Posted in: 2000 Eyes, by Robert Horton, Film Reviews

2000 Eyes: Wonder Boys

[Written for]

by Robert Horton

If we can stop talking about Catherine Zeta-Jones for a moment, we might give Michael Douglas his due for Wonder Boys. After enduring a lot of jokes about May-December romances, Douglas comes bouncing back with one of his best performances, the central role in an adaptation of Michael Chabon’s comic novel.

The role is Grady Tripp, novelist and college professor at a university in Pittsburgh. If he is not actually over the hill, it is only because Grady never got to the top in the first place, although his previous novel — seven years old now — received acclaim. Trying to bash out that follow-up book has proved difficult, and Grady’s love life is an even bigger mess: his wife has just left him, and his married mistress (Frances McDormand) is pregnant. Oh, and her husband is the head of the English department at school.

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Posted in: by Richard T. Jameson, Contributors, Film Reviews

L.A. Confidential

[Originally published on Mr. Showbiz 9/19/97]

Among the many pleasures afforded by L.A. Confidential, the smashing new movie about corruption and redemption and murder in early-Fifties Hollywood, is that its excellence is so unexpected. Curtis Hanson, a onetime film critic, has labored nearly two decades in the Hollywood vineyards doing screenplays, writing and directing modest thrillers, and eventually making the box-office big time with The Hand That Rocks the Cradle and The River Wild. Nothing prepared us for the texture, pungency, assured storytelling, or moral complexity of his new picture.

True, Hanson’s source is a characteristically textured/pungent/complex novel by James Ellroy, whose intimacy with the fragrant, poisonous history of Los Angeles makes Raymond Chandler seem like a daydreamer. But faithfully filming a novel doesn’t ensure that you’ll replicate its metabolism, feel the same sting of acid in the narrative bloodstream. Ellroy loves the movie, which honors his book but also stands on its own—the first L.A. movie in more than twenty years to come within hailing distance of the historical, cultural, and mythic resonance of Chinatown.