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Showing posts from June, 2010

Marriage in the West

Marriage in the West isn’t doing very well because it’s in direct confrontation with the evolved reality of our species. What we argue in the book is that the best way to increase marital stability, which in the modern world is an important part of social stability, is to develop a more tolerant and realistic understanding of human sexuality and how human sexuality is being distorted by our modern conception of marriage. Certainly growing up in the '70s and '80s there were very few kids I knew whose parents weren’t divorced at least once. The economic, emotional, psychological cost of fractured relationships is a major problem in American society — with single mothers and single-parent families.[. . .]The advent of agriculture changed everything about human society, from sexuality to politics to economics to health to diet to exercise patterns to work-versus-rest patterns. It introduced the notion of property into sexuality.[. . .]When you have agriculture, men started to worr…

Growth panic

It takes a long, long time to grow up. Just when you start to sort things out and make some progress toward maturity, inevitably someone wanders up and offers you a jello shot or a sexy control freak of a boyfriend or a couch to nap on, and before you know it you're back at square one.Eventually, though, these people die or go to rehab, leaving you all alone to figure some things out, write a check to the landlord, take a shower, etc. Finally, you feel calm and satisfied and secure -- maybe for the first time in your whole life. You've done it! You're a mature, responsible adult!That's when you notice that you're really fucking old.[. . .]And how will you handle old age? You'll whine about it like a big baby for the rest of your life. Yes, that's right: You got to feel mature and satisfied for a total of about three minutes there.[. . .]Sadly, this is all that most of us crusty old parents can hope for when our kids are young: a few split seconds of communi…

Knight and Day

Cruise really may be the hardest-working man in show business right now, but on him (in direct contrast to James Brown), all that sweat just isn’t cool. Once coolness leaves you, how do you get it back?As big a box-office draw as Cruise may have been in days of yore, he was never truly cool; he has always tried too hard. The more frightening reality, as posed by the ambitious but unsatisfying spy caper Knight and Day, is that he will never, ever go away. (Stephanie Zacharek, “Robotic Tom Cruise Weighs Down Knight and Day,” Movieline, 22 June 2010)Tom Cruise is like Roger Ebert: For awhile (much shorter, of course, with Ebert -- but it did happen with him) we play at making them seem out of date, now sort of ridiculous, but we ultimately decide to keep around, find a set and respected place for, because they still seem more moved by something inside them, self-directed, than just another uber-savy embodiment of our stuck and cranky l'esprit du temps. Cruise is never with it: when t…

MacGruber

But MacGruber never gathers any momentum. Once in a while a funny line or absurd sight gag will amble into the foreground, only to recede immediately in the rear-view mirror of memory. Forte is handsome enough — he’s ruggedly chiseled and all that. But watching at him strut about, in his quilted vest and plaid-shirt getup, wearing a retro hairdo that’s simultaneously too-pouffy and too-matted, becomes exhausting after a while. The movie is also conspicuously lacking in gadgety ridiculousness: At one point MacGruber drags out a box full of rubber bands, Q-tips and the like and proceeds to fiddle around with them — sticking a penny into his belly-button, for example, presumably on the assumption that it will come in handy later. Later, when faced with the task of disarming an explosive in 1.2 seconds or something like that, he panics at the riotous array of colors found in the tangle of wires before him. Here and there, he improvises: A leafy celery stick stuck pertly into a certain ori…

Generosity?

But there are also places where the movie’s characters veer too close to broad caricature. Winter’s Bone is based on a novel by Daniel Woodrell, adapted for the screen by Granik and Anne Rosellini, and it took several prizes at Sundance earlier this year. (Granik’s first feature, the 2004 Down to the Bone, in which Vera Farmiga played a working-class, cocaine-using mom, was similarly acclaimed.) Winter’s Bone is striving to tell a story that’s rooted, in some way, in real life. Still, I’m always a little nervous when a filmmaker shows us overweight people who may or may not be missing significant teeth, wearing battered fleece pullovers or rumpled plaid shirts flung over dirty T-shirts. I’m not saying people don’t ever look like that in real life; it’s simply that those conventions are too often used to denote a filmmaker’s idea of real life. Clearly, Granik doesn’t intend to condescend to her characters. But there’s no getting around the fact that to her they represent a mysterious “…