Archive | Reviews

American Horror Stories (‘Rosemary’ Turns 50)

Rosemary’s Baby turns 50 today, and I’ve been thinking a ton about this film and about the genre of horror overall. For a few decades, dystopias were the alarm clock we all needed, but because the dystopia is now and no satire could possibly outstrip the grotesque burlesque that has capsized the highest chambers of the land, horror is the perfect lens for examining the greatest biases and ugliest fears prevailing in our dying (dead?) republic. That’s why Get Out blew everything else in 2017 out of the water, and that’s why films like The Exorcist and, yes, Rosemary’s Baby haunt us still. The former was about an America possessed–why else do you think it took place within spitting distance of Nixon’s White house?–and the latter was about the way that women are gaslit about everything including their own intellectual and reproductive powers. It’s also why I’m so flatly unimpressed by the emptyheaded Hereditary, the Toni Collette everything-and-the-kitchen-sink horror film that has everyone’s tongue a-flapping this month. Continue Reading →

Baptizing the Monster: ‘Mary Shelley’

What follows is a transcript of a talk I gave about the biopic Mary Shelley for the Westchester Film Club, where I often deliver lectures on new independent and foreign film releases.

The best way to discuss this film may be to unpack it like one of those Russian nesting dolls that stack level upon level upon level.

So let’s start with who is behind this lens. As David may have told you, it is directed by Haiffa al Mansour, who also cowrote the script with Emma Jensen. Haiffa’s first feature was 2013’s Wadjda, the first Saudi-Arabian film to be directed by a Saudi woman. That in itself is a mind-blowing accomplishment, given the restrictions women face in that country, but the movie itself, a coming-of-age story about a female tween rebel, is a wonder. I strongly recommend it if you have not already seen it. Continue Reading →

‘Angels in America’ Saves Us All

Yesterday I did a full Angels in America immersion–10 hours in Midtown for Parts 1 and 2. I scored cheapo tickets on TDF.com and into the Neil Simon Theater I smuggled water, sliced apples, nuts, whiskey, and lavender water in case my neighbors had hygiene challenges. (They didn’t, but because they were tuna sandwich smugglers, the lavender water proved useful anyway.) Outside the theater the city was cloudy and cold and Mercury Retrogradey. Which is to say: there was nowhere I’d rather have been.

Put simply, it was the best theatrical experience of my life—timeless and timely, emboldened and emboldening, transcendent and holy fractured. The staging–neon boxes and steampunk lanterns and ladders sliding up and down, side to side– was extraordinary. Ditto for the performances—Nathan Lane, raw and raging and hilarious, was the best anyone’s ever seen, and even Andrew Garfield’s look-Ma-I’m-playing-gaaaaaay conceit was not appalling once he found his rage. And get this: every straight male role was played by a middle-aged lady wearing a doggedly bad wig!

But all that pales in contrast to the powerful joy of hearing Tony Kushner’s words uttered live for the first time. I honestly believe he is this greatest country’s finest voice. Even in a too-many-cooks-in-a-kitchen mess like “Lincoln,” through his cadences course everything–salt and blood and cum, stone and silt and copper. The sweat and tears of our country and our heavens, basically. As when I saw Hamilton, I felt connected to the groundlings taking in Shakespeare while he was still alive. Connected to all of time.

Yes, Mrs. Lincoln, everything, and I do mean everything, was vibrant and devastating in equal measures. By the time I walked out, my legs barely worked anymore, so it was a good thing I could fly with the play’s 1980s Jewish Mormon homosexual lady angel wings. As I soared, the Eustacia Vye phrase I’ve whispered since I was a teenager flashed like another sign on Broadway: “Send me great love from somewhere, else I shall die.” That great love never did show up for me in the mommy-daddy, one-on-one incarnation I expected. But in New York’s museums, galleries, kitchens, caverns, sidewalks, subways, and, o fuck, stages–all those “melting pots that never melted”–I feel it all the time. I guarantee you everyone in attendance at this play feels it too: great art, great truth-yes, great, great love. It comes in such finely feathered forms.

"All, everything I understand, I understand only because I love."
― Leo Tolstoy