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Thompson on Hollywood

Now and Then: On Film, America's Culture of Violence

The most terrifying 80 minutes I've spent in my career as a film critic were those spent watching "Elephant," in which even the rhythmic click-click-click of photographic negatives being shaken in chemicals brought me the edge of what I can bear.
  • By Matt Brennan
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  • May 1, 2012 6:14 AM
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Now and Then: Old-School Horror Is All in Your Head

The most innovative thing about writer-director Ti West's "The Innkeepers" (on DVD today) is how low-fi it plays. The gore is minimal, the music restrained, the body count limited. Call it the rebirth of the classic American horror picture.
  • By Matt Brennan
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  • April 24, 2012 7:20 AM
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Now and Then: Werner Herzog's Matters of Life and Death

Paranoia has long been Werner Herzog's preferred tropic, morbidity his comfort zone. His films brim with self-inflicted wounds, crazed schemers, and ruinous hubris. "Into the Abyss" is different; it shifts the frame. We have seen the enemy, and he is us.
  • By Matt Brennan
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  • April 16, 2012 1:40 PM
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Now and Then: The Mad-As-Hell Women of Mad Men

History is not the most useful dramatic backdrop for a television show. It is, really, just one big spoiler alert: we already know what happens. But "Mad Men" is canny enough to twist this problem to its advantage, letting the past knock on the door in the middle of the night.
  • By Matt Brennan
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  • April 9, 2012 4:29 PM
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Now and Then: In Two Foer Adaptations, Surprises and Disappointments Abound

I'll admit it came as a shock, near the end of "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close," to find myself crying. As it turns out, movies can still surprise us, and I don't just mean that they defy the expectations set by Rotten Tomatoes. I mean they can, in the midst of things, find what they've been missing.
  • By Matt Brennan
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  • April 2, 2012 12:29 PM
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Now and Then: How to Ruin a Marriage Without Really Trying, from 'Carnage' to 'Virginia Woolf'

A quick tip for anyone interested in making a film about class resentment in a recession: as the Soviet filmmakers proved, it usually helps if you're juxtaposing two distinct points of view. Roman Polanski's film "Carnage," about a quartet of outraged — and outrageous — New Yorkers, doesn't quite follow this advice. It's made for the one percent.
  • By Matt Brennan
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  • March 26, 2012 1:05 PM
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Now and Then: Katharine Hepburn, Consummate Comedienne

Early in "The Philadelphia Story," Cary Grant's society playboy arrives for his ex-wife's wedding. When he comes across her in the drawing room, they take up a little two-step. He advances, she retreats; he thrusts, she parries. If you want to understand the genius of Katharine Hepburn, this is the place to start.
  • By Matt Brennan
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  • March 19, 2012 1:01 PM
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Now and Then: All About Almodóvar

The problem with Pedro Almodóvar's "The Skin I Live In" is one of expectation. What we have come to want from him are hues of tomato, fire engine, blood. What he gives us are shades of cream, eggshell, off-white.
  • By Matt Brennan
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  • March 12, 2012 11:30 AM
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Now and Then: From 'Ferris' to 'Sleepover,' Teens, and Times, Have Changed

"The Myth of the American Sleepover," David Robert Mitchell's independent film about a group of suburban Detroit teens messing around, and messing up, on a single night near the end of summer, is a quiet reminder of the power, and price, of looking.
  • By Matt Brennan
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  • March 5, 2012 7:28 AM
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Now and Then: Gay Biopics 'J. Edgar' and 'Milk' Reveal How History Is Made

"We must never forget our history," growls aging anti-Communist lion J. Edgar Hoover (Leonardo DiCaprio) near the end of "J. Edgar." "We must never lower our guard." Here, Janus-like in their fusion and opposition, lay the film's two faces: To narrate the past and hopefully to redeem it.
  • By Matt Brennan
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  • February 27, 2012 7:30 AM
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