washingtonpost.com  > Live Discussions > Entertainment > Movies > Behind the Screen

Behind the Screen

Desson Thomson
Washington Post Film Critic
Monday, June 7, 2004; 12:30 PM

Washington Post film critic Desson Thomson brings Behind The Screen Live Online for a discussion on filmmaking and the art of the cinema. Have you ever wanted to know what the director had in mind when making a particular film? Or why the producer altered the original screenplay? Why was an actor or actress cast over another? Thomson has answers to these and other questions about filmmaking.

Thomson, a movie critic at The Washington Post for 15 years, was raised in England where he was entranced, like most, by Hollywood movies. And it was a visit to see David Lean's "Lawrence of Arabia," that made him realize movies had to be a part of his life.

Desson Thomson (washingtonpost.com)

A transcript follows.

Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.


Desson Thomson: Hello movie fans. Back again. Fresh from the Cannes fest and now about to get into the routine in DC again. And I see that Michael Moore's film has been stepped up to open June 25 instead of that July 2 date. Just saw the fascinating French trilogy by Lucas Belvaux, which opens at the E Street Cinema. It's the same characters acting in different plots within the same time frame. Thus, we have a comedy in which a husband suspects strange things, and a melodrama in which a heroin addict is supported in her habit by her cop hubby, and another in which a political terrorist escapes jail. All 3 stories interconnect. Fascinating. There's a good and sobering documentary opening Friday at the Avalon Theatre, about the Khmer Rouge atrocities, called S-21: The Khmer Rouge Killing Machine. Also saw over the weekend the Harry Potter 3, the darkest and certainly the most interesting of the 3 Potter films. So what's on your mind, everyone?


Fairfax County Public Library: I was pleased to see librarians depicted less geekily than usual in the new movie, "The Day After Tomorrow." How can we get more filmmakers to let go of the bun-wearing, bifocaled librarian stereotype?

Desson Thomson: What would we do without cliches? We'd be forced to look at life with originality. The republic would crumble. Very dangerous suggestion.


Arlington, Va.: Green Ogre Conquers All! Will Potter or Shrek be the biggest movie of the summer? Or is there something even larger looming out there. Shrek's legs seem awfully strong though.

Desson Thomson: It used to be: which is the best movie? Now it's : which movie will make more money. I would guess it's a tie between those two.


NYC: I've been invited to a private screening of the Stepford Wives. Is it getting negative buzz?

Desson Thomson: Do you mean the private screening? Or the movie? Haha. I am seeing it Tuesday. Hey, it's free, right? If you don't like it, you can't get mad that you wasted money. See the original on tape. It was quite a movie.


New Stepford Wives movie: What's the advance word on this? I never saw the original.


Desson Thomson: As I implied, the original is bound to be better. Almost by definition. I see it Tuesday night and will review it Friday. And incidentally, I'm back in Weekend nowadays, not Style.


Washington, D.C.: Ronald Reagan made 50 some films. Overall by historians and also movie critics, how are his films regarded?

Desson Thomson: Stephen Hunter, the movie critic at Style, wrote a pretty good piece Sunday about this very subject. I've asked our wonderful folks at post.com to post it. This should answer the question.


washingtonpost.com: Reagan in Hollywood, Warming Up for Bigger Roles (Post, June 6)


Dupont : With the passing of President Reagan, do you expect a flurry of Ronald Reagan, the actor, retrospectives, and what movies are considered his best work?

Desson Thomson: Well, given the films he made, even his staunchest champions aren't going to pretend it's the greatest body of work an actor ever had. But that said, he was a fine, professional actor. Again, I think Steve's piece says it best about his work.


Wheaton, Md.: Desson, could you explain how the Post assigns reviewers to each film? You know where I'm coming from, don't you? Ann Hornaday's review of the new Harry Potter film. I can understand a reviewer coming "cold" to a film, as he or she could bring a fresh perspective. But to exhibit the antagonism Ann did in her review is just plain wrong. I also wonder, would the Post send someone to review their third Lord of the Rings film who didn't see the first two? Or Kill Bill Vol. 2 without seeing Vol. 1?

Desson Thomson: I hesitate to comment on in-house decisions like that. But let's say you have raised an excellent question. I happened to find the film, as I said, the most fascinating of the 3, and that was considerably helped by having seen the other two. (I loved its darkness. It was the first of the 3 that didn't dumb itself down for kids.) But Ann was forthright and pointed out that she hadn't seen the other two. A critic should be honest and that's what she was. Nicole Arthur (in my absence) did a very good review of the film Friday. Which I have also asked post.com to post up. It made excellent points.


washingtonpost.com: Cuaron's Magic Touch (Post, Nicole Arthur Review, June 4)


Arlington, Va.: You feature prominently in the trailer for the upcoming "The Mother" where an older woman gets lucky with a building contractor. What's so good about it? Is it biographical?

On other matters, Hector Babenco has done it again with his prison epic Carinbura, as he makes Brazilian jails look every bit as sultry as he did in 1985's Kiss of the Spider Woman. He is truly a master.

Sad that Rodrigo Santoro looks better as a woman than most men do in real life.

Desson Thomson: Glad you liked Babenco's film. I should give it another look since, when I saw it in Cannes a year ago, I was not so very enthused. It seemed awfully over the top and overly long. But festival viewing can be deceptive. You're tired. You're in another country. And maybe some snotty official didn't let you into the theatre because you didn't have the right pass.

As for the Mother, it's a very difficult subject (about an older woman who finally discovers her sexual appetite late in life) and I think they did a terribly good job with it. I interviewed the director Roger Michell and the screenwriter Hanif Kureishi, and it was a very rewarding time. I liked the film. And I hope others do as well. It opens June 25. So I'm in the trailer, huh? Where's the money?


Wexford, Pa.: Desson, why do filmmakers feel the need to resort to cacophonous and bad musical scores in movies these days? "Van Helsing" actually gave me a headache and the song during the end credits of "Troy" was laughably bad, adding to its loud score. Sorry, it's just me complaining, I realize, but I wish these directors would see the films of, say, H.G. Clouzot and realize how with little or no music, he made "The Wages of Fear" incredibly suspenseful and "Diabolique" unbelievably creepy.

Desson Thomson: What a lovely place name: Wexford. Is it as beautiful as the one in the old country: Ireland? As for the noise factor, yes, yes yes. What horrors. That noise for both films. And yes, cartoonish music.

And if anyone wants to see two of the most gripping films in movie history, see Diabolique and the Wages of Fear--the French versions, that is. Not their inferior remakes. (although The Sorcerer, a remake of Wages, was interesting.)


Vienna, Va.: Caught "The Twilight Samurai" on Saturday. Very good. Glad I went. Thanks for your review recommending it. Now I don't have to see Tom Cruise in my mind whenever some says the word "samurai."

Desson Thomson: Well, even though I didn't write that review, I thank you any way. I'll take credit for anything.


Wheaton Again: Thanks, Desson, for your response. For what it is worth, I thought the reason the 3rd Harry Potter film was superior was because (with the exception of the opening scene) it told a story instead of being an episodic pastiche.

Desson Thomson: Cool. Glad you liked it.


Arlington, Va.: Hi Desson,

I saw Saved last week and I was very impressed with it. It is probably the funniest movie I have seen this year and I admired the film's intelligence and sophistication. I was also impressed that the film did not direct its attack towards religion itself but rather the religious intolerance that can arise when people become fanatically devoted to certain religious beliefs. All the performances are very strong and I particularly liked Mandy Moore's work. She managed to to be so unsympathetic and unlikeable that her performance made me wonder how many other young teenage actresses, people like Hilary Duff or Lindsay Lohan, would have been willing to take on such an unpleasant and nasty character.

Desson Thomson: Hey, that sounds real good to me. Because I was away, I didn't see it. But it's higher on my list thanks to your feedback. Thanks.


Chincoteague Island, Va.: Well another two weeks have gone by since your last chat. In those two weeks, I saw The Day After Tomorrow and Harry Potter 3 at the theater and a deeply disturbing movie named Hollywood Homicide at home on video. What was Harrison Ford thinking when he signed on to that horrible movie script?

I was sadly disappointed by The Day After Tomorrow. Yes, the big budget special effects were incredible as they continue to get with the growing CGI use. But, when you think about it, sweeping epics of the past didn't rely on CGI as much as they did great scripts and this script was so convoluted that I felt it was too many movies crammed into one. Yet I think the main story was the father going to rescue his boy. Desson, do you agree with me that as CGI use increases, that the need for great storylines decreases since the majority of moviegoers today seem to be the under 30 crowd that is looking for those types of effects?

As for Harry Potter 3. What can I say. This was incredible. Where was Alfonso Cuaron when 1 and 2 were done. His art direction and cinematography were excellent and I felt the acting seemed a notch better. This movie wasn't as "cutesy" as the first two appeared which maybe was what gave this one the edge of perfection. But this leads me to a question on Harry Potter 4. I see that Mike Newell is directing it. His big three movies that I see he's directed are Mona Lisa Smile, Donnie Brasco, and Four Weddings and a Funeral, the last of which was the best of the three. What direction do you think his leadership will take this next movie, The Goblet of Fire?

Desson Thomson: Chincoteague, you'z been busy. I agree wholeheartedly with your premise that CGI is becoming as detrimental as it is beneficial to the creative process. You're absolutely right about that. As usual the scriptwriter's on the same par with the tea lady (to enjoy an antiquated term--I picture someone called Mavis with a polka dotted head scarf, pushing a trolley around and -- never mind) and thus the movie suffers.

Why oh why did you rent Hollywood Homicide? I can feel your pain from here.

As for HP3, yes, nicely done. The best of the 3 in terms of direction. I am concerned about Mike Newell doing the 4th. But he does have a good hand when it comes to characters. He gives a darn. There is a chance it could be good. (one small point: I just wish someone would direct Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley) to stop doing those one-dimensional pantomime faces.)


Washington, D.C.: Wondering your thoughts on the new Potter film.
I thought the film was much more entertaining and real, however it could have done a better job showing the significance of the events involved, and therefore setting up the next movie. Your take?

Desson Thomson: You could be right about that. I enjoyed the direction more than the script.


Arlington, Va.: Hi Desson,

Any word on Wooly Boys coming to D.C?

Desson Thomson: Wooly Boys Site

Try that site and see what they have to say. I have sent a phone message to the guy who represents the movie. I asked him if it's coming thru town. At this point I rather doubt that it will.


Wexford, alas ...: Oh, how I wish Wexford was as lovely as its name, Desson. But it's four lanes of roadway surrounded by car dealers, burger joints, strip malls and the kinds of housing developments that destroy the pine, oak and maple trees and then names their streets Pine, Oak and Maple.

Desson Thomson: God bless America.


Inquiring Mind: Hi Mr. Thomson,

I took a film class in university, and though it was fun I got pretty stressed out having to write a paper about a different film each week. It began to seep over into my regular "for fun" movie watching, to the point where I couldn't rent something or go to a matinee without frantically looking for a paper topic -- camera angles! Lighting! Mis-en-scene!

Anyway, it took several months after the class ended for me to be able to just relax and enjoy movies again. I'm wondering, as you do this for a living, do you have similar problems? That is, do you start composing reviews while watching a DVD with your kids?

Desson Thomson: Hi. I understand what you mean. I do have to have one part of my brain on alert as I watch, so I can report on it to the readers. (It's like being the designated driver in the movie audience.) But if it's enjoyable, I'm going to enjoy it no matter what!


Bowie, Md.: Did you see Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11? If so, what did you think? And what do you make of Disney's decision not to distribute it?

Desson Thomson: Yes. And I wrote pretty extensively about it. If you go back to the previous online session we had, we talked for much of the time about the movie and we answered your questions three times over. It is a good movie, to answer you briefly, especially for Moore, because he's actually very subtle--by his standards. And Disney didn't want to do it, understandably, because they didn't want to upset a good 45 per cent of the nation -- the movie takes shoulder-fired potshots at the president.


Bowie, Md.: Hi Desson! I saw you on TV being interviewed, from the Cannes Film Festival. You were being asked about the new Michael Moore film, 'Fahrenheit 9/11.'
How do you think this film will impact Pres. Bush, his administration and the way events were handled pre and post 9-/1? (By the way, I didn't know you had a British accent.)

Desson Thomson: They said they'd pay me more for the British accent. I haven't gotten the check yet. Or the cheque. Yes, I was talking on Today about it. They cut me off rather quickly, right around the time I said it was a good film and that it wasn't, in my opinion, just a French ploy to get back at Bush. As for how the movie will impact the present administration, I can't say. Nor would I want to speculate.


Anonymous: Good afternoon.

Did you catch "Lawrence of Arabia" on Turner Movie Classics Saturday? Always GREAT.

On another topic, I'm an environmental science major. Methinks "The Day After Tomorrow" is meant to be a parody.

Hint #1: All the "Fox News" scenes.

Hint #2: Very unrealistic. While global warming is a reality, it won't happen that quickly.

Hint #3: Man was not the culprit. The premise is it happens every 10,000 years, no matter what.

It's too bad. But maybe it will have an unintended effect of people discussing global warming. Man may or may not be the culprit but I'm sure man, at this point, doesn't help much.

Desson Thomson: I didn't watch Lawrence. I prefer to see it on the big screen or at least on DVD with a score of friends with me. As for the Day After Tomorrow, I can only pass on your comments. That's another flick I have to catch up with after being away at Cannes.


Columbia, Mo.: We have the coolest art cinema house in the country here in central Misery of all places.

Just saw Goodbye Lenin! Fantastic film. Have you seen it?

Desson Thomson: Yes, I liked Lenin. A very enjoyable and well done film.


Why, ME?: Oh, Desson. When will I learn? Went and saw Van Helsing last weekend without reading your review first. Two hours out of my life that I'll never get back. Of course, instead of physically torturing prisoners in Iraq, we could make them watch this movie. My favorite part was when actors accents started appearing and disappearing again.

Desson Thomson: Haha.


Pittsburgh, Pa.: Do you know why the film, 11'09"01, has never been released theatrically in this country? I know it played at a few fests, but never found a U.S. distributor. Is it because they think it might be deemed un-American and that's worse than being called pedophile these days? Have you seen it? I have to buy a European DVD to see the film.

Desson Thomson: Well, it screened here in Washington DC. At the Avalon Theatre. If you have a hip art house in Pittsburgh, and I know it's a very good moviemaking town (for indies and for the people who appreciate alternative films), you might want to ask them if they have already booked it or plan to.


Why this Harry Potter was the best: 1. Minimal Quiddich
2. No end-of-year assembly in which Gryffindor squeeks out a last second victory.
3. Minimal Quiddich
4. Hermione punches Draco in the nose
5. Minimal Quiddich

Desson Thomson: Very funny!

Incidentally, I have received a response regarding Wooly Boys. The guy I called told me they're waiting for the summer madness to subside and then they plan to roll out the film in fall. That's all they know right now.


The "Today" show...: Oh, Desson, don't you know you're not supposed to express such opinions on the "Today" show? When you start saying things like Moore's film is good and it's not a French plot, that confuses them. After all, did you see how they cut off Tim Robbins when he was being interviewed about his political views months ago? You should have prefaced your statement with, "'Friends' is the greatest show ever put on TV and I'm eagerly looking forward to 'Joey.'"

Desson Thomson: Thanks, I'll remember that.


Broderick/Sara Jessica Parker: I've just realized that I don't think Matthew Broderick is that great of an actor. My generation is programmed to love him because of Ferris Bueller, but I saw him recently in the Producers, and I didn't think he was very good. I think his wife is one of the most wooden actors I've ever seen. Too bad, I want to like both of them. What do you think of their talents?

Desson Thomson: They are too successful to worry about my comments. Sarah jess has done wonders with Sex in the City. I don't watch it too much but I think she's good in it. And Broderick is an excellent comedic performer, particularly in Neil Simon plays and comedies like Ferris. I don't think they're so bad at all.


Washington, D.C.: Desson -- Thanks for your flight of stories from Cannes -- I was so impressed that you wrote so many! Can you tell us a little what it is like to file so many stories during what is surely a busy festival anyway? Are you out with the glamourati until all hours then tip tapping away in your hotel room all night?

Desson Thomson: I try to do a little bit of everything. But ultimately I have to file the stories. So, many's the time I've had to say: Uma, not now. Go drink champagne with someone else. And thanks for your nice comments.


WashDC Filmnut: A couple brief questions:

I asked before about possible DVD release on Roeg's Performance, starring James Fox and Mick Jagger. Any idea where I can find out if that's in the works? Like a trade publication?

Also, just saw Paul Leduc's movie about the Mexican Revolution at the National Gallery. My question is, what does the cinemascenti think about this director? Is he still working? What's your take on him?

Desson Thomson: Paul Leduc (who I wrote about in a piece about that Mexican series) is considered very high in the annals of movie history. As for DVD releases, I don't really keep tabs on that, or I wouldn't have much time left, with all the film theatrical releases I have to review. Anyone have a bead on how to find DVDs like this? You could google it and find many dvd distribs who might have it.


Alexandria, Va.: Desson,

I truly enjoyed both Shrek 2 and Potter 3. What else are you looking forward to this summer, hopefully something that tends to be more dramatic that some of the usual summer fare but not as heavy as some of the smaller or foreign movies (I'll take recs for those as well, but they usually wait until DVD)? Does the 2nd Bourne movie look even remotely as good as the 1st?

Many thanks.

Desson Thomson: I liked the Bourne Identity particularly the actress, as my musical partner and friend Johnny D. calls her, FRRRRRANNNKA POTENTAYYYYY. She was very good in it. So I'm looking forward to The Bourne Supremacy. I am looking forward to Spielberg's Terminal. And Spider Man 2. And Anchorman (the comedy with Will Ferrell). Also: look for a terrif docu on the band Metallica coming in July I think. Also: The Exorcist: the Beginning.


New York, N.Y.: "So, many's the time I've had to say: Uma, not now. Go drink champagne with someone else."

Why don't I believe you?

Desson Thomson: It's a double bluff to make you believe I'm bluffing.


Critics on critics?: Desson, since I started reading these chats, I've become a fan of yours and value your opinion. I usually only read very few critics -- Pauline Kael (God rest her soul), Anthony Lane, David Denby, Roger Ebert and now you. One thing I've always wondered about film critics -- how do you chaps in the "established" media feel about quote whores, you know the guys who'll call any piece of crap, "The greatest film of the year!" just to see their quotes on the one-sheets? My personal fave used to be this critic (name escapes me) who, in one year, used to have "the best film," "the best movie," "the best picture" and "the best motion picture" for different films!

Desson Thomson: Thanks for including me in such heady company. As for the quote whores, there is no level in Hell deep enough for their kind.


Springfield, Va.: Hi Desson, Does Wes Anderson have anything in the works? Which of these three do you think might be worth the price of admission: Dodgeball, Napolean Dynamite and King Arthur?

Desson Thomson: He's in post production for The Life Aquatic which of course will have Owen Wilson. ALso Bill Murray and Cate Blanchett. I'm sure it will be great. I'm a big fan of his.


Arlington, Va.: Hi. I know that a lot of people base their movie-going decisions on critics' reviews .. .but even when I've read not-so-good reviews about some movies, I just have to see them for myself ... even if I know I will most likely be disappointed. How do you feel about that strategy? Also, have you ever walked out or turned off a movie part way through because it was so bad? I just can't do it! ... no matter how bad it is, I can't say it was horrible until I see the whole thing and see if there are ANY redeeming qualities. Sometimes there are.

Desson Thomson: There are few critics really worth reading. Or virtually none worth listening to on the tube. (People on TV are from another planet: The Planet Goofball.) I would advise you to go see the movies yourself and value your own opinion. The more you do that, the more you see what idiots most of us are.

Rule of thumb: If a movie is bad in its first half hour it seldom recovers. And if it has a great beginning, it can frequently fall apart. Which is why when critics see a movie that's good enough from beginning to end, they go crazy over it. I can't walk out of the movies since I have to review them. But remember you are free to!


Downtown Washington, D.C.: Dear WashFilmNut:

Performance has just been released on DVD in the UK. Don't know if that helps or not.

Mrs. H.

Desson Thomson: Thanks. Do you have a place they can find it on the internet or whatever?


WashDC Filmnut: Thanks for the suggestions regarding the DVD distribution. Can you get the techies behind the scenes to repost your article about Mexican film, the way they did for the Potter review earlier in today's session? I missed that one.

Desson Thomson: Thanks. We're trying to find it for you.


Somewhere: Franka Potenta is also in a good movie called The Princess and the Warrior ... seen it?

Desson Thomson: Yes. Not to mention Run Lola Run.


Tenleytown, Washington, D.C.: Desson: We went back several years in time this weekend. We watched "A Beautiful Mind" for the first time. Great acting, horribly directed, we thought. We understood the hype for Russell Crowe (and Ms. Connelly), but Best Picture? We also saw "Lost in La Mancha", which is a fascinating film about the attempted making by Terry Gilliam of his version of Don Quixote. Talk about a disaster flick! Everything went wrong for him, and the film was aborter. Did you see this movie?

Desson Thomson: Saw La Mancha and wrote about it (interviewed the filmmakers and Terry Gilliam) about 2 years ago. Enjoyed the movie much, yes. And I am not someone who was high on A Beautiful Mind, so I can appreciate your comments.


Hogsmead: I concur with the previous posts Re: HP3. Natural lighting was far better, kids in various states of disarray were more believable, and extra credits for not succumbing to the cute assembly ending. End credits were particularly nice touch.

No offense to Chris Columbus though. Using a more mature director for HP3 makes sense as if the movies mature as the characters mature.

Desson Thomson: Thanks Hogsmead.


Hamburg, Germany: I want to humbly offer my apologies for the pain my compatriot Roland Emmerich is inflicting on the movie-going public. In the future we shall limit ourselves to exporting cars and the like.

Desson Thomson: Haha! Funniest posting of the day.


Washington, D.C.: I am absolutely appalled and shocked by your poor review of Disney's Beauty and the Beast ... are we talking about the same movie here? To try to say that this was 'The Little Mermaid' redone is ludicrous. The Little Mermaid was a wonderful, delightful movie but 'Beauty' remains supreme as one of the best animated pics of all time. 'Beauty' was about the power of love and if people could love others not based on their looks but what is in their heart! And the musical sequences were nowhere close to the same as what we saw in 'The Little Mermaid'

Sorry Desson, but you got is soooo wrong this time!

Desson Thomson: Not one of my finer moments, history has shown. But we are never "right" either. We just have opinions.


Arlington, Va.: I saw part of "Less Than Zero" on TV over the weekend, and I was shocked at what a time capsule of the '80s it was. It looked like a teen movie spoofing '80s culture: The silvery blazer with narrow tie, the fluffy hair, the pastels, the New Wave music -- the list goes on.

This might be a fun game, naming movies that are so totally a product of their time as to become a caricature. Surely there must be similar films from the '50s, '60s, '70s.

Desson Thomson: Oh sure. Next time maybe.


Washington, D.C.: OK, so in the second half of last year, I felt like I got to see a lot of great movies -- Dirty Pretty Things, American Splendor, Thirteen, Lost in Translation. Are any movies like these coming out this summer?

Desson Thomson: All good movies. Hope this year has something like those.


Washington, D.C.: Saw HP #3 and had one quibble with the director's take on a character: Draco Malfoy never runs away crying in the books. And he had him do that at least three times in the film. Rather spoils the depth of the antagonism between HP and Draco. Ah well.

But I liked this film better -- darker, more complex. Then again, the book #3 was darker and more complex as well, so there was better material to start with.

Desson Thomson: I agree about the Malfoy comment. He turned into a little wussie. Lost his power.


Harrisburg, Pa.: Hi Desson,

I was wondering if you could help me. I am looking for some good Canadian films, movies that take place in Canada, have to do with Canada, etc. (as opposed to movies filmed in Toronto or Vancouver, but masquerading as different locales). I am going to see "The Barbarian Invasions", and have already seen "The Sweet Hereafter", "The Score" (GREAT look at Montreal) and "Jesus of Montreal". I guess my question is: Berlin is nicely represented in "Goodbye, Lenin" and "Run Lola Run"; Edinburgh is filmed in all its glory in "Trainspotting", and NYC is lovingly realized in "Manhattan"; heck, Detroit and Pittsburgh look great in "Out of Sight" and "Wonderboys", respectively. Would you know of films that do the same for Toronto, Montreal, et.al? Thanks.

Desson Thomson: Well, I'm out of time, but you could start with any film by Atom Egoyan. He is based there (Toronto) and usually films there. And anything by Denys Arcand (although you ve mentioned many of his films already) for Montreal.


ArtMovieLover, VA: I'm delighted to see that the winners of the audience award at this year's FilmFestDC were two films I've never heard of -- "Paperclips" and "Dance Cuba." I expected it would be "SuperSize Me," or something with a wider theatrical release.

So, are either of the audience winners scheduled to open in D.C.? What about my own choice for the award, "Uzak"? That's a great movie.

Desson Thomson: Don't know about those other 2. But Uzak is definitely coming soon to the E Street Cinema. It is a good film.


College Park, Md.: Are there any asinine tertiary characters in the new Potter film? (like Dundy or Doobie or whatever that thing was ... or the quasi-Jamaican thing in Phantom Menace)?

Desson Thomson: Heck no. George Lucas was given a restraining order not to be anywhere on the lot.


washingtonpost.com: From Mexico, A Century of Passion (Post, April 18)


Fairfax, Va.: Is there a new threshold for what denotes a successful movie? It doesn't seem that $100 million is all that impressive anymore what with the high price of a movie ticket and the ability for movies to cash in around $100 million in one weekend. After all The Cat in the Hat made $100 million and I believe that most would consider that a box office flop. What do you think? Is it more like $150M or $200M?

Desson Thomson: There's a diff between critical and financial flops, of course. The Cat in the Hat was truly horrible but it made money. Almost everything makes money in some way, dvds, etc. It obviously has to get past the $100 mill mark theatrically to be considered a financial hit. And after $200 m it's clearly a big hitter.


Bethesda, Md.: So what did you think of Shrek 2? I thought the plot was too spongy and there were way to many pop culture references that seemed to take away from the film. I guess I had too many expectations.

Desson Thomson: That was the consensus 2 weeks ago. It's funny but not as great as the original.


Troy Comment: Saw Troy this weekend. I thought it was rather slow to begin with, but then it kind of picked up, although I wouldn't rate it as being particularly brilliant or anything.

Being an English-accented person, I found Eric Bana's English accent extremely distracting. All I could think was "that's obviously not how he usually speaks" so a lot of his acting came across as cheesy to me.

It was interesting that they made the Americans speak with run of the mill English accents, but Sean Bean was able to keep his regional accent. A friend of a friend found Brad Pitt's immunization jab on his arm very distracting, although I missed that.

Desson Thomson: Thanks. When they combine Americans and Brits, they often make the limeys and yanks speak in a mid Atlantic. To avoid accent fender benders.


Washington, D.C.: Hi Desson,

Love you reviews and chats ...

I saw Jarmusch's Coffee and Cigarettes recently and loved it. Of course, some vignettes were better than others, but I thought there were a number of wonderful awkwardly compelling moments. Critics were kind of mixed on it. I curious as to your thoughts.

Desson Thomson: Thanks Washinton, D.C., very kind. I enjoyed the movie, altho' as you said, some skits were better than others. I liked the Steve Coogan one the best, I think!


Alexandria, Va.: I saw an ad last night on the Tony Awards for a movie that's opening soon with Kevin Kline as Cole Porter. I like the subject matter, so I'm interested in it. Do you know anything about it?

Desson Thomson: Yes, the film is called De Lovely and costars Ashley Judd. Kline plays Cole Porter. I saw it and let's just say: well, I liked the music.


McLean, Va.: Have you heard anything on the remake of Manchurian Candidate? I saw it years later on VHS and thought the original was one of the most powerful movies of its day. Too bad it was pulled so quickly after the JFK murder.

Desson Thomson: It's a classic and a great film. The Jonathan Demme one is coming this summer and I forgot to mention: that's one I am looking forward to.


Arlington, Va.: Assuming you check out other folks' reviews, does it ever bother you when certain film reviewers seem to take such delight in trying to get cute and use different styles of writing in their reviews? As a reader, I enjoy them at times, but often it frustrates me because I just want to get a sense of whether they enjoyed the film or not.
Really enjoyed your coverage of Cannes and F911, by the way!

Desson Thomson: I think I'll pass on commenting on any specific reviewers. But I do agree with you that a review should be about the movie at least as much as the reviewer.


Suburban Chicago, Ill.: Dear Desson,

Why can't my fellow movie-goers sit through the credits? My boyfriend and I sit through to the very end and almost always are rewarded by something interesting, or better than interesting. And the people who leaped to their feet and dashed out the instant Shrek 2 'appeared' to be over missed one of the funniest moments in a very funny movie. I believe the complaints about the so-called many endings of Return of the King were really complaints that the viewers kept getting fooled about when to make their mad dash for the exits. Is people's time so very valuable?

Desson Thomson: Yes, the artists should be acknowledged. I stayed all the way to the end of Harry Potter 3 and there was a special little comment right at the end uttered by Harry Potter, which I won't give away, just to make this point. There can be a benefit to sitting out the credits!


Downtown D.C.: Re Performance DVD:

Unfortunately I don't remember the distribution outlet: I read about it in an article in a recent issue of Entertainment Weekly. You could always check amazon.co.uk or google for the Web site of the British Film Institute; they have a monthly mag called Sight and Sound and I bet it would be listed in there. I'm interested in watching Performance myself, not for Mick the Stick, but to see what the luminous Anita Pallenberg looked like in all her glory back then.

Mrs. H.

Desson Thomson: Thanks Mrs. H.


Cole Porter: ... Night and Day with Gary Grant and what's her face is much better than DeLovely.

Desson Thomson: Alexis Smith. Thanks.


Love letter to Toronto: Tell Harrisburg to rent Canadian Bacon. How could you forget!

Desson Thomson: I could forget that one very easily. But thanks.


Desson Thomson: Ladies and Gents I have exceeded the session by half an hour. It is truly time. Sorry I still didn't get to everyone. And to the gent who posted details of his movie, I guess I balked at passing along a bare-nekkid commercial for your unseen film. Maybe there's another way you can sugarcoat it. To all of you, thanks for playing. See you again real soon.


© 2004 Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive
Viewpoint: Paid Programming

Sponsored Discussion Archive
This forum offers sponsors a platform to discuss issues, new products, company information and other topics.

Read the Transcripts
Viewpoint: Paid Programming