The Last Days of Disco

That a movie with a get-happy soundtrack, a toothsome cast, a stockpile of zingers, and a gentle plotline should outfox popular tastesas demonstrated by its modest box office returns seems counterintuitive. Or it does until one notices that, ahem, what we have here is a Whit Stillman picture. As a chronicler of the privileged set, Stillman is wonderful at creating lightly satirical movies of a literary temperament that are absorbed in the group dynamics of young people. His movies are aimed at savvy viewers who delectate in power struggles that are gift-wrapped in up-tempo conversations. Unlike Woody Allen, with whom he is inveterately compared, Stillman doesnt cast his movies with a lovable schlemiel, à la the type of character Allen usually plays, or an upstart who manages to gain entrée into posh social playgrounds. As such, this writer-director's movies drip exclusivity. All of the leading male characters in The Last Days of Disco (1999) are former Ivy Leaguers. And the two club-dwelling recent college grads (played by Chloë Sevigny and Kate Beckinsale) live on the Upper East Side while holding down low-paying, albeit cool jobs in publishing. (Naturally, their parents help them out.) Unlike Stillman's debut feature, Metropolitan (1990), which peered at New York debutante society, this mostly un-kitschy love letter to early-'80s New York nightlife contains a few intrusions from outside of the bubble, i.e., an assault outside of a discothèque perpetuated by a pair of class-conscious punks, and archival footage (anachronistically presented) of the great conflagration of disco records carried out at Chicago's Comiskey Park on July 12, 1979. Out of the flames of populist resentment, this phoenix stirs.

July 22: On this day in 1941, on his twelfth wedding anniversary, Eugene O'Neill presented the just-finished manuscript of Long Day's Journey into Night to his wife, Carlotta.

Crime fiction legends Dennis Lehane and Michael Connelly discuss the new book that unites their beloved sleuths Patrick Kenzie and Harry Bosch.

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The Hundred-Year House

When a poetry scholar goes digging through the decrepit estate of his wife's family to uncover a bygone arts colony's strange mysteries, he awakens a tenacious monster: his mother-in-law. A wickedly funny take on aging aristocracies from author Rebecca Makkai (The Borrower).

Watching Them Be

What makes a film actor into a larger-than-life movie star? James Harvey's passionate, freewheeling essays explain why there are some faces (from Greta Garbo's to Samuel L. Jackson's) from which we cannot look away.

Landline

What if you called up the spouse on the verge of leaving you -- and instead found yourself magically talking to his younger self, the one you first fell for?  Rainbow Rowell, author of the YA smash Eleanor & Park, delivers a sly, enchanting take on 21st-century love.