Thursday, January 28, 2010

Back in the Day #10: Robbie Williams

Guys, I am so serious. This song was, like, the best. Robbie Williams sang "Rock DJ" and I was like, "pop music, you have some potential yet." The Wikipedia page for this song claims that "Rock DJ" was never released as a single in the United States and that all instances of the televising of the music video (seen above in completion) were censored and stripped of their ending. Wikipedia is dead wrong. Did you hear that? Dead. Wrong. I heard that song, I found that album, I was all over it smack dab in the middle of this country.
I remember when I first encountered Robbie Williams. Circa 2000, there was a brief period (I swear I'm not making this up) when a fuzzy station appeared on an oddly numbered channel of my Chicago television. Was it 1? Was it 13? I don't know, but if I'm recalling correctly it was some sort of American branch of one of the foreign music television channels; either an abbreviated edition of The Box or MuchMusic. My house, you see, was the last of the cable holdouts. My parents refused to submit and I was a child without my MTV. So, this was a novelty, and one to be remembered. In the mornings while I was eating breakfast, I would watch through the static and see all sorts of videos by the likes of Eve and Moby. It was here (I have little doubt of it) that I saw "Rock DJ" in its complete, unedited glory. It's hard to forget the video once you've seen it. It's a deceptive little device. It begins, like so many pop videos around that time, with the performer in some sort of green-screened, space-age setting. This time, a ladies-only roller disco with Williams on an elevated platform. The girls go in circles, Williams stands in the center trying to get their attention. It doesn't work, so he starts cheekily stripping. You're quietly amused. You think this will go the route of Blink-182's affinity for nudity. Williams gets down to his skivvies, down to total nudity, still just cursory glances from the rollergirls and their DJ queen. He stops, considers his options, and then tears off his skin. What follows is some sort of pop blood orgy in which the women are sent into a sort of ecstasis by hurling slabs of muscle and CGI fat. It's as disgusting as it is intriguing, and the video is so happy go lucky exuberant about its ick factor that it's hard not to be taken in. What is "Rock DJ"? Why, a brilliant short examination of celebrity culture? What do we want from our celebrities? Everything. What are they willing to shill? Their dignity and several pounds of flesh. Of course, that's not how I thought about it at the time. At the time, I just thought it was the coolest damn perversion of the formulaic pop video I'd ever seen (I hadn't seen that many pop videos, but this one was/is still good). Plus, the song is still fantastic. Its got a lot of spunk and pep, as well as a driving instrumental sampling that just propels the song straight through to the end on a big cloud of energy and singability. Robbie Williams has done a whole slew of slow pop ballads, but he's at his best when he's doing pure, upbeat pop. I stand by "Rock DJ" as a great pop song. It's clever and you can dance to it. Win/win.

I Don't Like It: Alice Gets Scene

Alright, I am really not approving of the Disney corporate decision to cater every aspect of the Tim Burton revisit of Alice in Wonderland towards scene kids and mall punks. I like Tim Burton. I like his candy-colored worlds. I'm looking forward to the movie and trust that Burton is indeed one of the only directors capable of balancing the childlike wonder of the story with its inescapable darkness (I also think Gilliam could get it right). I am not looking forward to the fallout that will ultimately arise when the text that I love is grafted and entwined with the identities of the Hot Topic trend mongers who are (as we speak) opening their mouths and preparing for an avalanche of merchandise to be shoveled in. I realize that this is silly and in some ways this fallout is inevitable no matter what, but the 'from and inspired' soundtrack is really just like adding insult to injury. We've known about the whole 16-song compilation album of wonder-crap for weeks now, but alas, here is the Avril Lavigne end-credit theme song "Alice (Underground)". Alright. You're listening, you're listening, it's not bad, it could be worse, and then OH GOD. MY EARDRUMS. THE PAIN. IT'S TOO INTENSE. SO SHRILL! To swipe the response of a friend of mine (though his reaction is to Crystal Castles), I just can't get that far without wanting to stab my eardrums with a mangled paperclip. I mean, what the hell?

But, I mean, it gets worse. I read the track list and I shudder. There are literally only two things on here I could see working out. "Very Good Advice" a song from the animated Disney flick sung here by the Cure's Robert Smith, and Franz Ferdinand doing the Gryphon and Mock Turtle's Lobster Quadrille. I mean, in comparison, this makes the New Moon soundtrack look like a work of pure, unadulterated genius (ok, yeah, also, I've listened to that and it's much better than it should be, I'll admit this). That gathering of artists at least attempting to expose its mopey teen audience to some worthwhile musicians. This....well....this....oh, damn it all. Alice wouldn't approve. I mean, look at this nonsense:

1. Alice (Underground) Performed by Avril Lavigne
2. The Poison Performed by The All-American Rejects
3. The Technicolor Phase Performed by Owl City (previously released)
4. Her Name Is Alice Performed by Shinedown
5. Painting Flowers Performed by All Time Low
6. Where’s My Angel Performed by Metro Station
7. Strange Performed by Tokio Hotel and Kerli
8. Follow Me Down Performed by 3OH!3 featuring Neon Hitch
9. Very Good Advice Performed by Robert Smith
10. In Transit Performed by Mark Hoppus with Pete Wentz
11. Welcome to Mystery Performed by Plain White T’s
12. Tea Party Performed by Kerli
13. The Lobster Quadrille Performed by Franz Ferdinand
14. Running Out of Time Performed by Motion City Soundtrack
15. Fell Down a Hole Performed by Wolfmother
16. White Rabbit Performed by Grace Potter and the NocturnalsI'm commissioning my own soundtrack. For this soundtrack I will hire Patrick Wolf, Joanna Newsom, Bat For Lashes, Klaus Nomi, Goldfrapp, Fever Ray, The Broadcast, Cocteau Twins, David Bowie (because he can do anything), and Air. Maybe, just out of curiosity, I'd let Lady GaGa take a crack at it.

RIP: Miramax Films

Smack in the middle of the Sundance Festival, the one time indie-mainstay Miramax is being closed up by its parent company Disney for good. Founded by Bob and Harvey Weinstein (who left in recent years to start up The Weinstein Company), Miramax in many ways gave birth to what we consider the contemporary indie scene. The company built and furthered the careers of many directors who are now household names: Tarantino, Steven Soderbergh, Gus Van Sant, and Kevin Smith among them. I'm sort of sad, but in reality, the sadness may not last long. With Disney's release of Miramax, the Weinstein brothers may be able to recapture the name, do away with TWC, and continue business as usual. [Source]

Double RIP: JD Salinger & Howard Zinn

It's a dark day in the hallowed halls of academic institutions everywhere. Yesterday, word was given that Howard Zinn, famed historian and political activist, passed away yesterday at age 87 of a heart attack in a Santa Monica pool. Today, reclusive author J.D. Salinger passed of natural causes at age 91.

Zinn, of course, was the author of that tome loved and loathed by students cross country: The People's History of the United States. For those who didn't do their required high school reading, the book is considered a seminal work in the pantheon of political science and attempted to present crucial moments in history from the perspectives of those otherwise unheard. I'll be honest with you, while I have since learned to appreciate the book, in high school it was the bane of my existence. Yet, Howard Zinn, you will certainly be missed.

Salinger, of course, is famous for the creation of the iconoclastic voice of teenage angst: Holden Caulfield in The Catcher in the Rye (1951). He also penned Franny and Zooey and several short works before closing himself off from most of the world and living the life of an enigmatic recluse. Salinger had not published a new work since 1965, when his short novella "Hapworth 16, 1924" was printed in The New Yorker. Ironically, just as with Zinn, I'll own up to never going through a Holden Caulfield stage. Yet, while I may not be a great Catcher fan, it's certainly a truth that Salinger was a literary giant, and I'll be curious to see what sorts of posthumous texts start popping up from his estate (Joyce Maynard always claimed he remained quite prolific). The astute amongst you will also note that the name of my other blog (Love & Squalor) is indeed an expression swiped from a Salinger's story "For Esme- with Love and Sqaulor". I can't say I remember much of the plot, but I can say I owe my use of the phrase to Mr. J.D. Salinger. A toast, sir.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Ugly Betty Gets Canceled

Guess what? After being shuffled every which way by ABC, Ugly Betty has been canceled. This should come as no surprise to anyone who has chanced upon the show lately. Betty has been stuck in a rut for the last two seasons, desperately clinging on to what makes Betty 'different' and constantly stomping on what makes Betty finally able to advance in life. The show set itself up for its own problems by too strongly harping on the moral "be who you are, don't change for anyone" angle and thus cramping its character's otherwise predestined evolution. I mean, let's face it, anyone working at a fashion magazine as long as Betty has been would likely become a little less naive, a lot more professional, and pick up a fair amount of free swag/style sense. Yet, here we are in the fourth season: Betty has only just been bumped up out of her glorified secretarial position, she keeps playing the role of desperate people-pleaser, she can't seem to get the braces removed, and she's still mismatching her clothes and clinging to one of the ugliest necklaces in television history. How are we supposed to keep believing in (and rooting for) a character who refuses to evolve? If they (ABC, etc) wanted to save the show, they should have done some trimming. Drop the Daniel-centric plot lines, realize Wilhelmina as villain is old hat, have Betty pull a 180 after her break-up, allow her to have some guiltless success, a tad more respect, and some straight teeth. Lots of people want to root for the underdog, but if the underdog never makes it...people stop caring. Sorry Betty, hope you get the wrap up you deserve in the show's final episodes.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Intrigue Part II

Remember our mystery viral videos? A new one has surfaced. We see a bit more of the woman in question, but our view is still heavily shrouded. We have more clues and possible red herrings, however. The video's numeric title definitely seems to be a working code that starts off "ITS ME". If you listen to some, by adding up the other numbers and then adding together the two digits of the double digit response, you come up with the number 3, or C, which points (for those who want to believe) towards Christina Aguilera. I'd tried decoding before, but the other titles didn't point to anything overtly specific (or that I could parse). Muu Muse, who seem to be following the events closely knock the other numeric titles down to:

Prelude 699130082.451322 = (38.17) = (CH.AG) = CH. AG. = I. A. M. CH. = I.T.S.M.E.C.

It's pretty compelling evidence, though I don't quite understand why the first two letters of a name would be used to indicate the artist. That's not enough to sell me. However, the visuals do appear to be fairly similar to the work of Alix Malka, the photographer supposedly shooting the album art for Aguilera's upcoming release and with different backing instrumentals, the track Aguilera performed at the Haiti fundraising telethon isn't vocally dissimilar (lyrically, yes, but otherwise, she's sounding more subdued):

Yet, I can't quite get past how drastic the change would be from Aguilera's current David La Chapelle type look and the poppy cheapness of the "Keeps Gettin' Better" video. If this is her, it would be one hell of a fast (and drastic) 180. Yet, it very well could be her. We may legitimately be able to lean further towards xTina. I am, as of today, rather convinced that it is not Alison Goldfrapp. If only because Goldfrapp's first single "Rocket" has leaked and the sound is disparate from the images. As several music blogs have already aptly pointed out, the new sound is more towards The Pointer Sisters and straight 80's synth than ever before. Since they usually go for a pretty cohesive image with each album, it may be safe to say they're officially down for the count.

Still in the running? We can't totally rule out The Knife/Fever Ray/Karin Andersson quite yet. The Knife's website claims the group is working on a collaborative studio opera entitled Tomorrow, In A Year with Mt. Sims and Planningtorock. The work is based around Darwin's Origin of Species and, well, all the videos point towards ideas of birth and evolution and could easily fit into the aesthetic of any of the three artists involved in. Dum dum dum. Who else? Well, Sia has a new album coming out and her sound seems to have evolved back into electronic. She, though, is a long shot. The voice, though, could certainly be hers. There's also a band called The Golden Filter whose name is being tossed around. They've got the right type of sound and potentially the right sort of image. A lot of nature, a bit of mystery, and a blond lead singer who looks a bit like our mud-slathered mystery lady. Thing is, they've already got a string of teaser videos for their upcoming album...and they don't quite match up to the high budget look of the numeric puzzlers. Could it be? Probably not. But at this point, anything is possible. I'll admit, I'm totally intrigued and really enjoying playing Nancy Drew with the little scraps of non-evidence.

The Golden Filter - "Thunderbird" from The Golden Filter on Vimeo.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Review: Crazy Heart

Jeff Bridges is collecting a windfall of awards for his performance in Crazy Heart. Last night he picked up the SAG, last week he scored a Golden Globe. There's little doubt, with this track record, that he's leading the Oscar race. The question is: should he be? I'm not so sure. Bridges plays Bad Blake, a down and out country singer who (while fictional) falls into an archetype film audiences should be quite familiar with. Bad's an alcoholic, wandering son of a gun. He's a man on the road, traveling in isolation 300 miles with a milk jug full of piss and counting the minutes between gulps of whiskey. In the pantheon of films about musicians and middle-aged men with addictive personalities that cloud the other aspects of their life, Crazy Heart is not especially unique. Here it is, Crazy Heart, an optimistic cross between The Wrestler and Walk the Line, a completely ordinary film that you have seen dozens of times before. My thought? If Mickey Rourke got shafted for the depth of emotional redemption in The Wrestler, Bridges doesn't deserve an Oscar....
Finish this review @...

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Back in the Day #9: N-Trance

I haven't done a Back in the Day bit since last July, it's true. How about if I rectify that situation with a slew of posts inspired by my annual winter pop music hoard?

Good? Good.

See, in the dead of the Midwestern winter, people begin to pick up strange routines and afflictions. Personally, I'm not one for seasonal affective disorder. Instead, I suddenly get the urge to build up a massive reserve playlist of pop music. Bad pop music, mostly. Why? Because it sounds like summer, and in my car with the heat blasting it's very easy to pretend it is summer. I keep a special file marked "other music" and fill it with everything from Robbie Williams to Lil Mama to obscure Y2K girl groups like Innosense. The special file, you see, makes it easy to re-add them when necessary and delete when my desperate need for a special brand of synth beat passes.

Which brings us to our first re-discovered pop song. See, a couple weeks ago I went into the basement and recovered my VHS copy of Romy & Michele's High School Reunion (you should revisit that, by the way, it's still quite hilarious). In a club scene early in the film, I was reminded of N-Trance and their various hip hop editions of beloved disco tracks. Then, I promptly forgot. The other day, though, I ventured back into the basement to search for my massive (numbered) stack of high school mix cds (as well as my embarrassing stash of unfortunate teen pop albums) and, well, there it was: N-Trance. "Stayin Alive". Mix CD number 13. Um, score?

N-Trance was great. Not literally. I mean, as rappers go, they're on the novelty side and as music goes they tend towards Jock Jams anthems. Ironically great. You see, as I've likely explained before, I have long had a disco habit, and that habit was not so popular in my teen years. Only a few people seemed to really understand the appeal of disco's basic rhythms and the late 70's culture surrounding them. I wanted to go to Studio 54, but instead I was stuck in a high school gymnasium. Let me tell you, it's hard to be the kid who has an absurd dance prepared in the event that Chic is played at Homecoming. I mean, I loved (loved) the soundtrack to Saturday Night Fever beginning at age 12. That's inexcusable in middle school. Middle schoolers have no sense of irony. Life was hard. Hard and full of Spice Girls and Freddie Prinze Jr.. Where am I going with this? Oh. N-Trance's version of "Stayin' Alive" offered a socially acceptable alternative to the falsetto of the brothers Gibb. Their variation on "Da Ya Think I'm Sexy" was another out (thanks, Night at the Roxbury soundtrack). Where other rap artists were splicing up disco tracks to create loops (see: "I'm Coming Out" in "Mo' Money Mo' Problems"), N-Trance basically just cleared out some of the lyrics, left the refrain, and added some gunshots. For this, we are thankful. Also, you know, it's just really catchy.

Look at this F@%$in' Graph!

One time in high school a friend of mine and I actually tallied the number and variety of expletives used in Martin Scorsese's Casino. I mean, there were a lot, and we were curious. Call it collecting scientific data that served no purpose other than being able to drop an (un)interesting fact. These days, kids don't have to get out scratch paper and a pencil to count colorful language, wikipedia does it for them! This is a graphic representation of the films with the highest counts of the word 'fuck'. Truth! The first one, is, of course, the documentary on the word itself, which is sort of disappointing. Anyway, if you like this, there's an even larger chart on wikipedia. What I want to know is who in the hell is counting these things? I mean, really?

RIP: Jean Simmons

British actress Jean Simmons died Friday at her home in California. Simmons, who played Estella in David Lean's Great Expectations (1946), Ophelia in Laurence Olivier's Hamlet, and Save-a-Soul Sarah Brown in Guys & Dolls, was 80 years old. Her agent claimed in a statement that Simmons had been suffering from lung cancer. The actress, who was also featured in Elmer Gantry, Black Narcissus, and Spartacus, continued working into her last years.

Friday, January 22, 2010

15 Best Films of 2009

This started off as a list of the 10 best films of 2009. That was, of course, at the dawn of 2010. Then, you know, I started trying to narrow things down. Instead of narrowing, however, I kept coming up with more and more worthwhile movies. It turns out that 2009 was actually a pretty good year for cinema. There was a whole lot going on in genres disparate enough not to compete with one another too heavily. So, you know, I started looking around and wondering why I felt this pressure to make a 'top 10' list. Turns out, a whole lot of folks eschewed the 10 this year. There's a whole lot of 20's, 30's, and 50 best of lists to be found out there. Since there's no consistency, I've decided that it's definitely alright to throw down a random number and call it a day. So, 15! 15 best of 2009! Plus a few runners up. I should mention, too, that while The White Ribbon may or may not belong on this list, I have yet to see it and have decided that its mid-January theatrical release may qualify it for the 2010 list.

15. The Hurt Locker : Let's get one thing straight: Kathryn Bigelow's The Hurt Locker is a really solid film. It's got an unconventional structure and plays on your nerves and expectations big time. The acting, at times, feels almost like watching a documentary and it's stressful and realistic enough to make you never want to play Call of Duty: Modern Warfare again. In a year filled with works of lesser imagination, it would be higher on the list. But, again, there was something in the water this past year, and for me putting the straightforward military expose at the top just wouldn't feel right.
14. Avatar : It's all those things you've heard (positive and negative) and more. Yes, Avatar makes you the sort of deranged excitement that a 5-year old feels after seeing Star Wars. Yes, it's beautiful and emotional and revolutionary. Yes, it's also Princess Mononoke/Fern Gully/Pocahontas in brilliant 3D. Still, you know, it's good.
13. Up : More traumatizing than the wildebeest stampede in the Lion King, Pixar's latest starts with an opening sequence that will test your emotional limits. If you step out unscathed...congratulations! You're a replicant! No, really, all joking aside, Up is a beautiful film that's loaded with as many small joys as brightly colored tragedies.
12. Moon : Duncan Jones takes your sci-fi expectations and adjusts them ever so slightly. The result is a Sam Rockwell one-man-space odyssey of isolation. If you step back you may be able to see what's coming, but it isn't about plot twists. It's about being human. In all its definitions.
11. Where the Wild Things Are : At the beginning of 2009, Where the Wild Things Are was something of a lock when it came to making it onto the best of year lists. Then, it came out. The film was buried beneath the yelps of parents complaining the film was psychologically too deep for their kids to watch, and casual viewers pissing and moaning about their own boredom. I'm sorry, but I'm going to have to respectfully dismiss all the negative feedback. Spike Jonze's adaptation got Maurice Sendak's approval for a reason, and I'm on the same page as them. It may not be the twee, sweet rumpus you want it to be, but this film is one of the best representations of the loneliness of childhood that I have ever seen (as well as a truly beautiful film). Being a kid is hard, and I think it's too easy to forget that. 10. Star Trek : JJ Abrams revitalized a dying franchise in a way that opened it up to all audiences while still maintaining the camp heart of the original. Let's face it, Star Trek is slick. Thoroughly entertaining, edge of your seat involving, clever, and damn cool. If for no other reason, it deserves a spot on this list if only because it made Star Trek something cool to teenagers and my mother. That, my friends, is quite a feat.

9. Adventureland : A sweet little nostalgia comedy with John Hughes and Noah Baumbach's fingerprints all over it. This simple coming-of-age tale traced one post-collegiate summer spent working at an amusement park. It's a sharp, comfortable addition to the teen genre and one that has 'instant classic' stamped all over it. I may have been a toddler in the 80's, but I could relate. Hard core. 8. Julia : If you didn't get the memo before, allow me to again suggest that you find a way to watch Julia. Go rent it, add it to your queue, check it out from the library, just find it. Somehow, this film was marginalized and blocked out of wide-release, which is unfortunate, as it could have easily climbed the ranks of awesome, crowd drawing thrillers. Tilda Swinton is magnificent. Again, yes, I'm here for like the third time this week to remind you of that.

7. Thirst: Are you getting tired of me harping on the same movies over and over again? Cause, I mean, I'm getting tired of telling you to go watch them. Chan-Wook Park saved the vampire from its pop cultural suicide and gave us this entrancing, darkly humorous, violently erotic bloodsucker tale. It's time someone did.
6. A Serious Man: The Coen Brothers tackle suburban life and give us a magnum opus of Americana of biblical proportions. Filled with sly humor and rich characters, this is (as I said before) a seriously good movie. Seriously.

5. Watchmen: Before I had Antichrist to defend, I was busying myself speaking the gospel of Zack Snyder. I'm really too exhausted to play this game again. I mean, really, it's been almost a year. I'll put it out there, though, and say that I honestly don't understand how this could end up on a worst of the year list. I mean, really? It might not have a beating heart or an uplifting message, but jesus, otherwise it's a remarkable feat.
4. Antichrist: I feel like all I've done since October is re-state and argue about exactly how good Lars Von Trier's controversial, scissor-wielding psychological drama really is. I mean, do I really need to repeat myself now? No. Basic rundown? This movie is insane. It's horrifying, gorgeous, remarkably acted and once it start it will either grab you or send you running for the nearest exit. I thought long and hard about putting this at the top of the list. It almost made it. As an influential piece of art, it does. But, I'll admit, there are some flaws and taste issues that make this questionable in certain areas.

3. A Single Man: As evidenced by my last review, I loved this film. The photography, the art direction, the acting, the costumes, all came together perfectly to become something saturated in its own tragic beauty and just a little bit heart breaking.

2. Fantastic Mr. Fox: All of my doubts were washed away within minutes of sitting down in the theater to view Wes Anderson's first animated feature. Its wistful nostalgia sent me spiraling into giddiness and I sat like an enthralled child eagerly anticipating each turn of the storybook page for the entire 90-some odd minutes. Here's a movie that's easy to's just too absurdly joyous to do otherwise. And yes, in the animation wars, I will champion Anderson's effort over this year's (also excellent)Disney/Pixar offerings.

1. Inglourious Basterds: The New Yorker may have panned it, but they were never known for their great taste in cinema (they also earmarked Duplicity as an honorable mention, say what now?). Inglourious Basterds, for me, is the WWII film to end all WWII films. It halts the soggy re-tellings of tragic affairs, twists the story around, and finally grants the underdogs the adrenaline-soaked day that only a fictional revision could supply. Spotted with film references and playfully arranging decades worth of genre conceits, Quentin Tarantino makes a movie that's as satisfying as it is artful.

Honorable mentions (so close, yet so far): The Hangover, Away we Go, Up in the Air, Zombieland, Hunger

Seen & Heard: Hair Bands Wish To Claw Out Eyeballs Aboard Sam Neill's Ship From Hell...

I have a not so secret affection for 1997's sci-fi/horror film Event Horizon. If you never bothered to see it, chances are you won't feel you're missing much, but it's a fun ride that feels like the movie adaptation of Lost in Space put through the meat grinder. Anyhow, the Event Horizon is not a place you want to be. Bad things happen there. Real bad things. Odd hair band 357 LOVER, however, does not agree. They would like to go. In fact, they've written a rock song about it and would like to perform it for you. Ta da!

Trailer: Cyrus

Sundance is going on right now. Though I'd love to be there, school, work, and my ever shriveling pocketbook prevent me from taking a trip to independent cinema-land. So, the most we can do is sit back, read the early buzz, and start looking for the trailers for the films that are premiering out in Utah. For example, we now have a trailer for Cyrus, the film set to change your view on Jonah Hill and remind you that John C. Reilly isn't just Will Ferrell's sidekick. The film follows a divorced and depressed man (Reilly) who enters into a relationship with a woman who seems out of his league (Marisa Tomei), only to learn she's carrying the burden of a 21-year old son (Hill). Like Ben Stiller's upcoming turn in Greenberg, Cyrus looks promising. No word yet on the actual release date.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Teenage Riot pt. II

Last month, as I was discussing my petty jealousy and expressing concern as to the future of young Tavi Gevinson, I wrote in passing a claim that you, dear reader, have taken me to task on. I stupidly offered up evidence from my own typed up adolescent mishaps as the pudding proof of how/why I believe that Tavi is indeed capable of writing with an affectation well beyond her years. Well, it took me awhile to get around to it (in part because I was really hoping you'd forget, but also because I've just been swamped), but I have located a few examples from my failed early attempts at novel writing. Keep in mind, I had a vision of being a wunderkind, an obsession with the word 'stiletto', and otherwise very little world experience. I've 'illustrated' the text with the various (less embarrassing) things I was really into (of course, I was also really into No Doubt and The Avengers, but I could argue that a large part of the Avengers fascination was my growing anglophilia, the clothes, and Uma Thurman, who I had wanted to look like since I saw the previews for Pulp Fiction).
A Gucci ad (circa 1999) during the golden age of Tom Ford. I may have been stuck in Abercrombie & Dr. Martens, but when my mother started subscribing to Vogue, I started obsessively memorizing the major fashion houses, countries of origin, and designers in charge. Somehow, I thought this would be important, but at the time, no one in suburban America cared. I had/have a box full of torn out advertisements (for collages and drawing material) and a sketchbook full of some of the ugliest (no, seriously) fashion designs ever (no, I will not scan them).

1. "Hortencia pushed on a forced smile behind which you could so tell that she was grinding her teeth in anguish. Oh, what extraordinary glee! What fortuitous bliss! I am grinding the devil into the ground with the tippee toe of my stiletto Gucci's. Die Devil, die! Suffer well!
Hortencia clicked her tongue and spoke, “Magda darling, don’t you have to be going?” she smiled that evil, quavering, gelatinous grin again."

2. (in which i experiment with the death of punctuation and capital letters, this piece was somehow influenced by the above, though in reality is has nothing to do with it) "in two days time i will have lost you forever you will be gone from my porcelain life and all that will remain is the hollow shell of a memory my one memento to maintain the thought and feeling that you once existed I held so many chances so many chances which slipped through the slits in my fingers with the echo of nothingness like sand falling to the other side of eternity i feel as though my life has passed me by and i am watching the one last drop of the elixir that will cement my immortality evaporate into the humid night air i am left to stand in the dull street light feeling like a transparent and ever fading ghost of who i once was why could i not just once leap up and rescue you from the demons which held you in their grasps open your eyes to see the reality you were drenched within i will forever live with that last remembrance of the way things could have been though my life will move on to the next stage of the metamorphosis in the same rapid quicksilver speed there will nevertheless be something to remind me every so often and if you orlando were to one day reappear in that familiar way what perchance would i do i would be faced with an impossible challenge that same life altering opportunity that i had neglected all those times over out of sheer fear that if i grasped it everything else would shatter into a vast wasteland of ruins so in the future would i take the chance or would i dodge back into the shadows of the former feeling soon you will have disappeared and i will ignore the question of the instant that could effect everything like the butterflys beating wings causing a hurricane on the opposite side of the ocean just disappear"

One of the Francesco Clemente paintings made for Alfonso Cuaron's 1998 "Great Expectations". I can't begin to tell you how much I loved this movie. My middle school existence was filled with important life decisions like whether or not I wanted to grow up to be Gwyneth Paltrow's version of Estella, or Anne Bancroft's eccentric Ms. Dinsmoor (yes, it's Havisham in the Dickens). I still find myself reverting to a lot of the 'wisdom' I found in this movie: "people don't change", "ragno means spider in Italian", "New York is the center of the art world", and spurts of creativity should have musical accompaniment provided by Pulp & Iggy Pop.

3. "“good old boys were drinking whisky and wine, singing this will be the day that I die…this will be the day that I die…” the words floated out of the radio speakers, drifted to the ears, and passed out of the mouths of the two young boys seated in the red leather seats of the oldsmobile. The words unnerved the mother of the darker haired one, who drove during rush hour, taking them to experience the final chapter of their favorite science fiction movie. Within their next three hours they would discover the family secrets held a long time ago in a galaxy far far away, but right now they were droning merrily to american pie. The mother flicked the radio switch, not wanting to be haunted by the thought of her son’s mortality."

Yeah, "Batman and Robin", horrible, I know. I was young! My viewing was limited! Ah, well, high and low culture, always...

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

I'm Scared.

Did you realize Martha Stewart is 68? I did not. For a senior citizen with some prison time under her belt, she looks pretty good. Like a WASPy mid-50's. But, all that aside, that's no reason for her to jump on that pole or slow grind with the air. I don't know why this is happening. I'm scared.

Thom Yorke????

The Coachella line-up was announced yesterday causing millions to look at Sunday's line-up and go Thom Yorke????. It's not a question, actually, it's apparently the name of the band that Thom Yorke is in when he's not fronting Radiohead. He just...never got around to naming the grouping. But, it's also not a solo project? Yeah. Really. Don't ask me, I didn't know. What I do know is that looking at the line-up makes me have my annual moment where I think "yes, yes, this year I would really like to go bake in the desert and live in a sheet tent!" I mean, Pavement is performing on the same evening that Thom Yorke and a cartoon band are! Also, Grace Jones is on the same day as Yo Gabba Gabba's DJ Lance Rock? Yann Tiersen? Fever Ray? Say what?
Speaking of everybody's favorite animated band...Gorillaz have a new track that's been leaked onto the internets. It's called "Stylo" and is the first song to surface from the group's forthcoming album Plastic Beach. Check it out before it gets pulled....

In Which 3 Days Later, I Address the Golden Globes

I know that for someone who has the fake job of blogging about pop culture, the Wednesday after the Golden Globes is a tad on the delayed side. In fact, at this point, there might be little reason to address the subject at all. Three days post, anyone who cares is already totally aware of the winners, losers, and upsets. Everyone else, well, they just don't care. I used to be a big fan of the Globes. At one point in my life the strange amalgamation of celebrities from cinema and television was more exciting than the pomp and circumstance of the Oscars. Lately, though, the Globes seem a scaled back affair. They're scattered, without a cohesive element (even Ricky Gervais couldn't pretend that he was doing a full day's work of hosting), and sort of look like they're filmed at a dressed up airport convention center. These days, they're my playoffs for the big event. This year, they managed to do a great deal of snubbing. Yet, ignoring them completely would be something of a disservice. So, let me run things down.

1. For those unaware (why would you be?), the Golden Globes honor film and television, dividing both mediums into "drama" and "musical/comedy" categories. This means that in the acting categories there are double the nominees (and a larger variety) than at the Oscars. Because of the breakdown, the long shot can win.

2. Sunday, the drama winner for best picture was Avatar while The Hangover won for best comedy. If that sounds more like the selection for the People's Choice Awards than the Golden Globes, we're on the same page. Of course, I'm a fan of both films...but, really? Let's break it down.

A. In its category, The Hangover was just about the best option. It was the sleeper hit, featured a tremendously effective ensemble cast, and was legitimately funny. Yet, one must ask why it (and the others in its category, including It's Complicated and Julie and Julia) were nominated in the first place. Where was A Serious Man? The Informant!? In the Loop? I would even argue that Zombieland and Funny People offered up more laughs and better performances than a traditional rom com like It's Complicated. I'd also say that just because Nine is the sole musical, doesn't mean it deserves instant recognition.

B. Avatar deserves every technical award it gets nominated for. It's a gorgeous film and a remarkable feat. Yet, aside from the special effects, it's not one for acting, screenwriting, or the other elements that the big ticket award shows usually fawn over. I'd say it's certainly not the best film of the year and that giving it an award for best dramatic film is just about the same as handing 300 an Oscar. In also dubbing James Cameron best director, Avatar essentially robbed Quentin Tarantino and Kathryn Bigelow (speaking of which, can you believe Bigelow and Cameron were actually married at one point? Yipes. I'd like to ask her if he's as much of a toolbox as I imagine. I'm pretty sure he is.)

3. Sandra. Bullock. Won. A. Dramatic. Acting. Award. WTF? For that bland looking touchy-feely sports drama The Blind Side no less. There are so many things wrong with this, I can't even begin to elaborate upon them. Oh wait. Yes, I can. It's a joke. A huge joke. Even if her performance was less annoying than it appeared (I'm sure it was), in a year in which Charlotte Gainsbourg had the best mental breakdown I've ever seen on film (Antichrist)....Sandra Bullock's southern belle mom role is the biggest joke ever. Really. Bullock doesn't even come in second place, because after Gainsbourg comes Tilda Swinton in Julia. Seriously. If the academy could give Swinton an award for her minor role in Michael Clayton, they should be falling all over themselves to hand it to her for Julia. For reals. If I see Sandra Bullock walk across that stage come Oscar night, my irritation and level of disappointment will skyrocket to new heights. As controversial as Antichrist may be, the one aspect that cannot be argued is that Gainsbourg is incredible in it. Truly. Right now, her snub is beyond snubby. It's like at slap in the face levels. Not just her face, but pretty much the massive face of anyone who even pretends to like cinema.

4. Similarly, no matter how big my crush on Robert Downey Jr.'s Sherlock Holmes is, or how much I liked RDJ's acceptance speech, that award belonged to Michael Stuhlbarg (A Serious Man) and/or Matt Damon. Again...People's Choice Awards.

5. I am pleased that Christoph Waltz won for Inglourious Basterds. He was a truly dispicable villain. I'm also quite glad that Dexter's Michael C. Hall killed the competition (har har).

6. While I expected 30 Rock to finally be defeated this year, I'm not sure Glee should have been the heir to the throne. Why? Because, well, for all the hype, Glee started strong and has quickly descended towards the tedious terrain of a show well into its third season. In the season finale, it seemed they were headed towards a turn around. If they can make it out of the rut they're in, they would deserve the award next year. This year? I can't help but feel the show is a little too flawed. What I would have liked to have seen would be a supporting actress award for Jane Lynch and a loss for the show as a whole. Honor the working pieces of the whole, not the whole. How many people just started pouting? Sorry, Gleeks, I like the show too, but, really, I mean...don't you watch it sometimes and just get angry?

7. I love Martin Scorsese. Seriously. There's a dude who really loves what he does, and who really has the passion to block out the overwhelming pretension and arrogance of some of his peers. I get the feeling that anyone who met Martin Scorsese could get him to have a really great conversation about film. Let's just give Scorsese all the awards and call it a day.

8. I also really like that Sigourney Weaver is all popular again. I had a dream where she came up in conversation and my parents reminded me of the time she came to Christmas dinner and turned out to be a bitch (no, this never happened). In my dream I was terribly disappointed. Perhaps because I've spent most of my life thinking that Sigourney Weaver is pretty much awesome.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Review: A Single Man

When it comes to film, I tend to be something of an aesthete. Give me a convoluted plot with impeccable art direction and (though there are exceptions) I will likely have fallen deeply in love by the time the credits roll. Yes, I'm a sucker for beautiful cinematography. If it's pretty enough, I will retreat inward, not speak in full sentences and watch a film with only two snips of dialogue for hours. I'll admit, too, I was already half in love with fashion designer Tom Ford's cinematic debut A Single Man the first time I saw the trailer. It was a glorious two minutes filled with 60's styles, symmetry, and frame after frame of wall-worthy stills. I waited for two agonizing months to see this film, all the while thinking my disappointment was nearly inevitable. Amazingly, or perhaps miraculously, the film is, scene by scene, shot by shot, just as I wished it would be...

Finish this review @...

Monday, January 18, 2010

Just Because I Really Like Tilda Swinton...

I'm posting this short fashion film made for Pringle of Scotland's Spring/Summer line. You may have noticed that the later I post in the evening, the more likely I am to stick to simple, lovely, artsy video footage and not go on exhaustive tirades about (for example) why the hell Sandra Bullock is winning dramatic acting awards in a year when Charlotte Gainsbourg should reign supreme. Or, you know, I think the festival circuit in 2008 may disqualify Julia, but Swinton herself should also be up there. Either way, the night makes me mellow.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Intrigue & Tree Licking

There's a mystery on the interwebs, dear reader. Elaborating upon the mystery means that I will be playing into a viral marketing campaign. But, elaborate I must. You see, there are some strange videos circulating. Dark videos. Videos that look like they had a real budget. Videos that channel the disturbing nature imagery of Antichrist and contain horrors. Tree licking, animal birthing, branches with human limbs. They've been posted to youtube by a user lamely called "iamamiwhoami" and were accompanied by a now deactivated twitter account that informed readers "“SHE IS COMING. SPREAD THE WORD,” “Will you follow or flee? Spread the word #sheiscoming” and “SHE IS HUNGRY.” (via MuuMuse).

One of the videos shows a blonde woman, heavily muddied up, licking tree bark. Is that the she? For all we know, yes. The question then is: who is it. Based on the imagery and the sound, my immediate thought is "well, it's obviously Goldfrapp". I mean, Felt Mountain feeds right into this sort of video (as does the imagery used to promote Seventh Tree and the video for "A&E") and maybe with the performance art stakes now raised by Lady GaGa (who I sense that this is not, though the Hedi Slimane videos during her concert keep her in the running), Alison Goldfrapp has now been liberated to be as odd as she wants to be. It looks a bit like her in fake eyelashes, but it's almost impossible to say. Plus, Goldfrapp has a new album scheduled to drop in March. Yet, therein lies the rub. This is the cover of Goldfrapp's Headfirst....cotton candy clouds of pink and blue don't do much in the way of indicating much.
If not Goldfrapp, who? Well, this is where it gets interesting. Some have thrown out Fever Ray, Bjork, MGMT, The Knife, Patrick Wolf, etc. But, there's quite a bit of internet speculation that suggests the "she" in question is actually someone who we would usually not suspect, someone who has been plotting a total reinvention (via producers such as Goldfrapp, M.I.A., etc): Christina Aguilera. Um, whoa? Is it possible? Yes. What little we know about the direction Aguilera is trying to take tells us that if nothing else it's designed to be electronically influenced and far from B. Spears. Would dark, sexually suggestive nature imagery kill her pop tart career? In the age of GaGa...maybe not.

Of course, all of this is just speculation. In reality, the viral campaign may not be related to music at all. For all I know this is for an actual video installation or performance artist, a movie, or some sort of ultimately disappointing brand. Right now, though, I'm intrigued...and my gut still says Goldfrapp.

Novelty Treats: Naoko Ito

I like things under glass. Snowglobes, museum exhibits, shadowboxes, test tubes, those sorts of things. So, Naoko Ito's work looks like something I'd like to put (or construct) in the corner of the living room. I'm going to wander over to the science supply store to buy many jars. This is, of course, assuming the science supply store has many jars...


In which the RZA auditions for Parks & Recreation. Also, thanks to Videogum I have also discovered (and been deeply confused by) a series of paintings in which history is rewritten to include the RZA. All RZA, all the time. It looks like some Banksy-type art world tricks to me, but you should check it out for yourself.

RIP: Jay Reatard

Jimmy Lee Lindsey Jr., the artist otherwise known as Memphis garage rocker Jay Reatard was confirmed dead yesterday. The 29-year old's body was discovered in his home early Tuesday morning, and while immediate details stated he died in his sleep, police have opened an investigation into his untimely death. Jay Reatard had been touring as the opening act for The Pixies, and is a prolific artist in the lo-fi punk scene. His death comes just six months after the release of his EP Watch Me Fall, an album that was recently ranked as one of the best of 2009 by Spin magazine.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Novelty Treats: Star Wars Burlesque

If you're a cosplay nut excited (or merely amused) not only by Princess Leia's infamous slave girl bikini, but also by ladies costumed as Jabba the Hutt, then you probably need to go west towards Bordello, a Los Angeles club that features a very special evening of Star Wars burlesque. I'd say more, but I shouldn't have to....the pictures are indeed worth a thousand words. Personally, I think my viewing experience would go a little like this. First: I would purchase a drink. Second: I would laugh and snicker and be generally gleeful about the overall absurdity of the show. Third: I would get tired of laughing and then start feeling uneasy about the masks. Fourth: I would retreat to sipping quietly on my beverage, feeling creeped out, and smiling nervously every few minutes. Then the show would probably end and I would remark on how much I enjoyed the decor.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Review: The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus

Terry Gilliam films are few and far between. When they finally surface they're too be treasured. The director has notoriously bad luck when it comes to film production, with more than a few projects sidelined or dropped by unrealistic budgets, accidents, and lack of studio backing. He famously became so stressed on the set of Brazil that he temporarily lost the use of his legs. He tried to adapt Don Quixote only to have his star injured and his set damaged in a flood. He set out to film The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus with Heath Ledger and, well, the rest is history. Fortunately, however, Gilliam's latest imaginative epic was saved from redundancy. Though at times it rambles, it accomplishes what the director does best and sends the viewer on a fanciful flight through baroque, innovative worlds that could only come from the mind of Gilliam. You could call it, Imaginarium of Terry Gilliam, if you wanted, as Doctor Parnassus (a worn Christopher Plummer) seems to be his stand in; the holy fool who continues to triumph the power of the imagination in the face of modernity...

Finish this review @...

Friday, January 8, 2010

I Don't Like It: Leap Year

Alright, so, the trailers for the abysmal looking new film Leap Year have really been bugging me. At first, my annoyance was triggered by yet another romantic comedy centered around the female protagonist's non-sensical solo trip to Ireland. I mean, how many can we have? Off the top of my head I can already think of P.S. I Love You and Laws of Attraction as guilty of implying that the only decent men left on the planet are found within the rolling hills of Ireland (frequently in small, backwards villages filled with mud). Then, I started wondering why Amy Adams and Matthew Goode were in this movie at all. Surely Adams is being offered better projects? Goode, too, must have had an indie on the table that would help further his career? Then, around the second or third time i was force fed the trailer in the theater I paid attention and started to ask real questions about the plot itself. This is where I stopped just shaking my head and started actually asking 'wtf'.

This film is apparently about a woman (Amy Adams, of course) who has been dating her boyfriend for a good four years. He has yet to propose, and she's starting to get fed up. Yet, instead of talking to him, or proposing in America, she adheres to some sort of odd tradition that says women can pop the question to a man on 2/29 of a magical, mystical leap year.

Yes, you read that right. Think that over for just a couple seconds and join me in a gigantic What the bloody hell? Someone made a film based around the premise that a modern woman only feels she's allowed to propose to her long-term boyfriend if she leaves the country to take part in some sort of mythical tradition. There are so many things wrong with that concept, and the fact that it was even green lit, that it's almost maddening. Someone check the calendar. I need verification that we recently entered 2010 and not 1945. I'm sorry, but really Hollywood? Is there a reason it's so hard to get a decent movie marketed towards women that isn't underhandedly misogynist or a complete insult to an entire gender? Or, better question, yo Anand Tucker! After directing part of the Red Riding trilogy, Hilary and Jackie, and Shopgirl, who held you at gunpoint and forced you to take on Leap Year.

Ugh. I'm going to go seethe in a corner somewhere.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Best of the Decade

Dear reader, you might be wondering why progress has suddenly slowed down after weeks of activity here at the Pop Candy Arcade. The reason is that at this juncture a good chunk of my free time and brain power is going towards the posting of a list of the 100 most influential films of the past decade at my other blog (yes, yes, i'm mentioning it again) Love & Squalor. The list is a joint effort between M. and myself, and one that we've been discussing and battling over for quite literally a solid month and a half or so. You'd think we would have everything set in stone at this point, but you'd be surprised at how indecisive we can get...and how many really fantastic films were released in the 2000's. Part 4 is up, so we've still got a ways to go, but you should check out our choices and feel free to agree/disagree/start ranking your own.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Novelty Treats: DJ Earworm

I'm a day behind on posting this as i like to drop off the face of the Earth in observance of the New Year's holiday, but in celebration of the conclusion of 2009 i give you the much circulated DJ Earworm remix of the top 25 pop hits of 2009. What can we take from this? Two things. The first is that for the most part, the pop songs that find success are all alarmingly similar and frequently pretty awful, so as a general rule i'm going to go with people have bad taste and a high tolerance for mediocrity. The second is that not great pop songs do manage to sound pretty great all mashed together. Here's the list of what you'll find blended into 5 minutes:

The Black Eyed Peas, “Boom Boom Pow”
Lady Gaga, “Poker Face”
Lady Gaga Featuring Colby O’donis, “Just Dance”
The Black Eyed Peas, “I Gotta Feeling”
Taylor Swift, “Love Story”
Flo Rida, “Right Round”
Jason Mraz, “I’m Yours”
Beyonce, “Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)”
Kanye West, “Heartless”
The All-American Rejects, “Gives You Hell”
Taylor Swift, “You Belong With Me”
T.I. Featuring Justin Timberlake, “Dead And Gone”
The Fray, “You Found Me”
Kings Of Leon, “Use Somebody”
Keri Hilson Featuring Kanye West & Ne-Yo, “Knock You Down”
Jamie Foxx Featuring T-Pain, “Blame It”
Pitbull, “I Know You Want Me (Calle Ocho)”
T.I. Featuring Rihanna, “Live Your Life”
Soulja Boy Tell ‘Em Featuring Sammie, “Kiss Me Thru The Phone”
Jay Sean Featuring Lil Wayne, “Down”
Miley Cyrus, “The Climb”
Drake, “Best I Ever Had”
Kelly Clarkson, “My Life Would Suck Without You”
Beyonce, “Halo”
Katy Perry, “Hot N Cold”

Review: Nine

Rob Marshall rounds Fellini's 8 1/2 up to Nine with sexy, albeit massively disappointing, results. Here we have a movie based on a Broadway musical based on a non-musical movie about making movies. I can't speak to what the show is like on stage, but I could write volumes about what's being lost in the translation from Fellini to Marshall. As a serious Fellini fan, I can say that this film would have the auteur rolling in his grave. I'd even argue that it doesn't take a Fellini fanatic to observe all that is wrong with Nine. It's pretty damn obvious. With Chicago, Marshall blended the stagy with the cinematic in a way that worked with the atmosphere and subject matter. It was pure Fosse, a film about stage performers without need of too much silver screen razzle dazzle. With Nine, Marshall misses the point entirely. 8 1/2 is a movie about movies. It's a delirious frenzy that beautifully captures the frustration of the creative process. Nine picks up only on the most superficial bits of its source material, the women and muddled relationships. As it attempts to be a musical about movies, it succeeds only in being tremendously (and perhaps ironically) stagy. Marshall attempts to build up his characters and the film as something of a Fellini homage but instead falters and gives American audiences a strange parade of silly, tangentially related song and dance numbers. Only Fergie (as Saraghina) appears at all Fellini-esque. Everything (and everyone) else is less grotesque and absurd than overtly serious about mugging and vamping for the camera. This may be my great love for 8 1/2 talking, but when placed anywhere near the original, Nine feels like nothing more than a very confused Victoria's Secret commercial....

Finish this review @...


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