Culture Notes: Updike, Tinting, Super Bowl

Updike: Just two months before John Updike died the British magazine Literary Review anointed him (you should pardon the phrase) with their first-ever Lifetime Achievement Award for bad sex writing, a knock against Updike’s approach to a favorite topic. Putting aside for a moment the thought that the British should be lecturing anybody on the subject of sex, this award seemed churlish at the time, and now seems really jerky. If you’re going to write about sex, you might as well try to blend bluntness (as in, this is what people do, so why not use the words that match the body parts and the actions?) with lyricism, which Updike did.

I recommend one book I didn’t see mentioned in the obituary notices I saw: Updike’s 1992 novel Memories of the Ford Administration, a gloriously-titled story about an academic recalling the wide-open 1970s; mixed in is the professor’s scholarly project on that most stupefying of U.S. presidents (well, until recently), James Buchanan. A very witty book. With a little sex in it.

Tinting: I have been watching a lot of silent films lately. I am tired of tinting. I know that a lot of silent films were tinted at the time (changing colors, to lend mood and visual variety), and that a lot of DVD companies take care to follow original notes on when and how scenes were tinted. I’m still tired of it. The process darkens the image, in general, and can really blow out entire scenes — in the early going of Kino’s otherwise admirable version of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, for instance. I find myself craving good, clean black-and-white. So enough already.

Super Bowl: Don’t care, but it would be nice to see the Steelers get screwed on a last-minute bad call by the officials — payback for their bogus “win” over the Seattle Seahawks three years ago. Bitter? Not at all.