October 13, 2009
Robert Altman: The Oral Biography By Mitchell Zuckoff (Knopf, 592 pp., $35) Here is your exam question: who is the last American movie director who made thirty-nine films but never won the Oscar for best director? Name the film by that director that cost the most money, and name the film of his that earned the most. Clue: The Departed, which must have been around Martin Scorsese’s thirtieth picture, and did win the directing Oscar, cost $90 million (four times as much as any of this man’s films cost)--so don’t go that way.
The Movie Review: 'Fame'
September 25, 2009
Way back in 1980, when the Oscar-winning theme song of the movie Fame declared "I'm gonna live forever," it was easy to believe the lyric was an example of artistic license. Now, it's not so clear. With almost Biblical tenacity, the film begat a television series which begat a stage musical which begat a reality show. When that last iteration was cancelled after a single season in 2003, it was possible to imagine that the longest 15 minutes in show business history had finally ticked to a close.
Mel Gibson's New Project
August 12, 2009
Yes, his dalliance with (and impregnation of) girlfriend Oksana Grigorieva may have wrecked his marriage and sucked the wind out of his Christian traditionalist self-presentation. But at least it hasn't gotten in the way of the Oscar-winning, billion-grossing director's career. I understand he's even directing music videos for some hot, new... oh, never mind. --Christopher Orr
July 23, 2009
Over the past few days, there’s been much speculation over whether Attorney General Eric Holder will launch an investigation into the CIA’s use of torture after 9/11. One of the top contenders in leading an investigation seems to be John Durham, a name you probably don’t recognize--or may have forgotten. So who is this low-key prosecutor that may take on the most high-profile national case since Watergate? Durham began his career at the Connecticut state attorney’s office shortly after graduating from University of Connecticut Law School in 1975.
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.
Stanley Kauffmann on Films: Slums, Snobs
March 20, 2006
TSOTSI (Miramax) THE FILM SNOB’S DICTIONARY (Broadway Books) AN OLD MYTH TELLS OF A bird that had to press its breast against a thorn in order to sing, which it then did beautifully. Political troubles have served as that thorn for some writers, and the end of those troubles has, along with its benefits, deprived them of their singing. George Konrád, the Hungarian author of major novels about the travails of life under totalitarianism, has dwindled as a novelist since democracy reached Hungary.
Stanley Kauffmann On Films: Different Weights
March 21, 2005
SOME YEARS AGO I SPENT A weekend in Las Vegas and enjoyed it. The bounteous vulgarity in every possible way, from displays to entertainments to phalanxes of slot machines, seemed to me exactly what it ought to be. Anything more chaste and sensible would have been out of order, a disappointment. I watch the Oscars every year, and I have more or less the same reaction: that everything is in character.
Love and War
April 20, 2004
It's an odd claim to make for a film that won the Oscar for cinematography, but at its best Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (released on video this week) is less a visual experience than an aural one. Director Peter Weir opens with aerial shots of a tall ship accompanied by on-screen text--"H.M.S. Surprise ... N. coast Brazil. Admiralty orders: ... 'Intercept French privateer Acheron en route to Pacific.'"--before swiftly shifting to a nighttime change of watch aboard the vessel.