In which a group of graying eternal amateurs discuss their passions, interests and obsessions, among them: movies, art, politics, evolutionary biology, taxes, writing, computers, these kids these days, and lousy educations.

E-Mail Donald
Demographer, recovering sociologist, and arts buff

E-Mail Fenster
College administrator and arts buff

E-Mail Francis
Architectural historian and arts buff

E-Mail Friedrich
Entrepreneur and arts buff
E-Mail Michael
Media flunky and arts buff

We assume it's OK to quote emailers by name.

Try Advanced Search

  1. Seattle Squeeze: New Urban Living
  2. Checking In
  3. Ben Aronson's Representational Abstractions
  4. Rock is ... Forever?
  5. We Need the Arts: A Sob Story
  6. Form Following (Commercial) Function
  7. Two Humorous Items from the Financial Crisis
  8. Ken Auster of the Kute Kaptions
  9. What Might Representational Painters Paint?
  10. In The Times ...

Sasha Castel
AC Douglas
Out of Lascaux
The Ambler
Modern Art Notes
Cranky Professor
Mike Snider on Poetry
Silliman on Poetry
Felix Salmon
Polly Frost
Polly and Ray's Forum
Stumbling Tongue
Brian's Culture Blog
Banana Oil
Scourge of Modernism
Visible Darkness
Thomas Hobbs
Blog Lodge
Leibman Theory
Goliard Dream
Third Level Digression
Here Inside
My Stupid Dog
W.J. Duquette

Politics, Education, and Economics Blogs
Andrew Sullivan
The Corner at National Review
Steve Sailer
Joanne Jacobs
Natalie Solent
A Libertarian Parent in the Countryside
Rational Parenting
Colby Cosh
View from the Right
Pejman Pundit
God of the Machine
One Good Turn
Liberty Log
Daily Pundit
Catallaxy Files
Greatest Jeneration
Glenn Frazier
Jane Galt
Jim Miller
Limbic Nutrition
Innocents Abroad
Chicago Boyz
James Lileks
Cybrarian at Large
Hello Bloggy!
Setting the World to Rights
Travelling Shoes

Redwood Dragon
The Invisible Hand
Daze Reader
Lynn Sislo
The Fat Guy
Jon Walz


Our Last 50 Referrers

« Painter Babes | Main | The Wolfe That Doesn't Prowl »

April 07, 2008

DVD Journal: "The Devil Wears Prada"

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

A month into ownership of a ritzy new HDTV, I'm still in the grips of HDTV-mania. So far it has been the technology that devoured my brain. If it's on HDTV, I'll watch it. Let me cite as evidence ...


The Devil Wears Prada. I don’t usually bother with what I think of as mall movies, let alone chicklit movies. So I watched this adapatation of Lauren Weisberger’s novel about an earnest girl who tumbles into a job working for the editrix of a Vogue-like magazine in a state of complete stupefaction. Are there really movies that exist -- and that are meant to be experienced -- on only one level? Is it possible for a movie to spell out everything it's about in bold tones? And is this really the kind of thing that mainstream America considers to be entertainment? Help me emigrate now.

At the same time, I couldn’t help feeling some admiration. The professionalism level is high, and the film does indeed hit all its marks, if 'way too hard. But what kept me watching -- aside from the brain-paralyzing hyper-clarity of the HDTV image -- was the way the actors pitch in with such good-natured enthusiasm. As the bright young woman in a bind, Anne Hathaway is adorable; she’s half sophisticated Euro-tragedienne, half Jersey girl. Meryl Streep scores confidently with her weirdly quiet portrayal of an editor willing to sacrifice everything for her career. Stanley Tucci (wearing Philip Johnson eyeglasses) is likable and amusing as the magazine’s style chief. And, as Hathaway’s rival assistant, Emily Blunt shows a lot of high-style comic flair.

Best of all, everybody involved seems to have done their homework. If in a sitcommy way, the film does a genuinely good job of conveying what the loftier rungs of the women’s-mag world look and feel like. I have friends working in the glossy style field, and the film's portrayal of how tense, glam, and high-strung those lives are is right on the money.

Still, this is me ... Me ... Michael Blowhard ... A longtime film maniac whose current cinema passion is Japanese "Pinky Violence" movies ... And I just sat through "The Devil Wear Prada" ... [Sob]

Damn you, HDTV. Somebody stop me before I turn that machine on again.

Semi-related: I raved about Anne Hathaway in "Havoc," and about Emily Blunt in "My Summer of Love." Anne Hathaway confides that finding the right shoes helps her get in character.



posted by Michael at April 7, 2008


Agreed, across the board.

Well, about DWP--HDTV kindasorta freaks me out.

I found the book in The BF's library (!) and read it, trainwreck-style. Meaning, I could not put it down b/c it was such a freakshow trainwreck. Dreadful pap.

That the actors managed to do as good a job as they did with that material is testament to their genius. Esp., I thought, the levels that Streep and Blunt brought to their characters.

One of those movies that makes me sooooo glad I'm not acting anymore. Because, I mean, really: to this, we aspire. Meh.

Posted by: communicatrix on April 7, 2008 1:15 AM

My one real takeaway from The Devil Wears Prada was that Anne Hathaway is positively luscious. So on your recommendation, I watched Havoc. Yum, Anne - ripe, coltish, overflowing yet WASPishly constrained. What a combo! Reminds me of Laura Dern in Blue Velvet. But what a crappy film - I ended up turning off the sound and fast-forwarding to the sexy scenes, the video equivalent of browsing in a glossy magazine.

Prada kind of reminds me of Fast Times at Ridgemont High, the way it skitters across the surface of an exotic (to me) social setting.

Posted by: robert on April 7, 2008 4:10 AM

On a technical note, do you have an HD DVD player? If not, then the images displayed by your HDTV, no matter how impressive, are not high definition in terms of resolution.

Posted by: Peter L. Winkler on April 7, 2008 4:27 AM

I'm going to buy a flat screen HD TV with my rebate check.

I've really lost interest in movies. Now, this is pretty weird to say, because I work in video... although most of the video I produce is for corporate clients.

Perhaps I've just lost my mind, but the fakery of the novel story reproduced into a movie no longer works for me. I can barely watch a movie any more without thinking:

"That isn't really 19th century England populated by real folks going about their business. It's just a set populated by actors. And not a very convincing one at that."

In other words, verisimilitude ain't working for me any more. I barely know why this happened or when it happened. I've even begun to resent the phoniness of pretending in this way. The kid actors are very unconvincing. I'm not saying they're unprofessional. They are gloriously professional. They grew up in a boring, soft, rich, uneventful world, and it shows. I can never quite believe that they are experiencing the travails presented in the movie.

What I will watch is TV. Few people remark upon it, but TV programming has improved tremendously. I watch the History and Travel Channels, sometimes even the Military Channel. Incredibly well-produced documentaries! And, of course, I will watch sports. Discovery also has some very good programs, particularly the ones that delve into people's jobs.

This is a golden era of animation. The Simpsons, Hank Hill, and South Park are often just amazing. Only in the field of animated drama do I see any deep insight. Outside of these animated dramas, everything is the glitzy PC world of Hollywood.

Am I the only one experiencing these weird phenomena? For some time, I've distrusted the metaphor of substituting a fake world of drama as a supposed illumination of the "real" world. I don't even know when or how this started.

Years ago, I was interested in costume dramas, novels... all that sort of stuff. Now, I regard it as a form of sometimes harmless and sometimes venomous way of lying.

I don't think I'm the only one. Although I don't watch reality TV, I suspect that the same dynamic is at work. The future in multimedia is, of course, the holodeck. And, the holodeck will place the viewer in the role of actor. I can hardly wait. I no longer identify with the character who's supposed to represent me in the third person narrative.

Posted by: Shouting Thomas on April 7, 2008 8:56 AM

Communicatrix -- Fun to hear about the book, tks. So far I haven't read a single chicklit novel. I keep promising myself to catch up with "Bridget Jones," since it was obviously some kind of popular-fiction watershed book. Do you normally go for chicklit? Are there titles you thought were pretty good? I know what you mean about reading in a trainwreck kind of way. Not enough people 'fess up to those sorts of book experiences.

Robert -- She's amazing to look at, isn't she? And she even has some daring as an actress.

Peter L.: I'm looking forward to being able to afford a Blu-Ray player. The DVDs I've watched so far have been upconverted on a good Sony DVD player -- part of what eats the brain up is just the size of the image. But "Prada" actually was in HD -- I recorded it onto the hard drive off of CineMaxHD, I think it was. Scary how easy it was. I'm actually thinking of telling the cable company to stop giving me CinemaxHD, ShowtimeHD, etc. Have you gone HDTV yet? I didn't want to for another few years myself, but then our old Sony conventional TV broke, and then broke again.

ST -- I know what you mean about movies. I wonder if it's a function of age. It's a cliche in the books world that people lose interest in fiction with age, and read ever more nonfiction. Maybe that happens more generally. I'm with you in being amazed by how many good documentaries are on TV. The hour (or two-hour) long documentary is bliss, I find. Just the right length, and if it's well-done too it's hard to beat. "Modern Marvels" rules, as far as I'm concerned. I've watched dozens and dozens of episodes, and I've only not-finished two or three or them. Are there doc series you especially like?

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on April 7, 2008 9:39 AM

Perhaps age is a factor. The same issues bother me about political discourse. When people start talking about ideal solutions, or their visions of how the world ought to be, I invariably think: "What the hell? This world isn't good enough for you? Memo to God... Please remake entire universe to the specifications of [fill in the blanks]."

I especially like the "How It's Made" series on Discovery. What does fascinate me is the ability of engineers and manufacturers to make their creative visions real. The "Dirty Jobs" series is often also very good. Mike Rowe has become the de facto voice of Discovery. He's funny, witty and he genuinely likes the good old boys he interviews.

On the Travel Channel, the "Exotic Foods" and "No Reservations" programs are very good. The host of "Exotic Foods", Andrew, is a fat likeable doofus. Since I'll be traveling to the Philippines soon, I'm getting a real kick out of watching him eat his way through Southeast Asia. The host of "No Reservations" is something of a New York City asshole. Oddly, there's something interesting about seeing Russia or Vietnam through the eyes of a stereotypical New York asshole.

The "Living with the Mek" series on the Travel Channel was superb. The Karaoake Queen and I were glued to the set. Myrna grew up almost in the Stone Age, so I had heard endless stories about tribal life. The Mek are very much like us, and very much unlike us. Their solution to infidelity: the cuckolded husband can fine the offender one pig. I thought that this was a very civilized solution.

Posted by: Shouting Thomas on April 7, 2008 10:20 AM

I liked Prada because it revealed the amazingly shallow ideals of the fashion trade. (I had hoped this would be the case.) It unfolded like the trashy pages of a fifties schlock tabloid. Materialism in. Materialism out. My wife's late mother went to see the film at our urging and we eagerly asked what she thought of the film. Just as expected, she went on and on about the clothes and accessories. The hollow lives of the characters had not fazed her.


Posted by: Charlton Griffin on April 7, 2008 10:42 AM

MichaelB and chicklit? No way! Diary of Bridget Jones is just another Pride and Prejudice retelling, and not one of the better ones.
In the same genre, try Jane Austen in Scarsdale (a very funny modernization of Persuasion) by Paula Marantz.

Posted by: Julie Brook on April 7, 2008 2:10 PM

I watch movies for all different kinds of reasons - sometimes I just want to look at pretty clothes and pretty apartments, sometimes I want to take a trip down memory lane (I recently watched Play it Again Sam, er, again, mainly for the early 70s clothes and furnishings. I do this all the time).

I liked this movie because for a Gen X'er like me, who was raised, pop culture-wise, on the Boomers 30-something ideas about women and work, it felt a tiny bit subversive. You mean work, especially high-flown high-acheiving work isn't everything? You mean you can break the glass ceiling and still feel, well, like those men who go high up in a company and don't even know their own kids? And how gentle Anne Hathaways' milleneal (?sp) character is - no anger or bitterness toward her elders. Interesting, no? A Boomer or Gen Xer would have been all contempt for the older woman, but not this young one. She felt sympathy and concern. Again, interesting, no?

*Apparently, the fashionistas thought the fashion was dated but glad to know your crew thought the movie had some authenticity.

Posted by: MD on April 7, 2008 2:42 PM

Wanna know what the last watershed movie was, at least regarding young ingenue leading ladies?

"Sabrina", 1954, Audrey Hepburn, William Holden, Humphrey Bogart (of all people). Actually, its not even really one of my favorites of Hepburn's movies, but the whole "make the plain thing over into a fashion plate and find a new job and a new guy, but realize you liked the old guy" was thoroughly DONE in that film, and everybody else appears like a pathetically pale imitation. Funny....Hepburn maintained a first-tier film career all the way til 38....and managed to evolve, while her all these youngsters after her have never really come close to her. And as far as the shallowness of the fashion world, done MUCH more entertainingly and throroughly in "Funny Face", with Kaye Thompson as the doyenne editor MUCH funnier than Streep. The movie had simply been made already, and better.

Posted by: annette on April 7, 2008 4:30 PM

"Have you gone HDTV yet?"

Nope, and I won't replace my TV unless it stops working. I've lost my passion for movies years ago and my technophiliac interest in video has also been reduced to burnt embers.

Once in a while, I'll filter out all the dreck and cautiously Netflix a DVD of a new film, and I'm almost invariably disappointed. Most recently, said cause of disappointment was No Country for Old Men, which had ridiculous plot problems and left me completely unsatisfied. The last movie I found moderately entertaining was The Hoax. I had hoped that documentaries would be a better source for entertainment, but the only three out of many that were any good were No Maps for These Territories, Overnight, and a German documentary from several years ago about James Ellroy.

I get so little pleasure from movies and TV that it makes no sense to spend anything more on the display technology.

Posted by: Peter L. Winkler on April 7, 2008 7:03 PM

The actors back then, before the great break, before the '60s, were adults. Two names are enough to make the point: Robert Ryan and Barbara Stanwick: both completely adult in a way that is impossible today.

Oh, there are adults in real life, but not in Hollywood. Perpetual adolescents, that's what they are now. Think Spencer Tracy. Completely at home in adulthood. Then think Jack Nicholson.

That's why, though movies were as cliche predictable back then as they are now, they carried an adult charge which made them viewable by adults. That is simply no longer the case.

Posted by: ricpic on April 7, 2008 10:12 PM

I really like Spencer Tracy the actor. Off screen, he was a binge drinker who fairly openly cheated on his wife and may also have had gay sex with hustlers invited to director George Cukor's infamous Sunday parties.

Not very adult behavior, that.

Nicholson has considerably eroded his good will with me through years of self-parodistic roles, but he has been and can be an excellent, highly authentic and enjoyable performer to watch. His personal behavior does not recommend itself to me, but then again, he's never pretended to anything like sainthood.

Posted by: Peter L. Winkler on April 8, 2008 6:39 AM

I saw this movie on a plane. It was the right place to see it - I wouldn't have watched it otherwise - and I was fittingly entertained.

Your remarks about it are spot on, Michael, as usual, although I don't find anything especially memorable or appealing about Ms. Hathaway.

Posted by: green mamba on April 8, 2008 8:58 AM

I agree with green mamba. My SO insists on watching these things occasionally, so I'm exposed to them. Frankly, I thought it fell below the level of the average Sex and the City episode.

Posted by: Peter L. Winkler on April 8, 2008 7:30 PM

Post a comment

Email Address:



Remember your info?