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January 31, 2013

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Tony Dayoub

"I did find the issue containing my pan of THE GOOD GERMAN, though, I better get rid of that..."

LULZ for so many reasons.

evelyn garver

This was delightful! Thanks so much. The opportunity afforded Mamet based on his celebrity reminds me of Bill O'Reilly's bestseller [God help us] on the Lincoln assassination. Next up, Lena Dunham's treatise on the Middle East.

That Fuzzy Bastard

I kinda sorta worship Soderbergh as a god, and I was totally disappointed in The Good German. So you're not alone! bit.ly/14tGDAx
Mamet, meanwhile, remains a complete fucking tool. Anyone who grew up around elderly Jews is all too familiar with his spittle-flecked incoherence.

Oliver_C

Are there any Steadicam shots in 'Sarah Palin: The Undefeated'? If so, the contradiction may make Mamet's head explode, and wouldn't that be terrible!

lipranzer

As much as I still love (or like a lot) many of the movies he directed and/or wrote, I have to say the bloom fell off of Mamet for me long before his political conversion, and it was with "On Directing". Not only was that the first time he indulged in what most people who have commented here (if not all) seemed to agree was a tiresome critical position (in order to elevate someone you like, denigrate someone you don't like even if the comparison between them is tenuous at best) in his screed against Method acting. Far be it for me to say there aren't valid criticisms to be made of the Method, but often, it seemed he made the most specious of them (comparing it to flat roofs?). Not only that, but he has maintained this position in similar books and/or essays he's written about movies and theater, conveniently forgetting some of the best performances involving his screenplays have come from actors identified with the Method; Paul Newman in THE VERDICT, Al Pacino and Alec Baldwin in GLENGARRY GLENN ROSS (is Ed Harris Method? He would seem to be, but I don't know if he's ever identified himself as such), Robert De Niro and Dustin Hoffman in WAG THE DOG (and De Niro again in RONIN), and Baldwin again in STATE AND MAIN.

Changing subjects; I too was disappointed in THE GOOD GERMAN, and even a second viewing didn't change my mind.

Joe Gillis

David Mamet never really had to "convert" to being a conservative because he was never really a liberal to begin with--he probably just thought he was a liberal because he supported civil rights back in the 60s and 70s. At this point in his life his political beliefs are worse than just wrong--they've also severely hindered his writing process. His latest play on Broadway, The Anarchist, was a colossal failure. He directed Patti LuPone and Debra Winger to basically be cutouts for a political argument he wanted to shove down the audience's throat. It's a shame as well, because his early work for the theatre is stunning, and his screenplay for The Verdict one of the best ever written. But now he's just become a right-wing stooge.

Jeff McMahon

I just remembered that I absolutely HATED State & Main, thanks Lipranzer.

Pat Hobby

This blog's infatuation with dreary Red State/Blue State nonsense ruins it.

TrocJag

"This blog's infatuation with dreary Red State/Blue State nonsense ruins it."

Has your only experience with the blog been this post? I'd say it's pretty rare that Glenn "gets political" and, when he does, he's pretty graciously/refreshingly nonpartisan (ie he tends to think for himself). Or maybe you've only read this post AND all of David Ehrensteins comments on the other posts.

Graig

@evelyn garver: Oh geez. Do we have to go and take a swipe at Lena Dunham? I mean, really. That's just glib, and unfair, and boring. She's not David Mamet and she's not Bill O'Reilly. Try harder.

Nice piece, though, Glenn. I remember those Mamet cartoons. There was one about a sequel to GANDHI that I remember being modestly amusing in a New Yorkerish kinda way.

Joel Bocko

As a lurker on this thread and simeone whi hasnt seen Tony Furniture or Girls, I was gonna let the last comment sit, but I just ran into the latest cover of Entertainment Weekly on a newsstand and it rankled. While Dunham herself may or may not be to blame, she is repeatedly been held up as a spokesperson in the media, the so-called 'voice of a generation' despite the fact that the lifestyle and sensibility represented in her material, by all accounts (favorable and otherwise), is no more than a tiny niche of young American experience, and is in many ways quite dramatically different from what most young millennial a experience. Again, maybe not her fault, but Evelyn's comment strikes me as a fair tweaking of the hype machine's penchant for assuming its own experience is universal (or simply not caring that it isn't).

Joel Bocko

(Ugh, feel free to delete previous comment due to typos.)

As a lurker on this thread and someone who hasnt seen Tiny Furniture or Girls, I was gonna let the last comment sit, but I just ran into the latest cover of Entertainment Weekly on a newsstand and it rankled. While Dunham herself may or may not be to blame, she has repeatedly been held up as a spokesperson in the media, the so-called 'voice of a generation' despite the fact that the lifestyle and sensibility on display in her material, by all accounts (favorable and otherwise) represents no more than a small niche of young Americans. Again, maybe not her fault, but Evelyn's comment strikes me as a fair tweaking of the hype machine's penchant for assuming its own experience is universal (or simply not caring that it isn't).

jbryant

I'd say it's definitely NOT Dunham's fault. She makes a great show (and the very first episode has her character saying "I think I may be the voice of my generation," then amending it to "A voice of A generation"). To me, the best thing about GIRLS it that it is very specific to its characters and makes no special pleas about their experiences being representative of any others'. It's a shame the fawning press coverage has turned off a sizable number of people who might otherwise find much to like in the show.

Joel Bocko

I got some bad vibes from some of the Tiny Furniture write-ups (many of them on this very blog, natch) but yeah, like I said, sight unseen I can't blame Dunham for the hype surrounding her (or even riding it for what it's worth once it's already there, that is as long as the show itself doesn't harbor the same self-importance). I have no problem believing the entertainment media is to blame.

All in all it isn't the alleged 'self-absorbed, immature upper class urban youth' milieu that bugs me per se (after all, I love Lost in Translation, and that's as guilty of elitist narcissism as anything). Nor even the potential pretentiousness of trying to speak for a generation - actually I wish more young people harbored such 'pretensions'.

Rather, it's the conflation of the two. More often than not, I see my peers marrying, having kids, working hard, serving in the military, etc, in other words assuming a lot of responsibility but against a far more unstable backdrop than other recent generations, including their parents' (particularly when those parents are boomers). It frustrates me that the self-enclosed, exclusive media world presumes that its own experience (and what it sees in its own children - aren't all the members of the Girls cast daughters of famous figures?) somehow epitomizes broader experiences.

Moreover, it isn't just a generational thing. In the era of Occupy and Obama, we are perversely seeing a sharp turn away from populism in entertainment, at least as far as the experiences being conveyed. This bothers me.

Again, if she's as talented and funny as her reputation suggests, Dunham deserves her success (although plenty of other people probably do as well, who won't get the same chances, just sayin'). But the media deserves to be called out for treating her as some kind of millennial guru, just as much as it does for giving Mamet a front cover for his dopey 'Lemme tell ya about this Karl Marx fella' schtick. And I think it fits in quite well with the whole 'celebrities shit gold' mentality Glenn skewers in the piece.

IMHO.

James

I looked for David Mamet's cartoons on the magical internet. The only one I liked was this one, but it did make me smile fairly broadly. http://ww4.hdnux.com/photos/10/21/26/2168235/5/628x471.jpg

jbryant

While it's certainly not impossible to mine comedy from people marrying, having kids, working hard, serving in the military and otherwise being responsible, it's a few degrees more difficult, and perhaps a tougher sell to an audience. So there's that.

Also, without knowing all that much about it, I have assumed that Dunham made her own breaks in the entertainment biz. Her parents are successful in the arts, and they put her through college, but that's true of a lot of people who DON'T become noted writer/director/actor/producers in their early '20s. She started out making youtube shorts, and made her name on the strength of an inexpensive feature. She has chosen her collaborators well, but she has a distinctive voice, which, like anything else, is not for everyone. But much of the criticism that I see of her feels like envy. Hell, I'M envious, but I think she makes great television.

Joel Bocko

Well, like I said, I don't want to focus too heavily in Dunham herself, for 3 reasons: a) I haven't watched her stuff, so I'm in no position to judge; b) from what I know/hear, she HASN'T proclaimed herself the voice of a generation (except in half-joking/mocking form, probably more after other people did so first), so it's unfair to hold her to task for the hype or even for riding it as any sensible person trying to promote their material would; c) heck, I already KNOW I'm envious as hell so I know any direct, personal criticism if Dunham would be colored by that! (Side note: it seems harder than ever for young people to break into mainstream filmmaking recognition; where are our Andersons, Tarantinos, Coens, Spielbergs, etc? Virtually every well-known director I can think of, outside the neo-neorealist and mumblecore niches, is over 35, usually well over 40.)

No, I'd rather focus on the media hype because that's the problem. As for how she broke through, she may not have needed help to make her movie but how did it get seen? Praised? How many debuts leapfrog right into the Criterion Collection? I recall Glenn himself making these points a few years back. It's not to denigrate her - again, as a Lost in Translation fan I can't begrudge filmmakers using their connections to get their vision out there. But it certainly does not make her or her path very typical or encouraging, and in conjunction with her milieu makes 'VoG' proclamations seem way out of whack.

Also disagree with the comedy thing; back in the Depression you had a healthy mix of films set amongst the rich and fabulous, and set amongst the hard-working and hardscrabble. Including, in the latter category, any number of comedies, musicals, and supposedly 'escapist' entertainments that nonetheless did a better job reflecting social reality than many of the supposedly 'realistic' pictures today.

jbryant

I didn't say comedies about hardworking folks didn't exist--just that they're a little harder to pull off successfully.

As for Dunham's path, I wasn't sure exactly what it was either, so I did a little Googling--it appears that she did a web series and some shorts while still in school, then made a short feature called CREATIVE NONFICTION, also while still in school, shooting/editing it on weekends while babysitting to make ends meet. She entered the rough cut into SXSW, didn't make it, submitted a new cut the following year and got in. That film didn't find distribution. Her parents put up the money for TINY FURNITURE (est. budget $65,000), and Dunham hired friends and family to save money. It was shot on the Canon 7D. The finished product got in SXSW and won the Narrative Feature Film award. It won some other awards, too, and I assume that led to its limited theatrical release. Don't know how Criterion got involved. Of course, the critical success of the film and media attention for Dunham led directly to GIRLS.

rcocean

Tennessee Coats' argument doesn't hold water. Mamet isn't "Lying" when he says the Founding Fathers weren't politicians. The fact that someone at one point in their lives runs for office or holds office doesn't neccessary make them a "politician" - here's the definition of "politician" per the on-line dictionary:

One who seeks personal or partisan gain, often by scheming and maneuvering: "Mothers may still want their favorite sons to grow up to be President, but . . . they do not want them to become politicians in the process" (John F. Kennedy).

Mamet always is discussing the Constitution and the Founding fathers. Jefferson was just one of them and wasn't involved in drafting or passing it. Saying someone is lying about the "Founding Fathers" by pointing to just Jefferson is in itself a LIE.

Glenn Kenny

Ha ha ha, RC Ocean, I see what you did, making a racist joke that you will deny being a racist joke.

Anyway. It's not just Jefferson. Adams, Madison, Burr, Hamilton: all politicians of some sort, and lawyers before that. Madison specifically studied law for the purpose of using it to shape public policy. Mamet, by implication, wants to push the horseshit notion that the founder were simple planters who just wanted government to leave them alone. No. They wanted to form a new government, and to head it. They were politicians. Fucking politicians, even. But nice try.

Joel Bocko

J, all in all I'm not sure I radically disagree with you on Dunham. The point about her path to success is tangential (although it remains, considering both the inimitable funding source and subject matter, the latter of which also happens to be a big part of the film's - and later the show's - appeal to the media). My major point is that I think it's legit to call the entertainment media to task for acting as if Dunham's vision/world speaks for the majority of her generation, which it doesn't. Not to belabor the point, but I'd say the same thing about Sofia Coppola, were the same claims made for her (although she's obviously a different generation). And she's probably my favorite American director of her own age group. So it's not necessarily a knock on the artist, just the hype.

Oliver_C

"The fact that someone at one point in their lives runs for office or holds office doesn't neccessary make them a politician."

War is peace
Freedom is slavery
Ignorance is strength

David Ehrenstein

and "Lena Dunham is the voice of a new generation."

rcocean

"Ha ha ha, RC Ocean, I see what you did, making a racist joke that you will deny being a racist joke."

I'll accept "childish play on a name" but not "Joke". TC has an extremely odd name, he has a hyphen in his first name, and that "e" in his last name throws me. As an aside, I also think 'Adam Gopnik' has a funny last name. I can just imagine what the poor kid got called in school.

jbryant

Joel: We certainly don't disagree about the media fawning re Dunham. Luckily, she seems to be handling it well and going about her business. It will be interesting to see her progress with GIRLS and beyond.

evelyn garver

Heavens! I had no idea that my joke about Lena Dunham would spark such a digression. My joke was based on the "halo effect" afforded to those famous in one profession being assumed to have knowledge about another. I could have as well said Jennifer Lawrence or Wes Anderson. And I bet even Dunham would laugh!

Mike Schlesinger

"it seems harder than ever for young people to break into mainstream filmmaking recognition; where are our Andersons, Tarantinos, Coens, Spielbergs, etc? Virtually every well-known director I can think of, outside the neo-neorealist and mumblecore niches, is over 35, usually well over 40.)"

Maybe that's because many young people today really don't give a shit about feature films, except as fodder to yak with their friends about.

Zach

"it seems harder than ever for young people to break into mainstream filmmaking recognition; where are our Andersons, Tarantinos, Coens, Spielbergs, etc? Virtually every well-known director I can think of, outside the neo-neorealist and mumblecore niches, is over 35, usually well over 40.)"

How old is Jeff Nichols? Because he's the first guy that came to mind, for me. Anxiously awaiting his MUD. I was a little surprised to find that Shane Carruth, on the eve of only his 2nd feature, just turned 40.

But in a larger sense, yeah, there isn't anything like the same kind of "generational" group out there. But there's no reason to think that we ought to have a perfect analogue to the Indie scene of the 90s. With all of the flux regarding the funding and distribution of material (a lot of which does seem to offer big potential to indie people) - VOD, kickstarter, etc - it's hard to know what will emerge next, but I have a cautiously optimistic feeling about it. Provided the world doesn't end first, of course.

Joel Bocko

@ Mike, yes but not just young people. That's why I think a lot of the "death of cinema" talk, however pre/portentious, was on to something. That said...

@Zach, I remain cautiously optimistic as well for the reasons you list among others. (And btw, it isn't so much an analogue to the indie scene I'm looking for as an analogue to about three or four generations' worth of young filmmakers emerging with new visions, from new platforms - independent cinema, but film school/New Hollywood before that, and live TV and/or theater before that; and I agree, internet's gotta be the venue but damn if I can't figure out how that's gonna work yet.)

Must admit I'm not familiar with either Nichols or Carruth, but I'll look them up soon. I'm anxious to know what I'm missing in that regard, hell for inspiration if nothing else.

cheap football jerseys

Tennessee coat argument doesn't hold water. MaMei not "lying" when he said America's founding fathers are not a politician. In fact, some people at a point in their life operation office or hold office there is no need to let them "politician" -- the "politician" define each online dictionary:
A person for personal or party interests, often through the planning and control: "mother may still want their favorite son grow up to be President, but... they don't want them to become politicians process" (John f. Kennedy).

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