(But first, a story about an uninvited guest at a screening. Last night I was sitting in a truly awful movie — oh, you’ll find out what it is soon enough — and about halfway through, suddenly the publicist sitting a couple of rows in front of me jumped up and ran from the theater. Hmm, I thought, did she just remember that she left her iron on? Did she leave her cellphone in the bathroom? Or what? She returned a few moments later and said something I didn’t hear to the person behind me before returning to her seat. He leaned over to me and suggested that I pick up my purse, because there was a mouse in the theater. I picked up my purse, my book, my feet, and everything else anywhere near the vicinity of the floor and spent the rest of the screening on high alert. No further sightings. I imagine mice are not an uncommon problem in movie theaters — big rooms, darkness, spilled popcorn — but this is the closest I’ve come to seeing one. Apparently the mouse didn’t like the movie either.)
So, a lovely fall weekend is upon us, and if you’re needing something to read, I’ve got a couple of recommendations.
— For something short and snappy: this New Yorker essay by Mindy Kaling is a kick. Kaling is a writer and performer on “The Office,” a show I don’t currently watch, but I may have to. She’s got a book coming out later this fall; I think this essay is an excerpt, in which she helpfully describes the types of women we meet in Hollywood romantic comedies. Here’s a sample:
The Forty-two-Year-Old Mother of the Thirty-Year-Old Male Lead
If you think about the backstory of a typical mother character in a romantic comedy, you realize this: when “Mom” was an adolescent, the very week she started to menstruate she was impregnated with a baby who would grow up to be the movie’s likable brown-haired leading man. I am fascinated by Mom’s sordid early life. I would rather see this movie than the one I bought a ticket for.
I am so brainwashed by the young-mom phenomenon that when I saw the poster for “The Proposal” I wondered for a second if the proposal in the movie was Ryan Reynolds’ suggesting that he send his mother, Sandra Bullock, to an old-age home.
— And I’m currently in the middle of Roger Ebert’s beautiful new memoir, “Life Itself,” which so far doesn’t have too much to say about movies (though I imagine that’s coming), but a lot to say about family, love, Chicago, newspapers in the ’60s, London, illness, childhood . . . and, well, life itself. It’s a joy. I just finished the chapter where he talks about becoming a film critic — at the Chicago Sun-Times in 1967, where he was already working as a young staff writer. Ebert said he hadn’t planned on becoming a movie critic — he was 25, and his career goal was to be a columnist someday — but was thrilled by the job, and still is. I’ve long admired Ebert’s ability to put things into words, and I thought this passage described what he does (and what I try to do) so very well:
When you go to the movies every day, it sometimes seems as if the movies are more mediocre than ever, more craven and cowardly, more skillfully manufactured to pander to the lowest tastes instead of educating them. Then you see something absolutely miraculous, and on your way out you look distracted, as if you had just experienced some kind of a vision.
Hope you all experience a vision this weekend. See you Monday.