(Pretty much my expression after the movie.)
So on the upside, Star Trek Into Darkness did a lot to win me over to the cult of Benedict Cumberbatch. But … (spoilers, and many questions):
Director Alfonso Cuaron is back with a teaser for Gravity, his first film since Children of Men. Watch it here.
I will watch this. Though in the annals of amusingly inappropriate juxtapositions, I’m pretty sure the first half of this trailer is using the soundtrack to the BBC’s North & South (Victorian romance amidst the union-busters and milltowns of the industrial revolution, plus death and trains!)
This photo amazes me - it’s so bored, so unremarkable except for the identity of the guy posing with his CNN interviewer. The banality of evil, etc. I hadn’t come across this photo before seeing Greg Barker’s documentary Manhunt, based on the (above) journalist Peter Bergen’s book about the hunt for Osama bin Laden. (Bergen interviewed bin Laden for CNN in 1997; at some point they snapped candids to mark the occasion. When Bergen spoke at a screening of Manhunt I attended last week, I had the weird realization that I shared a room with someone who had once shared a room with bin Laden. It’s more sobering and somehow more difficult to believe than the usual journalistic proximity to prominent figures.)
I enjoyed Manhunt - it’s in many ways a more satisfying mirror to Zero Dark Thirty, charting much of the same ground with more depth (the team of women CIA analysts who tracked bin Laden for years, their petty jealousies and team dynamics and the politics that followed them; the tragedy of Jennifer Matthews; the torture debate). Like Zero Dark Thirty, I think Manhunt tried to do too much and left me wanting more closure on certain characters. But it’s an engrossing 100 minutes that would have held my interest for even longer.
So this was irritating. Last night I saw The Pretty One, Jenée LaMarque’s California version of Amélie (sweet, funny, a feature-length Anthropologie commercial; not the irritating part). The screening, at the Tribeca Film Festival, was followed by a Q&A (also not the irritating part), with the (pregnant) writer-director, the star (Zoe Kazan), many of the other cast members, a handful of producers and other crew members, including the costume designer. Kazan, in heels and a Heidi coronet-braid, ran the microphone back and forth down the conga line of cast and crew to make sure everyone could answer audience questions.
Also not the irritating part: Of the impressive dozen-person lineup on stage, about half of them, including the main creative types and at least some of the money types, were women. The film was about a woman, trying to figure out this whole life/family/romance/career/friendship thing. (Note where “romance” came in that list - central but not exclusive or even primary.) The Tribeca employee moderating the event and asking the bulk of the questions was a woman.
This was the irritating part: When the Tribeca moderator eventually asked a question about the romance in the film, she felt the need to excuse it, or excuse her asking of it, or something: “It’s something for the ladies,” she added. Right. The romance. Something for us ladies, because the rest of the film about figuring out how to be a sister and a daughter and a friend and a twin who may or may not be “the pretty one” obviously wasn’t “for the ladies.” The lady writer-director, lady star playing a lady main character, lady producer and lady costume designer weren’t there for the ladies and hadn’t said anything up to that point that could be “for the ladies.”
I’m being harsh. I’m sure it was just filler talk, one of those things you say when you’re on stage with a number of semi-famous and/or accomplished people and nervous about sounding smart with them. But it was still pretty depressing. Romance is only the province of “the ladies,” really? And apparently you can make an entire movie about what it actually means to be a lady, with ladies in front of and behind the camera, but unless it has a romantic subplot, none of it is actually going to be for, about or by us.
Retro self-help book or presidential memorial? (Of course Teddy Roosevelt has gigantic slabs of MANHOOD marble on his island.)
The Awl on Reasons to Watch The Lizzie Bennet Diaries -
Yes to all of these, especially the first two (well, three. This Darcy is wonderful, but also wonderfully not the main attraction). There’s so much I enjoy about this series: the in-jokes about Colin Firth and how everyone always forgets about Mary Bennet; Lydia’s sidekick-sister Kitty Bennet is an actual cat, while Anne de Bourgh is her mother’s literal lap-dog. The casting is quietly diverse and much of the acting is great; I was impressed to learn that Darcy was only cast half-way through the series, since Daniel Gordh managed to perfectly inhabit the character that everyone else had been impersonating for 50 episodes. Lydia is more than reckless and silly; she’s fun, and sweet, and just young. (The friend with whom I started watching LBD compared Mary Kate Wiles’s Lydia to Kenzi, the young exuberant sidekick who’s the best part of Lost Girl.)
This is a real modern update, one that really gets the time to worry about more than finding appropriate boys for all of the heroines. Lizzie’s relationship with her friends and her sisters, and her efforts to figure out a career and a future and who she wants to be, are all as or even more important than who she ends up with or even whether she ends up with anyone. And Lizzie’s relationships with the women in her life, whether her sisters or her mother or her friends, all get more screen time than her relationship with her destined soulmate.
Most of the characters get to be nicer, but still interesting, versions of their book originals, including Mr. Collins and Caroline Bingley. And I especially love that both Charlotte and Lydia are three-dimensional characters and get to be more than cautionary tales for Lizzie. Most versions of Pride and Prejudice, including the book itself, frame Lydia’s downfall as, “Isn’t it awful what Lydia’s mistakes and Wickham’s malevolence could do to the Bennet family and the fortunes of Lydia’s sisters?” The Lizzie Bennet Diaries is one of the first versions to really frame Lydia’s downfall as, “Isn’t it awful what Lydia’s mistakes and Wickham’s malevolence could do to Lydia?”
My main quibble is kind of inevitable for a modern updating of Pride and Prejudice, especially one that revolves around new media and tech companies. (And it’s one that’s particularly hard for a business journalist who’s covered tech companies to ignore.) For all the use of YouTube and Twitter and Tumblr, The Lizzie Bennet Diaries appears to exist in a world without tech gossip blogs or Gawker or publicists. This William Darcy is the CEO of a Silicon Valley media company, and a grad student starts making popular YouTube videos about how much she hates him - okay, I could suspend my disbelief thus far. And it’s sweet and noble and romantic when a spurned Darcy, finally finding out that Lizzie has been slandering him by name to hundreds of thousands of YouTube viewers, tells her he’s not going to sue. But somehow I doubt the lawyers and public relations staff of his apparently well-established company would agree with that decision.
In junior high school, I competed in a fantastic, super-nerdy event called National History Day. It involved a months-long research project that culminated, my first year, in a sad diorama depicting the Silk Road.
But then I discovered the “performance” category. For the next two years, I researched, wrote and performed ten-minute one-woman plays about my chosen historical topics: people dying horribly in gunfire. In seventh grade, I played Anastasia Romanov; in eighth grade, not content with dying once on stage, I took on the Kent State Four. I listened to Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young on repeat for inspiration, which must have worked; I made it all the way to the national finals with my performance, which involved throwing myself onto the ground and sobbing like I’d both been shot and was watching my friends die around me. It was the most fun I had the entire year I was 13.
It’s not fair to the professionals, but my History Day performances have colored pretty much every one-person play I’ve seen since. I’m not generally a huge fan; they involve way too much breaking of the fourth wall, and stirring background music, and endless exposition. And even the good ones are usually way too long. That was my major complaint tonight when I saw Ann, Holland Taylor’s one-woman ode to former Texas Governor Ann Richards. Taylor is fantastic, and the scene that bridges the play’s two acts — Richards in her governor’s office on a whirlwind of an afternoon, wrangling staff and children and grandchildren and President Bill Clinton and protestors and the pope as she decides whether to grant a stay of execution — is worth the price of the (discounted nosebleed) Broadway ticket.
I suppose that for the price of those tickets, no Broadway play is going to confine itself to one act. But I wish Ann had. There’s a good twenty minutes of lead-in exposition at the play’s front end, and a bit of a whimpering return as Taylor recounts Richards’ funeral in 2006. Those were the parts that made me think of History Day, even if the rest of Ann doesn’t deserve to be compared to my teenage efforts to enact poor Anastasia’s basement execution.
Having a good day.