One of the more annoying tics I've started noticing, in recent years, is people who talk like movies/albums/books are reviewed by publications instead of people. As in, "Pitchfork liked it", "Pitchfork hated it", when in fact they mean to say, "This person, with a distinct sensibility and prose style, said this." Of course there's a lot of overlap in taste, interest and intention — a house voice, as there is anywhere — but like any top-tier arts-media outlet you employ writers of distinction, in all sense of the word.
This tic represents a disheartening and dishearteningly common disinterest, on the part of the general public, in critical conversation; but, it must be said, there's at least one thing you do that encourages people to reduce criticism to a consumer guide, and to reduce the website to some kind of aggressive cultural monolith with an easily described (and derided) agenda, rather than the multiplicity of voices which it is. (And, perhaps, make your site less of a hype-cycle grist mill, to date an unfortunate side effect of your wide readership and adventurous writers.)
Here is my modest proposal:
... I am kind of fascinated with this Brad Pitt person. Like: he ran into untold difficulties trying to buy Angelina a complete DVD set of Bela Tarr's movies, per Page Six. Bela Tarr!
Not that a mother of like twelve or thirteen really has time to watch Satantango, but, you know, still.
When I am elected sexiest man alive, I will most certainly have my people plant items in gossip columns about my love for the films of Eastern European long-take mystics who could really use the boost.
I am fascinated to discover which famous people actually have kinda share my taste in movies. I eagerly await Judy Greer's BFI book on Flowers of Shanghai.
Alas, though we would have liked nothing better than to have covered Notorious in the current (1/7-1/20) issue of the L, the film didn't screen for critics until last week. So Benjamin H. Sutton saw the movie to review it for our website — rather predictably, it's just your average wikipedia-corresponding music biopic. But with, you know, Biggie songs on the soundtrack. And a rather interesting, perhaps unintentional take on gender.
And I would be remiss in not pointing out that, in another too-late-for-print web review of a film opening today, Henry Stewart does the heroic work of teasing out the Great New Depression resonances of Paul Blart: Mall Cop. (An intriguingly ambivalent film in its relation to consumer culture, as it turns out!)
So, um, plane landed in the Hudson River yesterday.
This the day after the news breaks: plane crashes are now so rare that, statistically speaking, flying is safer than actually living. Of course it's safe, it's perfectly safe.
With a book in each hand, in the way I had planned.
This is a nicely layered story in the usual middle-class-white-people-and-their-infidelities vein, but do the gender politics strike you as at all retrograde?
Whether they're melodramas or weather reports, the 30s and 40s films of the Finnish director Teuvo Tulio were among last year's most interesting cinematic rediscoveries; tonight through Sunday, "re-rediscover" the films at Anthology — each of the heavily titled The Song of the Scarlet Flower, In the Fields of Dreams, The Way You Wanted Me and Cross of Love screen three times. Tulio's small-town and big-city sexual cautionary tales are told in a broad, almost primitive style, with earnest performances and an intense sensuality arising from Tulio's communion with nature: his favorite storytelling device is a cut to a rainstorm, a plowed field, a blooming flower, a rushing river. Sexytime.
Tonight, MoMA offers a preview screening of Of Time and the City, the my-hometown cinessay of the critically beloved Brit filmmaker Terence Davies. To go along with it, the Museum is showing the Davies films in their permanent collection tonight, tomorrow night and Saturday. In the current issue of the L, Nicolas Rapold discusses Davies' subjective cinema:
Born in 1945 in working-class Liverpool, Terence Davies went on to make an art form out of his memories — more than one form, really. On the one hand, there are the hushed, shifting tableau of home and quilted textures of song in The Long Day Closes (1993) — cozy yet beguiling sequences as all-absorbing and carefully appointed as the Hollywood productions that sent a fresh-faced Liverpudlian cadging a shilling from Mum "to go to the pictures." And on the other, there is his wrenching Trilogy (1976-83), three compact shorts that, in late-winter-afternoon black-and-white, churn through school life, young gay torment, filial devotion, bondage and self-imagined future decrepitude.And more.
"Melodramatic Popular Song" is my favorite myspace musical genre, I think. Would you like to hear a really melodramatic popular song? What a silly question of course the answer's yes. "Oh My God", by Ida Maria, features the titular phrase shouted (melodramatic!) by a girl-boy vocal pairing (pop song!), over power chords (both!). But really the whole thing is spikey and speedy enough to come as anthemic, not histrionic — it's a sugary, crunchy bite of punky power-pop. Ida Maria seems to be the latest ladypopster to emerge fully formed, Minerva-like, from Scandinavia (Norway, specifically), and she plays sold-out shows tonight, at Mercury Lounge, and tomorrow night, at Union Hall, to whet appetites for the official U.S. release of her debut album Fortress Round My Heart. In the meantime, make do with her melodramatic popular songs, especially "I Like You So Much Better When You're Naked," an epoch-defining singalong in the making.
From the adorable Anthony Lane's review of Che, in which he goes on to explain that Che is a biopic-by-omission, comprised of two compare-and-contrast war movies, and leaves out a lot of political stuff, and biographical complications, in favor of process.
Che was perhaps the most-discussed film of last year's Cannes and New York Film Festivals. Anyone who read even a cursory account of the movie — even if you're the kind of person who avoids reading other critics until after filing a review, lest they cloud your own perspective — would know this, about this movie.
In Steve Erickson's novel Zeroville, a "cineautistic" editor discovers that there's a secret ur-movie, its frames dispersed throughout every movie ever made, and sets out to reassemble assemble the myth from its multitude of imperfections. So, too, Craig Baldwin, the San Francisco agit-collage filmmaker, who pieces together found footage — from Flash Gordon serials, educational films, newsreels, Hitchcock, Bond, tawdry Euro-coproduction crime stories, Red Scare noir, and lots of scale-model sci-fi monsters — to reveal secret "not untrue" histories of military-industrial conspiracy and Hollywood's occult undertow.
Prepare your mouth for a TASTE INVASION because 'tis time for The City Sweet Tooth, Abby Denson's Graphic! look at things that will invade your mouth, with their nefarious taste. This week we visit Jacques Torres, conveniently located near the L's offices:
Quickly, before it gets taken down (or you hear about this insta-viral phenomenon from someone other than me), here's The Recently Deflowered Girl, an advice booklet from 1965, illustrated by Edward Gorey and written by one Hyancinthe Phyppe, who is an obvious pseudonym — for either Gorey or one Mel Juffe (possibly a pseudonym for Gorey or someone else).
The things that differentiate the loftily named Bridge Project from any other show that might originate with London's Old Vic and then have its American run at BAM are mostly things that matter more to the people involved in the making of the show than the audience, except as far as the moderately celebrity-heavy credits are concerned. Staging The Cherry Orchard and The Winter's Tale (the latter beginning next month) in repertory is more of a novelty for the cast and crew facing the challenges and serendipitous discoveries of the dual productions than for an audience that, likely as not, will see the plays a month or so apart. (Apparently this is a three-year project. Same observations apply.) So, too, the vaunted level of cross-cultural exchange — the presence of, say, Ethan Hawke in the company and Sam Mendes as director (and Tom Stoppard as preparer-of-the-script) will sell tickets, I guess.
Common Ground, to apply for food stamps, and returned to Common Ground, where they told her the next step was for J. to have (another) TB test.
The first thing we set out to do was get J. a TB test at the public hospital. He'd done this within the past year, but the drop-in center didn't have it on file. In fact, they couldn't find his files at all.
The public hospital looked to be a relic of the FDR years, probably a public works project. It was set back from the avenue, buffered by a small park consisting of a series of benches arranged in a circle. It was a solid, square, brick building, with an entrance designed to be grand: big granite steps, a pillar on either side, elaborate decorations over the door, but with the columns and details painted a shiny black. The double front doors were painted the same way, with small square windows. Inside was a small lobby — no reception desk or signs — with scuffed tiled floors and fluorescent lighting. The walls were painted a baby blue, their high gloss dulled by accumulated dirt. A woman poked her head out of a side door, raising one eyebrow questioningly. "We need a TB test, a chest X-ray," I explained. "Third floor. There's an elevator through those doors."
It's long been established that while studios expand their awards hopefuls throughout January, they have a lucrative side business releasing horror, wedding, and dance movies which will, on average, outgross, say, two to three of the five eventual Best Picture nominees (if the Academy was still in the habit of nominating the likes of Chocolat or The Cider House Rules, I'd try to make some comment about the average quality, but assuming the five movies everyone thinks will get nominated make it in, I can hold off on that particular snottiness). This January is especially horror-heavy, with four in a row: The Unborn last weekend; My Bloody Valentine 3-D next; an Underworld sequel (it counts!) the weekend after; and The Uninvited rounding off the month on what I'm told is Super Bowl weekend. At your service, I will see them all.
So first up, The Unborn, which called firsties on the whole horror-movie year. Only having seen the title and a trailer, I was assuming this movie had something to do with a devil fetus; it turns out that's more or less the only horror movie David S. Goyer didn't write and direct here. There's a creepy ghost child, a creepy non-ghost child, haunted mirrors, a creepy mental hospital, creepy crawlies, exorcism rites, and at one brief point, the heroine becomes a menaced babysitter, just for good measure. Goyer finally settles on the exorcism business, presumably because he thinks he has a good angle: this is a Jewish exorcism. Which is different from a Catholic exorcism presumably in that Gary Oldman is wouldn't otherwise make time for something so clichéd.
A campaign, started by a Guardian guest columnist and funded by public donations (outpacing the matching money Richard Dawkins was prepared to give), has advertisements up on London buses (and in other cities; a similar campagin is afoot in Washington) saying "There's Probably No God. So Stop Worrying, and Enjoy Your Life."
This certainly trumps the "'God Is Dead.' -Nietzsche 'Nietzsche Is Dead.' -God" bumper sticker on the back of my moped.
Also, joke about how I stopped believing in God during some G Train service interruptions et cetera.
In conclusion: yay, atheism, and England.
In the most "controversial" scene of last year's Tropic Thunder, Robert Downey, Jr., playing an actor in blackface, cautions Ben Stiller, also playing an actor, about the dangers of going "full retard." He argues that no actor wins an Academy Award unless the character is only partially handicapped: Rain Man was an idiot savant, Forrest Gump merely "slow".
The satire cuts like safety scissors. It had been seven years since Sean Penn, the most recent target of the joke, went "full retard" in I Am Sam, earning him an Academy Award nomination. (He lost to Denzel Washington, for the intellectually challenged Training Day.) The mentally handicapped thing is so over; Penn is already on to other things, generating Oscar buzz for his role in Milk as the title's openly homosexual politician.
Gay is the new retard.
The Brooklyn Flea is now in hibernation, but a number (2) of you have tipped me to the effect that the Flea comes to an indoor location here in DUMBO, home of The L Magazine, "the neighborhood that is completely empty on weekends" (TM), because nobody works here, it's the Financial District for people who work with their hands, or in sweaters. But anyway. On Saturdays and Sundays until April, do the Brooklyn Flea thing (but with with mostly higher-end furnishing-type stuff, and fewer aluminum take-out plates). Hey, if you go, also visit the nicest bar in Brooklyn, 68 Jay, and tell Karen The Bartender hello. She gets lonely on weekends. (We assume.)
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