I. I just got back from Hollywood, where I had breakfast with Ricardo Mestres at the Bel Air Hotel. Mestres shot from Harvard to the head of Disney’s Hollywood pictures, only to release a string of flops so unremittingly horrible that finally, after a deathwatch that seemed to go on for years, he lost his job. But there he was, with a spanking new title, dressed with casual confidence in khakis and a plaid shirt, working on his second breakfast of the day. The head of Warner Brothers’ film division sat across from us, the new chairman of Disney in the corner.
November 14, 1994
By now everybody knows that Quentin Tarantino is the happiest man in the world. Not so many years ago he was a clerk in a California video store, devouring film film film. Then he tried to break into filmmaking himself, first by writing scripts.
October 24, 1994
What America does not need is another instance of the way that our film world chews up talent, especially acting talent. But the troublesome news is that Meryl Streep is giving us another such instance.About her talent there has been so little doubt that, almost from the moment she became visible, a chief concern was whether our theater-film world would allow her to fulfill herself.
May 10, 1993
Silence. Black screen. Three words appear--"Sigh no more," the opening of the lovely song in the play. The rest of the words then follow, and Emma Thompson's voice begins to speak them. The film cuts to a glorious Tuscan hillside, with a picnic of ladies and a few old men spread upon it and with Thompson, nestled in a tree, reading the song from a book.As she finishes, a messenger arrives to report that Don Pedro and friends are returning from the wars. Then far below we see a group of galloping riders. Patrick Doyle's score surges in. The ladies rush to bathe and prepare.
Making the Best of It
December 07, 1992
Federico Fellini can be called the most naked genius in the history of film. In 1963 he made 8 1/2, a quasi-confessional comedy-drama about the modern artist's torment: he or she is bursting with talent and can find nothing to expend it on. Out of this crisis Fellini made a masterpiece; since then, that same crisis has been often more evident than acknowledged in his work. Then in 1987 he faced it again, without pretense, and made a film although he had no film to make.
TNR Film Classic: 'Q & A' (1990)
May 21, 1990
Q&A Tri-Star There are fashions in slurs. When I was a schoolboy in New York in the 1920s, just at the end of the great wave of immigration to America, most of the slurs were national. Derogatory terms for Swedes, Irishmen, Hungarians, Poles, Germans, and Greeks, among others, were common; and of course each derogated group used slurs about the others. As time moved, as second and third generations were born, national slurring diminished. Three other derogations that were current then—national, supranational, and racial—still flourish: Italian, Jewish, and black.
TNR Film Classic: 'Glory' (1990)
January 15, 1990
“Can Movies Teach History?” asks the title of a recent New York Times feature article. The answer for Glory is yes. It is not only the first feature film to treat the role of black soldiers in the American Civil War; it is also the most powerful and historically accurate movie about that war ever made. If it wins a deserved popularity, it will go far to correct the distortions and romanticizations of such earlier blockbuster films as Birth of a Nation (1915) and Gone with the Wind.
The African Queen
January 20, 1986
Meryl Streep is back in top form. This means that her performance in Out of Africa is at the highest level of acting in film today. Also, since she is Streep, it means that a return to form is not a return: she has realized a character utterly different from any she has done before. As was true of Brando, Streep uses her star status to risk versatility, not to sell a standard product. In her last film, Plenty, she faltered: as the postwar Englishwoman, she lacked confidence, the crisp English enjoyment of comic bitterness. As Karen Blixen, Streep is superb.
Stanley Kauffmann On Films: Who Was Wagner?
July 01, 1985
When I took a college course in Wagner, our professor told us on the first day that the final exam would consist of one question: Who was Wagner? On exam day he wrote that question on the blackboard, then left the room. At the end of the three-hour exam period, some of us were still writing. So when I heard recently of a nine-hour film that attempted to answer our exam question, it didn't strike me as grotesque. I looked forward to it as eagerly as one can possibly anticipate spending nine hours in one seat from noon to something past 11 p.m.
Stanley Kauffman on Films: Now, About Rambo....
July 01, 1985
“Symbol of the American Spirit." That's the headline in the ads for Rambo, which is about its hero's foray into Vietnam today to rescue American POWs. The subject has been used before, in Uncommon Valor with Gene Hackman, in Missing in Action and Missing in Action II, with Chuck Norris: but Rambo outdistances them. Three facts: Rambo is the current box-office champion in the country. ("Rambo Ahead by a Mile," Variety, June 5.) Like the second Norris film, Rambo is a sequel.