Rand Richards Cooper

Rand Richards Cooper, one of Commonweal's film critics, is the author of two works of fiction, The Last To Go and Big as Life.

By this author

Text & Subtext

The theme of father-son conflict has figured richly in movies, often bearing a conspicuously manly aspect. Consider the generational face-offs in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Rebel Without a Cause, The Godfather, Road to Perdition—replete with guns, booze, fast cars, fights over money, fights over women. The Israeli film Footnote abjures such lurid and obvious topics to focus instead on the fraught acrimonies of...Talmudic scholarship? It might seem unlikely, this tale of dueling father-and-son textual critics.

Dead Men Walking

Last year, at a college reunion, I attended a panel on the financial meltdown featuring three classmates with long careers on Wall Street. Expecting a frank discussion of the calamity, I was startled to hear a round of breathless stories along the lines of “Where I was when Lehman fell.” Didn’t these guys understand that for the rest of us, the fall of Lehman Bros. was not the Kennedy assassination or the moon landing?

From Nightmare to Tragedy

It was the end of August and, marooned in the silver-screen doldrums, I went to see what the French were up to. Beaucoup, as it turns out.

Curmudgeon on Safari

Born in 1932 into a middle-class Indian family in colonial Trinidad, the novelist V. S. Naipaul began by writing about his home, then proceeded to the wide world beyond, where his investigations of the perplexities of selfhood amid the ruins of empire won him the Nobel Prize in 2001. Profoundly anti-idealistic, he seemed an unlikely Nobel winner, eschewing the liberationist enthusiasms of his fellow 1960s-era Caribbean writers in favor of a darkly mordant view of human possibility.

Secret Lives

Recently I checked in again with two directors whose films earned praise in the past. Noah Baumbach made a name for himself with The Squid and the Whale, a pithy study in domestic pathology that traced a family’s miseries to the black hole of narcissism and rage inhabited by the father, a failed writer. Baumbach’s new movie, Greenberg, explores similar terrain, charting the travails of a forty-year-old carpenter and ex–rock musician, Roger Greenberg (Ben Stiller), who returns to his L.A. stomping grounds to housesit for his wealthy, vacationing brother and family.