"Criticism matters because its virtues are profoundly human ones: honesty, curiosity, diligence, pluralism. We should never sacrifice any of those in the name of an artificial consensus."--Saul Austerlitz in the NY Times Magazine
Funny thing is that I don't think the good critics writing much less today are doing that exactly. It's deeper. They're sacrificing and moving beyond criticism (most likely with a distaste for today's cheerleading) because they believe this is now a frighteningly yes-or-no world, and that outside of a few editorial offices and urbane neighborhoods (and perhaps even within them) there's little room for (and interest in) textured explanation, nuance--critical thinking is not a thumbs up or down review, but tell that to someone who isn't in the business of high-end professional critical thinking. Such writers, critics, and artists may even be concerned that they'll be branded "haters" at some point by someone in power from this yes-or-no world who finds one of their opinions personally offensive, thinking that's a good way to judge an entire person ("haters" are "bad," right?). At any rate, this piece is AWESOME. Ten thumbs up!-- Adam Baer
A few years ago, Rolling Stone kindly published a piece of mine about the funniest "studio notes" actors, writers, directors, and comedians have received from Hollywood producers and network execs. It was intended to be an oral history about receiving chortle-worthy criticism, a way to use these "notes" to tell some of comedy's best secret stories, and I hope we accomplished that goal, to some degree. (Note: the headline was not my first choice, but I am a team player, and I had a lot of fun working on the piece and eventual pride seeing it in RS.)
It was a dream assignment: I interviewed a score of hilarious celebs, producers and directors--from Mel Brooks and Garry Shandling to younger talents like David Wain ("Wet Hot American Summer"), Paul Scheer ("The League"), and Nick Stoller ("Forgetting Sarah Marshall" and "The Five Year Engagement").
Everyone cracked me up, and the piece generated serious interest from one of the world's biggest book publishers. So I took some of the quotes from my many funny interviews that Rolling Stone had not picked for inclusion (page-space is limited at magazines), and my agent and I went out with a book proposal about how this could be a hilarious narrative project, especially given my access to so many people in the entertainment industry. Eventually, and ironically, the senior publishing exec didn't think the book would make money (I still disagree), and the project, which could now be a brilliant multimedia thing with video, great for iPads, was tabled.*
Alas, one of the many funny things Rolling Stone could not include--sadly rendering my collection of interview subjects 100% male--was my unforgettable, if short, interview with Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who stars tonight in HBO's new series "Veep." I share this gem with you now. Word, for word, and I have this on tape, this is what one of the funniest actresses in comedy told me, on the record. Addendum: Julia Louis-Dreyfus is a lovely, generous woman, with guts of steel, and I don't doubt she will continue to be a hit with audiences everywhere -- and to reiterate, I would not have posted this if she had not given me the quote on the record.
FUNNIEST STUDIO NOTE: JULIA LOUIS-DREYFUS
"I have only one story that comes to mind, and I leave out names because that's a better idea.
But when I was very young and had just started on “SNL”--I believe I was 20--I did a sketch in which I played John DeLorean's wife...
In that sketch, my hair was blown out straight -- because her hair is straight.
So, we did the show, and the following day, I was called into one of our producers' offices (as a side note, I should say that I have naturally curly hair), and he said to me, “Julia, I got a call from a bunch of NBC executives after last night’s show, and they said that after seeing your hair straight, they all wanna fuck you.”
This was apparently his way of trying to entice me into straightening my hair for the rest of season.
Needless to say: I was young and naïve, but I was so shocked that anyone would say anything like that, I just burst out laughing in a hysterical way. I didn't know what else to do.
Years later, when "Seinfeld" was becoming somewhat of a hit, I ran into the same producer at NBC again.
And he said to me, “Hey, Julia, I see they're letting you do your hair the way you want now."
That's apparently all he took away from my “Seinfeld” contribution.
The irony of it was that not only did I make my hair curly on "Seinfeld," which may have been a huge mistake now that I think about it, but I enhanced the curl and made it HUGE!
I wonder if that hair wasn't some kind of reaction.
I was saying: 'Not only is this hair going to be curly, it's going to be crazy curly. Take that, motherfucker!!'"
Today I have a piece in The Atlantic in which I persuade the Academy Awards to create a "Best Soundtrack" category that would honor the artistic work of insightful music supervisors, who should be given the same awards as art directors and other creative film staffers. There wasn't much room to get into a large discussion of the best soundtracks ever created much less those of this year. But as I wrote, the "art is in the curating of the mix," and in that spirit, I offer you up the one-song but internally eclectic soundtrack to my life. OK, seriously: that song and this one.
UPDATE: A reader commented on the piece with an intelligent response. The comment and my reply are below.
A "Best Soundtrack" category would be interesting... although it would immediately create confusion among viewers with the "Best Original Score" category, would it not?
It could, and I'm a big supporter of composers. One idea, then, is to create two categories for music: "Best Soundtrack" and "Best Original Music." That way scores can continue to be awarded individually, but the rare individual song could be singled out as well. Is it easier to write a song than a score? That's not really the issue, especially when many of today's scores are bits and pieces of incidental music cues. This would allow us a chance to still award composers for their important work (something important to me) and offer an award for a full soundtrack, including a score and playlist of pre-written/recorded songs.--Adam Baer
Update #2: The other strategy they could employ is two music categories: Best Music Direction (like art direction, which would include soundtrack), and Best Original Music. --Adam Baer
I struggle, like all artists, and nowhere is this more evident than in the rough-and-tumble assignments I completed last fall for publication in a variety of December magazines: a short Details magazine profile of Zoë Saldana (above) and a Hemispheres feature onchef Jose Andres. Sometimes I must also dig ditches.
First, it must be understood that the Nick and
Norah whose infinite playlist this is are of no discernible relation to
Nick and Nora Charles from Dashiell Hammett’s novel The Thin Man, which became a series of six boozily banter-intensive movies starring William Powell and Myrna Loy in the ’30s and ’40s.
This has to be explained up front because movie
critics like to feel important, and to act crotchety, which means
making you wait for the information you came here for by spouting off
about how pretty much nobody in Nick & Norah’s target demographic even will have heard of the Thin Man movies anyway, damn kids, with their broadband porn and tattoos and Twitter-frazzled attention spans. ...
Twitter be damned along with those infants. I, very maturely, subscribe to the Useless Jonk RSS feed.
Usher in this new Jewish year (and this is an offer open to atheist shunners of organized religion, believe me!) with this new Salon profile of former "Curb Your Enthusiasm" director Robert B. Weide. The former documentarian sees his feature directorial debut this week, but, for "Curb" fans, his Web site, duckprods.com, offers some facts about the show you want to know. (Incidentally, Weide won one of his Emmy awards for one of our favorite "Curb" episodes, "Crazee Eyes Killah" [related pic above]).
Posted on September 30, 2008 at 07:27 PM|Permalink
I don't know if you caught Anthony Lane's review of Chris Eigeman's taut new film "Turn the River," starring Famke Janssen with a searching original score by Clogs. But see the movie. It's that rare brand of realistic and seemingly effortless filmmaking that escapes even Oscar nominees, friendo. For those in need of more inspiration, I recently wrote a storyabout the writer/director, who really deserved a thorough profile of a few pages. Yes, I also got to speak with Famke; yes, she's smart as a whip; and yes, she looks great outside a green-screen studio, even playing a hardass pool hustler, a role that was meant for her.