Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut Booksmart is as buoyant a movie you’re likely to see in 2019. We are living in a teen girl movie renaissance, and this latest addition is raucous and delightful. Embedded in the film are clichés we’ve come to know too well, but Wilde’s point of view is fresh and the cast of young actors is sure to be one of the finest ensembles this year.
Too many gay men allowed me to live in the dark on Younger. I should have known any show headlined by Hillary Duff and Sutton Foster should have been enough, but once I found out it took place in the publishing industry, it was all over. This show goes down like rosé on a summer day.
I am adding Patrick Willems to my playlist of enlightening YouTube nerds. I got hooked from his 3-part breakdown of the Limitations of the Marvel Universe and was so inspired by his guide to getting into comics that I took myself that very afternoon to Midtown Comics and bought three graphic novels.
One of those graphic novels was the recommended Volume 1 of the Snyder/Capullo run of Batman. I have been a Bat-fan for as long as I can remember so it is safe to say I have been eating up this series. Starting with The Court of Owls, this run is dramatic, twisty and just gorgeously stencilled. Can’t wait to see where this goes.
There is not a braver production on Broadway than Daniel Fish’s rendition of Oklahoma!. The Rodgers and Hammerstein classic, originally staged in 1943, is given startling new life. Provocatively pushing every traditional notion of the show all the way out to pasture, this production is very well re-defining what a revival can be.
The final season of Game of Thrones was… divisive, to say the least. My frustrations with the show were prevalent and most of them summed up in Jeremy Egner’s review of the finale for The New York Times.
A Shazam at a wine bar led me to discover Gladys Knight and the Pips’ cover of “The Way We Were,” which then became a week-long binge of their entire discography.
Carly Rae is back and she is dedicated to being the Queen Miss Thing of Pride 2019 with this latest album of candy pop hits.
Joanna Hogg sits down with Martin Scorsese (who executive produced her latest film The Souvenir) for a fascinating conversation about movie-making.
One of the highlights of my inbox is getting Robin Sloan’s “semi-frequent” newsletter, Year of the Meteor. It is no surprise that the author of Mr. Penumbra… can craft an email with narrative heft, technological intrigue and just a touch (or two) of fantastical mysticism. Always a treat to discover what Sloan is up to and walk down the strange intersectional avenues of interest he so effortlessly forges.
I spent a majority of April out and about. Catching up on all the new shows as they were in previews, catching up on Drag Race and seeing old friends and new. I have started cooking real meals again and enjoying it, and even went on a few dates. Game of Thrones and Endgame are wrapping up decade long narrative runs. Is monolith culture coming to a close? Disney’s grasp on the foreseeable future makes that seem unlikely (Aladdin, The Lion King, Toy Story 4 and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker still await us…this year). But there is something to be said about the prospective evaporation of water cooler moments, as the ubiquity of content is leading to more and more niche media. That isn’t necessarily a complaint (most of the big corporate content is trash anyway), and I am eager for more platforms for different voices. While you create, here are some things to consume:
God is alive and well on 47th street. The most gorgeous production of the season, Rachel Chavkin’s Broadway staging of Hadestown is revelatory. In this ostensibly cheap theatrical landscape, Hadestown has arrived with such a clear sound and vision. The musical was just nominated for 14 Tony Awards.
Three (very different) books that I loved:
Am I There Yet?, Mari Andrews’ heartfelt graphic memoir cuddles you like a warm blanket.
Susan Orlean’s miraculous The Library Book is many things. As a history of the tragic fire at the Los Angeles Public Library in 1986 and the subsequent arson investigation/mystery, it reads like a history-thriller. An alternative title could be What the Library Means to Me. What is the point of the library? How did they come to be? What is a library’s purpose in the 21st century? What happens when you burn a book, assaulting a lifetime of knowledge and education? Orlean is tender and probing and the book is a marvel.
My book club chose Ira Levin’s Rosemary’s Baby and I couldn’t put it down. Unsettling in a way that books rarely can be. Levin has a fantastic pace of development, and even knowing the ending didn’t stop this from making my heart race and my stomach turn.
This interview popped up in the wake of Agnes Varda’s passing in late March. Pretty much encapsulates her relaxed edge and cutting curiosity. RIP Agnes, a true artist and believer in the potency of art and cinema. (Sheila Heti, Believer Magazine)
Bon Appetit set off waves of nostalgic cravings with a terrific little set of features this month on what they coin as “Red Sauce America,” those iconic Italian-American restaurants with red and white checkered tablecloths, Bobby Darin on the stereo and lots of meatballs.
Heidi Schreck’s quietly rousing new play What the Constitution Means to Me has arrived on Broadway in exhilarating fashion. Smartly teetering between all the things wrong with this country and all the things right, Schreck’s sincerity and optimism is a beacon in the dark. A true play for our time.
In preparation for the phenomenon that is Avengers: Endgame, I finally caught up with Thor: Ragnarok. I find many of the Marvel films to be dime a dozen, void of personality and winding up in the same homogeneous pool of gray action and lackluster villains. Taika Waititi’s film, in comparison, is a tiny miracle. Overflowing with color, pastiche, comedy and (gasp!) is that camp? All bubble-gum space opera fun and easily one of my favorites in the 22-film franchise.
The wait is over! In the dark aftermath from the tragic folding of Filmstruck, Criterion wasted no time and engineered their own streaming platform. My inaugural viewing was an obscure noir, My Name is Julia Ross (1945, d. Joseph H. Lewis), and I promptly praised the gods for allowing us to have classic and arthouse films at our disposal again.
After years of being in Murder, She Wrote purgatory, our favorite writer turned detective is BACK and streaming no Amazon Prime. That’s right, bitches. Time to solve some murders with the help of Jessica’s endless nieces and nephews.
Austin Kleon is a bonafide hero of mine, and his newsletter is a highlight of my week. His latest book Keep Going came out in early April and I gobbled it up in one day. A fitting end to a tremendous little trilogy.
A quick note on some perfect days off lately: hot yoga class at Modo followed by oysters and wine at Jeffrey’s Grocery. If I want to stay in, nothing beats a few hours on Nintendo Switch and cooking a big meal while Ina monologues to me from the TV.
That’s all folks! Looking forward to a beautiful May (right before it gets too swelteringly hot to enjoy New York). Hoping to squeeze in some museum days and a rep screening at Film Forum. Maybe I will start cooking through Julia Child’s cookbook! Will I finally start Bleak House, which has been my “next book” for three years now? Stay tuned. I love you all.
My cinema diet this month was all over the place (though I am in the middle of a mini Sidney Lumet marathon…more on that to come). Two genre flicks worth recommending: Total Recall (1990, d. Paul Verhoeven), the most bananas space action thriller I can imagine exists. If you’ve ever wanted to see a shrieking woman open her cyborg face into Arnold Schwarzenegger, catch this on Amazon Prime before it vanishes into the galaxy again. Jordan Peele’s new film Us came out, and if you’re on the fence about it, I say go. Absorbing with a lot on its mind (maybe too much?). An absolutely worthy follow-up to Get Out, and the writing around this film has been superb.
The boys at Blank Check podcast have been knees deep in a Tim Burton career retrospective, which has summoned some deeply conflicting feelings about the director’s oeuvre so far. At the very least, listen to their episode on Sweeney Todd, with special guest Mr. Todd himself…Michael Cerveris (!!!).
If you’re highly interested in the niche world of food journalism, I found Ruth Reichl’s interview on the Eater Upsell podcast to be a fascinating. The publishing mogul opens up about the changing landscape of food writing and culture, and the heyday of Gourmet magazine.
The “brekkie sandwich” at Citizens of Chelsea (25th & 9th Ave) is a work of art, that belongs in the culinary Guggenheim. Come for the cheddar chive biscuit, stay for the hip coffee selection and sleek, communal vibe.
Still Processing is going on a brief hiatus, so savor every second of brilliant commentary from Jenna and Wesley. This month they covered everything from the Hollywood fantasy of racial reconciliation, Jussie Smollett, and what we’re supposed to do about the music of Michael Jackson.
If you need some solid background tunes, I have been chugging away (and falling asleep to) Imogen Heap’s score for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Atmospheric and other-worldly, it helps me avoid the city soundscape and drift me away.
Two books this month: David Foster Wallace’s Consider the Lobster, which we read with my book club this past month and did not disappoint. The essays can seem dated, but Wallace’s signature point of view and exacting writing style makes his work demanding and so, so rewarding. I’ve gotten lost in Stefan Zweig’s The Post Office Girl, a 20th century novel about a poor clerk from outside Vienna who tastes the finer life and can’t ever forget it. An empathetic look at the nature of capitalism in a post-war world, and how where we are the social stratum dangerously taunts our self-worth.
Kate Hagen goes on the search for the last great video store and the quest brings back a lot of fond memories (Black List Blog).
If this hasn’t gotten niche enough, I spent almost two hours watching B-Mask’s retrospective YouTube videos on the Sly Cooper franchise, which remains some of my favorite games of all time. A great deep-dive, with some awesome anecdotes and analysis.
Tip your queens! I got to see my dear Kizha Carr (@beardedbitch) twice this month, and she remains one of the most challenging, illuminating and talented drag queens I have ever seen. She is all over NYC so if you haven’t seen her yet…what are you waiting for?
I have had a severe bout of Game of Thrones fever. I started Season 2 earlier this month and I am already on to Season 7. Despite some problematic elements of it’s earlier seasons, the series is absolutely engrossing and quite deft at orchestrating the mythology and sympathy of it’s characters. Morality has never looked so great in grey. I could not get through it without Joanna Robinson and David Chen, hosts of the excellent podcast A Cast of Kings. Breaking down each episode with insightful commentary, they have been an essential resource to help me really engage with the show.
George R.R. Marin seems to have based elements of his series on Shakespeare’s histories, so what better time to finally dive in. I am going chronologically, starting with Richard II, a richly gorgeous play about the simultaneous fall of Richard II and rise of Henry Bolingbroke (later to be known as Henry IV). This is The Bard at his best: a rollicking drama with acute psychological poeticisms. It is a must-read, one that had me itching to watch an adaptation and clamoring to find out what happens next.
Russian Doll is a half-hour Netflix series created by Amy Poehler, Leslye Headland and (it’s star) Natasha Lyonne. A rough-and-tumble New York series that’s twists and turns take you on a whirlwind ride. This is the kind of fierce originality you get when you let women steer the ship.
I very much enjoyed Paul Freedman on the Eater Upsell podcast, discussing his new book The Ten Restaurants that Changed America. This interview highlights the cross sections of food culture and American society and the ways those two things have intersected and changed over time. I was so intrigued I hopped online and ordered his book right then and there.
The boys at Food 4 Thot take a tough look at how and why gay men commodify bodies, and what that means for anyone who doesn’t feel like they fit into those strict (chiseled, white) parameters. Special guest is the inimitable Guy Branum.
A dear friend got me a beautiful copy of Rainer Maria Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet, and it proved to be just as touching and inspiring as everyone has claimed it to be.
As a super-fan of the original LEGO Movie (it was my #4 movie that year), I was ecstatic and trepidatious to see the new sequel, The LEGO Movie: The Second Part. While not arriving with as much of a bang as the original, I have fallen victim to the irresistible “Catchy Song,” cleverly used in the film to great (perhaps irritating) effect.
Ian Parker of The New Yorker delivers a shattering profile (exposé?) on blockbuster mystery author Dan Mallory. Let me tell you: I have not been so allured to a magazine piece in years, unfolding like a real life conspiracy mystery itself. Brilliantly written and must be read to be believed.
Mairead Small Stead highlights the pleasures of Reading in the Age of Constant Distraction (Paris Review).
In the wake of the Oscars, we’re having some timely and frank discussions about the way we portray racial relations (and fantasy versions thereof) on the big screen. Some great writing on this from a lot of angles: Wesley Morris on the fantasy of wholesale reconciliation, the folks from the New York Times on what this means for the state of the Oscars, and Lindsay Ellis’ great tweet-thread on why Blazing Saddles could not be made today (the answer isn’t as obvious as you think).
TOP TEN FILMS OF 2018:
10. Crazy Rich Asians (d. Jon M. Chu): There was barely as much fun to be had at the cinema this past year than at Crazy Rich Asians, which somehow manages to revive the romantic comedy with aplomb. This comedy is laugh-out-loud funny (when’s the last time I said that about a studio film?) and can’t be overlooked for the huge, long-awaited strides it makes in allowing diverse stories to have the light of day, and in remarkable fashions I might add.
9. Tully (d. Jason Reitman): Reitman’s best works are his collaborations with Diablo Cody, and this might be my favorite one yet. I love the thoughtful turns this movie takes, and Charlize Theron gives another performance for the ages (how does she keep doing that?!).
8. A Simple Favor (d. Paul Feig): As will be discussed further on, Paul Feig’s comedy is a new camp classic, vital in its provocation and daring in its stylistic risks. In a world of comedic spoofs that feel so labored and obvious, A Simple Favor is sly, savage and outrageously fun.
7. Minding the Gap (d. Bing Liu): Bing Liu’s documentary packs one of the biggest emotional whollops. A gorgeously edited document of three lives recovering from the expectations and failures of a perceived masculinity and the fathers therefore implicated, Liu handles this side of American suburbia with a respectful grace, and the film towers because of it.
6. Annihilation (d. Alex Garland): Category is: movies that fucked me all the way up! Garland’s successor to the exquisite Ex Machina is another science-fiction contemplative masterpiece. Not so much a horror film as an anxiety film (perhaps they are one and the same), Annihilation investigates the fact of mutation and evolution as inevitable. The film constructs a treatise that is plausible and penetrating: the images and sounds here resonate in my mind even a year later, like the echo of a bear screaming into the night.
5. The Favourite (d. Yorgos Lanthimos): Widely regarded as Lanthimos’ most accessible film to date, rather remarkable for an unabashedly queer, deadpan comedy of powers. Its bite is equal to its gnaw, which is to say there is nothing particularly sacred or manipulative about this period piece (save what affection you can muster for the poor Queen Anne, played expertly by Olivia Colman). It’s a yarn about people fumbling for power and access, doing their best to appease a petulant and incompetent ruler. Now why would we find anything familiar about that?
4. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (d. Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsay, Rodney Rothman): Another origin story? Another superhero film? How is there any way to fight this fatigue? By reinvigorating the genre with stunning visuals and a cast of characters that matches the people inhabiting the world today. An instant classic.
3. Can You Ever Forgive Me? (d. Marielle Heller): Heller’s quiet, character-driven dramedy has been seen by some as slight or inconsequential, which is an assessment that I understand. What makes this film work for me is not only the heartfelt duo of Richard E. Grant and Melissa McCarthy (both phenomenal) but also how Heller dreamily conjures the musty atmosphere of 1990s New York City. I loved that this film works as a time capsule for then and way before then. Lee Isreal’s forgeries allow her to revisit the glory days of sophistication, wit, and success… all things she sees the opportunities for in her own life vanish slowly, the brutal fading of an artist’s promise to themself. When she gets cooking and her scheme is under way, the audience might not find the situation to be of high-stakes drama, but it is for Lee. And this distinction is subtle enough to leave some folks unprovoked, but I found this story of an artist recovery (and the power of a companionship) to be particularly poignant.
2. Paddington 2 (d. Paul King): If this movie serves nothing else than as an antidote for the realities of the cruel, harsh world, then so be it. Paddington 2 improves on its predecessor in every way I can think of, visually singular and riotously funny (thanks in large part to a genius turn by Hugh Grant as a dastardly actor, as most actors are). King smartly doesn’t let the film soak itself in saccharine moments, but tailors them for maximum impact. If irony rules the day, cynicism and unspecified hatred the prevailing mood, then Paddington 2 stands in sharp contrast as an emblem of earnest. Thank god it is easily re-watchable, since it may be one of the most vital movies of the year.
1. Eighth Grade (d. Bo Burnham): If you were to ask me to sum up the year of our lord 2018 with one film, it would be Bo Burnham’s Eighth Grade. No overarching political beats, nothing particularly tethered to the larger world beyond, it is still as “of-the-moment” as a film could be. It is my belief that this will serve as a touchstone in the ways that it addresses the complexities and heartbreak of living in a digital world that constantly wants to consume you. Elsie Fisher, as our middle school heroine Kayla, trying to find herself amidst this omnipresent clatter is the bildungsroman of the Snapchat era. If that sounds reductive, I mean it as the opposite: like every great coming-of-age story, it is both tethered to its temporal elements and also free of them. This is essentially a universal story of self-discovery, of actualization, of learning to face uncertainty with hope, and none of that comes off as clichéd or one-note. For a film that starts off in the hyper-close-up of a YouTube video, the manifestation of the online pseudo-identity, the most powerful moment comes near the end of the film, in a stripped-down show lit naturally by a backyard fire pit. Josh Hamilton, in a tender monologue of father-daughter connection, tells Kayla “you make me brave. And if you could just see yourself as I see you, which is as you are, as you really are, as you always have been, I swear to God you wouldn’t be scared either.” Maybe the things we seek outwardly, in the world or online, are actually (wink) in our own backyard.
(in no order)
First Reformed (d. Paul Schrader)
Widows (d. Steve McQueen)
Hereditary (d. Ari Aster)
Mission Impossible: Fallout (d. Christopher McQuarrie)
BlackKklansman (d. Spike Lee)
Roma (d. Alfonso Cuaron)
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (d. Joel and Ethan Coen)
Black Panther (d. Ryan Coogler)
Mandy (d. Panos Cosmatos)
Isle of Dogs (d. Wes Anderson)
BEST LEAD PERFORMANCES:
10. John David Washington, BlackKlansman
9. Yalitza Aparicio, Roma
8. Regina Hall, Support the Girls
7. Toni Collette, Hereditary: Our gal Toni. What is it that she can’t do? What project is it that she can’t instantly make better? I loved this trippy, spooky horror film by Ari Aster, and it is Collette that will remain in my head for a long time. She gets to play every fucking note on the keyboard in this, and does it all flawlessly. She deserved better this awards season, but she will never be forgotten in our (satanic) hearts.
6. Melissa McCarthy, Can You Ever Forgive Me?
5. Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga, A Star is Born
4. Elsie Fisher, Eighth Grade
3. Ethan Hawke, First Reformed
2. Olivia Colman, The Favourite
1. Charlize Theron, Tully
BEST SUPPORTING PERFORMANCES:
10. Regina King, If Beale Street Could Talk
9. Rachel Weisz, The Favourite
8. Elizabeth Debicki, Widows
7. Josh Hamilton, Eighth Grade
6. Emma Stone, The Favourite
5. Tilda Swinton, Suspiria
4. Blake Lively, A Simple Favor
3. Hugh Grant, Paddington 2
2. Michelle Yeoh, Crazy Rich Asians: Were there any other scenes that got me the way the Mahjong scene did? Yeoh is top-notch here, the reserved matriarch of the eponymous family, ever cool and deliberate but bringing with her an assured sense of pathos and gravitas. Her performance is the bedrock of this zany comedy, elevating the film into another level for me.
1. Richard E. Grant, Can You Ever Forgive Me?
ENSEMBLE CASTS THAT FUCKING RULED:
5. The Death of Stalin
3. Crazy Rich Asians
2. Can You Ever Forgive Me?: It is the mark of a good director and casting director (Marielle Heller and Jennifer Euston, respectively) when every tiny part feels so lived-in, specific and essential. There may be only two “main” roles in this film, but it stands out to me as a triumph of the actor in every part, large and small.
1. Black Panther
SCREENPLAYS THAT FUCKING RULED:
10. Mark Perez, Game Night
9. Drew Goddard, Bad Times at the El Royale
8. Boots Riley, Sorry to Bother You
7. Joel and Ethan Coen, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
6. Bo Burnham, Eighth Grade
5. Spike Lee, BlackKklansman
4. Diablo Cody, Tully: Doubling down on Cody’s status as one of the signature cinematic voices of her generation. Tully is just as alive and unflinching as all her previous efforts to date, if not more so. As the industry reckons with the ignoble (to say the least) representation and treatment of women both on and offscreen, it is a comfort knowing we have talents like Cody, who consistently delivers moving and complicated portraits of female maturation. The structure of the film alone is enchanting and downright profound- a story that unfolds before you like a half-remembered fairy tale. Elegiac and hopeful in equal measure, Tully is probably the year’s most overlooked achievement.
3. Paul Schrader, First Reformed
2. Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara, The Favourite
1. Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty, Can You Ever Forgive Me?
DIRECTORS I ADMIRED:
5. Alfonso Cuaron, Roma
4. Ryan Coogler, Black Panther: I’ve been a fan of every Coogler film I’ve seen, but working in the highly compressed studio ecosystem of Marvel and Disney and coming out of that with a vision unscathed, with thematic resonance, with a highly exciting tentpole blockbuster that doesn’t feel like it was manufactured in a laboratory? Now that is an heroic effort.
3. Marielle Heller, Can You Ever Forgive Me?
2. Bo Burnham, Eighth Grade
1. Yorgos Lanthimos, The Favourite
Ocean’s 8 (d. Gary Ross)
Teen Titans Go! To the Movies (d. Peter Rida Michail, Aaron Horvath): A fan of the original television series but unfamiliar with the new Go! incarnation, I adored this wacky animated adventure. Beyond what seems like a cheap “made for TV” feature, this meta-story of Robin, the Boy Wonder, trying to get his own movie was also one of the most hilarious films I saw all year, full stop.
Assassination Nation (d. Sam Levinson)
Incredibles 2 (d. Brad Bird)
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before (d. Susan Johnson): Netflix movies come at us a mile a minute so it can be illuminating to see which ones break through, and I couldn’t be happier for the success of To All the Boys… Returning us to the sweet idyll of high school romance movies, this was not only a breath of fresh air but basically a resurrection of the genre, obscured by a cinematic landscape that favors the big and loud and male. Bless it’s return.
Aquaman (d. James Wan)
and finally, the category you’ve all been waiting for:
THE JOHN WATERS AWARD FOR ACHIEVEMENT IN QUEER CINEMA:
A Simple Favor (d. Paul Feig)
Why did I go gaga for this film? Because in the year of our lord 2018, there was only one film I saw that was brazen enough to be subversive, clever enough to still surprise you, and aesthetically stylized enough to be recognized as bonafide trash camp. It’s been a long while since I reveled in a movie, which I will admit seems totally tailored to queer people (specifically gay men, I suppose). A complete surprise and one of the best movie-going experiences of the year. I read one (straight-male) reviewer claim that the film kept him at a distance by wearing its artificiality on its sleeve, an altogether hollow experience, and I knew the good work had been done. Like the best that camp can offer, I feel it’s “hollowness” actually enhances the endeavor, a play on the absurdities of the noir genre, of class, of our desire to watch women descend into madness (here’s looking at you Gone Girl). It’s a high-fashion romp about what it means to play the role of mother and the total chaos of when someone abandons that role. I can’t wait to watch this over and over and over.
Can You Ever Forgive Me? (d. Marielle Heller)
The Favourite (d. Yorgos Lanthimos)
Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (d. Ol Parker)
Trying a simpler format for my monthly recommendations, which used to be a routine post on this blog that I ended up giving up on (this is a theme with a lot of things in my life, be it television shows, long novels or relationships. Working on it with my therapist).
Anywho, January has been a fruitful time for me. My Whole30 clean slate diet (we don’t have to go into it) has allowed me some clarity of thinking that had hitherto been obscured from me for some while. That, paired with a LOT of time at home (for cooking purposes) gave me some room to really explore various interests. Here are some things I liked:
Mulholland Drive (2001, d. David Lynch) & Paprika (2006, d. Satoshi Kon): Two films I saw for the first time that both explore the inherent power of narrative, and just how our consciousness and illusions are dangerously malleable. As I dive into what I expect to be a year-long study of the way that images shape our understanding of reality (stemming from a growing antipathy towards Instagram and screens in general), these were both sort of random, perfect starting engines for that exploration.
Michael Phillips, film critic for the Chicago Tribune (and one of my favorites to read), curated this series on film music for WFMT Radio called The Film Score. Phillips has a vast history of classic and contemporary Hollywood, and his fervor for music shows with these gorgeous picks. I was surprised to learn of some new names and stunning compositions, namely Dimitri Tiomkin, who’s suite from The Big Sky had me close to tears, for a reason probably best left unexamined.
I went to the Whitney’s fabulous Andy Warhol retrospective, From A to B and Back Again, and found the entire experience to be altogether transformative. I beg you to try and visit it if you are in NYC. Reading this Jerry Saltz piece will enhance your visit tenfold.
My book club read Lisa Halliday’s remarkable Asymmetry this month. This book was exciting to talk about, as Halliday deftly questions whether anyone can be the sole proprietor of a story and navigates the ways that fiction can and cannot transcend barriers between different groups of people.
The Oscar nominations came out, and a lot of them are pretty lame in my opinion. But one I am very happy about is Nicholas Brittell’s fantastic score for If Beale Street Could Talk, which I have basically had on repeat as reading/studying music for a solid week and a half.
Another positive from Oscar-nomination morning: this delightful reaction video from Richard E. Grant (who gives maybe my favorite performance this year, by any actor in any film).
I got a record player for Christmas and can’t think of a better artist to christen it than Blossom Dearie.
I started a Yale Open Course on Theory of Literature, taught by Professor Paul H. Fry. It is challenging and engrossing, just what I needed. I was delighted to see the very first session concern a 1969 essay called “What is an Author?” by Michel Foucault, having just watched Lindsay Ellis’s brilliant video essay on the topic (her examples of J.K. Rowling and John Green bring the debate into the uber-present).
Besides that, here some other awesome things I enjoyed: descending into a Lee Isreal rabbit hole (reading her book Can You Ever Forgive Me?, re-watching Marielle Heller’s fantastic film version, diving into more Dorothy Parker). Reconnecting with Nora Ephron, my hero. Being onstage for Brittney Johnson’s historic debut as the first actress of color to play Glinda on Broadway. Minorly obsessing over marginalia (the scribbling folks like me like to do with our books) and the way we can communicate with the past. Guffawing at this tweet. Performing in aWicked boy band. Saying goodbye to Carol Channing.
As a wrap-up, here are some fun, gay tweets.
As a way of perpetuating a glorious 2019, I have been delving into my coveted Nora Ephron anthology, reading snippets or essays every other day or so. In a profile of Dorothy Parker for her book Crazy Salad, she writes:
All I wanted in this world was to come to New York and be Dorothy Parker. The funny lady. The only lady at the table. The woman who made her living by her wit. Who wrote for The New Yorker. Who always got off the perfect line at the perfect moment, who never went home and lay awake wondering what she ought to have said because she had exactly what she ought to have.
Of course, to me and many others, Nora did realize that very dream, and becoming, some argue, even funnier and more clever than Ms. Parker herself. The universe tends to send me down avenues of artistic history, with some sort of unplanned synchronicity of content, style or author. Last year, I unwittingly was reading variations of the same narrative structure: Emily Wilson’s translation of Homer’s The Odyssey, Andrew Sean Greer’s Less and Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love. It wasn’t until I was talking it over with my therapist that I realized all three were about the hero’s journey, venturing into and across various cultures and societies alien to them and returning home with a significant interior change.
Dorothy Parker has always been on my radar but noticeably popping up in unexpected conversation: as a credited screenwriter for the story of A Star is Born and more overtly in one of my favorite films of last year, Marielle Heller’s Can You Ever Forgive Me, which I re-watched this week. Lo and behold, cracking open my Ephron anthology and there she is again.
Both Nora and Lee Isreal (Melissa McCarthy’s character in Can You Ever...) basically copied or emulated Dorothy Parker. It’s not a new idea that the artist’s first instinct is to outright copy. In fact, it’s consistently theorized that this emulation of form, structure and content is absolutely necessary to uncovering your own artistry, that then eventually blossoms into a voice that belongs more wholly to you. We may think of Nora and Lee in conversation with Parker (okay, sometimes in the act of straight-up appropriation), but we also think of them in their own terms as well. Conveniently, I have had The Portable Dorothy Parker sitting on my shelf for years. Maybe it’s time to dive in, and start to steal from Parker myself.
But what strikes me even more about that passage from Nora is how she herself is now that ideal. Nora Ephron, to me, has grown to somehow be the apex of a well-rounded, enriched and culturally blissful life. Maybe it’s her truisms, her funny and unfussy prose, her love of food, her dextrous success: as a screenwriter, journalist, filmmaker, essayist and novelist (yep, she fucking DID that). She also just seemed to be the best person to be around, always up to trade recipes and gossip.
This ideal is tricky territory and can lead to destructive mythologizing, as Nora’s essay on Parker points out. Dorothy Parker may have had conjured those indelible comments, delivered that fantastic writing, and maintained a reputation as a fabulous socialite. She also dealt with suicide attempts, depression, unhappy love affairs… Nora writes:
I had managed to keep myself from what anyone who has read a line about or by her should have known, which was simply that Dorothy Parker had not been terribly good at being Dorothy Parker either.
She had punctured the myth. Which doesn’t diminish the power of Parker’s writing or her witticisms, but sheds a light on the sort of cost of believing in the myth of our idols. I haven’t yet punctured my myth of Nora, and even if I were to find out she was a money launderer and murderer, I still would have difficulty giving up the myth of Nora. If not for anything else, because I know Nora would appreciate the act of being mythologized. With that, I say thank you, Nora. Thank you, Lee and thank you, Dorothy.
Most of all, I’m sorry it wasn’t true. As Dorothy Parker once said, in a line she suggested for her gravestone: “If you can read this, you’ve come too close.”
One of my routine podcasts, Little Gold Men, released this interview with Ethan Hawke, in town for his Broadway run of Sam Shepard’s True West, and still promoting his somehow overlooked First Reformed, the Paul Schrader film now streaming on Amazon Prime. Hawke is slowly, but clearly, becoming a hero of mine. His interview last year on Filmspotting highlighted his clarity of artistic thought and his frankness about the industry and his place in it was totally mind opening. This one is no less so.
Despite a dubious headline…
the interview is a refresher of Hawke’s brilliance when it comes to discussing his craft and his dismay with the business (and perhaps the culture at large that upholds it as well). Gathering some of my favorite sections for posterity.
On spirituality in the movies
…spiritual life is something that is incredibly hard to dramatize. It always has been. You can make movies about a lot of things, but an inner life—what are the inner machinations of my soul that lead me to a certain belief system?—is something very. . .it’s just not drama. It’s made for literature. . . but for movies, it’s very, very hard. Bergman has some great ones, you know, but as an actor, it has to live in the writing. . .
ON RECESSIVE PERFORMANCES
. . .the DNA of the project is such where I immerse you in my journals and an inner thought. And if you’re paying attention, you start to realize that he’s no longer making sense. He tells you things that start not being true, and you start to be inside his psyche. When I first met Paul, he asked me if I knew what a recessive performance was, and I did.
Hawke begins to detail what he means by that but gets distracted by one of his side tangents. The idea of the recessive is perhaps best described as the opposite of excessive (or in genetic language, the dominant). In simple terms, it is the understated performance that is prevalent now, writer and professor Shonni Enelow suggests, because of tenants of inner turmoil, anxious reserve and depressive seclusion reflected from a modern world of violating surveillance and a culture of performance. More on that to come.
On the meditation film
There’s a different kind of cinema that is inviting you and your creativity to join the movie—that’s Diary of a Country Priest, Winter Light, a lot of movies in the 50s where there was an intersection between literature and film, and film wasn’t such complete big business, and people feel like the job of a movie is to entertain you. Fanny and Alexander’s job isn’t to wow you. Its job is somewhere similar to what Anna Karenina’s job is: it’s inviting you, it is entertaining you, but it’s also asking you to join it. That’s what Paul wanted to do. A recessive performance doesn’t try to juggle and tell you jokes, and cry, and take out your sword and do swashbuckling tricks. It’s inviting you to participate in a dialogue with me. The challenge is more like a guided-meditation challenge.
People think acting is about memorizing lines and things like that, or they think it’s about a celebration of personality like, “Whoa, isn’t that person amazing?” Really, at it’s finest, it’s void of that. It’s the complete loss of personality in service of a larger story.
This stopped me in my tracks when I listened to it. He is completely right. One of the valuable things I learned from my time studying at the Steppenwolf Theater in Chicago was an obvious one: it’s not about you. Taking yourself out of it to serve the larger work. It’s a spiritual thing, really. Working with an ensemble, collaborating. That’s what it’s about. I feel too often that my peers, especially in New York, value the bells-and-whistle performances, and end up emulating that. I succumb to that instinct too. My inclination for showboating and hamming it up is something I still have to temper. Stopping myself from trying to please and be adored (hello, ego!) and really dig into who the person is, what the story is. It can be a real challenge, especially in a results-driven (aka money) theatrical environment, which New York can be.
Once you start realizing that the essence of you is quite fantastically malleable, it’s almost some kind of spiritual question, because what is the essence of you that is not malleable? That’s the next question. Then, you get into acting—and how you can wear these different clothes and how you could have a different past and still be you. If you had different heartbreaks, how would that inform the way you speak? You start realizing that acting isn’t about memorizing lines—it’s about the movement of energy.
Acting as A life’s work
My daughter is studying acting. She just left Juilliard, and she’s 20 years old and she’s really into it. She keeps asking me questions about this job versus this job and this job. The real jump is when you start not going job to job, meaning that there’s a connection between all the jobs, and that your life as a performer has a continuity to it.
The dream, isn’t it? Why do I have a steady job and still feel like I’m constantly hustling? To be in the place of access and privilege where you can start seeing roles and jobs as part of a larger body of work, that is where I want to start heading.
Acting as meditation, acting through relaxation
It’s a guided meditation—that’s where I’m going with this, where you relax, and focus on imagination, concentration, relaxation. You are entering, hopefully, some subconscious state where you’re, I, the actor, am also being played. We are being played together. I am the focal point, but that’s really it—in a meaningful performance, it’s a shared experience, because it’s not just about me dictating something. I don’t have an agenda with the audience. People say, “What do you want people to take away from this movie?” I've already lost by the question. What I really want is for you to have an experience that is your own.
Capitalism as a paradigm of culture
We live in a country that celebrates the accumulation of wealth. If a movie made a lot of money, it’s a good movie. Right? If a crack dealer makes a lot of money, he’s a good crack dealer. If you really prioritize, and the whole culture deifies and celebrates things that make a lot of money, you would be amazed if you do it for long enough who might get elected president. You see what I’m saying?
I have thought about this a lot. I have been lucky enough to gravitate towards friends and colleagues who aren’t afraid of challenging art, who still read books (real ones!), who watch plays and are as interested in the past as they are the future. This is my bubble, and it’s not limited to my immediate surroundings, but with the constant distraction and barrage of information and stimulation, I do worry that, if we don’t protect it, the interesting stuff will all dissolve away, for the public appetite is entirely for empty calorie movies and theater. Even looking at some of the Broadway line-up…it’s just depressing. That’s why I try and champion denser, richer works of film and theater. God, I sound like a pompous asshole, don’t I?
I grew up on comic books. I have four kids; I've seen all the comic-book movies. My problem is not with the movies. My problem is with the culture that now is hero-worshiping the money they’re making. That’s really what I’m talking about, because right now—look, if One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest came out today, it would not be a studio release. We are not celebrating and challenging young people to watch difficult, incendiary, participate in—whether it’s literature, art, music.
Another reminder to breathe, think, slow down and engage. Reminds me of Anne Bogart’s essay on “Arrest”…artistic experiences that really envelop us, change us, open our hearts and minds to new roads of empathy and radical thought. First, though, we have to listen and receive.
I think one of my heroes, Jack O’Brien, who’s a theater director . . . I was interviewing him for a bunch of young directors, young theater students—this is 10 years ago. The first question: some kid raises his hand and says, “Hey, Mr. O’Brien. What do you think is the most important thing about being a director?” He said, “Lack of sexual misconduct”. . . He said, “If you’re going to create a safe place for creativity, and people are going to understand why she gets chosen to be in the light and not her, and why this one gets the big part, and why this one doesn’t, and why this person gets to sing the final song, there needs to be some actual leadership.” Actual leadership means that you are prioritizing content of character, work ethic—things that we can root our self-esteem in, and not that you’re cuter or you kissed me backstage. Once you start that kind of behavior, the whole machine breaks down, and there’s a lack of leadership.
On acting for stage vs film
It’s a little bit like doing an album in a studio and doing a concert at Madison Square Garden. I mean, it’s the same muscles, but it’s just a much heightened, more disciplined exercise.
Less, Andrew Sean Greer: My favorite book of the year. The misanthrope’s Eat, Pray, Love, Greer’s Pulitzer Prize winning comic novel also happens to be a new LGBT classic, containing single sentences that are both stinging and tender. A must read.
What’s the Story, Anne Bogart
Calypso, David Sedaris
East of Eden, John Steinbeck
The Argonauts, Maggie Nelson: A formally experimental and probing work, deeply complex in its ideas but absolutely approachable. Made me consider the inherently radical nature of queerness and how we respond to that in the social structures we’ve been born into.
Giovanni’s Room, James Baldwin
Atonement, Ian McEwan
Movies Are Prayers, Josh Larsen
The Folded Clock, Heidi Julavits
Amusing Ourselves to Death, Neil Postman
Blow Out (1980, d. Brian DePalma): I spent a great deal on DePalma this year, starting with this. A firecracker of a movie, it’s everything I want: pulp, melodrama, bombast, and espionage. A thrilling experience. *now streaming on Amazon Prime*
Diabolique (1955, d. Henri-Georges Clouzot) *now streaming on Amazon Prime*
Blood Simple (1984, d. Joel Coen, Ethan Coen)
Harold and Maude (1971, d. Hal Ashby)
Stepping Out (1991, d. Lewis Gilbert): It’s a travesty it took me this long to see this Liza Minnelli star vehicle, which features a roster of Broadway vets and is pure Liza magic from beginning to end. A new addition to my regular rotation.
The Exterminating Angel (1962, d. Luis Bunuel)
A Room with a View (1986, d. James Ivory)
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968, d. Stanley Kubrick): I’ve been waiting to see this on the big screen and it was worth the wait. The 50th Anniversary IMAX presentation was life-altering. Kubrick’s seminal work demands to be seen on the largest, clearest screen possible.
Opening Night (1976, d. John Cassavetes)
After Hours (1985, d. Martin Scorsese): Another of my favorite moviegoing experiences was attending the Film Forum ‘Double Feature’ series they do each summer. This was paired with “Desperately Seeking Susan,” but I found Scorsese’s Kafka nightmare to be sinewy and provocative and unforgettably New York.
Twin Peaks: The Return (Showtime)
Gilmore Girls (Seasons 2-5- Netflix)
The Bold Type (Season 2- Freeform): No other show is as, excuse me, bold about portraying women on television facing contemporary issues. The show deftly handles women’s health, relationships, the workplace, etc. The kind of voices we’ve desperately needed more and one of the few shows I consider mandatory viewing.
At Home with Amy Sedaris (truTV): I have rarely laughed as hard this entire year than I did watching this. Amy Sedaris takes the essence of Martha Stewart, pulverizes it in Pee Wee Herman’s blender and seasons it with indescribably macabre comic sprinkles.
Killing Eve (BBC)
Hannah Gadsby’s Nanette (Netflix)
Salt Fat Acid Heat (Netflix)
Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown (Netflix)
Ugly Delicious (Netflix)
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Amazon Prime)
Three Tall Women, Golden Theater
Follies, National Theatre 2017 (NT Live)
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Lyric Theater: I got to see both parts in one day. My mom flew in from Ohio just to see it with me, and it was pure magic onstage, but the truly profound experience was sitting next to the woman who read me the first book.
Sweeney Todd, Barrow Street Theater
The Ferryman, Bernard B. Jacobs Theater
A.O. Scott from the New York Times contends with his love of Woody Allen movies and how we re-evaluate art as time reveals more about the artist.
The magic and mystery of literary maps. (Robert Macfarlane, The Guardian)
Two pieces meant to be read in tandem: a reporter grapples with blowing up a small town burger joint with a top spot on a “Best of” list (Kevin Alexander, Thrillist). The story twists as Helen Rosner of the New Yorker spotlights the ethical issues with the piece, all together a one-two punch of how viral features are impacting small town food scenes.
Joan Acocella’s lovely analysis of the ways Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women has impacted female writers for generations. (New Yorker)
Manhattan is becoming an empty shell of the glorious city it once was. Here’s how. (Derek Thompson, The Atlantic)
One of my favorite random pieces this year: a passionate defense of the oft-maligned, underrated Nintendo star Waluigi. (Gene Park, Washington Post)
Film critic Matt Zoller Seitz keeps getting better. I especially loved these two essays on the osmosis effect pop culture has on our memories and our lives. One details the movies of his life as he turns 50 (RogerEbert.com) and “all the things that remind me of her;” a pop culture tribute to the memory of his late wife Jennifer. (Salon)
Alan Richman’s terrific feature on Maguy Le Coze, who’s been running New York staple Le Bernardin for decades. (The New York Times)
My favorite feature of 2018 was definitely Pulitzer Prize winner Jerry Saltz on How to Be an Artist…the most concise, definitive and inspiring guide to consuming, making, buying, and creating art. (Vulture)
The TED Interview: If I were to choose a single podcast episode that has stayed with me in a palpable way, it’s the premiere episode of the TED Interview podcast. Here’s Elizabeth Gilbert giving a typically transformative interview about loss, showing up, and moving on.
Still Processing: The New York Times’ excellent race and pop culture podcast had an incredible year, with Wesley Morris and Jenna Wortham unpacking everything from relationships onscreen to reckoning with Kanye West to understanding the fundamentals of Roseanne and the bastion clinging to “white culture”.
This Had Oscar Buzz: A fun new addition to my weekly roster of shows is Chris Feil and Joe Reid’s investigation into forgotten films that had awards chatter but never made it to the finish line. Their obsessive knowledge and breezy back-and-forth is a delight from start to finish.
Fighting in the War Room and Filmspotting: Two of my all-time favorite film podcasts, truly one of the few things I look forward to every week. Ethan Hawke’s interview on Filmspotting was an inspiring highlight, as was their Top 5 Movie Missives episode.
The Long and the Short of It: Tiny jolts of creative fuel, Jen Waldman and Peter Shepherd’s podcast is a new staple in my weekly routine. If you’re looking for a place to start, may I recommend their episodes on favorite questions they like to ask and be asked.
Food 4 Thot: Gay podcast lovers rejoice. The thots are always controversial, highly opinionated, loud and hilariously smart. LGBT author luminary Alexander Chee stopped by to discuss stories we tell about ourselves and Bowen Yang joins to boys to get real about being gay and dating in 2018.
Katie Couric: I am a huge Katie fan and was disheartened to hear that the podcast is not planning on making regular episodes past the end of this year. Here’s Katie during one of the year’s singular (and most illuminatingly polarizing) political events: the appointment of a new Supreme Court Justice.
/Filmcast: What’s impressive about the /Filmcast is how it has grown from it’s nerd-based fanboy roots into a legitimate critical discussion, and their awareness of the limited male perspective has broadened the show in intriguing directions, including the welcome addition of the show’s first regular female co-host in it’s near-decade run. Some of my favorites this year were this must listen interview with director Rian Johnson in a candidly self-reflexive and captivating discussion about his film The Last Jedi, the rousing review episode of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, and Britt Hayes joining the crew for a hearty roundtable on the splendor and puzzles of Luca Guadagnino’s remake of Suspiria.
Downstage Center and SDCF Masters of the Stage: As far as theater podcasts go, I tend to listen to them years later, letting my avenues of interest lead me exactly where I was intended to go. Diving back into a childhood favorite, I obsessed over Downstage Center, particularly interviews with three amazing female artists: Elizabeth Marvel, Cynthia Nixon, and Anne Bogart (whose book of essays on theater and art is one of my favorite books I read this year). SDCF interviews are bare bones and fascinating. Here’s Sam Gold and David Caparelliotis speaking frankly on staying close to the front lines of fighting for those with disability on the stage.
Dear Sugars: Parting is such sweet sorrow. Thank you Steve and Cheryl for the hours of empathy and giving us all the courage to continue.
Lindsay Ellis was a newfound minor obsession for me this year. I plowed through several of her 30+ minute videos with verve, and nothing sums up what she does better than her autopsy of The Hobbit “franchise” and how Peter Jackson took a masterpiece film trilogy and spun it in horrifyingly lame directions.
This year I was introduced via my trusted queer alliance to the heart-stopping sublimity of ‘60s underground song-and-dance icon Joey Heatherton, best exemplified with her campy twist on “Nobody’s Baby.”
My friends from work got me hooked onto Don’t Hug Me, I’m Scared, a series of bizarre comedic shorts that wind up feeling like David Lynch-directed Sesame Street episodes.
My Zelda fandom knew few limits this year. A convergence of two things I exalt: Beyond Ghibli on how Studio Ghibli inspired Breath of the Wild.
Spike Jonze directed an Apple commercial, and it was my favorite short film of the year.
Mario Spinetti’s addicting midnight rendition of Sondheim’s “Johanna.”
Estelle Caswell at Vox gives us the oral history of the gated reverb, the ‘80s most iconic contribution to modern music. It spun me on a two month obsession, handy with her absolutely awesome Spotify playlist.
Celebrated the late Delores O’Riordan of The Cranberries with this epic NPR Tiny Desk Concert.
Janelle Monae’s Dirty Computer was one of my favorite albums of the year (see below), but what really drove it home was her knock-out visual album, safely catapulting Monae to the Best of the Best.
Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack): We were gaslit by reviewers who told us they used all the good ABBA songs in the first one. This was a direct attempt to dissuade fun-loving homosexuals and women over 40. They will not stop us. My most played album of the year, by far.
Bloom, Troye Sivan: The first time I heard the title track, I sobbed in my bed. To hear a blatant celebration of gay sex, and in a bop no less, was nothing short of radical. That it was treated so casually makes me cry tears of joy. That the rest of the album totally rules is a plus.
“Thank U, Next,” Ariana Grande: You know it, I know it, we all know it. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.
By the Way I Forgive You, Brandi Carlile: Maybe Brandi’s most penetrating album yet, and that’s saying something for my favorite artist. May she win all the Grammys.
A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships, The 1975: Progressive soundscapes coupled with the band’s singular lyrics, it’s a worthy successor to their last effort, which was my favorite album of 2017.
I finally listened to Prince’s Purple Rain in it’s entirety, and, well…you know how that went.
I am a certified homosexual, so it is safe to say that I very much enjoyed Cher’s album of ABBA covers.
Gated reverb, the 1980s beat that defined an era, became an unexpected constant during the first part of the year, thanks to Estelle Caswell’s epic Spotify Playlist.
Oh crap, I’m at #10 and didn’t get to talk about my love of The Cranberries, Johnny Greenwood’s score for Phantom Thread, or returning myself to middle school with a revisit of Imogen Heap’s Speak For Yourself. In that case, you should check out my Top Songs of the Year over on Spotify.
AND EVERYTHING ELSE
Performing next to my all-time hero in one of the most unforgettable nights of my year (and life).
Seeing one of my favorite artists, jazz siren Stacey Kent live at Birdland TWICE.
Completing all 12 weeks of Julia Cameron’s The Artist Way. Journaling every day for the second half of the year. Writing again. Recovering my artist child.
Along with The Artist’s Way, I finally found myself reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love, which I enjoyed very much. Together, they inspired me to start praying again. It feels nice.
Saying au revoir to some of my favorite salves: MoviePass, Dear Sugars podcast, and the real blow… the beloved Filmstruck.
Receiving Austin Kleon’s newsletter, sometimes the highlight of my week and a constant reminder that art is all around us. And life is beautiful. God bless him, he’s practically my second therapist.
Escaping the city at the end of the summer to Hudson, New York and snuggling up to watch Murder, She Wrote in my truly idyllic room at Wm. Farmer and Sons.
Recreating YouTube videos with my best friend Melissa at our old apartment.
Finishing The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild on my Nintendo Switch. I still can’t stop thinking about it. I am pretty sure it is my favorite game I have ever played.
Seeing Ari Aster’s Hereditary in a packed 42nd Street theater on a Saturday night with friends and freaking the fuck out.
Treating myself to an unbelievable (and unbelievably expensive) cocktail at the cozy and swanky library bar at the Nomad Hotel.
Sweating my ass off and loving it with Vinyasa Flow at Modo.
Working with my creative partner Kevin Shotwell on our Christmas spectacular, this year being a “radio play” of It’s a Fabulous Existence, our twisted gay spin of It’s a Wonderful Life.
Clacking around work with a weekly drag parade.
Gasping at the stunning new Book Culture in Long Island City.
Almost getting mugged on my birthday and making up for it with an extra cocktail at Patent Pending.
Joining Matt Rodin’s crazy world when he asked me to be a part of his hilarious Queer Eye parody.
Celebrating the 15th anniversary of a show I really love, AND getting to be in it’s new commercial AND getting to be on the NBC’s Wicked Anniversary Special! AND having my best friend make her Broadway debut in that show. Still trying to understand how this can be real life?!
Sidestepping my anxiety and talking to a boy I thought was cute at the gym. Baby steps.
Oh yeah! I bought an apartment!!
~Blow Out (1981, d. Brian de Palma): I blind-bought the Criterion Blu-Ray of this 80s political thriller and I had no idea what I was getting myself into. A seminal piece of pulp art filmmaking, and John Travolta at his absolute best. A must see.
~Paddington 2 (2018, d. Paul King): This is not a facetious joke. Paddington 2 may be one of the best films of 2018. Gentle, hilarious, and maybe even a little water-works inducing.
~Annihilation (2018, d. Alex Garland): Garland's follow up to Ex Machina is not a disappointment. Best seen on the big screen, this film creeps under your skin, lays eggs, and doesn't let you sleep for days.
~The Breadwinner (2017, d. Nora Twomey): Now available on Netflix, this imaginative story of an Afghan girl out to save her imprisoned father is gorgeous and nominated for Best Animated Feature at this year's Academy Awards.
~Giovanni's Room by James Baldwin: This classic gay love story set against the backdrop of mid-century Paris is divine. Baldwin's lyrical prose seduces you and then revolts against you. A tragic love epic for the ages (in only 150 pages). Follow up with Colm Toibin's tribute to the novella.
~The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Season 1): The last few episodes of this show are truly great, taking the season in interesting and refreshing directions. Rachel Brosnahan is my new deity.
~Michael Chabon's sweet and searing ode to his father, and on not becoming his father. (The New Yorker)
~With new Broadway revivals, are we reviving gender stereotypes too? (Michael Paulson, New York Times)
~Michael Ian Black sheds some light on our gun problem: toxic masculinity. (New York Times)
~You want to be an artist? Watch Groundhog's Day and remember to try, try again. (Austin Kleon, austinkleon.com)
~Jill Lepore takes you on the strange and twisted journey of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. (The New Yorker)
~Our media culture provided us with endless distractions. So much so that Michael Harris has forgotten how to read. (The Globe and Mail)
~David Thomson uncovers the ghosts that haunt Hitchcock's Rebecca. (Criterion)
~Brandi Carlile is back with her most personal album to date. Here's an interview about hear searing new work. (Jonathan Bernstein, Rolling Stone)
~Fran Tirado lays down the 14 Rules for Dealing with Your Pretend Internet Boyfriend. (them.)
~By the Way I Forgive You, Brandi Carlile: She's back, ready to punch your gut in only the way Brandi knows how.
~The Daily: Two essential episodes of this month were on 2/2/18 (an interview with Scott Pruitt of the Environmental Protection Agency) and 2/26/18 (Mona Charen's story of getting booed at CPAC for speaking out against Trump).
~Food 4 Thot: A new addition to my weekly rotation, this gay-centered podcast talks about everything from poetry to herpes, with equal parts playful and sober. I especially loved their discussion of the novel and film adaptation of Call Me By Your Name ("Call Me By Your Obscure Gay Memes").
~Still Processing: Wesley and Jenna sit down with author Ta-Nahisi Coates and discuss the surprising politics and gravity of Black Panther ("We Sink Our Claws Into 'Black Panther' with Ta-Nehisi Coates").
~How David Fincher Hijacks Your Eyes (Nerdwriter)
~Mario Spinetti sings "Johanna": A sort-of viral video on my Facebook feed was this haunting, strange, kind of hypnotic cover of the Sondheim staple. Obsession is an understatement.
~Purple Rain, Prince: One of the best parts of following the gated reverb playlist (see below) was reconnecting with Prince's iconic album. I had actually never listened to the album all the way through (for shame), and it is safe to judge it as one of the top 10 albums ever.
~The New Zapp IV U, Zapp: Another gated reverb find. Pure '80's pop bliss. Favorites are "Computer Love," "Radio People," and the pure awesomeness of their robot-meets-the-American-Songbook take on "I Only Have Eyes For You."
~Paul Thomas Anderson has a new film out that I consider to be very good. It is called Phantom Thread. One of the best parts of this film is Jonny Greenwood's phenomenal score, which is now available on Spotify.
-Been saying goodbye to the late Dolores O'Riordan.
~Some singles I've been jamming to: Brandi Carlile's "Sugartooth," Betty Who's "Ignore Me," the standout for me from The Greatest Showman, "Never Enough," and certainly the new Funk Wav Remix of SZA's "The Weekend."
~January was a busy month for gym-goers, or it seemed that way on Instagram where a healthy amount of people posted songs they were jamming out to.
~The Next Picture Show: "To Die For/I, Tonya" (Parts 1 & 2)
~Katie Couric: "Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough"
~Katie Couric: "Wonder Woman: Maggie Haberman"
~Still Processing: "We Have a Theory About Oprah": The duo is back and as good as ever, with a season debut that explores the stereotypes of black women throughout film history.
~Filmspotting: "The Best Movie Moments of 2017"
~/Filmcast: "An Evening with Rian Johnson...": An extraordinary interview that demonstrates what a considerate and patient artist Rian Johnson is. Love or hate The Last Jedi, this interview is essential.
~Semantics lovers! This is Louis Menard's round-up of the words of the year for 2017. (The New Yorker)
~I think the most essential films aren't always the ones everyone loves, but the ones we love to fight about. So, the battle of "Ebbing, Missouri" rages on. In fact, it's never been as heated as it is now. (Wesley Morris, The New York Times)
~An unreal look at one of America's last pencil factories. (Sam Anderson, photos by Christopher Payne, NYT)
~David Remnick's sharp critique detailing the unfitness of Donald Trump, amidst the Fire and Fury fall out. (The New Yorker)
~Firmin deBrander ponders the philosophical toll of baring ourselves on social media. (Aeon)
~David Ehrlich wonders why bother having both a Best Picture AND a Best Director category at the Academy Awards. (Indiewire)
~A.O. Scott's delicate and thoughtful piece on his troubling relationship with the work of Woody Allen and how we re-examine an artist's work. (NYT)
~Self-improvement is so hot right now, it may be a disease. (Alexandra Schwartz, The New Yorker)
~Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon, lays low. Until now. (Nick Wingfield and Nellie Bowles, NYT)
~What does an artist really need? Materials. (Austin Kleon, austinkleon.com)
~American Vandal (Season 1): Finally finished this genius little gem of a show. Both ridiculous, funny, and also sort of enthralling, it's no surprise that this was one of Netflix's surprise hits.
~Black Mirror: Season 4 has brought the goods we've come to expect, but I was really moved by "Hang the DJ," a take on dating app culture that made me feel all nice inside. (Netflix)
~My Next Guest...with David Letterman: Dave is back and his first guest is Obama. Take a breath from the reality of today to remember a time when we had a leader who felt like a leader (and still does). (Netflix)
~Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman: A dissertation on how television has totally skewed modern discourse, as we devolve to information as entertainment. The book was written in 1985, and feels as scarily relevant as something just published this morning.
~An ode to gated reverb (Vox): This video is one of my favorite things on music I have seen in a while. Estelle Caswell for Vox's music series Earworm (which are all great) explains how we got the iconic '80's beat. Her playlist on Spotify has been my most listened thing this month.
~What Realistic Film Dialogue Sounds Like (Nerdwriter)
~To Die For (1995, d. Gus Van Sant): Discovered this '90's gem through The Next Picture Show, one of my favorite film podcasts. They examined this movie in relation to I, Tonya, and both films share a shocking amount. Nicole Kidman gives one of her best performances as a wanna-be TV reporter who will do just about anything to get what she wants. It's a savvy, biting satire that I reviled in.
~Gaslight (1944, d. George Cukor): My second time seeing this and it was just as delicious. Ingrid Bergman thinks she's going insane, but it might just be her husband using manipulation techniques. The subverted twist at the end is a satisfying conclusion to this melodramatic great.
~No Country For Old Men (2007, d. Joel and Ethan Coen): Finally got around to re-watching this after my book club read the Cormac McCarthy novel this is based on last December. Man, not only do they absolutely nail this purely as an adaptation, but the cast is top to bottom superb and Roger Deakins' proves again he's one of the best cinematographers of all time.
1. Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed
2. A Field Guide to Getting Lost by Rebecca Solnit
3. The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin
4. Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut
5. Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain
6. Exit West by Mohsin Hamid
7. My Life in France by Julia Child
8. The Age of Innocence and Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton
9. What Happened by Hillary Rodham Clinton
10. Call Me By Your Name by André Aciman
*first time watches, released before 2017. Top Ten of 2017 coming when I feel like I've seen all the crap I need to see*
11. Dog Day Afternoon (1975, d. Sidney Lumet)
12. Hannah and Her Sisters (1986, d. Woody Allen)
13. The Conversation (1974, d. Francis Ford Coppola)
14. King Kong (1933, d. Merian C. Cooper, Ernest B. Schoedsack)
15. The Lady Vanishes (1938, d. Alfred Hitchcock)
16. Duck Soup (1933, d. Leo McCarey)
17. Goodfellas (1990, d. Martin Scorsese)
18. Modern Times (1936, d. Charlie Chaplin)
19. Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (1992, d. David Lynch)
20. Blade Runner (1982, d. Ridley Scott)
21. The Graduate (1967, d. Mike Nichols)
22. Before Sunrise (1995, d. Richard Linklater)
23. Little Women (1994, d. Gillian Armstrong)
24. North by Northwest (1959, d. Alfred Hitchcock)
25. Favorite 2017 movie theater experience: going with my squeamish best friends to Get Out with a packed crowd at the AMC in Times Square.
26. Gilmore Girls (Seasons 1-2)
27. Sex and the City (Complete Series)
28. Big Little Lies (Season 1)
29. Dear White People (Season 1)
30. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Pilot)
31. Game of Thrones (Season 1)
32. American Vandal (Season 1)
33. Twin Peaks (Season 1)
34. Master of None (Season 1)
35. Love You More (Pilot)
36. The Bold Type (Season 1)
37. Julius Caesar (Delacorte Theater, Shakespeare in the Park)
38. A Doll's House, Part Two (Golden Theater)
39. The Play That Goes Wrong (Lyceum Theater)
40. Groundhog Day (August Wilson Theater)
41. The Little Foxes (Samuel J. Friedman Theater, MTC)
42. Indecent (Cort Theater)
43. Sweat (Studio 54)
44. People, Places, and Things (St. Ann's Warehouse)
45. Denise Gough in People, Places, and Things
46. Cynthia Nixon in A Quiet Passion/The Little Foxes/Sex and the City
47. Laurie Metcalf in A Doll's House, Part Two/Lady Bird
48. Saoirse Ronan in Lady Bird
49. Robert Pattinson in Good Time
50. Nicole Kidman in Big Little Lies
51. Andy Karl in Groundhog Day
52. Daniel Kaluuya in Get Out
53. Tracey Letts in Lady Bird
54. Al Pacino in Dog Day Afternoon
55. Elizabeth Marvel in Julius Caesar
56. Carrie Coon in Mary Jane/The Post
57. Finn Wittrock in The Glass Menagerie
58. Eva Noblezada in Miss Saigon
59. Ben Platt in Dear Evan Hansen
60. Rachel Bay Jones in Dear Evan Hansen
61. Condola Rashad in A Doll's House, Part Two
62. Scarlett Johansson in Lost in Translation
63. Mia Farrow in Hannah and Her Sisters/Another Woman/Broadway Danny Rose
64. Dianne Wiest in Hannah and Her Sisters
65. Charlotte Rampling in Stardust Memories
*performances I admired from 2016 films can be found in my 2016 Cinema Wrap-Up*
Faves from 2017:
66. Melodrama, Lorde (Fav track: "Supercut")
67. The Search for Everything, John Mayer (Fav track: "Emoji of a Wave")
68. MASSEDUCTION, St. Vincent (Fav track: "Happy Birthday Johnny")
69. You Don't Own Me Anymore, The Secret Sisters (Fav track: "Tennessee River Runs Low"
70. Rainbow, Ke$ha (Fav track: "Let 'Em Talk")
71. Dua Lipa, Dua Lipa (Fav track: "New Rules")
72. CTRL, SZA (Fav track: "Drew Barrymore")
73. Tell Me You Love Me, Demi Lovato (Fav track: "Daddy Issues")
74. American Teen, Khalid (Fav track: "American Teen")
75. "The Joke," Brandi Carlile
76. "The Cure," Lady Gaga
77. "How Does a Moment Last Forever," Celine Dion
78. "If I Dare," Sara Bareilles
79. Joanne World Tour, Lady Gaga
80. And all my other top hits on Spotify
81. I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it, The 1975
82. Cugi's Cocktails, Xavier Cugat and His Orchestra
83. Raconte-moi, Stacey Kent
84. With a Smile and a Song, Doris Day
85. Blade Runner (Motion Picture Soundtrack), Vangelis
86. Goods for the Study (West Village, NYC)
87. The Metrograph (Lower East Side, NYC)
88. Casellula (Hell's Kitchen, NYC)
89. Buvette (West Village, NYC)
90. Musée d'Orsay (Paris)
91. Chez Casimir (Paris)
- Episode 39- Judith Light
- Episode 60- Julianne Moore
93. Pod Save America
94. The Read
- 95: Jean Harlow Flashback (Dead Blondes Part 3)
97. Katie Couric
- 25. Ina Garten: At Home With The Barfeoot Contessa
- 35. Sen. Cory Booker: Living His Values
- 163: Is Netflix Burying Movies by Not Releasing Them in Theaters?
100. Dear Sugar Radio
- How Do I Survive the Critics? (March 13, 2015)
- The Power of No (with Oprah Winfrey)
- Larry King (July 6, 2017)
- Audie Cornish (July 3, 2017)
- #86-87: A Ghost Story/Carnival of Souls
- Blade Runner/Blade Runner 2049
104. Longform Podcast
- Episode 261: Hillary Clinton
- Episode 265: Michael Barbaro
- Episode 243: Samin Nosrat
- Episode 226: Terry Gross
106. Transcript: President Obama on What Books Mean To Him (Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times)
107. How To Build an Autocracy (David Frum, The Atlantic)
108. Together Alone: The Epidemic of Gay Loneliness (Michael Hobbes, Huffington Post)
109. You May Want to Marry My Husband (Amy Krouse Rosenthal, The New York Times)
110. Nora Knows What to Do (Ariel Levy, The New Yorker)
111. How Twin Peaks Invented Modern Television (James Parker, The Atlantic)
112. Notes on Camp (Susan Sontag)
113. Why Good People Ghost: The Rise of a Dishonest Dating Culture (Heidi Priebe, Thought Catalog)
114. My So-Called Instagram Life (Clara Doller, The New York Times)
115. The Return of Lorde (Jonah Weiner, The New York Times Magazine)
116. Work and Reward: The Great Disconnect (The Editorial Board, The New York Times)
117. The 'Busy' Trap (Tim Kreider, The New York Times)
118. Happiness is Other People (Ruth Whippman, The New York Times)
119. Stephen Sondheim, Theater's Greatest Lyricist (Lin-Manuel Miranda, The New York Times Style Magazine)
120. 73 Questions with Nicole Kidman (Vogue)
121. TimesTalks: Chelsea Handler and Gloria Steinem (TimesTalks)
122. Logan: Superhero Movies Get Old (Nerdwriter)
123. One Way to Deconstruct There Will Be Blood- Or Any Movie (Nerdwriter)
-Journey for PS4
-"The Joke," Brandi Carlile
- Brandi, my favorite artist maybe of all time, is back with a new album early next year. In the meantime, this single from her new album happens to be a whopper of a tune, showcasing her soaring vocals and heart-stopping lyrics.
-The soundtrack to Journey (PS4 game)
-London Philharmonic recording of music from The Legend of Zelda
-"If I Dare," Sara Bareilles from The Battle of the Sexes
-hopeless fountain kingdom, Halsey
-reputation, Taylor Swift
-The soundtrack for Call Me By Your Name
- One of the best aspects of this awards darling is it's soundtrack, which features dazzling piano tracks and some new tunes by Sufjan Stevens that you should expect to hear come time for the Academy Awards.
- I can't get enough of this album and I can't get enough of this remix. Dua Lipa will be personally responsible for all of my weight loss this winter.
-The Best of Shirley Bassey, Shirley Bassey
-Turn Out the Lights, Julien Baker
-Pure Comedy, Father John Misty
-"The Call," Regina Spektor
-You Don't Own Me Anymore, The Secret Sisters
-MASSEDUCTION, St. Vincent
-In Full Swing, Seth McFarlane
-The Fly (1986, d. David Cronenberg)
-Castle in the Sky (1986, d. Hayao Miyazaki)
-Spielberg (2017, d. Susan Lacy)
- This doc, now streaming on HBO GO, is a wonderful retrospective of the famous director's work, highlighting his unique yet mainstream touch, his failures, his passions, his guilt, his curiosities. It comes in just in time before his buzzy new film The Post, which hits theaters Christmas day.
-Blade Runner 2049 (2017, d. Denis Villeneuve)
-The Florida Project (2017, d. Sean Baker)
- Sean Baker's deeply humanist look at the world of wonder at a run-down motel just out of Orlando, the kids who endure, and Willam Defoe in a career-defining performance as the manager who keeps the plates spinning with hints of forgiveness and tenderness behind his harsh demeanor.
-Rosemary's Baby (1968, d. Roman Polanski)
-Lady Bird (2017, d. Greta Gerwig)
- Perhaps the greatest film of 2017, Gerwig's solo directorial debut is as hilarious as it is heartbreaking, without a false note in the entire runtime. An achievement that will stand the test of time.
-Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017, d. Martin McDonagh)
-The Graduate (1967, d. Mike Nichols)
-Coco (2017, d. Lee Unkrich)
- A delightful return to form for Pixar, with this ultra-sweet and highly emotional adventure to the underworld and back.
-The Disaster Artist (2017, d. James Franco)
-Call Me By Your Name (2017, d. Luca Guadagnino)
-The Post (2017, d. Steven Spielberg)
-Molly's Game (2017, d. Aaron Sorkin)
- Sorkin's directorial debut is a high-wire, intelligent, flawed poker thriller that I adored, despite some mansplaining that tempts to derail the integrity of the entire thing.
-Touch of Evil (1958, d. Orson Welles)
-Scrooge (1951, d. Brian Desmond Hurst)
-Little Women (1994, d. Gillian Armstrong)
- A sneaky Christmas movie, and a perfect adaptation as far as I am concerned. Literally nothing will make you feel as warm and fuzzy as Gillian Armstrong's confident and tender spin on Alcott's classic novel. Now streaming on Amazon Prime.
-Will & Grace, Episode 3 "Emergency Contact"
- After a charming, but bumpy first two episodes, the gang has got their groove back and no other show makes me guffaw out loud.
-Sex and the City "One"
- Netflix's original anime series is sort of what you'd get if Wes Anderson directed a cartoon set in the distant future. Word.
- Finally delving into Star's Hollow and haven't regretted a second of it. Perhaps my favorite television series of all time? We will see. While we're at it, Amy Sherman-Palladino's new series is just as quippy, but with an added 60's element that makes it fast and fun in all the best ways.
-Love You More
- Bridget Everett's new pilot is now on Amazon Prime, and it is hysterical in all the ways you would expect from Ms. Everett, and stirring in a way that surprised me. I am begging for more.
-Tom Hanks on Pop Culture Happy Hour
-Fresh Air: James Franco (December 6, 2017)
-The Next Picture Show: "#100: The Graduate and The Meyerowitz Stories"
-Dear Sugar: "The Double Bind of Female Ambition" with Hillary Rodhamn Clinton.
-Dear Sugar: "You Must Change Your Life"
-You Must Remember This: Where the Monsters Came From
-Still Processing: We Are Tired of Sexual Harassment (and Sequels)
-Longform Podcast: Episode 275: Tina Brown
-Little Known Facts: Episode 60- Julianne Moore
-People, Places and Things at St. Ann's Warehouse
- Denise Gough's star-making turn as Emma, an actress and addict on the edge was the anchor in this mesmerizing play. An unforgettable performance, especially when paired with a devastating Barbara Marten, who played three women that revolve around Emma in ways both caring and unforgiving.
-Tiny Beautiful Things at the Public Theater
-Mary Jane at New York Theatre Workshop
-Call Me By Your Name by André Aciman
- André Aciman's novel is sumptuous and emotional. It's the kind of book that heightens your libido and breaks down your tear ducts. The prose is poetic and languid, capturing the lush Italian-set romance with such acute observation.
-'Salem's Lot by Stephen King
-On Tyranny by Timothy D. Snyder
-Coming to My Senses: The Making of Counterculture Cook by Alice Waters
- In my ongoing obsession with food writing, I was attracted to Ms. Waters' memoir, detailing her early life and journey to opening one of the most famous restaurants in the United States: Chez Panisse. Her writing is spunky and frank, and her love for food and the beauties of the Earth shine through on every page.
-No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy
-Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton.
- Kenny Francouer's new cooking series/blog The Long Distance Kitchen is so sumptuous, that he will get you in the kitchen before you even finish a video. Cooking from kitchens around the US, where he is touring with The Book of Mormon, Kenny is a brilliant artist onstage and with a Creuset. He is definitely husband material, which is fitting since he just got engaged. Feast your eyes then have a feast.
- My friend Rodney is a brilliant musician, poetry lover, and all around awesome person. He also happens to be the man behind the keys for many, many NYC auditions. His blog A View from the Bench (which is a cheeky name I just love) is super helpful and informative, not just for those auditioning in NY but anyone looking to get some frank and legitimate tips about auditioning for musicals.
-Lin-Manuel Miranda chats with the prolific Stephen Sondheim. (The New York Times)
-Joshua Rothman's sharp insights (among many that I've read) on the controversial The Last Jedi. Rothman asks: "why are all Star Wars movies the same?" (The New Yorker)
-New York's vanishing shops and storefronts: 'It's not Amazon, it's rent' (Edward Helmore, The Guardian)
-Susan Sontag's seminal essay "Notes on Camp," which is just about as informative on the subject as you are likely to read. Though I am ready to write a follow up.
-David Pierce gives us good news: the world's best film school is Youtube. (Wired)
-Peyton Thomas asks a question that burned with me after The Last Jedi: "what will it take to get a gay character in Star Wars?" (Vanity Fair)
-A tour of J. Crew's Jenna Lyons' fabulous apartment (Maggie Bullock, NYT)
-For those of you worried about saving money/saving your waistline: How to Treat Yourself Without Spending Money or Eating Junk (Jaime Green, Lifehacker)
-The World According to Dan Brown (Sarah Lyall, NYT)
-Eric Asimov of The New York Times breaks down Five Common Wine Myths.
-Film director Sarah Polley's thoughtful take after the #metoo movement rocked Hollywood. (NYT)
-Something that brings me much joy: Famous Authors Reply to Your Unsolicited Dick Pic (Jamie Cricks, McSweeney's)
-Holly Williams' profile on breakout theatre star Denise Gough. (NYT)
-T Magazine had seven covers for one issue featuring their "greats". Here is Manohla Dargis profiling the towering Amy Adams. (NYT)
-Here we are, Generation Sell. (William Deresiewicz, NYT)
-Ruth Whippman reminds me what I often forget: Happiness is Other People. (NYT)
-Austin Kleon repeats Ch'ang Chao's advice for what to read in what season.
-Something I want to do more of in 2018 and here is a handy guide on How to Host a Dinner Party. (Laura Rysman, NYT)
-David Sax puts to words what I've been thinking: we are starting to love tangible things again. (NYT)
-55 Questions to Break the Ice and Really Get to Know Someone (Darrah Brustein, Forbes)
-Daniel Victor writes a little, gorgeous human interest piece on two unlikely friends. (NYT)
-NEWS FLASH: Digital Distraction is Bad For Creativity! (Steven Heighton, The Walrus)
-How to Hide and Still Be Found (Austin Kleon, austinkleon.com)
I've done my best to organize my brain and all the stuff I was taking in this summer. This might seem exhaustive, but hear me out: I've only included the best of the best. Enjoy!
*presented in no order*
-Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017, d. Jon Watts)
-Dunkirk (2017, d. Christopher Nolan)
-Okja (2017, d. Bong Joon-Ho)
-Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (1992, d. David Lynch): I was lucky enough to catch this in a small theatre in Carcassonne, France. There was one other person in the entire theater on a musty Thursday night. It was glorious, and strange, and terrifying.
-North by Northwest (1959, d. Alfred Hitchcock)
-Blade Runner (1982, d. Ridley Scott): Prepare ye for Blade Runner 2049 with the original masterpiece. I had never seen the film and settled on the Final Cut. I was blown away by the imagery, the bionic synth score, the devastating pathos and ethical questions that still loom large in Ridley Scott. Must-see.
-California Typewriter (2016, d. Doug Nichol): I was so inspired by this documentary, I marched myself down to Gramercy and bought an old-fashioned typewriter and it's one of my favorite purchases I have ever made.
-Gaga: Five Foot Two (2017, d. Chris Moukarbel)
-Good Time (2017, d. Ben & Joshua Safdie): My favorite film I've seen this year to date, Good Time is entertaining and stings like a mother fucker. One of the best New York movies of this decade.
-Obit (2016, d. Vanessa Gould): A terrific little doc about the obituary team at The New York Times. It begs the question: how do you sum up a life?
-Wind River (2017, d. Taylor Sheridan)
-Modern Times (1936, d. Charlie Chaplin): How did he get so much right, know so much about then, predict so much about now, and do it all with the comedic panache still unmatched??!
-My Life in France by Julia Child & Alex Prud'homme: One of my new all-time favorites. Julia's life story is so vibrant and joyous and this book is romantic, comfortable, and savory. Bon apetit.
-Tiny, Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed: This book may very well change your life. I've never cried more, been more moved. A deeply felt collection of "advice columns" that reveal Cheryl to be the soulful voice that I will be coming back to again and again.
-What Happened by Hillary Clinton: Understanding then can help prep us for what's happening now. Full of specific detail and a vulnerability and self-aware attitude that makes what's happening now even more infuriating knowing that we could have had one of the most capable leaders of all time, and we let her down.
-The Bold Type (Freeform): Three young women navigate the world of magazine publishing in New York City and mention Nora Ephron at least once every episode, so maybe this was written for me specifically??
-Will & Grace (Hulu): Not only is my favorite show ever now back on the air, but Hulu has put up the entire series. If there is a God, maybe he's gay?
-Pod Save America: Some fantastic episodes of a fantastic podcast
- "Tweet your feelings" with Senator Cory Booker
- "Hack away China" with Jeff Mason
-HRC was featured on several podcasts as part of her press tour for her book, What Happened. Each interview is sharp and poised, qualities that our current Commander in Chief sorely lacks. Catch her on Pod Save America, Longform, and Fresh Air
-Dear Sugars Radio: I am loving every episode of this podcast, which is a spin-off of Cheryl Strayed's book Tiny, Beautiful Things. Strayed hosts the show with Steve Almond and gives on air responses to powerful letters they've received. If you're looking for a good place to start, why not try their two part episode with Oprah (yes!) on the Power of No.
-The New Washington: From Michael Barbaro and The New York Times, this series of short podcast episodes tries to reveal the people behind the public masks of high-profile Washington moguls. I particularly thought the episode with Sarah Huckabee Sanders was fascinating and their spotlight on liberal hero Nancy Pelosi.
-Popcast: "Kesha and Taylor Swift Find New Voices."
-The Next Picture Show: Comparing and contrasting how the past comes back to haunt in David Lowery's A Ghost Story (2017) and Herk Harvey's 1962 horror classic Carnival of Souls.
-The Turnaround with Jesse Thorn: I love interviews. I love interviewers. I particularly love interviews with interviewers. (Episodes sitting down with Larry King, Audie Cornish and Katie Couric are truly remarkable.)
-Writer and illustrator Liana deals with the tricky difference between fiction and reality in her art.
-Tim Kreider warns not to fall into "The Busy Trap" (The New York Times).
-Tim Urban on Why Procrastinators Procrastinate (Wait But Why).
-The Editorial Board at The New York Times debunks the myth that more work equals more reward.
-Alexis Soloski gets real with Oscar Isaac on his mother's death and his return to the Shakespearean stage from this summer's Sam Gold-helmed production of Hamlet. (NYT)
-A beautiful piece by Miriam Johnson on the "12 Hour Goodbye That Started It All". (NYT)
-Teen Vogue's handy and bold Guide to Anal Sex (Gigi Engle).
-Something sweet for the table (and the heart): A Match Made in Baking and Blue Ribbons (Kim Severson, NYT)
-A beautiful obit for publishing legend Judith Jones (Robert D. McFadden, NYT)
-Christopher Runyon re-examines David Lynch's much-maligned masterwork Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (Movie Mezzanine)
-It’s the Golden Age of TV. And Writers Are Reaping the Rewards and Paying the Toll (Alex Suskind, NYT)
-Theatre giant Nichols Hytner on his new memoir and his new theatre (Rachel Cooke, The Guardian)
-Maurice Sendak's heartbreaking interview with Terry Gross is an oldie, but a goodie.
-Deconstructing There Will Be Blood by examining the shots (Nerdwriter).
-"Icarus" by Plays Well With Others.
-Tell Me You Love Me, Demi Lovato: In an era where pop kweens are putting out some schlock, Demi's new album is giving beats, vocals, and so much sass.
-Since seeing the film for the first time this week, I seriously cannot get enough of the soundtrack to Ridley Scott's 1982 sci-fi masterpiece Blade Runner, which features an iconic score by Vangelis.
-new.wave as rec by PCHH, is a rad re-imagining of pop songs as if they were rock rave jams.
-Rainbow, Kesha: The former vapid party girl has loved, lost, and lived. Her new album is fun, playful, and surprisingly tender.
Snippets ripped directly from my diary. Some more stray thoughts from France:
20.7.17 BORDEAUX, FRANCE
-God bless Starbucks coffee, Starbuck’s wifi, cute baristas, and European men in tight fitting pants.
-Even in Paris I couldn’t find anywhere really cute and trendy and good clothes. All the men’s stuff are suits and things like that. I guess a lot of people wear suits, including the guy in front of me who has a terribly cut suit with a trim lining on the outside thats absolutely hideous. I am going to wager that he is not gay. He is discussing with a man wearing a black blazer, black pants, and a bright pink shirt. He kind of looks like a Raoul from Phantom but added 10-15 years.
-I am excited to get a bagel again someday, though I might trade bagels for French pastries. The bread here is good. Even the airport bread here is good.
-I’ve got about 100 pages left of Wuthering Heights and I don’t really understand why everyone has to be so dreadful. All the main characters are just detestable. I’m wondering if there is some comeuppance that happens that makes it all click, because good god you just want them to die at the hand of a ghost or something interesting. I want to re-read A Tale of Two Cities.
-We are going to enter a new era where every presidential candidate will have nudes somewhere.
-A couple across the way keep glancing over at me. Maybe it's because I finished the glass of wine AND the basket of bread before the entrée has even arrived. I'm assuming they just absolutely abhor me.
-Wuthering Heights is a blisteringly passionate novel about mental illness.
21.7.17 BORDEAUX, FRANCE
-I see a lot of romance on the streets but it's always straight people. The only gay people have been at loud dance bars, being messy. Why can't gay people have romance?
-The couple next to me are just sitting in silence. Just sitting. Both probably in their 60s or older, white haired gentleman with glasses and a white sweater and his wife (?) black cardigan, short blonde pixie cut, glasses and white pants. Now they're talking at last. I think she's showing him a photo of her food. I kind of like silence. I'm not sure why it's awkward. Sometimes you have nothing to say to each other. Sometimes you just want to eat. Or sometimes you just want to look at them. I like both of those times.
-I swear the entire cast of Dunkirk works at this restaurant.
22.7.17 BIARRITZ, FRANCE
-I don't know how to eat oysters so here goes nothing.
Cut to me looking up 17 articles about "how to eat oysters." It tastes like salt water! Maybe I need to bite into it.
-Biarritz seems like a smallish little beach town. This afternoon I spent a few hours just sleeping and reading on the beach, and also checking out the hottest dad I've ever seen in my life.
-I like it when you see something just dripping with olive oil. That's how you know it's well made.
23.7.17 BIARRITZ, FRANCE
-God bless surfers. Seriously. I was in heat (in many ways) this afternoon at the beach. Also the visual trickery of sun lighting/shadows does people some real favors. But so many guys have no body fat. How do they do it? I want to get cut, but I also like eating.
-Probably one of the most romantic nights I can remember, considering it was just me. Once I got past the little tummy ache and me accidentally spending too much money at dinner, I walked along the shore and up to La Rocher de Verge which is sort of a stone pavilion jutting out into the sea. I got a good photo which will be good for my Biarritz Instagram post. Isn’t it sad we think about that stuff now.
-So many young lovers here, and all of France really. So many romantic kisses in beautiful locations, and I love when one person extends their hand while walking and the other person looks down like they’re debating it for a split second before linking fingers.
-I fall in love with so many people on the street. It’s rude of me, but I can’t help it that they are so beautiful. I wonder if someone has ever thought that about me as I walk down the street in my old shorts and headphones. I hope the answer is yes.
24.7.17 BIARRITZ, FRANCE
-I told myself I was only going to open Instagram to post things and not scroll or open every Insta story. It's not going well.
-I wonder how Las Vegas came to be? Was there a watering hole nearby? Where do they get all their water? Why did they make a casino town in the middle of the desert?
-Best Western Karitza Hotel has the Worst Western wifi in the country! Congrats!
Bridge Over the Saône
Snippets ripped directly from my diary. Some more stray thoughts from France:
16.7.17 Lyon, France
-Restaurants and waiters must know how susceptible tourists are. I just spent way too much money at a burger joint because the language barrier led me to order a burger, fries, drink, and dessert. For lunch. I don't need all that food, but the Canada Dry was really refreshing so maybe the good Lord works in mischievous ways.
-Jean Louis, my AirBnb host in Beaune, came to my window (with a shirt ON this time) at 7:55, saying "it's 8 o'clock, GUY". Well it wasn't yet 8 o'clock, and he also must have forgotten we moved our departure time to 8:15 (which was still much too early for a 8:56 train- I ended up waiting for a while after a trip to the boulangerie). I was going to get up early and head back to Beyer to get another life-changing almond croissant but the bed felt so nice. I'm glad I was under the covers when Jean Louis barged in because I was completely nude underneath.
-Lyon is a very hip town, or so it seems. The vibe here feels like Chicago, in a way. A lot of young people and the Starbucks was nice (lol) but they also have actual coffee shops like NY (which were absent in Paris and Beaune) and a changing food landscape- much more fusion food and a large Asian population. Per Ann Mah's book Mastering the Art of French Eating, Lyon is famous for salade Lyonnaise, which Julien (my Batman-loving, French dreamboat AirBnb host) confirmed and recommended I try while I'm here. I also want to make sure I brave it and try andouillette, but I am still a little scared 😳. Not the first time I've been scared of a sausage.
-I wonder if it's okay with god to snap selfies in ancient prayer sites.
-Think I might hit up some gay bars after dinner and see what the scene is like. Remember George: Confidence! Order! Cleanliness! Elusiveness. Design. Versatility. Harmony.
-Rewatching Fellowship of the Ring, which my AirBnb had on DVD. Aragorn is totally completely hot. Like, I'm awakening all over again. Also how come the wraith leaders take zero time to get to the shire but Frodo takes three movies?
-What's going to happen when my white shoes get dirty? Kill myself, I suppose.
-I think the one thing on everyone's mind here is Marine Le Pen needs a better haircut.
-"You're in great shape!" he said to a baguette.
-I need to host more dinner parties where my hidden agenda is to get people in my apartment and thrust them into an Albee play.
-Self-reminder when I get home to look up a song called "Symphony". It's on at XS, and I fucking love it.
17.7.17 Lyon, France
-I'm terrified I'm going to meet the man of my dreams but not get his references.
18.7.17 Lyon, France
-I think Diane Lane is at the cafe across the street, because she would. Or maybe its Faye Dunaway. Or maybe it's my queer subconscious.
-I'm slowly embracing onions in my life. I always hated them and they still aren't my favorite but I've been brave enough to not scrape them off my sandwich. I deserve a medal, god damnit!
My memory instantly jumps to the coffee shop in Eugene where I went every single day and I ordered their french onion soup once because it was chilly out and sounded tasty. Well this thing was LOADED with onions. I would scoop them out and Coby pointed at one near me and I jumped like it was a serpent.
-I bought some wine at a wine shop on the other side of the island- a white (for tomorrow) and a red (for ce soir). The clerk said I had good taste and asked if I was in the wine business, which is either a joke or he’s absolutely deluded because i look like the boss baby and have no business being in the wine industry. Alas, it made me feel good.
-Sitting at Imouto, a sort of French-Japanese fusion place that's Michelin recommended. I feel like an idiot because I think I ordered the canard a shade too done. He seemed surprised I wanted it medium, after suggesting medium rare. What kind of mistake have I made? Am I going to look back in 29 years and say what an idiot- MEDIUM! CANARD!!
-Wowwwww this woman just walked in wearing a verrrry audacious outfit and kind of looks like Mrs. Roper meets Wilma Flinstone. What a genius concept for a show, The Flintstones.
-The food was just immaculate. One of my favorite meals so far on the trip! And a woman at the table across the way just wheezed for about 6 seconds before giving into utter laughter. One of my friends does that when she's drunk, and it's just one of my favorite things.
19.7.17 Lyon, France
-Sitting at LEON. Disappointed because I schlepped all the way from Reu Pasteur to go to La Hugonniere. Well restaurants in France open for lunch then close again before dinner, not a free-for-all like in America. It's a little frustrating, but I appreciate the commitment. Chez Hugon was closed (though technically open for another hour). I was right near it but decided I should go home and change out of my running clothes and put my raspberries in the fridge. I ended up popping open the bottle of white I bought last night (a really flavorful Spanish wine that I just love) because in France it’s not only okay to drink a bottle of wine at 1pm, it’s encouraged.
-I have a little game I like to play with myself to see how quickly I can erode my enamel.
-French people seem to be obsessed with Saint Jean-Baptiste. I wonder what that's all about.
-Was Europe really at one time all the Roman Empire?? What happened?? Why don't I already know all about this? Is this why I didn't get into Carnegie Mellon?
-The Musée des Beaux-Arts has a great Egyptian section. I would like to go to Egypt. Take a boat on the Nile and see who dies.
-I just creeped and took a photo of a cute museum employee. He's probably 20, has on dark very skinny grey jeans with Grey socks and black sneakers and a forest green long sleeve shirt and his hair looks like Sora from Kingdom Hearts and he has my heart (for the next 15 minutes).
-What are people going to say in 200 years? There will be SO MUCH content. I am lucky to live today when I can cipher through almost everything worthwhile in my lifetime and find the best of the best and feel accomplished. Whats going to happen in 200 years? The 3000 movies you must watch before you die? What will happen to literature?? The future is exciting but exasperating. Maybe you can watch/enjoy books and films by inserting a chip or file into your brain so it takes no time at all. But what about all the time it takes to understand things? To feel them? To ponder and pose? To absorb them and let them sink into you, only to circle back decades later and have them hit you from completely different (and surprising) angle?
-Been listening to a lot of Dolly Parton. I really don't know what it is about Europe that brings out the American country/folk lover in me, but here we are. There's a song called "Better Get to Livin'" that I keep listening to and thinking about my life.
-I made it to Le Poêlon d'Or for dinner, despite my misgivings that I should order pizza to go and spend the night drinking in the flat watching Batman. I ordered une verre de vin rouge et Foie grad du canard (!!) and the Quenelle (which has a sort of crayfish inside- it was either that or the dreaded andouillette that I keep postponing- the waiter gave me recommendations so I followed that suit).
-Two quick things:
- i keep watching newsies regional video promos and crying and wanting to smooch everyone in the cast. I'm in college again.
- I forgot what else I wanted to say.
-This place is really bistro-esque. Square, wooden (but polished) tables, red aviator ceilings with a big bar. I'm right by the kitchen so it's fun to see all that drama. Kitchen drama is probably my favorite. Why can't we have a Grey's Anatomy set in a restaurant?
-I want to throw a proper, proper dinner party. With well-chosen cloth napkins. And the food made ahead of time.
-It's astonishing how much life there is when you let yourself look up.
-One of the sacred things in this life for me is dipping bread into sauces.
Bonjour from a glamorous Starbucks in Bordeaux, France (yes, that Bordeaux). I've been having a whirlwind vacation that has so far taken me to Paris, Beaune (Burgundy area), and Lyon. My limited French sounds absolutely heinous coming out my midwestern mouth, but I've been getting by with my American ingenuity. I have often been ordering things without any real idea of what will come to the table. Initially consumed by the idea that I would be whisked off my feet in a subdued but whirlwind romance with a sullen-faced dreamboat I bump into in a café, my affairs have been restricted to fondly gazing at French dudes wearing tight pants.
Traveling alone has led to some very solitary dining experiences (which I'm learning aren't as satisfying as they are in New York, where I always feel like I'm escaping people). I have been reading a lot on my iPhone (I know). I've also been making precious use of the Evernote membership I convinced myself I NEEDED a few months ago. Here are some stray thoughts from France:
12.7.17 Paris, France
-If anything, Paris has inspired me to dress better. I was very self-conscious walking around the boulevards today, in my New York Times t-shirt and my 2-year old khaki shorts. I looked like a fresh arrival at Princeton. But this is my everyday costume (swap khakis for jeans and that's my daily look).
This kind of pared down style can help you become a billionaire, (according to Mark Zuckerberg) but I am supposed to be glamorous artist! An actor! A GAY MAN!!! There is no doubt I can escape my boyish looks, at least not for a couple more years unfortunately. I am going to turn thirty and still get carded in midtown. I walk down 8th avenue and get asked if I'm in town competing at the Jimmy Awards. I want so badly to look and sound like a man, but alas.
-Paris is the most beautiful city. Untouched, timeless, forever glowing in the past, its buildings reaching out from decades bygone, its atmosphere as effervescent as it always has been (or we're told it always was).
-Omg the waitress just ran out to shoo away a drunk and disorderly man, after a patron tried to get him away by throwing water on him. Hilarious. "Oh la la" says the woman next to me.
-I think I just saw Marion Cotillard get into an Uber, but it could just be one of my queer flashes.
-Coming to France was the right choice. Even if I got sick the day I left. Even if I have to sacrifice a job because of this trip. I think it'll have been worth it. Because this trip is for me. Strictly for me. And when's the last time I truly did something like that??
13.7.17 Paris, France
-I think I'm looking too much for a Disney prince. My standard is high. I would like to say that I'm worth and deserve the best, but I don't know if I actually believe in that 100%.
-I bet someone is looking over at me and thinking "he must be writing a book." Well here's what I have to say: I am.
-Girl next to me at Les Etages (cocktail bar in Le Marais, rec. to me by Sara): "I always see the glass half full until the foreplay. Then I know what I am getting myself into. The fourth date is when I realize who you are and if i like you."
14.7.17- Beaune, France
-I need to stop ordering dessert- I get too full before it comes and can hardly eat it (lying). My second glass at Bistrot was the Santenay (2013) and it's a bit lighter wine, maybe a little spicier than the Côte de Nuits. I wonder what côte means in french. COAST. Côte d'Utopia. Un dramatique dans trois parts.
-I keep myself extremely busy. So busy I'm trying to schedule downtime to let my head breathe. I don't think that's how it works.
-Cheese I loved was comté (?) not sure on spelling but that's what the waiter said. He is very cute. French Michael Cera. Very young.
15.7.17 Beaune, France
-I'm reading up about silence and the power of silence and silence is something I think is supremely lacking in my life. I need space to receive. I need space for surprise. Everything is so programmed, my whole day is programmed. I don't allow myself time to wander. How can I maintain my productiveness and then allow myself time to breathe? Maybe cutting down my social media time will help. That soul sucking vortex only serves as constant reminder of everything that I convince myself I'm not (pretty, funny, talented, useful, worthwhile, worth anything).
-What's happening to our attention spans? Will we even be able to go the Opéra in 30 years?! I am fearful for it all.
-When I'm older, Lord, please grant me the grace and circumstance to wear a jean jacket under a tied sweater wrap.
-I'm going to have to change my Scruff tribe to Stuffed Pig after this trip considering the amount of butter I'm consuming.
-I wonder if Emily Brontë ever thought her passionate, deeply soulful piece of literature would be read on a 5" screen.
-I told myself that 3 glasses of anything would be my limit from now on. That was literally yesterday (or maybe today??) I'm on my 4th glass of wine.
-I'm going to get another damned almond croissant tomorrow morning before my train. That shit is just crack. I bit into it and it was like that scene from Moulin Rouge when they drink Absinthe. Kylie Minogue didn't appear, but I did have a brief vision of Nicole Kidman whispering something melodramatic in my face.
-Geoffrey O'Brien's terrific intro for the Film Forum retrospective of the films of Ernst Lubitsch, "The Magician of Delight." (The New York Review of Books)
-How Cold Brew Changed the Coffee Business (Oliver Strand, The New York Times)
-So many great features on the Julius Caesar fiasco. Here is Isaac Butler (Slate) on how protester's fundamentally mistake the message of the play and Michael Paulson and Sopan Deb's comprehensive understanding of how this all came to be (NYT).
-While free speech is on the mind, here is Louis Menard on Banned Books and Blockbusters. (New Yorker)
-Every couple of months we get another indispensable write-up on Mama RuPaul. (Michael Cuby, Paste Magazine)
-A loving profile on Twitter superstar and aliebn Jonny Sun. (Jesse Lichtenstein, New York Times Magazine)
-Thomas Oppong makes the case for why great geniuses journal. (Thrive Global)
-Canada's Secret to Resisting the West's Populist Wave (Amanda Taub, NYT)
-Tim Kreider hits close to home on why we shouldn't worry about being "busy" (NYT)
-Michael Tilson Thomas on "Music and Emotion Through Time" has got me deep thinking. (TED)
-A short and informative look at the glory of 16mm. (The Film Stage)
-Trevor Noah on the death of Philando Castile (Comedy Central): Unflinchingly devastating. Worth the watch.
-Michael Jackson "The Way You Make Me Feel" music video: GOD. DAMN. (VeVo)
-Twin Peaks, Season 2, Episode 7: All hail David Lynch.
-Master of None, Season 1, Episode 9 "Mornings": Heartbreaking.
-Sex and the City, Season 2: As I work my way through this incredible series, I have found the show really coming into it's own. Always hilarious, always a little thoughtful, and with some real weight for the characters. It is easy to see why it had the cultural impact it did.
-Maria Callas singing the "Gualtier Maldé" aria from Verdi's Rigoletto is the sublime presence missing in your life.
-Melodrama by Lorde: Every song is your favorite until you hear the next song which becomes your new favorite until you are a human web of conflict.
I'm sorry I'm not more attractive
I'm sorry I'm not more ladylike
I'm sorry I don't shave my legs at night
I'm sorry I'm not your baby mama
I'm sorry you got karma comin' to you
Collect and soak in it right
-I started a playlist of every song I saw friends post about on Instagram story, and the line-up is incredible.
-"#534: A Not-So-Simple Majority" (This American Life): Wow.
-"When to Break Up With Television and Pop Culture Advice with Mallory Ortberg" (Pop Culture Happy Hour)
-"108 The Driver w/ Edgar Wright" (The Canon): Been doing some heavy duty prep for Wright's new film Baby Driver (out now!). Here he is defending the film that inspires his own, Walter Hill's The Driver (1978).
-Julius Caesar at Shakespeare in the Park: Much has been written and reported about this controversial production. Much has NOT been said about the production itself, which I found both searing and tender, politically complex, and the most unforgettably thrilling night of theater perhaps I've ever endured.
-Indecent at the Cort Theater: Thanks to a producing grace of God, you can still see Rebecca Taichman's beautifully rendered staging of Paula Vogel's play. Get tickets here.
-Death Defying Acts by David Mamet, Elaine May, and Woody Allen: This collection of one-acts from this trifecta of playwrights proves both incredibly hilarious and incredibly brief.
-Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie: One of my favorite Christie's I've read for the Maidens of Murder book club. Christie is best when served in exotic locales, unforgettable characters, and locked room mysteries.
I watched many, many great films in June. I had a lot of time on my hands, and an insatiable desire to make the most of my MoviePass. Here are ten you should seek out:
Dog Day Afternoon (1975, d. Sidney Lumet): Lumet. Pacino. One of the most sizzling cinematic feasts. Ever.
The Conversation (1974, d. Francis Ford Coppola)*
The Beguiled (2017, d. Sofia Coppola): Sly and restrained. Endlessly gorgeous. Fuck the patriarchy.
The Big Sick (2017, d. Michael Showalter): Laugh, cry, laugh again. One of the year's best.
Radio Days (1987, d. Woody Allen)
Duck Soup (1933, d. Leo McCarey ): One of the funniest films I have ever seen. I was guffawing out loud.
The Lady Vanishes (1938, d. Alfred Hitchcock)
The Driver (1978, d. Walter Hill)
Charade (1963, d. Stanley Donen)
Woman of the Year (1942, d. George Stevens): Tracy, Hepburn, swoon. In that order.
And a few movies I re-watched this month, that reminded me how much I loved them:
Chef (2014, d. Jon Favreau)*
Midnight in Paris (2011, d. Woody Allen)*
*Available on Netflix or Amazon Prime. Watch them now!
--Gloria Steinem & Chelsea Handler (TimesTalks)
--Goodfellas (1990, d. Martin Scorsese): My roommate and I are slowly digging our way through the AFI Top 100 movies of all time. Scorsese being one of my favorite artists in modern cinema, I had high expectations for this. The film surpassed them all.
--Broadway Danny Rose (1984) & Deconstructing Harry (1997, d. Woody Allen): Looks like I will be finishing Allen's filmography by the end of the year at this rate...another two absolutely phenomenal comic pieces, with such vibrant characters and unparalleled scripts (Harry especially is a benchmark for Woody's constant micro-reinventions). *Both of these titles are hard to watch legally online, but the DVD's are readily available at your local library!
--"Marry My Husband" (Modern Love): Debra Winger reads the heart-breaking/lifting piece that Amy Krouse Rosenthal wrote for the Times just ten days before she passed.
--"The energy is in progressive politics." (Pod Save America): Two words: ELIZABETH. WARREN.
--Little Known Facts with Ilana Levine: I have been devouring this podcast, which features beautiful little interviews with actors. Levine has a way of coaxing out the very best in these people, and they are all uniquely inspiring for artists, young and old alike! Particular faves are: Danny Burstein, Judith Light, Ben Platt, Cynthia Nixon, Laura Linney, and Tony Shalhoub.
--167 – TV Grab-Bag, Moogfest, and What Makes a Movie Good for Sequels? (Fighting in the War Room): What DOES make a good movie sequel? Because, Lord Jesus, we need them.
--Mastering the Art of French Eating by Ann Mah: A book that will make you want to eat nonstop, Mah's travels through France are as captivating as they are salivating. She explores regional cuisines and how they came to be, with a recipe in every chapter. Bon appetit!
--Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut: My first Vonnegut novel was the correct choice...absurd, cooky, break-neck, and so enlightening.
--Rosalie Lightning by Tom Hart: A gorgeous graphic novel memoir about the loss of a young child, and the search for new beginnings out of grief.
--Twin Peaks: Preparing for the show's return to Showtime, I just finished the first season of this show. It is extremely unusual in all the best ways and practically a marvel it made it to network television. The pilot episode is one of the most piercing introductions that I can think of.
--Dear White People (Season One): Riveting, indispensable, woke, provocative, one of the very best things Netflix has ever produced.
--Master of None (Season One): While hearing fabulous things about season two, Aziz Ansari's modern sitcom runs the gamut from dating, to religion, to race and beyond. Also shout out to some grade-A female cameos by the likes of Nina Arianda and Claire Danes.
--The Search for Everything by John Mayer: The search is over. This is the everything.
--"Cut to the Feeling" by Carly Rae Jepsen: The queen of pop churns out another hit. See you at Industry.
--Alter Egos by Ingrid Michaelson: Some fresh takes (one including Sara Bareilles) on songs off of her last album, It Doesn't Have to Make Sense.
--Don't Kill My Vibe (EP) by Sigrid
--Spotify Sessions: Zara Larsson (her rendition of "Sexual" is unbelievable).
--The Bob's Burgers Music Album: BLESS US, EVERYONE.
--Something I was asked to write for The Ensemblist about working on The Golden Apple and seeing shows, and friends, make their proper entrances and exits.
--Millennial essays rocked this month, especially with the way we date and the false selves we present on Instagram.
No Labels, No Drama, Right? (Jordana Narin, The New York Times)
My So-Called (Instagram) Life (Clara Dollar, NYT)
Why Good People Ghost: The Rise Of A Dishonest Dating Culture (Henry Priebe, Thought Catalog)
--How Pixar Lost Its Way (Christopher Orr, The Atlantic)
--White Shirt, Black Name Tag, Big Secret (Ellis Jeter, NYT): a Mormon love story for the ages. Unbearably cute.
--How Twin Peaks Invented Modern Television (James Parker, The Atlantic): Watching Twin Peak and smelling whiffs of other shows? Here's why.
--What Animals Taught Me About Being Human (Helen MacDonald, The New York Times Magazine) "Surrounding myself with animals to feel less alone was a mistake: The greatest comfort is in knowing their lives are not about us at all." Probably one of my favorite pieces I have read this year.
--What’s New in the Supermarket? A Lot, and Not All of It Good (Stephanie Strom, NYT): We're doomed.
--Seneca on True and False Friendships (BrainPickings): Examine your friendships very, very carefully...
--Posman Books: This little nook is nestled in the corner edges of Chelsea Market and it is worth seeking out. The Penguin Classics table alone has me dreaming still.
--Buvette: Wine, cheese, French cuisine in a tiny boutique West Village hide-out. You will never know you aren't on the outskirts of Paris.
--Book Book: Another West Village favorite, this hole-in-the-wall shop has great bargain books that change every time I am there. Support local AND snag a deal.
--Casellula: This Hell's Kitchen wine bar has some of the most expert bartenders in terms of wine selection and cheese pairings. You'll leave feeling sophisticated and wholly satisfied.
--Bolivian Llama Party: According to Time Out New York, this Bolivian restaurant in the Turnstyle mall at 59th Street is the only one of its kind in this big city of ours. Their salteñas (both pork and the chicken) are actually to DIE for.
--Big Little Lies: The hype is so real.
--Chef's Table (Season One, Episodes 1-2): Paired with my foray into food writing, I've been watching more food related television, and was struck by how creativity and emotion flow through these chefs to create dishes that fuel and enlighten our palates.
--Better Living Through Criticism by A.O. Scott: Scott's dense, academic exploration of criticism's relationship to art, and the way we think about art, is a challenging, enlightening stuff...which he would probably say is mediocre criticism. It's also newly released in paperback!
--The Secret Adversary by Agatha Christie: Conspiracies, old-timey Euro-adventures, love, twists, and all with a dollop of fun...one of Christie's earliest books is also one of her most exhilarating. Read it for free on Kindle!
KATIE COURIC: Ina Garten: At Home with the Barefoot Contessa - Katie Couric's new podcast goes home with Ina Garten and evolves into a conversation about politics, feminism, dinner parties, and food.
FIGHTING IN THE WAR ROOM: 163 – Is Netflix Burying Movies by Not Releasing Them in Theaters? - Part of the ongoing discussion of what to do about indie movies in the Netflix age. Things get a little heated, but they don't call it fighting in the war room for nothing.
LONGFORM: Brian Reed - I really loved the emotional honesty of this interview with the host of S-TOWN, the podcast sensation sweeping the nation.
POD SAVE AMERICA: "The odorless gas of misogyny" - Things get real as the boys discuss the divides in the Democratic party and where to go from here.
--King Kong (1933, d. Merion C. Cooper & Ernest B. Schoedsack): It is truly remarkable the vitality of this film, which lives in fame but I had never seen until now. The special effects still have heft, and the whole production is astonishing, considering this film was made in the early thirties.
--Before Sunset (2004, d. Richard Linklater): The second of the Before trilogy is available to watch on Amazon Prime (!) and is just as wistful and charming, with much more bite, than the superb first installment. The Criterion Collection edition of the trilogy is an essential item for each and every artist.
--A Quiet Passion (2016, d. Terence Davies): Now in theaters, Davies' exquisite Emily Dickinson drama is just as good as Cynthia Nixon's enthralling central performance. I shooketh in my seat, as I melted away.
--"The Cure" by Lady Gaga: May we all be fixed with love, or the most iconic song Gaga has released in years.
--The Killers: Revisiting their debut album Hot Fuss has reminded me how much I fucking love this album, and every song on it.
--Julie & Julia Motion Picture Soundtrack: Desplat. Background bliss.
--A Doll's House, Part Two: Sam Gold's production of what happened after Nora performed the door slam heard 'round the world invigorated me into a closer understanding of how we relate to past works through modern lenses, and also why Laurie Metcalf is one of the defining actresses of her generation. A must-see.
--The Little Foxes: Daniel Sullivan's gorgeously wrought production is a chance to see top-rate actors perform a top-rate (and timely) classic American play. See it once for Cynthia Nixon, and see it again for Laura Linney's accent.
--Nicole Kidman's 73 Questions for Vogue is the only video you will ever need to see for the rest of your life.
--On my Julie & Julia rabbit hole (see below), I found this lovely TimesTalk with Nora Ephron, Meryl Streep, and Stanley Tucci. Worth the watch.
--This bit, one of my favorites from 30 Rock, is sure to put a smile on your face.
--My book club read Nora Ephron's Heartburn this month (her only novel). As a die-hard Ephron fan, I was delighted to find some new articles on her that I absolutely adored including Ariel Levy's gorgeous profile on her for the New Yorker, Frank Bruni for the New York Times on Nora's undying love of food, and Ms. Ephron herself on What to Expect When You're Expecting Dinner (New York Times).
--In my Ephron deep dive, the month of April turned into a traipse through the history behind the film Julie & Julia. I watched many interviews with the creators of the film, listened to the soundtrack incessantly, and even picked up My Life in France on Independent Bookstore Day from my beloved Book Culture. Here is a Jennie Yabroff's great defense of the the "Julie" in the title, and Amanda Hesser's write-up in the New York Times of how it all began for Ms. Powell.
--Sam Gold will go down as a titan of the American theater. He somehow convinced producers that Broadway didn't have to be the underworld for commercial schlock and celebrity vanity projects, but could be a home for challenging, experimental theatre. God bless him. (Sasha Weiss, The New York Times).
--The state of independent film seemed to be on the minds of a lot of writers: reflections on the changing distribution's effect on the process of getting movies made and how they might be buried in the chaos of Netflix. (Sean Fennessey for The Ringer/David Ehrlich for Indiewire)
--Chris Jones' loving obituary for a stalwart of the Chicago theatre scene, former Steppenwolf Artistic Director Martha Lavey. (Chicago Tribune)
--Reading The Handmaid's Tale to prepare for the upcoming television series brought me to the work of Margaret Atwood and this great profile on why she is the Prophet of Dystopia. (Rebecca Mead, The New Yorker)
--Raw, Naked Rancor: On Feud, Big Little Lies, and the Complicit Audience (Matt Brennan, Paste)
--A Eulogy for Crayola’s Dandelion. (Hallie Bateman, The New York Times)
--Do Millennial Men Want Stay-at-Home Wives? (Stephanie Coontz, NYT)
--I've been diving into a TON of food writing, most of it excellent. I really liked this piece about the impact of hippies on the culture of groceries and food. (Christine Muhlke, NYT)
--Big Little Lies has brought back a renewed sense of life for most of us, none more so, perhaps, than Nicole Kidman, who proves time and time again that she is a Full-Fledged Bad Ass. (Anne Thompson, Indiewire)