ANTHONY LANE

I’m a total geek: instead of having rock star crushes, I turn over room in my heart to film critics. Luckily, the cine-phile crush I’m referring to is not Margaret or David or any of the middle-aged movie mafia in Australia, but Anthony Lane, the film dude for the
New Yorker. My crush is a text-only thing (and I don’t mean that in Shane Warne SMS-affair kinda way, I get a heady thrill out of reading Anthony Lane’s reviews, but that’s all. I’m not drooling over photos of him I’ve harvested through Google or plotting how to pole-vault myself into his life, it’s all about the words. But damn, what good words they are!)

And accordingly, I’m resorting to the geeky, lazy-ass way of explaining why I like something: lists.

A LIST OF RANDOM BUT WORTHY ANTHONY LANE SNIPPETS

THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA
The Phantom, for example, keeps swishing his cloak to one side at random intervals, like Batman getting rid of a bad smell. To be fair, his singing voice has its own melodious texture, which is sure to revive fond memories for anybody who has worked in a marble-grinding factory.

HIDDEN
To some degree, Hidden is a cat-and-mouse thriller, the only problem being that mouse and cat insist on swapping roles.

THE DA VINCI CODE
“A half-eaten power lunch,” one of the saddest phrases I have ever heard

STAR WARS: EPISODE III
Anakin keeps having problems with his dark side, in the way that you or I might suffer from tennis elbow, but Yoda, whose reptilian smugness we have been encouraged to mistake for wisdom, has the answer. “Train yourself to let go of everything you fear to lose,” he says. Hold on, Kermit, run that past me one more time. If you ever ... spawned a brood of Yodettes, are you saying that you’d leave them behind at the first sniff of danger? Also, while we’re here, what’s with the screwy syntax? Deepest mind in the galaxy, apparently, and you still express yourself like a day-tripper with a dog-eared phrase book. “I hope right you are.” Break me a fucking give.

HARRY POTTER
Now fourteen ... Harry's voice, like that of his best friend, Ron (Rupert Grint), sounds like the mating cry of an oboe.

INSIDE MAN
The more it sags as a thriller, the more it jabs and jangles as a study of racial abrasion. A hostage is released, and an armed cop shouts, “He’s an Arab!” The hostage replies, “I’m a Sikh,” and you can hear the weariness at the edges of his fear. Another hostage is quizzed by Frazier about his name: “Is that Albanian?” “It’s Armenian,” the man explains. “What’s the difference?” Frazier asks, not that he cares either way. It is these small, peppery incidents of strife—far more than the stridency of recent [Spike] Lee projects like “Bamboozled” and “She Hate Me”—that show the director at his least abashed and most tuned to current anxieties, and that mark him out, for all the fluency of his camera, as the anti-Renoir of our time. “Grand Illusion” offered the ennobling suggestion that national divisions were delusory, and that our common humanity can throw bridges across any social gulf. To which Lee would reply, Nice idea. Go tell it to the guy who just had his turban pulled off by the cops.

Lee Tran Lam

Baby Spinach, October 2006