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

Don't Put Flowers on Hollywood's Grave Yet

Film could be headed for a renaissance instead of its long-predicted journey into the blockbuster night.

AP Photo
T his has been a fertile year for people to lament the decline of movies. In fact, two of the most distinguished critics around—Davids Denby and Thomson—more or less proclaimed in 2012 that the jig was up for film as an art form. Since one of them is 69 and the other is 71, the " Après nous, le d é luge " side of this might strike skeptical readers as a mite self-involved. Nonetheless, if they're talking about Hollywood's output as opposed to very-much-alive-and-well world cinema, they don't lack for circumstantial evidence. Between endless iterations of durable comic-book franchises and ever dumber, more ineptly made comedies, no wonder lots of people who used to love movies now prefer HBO and Showtime when they want their intelligence massaged. All but the worst hack reviewers dread the paucity of recommendable commercial movies for grown-ups until Thanksgiving's arrival starts coughing up the usual Oscar fodder. And then a lot of the Oscar fodder—e.g., Silver Linings Playbook— just...

Zero Dark Thirty's Morality Brigade

Kathryn Bigelow's Osama bin Laden movie doesn't endorse torture. 

(Rex Features via AP Images)
(AP Photo/Sony - Columbia Pictures) Z ero Dark Thirty doesn't even come out until next week, but Kathryn Bigelow's much-hailed movie about the hunt for Osama bin Laden is already provoking outrage in some quarters for allegedly "glorifying"—OK, sometimes it's "celebrating"—torture. As all too bloody usual, the loudest howls are coming from people who haven't actually seen ZD30 , some of whom—yes, Andrew Sullivan, I mean you —really ought to know better. Ginning up controversies about movies without bothering to watch them first is really more Bill Donohue and the Catholic League's sort of thing, and does Sullivan want to be in that company? Since plenty of other folks apparently do, I hope you won't mind two cents from a lowly movie critic who admires the hell out of Zero Dark Thirty and isn't exactly big on vindicating Dick Cheney's world-view. There are really two separate arguments here, and people shouldn't confuse the two—though they already have. One is about factual accuracy,...

Dial M for Meh

Sacha Gervasi's Hitchcock fails to capture the artistry of the famed director.

(Sipa via AP Images)
Among reputable movie critics, by which I do not mean the New York Observer ’s unkillable Rex Reed (“ Hitchcock grabs you by the lapels like a suspense classic by Hitch himself—a knockout from start to finish.” Yes, that’s a real quote), Sacha Gervasi’s atrocious Hitchcock has its defenders. They notably include The New Yorker ’s stimulatingly unpredictable Richard Brody, who certainly can’t be accused of being a blurb whore by any stretch. Yet it’s worth noting that Brody made the case in favor of Gervasi’s crude fantasia about Hitchcock’s inner life during the filming of Psycho almost entirely on conceptual grounds—i.e., by praising the “audacity” of conceits like Sir Alfred’s imaginary dialogues with real-life serial killer Ed Gein (Michael Wincott), the original inspiration for Anthony Perkins’s Norman Bates. He didn’t have a lot to say about Hitchcock ’s, ahem, cinematic qualities, no doubt because finding them would require Sherlock Holmes’s indefatigability and even Brody knows...

Cold War Revisited

Two new books examine how we have chosen to remember, and what we have chosen to forget, about the war that consumed the 20th century. 

(Sipa via AP Images)
Two very different books have recently done their best to remind me that nobody knows just when “the new normal” became the very handy cliché it is. But it sure fits how quickly the Cold War went from potentially apocalyptic confrontation to historical curio once the Berlin Wall fell, Germany reunited and the Soviet Union (huh, whuzzat?) vanished from the geographical lexicon. Even to people who lived through it, the whole 44-year mishigoss reverberates very little today; the elephant left the room, and that was that. Well, at least once its hideous, messy Balkan aftermath was safely behind us too. At least to Americans, as historian Jon Wiener says in How We Forgot The Cold War (University of California Press, $34.95), World War II still looms much larger in our collective—and by now, overwhelmingly secondhand—memory. (Full disclosure: though I don’t know him, we’re on friendly terms online, and the copy of his book that showed up in my mail in October was very nicely inscribed.)...

Camelot’s Begetter

Besides being the father of John, Bobby, and Teddy, Joe Kennedy left behind a tattered legacy. 

(AP Photo)
(AP Photo) Former Ambassador to Britain Joseph P. Kennedy has earnest words with granddaughter Mary Courtney Kennedy, 2, who sits on lap of her mother, Ethel Kennedy at Mc Lean, Va. on Nov 29, 1958. The occasion is a reception for Edward Kennedy and Joan Bennett in Bronxville, New York as following their wedding. Sitting on Amb. Kennedy's lap is Bobby Jr. 4; and David, 3, is between grandfather and mother and on right, are Kathleen, 7, and Joe, 6, all are children of the Robert Kennedys. E ven those smitten by the Camelot legend have never mustered much love for Joseph P. Kennedy. Upstart Boston Irish millionaire, early player in the movie industry, then the Securities and Exchange Commission’s founding chair under Franklin D. Roosevelt, he brought his public career to a banana-peel close by serving as our disastrous ambassador to Great Britain back when World War II’s clouds were eyeing their rainmakers. He might be a footnote today if he hadn’t fathered all those damned kids. As...

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