This hagiographic profile of Laura Linney really doesn’t say much that devotees of her work don’t already know: she is phenomenal and we love her. But one point I wish Patricia Cohen, the author, had made is that Linney is often very good at elevating the trash she’s in. Take Love, Actually, which pushes many of my most sentimental buttons, but which I am perfectly capable of admitting is doofy and even sometimes deeply problematic. But there is absolutely nothing corny about watching Linney’s character, who cares for her seriously mentally ill brother, sabotage her chance at a relationship with a coworker she has been in love with for years. It’s not about her doing something stupid, or goofy. It’s not a portrayal of a beautiful woman having a totally implausible problem. It’s that her character is literally unable to choose something for herself, no matter how much she wants it, over her caretaker role. Her character, even as part of a massive ensemble, is enough of a human being for the scene to be entirely believable. It’s shattering, and I don’t know who else could portray it the way Linney does.
Weird Al is directing a movie. I don’t think I need to say anything more about this than: awesome.
nOvaSlimmer has some wise words about the state of hip-hop:
Arrogance in Hip-Hop isn’t new but it’s only worthwhile when it’s accompanied by humor, intelligence, vocabulary and talent….
Most of them don’t have an actual story to tell. They wanna be rich and famous, period. And there’s nothing wrong with that. I happen to have at least a sliver of respect for someone that goes “I just wanna make you dance and have fun” as opposed to someone that makes the same style of music and suddenly becomes Confucius when discussing it. They have it backwards. Story should proceed music all the time, not the other way around.
On the point about progression, I’m also at odds with how they interpret it. Progress to them has nothing to do with artist evolution; it simply means deferring to the white mainstream by having GaGa on your record and gaining more exposure, which potentially means more sales. Again, there’s nothing wrong with branching out and appealing to a wider audience and experimenting with Pop sounds, but don’t call it progress. Don’t say you’re doing something different when everyone else is doing the same thing.
I don’t have a ton to add to this. I would disagree, at least a bit with the sentiments in the last paragraph. Infiltrating popular music may not be progress for hip-hop, it may even be a devolution. But in a larger context, I tend to think it’s progress for popular music, in terms of how it influences the role of verses, production, etc. To paraphrase Tony Kusher, the world only spins forward. Rappers will be citizens.
Commenter David points out this New York Times piece from Mamet on why he wrote race that I missed. I think it’s revealing, particularly this graf:
I have never spent much time thinking about the themes of my plays, as, I have noticed, when an audience begins to talk about the play’s theme, it means the plot was no good. But my current play does have a theme, and that theme is race and the lies we tell each other on the subject.
I pointed out in my original post that individual lines worked much better than the play’s structure, and that the show might have been much better as a play about lawyers. Maybe Race would have been a better play if Mamet hadn’t suddenly decided to focus on theme, particularly one where his thoughts seem poorly-developed.
But Adam Serwer’s post at TAPPED about Race and conservative white guilt, both adds some context to Mamet’s thought process, and is a very interesting explication. I’m grateful to him for taking this conversation further.
In the annals of Lady Gaga’s ridiculous lyrics, it takes a lot for a line to stand out. But the command to “take a bite of my bad girl meat” is up there. That said, I like the visceral nature of “Teeth” a lot.
The line “show me your teeth” gets at something I think most songs about sex tend to avoid, whether consciously or unawares. Most folks, when they sing about sex, talk about emotions, control, performance. I love Big Boi, and “I’ll Call Before I Come” is a wonderful song, and “I’m a gentleman, I’m a satisfy your soul / And then I’m a get mine” is a great, and important sentiment, but it’s also kind of besides the everloving point. And just because folks aren’t being gentlemanly, or for that matter ladylike, that doesn’t mean they’re any more in tune with the truth of sex. I do love the bravado and filthiness of Lil’ Kim’s “Magic Stick,” but it works essentially because it’s self-consciously silly. “Hungry Like the Wolf” is marred by both awkward syntax, and the fact that it’s telling rather than showing, a cardinal sin in poetry and prose of all forms. “Teeth” is about losing your damn mind during sex. And I kind of think that’s as it should be.
I went to New York this weekend, among other reasons, to see David Mamet’s latest play, Race, with a bunch of the folks from PostBourgie, and, as it turns out, Racialicious‘s Latoya Peterson, who it was such a pleasure to meet. It was good the company was delightful, because the play certainly was not.
I’m not sure why Mamet decided to write Race. It’s an exceedingly awkward work, about a law firm composed of a white partner, a black partner, and a young black female associate, who take the case of a wealthy white man accused of raping a young black woman. Some of the play, particularly the brief sections that focus on the dynamics of a firm, have a fine snap to them. There is a wonderful, and obscene line about a preacher who will want to testify in the case.
But none of the racial dynamics work whatsoever. First, it’s patently implausible that a black and a white lawyer who have worked together for years would never have taken a case that challenged their racial dynamic before. It also seems basically implausible that they would have developed a totally color-blind relationship. Second, a lot of the dialogue around race is awfully stilted. People declare that white people have nothing to tell black people about race, which is just sort of silly. A white lawyer, when accused of making an affirmative action hire declares that he hired his associate because she has “talent, and that’s exceedingly fucking rare.” Mamet’s argument seems to be that white people bend over backwards for black people, both out of guilt and fear of being called racist, but that they expect those black people to betray them, and still intend to be wounded when they and their generosity is betrayed. And that all black people hate all white people. And that all white people perpetually want to confess and be shriven of their sins towards black people. It’s an ugly and astonishingly unsubtle framework for a racial conversaion, especially one where white ethnicity is dancing around the edges, but is never really addressed. The play’s ideas just felt enormously stale to me, and yet the predominantly white audience ate it up, just as the Times review said they would, as if they felt like they’d been confronted with hard truths. As if attending the play was an act of contrition.
It didn’t help that Kerry Washington’s character was both poorly written and exceedingly shrilly performed. James Spader was frequently quite good, I thought. Some of the staging was very interesting: the law office where the events take place is split-level, and Spader’s character is the only one who stays on the lowest level the entire time: the rest of the cast ascends and descends throughout the show. But I don’t particularly understand why Mamet didn’t just write a play about lawyers, which it seems like he had a knack for. Did he need a race play in his body of work? Did he feel guilty about something?