All the President’s Men evokes a quiet, pervasive anguish. It pulses like the buzzing of high-tension wires in a low-rent neighborhood. A person can live in such a place for years and never notice that electric whine, until one day their head aches and their nose bleeds and their flesh rebels into cancer. They can sue the power company or even move, but ultimately others will accept the noise. New leases are signed. The power stays on. Work must be done. ”

–Sara Gray, “The Lines of Power”

Julia Roberts reveals reasons for her success
Julia Roberts reveals reasons for her success
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Academy Award winning actress Julia Roberts has revealed what she believes is responsible for her successful acting career and who has had the biggest influence on her career. Julia, who has three children with her husband Danny Moder, admitted that a lot of it is down to her view and her approach to life.

Roberts explained, “I think I’m more in control of my life, my confidence and drive to do the work that I love and to believe that I can do it. I don’t think it’s magic dust that made Danny appear or [director] Mike Nichols. I think that I’m a deeply optimistic person. I’m a hopeful person. I mean that’s sort of the cornerstone of fairytales.”   She added, "In essence I owe my career to Garry Marshall. There was no known reason for him to hire me for Pretty Woman. And even he was puzzled by his decision. But I owe the forward motion of my career to Alan Pakula. It wasn’t until I met him and he had written the screenplay for Pelican Brief. We had a really interesting conversation about it and it re-ignited my enthusiasm for acting.” Julia Roberts is set to appear on the big screen in the Tarsem Singh Snow White movie Mirror Mirror, which is released on March 30.
The high-salt diet

I left the experience with a sense that familiarizing and desensitizing ourselves to violence like this can turn us into zombies. Our lack of empathy and unwillingness to engage with those involved in tragedy stems from our comfort with the trauma those people are experiencing.

Ashley Gilbertson, a war photographer for Time, recently was asked to play and document The Last of Us Remastered. Thrust into the role of a violent killer, Gilbertson quickly melted down: a brief session left his “vision blurred” and his stomach in knots; and finally his mind “crashed out.” The protagonists’ zombielike indifference to the butchery around them baffled him. Yet, his own revulsion began similarly to dry up, even after he delegated the combat sequences to his assistant. Gilbertson concluded that his typical war photography is “an antitode to the type of entertainment this game represents”, a way to wake up people accustomed to atrocity.

In 1990, director Alan J. Pakula said, “Movie violence is like eating salt: the more you eat, the more you need to eat to taste it at all.” By then, increasingly callous audiences had “developed an insatiability for raw sensation”; and filmmakers had responded with works of ever worsening savagery. The fatal shotgun blast that heralded The Last of Us at E3 2012–a blast at which journalists cheered like spectators at the Colosseum–told an old story: transgression is normalized by repetition. Even the “Edward Pistolhands” apathy in The Last of Us, which so disturbed Gilbertson, was preceded and enabled by a loss of empathy in society at large. A person is changed by her surroundings–and no witness to brutality is unscathed.

Still Eating Oranges


Catching Up #8: Klute (Alan Pakula, 1971)

“Are you upset because you didn’t make me come?  I never come with a john.  Don’t feel bad about losing your virtue; I sort of knew you would.  Everybody always does.” - Bree Daniel

Klute made me feel something inarticulably deep and unsettling, a seductive nihililsm, a hopelessness but without despair.  At its center, there’s Jane Fonda as Bree Daniel: a complex, despondent but resolute, self-loathing but strong, endlessly fascinating character torn between her desire to overcome and her desire to not exist.  Surrounding her, a New York City to which all the same adjectives could apply.  Klute came out the same year as The French Connection, and it descends through the same strata of grimy urban malaise.  But it does it gently, without sensationalism, without shock, and what bewitched me most is that it doesn’t really fight back against it.  It sinks, and it seeks the will to swim, and sometimes it does swim, but mainly it sinks and resigns itself to the sinking.

This existential pall which wholly permeates the film would not be possible without the fine work of a number of artists.  So I wish the praise the film through them– to praise Michael Small’s score (listen), which splits the difference between Morricone’s for Bird with the Crystal Plumage and Shire’s for The Conversation, establishes the pace, and eases the pain; to praise Gordon Willis’s cinematography, so emphatic with its telephoto lensing, trapping the characters in tiny ribbons of depth as the foreground slices through them or the background threatens to envelop them; to praise Andy and Dave Lewis’s screenplay, an uneasy marriage between a noir/sleuth thriller and a trip/ballad film of helpless seeing; and to praise the quiet brilliance with which director Alan Pakula orchestrates it all into a ceaselessly meandering tone poem.  Advertised as a mystery/detective film, it is that only in the loosest sense, since it does involve tracking down clues and making difficult choices.  Sure, characters sense their surroundings and act in response, but facilitating these sensory-motor links is hardly the film’s purpose.  Rather, it’s about surrender and absorption, the environment washing over characters; establishing shots are largely absent, constructive editing building a world from evocative fragments, but only ever half-building it.

This blend of decisiveness and drifting, so precisely matched to the cinematography, so charged and consumed by the music and long stretches of nonsimultaneous speech, perfectly articulates and examines Bree’s struggle, and the desperate city’s struggle in general, by filling the existential trap of the mise en scene with toeholds, but denying us the chance to climb out.  Even in the plutocratic heavens above the city, an office so high up its occupant has decorated it with wall-filling images of astronauts on the moon, the sterile light and the steely reflections isolate and swallow while the unfinished World Trade Center rises in the background.

But this gathering oblivion, deployed in myriad forms – bodies drifting past each other in a nightclub, the musty attic room where the police store suicide cases’ unclaimed possessions, an empty garment factory, its dresses empty of bodies – drew me in totally.  I don’t know what I found so entrancing, except that the film embodied its philosophy so completely that I had no choice but to be engulfed by it.  No pretense, no affectation, just a slow succumbing to the quicksand of a particular moment and a particular place.  Bree tells her therapist, “What I would really like to do is be faceless and bodiless and be left alone.”   Here, real life is a closed labyrinth– no way out, just further ways down, into danker alleyways, dimmer corridors, deeper secrets.