September 28, 2004
It's often said that smell is the sense most closely tied to memory. This is nonsense. Yes, a scent may on occasion provoke an emphatic, unmediated recollection, but it is typically an imprecise one--a general period in one's life rather than a particular moment. Our specific memories, by contrast, are primarily visual and auditory, not unlike a movie playing in the mind's eye. It's hardly surprising, then, that cinema has often been described as a kind of synthetic memory. As John Malkovich, playing director F.W.
September 27, 2004
Jerusalem, Israel--The Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, had planned on offering the usual complaints when he visited Prime Minister Ariel Sharon last week. There was the stalled road map, Israel's security fence, and the recently announced expansion of West Bank settlements close to the Green Line. But, before he arrived in Jerusalem, something happened that changed Lavrov's agenda: the massacre of Russian children by Chechen Islamist terrorists.
September 08, 2004
It's almost embarrassing to write about The Passion of the Christ at this point. Nearly as much ink has been spilled lauding or condemning the movie as fake blood was spilled filming it. This is particularly problematic for those, like me, who found the movie cynical and grotesque: It's clear that its extraordinary success was due overwhelmingly to its attendant controversies, controversies it was consciously engineered to stoke. But it's hard to see how much more damage can be done now, 600 million dollars of global box office later.
The Bill Clinton Show
August 09, 2004
My Life By Bill Clinton (Alfred A. Knopf, 957 pp., $35) Click here to purchase the book. Bill Clinton used to tell us that he wanted to feel our pain, even though he often gave us one. In this characteristically garrulous volume of almost one thousand pages, he tells us all about his own pain.
August 03, 2004
I don't like to think of myself as the kind of person who would open a column with a reference to a Billy Joel song. But this week, while ruminating on the often-inverse relationship between quality and longevity, I fleetingly considered it. I don't mind saying it scared me a little. The subject that brought me to the edge of this precipice was the late, insufficiently lamented NBC series "Boomtown," the first season of which was recently released on video and DVD. If the Paul Thomas Anderson of Magnolia, the David O.
August 02, 2004
West Virginians sour on the Iraq war.
A Big Thud
July 20, 2004
Elmore Leonard is perhaps the most cinematic novelist writing in the English language.
Age of Innocence
June 02, 2004
Editor's Note: This article has been corrected. If the last few years have taught us anything about the Oscars, it's that the Academy loves a glamorous actress in an unglamorous role. There was Hillary Swank's reverse drag act in 1999, Julia Robert's white-trash beauty queen in 2000, Halle Berry's inmate's widow in 2001, and Nicole Kidman's Pinocchio act in 2002.
The Talented Mr. Malkovich
May 18, 2004
In the introduction to Home Movies I noted that, given the ascendance of video rental over theater attendance, movies are generally reviewed months before most people will see them. One exception, of course, is movies that aren't reviewed at all, having never been released theatrically. Ripley's Game, which Fine Line Features has put out on video after declining to distribute it to theaters, has not quite suffered this fate: A minor cause célèbre, it has gotten some attention in the press, and even enjoyed a three-night, sold out run in New York earlier this year.
Land That Time Forgot
May 11, 2004
Every now and then, a film comes along that clearly demonstrates how low our expectations for the medium have fallen: Give us a few laughs or thrills and avoid abject stupidities, and we'll probably be happy. Osama, the first film produced in post-Taliban Afghanistan, is a reminder that motion pictures can do more, that at their best they can transport us, with utter conviction, to a time and place far removed from our own. In this case the "time" in question is only a few years ago, before the toppling of the Taliban, but it might as easily be millennia.