Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Book Report of the Day

Posted By on Tue, Mar 31, 2009 at 1:44 PM


"After all, your pigs are far more intelligent than the other animals, and therefore the best qualified to run the farm – in fact there couldn't have been an Animal Farm at all without them: so that what was needed (someone might argue) was not more communism but more public-spirited pigs."

-T.S. Eliot, explaining to George Orwell why he was rejecting Animal Farm on behalf of Faber and Faber.

In conclusion, T.S. Eliot caused the financial crisis.

Online Viewing Tip

Posted By on Tue, Mar 31, 2009 at 9:00 AM


Apparently "the typical L Magazine audience" loves Wes Anderson and wishes to marry him, which is why our summer movie series typically features no fewer than three (3) films de Wes. So you should watch this, you'll like it.

What it is, is a video essay, the first in a series of five, by Matt Zoller Seitz, on Anderson's influences. Which makes sense, his filmography is such a good playground for games of spot-the-influence that it's a wonder this hasn't been done before — side-by-side stills and clips (especially the Magnificent Ambersons stuff) is exactly what this "internet" thing can do that print can't, so I'm glad to see this happening and eagerly await more such goodness (as well as a continuation of Seitz's thesis, which seems to be about how Anderson captures the state between childhood and maturity by tinkering with beloved toys).

Monday, March 30, 2009

And By Their Author Photos You Shall Know Them

Posted By on Mon, Mar 30, 2009 at 3:22 PM


Authors, I mean. The "them" referred to in the title of this post is "authors."

Why? Well, because them will be at Pacific Standard tonight, walking around, presumably cringing in anticipation of being talked to by hordes of unwashed aspiring authors ("you").

It's a Writer/Reader Mingle and Book Swap, started by New York's best librarian run social network, The Desk Set. Drop off the books you don't want, and leave with the books you do (some of them brought by authors! I sure do hope that I will be first to snatch up an advance reader's edition of some book that Philip Gourevitch politely declined to blurb). And lots of these books will be donated to Books Through Bars, a nonprofit which stocks prison libraries, on the off chance that any inmates need a break from preparing their appeals.

An Interview with Patrick Somerville

Posted By on Mon, Mar 30, 2009 at 9:00 AM

By Nate Brown

Patrick Somerville is the author of the short story collection Trouble, which was published by Vintage in 2006. His first novel, The Cradle, has just been released by Little, Brown, and has already received lots and lots of love. Most importantly, of course, he's also contributed to The L Magazine's annual fiction issue — with his story The Unrealized Subversive Fantasies of a Medium Pizza, in 2006. We recently emailed Somerville to ask about his young success, his Midwestern roots and, of course, the new book.

The L: I want to start by asking you not about The Cradle, but about your first book, Trouble. In that collection of stories, the work ranged from the incredibly naturalistic and serious ("Crow Moon" and "So Long, Anyway" come to mind) to the hilarious and bizarre ("English Cousin" and "Trouble and the Shadowy Deathblow," for instance). In subject matter and tone, the stories in that collection displayed a broad interest and ability on your part, and I'm curious to know whether you enjoy writing one type of story over the other. Is the process of writing a humorous piece fundamentally different for you than writing a piece that's more naturalistic?

Continue reading »

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Sunday Video of the Day: Prince Would Like to Share His Thoughts on the Current Financial Crisis With You. Also, Presumably, Some of His Precious Bodily Fluids.

Posted By on Sun, Mar 29, 2009 at 9:00 AM

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Weekend Viewing Tips

Posted By on Sat, Mar 28, 2009 at 9:00 AM

Staying in this weekend? Why not zap some popcorn and settle in with one of Reverse Shot's 100 Greatest Films of the 90s?

The snubbing of The Man in the Iron Mask smarts, I must say.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Your Weekend at the Movies with Jesse Hassenger

Posted By on Fri, Mar 27, 2009 at 3:30 PM


It's not looking like a banner week for new releases, unless you're an animation buff, and even then, it looks like a toss-up at the moment. But at least there's a variety of questionable choices.

Continue reading »

Wicked Artsy Happenings

Posted By on Fri, Mar 27, 2009 at 1:15 PM

Where to look at people looking at art while sipping free wine out of a plastic cup tonight and this weeked. Compiled by Benjamin Sutton.

March 27

Four painters at Janet Kurnatowski, 205 Norman Ave (at Humboldt St), 7-9pm
Pamela Jorden (pictured at right) at Klaus Von Nichtssagend Gallery, 438 Union Ave (between Metropolitan Ave and Devoe St), 7-9pm
Robert Ladislas Derr at Jack the Pelican Presents, 487 Driggs Ave (between N 9th and N 10th Sts), 7-9pm

Boerum Hill
Color Exchange at Metaphor Contemporary, 382 Atlantic Ave (between Hoyt and Bond Sts), 6-9pm

Red Hook
Matthew Watson and Meleko Mokgosi at WORK, 65 Union St (at Van Brunt St), 7pm

Continue reading »

Filmscene: Monsters vs. Aliens

Posted By on Fri, Mar 27, 2009 at 11:00 AM

In Filmscene (catchy, huh?), the L's Benjamin Sutton and Henry Stewart suss out the undercurrents in the weekend's big movie through a wide-ranging email exchange. This week, they talk about monsters, aliens, 3D, IMAX, Foucault's Panopticon, the imagination of disaster, moral relativity, Hannibal Lecter, coded homosexual and Catholic allegory, President Obama's Special Olympics gaffe and the scene in Talk to Her where the guy climbs into the ginormous papier-mache vagina. Join in, why don't you.)

Benjamin Sutton:
Hard to pin much down in Dreamworks's hyper-kinetic computer-animated action movie about monsters deployed by the U.S. government to fight an alien invader. Like many of its dazzling 3D effects (which, judging from your Coraline review, Henry, I gather you're also a fan of?), Monsters vs. Aliens went flying over my right shoulder before I had time to figure out its depth, weight and dimensions. That is to say, action seems the higher priority in MvA, and only one of its two ensembles manages to deliver successful comedy (the monsters, rather than the government). That opposition — between society's unwanted elements and its elected officials — provides a useful blueprint for thinking about the many structures MvA franticly assembles out of movie references and current events before blowing them up moments later in a 3D cloud of pixelated particles.

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FREE BEER (Sort of)

Posted By on Fri, Mar 27, 2009 at 9:00 AM


If by chance you are going to 92Y Tribeca tonight to see a night of heavy-duty cinematic art rock from Sian Alice Group, Mountains, Lights and Zs, the L would like you to know that you should buy your tickets online via the venue's website, and enter the promo code LPBR.

LPBR is an acronym that stands for "L PBR."

What this means is that, because you read The L, you are entitled to free PBR, from 8:30-9:30pm. PBR, of course, is also an acronym. It stands for "Pabst Blue Ribbon."

L does not stand for anything, as far as I know.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The New Yorker Reader: "Julia and Byron", by Craig Raine

Posted By on Thu, Mar 26, 2009 at 12:17 PM

I don't care where you've been or what you plan to do.

Q: Am I missing something here? A: Apparently what I am missing is a familiarity with Raines' lauded poetry and presence on the Amis/McEwan Brit Lit axis; had I recognized the name, I might have had a bit more respect for this entirely (save for the second-to-last sentence) inconsequential and exhausted sketch.

Either smart people who're good writers don't submit stories to the New Yorker unbidden because they know better, or the New Yorker needs more dedicated slushpile writers, because I can't count on my hands the number of this year's Literary Upstart submissions I prefer to this story.


Posted By on Thu, Mar 26, 2009 at 9:00 AM

Theater review by Alexis Clements

A week or so ago, this guy I know only very casually got shot. This is not a tragic tale — he's not dead, in fact he seems to be having a really good laugh over the whole thing. Gonzo, as we'll call him here, is one of a small network of people who regularly get gigs on the D-list reality television circuit here in New York, which, before hearing his story, I had no idea existed. He was briefly part of a bike messenger reality show a little while back and since then has picked up occasional work subjecting himself to various humiliations for a quick buck. As I understand it, this time around, he was filming for an American variation on a popular Japanese game show called Silent Library in which the point is to not make any noise despite what the hosts and their minions decide to do to you. In his case, they dressed him up in only a bridal veil and a jock strap and then shot him in the shoulder with an air rifle. Apparently the gun was at a higher setting than intended and they broke skin. He got paid a certain sum of money for this, and I believe they gave him a Band-Aid for his wound. Needless to say he did not remain silent after they shot him — I'm sure they got what they were after.

There's a lot in that story worth dissecting. A lot. Why would a young guy subject himself to that? Hasn't the Jackass phenomenon come and gone? What kind of reality are they peddling in a show like that? Who is manipulating whom in the production and viewing of such a show? Imagine my surprise, then, when I showed up to see Big Art Group's newest performance piece, SOS, and found the perfect response to the world that Gonzo's experience encompasses, not to mention a really awesome, engrossing spectacle.

Continue reading »

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Kaspar Hauser: foundling's opera

Posted By on Wed, Mar 25, 2009 at 3:19 PM

Theater review by Liam Pierce

Well, you certainly can't blame The Flea Theater for being unenthusiastic. Their production of Kaspar Hauser, a new self-proclaimed opera (which suggests there is no difference between operas and musicals) by Elizabeth Swados, presents a bushytailed version of the real-life legend of a feral orphan found in 1828 Nuremberg.

This true story has been muse to a whole truckload of artists. From Werner Herzog to Melville to Smallville, every version recounts the discovery of Kaspar Hauser, a seventeen-year-old boy famous for his claim to have been raised in isolation under lock and key. (Your high school psychology notes on nature vs. nurture practically slap you upside the head here.)

Swados' adaptation carves off any of the complex commentary and scientific research built up over the years (a lot of which points to Kaspar being a fraud), and leaves you with a smooth and squeaky Disney-like version of a sociological case study. It plays to the now-dispelled legend that Kaspar Hauser was an heir to the throne of Baden, stolen at birth and locked away to pave the royal way for the wicked Lady Fromme's son. The lines of morality are cookie-cut — each villain given their own sidekick and scheming solo, each path forked neatly between good and evil.

Continue reading »

New Directors/New Films

Posted By on Wed, Mar 25, 2009 at 1:08 PM

By Cullen Gallagher

New Directors/New Films is caught in the middle of a film festival traffic-jam that starts every year (post-Sundance, Slamdance, Berlin, and SXSW; concurrent with Sarasota and Full Frame; and pre-Tribeca and Cannes). Running from March 25-April 5 at The Museum of Modern Art and The Film Society of Lincoln Center, ND/NF brings the international festival circuit home for viewers who prefer not to rack up the frequent flier miles that would otherwise be required. In this year's stylistically diverse program, there are several gems that shouldn't be missed.

The standout of this year's fest is So Yong Kim's Treeless Mountain (pictured), the highly anticipated follow-up to Kim's debut feature In Between Days, a Sundance and Berlin award winner from 2006. When a mother leaves her two daughters with their aunt in Seoul in order to finalize a divorce, she also leaves them with a piggy bank. When it is full, she tells them, she will return. And so they wait, grilling grasshoppers to sell to local youths, and counting their change. Kim saturates her film with the pregnant stasis of childhood, and her young actors, Hee Yeon Kim and Song Hee Kim, express more depth than any of this year's leading or supporting Oscar noms.

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The City Sweet Tooth: Tafu for the People

Posted By on Wed, Mar 25, 2009 at 9:00 AM

Spring is here, spring is here, life is Skittles, life is beer, and the City Sweet ToothAbby Denson's comic-column about all things delish — is fixated on sweet tea and similarly refreshing treats.


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Keeping a Straight Face Is Half the Battle

Posted By on Tue, Mar 24, 2009 at 12:00 PM

In which Jesse Hassenger reviews Knowing, the hottest comedy of 2009, and manages to take it rather more seriously than your editor probably could have.

Critics have become such practiced hands at absorbing and dismissing apocalyptic thrillers and quasi-cryptic mysteries that it's easy to see how Knowing would get tossed into the recycling bin. Alex Proyas' film is stepped in hokum: an unearthed time capsule contains a string of numbers that MIT professor (and single dad!) Nicolas Cage reads to correspond with fifty years' worth of large-scale disasters — and maybe a few more to come. Are these predictions actually warnings and, if so, who's responsible for them?

In answering those questions, the movie gives little thought to faking the math and/or science; no one asks, for example, what death-toll cutoffs qualify a disaster for the numbers list, or even why an easily cracked code is considered the most expedient warning method. It's a puzzle movie without much puzzling, and plenty of straight-faced portent delivered by a typically committed Cage. Overeager ironic Wicker Man remake fans must, at this point, be wagging their tongues as they fire up their torrents.

Continue reading »

Literary Upstart Literary Update

Posted By on Tue, Mar 24, 2009 at 9:00 AM


As the more observant among you may recall, the L's Literary Upstart: The Search for Pocket Fiction is gearing up for its fifth blockbuster year of cheap short fiction and snappy beer.

So, just to keep this whole thing in the forefront of your brain where it belongs (make room for it by forgetting your mother's birthday or something), let's play "What Do We Know?"

Well, we know that Lit Up attempts to showcase, and create an atmosphere of community around, New York's talented unknown writers, mostly by pitting the city's creative underclass against itself in a boozy American Idol-style live reading. We know that it's fun to participate in, or attend.

So let's play "What Else Do We Know?"

Continue reading »

Monday, March 23, 2009

Steeped in the Classicals: Sacred Voices and That New Concert Hall Smell

Posted By on Mon, Mar 23, 2009 at 12:00 PM

Steeped in the Classicals is NewYork's only classical music column written by Henry Stewart.

Lincoln Center's recently redesigned, renovated, refurbished and reopened Alice Tully Hall still has that new concert hall smell, which is something like fresh wood, glaze and felt. Get there soon, before the uptown elite smells it all up. Typically, the venue hosts chamber music performances, and its acoustics have been tailor-fit to resonate with small sounds. It was an ideal spot to see and hear the Phoenix and Kansas City Chorales, sister choirs under Charles Bruffy's shared direction, which performed together there last Monday with a program of 19th and 20th centuries vocal music — mostly selections from their recent CD releases.

Continue reading »


Sex Advice from a Goose: "Price Check on Extra-Small Condoms?"

Posted By on Mon, Mar 23, 2009 at 8:00 AM

Welcome to our biweekly feature in which I, Gary, The L's wooden goose, shall answer the questions asked of Audrey Ference, The Natural Redhead, in the current issue of the L.

Dear Audrey Gary,
So I've been seeing this guy for the better part of three months. No complaints about the sex itself, however the rubbers he's been using (several types, all normal size) keep slipping off. Frankly, I'm not too happy about having to remember to slip my hand down to the scene of the crime while we're at it just to make sure his jammies are still on. I mean, it makes me seem paranoid for one thing, but it's also just unnerving. So my question is, have you ever heard of small (as opposed to regular or cucumber-sized) condoms? I realize condom makers might think that labeling their wares as "extra snug" might exacerbate the stigma of small dicks, but this is kind of a serious issue that I'd prefer solving with mild embarrassment at the drugstore over suddenly realizing I'm pregnant — or infected with something.

Dear madam, or sir, it is remarkably sensitive and judicious of you, how you make the issue the practical one of condom size and sexual difficulties, while deftly sidestepping mention of your partner's sad little Mike and Ike-sized dick. You seem like a real catch, is what I'm saying, so it's no surprise that your gentlemen friend is so afraid that you'll find out he has a small penis and leave him.

Continue reading »

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Sunday Read: Kent Jones on Robert Mulligan's The Stalking Moon

Posted By on Sun, Mar 22, 2009 at 9:00 AM


Of the Film Society of Lincoln Center's current Robert Mulligan tribute I've only caught The Stalking Moon (though some other selections look good; Nick Pinkerton can usually be relied upon to separate the justifiably from the unjustifiably obscure with a mercilessness that's less consumer-advocate than discerning cinephile), which screened but the once. It is, however, like much of the series, Netflix-able, and you should add it to your queue. But don't take my word for it; here, in the FSLC's house organ Film Comment, Kent Jones pays tribute to this minimal, beautifully landscaped '68 Western — in which retiring cavalry scout Gregory Peck allows the white bride and half-breed son of a marauding Indian warrior to stay in his edenic ranch, and protects them from him — for its graceful visual language, unspoken virtuousness, and unfashionably earnest grappling with the subject of parental guardianship.

Westerns, being American origin myths, are generally concerned with How the West Was Won; The Stalking Moon is more concerned with Why; as Jones suggests, it's for the sake of the formation of a family and a home. (This is never more clear than in its last shot, a visual and thematic reversal of The Searchers.) The movie The Stalking Moon most closely resembles — in terms of content; it couldn't be more different in terms of form — is The Last of the Mohicans, another movie wrapped up in the process of tracking, and which with its obsession with bloodlines similarly address the formation of America through the vessel of the family. And both movies feature a near-mythic avenging Indian as the major villain, standing in both for primal terror of the other and colonial guilt over the treatment of same.

Speakinawich. In most ways this is a movie that was made in 1968, but looks more like it could and should have been made some time between 1938 and 1958. Except that The Stalking Moon is actually pretty progressive and sensitive in its racial and gender politics — it's aware of the problems inherent in the Western genre's conventional structure of the wildness tamed and the homestead defended.

Anyway. This is by no means a cool movie, but it is cinematically eloquent, consistently suspenseful and engaging, rich upon reflection, and in general pretty valuable and well worth rediscovery by you, the viewer.

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