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.
“Radical Decency” might be a fancy new name for the old-timey philosophy governing Bridge of Spies, Steven Spielberg’s earnest, burnished, thoroughly gripping account of a notable episode of Cold War diplomacy. Compressing events that unfolded between 1957 and 1962, the film is primarily about the relationship between Manhattan insurance lawyer James B. Donovan and Rudolf Abel, néeCol. Vilyam Genrikhovich Fisher, the Soviet spy he was court-appointed to represent.
Though reluctant to accept Abel’s case, Donovan defends his client with more zeal than anybody, including the judge, wants, on the grounds that it’s the only way to show the world that innocent-until-proven-guilty American justice is superior to its totalitarian Soviet counterpart. Though unable to persuade a jury of Abel’s innocence, Donovan convinces the judge to spare his life—leaving the U.S. with a bargaining chip when C.I.A. pilot Francis Gary Powers’ top-secret U-2 spyplane is shot down over Soviet territory and Powers is captured three years later. Appreciating that Donovan foresaw the need for a captive to trade, the C.I.A. dispatches him to freshly walled-off East Berlin to try to negotiate Powers’ release in exchange for Abel. Continue reading →
Captain Phillips, the seemingly little-embellished new thriller based on a 2009 hijacking at sea, got me thinking about what sort of responsibilities filmmakers have — and we as audiences have — when approaching a dramatized account of things that actually occurred. You can read that piece over at Monkey See today.