Monday, February 27, 2006

feb 21, 1925 Are They Still Famous? part 3 of 4

Since fame is arbitrary and relative, I think what I really mean is: Are these same figures still mentioned in the New Yorker today? Or, exactly how tenacious is their hold on the bourgeois cultural imagination? Or maybe, to what extent has The New Yorker participated in and contributed to the canonization of (American) popular modernism?

On Books:

A Boni and Liveright ad caught my eye. The ad mentions the Modern Library and Sarah Gertrude Millin’s God's Stepchildren, among other things. In studies of American literary modernism, there has developed a kind of critical consensus (here summed up by Terry Teachout, NYT) about the significance of Boni and Liveright, but this ad is before all that, and Boni and Liveright seem equally interested in promoting political sensation and tame pleasure reading.

The short book reviews, rather mixed company:

"A Passage to India, by EM Forster. A foaming-up of India's race hate, pictured with searching skill." Yowza.
"Tales of Heresay, by Joseph Conrad. Four, all admirable and easy to read; you needn't be a seasoned Conradian." Always good to hear.
"Will Rogers' Illiterate Digest. Not as funny as seeing and hearing him; top of the humor heap, nevertheless." Now, this thing seems especially paradoxical, like anti-matter.

On film:

This isn’t exactly respectful, but I’m not sure what the dig is, on von Sternberg. "Joseph Sternberg drifted from the East Side, via Broadway, to Hollywood, a well-frayed shoestring pinned carefully in an inner pocket. [Poor, yes. Jewish, yes. But WHAT is the significance of the last image, the shoestring in his pocket?] He returns Josef von Sternberg, the 'von' having blossomed under the beneficence of the California sun." Closes, "Broadway glories in this triumph of supreme egotism, but it can't quite forgive the conqueror his 'von.'" More later on what The New Yorker can’t forgive . . . This little note is followed later by a dismissal, in the film section, of von Sternberg’s The Salvation Hunters.

Erich von Stroheim's Greed, "Frank Norris's McTeague transferred to the screen with a large measure of stark honesty. Unrelenting and sordid, if you wish, but a fine effort to get away from the saccharine." Denby could have written this, my categories overlap and my blog repeats itself.

The New Yorker has mixed feelings about Murnau's The Last Laugh (Der Letzte Mann) written by Carl Mayer and starring Emil Jannings. My mother explained the concept of kitsch to me with examples from Carl Mayer. This did not help me at all. The New Yorker does not mention the director's name, just Jannings and Mayer . . .

And on Griffith replacing de Mille at Famous Players, Griffith "has sacrificed his independence and gone over to the film system as its overlord" Both Griffith and de Mille are still famous, for better or worse, but so are notions of a Hollywood “system” and “independence” and its “sacrifice.”

Assorted Arts:

Mentions Joseph Stella and "his West Virginia drawings" at a New York gallery, and Stravinsky, who is not for the “radio masses,” in music and art notes. Image here is Stella's Pittsburgh, which is quite near West Virginia and, I think, part of the same period of Stella's work, before 1914. This drawing was part of the Pittsburgh Survey.

Finally, who created the woodcut (?) type illustration on page 3? The style looks familiar, maybe from Harlem Renaissance novels? But its not that similiar to the Aaron Douglas illustrations in The New Negro . . . or the Winold Reiss things . . . Actually, it kind of looks like the Modern Library icon . . . So where have I seen them before?

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is gladwell for real?

you decide. i share this link in case my gladwell fans don't make it over to emdashes regularly. now no one is going to want to discuss power law distribution with little ol' me . . .

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Sunday, February 26, 2006

feb 21, 1925 some things never change, part 2 of 4

Unfortunately, my tendency was to read the very first issue and put things into two, rather lame, piles: Some Things Never Change and Are they Still Famous? To begin,

Some Things Never Change:

Attitude Towards Science, as a gentlemanly pursuit: On William Beebe's "expedition" to the Sargasso Sea, " 'Dr. Beebe's great boast is that no member of his staff has any excuse for not doing good scientific work. Which brings us to the chef.' "

Snappy One-liners: I liked the short little theater reviews best, and I’m glad this style has had a lasting influence, in the best of Kael's short film reviews: "The Good Bad Woman. At the Comedy. One of those plays that calls a spade a dirty lousy spade." I don't know exactly what that means, but their readers probably did.

Other keepers from the theater reviews, "Come and bring Aunt Fannie" and "In tribute to the author, we bashfully admit that we wept, and lavishly: on the other hand, it is but fair to confess that we are that way." Actually, you can see the influence of this kind of writing on lots of magazine-type writing, and myself, to this day. And probably it predates the New Yorker, but felt very them and then.

Jokes about the president: In this case, Coolidge jokes.

A love/hate relationship to Hollywood cinema: On The Lost World, "Through camera trickery, dinosauri and other beasts of the prehistoric past live again. Interesting because it proves the camera is a liar." Also sounds a lot like the review of the spirit photo exhibit by Aletti this summer.

Also, a list of promises for the film A Thief in Paradise "1. The whirlwind dance in an artist's studio. 2. Undersea dance. 3. Polo match - blondes vs. brunettes in one-piece bathing suits. 4. Airplane honeymoon. 5. Electric love thrills." Too bad we don’t have these particular thrills at the movies anymore, but the New Yorker paying attention to them, in a backhanded, condescending way seems familiar. This was when a one-piece bathing suit was sexier than a two-piece suit. But you knew that, right? Like in (sequel to the book Cheaper by the Dozen) Belles on Their Toes? Clearly, some things DO change, but I'll discuss that later.

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Friday, February 24, 2006

feb 21, 1925 better late than pregnant, part 1 of 4

I read but did not read the pointed invitation from Emdashes to comment on the first ever issue of The New Yorker. I did see that she asked Squibs to take a gander, and I took a gander at Squib's excellent thoughts on language and humor. But I didn't really notice that I'd been tagged until Technorati pointed it out to me. Such a wonder, technology.

So, to introduce the first born son, I give you the best of the statement of purpose printed in the February 21, 1925 issue of The New Yorker:

"The New Yorker starts with a declaration of serious purpose but with a conomitant declaration that it will not be too serious in executing it."

"It will publish facts that it will have to go behind the scenes to get, but it will not deal in scandal for the sake of scandal nor sensation for the sake of sensation."

"It has announced that it is not edited for the old lady in Dubuque. By this it means that it is not of that group of publications engaged in tapping the Great Buying Power of the North American steppe region by trading mirrors and colored beads in the form of our best brands of hokum."

I wonder where it was first announced that it was not for the old lady in Dubuque. This has become a famous line and I'm sure I should Google it with all due respect.

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Wednesday, February 22, 2006

jan 16 issue: sasha frere-jones

You can also count your blessings, I spared you a pangyric (but no one died) on Frere-Jones on Neil Diamond. I love Diamond, I usually don't love Frere-Jones. If I want a pet indie boy, I'll find one for myself, thanks. But read it and weep.

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feb 6 2007: ross on beethoven

Starts off a bit slowly. Even for a reader who IS obsessed with manuscripts found in the Philadelphia area, like myself.

But then,"In his later instrumental music, Beethoven sometimes played with vocal stylings, with arialike solos and recitativelike interludes. In the eighteen-twenties, the operas of Rossini were the rage, and Beethoven was both irritated and fascinated by this phenomenon. With the pseudo-operatic gestures of his late works, he seems to be paying half-ironic, half-sincere tribute to the popular music of his day." (82)

Beethoven was irritated and fascinated? I like that, it makes Beethoven sound like a funny uncle.

Better yet, Ross goes on to give a persuasive reading of "The Fugue" as "some kind of crazed opera buffa, full of arguments, misunderstandings, confessions, and reconciliations." With all kinds of nice aural evidence. A kind of comparative approach. Or maybe it appealed to me as a kind of genre analysis.

And the evidence includes the contemporary interpretation of Beethoven's late quartets by the Takacs Quartet. I don't know what these sound like, but I like that Ross uses as evidence the fact that these works CAN be played in certain way as evidence that they might have been intended to played thus. It's a little far fetched and playful to claim that this proves anything, and Ross uses more postive language than I would if I were making a similar claim about intepretation (in my own areas of interest) but that's kind of fun.

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Tuesday, February 21, 2006

feb 13&20th issue: gladwell on homelessness

"If there's anything going, and I put in for a bit of it, it's always the same story: "You're undeserving; so you can't have it." But my needs is as great as the most deserving widow's that ever got money out of six different charities in one week at the death of the same husband. I don't need less than a deserving man; I need more. I don' eat less hearty than him; and I drink a lot more." (Mr. Doolittle in George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion, or My Fair Lady)

If this seems a little crude (or irrelevant), read on, I'll get there.

First off, given the string of analogies - among LAPD statistics, car pollution statistics and homelessness statistics - you'd think maybe the real topic of Gladwell's investigation was this power-law statistical distribution. That is, a statistical distribution with a low number of high yield cases (extreme repeat offenders, profuse pollutors, often hospitalized individuals) at one end of a distribution curve are responsible for the majority of police violence, pollution, and the costs of homelessness. As opposed to a bell curve distribution, with these problems caused by moderate contributions from the majority.

However, the engaging personal narrative of Murray is supposed to, I guess, give a face to this statistical problem and to focus the article on homelessness policies rather than all three issues, or the statistical model itself.

Basic thesis of the article: That a small number of people without stable residences (say, around 10% of homeless people at any given time) incurr major expenses (for drug and alchohol treatment, violent accidents, exposure) on the part of health and social services on the community level. And that, therefore, more interventionist policies, on behalf of this statistical group, would lower the overall costs of caring for the indigent for local communities.

But with so much attention paid to the power-law statistical model and the implications of that model, I would have liked to start with a better description of Culhane's database, his dissertation and his research. What kind of department is he in? His research ranged from living in a Philadelphia shelter to compiling a "database" . . . (98) that's cool, but where is he coming from, disciplinarily speaking? And Boston College is Catholic Jesuit, right? What kind of investment does a Catholic school have in defining or redefining the problems of public policy on poverty issues?

A second issue: the conflation of "health-care and social services" (101). This is tough, because, um, they're related. This article appealed to my partner in crime because he spends a lot of time being frustrated with how little the health-care system can do for people whose major health-care issues are the direct result of "social" (read ECONOMIC) issues - education, employment, access, insurance, etc. When Culhane claims that " 'It costs twenty-four thousand dollars a year for one of these shelter beds" (101) and Gladwell places this statement in a paragraph that begins "this group cost the health-care and social-services systems far more than anyone ever anticipated" and follows the statement with estimates of medical care, I assume that cot cost is a conflation of health-care and social services. Useful for the argument, but only to a point.

Manango "leading exponent for the power-law theory of homelessness" and Bush appointee as executive director of the US Interagency Council on Homelessness, "Our intent is to take homeless policy from the old idea of funding programs that serve the homelss people endlessly [ie, shelters] to and invest in results that actually end homelessness [new programs, which I'll describe below.]"

Fine, except Culhane's statistics already suggest that 80% of shelter residents at any given time are without stable residences very temporarily, "In Philadelphia, the most common length of time that someone is homeless is one day. And the second most common length is two days. And they never come back." (98) So don't shut down those shelters all at once, they seem to be providing a useful service to the people of Philadelphia. To be fair, Manango doesn't seem to exculsively support the new, more interventionist policies, it's Gladwell's framing of the issue that does this.

OK, so if you didn't read the article you are wondering what are these new programs. Basically, a free apartment and a social worker and the hope that, given a certain amount of stability and responsibility, the individual will not just stay off the streets, but out of the hospital as well. "The idea is that once the people in the program get stabilized they will find jobs, and start to pick up more and more of their own rent, which would bring someone's annual cost to the program closer to six thousand dollars (from around 15 thou, in a Denver market)." And this is "about a third of what he or she would cost on the street [and in the hospital, I feel compelled to add, again]." (103)

The strangest thing about this article is that Gladwell mentions this, "From an economic perspective the approach makes perfect sense. But from a moral perspective it doesn't seem fair. Thousands of people in the Denver area no doubt live day to day, work two or three jobs, and are eminently deserving of a helping hand - and no one offers them a key to a new apartment." (104)

Didn't Gladwell's mother ever tell him that things may not be equal, but they ARE fair?

What I really like about this article, though, is that despite not looking hard enough at this Culhane character, Gladwell does begin to question the motivations and meanings of public policy on poverty issues. He writes, "Social benefits are supposed to have some kind of moral justification. We give them to widows and disabled veterans and poor mothers with small children. Giving the homeless guy passed out on the sidewalk an apartment has a different rationale. It's simply about efficiency." I don't agree with Gladwell; I don't think social benefits need a moral justification, or at least not the moral justification he invokes. The appeal of widows, disabled vets and poor mothers relies on very Victorian-type ideas of charity and, well, the deserving poor and good deeds and so on . . . but I suspect he's being descriptive of popular ideological positions on poverty and public policy.

And this, I think, brings us to the effective satire of the preface.

Alfred P. Doolittle (Stanely Holloway) doubts the value(s) of middle-class morality in Cukor's film version of My Fair Lady (1964). In the same film, his daughter Eliza (Audrey Hepburn) lip syncs, "All I want is a Room Somewhere."

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Friday, February 17, 2006

feb 13&20th issue: goldberg on gerson

I thought this would be interesting, boy was I wrong.

Any interest we might feel in Gerson is supposed to predicated on the appeal of his rhetorical mastery. Goldberg quotes Hertzberg praising Gerson's work on a 2002 Bush speech "taken as a whole and judged purely as a piece of writing, was shockingly good." Funny, I don't remember that. I remember years and years of lies and bad decisions, justified by bombastic, violent and manchiestic tongue-rolling. (Tongue rolling? Not a real phrase, I made that up. Tongue flapping, I've heard that. Hand waving, I've heard that. Holy rolling. This is something between tongue flapping and holy rolling.)

[And if I'm supposed to respect Gerson because he brings a sincerity to his work, and he feels that "African Americans might like Bush better if they knew him better. 'The President I know is a very tolerant man, he told me. 'The President I know is a very compassionate man.'" What, the president tolerates African Americans? I'm sure "they" would like that. It's so nice to be tolerated in the US in this day and age. What the fuck?]

The article seems to be trying to play with a tension - you expect to hate Gerson, but really he's not that bad. Only the article seems to give a whole lot of evidence that he is that bad: paternalistic, moralistic, mislead, manipulated, compromising and compromised. A real representative (in the sense of he's the epitome of) of the Christian right voters, and in that sense, it's key that this representative, "The Believer," then gets the opportunity to frame the President's oil war as a moral struggle.

In a way, this article works a lot like Konigsburg on Bremmer, as a backhanded endictment of Gerson. I mean, if anyone's tolerated, it looks like Gerson's compassionate conservatism is tolerated in the White House because he sells the president's economic interests (ie, the war, but his other economic policies as well) to the American people as a moral crusade. It's almost funny to read the article backwards, and find Bush wooing Gerson to make him believe they are on the same team.

I like it better when Mark Danner just marshalls evidence and goes for the jugular.

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Wednesday, February 15, 2006

feb 13&20th issue: hertzberg talks

Generally I like Hertzberg's political talk in Talk of the Town. I like this one, on the State of the Union address, which I watched on (stuttering, blurry) streaming CNN, making it a little like an avant-garde new media project.

I was a little surprised that Hertzberg didn't mention the very particular 'emptiness' of the war rhetoric from this angle; the speech had originally included a more detailed policy type discussion of health care reform, Bush style. But at the last minute, the admin decided they didn't have the political capital (god forgive me for using this abominable phrase) to make it an issue again, especially after the horror stories about seniors, and others, in January and the record drug company profits. I think the health care policy left in the speech was basically, "There will be a committee on that."

So the speech writers just added more war rhetoric to take up space.

I think I read this in the NYT the day after, you probably did too. But I think it's interesting that we're supposed to be distracted from other policy issues, on such a basic level, by this war rhetoric. Maybe there's more on this in Goldberg's article. I'll go see . . .

In addition, my partner in crime thinks Gladwell is on to something. I'll go see about that too . . .

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janis joplin's linzertorte recipe

you know you've got it, child, if it makes you feel good.

Real recipe is here.

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Monday, February 13, 2006

update for yogurt lovers

There are three yogurts in my life.

FAGE Total 0% Greek Strained Yogurt: "It is a live yogurt and being completely fat-free, is perfect for your waistline too." That quote is from the tub. How are those related? And I love the use of the gerund being. And the archaic "waistline" reference . . . I know mzn is crazy for whole milk yogurt, and FAGE whole milk yogurt is divine. But I was brought up on fat free yogurt and so while I can taste the difference, fat free doesn't taste like any kind of compromise to me. Roden insists on whole milk yogurt too.

Crowley's Low Fat Yogurt: A kind of "local" brand from, town of my birth, Binghamton, NY. Rich and dense even in its low fattyness. My mother attributes my love of dairy to her drinking whole unpasturized milk from the dairy across the road from her house when she was pregnant with me. Crazy 1970s logic.

Danon Fat Free: Another way to get a similar creamy firm texture is to set this cheap and runny yogurt on a folded paper towel for 10-20 minutes. The paper towel will wick away the watery liquid and leave you with condensed yogurt, which will roll right off the paper towel if you lift it by one corner. If you haven't done this yourself, you may not believe me . . . but it totally works. I keep this around because it's cheap and easy to find, but its an inferior product, no doubt.

Note to lindy, who lists Roden's Good Food from the Middle East on her blog and recently celebrated a birthday, and mzn, who also celebrated a birthday, with ice cream. I too am an Aquarius and the cookbook was a birthday gift.

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Whirled Peas, circa 1968

Claudia Roden's The New Book of Middle Eastern Food has been dominating my kitchen and my palate lately. It's the kind of cookbook I like: it's a "classic" from the 1960s, so not too much fancy-dancy recipes with too many ingrediants for their own good; it has easy recipes for me now, and things like Duck with Walnut and Pomegranate Sauce that I can look forward to cooking in my old age; it has a lot of beans.

Here it is on Amazon. I've made:

Chermoula Sauce for Fish: cilantro, garlic, cumin, paprika, chili pepper, olive oil and red wine vinegar in the food processor. Very easy and delicious on fish and everything else on the plate, potatoes, salad, pita. I've made similar things using the blender or the coffee grinder. Or a bottle you can shake vigorously.

Yogurtlu Basti: Chicken and onions with yogurt spiced with cardamom, ginger and toasted almonds. A few easy steps and hot, soothing type dish. I think I added flat parsley to make it pretty.

Eggplant Sauce for Meatballs: Roasted Eggplant, cooked again with Tomato and Onion. Maybe seems like more steps than its worth for a simple savory sauce, but this adheres to my thoughts on eggplant. It's delicious if you COOK THE SHIT OUT OF IT.

Moroccan Kefta: Ground meat with onion, cilantro, parsley and tiny amounts of cumin, coriander, ginger and cinnamon. Rolled into little oblong balls. Our were too wet, elsewhere she advises you to drain the onion after pureeing it. Here she didn't but I should have known. Messy and fun, if you like making meatballs, which I do.

Spinach with Chickpeas: Sauteed spinach with coriander and chickpeas. Fast food for eating in front of the TV. If you want to be distracted from what you are watching by the brilliant simplicity of the flavors of the hot little dish you have in your hands.

I think it will entirely replace my use of Joan Roland's "Good Food from the Near East - Five Hundred Recipes from Twelve Countries" (1950) prefaced, "For those who love to cook the world over in the belief that through the sharing of their culinary arts may come a better understanding of each other." Hmmm . . . Still, Roden and Rowland seem to have a lot in common, food as an easy road to "understanding" culture being a shared theme, and one that is subject to a good deal of skepticism nowadays.

Also (related?) they both seem to have moved in diplomatic circles and to have known a lot of people with servants . . . Leading to statements like this, from Roden, "The recipes were from a time when women did not go out to work . . . and most had cooks or servants who cooked all day." (7) When was this time and who were these cooks and servants? Where did they come from? Did they have cooks and servants to? Or were they not women? It seems statistically impossible that most women could have cooks or servants . . . Probably she means most women who ate Duck with Walnut and Pomegranate Sauce, but she should have said so.

Most of the recipes have garlic, lemon and things like that that are of course there but I didn't mention . . . Unfortunately, this isn't a search inside Amazon book, so you can't go steal the complete recipes. This is also unfortunate because the index isn't great . . .



Thursday, February 09, 2006

Interior of the Reina Sofia, in Madrid

I've got this image in my head. Hospital turned museum . . . Lots of cool spaces like this and when I say cool I mean they feel cool - smooth white walls, curves, air above your head, anonymous and bright but evenly lit . . .

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Interior of Hospital from Umberto D

So I guess that's what European hospitals of certain age look like. But it was odd, having been in the museum and tried to think of it as a hospital to see a similiar hospital up and running.

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last brokeback mountain post. ever.

Quick! Mendelsohn at the New York Review of Books trumps the New Yorker film critics, again.

He doesn't cite the NYer review, but faults other papers and reviewers for insisting on the "universal" thing while politely ignoring the political specificity of the film. And he writes like he saw the film, felt the film and then took a few minutes to analyze what was going on . . .

"Both narratively and visually, Brokeback Mountain is a tragedy about the specifically gay phenomenon of the "closet"—about the disastrous emotional and moral consequences of erotic self-repression and of the social intolerance that first causes and then exacerbates it."

"The climax of these visual contrasts [big natural exteriors, cramped interiors] is also the emotional climax of the film, which takes place in two consecutive scenes, both of which prominently feature closets—literal closets." Hey, he's right. There are a lot of very significant closets in the film . . .

And he does this great contrast to Romeo and Juliet.

"But those lovers, however star-crossed, never despise themselves. As Brokeback makes so eloquently clear, the tragedy of gay lovers like Ennis and Jack is only secondarily a social [ie, comparable to forbidden love between lovers of different races, religions, classes] tragedy. Their tragedy, which starts well before the lovers ever meet, is primarily a psychological tragedy, a tragedy of psyches scarred from the very first stirrings of an erotic desire which the world around them—beginning in earliest childhood, in the bosom of their families, as Ennis's grim flashback is meant to remind us—represents as unhealthy, hateful, and deadly. Romeo and Juliet (and we) may hate the outside world, the Capulets and Montagues, may hate Verona; but because they learn to hate homosexuality so early on, young people with homosexual impulses more often than not grow up hating themselves: they believe that there's something wrong with themselves long before they can understand that there's something wrong with society. This is the truth that Heath Ledger, who plays Ennis, clearly understands—"Fear was instilled in him at an early age, and so the way he loved disgusted him," the actor has said—and that is so brilliantly conveyed by his deservedly acclaimed performance." And it is according to these repressive laws of tragedy the queer Mercutio cannot be allowed to live either, which is why I love Romeo+Juliet and so does my dad.

And he closes it with this punch,

"The real achievement of Brokeback Mountain is not that it tells a universal love story that happens to have gay characters in it, but that it tells a distinctively gay story that happens to be so well told that any feeling person can be moved by it. If you insist, as so many have, that the story of Jack and Ennis is OK to watch and sympathize with because they're not really homosexual—that they're more like the heart of America than like "gay people"—you're pushing them back into the closet whose narrow and suffocating confines Ang Lee and his collaborators have so beautifully and harrowingly exposed."

OK, so there is more to life than thinking about how movies work. Look for upcoming posts on the novel The Moonstone, and the new cookbook I'm obsessed with. Serious business.

This was the previous time Mendelsohn took the NYer to task. I think he mentioned Denby by name, but I didn't quote that line.

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Wednesday, February 01, 2006

and the right to refuse the limited roles that Hollywood has to offer

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everyone has a right to a Hollywood kiss

If they want one. After all my talk, I saw Brokeback Mountain. To review:

Before seeing the film myself, I saw it, through Anthony Lane's descriptions in his New Yorker review, as all about the stoic endurance of repression. My interpretation of the "we're not looking at one another" promotional image followed this same argument. My original thoughts on Lane's review, here. Brokeback Thoughts, Part 1.

I think the argument is still valid. For the first 5 minutes of the film. The scene outside the trailer is pure classical Hollywood in which the two romantic leads avoid each others glances, pace around the space, etc. It's an intro film rule that you can get the whole plot of a classical Hollywood film from the first 5 minutes . . . And the scene outside the trailer does not appear in the short story and it has almost no dialog. So it is essentially "cinematic" and it does set the tone, but not for long . . .

Before I saw the film, and based on Lane's review, I had imagined that the movie "ended" around the time Michelle Williams saw the boys kissing, shut the door and stayed in the marriage. Repressive indeed.

But when I actually saw the movie, I thought that the story really took off when all the other family and friends got involved. Jack's amazing wife, Jack's parents, Ennis's girlfriend, Ennis's daughters, Ennis's wife's new husband, Jack's father in law . . . The cruelty and tragedy of all of those interactions makes clear the violent consequences of living in a repressive culture. I didn't expect the movie to be as explicitly critical as it was, more so than Lane's review and other reviews I'd heard.

I also thought that Jack's insistance on his right to a stable, long-term romantic and economic partnership and Ennis's insistance on his right to a family were interesting, and very political, elements of the film. Jack and Ennis aren't radical "we're here, we're queer and we don't have fucking children" - they are in a Hollywood movie, and that means liberal, not radical politics.


At this critical juncture, we are slowly reading the short story in bed at night and we're not finished yet (used my New Yorker archive for the first time), but in the scene between Ennis, Jack and Mrs. Ennis both Ennis and Mrs. Ennis know that's she's caught the boys kissing in the stairwell. That means that in the story he and she know what she's seen, but in the film, he doesn't know that she's seen. All of this seeing and not seeing and looking and not looking is very classical Hollywood.

And I think the cliche of the fishing trip on which no fish are caught is a funny joke (turned tragic) in which the film tells the same little story I did: that which we have learned is heterosexual masculinity (the fishing trip without fish) is actually queer masculinity playing straight.

And I thought the dramatic and narrative parallels to Treasure of the Sierra Madre were quite obvious and the use of the Western genre a deliberate attempt to tell the story about Hollywood masculinity using Hollywood conventions.

But if Hollywood has historically represented queerness through various codes, the queer characters here are allowed to speak and love without entirely coding their identities as straight, but still coding them as Hollywood in a lot of ways.

All this bears on my Brokeback Thoughts, Part 2, here. On Heath and the Golden Globes, Etc.


And I think I would have preferred the first violent image, of the murdered old man, have been a little less restricted in its possible meanings. That is to say, I would have liked some ambiguity about who saw it, or in whose mind it was real . . . something more like that amazing scene in Persona that you don't see . . . though I think making the scene visible to the audience is important here. I would have liked to imagine that both Jack and Ennis had "seen" and remembered seeing that violence. And then Jack's romantic idealism would have been in the face of and despite the reality of repressive violence and Ennis's tragic pragmatism would have been another response to the same reality. But that comes across in any case and the image is ambiguous and disturbing enough, though it looked a little like the cliched personal, psychological "backstory" Lane is so hard on in his recent 2006 omnibus review. Because for god's sake, it's not a personal backstory, it's a national backstory.

By the end of the film I was bawling (not unusual) and I think it was the effect of seeing a romantic relationship, and various gender identities, and various sex acts NOT usually given the Hollywood treatment, given the Hollywood treatment.

Photos: Treasue of the Sierra Madre (John Huston, 1946) is the story of 3 men: Dobbs (Bogart), Curtain (Tim Holt) and their older guide (Walter Huston) and THEY plan to shoot the man (a fourth man, not pictured) who discovers their illicit camp. FYI, "illicit camp" is not a play on words . . . Although I secretly, fleetingly hoped that Jack and Ennis would kill Aguirre (Quaid) violence doesn't pay and in Sierra Madre they all wind up dead, alone, or married to each others sweethearts.

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