POPULAR REVIEWS THIS WEEK
Fast X 2023
Written and directed entirely by AI.
Killers of the Flower Moon 2023
Beau Is Afraid 2023
Ari Aster, if you read this, please DM me!! I would like to connect you to a prayer line! It is a phone number where anywhere from 4 to 13 menopausal, Afro-Caribbean, Pentecostal women from the church I grew up going to will pray with you and FOR YOU on the phone for however long you need. You just dial in. You don’t even have to speak! There is NO pressure. Let them pray for you! Ari, DM me! Please!!! Let these women lay spiritual hands on you! Contact me ASAP!
Anne Frank Play – 1956 Berlin Performance, Kenneth Tynan on
And at the Schlosspark, last Monday, I survived the most dramatic emotional experience the theatre has ever given me. It had little to do with art, for the play was not a great one, yet its effect, in Berlin, at that moment of history, transcended anything that art has yet learned to achieve. It invaded the privacy of the whole audience: I tried hard to stay detached, but the general catharsis engulfed me. Like all great theatrical occasions, this was not only a theatrical occasion: it involved the world outside. The first page of the programme prepared one: a short, stark essay on collective guilt. Turn over for the title: The Diary of Anne Frank, directed by Boleslaw Barlach. It is not a vengeful dramatisation. Quietly, often gaily, it re-creates the daily life of eight Jews who hid for two years in an Amsterdam attic before the Gestapo broke in. Otto Frank was the sole survivor: Anne was killed in Belsen.
When I saw the play in New York it vaguely perturbed me: there seemed no need to do it: it smacked of exploitation. The Berlin actors (especially Johanna von Koczian and Walter Franck) were better on the whole and devouter than the Americans, but I do not think that was why the play seemed so much more urgent and necessary on Monday night. After the interval the man in front of me put his head in his hands and did not afterwards look at the stage. He was not, I believe, Jewish. It was not until the end that one fully appreciated Barlog’s wisdom and valour in using an entirely non-Jewish cast. Having read the last lines of the diary, which affirm, movingly and irrationally, Anne Frank’s unshattered trust in human goodness, Otto Frank closes the book and says, very slowly: ‘She puts me to shame.’
Thus the play ended. The houselights went up on an audience that sat drained and ashen, some staring straight ahead, others staring at the ground, for a full half-minute. Then, as if awakening from a nightmare, they rose and filed out in total silence, not looking at each other, avoiding even the customary blinks of recognition with which friend greets friend. There was no applause, and there were no curtain-calls.
All of this, I am well aware, is not drama criticism. In the shadow of an event so desperate and traumatic, criticism would be an irrelevance. I can only record an emotion that I felt, would not have missed, and pray never to feel again.
Observer, 7 October 1956
Peter, for example, is a Manhattan marketing consultant with commitment problems. Early on, he breaks up with his latest girlfriend at the six-month mark; in his next scene, he has a near-identical conversation with his latest corporate clients. (The clients take it harder.) Debbie, a risk-averse single mother in Los Angeles, is pilloried with advice from one friend (Tig Notaro) — “Get your degree, find a man, then come home and redo your kitchen” — and escapes only to immediately collide with a second pesky pal (Rachel Bloom), who tacks on that the self-sacrificial parent should also pursue her dream job as a book editor.
The pacing of these scenes feels as though we’re trapped in a spaceship airlock and can only faintly remember what natural life felt like back home on Earth. It only takes a squint to see that Debbie’s adorable foibles — rules scribbled on Post-it notes stuck all over the house, an insistence that her overprotected 13-year-old son (Wesley Kimmel) is allergic to everything from grass to fun — would, in reality, demand an intervention and, perhaps, a diagnosis of Munchausen by proxy. But no one in this movie is playing anything near a human being, although Kutcher occasionally resembles one when he lowers his head, crinkles his eyes and chuckles.
‘Your Place or Mine’ Review: Try Neither
This humdrum Netflix romantic comedy features Reese Witherspoon and Ashton Kutcher as longtime friends with possibly hidden feelings for each other.
Carnivalization – Bakhtin Dostoevsky Criticism
Bakhtin argues that Dostoevsky always wrote in opposition to modern tendencies toward the “reification of man”—the turning of human beings into objects (scientific, economic, social, etc.), enclosing them in an alien web of definition and causation, robbing them of freedom and responsibility. ‘Carnivalization‘ is a term used by Bakhtin to describe the techniques Dostoevsky uses to disarm this increasingly ubiquitous enemy and make true intersubjective dialogue possible. The concept suggests an ethos where normal hierarchies, social roles, proper behaviors and assumed truths are subverted in favor of the “joyful relativity” of free participation in the festival. In The Idiot, everything revolves around the two central carnival figures of the “idiot” and the “madwoman”, and consequently “all of life is carnivalized, turned into a ‘world inside out’: traditional plot situations radically change their meaning, there develops a dynamic, carnivalistic play of sharp contrasts, unexpected shifts and changes”. Prince Myshkin and Nastasya Filippovna are characters that inherently elude conventional social definition, or—as Bakhtin puts it—anything that might limit their “pure humanness”. The carnival atmosphere that develops around them in each situation and dialogue (“bright and joyous” in Myshkin’s case, “dark and infernal” in Nastasya Filippovna’s) allows Dostoevsky to “expose a different side of life to himself and to the reader, to spy upon and depict in that life certain new, unknown depths and possibilities.”
Austin Powers as Metaphor for Change
‘This Fool’ (Hulu)
Season 1, Episode 5: ‘Sandy Says’
The closing seconds of this episode-long homage to “Austin Powers” were perhaps the most satisfying payoff I saw this year. “Sandy Says” exemplifies the tricky tone “This Fool” is able to strike, combining the structure of traditional sitcoms with the style of auteur comedies, hitting a sweet spot of goofy and clever. Luis (Frankie Quinones), newly out of prison, is in annoying-eighth-grader mode with his constant “Austin Powers” references, and the episode is packed with shagadelic Easter eggs before Luis explains part of why the movie means so much to him. “I’m tired of wasting time living in the past,” he says. “Ideally, we’ll change. The world is ever-changing, homey. I gotta change with it. That’s what ‘Austin Powers’ is all about. You know, I used to think that movie was a comedy. But now I know, it’s a tragedy.”
The Best TV Episodes of 2022
TV in the streaming era is an endless feast. This year, series like “Barry,” “Ms. Marvel,” “Pachinko,” “Station Eleven” and “This Fool” offered some of the best bites.
Best and Worst European Theater of 2022 – NYTIMES Critics
The Best (and Worst) Theater in Europe in 2022
The Times’s three European theater critics pick their favorite productions of the year — plus a turkey apiece for the festive season.
Matt Wolf – Four favorites from The Times’s London theater critic:
Blues for an Alabama Sky
A Number (no link given)
Mad House – Turkey
Laura Cappelle – Four favorites from The Times’s Paris theater critic:
Catarina and the Beauty of Killing Fascists
Fat People Skate Well. A Cardboard Cabaret
Tartuffe – Turkey
A.J. Goldmann – Four favorites from The Times’s Berlin theater critic:
Oasis de la Impunidad
Verrückt nach Trost
Queen Lear – Turkey
Couple Amazon Reviews
Not my opinions…
This used to be my favorite book in college. Now that I’m 60 I revisited it and it seems I must have been damn depressed in college.
Read this if you’re into two thoroughly unlikable people ruining each others’ lives and having sex. I bought it because I read that it was the inspiration for The Antlers’ phenomenal Hospice album, but I find it hard to believe something so beautiful and moving could have come from this. Worth reading for the part where Sylvia throws spaghetti at Leonard and he cries about it, however.
Lot’s Wife – Some Interpretations
Genesis Chapter 19
17. And it came to pass, when they had brought them forth abroad, that he said, Escape for thy life; look not behind thee, neither stay thou in all the plain; escape to the mountain, lest thou be consumed.
26. But his wife looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt.
The Old Testament
In Judaism, one common view of Lot’s wife turning to salt was as punishment for disobeying the angels’ warning. By looking back at the “evil cities,” she betrayed her secret longing for that way of life. She was deemed unworthy to be saved and thus was turned to a pillar of salt.
Another view in the Jewish exegesis of Genesis 19:26, is that when Lot’s wife looked back, she turned to a pillar of salt upon the “sight of God,” who was descending down to rain destruction upon Sodom and Gomorrah. One reason that is given in the tradition is that she turned back to look in order to see if her daughters, who were married to men of Sodom, were coming or not.
Another Jewish legend says that because Lot’s wife sinned with salt, she was punished with salt. On the night the two angels visited Lot, he requested that his wife prepare a feast for them. Not having any salt, Lot’s wife asked her neighbors for salt, which alerted them to the presence of their guests, resulting in the mob action that endangered Lot’s family.
The Bible tells a story that should remind us of the dangers of being unable to change with changing circumstances. When God determines to destroy the irredeemably wicked cities of Sodom and Gomorrah Gomorrah (whose unforgivable sin, by the way, was not homosexuality but cruelty to strangers; see Ezekiel 16:49), He advises Abraham’s nephew Lot and his family, the only decent people in the city, to flee Sodom and not look back (Genesis 19:17). But unlike Abraham, who marched willingly into an unknown future, Lot is hesitant to leave his familiar surroundings. He knows how depraved a community Sodom is, but it has been his home. He is used to it and does not know what life will be like outside it. He may feel he is too old to learn new ways and start over somewhere else. He virtually has to be dragged out of his house. Though God has warned the family to flee and not look back, Lot’s wife cannot tear herself away and turns around for one last look, at which point, the Bible tells us, she is turned into a pillar of salt. Tourist guides at the Dead Sea today will point out the column of salt that was once, thousands of years ago, Mrs. Lot.
Why salt? There were so many other punishments that might have befallen her. I like to think that she turned to salt because salt is a preservative. In the premodern world, salt was used not so much to flavor food as to preserve it, to keep it from changing and spoiling. To live preserved in salt is the fate of people who are so bound to the past or so unsure of their ability to cope with the future that they continue to do what they have always done, even when it no longer fits the new circumstances in which they live.
Harold S Kushner
When a Scholar Acknowledges All His Sources, He Brings the Day of Redemption a Little Closer – Talmud Quote
His voice is so weightily authoritative that he hardly ever bothers to cite a source or quote a fellow critic. There is, so the sociologist Michael Walzer tells us, ‘a saying in the Talmud that when a scholar acknowledges all his sources, he brings the day of redemption a little closer’, in which case Williams has managed to postpone the Messiah’s arrival indefinitely. Not that he always had that many sources to quote. There were many significant thinkers whom he never read; and while this reflects something of his originality and independence of mind, the way he draws so deeply on his own resources, it also betrays a certain pride and aloofness, a refusal to be beholden to his fellow intellectuals, which is not easy to square with his politics.
Critical Revolutionaries: Five Critics Who Changed the Way We Read
(from the section on Raymond Williams. )
Realism Is but One of the 57 Varieties of Decoration
LES DAMES DU BOIS DE BOULOGNE
Robert Bresson’s Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne deserves a few explanatory notes, if only because this brilliant work has been so widely and wildly vilified by so-called realistic criticism. Realism, as Harold Rosenberg has so sagely remarked, is but one of the 57 varieties of decoration. Yet, particularly where movies are concerned, the absurdly limited realism of the script girl and the shop girl is too often invoked at the expense of the artist’s meaning. Why, oh why, whines one local reviewer, does Maria wear long dresses in the afternoon? (This same reviewer is unperturbed by the transparent contrivance through which East German nuns are dumped pathetically in Arizona, where they can be saved with topical miraculousness by a Negro deus-ex-machina machinist out of Robinson Crusoe via Going My Way—but that is another story.)
Confessions of a Cultist: On the Cinema, 1955-1969