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Transcript

Behind the Screen

Desson Thomson
Washington Post Film Critic
Monday, August 2, 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)

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_____The Name Change_____
I have changed my name to Desson Thomson. The story is thus: I started life as Desson Patrick Thomson. But my parents divorced when I was a wee lad of five. I lost touch with my father. And my mother remarried to a Howe. To cut a long story short, I was Desson Howe for 40 or so years. And after some personal events which I'll glide over, I felt a need to go in search of my birth father (I have learned not to say "real" father to respect those who are fully connected with their adoptive parents). I eventually traced him to Aberdeen, Scotland. We met and had a wonderful reunion. I also discovered two siblings I didn't know I had. So suddenly, the family name of Thomson made a lot more sense to me than Howe. So I changed my name, and so did my three sons. Hope that explains it, said the Critic Formerly Known as Howe.

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.

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Desson Thomson: Welcome to chatty time, everyone. I see that people still wandered into the woods of the Village despite warnings from reviewers. M. Night has some pull. Lots of movies around. Lots to talk about.

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Sparks, Md.: When I watched the DVD of Ocean's Eleven, I noticed that Don Cheadle was not listed in the credits. Did you hear anything about why that is?

Desson Thomson: He was uncredited in the movie, as Basher Tarr. There are any number of reasons for this - ranging from just being hip to contractual issues. I wouldn't know why he was originally uncredited in the movie but it stands to reason he'd remain uncredited in the dvd.

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Falls Chuch, Va.: The Village, while well-acted, had a rather lame ending -- not very exciting. It was not really that menacing. Some people in my theater were laughing at the dialogue. Ron Howard's daughter was quite cute and did a good job, however.

Desson Thomson: Yes. The shortcomings were many. His potential remained potential this time, it seems.

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Fairfax, Va.: I saw "The Village" on Saturday. I think Shyamalan is in real danger of contracting Orson Welles disease -- an almost genius-level first film, followed by a couple of good but not really great films, trailed off by some bad ones. "The Village" was entertaining until the last 20 minutes -- then it degenerates into laughable-land. SPOILER ALERT: Where the %&-- did the magic rocks come from? Why have her go in the first place when one of the elders could have done it? He needs to take a couple of years off and come up with a fresh, original way of achieving his chills.

Desson Thomson: I hear you on the disappointment. It's too bad you didn't spend your movie money watching something else! There are so many other choices. Maria Full of Grace which opened in 4 theaters in DC is 15 times better.

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Maryland: The Village: Eh. Good concept, I suppose.

SPOILER ALERT: Did M. Night intend for many of the actors to not use a 19th Century villager speech pattern? If so, it gave away the premise immediately. If not, he needed to hire speech coaches.

What did you think of Young Howard's performance?

Desson Thomson: I guess that was intentional for the reasons you point to. You have to give a clue, I guess, about what's going on under the surface. Howard was the best thing about the movie. She was tremendous.

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Foggy Bottom, Washington, D.C.: Rented "Citizen Kane" over the weekend (couldn't make it to the screening at Georgetown) -- I enjoyed it very much but was wondering why it was singled out by AFI as the number one film. I thought it was fantastic in many ways, but then so are loads of movies ... What makes this one considered a classic?

Desson Thomson: Wow, that's a big question to answer. There have been entire books written on Kane---most notably Pauline Kael's essay which was later made into a book. I believe Roger Ebert has a yearly tribute to the movie in a course he teaches, where he does shot by shot analysis. And so on. Where do I start? Orson Welles's revolutionary use of sound, his montage techniques, the interesting 4-story structure, the view of ceilings in movies (before that, in most films, ceilings were where the lights were put so you never saw ceilings), the overlapping dialog, and the content of the movie: a mystery into the mystery of a man. Not enough time to get into all the details, but it is truly a great film --though not necessarily one that you warm up to like Casablanca.

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Baltimore, Md.: Hello Desson. I went to see the Village yesterday and am still upset that I wasted two hours of my life I'll never get back. I didn't want to go but a friend did so I went. I made him give me my $$ back afterwards. As far as I'm concerned, M. Night Shyamalan's only good movie has been the Sixth Sense. Your thoughts? I just don't understand how he gets the good actors, the distributors, etc. I just don't get it. Thanks for letting me vent!

Desson Thomson: You're welcome. Maybe the reviewers are right some of the time and should be read or listened to.

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Washington, D.C.: The Village is panned by the critics (only 44 percent on the tomatometer!), yet it wins the weekend box office. Do you predict a big drop off in box next weekend? Shyamalan's Sixth Sense and Signs raked in big bucks over many months by word-of-mouth and repeat viewers.
It is very interesting to read how infuriated some critics are at M. Night for sticking to his so-called "formula"?

Desson Thomson: Yes, I believe it will drop off hugely. It ought to anyway! It goes to show how good the Sixth Sense was and how many people want to see M Night's skills again. Not many directors get a following. It's usually stars.

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Sterling, Va.: Hi Desson, did you manage to catch Hero when it was in Cannes? If so, thoughts, opinions?

Desson Thomson: I saw it about 3 or 4 years ago at the Berlin festival. That's how long Miramax has been sitting on it. It's a very kinetic and exciting film. I saw it in Chinese with German subtitles, so I wasn't too close to the intricacies of the plot. But visually it was tremendous. It's opening in a week or two.

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SWIMMING POOL "SPOILER": I just saw Swimming Pool over the weekend. I didn't quite get the ending! Please explain?
thanks!

Desson Thomson: We have had entire sessions devoted to this movie when it came out. I don't know how to pull former chats up for you, but there are archives on this. I guess, to put it succinctly, and remember this is merely my interpretation, she (Rampling) is imaging everything pretty much from the moment she leaves the publisher's office at the beginning of the movie.

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Arlington, Va.: So many critics have remarked that in the Village, M. Night is simply putting his own spin on an old Twilight Zone episode. What I want to know is if anyone noticed that his last movie, Signs, was just his sci-fi spin on a John Irving novel, "The Prayer of Owen Meany," in which the odd title character has all sorts of unusual, strange characteristics the purpose of which all become suddenly clear years later when he is able to use these characteristics in a heroic act. (Stephen King also apparently used the same story line for his plot in "Dreamcatcher.")

Could it be that M. Night is simply out of original ideas?

Desson Thomson: Perhaps an idea is merely the brilliant recycling of an older one. or not so brilliant! M Night just wasn't on the ball this time, simple as that. I don't know that you can state for sure he was using the Owen Meany book. But it certainly sounds like it has similarities.

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Arlington, VA.: Hi Desson --

Just saw "Love Actually" on DVD last night. I really loved the movie (although admittedly some of the plot lines were superfluous, such as the "naked couple"), and wondered why critics (and the viewing public) seemed so divided over it. (I confess I don't recall your reaction, although we tend to agree so I'm assuming you liked it as well.)

Cheers!

Desson Thomson: Hi Arl. Yes, I enjoyed it considerably. I didn't actually write the review since I was on holiday the week it opened. But I enjoyed it. There were many hip backlash interpretations I heard which slammed the movie on minor counts. But I still liked it. I agree with you that the nude couple were superfluous though.

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Falls Church, Va.: Desson: After years of ignoring movies as nothing more than ways for Hollywood producers to make money for themselves, recently I've seen a string of films that has opened my eyes: Roman Polanski's Chinatown, Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11, Steve McQueen in Le Mans, Errol Morris's Fog of War and Frankenheimer's Ronin. It's not such a wasteland after all.

Desson Thomson: No kidding. That's an excellent list. I assume you would want to see Frankenheimer's original Manchurian while you're at it!

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Washington, D.C.: Any word on Open Water?

Desson Thomson: I am writing the review to day, don't want to give away too much. I haven;t fully collected my thoughts on it. It's a very interesting film, some good things and some not so good, but a very interesting film. (copout word: interesting.) Hopefully I will be a little more helpful when I force the review out of my head.

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HELPPP!: I finally saw Citizen Kane and I loved it, but I missed the last 20 minutes. SPOILER REQUEST: Who/what is Rosebud?!

Desson Thomson: I think you should see the whole thing. I would tell you, but ..... I really think you should see it. It's available on DVD. And it's worth watching repeatedly. My e mail is easily findable if you cop out. But I won't be happy to hear that you did so.

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Washington, D.C.: Ever since Sundance, I've been awaiting the releases of Nap. Dynamite and Garden State, as well as Dig!, Evergreen, and some Courtney Cox film-noir that is supposed to be good. Do you know when any of these movies are going to be released? Have you seen any of them? Are there other yet-to-be-released 2004 Sundance movies that you would recommend?
Also, I thought you were right on with all of your reviews this past Friday, especially w/ Manch. Cand. Keep up the good work!

Desson Thomson: Thanks for the compliments! That's my real salary. I haven't seen the last 3 you have mentioned yet. But I have seen Garden State which opens this Friday . It's a very very intelligent film and it's pretty darn good. Review of that to come as well.

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Desson Thomson: To Washington DC who asked some questions about the Manchurian Candidate, I think there were too many spoiler revelations in there, and also, I don't think I have an answer to your questions. Sorry!

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Samu, R.I.: Hi, Desson. Thanks for doing these chats! Using Netflix I was able to watch both "The Seven Samurai" and "The Magnificent Seven" recently. Kurosawa's film was nearly four hours long, but it seemed to fly by; I loved it! TMS, on the other hand, was a total dog. How did this movie become a classic? That kid -- what was his name, Boris? -- can't hold a candle to Mifune, I'll say that. So next I decided to get "Rashomon". An enjoyable movie, but I think it's more famous for being the first of its kind, rather than for being particularly good. Call me a typical American, but I'd rather watch "Courage Under Fire". I don't mind having my emotions manipulated (especially when it's Denzel doing the manipulating).

Desson Thomson: Hey Samu. Thanks for the report. You want another Kurosawa recommendation? Where the action just smokes? Try High and Low. 1963. And also Throne of Blood--his version of Macbeth. And speaking of adaptations, K's Yojimbo was turned into A Fistful of Dollars. Check those 2 out together.

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Alexandria, Va.: Not to interrupt the Village talk or anything, but if you haven't seen Napoleon Dynamite -- GO! It was one of the funniest movies I've seen in a long time.

Desson Thomson: Thanks for the comment!

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Washington, D.C.: Desson-
Thanks for your time. Just a quick question -- any reason why Michael Moore gets credit for "documentaries". Whether or not you agree with his views, they are not presented in a particularly documentative fashion. Just wondering if he is going to grab an Oscar from someone who might have needed the attention and credit.

Desson Thomson: I think you are working on the premise that a documentary is to be judged by objective fact. A documentary is merely a nonfiction film (yes, I can just see the reaction by some: But Fahrenheit IS fiction, hahaha) that is about the real world, ordered into the filmmaker's own sense of truth. Hitler commissioned Triumph of the Will, which was about the supremacy of the Nazis and it was a documentary too. It's obviously not the truth, but it was someone's truth. Unfortunately it remains a few other peoples' truths but that's another discussion.

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Columbia, Mo.: Saw a double feature on Saturday: 'Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter ... and Spring' plus 'Napoleon Dynamite'. Like them both. The latter would have been much better if there weren't a couple of gaping plot holes. It's almost as if the director left a couple of scenes on the floor that would have explained things better. Too bad.

Desson Thomson: But you had fun right? Thanks.

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Detroit, Mich.: I made a wager with a friend a few weeks ago. He is convinced "Catwoman" is going to exceed $100M domestic box office. I told him the producers would be lucky to get back half of that. So tell me: Am I going to win this bet?

Desson Thomson: It will be a knuckle biter, depends how long it's in theaters. Certainly after domestic, I expect it'll reach 100 mill thanks to video/dvd rentals and sales, and the foreign market. The worst blockbusters still manage to steal money over time. You were smart to keep the bet to domestic.

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Bethesda, Md.: I saw Citizen Kane and didn't see what was so great about it -- I know I'm probably unsophisticated or whatever -- but it seemed long, convoluted, etc. Maybe if I understood the rosebud significance it would help?

Desson Thomson: I think you are used to about 70 years of hugely over the top Hollywood movies since then. It was revolutionary at the time and used techniques that are commonplace today, so you wouldn't think much of the movie unless you realized how this movie was like the Pulp Fiction of its time. A studio movie where the filmmaker was doing outrageous things --again, for that era.

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Washington, D.C.: Napoleon Dynamite is out in the D.C. area (I saw it at Dupont). It's a good movie, but it takes a few watchings to really appreciate it. But after that you'll be quoting it day and night!

Desson Thomson: I see! Thanks.

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Capitol Heights, Md.: Desson, hello again. What do you think about the Alien and Predator movie? I for one liked both of them on separate screens. This should be awesome. (I'm a special effects nut)

Desson Thomson: Haven't seen it yet but my 12-year-old son Andrew is chomping at the bit to see it too!

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Washington, D.C.: I just saw Maria Full of Grace yesterday and thought it was an amazing film. The movie was sold out twice yesterday when I went, I had to sit in the front row. Though extremely uncomfortable I recommend it to everyone.

Desson Thomson: Glad you saw it. I wish people had seen it instead of Village as I said earlier. Go see this movie everyone! I am asking the good folks at washpost.com to post my review which ran last Friday.

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Washington, D.C.: I had some friends that attended the screening of Fahrenheit in Crawford, Tex. last week where several BUSH supporters were saying things like, "d_mn, I can't believe it." What do you think the overall effect of Fahrenheit will be on the upcoming election?

Desson Thomson: One can't assess the impact of it in any kind of scientific way - but there's no question it is lighting a fire under people on both sides of the love Bush-hate Bush iron curtain.

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washingtonpost.com: Desson Thomson's Movie in a Minute: Maria Full of Grace (July 29)

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Seattle, Wash.: Y'know, my spouse and I rented "Love Actually," a while back, and we most enjoyed ourselves by asking which hackneyed cliche would be next.

Incidentally, how come nobody ever talks about the rampant anti-American/anti-Blair subtext that runs through? (U.S. Prez who combines Clinton's personal morality with W.'s diplomacy; the U.S. girls who drop their panties at the hint of a British accent; Hugh's "We invented Shakespeare" speech -- which conveniently ignores that it also spread colonialism, slavery and syphilis around the world) ...

Desson Thomson: Woa, quite the broadside. There was , as far as I was taught, a pretty strong anti-slavery movement in England against slavery which, of course, the United States turned into a very lucrative economy. As for the hackneyed cliches, I would say that originality is sometimes the inspired use of cliches--turning them a little on their ear. And if the movie bashes Blair and Clinton than at least it;s being bipartisan about it, as it were. I still think the movie was fun and witty.

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Washington, D.C.: Hi Desson,

I thought Harold and Kumar was the funniest film I have seen in the movie theater in the past year, maybe two! Why did it do so poorly at the box office? Keep up with the good work.

Desson Thomson: Thanks for the high five. I thought it was pretty hilarious. Maybe it was crowded out by such movies as Village. Maybe it wasn't marketed right. Glad you enjoyed it. It was a gas wasn't it? Crude yes but funny.

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Hacking Into Your Computer: Have you taken Story by Robert McKee? I took it last year and it changed my whole approach to watching a film. McKee does a six-hour analysis of Casablanca on the last day and it is amazing. The course was featured in Adaptation, with Brian Cox playing McKee.

Desson Thomson: Yes I have taken it. It's very instructive. In my opinion, it inspires you but it doesn't tell you what to do, as much as someone like John Truby. He's the best. 100 times more helpful to me than McKee. My opinion only.

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Washington, D.C.: Just saw Mulholland Drive on DVD and must admit that I had NO IDEA what happened -- even after the 2.5 hours it took to watch. I liked it, but was really confused about the premise and ending. Any insights?

Desson Thomson: I was confused too. It will one day be my business to watch it again and try and get it. I know there's something there that I'm supposed to get. So I'll try again one Sunday afternoon in winter. Or some such time. It's amazingly directed, I'll say that.

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Washington, D.C.: To those of you who saw Citizen Kane at Georgetown last week and didn't like it, I just want to let you know that it suffered from a poor print and very unfortunate projection glitches. Although I did appreciate the plot, this film was considered to some a "special effects" film using very innovative techniques for its time and, quite frankly, today. You can't really appreciate it on a bad print.

Desson Thomson: Good to know. Thanks.

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Armchair asks: Hey, love the chats as always.

Question. 1. Actually.

What are your thoughts of Chicago Reader critic Johnathan Rosenbaum? I just read his book "Movie Wars" and thought it was phenomenal.

Second. Will you see, (dare to consider) "The Brown Bunny" from Vincent Galo, considering the reception it got at Cannes last year? (Assuming you haven't seen it already). If you did see it was it as horrible as people have been pointing out?

Oops guess that's question three there.

Desson Thomson: Rosenbaum is one of the most highly regarded critics/film writers in America. I'm glad you appreciate him.

And yes I intend to see Brown Bunny again. I was one of the American press who pilloried it from Cannes. So yes I was there.

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Reston, Va.: I realize you covered The Village pretty thoroughly last week, but I have to say I was completely shocked by the poor critical reaction to this movie. Although this film has a twist, unlike his other films, it is not the central part of the story. If it were, then I would agree that the "gotcha" moment was kind of lacking. Instead, the ending revelation led me to spend much of the weekend reflecting on the moral implications of the characters' decisions. I could go on and on about what I liked, but I'll just conclude by saying that I've never been more frightened by a movie. My guess is that all you critics spent the entire time looking for clues than allowing yourselves to truly experience the movie.

Desson Thomson: Two weeks from now, let's come up with a list of truly scary movies everyone! Starting with The Shining.

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Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C.: Desson -

Have you caught the latest film by Alex "Repo Man" Cox? It's "Revengers Tragedy", an adaptation of a 1607 Thomas Middleton play set in Liverpool in 2012. Christopher Eccleston, Eddie Izzard, Derek Jacobi, and Diana Quick are the leads. Beautifully shot, strange and apocalyptic and darkly funny, very well acted. And unable to find American distribution, but the DVD was just released here. A spectacular example of aggressively uncommercial filmmaking, and well worth a look.

Desson Thomson: Thanks. Definitely would like to see that.

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Re: Mullholland: Salon did a huge writeup of Mullholland Drive called, "Everything you wanted to know but was afraid to ask ..." and it was very helpful.

Watch it once, read the 'Cliff Notes' and watch it again.

Dan in Alexandria

Desson Thomson: Excellent. Thanks.

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Re: Village -- SPOILER ALERT: SPOILER!
The magic rocks were a ruse to make the two bodyguards go with Ivy. The elders were, I think, just afraid to go back; maybe they thought they'd be tempted to leave the village? My one real complaint about the movie was that there was too much left open to interpretation at the end.
I did enjoy it, though -- one of the few times I disagree with you, Desson.

Desson Thomson: Thanks for that interpretation.

Hey, we disagreed. That's the way it goes. To be honest, I'm always relieved to disagree with folks. Takes the pressure off me to be right! There are two many different ways of seeing a film, not to mention life and reality, for two people to continue to agree on everything. And that makes life pretty provocative and wonderful. Except when the other guy's wrong.

Desson Thomson: Not sure what I did to double post this answer. Sorry. Sending it along anyway. New system we have. I'm a moron with new things.

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Silver Spring, Md.: On Friday I saw "Lawrence of Arabia" at the AFI Silver, and am still in awe. You're absolutely right -- this movie must be seen on the big screen to be fully appreciated. Is it even worth buying for home viewing if you don't have a 50"+ screen?

I couldn't help but compare T.E. Lawrence to Charles Foster Kane. They both felt they could give freedom to the people, without really realizing that this wasn't something they could give away, and it nearly destroyed them both.

But on to the important question ... The AFI Silver has excellent popcorn with (optional) real butter. What other theaters around here have great popcorn?

Desson Thomson: Good stuff to hear! Thanks for all that.

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Wexford, Pa.: Desson, I have to thank you for recommending two movies. After having endured "The Village," I needed something to restore my faith in films and recalled you recommending "The Mother" and "La Belle Noiseuse." "The Mother" has to be one of the most brutally honest character-studies I've seen in a very long time. It reminded me of Mike Leigh's movies, though not as bleak. Hard to believe it was directed by the same chap who made "Notting Hill." Then again, it was written by Hanif Kureishi. "La Belle Noiseuse" -- I haven't spent four more rewarding hours watching a film than that. It was magnificent. I was riveted the whole time.
Now, the dreadfully dull "The Village." Shyamalan's trying to be Hitchcock or Clouzot, but what they did expertly was unnerve and genuinely shock us. They weren't one-joke directors whose method was only to have a big twist at the end, which is what all of Shyamalan's movies are. So why bother caring about any of these characters when we know it's all about the twist?

Desson Thomson: Nice to hear all this. Thrilled you discovered those films!

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Manchuria, China: I am appalled by the remake of the Manchurian Candidate, although Denzel does play crazy very well and Meryl does play b_ _ _ _ y, but that blank look Liev Schreiber emotes nothing and Jon Voight hasn't given a worse performance since he got attacked by the Anaconda back in 93. Angela Lansbury was right, leave well enough alone. Thanks.

Desson Thomson: I tend to agree that you should leave well enough alone. If something's already perfect why do it again? Do we paint Van Gogh's paintings again?

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Baltimore, Md.: I'm curious about how you review movies. Do you generally watch them only once or go back for more viewings? Do you take notes during the film or is that too distracting? Just curious as to how the process in reviewing films works ... thanks.

Desson Thomson: I usually only watch them once, because they are usually only screened once for critics before the opening. I write notes in the dark. And I try to decipher them later. You can easily see paper in the light off the screen. I hate to use pen lights because it distracts.
(All too many critics now -YES I GET TO VENT -- use pen lights to write notes and they distract people. Very inconsiderate.)

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Re: Mulholland Drive: I watched it, read the "Cliff's Notes", watched it again, and still thought it was B-A-D. Just because no one can understand it doesn't make it good.

Desson Thomson: Okaaaaay. I intend to find out first if I understand it then I'll decide. You're right about your last comment. But I wouldn't recommend something I didn't understand and then pass it off as hip. As I did with Mulholland, I just said: Maybe I'm stupid but I don't get it.

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Clifton, Va.: Other than Spiderman and Moore's ode to Stalinists Propaganda artists this summer's movies have been a bust. Anything out there to save the summer season?

Desson Thomson: Collateral is pretty engrossing. If you;'re talking big movies. Small movies, there are a ton. Distant, Maria full of Grace. to name 2. A French film coming next week is great: Intimate Strangers. And Garden State is good.

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No Fair about Orson Welles!: I must take exception to the person who referred to M. Night as suffering from Orson welles syndrome (not to mention the description of said syndrome).
Orson Welles is not easy because he constantly experimented and played around with the possibilities of film. He was also immensely political which made him quite interesting.
M. Night is tedious because he sticks so rigorously to a formula that is rarely accompanied by good or interesting writing. And even a real drama.

Desson Thomson: Okay, thanks. Welles made many amazing films.

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Alexandria, Va.: Eveyrone, please please see Weeping Camel. (It is currently at the Old Town theater in Alexandria). We just saw it and it was SO lovely. Both visually and the content. Just sweet. Plus, the camels are TOO cute. Loved them.

Desson Thomson: Thanks. Another small film to see.

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Capitol Heights, Md.: Hi Desson. I wanted to know if you ever base your reviews on the actors themselves. Like you may not care for a particular actor/actress so therefore you may not care for the film?

Desson Thomson: Yes and no. If I don't like an actor it's probably because he/she is making the story fail. It's what they do/don't do, not who they are. So is it because of the actor. I don't know if I can say that.

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Manchurian Candidate: I watched the original The Manchurian Candidate on the telly the other day. Although it was very late at night and I tend not to be a night person, for the most part I enjoyed it. The only dodgy bit for me was when Raymond Shaw was telling the Frank Sinatra character how loveable he used to be.

This past weekend I went to see the remake. It was a late show (just like the original), and for some reason I found myself yawning for the duration of the entire film. It all just seemed very drawn out. For me, this remake has to be the most boring film I've seen this year.

And so ends my comment.

Desson Thomson: Thanks . I like your final comment. Because our session is also coming to a close. Thanks everyone. I will see if I can answer one more quickie question and time to close out.

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Washington, D.C.: What do you hear about the new Exorcist film? Any good? Is it a prequel?

Desson Thomson: I know that Paul Schrader shot an entire version of that before the studio shelved and then released the version we're going to see.

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Lake Ridge, Va.: SPOILER ALERT. I loved The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, and Signs, but I felt Shyamalan really missed the mark with The Village. The acting was tremendous as was the set/scenery. I enjoyed the semi-love triangle with Ivy, Lucius and Noah, but the rest of it was just dumb. Especially the so-called suprise ending (figured it out very quickly, which I usually don't do). I very much enjoy the suspense movies that he does and I don't have any problem with him sticking to that formula -- I think this one was just a misfire. All directors have them.

Also saw the Manchurian Candidate this weekend and was disappointed as well. Again, the acting was good but when the movie was over I felt like nothing had happened. The movie was interesting to watch but I left the theater feeling empty.

A disappointing movie weekend for me! Should Open Water make up for it?

Desson Thomson: I'm not sure you should expect Open Water to completely solve that problem!

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Manchurian Candidate remake: Maybe A SPOILER --

The film owed as much to "The Parallax View" as it did to Frankenheimer's film and Condon's novel. But the new ending's a cop out. Why pull back on the cynicism, really? Had this same film been made in the 1970s, which was the greatest decade of American cinema, it wouldn't have relied on appeasing preview audiences. That said, it was much better than Demme's last remake, "The Truth About Charlie." Then again, a Pauly Shore movie might be better than that film.

Desson Thomson: Thanks.

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Springfield, Ill.: Off the beaten path a bit ... I saw the Man U/Bayern Munich game in Chicago recently and felt a tad cheated. I recognize the Champions Tour games are exhibitions, but won't matches like that one hurt European football's chances of gaining widespread appeal here?

Desson Thomson: I thought I answered this one. Again, I am a moron. I said before: you can't expect a professional coach to risk his top players 2 weeks before the season. But on the other hand there is an obligation to entertain the crowds. So there's your dilemma. At least Sir Alex brought in Paul Scholes. So we end with soccer. Excellent. This is really it folks. See you guys soon! Peace out.

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Armchair says: SPOILER ALERT: In response to Mulholland Dr.

I think the thing to remember is the key scene in the film with the box and blue key. Everything before that in the movie is a dream, and everything after is reality. Hopefully this makes things easier to understand (at least THAT's my interpretation).

Naomi Watts as far as I am concerned was robbed of an Oscar for not even being nominated for her performance in this film.

Desson Thomson: Okay thanks. ! I just saw that I missed a lot of folks who sent in questions. Sorry. The new screen I have was confusing. Catch you next time.

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