This post was written by Friday blogger Annie Reid.
I haven’t yet picked up David Thomson’s new book on the history of Hollywood — The Whole Equation — yet, but I’m a big fan of his New Biographical Dictionary of Film. Lee Siegel gives a long, thoughtful review of both in the Nation here.
The Dictionary is nowhere near as dry as it sounds. It is, as Siegel notes, “like a great novel about Hollywood; all it lacks is a plot.” Thomson’s magnificently arch eye seems to see right through to the essence of things, and his entries are full of insight into the menage of celebrity, commerce and art that is North American filmmaking.
Here’s the beginning of Thomson’s entry on Cher:
First, Moonstruck (’87, Norman Jewison): it is a pleasant, enjoyable sitcom movie that plays off a series of conventions and cliches’. Examined closely, it is not just impossible but fatuous, that this Medusa-like Italian woman is leading a hum-drum life with Danny Aiello as her only likely man. It would have been no sillier if the younger Sophia Loren had been cast in the part. For the woman is Cher, the nominal monosyllable, tattoo woman. Cher of Sonny-and-, “I’ve Got You, Babe”, and I can do without you, perennial cover girl and outrageous clothes horse. Face it, Cher is a celebrity, and making her a wallflower is addled. So she got the Oscar, as if playing a handicapped person.
(As an aside, I come not to bash Cher but to praise her. Anyone who would say of their public persona, “It’s a tough job being ridiculous, but if someone’s got to do it, it might as well be me,” is all right with me.)