Monday, October 20, 2008

Films: Stekler, then Thomson and Bach

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Paul J. Stekler
October 22 (Wednesday)
Seminar — 4:15 p.m., Science Library 340
Discussion and film screening — 8:00 p.m., Recital Hall, Performing Arts Center

Paul J. Stekler, award-winning producer and director of American political documentaries, is co-producer most recently of the PBS “Frontline” special, The Choice 2008 (October 14, 2008), a film that explores the backgrounds and divergent political paths of Barack Obama and John McCain, in order to shed light on their electoral battle. Stekler received the Sundance Film Festival Special Jury Prize for George Wallace: Settin’ the Woods on Fire (2000), which he produced and co-directed. Stekler also produced and co-directed Vote for Me: Politics in America (1996), winner of Emmy, Peabody, and DuPont-Columbia Journalism awards. More recently, he produced, directed, and wrote the PBS special, Last Man Standing: Politics, Texas Style (2004), about a 2002 contest for the Texas State Legislature. Stekler currently serves as director of the newly-founded Center for Politics and Governance at the LBJ School of Public Affairs of the University of Texas at Austin.
Cosponsored by UAlbany’s Documentary Studies Program

How He Makes You Argue!

On the whole, reviewers have generally regarded British-born movie critic David Thomson’s new book, “Have You Seen…?”: A Personal Introduction to 1000 Films, as a pleasurable provocation, a rare opportunity to fight with— and just as often agree with— one of the wittiest minds in film criticism.

Here’s John Walsh in the London Independent (October 3, 2008):
“David Thomson is the world's leading sage about film. Dulwich-educated and now living in San Francisco, he's a polymath rather than a critic. His works include biographies of Orson Welles and David O Selznick, major considerations of Warren Beatty and (Thomson's dream girl) Nicole Kidman, and the brilliant Suspects, in which he imagined the off-screen lives of characters from Hollywood's golden age. His New Biographical Dictionary of Film is a masterpiece of analysis, detail and strikingly personal judgements. His The Whole Equation was nothing less than a history of Hollywood.”
“About the only thing he hasn’t given us is his opinion of the actual movies. Until now. Have You Seen...? is half a million words long, over 1,000 pages, and deals with 1,000 films. Just as Thomas Macaulay was supposedly the last man to have read every worthwhile book published, Thomson may be the last critic to have seen every worthwhile movie from the Lumière brothers' L'Arrosseur Arrossé (1895) onwards.”
“It soon becomes clear that this isn't Thomson's selection of favourites. He's often scathing about acknowledged masterpieces: on Visconti's Death in Venice, ‘you can measure the shift from one man intent on making a masterpiece to something like a monstrous parody... by the Monty Python boys.’ Lean's Lawrence of Arabia is ‘a thinking man's epic (without the thought)’ and Peter O'Toole's performance ‘insufferably swish, without ever really examining homosexuality.’…”
“How he makes you argue! I may have given the impression of disliking this book. On the contrary: it's hardly been out of my hands for two weeks, and it's a constant source of fascination and pleasure to see what Thomson says about Rear Window or Don't Look Now. It's like having the most film-literate pal you can imagine sitting beside you in a multiplex, showing off his knowledge, provoking you to agreement or (more likely) fury.”
Full review:

Note: David Thomson will share the stage with fellow film critic Steven Bach following a screening of Jean Renoir’s 40-minute film, A DAY IN THE COUNTRY [PARTIE DE CAMPAGNE] at 7:30 PM, Friday, October 24th in Page Hall on the University at Albany’s downtown campus.