Just today, Crazy Rich Asians— a movie more than one producer wanted to white-wash—hit $100 million in domestic box office ticket sales, the most any comedy has grossed in 2018. And We Your Dames— who loved the book and delighted in the movie— could not be happier.To celebrate the zeitgeist-capturing success of both CRA and our livetweet subject from last Sunday, To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before— movies we know many of you have seen and loved in the last couple weeks— we have gathered some of the very best commentary on and responses to both films to share with you. As fans of both increased diversity in mainstream pop culture and romantic comedies, this is indeed a heady time for us both.
This article about the process of writing Crazy Rich Asians’s final proposal scene— one original to the movie— contains many details that make that scene even more delightful, but none better than this anecdote about the exquisite, enormous emerald ring Nick used to propose to Rachel: Similarly great is this piece about how the mah-jong showdown between Rachel and her rather forbidding would-be mother-in-law Eleanor came together. If you haven’t listened to author Kevin Kwan’s interview on Fresh Air, darling, do. He and Terry are both so clearly tickled to be in each other’s presences and his reminiscences about how his family history influenced his career are fascinating. Also fascinating, and quite moving: this account of how hard director Jon M. Chu worked to get a Mandarin cover of Coldplay’s “Yellow” approved as the soundtrack for the film’s climax, and this podcast interview highlighting how much his own relationship with his Asian identity informed Rachel Chu’s journey in the movie. A number of Asian-American critics have written super-thoughtfully about the imperfections of Crazy Rich Asians, including Angie Han on her unease and eventual embrace of the film, wherein she experienced something like what Kat Chow deemed “the #repsweats” over at NPR, and Jeremy Gordon’s insistence that more audiences have more access to more varied Asian characters and stories. And, even though we responded to Henry Golding as Nick Young in MUCH the way Constance Wu as Rachel does here…
we also cannot argue with this further excellent point from Angie Han:
all I'm saying is that Peter Kavinsky would have warned his girlfriend about his extremely wealthy family and their conniving society friends before flying her across the ocean to attend the most high-profile wedding of the centuryAugust 29, 2018
Which brings us To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before! We’re just wild about Lara Jean & Peter, and, based on the number of you who turned out for last week’s livetweet, so is Dames Nation! We’ve talked before about our admiration of male avatars of radical softness, so obviously Alanna Bennett’s piece about that cornerstone of Peter Kavinsky’s appeal is extremely our shit. Read it alongside Alexis Nedd’s reflection on why he’s a new kind of romantic dreamboat! Peter isn’t the only contributor to TATBILB’s extreme adorableness, though: Lara Jean’s aesthetic, perfect 90s influenced costumes, Susan Johnson’s beautiful direction, and Lana Condor’s sweet, soulful performance are equally significant (this interview she did with Vulture is particularly charming). As are Anna Cathcart as little sister Kitty and John Corbett as their dad-- the latter being a major appeal factor for We Your Dames, long-time Corbett stans. Our buddy Kathryn VanArendonk was there for us with a slew of John Corbett GIFs during the livetweet and we’d be remiss not to include this reading list based on his iconic early 1990s role as Chris In The Morning, the hyper-literate DJ of Cicely, Alaska in Northern Exposure, which we hope & pray will come to a streaming service near you speedily & in our days, and let us say: AMEN.
And you made Us Dames very happy, John.
AND WITH THAT, we’ll head on into the rest of our links for the week!
Guest Dames Honor Roll: Alice Bolin!
In our August paid-subscriber issue, We Your Dames introduced a new feature: Guest Dames Honor Roll, wherein Sophie and I can call out the tremendous successes of the guest editors who have been kind enough to share their work with you through this newsletter. Our inaugural honoree was Jacqui Shine (who edited our May issue!) for her exquisite longform piece for The New York Times’ Styles section on Grinnell, Iowa, and what happens when one small town is home to both a flourishing liberal arts college and a flourishing gun manufacturer-- “How Civil Must America Be?” If you have not yet read it, you’re in for a treat.
Our second Honor Roll recipient is Alice Bolin, who edited our June issue with her good friend Emily Jones, and whose excellent essay collection Dead Girls: Surviving an American Obsession just received a rave review in The New York Times! This honor is really a bit a lily-gilding because Dame Sophie has been raving the excellence of Dead Girls for months already, but if OUR word was not enough for you ghouls, please know that the Grey Lady has our back, and grab yourself a copy already. We spend an inordinate amount of time preening over the excellence of our contributors, so it’s very gratifying to see more prestigious (and remuneratively rewarding) cultural arbiters celebrate them in kind. We look forward to sharing more such successes with you in the future!
Dame Margaret is Holding On For One More Day, Probably
Live footage of beleaguered university employees on the Friday evening of Orientation Week
Thanks to Orientation Week exhaustion compounded by a subway system-wide power outage in Boston, I did not remove my underwire bra until 11:37 PM last night, an unprecedentedly late hour for me to still be in street clothing. AS A RESULT, my links section might be a bit shorter than usual this week, BUT I HOPE YOU WILL FORGIVE ME.
First off, permit me to make a Vital Service Announcement for My Fellow Idiots: If, like the Me of This Past Tuesday, have yet to see Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again in theaters, PLEASE DO NOT WAIT ANY LONGER, it’s nearly out off the big screen, and you just need to see Colin Firth’s dancing on the scale intended:
I have found no review more exactly correct than Glen Weldon’s for NPR, aptly and iconically titled “ABBA Silver.” If you haven’t seen the first one: don’t worry. There’s little plot of which to speak, so there’s pretty much no plot continuity you need be concerned with. Where the first movie was comically shaggy, this one makes up for relying on… less essential ABBA tracks like “When I Kissed the Teacher” by transforming them into polished, delightful, and over-the-top musical sequences. And, while the movie is largely silly fun, there was one scene that moved me to gentle tears.
Speaking of Mr. Firth, this Atlas Obscura piece about the secret exhibition of spying tools British counter-intelligence installed in London’s Museum of Natural History in WWII put me in mind of his iconic movie, Kingsmen. Just read this description and try to pretend you aren’t fascinated:
Clark proved it is possible to match up the interior architecture visible in photographs with the gallery space [in the London Museum of Natural History] as it exists today. An archway that hosts a bench for weary museum visitors was then host to a display case of Balinese carvings designed to conceal explosives for agents in Southeast Asia. A wall of taxidermied porcupines and bears was once occupied by wireless sets. Behind the case at the end of the gallery that now hosts a stuffed polar bear, there was a door to a room of machine guns and pistols. A parallel gallery featured explosives: incendiary Chianti bottles, cigarettes, and “tire busters” designed to match the geological structures of different stones. You could also find an explosive rat here—skinned by a former bacon hand at the grocer Sainsbury’s—which succeeded in undermining the Nazis’ efforts despite never being detonated. A history of the camouflage section reports that after an unsuccessful operation led to the rat’s discovery, the Germans were so paranoid about whether dead rats were explosives or not that “the trouble caused to them was a much greater success to us than if the rats had actually been used.”
And finally, allow me to close out the email by mentioning a few albums or singles that I cannot get enough of lately:
Phoebe Bridgers’s A Stranger in the Alps, whose early Aimee Mann-vibe— particularly the album’s lead single, “Motion Sickness”— has been speaking very deeply to where I’m at emotionally after this, an usually tumultuous summer.
Following naturally from my newfound Bridgers obession is my extreme eagerness to hear more from her newly-announced supergroup boygenius, which features Bridgers, Julien Baker, and Lucy Dacus. Their first three songs, along with highlights from each of the members’ solo careers, can be found on this excellent playlist.
An especially great live studio session has me in love all over again with Oh Pep, whose indie pop, done live, reveals itself to be much more emotionally raw than I’d recalled.
And then finally, for all your Labor Day beach and BBQ needs, let me shout out When My Heart Felt Volcanic by The Aces, which is Haim-esque tribute to 80s power pop that will help you eke as much summer as you can from this, its very ashes.
Dame Sophie’s Lively Cultural Smörgåsbord
We can’t quit til we get to the other side: A Motto of This Newsletter
I spent today writing and watching the livestream of Aretha Franklin’s funeral service and following #ArethaHomegoing on Twitter. As I write this paragraph, it’s 3:15 pm, Chaka Khan is wrapping up her performance in a midnight blue gown and auburn wig that combine to make her look like a Pre-Raphaelite goddess, and there’s at least another three hours of service to go. I’m grateful to the writers at NPR Music for both their livestream and this annotated list of speakers and performers for useful context! For completists, we put all of our Aretha memorializing in this month’s issue for paid subscribers.
Raccoons: surprisingly ok table manners!
As someone who lived in the great city of Toronto for two years and who walked into her kitchen one evening to find a well-fed trash panda calmly making its way through the contents of our overturned garbage can, I find this investigative report into the ingenuity of raccoons on a quest for their dinner totally delightful. (The raccoon in my kitchen came in through the back door, propped open for a little breeze on a very sultry and humid August day.) The piece doubles as a sprightly profile of animal behaviorist Suzanne MacDonald, whose insight regarding the use of Calvin Klein’s Obsession is definitely worthy of inclusion in your arsenal of Fun Facts For Cocktail Party Chit-Chat:
MacDonald is also a volunteer animal behaviourist for the Toronto Zoo, where she once used a vial of Calvin Klein’s Obsession perfume to put Sumatran tigers in an amorous mood, an intervention that resulted in three tiger cubs. “It works for leopards, too,” she told me. “It’s like catnip.”
Who knew? Spay & neuter your pets, especially if you’re into iconic fragrances of the 1980s!
Riz Ahmed, King of Looking At You (or his costar, but let’s say it’s you)
Ok, so let’s just get it out of the way up front that Riz Ahmed is extremely handsome and talented, a beloved, enduring, imaginary boyfriend of this newsletter. Did you know he’s also a living human magpie of interdisciplinary erudition? Known for delivering hell yes speeches in The House of Commons and hiring the Islamic art curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art for private tutoring sessions? After you read Carvell Wallace’s excellent profile of Riz in the New York Times Magazine, you’ll know all that and a whole lot more. My favorite element of the piece, in which Wallace very deftly negotiates his own presence in the story, is when Ahmed talks about -- even insists on -- navigating the both/and-ness of being both colonized & colonizing:
“That’s what we are. We are the inheritors of the scars of Empire, but also the spoils of Empire. And that kind of inside/outside state is totally ingrained in us. Which is why, at a time like now, where everybody’s being asked to pick a side, everything is binary, it’s a confusing time to be us.”
Ahmed’s work as a musician and the context in this piece about South Asian-led British bands of the 1990s like Cornershop reminded me of a piece I read recently about the Black & Asian British bands who are reclaiming space at the heart of indie rock, and how that dovetails with the work of NPR Music’s Turning The Tables project, and Feminize Your Canon, and #DamesPal Kelly Jensen’s Guide To Finding Diverse Books, and and and. We say this often & in a bunch of ways, but I want to say it really explicitly today: those of us with privilege and the luxury of seeing ourselves represented in the media we consume have a responsibility to lift up and promote works accurately & lovingly representing our friends who can’t count on that experience. When male authors are four times as likely to recommend works by male authors than works by women, this is something that requires conscious, continuous effort. Kindred Spirit of This Deeply Feeling Dame
I want to wrap up this week with something very serious. The Washington Post has reported that US citizens along the border with Mexico are having their passports revoked as they attempt to re-enter the country, on the assumption that their birth certificates are fraudulent. This is vile & disgusting on a variety of bases, from the by now no longer surprising but still deeply shocking racism and xenophobia baked into the current administration, to the horrifying echoes of Nazi Germany, to the chilling idea that Michael Anton’s op-ed about ending birthright citizenship in the US really was just that brazen of a trial balloon. It didn’t start here (it started in birtherism) and it sure as hell won’t end here. As Alexandra Erin points out, “here’s the thing about due process. Everybody gets it, or nobody really has it. And from the moment the Trump regime decided it just doesn’t apply to ‘illegal’ immigrants, we were always heading here.”
So. That’s terrifying, and rightly so. What do we do? We talk about this with our friends & family members. We learn more about everyone’s rights in the border zone. I learned, for example, that the border zone is anywhere within 100 miles of one of the US’ national borders. Nearly ⅔ of US residents live in the border zone, so this is extremely important stuff for us to know! We call our elected officials and howl about this. If we can, we donate to organizations like the Immigration Advocates Network. We’re in this together, and we can’t let this go.
My current pick for the single sexiest moment in modern film history
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