Inquisitive, bored-with-the-usual Manhattan filmgoers, take note: The Century of the Self, a totally riveting BBC-produced documentary by Adam Curtis (The Power of Nightmares), will begin a run at the Cinema Village on 8.12, and it really must be seen. I’ve no qualms in calling it the most intriguing, audacious, and insightful study of publicity, mass psychology and Orwellian mind control ever put together. I’m going to re-run a May 2003 piece about it in next Wednesday’s (7.27) column — here’s the link for now. It’s the third story down…
In a 7.17 WIRED item [see below] I ran a list of the year’s best films so far (the total came to 22), but I should have included one more: Jon Gunn, Brian Herzlinger and Brett Winn’s My Date With Drew (DEJ, 8.5), a spritzy, surprisingly spiritual doc about Herzlinger, a struggling schlub in a one-bedroom apartment when the film was shot, trying to somehow arrange a date with Drew Barrymore. I first saw it at the Vail Film Festival in April ’04 and wrote about it as follows: “This hand-held camcorder movie plays like a frothy distraction…at first. Then it surprises the hell out of you. A disarmingly optimistic docu-romance, initially shot for roughly $1100, it manages to pay off — emotionally, metaphorically, mythically — in ways that are unexpected and curiously shrewd. It’s a little-engine-that-could movie that sends you out shaking your head with amazement, and wearing a big dumb grin.”
No question that Vanessa Grigoriadis’ excellent piece in the current New York magazine about unbalanced, seemingly unhinged celebrity behavior (“Celebrity and Its Discontents: A Diagnosis”) is going to sell a lot of copies and get talked about all over…especially due to that hilarious cover showing Tomkat in straightjackets. But somewhere in the piece, shouldn’t Grigoriadis have acknowledged Andrew Breitbart and Mark Ebner’s Hollywood Interrupted, which was the first published diatribe about the trend of celebrities melting down and wacking out? Published in the spring of ’04, the book was lively and punchy, but also taken to task here and there for being too vitriolic and right-wingish…but it was still the first attention-getting diagnosis of this trend. Breitbart is back working for Matt Drudge after serving as the web guy/editor for the launch of www.huffingtonpost.com, and Ebner works for Bonnie Fuller out of L.A. I’m not saying Vanessa or New York were obliged to tip their hat to Breitbart and Ebner, but it would have been good manners…no? I mean, especially since she seems to have more or less “borrowed” a portion of a paragraph taken from an online promotional book description written by Ebner/Breitbart and provided to the press by their publisher (“…celebrities somehow believe that it’s their god-given right to inflict their pathology on the rest of us. Hollywood, Interrupted illustrates how these dysfunctional dilettantes are mad as hell…and we’re not going to take it any more”), and used it for her lead paragraph.
Kelefa Sanneh has written a dissection of Jessica Simpson’s “These Boots Are Made For Walkin'” video in a New York Times piece (“These Musical Genres Are Made for Mashing”). The verdict is that this musical Dukes of Hazzard promo is an “odd” collision of musical genres and performers with country fiddles “sawing away over that electronic beat [and a] honky-tonk chorus giving way to a rap section that evokes Gwen Stefani.” Sanneh compares Simpson’s cut to the Nancy Sinatra/Lee Hazelwood hit single from ’65 or thereabouts, and notes that Simpson’s “has new verses that turn a scorned woman’s vow into something not quite so dire: now the song is about how to beat a speeding ticket. ‘You believe you stopped me for a reason,’ she sings, ‘and I’m pretending my bending’s just for fun.'” I guess I’m used to seeing links to stuff within the body of a story, which is why I didn’t spot the link to the Simpson video next to the online version of Sanneh’s story on the Times website. Ah, well….