He was born in Norfolk as the Great War began, and he died in Cambridgeshire at 94. He looked like someone content with English country life, a slender, bright-eyed man, handsome when young, and modest, decent, and amiable as he grew older. He had an honest humility not common in the movie business. Even in the technical pursuits or the laboring jobs, movie people like to think they own their worlds. The limo drivers have a catalogue of famous people they have driven, and the scandalous stories they have heard confessed.
TNR Film Classic: ‘The Magnificent Ambersons’ (1942)
August 12, 2011
Orson Welles’s second I-did-it should show once and for all that film making, radio and the stage are three different guys better kept separated. The Magnificent Ambersons is one of those versions of the richest family in town during the good old days. Front and center of the Ambersons is the Oedipean situation between Dolores Costello and son Tim Holt, which, according to the movie, started when Dolores married the wrong man. All her frustrated love went toward smothering her son, and sure enough he grew up to gloriously rotten manhood.
David Thomson on Films: ‘Rise of the Planet of the Apes’ is Slick, Breathless, and Daft
August 10, 2011
Why is this film called Rise of the Planet of the Apes? Because 20th Century Fox, the producers (including co-writer, Rick Jaffa, and Peter Chernin), and director Rupert Wyatt are thinking sequels and franchise rights. They’ll probably get their wish: After all, the Apes model as established by Charlton Heston as the rudely enslaved master race goes back 40 years now, and movie monkey business regards the extraordinary King Kong (1933) as its founding father. But the filmmaking enterprise might attend a little more closely to the eagerness for compromise in its own narrative set-up.
David Thomson on Films: The Lonely Legacy of Nicholas Ray
August 04, 2011
He died well short of his own centenary, and some who knew film director Nicholas Ray (and who tried to save him from his richly endowed self-destructiveness) were amazed he got as far as 67. But, this August 7, he would have been 100. And now, for a moment, the world seems ready to take notice and offer the chronic vagrant a home. Not that “home” has much reliability in his case. What made Nick Ray valuable and important was his living forever by night, on dangerous ground, in a lonely place.
TNR Film Classic: ‘The Bible’ (1966)
July 30, 2011
When the announcement was made that Norman Mailer’s An American Dream was to be made into a movie, my reaction was that John Huston was the only man who could do it. And what a script it could be for him! But Huston was working on The Bible. A quarter of a century had passed since The Maltese Falcon, it was a long time since San Pietro and The Treasure of Sierra Madre and The Red Badge of Courage and The African Queen.
My report of seeing and being seen is a little out of the ordinary this week, and it comes without apologies. Indeed, I am happy to have the report. Explanations to follow. The Gurney Shot is one more addition to the great cavalry charge of tracking shots: on roller-skates, or a bicycle, in a wheelchair, or a studio dolly, in a car, with a Steadicam operated by Dan Gurney (no, probably not, wasn’t he a motor-racing driver?).
Stanley Kauffmann on Films: Horizontally Speaking
July 28, 2011
The Names of Love Music Box Films LATELY I WAS BRIEFLY in a rehab home and had a specific afternoon time slot when I could watch television. I spent some time watching late-afternoon soap operas and found them interesting. Not the stories: I hardly remember any bits of them. What interested me overall was the acting. Of course the acting cannot be completely separated from the scripts: both are business created in board rooms and ad-agency offices.
You hear it said, now that the final Harry Potter movie is out, that we will all miss Harry, Ron, and Hermione, along with Daniel, Rupert, and Emma, and it may be that no trio of young actors has ever had such success in a series of pictures. But, fondness aside, I’m not sure how much more of these actors we’ll be seeing. They are no longer children; as young adults, they may find themselves chained to the Rowling franchise in the public mind, and they may seem old-fashioned.
TNR Film Classic: 'Mildred Pierce' (1945)
July 16, 2011
The story of Warner Brothers’ movie, “Mildred Pierce,” recounts the enormous and unrewarded sacrifices that a mother (Joan Crawford) makes for her spoiled, greedy daughter (Ann Blythe). The mother, whose husband (Bruce Bennett) has left her to live with another woman, starts baking cakes and pies for the neighbors, becomes a waitress in a tearoom, opens a drive-in-restaurant, marries a society gigolo for his name, and finally tries to get her business partner (Jack Carson) convicted for the murder committed by her daughter.
Stanley Kauffmann on Films: Deepenings
July 13, 2011
Rapt Lorber Films El Bulli: Cooking in Progress Alive Mind A Little Help Freestyle The style is what holds us. Rapt is about the kidnapping of a French tycoon in Paris, and no sooner have we felt a tinge of disappointment—what, another ransom film?—than we feel curiosity about what will happen. The people are quickly credible, but it is the electric style that convinces us of the maker’s intelligence. How could this writer-director, Lucas Belvaux, not know that he was entering familiar territory? He must have had a reason. He has.