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Nobody's Perfect: Writings from the New Yorker Paperback – Sep 2003

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Paperback, Sep 2003

Product details

  • Paperback: 784 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (Sept. 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375714340
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375714344
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 4 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,817,583 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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...The book equivalent of dipping for pearls, except that the discovery of riches on every page is a sure thing... -- Observer, October 2003

A treat... Throughout, [Lane] reveals his integrity, culture and unremitting wit. -- Herald, October 2003

Nobody's Perfect is endlessly amusing and a real pleasure to dip into. -- Daily Telegraph, October 2003 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Anthony Lane has been a film critic for the New Yorker since 1993. He lives in London. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By martin_peg on 28 Jan. 2004
Format: Paperback
Dazzlingly elegant style, wickedly funny, as they say, and fit to stand on the shelf alongside Pauline Kael and Clive James. This book marks a real find for those of us who haven't been managing to read the New Yorker.
Moreover, his judgment is crystal clear, in my own view - I found myself nodding assent to what Lane had to said about The New Hollywood, Star Wars, Orson Welles, Guy Ritchie, Ang Lee, and just about everything else.
I couldn't help noticing how this British writer (because I had to check he actually was)has perfected a style that is, seemingly effortlessly, both American and British at the same time (a kind of Cary Grant prose) with all the urbanity, all the snappy rhetoric which that suggests.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By TONY PARSONS on 16 Sept. 2002
Format: Hardcover
Anthony Lane is not merely a great writer about film - he is a great writer, full stop. This brilliant colection brings together his greatest hits from the New Yorker... Reading Lane on any subject is a pure pleasure, but he is especially good on writers and writing. Nobody has ever been this creative writing about the creative process. Incisive, erudite and funny as hell, he is your new favourite writer, just waiting to be discovered.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A huge volume of the author's critical writing. A friend recommended it, quoted from it, and I'm so glad I hunted down a copy of the out of print volume.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 22 reviews
75 of 83 people found the following review helpful
The best of the Champagne Moderates 5 Nov. 2002
By - Published on
Format: Hardcover
There are many reasons one should be critical of The New Yorker. For a start, there's the aura that leads unwitting subscribers to believe that there is nothing better to be had. Then there's the gratuitious and unprovoked way that they inflicted Joe Klein on an unsuspecting country. And why, oh why, must John Updike be the exemplar of the best of American fiction? But no one can deny that it can be very funny. There's the cartoons, the covers, the back pages and of course, Anthony Lane, the film critic.
Reasons why Anthony Lane gets four stars: 1) He is very funny. On "Forrest Gump": "The movie is so insistently heartwarming that it chilled me to the marrow." On Janet Jackson in "Poetic Justice," making a whole range of expressions in a mirror: "Now, it's possible for an actress to get away with this, but she has to be Liv Ullmann and the movie has to be `Persona'" On the score of "The Fugitive": "It appears to be based on the principle that nothing is as scary as hitting a drum apart from hitting it harder." On scenes in "The Bridges of Madison County": "During their visit, the weather went from grey to bright very quickly, and the continuity person was sent to bed without any supper." On Kurtz's kingdom in the revised version of "Apocalypse Now": [There is] "the perennial uneasy suspicion that Kurtz's kingdom is in fact nothing more than a T.S. Eliot Study Group gone terribly wrong." (2) He likes bad puns: "Faster Pussycat! Kilt! Kilt!" on "Braveheart." (3) He's very perceptive (see most of the comments above, and also his comments in the introduction about how Ridley Scott is becoming less mature in his movies). (4) He is not only brave enough to prefer "The English Patient" to "Fargo," but is quite willing not even to mention the second movie in his book. (5) He likes "The Usual Suspects," and "Time Regained." (6) He is very good at eviscerating such movies as "Godzilla," "Meet Joe Black," "The Scarlet Letter," "Indecent Proposal," and "Pearl Harbour." (7) He writes a wide variety of interesting topics. Not only does he review movies, not only does he review such masters of the screen as Bunuel, Hitchcock, Buster Keaton, Tati and Bresson, but he also talks about the Sound of Music revival, the weird aura of Lego blocks, and Edward Lear. You learn all sorts of interesting facts, such as the one that Isadora Duncan's fatal scarf was given to her by Preston Sturges' mother. (8) Not once but twice, he provides a review of the ten bestsellers of the day, once for 1994, another for 1995, based on Gore Vidal's classic 1973 essay. (9) He is aware that movies are in trouble, inflected with mediocrity and a lack of basic competence.
Reasons why Anthony Lane doesn't get a fifth star: (1) As you can guess from above, he is better at showing why movies are bad, then at describing why they are good. (2) There is a certain lack of moral passion. Pointing out the hollowness of "Priest" is one thing. But where's the disgust one sees in Pauline Kael's review of "A Clockwork Orange," or the caustic observation one sees in J. Hoberman's criticisms of "Pleasantville" or "Life is Beautiful"? Nothing seems to move Lane very much in the way J. Hoberman was moved to write in his reviews of "Shoah" or "Schindler's List." There is little that is really enthusiastic or eccentric, such as Stuart Klawans' praise for "Matilda," or Jonathan Rosenbaum's discovery of unseen virtues in "Showgirls." In this, Lane is not unlike The New Yorker's prose as a whole. (3) Some of the literary essays show a certain laziness and a lack of fibre. The one on John Ruskin says more about his sexual problems than about those features that made him the most influential art critic of his time. A similar problem can be seen in the essay on Gide. There is a certain bland centrism that infects the essays on Matthew Arnold and Luis Bunuel, the first suggesting that he couldn't be captured by left and right (as if that was enough) the second suggesting that Bunuel shouldn't be seen as a Red (since after all we don't any of those around). (4) Not enough systematic examination of what's wrong with movies, and not enough curiosity about what one should look out for. (5) Too soft on "Titanic"; you got to lose marks there.
27 of 31 people found the following review helpful
America's Most Entertaining Film Critic 6 Sept. 2002
By Harvey S. Karten - Published on
Format: Hardcover
York: A. Knopf, 2002, 752pp. Reviewed by Harvey Karten 9/6/02.
Anthony Lane has a prose style that makes us want to read what he has to say even if we go to the movies but once a year. His writing is so witty, so entertaining, that given the quality of so many films these days, Lane can easily provide us with more laughs than an Adam Sandler comedy and perhaps even more tears than can be evoked by Mike Leigh. He'd better be good: he's had the unenviable task at The New Yorker magazine of filling the shoes of Pauline Kael, arguably the most influential American critic of the latter part of the Twentieth Century. Like most of us critics, he may hate to sit through bad movies but loves to go to town pointing out what's disastrous about "Showgirls" and "Battlefield Earth," yet his satire is more the gentle type preferred by Sir Arthur Gilbert than the scathing sort of a Jonathan Swift or a John Simon..
Whether or not you're a regular reader of The New Yorker?where he shares the film critics' pages with David Denby?you can catch up on the wit and wisdom of this Londoner who spends a considerable amount of time in New York by reading his new book, "Nobody's Perfect." (The title comes from Osgood Fielding III's statement in "Some Like It Hot" when, having been discovered that under that dress lies a man, gleefully responds, "Nobody's Perfect."
As self-deprecatory as Woody Allen, Lane employs a style all his own, though his prose can be compared to that of Atlantic Monthly's hilarious P.J. O'Rourke. For example, when he received a phone call from Tina Brown, New Yorker editor at the time, he tells us that when Brown phoned him, "I was sitting in London...I think I actually stood up to receive it much as I would if a letter had come from the Vatican." Answering a question posed during an interview, he states, "I did not decide to become a film critic, any more than one decides to be a refugee or a drunk. To be honest, I cannot remember how this unfortunate state of affairs came about. My family continues to ask whether I might consider getting a proper job."
Here is Lane's take on varied elements of the film critics' industry...
On Writers: "Writers should be treated like rubber plants?lightly pruned, occasionally watered, but basically left to do their own thing in a corner, away from direct sunlight."
On the Job of the Critic: "The primary task of the critic is the re-creation of texture?not telling moviegoers what they should see, which is entirely their prerogative, but filing a sensory report on the kind of experience into which they will be wading."
On Corruptible Critics: "However hellish that Adam Sandler fiasco you just saw, don't worry; there'll be somebody in Delaware who is prepared to tell the world, 'Hands up for the flat-out funniest comedy since Father of the Bride! Adam Sandler is a laugh riot, hands down!" By coincidence, that quotester will be the guy whom the studio flew from Delaware to a junket in Atlantic City and then inquired gently for his assessment of Mr. Sandler as the new Jim Carrey."
On Press Junkets: "I once went to a junket and heard the assembled hacks complaining to each other about the water pressure in their hotel jacuzzis. I am as corrupt as the next man, but I must admit, the notion that you could trim your critical opinions to accord with the fizzy water in which you recently dipped your butt had, until then, never occurred to me."
On Publicity Materials: Never read it. Much is taken up with unconvincing claims of the expertise acquired by the stars in the building up to the shoot. 'Not content with a ringside seat, he actually spent ten months preparing for the role by acting as sparring partner to seven professional boxers, and is now hoping to contend for the welterweight title of the world.'"
On Screening Rooms: "My spirits sag whenever a screening is laid on in one of the specialist rooms off Times Square, which I always think of as peep shows for movie buffs. Can one honestly promise a nimble response when the screen is the size of a parking space?"
On Woody Harrelson: "Woody, trying to emote, looks like anyone else trying to go to sleep."
You'd be hard-pressed to find a single page without at least one bon mot in this 754-page compilation of New Yorker magazine reviews, which also includes profiles of people from Buster Keaton to Julia Roberts and authors from T.S. Eliot to Thomas Pynchon. Among the films covered, Lane discusses "Speed" (which he likes), "Indecent Proposal" (wherein he discusses some indecent acting), and "The Remains of the Day" (which should have shown Anthony Hopkins' character tanking on highballs and ripping the back of a lady's gown rather than measuring the distance from the fork to the edge of the table). Lane did not care much for "Pulp Fiction," but then, nobody's perfect.
19 of 23 people found the following review helpful
The Pleasure of His (Intellectual) Company 1 Sept. 2002
By Robert Morris - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Ours is a nation in which baseball fans have heated arguments over who is the best second baseman ever (my choice is Rogers Hornsby over Joe Morgan but not by much). The best this, the best that, etc. Such debates seem inherent in our culture. Is Pauline Kael a better movie critic than James Agee? Siskel than Ebert? Ebert than Sarris? Sarris than Schickel? What about Anthony Lane and David Denby? Who the hell cares? I have read and admired all of these movie critics, sometimes agreeing with them and other times not. Each has helped me to "see" more or appreciate something less in certain films. On occasion I adjust an opinion after a second viewing, thinking more or less highly of a film in part because of what a critic has observed.
While reading Anthony Lane's work in The New Yorker since 1993, I have often wished that at least his best of it be published in a single volume. That wish has now come true for me as well as for countless others. For reasons already provided, I will not get into comparisons and contrasts with other writers (Kael, Denby, Updike, Lahr, et al) and cut to the proverbial "bone": Those who generally appreciate Lane's work will thoroughly enjoy reading this book. Those who generally dislike his work need no opinion of mine. The title refers to one of the funniest film lines ever. It is expressed by Osgood Fielding III (played by Joe E. Brown) to "Daphne" (played by Jack Lemmon) at the conclusion of Wilder's Some Like It Hot (1959). Like men dressed as women, films are not always what they seem to be.
Matters of agreement and disagreement about films aside, this volume also includes some of Lane's best `Profiles" from The New Yorker. I mention this because those who have not seen a movie since Reagan's first term in office will nonetheless appreciate Lane's formidable erudition, delicious sense of humor, and writing style of seamless precision and eloquence. It is possible to grasp the quality of Lane's thinking and writing even if you have not seen (nor plan to see) whatever film he may be discussing. I share his impatience with The English Patient but think much more of Braveheart than he does. So what? I enjoy the pleasure of Lane's (intellectual) company and appreciate the fact that I can now turn to a single volume to renew acquaintances while awaiting the next issue of The New Yorker.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
best in bite sized reads 30 May 2004
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A big, bloated and immensely enjoyable volume of Lane's collected writings; mostly movie reviews and essays on pop culture. Eminently quotable - though not exactly the easiest volume to tote along to the beach. I especially enjoyed the essay on "The Sound of Music," and the two on the bestsellers of today and yesteryear (I admire him for slogging through all those books that did not age gracefully and even more for admitting that he just could not get through several.) Unlike Ebert - who is a potato chip kind of movie critic easily absorbed but with no lasting nourishment - Lane's reviews often sound a deeper truth about how absurd the movie business - and society - is. It is especially fun to watch him taking aim at sacred cows and cherished pop icons alike. Ayn Rand, James Michener, Robin Williams, The Bridges of Madison County, and many more - watch out.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
. 20 Aug. 2004
By swedishfish - Published on
Format: Paperback
Anthony Lane's reviews' reviews alone probably wouldn't tell you much. Opinion on him is so divided-- I know a ton of people who hate him, but to me he's the most reliably clever reviewer at the New Yorker. If I had read all these love-hate reviews, I wouldn't have gotten the book. I did though, and it put a spring in my step, it was so good. Don't be overly put off by the bad reviews. Or by the abundance of good ones either, it's really not hype, his writing is really very charming.
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