Most of us who love film noir and have seen all the classics are tantalized by the hard little gems that turn up now and then—lost or forgotten noirs that are sometimes as atmospheric as the better-known ones. In his essay “,” from 1972, the director Paul Schrader argues that, measured by “median level of artistry,” the noir cycle of the nineteen-forties and fifties represented Hollywood at its most creative: “Picked at random, a film noir is likely to be a better made film than a randomly selected silent comedy, musical, Western, and so on.” When a noir obscurity shows up on TCM, or is restored under the auspices of the indispensable Film Noir Foundation and screened at one of its Noir City festivals around the country, chances are it will be well worth seeing. It’s likely to be a B movie—so many noirs were—but that won’t mean it’s any less appealing. Noirs were ideally suited to low budgets and low lighting, tight editing and short running times, stolen shots on city streets.
体育投注平台Led down some meandering Internet path not long ago—I’ve since forgotten what I was searching for—I came upon a nifty little suburban noir from 1951, “Cause for Alarm!,” which is now streaming on Amazon Prime Video. Directed by Tay Garnett (“The Postman Always Rings Twice”), it stars the excellent Loretta Young as a housewife, Ellen Jones, tormented by her sadistic invalid husband (Barry Sullivan). Though it was written and directed by men, “Cause for Alarm!” feels like a work of accidental feminism—a cry for help sent telepathically from the fifties. (Maybe the uncredited writing contribution from Dorothy Kingsley helped.) The film takes as its subject a husband’s sinister campaign to undermine his wife’s perception of reality, but the setting is more conventional and ostensibly benign than that of, say, “Gaslight”—not a crepuscular Victorian mansion but a neat, tidy house in a sun-bleached California suburb. In that bright, smug milieu, Ellen is trapped and watched—by the nosy neighbor, the officious postman, even the cute but insistent little boy who keeps dropping by with his toy TV and six-shooters. Like the men in other noirs who’ve been accused of crimes they didn’t commit, Ellen’s reasonable actions attract suspicion, but, in her case, a maddening condescension, too. A notary who comes to the house to see her husband tells her, “He warned me that I’d get some resistance from you” but that “I wasn’t to take you seriously.” It’s a tense, suspenseful movie, with a wry twist at the end, but it’s also, in its way, a sharp-eyed study of the feminine mystique.
February 17, 2020
“He was a renaissance man,” the late Gil Scott-Heron once said, of Langston Hughes. “He wrote songs; he wrote poetry; he wrote columns; he wrote essays. And as a writer myself, I knew that you couldn’t use just one form and get every idea across.” This spirit animated Scott-Heron’s career, and it allowed him to loom, in the cultural consciousness, as something more than just a musician or a poet. The same energy informs a few recent reimaginings of Scott-Heron’s final album, “I’m New Here,” which was released by XL Recordings in 2010. In 2011, the British rave-music revivalist Jamie xx recorded “We’re New Here,” splicing Scott-Heron’s words and rearranging them into a meditative dance record. Some of Jamie xx’s remix, in turn, was used by Drake and Rihanna, as the seed for “Take Care,” the pair’s mournful Top Forty hit. Scott-Heron, who died in 2011, resisted appeals to commercialism, but in listening to that track one got the sense that he could compete with any hit musician of today’s generation.
The latest artist to remake “I’m New Here” is Makaya McCraven, a jazz drummer and producer from Chicago. Whereas Jamie xx’s take was spacious, even anxious, McCraven adds a shagginess to Scott-Heron’s album, layering in live instrumentation and old jazz recordings that his parents produced. Much of “I’m New Here” ’s original power flowed from its confessional side; Scott-Heron used the album to explore his addictions and family history. McCraven gives those elements a new frame, returning again and again to the theme of matriarchy. “Womenfolk raised me, and I was full grown before I knew I came from a broken home,” Scott-Heron says on the opener, “Special Tribute - (Broken Home Pt. 1),” repudiating the stigma of single parenthood. Scott-Heron spoke often of his all-knowing mother and grandmother, and in McCraven’s hands those figures emerge in the foreground while political ruminations recede. You can’t help but think that Scott-Heron would have been pleased with how McCraven fulfills the Hughes credo—that art and writing are never finished, and that both can continually deepen our perspective.
February 14, 2020
Don’t be fooled by the straightforward title of the lively new book “.” A better description of Barbara London’s indispensable and enticingly personal history arrives two pages in, when she writes, “This book describes the madcap trajectory of a pliable medium.” Few guides are more qualified to lead readers through the rapid rise of the once renegade art form, which is now so ubiquitous that screens and paintings share walls in museums—London was the very first curator to introduce video to the Museum of Modern Art, where she championed tech-based experiments for forty-three years. (She retired in 2013.) What makes her book such a fun read is that it’s not exactly the comprehensive survey its title implies. Instead, it’s as much memoir as exegesis, an idiosyncratic front-line report from a deeply informed, intrepid, and passionate pioneer who is still in the trenches. (London now teaches graduate students at Yale, and her exhibition on is about to commence a five-year tour.) Even her curatorial path was unconventional: the native New Yorker was pursuing a graduate degree in Islamic art when she traded the classroom for downtown haunts, like Max’s Kansas City, which was the Cedar Tavern of the electronic avant-garde—or “scenester intermedia mavericks,” in London’s words.
So, although readers won’t learn about, say, Christian Marclay’s iconic twenty-four-hour video installation “The Clock,” from 2010 (the artist merits a mention, but not regarding his most famous work), they will travel with London to meet Chinese artists in Beijing, Shanghai, Hangzhou, and Guangzhou, in 1997. (Full disclosure: I was part of a team in New York that produced London’s daily online of that visit for MOMA体育投注平台, a blog before the word existed.) Any history of video must begin with the wizardly Korean innovator Nam June Paik (1932-2006), who is widely acknowledged as the medium’s founding father. Paik plays a major role in London’s story, but, in addition to contextualizing him as a towering historical figure, she shares personal anecdotes, including this vivid description of his studio: “I would crawl over and through a maze of electrical wire, tubes, and old circuitry to find Paik often standing in rubber boots, so as not to be electrocuted.”
Similarly, an in-depth account of the work of the influential New York artist Joan Jonas—who has been combining performance with technology since the late sixties and whose bewitching room-sized installation “Mirage” (conceived in 1976), a six-part game of drawing and erasure, is a highlight of the new MOMA—includes the astrological tidbit that both the curator and the artist are Cancers. (London writes, of this cosmic affinity, “Once we met, I identified with her tenaciousness, imagination, and loyalty as a sympathetic friend.”) One special merit of London’s perspective is her emphasis on the role of women in the medium’s evolution, from familiar names like the pop-culture crossover artist Laurie Anderson to equally important but lesser-known figures like Dara Birnbaum, whose deliriously feminist spin on a DC superhero is also now on view at MOMA, in the five-minute video “Technology/Transformation: Wonder Woman.” Not a bad label for the pathbreaking insights of London herself.
February 10, 2020
体育投注平台“,” Rona Jaffe’s best-seller from 1958, is what you would get if you took “Sex and the City” and set it inside “Mad Men” ’s universe. A novel about three young women who meet while working in the typing pool of a publishing house, it has the white-gloved, Scotch-swilling aesthetic of the fifties but also an unflinching frankness about women’s lives and desires—a combination that makes it feel radical, prescient. In order to write it, Jaffe interviewed fifty women about “the things nobody spoke about in polite company”: losing their virginities, getting abortions, being sexually harassed. “I thought that if I could help one young woman sitting in her tiny apartment thinking she was all alone and a bad girl, then the book would be worthwhile,” Jaffe wrote, in the foreword to the 2005 reissue of her novel. Put simply, she wanted it to say, “Me, too.”
体育投注平台“The Best of Everything” centers on Caroline Bender, April Morrison, and Gregg Adams. Caroline is a self-possessed Radcliffe graduate who was engaged until her fiancé took a six-week trip to Europe and left her for the first familiar girl he ran into on the ship. She has professional aspirations, which immediately earns her suspicion from her bosses. April is a starry-eyed girl from Colorado who just wants to meet a nice boy but instead falls in with a handsome upper-crust cad who works at Merrill Lynch. And Gregg is an actress who becomes infatuated with an emotionally unavailable theatre director. “Some people are made to be hurt,” Caroline says at one point. “Gregg is that type.” The three become close, search for love, and navigate the indignities of being a woman in the workplace.
Chief among them is Mr. Shalimar, the editor-in-chief of one of the imprints at Fabian Publications and a serial abuser who would fit right in at Leslie Wexner’s Victoria’s Secret. He asks April, on a night when he requested she work late, “Tell me, what kinds of things do the young boys do when they make love?” and later tries to kiss her in his office. He teases Caroline with the possibility of a promotion and then puts his hand on her knee at after-work drinks. And, most memorably, at the office Christmas party, Mr. Shalimar asks Barbara Lemont, an assistant editor at one of the publisher’s magazines, whether she has nice legs, and, when she doesn’t answer, he crawls under the table to appraise them. “You have beau-ti-ful legs,” he concludes. When he reëmerges, he leans in to kiss her, but she dodges him. “What did you think I wanted to do, rape you?” he cries. “You’re fired. Don’t you dare come into this office on Monday.”
Refreshingly, Jaffe doesn’t treat this episode with cheerful permissiveness, doesn’t present it as having a kind of louche glamour. Instead, she stays close to Barbara. “For the first time that evening her feelings were revealed completely on her face—resolution, fury, and desperation. ‘I need this job,’ she said. ‘He’s not going to take it away from me if I have to go to Mr. Fabian himself.’ ”
It’s no better outside of work, either. On dates, which Barbara describes as “hand-to-hand combat,” men force themselves on the women. At a wedding, the bride’s drunk uncle pinches their cheeks and squeezes their waists as they try to politely signal that they’d rather be left alone.
体育投注平台Yet “The Best of Everything” imparts this vision with sly humor, top-notch banter, and a sudsy plot that made me gasp out loud. The book still reads like a romance, still gets its propulsiveness from the question of whether the characters will find the love they desire and happiness therein. Will Caroline’s fiancé come back to her? Will April’s socialite boyfriend commit to her? Will the married man whom Barbara Lemont is in love with leave his wife for her? And do we even want them to? Or are they all bad news? In fact, Jaffe uses the badness of men to raise the stakes for finding a good one; love becomes a heroic quest rather than a doomed endeavor. In this sense, “The Best of Everything” cunningly enacts a tragic irony: the worse men behave, the more fervently the characters turn to men to find exceptions to the rule.
January 30, 2020
If you’re going to traverse Antarctica on cross-country skis, it’s advisable to go in a group, ideally with psychologically sturdy comrades in preternaturally good shape. You might bring kites, to harness the propulsive power of the wind, or arrange to have caches of food deposited along your route. The continent has seen sixteen such successful crossings. Four years ago, Henry Worsley, a retired lieutenant-colonel in the British Army, made the first attempt at an unassisted solo expedition, dragging a sled of provisions weighing more than three hundred pounds at the journey’s start. (Worsley died; David Grann wrote about his endeavor体育投注平台 for this magazine.) Not long after, Ben Saunders, another British polar explorer, set out on the ice, but he misjudged how much food he’d require and was forced to abandon his mission at the South Pole. Finally, in late 2018, a thirty-three-year-old American endurance athlete named Colin O’Brady pulled it off: an unsupported, nearly thousand-mile hike across one of the most unforgiving landscapes on the planet.
体育投注平台In O’Brady’s new memoir, “,” he describes the undertaking less as a matter of grit than as a “brutal math problem,” the main variables being “miles, calories, hours, days.” Pack as much nutrient-dense food as you can carry—enough to sustain you but not so much that it’s impossible to haul—and make it to the other side before the twenty-four-hour sunshine of Antarctic summer gives way to the unbroken darkness of winter. O’Brady had budgeted for a daily intake of seven thousand calories, but he ended up burning more than ten thousand a day—a starvation diet, unsustainable for much longer than the two months he had planned for the trek. Even the pace at which energy is expended in subzero temperatures is a careful balancing act: too little exertion and hypothermia sets in, but too much will result in sweat-dampened clothes, which can rapidly freeze against the body. One veteran explorer advised O’Brady on how to use plastic bags to keep the insides of his footwear dry. “A frozen boot never thaws in the deep cold,” he warned. “That’s it. Frostbite. Toes goodbye.”
Beyond the physical perils lies an even greater danger. Marching twelve or thirteen hours a day, often in a sensory void, O’Brady felt “the quiet erosion of judgment and reason and sanity.” His thoughts would race, descending into “that place of obsessive what-if fears.” He contemplated the probable outcome should a freak squall send his tent flying: “I’d die alone, in the cold, my body temperature falling. I’d grow sleepy, then increasingly irrational, and finally I’d just lie down.” At times, he’d stare absently at his compass and feel as though he were falling into it, relinquishing “the sense that it was separate from me.” One night, while he was setting up camp, everything went blank. He stood there, shovel in hand, unsure of what he was doing or why, “as though my mind had just sort of walked off the field.”
The obvious question is: Why do this to yourself? A charitable reading would credit O’Brady for testing the limits of human potential and furnishing us with a rich metaphor for chasing our dreams. A cynic might see naked ambition and a competitiveness verging on the colonial. (Louis Rudd, the second person to complete the crossing, along a parallel route, two days after O’Brady, had told the Telegraph体育投注平台: “It’s really important it’s a Brit that cracks this journey first.”) For the last seventy-seven miles, O’Brady gave up on sleep entirely and trudged on for thirty-two straight hours. “I was a reduced man, stripped to his essence,” he writes. “Everything unnecessary in the universe was gone.” After fifty-four days of severe cold and isolation, and having lost twenty-five pounds, he reached a solitary wooden post, set into the frozen ground by the United States Geological Survey, marking the end of the continent and the beginning of the Ross Ice Shelf. In itself, O’Brady’s story is neither cautionary nor inspirational; it’s a Rorschach test for one’s own character and aspirations. To what extremes would you go, and how much punishment would you endure, in the service of a single goal? If there is a lesson, it’s that the path of the reduced man can lead to triumph, or madness, or both.
The documentary “” begins with shots of archives—boxes and boxes of old letters and photos—and a voice-over saying, “This isn’t really a story about a man. It’s about what his life was allowed to mean.” That isn’t aggrandizement; the movie really isn’t about the four-time Oscar-nominated actor Montgomery Clift, at least not in the way you might expect. The voice belongs to his youngest nephew, Robert Clift, who was not yet born when the actor died, in 1966, and who made the film with Hillary Demmon. The popular image of Monty is one of gay tragedy—that he was a self-hating, love-starved closet case who drowned himself in liquor and solitude. (He died of a heart attack, at the age of forty-five, but a colleague called it “the longest suicide in Hollywood history.”) Robert takes a closer look at his uncle’s legacy, finding friends—including Jack Larson, who played Jimmy Olsen on the TV show “Adventures of Superman”—who attest to his joy and humor. He may have been closeted to the public, but he appears to have had fulfilling love affairs with both men and women. Maybe he wasn’t so tortured after all?
It’s an intriguing idea, but the documentary takes a sharp turn toward a more niche subject: the ethics of biography. In the seventies, two books appeared about Clift—one , by Robert LaGuardia, and the other , by Patricia Bosworth, who had the coöperation of Monty’s brother (and Robert’s father) Brooks Clift. Bosworth became the “de-facto family historian,” Robert says. But, as the filmmakers discover, Brooks ultimately felt betrayed by Bosworth and begged her to make changes in later printings. Her research archives reveal that she may have unfairly suggested that Monty was arrested for picking up a young boy, rather than a grown man—playing into a homophobic trope.
Why get into sentence-by-sentence analysis of a forty-two-year-old biography? Partly because the filmmakers have a trove of material to draw on. Brooks, who died in 1986, compulsively recorded his phone conversations—with Bosworth, with Monty, and even with his wife, the journalist Eleanor Clift, during their divorce. Anyone versed in Janet Malcolm’s trenchant observations about journalists and their subjects will recognize the uneasy dynamic between Brooks and Bosworth. Of course, family members can be just as agenda-driven as biographers (often more so), and Robert Clift has his own emotional stake in his uncle’s legacy. But the film asks pointed questions about how even small extrapolations can have distorting effects—was Monty really “more loved than loving,” as Bosworth infers from an anecdote?—and about our reductive understanding of the pre-Stonewall era.
体育投注平台I first saw “Making Montgomery Clift” last summer, at the Provincetown International Film Festival, and was rapt. So I was surprised to see, months later, that it had been quietly released on demand. One wonders whether a more conventional film—one that upheld the image of gay self-loathing—might have had wider distribution. But the documentary is fascinating on its own peculiar terms, especially for anyone who loves or writes Hollywood history. In the end, it’s a good portrait of Montgomery Clift as well. At one point, we hear Monty on a phone call with a journalist, who seems to imply that he leads a “murky life.” “That sounds so fucking dismal, I must say,” Monty replies. “I can’t say I am just melancholy or I am just sad or I am just anything.”
December 20, 2019
A friend of the late Uruguayan writer Juan Carlos Onetti once that he had muy buena salud frágil体育投注平台—excellent fragile health. Mainly, it was a reference to the last twenty years of Onetti’s life, when he lived in Madrid and spent much of his time in bed. In photos from the period, he’s propped on pillows, reading, next to piles of books, a bottle of whiskey, and an ashtray the size of an overturned umbrella. This life style made his death, in 1994, at the age of eighty-four, seem like a special feat of longevity. Yet Onetti’s “excellent fragile health” made even more sense in relation to his work. One of the greatest Latin-American writers of the twentieth century, he published six novels and dozens of stories and novellas, most of which are set in a fictional town called Santa María, which is populated with jaded eccentrics, castaways, and addled dreamers. In Onetti’s fiction, characters are forever in limbo, between the world they actually inhabit and the one they’d prefer to imagine for themselves.
Onetti never received the international recognition of his peers, such as Julio Cortázar, Gabriel García Márquez, and Mario Vargas Llosa, who all admired him. Some of that was the result of his inscrutable personality. Onetti was taciturn and recessive, and he avoided political causes. But there was a literary reason for his obscurity, too. His novels can be hard to read, and harder still to translate. The sentences are dense and layered, evoking comparisons to Faulkner; his characters routinely drift into existential reveries. His most famous novels—a trilogy published in the fifties and sixties—are entrancing, but not especially inviting to the uninitiated. The first one, “,” tells the story of Juan María Brausen, who glumly dreams up the alternate reality that becomes Santa María, where the next two novels (“,” “”), about a grizzled pimp named Larsen, take place.
Onetti thrived in shorter forms, and the first major English translation of his collected stories, “,” brings the author’s talents into full view. The book, which was published, in November, by Archipelago, and translated by Katherine Silver, shows Onetti’s usual darkness brightened by a hint of tenderness for his characters, who are lost but still trying to find their way. The volume’s title comes from one of Onetti’s trademark stories, in which a sardonic theatre impresario is approached by a woman who wants to pay him to stage a mysterious dream that she’s had. The director acts like money is his primary motivation, but something else impels him to take the job, an understanding he comes to grasp “as clearly as if it were one of those things one learns forever as a child and words are later useless to explain.” Another classic—and a personal favorite—is “Welcome, Bob,” a character study of an aging lover wracked by guilt about who he’s become. He grows obsessed with his younger girlfriend’s judgmental brother, Bob. The story is devoted to him, like a deranged love letter, and the narrator counts the days until Bob, too, will get older, fall short of his own expectations, and spend his hours nursing the continual ache of disappointment.
体育投注平台Onetti published sporadically in his later years, and the stories in this volume span roughly six decades of his writing, from his early published fiction to the final years before his death. Aging and senescence are frequent themes, as they let Onetti explore the world of frustrated dreams. You’d think this would make the stories slow and meditative, but the effect is the opposite. Some of them have a special power of suspense; you’re never sure whether a person’s interior or exterior life will win out. (In fact, it’s often not clear what divides them.) “Presencia,” which was published in 1978, a few years after Onetti arrived in Madrid as a political exile, is a case study in this suspense, and one of the sharpest pieces of fiction ever written about the disappearances of the seventies and eighties. In it, a man hires a private investigator to locate his former lover, who was arrested in a military crackdown. But the investigator is a drunk and a scam artist. The man knows this, and pays him anyway, clinging to the hope that his lover can be found. By the end, he’s commissioning the investigator to invent stories he can believe in, and even be bothered by, as long as they come up short of the more painful truth. “On my world map,” he says, at one point, “there were twenty centimeters between Santa María and Madrid.”
“,” the new book by the food writer Alison Roman, makes the case that nobody should be too daunted by etiquette to have people over for a meal. “For anyone looking for tips on how to fold linen napkins or create floral arrangements, I am not your girl,” she writes. Instead, Roman teaches her readers to make “unfussy food”: homey meals that can be thrown together and snacks to hold you over when the throwing runs long. Roman gives cooks “permission to be imperfect.” It doesn’t matter if you don’t own wine glasses and your guests drink out of mugs, or if some people have to sit on the floor. What matters—and this is the core of Roman’s vision—is that a roomful of people can share food without pretense.
Roman is no ordinary food writer. Given the viral success of and the popularity of her book “,” from 2017, she’s more like a phenomenon. When “Nothing Fancy” came out, it jumped to the top of the Times best-seller list, and, when Roman announced a book tour, she sold out events in all thirteen cities. Like high-waisted pants体育投注平台 or Sally Rooney novels, she’s now a style signifier for the creative class—a part of a shared vocabulary. Part of the appeal is her grasp of her audience: the financially unsteady millennial generation, which has turned “nothing fancy” into an aesthetic choice. Her cooking also mirrors a shift in thinking about nutrition. The culture has reëmbraced fat, and Roman uses it with gusto: butter, chicken fat, ricotta, labneh, coconut milk. She flavors her food with tastes from across the spectrum—earthy turmeric and tahini, bright citrus and fresh herbs—and then adorns everything with flaky Maldon salt. But her signature is accent ingredients, such as anchovies and preserved lemon, that are briny, tangy, funky, and polarizing. Without prohibitive costs or cook times, Roman makes food more interesting.
体育投注平台“Nothing Fancy” has served me as Roman intended. At a Sunday dinner that started two hours later than planned, I put out her labneh dip with sizzled scallions and chili, and everyone declared it “bomb.” On a weeknight, I made her “Casual Apple Tart with Caramelized Buttermilk” for my roommates (the people I’m always “having over”), and they called it the best apple pie they’d ever had. But my favorite discovery is her “Perfect Herby Salad”: half lettuce and half herbs (parsley, cilantro, tarragon, mint), drizzled with lemon, olive oil, and, of course, Maldon. Like many of her best ideas, it has a why-didn’t-I-think-of-that simplicity.
体育投注平台The accessibility of Roman’s food is matched by the accessibility of her persona. On her Instagram Stories, she answers questions from her followers (What if I don’t have this ingredient? Is it O.K. if I skip this step?), and in “Nothing Fancy” she writes with chatty informality and self-deprecating humor. But her friendliness toward her readers is less convincing—and less interesting—than her annoyance at her guests, which she cloaks in recipe tips. About her D.I.Y. Martini bar, she writes, “Since making individual ’tinis for everyone who walks through the door is not on my agenda for any evening, I like to make one giant batch.” Or, on “Smashed Eggs and Fancy Fish on Crackers,” she writes, “Not to be rude but if you’re coming over, I am already doing a lot of work and I don’t feel like I need to assemble a cracker for you.” These moments lend her a queen-bee charisma. Whereas Ina Garten and Martha Stewart are prim and gracious, Roman, with her crackling chicken skin and red lips and nails, is libidinous and a little bit mean. Lots of cookbooks promise to help you entertain with ease, but “Nothing Fancy” makes that idea briny, tangy, funky, and a little polarizing: Why play hostess when you can be the life of the party?
November 26, 2019
体育投注平台There is no dearth of cooking shows to explore as one casts about for ideas for Thanksgiving—or just for Sunday dinner. In fact, the cooking show has spawned multiple subgenres. There’s the competition show (the hammy theatrics of “Iron Chef”; the kindly, well-behaved “Great British Bake Off”), the home-kitchen show (the butter-basted-everything “Paula’s Home Cooking”; the upper-class serenity of Ina Garten’s “Barefoot Contessa”; the celebrity-kitchen adventures of Martha Stewart, Trisha Yearwood, Valerie Bertinelli, and Tia Mowry), the cooking talk show (“Rachael Ray,” “The Chew,” “The Kitchen”), and the travel show (“Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown,” “Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern,” “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives”). And then there’s “Good Eats.”
“Good Eats” premièred in 1999 and ran for more than two hundred episodes, until 2012. This year, the show was resurrected as “Good Eats: The Return,” and is, fittingly, a return to form. Whereas many cooking shows fit into one category, framing the kitchen as a space for culinary clashes, everyday food preparation, artisanal eating, or the discovery of new cultures and traditions, “Good Eats” was the happy bastard of the genre, playfully manic in its approach to food—not just its means of preparation, with breakdowns of recipes and kitchen tools, but also its science and history. It upended the form with humor and a strange, variety-show style.
The charismatic host and showrunner of “Good Eats,” Alton Brown, pairs clear-eyed practicality with free-range dad jokes and Internet-age goofery. In each episode, Brown fast-talks his way through the rules of the kitchen, debunking common myths and providing helpful tips while using costumes, puppets, props, and campy characters to illustrate his culinary know-how. Set changes (say, a sudden move from the kitchen to a classroom), blink-and-you’ll-miss-them cuts, and obtuse camera angles from inside cabinets and pantries lend the show a sense of lighthearted exploration. The series also specializes in educational nuggets, explaining the chemical process behind fermentation or the anatomy of a knife, with accompanying trivia-style factoids that flash onscreen. Like “Bill Nye the Science Guy,” which also featured rapid-fire pacing, comical interludes, and a focus on science, “Good Eats” is neither too precious with its subject nor too flippant; the show frames cooking as a constant process of discovery, each dish and even each motion (for example, cracking an egg) providing an opportunity for knowledge. Many cooking shows adopt the mode of instruction—Julia Child counselling aspiring chefs from the screen. But, in “Good Eats,” Brown delivers a performance that is equal parts lecture, theatre, and winking conversation between friends. Sure, there’s delicious food, but you can get that anywhere. The show is also food for thought, with a side dish of oddball humor.
November 15, 2019
In Noah Baumbach’s newly released “Marriage Story体育投注平台,” Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson play a couple who are going through a painful, protracted divorce battle. The movie portrays the dissolution of a marriage as a domestic catastrophe that doesn’t stem from either partner’s worst impulses, but that can happen even to good, loving people whose ambitions and needs end up at cross purposes. I enjoyed the film, but, as I watched, I sometimes felt that I would have found it more honest and complicated had I not felt that the baser, crueler instincts of the protagonists had been sanded down to an essential decency. As I exited the theatre, I realized that the poisonousness and discomfort I was missing—the depiction of complex human characters driven near-mad by spite and lust and jealousy and loathing and bitterness—were already in an earlier Baumbach movie. I went home and rewatched “Greenberg.”
In a Profile of Baumbach in this magazine, in 2013, my colleague Ian Parker noted that when “Greenberg” was released, in 2010, some viewers found it so distasteful that a theatre in which it was being shown was compelled to post a sign reading “We must limit refunds to an hour past start time.” (The movie will be at the Metrograph, in New York, where Baumbach is doing a residency.) As one of the film’s stars, Greta Gerwig, suggested in the same Profile, “Greenberg” is the sort of movie that “will make you feel perhaps uncomfortable about choices you’ve made in your life.” But while it’s true that, with its savage portrait of a man’s noxious narcissism, “Greenberg” can be unpleasant to watch (my editor, when I told him that I wanted to write about how much I love the film, said, with some surprise, “Interesting pick!”), its power lies exactly in its ability to perform the subtle balancing act of rendering its protagonist no less sympathetic for being toxic.
That titular protagonist, Roger Greenberg (a tightly coiled Ben Stiller), is a loser, and he knows it, and it’s absolutely killing him. He was once a promising musician, until he blew up a record deal that could have set him and his bandmates on the path to stardom. (“It was corporate bullshit!” he still insists.) Now that he’s forty and working as a carpenter, the only thing that matches his self-hatred is his stubborn self-aggrandizement. “I work out of a studio in Bushwick that I share with a few other carpenters. . . . That’s been pretty good,” he tells Beth, an old girlfriend (Jennifer Jason Leigh, who has a co-writing credit on the movie), before adding, offhandedly but pompously, “It’s political, though.” After being hospitalized for a nervous breakdown, he emerges from a mental ward and travels to Los Angeles for an extended stay, to house-sit the lavish home of his much more successful younger brother. “Recently, I had this thing where I couldn’t move my legs,” he says to Beth, apropos of nothing, during the same conversation. “But it was psychological.”
体育投注平台We hear nothing more about this episode, but the easy combination of such seemingly throwaway tidbits, which swing within the span of one conversation from the obnoxious to the heartrending and back, is part of the movie’s understated sketching of a multifaceted character. Greenberg is a nightmare—a self-obsessed mansplainer who is embarrassingly entitled, and whose self-awareness is flickering at best—but his vulnerability is recognizable, even poignant. At one point, he tells his kindly friend Ivan (the casually terrific Rhys Ifans) that “life is wasted on people”; and, indeed, who among us hasn’t been disillusioned by adulthood, and by what seems to us, whether correctly or not, others’ blithe, easy acceptance of its limitations? Of course, Baumbach allows us to identify with this side of Greenberg only to almost immediately pull the carpet out from under our feet, by having him throw a hissy fit at a restaurant after Ivan has a candlelit birthday cake brought to him by a host of singing waiters. “I’m not one of these preening L.A. people who likes everything to be about them,” he complains to his brother’s assistant, Florence (Gerwig, who is lovely here, in her first big mainstream role), as she drives him home.
The centerpiece of the movie is Greenberg’s sort-of relationship with Florence, who is a young, not-very-ambitious aspiring singer. Florence is as loose as Greenberg is uptight, and her dreams and disappointments are as fuzzy as his are acute. Their encounter serves less as a fully realized bond in which each partner affects and changes the other and more as a chance for Baumbach to showcase the highly particular, highly recognizable attributes of both. “I don’t read enough; I’m such a bad reader,” Florence, who listens to mainstream soft rock and hasn’t seen any so-called important movies, tells Greenberg. (“You like old things,” she says to him, after he gifts her a mix CD brimming with relative obscurities of decades past.) But she is also a much kinder and freer person than he is—the sort who is responsible and caring enough to keep an ailing dog’s complicated medication schedule straight, while still delighting in the animal’s beast-like corporeality. (“His tongue is so scratchy!”) The movie treats her character’s foibles and charms with an affectionate but clear-eyed remove.
“Greenberg” is, among other things, a satire—a spot-on taxonomy of the many ways in which the white, privileged, and artsy members of the haute bourgeoisie can be unbearable—and the movie’s best extended scene, to my mind, is one in which Greenberg ends up hanging out with a gaggle of millennials at a house party. The secondhand embarrassment I feel for him every time I watch it is nearly debilitating, but it lands the familiar notes of “older person hanging out with younger people” so well that I can’t look away. “I read an article—are you guys all just fucking on the Internet?” he asks the crowd, before proceeding to do a line of cocaine (“This is good coke”), gulping down a Vicodin, and flirting aggressively and awkwardly with teen girls. (“Fight or fuck?” he asks one of them, making a karate-chop gesture and eliciting titters from the bratty college students around him.) Greenberg ends the night by leaving a long, musing message on Florence’s answering machine. “When I was a kid, I was a leader. My mom said other kids looked up to me,” he says, spectacularly navel-gazing. But then he goes on. “I just don’t understand. What happened to me? Where does experience go?” The questions are self-indulgent, but they still strike a nerve. What does happen to us when we grow older? Where does体育投注平台 experience go? Greenberg is an asshole, but every time I rewatch this scene, it hits keenly.
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