Behind the Screen
Hollywood and Indie Offerings

Desson Thomson
Washington Post Film Critic
Friday, May 9, 2008 12:30 PM

Washington Post film critic Desson Thomson was online Friday, May 9, at 12:30 p.m. ET to discuss the latest Hollywood ("Iron Man," "Speed Racer") and indie movie offerings, and the art of film.

Thomson, a movie critic at The Washington Post for 15 years, was raised in England where he was entranced, like most, by Hollywood movies. 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.

A transcript follows.


Hagerstown, Md.: When do you think we will see a (not-terrible) Wonder Woman movie? Seems like we keep repeating Superman and Batman stories, but no one can get the story of the world's most-beloved female superhero to the big screen. Legions of big and little girls are waiting, cash in hand. . .

Desson Thomson: Raining cats and dogs. Sinkholes in Texas. Seems like it's the best of times to escape reality and talk movies. What say y'all?

And make sure you see Son of Rambow, a charmer which I reviewed today.

Let's play.


Laurel, Md.: Hey Desson

Happy Friday to ya! I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED (did I say LOVED!) "Iron Man!" It was the perfect mix of comedy and drama and RDJ was EXCELLENT!!! I hope to see him in at least one sequel. And I'm glad you told us to stay past the end credits! I almost fell outta my chair!

Desson Thomson: Happy Friday back at ya. And you saw a glimpse of the future after those creds, didn't ya? Glad you enjoyed it. Fabulous flick. Robert Downey is such a charmingly cheeky presence. And let me take this time to tell everyone to see his performance in the best year of last year: Zodiac.


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

I've been traveling and have been wanting to respond to your review of Martin Scorsese's film on the Rolling Stones.

The Stones are good, but (sorry) they are not the best rock band of all time. That would be The Beatles. And if you meant the greatest extant rock band, that would be The Who, even without Moon and Entwistle.

I'm a big fan of yours, hence I care about mistakes you make in print. Desson Thomson Review of "Shine a Light": Under His Thumb ( Post, April 4)

Desson Thomson: Hahaha, "mistakes." Very good. And thanks for the high five.

I would submit that the Beatles are the best POP band in the world. You could hardly call them a rock band, even though they have created so many great rock tunes. When I'm 64, Eleanor Rigby? The Long and Winding Road? Rock songs? Nuh uh. Pop. I love the Who myself, so I could see the argument there. But for me, the Stones are the champs. And I would put Led Zeppelin right up there.


Arlington, Va.: Iron Man was fantastic.

Only a person who was not a comic book fan would have said anything bad about it.

Robert Downey Jr. is perfect for the part. Been one of my favorite actors since, "Home for the Holidays".

Desson Thomson: I agree, a great film. And I don't think you have to be a comic book fan to appreciate it. But I have to admit I was big on it as a comic book in my youth.


Anonymous: Hi,

I saw Iron Man last Friday and I loved it. Problem is I didn't stay until after the credits finished rolling to see the "secret" footage. Do you or the gang have the skinny on said mystery footage?

Desson Thomson: No dude or dudette. You got to earn the pleasure. Go see it again.


Clooney again: Leatherheads flopped. I will say it again: Clooney the mega-star is a media creation. 200 years ago we would have called him a fop, not a star. I recall his lady fan from Annapolis telling me she stood for hours in the sun in Minnesota signing autographs. So does Paula Abdul, I'm sure. Indiana Jones comes out in 2 weeks, George can take a hint from Harrison how American's like their leading men. Don't be afraid to mess up that pretty face, George. Brad said it's okay.

Desson Thomson: I will personally pass this on to my pal George.


NYC: Desson,

Is Speed Racer okay for a car-obsessed and relatively mature 4-year-old? I've read in some of the reviews that the main character's brother is dead. Does this happen on screen or before the movie starts? Is there anything in the movie that would traumatize him? Normally I might see the movie first to make sure it was okay for him, but this movie I really don't want to see once, let alone twice. However, I've already been told by him that he is taking me to the movie for Mother's Day. I don't want to break his heart, but I'm wondering if we should wait for home video, when it will be a little less intense and he'll be several months older.

Desson Thomson: He's 4??? He sounds 14. From Ann Hornaday's review - I have yet to see the film -- it sounds as though it's one crazy overwhelming and incoherent mess. And she says it's suffused with profanity. So I'd be very wary. I have to confess though, Ann's review has made me desperately want to see it. Sounds awesome. My cup of crazy tea.


Washington, D.C.: Do you have any idea what "The Visitor" is about? It has a weird trailer.

Desson Thomson: Maybe my fellow National Society of Film Critics friend Michael Sragow of the Baltimore Sun can help you out. It sounds very cool.,0,4751230.story


Shady Side, Md.: I agree. loved Iron Man and loved the spoiler at the end. Especially if you know who plays the man in the eye patch. Can't wait to see how Iron Man is portrayed in The Hulk later on.

So with that said. What movie are you really really looking forward too? This summer and ones that are in the works.

Desson Thomson: In terms of summer stuff, I am looking forward to Indiana Jones, even though I have my worries they can pull it off.


Boulder, Colo.: I guess I should go see Iron Man, huh? Thanks for the review of Son of Rambow -- I will definitely have to see it. In the review you jogged my memories of the movie Millions. What a charming little movie. In fact, I believe I saw it based on your recommendation. A delayed thank you... 'Son of Rambow': Powerful Make-Believe ( Post, May 9)

Desson Thomson: Hey Boulder, Glad I sold yer

You're welcome. And yes, those two movies are perfect companion pieces. Go see it. I really love movies featuring children that are as seriously textured - or treated with the same artistic oomph and respect - as adult stories.


Arlington, Va.: Let's talk end credits. Do you always stay through the credits or did you get a heads-up that Iron Man would have a surprise?

I always stay for them because "you never know." For me, it all started way back with Bob and Doug McKenzie's "Strange Brew." They did some funny stuff during the credits.

Of course, we could get on the whole conversation about how L-O-N-G end credits have become...

Desson Thomson: I used to sit religiously through them, but over the years as the tally of awful movies has risen, I am so anxious to get out of there and get back to the life I just wasted for two hours, I all but stampede out. Also, I have the benefit - usually - of press kits and the Internet to show me most of that stuff later. And yes credits do get longer and longer, it seems.


It's Only Rock and Roll: Wow, I never heard that the Stones were the best band of all time. I always thought they were the greatest rock and roll band in the world (as stated on Get Your Ya Yas Out). I had to check to make sure that J Free or the College Humor guy wasn't running your chat when I saw the claim that the Who without Entwhistle or Moon are better than the Stones. Yes, "It's Hard" was a better album than Exile on Main Street. The Rolling Stones defined what being in a rock band and being rock and roll stars is all about. Few can deny the power of their output from 68-72 and their music through 1981, while not "Face Dances" ain't half bad either.

Desson Thomson: Yes, you're right. That "greatest" label does come from that gig. And it's not the same necessarily as best. But it's more about the feeling you get around the Stones. The attitude, the swagger. And I am a big Who fan, the version that had Entwhistle and Moon.


Bethesda, Md.: Hey Mr. T,

How do you think the marketing will be/should be handled for "Batman Begins" in regards to Heath Ledger's untimely passing? When I saw the trailer before "Iron Man" it looked pretty decent. I can't wait!

Desson Thomson: well, they should know that the tragedy of Heath Ledger will already create interest, and that they don't have to milk it shamelessly. It'll be a test of their conscience and integrity as to how they play that.


Washington, D.C.: Iron Man was entertaining -- certainly better than any of the horrible Spidey flicks -- but not as good as the gold standard Superman. The movie strained credulity at times -- as these type of flicks do -- but it spent a decent amount of time exploring the characters. I too would like to see a good Wonder Woman movie particularly if it explores her amazon origins.

Desson Thomson: Agreed. It could be terrific.


Southwest, D.C.: I'm not a comic book fan and don't know the first thing about Iron Man but I know what looks good and that's Robert Downey, Jr. I'm glad he's finally got a true blockbuster on his hands. One thing I liked even though he was a womanizer was he was SMART and he had a kind heart..oh and he's worth like millions of dollars which doesn't hurt.

Desson Thomson: Money may not buy you love but it sure brings it around.


Falls Church, Va.: I agree with Hagerstown. Why should the boys have the fun? Girl power! And Wonder Woman does not have to be an established actress (lets make a star out of someone!) even though I would love to see Catherine Zeta Jones or Kate Beckinsale or Jada Pinkett (if she were taller) in the role...

Desson Thomson: I am the first to champion girl, woman or female power. It's a complete cultural misconception that heroes should be male. and it's testament to a lack of imagination that the mindset continues. So let's see it happen. Wonder Woman and her Amazon origins!


Bethesda, Md.: Deeson,

I've been on something of a David Lynch kick lately. I watched the entire Twin Peaks series, concluding (last night, actually!) with the follow-up film Fire Walk With Me (which I found quite extraordinary). I also gave Lost Highway and Mulholland Drive a viewing recently, paying particular attention to Lost Highway because Lynch himself once proclaimed that Lost Highway and Twin Peaks take place in the same world.

It's been quite a ride, to say the least, but now I'm feeling a bit drained, and I can't help but wonder where I go from here.

Perhaps a nice, quiet Michael Mann crime movie? Or to the slapstick comedy of Mel Brooks?

Desson Thomson: You are having - or you've had -- quite a journey. I acknowledge to the great vortex of eternity that I am shamefully in need of David Lynch revisitation. I did like Twin Peaks, but I have almost consistently done him injustice in my reviews, by simply being too dense to get what he has been doing. (although I finally got it with The Straight Story.) And it's time for me to really appreciate his artistry. So I hope to reappreesh him one day soon. As for relief, I'd suggest going for comedy. The Life of Brian or Austin Powers are my antidotes for almost anything.


Silver Spring, Md.: Regarding end credits, BY FAR the very best part of the Coen Bros. version of "The Ladykillers" was the gospel performance over the closing credits.

Desson Thomson: That's interesting.


Bethesda, Md.: I'm one of the five lame people who haven't seen Iron Man yet (I'm going this weekend, I swear), so I'm just asking that no one spoil anything, please. Or at least give fair warning so I can skip your post. (No one has yet, but there's a lot of talking around it, so I'm just begging preemptively.) Thanks!

Desson Thomson: I'll try and preserve your innocence.


Arlington, Va.: She certainly seemed to approve of Redbelt. As a person who is usually VERY fond of Mamet and Ejiofor and a little less fond of fight movies, how do you think it would suit me?

Desson Thomson: By she, you mean Stephen Hunter???? His review today was a thumbs up. I saw it too. And liked it much. Like you I am fan of both Mamet and Ejiofor. It's about mind and spirit and rules and will much more than fighting. Although there is certainly violence, you should know.


RE: Secret Footage: Okay, okay... So you won't spill on what happened after the credits. So another question for you. Is the secret footage worth another 6 bucks?

Desson Thomson: Not if that's all you're going for.


Columbia, Md.: I hope we don't get questions from people all summer asking if (insert inappropriate movie here) is alright for their 3-5 year-old to see. Let's just go down the list now of what your child should not see.

1. Batman Begins

2. Tropic Thunder

3. Sex and the City

4. Pinneapple Express

You get the picture....

Desson Thomson: Yep. Good one. But the problem is, Hollywood doesn't make enough good PG rated films. So that's why we see people taking their children into PG-13 films many of which should be R rated. Why is making a good movie that's PG so difficult?


Netflix suggestion: Desson,

Missed when it came to theaters but just saw "Shattered" with Pierce Brosnan and this is a B/B+ movie. Very good dialogue, fast pace, good cast, with a very good ending.

Desson Thomson: Thanks for the feedback...

_______________________ 'Vegas' Hits the Jackpot ( Post, May 9)


Rosslyn, Va.: I just wanted to give some props to Paul Giametti. I've been catching up on John Adams and he just continues to amaze me with his acting ability. With historic pieces I sometimes glaze over partway into it, but I've been captivated from the start with this one. Plenty of other good acting as well, including David Morse as George Washington.

Desson Thomson: Absolutely. I think very highly of him too. And I enjoyed John Adams. He's terrific. Morse was a good Washington too.


"Iron Man" kids: I really was hoping that all the people talking about taking their young children were kidding. However, they were not. The theater Sunday afternoon was packed with them, all looking to be under the age of 7. Whatever happened to letting your children just be children without having them see the very close to real life images of soldier life in Afghanistan?

That said, I am with all those who say the movie was excellent.

Desson Thomson: I think it's appalling too. Glad you liked the movie.


Silver Spring, Md.: I almost always sit through credits -- you never know, there might be something entertaining. (I haven't seen Iron Man yet, so shush!) This is one of the many reasons I like to go to movies alone, so there's not someone else trying to rush me out of the theater.

Desson Thomson: A minute of appreciative silence for your serenity







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Washington, D.C.: Sorry to burst the Stones bubble. People are sitting on (kind of like the housing bubble), but they lost me during the derivative and rather limp Their Satanic Majesties period. There have been some good things since, but can we all just agree that the Beatles were the best BAND of all time and let it go at that?

(Ditto on Led Zeppelin and the Who -- great concert bands)

Desson Thomson: What EVER.


Speaking of The Who...: I saw a great documentary about the Who on the plane from London this February. I think it was made in just the last year. It has both surviving members as well as managers and others closely associated. Lots of music, lots of footage, lots of insight. I couldn't stop tapping my foot in my seat.

Desson Thomson: Is this one?

This looks cool.


Washington, D.C.: Best Indy bet for this weekend:

Son of Rambow, Young at Heart or Zombie Strippers? Any to truly avoid?

Desson Thomson: The latter.


The life before her eyes: SPOILER ALERT -- So what do you think happened at the end of the movie? Were both girls killed? Was the whole Uma Thurman thing her imagination? Enquiring minds want to know! And I hear the book isn't much clearer.

Desson Thomson: I wish I could answer. Haven't seen it. I guess it would be spoilery to invite others to comment.


Rosslyn, Va.: Speaking of David Lynch -- I consider myself a fan; loved Twin Peaks, and Mulholland Drive is one of my favorite all-time flicks, but I tried watching Inland Empire a couple of months ago and just gave up about halfway through it. I just completely didn't get it, and wasn't even drawn in by the surrealism or sense of forboding, for lack of understanding, like with his other work. Maybe I'll give it another try someday when I can watch it with someone that can explain it, but I found it a bit too abstract to be entertaining.

Desson Thomson: I am with you Rosslyn. I watched it at the AFI with Lynch introducing it. And I tried. And I tried. And I tried.

I couldn't get no ... .


But seriously, I would like the same tutorial on Lynch. I know he's great but much of his work eludes my pathetic brain. I need a Lynchtervention.


FYI: Just FYI, it was reported last year that Joss Whedon was doing a Wonder Woman movie but the studio (can't remember which one) didn't like his castings. Guess we still have to wait.

Desson Thomson: Joss Whedon is such a genius. I'd love to see that happen.


Washington, D.C.: Do you know when or if "The Fall" is going to be playing in the area? It looks pretty interesting.

Desson Thomson: Yes. It's coming to our townage May 30th. And yes it does look intriguing.


Springfield, Va.: Hi Desson, I saw the film "On a Clear Day" on cable the other day. I thought it was a delightful movie. Made me want to take up swimming. Has the director done any other films of note?

Desson Thomson: I thought it was sweet too. She's an actress turned director.


Iron Man and Wonder Woman: I also saw Iron Man this week (am also a girl, in regards to last weeks chat) and it was awesome. There are a few inside jokes for the comic book crowd, but not enough to throw you if you're not.

Wonder Woman was a possibility for awhile, from what I understand. Joss Whedon was being tapped to write the plot (perfect person to do so, I believe, what with the stong comic book history and the ability to write strong, complex female characters, ie. Buffy), but he and the studio couldn't come to an agreement about what the story should be, so I think it's been tabled indefinitely.

I am also excited for the potential sequels - Incredible Hulk, Avengers -- Squee!

Desson Thomson: Cool, thanks.


Richmond, Va.: I remember my parents specifically taking me to see, "Lethal Weapon" "Aliens" "Soul Man" (what WHERE they thinking?!) and New Jack City. All of those movies were rated R but I had to be around 10 or older when I saw these movies! I couldn't even sit in the same room with my parents when they had friends over so there was NO way they were taking me to movies I shouldn't have been seeing at such a young age. If they didn't find a sitter they just didn't go. I know parents want to get out and see movies too but come one. And with ON Demand and Netflix there is no dire rush to go to the movies.

Desson Thomson: Thanks for your take.


Arlington, Va.: I actually found Inland Empire quite engrossing and captivating. After watching it two or three times, I find it actually becomes more clear!

I guess it just speaks to the different audiences and tastes that Lynch connects with, even among his most loyal fans (if it tells you anything, I have a hard time watching Blue Velvet but love Lost Highway).

Desson Thomson: Cool.


Desson Thomson: Sorry, lads and lasses, I have to run along. Looking forward to chatting with all of you in two weeks when I will have a special announcement.


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