Archive: August, 2010
Enjoyable, profanity-laced round table in the August 2010 Esquire (hat tip: Throwing Things) on the inexhaustible subject of what is never not funny. The players: Judd Apatow, John Landis, Adam McKay, Todd Phillips and Edgar Wright.
Adam McKay: Animals. We always have animals in our movies—bears in Anchorman, a cougar in Talladega Nights, a German shepherd in Step Brothers.
Who the heck is Rooney Mara? She's an American actress with a faraway look (as opposed to a come-hither look) who's done some episodic television (ER) and was in Youth in Revolt and Dare. (I don't remember her, either.) She's about to be in The Social Network, the one about the creation of Facebook. More to the point, she's just won the role of Lisbeth Salander in the American remake of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, and will be costarring with Daniel Craig. She beat out Scarlett Johansson and Natalie Portman in one of the most publicized star searches since Vivien Leigh scored Scarlett O'Hara.
Your thoughts about the casting, the book and American remakes of successful foreign films? I'm on deadline, else I would be more opinionated.
In Marc Lawrence's Music & Lyrics (2007), a wryly funny rom-com with Hugh Grant as a pop has-been and Drew Barrymore as a literary never-was who collaborate on a hit song for a Shakira-like phenom, they write a song called "Love Autopsy." (It was actually written by Fountain of Wayne's Adam Schlesinger, and shoulda been a hit.)
The reports of the death of romantic comedy are greatly exaggerated. Of course they don't make 'em like they used to. Different stars, different times, different romantic conflicts. In their love autopsy, Dowd and unindicted co-conspirator Sam Wasson complain that today's stars are not Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn. Much as I love Grant and Hepburn in Charade (and Grant and Katharine Hepburn in Bringing Up Baby), it's a fool's game to measure movies of today by the yardstick of the 1960s and 1930s.
What you remember about Patricia Neal is the tobacco-cured voice and appraising eyes that in a glance could take the measure of a man to the millimeter. In her two best roles, The Fountainhead (1949, as absolutist architecture critic Dominique Francon) and A Face in the Crowd (1957, as a radio journalist Marcia Jeffries who midwives a maleficent media personality), the way she looked at Gary Cooper's pneumatic drill and Andy Griffiths' acoustic guitar was positively indecent. And incandescent.
As a screen presence, she was not prolific. Apart from Fountainhead and Face, her most memorable movies were The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), where she was decorative, Breakfast at Tiffany's, where she was imperious, and Hud (1963), where she effectively won a best actress Oscar for resisting the charms of Paul Newman (and for surviving a debilitating stroke in real life). But she was forceful, no-nonsense, and built like a goddess. To watch her onscreen is to be transfused by her energy, transfixed by her beauty. (Patsy was the given name of the Kentucky-born Neal but her patrician presence inspired a director to rechristen her Patricia.)
If you've never seen A Face in the Crowd, take this as an occasion to honor Neal -- and one of the most acerbic social commentaries of the 1950s. Your favorite Neal performance? Why?