Wet, because that’s exactly what it is outside. Not nearly as bad as Sri Lanka, but still resolute weather for this town. The other wet involves some paint applied to a few things over the weekend. But you’ll have to wait for that. Anyway, here we go:
- First off, I’d like to make a case for the literary merits of Million Dollar Baby. Not only does its visuals harken back to the great boxer noir The Set-Up (complete with its slogan-laden signs), but Eastwood manages to get in some references to Yeats and Gaelic, as well as a nice pun (“IRA’S ROADSIDE DINER” is the name of the place that Eastwood considers dumping his savings into, but not a single critic got this). The one great visual I can’t get out of my head involves an homage to Jack London’s “A Piece of Steak.” The camera sneaks past Hilary Swank’s back in a dingy, green-walled apartment immersed in shadows, and we see Swank gnawing on a half-eaten piece of steak she swiped from her waitressing job. Truly one of the most haunting and visceral images I’ve seen on cinema this year. And a great film to boot.
- The Aviator turned out to be a surprise too, probably Scorsese’s best film since the unfairly neglected Kundun (and, yes, I dug Bringing Out the Dead as much as the next guy, but it’s more interesting to see Scorsese work outside the “New York as hell” box). Of course, that didn’t concern most of the fockers who wanted to see Ben Stiller and Robert “Where’s my career now?” De Niro (ironically, once Scorsese’s right-hand man) revive their tired comic schtick. Never mind that. Some people I’ve talked to absolutely hated The Aviator, the chief beefs being historical liberties and an unexpected optimism. Well, what else do you folks expect from a biopic? The important thing was that the film captured the essence of the man and that Scorsese pulled off something of a miracle getting a performance out of Leonardo and keeping his juju together under Harvey Weinstein’s iron fist. I suspect The Aviator will be one of those overlooked gems like Tucker where its idealism will be more appreciated ten years from now. Plus, giving Scorsese the keys to the castle allowed for some extremely exciting flight sequences. Cate Blanchett as Hepburn, Alan Alda as sleazy Senator Brewster, fantastic sequences of exploding photograph bulbs. Joe Bob says check it out.
- Moving onto literary news. If you missed Tanenhaus’ latest stunt and need a good laugh, read Walter Kirn’s bizarre cover essay declaring the end of elite rule by wit, apparently through (wait for this) the New Yorker cartoon. Huh? I’ve never been a big fan of the New Yorker‘s cartoons, but I’ve always respect their quiet wit in the same way that I can’t resist Charles Schultz (though you won’t see me reaching for either as a therapeutic solution, a la Franzen). Tanenhaus remains hopelessly up in the air over such foolish statements as, “The seduction of America’s elites by the vices of humanism and skepticism can only be blamed on the New Yorker cartoon, an agent of corruption more insidious than LSD or the electric guitar.” Yep, the NYTBR actually published that. If that’s meant as wit, it fails miserably for its lack of specifics. If that’s meant to be daring, then it’s no more provocative than Madonna after her conversion to Kabbalah. If that’s meant in earnest, then the NYTBR is truly in trouble. I’m curious what James Wolcott thinks about this, but I fear that there may be a conflict of interest.
- What happens to the literary geniuses you don’t hear about? They become vagrants.
- The California Literary Review checks out Paul Auster.
- Several fantastic people, including one Maud Newton, name their favorite books at Newsday.
- The Globe rolls out the red carpet for Louis Auchincloss.
- And I’d also like to suggest that if you ever get the chance to do it, it’s an extremely strange expeirence to read Lawrence Durrell’s Alexandria Quartet and David Peace’s Red Riding Quartet at the same time. Both are fantastic in their own different ways, but I think I’ve got enough literary deviance to last through the winter.
- Wishing you a belated merry Xmas.