There is an early David Foster Wallace story called “My Appearance” about an actress whose “face and attitudes are known to something over half of the measurable population of the United States, whose name is on lips and covers and screens.” The story centers on an appearance of hers on Late Night with David Letterman. Mostly it’s just an excuse for Wallace to riff on a few favored subjects: the place of sincerity in an age of overwhelming irony; the difficulty of saying things that don’t already come packaged in the kind of quotation marks that basically disavow what you’re saying even as you’re saying it.
“Sincerity is out,” says the creepy television executive who has taken it upon himself to coach the actress in advance of her appearance. “The joke is now on people who’re sincere.” Letterman’s show is an “anti-show,” one that feeds off its evident amusement at itself and its withering, disingenuously friendly host. Our heroine aces the interview by in turn playing an idealized, self-mocking version of herself; it's only at the end of the story, when she asks someone close to her what they “really” think, that she finally slips up and plunges into the trap that was lurking beneath her the entire time.
“My Appearance” (then titled “Late Night”) was first published in Playboy in 1988. Kristen Stewart’s famous and very real appearance on Letterman came 20 years later, in 2008, when she was promoting the first Twilight movie, and basically validated every fear Wallace had. She was mumbly and weird and she fidgeted; Letterman, sensing something human on the other side of his desk, went in for blood. He asked her if vampires were vegetarians and how she felt about bats. He questioned her about her lack of a high school education. When she confessed to being unprepared, to being boring, to not really knowing how to play the game — “I was like, what am I going to talk about on Letterman, I have no idea” — he did a kind of comic double take. “Did you — did you tell somebody that?” he asked, overwhelmed with mock concern. The audience roared.
Will Britney Survive on The X Factor? "It's going to be so much fun," said a "clearly uncomfortable Spears" as she took the stage at Fox's upfronts to announce her participation as a judge in the new season of The X Factor. "Doing X Factor may lead her back into meltdown territory. She gets extremely nervous and anxious. She's hard on herself and not very confident." Even a positive event like her engagement to Jason Trawick can "input as stress. This is a lot of change all at once for Britney. She's coming undone." While her last two albums went platinum, friends say she is not fully recovered from the 2008 mental breakdown that ended with a psych ward stay. "She really is starting to seem loopy and not right. She is so happy one minute and crying the next. Her emotions are fragile." At a friend's Brentwood crawfish boil, Spears ignored partygoers while "muttering obscenities by herself." She hung out by the food table, saying, "Fuck it, I'm eating whatever I want. I don't care." Being the world's most famous teenage pop star may have had some unforeseen longer-term ill effects. "Everyone she needs to see comes to the house. She gets her hair done or spray-tans at home. She is definitely lonely and doesn't have friends." A million sad smiley faces. X-Factor may exploit the curiosity factor. "The show needs a bankable pop star who will get viewers watching, whether they think she's ridiculous or they love her."
Brad and Angelina Are Engaged: "Pitt skipped the tradition of getting down on one knee and merely presented the ring as a token of his unwavering love." Jolie debuted "the tablet-shaped diamond" a few days later at a "private viewing of Chinese antiquities" at LACMA. Jolie's dad, Jon Voight, says he is "very happy for them!" The pressure came courtesy of the kids. "Maddox wanted them to have a wedding. He was the most vocal in pushing for it." Brad was also vocal. "Brad pleaded and said that everything else in the kids' lives in not normal. They travel constantly, they are always in different houses and different schools. They needed to give the kids one thing in their life that is normal, and they are asking for this. He said they should do it for them." This was hardly Pitt's first attempt to propose. "He asked her to marry him when she was pregnant with Shiloh. And she said no." BURN. Angie knew Brad would stick around anyway. "I don't think she has ever worried about her ability to keep a man, but what she has with Brad is very strong. They can still be hot and heavy. There is a great attraction. And Pitt has what it takes intellectually and emotionally to keep Jolie interested for the long haul. Angie is deep and thoughtful and undeniably sure of herself. I don't think any man but Brad could really make it work." While their ceremonies to previous spouses involved theatrics like "a gospel choir and fireworks show" (Pitt/Aniston) and "a wardrobe of black rubber pants and a white shirt with his name written in her blood" (Jolie/Miller), this will be a much more low-key event at their French estate. "Angie's even learning how to cook!" Maybe she'll cook coq au vin with Brad's blood!
Hollywood just can't stop talking about Michael Fassbender's enormous penis! One might have imagined that the dong-sizzle might have cooled on the industry's most raved-about trouser-steak once Li'l Mike (you know, it's one of those ironic nicknames, like when your new, 300-pound cellmate tells you everyone calls him "Tiny," haha) was memorably snubbed for an Oscar nomination, even after George Clooney went out of his way to praise the short game of Fassbender's Titleist-quality manhood at the Golden Globes. But this weekend Prometheus costar Charlize Theron jump-started the junk-buzz at a Human Rights Campaign gala by praising the actor's artfully restrained work in Shame, according to E!'s Marc Malkin:
For those who don't know, Prometheus is a new sci-fi thriller directed by Ridley Scott. Since it first went into development, the film has been touted as Scott's return to "the genre he redefined" with films like Blade Runner and Alien. (That would be, well, Sci-Fi). The film has also been rumored to be a prequel to Scott's own Alien film. Up to this point, fans have been given very little a few leaked photos, some official photos, a poster, and lots and lots of speaking through the media (by Scott, the writer Damon Lindelof, and Fox studios).
And now, with the release of the teaser trailer, we finally get a glimpse of the actual film.
"I don’t know why people are always willing to accept and even like flawed male characters. We’ve seen so many lovable anti-heroes who are curmudgeons or addicts or bad fathers and a lot of those characters have become beloved icons and I don’t see women allowed to play the same parts. So it was really important to me to try and turn that around." - Diablo Cody
It's true that Atticus Finch aside, most great male characters are more like Travis Bickle, Norman Bates, or Jack Torrance: alienated, unhinged, cool as shit. When the Oscars made 1992 The Year Of The Woman, it felt like a mean commentary on the thing we all long realized: that the bulk of prestigious films are made by, for, and about men. This year, the whole old morally complicated white guy breaking the law formula turned out to not be completely infallible. Despite the continued acid reign of Breaking Bad, you shouldn't bet the farm on Luck -- and Mad Men is so beloved because it has equally complex/interesting characters of both sexes.
The Diablo Cody penned, Jason Reitman directed, and Charlize Theron illuminated film Young Adult opened in limited release last week. If you haven't seen trailers or reviews yet the movie is a dark somewhat-romantic comedy, and its conceit is a story that follows the typical Hollywood rom-com beats with the twist that the main character we usually lovelovelove is an unchanging abomination of a human being. (This is not unlike Noah Baumbach's Greenberg and Judd Apatow's Funny People, which suggests an emerging trend in Hollywood might be "unlikable is the new likable"). Can you deal with an unlikable lead? Is that concept exciting, or exhausting? Your answer probably determines whether you'll like this movie or not. It's a good movie, but it’s not a commercial slam dunk -- mostly because a ninety minute staring contest that never blinks or winks, daring you to empathize with Theron's bitchy Mavis Geary character. If you appreciate the integrity of a film with backbone not kowtowing to Hollywood formulas, you’ll look at it more favorably. But if you don’t particularly enjoy a film that uncomfortably stares you down (even if it’s Charlize Theron doing the eyeballing) while you cross your heart and pray for escapism, then you’ll probably file a complaint and/or deduct some points on Rotten Tomatoes.
While you're doing that, here are our grades on the five main young adults in “Young Adult”:
John Legend will executive-produce a NBC single camera comedy called Mixed Blessings, about a Philadelphia street rapper who finds out he has a teenage son growing up with a white suburban family with whom he attempts to reconnect. Until they book Freeway to play the Philadelphia street rapper, we will remain skeptical. Grade: B [Deadline]
Universal has announced plans to remake Scarface, with the new version again focusing on the rise and fall of a gangster, but (like how Al Pacino’s version updated the 1932 original) adjusted to reflect modern day criminal activities. Rappers have announced plans to buy the DVD, and then prominently display it in their homes. Grade: B+ [HR]