David Thomson on Films: How Johnny Depp and Tim Burton Became Shadows of Their Former Selves
May 15, 2012
The only reason to see Dark Shadows is to discover how dire and pointless—how flat-out dreadful—a movie can be even when it has Tim Burton, Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Helena Bonham Carter attached to its flimsy pretext. This is one more vampiric concoction, the total budget for which (apparently $105 million) might have sustained 100 worthwhile, independent projects by new directors.
And The Award Goes To...
February 25, 2012
2011 wasn't the most interesting year for film, but it did have its moments: The silent film reasserted itself while Scorsese went 3D, Terrence Malick recreated the genesis of the universe and Maya Rudolph got diarrhea in a wedding dress. But how will these ambitious projects fare at the 84th Academy Awards show this Sunday night?
The Problem with Oscar Voters: They All Look The Same
February 23, 2012
You may recollect that at the Academy Awards show last year, the hosting job went to Anne Hathaway and James Franco. She was 29 and he was 33, and there was a vague hope that they were young and hot enough to pull in the junior crowd for the television marathon. It didn’t work: Franco seemed bored, while Hathaway was trying too hard. There was no chemistry between them, and very little fun. So this year the host was going to be Eddie Murphy, but he backed off when the producer’s job was withdrawn from Eddie’s chum, Brett Ratner, on account of anti-gay remarks.
That is So! That is So!
February 22, 2012
The Sense of an Ending By Julian Barnes (Knopf, 163 pp., $23.95) Is it worth it? Life, I mean—is it worth it? Julian Barnes isn’t sure. “I am certainly melancholic myself,” he says in Nothing to Be Frightened Of, a memoir-cum-meditation-on-death, “and sometimes find life an overrated way of passing the time.” Martha Cochrane, in England, England, thinks about “the thinness of life, or at least life as she had known it, or chosen it.” “She had done little in her time,” Jean Serjeant thinks in Staring at the Sun, and Gregory, her son, had done less.
David Thomson on Films: ‘The Artist’ Was Awful—and Other Reasons I’m Not Watching the Oscars
February 21, 2012
Since first seeing The Artist, I believed it was going to win Best Picture. It’s “different” without being challenging or difficult or worrying. The Artist could have been designed by a computer to appeal to anyone who has a sense of nostalgia for movie history. (And 54 percent of Academy voters are over sixty). It is also a light, entertaining picture in which froth passes for energy, and pat ironies are made to seem intelligent. I enjoyed it, until the moment I guessed how close it was to getting Best Picture.
The Oscars’ Disgraceful Nominees for Best Song
January 27, 2012
An academy more ephemeral than Kaplan University, the body of movie-industry workers who vote for the Oscars acted with rare judiciousness this week and made only two nominations—the lowest number in Academy Award history—for Best Original Song. To qualify, a tune must have been composed especially for the film in which it appears, and it must play within the body of the movie or immediately at the end.
Why Oscars Are Left Wing
January 23, 2012
You hear a lot of rubbish from conservatives about how left-wing Hollywood is, but in one overlooked respect it really is left-wing. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences uses, in its nomination process, a complicated form of voting that's somewhat similar to the proportional-voting scheme that sank Lani Guinier's chances of getting confirmed assistant attorney general for civil rights during the Clinton administration. If the big Hollywood studios paid any attention to the way Oscar nominations get tallied they would probably have a cow.
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.
How to Organize the Left
October 05, 2011
Is Occupy Wall Street the beginning of a broader movement on behalf of economic opportunity and security for all Americans? Perhaps. But it will take a lot of work. Nobody knows that better than Rich Yeselson, a strategic researcher at Change to Win who knows a thing or two about organizing -- and history. Guest posting over at Wonkblog, Yeselson explained what needs to happen next: anger alone can’t sustain action. And action alone can’t sustain political militancy.
Thomson on Films: Cliff Robertson and the Sordid Ways of Old Hollywood
September 15, 2011
Cliff Robertson died the other day. He was 88, and I suppose he was what is called an establishment figure. Long ago he had won an Oscar for his performance in Charly (1968) about a retarded man who is given an experimental drug that lets him find genius (and his doctor, Claire Bloom) but then slips back to being a fool, and he was perfectly OK in the film if you can manage to sit through it now, in which case you may surmise that nearly any actor in that begging role might have won the Oscar.