MOVIES: Talking movies with David Thomson

  Nothing beats watching a movie. Unless, of course, it’s talking about one … or a thousand.
Just ask David Thomson, the iconoclastic film critic and scholar, whose recently published “Have You Seen … ?” presents a “A Personal Introduction to 1,000 Films.”
  Thomson himself was at UNLV’s new Greenspun Hall Auditorium Wednesday night to talk movies — and share his concerns about the economic and social forces that threaten to make moviegoing obsolete.
  Once upon a time, during Hollywood’s glory years, the dream factory’s assembly-line productions enabled audiences around the world to experience laughs, passions and terrors they had never experienced in quite that way before.
  During the cinema’s earliest nickelodeon days, audiences could “pay a nickel to go into the dark and see sensations,” Thomson notes. “Jokes. Little bits of violence. Sentimentality. Things the audience had never seen before.”
  The pictures that triggered those sensations seemed “a miracle of demonic force,” Thomson says. And “that demonic thing, that fearful thing” the movies brought to audiences prompted them to ask themselves, “ ‘Am I brave enough to watch this? Am I brave enough to be this? ’ ”
  That “kind of Jekyll-and-Hyde relationship” with the movies gives audiences “a way we can do, and be, very bad in ways we can’t be in real life,” citing movie monsters who have captivated the paying public through the years, from King Kong to Hannibal Lecter.
  But television — and, eventually, home video — has changed the audience’s appetite for the big-screen experience, he notes.
  “Why should people with two eyes ad a brain watch a screen that small?” he wonders, mourning the “movie palaces that once existed,” where “Garbo’s face might be as big as a house.”
  Thomson misses “the size, the emotional size and the passion" that went with moviegoing during Hollywood’s heyday.
  He also misses the kinds of movies Hollywood used to make — movies such as “It’s a Wonderful Life” or “E.T.” that speak to audiences of all ages.
  “Older people feel they’ve been left out by the medium that was to bring everyone together,” Thomson observes. Also missing: “the passion that made movies so great in our culture. That’s why the loss of it is such a tragedy.”

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