Trenchant Warfare: "1917," reviewed.

Here’s my review of Sam Mendes’ 1917. I guess it doesn’t mean much to say it’s the best war movie since Dunkirk (whose Oscar-winning editor, Lee Smith, cut 1917 too) but it is, and it’s first film Mendes has made that I’ve found fully satisfying.

Talking Christmas Songwriting on All Things Considered

With Rhett Miller at Rams Head Live in Baltimore, Dec. 2018

Christmas music has been an interest of mine for long time, obviously. My yulemix project is in its unfathomable 14th year, I wrote a Slate piece six years ago asking where the follow-ups to “All I Want For Christmas Is You” were (several complicated answers), and now that that last of the breakthrough secular holiday hits is 25 years old, I have at last gotten to bring this passion of mine to its natural habitat: The radio!

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The Ballad of "Richard Jewell"

Sam Rockwell and Paul Walter Hauser are good actors in a bad-faith movie. (Warner Bros.)

Billy Ray, the screenwriter of Richard Jewell—director Clint Eastwood’s disingenuous dramatization of the 1996 case of a security guard falsely accused of a horrific crime—spoke to my screenwriting class at UCLA in 2002 or 2003. I hope that if he’s still doing this some student will ask him how can justify defaming deceased Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter Kathy Scruggs in his new movie while giving the (also deceased) FBI agent he has depicted as tipping her off in exchange for sex the dignity of a pseudonym. That malicious act undermines everything in the movie that’s any good. My NPR review is here.

Yulemixed Messages: And now, Side B of my 2019 yulemix, still entitled "Let's Talk About Christmas!"

Comprising fifty (50) more minutes of buoyant-if-occasionally-baffling yuletunes to obfuscate and illuminate your holiday season. It’s all so fresh, and I have so many other deadlines that’ve languished unmet while I’ve been making this, that I can’t think of one doggone thing to say about it. Just press Play.

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Pop Culture Happy Hour: A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood and What’s Making Us Happy

Tom Hanks as Mr. Rogers. (Lacey Terrell)

I sure hope my friends Linda Holmes, Stephen Thompson, Glen Weldon, Jess Reedy, and Emmanuel Johnson aren’t suffering today from the head cold that audibly ailed me on Monday during the recording of today’s Pop Culture Happy Hour. Our subject is A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, the Tom Hanks-IS-Fred Rogers movie directed by Marielle (Can You Ever Forgive Me?) Heller, loosely fashioned after Tom Junod’s 1998 profile of Rogers for Esquire magazine. As I say in the show, this movie’s depiction of the life of a magazine journalist reflects the circa 1998 expectations on which I based career choices that I have, over the last 20 years, had more than one occasion to lament.





Thanks to all of them for allowing me once again to plug my yulemix. You can hear the show right here or via whatever podfeeder brings you your NPR.

Yulemixed Messages: Announcing Side A of my 2019 yulemix, Let’s Talk About Christmas!

It’s quarter ‘til eight p.m. Eastern on Thanksgiving Day, so let’s talk turkey: The first side of the fourteenth mighty installment in my indefatigable Yuletunes Eclectic & Inexplicable series is now available to provide a seasonal, tuneful, treacle-free, and generally baffling soundtrack to your Record Store Day cratedigging and any attendant treetrimming and/or halldecking. I believe this is the earliest in the season I’ve ever dropped one of these, and I expect you, the listener, to give your own merrymaking operations a commensurate boost.

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A Moon For the Mediocre: Amadeus, reviewed.

Samuel Adams as “the creature” Wolfgang A. Mozart. (C. Stanley Photography)

To be clear: Antonio Salieri, as self-assessed in the imagination of Peter Shaffer, is mediocre. The Folger’s new production of Amadeus is quite good.