"Witty, expansive, convincing, honest, more than a little mischievous and, so often, absolutely on the money, Thomson’s voice is one of the most distinctive and enjoyable in film criticism," says Benjamin Secher in The Telegraph.
A sixth edition of Thomson's best known work, The New Biographical Dictionary of Film, was recently released by Knopf. In the introduction to the sixth edition, Thomson writes -- "Opinion can be emphatic, self-indulgent, cruel, tasteless -- and at times this book has suffered in those ways. But it can be creative, provocative, the start of a conversation." Thomson has mellowed and says that he no longer believes (as he did when writing the first edition of the Biographical Dictionary, published in 1975) that "not only must one like the right films but one must also like them for the right reasons" but the book remains a "mechanism for alerting you to films you have not seen and may never have heard of."
Dana Stevens of Slate calls The New Biographical Dictionary of Film the "book every movie lover should own" but warns that it is "the most idiosyncratic and deeply personal of a filmgoer’s journals masquerading as a reference work."
|David Thomson |
(photo/Lawrence K. Ho, Los Angeles Times).
"It is important to understand that perfection was never quite the point here," writes Jeff Simon of the Buffalo News. "To find unimpeachable biographical accuracy, other film encyclopedias – literary and digital – beckon...The successive new editions of Thomson’s biographical dictionary have, literally, had no equal since the first edition was published in 1975. Nothing quite stirs up debate among film’s most passionate audience the way a new edition of Thomson does."
|Cary Grant, the "best and most important actor in the history|
of the cinema."
Another Thomson favorite is Robert Mitchum. "How can I offer this hunk as one of the best actors in the movies?...But, since the war, no American actor has made more first-class films, in so many different moods," Thomson writes.
|Tom Hanks. the "American Actor."|
Thomson writes perceptively on the enduring, and to some perplexing, popularity of Tom Cruise. He praises Cruise as a hard-working, risk taking actor who "survived the black-hole narcissism of Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man" and, in the style of old time stars such as Clark Gable, has refreshingly "little wish to impose himself or his attitude upon his pictures."
Thomson calls Clint Eastwood someone who "leaves us feeling fortunate to be in his presence (a true attribute of stardom)" and recalls attending a London event where Eastwood was presented with an award by Prince Charles. Thomson writes -- "A visitor from another planet, advised on how to recognize modern royalty -- its natural eminence, its grace and authority, its sense of divine right made agnostic in simple glamour -- would have no doubt which man was the prince...Nearly everything that comes to Eastwood now is rendered fitting by his majesty."
|Thomson's book on the "lovely |
stranger" Nicole Kidman.
Thomson gives Rebecca DeMornay, a blonde starlet of the 1980s, almost as long an entry as he gives to pioneering director Cecil B. DeMille. He also goes on at undue length about other beautiful but minor performers who have captured his fancy such as Jacqueline Bisset, Greta Scacchi, and Nastassja Kinski.
It somehow doesn't come as much of a surprise to discover that Thomson's favorite of all actresses is Angie Dickinson. "Not that one thousand words of analysis would carry more weight than a well-chosen still," he writes in defending his choice and goes on to praise Dickinson's performance in the Howard Hawks directed western Rio Bravo as "one of the truest female characters in modern cinema " and one that characterizes her ability to "inhabit a man's world without asking for concessions and without needing to rock the conventions."
|Angie Dickinson in Rio Bravo: "one of the truest|
female characters in modern cinema."
|Bryan Cranston in TV's Breaking Bad: "Long-form|
television is the narrative form that has
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