Prior to last night’s London premiere of Suspiria Dakota Johnson flashed her partially unshaven armpits for photographers. Different grooming disciplines for different folks, I suppose, but we all know that the general tendency over the last 15 or 20 has been to trim, snip and shave. Among both genders, I mean. Dakota is an outlier. There’s no way wage-earning women are going to start walking around with bushy armpits…no way. Any more than they’re going to abandon the genital airstrip or chean-shaven aesthetic. When was the last time any woman or man went bushy in any respect? I forget how many years ago it was that Howard Stern spoke about using a razor all over, but he’s not alone.
A friend writes, “What I’m curious about is when or if the Turks are going to leak the recording of Jamal Khashoggi being tortured and murdered. Horrifying. And what is the behind-the-scenes war between the Turks and the Saudis that the Turks were not only bugging the embassy, but told the world that the Saudis lured, tortured, murdered and dismembered Khashoggi. The latest is that one of the photographed hit men is a close confidante of Mohammed bin Salman and a member of the Royal Guard responsible for protecting him.
“And the picture widens: President Trump is in deep financially to the Saudis, perhaps as much if not more than the Russians. It is already clear that he doesn’t give that much of a shit if somebody hacked up a Washington Post reporter. The question is how much of this is a coverup for Trump’s untaxed unreported dark money income. And why are the Turks suddenly in bed with us? A takedown of Saudi Prince as well as Trump?”
If you’re late to the party, read this 10.16 Dexter Filkins New Yorker story.
I’m probably not the only leftie who felt surprised if not shocked when I read that hinterland bumblefucks are allegedly feeling energized by the Brett Kavanaugh psychodrama. Revved and cranked about the midterm elections, I mean. The apparent conservative rationale was that everyone does crazy drunken shit when they’re 17 or 18, and that it’s not fair to destroy a person’s life over this or that uncorraborated episode, and so even an obvious liar with a temper problem like Kavanaugh…even scumbags of his ilk deserve the benefit of the doubt. Or so the thinking goes.
That’s part of it, but not all of it.
What really happened, I fear, is that Middle American convservatives (males but also some women) are sick to death of the string-em-up, off-with-their-heads attitude of the #MeToo movement, and are thinking that the #MeToo-ers have gone too far in trying to automatically terminate the career of anyone accused or suspected of sexual misconduct. Middle American pudgebods seem to feel that it’s time for the brakes (i.e., counter-measures of some kind) to be applied.
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More than a few 21st Century films have driven me crazy in the sense that I knew they were absolutely brilliant and breathtaking — bull’s eye, honed to a fine edge, diamond drill — and yet the ticket-buying public and a sizable portion of the critics were either oblivious, ho-hum, dismissive or haters.
I’m not talking about films I merely believed in or which meant something special to me personally (although I did and they did) — I’m talking about films that I knew were gold standard — films that the Movie Godz and generations to come would eventually wake up to and almost stand by for decades to come. Except in some cases they didn’t.
I didn’t feel as if I was standing alone on an island but I certainly didn’t feel as if enough people agreed with me. I was basking in the molten glow of these films and couldn’t figure (and still can’t figure) why others couldn’t feel the same heat. If my tortured saga had been made into a Twilight Zone episode, the title would have been “What’s Wrong With Everyone?” and it would have starred Earl Holliman.
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A new Atlantic piece by James Fallows passes along a first-hand conspiracy story from Democratic strategist James Strother. The gist is that the late Republican torpedo specialist Lee Atwater (the guy behind the Willie Horton ad) confessed to Strother on his death bed in ’91 that he “set up” 1988 Democratic presidential candidate Gary Hart. The cancer-stricken Atwater, 39 years old, allegedly told Strother that “I did it!…I fixed Hart.” The whole Monkey Business episode with Donna Rice, Atwater meant, and that damning photo of Rice sitting on Hart’s lap. All of it a political trap.
Atwater somehow took advantage of and/or worked with Billy Broadhurst, the “political groupie and aspiring insider” who had taken Hart on the fateful Monkey Business cruise. Rice and another woman were invited to join the cruise, and the photo of Rice on Hart’s lap was planned and of course used after Hart suspended in his 1988 campaign. Fallows writes that there’s no proof of this other than Strother’s account.
As much as I admire Jason Reitman‘s The Front Runner, which is all about how Hart’s campaign was destroyed by allegations about a possible Rice affair, it would have been that much stronger a film if the Strother-Atwater story had been woven into the plot. Right now the movie has two hand-of-doom elements — Hart’s cavalier self-destructiveness in not hiding his indiscretions more covertly or skillfully, and the Miami Herald reporters who were tipped off about Hart’s affair with Rice. If the Strother-Atwater story has been used, it would have trumped both of these elements.
Did Hart have certain extra-marital tendencies before the Rice scandal? According to legend, yes. Would he have gotten into trouble with some other lust object if the Rice thing hadn’t happened? Possibly. But the Atwater confession certainly adds spice to the brew.
Strother and Atwater had the mutually respectful camaraderie of highly skilled rivals. “Lee and I were friends,” Strother told me when I spoke with him by phone recently. “We’d meet after campaigns and have coffee, talk about why I did what I did and why he did what he did.” One of the campaigns they met to discuss afterward was that 1988 presidential race, which Atwater (with Bush) had of course ended up winning, and from which Hart had dropped out. But later, during what Atwater realized would be the final weeks of his life, Atwater phoned Strother to discuss one more detail of that campaign.
Atwater had the strength to talk for only five minutes. “It wasn’t a ‘conversation,’ ” Strother said when I spoke with him recently. “There weren’t any pleasantries. It was like he was working down a checklist, and he had something he had to tell me before he died.”
I’ve seen Doug Liman‘s new version of Fair Game (’10), which will hit digital platforms 10.23 and Netflix on November 1st. I loved Liman’s true-life political spy saga when I caught it eight and a half years ago in Cannes. I guess it doesn’t mean all that much that I’m also a fan of the new version, which is roughly six minutes longer. The 2010 version was just shy of 108 minutes; the newbie is 114 minutes.
Based on truth and an exceptionally smart script by Jez and John Butterworth, Fair Game is the story of how former CIA agent Valerie Plame (Naomi Watts) and her husband Joe Wilson (Sean Penn) were burned by Scooter Libby (David Andrews), the top aide of vp Dick Cheney, when Wilson publicly challenged the Bush administration’s claim that Iraq had secretly purchased carloads of yellow-cake uranium from Niger to fortify its alleged weapons-of-mass-destruction program, which the Bushies used to justify the 2003 Iraq invasion.
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Fivethirtyeight says there’s a 21% chance that Beto O’Rourke beats Ted Cruz on 11.6. The current forecast shows Cruz taking 51.8% of the votes compared to O’Rourke’s 46.6%. Out of an estimated 17,600,000 eligible voters, Fivethirtyeight expects less than 7 million — 39.5% — to actually vote. Even though Texas is more Republican than the nation overall and even though Republicans have consistently won Senate seats there over the last 28 years, O’Rourke could win if the apathetic, lazy-ass under-30s were to vote. But nope, can’t do it, doesn’t matter…right, guys?