As promised, while the magazine moves into its biweekly schedule over the holidays (i.e., Christmas and New Year's, just so you don't think we're succumbing to creeping secularism), we are offering you a surfeit of items in our online Culture section. And since moviegoing is a popular pasttime over the holidays, we are happy to post two movie reviews today, as well as a review of a new TV series for those snowy (or at least inclement) nights when the multiplex just seems like too much work.
The first is a preview of next week's print edition, a review by our longtime critic Richard A. Blake of John Hillcoat's adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's novel of the same name, The Road. Blake, with his customary acuity, compares the movie first to "The Canterbury Tales," and then Fellini's "La Strada" or "The Road." He discusses learning about Chaucer's great narrative and then...
This background served quite well when some years later I taught a class on “La Strada,” Federico Fellini’s masterpiece of 1954. As was the case with Chaucer’s great work, it was easy to get lost in the characters, the waiflike Gelsomina (Giulietta Masina) and her brutish antagonist, the circus strongman Zampanò (Anthony Quinn), and forget that the title of the film was “The Road,” a clear indication of the importance of that image. The two misfits ride a battered motorbike and trailer along the back roads of postwar Italy in search of meaning, love and, ultimately, redemption. The road of life has much to teach them. Gelsomina learns quickly; Zampanò resists until the very end. "The Road," a new American film based on the novel by Cormac McCarthy, rarely allows its characters to learn much about anything. Read the rest of his review here.
Also, our newest film reviewer, John P. McCarthy, editor of Cineman Syndicate, takes a look at perhaps the most popular movie of the season, in an online-only review of Jason Reitman's Up in the Air, also based on a novel of the same name, this one by Walter Kirn (who is apparently upset at not being mentioned frequently enough about his original book--so there.) "At high altitudes," McCarthy begins his review,
where the air is dry and oxygen-thin, you can rapidly become woozy and disoriented. This not an altogether unpleasant sensation is also triggered by “Up in the Air,” Jason Reitman’s heady mix of social drama, dark comedy and, figuratively speaking, mile-high romance. Adapted from Walter Kirn’s novel of the same name, the movie (now in wide release) will prove more unsettling if you go in expecting an escapist lark. Yet this topical, witty foray into modern corporate life is more grounded and less cynical than it initially seems. No matter what your reaction to the story, the film has wonderful writing, directing and acting to recommend it. Read why here.
Finally, Terrance W. Klein, a Fordham theology professor "of a certain age" reviews the new TNT dramedy, Men of a Certain Age. He believes that the show rings true as a description of men in their mid-to-late 40s.
In the first episode Terry, played by Scott Bakula (“Quantum Leap,” “Enterprise”) is nearly hit by an inattentive motorist. Joe clutches his iPhone and aims at the departing license plate, “I’ll take his picture. Hold on.” But then, “Wait, that’s us…I had it backwards.” Men our age have a tenuous grasp on technology. When Joe tells one of his employees that he can’t listen to an iPod at work, the young man suggests how much better his music is compared to that being piped into the store, “Come on. Who is this lady singing right now?” “It’s Neil Sedaka,” Joe shoots back, “and he’s a classic singer.” Then, laconically, as though he’s already said it too many times, “Now put away the iPod and pull up your pants.” When Terry, who’s never been married, starts an online search at work for the license plate number of the errant motorist, his dim, younger colleague at work presumes that he’s hunting for porn videos. “You trying to get porn up on there? They won’t let you watch that stuff here, Bro. I’ve got some crazy downloads on my home lap top. I’ll bring it in tomorrow for you.” Read the rest here.
Don't ask me, though, I'm far too young to relate to that. Enjoy these online Culture listings, and keep your eyes peeled for Jake Martin's review of "Crazy Heart," coming soon.
James Martin, SJ