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Topics/Questions/Exercises Of The Week—9 October 2009


All Quiet On The Roman Front: It's been about two weeks since the Zurich arrest of director Roman Polanski, and while Google news searches continue to yield plenty of results, the overall feeling in the air—the zeitgeist, if you will—is kind of like it never happened. Yeah, the hyenas at Big Hollywood are still having a time tossing the meat around, but over at Salon and Slate and Spite and other aggregators of buzz and rabies, it's all quiet on the Roman front. Almost as if everybody finally realizes that now it's down to the lawyers, and, eventually, a single judge. Which it always has been, as a matter of fact. We would be remiss, though, not to note the musings of Christopher Hitchens, the one-time lefty whose routine these days seems to subsist of putting on a blindfold, chugging some scotch, and then walking, finger extended, to a wall on which numerous post-it notes containing right-wing talking points are hanging. This time the finger landed on "moral relativism," and for this we are treated to his "In Hollywood, real tragedy is ignored" essay, in which, most of you will be amused to note, Hitchens spends more verbiage condemning Polanski's libel suit against "my colleagues at Vanity Fair" than on the, you know, original crime. Nice.

Memoirs Of The Media Meltdown: Or, "Speaking Of Vanity Fair..."

While it isn't directly related to that thing we call cinema, the recently announced crippling losses and subsequent publication-cullings and cost-cuttings going on at big media empire Conde Nast will certainly have some impact in how the movies are covered by the august remaining periodicals there. Vanity Fair's annual Hollywood issue is famously shot, for the most part, by Annie Liebowitz; next year, will the editors just hand Ryan McGinley seven or eight disposable cameras and say,"You're on your own?" Sure hope not. But the whole thing reminds me of a story which shows just how long Conde Nast honcho Sy Newhouse has had cost-cutting on his mind. Stop me if you've heard this one before.

It was back in a summer of the early 90s. I was enjoying my first foray into full-time freelancing (certainly more than I'm enjoying my current one); it meant, among other things, I could take in afternoon double features at Film Forum more or less at will. The Forum was running either a Sam Fuller retrospective or some kind of Great War Films program at the time; in any event, the films that day were Fixed Bayonets! and The Steel Helmet, a double dose awesomeness. The house was pretty empty, so I took a center seat a little ahead of the midsection of the house. A couple of rows behind was an older fellow in a green Izod shirt who I immediately recognized as Samuel Irving Newhouse Jr., known to Michael Wolff and Keith Kelly and all those numnutzes as "Si," the billionaire head of Advance Publications, parent company of The Nast. I don't know much from moguls, but my impression of the guy immediately shot up, as any Sam Fuller fan is a friend of mine. With Si was a woman of a certain age, a Lynn Hirschberg type if you're lucky enough to know what I mean; not La Hirschberg herself, but someone who might remind you of her. This gave me a tingle up the leg—the kind of tingle I mean is the one that tells you "run away!" But I stayed put, discreetly eavesdropping on their conversation.

"I've gotta cut costs," Si was fretting. Yes, even then.

"Well, why don't you just get rid of messengers?" his lady friend (they did not appear to be romantically involved) offered.

"What do you mean?"

"Just get rid of messengers. You don't need 'em anymore. These days, you can just fax manuscripts over, or e-mail them, or whatever. You don't need to messenger stuff."

Si was silent for a moment. I think I even saw him scratch his chin. "That's not a bad idea." He continued to mull it over, then shook his head and shrugged his shoulders. "No, you can't get rid of messengers. You still need them to deliver tchotchkes."

And that was that, and we all enjoyed Fixed Bayonets! and The Steel Helmet.

The Conscience Of A Columnist: "No, you can't call her out on this," my old friend and frequent advisor Y. Hawke pleaded on the phone. "You know what happens. Feelings will be hurt. Things will be said that'll paint you as sexist, and an ogre, and you're really only one of those things."

"I know, I know," I said.  "But come on. Antebellum??? The movie takes place in Great Britain! Directly before the time Larkin talks about in 'Annus Mirabilis'!!!"

The pause was meaningful. Even...pregnant. "You're right. You have to."

"But how?" I began to giggle, ogre-ishly. "Maybe the reference is to the Falklands war..."

"You know, had your author only written 'interregnum' it would have been perfectly fine," sighed Hawke...

Speaking Of Which: Personal to Carey Mulligan [cue music]: I've got a crush on you...sweetie pie...

Actually, I don't, but I figure somebody really ought to just come out and say it plain. Maybe some perceived rivalry will act as a prod. I think the whole thing's just adorable myself, and I can't wait until he finally gets his ass in gear and pops the questions...and then we can all see these two crazy kids tie the knot. On Letterman, I'm hoping.

Armond White-ism Of The Week: Oh, pooh. I make a beeline to the maestro's review of An Education, look at its subhead, read the words "panders to high-toned hipsterism" and think, "Perfect. He's bringing crazy back." And then I read the damn review. Shit man. Once again, he's making sense: "This is [screenwriter Nick Hornby and director Lone Scherfig's] Merchant-Ivory version of Juno." Ouch, and also kind of completely on the money. If it weren't for the priggish snipes at "hipsters" and Britney Spears, which invariably make White sound like Maggie Gallagher, this notice would almost qualify as aspiring to be Farber-esque.

By the way, Christopher Hitchens is dead wrong. Polanski had a home in London in the 60s and it was there he first went to after running away from the scandal. It was also there that Sharon Tate left behind a copy of Tess of the D’Urbervilles with a note that said that Polanski should make it(and which he did definitively in the 80s).
Indeed, Arthur. “A country where he has never lived,” what rot. What, did he take a train to Poland or France every day after wrapping the day’s shooting on “Repulsion” and “Cul de Sac?”

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