Culture Popby Kara Rota
- Wilson's World Series Beard- I mean bid
- Emma Donoghue reads an excerpt of 'Room' at the Irish Arts Center
- Stephen Colbert testifies before Congress on the plight of migrant workers
- Five Books to Read This Fall
- Season 4 of Mad Men wins over new fans and nostalgic viewers alike
A few nights ago I attended a reading at the Irish Arts Center that completely blew me away. Irish author Emma Donoghue, well-established for her literary and historical fiction. 'Room,' which made the cover of the New York Times Book Review, is a profoundly disturbing and uplifting book, told from the perspective of a five-year-old boy, Jack, who lives in an 12 x 12 foot room with his Ma. The facts of their existence reveal themselves to us only as they enter Jack's understanding, which at the opening of the book does not include a world outside the womb-like space where he and he mother play, learn, read, eat, talk, and sleep, always together.
Donoghue's discussion of her new novel was as fascinating as the book itself, which I devoured in one sitting. The surreal setting and rambling, pervasive voice she has created for Jack are truly stand-out accomplishments in a highlight of recent postmodern fiction.
One of the best parts of my gig as assistant editor of Irish America magazine is writing book reviews. Every press copy that turns up in my office in a fresh beige envelope, new and smelling like all the public libraries I've loved, is a promise of a latest favorite, a gem to discover and recommend and lend out to everyone I know. This fall's crop boasts an impressive selection of fare, from fiction to history to political memoir to cookbooks (I think I adore Jamie Oliver more fervently than some people love their firstborn children.) Here are some standout selections:
- Jennifer Egan, A Visit From the Goon Squad: I couldn't recommend this book any more highly. Unchronologically spanning almost half a century in a collection of linked stories that comprise a whole greater than the sum of their parts, it's the book most writers of my generation wish they'd written: stylistically daring without being trendy, post-postmodern with the marks of classically satisfying narrative. It opens on 20-something kleptomaniac Sasha and her boss, music producer Bennie, then spirals out to the voices of Bennie and his friends as 80's Bay Area punks before diving into an anthropological take on a wealthy man going on an African safari with his young grad student girlfriend and his two adolescent children. For me, however, the most stellar part of Egan's epic of cultural evolution and individual decay was a flash-forward into an uncannily believable and terrifying near-future.
- Tana French, Faithful Place: French's epic mysteries, which have become known as the 'Dublin Murder Squad' trilogy, are not my usual fare, but I was sucked in when I read her last novel, The Likeness, over the course of a few days. Faithful Place takes as its protagonist Detective Frank Mackey, who is drawn back to the childhood neighborhood he's avoided for twenty-two years by new evidence on a case long closed: the disappearance of Frank's teenage love, Rosie Daly.
- Mona Simpson, My Hollywood: Told from the alternate points of view of Claire, an upper-class mother of a young boy named William and also a struggling composer, and her Filipina nanny, Lola, Simpson's smart, clever and wholehearted observation of the parallel universes they inhabit. Satirical but never judgmental, My Hollywood is a fully inhabited picture of a world that is wholly familiar but never resorts to stereotype. This is an absolutely fantastic read.
- Thomas Cahill, How The Irish Saved Civilization: This may be cheating, as Cahill's first volume of the Hinges of History series, which had an impressive run on the New York Times best seller list, was actually published a full fifteen years ago. But, having never read it, I was exposed to it for the first time in preparation for an interview with Mr. Cahill in our October/November issue. I experienced for the first time his surprisingly accessible thesis on how the Irish people's passion for literacy and disinterest in censorship rescued civilization during and after the fall of the Roman Empire. If you've never read it, do. If you have, you'll be amazed at how well it's held up over the last decade and a half.
- John Toomey, Sleepwalker: I'm actually only halfway through John Toomey's debut novel, about an attractive young guy, Stuart Byrne, who becomes suddenly sickened by his own shallowness and spiritual decay and dives headfirst into some dark attempts to fill the void. But I can tell already that Toomey has a strong literary voice, hilarious and also heartbreaking, and I can see why Colum McCann has hailed Sleepwalker as "funny, smart, and intuitive."
So, I don't know if you've heard about this little show called Mad Men? It premiered in July of 2007 and, now kicking off its fourth season, has four Golden Globes and four Emmys under its belt. I got on the bandwagon awfully late, largely due to not having cable, but last week a co-worker took pity on me and lent me Season 1 on DVD. I finished it in days, canceling dinner plans and drinks with friends to sit in bed and watch three hours at a time of Don Draper's half-smirk and Joan's costume changes. I was absolutely mesmerized- and so, it seemed, were the approximately 2.9 million viewers who tuned in to watch the season 4 premiere, having figured out long before I did that this is a show worth talking about.
Set in the early 1960s, Mad Men is about far more than the careers and affairs of Madison Avenue ad executives. It's hitting on some deeper levels of analysis about Americana that resonate even with those of us whose parents were very young children when Don (Jon Hamm) and Betty (January Jones) were chain-smoking while reading bedtime stories. Solidly fifty years later, with all the changing social mores that half a century have brought, these characters have as much as ever to say about the shifts between surburbia and New York City, about the complex desires and choices (or lack thereof) of women carving out new roles in their homes and in corporate settings, about redefining happiness in an era where those of a certain sociocultural stature were overwhelmed by the prospect of "having everything." As Peter Applebome put it in a recent New York Times piece, "If Mad Men came with a decoder ring it would surely spell out: "Read John Cheever."
Growing up in the nineties, I loved Tim Burton and I loved Johnny Depp and I absolutely loved when the two came together to personify the ultimate goth-chic aesthetic. I can't tell you how many times I've watched Edward Scissorhands, only that I had a copy of the VHS long before I bought the DVD. It's a fantastic movie, surreal and satirical and truly beautiful as a modern fable. When I heard that the Brooklyn Studio Lab was bringing the classic to the stage, I was skeptical, to say the least, but also intrigued.
Last week I had the opportunity to attend one of the final performances of the play, which ran through July 3. It was clear that this was going to be a different experience than the film, which cost $20 million to make in 1990. Without a significant budget and faced with the obvious logistical limitations that differentiate stage production from cinema, director Richard Crawford was forced to get creative. Many artists involved in the production donated their time and even money, and it's obvious that their hearts are seriously in it.
When director Lance Daly conceptualized the new Irish film Kisses, Shane Curry and Kelly O'Neill must have been just the rough-around-the-edges street urchins he had in mind. Both breakthrough performances gave raw emotion to Daly's story of a ten-year-old boy and eleven-year-old girl living next door to one another on the fringes of Dublin.
Kylie is one of six siblings whose harried mother is oblivious to her traumas, while Dylan shields his hatred of an abusive father and the loss of a brother who ran away two years ago in silence and tough apathy. The asthma inhaler he sucks on in moments so terrifying its uselessness is palpable belies a level of vulnerability that the script never quite allows Curry to explore.
Last night I went to a press screening of Magnolia Pictures' The Extra Man, a strange and poignant and deeply funny film by Robert Pulcini and Shari Springer Berman, based on the novel by Jonathan Ames. It stars one of my favorite actors, Paul Dano, as Louis Ives, a quirky young ex-teacher who has just traveled to New York to find himself, accompanied by the F. Scott Fitzgerald-like third-person voice he imagines constantly narrating his life. He takes a room in the apartment of the larger-than-life Henry Harrison (a phenomenal Kevin Kline), a playwright and socialite who promises to take Louis under his wing and show him the ways of a gentleman in the city.
The movie largely plays with the idea of characters seeming out of sync with their time and place, as Harrison strives to maintain a lavish lifestyle despite his flea infestation and rusty Buick, precariously on its last legs. Harrison's unapologetically backwards social views provide stark contrast to the protests and social activism at Louis's new employer, an environmental magazine where Louis meets Mary (Katie Holmes), an enthusiastic if impressionable green convert whose dislikability as a character is played with satisfying subtlety.
Al Gore, former Vice President to Bill Clinton and environmental advocate, and his wife Tipper are separating after 40 years of marriage, according to an e-mail circulated today by the former couple, which stated,
“We are announcing today that after a great deal of thought and discussion, we have decided to separate.
“This is very much a mutual and mutually supportive decision that we have made together following a process of long and careful consideration. We ask for respect for our privacy and that of our family, and we do not intend to comment further.”
The couple met at a high school graduation dance and were married on May 19, 1970.
Last night I went to a press screening of National Geographic Entertainment's The Wildest Dream: Conquest of Everest, a film by Anthony Geffen. In 93 minutes that sometimes feels much longer, Geffen tells the story of George Mallory, the British explorer who disappeared on his quest to be the first to reach the summit of Mt. Everest in 1924, and American mountaineer Conrad Anker, who discovered Mallory's body in Mt. Everest's 'death zone' in 1999 and set off to determine whether it would have been possible for Mallory to reach the summit. Anker and his partner, young British climbing prodigy Leo Houlding, attempt parts of the climb in the same type of gabardine outerwear and hobnail boots that Mallory and his partner Andrew Sandy Irvine wore when Mt. Everest claimed their lives many decades before. In the film's climax, Anker and Houlding must climb the notorious "Second Step," the sheer cliff that stands between climbers and the summit, without the help of the ladders that were installed by Chinese mountaineers after Mallory and Irvine's attempt.
The film, which comes out in August in IMAX, is most notable for its breathtaking footage of the mountain itself, paired with Irish actor Liam Neeson's narration of Mallory and Anker's overlapping stories. Some of the reenacted moments in Anker's quest, saturated with drama, begin to feel like an extensive North Face commercial, but the 1924 black-and-white footage of Mallory and Irvine's ascent is remarkable to see. Letters written between Mallory and his wife Ruth articulate Mallory's inner struggle between his love for his family and need for adventure, summed up in Mallory's famous quote when a NY Times journalist asked why he wanted to climb Mt. Everest. Mallory replied, "Because it's there."
Perez Hilton reported yesterday that Forbes magazine has compiled a list of actors with the most male leads in films over the last ten years, and Irish-American Seth Rogen came out on top with 10 leading roles in movies that earned a cushy $892 million total. The Irish were well-represented on the rest of the list as well, on which Matt Damon, Morgan Freeman, Will Ferrell, and Robert Downey Jr. also took spots.
Seth Rogen snuck into the hearts of American moviegoers with his endearing stoner aesthetic in movies like Knocked Up and Superbad, but he's breaking out of his chubby shell as superhero The Green Hornet in the film directed by Michel Gondry, now in post-production. I'll go see it, but I'm nowhere near as excited for that on the comic-book-turned-movie spectrum as I am about Kenneth Branagh's Thor, coming out in 2011 and starring dreamboat Chris Hemsworth.
Playwright Martin McDonagh is well known for going more than a little off the rails. When I first saw his work onstage, in The Lieutenant of Inishmore, I was alternately shocked, terrified, and absolutely gleeful with laughter.
His recent work, A Behanding in Spokane, now on Broadway starring Christopher Walken, prompts many of the same reactions. It's a claustrophobic play taking place in a dingy hotel room, with four characters: Walken as Carmichael, an eccentric if not certifiable and imposing character 47 years into a search for his amputated hand, Sam Rockwell as Mervyn, the hotel clerk, Zoe Kazan as "the girl", Marilyn, and Anthony Mackie as "the black guy", Toby.
I went to see The Runaways last night, filled with excitement and hope that it would be all I wanted it to be: an aesthetically delicious, fully satisfying grrl power rock epic. My enthusiasm was dampened only a little bit by the Twilight preview that inevitably came on before, featuring a deadpan Kristen Stewart looking mildly nauseous but not very much in love with either Team Edward or Team Jacob. I started to feel hesitant, like maybe I'd hyped myself for The Runaways too heavily -- could a cool haircut and a leather jacket really turn the limp 'heroine' Bella Swann into a convincing portrait of Joan Jett, one of our quintessential rock goddesses?
From the first moment of Stewart's appearance onscreen, I realized I needn't have worried. What comes across in the flat franchise of Stephanie Meyer's Twilight as passive, angsty boredom translates in writer-director Floria Sigismondi's script as genuine, tough, fiery, boyish, teenage rock spirit. In the first few of her opening scenes, Stewart as Jett portrays a shameless determination to upend the conventions of popular music, personified by a goofy if well-meaning guitar teacher who tells her, bluntly and naively, that "girls don't play electric guitars."
TMZ reported today that Ireland's High Court Justice Peter Kelly has announced that entertainer Prince owes almost $3 million to concert promoters for failing to perform a Dublin show in 2008. Kelly says a settlement was reached in February, but Prince has yet to pay up.
An agent who worked with Prince told the court that when he told Prince about the problem, the singer responded, "Tell the cat to chill. We will work something out," according to TMZ.
IrishCentral readers got a little up in arms a couple of weeks ago when I commented on Kristen Stewart's seeming lack of Hollywood-worthy stage presence at the Academy Awards. I think it's exactly this genuine, anti-starlet teenage energy that's going to serve her well in her critically lauded portrayal of Irish-American rock star Joan Jett in The Runaways, released April 9 and co-starring Dakota Fanning.
Joan Jett was born Joan Marie Larkin (Anglicized from the Gaelic O'Lorcain) in a suburb of Philadelphia, and the upcoming film is a coming-of-age biopic chronicling Jett and her bandmates' rise to fame as a history-making all-girl underage rock band.
I'm excited to see Stewart break out of her Twilight persona and stand on her own, rather than as part of the K-Stew/R-Patz phenomenon. Jett (pictured with Stewart, left) was impressed with her performance, as were numerous critics.
Lindsay Lohan is suing online stock trading company E*TRADE to the tune of a hundred million because of a commercial spot about (what else?) babies who are diversifying their portfolios, cheating on their baby girlfriends, and dealing with milkaholism. Trouble.
I watched the Academy Awards last night with my grandparents and their friends, and a large part of the conversation was nostalgic: the spotlight was on aged and aging stars, and the young 'talent' in line to replace them seemed, well, lacking.
I know Kristen Stewart's only nineteen, and I'm sure she's a lovely girl. But I was surprised to find a dearth of snarky blogs or mentions at all today in regards to her stage presence, which I found frankly appalling. When she took the stage with Twilight co-star Taylor Lautner to introduce a montage of horror films (it's unclear to me what, if anything, the Twilight franchise has to do with classics like Psycho and Frankenstein), I thought she looked less like a confident, spotlight-ready star than an awkward kid forced to give a class presentation.
Last Thursday, our own Niall O'Dowd gave me a very serious journalistic assignment. He'd heard that the Jersey Shore's reigning king, "The Situation," was making his first New York appearance at McFadden's, and Niall wanted me to go and cover the story. "No, seriously," he said, "You write very well about lowbrow culture."
Gee, thanks, Niall.
When I was small, I remember having sleepovers at my best friend Sophie's house on New Year's Eve and sometimes on the last nights of other months. I remember being woken up with her mother saying "rabbit rabbit," which, if you said it first before opening your mouth to say anything else on the first day of each new month, would bring you good luck for the next thirty days. It's one of the superstitions I've carried into adulthood, one of the rituals that I enjoy keeping.
For those of us raised in secular households, these rituals can sometimes feel few and far between. The religious basis of my youth was mysterious and scattered. While my father was raised in a large Italian Catholic family and later converted to Christianity, he kept his faith mostly to himself, while my mother took me sometimes to Unitarian church but stressed the feeling of community more than the belief in anything in particular. I went to a Quaker elementary school but didn't feel spiritually touched by the difficulty of keeping silent during Meeting for Worship. When we visited my grandparents in New York, I was overwhelmed by the majesty of 5th Avenue Presbyterian Church, but the context of the sermons often escaped me. I was raised by my mother to understand how religion can be misused to hurt and oppress people, including, largely, women, but I also saw how my father was deeply comforted by it. I spent a long time ignoring this complex and haphazard personal history, but as I get older I feel drawn back into it, wanting to make sense of what I believe and why.
I was thrilled to learn that Conor McPherson's new film The Eclipse swept the Irish Film and Television Awards on Saturday, snagging awards for Best Film, Best Film Script, and Best Supporting Actor for Aiden Quinn.
I saw the film Monday night at a press screening and was excited, I'll admit largely because The Eclipse stars the unpronounceable Iben Hjejle, best known in America for her star turn opposite John Cusack in High Fidelity (easily one of my top five favorite movies). In The Eclipse, which is set at a literary festival in Cobh -- the gorgeous and eerie scenery holds a supporting role all on its own -- Hjejle plays a novelist caught between the competing desires of Nicholas (Aiden Quinn), an absolute asshole American writer/drunk (Quinn is fantastic in this, alternately hilarious, tragic and complexly, awfully intense, and the award is well-deserved) and Michael (Ciaran Hinds), a widower who serves as a volunteer at the festival and thus is a much ignored silent witness to the egomaniacal and neurotic writers' personalities.
Irish Canadian supermodel Coco Rocha, who I interviewed for Irish America's June/July 2009 cover story, claims that she's not getting work because she's (gasp) a SIZE FOUR. Although she's appeared for Zac Posen and Diane von Furstenburg this fashion week, Rocha says she's not in demand anymore. The New York Times quoted her as saying, "Girls are told they're not skinny enough, or they hear, 'She's old, she's boring, we've had her, she's not tiny anymore... A lot of people don't take into account the vulnerability of these young girls.
"Everybody knows that, in general, a basketball player needs to be tall and a fashion model needs to be skinny, but how skinny is too skinny?"
Coco has spoken out before about the problematic expectations of the fashion industry (in which the sample size industry standard is a size zero). When I interviewed her last July, she said, "When you start off you have to have a certain body type. I mean, that’s why we get [recruited] so young. Your body hasn’t even gotten to that peak yet. So when you start aging and your body is changing, people want it to stop, they don’t want that happening. … You can’t please everyone. If Client A and Client B want two different girls, are you somehow going to get both of them? No. If you don’t want me today, someone will want me tomorrow.”
Okay, Irish Central readers. You seem to have this thing about Robert Pattinson. It's a love/hate relationship. Not that I can blame you: our website seems to have a thing about him too. A fixation, if you will. A preoccupation. A sort of mesmerized cult following.
At the ripe old age of 22, I'm not exactly the kid's target audience, but I am generally fascinated by how differently some hot young things react to their newfound celebrity, and find myself torn between opposing stances of You Get What You Ask For (stars innately have signed away all rights to a normal and private adolescence) and They Become What We Make Them (American media's obsession with celebrity culture and constant salivating over the rise and continuing freefall feeds into self-destructive behaviors).
The 2010 Winter Olympics have already become a source of pride for Irish Americans, with two of our own snagging medals in cold-weather events.
This Tuesday night a friend and I went to see a press screening of The Good Guy, a sort-of romantic sort-of comedy written and directed by Julio dePietro, coming out in theatres February 19. Starring Alexis Bledel, Scott Porter and Bryan Greenberg, it's the none-too-original story of Beth, a twenty-something girl in Manhattan trying to figure out who to date, with an adorably bro-y She's All That-style subplot about clueless dudes teaching a more clueless dude how to succeed with women and on Wall Street.
First off, I should say I have mixed feelings about the media circus that the circumstances surrounding Brittany Murphy's death continue to drag out (although, of course, compared to Michael or even Heath, it's more like a media small-town-summer-carnival-with-maybe-one-sketchy-looking-ride). I am obviously a diehard Clueless fan, but even aside from that, I think she had some pretty incredible performances in some really fantastic movies (anything co-starring Ashton Kutcher notwithstanding), and always seemed like a likeable, sweet Irish-Italian girl who came from genuinely tough circumstances to make it big.
Mysterious circumstances continue in events surrounding the untimely death of actress Brittany Murphy. Her widower, Simon Monjack, had planned an enormous launch party for tomorrow night to kick off the new Brittany Murphy Foundation, which he is creating to fundraise towards the cause of arts education for children.
I think we took a significant step backward this week when CBS decided to reject the proposed Super Bowl ad from the gay dating site ManCrunch, which depicted two dudes watching football who start making out after their hands brush in the chip bowl.
Despite the complete normalization of TV spots for straight dating sites (even those which blatantly exclude bisexual or homosexual users) and the long tradition of sexually explicit Super Bowl commercials for beer and other consumer goods (not to even mention the ever-present cheerdancers at football games), CBS released a statement saying that their "Standards and Practices department decided not to accept this particular spot." ManCrunch is calling CBS out on discriminatory practices.
I was lucky enough to write the cover story for our February/March 2010 issue of Irish America magazine, which meant interviewing Brendan Fraser, the star of "Extraordinary Measures," as well as John and Aileen Crowley, upon whose real life the film is based.
I saw "Extraordinary Measures," also starring Harrison Ford and Keri Russell, at a screening on December 17. I didn't have much of an idea of what to expect: the thing about a press screening is that you have the opportunity to see the film before reading reviews, without seeing the trailers or magazine ads or subway posters that have since sprung up everywhere.
I did know that the screenplay was based on the story of John Crowley, one of Irish America's Business 100 honorees, and his family. When two of John's children were diagnosed with Pompe disease, John and his wife Aileen risked everything to take up the cause, raising money for research and founding a start-up that eventually joined up with a larger pharmaceutical corporation, which developed a treatment for Pompe that John credits with having saved his children's lives.
The 67th annual Golden Globe Awards aired this past Sunday, with the big winners of the night James Cameron's Avatar (which I still haven't seen, but at this point, how could it not be overrated?), the quirky not-so-cult TV hit, Fox's Glee, and a handful of umbrella designers. Refusing to let the rain dampen their spirits, the stars were out gloating, graciously accepting and, for some, hiding disappointment on the red carpet and at awards parties afterwards. And a solid handful of those stars were Irish.
Glee, winner of the Golden Globe for best musical or comedy TV series, owes its creation to Irish Catholic-born Ryan Murphy, who acquired at least part of his knowledge of the school music circuit to choir practice as a Catholic school kid from first through eighth grade. Another of the three creators, Ian Brennan, is also Irish-American. Jane Lynch scored a Best Supporting Actress nomination for her performance as the glee club's arch-nemesis in the show.
The not-so-Irish Sandra Bullock won the Best Actress in a Motion Picture - Drama Golden Globe for her portrayal of the much-more-Irish Leanne Tuohy in Blindside, while Drew Barrymore won Best Actress In A Mini-series or Motion Picture Made for Television for Grey Gardens (bonus Irish-American points for the show's Kennedy connections.) We can also boast both the Best Actor winners for Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy and TV series - Musical or Comedy: Robert Downey Jr. for Sherlock Holmes and Alec Baldwin for 30 Rock (one of NBC's bright spots this season).
Irishcentral.com reported this morning that Lindsay Lohan's official sex tape is about to be released on the Internet, filmed by a waiter at a chain restaurant. Which obviously begs the question: which one? (Fingers crossed for Applebee's!) Lindsay's spokespeople seem most concerned that its unauthorized release will overshadow her recently
filmed documentary about child trafficking in India. I wouldn't be too worried-- at 47 seconds, I'd say as video footage goes it's hardly Youtube-worthy. Hustler disagrees, as it's reportedly offering £100,000 for it--approximately $163,000. Dear Hustler: how about sending that money to Haiti instead?
In other naked Irish celebrity news, heartthrob-turned-
I should preface this by saying that it's very recently I've brought myself to care at all about the grand world of sports. The great American pastime was ruined for me as a small child growing up in New Jersey, when I went to a Phillies game with my dad and spent the whole time trying to catch fly balls (I didn't much see the point of attending any event that you couldn't go home with a souvenir). When one finally, miraculously, landed between my row and the row behind us, the surrounding audience of middle-aged, beer-bellied men decided that the prized baseball ought to be given to the boy sitting behind me: talk about early memories of developing feminism. Baseball, I decided then and there, was a dirty, unfair game. I pouted and ignored sports altogether for approximately the next thirteen years.
All this changed when I turned 21, graduated college, moved into Manhattan and discovered the wide world of bars and the cable TVs that play nonstop in them. I attended my second baseball game in October and was amazed to find that it combined things I love wholeheartedly (Big-screen televisions! The outdoors! Roller-coaster heights! Beer and hot dogs!) into an undeniably fun experience. I was hooked. I followed the baseball season with bated breath right up until the heartbreaking World Series loss of my beloved Phillies to the despicably over-funded Yankees (sorry, New York)-- and luckily, the football season and cutthroat competitive spirit of the office football pool were there to comfort me.
Neil Patrick Harris.
Sure, episode 100 of the series, now in its fifth season, might contain an exciting guest appearance from OC alum Rachel Bilson (possibly, maybe, perhaps, but probably not The Mother herself). Okay, Marshall (Jason Segal) and Lily (Alyson Hannigan)'s successful long-term relationship with its minor conflicts (episode 94: Marshall learns why it's important to put your dishes immediately in the sink!) is adorable. I guess some of the show's audience must be dying to find out if Robin (Cobie Smulders) ever breaks out of her wee-hours public-access morning news show and into real journalism. And oh, there's that main character guy (Josh Radnor as Ted Mosby) that nobody seems to like all that much--even his kids in the opening scenes seem pretty disinterested in finding out who their mother is.