The Fish
for 2 March 2001. Updated every WEEKDAY.
 
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Defending James Lipton

Homer Simpson (one of my favorite actors) driving the car recklessly is upbraided by his wife Marge. Homer explains his haste: "But F. Murray Abraham is on Inside the Actor's Studio tonight! F. Murray Abraham, Marge!"

Didn't realize that Lipton had written that Exultation of Larks books. If we speak of a pride of lions maybe we ought to speak of a shame of critics. I liked your essay, because it pointed out that the really adversarial interviewing approach — when dealing with that twenty minutes a reporter usually gets in the company of an actor — is not necessarily going to yield better results than being civil to them. Movies may not be what they used to be — what is? — but even though the writing, directing, music scoring and even the color seems to be getting worse, the level of acting is, as you pointed out, usually good. For every fortune-favored Sly or Keanu there's a couple of thousand less recognizable names who try their best to bring life to badly-written pieces.

Richard Von Busack
<regisgoat@earthlink.net>

Hi, Richard.

Thank you for taking the time to send a note. Abraham is just asking for it with that "F", isn't he?

I'm not sure if acting is better now than it used to be as much as I believe that in post-Brando acting circles there's a certain integrity of effort, from top to bottom, that shames most other professions. If actors did their work the way I've approached various desk jobs I've had in my lifetime, every motion picture would be the end credits from Cannonball Run.

Best,

40th Street Black

 
[Mr. McFeely Speedy Delivery My Ass]
 

Hey 40th,

Good story, I've always wondered why people have been so intent on picking on James Lipton. Beyond a certain group of middle age Bravo viewers Lipton will never be more relevant than Jared Foggle, Subway's favorite binger.

One particularly funny instance that I did see him in was when he was interviewing Ben Affleck and was so desperate to present his limited career as a profound undertaking that he was asking Affleck about his motivation in some commercials that he had done. Affleck looked at him incredulously, and remarked that Lipton was obviously grasping at straws (much to the delight of the audience).

I think that this is indicative of his primary function in the entertainment industry; James Lipton is the man who takes Matthew Broderick or model turned actor Affleck as seriously as he takes James Caan or Christopher Walken. And as pompous as he seems it's obvious how glad he is to be there.

Thanks,

Danny
<pttrice@centralva.net>

Hi, Danny.

Thanks for your note. I missed the Affleck show, but I've seen the Lee Grant episode 13 times.

I think we're on the exact same wavelength. It occurs to me that even if someone were to despise Lipton's approach for the reason that it reinforces our culture's unwillingness and inability to distinguish between celebrities and artists, they'd have to thank Lipton for staying on such an even keel that distinctions between the relative seriousness and articulate nature of his guests can be made. The whole damn show is a standardized list of questions, if you stop and think about it.

And I bet he's happy to be there. I was trying to figure out how old Ahmad Rashad was this weekend, because my life has come to that, and it occurred to me that judging from those soap opera dates Lipton is like 143 years old. Well, probably half that. But still, too old to run for president. Other than the rare reality-based game show and 60 Minutes, TV doesn't break too many elder statesman public personalities. That's a great gig, and no doubt a cross-section of his critics are people who have their own battery of questions to ask Val Kilmer.

Best,

40th Street Black

 
[Mr. McFeely Speedy Delivery My Ass]
 

I read the piece and let me tell you something, Mister. I enjoyed it. You hit on Jim's real talent. By gushing in bits, he actually gets people to do one of two things:

1) Be comfortable or

2) Proclaim their real reasons for acting well in the scene "Aw, geez, no, Jim it's because I had a nail in my shoe that I was crying."

Anyways... the one point I'd add is that there's no apostrophe in Actors Studio.

Like Finnegans Wake. :)

Cheers,

Jeremy - Researcher, Inside the Actors Studio
<hc_earwicker@yahoo.com>

Thank you for the note, and thank you for finally explaining my C+ in English 203.

Best,

40th Street Black

 
[Mr. McFeely Speedy Delivery My Ass]
 

Filler 02.21.01

Polly,

For three weeks I've followed you as you've categorized, delineated, summarized and thumbnailed personality types which may or may not exist outside your odd worldview. And now you've exhaustively, obsessively, painfully, and sardonically paired these hapless archetypes for us as a way to pad your resume for your upcoming Days of Our Lives staff writer gig. But the crass, puerile public is wanting to get down to brass tacks: How's the sex?

Peter Crimmins
<p_crimmins@hotmail.com>

If I knew that, don't you think I'd already have that job at "Days of Our Lives"?

I'm really hoping the people at "Guiding Light" get back to me first, to be honest. I've got some fiery hot dialogue for Lujack's long-awaited return.

Lujack: Hello beautiful.

Beth: Oh god. Lujack! You...Is it really you?

Lujack: What does your heart tell you?

Beth: My heart tells me it's you, but my eyes say it's that middle-aged guy from the Sinutab commercials who finally got his big break by landing a role on daytime TV.

Puerile,

Polly

 
[Mr. McFeely Speedy Delivery My Ass]
 

Subject: Q-flavored Filler

Polly,

I couldn't help but observe today's Filler (2/21/2001, for reference in case the horde of adoring fans with beautiful man-titties keep you away) work out rather well in a queer dating pattern.

For example, who can deny Mr. Jumpy and Mellow Boy would make a perfect couple? Jumpy's always afraid to speak up, Mellow Boy's doesn't care his boyfriend lacks a spine because it would, you know, ruin the mood. Together they'd develop legendary prowess at killing through amicable boredom.

Or how about The Terminator and Tough Girl? The HR agent from hell enjoys hurting her girlfriends, but little Miss Tough Girl will never show it and only lash out. Thus begins a perfect cycle of codependency that'll be promptly misunderstood and crafted into film legend.

Mr. Double Standard and The Lightweight are perfect for each other! Though the wires may not go there, so to speak, what does it really matter when The Tinkerer is open to a three-way?

Who wouldn't envy That Buddhist Guy and The Overanalyzer for getting together? After a brief 'honeymoon' where each tries in vain to undo the other's carefully constructed facade of calmness, they move onto more interactive challenges: getting their mutual friend TV Boy a date with that

Insecurity never dies, it mates for life: The Princess and Miss Jealousy were made for each other. Little Miss Half-Empty and Party Girl would be a difficult initial romance, but let's face it: after they can stand to have a five second conversation, they'll realize U-hauls and Volvos were made for relationships this unhealthy.

It's a bit of a stretch, but I could see The Control Superfreak and Little Miss Understood working out as a lesbian S&M couple. (I'm not good at lesbian imagery, so don't ask.)

John M
<johnincolumbus@hotmail.com>

Did I ask?

Thank you for pointing out that all of the Men and Women to Avoid are actually gay. And they're more likable, somehow, in gay form. Why is that? Aren't all things gay more likable, ultimately?

I have a friend who recently became more firmly gay than she was before, and I like her a lot better for it. Why? I have a friend who's always been gay and even when he's a dickhead I like him much more than his less irritating straight counterparts. What can explain it?

a. The obvious allure of queer culture

b. Jealousy

c. Self-loathing

Well then, when is self-loathing NOT the explanation?

Polly

 
[Mr. McFeely Speedy Delivery My Ass]
 

i dunno. it's more probable that miss jealousy would end up with the terminator and the lightweight would end up with the overanalyzer. don't let gender get in your way of seeing the truly intriguing combinations.....

Dean Mathiowetz
<dean@myroad.com>

When does gender NOT get in the way of seeing?

Polly

 
[Mr. McFeely Speedy Delivery My Ass]
 



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 The Shit
Physical Strength and How to Obtain It, by Eugen Sandow
Bamboozled, A Spectacular New Film by Mr. Spike Lee
G. Beato's all-new Soundbitten
William Demarest, Sultan of Snarl, in The Lady Eve (1941), The Palm Beach Story (1942), and The Miracle of Morgan's Creek (1944)
George Wallace: Settin' The Woods On Fire, directed by Daniel McCabe and Paul Stekler
1995
Bobby Darin, Darin at the Copa (Atlantic)
Shinji-San in the floating world of indeterminate duration, by Peter Richardson
American Pharaoh: Mayor Richard J. Daley: His Battle for Chicago and the Nation, by Adam Cohen and Elizabeth Taylor
Neutral Milk Hotel, In the Aeroplane Over the Sea (1996, Merge)
45, by Bill Drummond
Cliff "Ukulele Ike" Edwards, Singing in the Rain (ASV)
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