Sunday, March 17, 2013

Zero Dark Thirty is Somewhere Between Zero and Dark

Zero Dark Thirty. Wiki.
Zero Dark Thirty is a film so controversial that when John McCain finally saw it, he jumped up and screamed: “I hate the Gooks! I will hate them as long as I live!” And if not for his personal handler, Sen. Lindsey Graham, who promptly pacified McCain with milk and cookies, God only knows what would happen next.

No, thankfully none of those things are true (except McCain screaming "I hate the Gooks!" That actually happened). There was, however, a small matter of the Senate Intelligence Committee inquiry into the writer Mark Boal’s and director Kathryn Bigelow’s CIA-sourced material, which may have served as the basis for the torture scenes. The probe was quickly dropped because it was a waste of taxpayer money and a juvenile idea to begin with.

Still, violent representations of torture do make up a substantial portion of the movie—in all, about 20 minutes (I actually timed it). That may seem merely episodic in a two and a half-hour film. It is not. To put it in better perspective, a 20 minute action-dialog sequence is at least 20 pages of a shooting script. That’s a serious expenditure of creative energy and, by that extension, money—from writing to casting to shooting to editing to marketing—all made intentional, to be sure.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

The Oy Vey Caucus Sits in Judgment of Philip Roth

Air that passes between Philip Roth's butt cheeks carries more grace and acumen than this latest take on his work à la New York magazine. For starters, it omits at least one of his early long (and critically undervalued) novels, Letting Go. Then it slings the same old mud, calling him a “(probable) misogynist,” and reduces the life of America’s premier novelist to a Powerpoint of half-witted quotes. And while the panel includes some of my favorite authors, among the likes of Salman Rushdie, Jonathan Lethem, David Bezmozgis, Katie Roiphe, Brian Morton and Bret Easton Ellis it also lists James Franco. Not that I have anything against Mr. Franco or his very earnest attempts at writing. But when I want deep insight into Philip Roth’s fiction I think of David Remnick and Claudia Roth Pierpont, not the giggling burnout from Pineapple Express. Oh, one other thing: of the 35 members of this very esteemed literary caucus only 5 are women—something to mull over while on a break from protesting Seth MacFarlane’s boob song.

Friday, March 1, 2013

90Outloud: Broadcast 90 Seconds Of Your Favorite Book

Der Rabe, Carl Spitzweg, circa 1845

Bill Cheng, a writer I know, started something called 90Outloud— a way for anyone around the world to post a ninety-second flick of their favorite passages. Just 90 seconds or less from your favorite novel, memoir, travelogue, short story, poem, whatever (published and not your own). A paragraph. Sometimes not even that. Just a minute and a half for a snippet of book to come suddenly and thrillingly to life.

"Because books are awesome!" Bill says and I agree. "They are a confetti burst of sounds, and images, and ideas. A long gorgeous chain of words, dancing the tongue from roof to teeth to lips. Because books, in some way or another, have added to my life and have added to the lives of those I’ve cared about. Because I still believe that the book is the basic neuron of civilization, carrying impulses— our fears and hopes, the worst and best of ourselves— from the streets up into the seats of power, and out again; it tells us who we are and what we want to be and remains our best astrolabe for an unknown future." 

Also visit 90Outloud at and follow them on Twitter: @90outloud.

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