“Tinker”ing with a classic. One strategy: A cheat sheet for “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy”

My full reviews of several movies — including The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, which has some sneak previews tonight and opens formally Wednesday — will be in the week’s print and online editions starting late tomorrow, but I wanted to give a head’s-up about one of the new releases: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. This is a throw-back to the Cold War thrillers of the 1970s, both in tone, topic and look, but what’s really interesting (aside from a subtle gay subplot you should be on the lookout for) was something not on the screen, but in your hand.

At the press screening last night, attendees were presented a “dossier” (above), a slickly-produced fold-out intended “for your eyes only,” but really an almost-necessary cheat sheet to the plot of the damn thing! As any fans of John Le Carre know, Tinker, Tailor was originally produced as a seven-part miniseries in the late 1970s, which gave the labyrinthine plot room to breathe. The filmmakers do a good job concentrating on the major points and telling a complex but cogent story, but the existence of the dossier made me feel they didn’t really trust audiences to give themselves over and figure it out for themselves.

Or maybe they just didn’t trust critics. I’m not sure if the “dossier” will be available at all screening when it opens at the Angelika Friday, but let me know! It certainly is a fun little novelty if nothing else.

And until then, don’t miss Dragon Tattoo!!!

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Debbie Reynolds Reviews Her Ex

While Carrie Fischer chatted with Oprah about her father’s affair with Elizabeth Taylor, her mom Debbie Reynolds turned to the audience to offer a frank review of Eddie Fischer. Oprah roared, Carrie rolled her eyes, and I ran to take a photo of the TV.

Joe. My. God.

—  David Taffet

Nat’l Review’s marriage case: Protecting sanctity of hetero superiority & entitlement

Cover Overlay 100920A new National Review editorial that Maggie Gallagher calls the “single best piece I’ve read on the subject” of same-sex marriage features lots of the usual, increasingly-rejected arguments about procreation and slippery slopes. It also works the same “they’re gonna call us bigots!” victimization routine that Maggie’s National Organization For Marriage has taken on as their number one strategy as of late (while, of course, not taking responsibility for the “why” of that possibility). So since the piece is an amalgamation of what we take on here, nugget by flawed nugget, every single day of the work week, we’re not gonna pick the whole darn thing apart in this post.

We do, however, want to look at one particular segment that somewhat sums up the skewed mentality that underlies every last bit of our opposition’s marriage bias. Namely, this snip:

Same-sex marriage would introduce a new, less justifiable distinction into the law. This new version of marriage would exclude pairs of people who qualify for it in every way except for their lack of a sexual relationship. Elderly brothers who take care of each other; two friends who share a house and bills and even help raise a child after one loses a spouse: Why shouldn’t their relationships, too, be recognized by the government? The traditional conception of marriage holds that however valuable those relationships may be, the fact that they are not oriented toward procreation makes them non-marital. (Note that this is true even if those relationships involve caring for children: We do not treat a grandmother and widowed daughter raising a child together as married because their relationship is not part of an institution oriented toward procreation.) On what possible basis can the revisionists’ conception of marriage justify discriminating against couples simply because they do not have sex?

The Case for Marriage [Nat’l Review]

Sex. That’s where these opposition voices begin and end with us. Heterosexual married couples have love, commitment, companionship, shared goals and dreams, combined financial means, rights, privileges, tax breaks, PTA meetings, and entitlement to the easy marital currency that will be painlessly recognized in hospitals, courts, tax bureaus, and anywhere else where the one with whom a person has pledged a life commitment most comes into play. But gay couples? Well, we’re just friends who like to play with each others’ genitals, dontcha know? Like a pair of friends who are having so much fun exchanging orgasms that they decided to turn it into a permanent sleepover with their favorite bunkmate.

Now, these social conservatives have of course set up this heterosexual procreation argument because they think it’s the one thing we cannot refute. But marriage is not and has never been based around the ancillary component of children. Not fully. And nowhere else, other than in the confines of a politically-charged conversational contrivance like the one Nat’l Review‘s editors have proffered onto their partisan pages, would anyone debate that fact. Human beings the world over know what love and marriage is, and we all know it goes well beyond whether or not the couple (homo or hetero) chooses to invoke on a path filled with diaper changes and Dora The Explorer DVDs. We know that Harry and June, sixty and childless even after being married for forty years, are no less nuptially-bonded than a teenage couple who spend their honeymoon in the maternity ward. We know that Bob and Joe, Sigma Delta Beer Bong brothers and roommates, have much more than sex separating their relationship from friendship to loving union (and that one drunken sex session isn’t enough to change that, so stop worrying, Joe). We also know that marriage is one way that many committed couples choose to solidify this, the ultimate declaration that there’s more to this bond than just high fives and tenuous shared interests. And most importantly: We know that if one kind of couple within the known, scientifically-recognized spectrum of sexual orientation is included in the CIVIL system that we call marriage, than *ALL* couples who fit within this span are also to be included.

Oh, and some of us know that this is no longer a request: It is a demand!


*UPDATE: Now to be fair, Nat’l Review tries to blow off our beliefs by claiming that same-sex marriage advocates raise these three points:

The first is that law and society have always let infertile couples marry; why not treat same-sex couples the same way?

The second objection proponents of same-sex marriage raise is that the idea that marriage is importantly linked to procreation is outdated.

The third objection is that it is unfair to same-sex couples to tie marriage to procreation, as the traditional conception of marriage does.

The Case for Marriage [Nat’l Review]

And then they give the usual convenient reasons for why these points are supposedly faulty (hetero couples still have poss. of mating, the pregnancy connection is timeless, no animus is intended, etc.). But the problem? Well, in their strawman-like insistence on boiling down our arguments to three convenient claims, they fully overlook some of the more pertinent points that we raise. Points like:

(1) That civil marriage laws do not speak to the ancillary component of children AT ALL, so the only way for these personal arguments about acceptable reproduction to come into play is for the religious right to start working toward procreation amendments rather than gay marriage bans.

(2) That when it comes to marriage’s supposed “tradition” and history, our modern opponents have no leg to stand on when it comes to marriage supposedly being the thing that we know it to be today.

(3) That nothing same-sex couples do or do not do in terms of their freedom to marry changes any of these beliefs, opinions, or even truths about marriage as we have known it!

And there are others, of course. All building on the actual reality of the world. One where gay people are born. Where gay people give birth. Where gay people contribute to births. One where the only folks who are playing politics with procreation are the social conservatives who look at the unique role that gay people play in the life chain, then take it upon themselves to decide that this role is to our society’s collective detriment.

Perhaps it’s time they embark on a National Re-Review.

Good As You

—  John Wright

From my hate mail inbox

I received the following e-mail from a devoted reader:

Just read your review of “Dreamgirls” in last friday’s (9.7.2010) edition of The Dallas Voice.  You must be another one of those smug University of North Texass alums.  The reason Lupe Murchison endowed that school was, and I quote her verbatim : “Those poor kids will need ALL the help that they can get; truly a sad, sad situation there.”  She was a close personal friend of my godmother, Edith O’Donnell so I DO KNOW, first ‘ear,’ from whence I speak.

If you had even bothered to do your home work, Mr. Arnold-Wayne Jones,  you would’ve known that they had a slate of RAVE REVIEWS from their performances at The Apollo Theatre in NYC. Inclusive of  The NY Times.  They are also the same cast/troupe that took the stage in a tour-de-force in South Korea; quite impressing their audiences and critics with their voices and diction in NATIVE KOREAN.

I strongly suggest that you ‘hitch’ your faded and tarnished star BACK to that connestoga and try to find a better acadaemic venue from which you can truly garner the concepts of good theatre …



Allow me to respond, Cal.

First, I did not in fact graduate from UNT, but rather with distinction from the University of Virginia. Then from its law school. Cal, on the other hand, misspells “Texas” as “Texass,” misuses the term “whence” (it does not take the word “from;” it implies it), and parts with “Cheerios,” which is a cereal; he perhaps means cheerio, which is a salutation. He also misspells my name, adding a hyphen where it doesn’t belong.

Second, I get letters like this all the time. The ones that are least persuasive are the ones that point out that this play, or this star, or this company, got a rave review in another town. How could that possibly matter to me? I’ve seen plenty of shitty productions of good plays; plenty of good actors who give bad performances, and seen more terrible art that others cream over than I can possibly imagine. The Passion of the Christ made $300 million; that doesn’t mean it was good.

You have a complaint with me, fine. Engage me. But name-calling? And, at that, against a school I have no connection to? That doesn’t insult me, just the school. The University of Virginia also produced smug bastards, though it wasn’t founded by Lupe Murchison — it was founded by Thomas Jefferson.

I’m confident of my theater-going credentials and my judgment. Anyway, I pretty much liked the production of Dreamgirls, save for Syesha Mercado’s limp vocal performance and flaws in the script. My full review is here.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones