Three pieces on current culture. For the full columns, follow the links embedded in the headlines.

New Orleans Mardi Gras can be family-friendly fun (Feb. 27): A New Orleans native’s first Mardi Gras back home in 19 years confirmed for me what most people don’t understand: at least in the Garden District, the Crescent City’s carnival is the most convivial mass celebration imaginable. St. Charles Avenue’s crowds also are fully and wonderfully integrated and family-friendly too.

New Orleans has the reputation of wildness, crossing into debauchery. Mardi Gras behavior in the French Quarter, and perhaps in the neighborhoods of Treme and Bywater, may well merit that reputation: I don’t know because I wasn’t there. But for the first mile and a half of the parade’s journey down St. Charles Avenue, at least, the celebration rarely leaves PG territory even for PG-13. The crowds are full of families, black and white, with members ranging from the tiniest babies (usually in a parent’s chest pouch) to stooped great-grandparents…. And though there’s plenty of alcohol flowing, it somehow seems on this day to lead not to aggression but merely to ever-goofier grins….

National media misses satire in Mardi Gras float (Feb. 26): Sometimes, national audiences don’t understand Mardi Gras. Some national news outlets were tut-tutting about a New Orleans Mardi Gras float depicting Hillary Clinton strangling pedophile Jeffrey Epstein to death with signs that read, “Epstein didn’t kill himself.” They should have kept their tuts to themselves. Nobody was seriously accusing Clinton of murder. The float was satire, within a whole parade full of satire, in a festival increasingly prone to satirical expression….

Too many movies forget that stories need closure (Feb. 24): Movie audiences should decide they’re mad as hell and not gonna take it anymore.

The “it” is the habit of filmmakers of refusing to bring any real conclusion to their stories. We’ve all seen it dozens or hundreds of times, now: The movie sets up a big conflict about how protagonist Jimmy will handle situation X once he arrives at place Z. Then, the movie meanders all around, almost randomly, and it takes forever for Jimmy to reach Z. In all the meandering, nothing in particular seems resolved, other than a sense of just how random life can be. Finally, Jimmy reaches Z, knocks on the door, and the movie ends.

Not only do we not get the once-required part of a plot known in drama as the “denouement,” or the part of a story that comes after the climax and resolution, the part wherein subplots are explained and loose ends are tied up, but, now, we don’t even get a resolution itself and sometimes not even a climax. The movie doesn’t so much end as it just, well, stops….

[This can work sometimes, if the movie is well made, but increasingly it’s just a trite cop-out….]


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