Books and Arts

The Oscars’ Disgraceful Nominees for Best Song
January 27, 2012

An academy more ephemeral than Kaplan University, the body of movie-industry workers who vote for the Oscars acted with rare judiciousness this week and made only two nominations—the lowest number in Academy Award history—for Best Original Song. To qualify, a tune must have been composed especially for the film in which it appears, and it must play within the body of the movie or immediately at the end.

For the AIDS Dead
January 26, 2012

The plague you have thus far survived. They didn’t. Nothing that they did in bed that you didn’t. Writing a poem, I cleave to “you.” You means I, one, you, as well as the you inside you constantly talk to. Without justice or logic, without sense, you survived. They didn’t. Nothing that they did in bed that you didn’t. Frank Bidart is an American poet. This poem appeared in the February 16, 2012 issue of the magazine.

Red Foods
January 25, 2012

Lift me up, Severn, for I am dying. Do not be afraid. are good for us: beets, raspberries, tomatoes. Watermelon. Is this supposed to remind us of the blood and water of our beginning? Or of our end? Face down in a mess of noise, and light, and hair, I don’t like it. I bawl. The furball of memory and regret not yet stuck in my throat, unable to go up or down, I am an unplanted seed, all hope and striving. Later for angioplasty, ramipril, and tasteless cereal. Kashi Go Lean. My ataxia is normal.

The True Lies of Totalitarian North Korea
January 25, 2012

When the videos of North Koreans weeping hysterically in the streets of Pyongyang circulated on YouTube last month in the wake of Kim Jong-il’s death, few Western onlookers knew what to make of them. Most of us seem to have assumed that the tears were fake, produced on command—an interpretation backed up by one of the best books recently to appear on the subject of North Korea, Barbara Demick’s Nothing to Envy, which describes manufactured public grief in 1994 after Kim Il-sung’s death.

The Ambiguous Future of 3D Movies
January 24, 2012

It was in 1985 that the German film director Wim Wenders first saw the Pina Bausch dance company. He later admitted that he had had to be dragged to the event by a girlfriend. Though a lover of many types of music, Wenders was one of those who believed he simply didn’t get ballet or modern dance. But after a few moments of the performance, he was on the edge of his seat, so moved he was crying. He felt his life had been altered. Pina Bausch had been born in Dusseldorf in 1940 (that made her five years older than Wenders).

TNR Film Classics: ‘The Great Gatsby’ (April 13, 1974)
January 21, 2012

When I saw the 1949 film of The Great Gatsby, the only other person in the screening room was Edmund Wilson(whom I didn’t know). Afterward, as he left, a smiling Paramount publicity man asked him how he had liked the picture. “Not very much, I’m afraid,” said Wilson,and kept walking to the elevator.

Who Are the Real Authors of 'Porgy and Bess'?
January 21, 2012

  There’s a cheeky scene in Born Yesterday, George Cukor’s Americanized upending of Pygmalion,that casts light on the thinking behind the marquee at the Richard Rodgers Theatre on Broadway this season. About a third of the way into the Cukor film, William Holden, on assignment to instill class in Judy Holiday, takes her to the symphony. “What's the name of this number, did you say?” she asks him. “Beethoven’s Second Symphony, Opus Thirty-Six,” he answers. “I didn’t ask you who made it up,” she snaps back.

Why Curators Matter
January 18, 2012

Going through “The Renaissance Portrait: From Donatello to Bellini,” a survey of fifteenth-century Italian paintings, sculptures, and drawings at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, visitors are likely to feel they are in the hands of an inspired storyteller. They are. The storyteller is Keith Christiansen, who heads the European painting department at the Metropolitan, and who organized the exhibition together with Stefan Weppelmann of the Gemäldegalerie in Berlin.

Why Lisbeth Salander Beats Margaret Thatcher
January 17, 2012

In The Iron Lady, a figure named Margaret Thatcher orders the sinking of the Argentinean battleship, the Belgrano. She “wins” the war of the Falkland Islands, just as she had won leadership of the Conservative party in Great Britain and had become the nation’s first female prime minister. As such, she imposed austerity cuts; she beat down the trade union movement; she gutted many parts of her country, especially the manufacturing north; and she restored a version of prosperity in the financial services industry that was lifted on the wave of the Internet.

TNR Film Classics: ‘The Age of Innocence’ (October 18, 1993)
January 13, 2012

The basic trouble with Martin Scorsese’s The Age of Innocence (Columbia) is Edith Wharton’s novel. Looking back fifty years in 1920, Wharton conceived a tale of love versus honor set in New York high society of that past era, and she embodied it in a full-dress novel. But her material would have served only as a short story, at most a novella, for Tolstoy or Chekhov. What helps to sustain Wharton’s more extended treatment is the attractive prose in which she wraps her narrative.