Before you see any of Behind the Candelabra -- when you just consider the concept of the TV movie and its casting — this new HBO Films production raises all sorts of questions: How much will be based on verifiable fact, and how much will be fictionalized? On an anything-goes premium-cable network such as HBO, how graphic will the sex scenes be?
And the most important questions involve the drama's two leading men, playing an ultra-flamboyant piano player and the wide-eyed young man who becomes his behind-the-scenes companion for five years. Michael Douglas? Matt Damon?
Writings from childhood — cards, stories and other notes — can hide for decades, like time capsules tucked away in boxes, old bedrooms, attics and journals. Writer Jim Sollisch talks about how old thank you notes from his youth foreshadowed his adult life.
The biggest problem with pretending all of reality television is categorically odious is that it denies us the opportunity to identify and hold accountable what is actually odious. To those who insist that it's all gross — that no matter the documentary aspirations or good-natured competitiveness of plenty of unscripted television, it all belongs in the same giant dumpster — I am your Crocodile Dundee of distaste: Those aren't destructive and grotesque and irresponsible. This is destructive and grotesque and irresponsible.
Moving on to other news in education, last week hip-hop mogul Dr. Dre and music producer Jimmy Iovine announced that they would be giving the University of Southern California $70 million to create a degree that will blend business, marketing, product development, design and liberal arts.
Well, let's go now to that hotbed of cinema and international stars of the big screen: the Cannes Film Festival. Our movie reviewer, Kenneth Turan, has been taking in all the movies and sites from the south of France. He's on the line with us. Hey, Ken.
KENNETH TURAN, BYLINE: How are you doing?
GREENE: Well. How are you doing there?
TURAN: I'm still standing.
GREENE: I guess that's a good sign. The movies are keeping you awake there.
[Note: Before Midnight is an especially difficult movie to write about, simply because for some people, even what has become of Jesse and Celine since Before Sunset is information that they don't want. But it's impossible — absolutely impossible — to write about the movie without talking about where they stand and what the premise is. I did my absolute best to spoil as little beyond that as possible.
Khaled Hosseini's And the Mountains Echoed begins with a fable that a father tells his two children: A farmer who works hard to eke out a living for his family is forced to give up one of his five children to an evil giant. He and his wife decide to choose randomly, and the unlucky one happens to be their favorite son. Eventually, the farmer, half mad with grief, tracks down the giant and finds his son in a lush garden full of happy children, with no memory of his birth family.