Ballet drama ‘Birds of Paradise’ dances in place

Filmmakers can’t leave ballet pictures well enough alone. Allegorized beyond their capacity to withstand the effort, reduced to a soap opera in which ambition and femininity make for an unholy mishmash, they rarely settle down long enough for readers to enjoy the pure movement they’re supposed to record. Blame Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s TheContinue reading “Ballet drama ‘Birds of Paradise’ dances in place”

‘The hospitals are afraid of unvaccinated staff getting infected’

The third vaccine — my Pfizer booster — accomplished what its two predecessors could not: it knocked me flat. First, I couldn’t find a way to sleep on my left side because I had, foolishly, requested the jab in that arm. Then around midnight I awoke shivering enough for me to pull the comforter overContinue reading “‘The hospitals are afraid of unvaccinated staff getting infected’”

Looking for the refuge of the road: The best songs about travel

“Oh, radiant happiness, it was all so light and easy/Till I started analyzing/And I brought on my old ways,” Joni Mitchell sighed in the last song on one of her lithest albums, a song sequence chronicling a nomad’s adventures drifting from town to town, state to state, Jaco Pastorius’ bass lines standing athwart Mitchell’s guitarContinue reading “Looking for the refuge of the road: The best songs about travel”

Screenings #52

Capping a period of experiments as Martin Scorsese’s house screenwriter and as director of several films with one foot in the work of influences Carl Dreyer and Robert Bresson and another in the visual lexicon of fashion, Paul Schrader turned to the work of a Japanese writer whose polymathic sensibilities included a taste for sadomasochisticContinue reading “Screenings #52”

The best songs about clothing

“Some things hurt more much more than cars and girls,” Paddy McAloon sang on Prefab Sprouts’ “Cars and Girls,” to which I’d add “clothes.” Pop culture depends on looking good. Or feeling bad about looking good. Or about looking bad. PJ Harvey questioned the implications of dresses; Nancy Sinatra used her boots as a feministContinue reading “The best songs about clothing”

The best film sequels

Without The Empire Strikes Back, the Star Wars series would be pallid mythology, left to the devices of George Lucas (nevertheless, it often remains so). Leigh Brackett and Lawrence Kasdan’s script added wit and sophistication to the banter, deepened the Han-Leia relationship, and established Darth Vader as a conflicted but formidable foe. More importantly, IrvinContinue reading “The best film sequels”