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  • Glenn Sonnenberg

Musings from the Bunker 2/1/21

Good morning! Typically, I’ve devoted much of each 25th Musing to highlighting some of the more interesting finds of the prior month; however, the last month was largely devoted to the inauguration, the challenges before us and the riot at the Capitol. So mostly some new stuff this time: THE NEXUS OF GREAT WRITING AND GREAT FILMS I love a good story—whether in a book or on the screen. So it is a special treat to be able to experience a great piece of writing translated into a great movie. There is only award that is given to the writers of both the original piece of literature and the writer that adapted that literature for the screen—the USC Libraries Scripter Award. Last week, the finalists for the Scripter Award, now in its 33rd year, were announced. The two categories are for the best adaptation of a book into a film and the best book adapted for TV (there are five finalists in each category). I co-founded this award with Marjorie Lord Volk, a wonderful actress, patron of the arts, and all-around delightful human being. I first “met” her when she played Danny Thomas’s wife on Make Room for Daddy. Our partner in this effort back then was University Librarian Charles Ritcheson, who was a former professor of mine. I continue to be on the selection committee and, while I won’t share my actual ballot, I note that this year feels like the culmination of trend that TV entries are outpacing the movie entries in quality, writing and artistry. While the finalists in both categories are outstanding, I feel there were far more TV episodes worthy of inclusion than for film. It feels like “no contest.” In the long run, TV seems to be winning. FILM Bad Education (HBO Films) Mike Makowsky Based on the New York magazine article “The Bad Superintendent” by Robert Kolker First Cow (A24) Jon Raymond and Kelly Reichardt Based on the novel The Half-Life by Jon Raymond Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (Netflix) Ruben Santiago-Hudson Based on the play by August Wilson Nomadland (Searchlight Pictures) Chloé Zhao Based on the nonfiction book Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century by Jessica Bruder One Night in Miami (Amazon) Kemp Powers Based on the play by Powers EPISODIC SERIES The Good Lord Bird (Showtime) Mark Richard and Ethan Hawke for the episode “Meet the Lord,” based on the novel by James McBride Normal People (Hulu) Sally Rooney and Alice Birch for the fifth episode, based on the novel by Rooney The Plot Against America (HBO) Ed Burns and David Simon for the sixth episode, based on the novel by Philip Roth The Queen’s Gambit (Netflix) Scott Frank for the episode “Openings,” based on the novel by Walter Tevis Unorthodox (Netflix) Anna Winger for the first episode, based on the autobiography “Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots” by Deborah Feldman BEST QUOTE OF THE MONTH The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the convinced Communist, but people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction (i.e., the reality of experience) and the distinction between true and false (i.e., the standards of thought) no longer exists. -- Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism BEST POEM OF THE MONTH [i carry your heart with me(I carry it in] by e.e. cummings i carry your heart with me(i carry it in my heart)i am never without it(anywhere i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done by only me is your doing,my darling) i fear no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true) and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant and whatever a sun will always sing is you here is the deepest secret nobody knows (here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows higher than soul can hope or mind can hide) and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart) THE ZEITGEIST Today’s zeitgeist should concern us all:

  • Washington can’t be trusted

  • Economic disparity has widened

  • People are living on the margin, with more than half the population unable to cover a $1,000 emergency expenditure

  • College is expensive, pushes people into long term debt and its value is questioned

  • Jobs have moved offshore and many will never return

  • People whose jobs have become redundant as a result of globalization and technology are not afforded the means to shift careers and provide for their families

  • There is a sense that the pie cannot be grown; it’s more about each interest group grabbing its own piece of the pie

  • There is a sense that our “way of life” through the expansion of rights

BEST CURRENT MOVIE One Night in Miami—I just watched this imagining of the night after the first Clay (soon to be Muhammed Ali) defeat of Sonny Liston. The players are Ali, Sam Cooke, Jim Brown and Malcolm X. The great Leslie Odom, Jr. (who played Burr in Hamilton) plays Sam Cooke. A great picture of the characters, the time in the history of Black America, and the events. Brilliant concept, well acted and directed with great interplay of these iconic men discussing their celebrity and how they might use their celebrity to improve the world. Definitely catch it on Amazon Prime. Have a great week, Glenn

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