Out of the Furnace
"Out of the Furnace," about two suffering brothers (Christian Bale and Casey Affleck) in Pennsylvania steel country. hits some of the same notes as "The…
Snarking is cultural vandalism. I have arrived at this conclusion belatedly. I have been guilty of snarking, and of enjoying snarks. In the matter of snarking, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child. But it has grown entirely out of hand. It is time to put away childish things. I must restore my balance, view the world in a fair way, hope to inspire more appreciation than ridicule. No doubt there will always be a role for snarking, given the proper target and an appropriate venue, and I reserve the right to snark when it is deserved, as in certain movie reviews. But in general I must become more well-behaved. A snarker is one who snarks. The word is said to be a combination of snide and remark. There are slithering undertones of shark, bark, and stark. There is also, for me, an association with snipe. The practice involves holding someone up to ridicule not so much for anything they actually did, as for having the presumption to be who they are.
The full-screen In Memoriam montage is linked below.
It was the best Oscar show I've ever seen, and I've seen plenty. The Academy didn't bring it in under three and a half hours, but maybe they simply couldn't, given the number of categories. What they did do was make the time seem to pass more quickly, and more entertainingly. And they finally cleared the logjam involved in merely reading the names of the nominees. By bringing out former winners to single out each of the acting nominees and praise their work, they replaced the reading of lists with a surprisingly heart-warming new approach.
I had a feeling Hugh Jackman would be a charmer as host, and he was. He didn't have a lot of gag lines, depending instead on humor in context, as when he recruited Anne Hathawy onstage for their duet. His opening "low budget" song-and-dance was amusing, and we could immediately see how the show would benefit from the reconfigured theater.
Based on his show-stopping speech at Saturday night's Independent Spirit Awards, if Mickey Rourke wins an Oscar on Sunday night the Oscarcast is going to be a lollapalooza. As his comeback film "The Wrestler" won for best film, male actor and cinematography, Rourke brought the show to a halt and the audience to its feet with an acceptance speech that was classic Mickey. The Indie Spirits are telecast live and unbleeped, which added considerably to the speech's charm.
Lisa, a friend of mine, was for many years Variety's correspondent in Paris. In the countdown before the Oscars, I found these observations fascinating.
Gene Siskel and I were like tuning forks. Strike one, and the other would pick up the same frequency. When we were in a group together, we were always intensely aware of one another. Sometimes this took the form of camaraderie, sometimes shared opinions, sometimes hostility. But we were aware. If something happened that we both thought was funny but weren't supposed to, God help us if one caught the other's eye. We almost always thought the same things were funny. That may be the best sign of intellectual communion.
Gene died ten years ago on February 20, 1999. He is in my mind almost every day. I don't want to rehearse the old stories about how we had a love/hate relationship, and how we dealt with television, and how we were both so scared the first time we went on Johnny Carson that, backstage, we couldn't think of the name of a single movie, although that story is absolutely true. Those stories have been told. I want to write about our friendship. The public image was that we were in a state of permanent feud, but nothing we felt had anything to do with image. We both knew the buttons to push on the other one, and we both made little effort to hide our feelings, warm or cold. In 1977 we were on a talk show with Buddy Rogers, once Mary Pickford's husband, and he said, "You guys have a sibling rivalry, but you both think you're the older brother."
Once Gene and I were involved in a joint appearance with another Chicago media couple, Steve Dahl and Garry Meier. It was a tribute to us or a tribute to them, I can't remember. They were pioneers of free-form radio. Gene and I were known for our rages against each other, and Steve and Garry were remarkable for their accord. They gave us advice about how to work together as a successful team. The reason I remember that is because soon afterward Steve and Garry had an angry public falling-out that has lasted until this day.
Every time I see a dog in a movie, I think the same thing: I want that dog. I see Skip or Lucy or Shiloh and for a moment I can't even think about the movie's plot. I can only think about the dog. I want to hold it, pet it, take it for walks, and tell it what a good dog it is. I want to love it, and I want it to love me. I have an empty space inside myself that can only be filled by a dog.
Not a cat. I have had cats and I was fond of them, fonder than they ever were of me. But what I want is unconditional love, and therefore I want a dog. I want to make its life a joy. I want to scratch behind its ears, and on its belly when it rolls over. I want to gently extend its tail so the dog can tell it's a fine tail indeed. I want to give it a shampoo, and sneak it bites from the table, and let it exchange the news with other dogs we meet on the street. I want it to bark at the doorbell, be joyous to see my loved ones, shake hands, and look concerned if I seem depressed. If I throw a ball I want the dog to bring back the ball and ask me to throw it again.
On February 12, we celebrate the bicentennials of two of the greatest figures of the 19th century: Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin. In hailing Lincoln, bells will peal from sea to shining sea. The same date is also designated around the world as Darwin Day, and in Shrewsbury, Shropshire, his birthplace, a cake with 200 candles will be presented in the Square, and everyone will be offered a slice. If you're of school age, living in Shropshire, and your birthday is Feb. 12, the city invites you to Darwin's Birthday Bash. This is a grand celebration for a man whose Theory of Evolution promoted atheism, inspired Hitler's genocides, and thinks your grandfather was a monkey.
None of those things are true, but such claims are what I've been dealing with since Dec. 3, 2008, when I published a blog entry praising Darwin's Theory and castigating Ben Stein's documentary "Expelled," which claimed the opposing theory of Intelligent Design was being silenced in a crime against freedom of speech. That entry has so far drawn some 280,000 visits and inspired nearly 1,300 comments comprising some 145,000 words, every one of which I have read. The thread is still active and growing every day.
The day will come when the words of Shakespeare are no longer known. The day will come, perhaps sooner, when all the words on the internet, in every language, have disappeared. These very words, and all the words we have read and written, will no longer exist. Oh, for a long time they may be on a hard drive somewhere, one able to store the entirety of the web. But not forever. Not even close. A word not read is like the proverbial tree falling in the forest. The word existed, the tree fell, but without witness, what does it mean?
These thoughts were inspired, oddly enough, by an advice column by Cary Tennis on Salon.com. He is asked a question, and answers it. I suspect the question was asked by Tennis of himself, in a spell of existential funk. His question comes down to: "Will anybody ever read what we write here, after today? I am sure our writing will persist in the World Wide Web, but will anybody ever read it again? Will our best, well-meant advice ever help anybody else in the future? Will our detailed knowledge ever be of any use? Or do we just get filed, permanently?"
I was watching Tony Scott on the Charlie Rose program, and he said, in connection with "The Reader," that he was getting tired of so many movies about the Holocaust. I didn't agree or disagree. What I thought was, "The Reader" isn't about the Holocaust. It's about not speaking when you know you should.
That's something I'm guilty of. I hold my tongue all the time, especially in social situations where my opinions might cause unhappiness. Those often involve politics and religion, two subjects that a lot of mothers tell their kids never to discuss at a dinner party--unless, of course, everybody at the table agrees, and then what's the point?
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