What is The New Yorker? I know it’s a great magazine and that it’s a tremendous source of pleasure in my life. But what exactly is it? This blog’s premise is that The New Yorker is a work of art, as worthy of comment and analysis as, say, Keats’s “Ode on a Grecian Urn.” Each week I review one or more aspects of the magazine’s latest issue. I suppose it’s possible to describe and analyze an entire issue, but I prefer to keep my reviews brief, and so I usually focus on just one or two pieces, to explore in each the signature style of its author. A piece by Matthew Trammell is not like a piece by James Wood, and neither is like a piece by Peter Schjeldahl. One could not mistake Finnegan for Frazier, or Lepore for Paumgarten, or Goodyear for Khatchadourian. Each has found a style, and it is that style that I respond to as I read, and want to understand and describe.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

In Praise of Independent Movies

My pick for Best Movie of 2012 is Robert Guédiguian’s The Snows of Kilimanjaro. I saw it a few days ago and enjoyed it immensely. Richard Brody, in his “Film File” review, aptly describes it as a “richly textured and hearty yet fable-like view of domestic intimacy and social conflict” ( It’s refreshing to see a movie exploring everyday lives lived according to socialist principles. And when it’s –27 degrees outside with the wind chill, the film’s sun-drenched Marseille setting isn’t hard to take either. I suppose I should be grateful for Brody’s capsule review. But I can’t help wishing that The New Yorker had reviewed The Snows of Kilimanjaro in greater depth. In these days of what David Denby aptly calls “conglomerate aesthetics” (see Denby’s excellent “Conglomerate Aesthetics: Notes on the Disentegration of Film Language,” in his 2012 collection Do the Movies Have a Future?), i.e., big digital action movies drained of any meaning other than, in Denby’s words, “superheroes bashing people off walls, cars leapfrogging one another in tunnels, giant toys and mock-dragons smashing through Chicago, and charming teens whooshing around castles,” “independent” films such as The Snows of Kilimanjaro, The Kid with a Bike, Monsieur Lazhar, A Separation, and Footnote, to name some wonderful recent productions, need encouragement. Granted, The New Yorker does review them, but not as extensively as it could. The Snows of Kilimanjaro is worthy of more than just a 200-word blurb in Goings On About Town. And attention to embodiments of “conglomerate aesthetics,” such as Arnold Schwarzenegger’s The Last Stand, which received a 750-word mauling (albeit a humorous one) by Anthony Lane in this week’s issue, should be minimized. 

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