Tom Carson

Tom Carson won two National Magazine Awards during his stint as Esquire's "Screen" columnist and has been nominated twice more as GQ's movie reviewer. Formerly a staff writer at LA Weekly and The Village Voice, he is the author of Gilligan's Wake (a New York Times Notable Book of the Year for 2003) and Daisy Buchanan's Daughter.

Recent Articles

Ashes to Ashes—The 3D Edition

When you buy a ticket to a movie called Pompeii, expecting art or even brains would be fatuous; what you want is a good time. Sue me for confessing I had one. 


Is Pompeii worth two hours of any sentient adult's time? It's definitely a waste of your hard-earned leisure cash, but that's not quite the same question. I don't know what sort of value you put on your time when you're in a mood to savor dumbness so unalloyed it's like a throwback to the dawn of cheesy movies.

New Orleans Deserved a Better Scandal than Ray Nagin's

AP Images/Gerald Herbert

Given the prosecution's voluminous case and the defense's lack of any except "Who, me?", Wednesday's guilty verdict in former New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin's trial on corruption charges was a foregone conclusion. But considering my adoptive hometown's—and state's—reputation for treating political scandal as a spectator sport, I was struck by how nobody relished the whole fundamentally glum business. It wasn't a topic friends were eager to talk about or that even the most hard-bitten local humorists wanted to make merry with. Nagin had proved himself to be such a greedy, characterless boob that remembering the hopes he'd inspired way back when was apparently just too damn depressing.

Johnny Who?

AP Images/NBC/Lloyd Bishop

The story goes that Johnny Carson, who hosted NBC’s The Tonight Show for count-’em 30 years—from 1962 to 1992—loved vacationing abroad because no one outside the United States knew who the hell he was. That certainly wasn’t the case here at home. In his heyday, basically the entire time he had the job, Carson wasn’t famous the way, for instance, Jane Fonda is famous. He was famous like Bayer aspirin or, to the more troubled members of his audience, Jim Beam. Outdoing even that plummily narcissistic Polonius, CBS news anchorman Walter Cronkite, he was 20th-century American life’s most reassuring constant.

A Monumental Failure

Honestly, who on earth thought George Clooney's The Monuments Men was a good idea for a movie? 

AP Images/Sony Pictures Publicity

I'm not sure what could turn George Clooney into a good movie director, but he could start by curing himself of wanting to be well thought of. In front of a camera, he's all suave effrontery, but plunk him down behind one and his cockiness goes out the window. Since Clooney minus his cockiness is the approximate equivalent of Joe Biden with laryngitis, you find yourself wondering which long-gone high-school teacher he's wanly hoping to impress.

In Search of Gatsby's People

Careless People takes us into the cultural hurly-burly—tabloid affairs and murders—that were likely on F. Scott Fitzgerald's mind while writing The Great Gatsby

"Sometimes history appears to have been so inebriated that it blacked out completely, and we have no idea what a mysterious trace means at all." That's one of the more enjoyable observations in a book that doesn't stint on phrasemaking: Careless People (Penguin, $29.95), Sarah Churchwell's lavish excavation of the real-life milieu whose scandals, frolics and gaudy personalities gave F. Scott Fitzgerald the raw material for The Great Gatsby. Even when she gets most carried away by her connect-the-dots enthusiasms—or gimmickry, if you prefer—her literary "Where's Waldo?" game is the liveliest contribution to Fitzgeraldiana to come my way in years.