From Charles Mingus to Grimes: David Hajdu’s Albums of the Year
December 27, 2012

If the very notion of best albums seems dated in 2012, these make a case for the vitality of longform recorded music.

Eric Rohmer and the Roaming Eye
January 11, 2010

As a person, he was the most deferential of the New Wave directors, yet the most persistent. Eric Rohmer. He died yesterday, aged eighty-nine, and he had made 50 films in that time--as regular, as festive, but as resigned as birthdays--and they were all the same film, about men and women looking at each other. It sounds commonplace as a subject, perhaps, calm and contemplative. But consider for a moment. Are you more or less a man or a woman? Are you more or less tied up with someone?

The Art of Work
December 28, 2009

The best movie ever made about dance.

The New York Times On Cary Grant
August 03, 2009

On the front page of the Weekend Arts section on Friday, the Times published an above-the-fold celebration of the work of Cary Grant so backhanded and begrudging as to be genuinely mystifying. The occasion was a retrospective taking place at BAMcinematek, and the author was Mike Hall, who usually writes about television. Hall begins by noting To put on a Cary Grant series ... presents some special challenges.

Execution Without Conviction
July 08, 2009

On a Wednesday night in San Francisco, opening night, in a theater no more than half full, the truth was as inescapable as rain at a picnic. Johnny Depp just wasn’t cutting it. He wasn’t even making the attempt. Once again, Michael Mann had poured his nearly liquid talent over a gangster picture without ever thinking to ask himself why. That oddly vague title Public Enemies--why isn’t it called Johnny D. or just Dillinger?--was turning into a startlingly detached and affectless movie.

Marvelously Selfish
June 17, 2009

Kazan on Directing Edited and with commentary by Robert Cornfield (Knopf, 368 pp., $32.50) If anyone wants to make the case for Elia Kazan as one of the outstanding twentieth-century Americans, there is a famous text to call in support. I refer to A Life, Kazan's autobiography, published in 1988 at 848 pages (it was cut to make it a reasonable length), and one of the most forceful and engrossing books ever written about a life in the arts or show business.

Wishin' and Mopin'
April 01, 2009

Dusty!: Queen of the Postmods By Annie J. Randall (Oxford University Press, 219 pp., $24.95) We do our best to keep up, those of us tottering into the back of The New Republic's book once a fortnight. So I have my work and my life as well as those of my wife and children. I have revenues to raise and taxes to pay. On Super Bowl Sunday, I cared just about enough to watch the game, though I was more certain to watch Chelsea versus Liverpool, live, in the West Coast morning. I hope to read a couple of books a month. I worry, but I like to have time for doing nothing.

March 23, 2009

Like most, I consider the Times' A.O. Scott one of the very best critics writing in the English language, thanks not only to the elegant wit of his prose--his review of Seven Pounds may have been the most entertaining I read last year--but also to the fact that he very rarely lets his exceptional style get in the way of good common sense. When I disagree with him over a film, it is more often than not over the relative weight assigned to a particular aspect: Was Virtue A enough to overcome Flaw X, and so on.

A (belated) Word About "sex"
January 07, 2009

 New York mag's "the Cut" has an item up about how designer Vivienne Westwood--whose wedding dress plays a key role in the first Sex and the City movie--is angling to write the screenplay for the sequel. "the Cut" is all for it, noting that, with actors frequently dabbling in design, turnabout is fair play; and besides, we all know that the main pleasure of the movie is the clothes "and it hardly matters what happens in the plot as long as there are some fun montages involving clothes and shopping and hot shirtless guys." Let me take this a step farther.

Half Tame
November 05, 2008

The time has come to take a fresh look at the achievement of Roger Shattuck, who died in 2005 at the age of eighty-two. From his first book, The Banquet Years, published exactly half a century ago, to his last major work, Forbidden Knowledge, Shattuck was one of America's most adventuresome students of modernity, at once a celebrant of some of the wildest reaches of artistic experiment and a critic of the twentieth century's dream of unlimited, ever- expanding horizons.