The House


Indelible Ink: Paul Newman

Paul Newman

This is not meant to be an overview of Paul Newman's career, or even a list of favorite performances. A life as long as Newman's is inevitably filled with many dips, valleys, peaks, and missteps. I have really enjoyed reading the tribute pieces about him, which have served to deepen my understanding of what it was that made Newman so special. His is a story of endurance, certainly, but also one of tenacity. His early work in the 50s can have an over-studied feel to it (albeit engaging, and boy, was he beautiful)—it's like he's being a "good Method student" trying to get an A in class. Marlon Brando so dominated the atmosphere at that time that Newman (whose resemblance to Brando in his youth was always irritating to him) struggled to find a way to separate, to stand out. But it was in the 60s and 70s when Newman took off, in unexpected singular ways—sinking into his persona, inhabiting it like a well-worn sweater ... and by then nobody would think to hold him up next to Brando because his work was so, well, his own. This was not an easy journey for Newman, and it's sometimes easy to forget that because of his many successes. But he made his mark. Indelible ink.

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TAGS: our town, paul newman, sweet bird of youth, the sting


The Godfather

Hello, and welcome back you crazy kids.

Episode 3 marks the first time we've started recording under our new name, and just in time! Andrew O'Hehir (Salon's Beyond the Multiplex) and Glenn Kenny (Some Came Running) return to Grassroots to give us their thoughts on what should be a surprise at this year's New York Film Festival (which began this past Friday evening).

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TAGS: burn after reading, podcast, the godfather, towelhead


Jean-Luc Godard

By this point, I think we could be discussing Godard for all I remember. (Ed note to John: You predicted the death of Paul Newman, you callous son of a hamster!) Let's listen together faithful non-listener.

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TAGS: jean-luc godard, paul newman, podcast


Grassroots Tavern

The drinking continues. The arguments get louder. We get worse. Sigh.

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TAGS: hnd at grassroots, podcast


John McCain & Barack Obama

I have to admit that I began watching the first presidential debate with a considerable number of preconceptions, so the notes below are more a record of slow evolution of opinions rather than up-to-the minute observations.

What were my opinions? That McCain, by virtue of being a Republican, is better at this stuff than Obama, "this stuff" being the nitty-gritty, the mud-slinging, the toughness, the way you win elections. Obama is a talker, not a fighter; his hope must be that through deluges of sheer verbiage he can drown out his opposition. That technique is interesting, in his case, because he's a good talker, but it doesn't work. Or hasn't, yet. The opposition is floating on a comfortable swimming pool raft, maybe even the kind with a drink holder.

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TAGS: barack obama, john mccain


Altman & Coppola

[Editor's Note: The House Next Door is proud to reissue a series of articles developed at 24LiesASecond, a now-defunct platform for provocative criticism with an underdog bite. The essay below was first published on 11/26/2005, under the editorial guidance of James M. Moran (editor-in-chief) and Peet Gelderblom (founding editor). This article is being cross-published with Parallax View.]

Robert Altman and Francis Ford Coppola, arguably the two pivotal figures of American cinema in the 1970s, both rose from the turmoil of the transition from studio-based to independent production, to emerge as leading forces in film production as well as film style. Each eventually formed his own production company—Altman's Lion's Gate, Coppola's American Zoetrope—and patronized the work of aspiring young film-makers (such as Altman's nurturing of Alan Rudolph and Coppola's of Caleb Deschanel).

Though Altman's films compare with Coppola's as chamber music does with grand opera, their work in the 1970s exemplifies what ultimately became the prevailing style of American film direction in that era: maverick resistance to studio-imposed time and budget constraints, insistence on directorial authorship, reliance on location shooting, use of improvisational acting, an emphasis on ensemble playing rather than star performances, Fordian gatherings—weddings, church services, parties, dinners—as exponents of group character (both Altman and Coppola had Catholic upbringings), and a revisionist approach to the mythic archetypes of the Hollywood genre film.

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TAGS: francis ford coppola, robert altman


Mad Men

For a variety of reasons, not the least of which was my shock and grief over the suicide of David Foster Wallace, Mad Men Mondays just didn't happen two weeks ago. When Matt Seitz suggested recapping "A Night to Remember" and "Six Months' Leave" together in one column, I realized that the two flow together relatively seamlessly in a way very few Mad Men episodes do: Betty's depression in "Six Months' Leave" follows her long-simmering anger over Don's affair, which erupted earlier and further crystallized when she threw out Don after seeing one of Jimmy Barrett's Utz commercials during a rerun of Make Room For Daddy. On top of all this, the hour contrasts Betty, who is depressed about something immediate and personal, against the Sterling Cooper women mourning the death of Marilyn Monroe. The episodes' presentation of the challenges faced by American women in 1962 invites a tandem consideration.

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TAGS: a night to remember, mad men, matthew weiner, recap, six months' leave


Choke

Choke—Clark Gregg's film adaptation of the book by literary darling Chuck Palahniuk—is, according to the press notes, "the subversively comedic tale of Victor Mancini, con artist, sex addict, Colonial village re-enactor, angst-filled son, serial restaurant choker ... and unsuspecting romantic antihero for our unsettling times." This jam-packed one-liner should give some indication as to what Gregg was up against in attempting to translate Palahniuk's prose to the screen. David Fincher had an equally difficult challenge with the author's Fight Club, but unlike Fincher, Gregg is an actor and first-time filmmaker hailing from the theater world (a founding member and former artistic director of the Atlantic Theater Company) whose only qualifications to script-write and direct the cult novel seem to be friends with money, a love of the book, and Palahniuk's blessing. Well, sometimes love and money and a pat on the head just ain't enough.

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TAGS: anjelica huston, choke, chuck palahniuk, Clark Gregg, tim orr


McCain vs. Obama: Round 1

As evidenced by the repugnant "tribute" to the victims of 9/11 at their national convention earlier this month, exploitation has become a cornerstone of the Republican platform in the last seven years. Evoking U.S. troops and claiming that theirs is the party of patriotism has become the standard Republican tack when faced with any kind of political adversity, and John McCain continued that tradition at the first presidential debate last night. When Barack Obama questioned McCain's temperament, lambasting the Republican nominee for cavalierly singing about bombing Iran and threatening the extinction of North Korea, McCain's immediate response was a thinly veiled anecdote about being given a bracelet from the mother of a fallen U.S. soldier. Democrats have routinely failed to deflect or challenge these manipulative appeals to voters' emotions and fears—that is, until Obama rebutted with the grace and skill of a prizefighter: "I have a bracelet too." It was a proud declaration that was a whole lot more than just a statement about who has the fancier bling; it was a direct disavowal of one of the vilest, most cynical political tactics.

Following the week he's had, McCain scored a victory last night simply by not fumbling on the economic issues and navigating the conversation toward the domestic topics with which he's most comfortable: taxes and earmarks. The economy should be, by default, the Democratic candidate's strength in 2008, but in a surprising reversal, where Obama truly excelled was at foreign policy—by all accounts McCain's strong suit. Despite McCain's attempt to paint Obama as ignorant or naïve (he said the Illinois senator "doesn't understand" a whopping seven times), Obama displayed a firm grasp of the issues and presented a clear alternative to both the Bush Doctrine and McCain's nearly identical hawkish positions, even agreeing with McCain on several occasions—rendering Mac's premeditated plan of attack an oblique condemnation of his very own views. Obama went straight for the jugular, not only questioning McCain's temperament, but his judgment on the decision to invade Iraq, looking directly at him and repeatedly saying, "You were wrong."

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TAGS: barack obama, john mccain, presidental debate 2008


Barack Obama & John McCain

Just as a hurricane threatened to halt the RNC a month ago, the drama surrounding the U.S. financial crisis, precipitated by the failure of AIG and Merrill Lynch, looked like it was going to prevent the first presidential debate between John McCain and Barack Obama from occurring Friday night.

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TAGS: barack obama, john mccain







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