' Cinema Romantico

Friday, July 29, 2016

Friday's Old Fashioned: Dangerous When Wet (1953)

The title “Dangerous When Wet” almost sounds like a noir, like Esther Williams, star of the show, should come equipped with a bathing suit and a cigarette, lit and ready to cause mayhem around the pool in Acapulco. It's not to be. Why there is even a sequence when Williams is about to slip into a bikini, a moment that could have played in an extremely predictable way, and instead the movie stops itself in its own tracks to acknowledge the steamy potential as Williams breaks the fourth wall with discernible amusement by looking directly into the camera as if to say “Nuh uh, ain’t gonna happen” and feigns pulling down a shade. The camera then cuts away. Nope, there might be a bikini on the poster, but “Dangerous When Wet” is gonna be wholesome through and through.

The film opens with the Higgins family, fitness freaks every one, from Pa to Ma to Junior to Katie (Williams), as they proudly parade from their farmhouse to a nearby lake for a daily swim to stay in shape because staying in shape comes first. It comes even before, it seems, the farm itself, which we never really see them working on because this is less about hard labor than making dreams come true. That dream will arrive in the form of Windy Weebee (Jack Carson), a traveling salesman, who runs into the family at a local event and instantly finds himself smitten by Katie, sensing immediate star potential in her comportment, as Hollywood did with Esther Williams herself, and hits on the idea to have the entire aquatic-obsessed family enter in a swim contest across the English Channel.


Complications arise, as they must, in the form of an emergent love interest for Katie, the obligatorily handsome Frenchman André Lanet (Fernando Lamas) who Katie meets upon her family’s arrival in England, and who foils Windy’s desires for her, though this triangle never quite gets going because of course Andre is always right for her. This is embodied in one of the film’s most wonderful scenes, set on Andre’s sailboat, where he croons “In My Wildest Dreams” to his possible paramour. Though director Charles Walters might have made his bones as a fine musical choreographer on “Meet Me In St. Louis” before moving on to direct “Ziegeld Follies”, amongst others, the best moments in “Dangerous When Wet”, despite the presence of a delightful little animated Tom & Jerry ditty, and a moment when Katie & André momentarily make like mixed synchronized swimmers, are often akin to “In My Wildest Dreams”, restrained and surprisingly soulful.

In this sailboat scene, Walters needs but a single prop – the rudder, which Andre moves over and under as he sings. That nothing but the prop is needed speaks to the nobility of his intentions; he doesn’t need a gargantuan production number, just a ballad in a boat. Katie, meanwhile, repeals his affection, merely in that playing hard to get way, before finally acquiescing as Walters dispenses with the watery backdrop, pushing in so completely on the to-be lovers that they are all that’s left in the frame. Later, during a heart to heart between Katie and Pop, when he is forced to admit that he has assumed massive debt to make improvements on the farm, making the cash prize of the upcoming English channel that much more important, a steady rain falls in the background, though its sound is wiped entirely from the soundtrack, simply allowing for a sweet optic backdrop balanced against the tenderness of the conversation.

Inevitably “Dangerous When Wet” concludes with Katie paddling the English channel, from France to England. In another movie, this sequence might have been the focal point, and while it’s true that it has a twist and a turn, it’s not really all that dramatic, as foregone as the She’ll-Do-It-Don’t-Worry music that accompanies it. For most of the movie, in fact, the English Channel doesn’t look as much forebodingly choppy as it does jauntily blue, as if they are off the coast of Saint-Tropez. And that matches the movie’s overall tone, jaunty and winning. Katie wins the cash, everyone gets paired off, and they join together for one final group song, marching out the door with smiles on their faces, no doubt intending to squeeze in at least a few laps in a nearby pool. Winning loads of cash is fine and all, but you gotta keep fit.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Dissecting a Scene from "The Insider"

During this so-far seventh month run of 2016's seemingly portending doom, I have had one movie scene more than any other reverberating around the frightened canyons of my mind. It's from Michael Mann's masterpiece "The Insider" (1999) when 60 Minutes producers Lowell Bergman (Al Pacino) and Don Hewitt (Philip Baker Hall) and consummate interviewing front man Mike Wallace (Christopher Plummer) are called into a meeting with the President of their CBS News division, Eric Kluster (Stephen Tobolowsky), and CBS general counsel Helen Caperelli (Gina Gershon). Bergman, Hewitt and Wallace have been putting together an exposé with the ultimate insider, Jeffrey Wigand (Russell Crowe), ex-employee of Brown & Williamson Tobacco who accused his former bosses of consciously ignoring health considerations

I suppose I've had this scene rattling around my head because 2016's apocalyptic vibes have emanated very much from media concerns, or, should I say, concerns about the media, and how much they did or did not contribute to this apparently unstoppable rise of Bozo the Spray Tanned Clown, and whether the media, broadly speaking, is driven journalistically or commerically. And this scene in "The Insider" finds a powerful media entity suddenly rendered powerless as corporate watchdog because the corporation that gives it space to operate puts its own interests first.


This is how the scene is established, with Bergman (Pacino) and Wallace (Plummer) in cozy, laugh-filled consultation while their executive producer, Hewitt (Hall), sits one chair over. This is a Bergman & Wallace world, see, until.....


Caperelli enters with a cheerful countenance by asking "Should I send for coffee?", the obligatory faux-peace offering in corporate conference room settings before shots are fired. 


She sits, along with Kluster, while Bergman and Wallace disengage, still smiling, still in their own little world, one that's about to get invaded.


Notice how Gershon has Caparelli lean toward Wallace, Bergman and Hewitt, a subtle shift into attack mode. "I thought we'd get together because there's a legal concept that has been getting some new attention recently, 'tortious interference.'"


As she says "tortious interference", Hall has Hewitt snap to attention, like, 'Oh, this doesn't sound good.'


But compare Hewitt's reaction with what Pacino has Bergman do in the face of "tortious interference" - utter disinterest, like, 'Oh, some more corporate bullshit. How grand.' 


"If two people have an agreement, like a confidentiality agreement, and one of them breaks it because they are induced to do so by a third party..." and on third party Gershon has Caparelli point right at Wallace, thinly veiled accusation, telling them if stuff happens, this is their fault. 


After she gives her spiel, Bergman and Wallace take turns explaining that they air something only if it's in the public interest, and only after they verify and corrobrate it, which is why, as Wallace notes, they "have never lost a lawsuit and run a classy show." And Plummer caps his little lecture with an "Anything else?" that is laugh-out-loud haughty.


Ah, but there is so much else, because even if Caperelli agrees that 60 Minutes has exacting verifiaction standards, she thinks it wouldn't hurt to "make sure you're right on this one." 


Hewitt asks Kluster, his boss, what the CBS News position is?


And as the CBS News President goes to answer, he looks first to Caparelli for approval, signaling the hierarchy. 


And Caparelli takes the baton, explaining that they have to check on this claim of tortious interference before they air the piece.


And as she explains this, Plummer has Wallace look at her like her reasons aren't worth the gum on his shoe.


But now Caparelli turns the threats from an outside party to her own, terming the segment "already rife with problems", and opening a binder as she says to visually underscore the supposed rifeness.


Now she has Bergman's attention. "What does that mean?"


"'Rife with?'" Bergman repeats as he leans forward, readying for conference room battle.



She explains that "unusual promises" were made to their client, which Bergman immediately disputes by saying they merely agreed to hold his story until it was ready to air.


She questions Wigand's veracity.


He explains Wigand's veracity was good enough for the state of Mississippi.


She explains that their "standards have to be higher than anyone else's because we are the standard for everyone else." 


"As a standard, I'll hang with, 'Is this guy telling the truth?'"


Gershon's smirk is the wicked rebuttal to the quaint notion of "telling the truth", which she then explicates further. "Well, with tortious interference, the greater the truth, the greater the damage. They own the information he's disclosing. The truer it is, the greater the damage to them. If he lied, he didn't disclose their information. And the damages are smaller."


And this...more than any other, this is the moment I've had rattling around in my head. Confronted with the idea that telling the truth gets you into more trouble than telling lies, Pacino has Bergman pause and look around the room, as if he can't believe here is here and now is now. He asks: "Is this Alice in Wonderland?"


Plummer has Wallace lean forward, quickly, like he's just seized on what he only just realized is the key to the whole case, his interviewing instincts having kicked in. "You said," he says, referring to the earlier statement made by Caperelli, "'on this one.' What about this one?"


She explains that if they air the segment then Brown & Williamson could sue CBS. "At the end of the day, because of your segment, Brown & Williamson could own CBS." And she tops it off not with an expression conveying threat, but this expression, one that communicates a kind of "Aw shucks, if your segment was the reason for all this, gee, wouldn't that suck for your repuations?"


And Pacino has Bergman look not at Caperelli but at Wallace, as if he knows matters of "reputation" are what gnaw at Wallace like nothing else.


Her wristwatch bloops, her scheduled out. "I'm due upstairs," she says.


You can't see it in the still because it's almost imperceptible, but at what is obviously Caperelli's pre-arranged out, Pacino, brilliantly, has Bergman nod, like he's saying 'Of course.' Of course she would flee right at the most delicate moment. That's how they do.


She tells them not to rush to any conclusions because, hey, "We're all CBS."


And as she says "We're all CBS", Mann's handheld camera drifts ever so slightly to the left, to allow space for the CBS "Eye" to enter the frame, as if the "Eye" is watching Caperelli who is watching everyone else.


Then, Caperelli dissolves, as if into a cloud of smoke, like she was never there.


Wallace tells Bergman not to worry, and Plummer gives Pacino a pat on the hand, momentarily reverting to their jocular behavior at the scene's start. "We call the shots around here," Wallace says. 


But Bergman knows that's not true. At least, not anymore, not after today, not from this moment forward. He wins, eventually, of course, he has to, he's the movie's hero, but not really, and he knows it. "You won," his wife tells him later. "Yeah,w hat'd I win?" he asks. It's at this moment, in this frame, regardless of what may come, that Bergman already knows he, and his industry, have lost.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Five Actors To Play The Next Bourne Movie Governmental Antagonist

The Bourne movies are defined, obviously, by Jason Bourne, the brainwashed black ops karate master played by Matt Damon, except for "The Bourne Legacy" where he was played by Jeremy Renner. Yet these movies are equally defined by Jason Bourne's obligatory governmental antagonist, or occasionally part-sympathizer, played by an impressive list of heavyweights, like Chris Cooper, Brian Cox, Joan Allen, David Straithairn, and Edward Norton. The most recent entry to this governmental antagonist list, featured in the forthcoming "Jason Bourne", opening this week, will be played by the none other than the infamously irascible Tommy Lee Jones. And it got us to thinking. It got us to thinking about who will play the governmental antagonist in the next Bourne movie...say, "Bourne Again"? Listicle!!!

Five Actors To Play The Next Bourne Movie Governmental Antagonist 

Denzel Washington

As the CIA's vaguely defined "Senior Secret Consultant", Washington's Xavier Thirdkill emerges in flashbacks as the man who really trained Bourne, off site, in the Himalayas, Henri Ducard to Bourne's Bruce Wayne. And now that Bourne cannot be stopped, Thirdkill will have to leave the office for the field, a la Darth Vader at the end of the first "Star Wars", meaning we can pit "Bourne Again" as Denzel vs. Damon so that either 1.) Bourne can finally be killed since it's Denzel and Denzel can't lose or 2.) Denzel finally realizes he has found his own Denzel and happily passes the torch so he can retire from action movies.

Jane Kaczmarek

Kaczmarek co-stars as Gillian Gibbs, new chief analytics officer at Polydeuces Credit Union. However, due to several mix-ups up and down the chain of command, Gillian has no idea that Polydeuces is just a CIA front and that the "analytics" department is code for "black ops". Before her first week is over, the hefty file on Jason Bourne has been dropped on her desk since he's just re-appeared on the grid in Zurich and with nothing but guile and endlessly re-fillable travel coffee mug, Gibbs is forced to orchestrate a global pursuit of Jason Bourne without even being able to check her email because the CIA hasn't set up her password yet.

Michael Rapaport

"I've got three words for you, all right? Fuck Jason Bourne. All right? Fuck that guy. And don't lay his backstory guilt trip on me, all right? I don't want hear that sob story bullshit. He's fucked up? Big fucking deal. I got news for you, it's the CIA. We're all fucked up. They pulled me outta my 9th grade statistics class, stuck me in an accelerated intelligence agency program and I haven't been outta this fucking building since. I haven't seen more than forty five minutes of sunlight - TOPS - in forty fucking years, all right. Cry me a fucking river, Jason Bourne. I'm gonna put your whiny ass in a pine box, ya understand? We got six thousand Jason Bournes in this place, it can't be that fucking difficult. You know why it took them so long to kill Jaws? Because they sent one fucking boat! We're gonna send a hundred fucking boats, all right? A hundred aircraft carriers with a hundred nuclear warheads and shoot every single one of them straight up his fucking ass."

Frank Vincent

With the CIA fnally realizing that despite their immense resources they will never be able to stop Jason Bourne, a CIA officer is tasked with making secret contact with a member of the Las Vegas syndicate, Gordon the Gasbag (Kevin Corrigan), who puts them in touch with legendary mafia kingpin Frankie Poblano (Frank Vincent) about making their problem go away. "Get a couple guys and dig a hole in the desert. And when I'm ready, I'll tell you, 'Go get Jason Bourne.' And you make him disappear, you know what I mean?"

A Bunch Of Suits At A Table

Remember the scene in "Zero Dark Thirty" when Leon Panetta gathers a bunch of Important People at a conference table to see who thinks Osama bin Laden is really in that Abbottabad compound? And no one can agree with any exact certainty about whether or not Osama bin Laden is really in that house? And Leon Panetta asks "Do you guys ever agree on anything?"And so rather than "Bourne Again" this will be "The Bourne Compromise" as we follow Bourne making his way toward Langley, evading those sent to dispatch him, who primarily fail because the people back at the conference table can't ever agree on anything. The final scene finds Bourne bursting into the conference room. None of the suits can agree on who should pull their weapon.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Some Drivel On...Point Break

The first time Johnny Utah (Keanu Reeves, charismatically monotone), a Los Angeles cop trying to infiltrate the insular local surfing world in order to unmask a gang of mask-wearing bank robbers who also like to hang ten, meets Bodhi (Patrick Swayze, serenly feisty), it is because the former has run afoul of a gang and the latter swoops in to save him. It really is a damsel in distress situation, just with two guys, male bonding at its most primal, as they quickly unite to make quick work of these sub thugs. Afterwards, Bodhi turns philosophical: “They just want to get radical. It’s mindless aggression. They'll never get it, the spiritual side of it.” I love those lines so much. I’ve used them myself when discussing bros at college football bars in the autumn. And when I saw Kathryn Bigelow’s “Point Break” for the first time as a feeble-minded teen, I marveled over the action sequences, so thrillingly composed, but not much else. I was a kid! I just wanted to get radical. It was mindless aggression. It was awhile before I got the spiritual side of it.


“Point Break” is that rare movie that can appeal as much to the adrenaline junkie just looking to pig out on action movie endorphins as much as it can to the more thoughtful watcher who yearns for subtext. The latter is there for you, truly, if you want to go digging, and some have dug a little, and some have dug a lot. The movie, after all, is nothing if not a portrayal of “ideological contradictions” between the inane bureaucracy of Johnny’s world and the natural righteousness of Bodhi’s world, blue pill or red pill. That, however, has become of less interest to me over the years then Bodhi’s role as the “Bodhisattva”, suggesting that he has postponed nirvana to ensure Johnny’s own awakening. In this light, all the surfing, skydiving and bank robbing sequences become checkpoints on a journey to rebirth, and Bodhi’s conclusion is him finally allowing himself to be liberated.

That conclusion involves the colossal waves of Bells Beach Australia, established in an earlier sequence as the effect of a brewing 50 Year Storm, an event another character dismisses as “kind of a legend.” “No, it’s real,” says Bodhi. “It’s absolutely real.” Swayze invests these lines with a zaniness so earnest that it transcends a scene that is otherwise all about “testosterone”, not an easy feat, but then this is something of the quintessential Swayze role. “Swayze’s purity of purpose,” wrote Dana Stevens of it in her Swayze obituary, “has a deranged grandeur.” And so does the majestic final scene, when Johnny finds Bodhi at Bells and, sure enough, the Fifty Year Storm, its historic surf and the Bodhisattva finally allowing himself to merge with that incommunicable plain atop one towering wave.

Trivia masters like to point out that the Bells Beach showdown with the swells was not actually shot at Bells Beach because the production could not afford it. And so freaking what? Plausibility was never meant to be the defining quality of “Point Break.” If you want to achieve a true state of bliss at the movies, dude, you can’t go around whining about plausibility and “geographical accuracy” and “surfing bank robbers” and “Keanu’s Spicoli-ness” and how “the screenplay’s gaps in logic offset Bigelow’s supreme aesthetic.” Nah, man, that sort of thinking kills the moviegoing spirit, which is the ultimate teaching of “Point Break”.....once, that is, you are ready to accept it.

When you do, you’ll know: “It’s real. It’s absolutely real.”

Monday, July 25, 2016

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2

And so “The Hunger Games” Trilogy, plus one, finally comes to pass. “Mockingjay Part 2” follows, expectedly, “Mockingjay Part 1”, the latter an invigorating upping of the stakes in post-apocalyptic Panem in which the whole land’s favorite Hunger Games contestant, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), was conscripted by the Alma Coin (Julianne Moore) spurred rebellion to help overthrow the dastardly regime of President Snow (Donald Sutherland). Though it ended strongly, it also just, like, ended, suddenly, without concrete resolution, because it had to, because they had to stretch it out into two parts, not for any storytelling reasons, really, just for box office reasons, because this is Hollywood and box office is greater than storytelling. So it probably goes without saying that “Mockingjay Part 2” feels stretched too thin, padded with superfluous action scenes and running a little over two hours because longer means “epic”, or something.


That’s not to imply that “Mockingjay Part 2” is a boondoggle. No, it opens well in opening where it left off, with Katniss’s one-time ally and fiancé Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) locked in solitary confinement on account of having been brainwashed by the government forces into killing Katniss. He’s trying to get his mind right, but that’s not easy, and anyway, there isn’t time because the rebels have to strike at the capital and President Snow while the iron is hot. So the upstarts hijack some serious weaponry and make haste. That is not, however, the track director Francis Lawrence’s film follows, at least not at first, welcomingly adhering to “Part 1’s” exploration of war as propaganda. We stay off the front lines to follow a small rebel group, with both Katniss and Peeta, who needs to be there for media reasons, re-staging action scenes to sell to the masses, like they are John Huston at The Battle of San Pietro. Meanwhile President Snow retaliates with his own misinformation communiques, as “Part 2” seems to be shaping up as a battle of behind-the-scenes persuasion rather than on-location bloodshed.

That changes as the small band encounters booby traps eliciting all manner of special effects, like tidal wave-y black tar, which precipitates an escape into the sewers, where they fend off some horde of CGI creations, and then become determined to break into the capital to assassinate President Snow. Like “Part 1”, action sequences are not the film’s forte, feeling suspiciously like filler, oddly comatose in all their faux-grandeur in spite of being so oppressively noisy, and there are more of them here than the first one as “Part 2” eventually loses interest in exploring how individuals in positions of power can manipulate the masses to tie everything up through big set pieces. Still, always lurking in the background is the idea that Alma Coin is something of a Lady Macbeth to her own Macbeth, scheming for the throne once she kicks Snow off of it, which briefly, tantalizing suggests that his big-budgeted Hollywood opus will actually go full-blown tragedy.

Whether that happens or not, I will let you find out for yourself, though I assume you have an idea. And anyway, if you’ve made it to “Part 2” you know this is as much about Katniss and Peeta’s Will They? or Won’t They? claptrap as political scheming. Perhaps claptrap is too strong a word. After all, their relationship throughout the movies was based less on love than playing their own version of Hunger Love Games, as if they were Panem’s Hiddleswift, concocting a narrative to appease Panem’s demands, their so-called love based as much on the political winds as affairs of the heart. But as the film’s scope widened and its ideology deepened from the first movie to the third (fourth), their relationship more and more came to resemble background noise amidst so many bigger fish to fry between Katniss and Snow and Alma.

Lawrence’s performance, too, as she became a pawn, and fought back against being a pawn, became more dour, as if Katniss was less interested in victory, per se, than in all this crap being over. And so, when the true reckoning of “The Hunger Games” arrives, it’s supposed to be when this series born of fakery and propaganda instituted by each side to cajole everyone else into doing what they want to do, is finally supposed to leave the ersatz behind for the genuine, for true love to bloom in full. Alas, it does not. It feels as forced as a Charles and Diana public appearance. The end is the fakest moment in the series.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Friday's Old Fashioned: On an Island with You (1948)

“On An Island With You” opens with Rosalind Reynolds (Esther Williams) doing the backstroke through an idyllic lagoon while an apparent captain in the armed forces, Ricardo Montez (Ricardo Montalban), leans against a tree, crooning a tune and strumming a ukulele, though it turns out he’s not just serenading Esther but serenading Yvonne Toro (Chyd Charise) too. Then, we realize this is merely a Hollywood production, some sort of vaguely defined movie within a movie, which is a pretty shrewd strategic move. Esther Williams movies were less about the story than the show tunes and bouts of aquatic merriment during show tunes, and so having your movie of show tunes and bouts of aquatic merriment during show tunes be about making a movie of show tunes and bouts of aquatic merriment during show tunes sounds like the best of both worlds.


Sounds like it, I said, because director Richard Thorpe chooses to overly focus on story – story!!! – ballooning a begging-to-be 75 minute trifle to 107 minutes instead, bogging down the movie with the presence of Lt. Lawrence Kingslee (Peter Lawford), a military advisor to the movie within a movie, who fell in love with Rosalind during a USO Tour and now aims to win her hand in marriage, even though she’s engaged to Ricardo, a classic love triangle that packs minimal heat and even less entertainment value. Esther Williams had her charms as an actress but she needed something or someone to play off of and in this scenario gets neither. Instead she gets a barely invested Lawford who spends the entire movie reciting his lines as he’s absent-mindedly saying them while sitting in a hot tub. At the same time, the screenplay by Charles Martin and Hans Wilhelm forgets it needs to make Ricardo an unlikable character until Rosalind suddenly needs a reason to love Lawrence and then hastily tries to turn us against Ricardo by making up some baggage on the fly. But who even knows why she loves Lawrence in the first place. While having dinner one night Lawrence tells Rosalind to take her last bite, “like a good girl.” “You would have made a good mother,” she says. “I was thinking the same about you,” he replies. Wait, the mother for his hypothetical kids or his mother?

“On an Island with You” takes its title from the sequence in which Rosalind and Lawrence wind up stranded on an island where she will ostensibly finally fall for his charms. Of course, they only become stranded there because Lawrence actively absconds with her, which sounds an awful lot like being held against your will. That probably would have flown if these scenes had any sort of amusing earnestness, but they don’t. It’s the weirdest thing: he’s not trying to make her fall in love with him, he simply expects her to reciprocate his own love, as if he’s entitled to it. You keep wishing she’d just sock him in the jaw and swim away.

What’s more, the movie itself seems to know just how little bounce there is to this stranded-on-an-island storyline, considering that it doesn’t show up until the movie’s mid-portion and then cuts back a couple times to action in the main location which betrays the film’s casting of Jimmy Durante to prop up a few Esther Williams-less scenes, and even goes so far as to add a dream sequence on the island to ensure that we don’t go too long without a song and an aquatic ballet, as if it inherently knows no one is watching for the story and yet cannot help but keep sticking to it anyway.

Though “On an Island with You” is the kind of movie that benefited handsomely from Technicolor, and as such probably looked real good on a legit big screen, it also made me think that it would have been right at home in the Youtube era, when Esther and everyone else could have just said good riddance to the piddling narrative, sang, swam and danced, recorded it, and uploaded it to the Internet. There's music! There's dancing! There's romance! And all in five minute bursts at a time! What else do you need?!

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Tiffany Trump, a Sofia Coppola Film

“She has a decided predilection for showing empty moments in human lives and deals with characters who continually expose the void within themselves.” This is how Anna Rogers described Sofia Coppola’s oeuvre in a wonderful analysis of the impeccable director in 2007 for Senses of Cinema, and I thought of that line as I watched Tiffany Trump, daughter of Donald and Marla Maples, speak this past Tuesday night at the Republican National Convention. The twenty-two year old Tiffany, recent graduate of Penn, California resident as opposed to an east coaster like her father and three half-siblings, was tasked with imparting the notion that her pops is a family man, enlisted to soften the bronzed ogre who once told Buzzfeed “Marla used to say, ‘I can’t believe you’re not walking Tiffany down the street,’ you know in a carriage. Right, I’m gonna be walking down Fifth Avenue with a baby in a carriage. It just didn’t work.”

That guy, however, the one that wouldn’t walk down Fifth Avenue with a baby carriage bearing his own flesh and blood, still seemed to emerge, inadvertently but tellingly, in Tiffany’s speech. Where some people claimed to see humanization in Tiffany’s slight anecdotes about her father, Ruth Graham of Slate saw a “sad, vague tribute”, “praise (that) was edged with sadness: He’s good with advice, (Tiffany) said, but ‘he keeps it short.’” “It’s telling,” Claire Landsbaum observed for The Cut, “that neither anecdote she chose to include actually involves her father’s physical presence.” That might be attributed to Marla choosing to move her daughter across the country to California, but then Donald is the same guy that flew to the Iowa State Fair last year to take other kids for rides on his helicopter, and I can’t help but wonder if Tiffany caught that footage on the NBC Evening News and wondered why her dad never took her for rides in his luxurious whirlybird. “Her father,” Graham notes, “doesn’t follow her on Twitter, and he rarely mentions her.” And if that sounds like maudlin millennial nonsense (waaaaah! He doesn’t follow me on Twitter!), well hey, it kinda is, a signal of what constitutes important values in these ludicrous times, where even if Tiffany has a vaunted Snap Pack, she can’t get a follow from dear old Dad.



The pain that a lack of a Twitter follow might cause is something that seems ripe for a Sofia Coppola movie, since she is a skillful chronicler of both the toll of emotional isolation and the moneyed morose, whether it’s the young Queen of France suddenly plunked down in Versailles where she doesn’t know a soul or a confused newlywed sitting on a window ledge overlooking the expanse of Tokyo, inundated with people yet all alone. And Coppola observes her characters, Rogers writes for Senses of Cinema, “Through the use of dead time, liminal images that hang between dream and reality, a wandering and restless camera-eye that mirrors the gaze of the protagonists, and discrepancies between visual and sound tracks, crisis can be directly translated into the image.” And the story of Tiffany Trump, which has been less documented than her attention-craving father’s, now eking out in various details scattered across the cyber-megacosm, comes across readymade for Sofia’s image-heavy style, a perfect aesthetic to expose the void within her subject.

Think of the recording session of Tiffany’s ill-fated pop ditty “Like a Bird” that has been making the unfortunate Interwebs rounds, a song with nothingness posing as lyrics and swathed in autotune, so much that you leave it with less of a feel for who Tiffany Trump is than you had before cranking it, and which I imagine Sofia transforming into less of a cruelly funny “You’ve Got the Touch” and more the improbable melancholy of “More Than This.” Think of Tiffany missing her mother’s appearance on “Dancing with the Stars” to stay at school and study, which sounds like the sort of existential crisis only the rich & famous know, but that I have no doubt Sofia could translate into something uniquely heartbreaking, Erin Andrews chortling on the TV while Tiffany wistfully looks on, a Romanesque art book in her lap. And Coppola would wring genuine ache from places where seemingly none should be found, putting Tiffany side by side with the storefront window of Tiffany & Company, for whom she was named, in the dying afternoon light, rendering rich girl tragedy.

Still, no image could carry more impact than the one broadcast across the nation on Tuesday, one so supremely cinematic that it momentarily transcended the rageful space in which it occurred, moving me in a way I found as beautiful as I did strange. You can be alone, of course, amidst the multitudes, and that’s what Tiffany Trump was, specifically standing up for a man who couldn’t even bother to be there, projecting himself instead on a video screen from the comfort of New York, which is where he’s always been while his daughter has always been somewhere else. After the speech, scribes inevitably weighed in on how well Tiffany did or did not do. I wondered if her Dad might pull up those Internet report cards, scribble a few notes and send them to his daughter by email.