Footnotes to 2008

Five further thoughts on the year in film

The man who was born to play Nathan Zuckerman
The man who was born to play Nathan Zuckerman

A few final thoughts from the year in film 2008:

1. Why does Hollywood insist on hiring British actors for the lead roles in Philip Roth adaptations? A few years back Anthony Hopkins played an African-American posing as a white American Jew (with a Welsh accent) in The Human Stain; this year we had Ben Kingsley as American Jewish professor David Kapesh in Elegy. I don’t get it. Richard Benjamin is still acting, right? What about Judd Hirsch? Dustin Hoffman? Jeff Goldblum? Harvey Fierstein? Steve Guttenberg? Albert Brooks? Larry David? Richard Dreyfuss? Harvey Keitel? Rob Reiner? Mel Brooks? Ron Jeremy? Alan Greenspan? Elie Weisel? Mel Gibson?

I’m starting to understand how Puerto Ricans must have felt when they watched West Side Story for the first time.

2. I’m worried that people might read my top 10 list and think I’m a snob who hates America and loves Europe, when in reality I’m a snob who hates America and Europe in equal measure.

3. Interesting fact: America does racism a lot better than it does movies about racism. Aside from To Kill a Mockingbird, Do the Right Thing, and Remember the Titans, American movies about racism are generally no better than after-school specials. I don’t know why that is exactly. But what I do know is that Gran Torino is the funniest unintentional comedy since Crash. Maybe the funniest movie made this year. Which isn’t saying much, but still …

4. Now that I think about it, my list does look pretty snobby. I hereby change my No. 3 movie to Yes Man and my No. 7 movie to Yes Man.

5. I have a Top 10 list confession to make: After No. 5 (I’ve Loved You So Long), I was just picking names at random to fill the quota. This wasn’t a particularly good year for movies, and I had trouble coming up with 10 that were worth the 25 words I was given to write about them. Compare this year’s best to 2007’s; only A Christmas Tale can compete. The Lives of Others? Eastern Promises? The Diving Bell and the Butterfly? Those were movies. Great movies. Strong movies. Movies we’ll remember years from now. Movies we’ll tell our kids about one day. Provided we have kids. Which we may not. We’re not really sure. Maybe if the right person comes along and we get our financial situation squared away. We’ll see. It’s not that we don’t like kids, it’s just that we’ve never seen ourselves as “kid people.” No, that’s a lie: it’s that we don’t like kids. They’re just so sticky and unformed. And loud. And they never say anything about politics or the global economy that we haven’t already thought about. I mean, just because you’re 6 years old that means you’re incapable of forming an opinion about the auto bailout or UN intervention in Zimbabwe like the rest of us? Come on. Those newspapers aren’t going to read themselves.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS POST

Top 10, Top 10s, Philip Roth

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