Plimpton wasn't the first writer to walk a mile in someone else's shoes in order to comprehend a process, a challenge, a point of view -- he credited Paul Gallico, who sparred with Jack Dempsey and golfed with Bobby Jones as his most immediate model -- but he made it His Thing. Morgan Spurlock, experimenting on himself with junk food in "Super Size Me," is his spiritual child; but so are the struggling celebrities of "Dancing with the Stars"; or any writer who attempts to live as a caveman for a year, or work as a sherpa, or follow in the steps of Phileas Fogg to get a book out of it. Though Plimpton was always at the center of his work, he looked outward as much as inward; he did not just want to tell you what he was feeling -- in life, at least, he could be reticent about such things -- but what he saw, and did it with eloquence, lightness and humor. (Hemingway was an inspiration, and a friend, and, some posit, a father figure.) He came from patrician roots but had the common touch curiosity confers.
Some of his later transformations were accomplished for television, a medium some of his more literary friends found demeaning -- Plimpton was also the co-founder, editor, lifelong steward and frequent financial support of the important literary journal The Paris Review -- and one of the questions the film asks is whether it was worth it to be George Plimpton, Transformer, rather than George Plimpton, whatever some people thought he should be or imagined he really wanted to be. ("The last thing on his mind was to write the great novel," first wife Freddy Espy recalls. "George was quite happy with who he was.") The tale is told partially in Plimpton's own words (some read by son Taylor), and by a coterie of handsome, often silver-haired friends, relations and colleagues, recalling shared days of giddy youth (shading into giddy middle age, and beyond). There were, apparently, a lot of cocktails.
"Day Job" (YouTube). Comedian Sara Schaefer, host with Nikki Glaser of last year's MTV late-night "Nikki & Sara Live," offers eight scenes from the life you sometimes have to live to live the life you want. These snippets of post-"Office Space" cubicle comedy are as brief as '60s pop singles -- one lasts just a second more than a minute -- but each has its own flavor of airlessness or craziness or unexpected beauty. (Also: there are puppets.) As every comedian will now do at some point in her career, Schaefer plays a less successful, if possibly no less frustrated, version of herself. These tasty morsels are available now via Schaefer's YouTube channel Little BoBo.
"The System, with