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About Me

Kyle Smith (Twitter: @rkylesmith) is critic-at-large for National Review, theater critic for The New Criterion and the author of the novels Love Monkey and A Christmas Caroline. Type a title in the box above to locate a review.

Buy Love Monkey for $4! "Hilarious"--Maslin, NY Times. "Exceedingly readable and wickedly funny romantic comedy"--S.F. Chronicle. "Loud and brash, a helluva lot of fun"--Entertainment Weekly. "Engaging romp, laugh-out-loud funny"-CNN. "Shrewd, self-deprecating, oh-so-witty. Smith's ruthless humor knows no bounds"--NPR

Buy A Christmas Caroline for $10! "for those who prefer their sentimentality seasoned with a dash of cynical wit. A quick, enjoyable read...straight out of Devil Wears Prada"--The Wall Street Journal

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  • Sue Me, I Liked ‘Cats’

    By Kyle | August 5, 2016

    I had no idea how cheesy it was going to be, but the songs are catchy and the dancing is dazzling. A theater review.

    Topics: Theater | 1 Comment »

    The Tremayne Event

    By Kyle | May 4, 2010

    Formerly indefatigable ksonline commenter Hunter Tremayne has seemed singularly…defatigable of late, barely noticing vigorous attempts to draw his outrage. But I’m not offended. That’s only because he’s busy rehearsing the role of “Saunders” in the Jocular Theatre Co.’s long-awaited production of “Lend Me a Tenor,” which launches May 15. Get your tickets now! Drawback: the show is in HT’s adopted hometown of Barcelona, which is even farther away than Staten Island. (New York’s economy fell apart while Hunter lurked in the vicinity of Wall Street. Now Spain is in the toilet. Coincidence?) Also, for some reason plane tickets to Europe are suddenly about 40 million dollars. I’ll be there anyway!*
    —————————
    *in spirit

    Topics: Europe, Theater | 3 Comments »

    The Taxman Cometh

    By Kyle | February 6, 2009

    Sock Broadway with a tax increase? Noooo, cries the New York Times. (Seriously.) Why? Because tax increases make life harder for consumers and make them turn away from the thing that is being heavily taxed. This, as John Podhoretz points out in one of his typically witty and pithy postings, is the fundamental reason to oppose not just a Broadway tax increase but any tax increase. So if the Times is against this one, it should rethink its love affair with tax hikes in general.

    Topics: Broadway, Theater | 1 Comment »

    In Memoriam: Clive Barnes

    By Kyle | November 19, 2008

    Our gracious, witty and beloved colleague Clive Barnes died early this morning from cancer. Mary Huhn has a tribute to him here while Lou Lumenick contributes a personal memory here. As recently as a few weeks ago, Clive was still a jaunty presence at our staff’s Tuesday morning meetings, where he would tirelessly contribute his enthusiasm, the occasional polished quip and even ideas for stories that had nothing to do with the theater beat. Clive essentially had three careers, reviewing dance as well as theater for The Post and, before that, serving as a distinguished film drama critic for many years at The New York Times. Clive was a true gentleman as well as an erudite observer of the culture, and the theater world will miss him as badly as we do.

    Topics: Theater | No Comments »

    “Waiting for Godot” Goes Hip-Hop: “For Flow”

    By Kyle | October 10, 2008

    Vladmir and Estragon are in the ‘hood for a retooled “Waiting for Godot.” Because Samuel Beckett wuz all about da bling, bra. What’s next–“Rap’s Last Tape”?

    Press release after the jump. Methinks anyone who has ever written anything for anyone could get a press pass to see it free. And by “bedoga,” I think the publicist means “bodega.” Word.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Topics: Books, New York City, Philosophy, Theater | No Comments »

    Review: “Hamlet 2”

    By Kyle | August 22, 2008

    Steve Coogan flails for laughs in another zero-laugh comedy, “Hamlet 2.” My review is here.

    Topics: Comedy, Movies, Theater | 1 Comment »

    Noooooo! Singalong “Mamma Mia”!

    By Kyle | August 20, 2008

    Abba-Dabba-D’oh! It’s too horrible to be true, and yet, here it is: news of a singalong “Mamma Mia!” When will this long international nightmare end? (And I say this as an actual ABBA fan. I dig the songs but my oh my, could the musical be any more embarrassing?)

    Topics: Movies, Music, Theater | 6 Comments »

    David Mamet Joins the Right

    By Kyle | March 17, 2008

    Practically each paragraph of David Mamet’s lengthy essay in the Village Voice, “Why I Am No Longer a Brain-Dead Liberal,” is a knockout punch to the left or a statement of conservative principles not all that different in philosophical underpinnings (though very different in language) from the message of the departed William F. Buckley Jr.

    Yes, the formerly flamingly liberal playwright David Mamet has taken a hard right turn, realizing that the la-la liberal dream has little to with reality. I always counted Mamet as one of those lefties who was too talented to ignore but what a joy it is to see him joining our team. (Maybe Martin Amis will be next?) To cite just one juicy graf:

    And so I, like many of the liberal congregation, began, teeth grinding, to attempt to [imagine things from the opposite point of view]. And in doing so, I recognized that I held those two views of America (politics, government, corporations, the military). One was of a state where everything was magically wrong and must be immediately corrected at any cost; and the other–the world in which I actually functioned day to day–was made up of people, most of whom were reasonably trying to maximize their comfort by getting along with each other (in the workplace, the marketplace, the jury room, on the freeway, even at the school-board meeting).

    And I realized that the time had come for me to avow my participation in that America in which I chose to live, and that that country was not a schoolroom teaching values, but a marketplace.

    Topics: Politics, Theater | 2 Comments »

    Review: “Funny Games”

    By Kyle | March 16, 2008

    funnygames1.jpg

    THE OUTER LIMITS

    Kyle Smith review of FUNNY GAMES

    112 minutes/Rated R

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    “Funny Games” is a nasty piece of work. Extreme is too mild a word. So is disgusting. This psychological thriller makes “No Country for Old Men” look like “High School Musical 2.” It’s black, bleak, ugly, brutal, inflammatory and brilliantly devious.

    Michael Haneke’s film, a remake of his own 1997 Austrian movie of the same name, isn’t for everyone. I wouldn’t recommend it to most of my friends. Exactly how far would you like to be pushed this evening? If your answer is, “Not really to the psyche-shattering point, thanks,” stay well clear.

    “Funny Games” isn’t about violence per se, and though you’ll swear horrible things are happening before your eyes, they are being pushed offscreen, making it much less violent than the average slasher movie. Yet it goes gleefully to places it knows it shouldn’t, if it wants to have an audience. Many films claim to challenge the bourgeoisie while sending them the cinematic equivalent of a fruity Chardonnay; this one is, like the song that inexplicably interrupts the opening credits, the cinematic equivalent of death metal.

    I won’t reveal what happens beyond the setup, in which a carefree and well-off couple (Naomi Watts and Tim Roth) and their little boy drive to their summer house for a nice little break. A couple of nice young men (Michael Pitt, Brady Corbet), near lookalikes with floppy tousled hair and angel-of-the-country-club tennis whites, stop by to borrow some eggs. Then things take a turn for the inappropriate.

    Haneke is an Austrian director who has made such French films as “Cache,” which similarly ensnared a well-to-do couple in inexplicable intrigue and made heavy use of an chillingly nonjudgmental surveillance-camera feel.

    Cameras are parked in strange places for long, disturbing stretches of “Funny Games.” We don’t see the principal actors at first; instead, the camera swoops far overhead, making the humans seem like distant objects of curiosity, playthings of more intelligent forces. So riveting is Haneke’s vision that he can shock you with things you don’t see, or with things you think you’re about to see. The single most memorable, most sickening shot in the movie is that of a golf ball rolling on the floor. Even in that case, you don’t see the golf ball at first, and don’t need to. The sound it makes enough to make you run screaming for the exits. This is twisted but skilled filmmaking. “Funny Games” is one of the most perfect horror films you’ll ever see.

    But mere horror is not quite the point. Haneke has a satirical point to make, or rather that he wants you to make. “Funny Games” is a meta-thriller that questions the assumptions behind the horror genre. Is it playing by the rules to show a child suffering? Are we being cheated of our lust for violence if we don’t get to see someone being made to bleed? Can we be denied a good look at the climactic moment? One character keeps breaking the fourth wall to hint at these sorts of questions, and there is also another trick element that takes us away from the realm of the possible. So why does the film feel so shatteringly real?

    Possibly it’s because we, the upscale moviegoing audience, are so much like the beautiful family on the screen. Haneke has some disgusted comments to make on that, about our relationship with our baguettes and our Subzeros and our cozy entertainment choices. At one particularly awful moment, someone struggles mightily to simply turn off the NASCAR race that roars out of the TV. People, the film says, can be literally trapped by their most expensive possessions.

    So the film is an acid satire of consumerism and E-Z entertainment. Facile? Predictable? Maybe, but there’s a third element that Haneke brings off with aplomb. With darting, elliptical language reminiscent of Harold Pinter’s, Haneke skewers the language styles of the rich and careless, the light hostility baked inside softly nonjudgmental words like “appropriate,” the way “sorry” and “nice” can mean not particularly sorry and really not nice at all. Underneath such polite words Haneke finds flaming pits of suffering.

    Topics: Europe, Movies, Theater | 8 Comments »

    There’s Disturbing, There’s Scary, There’s Terrifying. And Then There’s This Movie

    By Kyle | March 4, 2008

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    The psychological thriller “Funny Games,” opening March 14, rivals and probably tops the Ellen Page internet-predator film “Hard Candy” in disgusting, vile, vicious, incandescently brutal wickedness. So why did I love this evil film, one I would strongly disrecommend to almost everyone I know?

    It has its roots in European drama, particularly (with its breaking of the fourth wall) Pirandello and definitely Pinter. The overwhelming, sickening terror of the movie–I’m serious, don’t see it if you have a weak stomach–is so pure and effective that you have to give it credit as one of the great horror movies. But it’s not just that. It’s also the blackest of satires. Satire of what, though? It comments on the conventions of horror movies, the unwritten rules. (Surely a child could not be hurt? Surely the climactic event can’t take place in the corner of the frame, barely visible, almost silent?) It’s a gleefully anarchic death-metal attack, but only by implication, on the consumption habits of the bourgeoisie, with our spacious summer homes and exquisite kitchens, while never being so crass as to deliver up any speeches on the hollow core of material things. I’m not a self-hating bourgeois, but when the arrow hits the target, I say so.

    Like heavy metal, though, the film is interestingly hazy on ideology, nihilist but also something else. Its most effective satire is, I think, on upper-class language itself, on the denatured term “inappropriate” and the strictures of politeness; that’s where the Harold Pinter influence is most evident. You could also read it as a veiled attack on the upper class’s distaste for guns. There are times when one loaded gun could be worth all of your noble ideals and then some.

    Writer-director Michael Haneke (who made the exact same film once before, under the same title, in 1997, when he was working in Europe) makes these points in ways that are way beyond extreme, though. Don’t see the film if you have a shred of humanity. I mainly recommend it to….film critics.

    Topics: Movies, Philosophy, Theater | 8 Comments »

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