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Thompson on Hollywood

Now and Then: The Long, Slow Death of the Movie Musical

It's been 60 years since the musical's prime — when Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen, those sorcerers of sound, joined forces on "Singin' in the Rain" — so you'll forgive me if this week's theatrical screenings in honor of the anniversary feel less like a celebration than an obituary. The musical is dead at 83, from complications of creative neglect.
  • By Matt Brennan
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  • July 16, 2012 4:30 PM
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  • 7 Comments

Now and Then: '360,' Another of Fernando Meirelles' Beautiful Disappointments

Of all the sloppy descriptions in film criticism, "visceral" may be the most misleading. It's a frequent synonym for "loud," not to mention "flashy," "punishing," or "gory." What it almost never means is instinctive, earthy, and intestinal, so forthright it grabs you. Except, that is, when we're talking about Fernando Meirelles.
  • By Matt Brennan
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  • July 2, 2012 11:38 AM
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  • 2 Comments

Now and Then: Hitchcock's First Classic, and an Underrated Modern Descendant

Alfred Hitchcock had been working as a director for more than a decade when he made "The 39 Steps" (1935), a film that's half trench coats, street lamps, and foreign agents. The other half is English wit, a marriage plot, and a MacGuffin: the first proof, long before his later masterworks, that he was a maestro of the unbalancing act.
  • By Matt Brennan
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  • June 26, 2012 2:53 AM
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  • 0 Comments

Now and Then: 'Girls' Was the Season's Best New Series. When Did That Happen?

The pilot of "Girls" was an ugly, awkward little thing, delivering its one-liners with a nervous titter. Despite its refreshingly frank appraisal of modern sexual mores, its quartet of young women came off largely as archetypes, not characters. But I stuck with the series, and it paid off.
  • By Matt Brennan
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  • June 18, 2012 4:21 PM
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  • 0 Comments

Now and Then: Do Silent Movies Still Matter?

In some quarters I'll be considered a heretic for even asking the question. But think about how many people you know — discounting film school types and critics, people pretty much required to do so — who have ever seen a silent, let alone watch them regularly. I'll bet the number is small. Should we care?
  • By Matt Brennan
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  • June 11, 2012 7:08 PM
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  • 0 Comments

Now and Then: Wes Anderson and Ridley Scott, Two Master Stylists Whose Best Work Is Past

Let me begin by clarifying my headline. I am not saying that Wes Anderson and Ridley Scott, two master stylists with new movies in theaters, will not someday surpass their best films; that kind of prediction is impossible and counterproductive. But it must be admitted that they set the bar high, and neither has yet leaped over it.
  • By Matt Brennan
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  • June 5, 2012 6:01 AM
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  • 4 Comments

Now and Then: Tilda Swinton's Big Crack-Up

Tilda Swinton is a woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown. She's been sent reeling by the loneliness of a Russian winter, the carnal passions of an Italian chef, a kidnapping conspiracy, two murderous sons, and a class-action lawsuit. In fact, it's her affinity for such crack-ups that have made her a critical darling and art house star.
  • By Matt Brennan
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  • May 29, 2012 2:54 PM
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  • 0 Comments

Now and Then: The False Promise of Kiarostami's 'Certified Copy'

Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami's 2010 Cannes entry "Certified Copy," which won Juliette Binoche the festival's Best Actress prize, is out today on Blu-ray and DVD from the Criterion Collection. Given that he debuted his latest effort on the Croisette this week, the timing is felicitous. I wish I could say the same about the movie.
  • By Matt Brennan
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  • May 22, 2012 7:17 AM
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  • 1 Comment

Now and Then: The Top Ten Films of All Time

Every ten years, "Sight and Sound" magazine conducts a poll asking critics and directors to rank the best films of all time. It's more Rorschach test than lab experiment, an impossible task that invariably goads people into calling you an idiot. But I'm a glutton for punishment, so in honor of this year's voting, I offer my (unsolicited) ballot:
  • By Matt Brennan
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  • May 15, 2012 6:57 AM
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  • 6 Comments

Now and Then: 'Haywire,' 'Bourne' Trilogy Prove That Style Is Substance

Steven Soderbergh is a tough guy to peg. He made his name with a densely talkative indie about orgasms ("sex, lies, and videotape"), and in 22 films since has tackled everything from classy capers ("Out of Sight, the "Ocean's" trilogy) to the biopic of an iconic revolutionary ("Che"). But one thing is clear: the man's got style.
  • By Matt Brennan
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  • May 7, 2012 6:06 AM
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  • 0 Comments

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