Arts+Culture

Arts+Culture

We Are the Eighth Day, © Melanie Weidner

Film

Sweeney Todd: TheDemonBarber of Fleet Street

Unlikely as it sounds, director Tim Burton missed all the jokes in Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. The origins of the celebrated 1979 musical, written by Stephen Sondheim in collaboration with Hugh Wheeler, lie in the vaudeville-style English music hall tradition and in 19th-century penny dreadfuls.
Poetry

Self-examination

This is the last outrage, what women do
in secret, slipping their fingers under bras or nightgowns
on wild, moon-driven nights, needing to true
the circle of their breasts, wanting to lunge
below desire, beneath arousal and beyond
the sweet milk-happiness of feeding children
to find the nuclear godawful contraband
their bodies might be hiding—the refrain
danger, danger, singing in their minds.

At dusk I slip into a pew, enthralled,
alert, combing through the week to find
what might destroy me, to send it away.
Lawyer, accused, bent to root out scandal,
my hands judging. And also, maybe guilty.

Poetry

John the Baptist at a country tent meeting, Jesus comes

Can you tell me what to want now? I can’t
go on, no turning back. We’d sing, “Jesus
on the main line, tell him what you want. Just
call him up, tell him what you want, what you want.”
But these six months, they came to me, I tell you—
tire tracks and footsteps flattened the grass ’round
the green tent—my words made such sound
toward the crowd—they bent, repented. But I knew
I was nothing, I just stalled in the river’s flow.
I waited for you, tensed as a dog’s hind leg
crouching before bread crusts and melon rinds.
Miz Black yowls “Call him up, call him up now!”
But you’re here, and I’m blown, a cattail’s sag,
I am birds dispersed—pepper in the wind.
Film

There Will Be Blood

I often tell screenwriting students not to avoid the difficult scene. By “difficult scene” I mean one involving a serious confrontation, a declaration of love or infidelity, or a confession of sin or weakness. These are scenes that lesser writers try to work around, since they are so difficult to write. But these scenes are the cornerstones of a meaningful story.
Film

No Country for Old Men

Joel and Ethan Coen accomplish what Cormac McCarthy set out to do in his bombastic 2005 novel No Country for Old Men. The movie by the same name is a portrait of the moral void of post-Vietnam America (it’s set in 1980). The title, which implies a nostalgia for vanished old-world values, is taken from Yeats’s poem “Sailing to Byzantium.”