There's nothing like a summer blockbuster to bring out passion in the critics. Should these flicks be judged with the same standards as, say, an Ingmar Bergman or Brad Bird film, or are they simply escapist teenage fun where plot and character are rendered irrelevant? Michael Bay's Transformers has left many in the critical establishment reaching for earplugs and aspirin, while fan sites have declared it mind-blowing. Just as Decepticons face off against Autobots, so is the pride of the critical establishment pitted against hyperbolic online magazines.
Like his 2002 smash The Emperor of Ocean Park, Stephen L. Carter’s New England White is a mystery plus. A mystery plus domestic melodrama. A mystery plus social satire. A mystery plus an examination of the black upper crust. Carter, also a law professor at Yale, borrows from the murder and legal-thriller genres, throws in a governmental conspiracy, and even (as the title hints) takes a few more literary cues from Hawthorne and his New England brethren. Some critics feel the result is a little too much; others think it’s just right.
Pixar's latest animated extravaganza, Ratatouille, is garnering near-unanimous praise from all quarters, currently sporting an astonishing Metacritic score of 95, which places it at No. 5 on the site's all-time list, between Dr. Strangelove and The Manchurian Candidate.
The doddering American Film Institute has finally updated its list of the best 100 films (i.e., best big-studio fiction blockbusters made with white marquee stars and male directors in the good ol' days of Kabuki pomposity like Ben Hur). For New Yorkers, the Los Angeles–based list is predictably awful, but still worse than the last: Do The Right Thing's token inclusion at pitiful No. 94 stings worse than its omission in 1997