Tag Archives: Vanity Fair
by Julie Miller
Update, 5/11: NBC tells Vanity Fair that it has renewed Parks and Recreation for a 22-episode season and ordered 13-episode seasons of Community and 30 Rock. The network declined to say whether these would be the final seasons for any of the series.
A trio of devastating television developments today: NBC reportedly plans to raze 75 percent of its beloved Thursday-night comedy lineup. The rumored casualties: 30 Rock, Community, andParks and Recreation—all three of which represent some of the smartest (if only moderately watched) comedic output by any network right now. Instead of canceling the shows outright, the Peacock network will reportedly announce shortened final seasons for each at next week’s annual “upfront” presentation in New York City. The fourth Thursday-night sitcom, The Office, which is in its eight season, is predicted to remain on the air.
The network has already confirmed series orders for six new comedies, including Go On, from NBC alum Matthew Perry; The New Normal, from Ryan Murphy; 1600 Penn, the White House comedy starring Bill Pullman and Jenna Elfman; Anne Heche’s Save Me; and Animal Practice, a veterinary-clinic-set sitcom starring Justin Kirk. Judging by NBC’s recent comedy batting average, at least one of these shows should make you laugh.
Next year will mark 30 Rock’s seventh season, the fifth for Parks and Recreation, and the fourth for Community. Earlier this year, 30 Rock star Alec Baldwin, who has won two Emmys for his portrayal of Jack Donaghy, alluded to a near-future exit from the network, when he covertly tweeted, “I think I’m leaving NBC just in time.” To deal with this blow, we defer to a piece of Jack Donaghy’s immortal wisdom: “We all have ways of coping. I use sex and awesomeness.”
by Emily Gerard
“The Music of the Spheres” builds on the mathematical theme of the previous episode. Jake has been using his new tablet to make musical notes with numbers. Martin is hopeful that the next step might be for him to make words with numbers, and tries to show Jake an app that would let him do so, but Jake is not interested. Telling Sherry he’s taking Jake out for a day in Central Park, Martin calls Clea and tells her to get a head start on sorting through Teller’s research- he and Jake will meet her there. Having been taken off the case, Clea is free to go rogue. Naughty children, you two!
On the way, Jake bumps into a woman (and as we have learned, people don’t bump into each other on this show without a reason) who spills her coffee on them both. Everyone leaves to get a change of clothes. When the woman goes upstairs to the music shop she owns to get a new shirt, she inadvertently interrupts a robbery by an unlikely suspect: a 13 year-old boy. The child pulls a gun on her but flees.
At home changing, Martin tries to press the app on Jake again. Instead, Jake pulls out the gun, which he somehow picked up from the alleyway through which the Robber Boy fled. Martin is not pleased. He makes Jake take him back to the alley, where they find the kid. Martin confronts him, and he fires back, asking what’s “the matter” with Jake. “My son uses numbers to talk,” Martin says. This strikes a chord: “My brother doesn’t talk either. Maybe he could show my brother how to talk with numbers?” the kid asks. Before we know it, they’re all en route back to his house.
Meanwhile, Clea is busy getting the inside scoop about Teller from his former roommate Abram, who also appears to be a researcher. He claims they were best friends, but Abram is jarringly nonchalant about Teller’s death. Martin calls to explain that they have wound up in the Bronx with two kids named Elliot (Robber Boy) and Andre (his disabled older brother) who seem to be completely on their own. After she hangs up, Abram shows her a picture of Amelia (the Amelia of the Amelia Sequence). Clea recognizes the little blonde girl in the photo from the facility! Teller was working with her, Abram explains, but, under pressure to produce results, pushed her too hard and caused some sort of setback. He lost his tenure and blamed himself for hurting Amelia, which sent him into a deep depression.
To temper all the grimness with a little music, we are introduced to Felipe, a mop-haired guitar player in Portugal or Brazil (global locations are anyone’s guess on Touch). He’s singing to Yarah, a classy café-owner. He asks her to run off to the beach with him, and when she demurs he proposes running off to New York instead. The happy times don’t last long: a man arrives who is trying to buy the café, causing Yarah to admit she can no longer pay its mortgage. Still, she’s desperate to hang on to the business: her grandmother built it and after her mother and sister died, it’s all she has left of her family.
OR IS IT? Clea discovers that Elliot and Andre have an aunt who was never contacted when their mother died years ago. Andre and Jake are currently bonding: Jake plays music on his tablet, and Andre uses it to spell out that he’s hungry. It’s a small miracle that we hope Jake will be capable of soon. Elliot tells Martin the story of how he got stuck caring for his older brother all alone: first their mother died, and then their father took off when Andre got shot in the head a year ago, causing permanent brain damage. Just then, Elliot gets a text and abruptly asks them to leave. On their way out, Martin and Jake hear a middle-aged man threatening him about the botched robbery. Martin begs Elliot to let him help. “No one can help me,” the boy sorrowfully replies.
So they finally meet up with Clea, and Abram immediately identifies Jake as “one of the 36” people who are blessed and work to alleviate suffering, “to repair the universe, if you will.” Heavy stuff.
Martin goes to visit Elliot’s probation officer, John Tenney, claiming to be Elliot’s basketball coach. They speak in veiled threats to each other as Martin expresses his concern that someone is harassing Elliot. On his way out, Martin recognizes a guy from the alleyway by the music store. It turns out he and Elliot share the same probation officer. He says he works at the music store, and that he told John about how the owner lets cash pile up in the store throughout the month.
Felipe has resolved to sell his guitar so that he can help Yarah keep her business afloat. His friend tells him about a music shop in New York that will pay “top dollar” for such a fine instrument. It’s the same music store that was almost robbed earlier, and the owner is on her way to the bank with the money that Elliot tried to steal that morning. Elliot intercepts her and gets her purse this time. Martin finds him, crying in the alleyway, as the police arrive.
Felipe gives Yarah all the money he got from selling his guitar and announces that he wants to be her partner. Just as she’s about to decline his offer, she gets a voice message from Martin informing her that she has nephews who need her help. Yarah wisely decides to accept Felipe’s support and money.
Elliot comes back to Tenney with the purse. “What the hell took you so long?” Tenney asks aggressively. Elliot hands over the money and the gun that Tenney gave him. But he’s wearing a wire this time and Tenney is immediately arrested by the police. Phew!
The episode concludes with Felipe and Yarah, who got to New York remarkably quickly, serving a nice dinner to Elliot and Andre. Meanwhile, back at the facility Sherry asks where Jake’s tablet went, and Martin proudly tells her that he gave it away. “How could you do that? He could have used it to talk!” Sherry demands. “Maybe he doesn’t want to talk,” Martin realizes. “Maybe it’s my job as his father to be okay with that.”
Jake and Andre, Martin and Elliott, Felipe and Yarah, Yarah and her long-lost nephews, Tenney and comeuppance.
BRUCE HANDY ON CULTURE
by Bruce Handy
An ode of sorts to Johnny Depp: I’d see him in pretty much anything—which, alas, is the approach you have to take with Johnny Depp, since he has spent most of his career being consistently terrific in mediocre to awful movies, the dish by Thomas Keller tarting up an Applebee’s.
This bittersweet epiphany was prompted by having just watched Dark Shadows, his eighth collaboration with director Tim Burton (see our photos of the Dark Shadows cast here). It’s a big, sloppy mess of a film with all kinds of wasted talent, most notably Helena Bonham Carter, playing a nicotine-voiced middle-aged lush so routinely conceived as to ward off the actress’s usual flair for the perverse; and Chloë Grace Moretz, who sulks uninterestingly through a handful of scenes until (spoiler alert) she gets to turn into a werewolf at the end, but even then she only has time for a few good snarls. (Throughout the film she holds her lips in an exaggerated, bee-stung curl that my daughter, a teenager herself and possessed of some familiarity with temperamentality, tried to imitate. “It hurts,” she said.) Eva Green, the previously boring French actress who played the Bond girl in Casino Royale and made a notably naked debut in a Bernado Bertolucci movie (The Dreamers, 2003), is funny and vampy as the villainess here—who knew?—though a whiff of misogyny clings to her character like the kind of low-lying night fog that drifts through so many Burton films. If only he were as good and careful a storyteller as he is a production designer.
But as you surely figured, with or without having seen the trailer, Depp is a joy as Barnabas Collins, infusing the gothic camp of Jonathan Frid’s original Barnabas, from the old ABC soap opera, with extra helpings of doomed, Byronic corn. It’s a hammy performance in the most wonderful, calculated way, simultaneously committed and winking. That’s harder to do than it looks, I’m guessing, but Depp is unique in having fashioned an A-list career primarily by submerging himself in eccentric roles. Most movie stars play variations on themselves, or if not themselves then fixed screen personas; Depp is more of a shape-shifter, like Meryl Streep, but if she were possessed by the ghost of Mel Blanc. He single-handedly makes Dark Shadowswatchable, and if there were an Oscar equivalent of Most Valuable Player, he would be the early front-runner.
Like always. Movie stars are supposed to carry pictures; that’s the job description. But I can’t think of another so essential to his film’s successes. Tom Cruise flashes a great grin and sweats an excellent sweat in the Mission: Impossible films and surely earns his salary—I’m not being dismissive here, though can’t you imagine the films working just as well with Matt Damon or Will Smith? And yet, who aside from Depp could play Captain Jack Sparrow? Jim Carrey? Ugh. Robert Downey Jr.? Well, maybe, but I doubt to quite as effervescent effect. The Pirates of the Caribbean movies are possibly the least deserving blockbuster hits of the last decade—I’ll admit I’m going out on a limb here; it’s like trying to choose the most Reggie Mantle–like Mitt Romney gaffe—but even the franchise’s most ardent fans would have to concede there’s nary a non-Depp reason to keep an eye open. Did anyone other than IMDB even notice that Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley weren’t in the last one?
Here’s a thought experiment: has Depp ever been in an unrelievedly great movie, one that had lasting virtues aside from his own performance? Naturally, I haven’t seen everything he’s done, so I’ll leave you to make the cases for Chocolat or Don Juan DeMarco, but I can think of one: 1994’s Ed Wood, a small masterpiece and, to my taste, far and away the greatest of his collaborations with Burton, possibly because its subject was making art—even if it was bad art—and not just art direction. Still, it was their biggest failure at the box office. I wouldn’t put theirAlice in Wonderland in the same category as Ed Wood, or even near it, but I did enjoy the film, partly because Alice in Wonderland doesn’t ask to be coherent, which plays to Burton’s strengths, and partly because, for once, Depp had a worthy foil in Bonham Carter, whose Red Queen stole the movie out from under his Mad Hatter. That was a first, and surely a last, in Depp’s career.
by Vanity Fair
“Fox [Studios] should start paying as much attention to me as they are paying to Elizabeth Taylor,” Marilyn Monroe told Lawrence Schiller, hatching the idea that would turn out to be the break of the young photographer’s life: for him to photograph her nude. In an adaptation of Schiller’s memoir Marilyn & Me, the June issue of Vanity Fair reveals never-before-published pictures from that shoot, as well as details of Schiller’s conversations with the star.
In 1960, as part of an ongoing battle to get Fox to take her more seriously, and out of jealousy over Taylor’s success, Marilyn came up with an attention-grabbing plan: a poolside shoot in which she’d jump in the water with a bathing suit on—and come out without it. “Larry,” she said, “if I do come out of the pool with nothing on, I want your guarantee that when your pictures appear on the covers of magazines Elizabeth Taylor is not anywhere in the same issue.” Marilyn was making only $100,000 for what would be her last film, Something’s Got to Give, in 1962, while Taylor was receiving a million dollars for Cleopatra. She wanted to show Fox that she could get the same kind of coverage as the publicity bonanza generated by Taylor’s very public affair with her co-star, Richard Burton. When Hugh Hefner agreed to pay $25,000 for a nude shot of Marilyn—the most money Playboy had ever paid for a photograph—Schiller thanked her for creating such a big payday, joking, “See what tits ’n’ ass can do?” “That’s how I got my house and swimming pool,” Marilyn said, laughing. “There isn’t anybody that looks like me without clothes on.”
Just 23 years old at the time, Schiller, at the set on assignment for Look magazine, had no idea that he was getting to know the icon in some of her most vulnerable moments. In an adaptation of his memoir about their sessions together, Schiller recounts intimate and telling conversations that illuminate the private struggles that consumed the starlet in her final days.
“I could tell you all about rejection,” Marilyn said to Schiller. “Sometimes I feel my whole life has been one big rejection.” “But look at you now,” he said. “Exactly,” she replied. “Look at me now.” Confused, Schiller protested, “You’re a star! Your face is on magazine covers all over the world! Everyone knows Marilyn Monroe!” “Let me ask you, Larry Wolf [Schiller first introduced himself to Monroe as the Big Bad Wolf]—how many Academy Award nominations do I have?” “I don’t know,” he said. “I do,” she said. “None.”
Marilyn even confided her deepest worry. “I’ve always wanted a baby,” she said. “Having a child, that’s always been my biggest fear. I want a child and I fear a child. Whenever it came close, my body said no and I lost the baby.” She talked to Schiller about being afraid that she’d wind up like her mother, who had been in and out of mental institutions her whole life.
She reflected often on her assumed identity, and where Norma Jeane fit in. “I never wanted to be Marilyn—it just happened. Marilyn’s like a veil I wear over Norma Jeane,” she admitted to Schiller. During a photography session, she told him, “I always have a full-length mirror next to the camera when I’m doing publicity stills. That way, I know how I look.” Schiller asked, “So, do you pose for the photographer or for the mirror?” “The mirror,” she replied without hesitating. “I can always find Marilyn in the mirror.”
However, Schiller reveals, Marilyn’s attitude about her sex-symbol status fluctuated wildly. While she was at times boastful of her looks and what they procured for her, she was also by turns insecure and angry. “It’s still about nudity. Is that all I’m good for?” she demanded of Schiller. “I’d like to show that I can get publicity without using my ass or getting fired from a picture,” she continued. “I haven’t made up my mind yet.”
It was to be their last conversation: the very next morning, Marilyn was reported dead at 36. One of her final acts had been to return the nude photo to Schiller, which he found waiting for him at his house. She had written, “Send this to Playboy, they might like it.”
Plus: a handwriting expert analyzes Marilyn Monroe’s journal entries in a VF.com exclusive.