Seen, Read, 2016

As I do annually now, here’s my list of all the media I consumed in 2016, modeled after Steven Soderbergh’s format.

(For the record, I’m not counting the 100+ plays I read for my job at The Public Theater, or  the various workshops and readings I was invited to this year as part of my job. So if you think, “Oh, Jeremy, you don’t read as many plays anymore,” then you don’t know the half of it.)

All caps, bold: MOVIE

All caps, bold, plus asterisk: SHORT*

All caps: TV SERIES

All italics: Book

Quotation Marks: “Play” (in theatres)

Italics and Quotation Marks: “Short Story”

Underlined: Play (read)

1/1: THE AMERICANS (2); DUCK SOUP; EL TOPO

1/2: MR. ROBOT (2); COMEDIANS IN CARS GETTING COFFEE; THE GANG’S ALL HERE

1/3: MR. ROBOT (3)

1/4: CLOUDS OF SILS MARIA

1/5: A LETTER TO THREE WIVES; MR. ROBOT

1/6: THE DANISH GIRL; MR. ROBOT (3)

1/7: MR. ROBOT; MACBETH (2015); LATE SPRING

1/8: THE SQUID AND THE WHALE; MISHIMA: A LIFE IN FOUR CHAPTERS

1/9: PALE FLOWER

1/10: THE REVENANT

1/11: THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST

1/12: BIRDMAN

1/13: Memoirs of Hadrian, Marguerite Yourcenar; CATASTROPHE

1/14: THE BIG SHORT

1/15: A TALE OF TALES* (’79)

1/16: JULIET OF THE SIPRITS; ANOMALISA

1/17: THE AMERICANS (2)

1/18: BEING THERE

1/19: SIMON OF THE DESERT

1/22: The Death Seeker, Gao Xingjian; THE REVENANT

1/23: Final Cut: Dreams and Disaster in the Making of Heaven’s Gate, Steven Bach; “Nice Fish,” “A Big Mess,” “Donkey Show” (all A.R.T.)

1/25: THE READER; The Man Who, Peter Brook and Marie-Héléne Estienne; THE AMERICANS; SON OF SAUL

1/26: CRAZY EX-GIRLFRIEND; The Rest is Noise: Listening to the 20th Century, Alex Ross

1/27: THE AMERICANS (2)

1/28: THE AMERICANS

1/29: WOMAN IN THE DUNES

1/30: Hurlyburly, David Rabe; REAL TIME; THE AMERICANS (5)

1/31: “An Octoroon” (Arts Emerson); THE MERRY WIDOW (1934); Theatre of Revolt, Robert Brustein

2/1: for colored girls…, Ntozake Shange

2/2: GOSFORD PARK

2/3: WORLD OF TOMORROW*; AMERICAN CRIME STORY: THE PEOPLE VS. OJ SIMPSON; IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER

2/5: HAIL, CAESAR!

2/6: Brown is the New White, Steve Phillips

2/7: Heartbreak House, Bernard Shaw; STAGE DOOR; SUPER BOWL L

2/8: LITTLE WOMEN (1933)

2/9: ALICE ADAMS

2/10: THE KNICK (3); The Right Stuff, Tom Wolfe

2/11: THE KNICK (3); MUSTANG

2/12: THE KNICK; DONALD TRUMP’S THE ART OF THE DEAL: THE MOVIE*; PEOPLE VS. OJ

2/13: Caucasian Chalk Circle, Bertolt Brecht; “Milk Like Sugar” (Huntington)

2/14: THE GOLD RUSH; Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston; CABARET; THE KNICK (2)

2/15: LAST WEEK TONIGHT; THE KNICK (2); Molly’s Dream, Maria Irene Fornes

2/16: BETTER CALL SAUL; CRAZY EX-GIRLFRIEND (2)

2/18: The London Merchant, George Lillo; “1984” (A.R.T.)

2/19: STRANGER THAN FICTION; “The Essential Ella Maythorne” (Dixon Place)

2/20: “Smart People” (Second Stage); “The Cherry Orchard” (BAM)

2/22: Go Set a Watchman, Harper Lee

2/23: The Alchemist, Ben Jonson

2/24: The Other Shore, Gao; PEOPLE VS. OJ (2)

2/25: Persuasion, Jane Austen

2/26: The Weavers, Gerhart Hauptmann; DEADPOOL

2/27: Uncle Tom’s Cabin, George Aitkens; “As You Like It” (A.R.T.)

2/28: A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS; Ecstasy, Robert A. Johnson

2/29: Short Eyes, Miguel Piñero; CRAZY EX-GIRLFRIEND; A Man For All Seasons, Robert Bolt; They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?, adapt. Rick Sparks

3/1: THE WITCH; The Boys in the Band, Mart Crowley

3/2: “Three Sisters” (Arts Emerson)

3/4: “Paul’s Case,” Cather; “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge,” Bierce; “Hills Like White Elephants,” Hemingway

3/5: THE EXORCIST; REAL TIME

3/6: ZOOTOPIA

3/7: Our Town, Thornton Wilder; A SHORT FILM ABOUT KILLING; PEOPLE VS. OJ; THE FRENCH CONNECTION

3/8: The Madwoman of Chaillot, Jean Giraudoux; The Cocktail Party, T.S. Eliot

3/9: “HMS Pinafore” (Hypocrites at Oberon); PEOPLE VS. OJ

3/10: The House of Bernarda Alba, Federico Garcia Lorca

3/11: The Waltz of the Toreadors, Jean Anouilh

3/12: M. (1951); SAVE THE TIGER

3/13: Interpreter of Maladies, Jhumpa Lahiri

3/14: STARSHIP TROOPERS

3/17: The Maids, Jean Genet; “Dying for It” (A.R.T.)

3/18: BETTER CALL SAUL (4)

3/19: THE AMERICANS; It Can’t Happen Here, Sinclair Lewis; REAL TIME; ELMER GANTRY; THE BIG HOUSE

3/20: “Footfalls/Not I/Rockaby” (Arts Emerson); ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore, John Ford; The Best Man, Gore Vidal

3/21: RAGTIME; BFI Film Classics: Dr. Strangelove, Peter Kramer; FAIL SAFE

3/22: DR. STRANGELOVE

3/23: The Art of Asking, Amanda Palmer; SLING BLADE

3/24: THE AMERICANS; WAG THE DOG

3/25: COMEDIANS IN CARS; “Antigone Sr./Twenty Looks or Paris is Burning at the Judson Church” (ICA)

3/26: BATMAN VS. SUPERMAN; ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN

3/27: CRAZY EX-GIRLFRIEND; NIGHT OF THE SHOOTING STARS

3/28: THE SACRIFICE; The Well-Curb, Zeami Motokiyo

3/29: “Pelleas et Melisande” (Glyndebourne DVD)

3/30: PEOPLE VS. OJ (3)

3/31: CRAZY EX-GIRLFRIEND (3)

4/1: THE BLACK STALLION; Sakuntala, Kalidasa; “The Man Who” (Harvard)

4/2: Theory of the Modern Drama, Peter Szondi

4/3: The Secret History, Donna Tartt; THREE COLORS: BLUE

4/4: THREE COLORS: WHITE

4/5: THREE COLORS: RED; I Blame Dennis Hopper, Ileana Douglas

4/6: PEOPLE VS. OJ; “They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?” (A.R.T.)

4/7: The Jew of Malta, Christopher Marlowe; THE AMERICANS (2); EYE IN THE SKY

4/8: Zoo Story, Edward Albee; “Bootycandy” (Speakeasy)

4/14: The Appeal, Young Jean Lee; “Hear Word” (A.R.T.)

4/15: UNBREAKABLE KIMMY SCHMIDT (2) THE KNICK (3)

4/16: UKS; “Footfalls/Not I/Rockaby” (NYU Skirball); CHILDREN OF MEN

4/17: UKS (2); “Hold On to Me Darling” (Atlantic)

4/18: FROM CALIGARI TO HITLER; The Rover, Aphra Behn; THE KNICK (3); Cardboard Piano, Hansol Jung

4/19: CRAZY EX-GIRLFRIEND (2); Hamilton: The Revolution, Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter

4/20: YOU ONLY LIVE ONCE

4/21: The Stronger, August Strindberg; Six Characters in Search of an Author, Luigi Pirandello; “Historia de Amor” (Arts Emerson); UKS

4/22: UKS (2); When We Dead Awaken, Henrik Ibsen; GREEN ROOM

4/23: “The Peony Pavilion” (Chen Shi-Zeng, video); BETTER CALL SAUL (2)

4/24: DR. MABUSE, THE GAMBLER; LEMONADE; GAME OF THRONES; SILICON VALLEY

4/25: DER MUDE TOD; VEEP; THE AMERICANS; LAND WITHOUT BREAD*

4/26: NAKED LUNCH; THE AMERICANS

4/27: UKS (5)

4/28: PATTON OSWALT: TALKING FOR CLAPPING; THE AMERICANS

4/29: KEANU; THE LEFTOVERS (2)

4/30: THE LEFTOVERS (3); DIARY OF A LOST GIRL

5/1: GAME OF THRONES; SILICON VALLEY

5/2: Under the Net, Iris Murdoch; THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS; BUGSY

5/3: The Rolling Stone, Chris Urch; Common Sense, Thomas Paine; THE KNICK

5/5: THE AMERICANS; The School for Wives, Moliere; “Roosevelvis” (A.R.T.)

5/6: CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR

5/7: REAL TIME; THE WEST WING (3); The Knights, Aristophanes

5/8: THE WEST WING; THE JUNGLE BOOK (2016); THE SOCIAL NETWORK; GAME OF THRONES

5/9: THE WEST WING (3); “In the Body of the World” (A.R.T.)

5/10: SILICON VALLEY; EASTERN PROMISES; THE WEST WING

5/11: THE WEST WING (3)

5/12: THE WEST WING; MONEY MONSTER

5/13: SING STREET

5/14: “Happy Days” (Yale Rep); VEEP (2)

5/15: “The Judas Kiss” (BAM); GAME OF THRONES; SILICON VALLEY; VEEP

5/16: MARY TYLER MOORE; CATCH-22

5/17: MAKING A MURDERER

5/18: THE AMERICANS; MAKING A MURDERER; “Indecent” (Vineyard)

5/19: THE NIGHT MANAGER; THE AMERICANS

5/20: THE NIGHT MANAGER; “The Father” (MTC)

5/21: LADY DYNAMITE (2); “Shuffle Along” (Broadway)

5/22: “Hangmen” (National Theatre Live); SILICON VALLEY

5/23: GAME OF THRONES; VEEP; KES

5/24: MTM; THE WEST WING

5/25: THE LOBSTER; THE WEST WING

5/26: THE AMERICANS

5/27: “A Big Mess” (A.R.T.)

5/28: ANNIE HALL; THE GIRLFRIEND EXPERIENCE (2)

5/29: ALL IN THE FAMILY; “Dear Evan Hansen” (Second Stage); SILICON VALLEY

5/30: THE GIRLFRIEND EXPERIENCE (3); VEEP; GAME OF THRONES; THE DRESSER (2016)

5/31: TO DIE FOR; RAGING BULL; THE KNICK (2)

6/2: LE MILLION; THE AMERICANS; THE GIRLFRIEND EXPERIENCE (4)

6/3: LOVE & FRIENDSHIP; THE GIRLFRIEND EXPERIENCE (4)

6/4: “Oklahoma!” (Trinity Rep); WHEN WE WERE KINGS

6/5: WEINER; BLOODLINE; GAME OF THRONES; SILICON VALLEY

6/6: VEEP; GRIZZLY MAN

6/7: DRAGON INN

6/8: A NOUS LA LIBERTE; THE NIGHT MANAGER; THE AMERICANS

6/9: THE NIGHT MANAGER

6/10: THE FALLEN IDOL; BLOODLINE

6/11: THE NIGHT MANAGER (2); ULZANA’S RAID

6/12: SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS; THE TONY AWARDS

6/14: FULL FRONTAL; SILICON VALLEY; VEEP; Dressing Room Stories, Alvin Epstein and Jonathan Fried

6/15: O.J.: MADE IN AMERICA (2)

6/16: O.J.: MADE IN AMERICA; LA DOLCE VITA

6/17: DE PALMA; ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK (4)

6/18: FINDING DORY; O.J.: MADE IN AMERICA (2)

6/19: GAME OF THRONES (2); Middlemarch, George Eliot; SILICON VALLEY; VEEP

6/20: 4 MONTHS, 3 WEEKS, AND 2 DAYS; OITNB (2)

6/21: OITNB (6)

6/22: OITNB; THE LAST TYCOON; DO THE RIGHT THING

6/23: THE HOSPITAL

6/24: “True West” (2000, Lincoln Center Archives); “The King and I” (Lincoln Center)

6/25: “The Square Root of Three Sisters” (Yale)

6/26: MY COUSIN VINNY; GAME OF THRONES; SILICON VALLEY; VEEP

6/27: JULIUS CAESAR

6/28: THE FABULOUS BAKER BOYS

6/29: CLUELESS; FREDDY GOT FINGERED; “Twelfth Night” (Central Square Theatre)

6/30: BROAD CITY

7/2: “Shuffle Along”; UP

7/3: BLOOD SIMPLE

7/5: “Fences” (1987, Lincoln Center Archives)

7/6: “King Hedley II” (2001, Lincoln Center Archives)

7/7: My Life in Middlemarch, Rebecca Mead; OVERLORD

7/8: THE BFG; “Privacy” (Public Theater)

7/9: GEORGE STEVENS: A FILMMAKER’S JOURNEY

7/10: THE TRAVELLING PLAYERS; THE NIGHT OF

7/11: ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN

7/12: Uncommon Women and Others, Wendy Wasserstein

7/13: THE WEST WING (3)

7/14: Endgame, Samuel Beckett; THE WEST WING (4)

7/15: THE WEST WING; LES DOULOS

7/16: HUSBANDS

7/17: GHOSTBUSTERS (2016); KINGS OF THE ROAD; THE NIGHT OF

7/18: Live from New York, James Andrew Miller and Tom Shales; THE RNC

7/19: SOULS FOR SALE; Emma, Austen; STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON

7/20: THE PAPER CHASE; THE KILLING OF A CHINESE BOOKIE

7/21: LOVE STREAMS

7/22: BOJACK HORSEMAN (2); ULYSSES’ GAZE

7/23: CAFÉ SOCIETY

7/24: BOJACK HORSEMAN (2)

7/25: THE DNC

7/26: BOJACK HORSEMAN (2); I Remember Mama, John Van Druten; THE DNC

7/27: GRAND ILLUSION; Death of a Salesman, Miller; THE DNC

7/28: “The Overcoat,” Gogol; BOJACK HORSEMAN (2); MR. ROBOT (2)

7/29: MR. ROBOT; THE WEST WING

7/30: THE WEST WING; MR. ROBOT; KISS OF THE SPIDER WOMAN

7/31: BROADWAY DANNY ROSE

8/1: GOOD NIGHT, AND GOOD LUCK

8/2: “Troilus and Cressida” (Shakespeare in the Park)

8/3: THE RKO STORY

8/4: CARL TH. DREYER – MY METIER; SUICIDE SQUAD; BATMAN

8/5: STRANGER THINGS

8/6: INDIGNATION; BOJACK HORSEMAN

8/7: BOJACK HORSEMAN (3)

8/8: THE OLYMPICS; VISIONS OF LIGHT

8/9: “Fun Home” (Broadway); THE OLYMPICS

8/10: “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” (Broadway); THE OLYMPICS

8/11: Mets vs. Diamondbacks at CitiField

8/12: TEN CLOVERFIELD LANE; THE NIGHT OF

8/13: THE NIGHT OF; FLORENCE FOSTER JENKINS

8/14: STRANGER THINGS (3); Edward Gordon Craig, Denis Bablet

8/15: STRANGER THINGS (3)

8/16: STRANGER THINGS; FOUR WEDDINGS AND A FUNERAL

8/17: THE PEANUTS MOVIE; SCENT OF A WOMAN

8/18: SAUSAGE PARTY; MR. ROBOT (3)

8/19: REAR WINDOW; JAWS

8/20: I LOVE DICK; ROME

8/21: Silence, Shusako Endo; SABRINA

8/22: SUNRISE

8/23: CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND

8/24: WAITING FOR GUFFMAN

8/25: RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK

8/26: MONEYBALL

8/27: Slouching Towards Bethlehem, Joan Didion

8/28: E.T.

8/29: SCHINDLER’S LIST

8/30: SOUTHSIDE WITH YOU

8/31: WILLY WONKA & THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY; “Notes from the Field: Doing Time in Education” (A.R.T.)

9/1: I Love Dick, Chris Kraus

9/2; POPSTAR: NEVER STOP NEVER STOPPING; BURROUGHS: THE MOVIE; STEVE JOBS

9/3: THE NIGHT OF

9/4: BIRDMAN; THE NIGHT OF

9/5: THE NEW WORLD; HELL OR HIGH WATER

9/6: SNOWDEN

9/8: “A View from the Bridge” (Ahmanson); Libra, Don DeLillo

9/9: AUTHOR: THE JT LEROY STORY; ONE MISSISSIPPI (3)

9/10: SULLY; ONE MISSISSIPPI (3)

9/11: MUNICH

9/14: Mao II, DeLillo; THE NIGHT OF

9/15: SOUTH PARK; ATLANTA (2)

9/16: LA NOTTE

9/18: “Phaedra(s)” (BAM)

9/20: Stoner, John Edward Williams

9/21: TV: The Book, Matt Zoller Seitz and Alan Sepinwall; ATLANTA (2)

9/22: SOUTH PARK

9/23: TRANSPARENT (4)

9/24: DR. HORRIBLE’S SING-ALONG BLOG; TRANSPARENT

9/25: Faultfinders, Mark Osterloh

9/26: INTO THE WILD; THE FIRST PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE

9/27: DOCUMENTARY NOW! (2)

9/28: “Hamlet” (Public); ATLANTA

9/29: SOUTH PARK; “Songs of Lear” (BAM); DOCUMENTARY NOW!

9/30: THE DEER HUNTER; “Battlefield” (BAM)

10/1: TRANSPARENT; I, DANIEL BLAKE

 10/2: MANCHESTER BY THE SEA; MOONLIGHT

 10/3: PATERSON

 10/4: TONI ERDMANN

 10/5: Hungry, Richard Nelson; ZERO DARK THIRTY

10/6: FULL FRONTAL; THE BIRTH OF A NATION (’16)

10/7: 13TH; PERSONAL SHOPPER

10/8: “What Did You Expect” (Public); Butcher’s Crossing, Williams; 20TH CENTURY WOMEN

10/9: WESTWORLD (2); THE 2ND PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE

10/10: BEST WORST THING THAT EVER COULD’VE HAPPENED

10/11: FULL FRONTAL

10/12: “Les Liaisons Dangereuses” (Broadway)

10/13: SOUTH PARK; JACKIE

10/14: A Season in Hell, Arthur Rimbaud; ATLANTA (2)

10/15: BILLY LYNN’S LONG HALFTIME WALK; THE LOST CITY OF Z

10/16: “The Plough and the Stars” (Abbey Theatre at Annenberg Center, Penn)

10/17: ONE-EYED JACKS

10/18: “The Front Page” (Broadway)

10/19: The Natural, Bernard Malamud; “Don Giovanni” (The Met)

10/20: SOUTH PARK; ATLANTA; “A Life Behind Bars” (United Solo Festival)

10/22: “Underground Railroad Game” (Ars Nova)

10/23: SLEUTH (’72); AMERICAN HONEY

10/24: FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED

10/25: THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN; MEAN GIRLS

10/26: Cyprus Avenue, David Ireland; THE GOOD EARTH

10/27: SOUTH PARK

10/28: DOCUMENTARY NOW! (2)

10/29: REDS

10/31: LES DIABOLIQUES

11/1: THE WORLD’S GREATEST SINNER; “Party People” (Public)

11/2: WORLD SERIES GAME SEVEN: CUBS VS. INDIANS

11/4: THE NATURAL; DOCTOR STRANGE; BASEBALL (Ken Burns)

11/5: CRAZY EX-GIRLFRIEND (2)

11/6: CRAZY EX-GIRLFRIEND; “Kings of War” (BAM); BASEBALL

11/7: A Good Man is Hard to Find, Flannery O’Connor; PRIMARY

 11/8: FULL FRONTAL; LOVING

 11/9: SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN

11/10: THE WIZARD OF OZ

11/11: ARRIVAL; “The Trade Federation, or, Let’s Explore Globalization Through the Star Wars Prequels” (Columbia School of the Arts)

11/12: “The Front Page”; The Normal Heart, Larry Kramer; YANKEE DOODLE DANDY

11/13: CASABLANCA

11/14: THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD

11/15: The Skin of Our Teeth, Thornton Wilder; “Tiny Beautiful Things” (Public)

11/16: BASEBALL

11/17: “Fallujah” (NYC Opera)

11/18: NOCTURNAL ANIMALS; “Jamesie,” J.F. Powers

11/19: “‘Master Harold’…and the Boys” (Signature); CRAZY EX-GIRLFRIEND

11/20: “Plenty” (Public); HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN

11/22: THE INCREDIBLES; SEARCH PARTY (2)

11/23: SEARCH PARTY (5); MOONLIGHT

11/24: SEARCH PARTY (3); VERY BRITISH PROBLEMS

11/25: MANCHESTER BY THE SEA

11/26: SOUTH PARK; MOANA; TOY STORY

11/28: CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF; BETTER CALL SAUL (3)

11/29: TRANSPARENT; ARCHER

11/30: “The Wolves” (Playwrights Realm)

12/1: SOUTH PARK; TRANSPARENT (3); “Motherland” (Issue Project Room)

12/2: ELLE

12/3: “Women of a Certain Age” (Public); THE SHOP AROUND THE CORNER

12/4: “Frankenstein” (NTL); THE EDGE OF SEVENTEEN

12/6: CERTAIN WOMEN

12/7: Slaughterhouse-Five, Kurt Vonnegut; THE BIG SHORT

12/8: SOUTH PARK; “La Boheme” (Met)

12/9: LA LA LAND; OTHER PEOPLE

12/10: CRAZY EX-GIRLFRIEND

12/11: SEPARATE TABLES

12/12: PERSEPOLIS

12/13: HACKSAW RIDGE; HITCHCOCK/TRUFFAUT

12/14: “You’re Not Alone Anymore” (Stella Adler Studio); AIRPLANE!

12/17: Hitchcock/Truffaut, François Truffaut; “Appropriate” (Juilliard)

12/18: EVERY LITTLE STEP; FENCES

12/19: MOONSTRUCK

12/20: THE TREE OF WOODEN CLOGS

12/22: NORTH BY NORTHWEST; WALTZ WITH BASHIR

12/24: ATLANTA (2) FLEABAG

12/25: FLEABAG (3)

12/26: FLEABAG; SILENCE; DIE HARD

12/27: ROGUE ONE

12/28: POSTCARDS FROM THE EDGE; JACKIE

12/29: THE HANDMAIDEN

12/30: FLEABAG; CARLOS

12/31: MCCABE & MRS. MILLER

Seen, Read, 2015 (aka The Steven Soderbergh List)

steven-soderbergh3

I decided to consume my pop culture the Steven Soderbergh way this year – tracking everything I watched and read on every given day I did any. This list is dedicated to him as a result. As you can see, I rarely wasted a day.

All caps, bold: MOVIE
All caps: TV SERIES
All italics: Book
Quotation Marks: “Play” (in theatres)
Italics and Quotation Marks: “Short Story”
Underlined: Play (read)

1/1: HORSE FEATHERS; ANIMAL CRACKERS

1/2: Dark Avenues, Bunin; MR. TURNER

1/3: INHERENT VICE

1/4: AMERICAN SNIPER; LEVIATHAN

1/5: HEAVEN CAN WAIT (1978); IRIS

1/6: Silver Screen Fiend, Patton Oswalt

1/8: “In Dreams Begin Responsibilities,” Delmore Schwartz; THE RULES OF THE GAME

1/9: THE RULES OF THE GAME (w/commentary)

1/10: Black Snow, Bulgakov; CHILDREN OF PARADISE

1/11: “Polish Workshop” (A.R.T.); Ways of Curating, Hans Ulrich Obrist

1/13: NICHOLAS AND ALEXANDRA; BIRDMAN

1/14: “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love,” Carver; A Hero of Our Time, Lermontov

1/16: A Profitable Position, Ostrovsky; BLACKHAT (walkout)

1/17: Threads of Time, Peter Brook; A Profitable Position; NAVAJO JOE

1/18: She Stoops to Conquer, Oliver Goldsmith

1/19: American Music, Jane Mendelsohn; DJANGO

1/20: VEEP (2)

1/21: VEEP (4)

1/23: Eugene Onegin, Boris Godunov, Pushkin; “Father Comes Home From the Wars Parts 1, 2 & 3” (A.R.T.)

1/24: VEEP (3); Seven Against ThebesThe Suppliants, Aeschlyus; “Bride Widow Hag” (A.R.T.)

1/25: Children of Heracles, Orestes, Hecuba, Euripides; VEEP (4)

1/26: FORBIDDEN PLANET; Andromache, Electra, Euripides; ENLIGHTENED (6); Moliere, Bulgakov

1/27: Helen, The Suppliant Women, Euripides; THE LIFE OF OHARU

1/28: Gordon Craig’s Moscow Hamlet: A Reconstruction, Laurence Senelick

1/30: “White Rabbit, Red Rabbit” (UMass Amherst)

1/31: Nothing is True and Everything is Possible: The Surreal Heart of the New Russia, Peter Pomerantsev

2/1: CORALINE; PARANORMAN; SUPERBOWL: PATRIOTS VS. SEAHAWKS; THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE

2/2: Rhesus, Euripides; Curse of the Starving Class, Shepard; CLEO FROM 5 TO 7

2/3: THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY; HORROR OF DRACULA

2/5: THE AMERICANS; THE CHAMP

2/6: The Phoenician Women, Euripides; The Twin Menaechmi, Plautus; THE AMERICANS; “Cry Havoc” (Central Sq.)

2/7: Biedermann and the Firebugs, Frisch; Andromache, Racine; Anna in the Tropics, Cruz; THE AMERICANS (2)

2/8: The Balcony, Genet; Dulcitius, Hrosvitha; THE AMERICANS (2); “Saint Joan” (Central Sq.)

2/9: NORMA RAE; BETTER CALL SAUL; COAL MINER’S DAUGHTER; Nineteen-Eighty-Four, adapted by Robert Icke and Duncan Macmillan

2/10: BETTER CALL SAUL; SUSPICION; Time Steps, Donna McKechnie

2/11: The End of Acting, Richard Hornby; Iphigenia in Tauris, Euripides

2/12: Ion, Euripides

2/13: The Madness of Heracles, Euripides; MONSTER’S BALL

2/14: Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, Reza Aslan

2/15: PRIZZI’S HONOR; Heart of Darkness, Conrad; “Hamilton” (Public Theatre)

2/16: Enrico IV, Pirandello; THE AMERICANS (2); “Parade” (Avery Fisher Hall)

2/17: BETTER CALL SAUL; CATCH-22 (w/commentary); KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE

2/18: CHARLIE: THE LIFE AND ART OF CHARLES CHAPLIN

2/19: The Plough and the Stars, Juno and the Paycock, O’Casey; HOUSE OF CARDS (2); THE MIRACLE WORKER

2/20: THE AMERICANS; IDA; “Fish in the Dark” (Broadway)

2/21: “On the Twentieth Century” (Broadway); “Between Riverside and Crazy” (Second Stage)

2/22: “You Can’t Take it With You” (Broadway); THE 87TH ANNUAL ACADEMY AWARDS

2/23: BIRDMAN

2/24: THE TIME MACHINE

2/25: BETTER CALL SAUL

2/26: “The Necklace,” De Maupessant; PARKS AND REC

2/27: SEVEN DAYS IN MAY; The Mayor, Malgorzata Sikorska-Miszczuk

2/28: THE SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS MOVIE: SPONGE OUT OF WATER

3/1: No Matter How Hard We Tried, Dorota Maslowska; ALICE DOESN’T LIVE HERE ANYMORE; PADDINGTON

3/2: THE THIRD MAN

3/3: “Amok” (Polish Theatre Academy)

3/4: THE DEAD CLASS; “Scenario For A Non-Existent But Potential Instrumental Actor” (Theatre Academy)

3/5: “Queen Peacock” (Starsy Theatre)

3/6: The Great Beanie Baby Bubble: Mass Delusion and the Madness of Cute, Zac Bissonette; “The Oresteia” (Starsy Theatre)

3/7: MAPS TO THE STARS; UNBREAKABLE KIMMY SCHMIDT (2)

3/8: UKS (2)

3/11: UKS (2)

3/13: An Ideal Husband, Wilde; BETTER CALL SAUL (2)

3/15: “The Lonely Voice” (MXAT); THE JINX

3/16: Crime and Punishment, Dostoevsky; “The Seagull” (MXAT, read and saw)

3/17: THE JINX (2); “Boys and Girls” (Mayakovsky Theatre); THE NEIGHBORS

3/18: “An Ideal Husband” (MXAT)

3/19: MAN WITH A MOVIE CAMERA; “The Sound and the Fury” (MXAT); THE JINX (2)

3/20: THE JINX; “1914 Cabaret” (MXAT)

3/21: The Taming of the Shrew, Shakespeare; “A Streetcar Named Desire” (MXAT)

3/22: “Gooseberries,” “The House With the Mezzanine,” “The Peasant Women,” “Easter Night,” “The Darling,” Chekhov; “The Taming of the Shrew” (Satirikon)

3/23: “A Medical Case,” “On Official Business,” “Expensive Lessons,” “At Christmastime,” “A Boring Story,” Chekhov; STAR 80

3/24: BETTER CALL SAUL

3/25: BETTER CALL SAUL; “Jeweler’s Jubilee” (MXAT)

3/26: BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN; “Sir Vantes: Donkey Hote” (School Of Dramatic Arts)

3/27: “King Lear” (Satirikon); HIGH SOCIETY

3/28: Demons, Dostoevsky; “Measure For Measure” (Pushkin Theatre)

3/29: “The Cherry Orchard” (MXAT, MDT production)

3/30: GOING CLEAR; “The Karamazovs” (MXAT, walkout)

3/31: The Gamblers, “The Overcoat,” Gogol; “The Bronze Horseman,” Pushkin

4/1: Mozart and Salieri, Pushkin; “Dead Souls” (Gogol Center)

4/2: As You Like It, Shakespeare; “The Master and Margarita” (MXAT)

4/3: BETTER CALL SAUL; Three Sisters, Chekhov

4/4: Boris Godunov; “The Golovlyevs” (MXAT)

4/5: The Duel, Chekhov; “No. 13D” (MXAT)

4/6: The Good Person of Szechwan, Brecht; LAST WEEK TONIGHT

4/7: “The Metamorphosis,” Kafka; BETTER CALL SAUL; LIFE ITSELF; THE WAR GAME

4/9: THE CRANES ARE FLYING

4/10: “The Kitchen,” Wesker (Satirikon); “The Student,” “The Black Monk,” “Vanka,” Chekhov

4/11: “In Exile,” “In the Ravine,” Chekhov; “Much Ado About Nothing” (Pushkin)

4/12: “The Nose,” Gogol; “Late Love” (SDA)

4/13: SILICON VALLEY; VEEP; A Month in the Country, Turgenev; “(Mu)chinik” (Gogol Center)

4/14: GAME OF THRONES; “Romeo and Juliet” (Satirikon)

4/15: “Three Sisters” (Pushkin)

4/16: A STEAMROLLER AND A VIOLIN; “Hamlet Collage” (Theatre of Nations)

4/17: ROCCO AND HIS BROTHERS; UKS (2)

4/18: UKS (2); “Brothers” (Gogol Center)

4/19: UKS (3); ATARI: GAME OVER; ORPHAN BLACK (2)

4/20: SILICON VALLEY

4/21: Act One, Moss Hart; “Katya, Sonya, Polya” (SDA)

4/22: Jesus Hopped the A Train, Stephen Adly Gurgis; VEEP; “Fear” (Gogol Center)

4/23: Diary of a Scoundrel, Ostrovsky; LITTLE VERA

4/24: “Madame Butterfly” (Mariinsky Opera)

4/26: NATURAL BORN KILLERS; ORPHAN BLACK

4/27: SILICON VALLEY; VEEP; GAME OF THRONES (2)

4/28: MEPHISTO; “Mephisto” (MXAT)

4/29: “The Tales of Hoffmann” (Stanislavsky Music Theatre)

4/30: “Peer Gynt” (Lenkom Theatre)

5/1: ORPHAN BLACK (3); Orson Welles: Power, Heart, and Soul, F.X. Feeney

5/2: ORPHAN BLACK (2); “London Show/Pygmalion” (Satirikon)

5/3: “The Tale of Kai and Gerda” (Bolshoi)

5/4: SILICON VALLEY; VEEP

5/5: “An Evening of Dostoevsky w/Konstantin Raikin” (Satirikon); Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief, Lawrence Wright

5/6: THE MASTER; “Eugene Onegin” (Vakhtangov)

5/7: INSIDE AMY SCHUMER; The Idiot, Dostoevsky; BROTHER; “Anna Karenina” (Vakhtangov)

5/9: GRACE AND FRANKIE

5/10: Will and the World, Stephen Greenblatt; “Uncle Vanya,”(Vakhtangov, walkout); GAME OF THRONES; Zoya’s Apartment, Bulgakov

5/11: VEEP; Our Lady of 121st Street, Gurgis; The Country Wife, Wycherley; “Zoya’s Apartment” (MXAT)

5/12: The Beggar’s Opera, Gay; GAME OF THRONES; The Marriage of Figaro, De Beaumarchais; At the Hawk’s Well, Yeats; “The Cherry Orchard” (MXAT)

5/13: The Rivals, Sheridan; All For Love, Dryden; Riders to the Sea, Synge; “Tartuffe” (Pushkin, walkout)

5/14: Death and the Fool, Von Hofmannsthal; THE WEDDING; PEAKY BLINDERS; Miss Lonelyhearts, West

5/15: He Who Gets Slapped, Andreyev; PEAKY BLINDERS (2)

5/16: The Untold History of the United States, Stone and Kuznick; IF…

5/17: Just Kids, Patti Smith; PRICK UP YOUR EARS

5/18: VEEP; GAME OF THRONES; “A Profitable Position” (MXAT)

5/19: “The Forest,” Ostrovsky (MXAT)

5/20: “Three Sisters” (Workshop, MXAT); “As You Like It From Shakespeare’s Play A Midsummer Night’s Dream” (SDA)

5/22: OFFICE SPACE; WHITE HEAT

5/23: THE ROARING TWENTIES; THUNDERBOLT AND LIGHTFOOT

5/24: MAD MAX: FURY ROAD

5/25: “Hamlet” (Berliner Ensemble)

5/26: VEEP; “Woyzeck,” Büchner (Berliner Ensemble)

5/27: SILICON VALLEY (3); GAME OF THRONES

5/29: Tender is the Night, Fitzgerald; THE LAST 5 YEARS; BLACK MIRROR (3)

5/30: God of Carnage, Reza; BLACK MIRROR (3)

5/31: “The Communist Manifesto,” Marx & Engels; “Twelfth Night” (Berliner Ensemble)

6/1: OLIVER TWIST; BOTTLE ROCKET; EX MACHINA; ORPHAN BLACK (4)

6/2: ACT OF VIOLENCE; Talley’s Folly, Lanford Wilson; “Crossing” (A.R.T.)

6/3: SILICON VALLEY; VEEP; WHILE WE’RE YOUNG

6/4: “Christmas is a Sad Season For the Poor,” Cheever; LOUIE (2)

6/5: LOUIE (2); THE MUSIC ROOM

6/6: “Spring Awakening” (Deaf Theatre West); LOUIE (4)

6/7: THE DOUBLE LIFE OF VERONIQUE; GAME OF THRONES (2); NBA FINALS: WARRIORS VS. CAVALIERS

6/8: VEEP; SILICON VALLEY

6/9: FRENCH CANCAN; The Beaux’s Stratagem, Farquhar

6/10: BRIGHTON ROCK; LOVE AND MERCY

6/11: MEAN STREETS; THE AMERICANIZATION OF EMILY

6/12: ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK (2); ME AND EARL AND THE DYING GIRL

6/13: Murder in the Cathedral, Eliot; OITNB (3); Playboy Jazz Fest at the Hollywood Bowl

6/14: MIDNIGHT RUN; SILICON VALLEY; VEEP

6/15: GAME OF THRONES

6/16: “Hodel,” Sholom Aleichem

6/18: Bonfire of the Vanities, Wolfe

6/20: The Devil’s Candy: The Anatomy of a Hollywood Fiasco, Julie Salamon; OITNB (2)

6/21: OITNB; INSIDE OUT; TRUE DETECTIVE

6/23: OITNB (4)

6/24: HAPPY VALLEY; GET CARTER; AMERICAN MASTERS: JEROME ROBBINS

6/25: THE FACE BEHIND THE MASK; WET HOT AMERICAN SUMMER

6/26: “Peter Pan Jr.” (Priscilla Beach Theatre)

6/27: REAL TIME; O LUCKY MAN! 

6/28: Black Fiddler, Richard Piro; JAWS

6/30: DODSWORTH; THE DAY OF THE JACKAL

7/1: THE LADYKILLERS 

7/2: DONT LOOK BACK; THE ROOM

7/3: TOTAL RECALL

7/5: THE WARRIORS; 48 HOURS 

7/7: MASTERS OF SEX; YANKEE DOODLE DANDY

7/8: Bleak House, Charles Dickens

7/10: WAITING FOR GUFFMAN

7/11: ON DANGEROUS GROUND

7/12: Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence, Daniel Goleman; TO BE OR NOT TO BE

7/13: THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI

7/14: DAREDEVIL (2); GET SHORTY

7/15: THE CONFORMIST

7/16: THE ACT OF KILLING

7/17: BOJACK HORSEMAN (6)

7/18: Stage Blood, Michael Blakemore; “Crazytown” (PBT); BOJACK HORSEMAN (3)

7/19: BOJACK HORSEMAN (3); TRAINWRECK

7/20: LAST WEEK TONIGHT

7/21: “Bells Are Ringing” (Barrington Theatre, walkout)

7/22: OITNB

7/23: THE AMERICANS

7/24: THE AMERICANS

7/27: U2 at Madison Square Garden

7/28: “Jerusalem” (Lincoln Center Archives)

7/30: AFTER DARK, MY SWEET; IT FOLLOWS; “Cruel Intentions the Musical” (The Rockwell)

7/31: WET HOT AMERICAN SUMMER: FIRST DAY OF CAMP (4); THE SOCIAL NETWORK (w/commentary)

8/1: Travesties, Stoppard; APOCALYPSE NOW

8/2: LISTEN TO ME MARLON; “Everyman” (National Theatre Live)

8/3: BEST OF ENEMIES

8/4: White Noise, Don DeLillo; THE LOOK OF SILENCE; DUDE, WHERE’S MY CAR?; ANGRY BOYS

8/5: DICK VAN DYKE; LEGACY (2); THE END OF THE TOUR

8/6: THE REPUBLICAN NATIONAL DEBATE; THE DAILY SHOW FINALE

8/7: BLOODLINE (3)

8/8: BLOODLINE (3); MR. HOLMES

8/9: ANT-MAN; BLOODLINE

8/10: BLOODLINE

8/11: BLOODLINE (2); WILD TALES; DR. STRANGELOVE

8/12: So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed, Jon Ronson

8/13: Amphitryon, Plautus; HEARTS OF DARKNESS: A FILMMAKER’S APOCALYPSE; The Infernal Machine, Cocteau

8/14: MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE ROGUE NATION

8/15: BLOODLINE (3)

8/16: 3 WOMEN; “The Decision,” John O’Hara; BAD DAY AT BLACK ROCK (w/commentary)

8/17: “Man and Superman” (National Theatre Live)

8/19: AMERICAN CRIME; As vs. Dodgers at Oakland Coliseum

8/20: AMERICAN CRIME; “Audition” (Generation Theatre)

8/21: AMERICAN CRIME; BLACK MIRROR: WHITE CHRISTMAS; DOCUMENTARY NOW!

8/22: THE TOWERING INFERNO

8/23: Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates; Yerma, Lorca; BABE

8/24: All My Sons, Miller; STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON; GODFATHER 2

8/25: THE DEVIL’S BACKBONE; MANOS: THE HANDS OF FATE (MST3K)

8/26: MIDNIGHT EXPRESS

8/27: Streetcar, Williams; Come Back, Little Sheba, Inge

8/28: MARAT/SADE; AILEEN: LIFE AND DEATH OF A SERIAL KILLER

8/29: AMERICAN CRIME

8/30: DOCUMENTARY NOW!

8/31: Death of a Salesman, Miller; WORKING GIRL; REVERSAL OF FORTUNE

9/3: When Things Fall Apart, Pema Chodron; “Waitress” (A.R.T.)

9/4: The Suicide, Erdman

9/5: EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOP

9/6: Dying For It, Moira Buffini; BURDEN OF DREAMS; AMY

9/7: “Sadko” (Bolshoi Opera, video); SALESMAN

9/8: JESUS CAMP

9/9: The Magic Mountain, Thomas Mann; “Tristan und Isolde” (Glyndebourne, video)

9/10: THE THIN BLUE LINE

9/11: 10 RILLINGTON PLACE

9/12: ADAPTATION

9/13: DOGVILLE

9/14: How Did American Slavery Begin, Edward Countryman, ed.; THE SPY WHO CAME IN FROM THE COLD

9/15: THE AMERICANS

9/16: THE AMERICANS (2)

9/17: Narrative of…the Life of James Gronniosaw; SOUTH PARK; BLACK MASS

9/18: KLUTE; THE GOOD LIE

9/19: SICARIO; “Hand to God” (Broadway)

9/20: PLACES IN THE HEART

9/21: Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano; ‘71

9/22: Madame Bovary, Flaubert; The Shipment, Young Jean Lee

9/23: The Madman and the Nun, Witkiewicz

9/24: SOUTH PARK; Princess Ivona, Gombrowicz

9/25: SHOW BOAT (1951)

9/26: DRESSED TO KILL; “Ernest Shackleton Loves Me” (Arts Emerson)

9/27: Bury the Chains, Adam Hochschild; SEINFELD (2); SEVEN DAYS IN HELL

9/28: THE STUNT MAN

9/30: THE RULING CLASS; “La Boheme” (Boston Lyric Opera)

10/1: SOUTH PARK; THE MARTIAN

10/2: “Porgy and Bess” (A.R.T., video); UNDERWORLD (1927)

10/3: “The Humans” (Roundabout, Laura Pels); “17 Border Crossings” (BAM)

10/4: The Black Jacobins, C.L.R. James; “Barbecue” (The Public); REAL TIME

10/5: VANYA ON 42ND STREET; HEART OF GLASS

10/7: The Trials of Phillis Wheatley, Henry Louis Gates Jr.; HOT FUZZ

10/8: THE AMERICANS; “Kansas City Choir Boy” (Oberon)

10/9: THE AMERICAN EXPERIENCE: WALT DISNEY; THE AMERICANS

10/10: THE AMERICANS; THE WALK

10/11: DOCUMENTARY NOW! (2); THE GRINDER

10/12: ROGER & ME; THE AMERICANS (2); Crack Wars: Literature Addiction Mania, Avital Shira

10/13: FARGO; A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH

10/14: THE AMERICANS (2)

10/15: SOUTH PARK; CRIMSON PEAK

 10/16: THE GRINDER; “Ayn Rand/Godhead” (Oberon)

10/17: STEVE JOBS

10/18: STEVE JOBS: THE MAN IN THE MACHINE; THE AMERICANS

10/19: STEVE JOBS

10/20: Native Son, Richard Wright; AMADEUS; BOB’S BURGERS; FARGO

10/21: BOB’S BURGERS; FIGHT CLUB

10/22: SOUTH PARK; PERSONA

10/23: CRIES AND WHISPERS

10/24: The Heroic Slave, Frederick Douglass; “The Shipment” (A.R.T.); THE LAST MOVIE

10/25: Appeal to the Colored Citizens of the World, David Walker; BRIDGE OF SPIES; MADAME BOVARY (1949)

10/26: ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN; THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE

10/29: The Oldest Dead White European Males, Bernard Knox; SOUTH PARK; CRAZY EX-GIRLFRIEND

10/30: BEASTS OF NO NATION; “Things You Don’t Know About Asian/Midnight Society Part 2” (A.R.T.)

10/31: FARGO; I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE

11/1: The Confessions of Nat Turner, William Styron; ROOM

11/2: Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave; SUFFRAGETTE; THE WAGES OF FEAR

11/3: FARGO; CRAZY EX-GIRLFRIEND (2)

11/4: SORCERER; MISSING

11/5: LOS OLVIDADOS; CRAZY EX-GIRLFRIEND; “Who Would Be King” (Oberon); ONE MISSISSIPPI

11/6: Life of William Grimes, the Runaway Slave; SPOTLIGHT

11/7: A Clockwork Orange, Burgess; PROJECT GREENLIGHT (2); “Choice” (Huntington)

11/8: PROJECT GREENLIGHT (6); MASTER OF NONE

11/9: Twelve Years a Slave, Solomon Northup; MASTER OF NONE

11/10: THE BIG RED ONE; CRAZY EX-GIRLFRIEND

11/11: FARGO

11/12: SOUTH PARK; Our Nig, Harriet Wilson; THE FRONT PAGE (1931); “Chopin Without Piano” (Arts Emerson)

11/13: SPECTRE

11/14: CASABLANCA; REAL TIME

11/15: PICNIC AT HANGING ROCK; Really Really, Paul Downs Colaizzo

11/16: BROOKLYN

11/17: CRAZY EX-GIRLFRIEND; The Coast of Utopia, Stoppard; FARGO

11/18: Flaubert: The Uses of Uncertainty, Jonathan Culler; “Harvard Cabaret – Stress” (Signet Club)

11/19: SOUTH PARK; PREDATOR

11/20: TRUMBO; IN THE LINE OF FIRE

11/21: LE BOUCHER; DRUNK HISTORY (3); Making Scenes, Bob Brustein

11/22: LE JOUR SE LEVE 

11/23: MASTER OF NONE (2)

11/24: A SUNDAY IN THE COUNTRY; MASTER OF NONE; YOUTH; He, Robert Johnson

11/25: She, Johnson; LETHAL WEAPON; CREED

11/27: “A View From the Bridge” (Broadway); SPY

11/28: “King Charles III” (Broadway); “Pilobolus – Shadowland” (NYU Skirball)

11/29: “Fiddler on the Roof” (Broadway); JESSICA JONES (2)

11/30: SHINE; JESSICA JONES (2); CRAZY EX-GIRLFRIEND; Late Company, Jordan Tannahill

12/1: TRANSPARENT; CRAZY EX-GIRLFRIEND; The Tenth Muse, Patrick J. Smith

12/2: FARGO

12/3: SOUTH PARK; FARGO

12/4: CHI-RAQ; JESSICA JONES (2)

12/5: JESSICA JONES (2); Marriage, Gogol

12/6: THE GOOD DINOSAUR; PEE WEE’S BIG ADVENTURE

12/7: THE PAWNBROKER

12/8: FARGO; We, Johnson

12/9: Long Days Journey Into Night, O’Neill; On Writing, Stephen King

12/10: SOUTH PARK; “Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812” (A.R.T.)

12/11: TRANSPARENT (4); THE MOTHER AND THE WHORE

12/12: TRANSPARENT (5); SHE WORE A YELLOW RIBBON

12/14: STEVE JOBS; THE BIG SHORT

12/15: FARGO

12/16: The Spy Who Came In From the Cold, John Le Carre; CAROL

12/17: THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD 

12/18: STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS

12/20: TANGERINE

12/21: MAD MAX: FURY ROAD 

12/22: IN THE BEDROOM; THE HATEFUL EIGHT 

12/23: JOY; STAR WARS: TFA

12/25: A Christmas Carol, Dickens; CONCUSSION; THIEF

12/26: The Road Not Taken: Finding America in the Poem Everyone Loves and Almost Everyone Gets Wrong, David Orr

12/27: MAD MAX: FURY ROAD

12/28: JESSICA JONES; THE THIN RED LINE

12/29: JESSICA JONES (2); THE REVENANT

12/30: JESSICA JONES (2); 45 YEARS; HOLIDAY BOWL: USC VS. WISCONSIN

Why Michael Mann Isn’t As Good As You Think He Is

michael-mann-photo-539042fe2a7a4

After walking out of Blackhat a few weeks ago, I’ve been questioning whether or not Michael Mann is a great director, or if he was ever as good as I used to think he was.

I seriously used to be a huge fan of his films. His best (Heat, The Insider, Collateral) were fascinating psychological studies of cops, criminals and TV journalists. He’s been incredibly influential – without Heat, we’d have no Dark Knight, and thanks to the look he pioneered on Miami Vice and Crime Story, he set the standard for production design in network television (a look he largely stole from Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Conformist.) But lately I’ve become increasingly disappointed with his cinematic output, and his latest film, Blackhat, is proof positive that he’s no longer at the top of his game.

I went into Blackhat thinking that there was no way it could be as bad as Miami Vice, which, eight years ago, gave me the first hint that maybe Mann wasn’t as great as I previously thought he was. Amazingly enough, it managed to be even worse, and since I consider Miami Vice one of the worst films of all time, this means Blackhat is now somewhere on my “all-time worst” list, somewhere above J. Edgar and beneath Disaster Movie. It’s a massively incompetent film that exemplifies all the things that drive me crazy about Mann.

How does Mann drive me crazy? Let me count the ways:

Unknown

He sucks at establishing characters.
This may be a factor of my ADHD, but whatever it is, I have noticed that, as a moviegoer, if I do not know the names of the characters, or the names of the actors playing them, I emotionally check out of the movie and spend most of it going, “Who are you?” With the exception of Collateral, Mann does this with every one of his movies. The only ways I’ve been able to follow Heat and The Insider have been by writing out the plots on my laptop or in a notebook, which I did when studying his films in my 9th grade Film Studies class. It’s such a pervasive problem for me that I’ve called it “The Michael Mann Problem” for many years now, because the first time I noticed this was while watching his films, and with almost every one of his movies he’s committed this sin. Which brings me to my next point…

ali-2001-07-g

He’s too far ahead of the story for his own good.
The best piece of advice I’ve ever heard about exposition comes from the director Charles Crichton: “Get ahead of the audience.” It will always save your ass, but if you go too many steps ahead of them, then they’ll be stuck playing catch-up and won’t listen to what you’re saying – like if they’re trying to figure out the names of the characters. Mann does this in such a way that he assumes you already know the major points of the story, so that he doesn’t have to focus on them. This is what derailed Ali for me – apart from the classic biopic problem of “Trying to cram all the major life events into a movie,” Ali’s failure stems largely from its assumption that the audience already knew everything about Muhammad Ali’s life going in. Therefore, none of the major moments in his life resonated, because they were all rushed over and couldn’t breathe as cinema.

22ee2766_tom-cruise-collateral-subway

He can’t shoot digital. There, I said it.
For everyone’s praise towards Mann’s cinematography in his last couple movies, I’m here to burst that bubble. Michael Mann has no idea how to make digital cinematography have any majesty or grandeur to it. I’ll let him off on Collateral, because that was a combination of digital and 35mm, and for shooting night scenes, looking a little grainy can be OK. But Miami Vice felt like nothing but pixels, Public Enemies’ muted pallet was so devoid of liveliness that he might as well have just shot the whole film in black and white, and Blackhat is so jittery it might as well have been shot by someone from the Michael J. Fox School of Fine Camera Holding. Stop giving me this whole “artistry with a camera” stuff. I can shoot better, clearer pictures on my iphone. In a world where we have beautiful digital films like Life of Pi and Birdman, he should be ashamed.

033_gong_li_theredlist

No interest in female characters.
Name one interesting woman in a Michael Mann film. I can’t, can you? If you can, then you’re a better man than I am, Gunga Din. Sure, Mann can get some good performances out of women – Amy Breneman in Heat, Marion Cotillard in Public Enemies, but is there any question that he spends more time focusing on male psychology than on female? The only reason women exist in his films is to provide love interests for the men, and when the men try to save them, he’s usually off his game as a storyteller – the final act of Collateral, where Jamie Foxx tries to save Jada Pinkett Smith from Tom Cruise, keeps it from being an A+ movie and knocks it down to a B+. And the fact that he repeated the exact same male-female dynamic in both Miami Vice and Blackhat – brooding dark guy with sexy Asian lady! – without realizing the shallowness of the relationship in the first place, is just absurd.  I genuinely want to know: if more women were movie critics than men, would they consider Mann the artist that most male critics do?

Chris-Hemsworth-in-Blackhat-slice

He doesn’t seem to know what the internet is.
This is a Blackhat-related complaint mostly, but Mann is the latest in a long line of filmmakers recently who seem to have no idea how the internet works or what it does. Yes, the internet and the rise in digital technology is like fire – it can cook your food or burn your house down – but isn’t presenting it as an evil, monolithic thing that anyone can hack into such a cliché at this point? Men Women and Children and Disconnect were laughed off the screen for this cliché, and Blackhat deserves to be too. And if you want a great story about how scary technology can be, watch Black Mirror.

All of this is to say that Mann is proof of the major weakness of the auteur theory: that auteurist critics will try to justify anything a director they like does, while losing the ability to tell a good film from a bad film. Much of this has to do with the fact that, while directors are still alive, it’s hard to do this. Picasso was the greatest painter of the 20th century, but we’re far enough from his moment in history to be able to say where he was good and where he failed. We don’t know how to do that with movie directors – Godard, Hitchcock and Mann being prime victims of the auteur theory. Because Mann has a unique style, and similar themes in all his films, auteurists give him books and long articles praising everything he does. But having a style doesn’t necessarily make you a good director – it just means you have a style. Sidney Lumet never had a “style” that pervaded all his films, because he knew that the style had to change from film to film, and be attached to the content, not independent of it. Mann never detaches his singular “style” from anything he does, and as a result his movies all dissolve into a blur of hyper-masculine B.S. I’ll still like his good work. But as of now, I’m turning in my fan club badge.

Hope: The Great Casualty of Gun Violence

Last year I went to a party for someone in the entertainment industry, attended largely by TV writers.  I left the party feeling angry, not because it was a bad party, but because all anyone talked about was “the business.”  Normally, that’s what I talk about with friends anyway, but this party was different, because it was the day after the Sandy Hook massacre, and not one person there was talking about it.  They were all just common, middle-aged writers asking, “So what’s on your Oscar ballot?”

I get it.  I get that people don’t want to talk about an elementary school shooting at a party.  But in the midst of a national tragedy, it seemed like nobody cared.  Like these people had become inured to it, like, “it’s not my problem.”  I left that party incredibly terrified that I might become like those writers, so involved in my own bubble that no one else’s troubles can penetrate it.  I understand that our empathy must have limits – if we were to distribute it equally among all the people in this world suffering, then our lives would become unlivable.  But I cannot stand that, in this country, the murder of innocent men, women and children is seen as a commonplace thing.  Like, “Oh, another one.”

This weekend, the Isla Vista massacre has brought up all these feelings in me again, only I feel more defeated.  In the nearly year-and-a-half since Sandy Hook, more than 35,000 Americans have been the victims of gun violence.  Let that number sink in for a moment: 35,000.  That’s more than Japan, Spain, France, The United Kingdom, Greece, Australia and New Zealand combined.  The NRA has become the secret benefactor of the American government, constantly pushing for laxer gun control laws so that more people can buy their products and rampage as much as they want.

How can we stop this?  The most ludicrous answers are now taken seriously.  Seven years ago, after Virginia Tech, a Daily Show report focused on one man’s efforts to have teachers carry guns.  But like most satire, it was truer than we gave it credit for: after Sandy Hook, Newsweek headlined a disgraceful op-ed arguing the “good person with a gun can stop a bad person with a gun” theory by David Mamet, of all people.  I’m not saying that Newsweek or David Mamet has much national influence anymore – one stopped writing anything of quality more than twenty years ago and the other is Newsweek – but that any magazine would run such a heinous article based on a belief so rudimentary that even third-graders would reject it, is a devastating sign of the times.

The NRA’s great victory in their attempts at controlling the government is this: they’ve killed our ability to hope.  To hope that things may change; to hope that we may see people come to their senses; to hope that this will go away any time soon.  Nobody should abide this, but the NRA wants us to.  I feel myself, this weekend, turning into one of the writers at that party, caring more about what people think of X-Men: Days of Future Past than debating this point.  But the one part of me that still believes change is possible won’t let me give in so easily.

Guns are our national disease.  We are all connected in some way to these massacres, even if we weren’t directly involved.  We know someone who knew someone, or we have experienced the terror these weapons carry in our own lives.  I have found myself looking at certain people I’ve gone to school with my life, and been terrified that they would bring a gun onto campus.  I should not have to live with that terror.  Nobody should have to live with it.  Yet rather than petitioning for Congress to pass gun laws, most schools will just install mandatory metal detectors, as is done at many public schools.  No school should have a security check – we should be allowed to go there and feel safe.  We should feel safe anywhere.  But NRA-backed politicians feel the only cure for guns is “more guns,” so we have laws like Georgia’s bill, allowing residents to carry guns everywhere they go, or the risible “Stand your ground” rules in Florida.  France does not resort to these rules.  No sensible countries do.  But who says we’re a sensible country?  We allowed five corrupt justices to hand the country over to George W. Bush.

Please be angry.  Please, please, please be angry.  To the #yesallwomen tweeters, I support you.  To Richard Martinez, the father of one of this weekend’s victims, your words to the press were inspiring.  There are moments in human history where rage is what is needed, not complacency.  This is one of them.  Your anger can be a powerful motivator, because, if pointed in the right direction, it can create the possibility for change.

Anger can keep hope alive.

The Searchers and the Myth of Perfection

0000-se1220658066

It’s been in vogue for critics to snipe at John Ford for a long time, from David Thomson to Quentin Tarantino.  I even took shots at him when I was studying film in high school and disbelieved in anything sentimental.  This all changed when I saw The Searchers for the first time, between my sophomore and junior year.  I was resisting it throughout much of its running time: the scenes with the Indian bride are in bad taste (and just not funny), Jeffrey Hunter isn’t much of an actor, the supporting characters can be cloying, etc.  I was ready to write the movie off until the final shot of John Wayne standing in the door, letting his niece Debbie and Martin “Blankethead” Pawley go into the house, realizing he can’t be with them, and walking away for the last time.  It’s the cinematic equivalent of Moses looking out at the Promised Land and realizing he can’t enter – and all of a sudden, all my criticisms of the film became insignificant.

The Searchers has long been regarded as John Ford’s masterpiece, but lately, it’s been taking its fair share of criticism.  Most of these have come from curmudgeons who live to tell you why that thing you like isn’t good.  Ford-basher-in-residence Jeff Wells of Hollywood Elsewhere loves to rerun an old column from time to time about how The Searchers drives him crazy.  More to the point, Joe Queenan recently leveled charges of mediocrity at not only The Searchers (for most of the reasons listed above) but also The Maltese Falcon, Breathless, 2001: A Space Odyssey and Animal House among others, arguing for the re-evaluation of movies that are called “great” but may not be anymore.  But Queenan’s piece is marred by his major flaw as a critic: he lacks the ability to dig deep into what he’s arguing about to convince you that he’s right.  Even when I agree with him on what films are still classic, I still think the tone of his article is wrong.  And I think the tone Jeff Wells takes when he attacks The Searchers (and other Ford movies) is also misguided.  The question that these people need to ask is: can a work of art have lots of things wrong with it and still be considered great?  And to that, my answer is a resounding yes.

Look, the quest for perfection is a mug’s game.  Even the works that we consider bastions of excellence have their flaws.  I think Moby-Dick is the greatest American novel of all time.  It’s probably my favorite novel after War and Peace.  This is not to say that Moby-Dick is always great, though.  Sometimes I want to throw it across the room.  There are many chapters that are just Ishmael/Melville talking about whaling, and since I’m never going to go whaling, I really don’t care at points.  But then Melville writes a chapter like “The Doubloon” or “The Symphony” or “The Candles” and all of a sudden, I’m in love with it all over again.  I remember reading an article in one of American Heritage’s overrated/underrated issues, where someone wrote that Moby-Dick was a book no one had ever finished, but Herman Wouk’s The Caine Mutiny was outstanding.  Whoever wrote that obviously didn’t believe that Moby-Dick could be a great book in spite of its boring parts.  When it’s good, it’s better than almost any novel ever written, and you have to acknowledge that, even if you’re not going to read it more than once.

Now, as for the other part of Queenan’s question, does this mean that certain works of art that we once considered great are no longer great?  Yes – and then, no.  Some art doesn’t age well, and oftentimes, it’s the works that are considered daring and bold when they first debut.  Are those works of art great in spite of their flaws?  Maybe not, but they still have be reckoned with.  My friend Jon watched Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blow-Up for the first time last year, and was very disappointed by it.  I have to agree with his assessment: I watched Blow-Up for the first time in high school and thought that apart from the scene where the main character actually blows up the photo, thinking he sees a murder in the frame, it’s pretty boring.  It leads one to believe that the reason the movie caused such a sensation when it came out was because of the three-way scene.  But as much as I dislike Blow-Up, I’d be crazy to try to write it out of cinema history, the way Queenan wants to do with The Searchers and The Maltese FalconBlow-Up’s status has less to do with the movie itself and more to do with what came after it.  I can’t totally hate a movie that paved the way for Francis Coppola to make The Conversation, a personal favorite of mine.

Yes, re-evaluation comes with the territory.  And yes, sometimes the greatest films, books, albums, plays, are going to disappoint you for not being as good as historians and critics lead you to believe.  But rather than throw the baby out with the bathwater, wrestle with it, fight it, and decide for yourself.  If you don’t like The Searchers, fine.  But don’t tell me that it hasn’t earned its place in cinema honestly, and don’t dismiss it for not living up to your standards of perfection.

The 86th Academy Awards, or, Tasteful to a Fault

imgres

Seth MacFarlane will go down as one of the most inappropriate Oscar hosts of all time.  His tone-deaf schtick turned the ceremony into a three-and-a-half-hour episode of Family Guy, and I say this as someone who was a fan of his before he became associated with “We Saw Your Boobs,” the most notorious Oscar opening number since Rob Lowe danced with Snow White.

But admit that during last night’s ceremony, as Ellen trudged up the aisles to order pizza for the nominees, you wanted Seth MacFarlane to come back.  At last, you’d have something to actually bitch about on Twitter instead of the thousandth gay joke about John Travolta after he mangled Idina Menzel’s name.  180 degrees from sick is still sick, and that was the problem with the 86th Academy Awards last night: in an effort to purge themselves of last year’s debacle, they played it safe, tried and true.  As a result, I spent the show pretty bored by the majority of it.  The Academy may be honoring films made in the 21st century, but their attitude towards producing an awards show feels out of sync with the best ones today: the Emmys, Tonys, and Golden Globes.  Those three, for whatever their faults, have managed to be very entertaining these past few years, but the Academy cannot capture their tone.

I’m not going to blame Ellen for the tired, lackluster feel of last night’s show.  Blaming the host for the show’s problems is like killing the messenger.  The real problem that always hung over this year’s Oscars from the start was that Craig Zadan and Neil Meron were the producers.  I always associate the mess of last year’s ceremony with them, because their inability to recognize problems when they saw them (“We Saw Your Boobs”) and egocentric need to turn the show into a tribute to themselves (they produced Chicago, which was endlessly lionized by presenters)[1] sank the evening.  I don’t envy anyone who has to make a show about the big screen excited for sixty-inch TV sets; it’s much easier to produce the Emmys in that regard.  But Z/M tried so hard not to offend anybody that we got stuck with the usual, “noble” ideas that come off badly in execution, like “the year of the hero,” represented by – wait for it – clip packages!  Christ, I am so done with these things invading the Oscar ceremonies.  Even when you show clips that I don’t associate with clip packages (thank you for not showing Marlon Brando’s “I coulda been a contendah” speech for the zillionth time) they’re still the devil’s work.

As for the musical numbers, well, the Academy has a really spotty history with these (ROB LOWE!  SNOW WHITE!  “PROUD MARY!”  UNFORGIVABLE!) but there are ways to make them entertaining.  I thought Pharrell Williams brought exactly the right tone that the show needed, and lacked at the very beginning due to there not being an actual opening number.  He was young, the dancers were great, and he got the audience involved.  The best award show numbers do this: think of how great Jimmy Fallon was covering “Born to Run” on the Emmys four years ago, or Neil Patrick Harris’s Tony opening number a few years ago.  But Zadan/Meron don’t even appear to watch award shows, because their dated approach to the show’s songs only furthered the impression that the Academy is stuck in the past.  What is my generation supposed to get out of watching Bette Midler perform “Wind Beneath My Wings?”  We’ve never even seen Beaches, much less heard of it, and when it comes to in memoriam packages, I just want to see the names of the people and move on with it.  The last couple years in a row they’ve blown it by having pop stars come out and sing through it – so at least having Bette sing after the reel was the one positive thing I can say about that moment.

05bb022f-b787-4873-bd52-843b639ed78f-460x276

As for the winners themselves, there’s a lot to be happy about, unless you’re David O. Russell.  I felt badly for the whole American Hustle team, who deserved better than they got, but in a strong year like this one, somebody was going to go home feeling that way.  I got 19/24 on my ballot, and had I predicted two more correctly, I would’ve had my best year ever, but I was more than happy to mismark it when Steve McQueen jumped up and down with the cast and producers of 12 Years a Slave, my favorite movie of 2013.  I had thought the Academy would finally overcome their aversion to sci-fi and all things digital by giving Best Picture to Gravity, but they still seem averse to the technology.  The tally between the two big winners of the night was the most lopsided since 1972, when Cabaret won 8 Oscars, including Best Director, and lost Best Picture to The Godfather, and like those two movies, I believe that Gravity and 12 Years a Slave are both going to be revered for years to come.

What’s more, the four acting winners redeemed many of the show’s faults with their gracious, and in one case, characteristically crazy, acceptance speeches.  Jared Leto got some flack at the Golden Globes for being tasteless, but last night, I felt he was eloquent and real: his shoutout to his mother was heartfelt in all the best ways.  Matthew McConaughey was…Matthew McConaughey. I mean, seriously, what did you expect?  For me, as goofy as the speech was, it reminded me that I watch the Oscar ceremony for those bizarre moments of spontaneity (and also the beautiful ones, like 20 Feet From Stardom’s Darlene Love taking the microphone.)  Cate Blanchett’s call to arms for the industry to make more films about women was extraordinary, and Lupita Nyong’o, the most openly emotional winner last night, didn’t let her tears give way to her ego, and gave the most moving speech of the night.  I saw her in a Q&A a couple of months ago, and was impressed by her poise and candor on that stage: the audience asked her questions as inane as, “why do you refer it to the soap scene and not the lashing scene?” (referring to the scene in the film where she is whipped by Michael Fassbender) and she said, simply, “I call it the soap scene because if I called it the lashing scene, I would cry.”

Final thoughts: in a close year like this one, I’m going to take up William Goldman’s frequent complaint about the Academy and ask that, at some point, maybe a year from now, maybe ten years, we need to know the votes.  I know, you like to operate with the guise that these things should remain confidential, but they really shouldn’t.  I think you owe it to us to know how members voted, so we can at least begin breaking down the demographics of how people vote, and bring about real institutional change within a group that is largely old, white men.

Enough.  The Oscars are done.  At last, we can get back to talking about movies.

PS Once the Oscars channel posts clips on YouTube, then I’ll include them here.


[1] Interesting tidbit about that: though Zadan/Meron are widely acknowledged to have been the on-set producers of Chicago, Martin Richards, who owned the property, was the only credited “producer” and the sole acceptee of the movie’s Best Picture Oscar.  For his decades-long effort to bring the project he nurtured in its Broadway run to the silver screen, he was not included in that year’s in memoriam package.  Coincidence?

Why The Oscars Do Not Matter, or: A Look Back at 1975

220px-48th_Academy_Awards

Voting has closed.  Price-Waterhouse is counting the ballots.  On Sunday night, we will find out who won the 86th annual Academy Awards.  On Monday, most people will forget who won, except for the people who make it their business to never forget (Harvey Weinstein, I’m looking at you.)  And given the hurt feelings, rivalries, and “How-the-fuck-could-they-ignore-XYZ-but-award-ABC” reactions that will become inevitable over time, I need to remind you guys of something really important:

THE OSCARS DO NOT MATTER.

That’s right.  You heard me.  I, the person who in fifth grade memorized every winner in just about all the major categories, am here to remind you all that these awards do not matter.  Sure, they matter in that it’s fun, and that getting them means you’ll be king/queen for a day, and you have a beautifully designed trophy to put on your mantle.  But seriously, whether or not the person you love, or the movie you love, wins or doesn’t win an Oscar, is vastly unimportant in the grand scheme of things.  In order to demonstrate why, I have to borrow from William Goldman’s essays in Adventures in the Screen Trade, so forgive me if this essay sounds like his voice and not mine.

All right, flash back.  The year is 1976.  You have a ballot in front of you for the 1975 Oscars.  There are only five nominees for Best Picture at this time in history.  If you had to choose between these five for the best of the year, which would you choose?

The Man Who Would Be King

Night Moves

Shampoo

The Sunshine Boys

Three Days of the Condor

If you haven’t seen these five films, you should: they are all terrific.  The Man Who Would Be King paired Sean Connery and Michael Caine with director John Huston in one of the most entertaining adventure films ever made; Night Moves is a thriller filled with existential dread; Shampoo, a modern rewrite of the restoration comedy The Country Wife is an underrated gem; The Sunshine Boys is without a doubt the most quoted movie in my family, except for maybe Tootsie; and Three Days of the Condor is one of the best 70s conspiracy films.

So which one of these films won the Academy Award?  The answer: none of them.  That’s right, none of these movies won, because none of them were nominated.  See how much tougher the competition was when you could only have five nominees?  Also, since these movies were left out, it can only mean one thing: 1975 was a really great year.  This can’t be denied when you look at the movies that were nominated:

Barry Lyndon

Dog Day Afternoon

Jaws

Nashville

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

Chances are, your memory doesn’t need refreshing on any of these films: on any shortlist of the best movies of the 70s, at least two of them would make the cut, maybe three.  How do you decide?

Cuckoo's Nest 1

In 1975, the majority of voters went for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, making it the second film to sweep the “Big Five” awards (Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, Screenplay.)  At this point in time, we were midway through the American new wave, and it was starting to wind down.  The next year, Rocky would win over Network, All the President’s Men and Taxi Driver, a controversial victory to be sure, but not an unexpected one.  If you look at the five films from 1975, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is the most hopeful.  Sure, the film ends with a suicide and a mercy killing, but it’s hard not to feel uplifted by the finale, which is undeniably moving.  The previous year, the Best Picture Oscar had gone to The Godfather Part II, no doubt a tragic film, but three of the other nominees were infected with the same pessimism: Chinatown, The Conversation and Lenny (the fifth, Irwin Allen’s disaster epic The Towering Inferno, is pessimistic about ignoring fire codes, but not much else.)

Why did One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest win?  It had been two years since Nixon’s resignation, and the country was beginning to feel better about itself.  Jimmy Carter would be elected President that year, and he began his campaign as the darkest of dark horses.  When the chips were down, people voted for the optimistic film, and that wave of hope swept into 1976, when Rocky beat the decidedly more cynical Network and Taxi Driver.  So it makes sense that Cuckoo’s Nest would have taken the top slot.

barrylyndon07

Now let’s flash forward to the 1980s.  There’s a recession, Reagan’s leaving the White House, things are decidedly not better for the country.  The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting left behind.  Of the five nominees, I think Barry Lyndon would have had the best shot at winning.  My favorite of Kubrick’s films, it’s an epic study of one man who rises to the very top only to be brought down by his own hubris.  The story is traditional, and Redmond Barry, the film’s protagonist, has little to no redeeming qualities, but Kubrick holds you spellbound by the skill of his art and the wryness of its comedy (See it with an audience, as I did recently, and you’ll hear tons of laughs that you may not get from watching it on even the nicest TV.)  So Barry Lyndon might take it all.

Dog+Day+Afternoon+foto1

Does that mean it would have won in the nineties?  Probably not.  With the rise of media circuses surrounding the Menendez brothers, the OJ chase and trial, and the dominance of the 24-hour-news cycle, Dog Day Afternoon probably would win, and it would deserve to, because not only would the context of the time support its victory, it is a powerhouse of great writing and acting, containing probably my favorite Al Pacino performance.

nashville_16

A victory for Dog Day probably wouldn’t be supported by the climate of the 2000s, with the rise of the internet, Napster, and YouTube.  Given the way the music industry changed so dramatically in those years, I wouldn’t be surprised if Robert Altman’s Nashville took it all, and again, it’s a great movie and would deserve everything it won (I highly recommend getting your hands on the new Criterion DVD of it.)

images

And today, with the changing landscape of big-budget entertainment, and the fact that almost all the nominated movies this year seem to be about survival, in one form or another, I think Jaws would win.  And do I really need to remind you how awesome Jaws is?  In fact, Gravity winning this year would totally make up for Jaws losing nearly forty years ago.

The point I’m trying to make is simple: while the context of the time would affect which of the five 1975 nominees would win Best Picture, merely losing an Oscar to another film does not diminish that movie’s stature.  Sometimes, it increases it:  Citizen Kane will forever be the movie that lost to How Green Was My Valley in 1941, probably the most-cited case of an Oscar upset.  But I want to discourage you from this kind of thinking, which diminishes the movies that win to increase the status of those that don’t.  How Green Was My Valley shouldn’t be thought of as just “the movie that beat Citizen Kane,” instead it should be remembered as a great and moving film, and one that, if the two films were voted on today, would still probably win again.

Yes, we all have our problems when it seems to us that something was more deserving than another film.  Sometimes we’re right and sometimes we’re wrong.  But this is all just mindless fun, and it shouldn’t be taken too seriously by any of us, lest we should start being condescending towards other people for not sharing our taste.  Robert Altman said it best, when he was nominated for Best Director one year: “I’m not even in the same business as these guys.”  He didn’t say it out of malice, rather, he meant that when you’re up against five guys who do completely different work from you, how can you judge who’s best?  The answer is simple: you can’t.  So when you turn on your TVs Sunday night to see who won, I urge all of you to take a step back from the whole thing, and just relax.

P.S. I know, I know, “How could you vote for How Green Was My Valley?”  I didn’t say I would.  I said the Academy would.

P.P.S. What movie would I have voted for of the five 1975 nominees?  Honestly, I’d leave my ballot blank.  Seriously, how am I supposed to pick?  I love all five! 

JEAN-LUC GODARD: MY SOMETIME HERO

I’ve seen twelve of Jean-Luc Godard’s films and I still haven’t decided whether I want to kiss him or punch him.

Last night I saw Alphaville, which is currently running at Film Forum on Houston Street.  Going out at all last night was something of a fool’s errand—New York is blanketed in snow after a bad storm that left five feet worth of it on the terrace of the apartment I’m staying at, and every street corner was flooded.  Going out in bad weather to see a movie that I’d walked out of five years earlier sounds like an even crazier fool’s errand if there ever was one.  But I figured I ought to give Alphaville, Godard’s futuristic sci-fi/film noir hybrid, a second chance.

The good news: Alphaville was nowhere near as bad as I remembered.  Eddie Constantine gives a good tough guy performance as Lemmy Caution, the film’s detective.  He also has a wonderful scene with Hollywood character actor Akim Tamiroff at the beginning of the film, where they debate where society is heading.  Filmed in newly restored black and white, the movie is a visual marvel, as most of Godard’s films are.  However, what drove me nuts about the movie five years ago still drives me nuts today: its soundtrack, with an oppressive minimalist score, beeping noises that make me cringe in my seat (I associate them with my alarm clock) and a gravelly computer voice that narrates the movie from passages of Jorge Luis Borges are aggravating in the extreme.  That and Godard’s excess philosophizing doesn’t help at all.  Philosophical discussions in film can be exhilarating, like when Marcello and the Professor talk about Plato’s myth of the cave in my favorite film, The Conformist,[1] but there, a strong visual correlative articulates Marcello’s inner dilemma.  When Godard’s characters talk about philosophy, the camera just sits on them and indulges their often-sophomoric level thoughts on life.  Alphaville is awash in these scenes, as are many of his later films, which frustrates me, because when I first discovered Godard, he immediately became my favorite director.

I first saw Breathless in ninth grade Film Studies.  It was the last day of class before winter break, and we had nothing to watch, so I said, “Let’s watch Breathless.”  We had seen a clip of it a few weeks ago and I was intrigued.  The movie rocked me in a way few movies have, with its improvisatory feel, its rapid jump-cutting, and the utter coolness of Jean-Paul Belmondo.  I had never seen a movie that radiated such coolness in its energy and sexual appeal (I even had a crush on a girl two grades above me solely for the reason that she looked like Jean Seberg).  From that point on, I was obsessed with Godard, crime films, the 60s, and foreign films.  Now, eleven films later, I’m not quite sure how I feel.  The highs have been very high: Contempt, Pierrot Le Fou, Band of Outsiders.  The lows have left me aggravated and jilted: Le Petit Soldat, Weekend, and his insufferable King Lear, in which his performance is so amateurish that he makes The Room’s Tommy Wiseau look like Marlon Brando.

The best way to describe my relationship to Godard is by examining my favorite of his films, Vivre sa Vie.  I’ve seen it twice now, and taken friends to see it.  It’s my favorite Godard film because it embodies my whole relationship with him: I think a lot of it is wonderful, and a lot of it is awful.  Anna Karina’s performance is outstanding throughout, and her exuberance in scenes like this one is infectious to watch.  Try watching this scene and not smiling.

Now watch this scene, later in the film, and try not to writhe with boredom.

Karina’s take to the camera at 8:42 speaks for me.

So what am I still searching for?  I’ve sworn off Godard numerous times, only to find myself coming back for more, mostly to the work from the 60s, and seen more movies of his than those of Renoir, De Sica and Truffaut combined, three directors I love with few, if any reservations.  It all depends on whatever movie of his I’ve seen most recently.  God knows if I loved Alphaville, I’d write a “Godard is awesome!” column instead of a more melancholy piece like this.  However, walking out of Alphaville the first time led to the best compliment I’ve ever received.  A few months after doing so, I commented on Roger Ebert’s blog with thoughts similar to the ones I’ve posted here.  The next week, discussing Godard’s newest film, Film Socialisme, he wrote, “A critical comment by Jeremy Fassler was affectionate about his sometime hero.”  Praise like that is hard to come by–it almost makes sitting through King Lear worth it.  Almost.  

Maybe Mick Jagger said it best, after working for him on Sympathy For the Devil: “Godard is a fucking twat.”


[1] Two facts.  One: the Professor and his wife in The Conformist have Godard’s address.  Bertolucci, an avid admirer of Godard’s, couldn’t wait to show him the film.  When he finally did, Godard scribbled a note before walking out of the screening room that said something to the extent of “You must fight against the forces of capitalism!” which angered Bertolucci so much he threw it away.  When asked why years later, he said, “I had reached the stage in my career where the wish to communicate was no longer a sin.  Godard hadn’t.”

Death of The Master

Image

From left to right: Andrew Garfield, Finn Wittrock, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Linda Emond in Death of a Salesman.

Fucking drugs, man.  Fucking drugs.

In all his performances, Philip Seymour Hoffman revealed his inner turmoil, which makes for the greatest acting.  It’s one thing to hide under the character, it’s another to reveal yourself through him.  Even in the smallest roles, you felt a connection with Philip Seymour Hoffman.  When I saw him in Boogie Nights get rejected by Mark Wahlberg at the New Years party, I wanted to reach through my computer screen and hug him.  I wanted to do the same even when he played characters who were morally compromised.  The amount of heartbreak he could put into something as simple as singing “On a Slow Boat to China” in The Master is something that will stay with me forever.

One of the greatest experiences I’ve had as a theatregoer was seeing him play Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman, directed by Mike Nichols.  My Dad had been in Charlie Wilson’s War a few years prior, and, while on set with Mike and Phil, had mentioned to them that I was reading the play for the first time.  They both started talking about how it was their favorite play and how they wanted to do it someday.  I dreamed that, when the time was right, I would get to direct Phil Hoffman as Willy, but seeing Mike Nichols do it, I felt no regrets—how could I, when you see someone you love give the performance you dream of?

While I plan on having a mini film-festival this week to watch some of my favorite performances of his (Almost Famous, Capote, The Master) and ones I haven’t caught up on (The Talented Mr. Ripley), the only thing I’m going to be able to think about is the performances I’m never going to see him give.  Think about how great he would have been as Falstaff; Hickey in The Iceman Cometh; James Tyrone in Long Day’s Journey Into Night (he had played Jamie ten years ago on Broadway); Buddy Plummer in Stephen Sondheim’s Follies—I doubt the dancing would’ve been easy for him, but I’m sure his “Buddy’s Blues” would’ve been terrific.  And that’s where I get angry with him.  All hard drugs are equally life-ruining when abused, but heroin, his addiction, seems to be the one that robs us of the most great artists: Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, John Coltrane, Chris Farley.  It’s the one that seems to have a mythos around it linking it with creativity.  Hoffman’s death should end that mythos, but chances are it won’t, because the problem isn’t just heroin, the problem is addiction itself.

I look on addicts with a combination of scorn and sadness: scorn because they are destroying themselves a day at a time, and sadness because they’re unable to save themselves from themselves.  It’s a disease that no doctor can cure you of.  Sure, there are rehabilitation centers, experimental therapies, and anonymous groups, but the only person who can stop you from being an addict is you.  My Mom can speak about the evils of addiction with more authority than I can—she is the child of alcoholics, and her family tree is riddled with the disease—but I’ve known people who were alcohol and drug addicts, and cannot understand their refusal to quit in the face of everyone telling them to do so.

A lot of people have been writing on Facebook that Hoffman’s death was a waste.  It was, in that it didn’t need to happen.  It could’ve been prevented if he’d had the courage to stop himself.  Looking at him, I’m reminded of a quote from Goethe: “A human life remains of value not because of what we leave behind, but because we arouse and inspire others to action.”  Hoffman should not be respected in any way for his substance abuse.  It wrecked his life, and it wrecked the lives of his girlfriend and the three children they had together.  But we’re lucky that we have his art, which is going to inspire actors for years to come.

Fucking drugs.

The Difficulty of Translating Plays Onto Film

August-Osage-County-Poster_625

Recently, my Dad and I eagerly watched our screener of August: Osage County.  Both of us had seen Tracy Letts’ play on Broadway—I loved it so much I went back and saw it twice in two days.  It featured riveting ensemble acting and a script of terrific one-liners, creating what was, for me, a theatrical experience unlike any I have ever had.  So I had reasonably high expectations for the movie.  But if I had never seen or read August: Osage County, I’d have a hard time believing, based on the movie, that theatregoers and critics deemed it such a great play.

So why does August fail as cinema?  The blame can be assigned in many directions.  One person who deserves the brunt is Tracy Letts himself, whose adaptation, while close to the play, cuts out several parts that deepen the characters’ relationships.  One is director John Wells, who directs the film like a Lifetime movie, with the actors pitched at high histrionics at all times.  It’s as if Wells never knew that the play was just as funny as it was dramatic, and scenes that drew huge laughs on stage aren’t mined for comedy.  The lack of a strong guiding hand sends the actors adrift, particularly Meryl Streep who, given to her own instincts, performs the role of alcoholic matriarch Violet Weston with none of her requisite grace and subtlety.[1]  But the big question is this: why did August: Osage County even have to be a movie, if there was nobody who could make it a cinematic experience?

The question of why some plays can translate to film and some can’t has always fascinated me, since I’ve spent most of my life closely observing in and partaking in both.  I had to write an essay on this in ninth grade, and I even posted it on my first blog (you can find it deep in the recesses of blogspot—I’m not going to link to it, unless you want to see the journalistic equivalent of refrigerator drawings).  We studied A Streetcar Named Desire, Michael Almareyda’s film of Hamlet with Ethan Hawke, Billy Wilder’s The Apartment, and many more to separate the two mediums.  I argued that they were similar, since their focus was both on narrative.  But, as I saw more movies based on plays, I realized that narrative is never enough.  To translate a play onto film, you have to take advantage of the cinematic medium.

What do I mean by “take advantage of the cinematic medium?”  I just think it has to live as film.  A play has to be adapted and reshaped.  It cannot literally just be the play, unless it’s a towering masterpiece like A Streetcar Named Desire or Long Day’s Journey Into Night, both of which translate seamlessly onto film with only minimal cuts.  But some plays, in trying to become cinematic, lose the intimacy that made them great.

A good example of a play which tries, but doesn’t quite gel on film, is Brian Friel’s masterpiece, Dancing at Lughnasa.  I feel a deep connection to this play about five Irish sisters, their African missionary brother, and the son who narrates the play in flashback, in large part because I played the son in my senior year of high school.  The movie, adapted by Frank McGuinness, takes advantage of the camera and “opens the play up” so that we see more locations than just a ramshackle country house, adding scenes and characters that are only referred to in the play.  The famous dancing scene, where the five sisters leap into a spontaneous jig, was moved from the middle of the play to the climax of the film, and much of the son’s narration is cut.  It “works” as cinema, from that standpoint, but the drama of the play dissipates, and what was powerful on stage becomes melodramatic on film.  Does the camera erase the big emotions of theatre?  Not entirely—Marlon Brando’s cry of “Stella!” is as famous a piece of film acting as any—but Brando knew when to be big and when to scale it back.  When actors are just big all the time—as the Lughnasa and August actors are—the results are closer to TV.

So what makes a great transition from stage to screen?  It all comes down to how you present the story.  To paraphrase William Goldman, adaptation requires being faithful without being literal.  For this reason, Milos Forman and Peter Shaffer’s adaptation of Amadeus is my favorite movie of a great play.  Shaffer’s play is inherently theatrical: it uses chamber theatre narration, characters playing multiple roles (often in the same scene!) and other devices that work best on stage.  When Forman made it into a movie, he told Shaffer, “You must give birth to your child a second time.”  Apart from expanding the narrative to include Mozart’s father, a character not featured in the play, Amadeus re-tools its theatricality in a cinematic way: rather than just have Salieri narrate to the camera, he narrates to a Priest, not featured in the play, who acts as our audience surrogate.  It also takes advantage of showing us the full spectacle of Mozart’s operas, with full production numbers—something which couldn’t be done on stage.  By making the play a separate entity from the film, Amadeus becomes a different but equally satisfying experience in both mediums.

Ultimately though, it’s tough to argue that “the play was better,” especially when you’re talking to people who didn’t see the play on stage.  If people enjoyed August without having seen the play on stage, fine.  But it’s sort of like not reading the book before seeing the movie—those who read it have an entirely different perspective.  And just as some books don’t need to be movies, some plays just don’t need to be either.  If August’s reputation as a play sags over the next few years, it’ll be because of the entirely unnecessary film.


[1]I highly doubt the Academy voters who nominated her for Best Actress (and Julia Roberts for Supporting) even saw the movie.  They voted for her because she’s Meryl Streep, and she’s the greatest actress alive—but even the best batter can strike out.