Daily Archives: December 2, 2021

Performance Art [TORCH SONG TRILOGY & TALK RADIO]

From the Chicago Reader (December 23, 1988). — J.R.

TORCH SONG TRILOGY

*** (A must-see)

Directed by Paul Bogart

Written by Harvey Fierstein

With Harvey Fierstein, Anne Bancroft, Matthew Broderick, Brian Kerwin, Karen Young, Ken Page, and Eddie Castrodad.

TALK RADIO

*** (A must-see)

Directed by Oliver Stone

Written by Eric Bogosian and Stone

With Bogosian, Alec Baldwin, Ellen Greene, Leslie Hope, John C. McGinley, and John Pankow.

As different as they are, Torch Song Trilogy and Talk Radio, both movie adaptations of plays, have several striking things in common. Each was written by and stars the author of the original play — Harvey Fierstein and Eric Bogosian, respectively. Both deal with marginal aspects of American life that seldom find their way into the commercial mainstream, which makes them new and vital in ways that most other recent releases are not. Both are effectively (if not literally) one-man shows whose auteurs are more their Jewish writer-stars than their directors, and the impact of each is directly tied to the uncommon theatrical skills of these individuals. And perhaps most significantly, both are a good deal more professional, entertaining, intense, and compelling than any other new Hollywood releases around, even if their commercial fates are substantially more precarious than those of most of their competitors. Read more

A book review by Jon Rosenbaum (THE CRYING OF LOT 49)

Here is the first review I ever wrote of a Pynchon novel, published in my college newspaper and signed “Jon Rosenbaum”. In fact, although I never reviewed Slow Learner, Pynchon’s collection of early stories, I suppose it could be said that I’ve reviewed all his novels to date, because this brief review in the Bard Observer begins with a two-paragraph review of V.

I’ll also be posting, separately and in the near future, my review of Mason & Dixon, which originally appeared in In These Times.  And my reviews of Gravity’s Rainbow (for the Village Voice) and of Vineland and Against the Day (both in the Chicago Reader) can be found elsewhere on this site.

One possible point of interest about this piece of juvenilia is my early comparison of Pynchon with Rivette in relation to what might be called the poetics of paranoia, a subject I would return to. For whatever it’s worth, the disappointment I’ve generally felt regarding Pynchon’s post-70s work is matched by the overall disappointment I’ve felt regarding Rivette’s post-70s work, and in both cases I’ve felt guilty about this, because the work I prefer  tends to be less sane (and therefore less conventional and more avant-garde) than the work that follows it. Read more

Joe Dante, Anonymous King of the Post-Cult Cinema Community

Written for the 11th issue of the bilingual, online La Furia Umana (January-March 2012) to introduce a Joe Dante dossier. — J.R.

One of the problems inherent in using the term “cult” within a contemporary context relating to film, either as a noun or as an adjective, is that it refers to various social structures that no longer exist, at least not in the ways that they once did. When indiscriminate moviegoing (as opposed to going to see particular films) was a routine everyday activity, it was theoretically possible for cults to form around exceptional items — “sleepers,” as they were then called by film exhibitors — that were spontaneously adopted and anointed by audiences rather than generated by advertising. But once advertising started to anticipate and supersede such a selection process, the whole concept of the cult film became dubious at the same time it became more prominent, a marketing term rather than a self-generating social process.

Joe Dante deserves a special place in what I would call the post-cult cinema because he is one of the few commercial American directors I know who has refused to hire a personal publicist, and for tactical reasons — someone, in short, who chooses to be recognized at best only by initiates (that is, by fellow cultists or would-be cultists, his comrades-in-arms) rather than by the public at large. Read more