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Review: Ty Burr's 'Gods Like Us: On Movie Stardom and Modern Fame'

Thompson on Hollywood By Maggie Lange | Thompson on Hollywood October 2, 2012 at 3:21PM

David Thomson, watch out! In the pithy new book "Gods Like Us: On Movie Stardom and Modern Fame," Boston Globe film critic Ty Burr delivers thoughtfully epigrammatic descriptions of movie stars, actors, and celebrities.
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Tom Cruise

Towards the middle of the book, after the 1970s, the organization falls a bit off the map, making the themes difficult to follow.  Nonetheless, "Gods Like Us" soars when it meditates on individual stars and their personae (John Hughes, Tom Cruise, Meg Ryan).

Tom Cruise, particularly, inspires brilliant analysis.  "He's the star who exists most completely in the nanosecond of filmed presence," writes Burr.  That is why while his performance in "Top Gun" is "as thin as the movie's poster, it is exactly what is called for, since weighty dramatics would have dragged the thing down."

When it comes to fame in relation to the Internet or reality TV, Burr like the rest of us seems lost and overwhelmed. Snooki's lack of authenticity and lack of self-introspection, he suggests, make her the perfect reality star.  As for the Internet: "This is where the flow of fame's history in the last century has been leading, where the waters fan out into a delta of infinite tributaries leading to a vast, undifferentiated sea of celebrity."

In "Gods Like Us," old Hollywood glows.  Burr gives more energy and exuberance to the silents and the Golden Era.  Thus the first half of the book shines and the second half drags. But the whole book is worth guzzling for the golden nuggets on movie stars and celebrity sprinkled throughout.

This article is related to: Books, Reviews, Critics, Reviews


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Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.