Housekeeping stuff: Just wanted to note that I had the unique pleasure of speaking to a director in the wake of his getting first whiff of a glowing, almost poetic review by my colleague and pal, Manohla Dargis. I happened to be talking to Mike White (see below, writer-director of "Year of the Dog") in Washington DC, where he was promoting the film, and the guy was out-of-breath, completely rapturous. Here’s a snippet:
“Year of the Dog” is exactly the kind of story you would expect Mr. White to make for his directing debut. It’s funny ha-ha but firmly in touch with its downer side, which means it’s also funny in a kind of existential way. It stars the comic Molly Shannon as a woman who discovers her true self through a love of animals, though, not that kind of love. She’s not Catherine the Great, just Peggy the Good. It’s a film about what it means to devote yourself to something other than your fears and desires, to shed that hard, durable shell called selfishness. It is, rather remarkably, an inquiry into empathy as a state of grace. And if that sounds too rarefied for laughs, rest assured, it’s also about a stone-cold beautiful freak.
Just call it the Power of Manohla.
Also, if I’m permitted, I wanted to make one final point about the whole David O. Russell film-freakout, still being debated around Hollywood, but more so on the Internet. In a recent piece about the matter in the L.A. Times, Greg Goodman, David’s former producer, and a number of other friends noted that the clip could not be understood out of context, film sets are sacrosanct little worlds, etc etc. This comment makes me laugh, because David — and his friends — made certain to let me know how badly I’d damaged him by writing my diary of the goings-on on the set of "Huckabees" in 2004 in the Arts and Leisure section of the Times. Now, I wonder if they are in fact appreciative of how hard I tried to do exactly what the Internet clip cannot, which was to put David’s sometimes outrageous behavior into context. Ok, nuff said.