Roundup

  • Bryan Appleyard uses the occasion of Tim Russert’s passing to note the distinctions between American and British journalism. While it’s certainly true that many American television personalities are polite, the class that Appleyard describes frequently borders on sycophantism. If we can’t have someone like Dick Cavett return to the airwaves, I’d frankly rather see Jeremy Paxman in Charlie Rose’s slot. At least we have Bill Moyers. For now. But where are the Russerts in training on American television? Keith Olbermann channels Murrow. Jon Stewart plays to the crowd. Where are those who are interested in simply asking the best questions?
  • Laura Miller has returned to the NYTBR after a mysterious two year absence. (She also had a piece appear in May.) The time has come to conjure conspiracies. Did Miller and Tanenhaus clash? And has Miller’s reappearance occurred because Dwight Garner is essentially running the ship now? Your theories and crazed conjectures are welcome in the comments.
  • Seth Greenland contemplates the current state of author promotion. Also at the L.A. Times: discussion of Denis Johnson’s Playboy serial.
  • Enter the Octopus: just discovered it and it’s a crazed depository worth your time.
  • There will be no jokes within this roundup. It is not that matters have turned particularly serious, or that I have turned permanently or temporarily humorless. There will indeed be jocularity in the future. But I have a feeling that part of my current predicament, roundup-wise, has to do with a little experiment I’m conducting. I have been gradually watching the Woody Allen films that I have not seen, attempting to become a completist. This is not because I am a hard-core fan. I am simply attempting to determine where Woody Allen stopped being interesting as a filmmaker, or whether I have been judging his films based on the groupthink assumption that his latter films all suck. Certainly I’ve avoided about ten of the films that he’s made in the past two decades. I was burned badly by Curse of the Jade Scorpion when I paid to see it in the theater. And I stopped seeing his movies on opening weekend. I’ve seen pretty much everything up through Crimes and Misdemeanors and, after this, there are cavities. Which I’ve been trying to fill in. So far, I have seen portions of Alice and Another Woman, films I had not seen before. They are okay. But I cannot find myself particularly inspired to finish watching either of these films. Neither of them contain that visceral spark that is there, more or less, through Crimes and Misdemeanors, resurfacing for the brilliant Husbands and Wives, the cheery Everybody Says I Love You, and the underrated Deconstructing Harry. But back to Alice and Another Woman: While there is a certain technical polish to both films (I particularly like Alice‘s glossy photography and bourgeoisie production details), there is simply nothing in these films that particularly moves me. The magical premise of Alice is cute but it feels desperate. And uncomfortably close to Curse of the Jade Scorpion. Another Woman is another attempt at Interiors, which is brilliant, but it relies very heavily (so far, at least) on Gena Rowlands’s acting at the expense of entirely plausible psychology. Perhaps it is Mia Farrow that bugs me. She reminds me of one of my mother’s old friends, who was selfish, unkind, and very unconcerned with other people. Probably why my mother and she got along. I feel this way about the Brenda Vaccaro character from Supergirl, who also reminds me of one of my mother’s friends. These friends even resemble Mia Farrow and Brenda Vaccaro. Is it possible then that I am letting these close physical resemblances and characterizations get in the way of appreciating these films? And why does it take a particular period in Woody Allen’s career to get me thinking about this? Because these films are unfunny, do they have a way of making other people unfunny? Are these films on some modest level diminishing my instincts? Or is it simply just a little late? Well, what the hell, I’ll hit “Publish” for this post very soon. You may not realize this but there is a brief moment in which I contemplate hitting “Publish” for a blog post, only to arrive at some other passing fancy, which creates additional information, which creates additional comments, etcetera.
  • Incidentally, the Woody Allen and “Publish” sections of the last bullet item avoid an altogether different question of empathy that I won’t share before the public.
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