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

David Thomson on Films: A Mainstream Movie for People Tired of Noise and Violence
November 24, 2011

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.

Stanley Kauffmann on Films: Rare Spirits
November 23, 2011

Paul Goodman Changed My Life Le Havre Young Goethe In Love A familiar shock arrived with a documentary called Paul Goodman Changed My Life. (He touched my life, but he didn’t really change it.) The shock was in realizing yet again that a figure once important is now virtually forgotten. In the middle of the last century, Goodman was very widely recognized as a kind of polymath critic. His sharp comments on a surprising range of topics, his analytical writings on education, politics, city planning, psychology, meant much to many.

Thomson on Films: Clint Eastwood’s Disappointingly Cautious Depiction of J. Edgar Hoover
November 15, 2011

Whatever respect you feel for Clint Eastwood, Leonardo DiCaprio, or even Warner Brothers (its distributor), I think you know that a $35 million dollar movie about J. Edgar Hoover, running over two hours (it often feels longer), is going to face this issue: Are we going to see Hoover in drag? You can argue that many things about this man are more important, but a movie is a movie. It depends on things it can show us, and this one runs the risk of “explaining” Hoover’s vicious pursuit of power (or his overcoming of insecurity) in terms of sexual repression.

David Thomson on Films: ‘Page Eight,’ a Small Screen Movie That’s Nonetheless About Large Issues
November 10, 2011

Page Eight gives every sign of being a momentous television event. It is a debut outing for “Masterpiece Contemporary” on PBS. Some of the color photography, by Martin Ruhe, is exquisite but sinister—there’s a bruised sky against college masonry in Cambridge that escapes the usual proviso that television cannot be “beautiful” without seeming picturesque. The subject matter turns on such large issues as security, intelligence, Intelligence, honor, and love. The cast is so daunting it makes you keep an open mind about which characters are not to be trusted.

Stanley Kauffmann on Films: Shade and Dazzle
November 09, 2011

You Don’t Like the Truth: 4 Days Inside Guantánamo John Huston: Courage and ArtBy Jeffrey Meyers (Crown Archetype, 475 pp., $30)  Guantánamo has become a dreadful word, signifying a morass of military, legal, political, diplomatic, and humanitarian complications.

November 06, 2011

To read a full life of Steve McQueen is a strain on interest, but two minutes of Bullitt and you recall his coiled, lethal impact. He was beautiful on

Thomson on Films: ‘In Time,’ a Film That Can’t Deliver on Its Own Provocative Ideas
November 01, 2011

In Time is so crammed with provocative ideas it begins to feel over-crowded. At some time in a future that looks like the recent past of Los Angeles, human aging has been stopped at twenty-five. At that point of perfection, everyone has one year left to live, and their remaining span registers as a luminous green set of numbers (their “watch”), printed on the forearm. But this situation has turned time into the new money, and so—in the way of the world—some people are richer than others. People still look like twenty-five when they are eighty.