“Giorgio Armani for Bruce Wayne”

Armani_Batman

And now it’s time for something completely different: a GQ interview with Giorgio Armani.

I have one Armani suit, which I bought when I first started dating the woman who would become my wife, and so was willing to spend more on clothes than I had spent on housing to that point in my life. If you really want to know the difference between an Armani and even the finest suit bought off the rack, give it 15 years or so. The suit fits and looks like it was custom fit for me yesterday. Flawless. (The suit, not me.)

An interesting excerpt:

In the few days since I had seen him, I had been thinking about Armani’s prolific wardrobe work in Hollywood (The Untouchables, Duplicity, The Dark Knight). He entered the pop-culture vernacular in America when he dressed Richard Gere in American Gigolo, and he possesses an encyclopedic knowledge of film. When I asked him at one point about Il Sorpasso, a 1962 classic about a road trip that holds a special place in the hearts of Italians of his generation, his face lit up. “This movie is heartrending,” he said. “It takes me back to my youth.” In a way, it makes sense that Armani loves film so much. The medium combines two of his passions: creating beautiful moments, and silent observation.

You strike me as the kind of man who, as we say in America, is “alone in a crowd.”
Yes. Everything has its purpose. This business helped me overcome my shyness. There’s an example I want to give you: Clint Eastwood. He moved from being a fantastic actor to being a director of films. I feel more like Clint Eastwood than some director who aims to be spectacular, who wants to follow the wave of the moment.

Both you and Clint did not find your true work until your forties.
Your forties are the moment when you start to become aware. It’s just the beginning. I’ve always believed that to confirm your way of thinking takes time. It takes experimenting. You have to confront different chapters of your life. Maybe I could reproach myself for not thinking enough about the people I had around me. My family. Loves. Memories. I was always here [points to his head], in my work. I guess I didn’t think life was so short. …

Do you wish that you had become a father?
Yes. [pauses] A lot. [Tears form in his eyes.] I wish I had many children.

What would you have wanted to teach your children?
First and foremost, respect for others. And for oneself. The only thing that I am insistent on is respect. Someone can be born intelligent, rich, poor, with a good aesthetic or not, but I demand you respect them. And discretion. It slays vulgarity.

Do you believe in heaven?
Well, I should say no…. [smiles]

“Should”? Because that’s what he really thinks but is afraid to offend the pious? Or because given the world in which he operates, that’s the default response? I think the former, especially as you read on.

Despite his fantastic success, he comes across as a very sad, a very melancholy man who endured a lonely childhood.

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Community: Breaking the Fourth Wall and the Last Taboo

Community-Season-1-Promo-Posters

They’re not on NBC anymore, and some of those people aren’t even on Yahoo! — just so you know.

You’ve been watching season 6 of Community on Yahoo! Screen, correct? No? Forgot it was on? Didn’t know it was on? Never watched Community seasons 1–5?

Whatever stage of denial you’re in, please stand alerted: I am going to reveal the plot twist for episode 12 (109 if you’re counting from the pilot).

This very silly series featuring adults struggling to earn their degrees at Greendale Community College grew on me slowly, but once I was hooked, I was hooked for life. I found the mix of characters (and actors), the homages and pop culture references, the endless debates about social issues, religion, self-righteousness, self-awareness (and lack thereof) endlessly enjoyable. It’s all very meta as Abed (a character described as autistic in the pilot episode, and played with an almost mechanical affect by Danny Pudi) gives structure to his Greendale colleagues’ lives by situating them in standard sitcom and genre-movie tropes and conventions, as if he himself were creating Community in real time.

The show never had a huge audience, no doubt because it was so about itself even as it was about something else, and when it was cancelled after season 5 (despite creator/showrunner Dan Harmon’s rally cry of “Six seasons and a movie!”), Yahoo! played Netflix and stepped in and ordered 13 more episodes.

By season 5, Chevy Chase (millionaire Pierce Hawthorne, of Hawthorne Wipes), who had been feuding with Harmon and bad-mouthing the show, was gone, and Donald Glover (Troy Barnes, Abed’s best buddy) was on his way out. Brought in was Jonathan Banks, late of Breaking Bad — talk about the wrong actor in the wrong show! His character just lay there like roadkill. The community of Community may not have missed Pierce but I sure did, yet the show still had enough life in it that I didn’t want it to end. And then it did. And then it didn’t. Just like it would have happened in a very special episode of Community.

To me these characters are like the Peanuts gang. I don’t want them ever to get old or graduate Greendale. I want Pierce and Troy to come back, Pierce to be cluelessly offensive and Troy to teach Abed how to dance like MC Hammer meets a Whirling Dervish on meth (technically, it’s called “krumping”). I want stars Joel McHale (Jeff Winger) and Jillian Jacobs (Britta Perry) to almost always get married but never do because they’re so onto each other’s garbage. I want Dean Pelton (Jim Rash) to have to come up with wacky schemes to keep the state from shutting down the school and I want Chang (Ben Cheong, of The Hangover) to continue to morph into different dysfunctional versions of himself and for Annie (Alison Brie) to almost have a nervous breakdown every fifteen minutes because she can’t control everything and for Abed to confuse reality and fiction so that we’re not sure anymore where one ends and the other begins.

For season 6, the Yahoo! season, the wonderful Yvette Nicole Brown (Shirley Bennett, one of the few openly Xian characters on TV), who could play her voice like a tenor sax, was gone too, with the exception of a cameo in episode 1/98. (She was off to be a regular on the execrable reboot of The Odd Couple.) Added to the cast were Paget Brewster as administrative consultant Francesca “Frankie” Dart, and Keith David (he of those inimitable voiceovers for Navy recruitment) as retired scientist Elroy Patashnik.

And while I was still wishing Pierce and Troy and now Shirley would walk through those study-hall doors, I was nevertheless enjoying season 6.

Until it got really weird.

Episode 109, “Wedding Videography,” features an event no Community lover could ever have seen coming: Garrett — who in season 5’s “Basic Intergluteal Numismatics” episode uttered the classic line, “Et tu, pencil?” — gets married. Yes, married. Garrett. And Jeff becomes, accidentally, the best man, who, traditionally, has to make a toast, which, actually, was going quite well as Jeff made a point of pointing out how much the groom’s family and the bride’s family had in common. In fact, they had too much in common. Turns out, Garrett’s bride, Stacy, is his cousin. But just as the wedding party is about to break up and the couple are to seek an annulment, Chang, of all people, intervenes:

Chang: Garrett, who loves you here more than Stacy?
Garrett (in near emotional meltdown): Nobody.
Chang: Stacy, is it your fault Garrett’s your cousin?
Stacy: No.
Chang: Is anyone here going to make less fun of these two or be better friends to them no matter what they do?
Everyone: No.
Chang (to Garrett): It’s you against the world and you will not win. But you get to make your moves, not them.
Garrett (getting down on one knee): Stacy, will you be my legally incestuous wife?
Stacy: Yes!
Garrett: Everybody stay and eat cake OR GO TO HELL!
Applause and cheers!

Cut to Community’s writer’s room (or a reasonable facsimile), in which Briggs Hatton (or “Briggs Hatton”), the “credited author for this week’s episode,” explains to the audience that if we noticed an “emphasis on the topic of incest” — that was no accident.

“For the past two years, when not serving as writing assistant on Community, I’ve been researching incest on the Internet,” Hatton says in a tone made famous by early Chevy Chase. During this time of study, he came across a 2002 New York Times article about how the chances of birth defects in the progeny of married first cousins was virtually nil. So he wants it to be known that he takes full responsibility for mainstreaming incest on a sitcom.

Here’s the disturbing part (wait, Anthony, that wasn’t the disturbing part?) — it was pretty damn funny. All of it.

I assume the “writer’s explanation” was a way of signalling that we’re really not supposed to take the whole “incest” thing seriously and that Hatton & Co. were just playing with us by breaking one more taboo, using someone like poor Garrett, and even poorer Stacy, to do so. After all, they and their families are sorta freaks anyway, probably themselves the products of incest.

Or am I being naive? Because that’s how this stuff works. Make ’em laugh, make ’em cry, make ’em marry a cousin.

Is this the next great social justice cause? And is the sitcom the perfect vehicle for fighting for it?

Or was this Community‘s ironic, self-reflexive way of turning the whole “sitcom as vehicle for social change” notion inside out? After all, Abed is filming the whole thing, and never appears in the episode on camera. Is this all going on in his head?

But why would that be? Abed sticks with tried and true genre conventions.

So maybe this was Community‘s way of signalling that, yes, incest is the next big social justice cause. Or maybe…

Community, why? Why couldn’t you just be weird in a normal way? See — this is what happens when the Christian character leaves.

Oh watch it for yourself.

I leave you with a prayer.

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A Strange Play: In Which Antonin Scalia Does Not Appear as Himself

They told me Vincent D'Onofrio was going to play me.

“They told me Vincent D’Onofrio was going to play me …”

You read right. Rightly. Rightnifically. It’s a play in which the feature character is Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia. The indispensable City Journal has a review:

Antonin Scalia is the only current member of the United States Supreme Court with a personality big enough to justify a stage play. And in playwright John Strand’s The Originalist, now playing at Washington’s Arena Stage, actor Edward Gero captures the justice’s gregarious charm without descending into caricature. It helps that Gero looks like Scalia; their families apparently hail from neighboring villages in Sicily. But while Gero’s performance is magnificent, the play fails to deliver on the promise of its title.

The play’s conceit is that Justice Scalia has hired a liberal law clerk, Cat, who, according to dictates of stereotype and melodrama, must be black, lesbian, and burdened with a comatose father. Cat and the justice argue about the nature of the law, but only at the level of first-year law students. Cat contends that texts lack an objective meaning, and that our interpretations are necessarily determined by our experience. Scalia counters with a few sentences in favor of originalism; judges should interpret a constitutional provision today in accordance with the publicly understood meaning at the time it was enacted.

But Strand doesn’t appear to comprehend Scalia’s reasons for being an originalist. The character Scalia states that he is an originalist because the Constitution was made by a group of brilliant, never-to-be-replicated men. The real Justice Scalia argues that following original meaning promotes clear rules and limits judicial discretion. Strand is no Tom Stoppard, who catches the subtleties of his protagonist’s ideas and makes them sound even more eloquent than their historical expressions. Strand has written an intellectual ghost story, in which shadows of ideas fret their minutes on the stage.

The play also assaults the character of conservatives.

Was wondering when an ambulance needed to be called.

Why aren’t writers sympathetic to the views of a Scalia writing such plays? Because there are none? Or none of sufficient talent? Or because even if there were, their work would never get produced in a major venue? (Answer my second question first, then my third question second.)

Calling Liberty Island!

Posted in A Strange Play, I Know You Think I Don't Know What You're Really Saying, I Think I Know That Guy, I'll Give You Aht | Leave a comment

A Strange Preview: The End of the Tour

The End of the Tour  is based on the bestselling book by David Lipsky, “a novelist and contributing editor at Rolling Stone magazine [who] recounts his time spent with the author of Infinite Jest at the moment when Wallace realized his work would bring him fame, and that this would change his life.”

The author of Infinite Jest, of course, is David Foster Wallace, played here by Jason Segel. Yes, that Jason Segel, of Freaks and Geeks and How I Met Your Mom and (Lord help us) Sex Tape.

Will this put Segel on the map as one of those comic actors with untapped talent for serious, thoughtful work (think Tom Hanks and Michael Keaton)? Or is this merely his Ashton Kutcher moment? (The review blurbies flashed on the screen seem to point to the former.)

H/T @Wyclif

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Strange Question of the Day: Where Are All the Space Aliens?

John Hodgman vs. the Fermi Paradox

For the original TED2008 video sans Mystery Science Theater 3000 graphics, go here.

Posted in A Strange Question, Yes but Are They Here Legally? | 1 Comment

Inside Jokes You May Have Missed Inside Big Movies

"So then Andy Borowitz wrote..."

“So then Andy Borowitz writes…”

So I’ve seen all five of these films (I think I saw Stargate, although I may just have dreamed it), but admittedly I caught only two of the jokes: from Airplane! and Gangs of New York.

My hieroglyphics isn’t what it used to be since I left New York and rarely encounter graffiti or journals of cultural anthropology anymore, so no on the Spader line. And even though I am of Italian, Spanish, and French ancestry, I know nothing, less than nothing,* about wine, so Giamatti screaming about Merlot meant nothing to me. In fact, as I have confessed before, I am a teetotaler.** So if you invite me out for a drink, I am always going to say no: (1) because I don’t know you and one of your “cohorts” may rob my house while I’m away; (2) it means possibly missing a rerun of something with Dom DeLuise in it***; and (3) I just said I don’t drink, but weren’t you listening? 

Now, had Giamatti’s character gone all red in the face about pasta primavera or fried Oreos, that would have been another story.

Here’s the explanation of the very inside joke from Silence of the Lambs:

FBI Agent Clarice Starling visits Lecter in a mental hospital because she needs help catching another serial killer, but Lecter is mainly interested in toying with her, so he talks about the time he killed a census worker and “ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti.” It’s a brilliant scene. It’s chilling, it’s great character development … but did you know that it’s also a joke?

According to a Reddit post, the mental hospital in the movie might had been treating Lecter with monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), which is a type of antidepressant that’s fallen out of use over the years due to its dangerous side effects and potentially-lethal interactions with certain foods. People who took MAOIs had to be put on a very strict diet that forbade them from eating things like — oh, would you look at this beautiful full circle — liver, beans, and red wine.

So was Lecter stealthily telling Starling that he’s not taking his meds, or was he making an esoteric joke about the three foods specifically prohibited for psychiatric patients, from inside a mental hospital?

By the way, while we’re not on the subject, why does everyone love to hate The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen? Because it didn’t live up to the Alan Moore original (of which I am totally unfamiliar)? Because it was miscast? Because it wasn’t rank enough? It’s not the first Avengers or Captain America or Raiders of the Lost Ark, OK, but I’ve watched it a half dozen times and found it an enjoyable adventure with some stunning set designs.

I bring this up now because FOX is contemplating a new TV series based on the graphic novel, and the write-up, again, can’t help but bludgeon the Connery flick:

[W]hile anything would probably be better than the last film Sean Connery made before retiring, we want better than simply stepping over that low bar. There is so much potential in the original comics, Fox could actually make something really great to watch.

____________________________________________________________ 

*By less than nothing I mean, were I to begin talking about wine, you would finally know less than you know now, just like when anyone from the New York Times or Salon writes about Christianity.

**I don’t even drink tea. Coffee and water, that’s it. I had a Fresca once in 1985.

***Did I ever tell you I once wrote a TV sitcom pilot for DeLuise, and a guy I worked for who was good friends with Dick Van Patten who was good friends with DeLuise got the script to him? DeLuise turned it down because it was about an obese diet doctor who was too easy on his patients, and he was self-conscious about bringing attention to his own weight issues. Did you know that Van Patten is actually half Italian, and his sister Joyce used to go on talk shows demonstrating their mother’s Italian recipes?

You know you want one.

You know you want one.

Posted in And Don't Call Me Shirley, Cinecitta | 2 Comments

A Strange Preview: A Very Murray Christmas

Because I’m already sick of summer, here’s a “could they spare the megabytes” preview of a new Netflix Christmas special: A Very Murray Christmas, starring Bill Murray and co-written and directed by Sofia Coppola, who directed Murray to an Oscar nomination for Lost in Translation. (She herself won a screenwriting Oscar for same, making her and pops Francis the only father and daughter ever to take home writing Oscars. I think…)

Here’s what ComingSoon.net has to say about the special:

“A Very Murray Christmas” is an homage to the classic variety show featuring Bill Murray playing himself as he worries no one will show up to his TV show due to a terrible snow storm in New York City. Through luck and perseverance, guests arrive at the Carlyle hotel to help him; dancing and singing
in holiday spirit.

The star-studded cast also includes George Clooney, Paul Shaffer, Amy Poehler, Julie White, Dimitri Dimitrov, Michael Cera, Chris Rock, David Johansen, Maya Rudolph, Jason Schwartzman, Jenny Lewis, Phoenix, Frederic Moulin, Rashida Jones, Miley Cyrus, and more.

This is the kind of thing you used to see on NBC back in the year of the Flood.

Is network TV done for?

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