Noy Thrupkaew

Noy Thrupkaew is a Prospect senior correspondent.

Recent Articles

Past Help

A new movie about domestic workers in the Jim Crow South tugs at heartstrings, but it avoids political questions still relevant to today.

Image courtesy of Dreamworks
Nostalgia for our recent past can be a complicated, addictive little bromide. As anyone surveying the post-Mad Men cultural landscape can attest, the radiant outfits and the sleek design are all the visual rage. Just as compelling is the dramatic irony that can be engendered by depictions of casual racism and other social ills - the sense of relief for at least some viewers that "things aren't like that any more." The Help could go down just as smoothly. Based on Kathryn Stockett's fictional bestseller about two African-American maids and the white woman who helps publish their tell-all stories about their work in 1960s Jackson, Mississippi, the film is a stylish little number, burnished to a high glow and draped in saturated color. Both book and film are dosed with the sugar required to make a racial-justice message palatable for mainstream audiences - a white heroine as the catalyst or conduit for social change, a white villain who is so despicable that viewers can congratulate...

Outsider Art

Dissident filmmakers debate: Should they stay or should they go?

Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami (right) with Chinese filmmaker Jia Zhangke (left) at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival. (Flickr/edumndyeo)
The options have never been pretty for Iranian filmmakers critical of their government. They can choose artistic death by the censor's thousand cuts, films flash-screened in one theater, or "distribution" through pirated DVDs on the streets of Tehran. Or they can stick to their creative vision and face exile or jail time. Bahman Ghobadi chose exile -- although "chose" scarcely seems like the appropriate word. The Iranian authorities had suggested that the Kurdish-Iranian filmmaker leave the country numerous times over the years, and turned up the pressure two days before the June 2009 presidential elections that sparked the Green Revolution protest of the re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Ghobadi's crimes? Making films in Kurdish, granting interviews to foreign media, and making movies about sensitive matters, the director told Filmmaker magazine. But according to the doyen of Iranian cinema, Abbas Kiarostami, Ghobadi's real sin was leaving Iran -- and making a film that...

A Kitchen of One's Own

It's difficult to conceive of cooking being a calling if you have
to do it every day on a budget.

(AP Photo)
Ah, Julia Child. The happy hooting, the knowing yet sloppy kitchen technique, the stevedore shoulders and ribald sense of humor -- Child is in the news again as the Julia half of Nora Ephron's latest film, Julie & Julia , and the subject of Michael Pollan's recent paean in The New York Times Magazine . Why is Child in the spotlight again five years after her death? Child was a larger-than-life personality, in both her 6-foot-2-inch stature and in her influence -- she pioneered the TV cooking show and took the fear factor out of French food. But even more than this, as Pollan asserts, she's become a potent symbol of our nation's nostalgia for real cooking, which we both pine for and do precious little of in our lives. Pollan, the author of The Omnivore's Dilemma and the de-facto face of the resurgent food movement, celebrates Child as the high priestess of cooking done for its own sake. "Child was less interested in making it fast or easy than making it right, because cooking for...

The Soderbergh Experience

In his new film, The Girlfriend Experience, Steven Soderbergh turns to his obsession with the metaphor of economics as prostitution.

Steven Soderbergh's The Girlfriend Experience opens with a coolly rendered illusion. An immaculately dressed man and woman chat in a taxi, then over dinner, later trading kisses and whispers in a hotel room before curling up in bed together. Their casual, familiar rapport extends into a bathrobe breakfast the next morning, and it isn't until the woman walks away with a fat envelope of cash that viewers grasp that the two aren't a couple in the usual sense. The man is a wealthy financial-services type, just one of many who avail themselves of the services of Chelsea, a high-priced Manhattan escort who offers the film's titular "girlfriend experience" -- emotional intimacies that go beyond sex. Shot on digital video in 16 days, The Girlfriend Experience is a typical Soderbergh offering, centering on process -- how a character goes through his or her life, rather than a psychologically oriented query about why . The film trails Chelsea through her daily routine --heatless dates and...

The Power of Political Personality

Puncturing an iconic image of a revolutionary, Steven Soderbergh's Che operates as a meditation on political power in the everyday.

Watching Steven Soderbergh's Che as Obama begins his presidency was a curious experience -- a chance to ponder both the power of personality and the seductive notion that change can be embodied in one individual. Ernest "Che" Guevara was of a different moment, of course -- the Argentine doctor-turned-revolutionary was an uncompromising man more interested in blowing up bridges than in building them, more interested in war-tinged rhetoric than in that of service. Che earned his revolutionary stripes in his campaign, alongside Fidel Castro, to liberate Cuba from the despotic U.S.-backed leader Fulgencia Batista. His record in the wake of peace is spottier, however -- he had disastrous turns as the commander of La Cabana prison, where he was in charge of purging Batista's ranks; as head of Cuba's National Bank; and as the minister of industry. He left behind those positions to foment revolution in other countries, including the Congo and Mozambique -- victory in Cuba seemed conditional...

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