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Why We Film Our Tacky Plays

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Although it’s a rare Talk I don’t enjoy, I could do with fewer “society” pieces like this week’s report, by Lauren Collins, on the making of a saucy short film (to promote the novel The Manny) by a gaggle of fun-loving wealthy types, who hired actors and comedians to play various parts in the book. I last had this mildly uncomfortable feeling when I read Rebecca Mead’s dishy Talk about a party hosted by Cindy Adams. TOTT, as most readers know, began as a frothy, cheerful sort of section, which didn’t take itself too seriously and often made references only a handful of amused insiders would get. It’s grown up a bit since then, and it’s a treat to read precisely because of pieces like—off the top of my head—Michael Schulman on a cooper from Colonial Williamsburg on a visit to hipster-colonized Williamsburg, Mead on Workman’s workingman naps, my friend Tom Bartlett on cardboard box haiku, or Ben McGrath on pretty much anything (with a smattering of borderline cases).

Of course, there’s a place in the magazine for reporting on exclusive parties and functions, awards dinners, benefits, and so on, especially when there’s something notable, funny, or quirky about them. But anecdotes about things like the Manny shoot, which seems more TMZ than Metropolitan in any event, make me slightly itchy; don’t we read about Tinsley Mortimer enough in Gawker as it is, and isn’t that fact enough to prevent her appearance in TOTT? Filmmakers who consider the addition of a dwarf to their cast instant hilarity should probably not be dignified with mentions, either.

There are plenty of ways to be local, timely, and urbane, and The New Yorker has already mastered them—I’ll read Collins’s exemplary and impishly detailed reporting about subjects like the furrier to the hip-hop celebrity world anytime—but events like this seem at once too prepackaged and too slight for coverage in a section (or even, as Harold Ross first imagined it, almost a magazine within a magazine) that thrives on telling jewels of stories, so nearly overlooked, sparklingly well.


Yes; exactly.

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2008 Webby Awards Official Honoree