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Best Local Film Critic San Francisco 2003 - David Thomson

Last year, Thomson, a Brit living in Pacific Heights, released a fourth edition of his massive Biographical Dictionary of Film. It's an odd, addictive book, nearly 1,000 pages of the author's highly personal sketches (with room for both Rin Tin Tin and Reese Witherspoon). You can pingpong around his book for hours. Abbott and Costello: "Watch them do the ['Who's on First'] sketch and you feel the energy and hope of not just every comedian there ever was. You feel Beckett, Freud, and Wittgenstein (try it!)." Donna Reed: "So perhaps Donna Reed was only a twelve-year-old's whore, but I remember still the wondering way she stroked Montgomery Clift." Pauline Kael: "I suspect she would have given it all up if she could have had one scene in one film -- like Dorothy Malone with Bogart in The Big Sleep." The Kael entry -- new to this edition -- is a good key to the book. Thomson is her worthy successor, not in taste or style (his humor is dry), but in his raw, nervy writing and in the links he intuits between movies and sex (his strongest sketches seem to be about women). He reserves his best for Howard Hawks, though: "Like Monet forever painting lilies or Bonnard always re-creating his wife in her bath, Hawks made only one artwork. It is the principle of that movie that men are more expressive rolling a cigarette than saving the world."

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