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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
where’s alfreddy who cuts your grass or lifts your rake when you’re not looking and where’s the reliable gunfire from the deuce-eights’ section eight doorways down on twenty-eighth on this last day of August lavender all rotted at the bottom splayed across the concrete walk as you sit barefoot on the porch steps and watch without a thought honeybees and bumblebees ascend and drop in praise of higher fragrances and offer thanks there’s no parade today for trayvon on your street named mlk jr way because you’re that weary
so for this moment with this breath you God bless the bees
“Our best college students are very good at being critical. In fact being smart, for many, means being critical,” says Wesleyan University president Michael S. Roth. In the last half century an emphasis in education on inquiry has been reduced to exposing error and undermining belief. Not only does this stance not get college graduates very far later in life, “fetishizing disbelief as a sign of intelligence” has diminished our culture. Liberal learning, argues Roth, should have an equal commitment to finding meaning in culture and becoming absorbed in creative and compelling work (New York Times, May 10).