The Georgian folk dancer is an image of masculine stereotype. His movements are martial, virile; they simulate war, hunting, and the courtship of his beloved. Often accoutered with a double-edged dagger, he personifies the small, proud nation’s history and traditions. So when the Swedish-Georgian director Levan Akin arrived in Tbilisi to shoot the country’s first explicitly queer feature film, a coming-of-age story about a traditional dancer, he was met with not a little hostility. The Sukhishvili Georgian National Ballet, the country’s principal dance ensemble, wanted nothing to do with the project. The rights holders to a number of old folk-song recordings refused to coöperate with the film; Akin rerecorded the songs with new artists, many of whom, along with the lead choreographer, declined to be named in the credits. The casting manager received death threats, and the production company retained bodyguards for the crew. Securing locations was so challenging that some scenes had to be shot on the fly, with many roles filled by non-professional actors, lending the film a neorealist aspect. If anyone asked, Akin resorted to lying about the plot: it was, he’d say, about a French tourist who comes to Georgia and falls in love with the culture.
In truth, “And Then We Danced,” which was released this week on , centers around a fledgling member of the national dance ensemble, Merab (Levan Gelbakhiani), who is auditioning for a spot in the main troupe. His oppressive trainer reproaches him for being too soft, too feminine. “You should be like a nail,” he growls. “This isn’t the lambada.” Offstage, Merab’s life is a grind. To survive, he waits tables, bringing leftovers home for his mother, grandmother, and feckless older brother. He stays up studying grainy videos of Vakhtang Chabukiani, a legendary Georgian dancer, until the electricity cuts out. His entire future, it seems, rides on the upcoming audition, and on the appearance of normalcy the profession demands. “This life is not for everyone,” his trainer tells him in private. “There is no room for weakness.” Outside the dance studio, the first time we see Merab smile is on an early-morning bus ride to rehearsal, when his rival and crush, Irakli (Bachi Valishvili), falls asleep on his shoulder.
体育投注平台In 1934, Joseph Stalin passed Article 154-a, which made “sexual relations between men” punishable by up to five years of hard labor. (Such proclivities in women were treated as a mental-health issue, which, according to one Soviet psychiatrist, could be cured with “pregnancy and child-bearing . . . even after lasting perverted forms of cohabitation with women.”) In 2000, nine years after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the Georgian parliament decriminalized homosexuality, but the state does not recognize same-sex marriage and, as in the United States, restricts blood donations from sexually active gay men. In one recent survey, fifty-nine per cent of Georgians said that they would object to having a gay neighbor (down from eighty-seven per cent a decade ago). Earlier this year, “And Then We Danced” had the curious honor of being mentioned in Human Rights Watch’s 2020 World Report. At the film’s Georgian première, both in Tbilisi and in the port city of Batumi, the report reads, “ultranationalist hate groups and their supporters organized protests against the screening.” (Its world première was at last year’s Cannes Film Festival, where it received a fifteen-minute standing ovation; three months later, Sweden submitted the film to the Academy Awards as its entry for the Best International Feature Film category.) One of the protest organizers, Levan Vasadze, a neonationalist millionaire with close ties to the Georgian Orthodox Church, called the film “a moral threat to the fabric of our society.” Many of the demonstrators were parishioners, grandmothers in headscarves carrying prayer candles and wooden icons of the Madonna and Child. “Georgian national dance is the pinnacle of the beauty of our tradition of manhood, warrior spirit, and purity,” Vasadze . “To pick that very sanctuary and create something as heartbreaking and offensive to our culture as this is ten times more hurtful than if it was just an anti-traditional movie.” In other words, had the film’s protagonist been a gay tax attorney or software developer, it would not have stoked such controversy. After three days of sold-out screenings and rioting, twenty-seven arrests, and one hospitalization, Akin called off the remainder of the film’s run in Georgia.
Considering this backstory, it may seem odd to view “And Then We Danced” as a love letter to the country in which it’s set, but that is what it is. The film scintillates with the colors, sounds, and textures of Georgia: magisterial vistas of the Caucasus; precise displays of folk dance and dress; a-capella polyphonic singing; delectable shots of freshly baked shoti bread and big plates of khinkali soup dumplings; and the custom of the supra, the hours-long ritual of communal eating, drinking, and toasting. An enormous earthenware jar (kvevri), used for fermenting wine, serves as a backdrop for a love scene. In another scene, Merab dances by the dawning light for Irakli; apart from his boxers, he wears only an old-fashioned sheepherder’s hat (papakhi) and an Orthodox cross. Akin commandeers these traditional elements not to provoke but to raise the questions at the heart of the film: Who counts as authentically Georgian? And who decides?
体育投注平台“And Then We Danced” celebrates Georgia’s rich cultural heritage while reclaiming it for a broader demographic—for Georgians like Merab, who have been a part of it all along. One particular scene in the film is executed with such understatement that, on my first viewing, I completely missed its import. Merab is rehearsing in front of a mirror. In another room, offscreen but within earshot, a conversation is unfolding on the subject of a young couple who, following an accidental pregnancy, have agreed to marry—in two days’ time, to “save the girl’s honor.” An older woman’s voice is heard evincing disapproval of an ethnically mixed marriage. “I heard she’s Armenian,” she says. “It could be true.” “Jesus Christ,” a younger voice retorts. “Who cares if it is?”
If you’re sitting at home—and you are—gazing dully out the window, half-reading half of whatever’s open on your Web browser and thinking how weary, flat, and unprofitable all the uses of this world seem to be, then click on over to YouTube and watch Michael Urie reprise his 2013 performance of “,” Jonathan Tolins’s one-man show about an actor who takes a job staffing a fake mall in Barbra Streisand’s basement. Yes, it’s digital live theatre—Urie performed the show, which was produced by Broadway.com, Rattlestick Theatre, and the Pride Plays, in his living room on Monday night, to raise money for the Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS’s COVID体育投注平台-19 Emergency Assistance Fund—and, yes, it’s good. In fact, it’s great: frothy and hilarious, satisfyingly seasoned with treachery, bitchery, idolatry, and punctured celebrity hero-worship. Here I’ve been scouring the Web for works of theatre that seem suited to the moment and have been coming up with sombre, worthy stuff that I in no way want to watch. I lasted five minutes into a three-hour-plus recording of a Krzysztof Warlikowski play, in Polish, with English subtitles, billed as a commentary on sacrifice and the Holocaust, which opened with a man and a woman voicing stiff-armed mannequins the size of small children, and I tapped out early from the great Billie Whitelaw’s of Samuel Beckett’s monologue “Rockaby,” whose depiction of isolation and decay seemed, for once, just a bit too on the nose. But I was delighted to stay with “Buyer & Cellar” for its full hour and forty minutes, because that’s what we all need right now: to be trapped in Barbra’s Malibu dream house instead of our own.
As Tolins, who briefly appears at the start of the video stream, explains, the play sprang from an unlikely source: Streisand’s 2010 coffee-table book, “” (it seems important to note that she did the principal photography for it herself), in which Babs displayed the frankly terrifying , complete with an antique store and “Gift Shoppe,” that she built in her basement to show off her costumes and possessions to—herself. What if, Tolins wondered, Streisand hired an employee to work down there? Enter Alex, a struggling actor—he can’t even hold a job at Disney World—who lucks into the gig and soon shows a talent for catering to the lady of the house. As he haggles over the price of an antique doll (Barbra wants a discount) and stays late, while Barbra entertains guests upstairs, to man the mall’s frozen-yogurt machine, in case anyone wants to come down for a scoop, Alex falls under the diva’s spell. He becomes her confidant and encourager. She’s wily; he outfoxes her. She’s needy; he affirms her. Alex is living the American fantasy of proximity to fame and fortune, and, though he thinks he’s protected by a jaded attitude, he’s as susceptible as anyone to the promise of intimacy with a star.
Over at Vulture, the critic Helen Shaw that, in technical terms, “Buyer & Cellar” should be the model for digital theatre going forward, and she’s absolutely right. I don’t know what Urie’s living room usually looks like, and I don’t care to. He’s pulled the shades down over his windows and moved his furniture somewhere else, making the space a blank slate; the lighting is clean and bright. Three directors are credited: Nic Cory, who directed the digital production, Stephen Brackett, who directed the original show, and Paul Wontorek, who directed the live stream, which featured—miracle of miracles—a second体育投注平台 camera angle, a thrill in the age of the relentless Zoom closeup. (The totally adequate camerawork was done by Urie’s partner, the actor Ryan Spahn.)
And then there’s Urie, with his antic charisma, consummate pacing, and endearing, confessional manner, amplified by direct addresses into the iPhone camera. He plays not only Alex and Barbra but also Alex’s boyfriend and Streisand’s jaded property manager. One pleasure of the show is seeing him move. He leaps around his living room, and gives Streisand a special slouching walk, part sexy panther, part Hunchback of Notre-Dame. Watching him work his way through Tolins’s pleasurably digressive and cannily structured script is like listening to a story being told by a slightly hapless, hugely entertaining friend. Go watch, and, if you feel so inclined, donate to a worthy cause—you have until midnight on Wednesday.
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.
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.”
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.”
体育投注平台“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.
体育投注平台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.
体育投注平台My ex-fiancé and I broke up on the stoop of our Baltimore City apartment on the night of Super Bowl XLVII, in 2013, just as the game clock ran out and the city around us burst into joy. (The Ravens won.) Though that night marked a turning point in my life, the only vivid memory I have of it is the sound of my friend Jillian’s shoes slapping against the pavement as she ran down the street and into my arms. And yet the story of that summer is not a sad one. It ended with me crashing with my friends for a few months of dancing and drinking, and then moving to New York City for graduate school. If that summer had been made into a movie, it would look somewhat like the Netflix film “Someone Great.”
“Someone Great,” which was written and directed by Jennifer Kaytin Robinson, and inspired, in part, by her own heartbreak, starts where most romantic comedies end—after the guy gets the girl. The movie kicks off with a montage of a relationship, set gloriously to Lorde’s “Supercut.” Nine years later, the girl, Jenny Young (Gina Rodriguez), lands her dream job, at Rolling Stone in San Francisco. The guy, Nate Davis (Lakeith Stanfield), breaks up with her because he doesn’t want to be in a long-distance relationship. Then the movie really体育投注平台 begins, with Jenny’s friends Erin Kennedy (DeWanda Wise) and Blair Helms (Brittany Snow) rallying around her.
Over the next day, Jenny tries to bury her pain by running all over New York City with her friends, trying to get tickets to the Neon Classic, a music festival, and doing some marijuana and molly along the way. These scenes are interlaced with flashbacks that give us more insight into Jenny and Nate’s relationship. There’s ” (the song popped into the Billboard Hot 100 after the movie came out), an outfit montage, a couple of fights, a few epiphanies, and cameos from RuPaul and Rosario Dawson—all the makings of a fantastic rom-com. But the film is not, in fact, a rom-com. Nor is it a breakup film. It’s about falling out of love, yes, but, mostly, it’s about friendship and not picking a man over your career.
In films of the past, someone like Jenny would be presented as a frigid, career-obsessed woman who could only be happy once she settled for an aimless man. Robinson takes her character—and her character’s ambitions—more seriously. For Jenny, not moving to San Francisco is never an option, just as my move to New York City, for school, never felt like it could be seen as a compromise. Perhaps that’s what draws me to this film: the way I can see both my friendships and myself in it. This is bolstered by the diversity of the cast: Jenny is Latina, Erin and Nate are black, and Blair is white. Even more striking are the two interracial relationships in the movie, neither of which involves a white person—a rarity in Hollywood films. And though some of the characters’ plotlines can, at first, feel trite, that’s partly the point. Robinson is creating stereotypes so that she can break them down. This is why the film succeeds where others, like “Wine Country” and “Rough Night,” fail; it takes us into caricature territory only to yank us out of it. It’s a witty movie that makes me want to cry and dance every time I watch it, the film equivalent of listening to a Robyn song体育投注平台 on repeat. Coming from me, there is no stronger recommendation.
Last week, as seemingly everyone around me was going nuts for the strip-club caper “Hustlers,” I found myself binge-rewatching a dark workplace comedy of a quite different sort. “Party Down,” which is streaming on Hulu, aired for only two seasons, on Starz, in 2009 and 2010, and, not unlike “Hustlers,” it follows members of an often overlooked subsection of the service industry—in this case the employees of a second-rate, Los Angeles-based catering service—as they navigate the indignities of the post-recession work environment. But “Hustlers” is a crime romp whose girl-power stripper heroines band together and attempt to turn the tables on their sleazy Wall Street clients; “Party Down” doesn’t allow for any such grand transformations. Instead, the characters, who are, largely, failed and failing entertainment-industry aspirants, slog through a variety of more or less debasing events (each episode portrays the crew working a different party, from a sweet-sixteen celebration on a boat to a suburban orgy to a mingle for senior-citizen singles), dully passing around canapés and flutes of middling white wine for minimum wage as their dreams slip between their fingers.
This might all begin to sound like a Dardenne-brothers production, except that “Party Down” is a comedy—if an occasionally downbeat one—and there are lots of laughs to be found in the various mishaps and mortifications of the catering circuit. Many of these laughs are, in fact, brought about by the idiocy of the crew itself, which includes among its ranks some hilariously low-capacity individuals. There’s the “team leader,” Ron Donald (the incredible Ken Marino), a sympathetically pathetic, grin-and-bear-it alcoholic who white-knuckles through his shifts by fantasizing about a better life running an all-you-can-eat Soup ‘R Crackers restaurant (“fastest-growing non-poultry, non-coffee franchise in all of Southern California!”). There’s Kyle (Ryan Hansen), a blond, generically handsome boob who is always auditioning for bit roles on “The O.C.”-style shows (“Acting is like crime, but, instead of using guns or knives, I assault you with emotions”), and his nemesis, Roman (Martin Starr), a proto-incel who writes “hard sci-fi” (“I have an influential blog!”). There’s also Constance (the perfect Jane Lynch), a clueless onetime D-lister, cheerfully and unselfconsciously still hammering at her nonexistent career (“Did you hear about Calum’s dad? He has a production company and they’re thinking of doing a live-action ‘Old McDonald’ for kids! And he thinks I have a quality体育投注平台!”), and, in the show’s second season, Lydia (Megan Mullally), a hysterically perky, bespectacled divorcée, who is intent on making her daughter, Escapade, a star.
This cast of lovable dummies forms the backdrop against which the show’s protagonists appear: Henry Pollard (Adam Scott), an actor who has decided to quit the profession but is still forever compelled by punters to repeat, mirthlessly, the catchphrase from his biggest break, a viral beer commercial (“Are we having fun yet??”); and Casey Klein (Lizzy Caplan), a comedian whose occasional, minor career wins are barely enough to keep her from throwing in the towel. The heart of “Party Down” resides in the genuinely realistic, genuinely hot relationship between Henry and Casey, as it toggles from attraction to hostility to anger to affection and back again. But, even with its more foolish characters, the show makes a case—comical but still resonant—that underneath the ill-fitting button-down caterer’s shirts and pink elastic-band bow ties are real people. Losers have interior lives, too, ones that might be richer and more textured than one could ever imagine.
August 28, 2019
体育投注平台There is a place where people from all walks of life come together and overcome their differences through hard work and laughter. According to the sitcom “Kim’s Convenience,” this place is Canada. The show, which streams on Netflix, chronicles the day-to-day micro-dramas encountered by a Korean immigrant family that runs a corner grocery store. The archetypes are obvious and rigid. The blustery Mr. Kim (Paul Sun-Hyung Lee) and the subtly sardonic Mrs. Kim (Jean Yoon) are set in their ways; naturally, they are much savvier than their theatrically accented English initially suggests. The rebellious Jung (Simu Liu) and the dutiful, constantly exasperated Janet (Andrea Bang) are their kids, caught between filial piety and following their dreams. The villains in their lives are small-time: the vain entrepreneur from down the block, the overly chatty air-conditioning guy, the pastor who never pays for his snacks.
体育投注平台“Kim’s Convenience” débuted in Canada in 2016. It was originally a play by Ins Choi, who continues to write and direct the TV version. Though it only arrived on Netflix last year, its audience will likely grow. A fourth season is on the way, and Liu has recently been cast as Shang-Chi, a new addition to the Marvel Comics film universe. At first, I found “Kim’s Convenience” breathtakingly corny. Even for someone who grew up on soft-lit eighties sitcoms, there’s almost nothing edgy about the show, the occasional frictions of multicultural Toronto notwithstanding. The parents learn to see beyond their prejudices, and each new, eccentric customer expands their world view; meanwhile, the children begin to decipher their largely affectionless household as a space of love and support. In the end, everyone more or less gets along. And yet this quality is precisely why I kept watching. The show’s sense of conviviality and community seemed impossible. Our most prestigious television series often double as commentaries on modern life. Though “Kim’s Convenience” is set in the present, it feels like watching an alternate time line.
体育投注平台On the edges, of course, there are familiar social tensions, which become the show’s most absurd (and effective) jokes. Mr. Kim profiles his customers according to a matrix of race, gender, and shoe color, showing a baffling, cheerful genius. A well-meaning, liberal professor projects refugee trauma onto Janet’s home life. Mrs. Kim is forever trying to find a “cool Christian Korean boy” for Janet, and the description of this rare species becomes its own kind of punch line. Despite criticisms from native Korean speakers over the show’s accents, I appreciate that it doesn’t bother overexplaining itself to non-Asian audiences. It’s a caricature, but, in its best moments, you forget who is laughing at whom.
Earlier this month, after the back-to-back mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, Universal Pictures decided to cancel the release of “The Hunt,” a dystopian slasher film in which “globalist élites” round up so-called deplorables, from red states, to stalk and slaughter for sport. More than a few films in recent memory—“The Belko Experiment,” “The Purge,” “The Hunger Games体育投注平台”—have deployed a similar premise, literalizing worlds in which listless patricians make the indigent masses their prey. Even by genre standards, though, “The Hunt” appeared to offer a disturbing depiction of the American culture war as a clash of shameless violence. “We pay for everything, so this country belongs to us,” one of the rich says, with a titter, during a trailer for the film that shows victims choking on ball gags, sputtering blood, and crawling through grass to avoid blasts of rifle fire.
The latest offering in the hide-and-seek horror subgenre is “Ready or Not,” a new film from Fox Searchlight Pictures. Written by Guy Busick and R. Christopher Murphy and directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, “Ready or Not” seems to rest, as many of its predecessors have, on a foundation of class warfare. In the trailer, dolled-up aristocrats descend to a basement whose walls showcase dated weapons beside stuffed moose heads and oil portraits of Civil War-era forebears. The nobles are bracing for a bloodletting, but theirs is no sombre enactment of deep-held prejudice or state-sanctioned violence. For all its gory ornamentation, “Ready or Not” has more in common with “Meet the Parents” than “The Hunt.” Its antagonists are not callous one-per-centers but crazed in-laws, whose bumbling efforts to guard their family name bring about high jinks of escalating, and highly entertaining, absurdity.
Samara Weaving gives a game and playful performance as Grace, a wide-eyed, impressionable bride who’s preparing to wed Alex Le Domas (Mark O’Brien), the uneasy scion of a board-game dynasty. “We prefer dominion,” he tells her on their wedding day, as prim relatives take their seats on the lawn of a remote manse. Grace, a former foster child, so craves the embrace of a family that she dismisses the oddities of her groom’s clan. The Le Domases include a frantic, pill-popping sister (Melanie Scrofano), who shows up so late that she misses the vows; a chic, impish mother (Andie MacDowell), who urges Grace not to worry that her blood isn’t blue; and an austere, scowling aunt (Nicky Guadagni), who wears an aubergine shawl in the style of a straitjacket. During the ceremony, three svelte housemaids eye Grace with silent disdain. Her dissolute new brother-in-law (Adam Brody) instructs her not to take it personally: “They’re just trying to figure out if you’re a gold-digging whore,” he whispers as they pose for photographs. “Like my wife.” At night, the family retreats to their game room—all burnished wood, wrought iron, and candlelight—for a final induction rite. In order to honor the terms by which the Le Domas ancestors secured their wealth, Grace and her new relatives must play a game of hide-and-seek. The bride goes off to hide, still wearing her wedding dress, unaware that the Le Domases’ aim in the game is to find and kill her before dawn.
In the screwball display of carnage that ensues, “Ready or Not” casts its aristocrats as winningly idiotic, so desperate to comply with their charter, and so sure that an ancient threat will vanquish them if they don’t, that they bungle even the simplest tasks. As one relative squats on the toilet to trawl the Internet for information about crossbows, the new bride rips off the bloodied train of her dress, swaps her heels for high-tops, and repurposes a teapot as a bludgeon. “Ready or Not” softens the edge of its relentless gore with newlywed squabbling, familial infighting, and snappy slapstick. After shooting one of the maids, whom she mistakes for Grace, Alex’s sister snorts some coke to calm herself and then fells a second with an errant arrow. (Dora, the final maid, finds herself crushed by the dumbwaiter.) At one point, resigned to the wiles of their quarry, the Le Domases vote to engage the mansion’s security cameras to locate Grace. Only the aged Aunt Helene objects: “You have no respect for tradition,” she seethes, brandishing her scythe.
“Ready or Not” aims its satire equally at the pomp of matrimony (“We could have eloped!” Grace hisses, at one point) and the trappings of wealth (“Fucking rich people!” she screams, at another). But it wears its commentary lightly. It is never specified where in America the Le Domases reside, or what politics they espouse, or whether anyone in the family works. Violence in the movie is not so much a lark of the ruling élite as a quirk of one fraught family struggling, as any does, to impart its odd traditions to the next generation. Late in the rollicking second act, Grace is pacing through the estate’s stables when, to her relief, she encounters one of her new nephews, a young boy who has stayed up past his bedtime. She assumes that he knows nothing of the family’s violent ritual—until he pulls out a pistol and shoots her in the hand. Less shocked than crestfallen, Grace incapacitates the kid with a punch. He awakens sometime later, to find his elders standing over him, asking, in halfhearted admonishment, why he shot his new aunt. “That’s what everyone else was doing,” he answers, with a shrug, before resuming his role in the hunt.
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