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

Stacked Decks

The Titanic’s surprisingly timely centenary

Copyright Bettmann/Corbis / AP Images
Is it callous to call the Titanic ’s sinking everybody’s favorite disaster? No doubt, but you know what I mean. Considering how oodles of the tragic minutiae no buff can do without bump up against the climax’s unknowns, April 15, 1912, is like an ideal cross between the assassination of JFK and the Alamo. The unprovoked attack on a blameless iceberg by the pride of the White Star Line is far from the worst maritime disaster on record. It’s dwarfed in loss of life by the 1945 torpedoing of the Nazi leisure tub turned refugee ship Wilhelm Gustloff . Only three years after the Titanic ’s demise, the Lusitania ’s sinking in 1915 had more historical consequence, rallying neutral America against the Huns and dangling the temptation of playing world policeman. For resonance and romance, though, there’s no contest. On a bitterly cold night 100 years ago, modern civilization didn’t just say goodbye to more than 1,500 boosters. It gained an industry. Now that the centenary is here, Titanic--...

Why Politicos Love "Game of Thrones"

The show satisfies the teenage cynic in all of us who thinks only sex, ambition, and revenge matter at the top.

(Helen Sloan/HBO)
I can't help wondering how many politicos—and long-suffering political spouses, too—are secretly hooked on HBO's sexy, hugely entertaining Game of Thrones, whose very lively second season kicks off Sunday. Not because they can identify, mind you. It's just hard not to imagine them envying their fantasy equivalents in George R.R. Martin's brutally uninhibited realm. In the Seven Kingdoms, contrition is as unknown as push-polling or George Will. Shouting "Seize him!" in a tone of icy hauteur is the conventional way of indicating you feel affronted. The preferred method of character assassination is lopping an opponent's head off, and the only sex scandal likely to trigger much outrage would be an episode without any. Honestly, can't you picture Newt and Callista humming "Over the Rainbow" between fistfuls of popcorn? Or Bill and Hillary warmly texting "If only" from two different continents? Best of all, there are no issues, no thorny policy questions, indeed no ideology as modern-day...

Election 2012, the Movie

(Photo courtesy of the Daily Show/Comedy Central)
It was back during Pat Buchanan's bumptious 1996 primary campaign that my better half glanced up from CNN with a bemused look on her face. "You know what this is about?" she asked. "Little boys in this country used to dream about growing up to run for president. Now they just run for president." Right she was, and maturity hasn't exactly been on the political upswing since then. That's why one way to get a handle on the 2012 race is by figuring out which movies the candidates' fantasy lives are goading them to privately star in, from Newt Gingrich—the first six-year-old with a super PAC—to long-vamoosed riot grrl Michele Bachmann (c'mon, can't you already picture her watching The Hunger Games with tears in those unnerving baby blues of hers?). The guesses below are provisional and also confined to those still in the running, so feel free to chime in with your own picks for everybody's inner Cinemascope epic. Movie Ron Paul Thinks He's Starring In: The Old Man and the Sea. He is a very...

The Republican Socialist

A new biography shows that Dwight Eisenhower was a more cunning and active president than he gets credit for. 

(AP Photo/Arthur Sasse)
Does anyone else remember the Western Hemisphere's only functioning socialist paradise? In that bygone land, the top income-tax bracket for millionaires was 90 percent. Thanks to a heavily—and proudly—unionized workforce, collective bargaining resolved most labor-management disputes. To stave off recession, the government instituted the largest public-works program in Country X's history, from which its now largely unwitting citizens still benefit today. Although Country X did possess a sizable nuclear deterrent, the trade-off was a reduction in spending on conventional military capabilities. "Our most valuable, our most costly asset is our young men. Let's don't use them any more than we have to," was the typically commonsensical explanation given by paradise's wildly popular leader for his reluctance to commit Country X to adventurist foreign wars. Despite an excruciating level of world tension at the time, not a single member of Country X's armed forces died in battle on his watch...

A Taste for Mediocrity

Why does Hollywood give us bad movies? Because we love them.

(AP Photo/Joel Ryan)
Slumped in your chair as life's meaninglessness washed over you like lava made of Brad Pitt's bubble gum, you may have zoned out for the most tattletale bit of Sunday night's Oscars telecast. (If you just skipped the whole shebang, well—more power to you, Secretary Clinton. Good luck with the Syria thing.) After Octavia Spencer collected her Best Supporting Actress statue for playing a grumpy maid in The Help —proves how far we've come since Hattie McDaniel's win for Gone With the Wind now doesn't it?—host Billy Crystal introduced a skit mocking the dim-witted ways a bumpkin focus group might have reacted to a test screening of The Wizard of Oz , from mistaking the Munchkins for children to urging the hapless studio rep (Bob Balaban) to ditch "Over the Rainbow." Ho ho ho. The point, you see, was that the moviegoing public is a bunch of cretins. Not the studios, who of course invented test screenings in the first place. In other words, don't blame Hollywood if movies are bad. They're...

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