Tag Archives | Leonard Maltin

Updated Articles Archive

One of my resolutions this year is to add articles more often to my site’s backlog, so I’ve included, if not yet sorted, eight pieces to the Writings tab and checked that item off my list (read my new year’s post here on spring course offerings, fiction and other goals). The newly added articles appear on separate website pages, so they are not blog posts, with hyperlinks on headlines in bullet points included below. For various reasons, I may have to remove these articles at some point, so if you’re interested in any of these, read them sooner than later.

The oldest article went to press in 1999. It’s a roundup of then-newly printed works by Ayn Rand, anchored by two reviews of books published by the Ayn Rand Institute (ARI) peppered with or consisting of essays or writings by Rand, whose birthday, incidentally, is tomorrow. I haven’t re-read my thoughts on those books in years. I think the reviewed versions may have been updated with new editions by the organization’s ARI Press. The reviews are generally favorable. A related article is among the most recent pieces: the first interview with ARI’s new CEO, who discussed seeing Rand lecture near Harvard, where he was enrolled in business studies, his favorite course by Leonard Peikoff and what being an Air Force commander adds to the challenge of leading an organization dedicated to advancing Objectivism.

Three other exclusive interviews appear. Composer Alexandre Desplat, nominated for an Oscar for scoring The Shape of Water, spoke with me from Paris about Charlie Hebdo, Islamic terrorism and his methodology in making music for movies, including predominantly his 2015 movie, Suffragette. That same year, Leonard Maltin, whom I’ve interviewed several times since we met, talked in depth about classic movies and the third edition of his Classic Movie Guide.

I had been asking him for years to do an extended interview in person and, finally, we did, at his home. The interview ended right on time as a TV crew came in for set-up and perhaps you’ll agree with me that it’s our most serious exchange. The third movie-related interview took place a year later with a historian who knows all about the slave rebellion depicted in a controversial film, The Birth of a Nation (2016), which opened to widespread praise in a film festival only to lose critical darling momentum when its writer and director was linked to a rape victim who later killed herself. This pre-Me, Too Hollywood derailment only made me more serious about judging the merits of the movie, distributed by Fox Searchlight, the studio responsible for the powerful 12 Years a Slave, so I’m glad I went to the young scholar who studied the facts which form the basis for the motion picture. The exchange amounts a history lesson on the truth about slavery in America.

A couple of articles report on interviews conducted by others for the annual classic film festival — the only movie festival I’ve consecutively covered — hosted by Turner Classic Movies in Hollywood. Read my account of Club TCM’s detailed tribute to Leonard Maltin, who got personal about his early career in book publishing, movie journalism and an affiliation with the Walt Disney Studios and my 2016 report on TCM’s rare and respectful one on one exchange with one of America’s last glamorous movie stars, Faye Dunaway, who talked about Network, Barfly and The Thomas Crown Affair (1968). Finally, I’ve added an article from a local edition of the Los Angeles Times which I conceived, researched and wrote on assignment. This is the tale of a mid-range shopping mall nestled in a prime location in the shadow and hum of LA’s newest freeways. The property would begin with publicity visits from movie stars and Olympic athletes amid concern about lost business in a neighboring suburb whose government was so frightened that they passed regulations to stop people from shopping there. Its decline began when two of the most feared Los Angeles serial killers stalked — and enticed, captured and murdered — children at the mall.

Newly added articles include:

Leonard Maltin on Lizabeth Scott

Recently, I talked with author, podcaster and Hollywood historian Leonard Maltin (whom I interviewed about the new and final edition of his annual movie guide last year) about the late actress Lizabeth Scott, who died on Jan. 31.

This is an edited transcript of our short interview.

Scott Holleran: Did you meet Lizabeth Scott?

Leonard Maltin: I met her twice, ever so briefly. Many years ago, we met at a reception honoring Hal Wallis—Bette Davis and Earl Holliman were there—and then again at the Golden Boot awards years later.

Scott Holleran: What do you think of her?

Leonard Maltin: On screen for me she defined the word sultry, which I realize brings me nearly into cliché territory, and most recently I saw the Film Noir Foundation’s restoration of Too Late for Tears (1949). I think I’ve underrated the film in the movie guide—she was good. Whether she had more range than we realize or she was perfectly suited to those femme fatale roles we’ll never know. But she certainly filled them very well.

Scott Holleran: Is she a good actress?

Leonard Maltin: Yes, I think so.

Scott Holleran: What are three essential Lizabeth Scott pictures?

Leonard Maltin: Dead Reckoning because it’s one of her more significant films. It teamed her with Bogart at the peak of his career and it’s a good movie. Then I would add Too Late for Tears because I think it is a prototypical film noir with a great part for her because she’s so persuasive as the femme fatale, and I suppose Pitfall (1948).

Lizabeth_Scott-publicityScott Holleran: What’s at the root of her cinematic appeal?

Leonard Maltin: She had a unique look—her looks were unusual. They were not conventional Hollywood looks and she had a certain bearing and attitude that seemed particularly suited to that film noir genre. She didn’t look like a sunny ingénue. So she’s always convincing.

Scott Holleran: Is it fair to describe Lizabeth Scott as a film noir actress?

Leonard Maltin: I don’t think it’s unfair because that’s what we really remember her for—but it is limiting because it implies that that’s all she could do.


Reference Links

My Thoughts on Lizabeth Scott

Interview: Leonard Maltin on Movies and the Last Movie Guide (2014)

Book Review: Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide (2015)

Interview: Leonard Maltin on Movies (2011)

Interview: TCM Host Robert Osborne on Lizabeth Scott

Dead_Reckoning_(1947)_film_posterCommercial Links

Buy Too Late for Tears

Buy Dead Reckoning

Buy Pitfall

Book Review: Leonard Maltin’s 2015 Movie Guide

Maltin2015MovieGuidefinalThis is the last edition of Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide, which is available tomorrow in both mass market and trade paperback (click on the book jacket image to buy it on Amazon).

The reference book is an excellent resource. Each motion picture is entered alphabetically in boldface, in fine print, with parenthetical year of release, an indication if the movie’s in color, running time, director and cast and whether it’s on DVD or other home entertainment formats. The Movie Guide, which film scholar Maltin tells me is compiled and cross referenced by a staff of 20 or more, also includes trade association ratings and awards information (which don’t mean much to me). A plot and key character synopsis is bundled with a few words of opinion, accompanied by a star evaluation, about the picture. The final edition of Maltin’s Movie Guide includes an author’s introduction and guide to symbols.

Leonard Maltin (read my 2011 interview here and last week’s interview here) is an extremely knowledgeable source for movies, especially Disney movies, and Hollywood history. At age 63, he still writes books and posts for his Web site, teaches at University of Southern California’s film school and does regular media appearances. His work is fact-based and detail-oriented. The best part of his Movie Guide is its ability to identify and address popular and essential aspects of a movie and its legacy. Occasionally, though not often, an insight comes through which has not previously been named elsewhere by other writers. Maltin primarily deals here as a reporter of facts, whatever one thinks of his conclusions about movies, and his attention to what’s essential about a movie and accuracy is impeccable, especially when compared to today’s sloppy online copy-editing and pathetic lack of proofreading. As a movie journalist, I never rely on movie Web sites alone (if at all) for information. Maltin’s Movie Guide is best for crucial research and cross referencing.

The final 2015 edition is no exception. Though reviews tend to be conformist and he generally likes what most critics like, and scorns what most critics scorn, his analysis is always thoughtful and comprehensive. This handy volume is essential for anyone who cares about movies – watching, enjoying and studying them – and it is evident that he takes movies seriously. Too many regard movies as a cavalier, unserious indulgence or, alternately, as inscrutable works of art. Leonard Maltin, whose best work I hope is yet to come, understands that movies have the potential to be powerful and are meant for general audiences all over the world. His Movie Guide, with over 15,000 entries (13,000 on DVD), is the movie industry’s most definitive yet accessible expression of this wonderful truth about movies.

Leonard Maltin on Movies (2014)

Maltin2015MovieGuidefinalLeonard Maltin, whom I interviewed here in 2011, recently announced that his annual paperback volume Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide, which has been produced in some form for 45 years, will cease publication. He explains in the new introduction to the final edition, on sale next week, that today’s market precludes a profitable production.

I interviewed Leonard Maltin almost three years ago to the day and, though I am saddened to lose the rich and treasured Movie Guide, I look forward to reading this one, last edition, the new, forthcoming edition of his Classic Movie Guide, his Web site, and whatever he creates in the future. I know I’ll see Leonard Maltin soon at the movies. Until then, I am glad to know that one of the world’s most serious and knowledgeable film scholars is here in Hollywood where he belongs.

This is an edited transcript. To purchase the book, click on the cover image.

Scott Holleran: Would the story of Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide make a good movie?

Leonard Maltin: I don’t think so. The real story of the guide—of how I came to be hired at 17—would make an amusing sequence but not a movie. The story of actually producing the guide day to day, from year to year, is the story of doing drudge-like research, confirming spelling, facts, and it’s not the stuff of great drama.

Scott Holleran: You write that it was created to offer “terse, telegraphic-style reviews” yet each entry also captures a movie’s essential facts—year of release, cast, director, plot, characters—too. Which does the reader seek more: facts or analysis?

Leonard Maltin: I’ve been told both. People ignore the opinion and focus on facts and I’ve heard the opposite, too.

Scott Holleran: Is it possible to be objective about film?

Leonard Maltin: Oh, no. It’s not objective at all—it’s completely subjective. As I remind people who rant [about a review] it’s just an opinion. Movies matter to me a great deal, but an opinion on a movie is just an opinion. We try very hard [in the Movie Guide] to convey the essence of each movie. There are critics who are much smarter, more articulate and more analytical than me. I think of myself as a kind of middle-brow person and critic. I hope I’m a good communicator.

Scott Holleran: Are there plans to release your out of print books on iBooks?

Leonard Maltin: I’m not at liberty to say [yet] but we’re working on [Amazon’s] Kindle versions of [previously released books by Maltin such as] Selected Short Subjects, The Real Stars and The Great Movie Comedians.

Scott Holleran: Among your peers of movie critics, pundits and scholars of our time—Ebert, Siskel, Pete Hammond, James Lipton, Robert Osborne, Rex Reed, Vincent Canby, Gene Shalit—who is your favorite and why?

Leonard Maltin: I’m a huge admirer of Todd McCarthy who was at Variety for 35 years and is now at the Hollywood Reporter. I think he’s brilliant and incisive. He has a tremendous film knowledge and he’s a great communicator. I also love reading Roger Ebert’s old reviews online because I never got to read him. I’ve really come to appreciate him as a writer. He’s really an essayist. Now I can access his vast library of reviews online.

Scott Holleran: Given the culture’s current state, what sort of movie—if you think that movies will exist—do you think will dominate in the future?

Leonard Maltin: The evidence seems to point to the blockbuster continuing to dominate the world movie scene except at awards time when more intelligent, challenging and daring movies come to the fore which may be the best thing about awards season—to throw a spotlight on movies that need the notoriety that awards hype gives them. People are finding new business models for film all the time and that’s very encouraging. In a year that contains Boyhood and Captain America: The Winter Soldier—one of the best in the comic book series I’ve ever seen—there’s a reason for optimism.

Scott Holleran: Please discuss your approach to reviews. How do you track what happens in the plot—do you take notes during a film? Does your wife Alice assist? Do you call the studio or rely on press notes?

Leonard Maltin: Press notes are always useful but more for background information. But I don’t write lengthy reviews, so I don’t have to worry about outlining and recapitulation and I’ve fallen out of the habit of taking notes [during the film]. My wife Alice and I love watching and discussing film and she’s very perceptive, so she often opens my eyes. But we do disagree.

Scott Holleran: Do you read other reviews before you write your own?

Leonard Maltin: No.

Scott Holleran: Do you subscribe to Netflix?

Leonard Maltin: The household does, though I haven’t really taken advantage of it.

Scott Holleran: Is the press—including the movie press—too close to those in power?

Leonard Maltin: I don’t think so. I’m more concerned that during awards season here in L.A. both the trades and the L.A. Times have to generate so much copy to just sell the [awards] ads they want to sell.

Scott Holleran: A movie was initially and wrongly blamed by the U.S. government for the Islamic terrorist attack at Benghazi. Do you see any danger of censorship in the near future?

Leonard Maltin: I don’t think so.

Scott Holleran: Let’s do a lightning round of your thoughts on movies as we did last time. Snowpiercer with Chris Evans.

Leonard Maltin: I missed it.

Scott Holleran: Jersey Boys.

Leonard Maltin: Pretty good, but I’m not yet convinced that the story is the stuff of great drama.

Scott Holleran: Lovelace.

Leonard Maltin: What an interesting story; I don’t know why the film wasn’t better received.

Scott Holleran: Frozen.

Leonard Maltin: I enjoyed it but didn’t fall in love with it as other people have.

Scott Holleran: Admission with Tina Fey.

Leonard Maltin: Disappointing.

Scott Holleran: The Company Men with Ben Affleck.

Leonard Maltin: Good and it got a bum wrap.

Scott Holleran: Dinesh D’Souza’s America.

Leonard Maltin: Didn’t see it. I can’t see every movie.

Scott Holleran: Rise of the Planet of the Apes.

Leonard Maltin: Great first half, disappointing clichéd finale.

Scott Holleran: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.

Leonard Maltin: Terrifically well made but didn’t win me over completely.

Scott Holleran: Lincoln.

Leonard Maltin: Excellent.

Scott Holleran: Ida.

Leonard Maltin: Intriguing.

Scott Holleran: Salmon Fishing in the Yemen.

Leonard Maltin: Pleasant. I was hoping for something more.

Scott Holleran: The Hundred-Foot Journey.

Leonard Maltin: A little too bland for my tastes, though people I meet seem to love it.

Scott Holleran: Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

Leonard Maltin: One of the best comic book superhero movies ever made—proof that such a film can be intelligent and compelling without being pretentious.

Scott Holleran: Amazing Spider-Man.

Leonard Maltin: Pointless.

Scott Holleran: Amazing Spider-Man 2.

Leonard Maltin: Didn’t see it.

Scott Holleran: 12 Years a Slave.

Leonard Maltin: Arresting.

Scott Holleran: Gravity.

Leonard Maltin: Phenomenal in every way.

Scott Holleran: Mud.

Leonard Maltin: My favorite film of 2013. Matthew McConaughey’s best performance, deeply felt by writer and director Jeff Nichols, who I think is one of our brightest young talents.

Scott Holleran: Philomena.

Leonard Maltin: Awfully good.

Scott Hollerann: Dallas Buyers Club.

Leonard Maltin: Terrific.

Scott Holleran: Nebraska.

Leonard Maltin: I liked it even better the second time—because it’s a rich and resonant film.

Scott Holleran: Her.

Leonard Maltin: I loved the first hour. Then, it petered out.

Scott Holleran: Emperor, the movie about Douglas MacArthur in Japan.

Leonard Maltin: Misfire.

Scott Holleran: 42.

Leonard Maltin: Well meaning and it’s an important story to tell. I wish it were a better movie.

Scott Holleran: Prisoners.

Leonard Maltin: Well done but too dark for my taste.

Scott Holleran: Man of Steel.

Leonard Maltin: Frustrating because the first half works so well. If only they’d quit while they were ahead; you lose sight of the characters and it became a slugfest.

Scott Holleran: Let’s talk about actors. Charles Durning?

Leonard Maltin: Great presence.

Scott Holleran: James Garner.

Leonard Maltin: Irresistible.

Scott Holleran: Robin Williams.

Leonard Maltin: Unique and wonderful.

Scott Holleran: Richard Attenborough.

Leonard Maltin: What a fantastic career—on both sides of the camera.

Scott Holleran: Lauren Bacall.

Leonard Maltin: Great with Bogart but really came into her own as a character actress in such movies as Birth, The Mirror Has Two Faces, even Dogville.

Scott Holleran: Doris Day.

Leonard Maltin: Can I say irresistible again? She makes me smile.

Scott Holleran: John Wayne.

Leonard Maltin: One of a kind. Still underrated.

Scott Holleran: Barbara Stanwyck.

Leonard Maltin: Always compelling.

Scott Holleran: Bob Hope.

Leonard Maltin: Underappreciated as a film comedian.

Scott Holleran: Katharine Hepburn.

Leonard Maltin: Indomitable.

Scott Holleran: Thelma Ritter.

Leonard Maltin: She elevates every film she’s in.

Scott Holleran: Eli Wallach.

Leonard Maltin: Versatile and reliable.

Scott Holleran: Mickey Rooney.

Leonard Maltin: One and only—a career like no other and still somewhat unappreciated for his versatility and dramatic skill. I think of him in Drive a Crooked Road (1954) a little film out on DVD, a very minor film noir but he’s so convincing in it—you believe that he really is that car mechanic.

Scott Holleran: Shirley Temple.

Leonard Maltin: Still adorable.

Scott Holleran: In the introduction to your Classic Movie Guide, why do you write that “old movies are better than ever”?

Leonard Maltin: They give me a kind of satisfaction and joy that few contemporary movies do. A great old movie can lift my spirits and make me feel better. What higher achievement can there be for any work of art?

Scott Holleran: What movie are you most looking forward to?

Leonard Maltin: The whole fall lineup looks good—Mr. Turner, Birdman, Foxcatcher.

Scott Holleran: What book would you like to see adapted as a movie?

Leonard Maltin: If I love a book, I don’t want to see the movie. Richard Attenborough learned in trying to adapt A Chorus Line that it was meant to be a theater piece, though there are great exceptions. If I read a book and love it, I don’t want to have that experience recreated or altered in any way. I’m completely satisfied with it.

Maltin on Movies (2011)

Film historian Leonard Maltin, promoting the latest edition of his Movie Guide, recently chatted with me about movies. The teacher, critic and historian, a regular on the syndicated television show Entertainment Tonight since 1982, who teaches a film class at the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts, is also the author of The Disney Films, The Great American Broadcast, and Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide. Leonard Maltin writes, co-produces and hosts the Walt Disney Treasures DVD series, which he tells me has been suspended, and produces a newsletter.

Scott Holleran: What single movie do you get the most out of with repeat viewings?

Leonard Maltin: It’s a tie between my two favorite movies—Citizen Kane and Casablanca. In both cases, I seem to notice and appreciate new things each time out. With Casablanca, I recently wound up writing a lengthy article on all the background music—it occurred to me that there’s “Love for Sale” by [composer] Cole Porter and others—and here we thought just about everything that could be written about Casablanca had been written.

Scott Holleran: Why are you migrating old movies from your annual Movie Guide to your classic film guide? Why not jettison some of today’s mediocre, irrelevant pictures?

Leonard Maltin: Because in a reference book I don’t feel it’s my place to decide what’s irrelevant in the main scheme of things. I certainly express my opinion film by film—it’s as thick as it can be without falling apart—and that’s what gave birth to the Classic Guide, so those films have a place to reside.

Scott Holleran: And it’s another way to make money?

Leonard Maltin: Uh, no. Let me just say that being in the reference book business in the Internet age is not a doorway to great riches.

Scott Holleran: What is the primary purpose of the Movie Guide?

Leonard Maltin: It hasn’t changed since it was introduced—to be a fingertip guide to movies for people who watch movies at home—to provide a brief review and opinion and to provide more information than one can get from TV guides and screen guides.

Scott Holleran: What single, consistent reader response do you get to the Movie Guide?

Leonard Maltin: Well, now when we make a mistake, we hear about it right away by e-mail—they used to let us know through snail mail. People still seem to be grateful for some guidance. I hear a lot of comments like “I was deciding whether to stay up late and watch this movie and, thanks to you, I did”—or, “thanks to you, I didn’t.”

Scott Holleran: Do you think film criticism can be reduced and aggregated to a number?

Leonard Maltin: No. That’s not criticism, that’s shorthand for an opinion. It may be a consumer service. We hope that in our brief reviews we offer a compact form of criticism.

Scott Holleran: You use stars in the Movie Guide. Does your friend Roger Ebert’s Thumbs Up symbol dumb down motion picture criticism?

Leonard Maltin: No. It’s another form of shorthand, and it’s legitimate within the boundaries of what it can cover. An editor forced the stars on me. I argued with him but he said people will love it and he was right. People respond to those things.

Scott Holleran: Are you primarily a teacher, a critic or an historian?

Leonard Maltin: I wear different hats at different times. If I could do only one, I would be an historian.

Scott Holleran: What’s the next installment in the Walt Disney’s Treasures DVD series?

Leonard Maltin: There is no next installment. That is out of my hands. I would love to do more but it’s up to the Walt Disney Company.

Scott Holleran: What’s your favorite Hollywood movie theater?

Leonard Maltin: I love Grauman’s Chinese Theatre [on Hollywood Boulevard]. I also like [Disney’s] El Capitan, the ArcLight Hollywood and the Samuel Goldwyn Theater at the Academy [of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences] on Wilshire [Boulevard]. If I had to pick one, I would probably pick the ArcLight. It’s a nice environment and a nice theater.

Scott Holleran: What’s your best movie review?

Leonard Maltin: I can’t say. I can tell you the review that has gotten more compliments than any in my career. It was a review of a [horror spoof] movie called Transylvania 6-5000 [Maltin delivered a short sentence during an appearance on Entertainment Tonight in 1985 in which he declared that the movie “stinks” on cue with the tune “Pennsylvania 6-5000” by the Glenn Miller Orchestra]. The review appeared on ET and it was as thorough and as definitive a review as that movie warranted.

Scott Holleran: What’s your most controversial movie review?

Leonard Maltin: Either Blade Runner or Taxi Driver. Both get negative reactions. There’s also my positive review of Cecil B. DeMille’s [1952] The Greatest Show on Earth [starring Charlton Heston, Jimmy Stewart, and Betty Hutton], a film which gets attacked as undeserving of winning the Academy Award for Best Picture. I feel somewhat vindicated by Steven Spielberg’s praise for The Greatest Show on Earth, which he has said influenced the train wreck scene in Super 8.

Scott Holleran: Who is your favorite movie critic?

Leonard Maltin: I don’t read a great many movie critics—I certainly don’t read reviews before I write my own—but of those I read, I like David Denby in the New Yorker, also Anthony Lane and [former newspaper critic] Kenny Turan and possibly the best film critic in America is Todd McCarthy now with the Hollywood Reporter. He is incredibly knowledgeable and incisive and eloquent. And I like Roger Ebert.

Scott Holleran: I’m going to put you on the spot and ask you for a one-word evaluation or estimate of 22 movies you recently added to this year’s edition of the Movie Guide. 22 movies in 30 seconds—are you ready?

Leonard Maltin: I’ll try—unless it’s a movie that one of my associates [editors for the Movie Guide] saw and reviewed for the Guide.

Scott Holleran: Super 8?

Leonard Maltin: Terrific.

Scott Holleran: Win Win?

Leonard Maltin: Great.

Scott Holleran: The Tillman Story?

Leonard Maltin: Profoundly moving.

Scott Holleran: Atlas Shrugged, Part 1?

Leonard Maltin: Didn’t see it.

Scott Holleran: Tangled?

Leonard Maltin: Great fun.

Scott Holleran: The Social Network?

Leonard Maltin: Exceptional.

Scott Holleran: The King’s Speech?

Leonard Maltin: Wonderful.

Scott Holleran: District 9?

Leonard Maltin: Disarmingly original.

Scott Holleran: Up?

Leonard Maltin: Enchanting.

Scott Holleran: The Hangover?

Leonard Maltin: Really funny.

Scott Holleran: Milk?

Leonard Maltin: [pauses] Ambitious—and emotionally stirring.

Scott Holleran: Frost/Nixon?

Leonard Maltin: Brilliant.

Scott Holleran: Slumdog Millionaire?

Leonard Maltin: Also brilliant. [pauses] Awfully tough but rewarding.

Scott Holleran: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button?

Leonard Maltin: Great entertainment.

Scott Holleran: There Will Be Blood?

Leonard Maltin: Tremendously compelling.

Scott Holleran: No Country for Old Men?

Leonard Maltin: Riveting.

Scott Holleran: Juno?

Leonard Maltin: Unexpectedly winning.

Scott Holleran: Little Miss Sunshine?

Leonard Maltin: Sleeper.

Scott Holleran: The Lives of Others?

Leonard Maltin: Unforgettable.

Scott Holleran: The Queen?

Leonard Maltin: Superb.

Scott Holleran: The Sea Inside?

Leonard Maltin: Unjustly undervalued.