Back to Earth

I’m writing this from several thousand feet over the State of Georgia, on my way back to DC after the 2015 Catholic New Media Celebration (CNMC). No, I am not sporting a cape and tights as I do so. While this will not be a particularly lengthy post, it is an important one for me, in that it marks my return to regular blogging following the past two months of hiatus. And before continuing I want to once again thank all of my readers for their gracious expressions of kindness following the death of my Mother.

There will be some fairly substantial changes afoot here in the coming months. I cannot yet provide a timetable, but I would ask that you keep your eyes peeled so that, as the saying goes, you will not find yourselves caught asleep at the switch. These changes should allow those of you who appreciate reading my fitful scribblings to do so in a better-framed context. My goal is to build upon the last substantial changes I made two years ago, in order to make the perusal of my writing a more user-friendly experience with respect to content, design, and accessibility.

For those of you who have never attended, I should explain that the CNMC is the perfect venue for a media producer looking to step up his game or tweak what he is already producing. It was refreshing to be encouraged to examine my content with a more critical – if not to say jaundiced, á la (Florence) King – eye. Even if, as it turned out, some of the presenters happened to make digs at me during their presentations. You know who you are (Greg Willits and Maria Johnson), and you’re going on a list.

While there was a great deal to process coming out of this CNMC, both personally and professionally, perhaps the most important takeaway was the notion that it’s time to pick up and start again where I had left off: a bit sadder, but hopefully also a bit wiser than I was before I stopped. I hope that your gracious patronage and engagement, gentle reader, will continue as it has lo these (nearly 7) years now. God bless you!

image

Somewhere Over Georgia

Before I Take Off: Super Thankful

I just wanted to take a moment this Thanksgiving to say thank you to all of you who subscribe to or visit the blog, and explain briefly why things have been a bit more sporadic of late. On Monday – God willing and the creek don’t rise – I’m beginning a new job, and the transition from the old position to the new position over the past couple of weeks has involved a significant amount of my free time.  Regular readers know that as a general rule I don’t talk about work on social media, so don’t expect that to change.  Suffice to say that I’ll still be fighting for truth, justice, and the American way, and one of the things I’m most thankful for this Thanksgiving is what promises to be a truly fantastic opportunity to do so.

The new job will allow me less free time for media than I had available to me previously. and as a result I can’t predict at this moment how regularly I will be able to blog or engage online.  Although I won’t be going anywhere, I must beg your indulgence for a little while, as I sort out my schedule and duties.  This may mean a bit of a pause in things like the weekly “Phone Booth Friday” posts, or letting my readers know about interesting upcoming events in the Catholic or arts and culture spheres.

So until things are a bit more settled, apart from an upcoming book review I’m scheduled to share, the bogging hiatus will continue for a bit – for how long, I don’t know. A few days? A few weeks? We shall see. I promise to be back to writing as soon as I can.

In the meantime, please accept my very best wishes for a Happy Thanksgiving to you in your universe, from me in mine.

bbfd2b84570309dc5540914a7e63595a

 

 

 

“The Cosmopolitans”: Whit’s Still the Man

This weekend I had the chance to check out the pilot episode of “The Cosmopolitans”, the new series by writer and director Whit Stillman released on Amazon Prime.  If you’re a regular visitor to these pages, then you know that I’m an unabashed fan of his work.  Yet after the somewhat anti-climactic “Damsels in Distress”, it was great to see him return to seriously good form in this, a new series about young Americans living and loving in Paris.

Like much of Stillman’s work, “The Cosmopolitans” isn’t so much about a story moving toward resolution, but rather a series of stories that intertwine, punctuated by significant events.  He’s been described as the conservative, bourgeois version of Woody Allen, and there’s some truth to that observation.  For more often than not, the reason why someone either enjoys or does not enjoy Stillman’s work comes down to the question of whether the conversations taking place among his characters remind the viewer of conversations which they themselves have had.  If you can’t relate to Woody Allen – and I certainly can’t – then you probably find him irritating and perverse.  Stillman, on the other hand, is “The Man”, in a sense, because he is writing largely about the experiences of educated, cultured Americans from good schools and respectable backgrounds, exploring the world around them and always dressing stylishly as they do so.

It’s also interesting to see how effortlessly Stillman has transitioned to the small screen.  Like Amy Sherman-Palladino back in the first few seasons of “Gilmore Girls”, when it was one of the best-written things on television, Stillman has an ear for the witty comeback, the snarky cultural reference, and the perfect put-down worthy of the Ancien Régime. Yet because of the nature of the films which he has made so far, Stillman’s work usually has a drawing-room quality to it, like sitting at a party at the house of someone you don’t know – also a favorite plot device of his – and overhearing other people’s interesting conversations. These make the small screen just as good a venue for his observations as the big screen.

Stillman has also presented us with a combination of characters that we will try to figure out better as the series continues.  For example, writing Chloe Sevigny’s character as a kind of proto-Miranda Priestly seemed a surprise at first, seeing as how her outing in Stillman’s “Last Days of Disco” was as something of an ingenue. Yet watching her take a throwaway comment about how long it takes to become a Parisian and turn it into a recurrent thematic weapon is absolutely hilarious, and makes the viewer want to hear more of what she has to say.

The phenomenon of seeing prominent actors and directors like these creating on-demand streaming internet series is an interesting phenomenon in and of itself.  The American version of “House of Cards” is, understandably enough, extremely popular and heavily advertised here in DC.  This is due not only to the fact that the series is set here, but also because a significant percentage of the population here is tech-savvy enough to feel perfectly comfortable with the idea of watching a show streamed via the internet.  As more investment in digital infrastructure takes place in the coming years, it seems reasonable to assume that more and more of these “online tv” series will be made.

Of course the best sign that any series, online or not, has completely sucked you in is when you are watching a scene, the music swells, the screen goes black, and you audibly shout, “Awwww NO!” You’ve been so caught up in the story that you weren’t keeping an eye on the clock.  That’s happened to me a few times, during some really engrossing series: the British series “MI-5″ for example (as “Spooks” is known in the U.S.) These moments are the sign of a good writer, good director, and good actors all coming together. And that same, telltale outcry of disappointment that the episode was already over arose from me and my group of friends watching the pilot for “The Cosmopolitans”.

As the central characters began to make their way home across Paris from a party they had stayed at too long, the credits began to roll, and we were all disappointed to see that the episode was already over. I was reminded at that point of the conclusion of Stillman’s first film, “Metropolitan”.  In that story, his characters had to make their way back to Manhattan with no reasonable means of transportation at their disposal, leaving them to hitchhike along the highway as the picture faded into text.  Unlike in “Metropolitan” however, it appears that we are going to have the great pleasure of seeing what happens next to this new group of characters.  I can’t wait to eavesdrop on their conversations.

It's Whit Stillman. Of course there is a dance sequence.

It’s Whit Stillman. Of course there is a dance sequence.