Friday, August 21, 2009

Ms. Ephron, a Republican might have fired you

Julie & Julia is a new film starring Meryl Streep and Amy Adams. I watched the film yesterday alongside sixty or so other theater goers.

For anyone who loves Julia Child (as I do) the film is worth watching. Meryl Streep's depiction of the late great gourmand, is stunningly good. It's easy to replicate the oft parodied high-pitch voice, but Ms. Streep's cadence and accent on choice syllables is so faithful to the real deal, it's almost unsettling. It was a great performance.

The screen writer of this movie is Nora Ephron whose style I didn't care for before the film and she leaves me feeling even colder now.  Here's why.

Before seeing the film, I listened to two separate Nora Ephron interviews. Her tone and lack of enthusiasm during both interviews left me with the distinct impression she felt she was doing us a favor by sitting for them. At least, that's how she sounded. However, while viewing the film yesterday I realized something else -- she takes cheap shots.

Example: In this movie, Amy Adams plays a character that works in a call center to help 911 survivors and takes a "sick" day to cook a Julia Child dish.  She then blogs about the experience to the dismay of her boss who calls her into his office to beseech her for writing the post. He ends his rant by saying, "a Republican would have fired you."

In my case, the theater audience was silent after hearing that little gem.  (Perhaps they cheered in L.A.). Could Ms. Ephron have had any purpose other than to slam Republicans or Conservatives? Doing so is hardly unusual for Hollywood but still unfair to the memory of Julia Child (who was publicly apolitical). Whether the line was apocryphal or not is irrelevant -- it was unnecessary.

Finally, there is the ending to the film, or lack of one, that leaves one wondering if Ms. Ephron was tired and decided to finish the script quickly, or whether something else crippled her imagination.

All this notwithstanding, the film succeeds on the strength of Meryl Streep's affectionate performance and the unique legacy of the woman she portrayed. On a five star scale, this blogger gives Julie & Julia three stars and a pinch of salt for the screen writer.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

The Atlantic meets The Economist

Check out this article by Michael Hirschorn in The Atlantic (July/August 2009) in which Mr. Hirschorn examines how a printed magazine like The Economist can thrive while other printed weeklies it competes with -- notably Newsweek and Time -- are languishing.

Print publishing success in the digital age may lay in what Mr. Hirschorn describes as "razor-sharp clarity and definition" and owning and knowing a particular niche instead of trying to replicate one owned elsewhere.

In the case of The Economist, Mr. Hirschorn asserts that the magazine "...canvasses the globe with an assurance that no one else can match" and "...prides itself on cleverly distilling the world into a reasonably compact survey.''

Mr. Hirschorn, a contributing editor at The Atlantic, made me chuckle with a frank admission that his own magazine, "...has never delivered impressive profit margins."  Impressively profitable or not, his well-written piece is worthwhile for anyone interested in the devolution of paper-based, weekly news.