July 31, 2006
Thought for the day

"Sex is what brings you together. It's not what keeps you together. That's something else entirely."

--Irene (Trudie Styler) in Love Soup

July 30, 2006
Show

I have four pieces in the Show section of Friday's Washington Times. Three are reviews, including one of Miami Vice and one of Nickelback's Wednesday night concert.

I think the most interesting piece, if I can say so, is my column entitled "Panning the critics," about artists who get revenge on their critics by satirizing them in their work:

The relationship between artist and critic has always been one of love and hate. Take the friendship between Edmund Wilson, the pre-eminent American literary critic of the 20th century, and Vladimir Nabokov, one of the century's greatest novelists...
Oddly, my review of Woody Allen's latest film, Scoop, doesn't appear to be online. It's a shame, because this is the director's funniest film since Celebrity and the best film I've seen since I started at the paper. I gave it three and a half stars.

Which is why I'm puzzled that the film is only at 39% on Rotten Tomatoes, and 32% among the "cream of the crop" critics. Perhaps I shouldn't be. At a press screening of the film, the only people really laughing at the comedy were me and my guest. I'm not sure what the critics have against this film. Reading a few of the reviews, I sense two common themes: Scoop doesn't compare well to Allen's last film, Match Point; and it's too much like Allen's previous work.

Match Point was a masterly film. But Scoop isn't trying to be another Match Point, even though it uses the same locale (London) and actress (Scarlett Johansson). One is a drama, the other a comedy--really, an old-fashioned murder mystery. It does bear some similarities to other Woody Allen films, mostly notably Manhattan Murder Mystery. But nobody complained that Match Point had a rather similar plot to Crimes and Misdemeanors.

I wonder if a lot of critics simply don't like Woody Allen anymore. Scoop is a very Woody Allen film in a way that Match Point is not. He's finally found a good role for himself here. He's too old to be chasing starlets, and here he's a father figure to Johansson. His scenes are the best in the movie. Not only do he and Johansson have perfect comedic chemistry, but Allen himself is very funny. Some of his scenes are like mini-stand-up routines of the type he used to perform.

These critical notices probably kept the film from doing as well as it might have, given its very good cast (Hugh Jackman also stars). It didn't crack the top ten. It's too bad, because I think audiences would really enjoy this film. My boss went to a preview screening and said the movie garnered the best reaction to a Woody Allen film he'd seen in a while. Maybe I should have been harsher on critics my above-mentioned column.

July 29, 2006
Thought for the day

"Sentimentalists believe that children, with their never-ending questions, have more enquiring minds than adults. Some do, some don't, presumably. But the 'nice purling stream' of a child's questioning is to fill a void which real adults fill with conversation."

--A.N. Wilson, Iris Murdoch: As I Knew Her

July 24, 2006
Concert notes

From my latest review in the Washington Times:

There was a whole lotta love in Rock Creek Park on Friday night when India.Arie played the Carter Barron Amphitheatre...

July 23, 2006
Opening weekend

I had reviews of two very different films in Friday's Washington Times: M. Night Shyamalan's Lady in the Water and Ivan Reitman's My Super Ex-Girlfriend.

July 19, 2006
Thought for the day

"'But how can I say that this is love?' she had patiently asked him. 'How can I know? How does anyone know? If it's something that fills you up, that gives no place for any other thought, something that rolls you out like a--like a machine so there's nothing left of you, no wish, no sense, then this is love, but it doesn't make me happy, it's like doom, like melting into eternity and I don't want to lose myself--I don't, Andy, I don't. How do I know this is love? It couldn't be love, darling, to make so lost, so lonely, so blind and deaf. I can't see St. Thomas' spire--I can't see trees in the park or the sky--I can't read--I can't hear Tony playing, for you're outside, everywhere, all about me. Is that love? Isn't there some way of loving and being oneself too? I don't like to be so lost, so drowned--no, darling, if this is love, then I don't want it, I don't like it, I'm afraid.'"

--Dawn Powell, Turn, Magic Wheel

Those little red envelopes

The Wall Street Journal has a fun article today on Netflix guilt. (Something with which I must admit to more than just a passing familiarity.) Subscribers rent movies they feel they should watch. But then they don't actually watch them, instead letting the red envelopes sit unopened, sometimes for months:

Even consumer behavior experts can't completely shake this habit. At one point, Mr. Fader had two Netflix DVDs -- both part of Ken Burns' "Baseball" documentary series -- sitting at his home for more than six months. He describes the series as "weighty," but didn't want to send them back. "It's too much of an admission to say, 'I give up,'" Mr. Fader said.

Thought for the day

"Much of the world's work is done by people who don't feel well."

--Winston Churchill

July 18, 2006
Concert notes

Pink is one tough broad. Read my review of her recent show at the 9:30 Club here in DC in today's Washington Times.

July 17, 2006
Thought for the day

"I don't mind being glamorous and sexual. It's a special burden, but it is a burden."

--Marilyn Monroe

July 14, 2006
Happy Birthday

"It wasn't odd to be in the lead, I took the same approach as I would to any other part. I play myself as totally as I possibly can."

--Harry Dean Stanton (born July 14, 1926) on Paris, Texas

July 12, 2006
"Newspaperwoman" has a nice ring to it

I made Arts & Letters Daily today with a piece I wrote for The Washington Times. So I suppose it's about time I announce that I'm now a full-time arts and entertainment writer for the newspaper.

It's been great fun so far. I was barely in the office a week before I was sent to Las Vegas to cover the opening of "LOVE," a new Cirque du Soleil show featuring the music of the Beatles. Look for my pieces on that this Friday. I'll also be posting more about the trip on this site, including some pictures from the red carpet. (And can I mention that I left Sin City up $255?)

My linked piece is titled "Canada has mild, mild west." As A&L Daily summarizes: "America’s Wild West was won, but Canada’s Mild West was negotiated. One was all sheriffs, outlaws, and the O.K. Corral. The other was peace, order, and Mounties..." It's a comparison of the West in popular culture in the two countries, pegged to the Alberta events in DC surrounding the Smithsonian Institute's Folklife Festival. It's not often I get to draw on my background as an Alberta girl.

Here are a few other pieces I've published since I started at the Times:

In addition to writing reviews and occasional features and think pieces, I'm in charge of a television column, Tuning In, from Mondays to Thursdays. It's a combination of news and criticism. Yesterday's column included a short review of the Perry Mason: Season One, Volume One DVD, which was just released.

But have no fear, I haven't abandoned my freelance writing for magazines. I don't think I could stay away from the longer form. My piece on the work of director Whit Stillman, for example, will be appearing in print in the next month or so. And I have a number of pieces on classical music on the back burner.

I hope this is a suitable excuse for my recent absence from this site. In addition to starting a new job and travelling to Vegas, I took a bit of time off in between jobs and made it to both Los Angeles and New York. But I spent most of my "holiday" in a secluded place without Internet access, which turned out to be the perfect place to write. More on that later.

Happy Birthday

"How many a man has dated a new era in his life from the reading of a book!"

--Henry David Thoreau, born July 12, 1817

July 10, 2006
Thought for the day

"She had married him for his looks which were admittedly star quality; but marriage was not a film; Cora was not a director; she had cast him in the role of a husband and he was hopeless at it. In screenplays the husband has a script to go by. Johnny had next to none."

--Muriel Spark, Reality and Dreams

July 07, 2006
Thought for the day

"Great artists are people who find the way to be themselves in their art. Any sort of pretension induces mediocrity in art and life alike."

--Margot Fonteyn