Thursday, February 07, 2013

Anniversary Issue!

I've been reading the magazine now and then for the past year, but not in a very immersive way. More like in a Yes! No! Like! WTF! kind of way. Denby, television reviews, election politics, k-pop, that contract killer in Detroit, Hillary, germs. You know. I just found a draft of a post that said: "What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank," Jamaica, Brazil and its President, Guatemalan Murder, Anthony Lane on John Le Carre. Jamaica? That I don't remember. 

Last night I read all of that thing about the prof who shot a bunch of colleagues at a faculty meeting. Even when I'm at my busiest and most distracted and distractable, I read true crime front to back, start to finish, soup to nuts. Been reading Janet Malcolm on the case of Mazoltuv Borukhova in the NYRB all year, it seems like.

I really like this year's Tilley cover. Though of course it's ridiculous; 2013 and TNY starts poking fun at Brooklyn.  I also really liked Barry Blitt's "Herding Cats" cover which was lovely even before I recognized the president and got the joke and what have you...

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

carte blanche is no way to run a cultural life

You tell 'em. Anthony Lane made me laugh with joy in the bathroom:

There’s only one problem with home cinema: it doesn’t exist. The very phrase is an oxymoron. As you pause your film to answer the door or fetch a Coke, the experience ceases to be cinema. Even the act of choosing when to watch means you are no longer at the movies. Choice—preferably an exhaustive menu of it—pretty much defines our status as consumers, and has long been an unquestioned tenet of the capitalist feast, but in fact carte blanche is no way to run a cultural life (or any kind of life, for that matter), and one thing that has nourished the theatrical experience, from the Athens of Aeschylus to the multiplex, is the element of compulsion. Someone else decides when the show will start; we may decide whether to attend, but, once we take our seats, we join the ride and surrender our will. The same goes for the folks around us, whom we do not know, and whom we resemble only in our private desire to know more of what will unfold in public, on the stage or screen. We are strangers in communion, and, once that pact of the intimate and the populous is snapped, the charm is gone. Our revels now are ended.

This sounds Guattarian to me, in both it's tone of celebration, and in its basic argument, "at the movies, one pays to be invaded."

Hasenpfeffer Incorporated

Do I have any idea who this Whitney Cummings person is? Does my television even work? Have I ever seen more 30 Rock than the awful pilot? No, no, and no. So thank you, Emily Nussbaum, for so quickly and smartly painting a vivid picture of what's going on this year with women and funny and so on.

I can wait to find out what Denby thinks of Michelle Williams as Marilyn.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Grunge! Rinse. Repeat.

Courtney Love and Johnny Depp all in one issue? Is it Sassy? Is it 1991? No, it is this month's Vanity Fair.

But I always stop reading articles about Johnny Depp about half-way through. He's never really as interesting as the interviewer seems to think he is (even when that interviewer is Rimbaud-lovin' Patti Smith. Also, that was just in April!). You'd think this problem would be endemic to interviews with really attractive people, but it never hits me so hard as with old Johnny Depp. At this point, let's just say I admire his acting. I was also tickled, and completely convinced, when Tom & Lorenzo suggested that Johnny Depp has a body double do his airport appearances in Japan.

The Courtney Love thing, though, is amazing, in part because of herself, in part because the author, Nancy Jo Sales, is an amazing narrator. She just wrote that whole thing about the Quaids' conspiracy theories for VF and I'd read that, and that becomes part of this, and I'm pretty sure that celebrities with drug problems are a target for swindlers but I'm not interested because I'm sympathetic to these poor, defrauded celebrities. I'm interested because . . . I'm interested. A while back, Go Fug Yourself linked to Courtney Love on her own addictions and that was pretty compelling too.

I almost always like Nancy Jo Sales and the very wry attitude she takes towards her subjects. In my imagination she wrote a thing about the Hilton sisters and their mother and how awful she is for The New Yorker in the late 1990s and it appeared with a photo of the two girls in a (literally) chintzy hotel room. But, apparently, she wrote the article for VF in 2000 and The New Yorker ran the photo in 1999. And in that interview with the Hilton family, Paris claims to like Hole.

So, yeah. Vanity Fair has me and my very serious reading material pretty well figured out.

And all this during Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas Retrospective week. It's like I'm back in that middle-school carpool listening to NPR.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Over the Rimbaud

I found Mendelsohn's "Critic at Large" piece on Rimbaud completely enjoyable. I loved the way Mendelsohn wove together the best one-liners from critics, and reviews of the (not so recent) biographies of Rimbaud to create his own lively narrative of "The Brief Career of Rimbaud." I also liked the way we landed, ever so gently, yet somewhat cynically, on Mendelsohn's personal experience (and others') of reading the poet. And it ends with a fine pun.

Free, but worth more to me than the stack of magazines I paid to have delivered to my apartment.

Thursday, July 07, 2011


Anna Faris = Feminist Masochism. Her life, her work, the article itself. Makes you want to go cold turkey and enter some sort of upstate separatist enclave.

Failing that, spend a moment or two with this amazing new comic from Carolita Johnson, "Oscarina."


Monday, June 27, 2011

Films People Walked Out On Summer 2011

If you're not inclined to see Tree of Life, Anthony Lane's review will bring you up to speed.

David Denby on Meek's Cutoff, "a pleasureless, anti-sensuous aesthetic." !!?? Whose experience does he mean? That of the characters? Or the audience? Or the filmmaker? In each and any case, I don't agree.

Richard Brody is better, but his second take on the film is odd too.

In his review of Kelly Reichardt’s Western “Meek’s Cutoff” in the magazine this week, David Denby refers to the movie’s “new kind of feminist and materialist realism.” I don’t think it’s new, but it is materialist, and it’s a kind of realism that plays into an ongoing cinematic fallacy: the notion that poor people facing physical travails lack inner lives, as if having a life full of stories, dreams beyond survival, religious beliefs, and a thick tangle of social and emotional connections were a sort of luxury—and as if spending too much screen time finding and depicting them would be a form of disrespect or indifference to the characters’ immediate practical and economic difficulties.

Me? I love blankness and don't need a full-fledged 20th c psychological subject from every film I see. Especially if the film is about ye olde pioneer women in the 19th century . . .

He ends up, "The politics and the sympathies of Meek’s Cutoff are liberal; its aesthetics are not just conservative, but reactionary."

Which is funny, right? Because Tree of Life is so ideologically reactionary, but it tries to be aesthetically experimental.

I also read about Osama and Acai.

And you did see this, the funniest thing in The New Yorker ever? "New App on the Kindle 2GO" Directions to T.S. Eliot's house, "Arrive around 7:30. Our phone is 917-555-0133. Much appreciate if you could bring a dessert—keep in mind that I’m lactose-intolerant."


Friday, June 10, 2011

The Trial of St. Joan

Did you really think I was going to let that slide? Denby and "The Case for Joan Crawford."

Denby seems – rightly – rather scared of Joan Crawford. Not because she is all the intimidating and vaguely unflattering things he says she is, but because she is an amazing artist and he is . . . a man with opinions. I feel a conflict of interest here. He should recuse himself from passing judgment on Crawford.

This turn of phrase occurred to me as I was bitching about the article in the car – the magazine was not at hand. Imagine my surprise, then, when I started this post and read the following, from Denby, “Any call for justice to Joan Crawford, however, runs into a dead end . . .” Oh, we’re at dead end alright. I’m not sure evaluating Crawford as a date “the date who raises your blood pressure, not you’re your libido” is going to work out that well.

But he’s right, Crawford did “place herself at the vanguard of current erotic taste”- this is definitely my take on her adorable boyishness in Our Dancing Daughters “in which [according to Denby] she is pleasure-loving and wild yet candid and friendly, a straight shooter who gets the guy.” Well-put. And she develops and changes this basic persona to suit changing erotic tastes, and maintains it.

Also cute: how he describes her early commitment to her own celebrity as “dress-up-to-go-grocery-shopping.”

And I liked, “If you look at pictures of her at any age, the whites of her eyes show not just above the irises but below them, too. Her eyes are so wide open that she seems to be devouring the future.” The first is objectively true, the second is lovely.

Again with the eyes, on her amazing performance as Daisy Kenyon, “with an open-eyed stare and a hardened voice.” I like this wide-eyed image that isn’t innocence. And his take on the brilliant match between her tough elegance and Warner Brothers is easy to agree with.

I wasn’t that taken with his attitude towards the contrast between Crawford “bittersweet” and “melancholy” as the pushover stenographer in Grand Hotel, and Crawford “determined to show the audience how big a bitch a woman faced with few choices can become” in The Women. He’s right about the contrast between the two performances, but that right there is the brilliance of her artistry. Not all femininity is charming in its desperation. And not all desperation is charming. And that’s the difference between performing femininity for women and performing it for men. Yes indeed, “She was always a bigger hit with women than with men.”

I also dislike the idea that there’s “nothing flexible or playful” in her performances and that just doesn’t make sense to me. Denby seems fully aware that Johnny Guitar exists. And what about when she lifts the lid on that canary in What Every Happened to Baby Jane?
That film is every kind of brilliant.

And finally, do we, does Crawford, does anyone, need to be “rescued from camp?” If he's her self-appointed advocate, that's not working either. Thanks, but no thanks.