Here for It w/ R. Eric Thomas #142

Hi! It's R. Eric Thomas. From the internet?

This week: Beyoncé on the next season of The Crown, Bad Man Bad at Job, Joe Biden brawls in the deep end.

It’s raining in Seattle right now and it feels like a personal affront. Every time I’ve been to Seattle the weather has been absolutely beautiful. Not just nice, gorgeous. Huge, creamy dollops of clouds plopped on cerulean skies, bright sunshine, slight breeze, not too hot (though a bit more humid than I’d like, to be honest. Please address this.) Just gorgeous. I’ve only been to Seattle five times or so but this feels like enough time to form an unimpeachable opinion. I’ve done more with less! So, I became convinced that the whole rainy Seattle thing was a myth made up to keep annoying tourists with strong opinions about humidity away. Every time I tell a Seattleite about this theory they protest: “Oh no, it rains from April to September and then from October to March! We literally never see the sun! Our skin is translucent. We’re albino mole people! Look away!” I’m like, “Calm down, Frasier Crane. The jig is up.”

Well, baby, the sound of the blues a-calling tossed salad and scrambled eggs is rising, cuz I’m sitting in SeaTac right now and there is water falling from the sky! This is a personal attack against me, personally, and my opinions, and also my lack of umbrella and I would a personally apology from Tom Hanks’ character from Sleepless in Seattle whose name I believe was Joe but who I will not Google because it will distract me from the point I am making about petty precipitation.

(It was Sam. His character was Joe in You’ve Got Mail. I could just go back and fix the sentence and you’d never know but I will not do that because I am a person of integrity unlike these clouds in Seattle which are dropping drops just to get the drop on me.)

(It is really hard to come up with a movie more perfectly constructed and calibrated than Sleepless in Seattle. Every scene shimmers as its own immaculate creation and yet none detract from the whole. Rita Wilson crying over An Affair to Remember should win a Lifetime Achievement Oscar! And it’s totally in character and in context, which is remarkable. It’s the kind of thing that in another movie would be an indulgent digression from the action of the plot but in Nora Ephron’s hands it’s totally integrated.)

(Obviously I am distracted from the thing I came on here to tell you and instead will just talk about Sleepless in Seattle for a while. I hope that’s okay.)

(Haha, what if I just start every paragraph with parentheses as if I think I’m somehow going to get back to the matter at hand—rain? maybe? unclear.—after this brief detour. I do love a punctuation shenanigan.)

Here are some other scenes that I am always thinking about apropos of nothing:

At the very end, when Meg Ryan finally meets Tom Hanks at the top of the Empire State Building, and the observation deck is about the close and they begin to make their way off the deck. I don’t remember any dialogue, just the look on Meg Ryan’s face, which is ebullient and incredulous at once. She keeps looking at Tom Hanks with wonder, mouth fully agape, as if she can’t believe that this person she conjured out of the radio waves is actually real and is actually Tom Hanks and is actually as wonderful as he seems. That’s it, it’s wonder. Meg Ryan is extraordinary in this film. I think about this series of wordless looks all the time.

Oh! And there’s the scene when Meg Ryan is sort of stalking Tom and his kid at the dock! (The whole premise of this movie is bonkers. A woman hears a man’s voice on the radio late at night, talking about his grief, and she’s like “What I need to do is cross the country so that we can fall in love with each other, actually.” Do not attempt this in real life, please.) Anyway, Meg is literally staring at this stranger and this stranger’s child from a distance like a charming version of Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction and then Rita Wilson shows up and she hugs Tom Hanks and even though they are married in real life they are playing siblings in this movie (I think, or maybe siblings-in-law) but Meg Ryan doesn’t know that and her stalker ass is crushed. There is so much that is complicated and delicate and simply told in this scene. Obsessed.

Rosie O’Donnell works at the Baltimore Sun in this movie and I think about that fact every time I pass by the Baltimore Sun building, which is still rather frequently even though I no longer work there. (I did not write for the Sun, but in college I worked in the Subscriptions Complaint department which is exactly what the title would suggest.) I don’t have any strong feelings about Rosie O’Donnell in this movie or her profession, but ever time I pass by the Sun I think to myself “Rosie and Meg Ryan worked at the Sun in Sleepless in Seattle although the particulars and specifics of their journalistic works were completely inconsequential to the film. I love that Nora Ephron, who’d been married to Carl Bernstein at one point, was like “I will go so far as to make it clear that these people are newspaper reporters but offer no further information and it will not really matter.”

Poor Bill Pullman really gets the short end of the stick in this movie. He’s the Obviously Ill-Suited Boyfriend/Obstacle that many romcoms have for roughly 45 minutes before handily disposing of them in either a simple but slightly bruising way or a messy, potentially embarrassing way often involving falling in a fountain, depending on how dastardly said Boyfriend/Obstacle is supposed to be. Bill Pullman in Sleepless is not dastardly at all. Indeed, his only offense here seems to be “he has allergies.” This, in the world of Sleepless is a crime punishable by death. Bill has got to go!

Also! When we were doing our wedding registry (an unhinged experience that I do not have time to get into right now) all I could think about was Meg Ryan doing her registry in Sleepless and casually tossing off the phrase “Eight is too few, 12 is too many,” which deeply changed my worldview forever. I repeated it to David like scripture whilst standing in the middle of a Macy’s with a scanner gun in my hand like an Old West bad guy robbing a locomotive that only carries Wedgewood china. So, now we have ten sets of everything—plates, wine glasses, champagne flutes (!!!), everything. Do we have 10 chairs or 10 friends? No. Meg Ryan didn’t give me any information about that.

Look, I am not saying I believe it but there is a way of reading this movie in which it becomes clear that Meg Ryan is experiencing a personal crisis. She’s engaged to a person who has no major faults aside from living before the invention of Claritin, she doesn’t seem to do much work, and she pursues a man on the other side of the country based on one call his kid made to Delilah’s radio show. This is unhinged behavior. But, if you think about it long enough, most romcoms hang on unhinged behavior from one or both people. Falling in love, in a way, is unhinged. It requires a suspension of disbelief, a leap of faith that ignores most likelihoods and realities (the best case scenario for most love stories is that you’re together until one of you eventually dies. You actually say this to each other at a wedding like a couple of goth weirdos! “Our family has come together and given us between eight and 12 dinner plates with matching patterns to celebrate the fact that we like each other now and hopefully will continue to like each other through allergies and joint filing taxes and getting grumpy at Disney World and then realizing you were just hungry and then having a good time at Disney World and the dishwasher suddenly starting to pour water literally all over the place for no reason and who is supposed to fix this and please do remember that we are human and our bodies are going to go absolutely nuts and then they are going to just stop so let’s kiss each other and then eat cake.” DERANGED. I love weddings.) I love love! And I feel like that’s the thing about Meg Ryan’s look at the end of the movie communicates to me—the wildness of the impractical idea of falling in love with someone, the randomness of it, the fact that it feels both improbable and inevitable somehow. The invitation to surrender to wonder. And to be deeply, deeply revulsed by other people’s allergies. God, I love this movie and I love love! And I do like Seattle even though it was raining when I left. I’m now flying back across the country, to Baltimore, home of stalkers, dreamers, radio-listeners, and Rosie O’Donnell, star reporter.

In this week’s newsletter, Sean Spicer makes an ignominious return, Joe Biden tells a story of a pool brawl, and there’s a crucial deleted Rocketman scene. But first: QUEEN BEY.

Beyoncé Takes Her Rightful Place Amongst The Royals At Madame Tussauds

Finally some good international political news! Those stunt queens at Madame Tussauds London have unveiled a wax figure of American Royalty Beyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter that actually looks like her, breaking the years-long curse of horrific avatars that sully and besmirch the likeness and reputation of our Queen. And, as if that weren't cause enough to celebrate, Madame Tussauds, in their infinite wisdom, placed said wax figure smack dab in the middle of their royals section, snugly between erstwhile American princess Meghan Markle and future queen Kate Middleton.


Man Who Was Really Bad At His Old Job Now Even Worse At His New One

Former White House Communications Director and walking object lesson, Sean Spicer appeared on Dancing with the Stars in a blindingly bright frilly shirt, heralding the end of Hot Girl Summer and the beginning of No Consequences Fall.


Joe Biden's Story Of A Pool Brawl Went Off The Deep End

This weekend, a video of Joe Biden telling a story at a pool-naming ceremony in 2017 floated up to the surface of Twitter where it was received about as well as a mysterious warm spot in the water of the deep end. Biden told a Wilmington crowd of his youthful days as a lifeguard at the site and an altercation he got into with a ne'er-do-well named Corn Pop. It starts off weirdly specific and homey and suddenly veers into a scene of violence straight out of The Warriors. Joe Biden seems to have invented a genre I can only describe as What the Folksy.


Please Enjoy This New Video Of Richard Madden And Taron Egerton Tap-Dancing

I love that despite the joy (and obviously sexual energy) of this number, Richard Madden plays every moment in full Disney villain mode, all tight smiles, sly looks, and gay slinking. Scar found dead in a ditch. Richard Madden―spoiler alert―turns out to be the bad guy in Rocketman. He's part of a long line of dastardly British-ish music industry types in recent movies, led by their Sorcerer King, Rez Gavron in A Star is Born. There could be 99 people in a room and if one of them in a money-hungry Englishman who knows just how to push your psychological buttons, well, it's over for you. Sorry to this Rocketman.


Let’s hang out!

Wednesday, September 25: hosting The Moth Mainstage at Jazz at Lincoln Center, NYC

Random thing on the internet

Here are the lyrics to the Frasier theme song.