The Gurney Shot: A Film Critic Goes Behind the Camera—In a Hospital
July 29, 2011

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.

David Thomson on Films: 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2'
July 18, 2011

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.

Riveting and Pointless: A Film Critic Reviews the Casey Anthony Spectacle
July 11, 2011

As the prison term of Casey Anthony drags on, now until July 17, is there time to reflect? On the day of her verdict, last Tuesday, she looked as nervous as any of us might have felt. She was in trial mode, in a drained pink shirt, her brown hair drawn tightly back and restrained in a pony-tail. Her dark eyes stood out, but she held herself together. No one doubts her nerve. Then, by Thursday (sentencing day), the hair was down on her shoulders. It stirred. She was prettier, and more confident—wasn’t she? Her sweater was sky blue. Was her lipstick stronger? Who can be sure?

David Thomson on Films: ‘Larry Crowne’ Could Have Tackled the Challenges America Faces Today. Instead, Its Story Is Stale and Cheap.
July 06, 2011

Why is this picture called Larry Crowne? Is it because the filmmaker and star, Tom Hanks, buys into the limp orthodoxy that he is an American everyman figure? Is it because he has vague hopes that this is a story about everyday, good-natured American stick-at-it-ness, in the league of Jerry Maguire or Erin Brockovich? Or is it because no one involved in the making of it really knows what the film is about? Just think for a moment how the film’s attitude toward us, and its sense of purpose, might shift if the title was, For Example, Larry Crowne? And why not?

David Thomson on Films: Why I Loved Peter Falk as Columbo
June 28, 2011

Peter Falk’s Columbo had a heavy patina of grubby naturalism. His raincoat had never seen a dry-cleaner; he was often unshaven and his hair was wild. One of his eyes could look the wrong way—but which eye? His halting speech affected shyness, befuddlement, or hours spent watching John Cassavetes films. He was as unkempt as Hercule Poirot is spick-and-span. But the two characters were equally artificial. I’m not complaining. If I’d done a murder, I’d rather be drawn into serpentine discussions with Falk, and even be arrested by him. He had respect for a wily games player.

TNR Film Classic: 'A Farewell to Arms' (February 17, 1958)
June 24, 2011

The trouble with the new Selznick version of A Farewell to Arms which stars Rock Hudson as the ambulance driver, Frederick Henry, and Jennifer Jones as the nurse, Catherine Barkley, is that to be the least bit convincing or moving it demands that the viewer help along considerably by recollecting the novel—that he fill out the action, give emotional significance to the landscapes, add dimension to the characters. Otherwise it is a spiritless, silly, and, I fear, embarrassing movie.

The Big Small Screen
June 23, 2011

Too Big to FailHBO Bobby Fischer Against the World HBO  In the last few weeks, America has had the chance to see two disturbing movies about our warping emphasis on heroes. Both of them played on cable, on HBO in fact, and some may think that therefore they fall under the rubric of “television.” But this misunderstanding has not prevented many of the best film directors in America from being driven to cable recently for worthwhile work.