Books and Arts
Savages is trashy, vulgar, preposterous, cruel—and maybe the most interesting and entertaining film Oliver Stone has made since Nixon. What more do you want when the country is burning, gridlocked, and practicing ballet on the brink? Don’t say the movies lack instincts about where we’re headed.
“Isn't it cool to be that much closer to the viewers of the first and second century?” This, I learned as I read the New York Times the other morning, is how Steven Fine, director of the Arch of Titus Digital Restoration Project and professor of Jewish history at Yeshiva University in New York, expressed his enthusiasm for the recent finding that the famous menorah in the bas-relief of the spoils of Jerusalem was originally painted a rich yellow ocher that would have looked like gold.
Arcadia, the pastoral paradise beloved by poets and painters from the ancients to the moderns, is a terrific subject for a summer museum show. Aren’t we all in the mood for green glades, cool streams, lazy afternoons, and a little wine and song? I wish I could report that the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s “Gauguin, Cézanne, Matisse: Visions of Arcadia” fulfills more than a fraction of that promise.
We think we know what an “anchor” is—that quaint tri-form hunk of heavy metal that vessels throw overboard when they want to stop. That action and the word promise stability and security. So “anchor” has passed into the collected metaphors of our survival: A sentence is anchored to its main verb; a country is kept steady by its constitution; Citizen Kane holds the cause of film history in place. Your family is what keeps you where you should be in the rising swell and cross-currents of life. Aaron Sorkin is a mainstay of old-fashioned adult optimism.
I know it’s not customary, but the customary is fading like spit in the sun. So I want to review two trailers for Paul Thomas Anderson’s next film, The Master, which will be released in October. The second trailer appeared online in June, the first a month earlier. They accompany the limited announcement that the film, set around 1950, is about one man who starts a new religion, and another who becomes his follower. It remains to be seen whether this description is accurate or sufficient. I want to approach the trailers as two films, each about ninety seconds long.
The late musical wizard-for-hire Luther Henderson, who helped would-be singers develop nightclub acts between his arranging assignments for Duke Ellington, once explained in an interview that there used to be an unpublicized policy in effect at the Bonsoir, the Greenwich Village spot where Barbra Streisand got her start in the early 1960s. The club owners had a prohibition against performances of “My Funny Valentine”—written into the contracts, according to Henderson.
He was a man who claimed to have abandoned all five of his children, as newborns, at the door of an orphanage. He broke with nearly every friend he ever made, including some who sacrificed dearly for him, denouncing them in the most hateful and vitriolic terms. He wrote that law-breakers deserved to be treated as rebels and traitors.
LOSING ITBy William Ian Miller (Yale University Press, 328 pp., $27) ONE OF THE blessedly few statistics in Losing It, William Ian Miller’s book about his experience of aging, and a tour-de force of hypochondriacal free association, informs his readers that “more than half the people between the ages of sixty-five and seventy-four surveyed in a National Council on Aging study in 2002 thought of themselves as middle aged or young, as did a third of those over seventy-five.” But the datum representing Miller himself is not to be found resting smugly within the large fraction of the self-delud
Before 2013 begins, catch up on the best of 2012. From now until the New Year, we will be re-posting some of The New Republic’s most thought-provoking pieces of the year. Enjoy. The Years of Lyndon Johnson: The Passage of PowerBy Robert A. Caro (Knopf, 712 pp., $35) I. MANY LIBERAL Democrats have yet to come to terms with Lyndon Johnson.
From the moment we meet news anchor Will McAvoy in the opening scene of Aaron Sorkin’s “The Newsroom,” there are signs that a Sorkin monologue is brewing: a flicker of anger in the eyes, a twitch of facial muscles, a cloud of moral indignation settling in. McAvoy, played by Jeff Daniels, is sitting on a panel at Northwestern, and two talking heads are firing partisan flak at each other from the chairs to his left and his right.