The longest sexual relationship that you have in life is with yourself. That means you expend a lot of time and energy over the years learning how to romance yourself, homing in on preferences, refining the aesthetics of your desires. For those of us who grew up without unrestrained access to pornography only to be granted it later on, there's no question that it's much better to have more options. Sure, we had to get more creative with our source materials (thanks, various 1990s issues of men's magazines!) and our younger compatriots will never understand the bleak thrill of scanning a scrambled cable channel like the Spice Networks in the hopes you might catch a glimpse of some naked adult humans. But analog fantasies aren't actually superior to digital ones, they're just different. You could argue that porn images reinforce impossible standards of beauty and sexuality, but you could also say the same about all the advertisements and idealized art that preceded it. Whether you're working off a department store lingerie catalogue or a Digital Playground compilation, what you like to look at and imagine doing is still always wrapped up in broader cultural constructs, personal imprints, and onanistic shame.
In Enough Said, Julia Louis-Dreyfus plays Eva, a long-divorced Los Angeles masseuse who starts dating a dour television archivist named Albert (James Gandolfini). She's not enthusiastic not because he's fat but, oddly, because his name is Albert (no one calls him "Al"). The movie was written and directed by Nicole Holofcener, who is a master of throwaway truths. When Eva tells a new client that she finds Albert intriguing, she includes a parenthetical: "to me." Unfortunately, that client, Marianne, happens to be Albert's ex-wife, who is played by Catherine Keener, whose career owes everything to dissatisfaction. Holofcener builds her entire movie on that coincidence.
Eva becomes Marianne's confidante, and Albert is the diminished subject of much of what she confides. Soon Eva starts to see in Albert the same annoyances that used to bother Marianne. She starts to treat him similarly, too. This isn't a dumb gimmick. But it's a gimmick nonetheless, and from a woman whose intricate social comedies — Walking and Talking, Lovely & Amazing, Friends With Money, Please Give — have been gimmick-free. This is the first of Holofcener's movies that can be described in a sentence.
I'm not psychic — stop it; I'm not! — but I'm predicting right now that the summer of 2015 will look vastly different from the one we just suffered through. (Summer of 2014 is pretty much all booked. Sorry.) There will certainly be your Batman-Superman mega-movies, but I'm guessing there will be fewer of them than there have been in the past. Setting aside the box-office numbers (the summer appears to have been a success), the art itself was pretty monochromatic.
Complaints about the summer of 2013's sameness — Earth destroyed and abandoned once, twice, 10 times; even in comedies — were being logged as early as April, when Oblivion opened. By the end of June we were wiped out. Not so much by homogeneous plots, but homogeneous scale. We're eating a lot of $200 million movies these days, far exceeding our recommended seasonal allowance. Every week it was a porterhouse and sometimes all that steak makes you want just a salad. Pacing and variety are important. What if summers were programmed to look more like fall and winter?
George Clooney & Eva Longoria: "Back in March — while he was still dating Stacy Keibler, 33 — Clooney, 52, connected with Eva Longoria, 38, in Berlin." Oh shit! "George told her that he was still with Stacy, but had plans to break up with her — and was interested in being with Eva. Then he pursued Eva with texts and calls, though they never hooked up."
By 2008, writer/director Luc Besson had already had a long and fruitful career, both here and in his native France, with such credits as The Professional, La Femme Nikita, and The Fifth Element to show for it. (He also wrote the French movie that would become Jimmy Fallon/Queen Latifah's Taxi, and that we do, unfortunately, have to dock points for.) And then he went and wrote and produced Taken, and things got turned up a notch. Who knew just the concept of a well-aged Liam Neeson very slowly kicking everyone's ass would breed not only an instant classic but also a deathless franchise? (Wait, you guys are going to keep making Takens forever, right?) Fast forward a bit, and Besson might have just come up with his latest greatest idea ever. Let me ask you a question: Does the thought of Scarlett Johansson kicking everyone's ass — but while accidentally on drugs — do anything for you?
The title of World's Greatest Living Singing Actress isn't a simple one to bestow. You might well think that Zooey Deschanel could make a rightful claim to the crown: Not only is she four albums deep with She & Him, her collabo with respected folkster M. Ward, but those albums were put out by freakin' Merge Records, which is really, very, quite indie-rock of her. I mean, there might actually be people out there who don't even know that the chick with the bangs from She & Him has a day job, and who else is bringing that kind of cred to the Singing Actress game? But, see, then you'd be overvaluing the Singing side of things. Right now Zooey Deschanel is part of an ensemble cast on one of the best shows on TV; she does a very good job, but is regularly, just about on a weekly basis, outshone by her cast mates. The Singing credibility is therefore mitigated by the lack of Actor star power (why, yes, this whole thing does hinge on quite a delicate, mysterious formula), which then opens the door for Scarlett Johansson — the one true beholder of the title World's Greatest Living Singing Actress.
Angelina Jolie is "Surprise! Boring in bed." Whaaaaaa? This alleged information comes from shade thrown by her ex, Billy Bob Thornton, who has said, "sometimes, with the model, the actress, the 'sexiest person in the world,' it may be literally like fucking the couch." FUCK YO COUCH, BILLY BOB!
It’s Friday night, and we’re in a mansion high atop a mountain somewhere in nearby Deer Valley, the kind of place that doesn’t have an address. A cab driver takes me over. He reminisces about the old days at Sundance. “I’ve had some crazy times, man.” I ask him what he means. “Oh, you know: big parties, hot tubs, cougars.” He’s a local, remembers sending the yellow cabs that drive up from Salt Lake City during Sundance on wild goose chases around town. But GPS put an end to that, he says, sadly.
Which I’m grateful for tonight, actually: It’s all we can do to find the hotel at the base of the mountain, where in the lobby I give my name to a waiting factotum, who dispatches another factotum, who brings another car around. I get in and we drive for a while, heading up the hill. There is no address because this road is private: We pass through one gate manned by a security guard, and then another, pairs of leaping deer glinting off the ironwork. Up the mountain we go, making lefts and rights at seeming random, speeding up in the dark.
Bethenny Frankel & Jason Hoppy's Split: Lunching with a friend in New York, Frankel and a friend "shared a plate of octopus, spaghetti, and a solemn conversation." How does one share a plate of octopus? Four tentacles each? Bethenny "wasn't smiling or laughing. She looked serious." Not to mention, her wedding ring was off. "So much for Frankel's happily ever after." Hoppy is still wearing his wedding band, and "feels used — like she just wanted him for a baby." He plans to fight her over custody of their daughter in court. Despite constant fights, Hoppy "was hoping she was just going through a phase." Friends claim he is wearing his ring as a plot to garner public sympathy. "It's definitely an image thing. He knows he's getting photographed. He's a smart guy." Frankel wants him to move out ASAP but he has been taking his time. "He's just not sure where he wants to go." Hoppy is angry, and "feels like he gave up his career for her. He basically stopped working to support her and wants to be compensated for it."
The couple got together in 2008 after meeting at a New York club. Sources say Frankel's no-holds-barred ambition is to blame for the union's downfall. "She got obsessive about her career." Bethenny's empire of Skinnygirl products had netted her at least a hundred million, but she still wants more. She also apparently "has high expectations that no man could ever live up to." With a new talk show rolling out soon expect to hear plenty more about the split, and possibly for it to get ugly.
Kate Winslet & Ned Rocknroll: Kate Winslet married Ned Rocknroll, a.k.a. Richard Branson's nephew with the incredibly dumb (self-chosen) name. "Call her Mrs. Rocknroll!" I will but I won't like it! The couple of a year wed before "a small group of friends and family." Perennial bachelor Leonardo DiCaprio "walked the bride down the aisle" and shattered/stoked the dreams of a trillion Titanic fangirls. Ned is "really attracted to her mind. She's mature, and he feels he can learn so much from her. It's sexy!" Is it just me or does that sound a little bit like shade? Oh, well, wishing all the best to the Rocknrolls.
Scarlett Johansson Is Depressed: "She was totally out of control in Moscow recently" at a champagne brand's promo event. "She was drinking nonstop and barely slept. It was obvious that she was trying to numb her feelings." She's sad about her breakup with ad exec Nate Naylor. "She's not used to going home alone — it's a shock to her system. The fact that Ryan Reynolds is happily married while she's single again has done a number on her. And the drinking is taking its toll — she's been crying because she feels so fat." She got a lucky horseshoe tattooed on her ribcage "because she's feeling a bit unlucky." A rebound with ex-boyfriend Jared Leto quickly went south. "She thought a fling with Jared would make her feel better, but since it was only a hookup, it only made things worse." Time for Lost in Translation 2? I know I'd pay good money to watch Scarlett be sad in Russia.
Taylor Swift & Conor Kennedy Split: "Taylor Swift was in the mood to talk about — what else? — heartache." During a listening party for Red she explained one song saying, "Long-distance dating is hard, and is something I face constantly." And will probably deal with for the rest of her life, unless she quits touring. Swift and her 18-year-old boyfriend, Conor Kennedy, recently broke up. "The breakup was mutual because of the distance, schedules, and being at different places in their lives." Why do I not believe that any Taylor Swift breakup is ever really "mutual"? Although self-professed "hopeless romantic" Taylor tried to make it work with Conor, soon "reality set in." She is promoting her new album nonstop for the next year, and Kennedy is in high school. "There aren't many guys game for a serious relationship with a girl who's out of town the majority of the year." Swift should date a pro athlete next! Just playing. She should date a civilian who could go on tour with her. Are there any sweet guitar techs out there that don't mind having an album potentially written about them?
Justin Timberlake & Jessica Biel: "You could safely call him a groomzilla." Having gotten over his "inability to commit," Timberlake threw himself into planning the $6.5 million ceremony, renting an Italian resort for the wedding and flying guests in on chartered jets. "Justin planned a series of mini-celebrations leading up to the evening ceremony. Guests were treated to a seafood feast followed by a fireworks display on the beach the day they arrived." He chose Biel's "6-carat princess-cut engagement ring without consulting her" and "picked out Jess's gown from sketches. She trusts him." Well, that's her first mistake.