Jane Austen, Process

  • On March 18, 1817, Jane Austen stopped writing a book. We know the date because she wrote it at the end of the manuscript, on January 27th of that year. In the seven weeks in between, she had completed eleven chapters and slightly more than nine pages of a twelfth — some twenty-three thousand five-hundred words. The final sentence in the manuscript runs as follows: “Poor Mr. Hollis! — It was impossible not to feel him hardly used; to be obliged to stand back in his own House and see the best place by the fire constantly occupied by Sir H.D.”

— Anthony Lane, Last Laugh: Jane Austen’s Final, Surprising, Unfinished Novel

(The New Yorker, 13 March 2017)

To read:

  • Sanditon (her last novel, unfinished)
  • Persuasion
  • Northanger Abbey

Quote of the Day: 3rd Wednesday of August 2015

I don’t think writers are much smarter than other people. I think they’re more compelling in their stupidity.

— David Foster Wallace, quoted by Anthony Lane in his review of James Ponsoldt’s film about Wallace, in The New Yorker August 10 & 17, 2015

Self has never read David Foster Wallace. She resolves to add Infinite Jest and Brief Interviews with Hideous Men.

Stay tuned.

Quote of the Day: Anthony Lane Reviews “Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation”

It honestly doesn’t feel like summer because usually, in summer, self watches a movie a week.

Anyhoo, she wants to see “Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation.”

Browsing the web for reviews, she finds one by Anthony Lane, movie critic for The New Yorker.

As usual, he lands a zinger in his very first sentence:

  • How impossible can a mission be, if it is successfully completed five times?

Hoo Hoo Ha Ha!

She will never forget what Lane wrote (20 years ago?) about the movie “Speed”:

  • When I first heard the plot of “Speed,” I did not stop laughing for a week.

Back to the current article: Lane also reviews James Ponsoldt’s “The End of the Tour,” about Infinite Jest author David Foster Wallace. This movie features Jason Segel (as DFW), Jesse Eisenberg as a reporter chronicling a book tour, and Joan Cusack as a tour escort and self really, really wants to see it.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

The New Yorker Remembers Philip Seymour Hoffman (Feb. 17 & 24, 2014 Issue)

Anthony Lane’s piece on Philip Seymour Hoffman is in the current issue (Feb. 17 & 24, 2014) of The New Yorker.  Below, a few excerpts:

Leading man, character actor, supporting player:  really, who gives a damn?  Either you hold an audience, so tight that it feels lashed to the seats, or you don’t.  That is why the distinction between Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor, at the Academy Awards, grows ever more ludicrous — essential, of course, to the smooth structure of the night, but untrue, Read the rest of this entry »

Best Movies, February 2013

Life of PiLife of PiLife of Pi.  (Self wants to see this one again, which hasn’t happened to her since Midnight in Paris)

Next:  Warm BodiesWarm BodiesWarm Bodies.

Next Next:  Silver Linings PlaybookSilver Linings PlaybookSilver Linings Playbook.

Yet to See:  Amour (Anthony Lane of The New Yorker says it has “a sense of foreboding” that is “clear and encompassing . . .  more so, in fact, because the only villain is time, and the only fault of the victims is to grow old.” Self saw Haneke’s earlier film, “The White Ribbon,” which drips with dread and community guilt and shame, so she can well imagine what a joyous two-hour romp in the theater she will have watching this.  Nevertheless . . .  )

Thinking more about Warm Bodies and that performance by Nicholas Hoult:  the only reason there is not more heat in the end is that —  gulp!  —  Teresa Palmer underplays her role to the point of (almost) vacuity.  If that had been Jennifer Lawrence . . .   Nevertheless, self loved the way Palmer wielded her shotgun in the early scenes.


Next question:  Why is R seated by himself in the backseat, happily bleeding, while Julie and her father exchange loving glances, etc as if no one exists except each other?  Are the two not aware that there is a man bleeding in the back seat?

OK so R is happy he is bleeding because it means he can feel pain, and to feel anything is to be human.  I understand that part.  But doesn’t being human also mean being more concerned?  And, this is no ordinary person in the back seat, this is — R,  the hero of our story!  If a passerby can feel sympathy for M because his “zombie fingers” have difficulty opening an umbrella, what more the victim of a gunshot wound?  Who is bleeding all over the back seat?  Shouldn’t Juliet and her father at least be telling R to lie down, or keep pressure on the wound, or something of that sort?  Or is R still a zombie, and thus he can never die or bleed out?  Self finds all of this terribly confusing.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Anthony Lane, Ferocious as Usual

From Lane’s review of “Lawless,” in the Sept. 3, 2012 issue of The New Yorker:

I have struggled, through fifty-seven varieties of “Transformers,” to feel the magic of Shia LaBeouf, who has the expression of a panicking puppy and a name like an Islamic steak house.

From Lane’s review of “The Expendables 2” (in the same issue of The New Yorker):

Anyone who soldiered through “The Expendables,” two years ago, will be touched, and a little surprised, to learn that there is more to expend.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Recalling “Biutiful”

Self is reading capsule movie reviews in The New Yorker. The first one is for “Biutiful.”

Self learns the name of the actress who plays the “irresponsible and overbearing” wife of the hero: Maricel Alvarez. The woman has a whippet-thin body and an almost-ugly face (dominated by a huge nose). Self remembers a scene where the mother is home, everyone is home. There has been a power failure, all the ice cream in the freezer has melted. The mother serves the ice cream to her recalcitrant children. She encourages them to imitate her as she scoops soggy ice cream from a carton with her fingers. It is the gross-est scene imaginable, since self actually finds Marambra, the wife, despicable and doesn’t know why Uxbal, Javier Bardem’s character (What kind of a name is Uxbal? Sounds Basque? Self is sure she never heard of a Spaniard going by this name) puts up with her shenanigans.

The review is written by Anthony Lane. Oh, he does have a fine turn of phrase!

Spoiler Alert!  Spoiler Alert!

Lane writes of Bardem’s character: “Here is yet another role that steers him toward indignity (Uxbal has terminal cancer), but Bardem never milks it . . . ” And, as if unbidden, in self’s mind arises the memory of Uxbal alone in the bathroom, naked except for a diaper. His body is still beautiful, and Bardem plays the scene with absolute humility.

Later in the film, a young Senegalese immigrant proves to be a crucial element of the plot: she moves in with Uxbal after her husband has been deported to Senegal. As Uxbal weakens, she is there to feed him and to walk his children to school. Finally, in gratitude, Uxbal gives her a secret stash of money. At first she demurs, but he makes her take it.

Then we see the young woman seeing the children off to school. She waves, is friendly — but why is she carrying that unusually lumpy knapsack? All this time, self prayed the movie would have a happy ending. But it was here, when the Senegalese mother bid good-bye to Uxbal’s kids, that self knew that the woman was preparing to leave.

The movie cuts to Bardem, weakened and fragile, alone in his apartment. Someone opens the door and goes through the apartment, but does not enter the room where Uxbal is lying. The door to Uxbal’s room has a smoky glass panel, and Uxbal can see the shadow moving down the hallway. It is night. The shadow undoubtedly belongs to a woman. But who?

It is moments like these that give the film its melancholy power.

He calls out the Senegalese woman’s name. “Is that you?” he asks, mortally ill, suffering. A woman answers, “Yes, it’s me,” but we never actually see her. She passes the room without entering. Is Ana pretending to be the Senegalese woman to spare her father any more disappointments? The voice and figure are small. The scene will always be a mystery. Next, Ana and her father lie side by side on his bed:  Uxbal is telling his daughter a story.  The story is about a ring he inherited.

The beauty and horror of this movie are perfectly encapsulated in that ambiguous scene, which never actually gets explained: Who is that woman who just entered the apartment? Is it the Senegalese woman, is it his daughter Ana? The voice is muffled, so we can’t be sure.

Self would like to believe it was the Senegalese woman (She realizes how vested she is in the prospect of Uxbal having a woman who is concerned for him — at last!) but then the scene ends, and we never do find out who that was that walked in the door, when Uxbal called out. Ah, what grief! In subsequent scenes, the family is by itself, so perhaps she did leave. Perhaps she used the money Uxbal gave her to run away, perhaps to her home country, there to be reunited with her husband.

And now Uxbal is seemingly in the last throes of his illness (Why doesn’t he go to a hospital? Isn’t there medical insurance in Spain?). He lies in bed, weak and exhausted.  His daughter lies next to him and they talk. Soon after, the film ends.

Wonderful, wonderful movie.

Anthony Lane on Peter Weir

And here is self, curled up in bed, reading yet another New Yorker (She might as well go ahead and renew her subscription.  Yes, she’d better), this one of January 31, 2011.

She’s reading an Anthony Lane review of Peter Weir’s latest movie, “The Way Back” (She’s missed him since “Master and Commander,” one of her 10 Favorite Films of All Time —  along with “Platoon,” “The Usual Suspects,” “L.A. Confidential,” “Alien,” “Blade Runner,” “Lantana” —  Self’s list keeps changing, but Peter Weir’s “Master and Commander” is pretty much a constant).

Anyhoo, Lane gives a re-cap of some of Peter Weir’s past movies, and fails to mention:  a) “Last Picnic at Hanging Rock” b) “Witness” and c) “Master and Commander.”  He does get in mention of one of self’s least-favorite Peter Weir movies, “The Truman Show.”  And another that she has never seen:  “Green Card,” in which, according to Lane, “jungle music thrummed at night” through Andie MacDowell’s apartment while “she and Gerard Depardieu lay in separate rooms, awake with unappeasable lust.”  (Sold! Self will rent this one from Netflix, soon as she’s finished viewing “Splice”!)

Here’s Lane again, killing self with witticisms:  He has praise for Ed Harris, who “plays an American known as Smith.”  Someone asks him for a first name.  “Mr.,” he replies.  This is a movie about men who escape from a Stalinist prison camp, but while Harris’ features are appropriately “riven and desperate,” the “rest of the actors, through no fault of their own, never look as shrivelled by hunger as they should.”

And then Lane goes on to reveal aspects of the plot, and —  Stop right there, self! You know you’ll see this movie, no matter what!

So self decides to stop reading.  She does think it is pretty amazing that this movie is based on a true story, and some of the escapees did make it to freedom, “crossing the Himalayas into India after a trek of some four thousand miles.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Still Writing (But Mostly Reading)

Self, what is happening to you?  Why are you blogging so much, when you are supposed to be Read the rest of this entry »

Anthony Lane on “Iron Man 2”

The other day, hubby was watching “Aliens” on flat-screen HDTV, and self kept up an almost continuous ribbing, saying “That’s the worst sequel I’ve ever seen!” and “Shut up!” whenever the little girl, Newt, was screaming.

Hubby ignored self and continued watching.

Close to the end of “Aliens,” Sigourney dons the full-metal suit and … Wait a minute! That donning of a full-metal “body jacket” does remind self so much of “Iron Man”! And she hates that “Iron Man 2” had two people suiting up (overkill, if you ask self), as Don Cheadle joins Robert Downey, Jr., though his suit is silver, to distinguish him from Iron Man.

Anyhoo, this evening, while waiting for “Justified” Episode 11 to come on (BWAH. HA. HA. HA! Let’s see if self can drag hubby away from post-game interviews on ESPN!), self is reading Anthony Lane’s review of “Iron Man 2.”

Lane professes to like the Iron Man Franchise. He even says, in Paragraph 1 of his review: “I like the Iron Man franchise.”

“In contrast to Bruce Wayne,” Lane writes, “who appears to have learned his public-relations technique from Thomas Pynchon, Tony relates to his public all too well.” (Wait — Thomas Pynchon ??? The only thing Thomas Pynchon has in common with Bruce Wayne is — the fact that they were both mentioned by Anthony Lane in the same sentence!)

In his review, Lane quotes one of self’s favorite moments from the movie: The moment when Tony Stark says that he has “successfully privatized world peace.” (Only someone with the charm of Robert Downey, Jr. can utter that line without sounding like — like a BP oil executive! Imagine Christian Bale saying such a line???)

Anyhoo, self’s personal take on the movie is that the first third was very good. She was so lost by the time Samuel Jackson (Fury) entered the picture, and then Scar-Jo was revealed to be actually working for him, and then self didn’t know why Scar-Jo (aka the Black Widow) was still getting along well with Gwynnie (aka Pepper Potts), and self felt she was missing whole chunks of exposition. But her biggest complaint was: why was Mickey Rourke only given two fight scenes? Who wants to spend all that time watching Mickey Rourke sit in front of a computer, sending in robots to fight Iron Man by remote control? Certainly not self!

She wanted to see the fabulous whips in action! She wanted to see Rourke’s glinting gold teeth! She wanted to see his scary machismo almost cream Robert Downey, Jr. and thin, pert Gwynnie and ever-faithful (and growing cuter with every film) bodyguard/driver Jon Favreau!

The rest of Lane’s review is full of references to such irrelevancies as Gregory Peck (Gregory Peck! Self can tell ya right now, Gregory Peck and Robert Downey, Jr. don’t even belong on the same PLA-net!)

Stay tuned.

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