EW’s Mark Harris names the best holiday entertainment
In honor of Thanksgiving, I’m going to take a brief break from my usual bile spewing and offer up nothing but praise: A list of all in pop culture that makes me grateful as the holiday season approaches. (Next time out, I’ll go back to talking turkey — and there’ll be a lot of turkeys to talk about.) But for now, here’s the honor roll.
1 Being John Malkovich Of all the good movies I saw this fall, this is the little work of genius that keeps Ping-Ponging around in my brain, largely because director Spike Jonze and screenwriter Charlie Kaufman have packed it so densely that it seems to keep revealing secret pages and passageways the more you think about it. Among its greatest pleasures in retrospect: Catherine Keener as the slouchy femme fatale of floor seven-and-a-half; the puppeteering, which could have been a one-joke throwaway and is instead haunting and beautiful; Brad Pitt’s brilliant one-second cameo — his best performance this year (yes, ”Fight Club” fans, I received your earlier postings, so there’s REALLY NO NEED to post again); and of course, the title performer, who gives the kind of sublime, one-of-a-kind performance that the Academy was made to recognize.
2 Motherless Brooklyn, by Jonathan Lethem Run out immediately and buy this extraordinary, darkly funny, compassionate novel — part detective story, part character study, part weird word game — about an amateur private investigator trying to find his boss’ murderer while enduring a lifelong affliction with Tourette’s Syndrome that turns even a simple interrogation into a series of mad, jazz-riff verbal explosions. (The wise young actor Edward Norton has already grabbed the movie rights.). I’d never encountered Lethem before this novel, but this is his sixth book in as many years, and I can’t wait to read the others.
3 Who Wants to Be a Millionaire What a relief that this show’s run ends Nov. 24; otherwise, I’d have to embarrass myself by leaving the Thanksgiving dinner table to gobble up just one more slice of this American-as-apple-pie event. I’ve grown to adore even the heartachingly stupid under-$1000 questions (just watch Regis Philbin try not to smile as he intones ”Man survives by breathing A) air B) fire C) water D) mud”). I’ve learned to scoff at the poor fools who use their lifelines too early. I have figured out my Phone-A-Friends, should the need to use them ever arise. And I’ve delighted in the fact that the show’s version of the American dream has managed to embrace interracial and gay couples without blinking an eye. (Note to the producers of FICTIONAL prime-time entertainment: Check the Nielsens — maybe you want to give this a try.)
4 Sting, Eurythmics, Pet Shop Boys, and Santana all have new CDs out. For the first time in five years, I can walk into my local music emporium without feeling old and out of it. (Okay, I feel old and out of it, but at least now there are other old and out of it people in the store too.)
5 Two very old ladies who sat in front of me during ”The Straight Story,” David Lynch’s stately, beautifully shot tribute to a seventysomething man who drove 300 miles on a lawn tractor to visit his ailing brother. Most of the thirtysomething and fortysomething audience oohed and aahed over Richard Farnsworth’s touching performance and Lynch’s vision of the wholesome Midwest and its sweet senior citizens. But at the end of the film, the two ancients in front of me got up to leave looking deeply skeptical. ”Nice movie,” rasped one. ”But I think somebody forgot to put the PLOT in.” ”He should have taken the BUS,” croaked the other. ”The movie would have been five minutes long.” ”It felt FIVE HOURS long,” said the first. So much for sentimentalizing the elderly. Someone give these two women their own show immediately, please. And meanwhile, Happy Thanksgiving!