What the Movies Taught Us About World War II Aviation

I wrote this fun piece for my day job. It appears in our May 2015 issue of Air & Space / Smithsonian, now on sale at Barnes & Noble and other fine booksellers and newsstands, as well as the National Air & Space Museum. It’s our 70th anniversary of V-E Day issue, which – because it’ll be out in time for the Arsenal of Democracy Flyover on Friday, May 8th (the actual anniversary) – includes pull-out Spotter Cards you can use to identify the silhouettes of the two dozen vintage warbirds that’ll be buzzing over your head a few minutes past noon if you come down to the National Mall on that day. Continue reading

Deliberations of the Cross: The Originalist and Passion Play, reviewed.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

It’s a strong week for theatre here in our Nation’s Capitol. My reviews of The Originalist, Arena Stage playwright-in-residence John Strand’s much-awaited play about Associate Justice Antonin Scalia and United States v. Windsor, and Forum Theatre‘s magnificent production of Sarah Ruhl’s Passion Play, are in today’s Washington City Paper. Go read ‘em. Please.

Continue reading

The Dissolve Podcast #32: The “Ecstatic Truth” Just Means “Lie” Edition

ex-machina-fembotI was honored to be invited to join Tasha Robinson and Keith Phipps to discuss The State of Science Fiction in the movies on this week’s episode of The Dissolve podcast. The also includes a discussion of documentaries and is thus named for a Werner Herzog phrase I love. A lot of ums from me, a lot of insight from Tasha and Keith. Listen here.

Pop Culture Happy Hour #235: Nick Hornby’s Funny Girl and Movies Adapted From Books

Patti Smith, Nick Horby, & Elvis Costello.

Patti Smith, Nick Horby, & Elvis Costello.

I was glad as always to join Linda Holmes, Glen Weldon, and – for the first time, for me – Barrie Hardymon on this week’s Pop Culture Happy Hour. Here are my notes and ephemera from this exciting episode. Some of it is stuff I jotted down to say but forgot or didn’t get the chance, and some of it is stuff I wish in hindsight that I’d been smart or quick enough to say on the fly. I keep pounding so-called smart drinks hoping that I shall one day develop the ability to think at the speed of conversation, but it hasn’t happened yet.

Anyway! I wanted to read this brief passage from Nick Hornby’s new novel Funny Girl, our primary topic of discussion, because I think it encapsulates the spirit of the book succinctly. It’s the first meeting between the book’s heroine, Barbara (who adopts the stage name Sophie Straw), and her agent, Brian:

“I want to be a comedienne,” said Barbara. “I want to be Lucille Ball.”

The desire to act was the bane of Brian’s life. All these beautiful, shapely girls, and half of them didn’t want to appear in calendars, or turn up for openings. They wanted three lines in a BBC play about unwed mothers down coal mines. He didn’t understand the impulse, but he cultivated contacts with producers and casting agents, and sent the girls out for auditions anyway. They were much more malleable once they’d been repeatedly turned down.

Continue reading

An Imperative, Not a Noun: Beth Henley’s Laugh, reviewed.

Creed Garnick (Roscoe) and Helen Cespedes (Mabel). Photo: Igor Dmitry.

Pulitzer Prize-winner Beth Henley‘s new play Laugh is not like her other plays. It’s wacky. How you feel about wacky will be a better predictor of your experience than you feel about Henley.

My Washington City Paper review is here.

Night Moves: Run All Night, reviewed.

Liam Neeson and Joel Kinnaman in "Run All Night." (Myles Aronowitz/Warner Bros.)Run All Night, the latest bloody genuflection in the Stations of the Cross of Liam Neeson, isn’t great, just better than you think. With its steaming manhole covers and rumbling el trains, its fatherly lessons administered in the sweaty confines of a boxing gym, and its pervasive air of grim fatalism, it reminded me of Frank Miller’s noir-inflected early 80s run on the Marvel comic Daredevil – which has already been adapted into two crappy movies, and it about to become a Netflix series. Continue reading

Prose and Retcons, or Don’t Fear the Rewind, or Mulligans’ Wake

“Well, everyone knows Ripley died on Fiornia-161. What this ALIEN movie presupposes is… maybe she didn’t?”

I have a long, long “Exposition” essay up at The Dissolve today inspired by (uncertain) reports that District 9 director Neill Blomkamp’s upcoming Alien movie may be a ret-con scenario that undoes the events of 1992’s Alien-little-three, or Alien Cubed – anyway, the one where Ripley died. The piece is about retconning in fiction in general, and why it doesn’t much impair my ability or inclination to suspend my disbelief at all.

If you’re quite comfortable in your chair, and you’re stout of heart and nerdy of temperament… Onward!