My Dream Team

Senator Specter: Didn’t it cross your mind … that your evidentiary position would be much stronger if you had made some notes? Anita Hill: No it did not. Senator Specter: Well, why not? Anita Hill: I don’t know why it didn’t cross my mind. Senator Specter: Well, the law of …

Makes the Going Great

“Every other week someone says that books are dead or dying, that…the obliteration of distinguished literary houses and imprints in the age of the corporate takeover [is] synonymous with the inevitable disappearance of books. The hearse followers mournfully announce that no one reads these days, can’t read, won’t read…. The …

Testing, Testing… …

[A national-security official] suggested that I not publish my information on the link between organized crime and Russian nuclear-weapons security…. [A]nother well-informed national security analyst told me…”Yes, our public posture is Pollyannaish, but there is some value in not panicking the whole world.” —Seymour Hersh, The Atlantic Monthly, June 1994 …

Prime Suspects, USA

Criminal justice, Janet Reno has said, must “put away…the truly violent, what I call the ‘mean bads.’ ” But she faces administrative problems. (Viewer discretion advised: theatrical blood and some language.) “I dislike being addressed as ‘Ma’am,’ ‘General,’ or ‘Madam Attorney General.’ I should have said so before. What counts …

Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea

At the outset, but not for long, the twenty-two principal characters in Robert Altman’s new movie, Short Cuts, are vibrating with relatively well-founded panic. Black helicopters flying in formations more like the Valkyrie assault in Apocalypse Now than like the hovering med-evacs in MAS*H are spraying agricultural pesticide from the …

Kings of Comedy

The American filmmaker Preston Sturges had a supreme gift for making people laugh without representing the world as better or worse than it is. It was worse than usual during the Depression and World War II, when, from 1933 (the year he finished a first draft of The Great McGinty) …

The Rape of the Voice

There’s humour, which for chearful Friends we got, And for the thinking Party, there’s a Plot. —Thomas Betterton, or Anne Bracegirdle, or William Congreve, or Anonymous: from the Prologue to Congreve’s Love for Love[^1] One of the current hits in Paris is Milan Kundera’s play Jacques et …

Good at Games

Personal Best has a quality rare in movies now: ambition worn lightly. This looks like a small, simple movie, but it’s hardly modest. It invites you to look at a few basic results of the peremptory, almost arrogant leap it took even before the lights went out in the theater.

James at an Awkward Age

(The NBC-TV series “James at 16” will shortly resume in a new format. This is the first episode.) SEGMENT 1: Interior, the Berkeley Institute, a boys’ school in Newport, Rhode Island. The Reverend William Leverett has just finished lecturing on “Cicero As Such.” Boys stream from the classroom into the …

The Current Cinema

Ho, Ho, Ho Robert Altman’s not just working at his talent’s peak now; he isn’t just putting together movies better than any director’s ever done. It’s as if he’s trashed the entire form. By junking the LA hacks’ formulas, and the Europeans’, he’s reinvented movies at some new level, so …