Archive for November, 2011

Muppet Moovie

Monday, November 28th, 2011

We saw it, natch. And it’s very sweet. But not amazing. But sweet.

The musical numbers are the best part, especially those written by Bret McKenzie:

Am I a man or a Muppet? If I’m a Muppet, I’m a very manly Muppet. And if I’m a man, I’m a Muppet of a man . . .

I think better than the movie is listening to Jason Segal and co-writer Nicholas Stoller talk about their mad Muppet love on Fresh Air. With Terry’s obvious adoration for Segal, it’s kind of a love fest all around.

Wendy and the Lost Boys

Monday, November 21st, 2011

I read the Wendy Wasserstein biography, and, to use a technical term, ew. Despite an intensely compelling subject, the writing—well, the writing stinks.

Author Julie Salamon has no ear for rhythm. The prose just plods, dutifully relaying plot point after plot point, with no apparent notion of craft. It’s almost like reading a list of events, with a nod here and there to the need for some kind of meaning-making.

Worse, the analysis of Wasserstein is both simplistic and judgmental*, boiling down undoubtedly very complex motivational brews to single psychobabular notions—and even using words like “dumpy” to describe Wasserstein! “Dumpy”!

*Yes, pot/kettle. Owning it.

It’s not just that Salamon doesn’t seem to like Wasserstein. It’s that she seems to relish judging her, even (maybe especially) for her weight—without any consciousness of how hard it might have been to have a larger body, particularly in the circles in which Wasserstein socialized, or that having such a body might have been something Wasserstein didn’t have the power to control.

Salamon judges Wasserstein for her secrecy, too, and for her apparent inability to be honest in the face of conflict. Yes, those are tough traits in a friend—or anyone—and Wasserstein hurt people through the years. But when I read about Wasserstein’s upbringing and early adulthood, I understand why.

In fact, the Wasserstein family saga reads to me almost as an object lesson in the perils of the achievement value. With the exception of one sibling who was developmentally disabled and another who largely opted out, the Wasserstein siblings all made it big: brother Bruce as a Wall Street titan in the 80′s and 90′s; sister Sandra as one of the first female VP’s in the Fortune 500 world; and Wendy as a Pulitzer-Prize- and Tony-award-winning writer. All of them seem to have put work before love; none of them sustained a romantic relationship; all of them died relatively young.

Those are harsh connections to draw, I know. And their collective poor health could easily have been coincidence, or genes, or miserable luck. But I wonder.

On another note, I need to read Wasserstein’s plays. I saw The Sisters Rosensweig in 1993, when it had been running on Broadway for about 6 months. I remember it as sweet and sit-commy, two criticisms Wendy apparently bridled against. Was her other work more probing? I must know.

Escrooooooooow

Friday, November 18th, 2011

On the sixth day, God invented escrow.

And it never, ever ended.

Ever.

Until the end of time.

When it still didn’t end

and instead began to kill people.

2 Days in Paris

Monday, November 14th, 2011

Were you aware that Julie Delpy wrote, directed, and starred in a movie? With Adam Goldberg—the guy from Dazed and Confused?

I wasn’t. But Netflix put it in front of me, and I obliged.

It’s kind of annoyingly great, or greatly annoying, or just funny and real, maybe.

It’s a little bit like the Before Sunrise/Sunset series in that it follows a vexed couple around Paris for a predetermined amount of time, but it’s darker and less sweet. And Goldberg is working a pair of Eyebrows Agonistes that Ethan Hawke could probably never emulate—and probably wouldn’t want to.

Which reminds me . . . isn’t 2014 slated to bring us another Before movie? Please, Richard Linklater, please.

Malaise-a LaVigne, Depressed French Drag Queen

Monday, November 7th, 2011

The 5:30 P.M. sundown is back, and with it the inevitable early-evening malaise. It astonishing how quickly it sets in: The clocks go back, and BOOM. 5-7 P.M. is suddenly a netherworld of ennui.

Sigh.

Last night as I was pouting through dinner, beginning to question the meaning of . . . you know, anything, I realized that I must be experiencing la malaise saisonnier. And to help me embody this decidedly uncomfortable state of being, I invented:

Malaise-a LaVigne, Depressed French Drag Queen

For Malaise-a, every day is uninspiring. In fact, every moment is utterly un-thrilling, to the point of pretend tears. You could sit her down in front of a parade of giant tap-dancing lemurs, and it would only make her heart cry out in pain.

“I het mahnkeys,” she would say. “I watch until one of zem falls down, and zen I laugh weakly, only to show Death zat he has won yet again.”

Naturally, this cheered me up immensely.

And because she later said this—”Tomorrow eez not anozer day. Eet ees zee same day, but wiz a different name”—I think we might be seeing more of Malaise-a.

The Leftovers

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011

Tom Perotta was a professor of mine at college, and it’s been fun to watch his career evolve. In particular, he seems to have a knack for writing topical books that get made into powerful movies, including Election (instant classic) and Little Children (creepy and unsettling).

Perotta was a fantastic teacher—fair, really smart, and funny. I loved his class. But while I’ve enjoyed every one of his books, I’ve never quite connected with his work. He writes simply, with a light touch, creating companionable characters and compelling plots. But I wish that he would go deeper, and darker.

I’ve just finished his new book, and I’m impressed—because while the emotional register still hovers in what I see as the middle range, the concepts are meatily delicious.

The Leftovers imagines what would happen if there really was a rapture, in which a portion of the population suddenly vaporized. And the way in which Perotta imagines this aftermath is so careful and smart and humane that it feels real.

For instance, nobody’s actually sure if it was the rapture. And there’s no clear way to understand why certain people were taken and others not; people who disappeared were of all faiths and appeared to have run the moral gamut. So in the wake of an incomprehensible catastrophe, the remaining population does all sorts of things it really might do—turn to demagogues, cults, drugs, or just regular life.

In a word: fascinating.