New Orleans is a weird presence in Disney's remake of The Lady and the Tramp

November 21, 2019

While many of you were watching and re-watching the latest installment of Baby Yoda and the Masked Mystery Man on Disney+, my five-year-old was insisting we watch The Lady and the Tramp live-action remake. Over the course of the movie, I had a gradually growing sense that something about this new movie was odd, but couldn’t quite put my finger on it.

That feeling persisted until the two dogs watched a jazz band from the roof of a Mississippi river boat that very clearly was not on the Mississippi River, a moment when everything became clear.

"The Americans" and "The Joy Luck Club"

November 3, 2019

Elizabeth and Philip Jennings could have remained childless, if the show’s creators wanted. The Americans could have been a show about Russian spies in their thirties who constantly defy the KGB on whether or not to have children, for example. As is, they could have moved away from Stan Beeman and Pastor Tim. Paige didn’t have to learn about her parents’ secret lives. Paige and Henry could have been killed at some point.

Instead, every moment of the show revolved around the Jennings children, which is why, as I plowed through all 75 episodes over the past couple months, I kept coming back to The Joy Luck Club.

"The Princess Bride" is unrepentantly sexist

November 3, 2019

(Originally published July 25, 2011)

Rob Reiner’s 1987 film, The Princess Bride, has become a modern classic thanks to its clever wordplay and twists on timeworn fairytale tropes. But what sets it apart from even the most irreverent and challenging modern children’s entertainment, such as Shrek or Harry Potter, is that it risks putting its characters in truly frightening situations with malice in the air, rather than cartoonish, bloodless, or off-screen mayhem.

For the most part, those risks pay off. To children, Inigo Montoya might be just a swashbuckling swordsman with a fantastic mustache and a desire to avenge his father’s death. However, there’s an implied horror to Inigo’s story about the six-fingered man killing the elder Montoya and slashing eleven-year-old Inigo’s face that only adult viewers can fully appreciate. And when Inigo finally confronts the six-fingered man and disarms him, he forces the villain to beg for mercy before thrusting a sword through his chest and calling him a son-of-a-bitch. Name another children’s movie featuring a vengeance execution. That Reiner and screenwriter William Goldman pull it off without a screeching shift in tone is a testament to their skillful storytelling.

However, the movie fails in one important respect which, once I noticed, ruined much of it for me: The Princess Bride is unrepentantly sexist.

The ballad of Phil Funnie

November 3, 2019

(Originally published November 4, 2018)

Phil Funnie never went to college. That was for the academically aspirational kids in the Class of 1970, and Phil thought of himself as a real world guy.

Growing up on the east side of Bloatsburg meant Phil was insulated from the hardscrabble kids on the west side, but his family was hardly rich, and outside of school he didn’t know many adults who didn’t work at his father’s plant. So when he started building a career selling camera gear and taking portraits, Phil was fully aware of how different his life was shaping up to be compared to his father, who had spent decades destroying his knees and back on home appliance assembly lines.

A unified theory of Jackson Maine in "A Star Is Born"

November 3, 2019

(Originally published October 28, 2018)

Jackson Maine is full of shit. Once you figure that out, the latest version of “A Star Is Born” and what the film says about art begins to make sense. (We’re about to go over some plot points, so spoiler-phobes, be warned.)

The NCAA can't justify its own existence

November 3, 2019

(Originally published October 22, 2018)

Imagine you were asked to defend the NCAA against charges it is a corrupt institution that unfairly exploits labor, and in so doing you must justify its continued existence. Where would you start?

You’re a sucker if you read The New Yorker’s Shouts & Murmurs

November 3, 2019

(Originally published August 25, 2018)

Ostensibly a spot for humor, for years the column has instead hosted either one-joke parables that would be too bland for a priest to tell in his homily, or a series of sub-Catskills-level jokes held together by the vague outlines of a “topic” that, almost invariably, reads like the editor understands some sort of reference to the modern world is at play, but rephrased everything to appeal to 75-year-olds.