Manohla Dargis’s barbaric yawp about Hollywood went viral yesterday, and for good reason: The NYT critic let loose on rampant sexism in an interview with feminist-leaning Jezebel, spewing four-letter words with abandon. The interview made explicit that which her Sunday NYT essay on female directors suggested: She’s deeply pissed off about studios that repeatedly fail women in their choices of material and talent.
Among the many choice bits:
Working within the system has not worked. It has not helped women filmmakers or, even more important, you and me, women audiences, to have women in the studio system.
and a personal pet peeve — the constant surprise that women like seeing entertaining movies about women:
This, gee whiz, Sex and the City‘s a hit, Twilight, hmm, wonder what’s going on here. Maybe they should not be so surprised. In the trade press, women audiences are considered a niche. How is that even possible? We’re 51 percent of the audience.
It’s not just the trade press, either; this surprise seems to creep into consumer box office reports as well.
Dargis is equally scathing about the suggestion that she take it easy on films directed by women, calling the notion “incredibly insulting.” But mostly she hopes that Kathryn Bigelow (pictured above) wins the Oscar for directing “The Hurt Locker,” a muscular action movie.
Holland Cotter’s NYT review of the Whitney’s new Georgia O’Keefe exhibit is very fine, to be sure, but no match for colleague Ginia Bellafonte’s delicious review of Saturday’s Lifetime movie named for the painter.
The TV movie, not too surprisingly, revolves around O’Keefe’s juicy affair, then marriage, with mentor and promoter Alfred Stieglitz. Joan Allen and Jeremy Irons fail to adequately convey such messy emotional characters, the reviewer notes before observing that Stieglitz is depicted “as a sort of publicist who today might hatch a higher-brow Paris Hilton.”
This is the guy, after all, who “shepherds O’Keeffe to the altar of celebrity by displaying his nude photographs of her alongside her own work.”
My favorite line, however, comes at the very end:
The unintended effect of “Georgia O’Keeffe” is to leave its audience wondering if a painter who prized integrity madly loved a man only because he could play Phil Spector to her Ronette.
For more, check out Bellafonte’s review, Independent Protegee and Needy Starmaker, and Cotter’s take on the Whitney exhibit, which is accompanied by a slide show of O’Keefe’s formative abstract work. There’s another O’Keefe slideshow at NY mag’s Vulture blog.
Above postcard of O’Keefe circa 1948 has been hanging in my home office for years.
Glad to see I’m not alone in my scorn for Virginia Heffernan’s Sunday NYT mag story about Facebook quitters. Heffernan took very slim evidence indeed — a handful of friends have soured on the social media site — to suggest it is doomed like a college clique. Of course, the numbers don’t really back that up, as she herself acknowledges in a paragraph that encapsulates all that is wrong with this column:
The exodus is not evident from the site’s overall numbers. According to comScore, Facebook attracted 87.7 million unique visitors in the United States in July. But while people are still joining Facebook and compulsively visiting the site, a small but noticeable group are fleeing — some of them ostentatiously.
The most shocking thing about this flimsy story is that it actually made it past editors. Yes, The Medium is a column, and yes it’s the dog days of summer, when many editorial minders on vacation, but the NYT should know better. The NY Observer rightly spanks the paper for the story.
Oh how I love it when the New York Times serves up decidedly different takes on the same book in its daily and weekly pages. Michiko Kakutani delivered a tough but largely positive review of Lorrie Moore’s “A Gate at the Stairs” in Friday’s paper, whereas Jonathan Lethem out and out raves about it in the paper’s Sunday book review section, suggesting that doubters ought to have their head examined.
So which is it? I have an even more mixed take on the book. There was much to love in “A Gate at the Stairs” — narrator Tassie Keltjin is affecting, as is her quirky family — but its weaknesses bugged me long after I finished reading. The plot, tied to fallout from 9/11, begs credulity. And I generally find it annoying when authors withhold key plot information under the guise of character obliviousness or diffidence, as was the case here. Killer closing lines couldn’t quite make up for those deficiencies.
Kakutani notes Moore’s clumsy job orchestrating certain revelations and an unfortunate tendency toward wordplay, but forgives those weaknesses, judging “A Gate at the Stairs” the author’s best book yet.
“If Ms. Moore, who started out as a short-story writer, demonstrates some difficulty here in steering the big plot machinery of a novel, she is able to compensate for this by thoroughly immersing the reader in her characters’ daily existences,” Kakutani writes.
Women my mother’s and Julia Child’s generations followed their husbands wherever their careers led them. In their new cities, wives busied themselves with hobbies, raising children and, if finances dictated, jobs. (Provided their husbands approved.)
Julia Child didn’t have kids, and had abandoned her foreign-service career by the time “Julie & Julia” opens. So she tried hat making and bridge classes in Paris before enrolling at Cordon Bleu. “I need something to do,” Meryl Streep trills over and over as the chef in waiting, and the actress has never been more affecting in conveying a sunny woman’s yearning for purpose.
Amy Adams, meanwhile, plays Julie Powell, a modern woman who has a job, but not satisfaction in it. Also intelligent – she went to Amherst to Childs’s Smith – and married to a sympathetic man, she is toiling away as a Manhattan bureaucrat, her literary ambitions on hold while her contemporaries climb the ladder to success. Cooking is Powell’s release, and, it turns out, her salvation: She rediscovers her voice blogging about her one-year mission to cook all the recipes in Child’s 1961 bestseller, “Mastering the Art of French Cuisine.”
If you check your email, Facebook and Twitter before breakfast, you are not alone. The NYT has a front-page story about the phenom in today’s paper. Not that people the story’s about will actually get to it right away. Also suffering: the family dog.
Neal Brennan, tyro director of “The Goods,” tells the NYT that things ended very badly between him and Dave Chappelle, co-creator of the hit Comedy Central show. By the time the comic fled for Africa, their friendship was in disrepair; Brennan didn’t even find out Chappelle had left until after the fact. “It was painful,” he said. “It will probably be the biggest personal disappointment of my life.”
The NYT and LAT both devote considerable real estate to Woodstock ahead of the the concert’s 40th anni next weekend. Each paper weighs the muddy fest’s impact in lengthy features, but both feel surprisingly pro forma, perhaps because this ground has been so thoroughly covered before. The real juice comes elsewhere, most notably Gail Collins’ review of two Woodstock books. Collins does a good job evoking the fest — describing the ferocious smell of the Port-o-Sans, Wavy Gravy’s granola and dangers of eloctrocution. There’s good reason for this: She was at the fest. (So was counterpart Jon Pareles, but his account is strangely bloodless.) Also worth checking out: the L.A. Times’ photo essay. The NYT website features a photo gallery and reader snaps.
Barack Obama’s sense of humor sometimes gets him in trouble. But aren’t we glad to have a President who has one? In today’s NYT mag, Matt Bai strains to label Obama’s comedic sensibility as distinctly postmodern and Seinfeldian, born “perhaps” of the same deconstructionist ethos that gave us “The Simpsons” and The Onion. Can’t we just agree he has a fine sense of the absurd?
Photos: Fox, White House