things of little relevance

dangerous movies
July 27, 2009, 1:01 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

From 3QD, Colin Marshall on Rushmore.

Because thousands of a certain generation’s cinematic lives have been changed by this film, its territory is best approached with caution. Mine, however, happens to be among those thousands, 1998 marking as it did the opening of my prime window of cultural absporpton. Cinephilic teenagers of the 1960s had The 400 Blows, Breathless, Dr. Strangelove; cinephilic teenagers of the 1970s has Harold and Maude, Chinatown, Taxi Driver; cinephilic teenagers of the 1980s had Repo Man, Blue Velvet, Stranger than Paradise; cinephilic teenagers of the 1990s had Rushmore.

The impact of Wes Anderson’s second film didn’t propel me immediately from the screening room to a new, theretofore unseen world illuminated by pure light cast forth by the angels of cinema. Its effects were those of a gradually-dissolving ingested substance, working only in the fullness of time. I knew I’d seen something epiphanic, but damned if I could put my finger on what or why. While it has sparked and continues to spark in young viewers as much of a fanatic enthusiasm for film, both its appreciation and its craft, as the most radical, stylistically transgressive piece of deliberate provocation, it does so within a shell of relative normality. But though translucently thin, this shell appears to have confused almost as many filmgoers as it’s blindsided with slow-acting inspiration.

In my head, I’ve always grouped Rushmore with Kicking and Screaming, maybe because I watched the two for the first time within two days of each other. If I ever have children, I am not going to allow them to watch either movies during the easily impressionable early teenage years.  Somehow I thought Kicking and Screaming‘s post-graduation floundering was really glamorous.

In addition, I probably shouldn’t have watched Reality Bites when I was twelve. This movie is single-handedly responsible for my delusion that I came of age during the 90’s, when in fact I just watched this movie over and over again. Now when my own post-college floundering is to come, marrying a lawyer really doesn’t seem that bad.


July 27, 2009, 12:01 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Guy friends rule

Frankly, I’m a little fed up with it. Some of the deepest, sweetest, most enduring friendships of my life have been with males. Men I went to college with, men I’ve toiled in crappy jobs with, men who stuck around long after I lost touch with the ex-girlfriends who introduced us. Guys who bartend. Guys who play in bands. Guys with black belts. Guys who make stuff with metal and soldering irons. Awesome fracking dudes. But does the radical notion of girl-on-guy friendship get its own greeting card, made-for-TV movie, or Styles section trend piece? Why do straight men so rarely get props for being good buddies?

It’s been exactly 20 years since Billy Crystal eradicated platonic relations, uttering the immortal proclamation in “When Harry Met Sally” that “Men and women can never be friends, because sex always gets in the way.” But Harry missed the point (for which his punishment was to wind up with Meg Ryan’s high-maintenance flibbertigibbet Sally). Sex doesn’t get in the way of male-female friendship — sex is just along the way. Even the most platonic of friendships smolder from time to time from the embers of attraction, and sometimes friends wind up becoming lovers (they often make the best ones). So what? Most rational adults can accommodate an array of feelings without acting on all of them. Even when they do, ex-lovers can wind up the tenderest of friends.

In addition to everything mentioned in the article, except for two or three female friends, the only people who love Spuyten Duyvil as much as I do also love women.

500 daze of summer
July 23, 2009, 11:17 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Last night I went to see 500 Days of Summer with my friend Alex. We were puzzled by the number of men alone in the audience, a conundrum Alex quickly cleared up: “They’re probably all here to review the movie for their blogs.” Ha!

The movie had some unexpected references:

ok isaiah
July 23, 2009, 10:13 am
Filed under: Uncategorized


Over at the TLS, A. N. Wilson exposes that Isaiah Berlin, like the rest of us, has petty social squabbles.

The editors plainly hero worship Berlin, but they have done him a questionable service by revealing his blatant treachery. “He was never sneaky or malevolent”, says Noel Annan in The Book of Isaiah. The letters, alas, do not bear out this kind judgement. Bowra and David Cecil are supposedly among his closest friends, but Berlin, an intellectual as well as a social snob, who despises what he calls the “upper middle brow”, is only too anxious, when corresponding with American academics, to deplore Cecil and Bowra’s publications. To Arthur Schlesinger he cringingly says that he would swap Edmund Wilson for David Cecil “any day”. He tells an American “pansy friend” (Roland Burdon-Miller) that he finds Bowra “rather philistine and uninteresting”.

The 800 pages are peppered with malice about poor A. L. Rowse (a more interesting man than Berlin and ultimately more intellectually distinguished). Rowse “grows more and more impossible and awful daily”. Rowse’s absence is “a source of happiness”. Rowse is “more Malvolio like than ever”. Yet to Rowse himself, Berlin writes an Iago-like letter in which he says, “One cannot live for twenty years on and off with someone as wonderful & unique as, if you’ll let me say so, you are & not develop a strong and permanent bond”. It is hard to like the author of this letter. The whole volume, indeed, fills the reader with a gloom which was surely not intended by the editors. If the reader, and even more the conscientious reviewer, who has read each page with notebook in hand, feels that the exercise of reading was a waste of time, that only half explains the misery that the exercise provokes. Reading the book, after all, takes only a week. But writing these tedious, infelicitous, prolix letters took fourteen years of a clever man’s life. While he was writing them, and regurgitating the same old thoughts about Maistre, Herzen and co, A. L. Rowse was producing those readable, well-researched volumes The England of Elizabeth, Ralegh and the Throckmortons, The Early Churchills, The Later Churchills, etc. Berlin’s repeated jokes about Wittgenstein, likewise, seem counterproductive on the page. “Nothing is more terrible than religious Wittgensteinism”, he writes – merely making this reader think that the author of The Hedgehog and the Fox was not worthy to lick the boots of the author of Philosophical Investigations.

While I appreciate that A.N. Wilson reveals new facets of Isaiah Berlin’s character, I’m a bit uncomfortable with Wilson’s value judgment. It’s unfair to expect Isaiah Berlin to be high-minded in all areas of his life, even a historian of ideas deserves some mental downtime. A friend once had this to say about snooping around someone’s e-mail inbox, “You only find out what you don’t want to know,” which is really true.  Personally, I like knowing that Berlin wasn’t constantly intellectual and was awed by Greta Garbo. Others, however, are less accepting of frivolity. If we are to publish some public figure’s private writings, either journals or correspondence, we can’t begrudge them for having normal human tendencies.

Lucy and Ruben go to New Hampshire!
July 22, 2009, 12:08 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Photo 6

From Todd Solondz and everyone responsible for:


Comes a new mockumentary—Lucy and Ruben go to New Hampshire—featuring Lucy and Ruben as themselves on a cross-northeast pilgrimage to New Hampshire in search of baked goods and self-affirmation.

“A little quirky. A lot pretentious.”

Opening in select theaters summer 2010.

sentimental education
July 15, 2009, 11:38 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

I met Simon Goldman in 1960 when I was 16 and he was – he said – 27, but was probably in his late 30s. I was waiting for a bus home to Twickenham after a rehearsal at Richmond Little Theatre, when a sleek maroon car drew up and a man with a big cigar in his mouth leant over to the passenger window and said, “Want a lift?” Of course my parents had told me, my teachers had told me, everyone had told me, never to accept lifts from strange men, but at that stage he didn’t seem strange, and I hopped in. I liked the smell of his cigar and the leather seats. He asked where I wanted to go and I said Clifden Road, and he said fine. I told him I had never seen a car like this before, and he said it was a Bristol, and very few were made. He told me lots of facts about Bristols as we cruised – Bristols always cruised – towards Twickenham. He had a funny accent – later, when I knew him better, I realised it was the accent he used for posh – but I asked if he was foreign. He said: “Only if you count Jews as foreign.” Well of course I did. I had never consciously met a Jew; I didn’t think we had them at my school. But I said politely: “Are you Jewish? I never would have guessed.” (I meant he didn’t have the hooked nose, the greasy ringlets, the straggly beard of Shylock in the school play.) He said he had lived in Israel when he was “your age”. I wondered what he thought my age was: I hoped he thought 19. But then when he said, “Fancy a coffee?” I foolishly answered, “No – my father will kill me if I’m late.” “School tomorrow?” he asked, and, speechless with mortification, I could only nod. So then he drove me to my house, and asked: “Can I take you out for coffee another evening?”

hair today
July 4, 2009, 10:16 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

“Interestingly, there are no bangs. Perhaps this has less to do with hair and more to do with campaign promises of marital harmony and world peace.”

The first ladies’ coiffures.

I say Michelle should usher back in headpieces.