth anniversary of her death?” The more familiar the icon or celebrity in a movie biopic, the more hazardous it is to attempt impersonation, a process that can look stilted or unnecessary on screen.
The Good Wife
November 28, 2011
Before there were desperate housewives, real housewives, and Good Housewives, there were witty housewives. Or there was one, anyway: Myrna Loy, whose
At the public screening of The Descendants I saw, there was gentle but earnest applause as the film ended. It’s merited, and I suspect it came from a middle-aged audience that is weary of noise and violence in our films, and respectful of anyone prepared to deal candidly with family material. That doesn’t mean this is softer than PG. It’s an R film, with a lot of rough language, most of it coming from a ten-year-old and a seventeen-year-old.