Horrible Manohla

Just read another terrible review from Manohla Dargis. It is about an Israeli movie about a divorce. Her first word is that it is “hypnotic,” but soon we find out that the movie has few courtroom dramatics, is “dialectical,” and comes across as a “debate.”

Soporific, yet gripping (?)

If that doesn’t sound like a non-cinematic snoozer then I don’t know what does. In the world of criticism, the word “hypnotic” usually indicates the audience is spellbound, but it seems that her ongoing usage problems lead her in the opposite direction. She means “hypnotic” in the literal, medical sense, as a soporific.

But wait.  Her ultimate conclusion is that this movie “makes for a gripping cinema from start to finish…” Okay, that makes absolutely no sense.

Oh, I’m sorry: hypnotized, I didn’t finish reading her sentence. As in the past, Ms. Dargis ends her own sentence by tailing it with “almost implausibly so” as an ultra-convenient hedge. She seems incapable of choosing a criticism without then deconstructing it almost immediately. So first it is horribly boring, not unlike a barbituate, but in the end it is “gripping cinema,” yet, jeez, that sure seems implausible even though she just said it. Which is it, Manohla? You can’t have both.

If your idea of film criticism is that the criticism itself should be oozing with ambiguity, leaving the reader stuck to the paper, I think you should consider another business. Your goal as a journalist, as opposed to a theorist, is to let your readers know whether to see or not see this film. These reviews are of no help whatsoever. To constantly say it’s good, yet it’s bad, or it’s not that good, yet there are some bright moments… is to leave me, the reader, with a giant question mark over my head.

This is of no use to your readership, the movie-going public. I think you may prefer teaching at a university in a liberal arts program where ambiguity is embraceable. A good review can certainly discuss the movies inherent ambiguities, but a conclusion is still warranted. For example, “despite all of its flaws, this movie is well worth seeing.”  Fine, then I’ll decide. Ultimately, the reader will take responsibility to decide if they generally agree with the writer’s review or they don’t. For many years the critics Peter Travers and Elvis Mitchell were very trustworthy. Many people happened to agree with their judgments a large percentage of the time. You will never reach a position like that as a reviewer, because I, and perhaps others, don’t know what you said! This would be called “bad writing” in my view. One could almost say that by hedging your bets so consistently you’re merely trying to protect your job. And you have done so. It’s only your hundreds of thousands of readers who have suffered while you maintain your career. How sad.

Stupid Times Article #73

I’m not even sure how to approach this one.

I’m reading this article in last Saturday’s paper with great interest, until halfway through it, I realize I’m not reading what I think I’m reading.  The subject?

Mickey Spillane’s wife is dead!

What?  Wow, she must’ve been pretty damned old.  After all, I think of Mickey Spillane as the ultimate hard-boiled detective writer of the ’40s and ’50s, creator of many noir outings in both book and movie form. I figured he was long dead, so she must’ve been pushing 100.

But the article says… no, no… ah! She was 78. Ok. 78?

So I do the math, and figure the tough guy must’ve enjoyed his newfound wealth and fame and married a hot, young 21-year old as he approached the cusp of 40. Yeah, that kind of adds up. Tough guy and gun moll. Probably a new convertible thrown in for good luck…

Of course in the wedding picture, Mickey looks kinda boyish at 39… but the bride looks the right age, and “in the role that introduced her to the public eye more than half a century ago, she was a wife.” Okay, so she was famous because she married a famous guy. On the other hand, here’s something about Mickey being involved with “the neighborhood rackets.” Ohhh, so that’s where he got his authenticity from, he was a bad guy himself at one time. Great story!

Their granddaughter eulogized about the happiness of the famous couple until her grandfather passed away, so Mickey did predecease her by a number of years. That makes sense.  They maintained wedded bliss until “he was shot and killed.”  What?  The famous author Mickey Spillane died a violent death? So his wicked past must have finally caught up with him.  Another great story!  Who knew?

And now we see a photo of her son–Mickey, Jr.’s–restaurant “Mickey Spillane’s” on 9th Ave. in Hell’s Kitchen, sporting an appropriately hard-boiled logo of a morose gumshoe. Reminds me of the now-defunct “Mickey Mantle’s” on Central Park South and for some reason the now-defunct “Grampa’s” on Bleecker (owned by Al Lewis of “The Munsters”). I guess there’s nothing wrong with capitalizing on Grandpa Spillane’s name. And there, she ate lunch every day with pride.

Never mind that almost all passers-by probably assume it was named for the famous pulp novelist of the same name.

Huh? What was that?

Lemme read that line again…

Never mind that almost all passers-by probably assume it was named for the famous pulp novelist of the same name.

… are you kidding? I re-read from the top.  Apparently, there was some minor gangster who also happened to be named Mickey Spillane. He had nothing to do with the famous writer Mickey Spillane.  He was some dude named Michael who, by chance, was called “Mickey.”  Are you following me?

This woman in the article has NOTHING whatsoever to do with famous writer Mickey Spillane. None of these people do!

What is wrong with this newspaper?  What is wrong with the writer of this assinine piece?  His name is Michael Wilson, just to let everyone know:  BUYER BEWARE.  I felt like calling Mike on the spot to ask what the hell the point of this article was.  If the dead woman was named Marge Zdzinski, guess what, no article. Then again, maybe I’m the dumbass here and missed something crucial in the article.

I look up the real Mickey Spillane. He died in 2006.  Not even close.  He married a woman named Mary Ann. Then someone named Sherri, then Jane.

Never mind that almost all passers-by probably assume it was named for the famous pulp novelist of the same name.

What a scam.  What a rip.  Seriously, Michael Wilson, get a real job. Shame on you, New York Times. I want my 15 minutes back.  Idiots.

Bad, Bad Writer

New York Times writer Penelope Green — not unlike the subject of her recent article — must have too much time on her hands. She’s wasting her literary skills by working hard to humiliate the innocent. The woman in question is a rich Connecticut socialite who is trying to establish an arts colony in her suburban home. (I must disclose that I am an alumnus of an artist’s retreat — the Blue Mountain Center in upstate New York — where I enjoyed a month-long summer respite from all that is cold and cruel. It was for established writers, artists and musicians, who applied and were accepted, with all expenses paid by it’s own endowment. I had a good time, got a lot of work down, and spent time canoeing each day on the estate’s pristine lake with a wonderful painter from Montana. I also learned from other inmates that there was a whole world of artists’ colonies out there, and a few younger ones bounced regularly from fellowship to fellowship in the U.S. and abroad. What a life!)

Back to Penelope: what a supreme hatchet job she has given us on page 1 of the Times’s Home section one week ago! Yes, there is probably a zoning violation facing the altruistic homeowner, Michelle Slater. That might’ve been the original idea for the story.  But most of the article is pure and relentless mockery. The reader doesn’t realize this at first; it seems like an interesting take on a devotée of the arts who wishes to use her standing to do some good in the world, and the mean neighbors who oppose her. No, no, no. Penelope must’ve gone to the interview, then decided that that angle was too boring (been-there-done-that), so she switched things up a bit.  This woman, in her view, is a not a do-gooder, she is a fool, thought Penelope, and I’m such a clever so-and-so, so what if… ?

During the writing process, Penny (may I call you that because I find multi-syllabic “Penelope” oh-so-pretentious?!) must have had thought bubbles over her head as she snickered through the piece, reading, “My God, I can really show off now… what an idiot this woman is, I am so much sharper than she is, I mean, after all, I went to Sarah Lawrence… “) Some quick highlights:

  • Unlike most islands, those owned or adjacent to Michelle Slater’s property are unaccountably “dainty.”
  • The meals Michelle serves are “nearly” vegan (uh-oh, not authentic enuf!)
  • Yoga sessions “she would lead herself” (what an egomaniac!)
  • Michelle’s website is “official-looking” (hack job) with a mission statement that is too “lofty” (geez, it’s only 16-words)
  • mayapple-mark-cranberry-white-smallPenelope even ridicules the website’s logo, seen here at actual size (okay, the maroon color comes from a Hermès scarf Michelle treasures.  Score one for PG)… wow, Pen, you’re right! Out-of-control!!! How utterly offensive! Pablum of the first order! You are deliciously bloodthirsty!
  • Penny tells us this whole incident is obviously a case of “Nimbyism,” a word I had to look up, even with all my fancy college degrees! It turns out it derives from the British hazardous waste industry. Why did I not know that?
  • She claims Michelle’s program is striving to attract “gentle scholars” (her words, not Michelle’s… OMG, she is such an easy target)
  • Pen ridicules a silly-sounding class taught by a professor from nearby Sarah Lawrence (please do not reveal that author Penelope is herself a graduate of Sarah Lawrence!)
    • P.S. She got the name of the class wrong and the Times had to issue a retraction the next day. Still silly, but less so.
  • If she is a reporter, or conducting reportage, why is she participating in the morning yoga routine she is so busy ridiculing? Maybe Penelope is simply curating the news, rather than reporting it.
  • She uses the word “littered” to describe artist Arthur Zorn’s work. Nice. What did poor Arthur do to offend you? The work actually looks pretty interesting, if that is what is depicted in the photographs intended to deride Michelle’s home, or her taste, or both.
  • Michelle has been “accruing” university degrees (implying she’s just a collector and has cheated her bought her way through numerous academies… are you ready for a libel suit?)

Okay, on one hand, Michelle says some dopey things, meant to be clever, like, “I am a recovering perfectionist.”  On the other hand, she is ridiculed for saying things that are not totally unreasonable: “I felt a moral obligation to contribute to humanity and the humanities, at this time when everybody is sounding a death knell for the humanities.” Okay, her grammar could use some improvement, but her heart is in the right place.

Personally, I wouldn’t charge $1200/week if I was a true patron of the arts.  The truly great, legitimate artists colonies are paid for, such as Yaddo, MacDowell, the Millay Colony, etc. I’m sure once the thing gets rolling, she will reduce the rate and get some donors… right, Michelle?  Michelle?

In any case, the article finally settles down into the real point of the situation: is this a “bad neighbor,” albeit a well-meaning one, creating another zoning violation in our beloved, leafy suburbs? We’ll see.  In the meantime, I hope do-gooders somehow prevail in making the world a better place, at least over snarky reporters who do nothing more than make us sneer for 5 minutes. Cheap shot, Penelope, cheap shot.

By the way, The New York Times has embellished the article with 12 photographs by Jane Beiles which supposedly affirm the ridiculousness of this setting. They all look fairly innocuous except for a goofy-looking dining room.

I’m Screaming…!

Dateline:  The New York Times. The latest error. June 2 edition.

Article title:  “Mobile Internet Rising, Report Says.”

Page: B7

Paragraph:  4.

Ms. Meeker… dismissed talk of a growing bubble in Internet stocks, despite screaming valuations for private companies… [my emphasis]

Did the writer — Vinda Goel — mean “screening?”