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About Last Night
TERRY TEACHOUT on the arts in New York City
(with additional dialogue by OUR GIRL IN CHICAGO)



    BALLET? NEVER HEARD OF IT

    “No classics, no stars, only a handful of long-lived institutions…so why take a chance on dance? And therein lies the challenge of reviving dance in America: Anyone who seeks to launch a new company, or revitalize an old one, must start by figuring out how to make large numbers of Americans want to see something about which they no longer know anything…”

    “Sightings,” The Wall Street Journal, Nov. 25, 2006. Reflections on the state of dance in America.GO TO THE STORY

    BULLDOZED BY NAÏVETÉ

    “Co-written and directed by Alan Rickman, one of England's best actors, ‘My Name Is Rachel Corrie’ just opened off-Broadway after a successful London run. It's an ill-crafted piece of goopy give-peace-a-chance agitprop—yet it's being performed to cheers and tears before admiring crowds of theater-savvy New Yorkers who, like Mr. Rickman himself, ought to know better…”

    The Wall Street Journal, Oct. 20, 2006. A review of My Name Is Rachel Corrie.GO TO THE STORY

    WHOSETUBE? ARTSTUBE!

    “YouTube, like the other new Web-based media, is a common carrier, a means to whatever ends its millions of users choose, be they good, bad, dumb or ugly. You can use it to watch mindless junk—or some of the greatest classical and jazz musicians of the 20th century…”

    “Sightings,” The Wall Street Journal, Sept. 30, 2006. An essay on YouTube and the fine arts.GO TO THE STORY

    DIRTY LAUNDRY

    “Few major artists have been known for their goodness, but nowadays we seem quicker than ever to render summary judgment on their failings. Should we be more careful about throwing stones?...”

    “Sightings,”The Wall Street Journal, Aug. 19, 2006. Reflections on the case of Günter Grass.GO TO THE STORY

    REGIONAL THEATER'S GLAMOUR GAP

    “When a museum in Los Angeles or Philadelphia puts on a major exhibition, nobody in the world of art assumes it to be second-rate merely because it doesn’t travel to the Metropolitan Museum. The same thing ought to be true of a theatrical production. That’s why the time has come for American playgoers—and, no less important, arts editors—to start treating regional theater not as a minor-league branch of Broadway but as an artistically significant entity in and of itself…”

    “Sightings,” The Wall Street Journal, June 24, 2006.GO TO THE STORY

    KIRK DOUGLAS, MASTER PAINTER

    “A wise old cynic once observed that hypocrisy is the tribute vice pays to virtue. Had he lived three centuries later, La Rochefoucauld might have added that biopics are the tribute Hollywood pays to real art. Anyone who chooses to make a movie about a great artist, be it good or bad, is making an implicit declaration of faith in the enduring significance of Western culture. Hence it says something of interest about the state of American culture that pictures like Lust for Life and The Agony and the Ecstasy, in which Charlton Heston played Michelangelo, have become so rare in recent years…”

    “Sightings,” The Wall Street Journal, Feb. 19, 2006. An essay on Vincente Minnelli’s Lust for Life and middlebrow culture.GO TO THE STORY

    A HUNDRED BOOKS IN YOUR POCKET

    "The e-book is back. So are the technophobes who swear it'll never catch on. They were right last time, and they might be right this time, too. Sooner or later, though, they'll be wrong—and when they are, your life will change..."

    “Sightings,” The Wall Street Journal, Jan. 21, 2006. An essay on the coming of the e-book.GO TO THE STORY

    MENCKEN NO. 3

    “You don’t pour years of your life into writing a biography unless you feel an initial bond of sympathy with the subject, and, though many a biographer has grown disillusioned along the way, it’s obvious from reading Mencken: The American Iconoclast that Rodgers still admires and, just as important, likes the man about whom she has written. But how closely does that man resemble the real H.L. Mencken? Have Rodgers’s sympathies led her to smooth his rough edges, or downplay less palatable aspects of Mencken’s work that might not sit well alongside her frank admiration? The answer, I suspect, will depend on how much you yourself like Mencken…”

    The New Criterion, December 2005. A review of Marion Elizabeth Rodgers’ Mencken: The American Iconoclast.GO TO THE STORY

    WHAT RANDOLPH SCOTT KNEW

    "Scott was secure enough to let his colleagues do the talking, knowing that his gritty, hard-faced on-screen presence would speak for itself. The dashing young leading man of the Thirties now looked as though he’d been carved from a stump, and every word he spoke reeked of disillusion. Yet he continually found himself forced to make moral choices that were always clear but rarely easy. What Scott should do at any given moment is never in doubt, but we also understand that doing it will never make him 'happy' in any conventional sense of the word: he must do the right thing for its own sake, not in the hope of any immediate reward…"

    An essay from A Terry Teachout Reader, reprinted on the American Cowboy Web site this month.GO TO THE STORY

    YOU, TOO, CAN BE A CRITIC

    “A couple of hundred bloggers now write about the arts on a fairly regular basis. I've been following their work since I started my own ‘artblog,’ ‘About Last Night,’ in the summer of 2003, and I believe the same technological revolution that has already transformed political journalism is about to have a similarly galvanizing effect on regional arts journalism…”

    “Sightings,” The Wall Street Journal, Nov. 12, 2005. How artblogs are affecting regional arts journalism in America.GO TO THE STORY
    SPENDING THE NIGHT WITH FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT

    "Just as an old-master painting never looks better than when it hangs in the home of a private collector who gazes at it lovingly each day, so are Frank Lloyd Wright's houses meant to be experienced, not merely visited. Wright himself said that the Schwartz House was 'a house designed for utility and fecund living....in which there is no predominating feature, but in which the entire is so coordinated as to achieve a thing of beauty.' Now more than ever, I know what he meant..."

    The Wall Street Journal, Oct. 18, 2005.GO TO THE STORY

    THAT'S ALL, FOLKS!

    “I find myself less interested in writing about film, not because my love for the medium has diminished but because American filmmakers are now making so few movies worth seeing. These things happen in the arts—ballet and modern dance have also been going through a similarly bad patch—and rather than continue to rail against the self-evident each month, I’ve decided to till greener pastures. What makes me especially sad is that the first few years of this column (which I started writing in 1998) were a wonderful time for film in America, a time that now seems to have passed…”

    Crisis, October 2005. A valedictory film column.GO TO THE STORY

    ON THEIR OWN

    “I'm not sure how fully July has plumbed the deeper social implications of her beautifully nuanced portrayal of life after marriage. I find the world she shows us to be almost too sad to contemplate, which is why the optimistic conclusion of Me and You and Everyone We Know is so powerful in its effect—and why I wonder whether that effect might be to some extent a matter of wishful thinking…”

    From the September 2005 issue of Crisis, a review of Me and You and Everyone We Know.GO TO THE STORY

    GET OUT OF TOWN

    "Now it's possible to live in almost any large or medium-sized American city and be regularly exposed to a wide range of high-quality artistic activity. Yet this deprovincialization of the arts in America has been accompanied by what can only be called the reprovincialization of arts journalism. Not only has network TV largely given up on the fine arts, but surprisingly few newspapers now take the trouble to hire staffers familiar enough with the arts to cover them well..."

    "Sightings," The Wall Street Journal, Sept. 17, 2005. The inaugural edition of a new column about the arts in America.GO TO THE STORY

    PRICE WAS RIGHT

    "Forty years ago, Sears, Roebuck & Co. was selling Picassos and Chagalls, not to mention Rembrandts, Dürers, Goyas, Whistlers, Mondrians and Wyeths, all of them bearing the imprimatur of a celebrated connoisseur who was better known for making such grisly movies as 'The Fly' and 'House of Wax.' Vincent Price is now best remembered for his supporting role in the classic 1944 film noir 'Laura,' but in the '60s he was a full-fledged movie star, albeit one who never got the girl—at least not while she was still alive. An elegantly campy gent who in his later years specialized in playing pardon-me-sir-while-I-cut-off-your-head psychopaths, Price was also one of Hollywood's most passionate art collectors..."

    From The Wall Street Journal, Aug. 23, 2005, an essay on the Vincent Price Art Collection and the middlebrow moment.GO TO THE STORY

    INVISIBLE WOMAN

    “No one in Look at Me is wholly good or bad—but neither is Agnes Jaoui implying that there's no such thing as good or bad. On the contrary, she offers a nuanced portrayal of the corrosive effects of power on the human heart, one that is at once troubling and hopeful. What Lord Acton said about power can never be quoted often (or accurately) enough: Not only does it tend to corrupt, but mere proximity to its insidiously seductive influence can soften the integrity of the strongest of men. As Look at Me reminds us, we are all vulnerable, we must all choose—yet even when we choose wrongly and suffer for it, the entreaties of a broken and a contrite heart will not be despised…”

    From the July-August 2005 issue of Crisis, a review of Look at Me.GO TO THE STORY

    FALLEN WORLDS

    ”The anti-heroes of classic film noir may have lived on the outskirts of hell, but at least they knew how to find the road out of town, even if they never took it. Not so in Chinatown, where there are no roads and no right choices, only the comfortless words of Noah Cross, the evil millionaire who is Jake Gittes's nemesis: 'Most people never have to face the fact that, at the right time and the right place, they're capable of anything.' Anything, that is, but redemption…”


    From the June 2005 issue of Crisis, an essay on film noir.GO TO THE STORY

    WHEN THEATER BECOMES PROPAGANDA

    "Turning messy fact into orderly fiction necessarily entails simplification; turning it into artful fiction demands as well that this simplification acknowledge the full complexity of human nature and human experience. These seemingly contradictory requirements can easily be fumbled by the artist whose principal goal is to persuade an audience of the rectitude of his cause. We do not expect him to portray the world creatively, but to tell us the unadorned truth about things as they really are. Yet propagandists are rarely prepared to tell the whole truth and nothing but. They alter reality not in order to 'make everything more beautiful' but to stack the deck..."

    From the Spring 2005 issue of In Character, an essay on the problem of political art.GO TO THE STORY

    WATCHING WESTERNS IN MANHATTAN

    “So far as I know, the only Hollywood Western in which not a single shot is fired, in anger or otherwise, is Four Faces West, and wonderful though that little-remembered Joel McCrea film may be, I can't say it's typical in any obvious way of the Western genre as a whole. But even though my progressive neighbors may recoil from the prospect of packing a six-shooter—you can't even buy a water pistol at the toy store around the corner from my front door—they're more than happy to partake of on-screen violence, so long as it comes in a sufficiently arty wrapping. So why did Manhattan evolve over the years into a Western-free zone?...”

    From the May/June 2005 issue of American Cowboy. GO TO THE STORY

    POOR HOWARD

    “Is there anything so unintentionally amusing as ill-concealed autobiography? When I heard that Martin Scorsese had made a three-hour-long biopic about Howard Hughes that portrayed the crazy billionaire-recluse as a misunderstood artist brought low by vaulting ambition, I laughed out loud. The director of Goodfellas is widely thought to be a genius, a word I stumbled over more than once in newspaper reviews of The Aviator. Er…no. Jean Renoir was a genius. Alfred Hitchcock had his moments, and Orson Welles could have been a contender…”

    From the April 2005 issue of Crisis, a review of The Aviator and Being Julia.GO TO THE STORY

    THE SLOTH AQUATIC

    “Though his acting is narrowly limited in range, Bill Murray is a kind of comic genius when it comes to embodying accidie on screen. Twice before, in Groundhog Day and Lost in Translation, he has played terminally disillusioned characters whose souls are deadened by sloth, and done it brilliantly. He does the same thing—no less brilliantly—in The Life Aquatic, playing a contemporary cynic whose feelings are so thickly encased in a shell of irony that it’s depressing just to look at him…”

    From the March 2005 issue of Crisis, a review of The Life Aquatic.GO TO THE STORY

    THE WRONG MAN

    “Unlike the makers of Ray, I don’t look to the lives of artists for moral edification, though sometimes it can be found there. A film about Ray Charles’s youthful struggle to make his way in the world, for example, might well have been stirring. But to sculpt a tinsel epiphany out of his adult life is to twist it beyond recognition, and in addition to obscure the never-to-be-forgotten fact that great artists are not always good people…”

    From the February 2005 issue of Crisis, a review of Ray.GO TO THE STORY

    REALLY REAL PEOPLE

    The Incredibles represents the most technically advanced use to date of digital animation, and though the folks at Pixar still haven’t worked through all the inherent problems of the new medium—they still can’t ‘draw’ a plausible-looking crowd of human beings, for instance—it’s obvious that they’ve come a long, long way from Finding Nemo. No matter how committed you may be to the survival of traditional pen-and-ink animation, I expect you’ll be impressed by most everything you see on screen…”

    From the January 2005 issue of Crisis, a review of The Incredibles and Sideways.GO TO THE STORY

    CONVERSION EXPERIENCE

    "The theme of Vile Bodies is the despair to which modern life inevitably reduces those who live by its antinomian code. When he wrote it, Waugh had not yet found his way out of the twisty maze of modernity. That’s why Vile Bodies, like Bright Young Things, lurches to an ultimately unsatisfying close: It is a chamber of horrors without an exit sign..."

    From the December 2004 issue of Crisis, a review of Bright Young Things.GO TO THE STORY

    NIHILISM IN PASTELS

    “Twenty years ago, an NBC executive named Brandon Tartikoff handed a two-word memo to a TV producer named Michael Mann. 'MTV cops,' it said, and Miami Vice was born. After the show had become a success, someone asked Mann what made it distinctive, to which he replied with equal terseness, ‘No earth tones.’ Tartikoff is dead and forgotten, and Miami Vice has long since vanished from the air, but Mann continues to make films that partake of its now-ubiquitous sensibility. Collateral, for instance, could be summed up with much the same brevity: It’s a buddy movie in which one of the buddies is a sociopath…”

    From the November 2004 issue of Crisis, a review of Collateral and Paparazzi.GO TO THE STORY

    WIDMERPOOL'S WAY

    “Evelyn Waugh declared ‘A Dance to the Music of Time’ to be ‘more realistic’ than ‘Remembrance of Things Past,’ not to mention ‘much funnier.’ Such fulsome praise inevitably recalls the anonymous wag who described ‘Dance’ as ‘Proust translated by Wodehouse.’ While it is no small thing for Anthony Powell (whose last name is pronounced ‘pole’) to have been compared in one fell swoop to the creators of the Baron de Charlus and Bertie Wooster, I doubt his sense of humor was quite robust enough for him to have appreciated that double-edged crack….”

    From the New York Times Book Review, Oct. 31, 2004, a review of two new books about Anthony Powell.GO TO THE STORY

    IN DARKEST JERSEY

    "More often than not, I know exactly what I think of the films I see. I can understand why this statement might strike you as odd (after all, why wouldn’t a critic know?), but it’s not quite so simple as that. Great art is full of ambiguity: It leaves you room to make up your own mind. Commercial art, by contrast, seeks to make up your mind for you—and most American films are made for purely commercial purposes...."

    From the October 2004 issue of Crisis, a review of Garden State.GO TO THE STORY
    DUMB AND PROUD OF IT

    “’No man,’ Dr. Johnson assures us, ‘is a hypocrite in his pleasures.’ I try never to disagree with the good doctor, so I’ll freely admit that along with hot dogs, fireworks, small-town parades, and old-fashioned country music, I dote on the kind of lowbrow comedy that can best be described as dumb, as in ‘Oh, why don’t we just rent a dumb movie tonight?’”…

    From the September 2004 issue of Crisis, a review of Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, Napoleon Dynamite, and Before Sunset.GO TO THE STORY

    COSTELLO THE CLASSICIST:
    HIS AIM IS TRUE


    "Costello doesn't need to write large-scale orchestral works to be taken seriously as an artist. Rock has produced no better songwriter. But if he really wants to set up shop as a part-time classical composer, he'll need to polish his craft still further. After the unexpected success of ‘Rhapsody in Blue,’ Gershwin toiled for 11 years and ended up with ‘Porgy and Bess.’ Is Costello in it for the long haul? Or will ‘Il Sogno’ turn out to be a fluke?…"

    From the Washington Post, July 19, 2004, a review of Elvis Costello’s Il Sogno.GO TO THE STORY
    A LIFE STORY THAT IS HISTORY

    "Younger readers who only know Buckley the urbane elder statesman probably don't realize that, in his heyday, he was a full-fledged celebrity who made the cover of Time and was sought after by Jack Paar and Johnny Carson. ‘Firing Line,’ his own PBS talk show, and ‘On the Right,’ his syndicated newspaper column, made him the prototype for today's cable-TV opinion merchants—though his sharp-witted repartee had little in common with the raucous gabble that now dominates the airwaves…"

    From the Baltimore Sun, July 18, 2004, a review of William F. Buckley, Jr.’s Miles Gone By.GO TO THE STORY

    MAGIC ACTS

    "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, for all the unabashed postmodernity of its narrative techniques, is anything but nihilistic. On the contrary, its characters labor desperately—and touchingly—to find meaning in a seemingly chaotic world in which reality itself can be altered. Good Bye, Lenin! also takes as its subject the manipulation of reality, albeit in a homelier, less malign manner..."

    From the June 2004 issue of Crisis, a review of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Good Bye, Lenin!GO TO THE STORY
    SCOFIELD, "ENROUTE" TO A SPECIAL PLACE

    "I've long been impressed by the unflagging resourcefulness with which John Scofield puts together fresh settings for his superlative playing. Maybe that's the best way to think of ‘EnRoute,’ not as a return to his improvisational roots but as simply another facet of his complex creativity…"

    From the July 4, 2004 Washington Post, a review of the John Scofield Trio's EnRoute.GO TO THE STORY

    BROOKMEYER'S BIG BAND: HUGELY REWARDING

    "Is there anything Bob Brookmeyer can't do? His sinuous, blunt-toned valve trombone has been one of jazz's best-known sounds for the past half-century, while his composing and arranging have won him plaudits for nearly as long. In addition, he's a part-time pianist whose highly personal playing is far more than functional. But my guess is that his current incarnation will prove to be the most memorable of all..."

    From the May 30, 2004 Washington Post, a review of Bob Brookmeyer's Get Well Soon.GO TO THE STORY
    THE LAND OF CONTEMPT

    "It’s revealing, I’m sure, that The Ladykillers, like O Brother, Where Art Thou? before it, makes extensive use of gospel music for parodistic purposes. Once again, the music itself is terrific, but the uses to which it is put are both ironic and quintessentially postmodern: We are clearly supposed to be amused by all those benighted believers rocking joyously in their pews, even though Dey Got Rhythm and we sorry white folk don’t. That’s how postmodernism works—it plays both sides of the street, winking in either direction…"

    From the May 2004 issue of Crisis, a review of The Ladykillers.GO TO THE STORY

    SAY CELLO TO ROGER KELLAWAY'S JAZZ

    "Just as Kellaway has never fit into any known stylistic pigeonhole, so is ‘Roger Kellaway Cello Quartet’ all but uncategorizable. To be honest, I'm not even sure it's jazz, though much of it sounds like jazz. ‘The idea that anything can go with anything is very appealing to me,’ Kellaway told me in a 1995 interview, "and classical music has taught me that the options are infinite." This album proves his point, gorgeously and gloriously…"

    From the Washington Post, May 16, 2004, a review of Roger Kellaway Cello Quartet.GO TO THE STORY

    GROWN-UP STUFF

    "Visually speaking, The Triplets of Belleville owes a lot to the late Chuck Jones. (Keep The Grinch Who Stole Christmas in mind and you’ll see what I mean.) The main difference is that Chomet is more inclined to grotesquerie—occasionally bordering on outright grossness—than sentimentality. This gives Triplets an astringent flavor that serves as a counterpoise to its oh-so-French touches of whimsy, for me the film’s only weakness…"

    From the March 2004 issue of Crisis, a review of The Triplets of Belleville.GO TO THE STORY
    SOMETHING SPECIAL

    "Not since Ahmad Jamal's legendary trio of the 1950s has there been a jazz combo that blended uptown and downtown so seamlessly as does the Bill Charlap Trio. It's equally at home in smoky nightclubs and I-kiss-your-hand-madam cabarets. You don't have to know anything about jazz to enjoy its polished, elegant renditions of show tunes, but if you do, you'll marvel at the savoir-faire with which the group saunters through Charlap's quietly intricate arrangements…"

    From the Washington Post, Mar. 28, 2004, a review of Bill Charlap's Somewhere: The Songs of Leonard Bernstein.GO TO THE STORY

    MOVIES FOR MOM

    "Like Lost in Translation, The Station Agent is noteworthy for the fact that its principal characters don’t sleep together—a credibility-wrecking hole into which a lesser writer-director than Thomas McCarthy would surely have stumbled. Instead, he takes it for granted that friendship can be as interesting as romantic love and allows us to watch as his lonely characters are brought back to life by the not-so-simple act of getting to know another person..."

    From the January 2003 issue of Crisis, a review of The Station Agent and The Cooler.GO TO THE STORY

    SEEING IS DISBELIEVING

    "I’ve seen any number of first-rate movies made out of novels I’ve never read. To Have and Have Not, In a Lonely Place, The Night of the Hunter, Vertigo, True Grit—all are important to me in their varied ways, and I’m sure the books on which they were based are worth reading, too. (Well, maybe not To Have and Have Not.) So why haven’t I checked out the originals? Because the films are so satisfying in their own right that I feel no need to know their sources..."

    From the December 2003 issue of Crisis, a review of The Human Stain and Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World.GO TO THE STORY

    HE TRIES HARDER

    "There’s more to a movie than how it looks, and that’s the part Eastwood often gets wrong, perhaps because he isn’t a writer. It’s odd that so unpretentiously professional a director should be drawn to portentous scripts, but Eastwood seems to love them, and that’s his downfall. Unforgiven and A Perfect World, the best of his other 'serious' movies, are marred by a similar need to be bigger than they are, and even such exercises in pure entertainment as Honkytonk Man and Space Cowboys would have been better off had their director let out a couple pounds of hot air..."

    From the December 2003 issue of Crisis, a review of Mystic River and School of Rock.GO TO THE STORY

    TAKE A MULLIGAN

    "Gerry Mulligan once wrote a song called 'Just Want to Sing and Dance Like Fred Astaire.' Alas, he couldn't, but he was a miraculously light-footed player of the cumbersome baritone saxophone, and when he put together a big band in 1960, it was in his own gracefully swinging image. At 13 pieces (three trumpets, three trombones, five reeds, no piano), the Gerry Mulligan Concert Jazz Band was smaller than most postwar big bands, and Mulligan and his arrangers favored spare, airy instrumental textures…"

    From the Washington Post, Nov. 23, 2003, a review of box sets by the Gerry Mulligan Concert Jazz Band and Count Basie.GO TO THE STORY
    LIFE-SIZE MOVIES

    "Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation started generating buzz within what seemed like hours of its initial limited release in a handful of big-city theaters, and I confess to having been more than a little bit suspicious of the hype. (As Pauline Kael once asked, 'Was there ever a good movie that everybody was talking about?') But I went anyway, and I’m glad I did, for Lost in Translation is a thoughtful, elegant, miraculously self-assured piece of work…"

    From the November 2003 issue of Crisis, a review of Lost in Translation, The Secret Lives of Dentists, and American Splendor.GO TO THE STORY

    REGINA CARTER

    "A tiny woman with a nose ring, a charmingly gap-toothed grin à la David Letterman and a face whose smooth planes might have been carved by Brancusi on one of his very best days, Ms. Carter plays an instrument that inspired some of the hottest improvisers of the 20th century. Yet even though Stéphane Grappelli, Stuff Smith and Joe Venuti played it unforgettably well, the violin still strikes many people as not quite the thing for swing..."

    From the New York Times, Nov. 2, 2003, a profile of jazz violinist Regina Carter.GO TO THE STORY

    WITHOUT REFERENCE

    "Westerns are not about their plots (though they have to make a certain minimal sense, just like a 19th-century opera libretto). They are morality plays, ritual reenactments of the unending struggle to do the right thing in a wrong world, and they work because they are familiar, just as life itself is familiar. We expect Duvall and Costner to avenge their dead partner and restore order to a town whose people long for it, and we cheer them on because they do so without crossing their fingers..."

    From the October 2003 issue of Crisis, a review of Open Range.GO TO THE STORY

    SEQUEL-FREE ZONE

    "I wouldn’t be surprised if Spellbound did so well in part because reality TV has habituated American audiences to the once-unfamiliar notion of nonfiction entertainment (though it had far more in common with 'mockumentaries' like Christopher Guest’s A Mighty Wind and Waiting for Guffman than with the witless fare to which the major TV networks are becoming increasingly addicted)..."

    From the September 2003 issue of Crisis, a review of Finding Nemo, Spellbound, and Hollywood Homicide.GO TO THE STORY

    IS EDITING NECESSARY?

    "The effectiveness of Thurber's cartoons arises less from their clever slice-of-suburban-life captions ('Well, I'm disenchanted, too. We're all disenchanted') than from the drawings themselves. Little more than inspired doodles, his lumpy, ill-centered 'creatures' are nevertheless rendered with a nervous liveliness of line well suited to the often surrealistic situations into which their creator puts them..."

    From the Aug. 10, 2003 issue of the New York Times Book Review, a review of The Thurber Letters, an overweight collection of uneven correspondence by the man who was Walter Mitty (sometimes).GO TO THE STORY

    ANDY WARHOL: 15 MINUTES AND COUNTING

    "After Warhol, you could pass off anything as art, from hardcore porn to gangsta rap to the most vapid of sitcoms, secure in the knowledge that you’d be lauded as a subversive innovator by trend-snuffling critics and philistine academics secretly relieved not to have to grapple with the subtleties of the real right thing..."

    From the Aug. 6, 2003 issue of The Wall Street Journal, a more than slightly jaundiced tribute to Andy Warhol on his 75th birthday.GO TO THE STORY

    DAY CAMP

    "Needless to say, camp has its place in comedy (I’ve watched All About Eve more times than any straight man I know) but only as a condiment, not a main dish. Peyton Reed, who clearly thinks otherwise, has substituted camp for content in Down With Love, which is like eating a can of frosting in lieu of baking a cake..."


    From the July/August 2003 issue of Crisis, a review of Peyton Reed's Down with Love. A parody-homage of the Doris Day-Rock Hudson movies turns out to be strangely reminiscent of Far from Heaven. (That's not a compliment.)GO TO THE STORY

    MR. PERSONALITY

    "A new generation of scholars, born too late to be seduced by Kennedy's charm, took a closer look at his life and legacy, and discovered that the crown prince of Camelot was a reckless womanizer who installed a secret taping system in the Oval Office, was soft on civil rights and won the Pulitzer Prize for a book he hadn't written..."

    From the July/August 2003 issue of Book Magazine, a review of Robert Dallek's An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy, 1917–1963 (Little, Brown). Honesty or hagiography? A little bit of both, actually.GO TO THE STORY

    IN SEARCH OF BEAUTY

    "All this suggests that when it comes to post-postmodern art in America, it doesn't much matter where you do it or what you call it, so long as the results are beautiful. And it is no coincidence that post-postmodern artists are increasingly willing to use that word without encasing it in the protective quotation marks of irony..."

    From The Arts in America: New Directions, an online journal published by the U.S. State Department, an overview of the state of the arts in post-postmodern America. What do Diana Krall, Mark Morris, Lowell Liebermann, and Kenneth Lonergan? Answer: they all believe in beauty.GO TO THE STORY
    TRAPPED IN EDEN

    "Like all of Christopher Guest’s addled characters, Mitch and Mickey feed off their fantasies, never once eating from the Tree of Knowledge. They are trapped in Eden, doomed to live forever in a world of innocent illusion, blissfully unaware that we are laughing at them—and at ourselves..."

    From the June 2003 issue of Crisis, a review of Christopher Guest's A Mighty Wind. It's a wickedly accurate spoof of a group of foolishly self-absorbed folkies...so why isn't it cruel?GO TO THE STORY

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AND OUR GIRL IN CHICAGO

Terry lives in Manhattan. He's the drama critic of the Wall Street Journal and the music critic of Commentary, but he writes about... More


ABOUT "ABOUT LAST NIGHT"
This is a blog about the arts in New York City and elsewhere, a diary of Terry's life as a working critic, with additional remarks and reflections by Laura Demanski (otherwise known as Our Girl in Chicago), who is also, among other things, a critic. It’s about all the arts, not just one or two... More


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THE CRITIC AS EXPATRIATE
“Robert Hughes is a man without a country. Born in Sydney at a time when Australia was notorious for its cultural philistinism, he fled his native land for the more compatible aesthetic environment of England, where he found himself plunged into (and scarred by) the antinomian madness of the 60’s. In 1970 he moved yet again, this time to America, a country whose commitment to the capitalist economy disgusted him, and became the art critic of Time, a magazine with whose populist bent he never succeeded in coming to terms…” More

SECOND CITY

OCTOBER
"Terry Teachout, author of 'All in the Dances: A Brief Life of George Balanchine,' 'A Terry Teachout Reader' and 'The Skeptic: A Life of H.L. Mencken,' started writing 'Second City,' a monthly column about the arts in New York, in the fall of 1999. In September, after six years and 64 columns, he filed his final report for The Post. 'I can't even begin to tell you how much I'll miss Second City,' he says. 'Not only was it a pleasure and a privilege to report to the readers of one great city about the artistic doings of another, but I learned to love Washington along the way.'...
More

SEPTEMBER
"It's profoundly unsettling for a Manhattanite to be following the news these days. I've found it all but impossible to tear myself away from the televised scenes of mounting chaos in New Orleans and on the Gulf Coast, though I did take a quick look the other day at the first 'Second City' column I filed after 9/11. It started like this: 'We're all right, thanks. It took a week or two for us to pull ourselves together, but New Yorkers have finally started to emerge from their holes, looking for all that art offers in times of trial: inspiration, diversion, catharsis, escape.' It will take a lot longer for the victims of Hurricane Katrina to reconstitute their lives, and longer still, I fear, for them to regain access to the solace of art..." More

AUGUST
“Respighi is known in this country for 'The Fountains of Rome', 'The Pines of Rome' and not much else, but in Italy he's rightly admired as a witty, wonderfully lyrical composer. 'La Bella Dormente' is all that and more, and Basil Twist's magical staging commingles singers, puppets and puppeteers to tell the familiar tale (at the end they all dance together, in a breathtaking piece of theatrical wizardry). The puppets were bewitchingly characterful, the singers first-rate. How sad to think that this show received only a half-dozen performances! It belongs in an off-Broadway theater, where it would surely run until the end of time…” More

TEACHOUT'S TOP FIVE

A list of new things we've liked (subject to unexpected and wildly capricious updating).

To purchase or investigate, click on the link.


  • EXHIBITION: Saul Steinberg: Illuminations (Morgan Library, up through March 4). One hundred drawings, collages, and assemblages by the New Yorker “cartoonist” (that’s the wrong word for an artist as complex as Steinberg, but I can’t think of a better one) whose surrealistically witty visions of modern life remain as eye-catchingly fresh as ever. If that’s not enough Steinberg for you, go see A City on Paper: Saul Steinberg’s New York, up through March 25 at the Museum of the City of New York (TT).

  • DVD: Benjamin Britten: A Time There Was (Kultur). Notwithstanding a wealth of recently uncovered biographical information about England’s greatest composer, Tony Palmer’s 1980 documentary remains one of the most powerfully moving films ever to be made about a classical musician. Particularly engrossing are the numerous clips of Britten the performer, few of which have made it to DVD in their entirety. Essential viewing (TT).

  • BOOK: Richard Stark, Ask the Parrot (Mysterious Press, $23.99). Over to Ethan Iverson of the Bad Plus, a Parker fan from way back: “Richard Stark (a.k.a. Donald E. Westlake) keeps delivering the goods. Ask the Parrot is a sequel to 2004’s Nobody Runs Forever, and it is as strong as any of the twenty-four books about the master thief Parker….the real attraction of the books is Parker himself, who is staking a claim to being the greatest antihero in all crime fiction.” What he said (TT).

  • CD: King Oliver, Off the Record: The Complete 1923 Jazz Band Recordings (Archeophone, two CDs). Astonishingly clear digital transfers of the thirty-seven performances that constitute the first substantial body of recorded work by a black jazz ensemble—as well as the earliest surviving documents of the playing of Louis Armstrong, who came to Chicago from New Orleans to join his beloved mentor’s band. No, these ancient Gennett, OKeh, Columbia, and Paramount 78s don’t sound like modern recordings, but they’ve never sounded better—and they offer a priceless, heart-stoppingly vivid glimpse of jazz when it was young (TT).

  • BOOK: Amanda Vaill, Somewhere: The Life of Jerome Robbins (Broadway, $40). My dust-jacket blurb says it all: "Jerome Robbins is the great subject of American theatrical biography—self-contradictory, self-hating, arrogant and terrified and gifted almost beyond compare—and Amanda Vaill has done him justice. I can't think of a better full-length portrait of an American choreographer or director, and I can't imagine a better book about Robbins ever being written" (TT).

TEACHOUT ELSEWHERE

BALLET? NEVER HEARD OF IT
“No classics, no stars, only a handful of long-lived institutions…so why take a chance on dance? And therein lies the challenge of reviving dance in America: Anyone who seeks to launch a new company, or revitalize an old one, must start by figuring out how to make large numbers of Americans want to see something about which they no longer know anything…” More

BULLDOZED BY NAÏVETÉ
“Co-written and directed by Alan Rickman, one of England's best actors, ‘My Name Is Rachel Corrie’ just opened off-Broadway after a successful London run. It's an ill-crafted piece of goopy give-peace-a-chance agitprop—yet it's being performed to cheers and tears before admiring crowds of theater-savvy New Yorkers who, like Mr. Rickman himself, ought to know better…” More

WHOSETUBE? ARTSTUBE!
“YouTube, like the other new Web-based media, is a common carrier, a means to whatever ends its millions of users choose, be they good, bad, dumb or ugly. You can use it to watch mindless junk—or some of the greatest classical and jazz musicians of the 20th century…” More

SITES TO SEE

* = newly added
** = adults only
*** = replacement

LITBLOGS
Anecdotal Evidence
Beatrice
Bookdwarf
Books, Inq.
Bookslut
Chekhov's Mistress
Chicken Spaghetti
Conversational Reading
Brenda Coulter
Critical Mass (NBCC)
Elegant Variation
Emdashes
Galley Cat
Golden Rule Jones
Happy Booker
Kate’s Book Blog
Light Reading
Litblog Co-Op
Literary Saloon
MadInkBeard
James Marcus
Scott McLemee
Metaxucafe
The Millions
MoorishGirl
The Mumpsimus
Maud Newton
Old Hag
Rake's Progress
Reading Experience
Return of Reluctant
Sarah Weinman
Dan Wickett
The Written Nerd

OMNIBLOGS
amp power
Back with Interest
Coudal Partners
Crazy Stable
Cue Sheet
Culture Club*
CultureSpace
DevraDoWrite
Exhibitionist
A Glass of Chianti
Gurgling Cod
Jerry Jazz Musician
Killin' time being lazy
Justine Larbalestier
Litwit
My Stupid Dog
Outer Life
Panopticist
Pratie Place
Quiet Bubble
Ron Rosenbaum
Searchblog
Shaken & Stirred
Something Old
such stuff
James Tata
Teatro Lifson
Kelly Jane Torrance
Eve Tushnet
2 Blowhards
Whisky Prajer

SCHOOLBLOGS
Critical Mass
Household Opera
Language Log
The Little Professor
Amardeep Singh

SCREENBLOGS
Alarm!
Better Living Thru TV
Deadline Hollywood
DVD Savant
Girish
House Next Door
Pullquote
Thrilling Days
TV Guidance*

SIGHTBLOGS
Art Law Blog
Artblog.net
Culturegrrl
Design Observer
Eye Level
From the Floor
Modern Art Notes
Modern Kicks
Edward Winkleman

SOUNDBLOGS
ClassicallyHip
Daily Observations*
Deceptively Simple
Do the Math
in the wings
Iron Tongue
oboeinsight
On a Pacific Aisle
Rifftides
Alex Ross
Sandow
Secret Society
Think Denk
twang twang twang
View from Podium

STAGEBLOGS
Foot in Mouth*
Histriomastix
Rachel Howard
The Mirror
Obscene Jester*
Off-Off Blogway*
Parabasis
The Playgoer
Superfluities
Theatre Ideas

______________


PODCASTERS
ThoughtCast

______________


WEBCOMICS
Cat and Girl
Married to the Sea

______________


ARTISTS
Maria Bachmann*
BiddyBlog
Bob Brookmeyer
David Byrne
Mary Foster Conklin
Bill Crow*
Julia Dollison
Makoto Fujimura
Greta Gertler
Hilary Hahn
Jim Hall
Fred Hersch
Stephen Hough*
Laura Lippman
Erin McKeown
Beata Moon
Paul Moravec
Nickel Creek
Maria Schneider
Luciana Souza

CRITICS
Bruce Bawer
Roger Ebert
Robert Gottlieb
Maureen Mullarkey
Mark Steyn

ART LINKS
artsjournal.com
Arts & Letters Daily
Bloomberg Muse
BroadwayStars
The Page

______________


OTHER BLOGS
AI cont’d.
Alicublog
Althouse
The American Scene
The Anchoress*
Barone Blog
Eric Berlin
Bookish Gardener
Cathy's World
Chequer-board
Church of Customer
City Comforts
Colby Cosh
The Corner
Clive Davis
First Things
Fish Needs Bicycle
Godsbody
Hotline Blogometer
InstaPundit
Kausfiles
Lileks
Ludeamus Igitur
Maccers
Lance Mannion
Megan McArdle
Modestly Yours
Mystery Pollster
Off Wing Opinion
Open Book
Overheard Lines
Overlawyered
Pajamas Media
pretty dumb things**
RealClearPolitics
Roger L. Simon
Works and Days

______________


MEDIA
BuzzMachine
I Want Media
PressThink
Romenesko
Doc Searls*

RADIO
Hello Beautiful!
Saint Paul Sunday
Soundcheck
Studio 360

PRINT
Armavirumque
Baltsun Books
Bosglobe Books
Bosglobe Music
Bosglobe Theater
Chitrib Arts

Chitrib Books
Commentary
NY Observer Arts
NYT Arts
NYT Book Review
NYT Obits
NYT Theater
The Onion
Slate
WSJ OpinionJournal
DC Post Bookworld
DC Post Style
DC Post Sunday Arts

______________


USEFUL SITES
BBC Four Interviews
Criterion Collection
DVD Journal
Hot Dogs
Inflation Calculator
Internet B'way DB
Internet Movie DB
Henry James Sites
Neglected Books
Online Parallel Bible
OS Shakespeare
Paris Review DNA
Red Hot Jazz
Rotten Tomatoes
samueljohnson.com
Worlds Records

______________


VIDEO
Satchmo (1932)
Satchmo (1933a)
Satchmo (1933b)
Satchmo (1933c)
Satchmo (1959a)
Satchmo (1959b)
Satchmo (’60s)
Satchmo (1970)
Adderley Bros.
Red Allen
Ammons/Johnson
de los Angeles***
Martha Argerich*
Astaire/Levant
Chet Atkins
Chet Baker
Ballet Mecanique
Basie (’40s)
Basie Octet (1950)
Basie (1959)
Basie/Zoot Sims
The Beatles
Sidney Bechet
Robert Benchley
Jack Benny (1)
Jack Benny (2)
Benny/Isaac Stern
Leonard Bernstein***
Chuck Berry***
Ed Bickert
Jussi Bjoerling
Art Blakey
Booker T. and MGs
Boswell Sisters (1)
Boswell Sisters (2)
Bream (Bach)
Bream (Villa-Lobos)
Brubeck Quartet
Buffalo Springfield
Burton/Corea
Butterfield/Stacy
The Byrds
Alexander Calder
Callas Tosca (1)
Callas Tosca (2)
Cab Calloway
Enrico Caruso
Pablo Casals
Johnny Cash***
Willa Cather
Sid Catlett
Whittaker Chambers
Ray Charles (1)
Ray Charles (2)
Ray Charles (3)
Un Chien Andalou
A Chorus Line
Citizen Kane (newsreel)
Citizen Kane (trailer)
Van Cliburn
Patsy Cline
King Cole Trio (1)
King Cole Trio (2)
King Cole Trio (3)
Cole/Hawkins/OP
Cy Coleman*
Judy Collins
John Coltrane (1)
John Coltrane (2)
Coltrane/Dolphy
Coltrane/Getz
Perry Como (1)
Perry Como (2)
Eddie Condon
Spade Cooley
Alfred Cortot*
Noël Coward (1)*
Noël Coward (2)*
Cream
Bing Crosby
Crosby/Rhythm Boys
Crosby/Satchmo
Gyorgy Cziffra
Dave’s True Story
Rev. Gary Davis
Davis/Coltrane
Davis/Gil Evans
Davis/Shorter (1)
Davis/Shorter (2)
Blossom Dearie
Paul Desmond
Dorsey/Rich
Theodore Dreiser
Peter Drucker
Jimmy Durante
Bob Dylan
Edward Elgar
Ellington (’30s)
Ellington (1942)
Ellington (1943)
Ellington (’50s)
Bill Evans (1)
Bill Evans (2)
Everly Bros.
Donald Fagen
Fallingwater
Emanuel Feuermann
W.C. Fields
Fischer-Dieskau***
Farrell/Martins*
Ella Fitzgerald
Kirsten Flagstad
Flatt & Scruggs***
Fonteyn/Nureyev (1)
Fonteyn/Nureyev (2)
Lefty Frizzell*
Der Fuehrer’s Face
Furtwängler (1)
Judy Garland
Erroll Garner
George Gershwin*
Beniamino Gigli
Getz/Gilberto
João Gilberto
Frank Gilbreth
Emil Gilels
Dizzy Gillespie
Jimmy Giuffre 3*
Tito Gobbi (Falstaff)
Tito Gobbi (Iago)
Benny Goodman
Goodman Orch/Qt
Goodman/Lee
BG/Tatum/Duke
Glenn Gould
Gould/Bernstein
Woody Guthrie
Bobby Hackett
Hackett/Russell
Haggart/Bauduc
Emmylou Harris
Childe Hassam
Coleman Hawkins
Hawkins/Carter
Hawkins/Hines
Heifetz (Mozart)
Heifetz (Paganini)
Heifetz (Prokofiev)
Heifetz (Rachmaninoff)
Heifetz (Saint-Saëns)*
Heifetz (Wieniawski)
Jimi Hendrix
Woody Herman (1)
Woody Herman (2)
Hindenburg 5/10/37
Hiroshima 8/6/45
Johnny Hodges
Josef Hofmann
Holiday/Basie
Holiday/Satchmo
Holiday/Young
Buddy Holly
Homer & Jethro (1)
Homer & Jethro (2)
J. Edgar Hoover
Horowitz (Bizet)
Horowitz (Chopin)
Mississippi John Hurt
Ahmad Jamal*
Harry James***
Skip James*
Jammin’ the Blues
Keith Jarrett (1)
Keith Jarrett (2)
Jobim/Regina
George Jones
Jo Jones
Spike Jones
Karajan***
Stan Kenton
The Kinks
Knappertsbusch
Ernie Kovacs*
Gene Krupa
Krupa/O’Day
Charles Laughton
Leadbelly***
Peggy Lee
Meade Lux Lewis (1)
Meade Lux Lewis (2)
Little Miss Britten
A Little Night Music
Jimmie Lunceford
Manhatta
Manone/Venuti
Martinelli
Del McCoury*
Mengelberg
Yehudi Menuhin
Ethel Merman*
Michelangeli (1)
Michelangeli (2)
Michelangeli (3)
Pat Metheny
Mills Bros.
Nathan Milstein
Charles Mingus
MJQ
Thelonious Monk (1)
Thelonious Monk (2)
Bill Monroe (1)
Bill Monroe (2)*
Wes Montgomery
Mravinsky
Mulligan/Webster
V.S. Naipaul
Nicholas Bros. (1)
Nicholas Bros. (2)
Nicholas Bros. (3)
Red Nichols
Red Norvo/BG
ODJB
von Otter
de Pachmann
Paderewski
Charlie Parker
Parker/Gillespie
Parker/Hawkins
Anna Pavlova
OP/Brown/Thigpen
OP/Ellis/Brown
Liz Phair
Astor Piazzolla*
Pablo Picasso
Webb Pierce
Ezio Pinza
Poème électronique
The Police
Jackson Pollock
Rosa Ponselle
Bud Powell
Powers of Ten***
Elvis Presley (1)
Elvis Presley (2)
Leontyne Price*
Ray Price
William Primrose*
Ayn Rand
Django Reinhardt (1)
Django Reinhardt (2)
Buddy Rich
Richter (1)
Richter (2)
Bojangles (1)
Bojangles (2)
Jimmie Rodgers
Rolling Stones***
Rollins/Jim Hall (1)
Rollins/Jim Hall (2)
Franklin Roosevelt
Theodore Roosevelt
Rose Hobart
Rubinstein (1)
Rubinstein (2)
Sam & Dave
Tito Schipa
Schwarzkopf
Raymond Scott
Segovia (Albéniz)
Segovia (Bach)
Segovia (Falla)
Segovia (Villa-Lobos)
Artie Shaw (1939)***
Artie Shaw (1940)
George Shearing*
Horace Silver (1)
Horace Silver (2)
Sinatra (1965)
Sinatra (1966)
Sinatra/Jobim
Jimmy Smith*
Bessie Smith
Smothers Bros.
Steamboat Willie
Steely Dan
Sunday in the Park
Conchita Supervia
Joseph Szigeti
Art Tatum (1)
Art Tatum (2)
Tatum/Dorseys
Richard Tauber
Jack Teagarden (1)
Jack Teagarden (2)
Teagarden/Satchmo
Jacques Thibaud
Lawrence Tibbett
Mel Tormé
Toscanini
Dave Tough
Merle Travis***
Lennie Tristano
Big Joe Turner
Mark Twain
Venuti/Lang
Fats Waller
Ben Webster*
Welles Macbeth
Welles War of Worlds
Weather Report
Josh White (1)
Josh White (2)*
The Who
Bob Wills
Jonathan Winters
Stevie Wonder
Frank Lloyd Wright
Lester Young
Your Show of Shows
Frank Zappa***

AUDIO
James Agee
Kingsley Amis
Guillaume Apollinaire
Louis Auchincloss
W.H. Auden
Saul Bellow
Jack Benny Program
John Betjeman
Elizabeth Bishop
Johannes Brahms
Benjamin Britten
Robert Browning
W.J. Bryan
Albert Camus
Willa Cather
G.K. Chesterton
Winston Churchill
Jean Cocteau
Arthur Conan Doyle
Aaron Copland
Le Corbusier
Noël Coward
e e cummings
Salvador Dali
Stuart Davis
Peter Drucker
Marcel Duchamp
Thomas Edison
T.S. Eliot (Prufrock)
T.S. Eliot (Waste Land)
William Faulkner
F. Scott Fitzgerald
Robert Frost (1)
Robert Frost (2)
Mahatma Gandhi
Clement Greenberg
Graham Greene
Alec Guinness
Seamus Heaney
Ernest Hemingway
Alfred Hitchcock
Adolf Hitler
Justice Holmes
Edward Hopper
Langston Hughes
Eugène Ionesco
Randall Jarrell
James Joyce
Martin Luther King
Rudyard Kipling
Charles Kuralt
Philip Larkin
Lenin and Stalin
Huey Long
Robert Lowell
Douglas MacArthur
Norman Mailer
Malcolm X
George C. Marshall
Joseph McCarthy
Marshall McLuhan
Mercury Theatre
Edna Millay
Czeslaw Milosz
Marianne Moore
Edward R. Murrow
Vladimir Nabokov
Pablo Neruda
Frank O’Hara
Old Time Radio
Joe Orton
Dorothy Parker
Sylvia Plath
Ezra Pound
Man Ray
Harry Reasoner
Will Rogers
Carl Sandburg
Siegfried Sassoon
G.B. Shaw
I.B. Singer
Stephen Spender
Gertrude Stein
John Steinbeck
Wallace Stevens
Adlai Stevenson
Rex Stout
Arthur Sullivan
Billy Sunday
Alfred Tennyson
Mother Teresa
Dylan Thomas
J.R.R. Tolkien
John Updike
U.S. Presidents
Vaughan Williams
Robert Penn Warren
Evelyn Waugh
E.B. White
Walt Whitman
Tennessee Williams
W.C. Williams
P.G. Wodehouse
Virginia Woolf
W.B. Yeats (1)
W.B. Yeats (2)

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