Monday, February 28, 2011

The King's Speech (2010) and Beethoven

I had read that Colin Firth's big speech in The King's Speech is underscored with Beethoven's Seventh Symphony, and during the montage sequence of the Best Picture nominees at the Oscars, I got a sample of that. Tom Hooper has used a trick here that is well-known to horror movie directors: Let the music do the work. Even I could make a scene emotional by using one of the greatest stretches of music ever written! It shows a curious lack of faith in your lead actor -- in a film devoted to the theme of vocal delivery, to boot -- to undercut his handling of this key scene by thus "sweetening" it. It also doesn't exactly demonstrate that you deserve your Best Director statuette. Most directors are very aware of the general truth that music is more inherently emotional than imagery, but most great directors provide a dynamic interplay between the music they use and the rest of what they put up on screen. Kubrick comes right to mind; Woody Allen with the Gershwin score of Manhattan, as well. Hooper's employment of the Beethoven, by contrast, strikes me as lazy and cliched.

The temptation is in some ways understandable, however. Beethoven, ahead of his time, is a wonderful film composer. I happen to be watching Bernard Rose's Immortal Beloved, which can use all the Beethoven it wants by virtue of being a film about Beethoven, and apart from Gary Oldman's rather madcap lead performance, what is most enjoyable about the movie is the director's partnership with the composer. The matching of the editing and camera movements to the Beethovenian rhythms is marvelous.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Film Comment Selects

A number of interesting-sounding items in this year's "Film Comment Selects":

Kim Ji-woon's revenge thriller I Saw the Devil was a scandal here in Korea last summer, with my students actively warning me against going to see this "vile...sick...cruel...disgusting" film (and Koreans generally have strong stomachs). Korean cineastes take a bit of exception to the perceptions, created by Park Chan-wook and fed by this new film, that Koreans are an especially vengeful people and that this is a specialty of their cinema. As one said to me, "It's just a handful of directors -- we don't think America is like a Quentin Tarantino film!" Touche.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Crash (2004)

I watched Paul Haggis's Crash, and I'm a little bit in shock that this film won Academy Awards for Best Picture and Original Screenplay. Although technically proficient and gamely performed by ace actors, the movie is completely demented. Haggis is so conceptually crude that he makes the blunt and tabloidy Samuel Fuller look like Eric Rohmer by comparison. The extremely schematic, literal, and over-emphatic aesthetic does give Crash a certain fascination. In Haggis's vision, virtually everyone in Los Angeles is a nasty, overt, verbal and physical bigot. They're all id without a trace of protective ego or superego; they're not even worried about holding their jobs.

Once he has established this hell on earth, all Haggis does for the rest of the movie is to push buttons with varying degrees of effectiveness. Sometimes this works -- Matt Dillon and Thandie Newton "sell" their pair of big scenes even though one may cringe at what they are being asked to do. The arc of Terrence Howard's character, although illustrated for us in the most obvious ways, has a certain psychological logic that is one of the most realistic elements in the film, and Howard runs with that. Really, all the actors are fine; they deserved their Screen Actors Guild award for Best Ensemble, especially since the material does not help them a lot.

There is a nice bit of magical realism involving a child's belief in a reassuring story her father tells her, but even here Haggis undercuts himself by making sure that we know that there is a literal explanation for what happens. Paul, we could have figured that out without your camera underlining it for us! This is a writer/director who cannot tolerate a shred of ambiguity; he is a misanthrope with obsessive-compulsive disorder. The old theatrical mantra -- "Tell them what you're going to do; do it; then tell them that you've done it" -- is pushed as far in this film as I have ever seen it pushed, so in that sense, Crash is one of a kind.

POSTSCRIPT: By the way, I like the alternative formulation I read once in a Kenneth Tynan or Penelope Gilliat review: "Tell them what you're going to do; do something else; then deny having done it."

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Commonplace Book: Love

It is wrong that anyone should become attached to me even though they do so gladly and of their own accord. I should be misleading those in whom I aroused such a desire, for I am no one's goal nor have I the means of satisfying anyone....Thus, just as I should be culpable if I made someone believe a falsehood, even though I used gentle means of persuasion, and it gave them pleasure to believe it and me pleasure that they should: in the same way I am culpable if I make anyone love me. And, if I attract people to become attached to me, I must warn those who might be ready to consent to the lie that they must not believe it, whatever benefit I might derive from it.

Blaise Pascal, Pensees

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Attention Economy

In the attention economy, to be temperate in your tone and modest in your conclusions is to get nowhere. If, for example, you write a quiet, helpful, interesting book about parenting, you are unlikely to get a lick of attention; but if, like Amy Chua, you put yourself forward as a "Tiger Mother" and borderline child abuser, the world will beat a path to your door! The process of getting attention is even more depressing to observe than the outrageous things that are said and done as part of the process; the heavy hand of marketing is everywhere. And although I am as prone as the next moralist to want to scold people for their idiocies, the fact is that is just another form of feeding the beast. Silence is difficult to maintain in the face of the never-ending onslaught of "Look at me!" provocations, but any and all comebacks are enabling to the provocateurs and their handlers.

This is why I sometimes just want to go back to bed in the morning.

William Dean Howells

Levi Stahl posted at his blog I've Been Reading Lately about his enjoyment of William Dean Howells's Indian Summer, and I commented:

Not to push the comparison too hard, but I always think of Howells as an American Trollope. (Arnold Bennett is another good parallel.) He is a delightful writer and a delightful personality. Anyone who could be friends with both Henry James and Mark Twain clearly had diverse gifts! A Hazard of New Fortunes is a great social novel that I recommend strongly. Howells's technique is solidly mainstream, but his outlook can be surprisingly modern; significantly, the very last words of his novel of divorce A Modern Instance are "I don't know!" The open-endedness is both daring for its time and quite humanly attractive. Howells may be a minor writer, although I rather think he skirts being a major one; he is, in any case, a lovable and supremely readable novelist.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Golf Notes: Dubai Desert Classic

I must be one of the few obsessive golf fans who has never played a round of (non-miniature) golf, although I keep promising myself that one day, I will learn to play the game, badly. In any case, I should post more golf notes here at PMD, in line with the project of reflecting all my interests.

Yesterday, I was lucky to find an Internet stream of the final round of the Dubai Desert Classic, and watched it till the end. It was a very exciting tournament with a lot of golfers in contention, and the blazing young Spaniard Alvaro Quiros finally prevailing. This morning, I saw a mopey column by Shane Bacon at the Devil Ball Golf blog that started thus:

This story should be about a 28-year-old Spaniard that won his fifth European Tour title on Sunday in Dubai, emerging from an incredibly star-studded field to do so. It should be about Alvaro Quiros, the long-hitting heartthrob that posted three 68s to end his week, the last coming on Sunday when Quiros made two eagles (the second being a hole-in-one) in his first 11 holes. But the story isn't. You know what this story is about. It's about Tiger Woods...

It went on in that vein of let's keep talking about Tiger by asking why we're still talking about Tiger, a fairly transparent trick. I responded:

I am a little puzzled here, since this story is a perfect example of the phenomenon it is complaining about. What the media concentrates on is up to the media. Write about Quiros instead, please! The guy is an exciting golfer who has won every year he has played the European Tour. Like many of the up-and-comers, he is great for the game and is a completely media-friendly subject -- handsome, likable, best buds with Kaymer, super-long off the tee. What more do you want? Tiger is a tired story not least because the story has now been told a thousand times, and there are only so many ways you can spin it. Quiros is fresh.

What the media is terrified of is that once Tiger ceases to be a story, a lot of casual fans will stop following golf. And you know what? That is exactly right. It cannot be helped, so get over it. There will still be plenty of real fans who want to read stories about what is actually going on, not what could be happening in an alternate universe.

POSTSCRIPT: Here is a fun exchange about Quiros from the weekly Sports Illustrated golf roundtable:

Gorant: Alvaro Quiros outlasted everyone in the desert, helped by an ace in the final round. What do we think of this guy? He's crazy long and has a decent short game. Has he reached his apex as an exciting and excitable occasional winner, or is there another level out there for him?

Van Sickle: He could be the Spanish Dustin Johnson, or D.J. could be the American Alvaro Quiros. Either way, I love watching them play. They're great for the game.

Godich: Agreed. And anybody who can post a triple bogey and still win has what it takes to get to the next level. He has won in each of the last five years. That says something.

Bamberger: Absolutely he has another level in him. He's just learning to play, truly. He has horrible distance control. He's wildly inconsistent as a putter. He's so much fun to watch and listen to. He could win a Masters when he gets it all together. He can be a Vijay, and he could be around for a long time because he's fit and has a range of interests and hobbies. I'm a huge fan.

Lipsey: I sure wish he played Stateside. He's as fun to watch as anybody, and a lively speaker too.

Evans: A few years ago we analyzed Alvaro's swing, and according to Jim Suttie, one of our Top 100 teachers, there is not a more athletic swinger of the golf club in the world.

Dusek: No one has more fun, or smiles more easily on the course, than Quiros. I watched him crush tee shots at Firestone using a persimmon driver two years ago (he'd never hit a wooden wood before), and he was giddy. He was laughing and joking, and everyone else on the range stopped to watch him blow the ball by them using a 30-year-old club.

Herre: Quiros is a freak, but he is in ascendance. Sort of reminds me of Bubba Watson, but with a more conventional swing. Still makes the big number now and then. I think we'll be hearing a lot more from him.

Wei: Quiros reminds me of [a] more eloquent, gregarious Dustin Johnson.,28136,2048870-3,00.html

Wordsworth the Cockatiel

...has arrived! The latest (and presumably, for a while, the last) of the family of animals in my apartment is named after either William the poet or his sister Dorothy the diarist, depending on its sex; the clerk at the store thought female, but I'll wait to hear what my vet says. I bought the cage and accessories first and set up the "real estate," then got the bird. Wordsworth is a beautiful gray and white cockatiel with orange cheeks and splendiferous long tailfeathers. Since she was hand-reared, she was immediately comfortable perching on my finger and liked it right away when I stroked her back; she bonded with me quickly and is very companionable. My elder cat Claire has barely taken notice of her arrival, and Wordsworth herself seems unconcerned by the other animals (including Benjamin the rabbit and Tugger the hedgehog). That's one advantage of her coming from a store -- there, she was surrounded by hubbub, so slight noises and such don't faze her at all. Like any healthy cockatiel, she is a lively, curious bird who loves to explore and play and is decidedly expressive, happy to make eye contact and to cock her head quite adorably. Her reaction to the change in her life seems to be, "Hey, this home and parent thing is awesome!"

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark (Please, Please Turn It Off)

The key theater critics and their employers decided collectively to call Julie Taymor's bluff and review A Musical for the Misbegotten on the occasion of its fourth announced opening date, February 7. The opening had been postponed once more until March 15, but the theater assessment community wisely decided that enough is enough already, that there is a product that people are shelling out big money for, and it is time to review the damn thing. Taymor and her production team had cynically tried to exploit a traditional courtesy of theater, which is that a production isn't reviewed until its "opening night," to indefinitely delay actual professional write-ups of the show's content. That, as much as the series of injuries that has plagued the show, is making me keenly dislike Julie Taymor. Now that the critiques are in, predictably they are not kind. Jonathan Mandell at The Faster Times summarizes the carnage and provides links:

POSTSCRIPT: The Playgoer puts it all in context:

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Living Small

My parents, primarily my mother, raised me to enjoy a better life than they did, and you know what? -- I don't think I managed it. Let's just concentrate on the socio-economic aspects. My parents, a salesman and a nurse (who only worked sporadically until the divorce), were solid members of the burgeoning postwar American middle class. They bought a spanking new house with a huge yard in a pleasant suburb. They had three kids without thinking much about it. We had occasional family vacations. My dad bought a new car like clockwork every two years.

Now, to put it mildly, I am far better formally educated than my parents were; my mother struggled to make sure that I would be. But to what ultimate avail? I have never done, or felt myself able to do, most of what they did rather automatically. I've never owned property, never had my name on the deed. I've never been interested in having kids, but if I had been, I don't know when I would have managed it financially, and three would be incomprehensible! My vacations have been few and far between (and essentially solo), and I have never bought a new vehicle.

It could be that I am a failure of unique and historic dimensions; hey, I'm willing to entertain that possibility. Certainly I didn't always play my hand well. But the upshot is that I slipped out of the middle class, not recently but pretty much from the get-go after my finishing college in 1980, although I couldn't have realized it at the time. The Seventies, of course, was the decade when the ground-rules of the "American Dream" -- not well established, maybe they only really existed from 1945-1970 -- began to change. I caught that inverse wave with a vengeance (and graduated into a terrible economy -- the recession of 1980-1982 is now part of taught history).

So the notion of "living large" is laughable to me, and my occasional extravagances -- another book, another suit, a high-end beer I don't really need -- are puny in the scheme of things (which is not to say that I don't feel guilty about them sometimes). If I were ever to try to live large or recklessly, the fates would slap me down so hard that I would never forget it -- if I was still alive to think about it. The moments in my life when I have so much as edged towards living a little better, I have been humbled, badly; sometimes put back to square one for my impudence. No, living small is the only option for me. I have no real understanding of people who can live large and get away with it -- but I should, because I went to college with them, those already rich through their families, and those who became rich by making shrewd career decisions in the new meritocracy. You could triple my income and the level of my lifestyle, and I still wouldn't be remotely consequential in their context.

Part of the story of our times is how the perception has become ingrained that if you raise wages for the ordinary worker, it will wreck the economy, but if you deprive plutocrats of an nth part of their winnings -- say, a slightly smaller six-figure bonus? -- they will lose all incentive to perform (and yet what good they are performing, I generally couldn't tell you). It's like the two groups aren't even members of the same species anymore. One is doomed to live smaller and smaller, reduced to postage stamp scale; the other, in the words of James Howard Kunstler, is "bored beyond belief with wealth beyond imagining."

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Watching Classic Films

Just as I am tackling classic novels I should have read decades ago (Vanity Fair, Middlemarch), I am gradually trying to fill in cinema gaps as well. I am seldom if ever disappointed in my viewing. As I have written in my profile at LibraryThing, I am easy to please, although that is partly attributable to my pre-selecting my experiences carefully.

Lately I've been watching some of the DVDs I've picked up locally. I bought a box set of Kieslowski's Three Colours and watched the first film, Blue, which I thought was great. I've purchased a whole bunch of budget Chaplin DVDs and watched Monsieur Verdoux, which lived up to everything I had ever heard about it. This weekend I took in Almodovar's All About My Mother, and found it extremely satisfying. So much has been written about these films (including, very well, by my friend Robert Kennedy here) that I doubt I have much meaningful to add to their praise. I am, however, taking the trouble to write up notes on the obscure films noir I've been viewing, and will do the same for Westerns, because if you don't do that, those sorts of movies tend to blend together in the mind -- there are too many similarities of plot, casting, photographic styles.

Out of Step

The curator of the Something Beautiful photo-blog recently wrote:

I have learned the hard way that in some respects I’m pretty different from the majority of folks. I’ve found, over and over, that when I do the mental shadow-boxing exercise (i.e., “What would I do if I were in that person’s situation?”), I frequently come up with a result that bears little resemblance to what that other person actually winds up doing....I am an unmarried, childless, apartment-renter with an inexpensive car; I am compelled to be creative; I have had an unusually varied career.

To which I commented:

I think we must be constituted very similarly, because I could make checkmarks next to almost all the points you list! At 52, I also am single (quite happily; LTRs have not proven to agree with me); childless (unless you count pets, currently a cat and a rabbit); and a life-long renter. I’ve changed careers and jobs quite a bit, and although I’ve spent most of the past 16 years in education, even during that period I took a time-out to try commercial real estate brokerage for a couple of years. I’ve lived all over the U.S., and now I’ve come to Korea to teach ESL (at a private academy to start; later at a university, I hope).

Like you, I have come to realize that the factors that motivate most of my peers’ decision-making — marriages and romantic relationships, children, career management, home ownership, commitment to place, religion, investments — simply don’t exist for me in the same way. My life has always been essentially about my interests and enthusiasms, which range from the life of the mind generally, to my animals, to more epicurean and indulgent pleasures such as fine menswear and good beer.

Dick Cavett once complimented Edward Gorey for creating a completely individual lifestyle in a world in which most people, no matter what their original intentions, seem finally to capitulate to the norm. I’m hardly a Gorey, but I do feel some kinship, and I feel it equally with what you have written here.

Friday, February 4, 2011

The Future of Culture

Robert Kennedy pointed me to an A.O. Scott piece in the New York Times, "A Golden Age of Foreign Films, Mostly Unseen":

The article falls down for me because it diagnoses the problem, but doesn't get specific enough about the remedies. It is not enough to say that the best current cinema "is nonetheless available to anyone with the curiosity and patience to navigate the new, fast-evolving cosmos of V.O.D. and streaming Web video," and then offer no details about how to navigate that world. That would be useful information for his readers; the rest is grousing (a grouse I've had myself, I hasten to add; but it doesn't change anything).

I think we are only a few years away from being able to "attend" Sundance or SXSW on our computers. In fact, I'm rather surprised that no major festival seems to have taken that step yet, but it is inevitable; consider how it will increase the revenue stream for those festivals. Concerts and plays are starting to be available in live or taped feeds; the Metropolitan Opera, which has had surprising success with its "Live in HD" series in movie theaters, should take the plunge with Internet streaming as well. Google is starting to pioneer virtual museum tours with its Google Art Project. Soon, on your laptop, or your widescreen television via a Roku box, you'll be able to experience the cultural offerings of the entire world as they happen. I don't often get on the cyber-bandwagon when it comes to such predictions, but this is one occasion when I will. We have barely scratched the surface of what is possible. And it will all be capitalistically driven, because the worldwide audience for niche cultural offerings is huge compared to even the most robust local audiences. If I hear about a great performance of an Ibsen play in Auckland or Ljubljana, and for a few dollars I can take it in on my computer, with subtitles if appropriate, of course I will consider doing that. The problem will soon be that there will be an abundance of available product beyond anyone's ability to keep up with it, but as problems go, I'll take that one.

POSTSCRIPT: I will qualify, however, that technological changes are not always 100% to the good. One reason that your home film festival experience will be almost as good as your in-person experience is that even celebrated festivals and revival houses are now using projected DVDs sometimes (there have been complaints about this at the Rotterdam festival). Frankly, a projected DVD or Blu-Ray disk looks better in your home theater than on a really big theatrical screen. So why not just watch at home? It will save you a plane ticket, a hotel room, and a lot else besides. Live events could start losing their luster.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Chinese New Year Thoughts

Although I have gotten better at so many things as I have aged -- I am a better reader, a better writer, a better pet-keeper, and so on, than I ever have been before -- I have not gotten better at dealing with people emotionally. The realization came to me while I was walking one day: I never shall. And that's OK. It's not a gift I was given. For me, intimacy is now and always has been mainly draining, upsetting, embarrassing, negative in a hundred ways. Whatever positive emotions people are supposed to get from romance, intense quasi-romantic friendship, and sexual closeness, I have never experienced those -- only the frustrating ones. Both sets of feelings are universal, but I missed one side of the equation. I'm sort of a Temple Grandin of positive interactive emotions, only understanding them intellectually; but a Maria Callas of negative interactive emotions -- those I experience all too intensely.

So I have to steer clear of certain situations because there is nothing in them for me but potential grief -- therapy helped me identify my "triggers," and I am very grateful for that. I am also grateful for the friends I do have and who mean a lot to me, even though they are all geographically quite distant. My hobbies are sustaining, and my pets are delightful. It is unfortunate that there is nothing much of interest for me here in Korea except the fact of a modest income (which I doubt I would have now in the States, and that would be calamitous). Coming to Korea and working a difficult schedule for low pay, I have had to learn what my limitations truly are, as an older man who suffers from depression but has to live under less-than-favorable circumstances.

My primary goals for the new year are to improve the circumstances, in order to make my life a little easier and more pleasant. First, to find a Korean university position that offers better hours, better pay, better working conditions (including actual vacations), better digs, and a higher level of respect. Second, to bring over all my belongings from the United States, both those in storage in Nevada and in Massachusetts. My other aims are to maintain my lively interest in the subjects I am interested in, and to keep myself and my beloved animals in good health.

I have far less energy than I once had, and I need to rest myself and to take naps frequently to keep going. Small efforts and minor stimuli can wear me out to a surprising extent. I am still medicated for my depression, and the medication continues to be a godsend, preventing me from losing my mental balance. I have to reject many possibilities from temperament or necessity, but there are still those that I can embrace, and those are what I need to concentrate on -- not regretting the rest. What cannot be helped must be lived with. Despite all, it is quite possible to approach the new year in a good spirit; and I shall endeavor to do so.

POSTSCRIPT: This was originally written for my private blog, Blue and Golden Days, for the Western New Year, and now is updated for my public blog for the Chinese New Year.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Bobby Fischer and Glenn Gould

Why do I always think of Bobby Fischer and Glenn Gould in tandem? They are near-contemporaries (Gould born in 1932, Fischer in 1943). They both more or less abandoned their meteoric careers in their early 30s. Both held eccentric views (although Fischer's were far more noxious). Both were paranoid. Both had bizarre performance requirements. Both are theorized to have had Asperger's syndrome (and that makes sense).

If you Google their names together, you get more than 25,000 joint hits, so I am scarcely the first to have had this perception that they are somehow a pair. Here is an interesting blog post comparing them: 

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Commonplace Book: Respect for Learning the developing world, where I spend lots of time doing my work, if you tell them that you're from MIT and you tell them that you do science, it's a big deal. If I go to India and tell them I'm from MIT, it's a big deal. In Thailand, it's a big deal. If I go to Iowa, they could give a rat's ass.

Kip Hodges

The Twittering-Down of Discourse

Lately, in the wake of Twitter, I have noticed that if I post a carefully considered four paragraph post on certain message boards, I am accused of being needlessly verbose and wasting people's time. This has occurred twice in recent months; one of the instances was on a world literature discussion board, for goodness sake! I have also seen articles lately to the effect that the upcoming generation is impatient with email and blogs because they are so "wordy," greatly preferring texting and tweeting. The Internet is in its infancy and I am already old school. If a four paragraph message, a blog post, and an email are "too long," how will these people ever read substantive journal articles or whole books? I'm afraid I know the answer -- they won't. But a culture of total impatience is a culture with no place for reasoned thought.

Commonplace Book: Globalization

I’m sorry to bring you bad news, but your generation faces the toughest competition any American generation has ever known.

Your competition isn’t sitting in the next library carrel. Your competition is in China and India – and your competition isn’t hanging out at frat parties or sitting around watching sitcoms with dorm-mates. It isn’t getting stoned and it isn’t putting its energy into chasing the opposite (or apposite) sex. Your competition isn’t taking lots of courses on gender studies; it isn’t majoring in ethnic studies, or (unless it is planning to go into movie making) the history of film.

Your competition is working hard, damned hard, and is deadly serious about learning. There’s nothing written in the stars that guarantees Americans a higher standard of living than other people. Those of you who spend your college years goofing off in the traditional American way are going to pay a much higher price for this than you think.

Walter Russell Mead

Lost in Translation

Although it is admittedly quite easy to spot cross-cultural howlers in Asia, it would be hard to resist noting some of the good ones:

  •  A restaurant in the neighborhood of my school has the unfortunate English name "Chicken Syndrome." Perhaps understandably, none of us is willing to give the place a try.
  •  A local plastic surgeon is offering a "Celine Dion Gold Package" of multiple procedures for the new Celine Dion you. Really, it should be the "Heidi Montag."
  • I recently bought a Korean CD of Charlie Chaplin's silent drama A Woman of Paris with this inexplicable box copy (reproduced exactly): "A Woman of paris is a serious, sincere effort, with a bang story subtlety of idea-expression." 

Romantic Comedies

No genre has a worse reputation among savvy filmgoers and creators of opinion. Contemporary romantic comedies are vapid, predictable (yet unbelievable) stories about the dating difficulties of the supremely attractive. Who could care?

Another problem is that some of the actors are getting a little long in the tooth to play characters who are unattached and looking. Jennifer Aniston is about to turn 42, and will have to be written as a predatory cougar soon. Julia Roberts is 43. The cast of Sex and the City is about to morph into the cast of The Golden Girls. The star threesome in How Do You Know, all playing unmarried and childless roles, are 34 (Reese Witherspoon), 41 (Paul Rudd), and 42 (Owen Wilson). I know that 40 is supposed to be the new 30 and all, but the willing suspension of disbelief thing isn't working for me in these scenarios.

Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu

I think Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu is sort of a melodramatic "method" director -- he goes for big emotions, all of which he insists on feeling himself. The results can seem phony and purple, even repugnant, if you're unsympathetic (Ignatiy Vishnevetsky on Biutiful: "a film that sees itself as much more meaningful than it really is"), but devastating and possessed of a genuine popular touch if you're in tune. It is certainly a very Dickensian approach; you might also say histrionic, operatic, self-dramatizing, over the top. But before one feels too critical of it, remember that this method is deeply encoded in the DNA of the theater, which began with masks and booming voices in amphitheaters. There was melodrama before there was drama.

Commonplace Book: Friendship

I maintain that, if everyone knew what others said about him, there would not be four friends in the world; this is evident from the quarrels caused by occasional indiscreet disclosures.

Blaise Pascal, Pensees (tr. A.J. Krailsheimer)