Screening Room: Tribeca Film Festival 2018

The Feeling of Being Watched

The 2018 edition of the Tribeca Film Festival just wrapped up over the weekend. I covered some of the fest’s varied documentary offerings for The Playlist, reviews here:

Writer’s Desk: Philip Glass Drove a Cab

If you’re like most writers, you know that it almost never pays the bills. (The other writers know this, too, they just haven’t admitted it yet.) That means you need to keep working while writing. How do you do both? As usual, it’s whatever works for you. But flexibility is key.

Take composer Philip Glass. He had a couple day jobs that kept the lights on until he was in his 40s. He did some contracting work like plumbing and also building kitchens and putting in heating in SoHo lofts.

An even better fit, though, seemed to be his time as a cabbie. This is what he told Lolade Fadulu:

I would pick up a car, usually around 5 o’clock in the afternoon, and I would drive till one or two in the morning, and I would get up early in the morning, actually to take my kids to school, because I had kids growing up in New York at the time. And sometimes I would stay up all through the night, write music, then take the kids to school. Then I would go to sleep around 8 or 9 o’clock and I would wake up around 4 o’clock and go back to the garage or wherever I was going. So I could combine a workday and a regular writing schedule at the same time.

It seems like there should be a good minimalist opera in him about driving the city at night. Or plumbing. Time will tell.

Reader’s Corner: Investigating Your Father

In All the Answers, Michael Kupperman tells the story of the strange childhood of his father, a brilliant professor who in his youth starred on a hugely popular wartime radio show called Quiz Kids. It’s an engrossing and emotional personal history in which Kupperman discovers more about his reticent father on the Internet than through living with him.

My interview with Kupperman is in the current Publisher’s Weekly.

Screening Room: ‘Let the Sunshine In’

Juliette Binoche in Let the Sunshine In (Sundance Selects)

In the latest from Claire Denis (White Material), Juliette Binoche plays an artist who is unlucky in love but doesn’t let that stop her from trying again, and again, and…

Let the Sunshine In is opening this week in limited release. My review is at Film Journal International:

Not long after the awkward lovemaking scene that opens the movie, Isabelle (Juliette Binoche) gets an unasked-for reality check from her occasional boyfriend, Vincent (the superbly seedy Xavier Beauvois): “You’re charming, but my wife is extraordinary.” If he had reached over and slapped her, the look on her face would have been about the same. She doesn’t keep mooning around after Vincent much longer. But while they don’t berate the staff or provide lectures on her inadequacies, the next men she ends up crying over aren’t much better…

Here’s the trailer:

Reader’s Corner: ‘Russian Roulette’

Michael Isikoff and David Corn’s new book Russian Roulette is, well, timely. My review is at PopMatters:

The intent here was not to write an all-inclusive study of the history of the Washington-Moscow power dynamic, the full legacy of Trump’s law-skirting business dealings, or the noxious way those two elements have meshed together. Something like that wouldn’t be a book. That would require a multi-volume Robert Caro-type of effort which some future generation—assuming deep-dive narrative nonfiction survives Peak TV and Instagram—can take up to figure out what the hell happened. In the meantime, we’ll resort to Russian Roulette

Writer’s Desk: Leave Out More Than You Put Down

One of the greatest writers of our time, John McPhee, had a lot to say about the writing process. A lot of it boils down to hard work, research, and edit, edit, edit.

Here’s a few tips:

Writing is selection. When you are making notes you are forever selecting. I left out more than I put down.

If something interests you, it goes in — if not, it stays out. That’s a crude way to assess things, but it’s all you’ve got.

I scoop up, say, ten times as much stuff as I’ll ultimately use.

And don’t forget:

Writing has to be fun at least once in a pale blue moon.

Quote of the Day: The Bowie Train

As part of the Brooklyn Museum’s blockbuster exhibition “David Bowie is,” an entire New York subway station has been Bowie-fied.

One element of the takeover is special Bowie-branded MetroCards. This was announced by the transit authority, which gloriously tweeted “Rail Control to Major Tom”: