Terry Teachout

Terry Teachout is the drama critic of The Wall Street Journal, culture critic of Commentary, and the author of books on Louis Armstrong, H.L. Mencken, and George Banchine.

recent articles

Hollywood Knows Him Not: Christmas Movies You Want to See

Christmas is to Hollywood what a bank is to a crook. The kids are home for the holidays, the house is full of restless guests who need tending — so why not take the afternoon off and go to the movies? And go we do, in numbers that fill the larcenous hearts of studio moguls … Read more

That’s All, Folks!

This is my last film column for Crisis. I’m closing up shop in order to grapple with two daunting tasks that will take up much of my time for the foreseeable future. (One is my biography of Louis Armstrong; the other, “Sightings,” a column about the arts in America that I’m writing for the new … Read more

Film: On Their Own

Independent film had come into its own—or so it seemed—when I started writing this column back in 1997. While the staggering success of Titanic clearly boded ill for aesthetic quality control in Hollywood, the fast-growing number of first-rate feature films made on a shoestring was a revolutionary development for grownups tired of the same old … Read more

Film: Invisible Woman

No, it’s not just you, or even me. This year’s crop of American films has been awful, and moviegoers are reacting by staying home. The current box-office slump is the cause of growing alarm in Hollywood, though not enough as yet to persuade anyone there to try making better movies. Instead, it’s serving to accelerate … Read more

Film: Fallen Worlds

If you were to draw up a list of the 100 best American movies, most of them would be genre films of one kind or another. That’s not surprising, or shouldn’t be. Hollywood is a purely commercial enterprise, meaning that it plays it safe. At the same time, most filmmakers are artists (or wish they … Read more

The Voice of the Artist

Pope John Paul II left his mark on the world in countless ways, and in the wake of his death it seems that all of them are being written about at endless length. Appropriately so—there can be no doubt that he will be remembered as one of the half-dozen most consequential figures of the 20th … Read more

Film: Poor Howard

Is there anything so unintentionally amusing as ill-concealed autobiography? When I heard that Martin Scorsese had made a three-hour-long biopic about Howard Hughes that portrayed the crazy billionaire-recluse as a misunderstood artist brought low by vaulting ambition, I laughed out loud. The director of Goodfellas is widely thought to be a genius, a word I … Read more

Film: The Sloth Aquatic

Time was when well-paid Communist screenwriters used to get together at Hollywood cocktail parties and chuckle over their pink martinis about the pro-Soviet lines they’d contrived to tuck into the scripts of otherwise innocuous films. Don’t take my word for it—read Radical Hollywood: The Untold Story Behind America’s Movies, by Paul Buhle and Dave Wagner, … Read more

Film: The Wrong Man

Musical biopics, as film biographies of famous musicians are known in the trade, get no respect, and rarely deserve it. Picture for picture, they’ve long ranked high among the falsest, most absurd movies ever to make their way to the screen. Even as a boy, I could tell that The Glenn Miller Story and The … Read more

Film: Really Real People

Ask and it shall be given— sometimes. “Why does nobody make feature-length cartoons for adults?” I wrote in this space not a year ago, apropos of The Triplets of Belleville. Now Pixar, the digital-animation studio that brought you Finding Nemo, has seen and raised me with The Incredibles, a digitally animated cartoon so adult in … Read more

Film: Conversion Experience

Evelyn Waugh liked nothing better than to trumpet his contempt for all things modern. In The Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold, he placed this counter-credo in the mouth of the novel’s title character, his fictional alter ego: His strongest tastes were negative. He abhorred plastics, Picasso, sunbathing and jazz—everything in fact that had happened in his … Read more

Film: Nihilism in Pastels

Twenty years ago, an NBC executive named Brandon Tartikoff handed a two-word memo to a TV producer named Michael Mann. “MTV cops,” it said, and Miami Vice was born. After the show had become a success, someone asked Mann what made it distinctive, to which he replied with equal terseness, “No earth tones.” Tartikoff is … Read more

Film: In Darkest Jersey

More often than not, I know exactly what I think of the films I see. I can understand why this statement might strike you as odd (after all, why wouldn’t a critic know?), but it’s not quite so simple as that. Great art is full of ambiguity: It leaves you room to make up your … Read more

Film: Dumb and Proud of It

“No man,” Dr. Johnson assures us, “is a hypocrite in his pleasures.” I try never to disagree with the good doctor, so I’ll freely admit that along with hot dogs, fireworks, small-town parades, and old-fashioned country music, I dote on the kind of lowbrow comedy that can best be described as dumb, as in “Oh, … Read more

Film: Ten for a Rainy Day

It happened at last—I went for a whole month without finding a single new movie I could bring myself to see. Troy? Van Helsing? The Day After Tomorrow? Don’t make me laugh. I’ll do a lot for Crisis, but I have my limits. So instead of subjecting myself (and you) to a thousand words’ worth … Read more

Film: Magic Acts

What we see in art depends in part on what we expect to see in it. Though the metaphor embodied in its nickname is long dead, everyone in the world under-stands that a “movie” consists of “moving pictures,” and it is in the nature of a picture—a photograph— that we take for granted its unfaked … Read more

Film: The Land of Contempt

Hope springs eternal in the human breast, except when you’re a critic. Sooner or later, there comes a time when you finally decide to give up on artists who’ve disappointed you repeatedly. I stopped bothering with Woody Allen, for instance, after Sweet and Lowdown (the only reason I went to see that one was because … Read more

Film: All Blood No Water

I’m writing these words two days after the opening of The Passion of the Christ. By the time you read them, you’ll probably already have seen it. You’ll also know whether the huge first-day crowds were more than just a publicity-powered fluke. Will ordinary Americans be driven away by the avalanche of hostile reviews that … Read more

Film: Grown-Up Stuff

Why does nobody make feature-length cartoons for adults? The commercial success of such TV series as The Simpsons, King of the Hill, and Dania, none of which is particularly child-friendly, suggests that they might well turn a good-sized profit. So does the fact that many of the animated features released in recent years, Finding Nemo, … Read more

Film: Movies for Mom

You don’t need me to tell you to go see The Return of the King— you probably already have—so I’ll devote my space to more consequential matters. I’m writing this month’s column on a laptop precariously balanced on a rickety card table set up in the guest bedroom of the small-town house where I spent … Read more

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