Emdashes—Modern Times Between the Lines

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"With 'Gesture' You Know Where You Stand. But 'Nuance'?"

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Don’t look now, but James Wolcott’s been on fire lately. This meditation on hellish gridlock under a President McCain is brilliant, right up to the last deliciously weltschmerz-soaked line. And this reminiscence of Pauline Kael’s connection to Barry Levinson’s Diner really gets me where I live. I spent my college years inhaling as many of Kael’s words as I could get my hands on, and Diner, which came out when I was 12, was the sort of quirky “how can this be a classic when TBS plays it every weekend?” gem that impressed me a lot during the same period. I didn’t know that she rescued the movie; more people should.


I too was a Kael inhaler. Her reviews are what hooked me on The New Yorker. I still read her, not so much for what she has to say about this or that old movie, but for the pleasure of reading her great, conversational prose. Her “Diner” review is a good example of her style, but she doesn’t let rip in it like she does in, say, her review of “Shoot The Moon,” which came out in the magazine the same year (1982) as her “Diner” piece did. She was a great champion of non-blockbusters. As a result of her reviews, I took in countless movies I wouldn’t have gone to otherwise. Kael truly is one of the all-time great New Yorker writers. I sorely miss her.

Corroborating your point, I don’t remember Kael’s “Diner” review at all, but I do remember that “Shoot the Moon” review very well. It is truly one of the best examples of her championing a smaller movie.

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