Jennie Yabroff

Stories by Jennie Yabroff

  • Judd Apatow's Relationship Issues

    There's a scene in Judd Apatow's new movie, Funny People, in which George Simmons (Adam Sandler), a famous comedian fighting a terminal illness, makes a pilgrimage to see his old flame, Laura (Leslie Mann). Their breakup was nasty, but George isn't above exploiting his health for a second chance at true love. Laura, a former actress, never achieved George's fame, and she quit Hollywood to become a full-time mom. A canny seducer, George arrives on her doorstep with a bag of props to remind Laura of the girl she once was: her favorite old pair of jeans (they still fit!) and a greatest-hits reel of her acting spots. As she watches the clips of the occasional Melrose Place moment, her verdict on that is considerably harsher. Later, Laura says, "I always played the bitch." (Story continued below...)Laura's critique could arguably apply to all of Apatow's female characters. Katherine Heigl once called Knocked Up, in which her character gets pregnant after a one-night stand, "a little...
  • Notes on the Death of Neda Agha-Soltan

    Images of the killing of Iranian protester Neda Agha-Soltan are already iconic around the globe. But do they help us understand the conflict?
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    Kathryn Bigelow Talks About "The Hurt Locker"

    Just before dawn one July morning, Kathryn Bigelow was setting up a shot for The Hurt Locker in the Jordanian desert. The movie follows an Explosive Ordnance Disposal bomb technician, one of the hundred or so soldiers in Iraq who dismantle roadside IEDs planted by insurgents. For the scene, the tech and two of his co--workers would detonate a bomb in the middle of the desert, and Bigelow wanted to shoot them from atop a high sand dune. This meant that the crew had to tote all their gear to the top of a hill in the brutal summer heat. "There were a lot of macho guys on the set, British SAS, not to mention all these young, studly actors, and all those guys were falling by the wayside," says Mark Boal, who wrote and co-produced The Hurt Locker. "I'm not walking this hill, no way in hell. I drive past one of the crew who's literally puking on the side of the road. People are dying on this hill. I drive up, and Kathryn is already at the top. She's beaten everyone up there." (Story...
  • Jennie Yabroff: "Away We Go" and Capturing a Generation

    In the funniest scene in the new Sam Mendes film, Away We Go, Burt and Verona, a young couple expecting their first baby, have dinner with Burt's childhood friend, an opinionated neo-earth-mother who goes by the name of LN. LN, a bourgeois bohemian trust-funder who doesn't allow shoes in her ethno-chicly appointed home, prattles on about her militantly permissive style of childrearing (no sugar, no separation, no strollers), blithely criticizing Burt and Verona's own more traditional plans. (They've had the bad taste to bring LN a stroller as gift.) Finally, Burt can take no more. "You're horrible people!" he explodes at LN and her husband, then coaxes the couple's son into the stroller for a forbidden joyride around the living room as LN, her groovy, hip mama veneer shattered, curses and shrieks in protest. As much as LN is an easily lampooned type, Burt and Verona are types, too--he wears hipsterish nerd glasses and an overgrown beard (this...
  • "Spinal Tap" and Its Influence

    'Spinal Tap' made mockumentaries the art form of our time. It also made life hell for every struggling hair-metal band—just ask Anvil.
  • Fast Chat: Peter Davis of "Hearts and Minds"

    When Peter Davis's account of the Vietnam era, "Hearts and Minds," won the Oscar for best documentary at the 1975 Academy Awards, coproducer Bert Schneider took the podium and read a telegram from the Viet Cong delegation to the Paris Peace Accords. Bob Hope, the host that evening, was so incensed that he sent Frank Sinatra onstage to apologize on the Academy's behalf. "Hearts and Minds," which has just been rereleased, is no less polarizing today. It intercuts images of U.S. soldiers razing villages and visiting Saigon whorehouses with scenes of vets being fit for prosthetics. Its title came from President Lyndon Johnson's claim that victory in Vietnam depended on winning the hearts and minds of its people—a phrase that has been invoked repeatedly regarding the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. NEWSWEEK's Jennie Yabroff spoke to Davis about his film's lasting relevance. ...
  • Worth Your Time: Caitlin Macy's "Spoiled"

    There are plenty of status-conscious, self deluded characters in Caitlin Macy's story collection "Spoiled," but Liz, the protagonist in a piece called "Annabel's Mother," is the standout. A stay-at-home wife of a banker, Liz gathers daily with other well-to-do moms, kids and nannies in the battleground of the gated park near her apartment. She's just enough of an outsider to note the local customs: "Even if you had had a maid, you wouldn't have called her a maid, but rather, a cleaning woman, or, at the limit, a housekeeper. The same was true if you had a decorator: You referred to her as 'this friend of mine who's great with color'." Conflicted about her privilege, Liz tries to perform a charity for one of the nannies—but when an actual tragedy occurs in the nanny's family, Liz finds the drama dreary: "Once I found out that no one had died, I didn't really feel like commiserating with her and being late.""Spoiled" could have read like a dated, prerecession peek at the luxe-stroller...
  • Zoe Heller's New Novel, 'The Believers'

    Audrey Litvinoff's exasperation with the world rises like steam from the pages of Zoë Heller's "The Believers." A hard-core leftist of the old school, she has scant patience for anyone whose philosophies, political or otherwise, allow for more ambiguity than her own. Audrey's not just the book's main character, she's its gravitational force, and the other characters are helplessly fixed in their orbits around her. When a friend suggests Islamic suicide bombers are motivated by their religion, Audrey rolls her eyes. "That's just what the Bush administration wants you to believe," she sniffs. We've all sat next to Audrey at a restaurant, listened to her socialist-flavored, conspiracy-laced invective, and silently prayed for her to please shut the hell up.And yet, Audrey is irresistible. She's a horrible mother and a generally unpleasant person, but she's also a dead-on example of a dying breed: the aging '60s radical, still intoxicated by the idea of joining up with her comrades and...
  • Five and Twenty Random Things About Old Will

    Nick Summers nicely dissected what’s wrong with 25 Random Things lists last week, pointing out that few of us are quite the Shakespeares of the blogosphere we imagine ourselves. But turns out old Will himself has some facts to share….
  • Jennie Yabroff: What Should Top Your Netflix Queue

    There's been lots of talk among the arts staff here about what kinds of movies people want to see when the economy is bad. It's a valid question, considering that theater attendance went up during five of the seven recessions since 1965 and January 09 box office grosses topped $1 billion (a 19% increase over Jan 08.) But it's a hard one to answer. Current box office receipts suggest movie watchers are schizophrenic about what they spend their (shrinking) dollars on. Based on the success of "Paul Blart: Mall Cop," which ruled the box office for several weeks, you could posit audiences want escapist fare they can take the kids to. But then how do you explain "Blart" getting kicked out of #1 by the revenge flick "Taken," or brooding "Gran Torino," about a racist Vietnam vet, holding strong in the top 10 after eight weeks?Maybe it makes more sense to ask what movies audiences should be watching during these dark financial times, an...
  • Eddie Marsan's Mouth in 'Happy-Go-Lucky'

    Whenever Eddie Marsan appears onscreen in "Happy-Go-Lucky," I can't take my eyes off his mouth. His character, Scott, an enraged driving instructor, is the antithesis of Poppy (Sally Hawkins), the film's sunny protagonist, who makes the mistake of hiring him. His "instruction" is really just a stream of bigotry and paranoia toward the world beyond his dashboard. Hawkins is free to express Poppy's joie de vivre through physicality—bouncing on a trampoline, dancing flamenco—but in most of his scenes, Marsan is strapped into his seat.Lucky for him, he has that mouth. Marsan's bristly facial hair camouflages his lips, turning his mouth into a prickly hedge where small animals might disappear. When he gets worked up, droplets of spit fly like toxic backwash. And then there are his teeth: recessed, crooked, desperately needing a scrub. But his mouth is also the gateway to his humanity. Watching him bite off details about his grim life, you sense what an ordeal it must be for him to smile...
  • Vampires Everywhere

    Hollywood found new blood with 'Twilight,' but the vampire metaphor is positively deathless.
  • Montauk Goes Upscale with The Surf Lodge

    This laid-back surf town at the end of the South Fork of Long Island has long hidden in the shadow of the Hamptons, just up the beach. Now a group of Manhattanites is infusing it with some glitz, in the form of a destination hotel and restaurant they hope will lure more city sophisticates. ...
  • To Feed a Hungry Soul

    The quest for meaning sends writers on global food pilgrimages. But can God exist in a bowl of soup?
  • Movies: Return to “Narnia”

    "Prince Caspian," the second installment in the Narnia franchise, sinks under a dull, bombastic sameness.