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Taxi Driven at 3 Am

I went to bed so early last night that I was up at 3am watching Taxi Driver, quel meta. One of my first memories is of passing through that ratchet Times Square with my parents; the littlest me fell for its underbelly the way you get hung up on a bad smell. Scorcese captures its neon reds and blues, blurred and bolting–its cheap calories and cheaper sex–with Cadillac cars and a Cadillac score. And then there’s De Niro’s ex-marine outsider wandering and wondering, blood-shot with an ignoramus’s bravado. Which is to say: terror, especially when it comes to his unamused muse Cybill Shepherd and her very fine, DVF-clad ass. So loosely adapted from Dostovesky’s Notes from the Underground, this Scorcese-Schrader collab doesn’t endorse the basest attitudes about race, women, sexuality so much as inventory them as evidence of Our General Decline. It’s a portrait of a dangerously white male that could be stripped from today’s headlines except the macro-aggression isn’t just garish. It’s gorgeous.

The Quiet Revolution of ‘Diane’

What follows is a film talk I gave a few months ago on Diane, about a 60something New England widow struggling to reconcile with her past and the ravages of time. I always loved talking to the now-defunct Westchester Film Club, but it was especially meaningful to discuss this small, mostly overlooked indie with them. N.B. To read this, it’s not necessary to have seen the film, but I encourage you to do so. It’s one of the best of the year.

I consider Diane a quiet revolution of a film.

Its median age is above 60, everyone is lower middle class, and it is is mostly populated by women–the kind of bossy, pointedly unpretentious women who are the backbone of every New England town I knew growing up. For that matter, this film stars Mary Kay Place, whose plainspoken, peevish manner I’ve loved ever since Mary Hartman Mary Hartman, and who has deserved a hefty starring role ever since. That Diane also costars the great Andrea Martin in a rare serious turn, Joyce Van Patten, and Estelle Parsons speaks to how unobtrusively grownup-feminist this film is. Even the crew is mostly female. Continue Reading →

The Church of ‘The Biggest Little Farm’

I know I’ve been quiet here. My rule for April has been to say yes to everything–to “Shonda Rhimes it,” as one friend phrased my approach. This has kept me busy and helped out my bank account. It’s also made my life fuller and more joyous.

But such a jam-packed scheduled hasn’t left time for blog updates.

Still, I wanted to post the lecture I gave this morning to the Westchester Cinema Club, which was having its last meeting at the Greenburgh Cinemas and possibly its last meeting altogether. I have given thirty lectures to this club over the years, mostly about films I have loved dearly. But even when I haven’t been enthused about the film, I’ve been enthusiastic about the club members. Mostly seventy- and eighty-something, they offer a perspective that I pray to someday achieve.

For this final lecture, I discussed The Biggest Little Farm, a documentary about a married couple who start a farm an hour north of Los Angeles. Continue Reading →

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