Movies: June 2008 Archives

Whit Stillman


I'd previously stumbled upon and enjoyed this appreciation of American director Whit Stillman from an old issue of The Intercollegiate Review. Little did I know that nearly all of the Spring 2000 issue was devoted to Stillman.

Mama-Lu and I recently rented Barcelona, and it was certainly as good as I can remember it being.

Some quotes, my memory augmented by the IMDB.

  • Fred: But what do you call the message or meaning that's right there on the surface, completely open and obvious? They never talk about that. What do you call what's above the subtext?
    Ted: The text
    Fred: Yeah, but they never talk about that.

  • "I don't think Ted is a fascist of the marrying kind."

  • Ted: I don't think you understand. I was reducing everything to ant scale, the... the U.S. included. An ant White House, an ant CIA, an ant Congress, an ant Pentagon...
    Ramon: Secret ant landing strips, illegally established on foreign soil."

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On that movie


Anthony Lane lets loose on Sex and the City:

What followed was not strictly a movie. It was more like a TV show on steroids. The televised episodes, which ran from 1998 to 2004, lasted for no more than half an hour each. So, spare a thought for the director of the film, Michael Patrick King, who also wrote the screenplay. Faced with the flimsiest of concepts, he had to take it by both ends and pull until he stretched it out to two and a quarter hours. Two and a quarter! When Garbo made "Anna Karenina" in 1935, she got happy, unhappy, loved, left, and under the train in less than a hundred minutes, so how the hell are her successors supposed to fill the time?

To be fair, there are four of them--banded together, like hormonal hobbits, and all obsessed with a ring. As the story begins, two are married already. First, there is Miranda (Cynthia Nixon), who has a job, a child, and not enough sex with her husband, Steve (David Eigenberg), perhaps because he reminds her of Radar, from "M*A*S*H" Then comes Charlotte (Kristin Davis), who is blissfully wedded to--well, what is she wedded to, exactly? He goes by the name of Harry (Evan Handler), but he’s a ringer for Dr. Evil, from the "Austin Powers" franchise, with all the evil sucked away; what remains is fey and shiny-headed, smiling sweetly about something known only to himself. For a movie about the need for real men--lusty, loyal, and loaded--this unusual earthling is truly a most peculiar advertisement for the gender.


At least, you could argue, Miranda has a job, as a lawyer. But the film pays it zero attention, and the other women expect her to drop it and fly to Mexico without demur. (And she does.) Worse still is the sneering cut as the scene shifts from Carrie, carefree and childless in the New York Public Library, to the face of Miranda's young son, smeared with spaghetti sauce. In short, to anyone facing the quandaries of being a working mother, the movie sends a vicious memo: Don't be a mother. And don't work. Is this really where we have ended up--with this superannuated fantasy posing as a slice of modern life? On TV, "Sex and the City" was never as insulting as "Desperate Housewives," which strikes me as catastrophically retrograde, but, almost sixty years after "All About Eve," which also featured four major female roles, there is a deep sadness in the sight of Carrie and friends defining themselves not as Bette Davis, Anne Baxter, Celeste Holm, and Thelma Ritter did--by their talents, their hats, and the swordplay of their wits--but purely by their ability to snare and keep a man. Believe me, ladies, we're not worth it.

I haven't seen anybody else address the "Mommy Wars" aspect of SATC: why choose between being a working mom or a stay at home mom when you can be a stay at home concubine?

This ought to go without saying, but it's The New Yorker on Sex and the City, so if your sensibilities are delicate, they're likely to be disturbed.

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About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Movies category from June 2008.

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