Marilyn Monroe

The German director Margarethe von Trotta has had such a long and fascinating career that, if there were justice in these matters—which idea is laughable—she would be treasured by more than who do so now. Beginning in 1975 she has made films that dealt with women, known and unknown, all of which were wonderfully persuasive.

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The Curse of Warholism

Never mind Andy Warhol’s art. It’s his perspective that’s doing the damage.

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Fifty years ago, late on August 4 or in the early hours of August 5—so little can be said of her with certainty—Marilyn Monroe died, and began her life in legend. This was only 50 years ago, in Los Angeles, when she was a very important if vague person who may have known even more important persons. There were doctors in attendance, and then coroners; there were police investigations. The world decided it was shocked and stricken by the sudden departure of the 36-year-old, yet not surprised.

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Nicki Minaj wants to be the Marilyn Monroe of hip-hop. So let’s just say she is. After all, being a member of Minaj’s audience is all about submitting to her will, just as inducing submission was one of the main objectives of Marilyn’s art. This Sunday was the fiftieth anniversary of Monroe’s death, and the occasion brings to mind how much Monroe and Minaj have in common as musical performers, and how different they are in important ways. Like Marilyn Monroe, Nicki Minaj is a sex symbol for her time and a magnificently theatrical self-construction, and she has no singing voice to speak of.

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On Thursday, April 5, I saw the best movie I have seen so far this year. It was only 74 seconds long. That seems quick, yet it felt stealthy and suspenseful as it traveled through time. For the show was the story of a life, or 25 years of it. That is Lindsay Lohan’s age now, and her future is more precarious than 25 usually promises. I watched it first in the early morning of the fifth on Yahoo.

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What does “deep blue” mean in this film, or in the Terence Rattigan play that has prompted a movie from Terrence Davies sixty years later? Deep blue is no small matter; it’s not just Miles Davis doing “Kind of Blue,” William Gass’s book On Being Blue, a nickname for IBM, or Lucian Freud’s painting, “Man in a Blue Scarf.” Four out of ten people name blue as their favorite color. So I have always wanted more from The Deep Blue Sea than it ever delivers. Rattigan was the leading English playwright during the war and into the early 1950s, before the disruptions of John Osborne and Harold Pinter.

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Since first seeing The Artist, I believed it was going to win Best Picture. It’s “different” without being challenging or difficult or worrying. The Artist could have been designed by a computer to appeal to anyone who has a sense of nostalgia for movie history. (And 54 percent of Academy voters are over sixty). It is also a light, entertaining picture in which froth passes for energy, and pat ironies are made to seem intelligent. I enjoyed it, until the moment I guessed how close it was to getting Best Picture.

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The Collector

On a warm Saturday in early July, an employee at the Maryland Historical Society placed a call to the police. He had noticed two visitors behaving strangely—a young, tall, handsome man with high cheekbones and full lips and a much older, heavier man, with dark, lank hair and a patchy, graying beard. The older man had called in advance to give the librarians a list of boxes of documents he wanted to see, saying that he was researching a book. At some point during their visit, the employee saw the younger man slip a document into a folder.

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Some time towards the end of this delightful entertainment, the realization dawns of how much courage Michelle Williams needed in accepting the offer to play Marilyn Monroe. Yet an hour earlier, I had been asking, “Oh, why do it? Why take on this child monster yet again, in the year before we will be inundated with memories and garbage at the fiftieth anniversary of her death?” The more familiar the icon or celebrity in a movie biopic, the more hazardous it is to attempt impersonation, a process that can look stilted or unnecessary on screen.

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Why is this film called Rise of the Planet of the Apes? Because 20th Century Fox, the producers (including co-writer, Rick Jaffa, and Peter Chernin), and director Rupert Wyatt are thinking sequels and franchise rights. They’ll probably get their wish: After all, the Apes model as established by Charlton Heston as the rudely enslaved master race goes back 40 years now, and movie monkey business regards the extraordinary King Kong (1933) as its founding father. But the filmmaking enterprise might attend a little more closely to the eagerness for compromise in its own narrative set-up.

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