In Benjamin Schwarz‘s Atlantic website review of David Thomson‘s Have You Seen…? (Knopf, 10.14), the book’s basic prejudice is explained. That is, the single-page entries are Thomson’s favorites. “But he also writes about many pictures he can’t stand,” says Schwarz, “including the 1959 Ben-Hur (“Has anyone made a voluntary decision to see [it] in recent years?”), Kramer vs. Kramer (a work of “inane studied gentility”), and Rain Man (“the smug movie of a culture charging down a dead-end street”).
“All of these films won the Oscar for Best Picture, so the reader might assume that Thomson has gathered both movies he esteems and ones he judges influential commercially, culturally or otherwise.”
I have willfully watched Ben-Hur at least twice over the past year, and would gladly see it again if I could catch it in 70mm in Berlin. Rain Man is a tolerably okay film, partly due to Tom Cruise‘s performance, especially in the last act. And I can watch Kramer vs. Kramer anytime and not have an enema. It’s got Dustin Hoffman‘s most likable performance, Howard Duff as the attorney with the silver-tapped cane (“Well, does she talk to walls?”), the guy who fires Hoffman at lunch (forgot his name), Jobeth Williams in an affecting little cameo, Jane Alexander in a near-great supporting part, etc.