Saturday, August 16, 2008

Tropic Thunder

Those of you with a deep familiarity with this pages know that I have a profound emotional link to The New York Times. I'll spare you the details other than to say that my ex-wife once said to my friend Earl that "Geoff has turned drinking coffee and reading the Sunday Times into an art form."

I think it was the nicest thing she ever said about me.

Anyway, despite my admiration for the newspaper and the institution, sometimes you have to admit it has a bit of a stick up its ass. I refer specifically to its rather nasty review of Ben Stiller's "Tropic Thunder." It goes, in part:
What’s most notable about the film’s use of blackface is how much softer it is compared with the rather more vulgar and far less loving exploitation of what you might call Jewface. Hands down the most noxious character in “Tropic Thunder” is Les Grossman, the producer of the movie-within-a-movie, who’s played by an almost unrecognizable Tom Cruise under a thick scum of makeup and latex. Heavily and heavy-handedly coded as Jewish, the character is murderous, repellent and fascinating, a grotesque from his swollen fingers to the heavy gold dollar sign nestled on his yeti-furred chest.
C'mon, lighten up Manohla. Maybe you were the wrong person to be assigned to this one. Me? After living in New York City for more than half my life I consider myself at least partly Jewish simply as a function of osmosis. And I literally couldn't stop laughing every moment Tom Cruise was on the screen.

Which, given my antipathy for Cruise, is an odd thing to say. Oy gevalt!

"Tropic Thunder" is the best movie of the year. There--now that's a review. Hyperbolic, perhaps. But as accurate in its own way as The Times'.

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