Category Archives: movies

I hate bad buts and I cannot lie

From today’s New York Times:

Scarlett Johansson gainfully posed in underwear and spiked heels for Esquire’s cover last year after the magazine named her the “sexiest woman alive.” But a French novelist’s fictional depiction of a look-alike so angered the film star that she sued the best-selling author for defamation.

The inappropriate “but” is one of the sneakiest rhetorical tricks there is.  It presents the second sentence as somehow contrasting with the first.  It isn’t.  Scarlett Johansson agreed to be photographed mostly undressed; does that make it strange or incongruous or hypocritical that she doesn’t want to be lied about in print?  It does not.  To be honest, I can’t think of any explanation other than weird retrograde sexism for writing the lede this way.  “She got paid for looking all sexy, so who is she to complain that she was defamed?”  Patricia Cohen of the New York Times, I’m awarding you anWonderWomanHellNo

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Jordan and the Dream of Rogen

The other night I dreamed I was going into a coffeeshop and Seth Rogen was sitting at an outside table eating a salad.  He was wearing a jeans jacket and his skin was sort of bad.  I have always admired Rogen’s work so I screwed up my courage, went up to his table and said

“Are you…”

And he said, “Yes, I am… having the chef’s salad.  You should try it, it’s great.”

And I sort of stood there and goggled and then he was like, “Yeah, no, yes, I’m Seth Rogen.”

I feel proud of my unconscious mind for producing what I actually consider a reasonably Seth Rogen-style gag!

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Somewhere a dog barked

From Rosecrans Baldwin in Slate:

As a reader of novels and not much else, I keep a running list of authorial whims. Male writers of the Roth/Updike generation, for example, love the word cunt. Also, where novelists once adorned their prose with offhand French bon mots, Spanish now appears. Here’s another: Novelists can’t resist including a dog barking in the distance. I’ve seen it happen across the spectrum—Jackie Collins, William Faulkner, and Chuck Palahniuk: “There was no more rain, just an eerie stillness, a deathly silence. Somewhere a dog barked mournfully.” (American Star) “She did not answer for a time. The fireflies drifted; somewhere a dog barked, mellow sad, faraway.” (Light in August) “This is such a fine neighborhood. I jump the fence to the next backyard and land on my head in somebody’s rose bush. Somewhere a dog’s barking.” (Choke)

I checked The Grasshopper King, and nope:  no barking dogs.  There’s a ceramic dog, and one dog who howls (but who appears moments later, and is named) and finally, near the end, a talking dog.  Me 1, cliche 0.

In other Slate literary coverage, Dan Kois reviews Ben H. Winter’s novel The Last Policemana detective story set in a future where Earth is six months away from certain destruction by asteroid collision.  When I was in college I took Spike Lee’s screenwriting course, and my screenplay was roughly on the same theme. It was a meteor heading for the earth, not an asteroid, and the atmosphere was supposed to be roughly that of After Hours or Into the Night.  It was called Planet Earth.  Lee’s total commentary on the screenplay, written on page 3, was “Some parts I laughed, some parts I didn’t,” and he gave me an A-.

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What the ’80s looked like

For readers too young to remember.  The patterns we used to put on things!  They were wonderful.

“I Feel Good About Myself,” from Meet The Hollowheads

(This movie is indescribably strange and while it is not, in the usual sense, good, I’m extremely glad I watched it and miss the world in which it could be made.)

The Art of Noise, “Peter Gunn Theme”

 

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Movies I cried at in 2011

  • Bridesmaids
  • The Muppets

What has become of me?  It has something to do with having kids, I think.  Some people say “I became a totally different person when my children are born” but for me it’s been almost the opposite.  In this one way, though, I’ve changed.  Before children I used to be impervious to sentimental scenes.  Now I choke up because one puppet misses another.  Mysterious.

 

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Happy Jim Traber Day

Twenty-seven years ago today, Jim Traber made his major-league debut for the Orioles.  And he sang the national anthem before the game!  Heroic.

When I think about Jim Traber I think about the three weeks in 1986 when he looked like the next great Oriole slugger.  He came up in the middle of July, age 24 with 10 previous games on his major-league resume, and hit .373 with 8 home runs in his first 20 games.  He seemed unstoppable.  At the time I had no understanding of the concept of “sample size.”  I remember being in Seattle, where my parents had a conference, and buying a Post-Intelligencer so I could see the previous day’s box score and find out what Jim Traber had done.  I sat under the Space Needle reading about Jim Traber and then I went to see the Laurie Anderson concert movie Home of the Brave.  The Post-Intelligencer doesn’t exist anymore.  Neither do Orioles sluggers.  Box scores and Laurie Anderson are still around, but seem less relevant all the time.

“I think it’s a pain cry.”

“Que es mas macho?  Pineapple o knife?”

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David Lynch/parenting protip

Don’t watch “Inland Empire” while holding your baby.  Your baby won’t mind, but if you watch a David Lynch movie for ten minutes and then look down at your baby, your baby’s face will freak you out.

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The best math joke that will appear in a major Hollywood picture this year

Early in the just-released Up in the Air, George Clooney’s character reveals to a young coworker his dream of registering 10 million frequent flyer miles on American Airlines.  She responds dismissively, “Isn’t 10 million just a number?”

Clooney replies — with just the right weary exasperation — “Pi is just a number.”

It’s a good movie, by the way, better than I expected from the trailer.  It doesn’t try to do anything very hard and it possesses simple virtues:  good writing, good acting, good pacing.  Then again, almost every movie I see lacks at least one of these; so in this sense Up in the Air tried something hard after all.

By the way, I can no longer hear Clooney’s name without thinking of the recorded “Doors Closing” announcement on the DC Metro.  It really does sound exactly like a voice warning you, softly, robotically, and somehow wistfully, “George Clooney.”

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Thursday is your last chance to see Anvil! The Story of Anvil in Madison

While we’re talking about watching rock music and getting choked up, I ought to mention that Anvil!  The Story of Anvil is finishing its limited engagement at Sundance 608 on Thursday, September 24.  It’s a movie about perseverance; more precisely, how to tell the difference between perseverance and stupid, life-ruining stubbornness, and how to stay just on the right side of the line.  Also about heavy metal.  But you don’t have to care about heavy metal.  This might be the best movie of the year.

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