AUTHORS: Do You Have What It Takes?

It’s the ultimate reality series, the ultimate game show and the ultimate half-hour of intriguing storylines. The Ultimate Author is an awesome television program packed with entertaining, engaging and interesting events. Each week, contestants go toe-to-toe in a writing competition that tests their ability to develop attention-grabbing content.

Casting Call: June 16, 2007. Fort Lauderdale, FL.

[via gawker.]

PM Roundup

In Defense of “Interiors”

I’ve put off seeing Woody Allen’s Interiors for years, largely because I had the misfortune of sitting through September and Shadows and Fog almost immediately after their respective release dates. My hesitation has always echoed the line leveled by the film’s critics: that Woody Allen’s dramas are essentially Bergman-lite, that they deal with WASPish characters, and that they are about as icy as a weekend spent in a meat locker.

So it was a bit of a surprise to see that my notions were dispelled when finally seeing the film. Interiors is actually more inspired by Chekhov than Bergman and is more realist than the film’s detractors give it credit for. Somehow, Allen succeeded in keeping the whiny quotient of his characters’ neuroses to a minimum. There is a tattered sadness to nearly every character, with the seams showing through in small moments (one character’s unexpected resort to cocaine use, the meticulous way that Geraldine Page gaff-tapes the windows before her suicide attempt, and the savagery beneath failed novelist Richard Jordan’s frustrations). Allen was wise enough to put his characters’ troubles into perspective by profiling the family, giving the audience an idea about where his characters received their misconceived sense of entitlement, whether it’s through E.G. Marshall’s desperate hookup with Maureen Stapleton (who sizzles in a red dress) and a harrowing revelation at a dinner table that is as tactless as it is selfish. In fact, if you look carefully at the nuanced behavior, the film transcends its classist overtones. It might even be viewed as a devastating assault on affluence, elitism, and the myth of self-entitlement.

There are, predictably enough, three sisters. The oldest played by Diane Keaton is a poet of some note. She’s married to Jordan. And during one sequence before a party, we get a real sense of the shared defeatist attitude they have in common. There’s Flyn (Kristin Griffith), an actress near the end of a career riding on good looks, reduced to playing in dreadful movies filmed in the Rocky Mountains rather than Acapulco. Finally, there’s Joey (Mary Beth Hurt), who floats from one job to another and hasn’t figured out a game plan for what she wants. I particularly liked how Allen used Joey’s look to play with Hurt’s strengths at playing such a bitter character. Hurt’s small face hides behind enormous glasses, with perfectly curved hair detracting from precious physiognomic real estate space. It spells out Joey’s inability to reveal anything about herself — not even to her Marxist filmmaking boyfriend (Sam Waterson, who is remarkably impassive about his work). There’s one shot where Hurt is drinking a glass of wine and the glass nearly drowns out her features. It’s a telling statement on where Joey’s heading in life, particularly since she’s pregnant and the film doesn’t reveal whether she aborts her child or not.

All of these life struggles could have easily been transposed to another income bracket. But the cruel thing about Interiors is that money will always bail these characters out, forcing them to fall into the same cycles of unhappiness again and again. There will be plenty of money for therapy, for lean times when the poetry isn’t paying, and for Joey to waste time as she finds yet another job she’s not satisfied with. One might view Interiors as a stern rebuke for a life both unappreciated and without any sense of self-sufficiency. Yet it’s a tribute to Allen’s gifts as a filmmaker that these themes are so masterfully kept underneath the action.

Gordon Willis’ photography is coordinated to profile the environment over the characters. Two sisters walk along the beach in a tracking shot, but their actions are obstructed by a fence which meshes out their conversation. The apartments and houses we see are ironically palatial. They look so clean and so constantly refurnished that it’s a wonder how anyone can live in them, much less feel comfortable in them. It’s a credit to Mel Bourne’s production design prowess that these airy confines feel so sterile. These are Pottery Barn nightmares well before Pottery Barn. That matriarch Geraldine Page is an interior designer is almost a sick joke for how willfully hindered these characters are.

Watching Interiors reminded me of what a great filmmaker Woody Allen once was. It took considerable chutzpah for Allen to followup his greatest commercial success, Annie Hall, with a film that dared to penetrate the duplicities of passivity and excess. Interiors may very well be one of his most underrated films, much as those who follow Bob Rafelson often overlook The King of Marvin Gardens when considering his ouevre.

Woody Allen Downgraded from Multimillionaire to Millionaire

The Post: “Sources tell The Post’s Braden Keil that the Woodman has gone to contract on his 40-foot-wide Carnegie Hill mansion for just $2 million less than his asking price of $27 million. Brokers thought the comedian had gone bananas when he put the 22-room house on the market last September. Spies now say that Allen is looking to spend about half that amount for a smaller home in the East 70s or 80s.”

Guess the tell-all biography bidding war wasn’t enough to keep the mansion. Can we expect Woody’s next film to be about a neurotic New Yorker ready to let loose his personal demons upon the publishing world while watching his fortune dwindle?

Out-Blog Blogging?

Milan Kundera’s in demand in Shanghai, enough to make him the best-selling foreign author in the city. Hybrid publishers are reported to be preparing Mao’s Little Red Book of Laughter and Forgetting.

Kate Christensen, whom Ron was kind enough to alert me to, is interviewed by the Journal News. From what I’ve been able to tell, the new book involves a man diagnosed with McDonald’s disease, but who is still obsessed with eating Happy Meals. If he doesn’t stop eating fatty foods, he’ll die a horrible, miserable and stunningly descriptive death at the age of 40. Nevertheless, the allure of the de Montaigne Happy Meal action figures is enough to keep the man eating. Christensen calls her new novel part of “Loser Lit,” which is not to be confused “Laser Lit,” a recent flurry of novels that have featured protagonists taking charge of their destinies shortly after undergoing corrective eye surgery.

Woody Allen and Joyce Carol Oates are among those named by the Tacoma Tribune as talents who are too prolific.

Viggo Mortensen recently showed up in town to read his poetry. Here’s a sample:

I walk the line that Nimoy wrought
I am not Spock or Aragorn
The fangirls swoon upon my locks
The fanboys EBay off my socks
The fans behold my brawny bod
With glasses on, I hide and trod

Who shot J.R.R.? I did, of course
As I was strutting on a horse
You think he died in ’71?
Well, the geezer croaked when I was done
A bullet there between his eyes
Killed at eleventy-zero, a big surprise

They kept the news from kith and gents
The fans had Tyler to cream their pants
But Peter knew, and so did I
And Tolkien’s death did make us cry
An accident, like Brendan Lee!
And so I hid up in a tree

Political correctness has kept George Washington’s name from being properly honored. And here I was thinking that it was just because today’s United States pays little heed to its foundations.

No sign yet of the Wolf-Bloom article yet at the New York website. Keep watching the skies. The Boston Globe, however, has a precis for those who can’t wait.

[UPDATE: Whoop, there it is.]

Yahoo wants to out-Google Google. Google has responded, indicating that they plan to “out-out-Yahoo Yahoo’s out-Googling Googling outside after out-Yahooing out-Google outsourcing.” Venn diagram enthusiasts are still trying to figure out just what the hell these two giants were talking about.

And Frederick Morgan, long-time editor for The Hudson Review, has passed on. He was 81.

A New Woody Allen Film: Every Cineaste’s Miserable Yearly Duty

Terry can’t stand Woody Allen’s films. Can’t say I blame him. For my own part, Allen’s been the one auteur whose films I go to see, even though there’s about a 60% chance I’m going to be disappointed (a percentage that has risen considerably in the last decade). His unfortunate disaster-to-gold ratio has left me reluctant to revisit his ouevre. I haven’t loved a single films of his since Everyone Says I Love You. But I still love Bananas, The Purple Rose of Cairo, Hannah and Her Sisters, Crimes and Misdemeanors, and Manhattan (and, hell, even Deconstructing Harry, which I hoped would usher in a more down-and-dirty Woody, but didn’t). The titles in this bunch more than make up for such nauseating misfires as The Curse of the Jade Scorpion, Don’t Drink the Water (1994), Celebrity, and Stardust Memories,, the insufferable Bergman clones (Interiors and Shadows and Fog), and the so-so attempts to find an “earlier, funnier” Woody that no longer exists (Manhattan Murder Mystery and Small Time Crooks).