Inside Llewyn Davis
"Inside Llewyn Davis" is the most satisfyingly diabolical cinematic structure that the Coens have ever contrived, and that's just one reason that I suspect it…
Every writer hopes to see his book reviewed in The New York Times. The grand slam is to be reviewed twice, both daily and Sunday. On last Thursday, Janet Maslin reviewed "Life Itself" and it was the best review I could possibly hope for. On Sunday, Maureen Dowd reviewed it in the NYTimes Book Review. Another positive review--indeed, for Dowd, positively generous. ("A captivating, movable feast.") But near the top it contained a zinger. "Ebert is a first-rate second-rate memoirist," she wrote. I cringed, and then I smiled. If there was ever an example of snark that I fully deserved, it was this one. First of all, it is fair enough. If Nabokov's Speak, Memory is an example of the first-rate memoir, then the bar has been set pretty high.
I've been on Twitter for about two years. It's a part of my life. A small part, but a nice diversion for someone who publicly claimed, "I will never be a twit!"
My purpose today is not to issue generalizations about Twitter, or to persuade you to take part. You may well have better ways to spend your time. What I want to do is make some observations about successful tweeting.
Nadine Labaki's "Where Do We Go Now?" won the coveted Cadillac People's Choice Award on Sunday at the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival. At the noncompetitive festival with no jury, this award is voted on by moviegoers on their way out of the theaters, and tallied by a formulas that equalizes for audience sizes.
There are two good films at Toronto about the same thing: Romance that begins during the last months of life for a person with cancer. I wrote earlier about Gus Van Sant's "Restless," and now here is "50/50" by Jonathan Levine, with a screenplay by Will Reiser that is said to be semi-autobiographical. As a person who has been in love while dealing with cancer, these films inspire introspection, and while I admire them I realize they are to some degree escapism--poised at the "Bargaining" position at the center of Elisabeth Kübler-Ross's five stages of grief.
• Toronto Entry #4There is a Truffaut film, rarely seen, named "The Green Room," based on the Henry James short story "The Altar of the Dead." That was about a man whose constant companions were the friends he had lost. He was faithful to their shrines in his memory. The term for his obsession is thanatopsis, a meditation upon death. Truffaut himself plays the hero of his film, and maintains a little chapel to the memory of his late wife and other loved ones. Nathalie Baye plays a woman he meets who shares his devotion, and it seems possible they may find happiness together, but she cannot reach him because his mind seems to reside in the next world.
As I sat in a Toronto hotel room and watched those first images of 9/11 playing over and over again, there was an eerie mixture of fact and fiction. Television showed panic in the streets, as people ran screaming toward the cameras. Behind them, the unthinkable: the vast towers crumbling in fire and smoke, and clouds of debris filling the canyons of the streets.
• Toronto Entry #3
If more people were like Tilda Swinton, what a better world this would be. She looks people straight in the eye. She levels. She notices and cares about them--not just the big shots, but everyone. She still corresponds with Hilde Back, the 83-year-old Swedish woman who was the heroine of the great documentary "A Small Act" at Ebertfest 2011. She personally helps haul a trailer across the north of Scotland so that movies can be exhibited in towns without cinemas. She is formidably intelligent and forthright. She has a good heart. She freshens my faith in the cinema.
• Toronto Entry #2I have not quite become jaded. Sometimes I fear that I am so familiar with movie formulas that some films don't have a fair chance. Then I go to see Michel Hazanavicius' "The Artist" and it tells a story that would have been familiar in the late 1920s, when it is set, and I begin by admiring its technique and am surprised to find, half way through, that I actually care how it turns out.
• Toronto Journal #1More than in previous years, I'm noticing the laptops in the audiences here at the Toronto Film Festival. Some of the bloggers seem to be beginning their reviews as the end credits still play. Then you see them outside, sitting on a corridor floor, their computers tethered to an electric umbilical, as they type urgently. Of course many of them share their opinions in quick conversational bursts, and a consensus develops. Most films good enough for an important festival, I think, require a little more marinating.
I should have left the bloody book on the floor. It was past midnight, and I had finished a little light bedtime reading: A thriller by Barbara Vine, a chapter a night. I replaced the bookmark and reached over to put the book on the bedside table. It fell to the floor. That was no big deal.
But no. I was compelled to lean over to pick it up. I am not very nimble these days. I stretched down. I was maybe two inches away. I shifted, and made a real reach. I crashed onto the