Hi! It's R. Eric Thomas. From the internet?
This week: Le Snacks Francophone, an Olivia Pope monument, and a Hannity farce.
Look, this is controversial, but I feel the need to say this: I have listened to Drake's "Nice For What" roughly 79 times and, like the movie Love, Actually, I cannot figure out why I am so drawn to it while simultaneously perplexed by its existence. I've come to decision that I don't actually care about the song, I just miss Lauryn Hill and Big Freedia. So. That's my official statement. Maybe "Nice For What" never existed at all. Maybe two radios in two different rooms started playing at once and we're all standing at the intersection. And that's reality.
Anyway, just a quick note this week because it's so nice outside where I am and I have a pressing appointment to sit on the grass and stare at my phone. I hope it's nice where you are, too. David is in Denver this week, hiking throw the snow as we speak. Meanwhile, I am wearing short shorts and trying to avoid using any of my leg muscles. But it's like Paula Abdul says: You take two steps forward in cross-country skis, I take two steps back toward a brunch buffet, but when we get together, opposites attract. Ah, love.
Speaking of Love, Actually (when are we not?) the other day I overheard two people in a very animated conversation about the film, which might seem an odd topic of conversation in April of 2018 but I'll allow it. I have a theory that at every moment of every day someone is talking about Love, Actually. It remains unclear to me if that movie is very good at what it does or very bad. I definitely don't think it's a romcom, but I am willing to entertain the notion that it's a surprisingly effective nihilistic take on making connections in modern times. Like Lars von Trier adapting Bells Are Ringing. In any case, it has managed to so pervasively ingratiate itself into pop culture that it pops up all the time, even in the most unlikely of places.
For instance, I was at a dinner party on Friday and I off-handedly mentioned that I thought Timothee Chalamet's was so effective in Call Me By Your Name because, as an actor, he is incredibly connected to his body. (BTW, the rule is when more than three gay people spend more than 12 minutes together, they must mention Call Me By Your Name at least once. I'm just doing my part.) I don't think Armie Hammer is as connected to his body, which isn't a critique, just a difference. But we began to discuss what the movie would've been like with two actors who were equally connected to their bodies. And then we all exploded in peach-colored confetti. Leo DiCaprio is someone who is super connected to his body, I think. Michael B. Jordan, too. Maybe I'm just naming my crushes. Unclear. Someone at the party mentioned Colin Firth, which I never would have thought of but definitely agree. And suddenly, we went from talking about Call Me By Your Name to discussing Colin Firth in Love, Actually. And the universe spins forward.
Confidential between you and me, I don't really like Colin Firth's plotline in Love, Actually. Everyone in that movie besides Emma Thompson and Chiwetel Ejiofor spends two hours making bad decisions and stalking people, which is a metaphor for love, I guess. But Colin Firth's bad decisions and stalking never sit right with me. Like, the object of his affection is his housekeeper. She's just trying to do her job and not speak English and he's like, "But what if you also loved my lonely, stalkery, beautiful face?" This feels like an HR violation.
I think about Love, Actually all the time. But as much as I think about Love, Actually I never think about the two British dudes who go to America to seduce Shannon Elizabeth. Every time I remember it I have to search IMDB to confirm that it is actually a part of the movie. I feel like the British guys subplot is one of those Mandela Effect things; in the future we'll all be convinced this was part of the film and then we'll watch it and it won't be there. Why would this plotline be in this movie anyway? Does it make any sense? I mean, there are bad decisions and light stalking, if you count traveling internationally to hit on strangers you have yet to meet to be stalking. But by the same token, if you told me this was not a part of the movie I would immediately accept that. "You're thinking of an American Pie-era straight-to-video comedy you saw on Starz one afternoon," you'd say. And I'd say, "Yes, that seems much more like reality. Now, can we go back to talking about whether Laura Linney makes the worst decision possible or whether she makes the only choice available to her? It's been like 15 years and we really need to come to a cultural consensus."
This week, a whole bunch of collisions in this simulation we're living, Scandal crosses over into the real world in its final episode, I make a case for a Carnival to get the Wicked treatment, but first: THE THIRD CLIENT!
Scene: Oval Office, White House, today. Donald Trump sits at the Resolute Desk, angrily chewing quarry rocks. National Security Advisor John Bolton enters.
Trump: Johnny Boy, thanks for coming. I'm in a real pickle. I really need someone to talk to.
Bolton: Is this about Syria?
Trump: Who? Never met her. Never met her, you hear? No, this is about Sean Hannity. I need to talk to someone I can trust and you look like Mr. Monopoly so it's comforting to me. [READ THE FULL COLUMN]
Trudeau, who has all the good looks (and all of the questionable policies) of an old-school Disney Prince awkwardly hugged Emmanuel Macron like he was picking Macron up for the Homecoming Dance. By the way, if anyone would like to read my YA novel called Le Bae and Mac, about two exchange students who go to Homecoming and fight crime, please let me know. [READ THE FULL COLUMN]
In the end what matters most is the fate of Olivia Pope. Scandal was the story of one black woman’s fight to exist in the world. For all the hairpin turns, the murders, the monologues, it revealed itself to be primarily about that quest: Olivia Pope's survival and with it, the nation's survival. [READ THE FULL ARTICLE]
Much of the conversation around this revival has centered on the question of whether an audience can reasonably invest in a male character who resorts to violence as a means of expression, most consequentially striking Julie early in their relationship. While the 2018 Carousel has not blossomed into a musical for the #MeToo moment, it has been directed by Jack O’Brien with an awareness of the corrosive effects of toxic masculinity. However, leaving the production, which opened on April 13, my thoughts lingered not on Billy and his troubled life, but on his long-suffering spouse. With a modern lens drawing out Billy’s fatal flaws, the question of who will tell Julie Jordan’s story has never been more pressing. [READ THE FULL ARTICLE]
Most strikingly, Conway ended her GMA interview with a full minute of uninterrupted wild monologuing, like a Spalding Gray piece as performed by Roxie Hart. The monologue, like an Olympic routine, hit all the complex combinations that the judges love to see: rapid-fire name-dropping, more shady redirections than a porn website, randomly shouting "Hillary Clinton." All the hits. But most impressively (or depressingly if you're, you know, a person with ears) is the truly bonkers thesis that sits in the middle of her soliloquy. When asked what Trump's opinion of the Comey interview was, Kellyanne Conway stated: “The president is very confounded that this person is always able to divert the spotlight to him... He was a very deft way of making things about him.” Which, wow, is actually an achievement. It's like an ouroboros of megalomania. [READ THE FULL COLUMN]
Let's Hang Out!
I drove to Philly for a run-through of Mrs. Harrison and I am thrilled to report that, in rehearsal, it has undergone that beautiful alchemical transformation from being a script full of notions that I thought might work to a full-fledged piece of art, the product of many hands. It's a bit like a tennis match, with a central argument being volleyed back and forth and a constantly shifting balance of power. Watching Danielle Lenee and Brandi Burgess face-off, I felt like this must be what it's like to watch Venus and Serena do tennis. I enjoyed the play and chewed on the ideas afterward with the excitement of new discovery as if I hadn't written it and spent the last two years revising it. I implore you to go see it, invite your friends in PA, DE, and NJ to go. Why? Three reasons:
1. It's ruhl good.
2. It's 75 minutes. You can catch some theater and still have your whole evening in front of you.
3. It's short but full of ideas. You'll watch it for an hour and be talking about it for the rest of the night.
Plus, it's Pay-What-You-Decide!
Philadelphia: Hosting THE MOTH StorySlam at World Cafe Live on May 7 and May 23. Get tickets one week before at TheMoth.org
DC: Hosting THE MOTH StorySlam at The Miracle Theater on May 4 and 21! Get tickets one week before at TheMoth.org
Random Thing From the Internet
Lauryn Hill frequently smashes together her song "Lost One" with Fela Kuti's "Zombie" and I can't get enough. Check out one of many videos here. Oh! And this one is also amazing and features Lauryn in the most stunning Victorian widow living in New Orleans ensemble.
Have a nice week (but for what?!),