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Behind the Screen

Desson Thomson
Washington Post Film Critic
Monday, July 19, 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: Helloooo. We're baaaack. The movie chat du jour or should I say? quinzaine. Time to talk deeply and profoundly about White Chicks or lightheartedly about the films of Ingmar Bergman, or however you want to do it. Great art house pick coming up BTW: Distant,a Turkish film at E Street this Friday. Very good. Not for the multiplex crowd, tho. To answer some predictable q's in advance: I see Catwoman and Bourne Supremacy this week, so I can't offer you much intelligence on those 2 flicks. Fire away!


Reston, Va.: What's the best romantic movie in theaters right now?

Desson Thomson: The Notebook, I guess, since it's a no-holds-barred romance (and better than I expected). And there's also Anchorman (sort of) and Before Sunset and (sort of) Spider-Man 2. De-Lovely (about Cole Porter romance) WISHES it was.


Annapolis, Md.: This for the person who bemoaned the closing of the Eastport Cinemas in Annapolis: Crown Theatres is to date making good on their promise to schedule foreign nd independent films at the Harbor Complex. The Clearing and The Mother last week; clearing Napoleon Dynamite this week. But you have to go! There was only one other person at my matinee showing of The Mother last week.

The Mother -- what a movie, but definitely not for the squeamish. You could probably hold an hour chat on that movie alone, if you could find enough people who had seen it.

Desson Thomson: If and when I make Annapolis--and it's a great little town--I'll look out for it. I am posting my recent review of Mother, to prove I agree with you! Very good film, soon to slip under everyone's radar.


washingtonpost.com: Affairs of The Lonely Heart (Post, June 25)


(Not exactly idyllic) Wexford, Pa.: Desson, for you it was "Lawrence of Arabia." For me it was two other Lean films: "Oliver Twist" and "Great Expectations." The opening sequence in "Oliver Twist" never ceases to amaze me.
I saw "Lawrence of Arabia" on its re-release in a real movie theater (not multiplex) in suburban Pittsburgh in the late 1980s. The theater was then torn down and turned into an electronic store, and now houses an office supply place because we can never have too many thumb-tacks. Ah, progress!
On to contemporary matters, have you seen "Before Sunset" and did you like it? I loved the first one, "Before Sunrise."

Desson Thomson: Hi Wexford - that lovely ancient sounding name. Lean made 'em, didn't he? I have a guilty pleasure for Ryan's daughter, and he made the wonderful Brief Encounter, Blithe Spirit, the Sound Barrier and Bridge on the River Kwai too.


Washington, D.C.: Hi, Desson.
Saw "Pieces of April" and just adored it. What did you think?

Desson Thomson: Super little movie. The perfect indie in a way. Low budget, low tech, good writing and nice performances. How to beat the studios in one easy lesson.


Rockville, Md.: What did you think of Before Sunset? I thought it was almost a straight remake of Before Sunrise, right down to the ending.

Desson Thomson: This is a movie I intend to catch up on. It had mixed reviews. But when Manohla Dargis calls it American Cinema at its finest (Whatever that means--what's American Cinema?) I become curious. Sorry to be no help at all. I wasn't crazy about Before Sunrise actually. And I have nothing but trouble even looking at Ethan Hawke. Where is the talent? When will the goatee actually grow? Why is he on my screen? And how could he leave Uma Thurman with a baby? These are the questions that arise when I see him.


Spring, Summer, etc.: I agree this is a beautifully lyric film, and wish I could get a bit more background on the significance of the animals features in each segment, the significance of hauling around a rock, etc. But I do have one bone to pick: you send your teenage daughter to a Buddhist shrine to be healed, and she comes back (potentially) pregnant? I don't think so!

Desson Thomson: Wonderful film. Glad you enjoyed it. I guess, re the pregnancy q., buddhism is about life perpetuating itself. It's a rebirth thang, you know?


Arlington, Va.: I have to say: Napoleon Dynamite is FANTASTIC! HILARIOUS! EVERYONE must see it!

Desson Thomson: I laughed good and hard myself. I love the very opening when he walks into a school bus and a kid says to ND: what are you going to do today, Napoleon? And he says: Whatever I feel like I want to do --gooooossshhh!


Arlington, Va.: Re: Pieces of April. I agree -- a fine little film -- but I actually preferred Patricia Clarkson's other small film of last year, "The Station Agent." What a wonderfully written and acted character piece. I hope we will be seeing more from the writer/director as well as the lead actor in the film.

Desson Thomson: Yes, agreed to both films. Loved them both. And Peter Dinklage--I have said this before--is a stud puppy. Handsome as all hell. And talented.


Arlington, Va.: I loved the Bollywood films recently shown at the Freer, and would like to see more. Any recommendations? Am wondering where I can rent them (big plus if close to Arlington) and whether English subtitles are standard. Thanks very much.

Desson Thomson: I love Bollywood and I am no expert, so I can't give you much more than general recommendation to see any of them. But what's fascinating is their variety. I would suggest you try Video Vault in Old Town, not that close, I know. But very good. And check around to see what Potomac Video stores are near you. They're good with alternate films of all kinds. And try netflix.com. Also there are many Indian movie rental sites, if you google Indian films or Bollywood.


Washington, D.C.: I went to see "I, Robot" this weekend and while it was enjoyable, I was not blown away. Why did you like it so?

Desson Thomson: I guess the enjoyable part was enough for me. I didn't think of it as a sci-fi classic. It was just good popcorn entertainment. Not heavy, but lightly entertaining. Good summer flick I thought.


Jason/Washington, D.C.: I know this is the millionth Moore-bashing question you must've gotten, but here's hopefully the cut-to-the-chase question: At what point, when dozens of lies and propagandistic manipulations are documented against F911 (and perhaps in your opinion it hasn't yet reached that point, but the question is "at what point?"), would you regard the film not as worthy of praise, but worthy of contempt?

Desson Thomson: It seems to me that if you don't like it now you won't ever. And there's no point trying to change your opinion. I liked it because it was a poetic argument with passion and conviction. And there was less of his obnoxious desire to appear in front of the camera. He was (by his standards) subtle and restrained, if you can believe that. As to the factual stuff, well, that's for politically savvier people to judge. I think he puts together his argument very persuasively. I judged it entirely on those merits --as a work of art not a political screed -- which a lot of right-wing folks cannot accept. yes, it's political, obviously. And I am sure people can and will find many factual mistakes or at least disingenuous arguments. But as a piece of poetic propaganda, it's a fine and moving film. You don't have to be Mao tse Tung to appreciate that. I notice that out of the Moore bashers you mention, almost no one says it's outright a badly made film, they just get into specific facts and figures and assertions they don't care for. In a way, that's a measure of success for Moore.


"Anchorman" with Will Farrell: I saw this last week and thought it was hilarious.

Your thoughts?

Desson Thomson: I wanted it to be funnier. I love Will Ferrell and that insane husky dog look in his eyes. Cracks me up. I did like the movie a lot. But I wanted to laugh even harder. A minor quibble I'd say.


Arlington, Va.: What I like about living in Arlington, the films Cineplex Odeon Shirlington: The Notebook, De-Lovely, Before Sunset, The Door in the Floor, The Clearing, Napoleon Dynamite, Fahrenheit. So many good films I feel guilty about not seeing them all (I live in walking distance),

Desson Thomson: Get thee to a cinema!


Orangeburg, S.C. (formerly D.C.): I saw King Arthur and enjoyed it somewhat, but kept wondering if it was just Antoine Fuqua's remake of Tears in the Sun placed in the 6th Century -- it seemed like the entire plot was lifted from that film.

Desson Thomson: I guess filmmakers always make the same movie in a sense!


Arlington, Va.: I just saw "The Butterfly Effect" on DVD. Ashton Kutcher was inoffensive, indeed almost interesting, in his starring role. The director's cut ending is much more inventive and satisfying (albeit really weird) than the theatrical ending.

Desson Thomson: OKay, thanks for passing that along. One day I'll understand what the BD is about Ashton and why Scout's Mom, She of the Perpetual Gym, was so crazy about him. He was funny in the 70s show, I guess. But a stud? I'm trying, I'm trying. I'll see the light one day, I'm sure.


Van Down by the River, Va.: Desson,

Were you surprised at the box office total for 'I,Robot'? I saw last week's screener and really did not see anything special. Does this outcome signify that Will Smith is Hollywood's reigning action king?

Desson Thomson: I wasn't surprised at all. No one is a reigning anything all the time. Some get to be most of the time. Smith sure didn't make Bigger Vance or Wild Wild West work, did he? But he is a big big draw.


Re: romantic movies: My girlfriend usually hates comic-book movies, but she loved Spider-Man 2. Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst are as romantic as any screen couple. The movie has true cross-gender appeal! Which is not to say "trans-gender appeal," but I'll let other readers weigh in on that).

Desson Thomson: I agree on the romantic element. And I liked that the most, to be honest.


Fairfax, Va.: What criteria do you use in reviewing a movie?

Desson Thomson: Uh, if it's any good? That could be any kind of good. It could be Will Smith good in I, Robot, or it could be cinematically amazing as in Andrei Tarkovsky's Andrei Rublev or Milcho Manchevski's Before the Rain--the last 2 being two of the best movies I have ever seen.


Re: Ashton Kutcher: A stud? Hardly. I'm a girl and I think he's pretty pedestrian. I'm not sure what all the hype is either. When the best praise one can find is "inoffensive" that's not much praise at all!

I certainly enjoyed his show Punk'd on MTV, but that's hardly acting!

Desson Thomson: I'm with ya there!


Harrisburg, Pa.: Hi Desson!

What is the deal with my favorite 70's movies getting redone? First it was "Dawn of the Dead" (which I'll admit was pretty good with Ving Rhames and Sara Polley), now "Assault on Precinct 13" with Larry Fishburn (Larry, Larry, Larry). That was probably one of Carpenter's best films -- I even liked it more than "Halloween" and "EFNY"; the buzz I've been hearing is that the marauding gang members actually have a rational mission this time around, and only Ethan Hawke is standing in their way. Have you heard about this remake, and can you comment on why studios need to reanimate their classics (or close to) rather than finding something new to film?

Desson Thomson: I happen to be very conservative and mullah-like on remakes. I hate most of them because there was a spirit to the original that can't be captured--almost by definition. There's another problem: usually the original was made in a certain era when values were different and the culture. So when you remake, for instance, The Manchurian Candidate, you are trying to remake a cold war film (the original) into a big brother Gulf War thing with so many more things. It's just very difficult. Haven't heard buzz like you seem to on Precinct. But we'll see--as always.

The reason studios hate to anything original is rather fundamental. If they make something original, their ads have to sort of educate the public and whet their appetites from scratch. If they use a famous book or a play or something with a big star in it or a film that's been done, then they already know the target audience instantly knows what they're talking about. That saves a lot of extra advertising energy and money.


Arlington, Va.: So, can I take my 10-year-old to "I, Robot?"

Desson Thomson: I took my 12 year old and he liked it. I think if your 10 year old plays video games and watches TV, he's probably seen a lot worse already. This movie would be practically a respite.


Washington, D.C.: Before Sunset: Desson, for the chatters out there, I loved Before Sunrise when it came out nine years ago (I was the same age as the characters, and had just returned from a month's travel in Europe, too). So it was with great hope and anticipation that I went to Before Sunset. But (for many reasons) I did not like this movie at all. The characters seem stuck in their selfish worlds, refusing to grow up and accept responsibility and live in the now, instead holding on to past dreams and might-have-beens to the point that by the end of the film they seem rather pathetic. Before Sunrise worked because the characters were young and the dialog fresh and the concept new: Before Sunset just makes the audience (or at least me) feel sorry for these two people who can't let go and get over themselves.

Anyhow, I was disappointed -- very much so. I am however looking forward to the Bourne Supremacy. No such hang-ups with this movie and plot I presume!

Desson Thomson: Hey, very nice little read on this. Thanks for posting. Very interesting.


Washington, D.C.: Dear Desson,

Why do you think the reviews are so split on "I, Robot"? You gave it an endorsement, but some of my other favorite reviewers did not. That makes me queasy about plunking down my $9.

Desson Thomson: How many times must I say this? I am the only movie critic worth reading. Everyone else is wrong, wrong, wrong.


I, Robot: I saw it this weekend and thought it was very obviously political (my kind of politics so I guess that's OK). That said, I liked it much more than I thought I would!

Desson Thomson: Yes, me too.


Rockville, Md.: Do you see "Garden State" doing much business next month? Zach Braff, who writes, directs and stars in the movie, is brilliant in "Scrubs," but he (like the show) seems to be overlooked.

Desson Thomson: I think it will do well in the art house sense. It won't open at enough theaters to do very big. But I expect it will have decent art house numbers. It's very funny.


Laurel, Md.: Desson, I sent this to Gene Weingarten a couple of weeks ago, something that I'd been meaning to ask for a while:

How come given a long enough career, some stars like Farrah Fawcett eventually learn to act; while others, like Sylvester Stallone, forget?

Desson Thomson: I have read a few things about Sly, particularly in Joe Eszterhas's hugely readable Hollywood Animal, and it seems to me (and I don't know him of course) that he's far too lost in himself to get around to working on his acting. Farrah really did prove herself, didn't she? The Burning Bed was a great role. And she was fantastic in The Apostle and Dr. T and the Women.


Springfield, Va.: Hi Desson,

A few weeks ago I read where the AFI Silver Theatre had an outdoor showing of a Joe Strummer documentary. Did you get a chance to see it?

Desson Thomson: Yes, it's a good film. And they projected it outside. It's called Let's Rock Again! and follows Strummer on the road as he tries to get airplay for his band. Nice stuff for Strummer watchers. Rude also cowrote and appeared in Straight to Hell. A nice guy I had the good fortune to meet when he attended the AFI's Silverdocs fest.


Ethan and Uma: That totally undeserved Oscar nom. Made him crazy, that could be the only explanation for leaving hot Uma. I think he's part weasel ...

Desson Thomson: Who knows. Maybe he had his reasons. But you have to wonder, right?


Reston, Va.: Hi, Desson. Last week a group of us who love I Capture the Castle, the book, rented ICTC, the movie. We discovered they turned a truly charming book into a charmless, difficult-to-follow, dark and dreary movie, so we can see why it came and went quickly. Too bad.

Our question, however, concerns the R rating. This must have attached because there is less than a minute of a nude woman, actually she is wearing a floor length cape but there is full frontal nudity for just a bit, engaged in non-erotic activity, just standing there. There is no sex, gore, violence, "adult situations" or anything else that is supposed to trigger an R which, of course, is the same rating given Dogville, Kill Bill, and numerous other virtually non-stop sexually explicit and/or extremely violent movies. We have read criticism, with which we concur, that PG-13 movies are increasingly violent and erotic.

Could the producers of ICTC have asked for a PG-13 rating? I wonder why they did not? Since it was not a good movie, it probably doesn't matter, but it does seem to display questionable judgment. Thanks.

Desson Thomson: Yes, the R came from a momentary shot of the woman naked-- as I recall. The movie was so deadly dull, it seems to me that R rating saved a lot of people watching it.


Newcastle, USA: So they're making a new movie, Goal! starring Diego Luna and Stellan Skarsgard, follows the path of a young soccer star from East L.A. to fame at Newcastle United.

I pointed this out to a Geordie friend of mine, who replied:
'Presumably it will be filed in the "Fantasy" section of Blockbuster as the plot might involve Newcastle winning something. Not that I'm bitter, of course.'

Desson Thomson: Haha, that's very funny. I love the Geordies. They are princes of humor.


Re: Ethan Hawke: I agree with you Desson. The ingenue phase of Mr. Hawke has gone on for too long; also, he can't even come close to carrying water for Austin Stoker, as we'll soon see in the "Assault on Precinct 13" remake. Just a hunch.

Desson Thomson: Oh look what I have started. But hey, I don't see the talent, I have to say.


Chincoteague Island, Va.: Welcome back after the few weeks break! I've seen a lot of movies since your last chat but wanted to say that my biggest disappointment continues to be in these "epic adventures" and "period pieces" like King Arthur and Troy. Since Gladiator, a slew of movies came forward that were similar in nature and as far as I'm concerned, none of them have held up to a strong script and great acting. Watching the previews for Alexander with Colin Farrel, it looks like it might be the same sort of story. That's just my two cents.

The question I have for you today. What is your impression of movie theaters such as the Arlington Cinema and Drafthouse where you can drink and smoke to your delight during the movie? I saw a sneak preview of The Terminal there several weeks back. My experience was pretty bad. I could barely see the screen between the blurriness and the smoke and people constantly were talking. Anyway, to say the least, I won't be back there again.

Desson Thomson: hey Chinco T. (Now there's your hiphop name.)Yes, I can understand your disappointment(s). And I am v. dubious about Colin Farrell as Alex the G (the famous rapper who ruled half da world with a lot of G).

As for the smoke-houses, well, hey, that's for a certain crowd. You shouldn't go if you don't like smoke. There are few enough places where people can light up and smoke as it is--give the poor smokers a haven, I say. But you're right about smoke ruining a movie experience. I remember watching, a dubbed Hollywood movie (Cruising) in an Italian pub/cinema through billows of smoke. It was kinda cool since the movie itself was so bad--the atmosphere helped to be honest. But hardly the right way to see a good movie.


Portland, Ore.: If you like Bollywood, you have to watch films like "Devdas (drama/tragedy), "Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam" (romance), "Hera Pheri" (comedy).

Desson Thomson: Thanks for the recommendations. I can't wait to see Gurinder Chadha's nod to Bollywood AND Jane Austen: Bride and Prejudice--coming soon.


Harrisburg, Pa.: Heck, John Woo has been making the exact SAME film for the past 20 years; it's just new to us who haven't been hip to the HK film scene.

Desson Thomson: Sure. I can dig that.


Washington, D.C.: I caught part of "Catch Me If You Can" this weekend, and it got me to wondering: what is Leonardo DiCaprio up to these days? It seems like he hasn't made a movie in quite a while. Is he keeping busy reading scripts for "Titanic II: The Revenge Of Jack"?

Desson Thomson: Well, he's also an Alexander the G guy in an untitled Alexander project (by Baz Luhrmann) and he plays Howard Hughes in the Scorsese film The Aviator. Also in that will be Cate Blanchett, one of my faves, playing intriguingly Katharine Hepburn.


Washington, D.C.: Hi Desson,
Glad to have you back! What did you think of The Door in the Floor. Have you read the John Irving book and how do you think it translates?

Desson Thomson: Well thanks verrr much. I reviewed D in the F last Friday. We are posting it in a minute.


washingtonpost.com: Bridges Spans Hole In 'Floor' (Post, July 16)


Bowie: Just a factual question:

The Manchurian Candidate was withdrawn from circulation after its initial run and was unviewable for 25 years. In the modern days of home video we may not appreciate that there were once films that were unavailable to see.

Are there any well-regarded films that are essentially unobtainable because they haven't appeared on home-viewing media and whose theatrical versions are not being distributed?

Desson Thomson: It was withdrawn, as I remember, because its assassination plot was too close to the JFK assassination which happened soon after. There are a few of the ones you mention. I am blanking on them right now (Rules of the Game was banned for umpteen years in France and I think Otto Preminger's The Moon is Blue was out of commission for a while because of its sexual content). But they all eventually get released. Manchurian was rereleased a few years ago for inst.


Bad view from office window, D.C.: When is "Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle" gonna come out? I keep seeing the trailer on TV and it looks like my type of offbeat movie, but there is no indication of when it's coming to theaters.

Desson Thomson: SOrry about the bad view. It is opening in 2 weeks time. People I am running out of time. Will answer a couple more if I can.


Tenleytown, Washington, D.C.: Desson: We saw a straight to video movie this weekend based on a prominent critic's recommendation. (Okay, I think it was yours on this chat, but my recollections these days of by-gone chats tend to be rather hazy.) We found it to be well worth watching, and John Malkovich was quite entertaining, if not wierd in the title role. Hard to think of him as an older Matt Damon. It was better than many of the smaller movies we have seen which play the art house circuit. Why was this one consigned to video only, if you know? Are there any other straight-to-video productions which you recommend?

Desson Thomson: You must mean the Ripley movie. Ripley's Game. It was never released for reasons I have since forgotten. But I saw it on cable and liked it a great deal. Another straight to vid was Adrian Lyne's Lolita. I still haven't caught up with that one yet. It was too sexy for the US I think. It was released in Europe.


Washington, D.C.: A coworker and I got into a debate after seeing the Michael Moore film, not on it's qualities, but what defines a documentary. I was saying that a documentary should be more balanced -- showing both sides and leaving decisions up to the viewer. Her argument was that filmmakers have opinions also and should be allowed to show them. Are there other categories for non-fiction- type stories beyond documentary or a standard definition for it?

Desson Thomson: A doc has no responsibilities to be anything but about a nonfictional subject. Hitler made Triumph of the Will about the wonderful beauty and future of the Nazis, for instance, and it's one of the great documentaries, despite its poisonous world view.


Vienna: On reassessing movies: I have always wondered why Pacino's "Scarface" is so highly thought of by much of today's popular culture -- it seems to be an icon of 80s movies. I just watched it again last night and it was ... truly awful. A mean, bad all the way around--pacing, acting, story, music, violence. Where's the "there" there?

Desson Thomson: It IS pretty ordinary. But it has a thug life appeal.


Silver Spring, Md.: Hi Desson,
Did you see the Weeping Camel? If so, what is your thumbnail review?
Also have you seen Maria Full of Grace? Did that come and go already in the D.C. area?

Desson Thomson: Haven't seen. Intend to on both counts. I hear great stuff about both. Maria opens in 2 weeks. You'll see my review then.


Bethesda, Md.: What/Who is a Geordie? Reason I ask is that I'm reading Pynchon's Mason&Dixon, and Dixon (from Durham?)refers to himself as such and I haven't been able to find out the derivation of the word.

Also, had to laugh at Reston's comments re: I Capture the Castle, in that it was a bad movie with an R rating. Reminded me of Woody Allen's joke about the two old Jewish women at the Catskills resort complaining about the food there, and one says: "And they serve such small portions!"

Desson Thomson: Haha on the Woody recollection. A Geordie is someone from the Newcastle area of NE England. They are fiercely independent, great sense of humor and great pride. There are differing opinions on the history of the name. Check the internet and you'll see some of those theories.


Butterfly Effect: I hugely disliked this movie. It ending was laughable. But I do think that Ashton is a stud, along with a great number of women of varying ages. He, along with Morris Chestnut and Jude Law can make me rent/buy a ticket just to look at him. I am sure men have their favorites too.

Desson Thomson: Cool, thanks.


Re: F-9/11 bashers: To your point about the quality of the filmmaking of Moore's pic, I would answer: touche. However, no one ever says that "Triumph of the Will" was a badly-made film, either. So ...

Desson Thomson: Okay.


Vienna: A mention of David Lean earlier prompts me to recommend one of my favorites of his -- "Hobson's Choice" with the great Charles Laughton and John Mills. Where his later films were huge epics set against historical backdrops, "Hobson" is a little comedy on a small scale. Really wonderful.

Desson Thomson: Agreed!


Down By The River, Va. I received a subscription to Filmmovement.com as an anniversary present last month. Have you heard of this service of providing quality documentaries, small independent, and foreign films direct to consumers (some times even before their release in theaters)? I think it's great!

Desson Thomson: Next time ask again. Maybe others have some experience?


Arlington, Va.: In anticipation of the remake, I bought the original "The Manchurian Candidate." I haven't seen it for a few years, but WOW. It will be interesting to see Meryl Streep try to out-evil Angela Lansbury. Are you looking forward to this remake?

Desson Thomson: Very interesting. I have seen both now. You'll have to read the review in 2 weeks.


Reston, Va.: Have you seen 'Maria Full of Grace'? Is it worth seeing once it opens in D.C? Always enjoy these chats. Thanks.

Desson Thomson: Thanks! I see it soon. Will let you know!


Laurel, Md.: James Garner and Gean Rowlands (The Notebook) are 76 and 74 years old, respectively. My parents are 73 and 72, and they don't live in a nursing home or have regular blackouts. Of course, the flip side of having too many parts for actors under 25 is having too few for people over 60.

Do you think Jack Nicholson's two most recent films (Something's Gotta Give and About Schmidt) might be about the two best films ever about seniors who WEREN'T getting ready to die?

Desson Thomson: To last question: yes.


Fairfax, Va.: I recently saw two films, Super Size Me, and Farenheit 9/11 that made me wonder: are these films considered "documentaries" or are they something else not quite reality and not quite fiction? Especially Super Size Me, wherein the director plays the lead role and in a way guides the outcome (by eating only McD's for a month).

Desson Thomson: They're docs. Docs aren't news articles.


Arlington, Va. : Hi Desson,

I just re-watched A Clockwork Orange -- very powerful and shocking after 30+ years.

I'd love your input on this film and if you have recs for other Malcolm McDowell movies too.


Desson Thomson: Lets' talk in 2 weeks. Loved the film and book.


Washington, D.C.: Hi Desson -- Two questions if you don't mind. First, have you seen Zhang Yimou's new "House of the Flying Daggers" yet? I read that it just recently premiered in Beijing and on Taiwan.

Second, a few weeks back in this chat, you mentioned that young film fans were gravitating nowadays toward works by Quentin Tarantino and similar directors and away from the films of Kar Wai Wong and Zhang Yimou. Just curious, but what do you base that suggestion on? Frankly, I've always thought Tarantino was mostly a self-promoting egotist of limited talent (witness the shallowness of Kill Bill 1 and 2) while Wong and Yimou have proven themselves authentic film geniuses of this era. Thanks.

Desson Thomson: Let's get into this again. I saw H of D and liked it.


Cinema Paradiso: Good afternoon, Desson. I watched the Director's Cut of Cinema Paradiso this weekend, and I'm not sure how I feel about it. SPOILER WARNING: There are 48 extra minutes, which includes a reunion between Salvatore and Elena. They discover that Alfredo had conspired to keep them apart. Salvatore was initially angry, but resolved his feelings to believe that Alfredo had his best interests at heart. Without this extra section of the movie, the viewer believes that it's because of Alfredo's lack of sentimentality that Salvatore is able to go out in the world and become such a success. Now? Who's to say that he couldn't have had the same success if he had ended up with Elena, or that he wouldn't have chosen to be less successful if it meant being with his love? Aaagh! So confused! If you've seen it, I'd love to hear your take on it.

Desson Thomson: I wrote a piece on the rerelease. Trying to get it posted before we close out. Meanwhile, got to run folks. Great chatting with everyone. Talk to you all in a fortnight. Peace out. And look for the Cine Paradiso posting if we can find it. Thanks everyone!


Richmond, Va.: Hi, Desson!
Have you seen King Arthur yet? If so, what did you think?

Desson Thomson: Sorry I'm a doofus. Missed it bec of vacation.


Desson Thomson: Okay, that's it. Bye for now! Come back again.


Cinema Paradiso: The New Version (Post, June 28, 2002)


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