Tag Archives: Anthony Lane

Anthony Lane on the latest Spider-film

This is the first paragraph of Anthony Lane’s review in this week’s New Yorker:

When someone reboots a film franchise, as the makers of “The Amazing Spider-Man” have done, what are we meant to think of the original boot? The first “Spider-Man” came out in 2002, followed by its obligatory sequels in 2004 and 2007. If you are a twenty-year-old male of unvarnished social aptitude, those movies will seem like much-loved classics that have eaten up half your lifetime. They beg to be interpreted anew, just as Shakespeare’s history plays should be freshly staged by every generation. For those of us who are lavishly cobwebbed with time, however, the notion of yet another Spider-Man saga, this soon, does seem hasty, and I wish that the good people—or, at any rate, the patent lawyers—at Marvel Comics could at least have taken the opportunity to elide the intensely annoying hyphen in the title. Or does merely suggesting such a change make me a total ass-hole?

One of the worst things about my kids being grown is that I don’t have to see this movie, and so of course won’t, but I remember fondly my son’s obsession with Spidey, and how with him I enjoyed Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst in the “original” ten years ago.

Even though I’m more a Batman guy, myself.

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Filed under film/photography, humor, Lane—Prince Anthony, punctuation

Lane redux: ‘Tower Heist’ & VOD

The wit of Anthony Lane, like the sex life of Grace Kelly, is one of those refined but rustic matters that we can admire readily, and dissect in detail, but never really hope to understand.

Or emulate, alas.

But he’s fun to imitate.

Here’s the lead of Prince Anthony’s review of Tower Heist in this week’s New Yorker (November 7):

At the risk of invoking Freud, you have to wonder why movie stars are attracted to big, long films about towers. “The Towering Inferno” had Steve McQueen, Paul Newman, Faye Dunaway, and William Holden; it also had Fred Astaire and O. J. Simpson, a pairing so exquisite that Luis Buñuel must have wished he’d thought of it first. Now we have “Tower Heist,” which features Ben Stiller, Eddie Murphy, Alan Alda, Casey Affleck, Téa Leoni, Matthew Broderick, and Judd Hirsch. None of these, I concede, are up there with Fred Astaire, but, then, who is? What counts is safety in numbers—actors mustering together to lend bulk and momentum to a tale that they know to be dumb. The difference is that in 1974 they got away with it.

Lane does credit Tower Heist with one “pleasingly brazen image”—of a car dangling off the high rise—and concedes that “this cruddy movie” has one perfect moment: Mathew Broderick’s scene after he’s lost his job at Merrill Lynch, and his apartment, and ends up, in a cheap motel, pondering becoming a male prostitute. The director, Brett Ratner, late of the Rush Hour trilogy, has a style, Lane writes, in which “early Fellini is less easy to detect than that of Cuisinart.”

He’s a bit arch, I’ll give you that. But Lane gets as sincere as he gets, and as passionate, when he next takes on the spectre of video on demand (VOD). In an experiment, Tower Heist is being offered to half a million households weeks after its theatrical debut—for a mere $59.99 each.

Lane:

One’s immediate reaction to this news was: sixty bucks! For a Brett Ratner movie! It’s like one of those cafés in Weimar Germany where a glass of beer cost you four billion marks. The stakes were raised considerably by reports that NATO was incensed by this latest move in the battle of VOD. For one heady morning, I was under the impression that air strikes would be launched on Universal. Only then was it explained to me that NATO stands for the National Association of Theatre Owners, who regard the “Tower Heist” experiment, and similar ventures, as the thin end of a deadening wedge. Download a Ben Stiller movie in Atlanta, and you wind up, a few years later, with a nation of vacant auditoriums. Moviegoers will still watch movies; they just won’t go.

Lane agrees: VOD is the death of cinema, and he explains what will be lost. Were I in my old haunts I’d surely mourn with him. For years I’d leave our farm and drive twenty minutes to our small town’s Cineplex beside the mall, or even more cheerfully shoot downtown to a cozy boutique theatre. What was wunderbar was to teach and then amble across campus and catch an early movie and then wing back to our hilltop. My experience of watching Charlie Kaufman’s Jungian masterpiece Synechdoche, New York owes everything to seeing it, two or three times, in that little art house.

But now I’m in the city, actually somewhere amidst hundreds of acres, maybe thousands, of suburban sprawl, and haven’t got my bearings yet. There’s a Rave16 fifteen minutes away, but the heavy, fast-moving traffic often gives me pause.

So I cocoon, happily.

Because for once this late adopter, thanks to our daughter, suddenly possesses a “smart TV,” not only with high def flat-screen but capable of streaming from Netflix and Amazon, plus CinemaNow, whomever that is. And I can listen to Beatles Radio, or Dylan Radio, or Alison Krauss Radio, whatever’s my whim to create, on Pandora. So I’m consuming lots of movies, and while it isn’t cinema, Tony, it beats a couple years of scarce moviegoing while this country mouse adjusts to the city.

Yet, I know, by the time I join Anthony Lane in his VOD boycott, cinema will have shrunk—actually I don’t think it will die completely—knocked off its loop by the aimless bombardment of streaming digital technology.

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Filed under film/photography, humor, Lane—Prince Anthony, metaphor, MY LIFE

Noted: Anthony Lane on reviewing

The New Yorker’s Anthony Lane, on the perils of reviewing:

On a broiling day, I ran to a screening of Contact, the Jodie Foster flick about messages from another galaxy. I made it for the opening credits, and, panting heavily—which, with all due respect, is not something that I find myself doing that often in Jodie Foster films—I started taking notes. These went “v. gloomy,” “odd noir look for sci-fi,” “creepy shadows in outdoor scene,” and so on. Only after three-quarters of an hour did I remember to remove my dark glasses.

Where's dat canary?

Lane began writing for The New Yorker in 1993, recruited from the “squalling pit of London journalism,” where “most newspapers are ideally read as a branch of experimental fiction,” by the magazine’s former editor, another Brit, Tina Brown. I feel sorry for his reviewing colleague, the excellent David Denby, because Lane is so funny he makes Denby’s smart reviews look turgid. Lane can provoke my helpless laughter (see his quip in another Noted about the sex life of Grace Kelly).

His highlighted bon mot and the quotes above come from his introduction to Nobody’s Perfect: Writings from The New Yorker. In it, he says, “movies deserve journalism.” His, anyway. In his corner of the pop culture merry-go-round, he poses any adult’s eternal question—how to take seriously Hollywood movies?—with the answer that, by and large, one of course doesn’t.

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Dinty’s Google Maps essay

Not especially funny or witty myself, perhaps that’s why I admire those who are: I must have opened my blog a half dozen times today to read the first sentence by Anthony Lane in the post below this. Then tonight I read it—again—to my wife and laughed, again. It’s one of the wittiest sentences I’ve ever read. Lane’s  follow-up quip is pure gravy.

“It got a rise out of Dinty, too,” I told Kathy. “He left a comment today on that post.”

“He did?”

“Yes—and, oh, did I show you his Google Maps essay about his bizarre encounters with George Plimpton? Dinty, when he was a drug-addled student, was sent to pick up Plimpton at the airport . . .”

So I showed her, and we cackled. Which made me realize I need to share with you Dinty W. Moore’s “Mr. Plimpton’s Revenge,” the cleverest experimental essay I’ve ever read.

We await with bated breath his tale of breakfasting with Grace Kelly. Meantime, if you haven’t seen Rear Window lately, watch it for its beautiful structure—and for hers; plus she was adorable to a criminal degree, even when dealing with Jimmy Stewart’s character, who was pretty much a big jerk.

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Noted: Anthony Lane on Grace Kelly

Princess Grace, to you . . .

The sex life of Grace Kelly, like the home life of the Incas, is one of those distant but down-to-earth matters which we can investigate in depth, and muse upon at length, but never really hope to understand. According to some observers, she herself may not have grasped its implications; in the words of a columnist at Photoplay, “I wonder if Grace Kelly knew she had so much S.A.” To which the only proper response is, W.T.F.?

The quote is from the witty Mr. Lane’s New Yorker review essay, “Hollywood Royalty: Two Sides of Grace Kelly.”

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Noted: Narrative without backstory

From Anthony Lane’s review of Star Trek in the May 18 New Yorker:

In all narratives, there is a beauty to the merely given, as the narrator does us the honor of trusting that we will take it for granted. Conversely, there is something offensive in the implication that we might resent that pact, and, like plaintive children, demand to have everything explained.

Shakespeare could have kicked off with a flashback in which the infant Hamlet is seen wailing with indecision as to which of Gertrude’s breasts he should latch onto, but would it really have helped us to grasp the dithering prince?

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Filed under craft, technique, Lane—Prince Anthony, narrative, NOTED