Category: Harvey Karten



You’ve heard it in your Sociology course, in newspaper articles, in magazines (though perhaps not in Cosmo) that—put in the simplest terms–people marry because they’re horny, but that you can’t expect the passion to last forever. Passion cools and, if you’re lucky, a more mature “love” takes over. But that doesn’t satisfy Jay (Jason Segel) and Annie (Cameron Diaz). Before they got married and had a couple of kids, they thought of nothing but sex, and had no problem acting on their thoughts. Some unfortunate, but true words of wisdom come from Annie’s dad when Annie announces at dinner that she is pregnant and is getting married: “There goes the sex,” he suggests. And he’s right.


Nothing makes much sense. Is A LONG WAY DOWN a comedy about depression, suicide, and paralytic disease? Does having suicidal impulses in common make for solid friendships? Is there anything in the script that adds up to more than banal chatter among four people with little in common? Who knows? Pascal Chaumeil’s adaptation of Nick Hornby’s novel—the volume available on Amazon as an audiobook that received a surprisingly good review from Publishers Weekly—simply does not work as a movie. Perhaps this is because the characters are annoying rather than interesting, while a customer hearing only the voices does not see just how insipid the people really are.


You probably heard the advice “Travel while you’re young. You have the energy, and once you get kids, you’ll have to put off long trips for many years to come.” There is some truth in this: of course you have more energy when you’re 20 than when you’re 60, and traveling with young kids or teens can be trying. But what do you do after the youngsters leave the nest and you leave your career to retire? You may have hobbies but eventually you’ll have wanderlust and will want to break up the routine with some trips abroad. While Reykjavik may not be on your mind as much as Paris or Rome, there are some hardy souls who may appreciate the brisk weather and stunning nightlife of that city and the raw beauty of its natural surroundings.


In the good old days before the Internet, or better still before the telephone was invented, people used to write letters. This is how we got such a wealth of information about the thoughts of our own founding fathers here in the U.S. When friends, families, and lovers regularly wrote to one another, we called those epistolary relationships, which is (kind of) what the two lovers have in Carlos Marques-Marcet’s film 10.000 KM.


One of Pete Seeger’s favorite protest songs dealt with the sinking of the Titanic, the key words being “When that ship left England, it was making for the shore/ The rich refused to associate with the poor/ So they left the poor below, they were the first to go/ It was sad when the great ship went down.” The late Mr. Seeger, a Marxist banjo player, chafed at the idea of rigid social classes. Doubtless he would be offended by the decision of the skipper of a train, the Snowpiercer, who, after the world freezes over thanks to climate change, saved about a thousand people. But: he believed that there is an established order to things and that every society must have distinct social classes.


Romantic comedies are so predictable, following the usual arc Boy Meets Girl, Boy Loses Girl, Boy Wins Girl, that they almost parody themselves. But if you are so in love with rom-coms that you overlook their derivative nature, David Wain comes along to satirize the genre, using repetitions, double entendres (like the very title THEY CAME TOGETHER), impossible sexual stuntmanship, and deliberately insipid conversations. It doesn’t hurt that he has Paul Rudd and Amy Poehler as his principals, going on first dates, building their relationship, tentatively breaking up, and getting together again. Never mind that Rudd in real life is 45 years old and Poehler is 42: they give middle-aged people the hope of starting again, acting almost like kids. If you’ve seen David Wain’s 2001 feature WET HOT AMERICAN SUMMER, set on the last day of camp in 1981, you know the director’s style. And you’re not surprised that he continues to employ Rudd and Poehler’s comic charms.


In November 2001, President George W. Bush issued this manifesto. There is no room for neutrality in international politics. You are with us or against us. A nation need not contribute troops, but all moral countries must take an active role in some way in the war against terrorism. Such advice would have gone over like a lead balloon during World War II, when countries like Switzerland and Sweden maintained an iron-fisted neutrality even against an evil such as Nazism. (Even though the U.S. was neutral during the early stages of the war 1939-1941, this was in name only as our country supplied the UK with destroyers under the Lend Lease program).


The three major female characters in THIRD PERSON do not get a fair treatment in a screenplay written and directed by Paul Haggis. The male characters do not fare any better.


D “likes it fast” while H “likes to play”. After twenty years of such marital bliss this forty-something married artistic couple, without children, has decided to move on and sell their house. The house in question is not your ordinary flat but a towering citadel, in West London’s Chelsea neighborhood. It is a real house, not a set, which was built in 1969 by James Melvin, a modernist architect, who lived there with his wife for many years. This development has three floors with a spiral staircase running through it, and glass walls. People entering the shrine must remove their shoes. It has a private garage, a swimming pool and a garden, not to mention some working rooms, living room and a full size kitchen. The neighborhood is going through some structural changes and D has some concerns and anxieties about selling it to a developer that may implode the building, rebuild and divide the new creation to many rental apartments.


If you wonder why the 1950s are considered the most boring decade in U.S. history, you need only look for some videos of NBC’s show “Your Hit Parade.” The Saturday night festivities featured the top seven hit tunes, playing number one on the charts last, holding TV viewers in suspense. The trouble is that was nary a hit that was not some white bread ballad with lyrics like “Because of you, there’s a song in my heart/ Because of you, my romance had its start…” And it featured singers with names like Snooky Lanson. How far would a name like that get today, and how far would these mushy ballads get now? In fact, the ‘50’s music scene was taken over in the succeeding decade by rock and roll, which begat folk, which begat rock, and then its variations e.g. punk rock.