To the Beat of the Frum Drum
by James Killough
Well, whaddaya know. No sooner do I publish a diatribe against Andrew Sullivan urging Tina Brown to cut him loose than she runs out and buys herself not-meshuganuts conservative thinker David Frum, with whom I don’t always agree, but who at least doesn’t outrage me with his whacky, sanctimonious claptrap.
Well done, Tina. This is the sort of Other Side opinion you need to balance out Newsweek/The Daily Beast. I knew you could do it. Guys like Frum are the best hope we have for a rational, civilized, reasonably intelligent dialogue between left and right.
And while your at it, Tina darling, take down that awful “Ask Andrew Anything” on Beast TV, or at least make Sullivan remove that tatty Photoshoppy polarize YouTube filter, or whatever it is, which he must slap on there because the vain old queen can’t bear how he really looks now (emphasis on bear).
I’m sure I had absolutely nothing to do with Brown’s decision, and she hasn’t cut Sullivan loose. Yet. Nevertheless, over morning coffee in the kitchen, I was just imagining myself as the Nikki Finke of the media world, a holy terror punctuating every evil, gloating, cackling blog post with “TOLDJA SO!”… And then I scalded the milk and the fantasy went away.
Finke holds Hollywood hostage with her Deadline.com blog, but is being given a serious run for her money by other online news outlets, notably The Wrap. Finke is to The Wrap what Sullivan is to PFC: they go after her every misstep with the same gusto she goes after entertainment industry wankers. It’s a shark-eat-shark world, baby.
I’d never heard the expression “Washington is Hollywood for ugly people” until this week, but that makes so much sense. The theater and film departments in school were way cooler than the debate team, even though they were smarter and won all the awards at graduation. It makes sense that all those kids who participated in Mock Senates would go to freeze their asses off in that vast boring mausoleum while we all flocked here to LA to bask in eighty-degree cloudless weather, which is what it has been here this entire first week of January.
At least when he was running for President, before the crushing exigencies of the job accelerated the aging process, an adjective often ascribed to Obama was “handsome.” Not by Hollywood standards. Just try casting him or any number of politicians in film or TV roles, and what do you get? At worst a villain, or at best a comic sidekick. In Obama’s case, it’s Giancarlo Esposito as the meth king in “Breaking Bad”:
The biggest news this week here at PFC is that my girl Rain Li and I reunited after not having seen each other for over two years. During the first iteration of Pure Film, when it was just a production company, we lived together in a sort of filmmaking kibbutz in Covent Garden in London with my partner Jonathan Kemp. Then we had to wind the party up, and we scattered, she to her native Beijing, me to New York and then LA.
The minute Rain walks into anything, the glamour doubles and the budget triples. It’s just the way she is. Producers straight and gay get so excited by her enthusiasm and charm they just have to throw more money and work at her.
When I first met her, she was an hour and a half late for the meeting, and of course I was fuming, but when I came away from it I fired the cinematographer I already had and delayed production on my film for two months while we waited for her to finishing shooting Gus van Sant’s Paranoid Park. She was twenty-three at the time.
Our reunion was at Le Pain Quotidien in Beverly Hills, after which we both hopped on our bikes and rode down the sidewalks of Rodeo Drive to our respective meetings at United Talent Agency, scattering tourists before us. Being one of the few people in LA who only rides a bike—I work from home and don’t need a car, unless I’m in production and then it’s on the budget—I’m somewhat self-conscious (but defiant) about cycling around places like Beverly Hills dressed for a meeting. With Rain at my side whooshing down Wilshire, slapping me five, her iPad bouncing out of the basket on her handlebars, we were suddenly progressive.
Rain is now a director in her own right, finishing the script for her debut feature film. Our catch-up conversation was over a martini or two at sunset on the roof of Soho House on Sunset Boulevard (yes, the symbolism was rife). I’m hopeful she’ll spend more time in LA. From the sound of the buzzing agents at UTA, they are too.
One thing Rain and I loved to do when we were film kibbutzing in London was go for hot pot in Chinatown across the street from where we lived. We’d dunk meats and seafood and veggies in the boiling spiced soup in the middle of the table and slurp away, trying to outdo each other with how much Sichuan pepper we could stand before our contact lenses floated away with our tears.
There are jokes aplenty about Asians eating dogs (see “101 Ways To Wok The Dog”), but we tend to overlook that they will eat just about anything, in a hot pot or a wok, from owls to snakes to cats. Details are just emerging of the billionaire Long Liyuan having been poisoned to death with cat hot pot by the director of the local agricultural commission. There is just a ton of poetry in that grudge.
A joke about Tennessee Williams is in order, if I could just formulate it properly. A new Beijing Opera about a closeted crippled martial arts warrior who can’t bang his wife called Cat in a Hot Pot Stew? Maybe I’m forcing it.
Quick film review: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy was gorgeously shot and directed, but I’m not sure it’s for anyone under fifty-five. Gary Oldman doesn’t do much other than look like an immobile turtle, although I do believe he quivers his jowl at a certain point during the climax. But that’s the implacable George Smiley role, always has been, even when Alec Guinness—one of those actors who should never have been allowed to die, and who I hope is being preserved cryogenically—played him. At least Guinness had the benefit of a Hamburg hat to give him more personality.
Standing out as always is Tom Hardy, playing the ruffian spy who upsets the apple cart. Dame Bea said to me after the film, “My God, Hardy’s hung, isn’t he?” But she was falling for that 70s jeans optical illusion. Did they stitch codpieces into trousers back then? I reminded her that Hardy had his junk out most of the way through Bronson and that she’s no doubt seen bigger, being half Latina and all.
I give TTSS a Nice. In other words, Netflix it.
This is for Eric Baker’s edification in case he hasn’t grasped what a bottom bitch is yet. When researching the lead pic for this post, I stumbled upon a choice image of Tom Hardy begging for it:
Hollywood Schizo of the Week goes by default to Harry Burkhart, who kept all of us in Hollywood and Weho awake for four nights in a row by lighting no fewer than 53 fires in car ports in our area. Luckily, both my roommate Gil Alan and I ride bikes (he’s also a progressive), and we store them in a closed garage of the kind Burkhart didn’t attack.
I did wake up one in the middle of the night at one point during his rampage thinking I was in an early Spielberg film with a helicopter’s beam of light swooping across the garden outside and into my bedroom window intermittently.
The addition of Harry’s colorful petty thief mother, Dorothee, into the mix has me imagining talent agents scrambling with journalists outside the courthouse to try to sign this glamorous duo to a reality series, which Tuttle is just itching to blog about before he launches into a review of the fall/winter Paris couture collections.
That Ma Burkhart thinks that Nazis, not her mentally ill son, started the fires reinforces my belief that schizophrenia is genetic. I’m glad that we live in a society where they will both likely receive adequate treatment.
I just lost sleep with the sirens and the searchlights, but to those who lost property, I hope your insurance premiums were paid up. To any other schizos thinking of doing the same, please try Beverly Hills. Thanks.