Saturday, August 15, 2009

Cranky at the Movies

Last night I saw JULIE & JULIA, the movie that follows the cooking careers of Julia Child and Julie Powell. Julia, played by Meryl Streep with exactly the right goofy voice and exuberant awkwardness, attends the male-dominated Cordon Bleu and then publishes her famous cookbook, all of which takes her years. Julie, played by Amy Adams, is stuck in both a cubicle job and Queens. She "saves herself" by becoming a cooking blogger, working her way through Childs's entire cookbook and blogging daily about the effort. The blog eventually gets a book deal, which becomes this movie.

This is a genuinely sweet movie. It's also witty and fun. Both Streep and Adams are terrific in their roles. In fact, I liked the whole thing so much that I immediately bought a copy of MASTERING THE ART OF FRENCH COOKING, determined to make Beef Bourginon, which everybody in the movie made and which looked delicious on screen. However, from the viewpoint of a writer and blogger, this movie is also interesting for what it says about getting published.

I once had an older Clarion student who announced that he was there "because writing will make a nice, easy retirement income." As far as I know, he has not published anything. This movie shows the actuality. Julia Child worked on her cookbook for years, had it rejected by various publishers until it caught one's eye, and was thrilled to receive a $1500 advance, which she split with her two co-authors. Julie Powell blogged about something, had few readers at first, slogged away for an entire year, spent a lot of money on lobsters and butter, and made nothing until a NEW YORK TIMES feature writer happened to hear about her and wrote an article that in turn caught a book editor's eye. In both cases, getting published involved work, rejection, persistence, and -- most of all -- a genuine love for what they were doing.

All that truth, and as an added bonus, when was the last time you saw a movie with two functional, happy marriages, in which the partners respected and supported each other? This is a feel-good movie without improbabilities, and with genuine human interest. So why am I "cranky at the movies"?

Because SF movies can't seem to do this, too.


dolphintornsea said...

Nancy, make up your mind.

You say there are two functioning, happy marriages in the movie in which the partners support each other.

But you also say there are no improbabilities in it.

A contradiction, surely!

Mark said...

Good literature is good literature, regardless of genre. Same for any other art medium. I've been to a couple of bookstores (wish I could remember which) that did not segregate their books at all. Heinlein, Heller, Turtledove, Twain. Cool.

Maybe I can get my friend Matt to make his next film s.f.

bluesman miike Lindner said...

Mark, I've been a bookseller forever. Books are segregated for a good reason. It's a business. The mission is to sell the little devils. Aunt Petunia =does not want to see= Harry Turtledove. She wants to browse her own stuff. Same with Uncle Knucklebow. He =does not need to see= Nora Roberts. He wants his own interests. And the customers--slow, dumb, ugly, unskilled, can't dance, know nothin'--rule.