Tom Carson

Tom Carson won two National Magazine Awards during his stint as Esquire's "Screen" columnist and has been nominated twice more as GQ's movie reviewer. Formerly a staff writer at LA Weekly and The Village Voice, he is the author of Gilligan's Wake (a New York Times Notable Book of the Year for 2003) and Daisy Buchanan's Daughter.

Recent Articles

New Orleans Deserved a Better Scandal than Ray Nagin's

AP Images/Gerald Herbert
AP Images/Gerald Herbert Given the prosecution's voluminous case and the defense's lack of any except "Who, me?", Wednesday's guilty verdict in former New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin's trial on corruption charges was a foregone conclusion. But considering my adoptive hometown's—and state's—reputation for treating political scandal as a spectator sport, I was struck by how nobody relished the whole fundamentally glum business. It wasn't a topic friends were eager to talk about or that even the most hard-bitten local humorists wanted to make merry with. Nagin had proved himself to be such a greedy, characterless boob that remembering the hopes he'd inspired way back when was apparently just too damn depressing. My hunch is that's not least because New Orleanians, even more than most people, don't like to think of themselves as gullible. In hindsight, to have been so easily played for suckers—had they really voted for him twice?— can't have done much for their...

Johnny Who?

AP Images/NBC/Lloyd Bishop
AP Images/NBC/Lloyd Bishop The story goes that Johnny Carson, who hosted NBC’s The Tonight Show for count-’em 30 years—from 1962 to 1992—loved vacationing abroad because no one outside the United States knew who the hell he was. That certainly wasn’t the case here at home. In his heyday, basically the entire time he had the job, Carson wasn’t famous the way, for instance, Jane Fonda is famous. He was famous like Bayer aspirin or, to the more troubled members of his audience, Jim Beam. Outdoing even that plummily narcissistic Polonius, CBS news anchorman Walter Cronkite, he was 20th-century American life’s most reassuring constant. Once he was done, he vanished from public view as if he’d been television’s Lawrence of Arabia, just with fewer hang-ups about revolutionizing a vast wasteland. Impervious to the latest fashion because he was so alert to it, Carson could always be counted on to deliver the goods. In his case, those were...

A Monumental Failure

Honestly, who on earth thought George Clooney's The Monuments Men was a good idea for a movie? 

AP Images/Sony Pictures Publicity
I'm not sure what could turn George Clooney into a good movie director, but he could start by curing himself of wanting to be well thought of. In front of a camera, he's all suave effrontery, but plunk him down behind one and his cockiness goes out the window. Since Clooney minus his cockiness is the approximate equivalent of Joe Biden with laryngitis, you find yourself wondering which long-gone high-school teacher he's wanly hoping to impress. If the overrated Goodnight, And Good Luck and the forgettable, forgotten The Ides of March were Clooney in civics class, The Monuments Men is a dose of World Civ combined with art history combined with nostalgia for the jaunty, "Let's put a ragtag bunch of misfits together and go on a mission" WWII movies of his (and my) youth. Predictably, the last of these is viewers' best chance of getting some driblets of fun out of watching the thing, thanks to a very juicy cast: Bill Murray, John Goodman, Bob Babalan, Downton Abbey 's Hugh Bonneville and...

In Search of Gatsby's People

Careless People takes us into the cultural hurly-burly—tabloid affairs and murders—that were likely on F. Scott Fitzgerald's mind while writing The Great Gatsby

"Sometimes history appears to have been so inebriated that it blacked out completely, and we have no idea what a mysterious trace means at all." That's one of the more enjoyable observations in a book that doesn't stint on phrasemaking: Careless People (Penguin, $29.95), Sarah Churchwell's lavish excavation of the real-life milieu whose scandals, frolics and gaudy personalities gave F. Scott Fitzgerald the raw material for The Great Gatsby. Even when she gets most carried away by her connect-the-dots enthusiasms—or gimmickry, if you prefer—her literary "Where's Waldo?" game is the liveliest contribution to Fitzgeraldiana to come my way in years. Since I once wrote a cranky novel called Daisy Buchanan's Daughter— and its octogenarian narrator hooted at the notion of seeing Jay Gatsby's quest as anything more than the odyssey of a lunatic would-be homewrecker whose monomania and narcissism destroyed her childhood—you may gather that my own relationship to Gatsby...

Why Are So Many People Still Protective of Woody Allen?

AP Images/Chris Pizzello
They may be a big deal these days—the prelude to the Oscars, like that's something to brag about—but some of us remain secure in our knowledge that the Golden Globes are a joke. Not the judgment by one's presumably qualified peers that gives the Academy Awards their claim on validity, the Globes aren't the verdict of particularly qualified critics either; the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which bestows them, is notoriously a pack of nonentities. All in all, the GG's might as well have been named for the late, great Anna Nicole Smith's not-found-in-nature gazongas. So it logically follows that last Sunday's Cecil B. De Mille Lifetime Achievement award to Woody Allen should be a joke as well. But it wasn't one to Mia Farrow and her family. Both during and after the show, they took to Twitter for their latest commando raid on a rehabilitation that leaves them understandably indignant. "Did they put the part where a woman publicly confirmed he molested her at age 7...