Meeting Kirk Douglas

You don’t have to ask Kirk Douglas for his favorite film role – it’s already on his lips. “Van Gogh.” He’s referring to Lust for Life, the 1956 MGM movie about the life of the Dutch painter, based on the 1934 novel by Irving Stone, directed by Vincente Minnelli and George Cukor, and produced by …

On The Road With America

In honor of Cormac McCarthy’s Pulitzer, here’s a repost of a piece I wrote back in October, when The Road seemed like a metaphor for our national trajectory. Not much has changed: A portion of my evening reading has been keeping me up deep into the night, placing me in the uncomfortable territory between sleep …

Kurt Vonnegut’s Greatest Generation

Kurt Vonnegut proposed an alternative version of World War II glory, a writhing and brutal portrait of internal turmoil and loss and madness that manifested its horror in a seemingly charming and picaresque line: foot-soldier Billy Pilgrim had become “unstuck in time.” Slaughterhouse-Five belongs to the rarified antiwar prose of the post-war writing generation that …

In Search of Harry Potter

I’ve never read a Harry Potter. But JK Rowling is among my favorite living authors. I owe her a deep and simple debt – the love of reading, and literature, and story-telling that all of my children have embraced. Rowling didn’t do it all, of course; there was Seuss and Stevenson, Tolkien and Margaret Wise …

Rock’s Greatest Covers: Patti Tops the List

Jesus died for somebody’s sins, but not mine… When Van Morrison wrote the classic Gloria as the B-side to Them’s 1964 hit Baby Please Don’t Go, he couldn’t have suspected what a kid from New Jersey would do with his song a decade later. But I suspect he was thrilled. After all, Patti Smith’s cover …

The Replacements Come to Monday Nights

I’m writing here about a television series I have never seen, but intend to, as my schedule allows. It’s a replacement series – your garden variety mid-season fare – except that two critics I respect had completely opposite initial reactions. And that suddenly got me interested in a network series I might otherwise have ignored …

Pete Townshend: Who, He? (and Us)

Pete Townshend is writing his memoirs. Or rather, he’s blogging them. This differs from a decade ago, when Townshend signed with Little Brown to write his autobiography. Work commenced, but the book wasn’t finished. So now, Pete’s blogging his memoirs – on one of two blogs he’s launched in the last week or so to …

A Bad TV Show About Good Movies

Today we focus on movies by way of a glitzy, Vegas-style revue show that has almost nothing to do with brilliant film-making. It’s Hoillywood celebrating Hollywood with schmaltz, and it’s evolved from a rather subdued black tie dinner at Sid Grauman’s theater to a megcast shown around the world and widely reviled for its length, …