School's Out; Allergies In

Just imagine Your Dames as tiny little extras singing along to Alice Cooper

Ughhhh, school’s out but you know what’ still in? ALLERGIES. In our sinuses & eyeballs & eustachian tubes & honestly, we are very pro-tenants’ rights, but we would dearly love to evict these inflammatory so-and-sos, like, three weeks ago. The most we can manage for our traditional exuberant opener this week is a tenuous link between start of summer break classic Dazed and Confused and our loathing of pollen. That’s it, that’s all we’ve got here, just hoist a kleenex in our direction & head on to the main event!

Dame Sophie’s Exuberant Link Bouquet

Some from the hothouse, some from an obliging field

  • This week in Before You Came Into My Life, I Missed You So Bad, Julio Torres, whose HBO series Los Espookys has its debut this weekend, is the funniest man I didn’t know was making me laugh. Sure, I loved his SNL digital shorts like Diego Calls His Mom and Papyrus, but I didn’t realize that they were both his stuff. And until I read that Vulture profile, I was wholly unfamiliar with the comedy-noir genius of Cheques or his Halloween costume ideas. I love his drolly halting, deadpan delivery of weird, not-entirely-joke jokes, and I also love spooky stuff that’s more about lavish weirdness and exploring the silly corners of horror than about scaring you, all of which is to say: Los Espookys, I can’t wait to watch you! Also, I’m working on my Torres-recommended Raccoon Foolishly Wearing All The Diamonds She Stole costume for October. A little over the top smokey eye makeup atop a Holly Golightlyish black cocktail dress I already own, an excess of borrowed rhinestones, and I’m at least 75% of the way there. Thank you, Julio!

  • As an extremely well-behaved eldest child, reading Amelia Bedelia was an exercise in several formative building blocks of my taste and perspective on the world. She was, like me, a shameless praise-craver. Unlike me, a kindergartener obsessed with language and its nuances, she seemed incapable of understanding idioms’ multiple valences, earnestly unaware that her enthusiastic drape-drawing, elaborate chicken-dressing, and exuberant towel-changing were all hilariously wrong. Oh, boy, was she going to get in trouble!! These were books I made my parents re-read aloud to me for a delicious frisson of impossible-seeming anarchy, a feeling I re-created as an independent reader of Beverly Cleary’s Ramona series, which remain straight-up masterpieces of understanding & empathizing with another child who needed the adults in her life to pay attention to her thoughts in order to make her actions (squeezing an entire tube of toothpaste into the sink, yelling GUTS as the worst curse word she can identify) legible. All of which is to say that Sarah Blackwood’s essay for The New Yorker on Amelia Bedelia -- part of the magazine’s monthlong revisitation of 20th century children’s literature -- peered into my very soul and for that I’m both grateful and indignant.

  • Don’t you just love listening to a radio piece that perfectly captures the specific magic of one of your favorite songs? Sam Sanders has delicately recaptured the joyous, melancholy-drenched lightning of Certified Crying On The Dancefloor JamDancing On My Own” back into a bottle you can sip from any time with his contribution to NPR’s American Anthem series. Listen to it as you wait for (NYT-profiled) Mark Ronson’s forthcoming Tears At The Discotheque-themed album Late Night Feelings, out next Friday & thus interpretable as an actual birthday gift from the distractingly well-coiffed Ronson directly to me.

  • Rachel Syme’s Twitter feed is devoted in part to documenting her voracious and insightful reading habits, and I would be lying through the keyboard if I said I wasn’t a tiny bit envious & in awe of her words per day volume. Her taste is sharp, idiosyncratic, and excellent, and her highest praise is to report that her latest read slaps. Sometimes a beloved book bangs, but usually they slap. After keeping very rough track of her recommendations on post-its that never were quite in the right place (always on my desk, whyyyy) at the right time & place (while at the library or bookstore), I decided to create a Rachel Syme Says It Slaps shelf in my Goodreads and if that would be useful for you, have at it. I’ll update it as & when more titles strike my fancy. My most current read from the shelf is Ruth Reichl’s memoir of her years as the Editor-in-Chief of Gourmet magazine, Save Me The Plums. Sadly for me, I’m not quite going to make it to the 50% mark before the library reclaims my e-audiobook, so I’ve already placed another hold on it & will keep my fingers crossed that other readers will make quick work of it. I'd forgotten how much I love Ruth Reichl's voice; both her writing & speaking voices are lovely and companionable, and this memoir is particularly engrossing for me as a lifelong magazine fanatic and publishing gossip connoisseur. It’s lusciously conspiratorial. Oh, it slaps.

  • And finally, a little shopper's alert for skincare devotees: Ulta isn't carrying Algenist products anymore, so now is a very good time to swing by your local store to check their clearance shelves for a true gem, the ALIVE Prebiotic Balancing Mask from Algenist:

It's a mask that doubles as a gentle chemical exfoliant (lactic acid -- you may know her from Good Genes). As you massage it in, it shifts from pale green to pink, and then you rinse it off after 3-5 minutes (or right away if you prefer!). List price: $38. I snagged two jars for $9.50 each. Algenist products aren't even listed on the Ulta website anymore, so you'll have to go to a store to see if they have it. I'd been on the lookout for a better price point than $38 for this one ever since Renée raved about it in her Prebiotic Skin Care video last August. I was concerned that this mask being on clearance meant it was being discontinued, but it's listed as a new item at Sephora, so I have a lively hope that this is just an opportunity to get a higher-end item at a drugstore price. I wish you both good shopping fortune & baby's butt-smooth faces!

Dame Margaret Shouts About LATE NIGHT

Dame Emma Thompson to us, in our wildest and most cherished dreams.

SO, my big topic this week is the new Mindy Kaling-penned and Emma Thompson-starring comedy LATE NIGHT, which I had the good fortune to catch at a press screening two weeks ago and subsequently discuss over at Pop Culture Happy Hour, where opinions on the film diverged widely. While this resulted in what I hope is a fascinating conversation, I do think the debate prevented me from expressing my love for this movie quite as vociferously as I otherwise would have. LUCKILY, I remembered that I have another venue (namely, this newsletter) where I can lavish it with the fulsome praise it provoked in me, and to an audience I think likely to feel the same way about it. My case:

  • This is the movie I wish THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA had been smart enough to be. Do I love THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA? Is the Pope Catholic??? Yes, of course, to both. But, structurally, the story has some issues. It relies on our fascination with Miranda Priestly and her world of Runway magazine, but it cannot entirely escape the contempt in which its source material holds both. After all, imagining herself to be above fashion is what makes Andie a fish out of water within that world. In LATE NIGHT, Molly (Mindy Kaling’s character) desperately wants to be part of the comedy writing world, but is painfully aware that its denizens imagine themselves to be above her. It’s a much more interesting dynamic and one that makes the abrasiveness of her personal hero/boss Katherine Newbury (Emma Thompson at the absolute top of her game) simultaneously more devastating and more sympathetic.

  • I got to touch on this the MOST in my Pop Culture Happy Hour appearance, but let me briefly restate: Katherine Newbury is an incredible character, and Emma Thompson embodies her brilliantly. She is allowed a degree of complexity that we rarely encounter in female characters, especially ones over 50. Her story line encompasses so much. Kaling took some real risks in making her as flawed as she did, but I think those risks paid off and, even if you disagree, I hope you can bring yourself to admire the ambition. With Emma Thompson, it would be so easy to sit back and let her coast on charm. Making her charm do the work of compelling us to root for a character this thorny is a brilliant choice.

  • It is a shallow joy but both women have outstanding wardrobes. Katherine Newbury in particular has a wardrobe of blazers and jumpsuits for which I would like to die (although Molly’s dizzy secretary garb would better suit my figure).

  • This film had such high expectations to exceed, and it overshot all of them. I have been looking forward to this film so eagerly that I really felt there was no way the reality of it could live up to its promise. I was wrong. My face hurt from smiling too much by the time the movie ended, and I was furious I could not sit there and watch it a second time.

  • Your mileage may vary: this is not a revolutionary film, either in its attitude towards a system that creates all-white, all-male writers rooms or towards the formal confines of a Mary Tyler Moore-style “She’s gonna make it after all!” young-woman-at-work story. It is concerned with incremental change, and focused on the two characters of Molly and Katherine more than anything else. I can understand people who’d prefer something with more bite, or sharper jokes. But as someone who delights in female-centered stories where women are allowed to be complex and challenging, but also happy? I just adored it. And, if that’s the kind of movie you go in looking for, I think you’ll love it, too.

Please DO @ me with your thoughts if you go see it. I’m dying to know what Dames Nation makes of it all. In the meantime, here are some links, both related and otherwise, for you to enjoy:      

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