Saturday, May 29, 2010

RIP: Dennis Hopper

Legendary actor, director, artist, and Hollywood renegade Dennis Hopper died today in his Venice, California home after a battle with prostate cancer.  He was 74, and in the company of family and friends.

Born in 1936, the first film credit of Hopper's six decades in cinema was an appearance in the James Dean vehicle, Rebel Without a Cause.  From there, the roles slowly built and came to a head with the iconic Easy Rider, the sixties drug years zeitgeist Hopper co-wrote, directed, and starred in as the unhinged Billy.  Hopper was a hard man to control, and his reputation as an unpredictable loose cannon made for success that came in fits and starts. 

Married five times, known for being such a pain in his early years that John Wayne chased him with a loaded gun on the set of True Grit, it's no matter.  I'll always remember Hopper for his tour de force in David Lynch's Blue Velvet as ether huffing criminal Frank Booth.  His presence was jarring; unsettling in a way that made it clear character and actor both were forces to be reckoned with.  [Source]

Les Grossman Strikes Back

MTV somehow got hyperactive Scientologist and sometimes actor Tom Cruise to reprise two of his former film roles in the campaign to promote the 2010 Movie Awards.  In the ad spots, Cruise becomes both Tropic Thunder's sleaze bag mogul Les Grossman and Risky Business's Joel Goodsen.  The award show is being hosted by comedian Aziz Ansari, but the schtick is that it's "produced by Les Grossman".  The timing on this seems totally random.  Is Grossman getting that spin-off that was briefly tittered about back in 2008?  Or is this just some slanted way to try and ingratiate Cruise back into the good graces of a younger audience before Knight and Day hits theaters at the end of June?  Either way, since the absurd factor on this is high, I've made an executive decision and re-posted.  Yes, Twi-hards, the first video does feature Robert Pattinson.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Teen Wolf

Oh, silly hipster mallgoths.  So apparently the new thing to do to cause a fuss in high school is to be a teen wolf.  Kids these days.  $10 says they haven't even seen Ginger Snaps.  Like, your literal interpretation of your mental and physical transformation from child to adult is just like so unoriginal.  Nice tails. Don't eat the neighbor's dog.

RIP: Gary Coleman

Actor Gary Coleman, most widely recognized for his smart mouthed role on Diff'rent Strokes, died today at age 42.  Entertainment Weekly reports that Coleman suffered an intracranial hemorrhage after he fell at his home in Utah last Wednesday. 

While his later life was plagued with financial issues and incident reports, as an actor Coleman was a prolific television star.  He's survived (in all seriousness) by his wife Shannon, the phrase "Whatchoo talkin' about Willis?", and his namesake likeness in the Tony-Award winning musical Avenue Q.  That's a pop cultural footprint.


Review: Sex and the City 2

Dear Reader,

Yesterday I rolled out of bed, showered, and did what 2 years ago would have been emotionally impossible: I got in my car with cranky sibling in tow and drove to the theater to pay, reluctantly, to view the early showing of Sex and the City 2. I had to talk myself into this. It was a process. Every trailer, every online article and magazine cover was followed by a conversation that would go something like this:

Myself: You can't go to it, you know. It's going to be terrible. It will enrage you. Don't you remember the first one? Don't you remember what it was like?

Myself: Oh, I remember. I've derided it like a fanboy trashes Episode I. This will certainly be the most heinous example of faux-feminism and self-destruction of a series since the last round. And yet...

Myself: No. No 'and yet'. Pull yourself together. This pain you inflict upon yourself is the opposite of healthy...

Myself: ...but, I get to Squalor it.

Myself: Is that worth your sanity?

Myself: ...but... I get to Squalor it.

Myself: It's the glitter, isn't it? You're a junkie and your addiction is totally masochistic. Injecting that shit into your veins and imprinting it on your sockets will cut off the flow of blood to your brain. They'll only disappoint you.

Myself:, I need to do this for the blog. I can't just go to movies I think I'll like...I must go forth. I refused to see Shrek, I have to make this sacrifice.

Myself: I'm breaking up with you.

I'm very conflicted. But I went, dear Reader. If the dialogue above didn't clue you in, let me spell it out: I hate. the. first. movie. My hatred knows no bounds. Seriously. Ain't no mountain high enough. It was a no-hearts, slogging, painful exercise in misdirection and vapidity that was neither funny nor particularly poignant. The film made its characters insufferable caricatures of what non-viewers had always assumed the show was about. It was the leering antichrist of summer cinema and a gigantic anticlimax. After six seasons of building somewhat problematic, but genuinely complicated female roles, the film squandered everything. It destroyed its characters and left shadowy pod people wandering Manhattan like aging clothes hangers with stitched on zombie hands. Thinking about it still makes me frustrated. When yesterday arrived, I prepared to enter into battle with the screen. I was 100% eye rolls and troubled sighs. I made snarky remarks as I bought my ticket from the kid at the box office and slouched in with such low expectations and such a massive feeling of dread that, when the film actually started, I was surprised that I somehow managed to feel some brand of strange relief.

Needless to say, since watching all 2+ hours of Sex and the City 2 yesterday, I've become even more conflicted....

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Seen & Heard: Charlotte Gainsbourg

Charlotte Gainsbourg- Time of the Assassins from Charlotte Gainsbourg on Vimeo.

New video for Charlotte Gainsbourg's "Time of the Assassins".   Whatever she does, she should definitely not drive up to that cabin with her husband.  Stay out of the woods, Charlotte, stay out of Satan's Church.  Speaking of Lars Von Trier...for those who don't know, the slightly manic director's next film, Melancholia, is science fiction.  Granted, it'll probably be science fiction the way Tarkovsky is science fiction, but in the wake of Antichrist I am way more excited than I should be.  Melancholia is supposedly about the end of the world, which is always fun, moreso when the apocalypse involves Gainsbourg's return alongside a lineup that includes John Hurt, the always tricky Charlotte Rampling, Kirsten Dunst, Kiefer Sutherland, Stellan Skarsgård, Udo Kier, and True Blood's nordic vamp Alexander Skarsgård.  Strange casting, stranger times.  Pretentious film geek multiple exclamation points.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Boots & Boys

For some reason, this blog always has me mentioning Velvet Goldmine.  For some reason, it's always totally relevant.  Today, because I've seen Velvet Goldmine x amount of times and have always professed a deep desire to raid the movie's wardrobe, I have an obvious obligation to tell you all about the trend report filed by London's Times Online: man heels.  Yes.  Man heels.  Because the men folk want to be Lady Gaga too!  Apparently, we're shifting into a glam rock/disco second coming or something because dandy style elevated shoes for guys are starting to show up in a big way.  Can I confess that for some reason this makes me totally giddily excited?   Like, I just want to see it and pretend like maybe the outside world has become the amalgamation of decades that I live in in my head.  !!!  Yes. I'm geeking out about the slight chance that men who are not dragged out may be walking down a city block in heels.

Anyhow, the man heel (also, lamely referred to as the "meel") has been popping up in hipster havens, goth quarters, and at international fashion weeks.  Of course, a lot of this is just that slightly elevated 60's mod boot.  Cuban heels.  But, have no fear, there are men in platformed, stiletto options as well.  According to The Times, UK department store Selfridges "reports a particular appetite for this style of boot. Sam Lobban, a contemporary buyer for the store, described the look as “flamboyant, but in an edgy, cool way. Heeled boots are the epitome of this and seem a natural turn for our customer — rock’n’roll twinned with elegance.” [source]

Style site Refinery29 has a feature on the man heel as well.  You can thank them for being the source of most of my picture scrounging to shed some light on this little Times noteworthy tidbit.  I honestly don't see why men shouldn't wear heels.  They can balance, right?  And besides, outside of sneakers, the options for formal man shoes are super bland.  So, who says they're gender specific?

Via Refinery29: "Above, from left: Jean-Michel Cazabat Boot, $695, available at Barneys; Rick Owens Boot, available at Rick Owens Boutique; 250 Hudson St (at Broome St); 212-627-7222."

Images via: Refinery 29, Team Peter Stigter, & Racked

Trailer: Easy A

The viral teasers for Emma Stone teen comedy Easy A left me not totally convinced.  The synopsis was intriguing, but the clips they chose as an initial selling point felt off-topic.  The first full trailer for the film, however, shows real promise.  Blending literary references (the A is an allusion to Hawthorne's Hester Prynne) with the huge opportunity for interesting social-sexual commentary, Easy A follows a high school nobody who manipulates the rumor mill to ascend the ranks of the popularity hierarchy.  How? Watch the trailer.  It feels very Mean Girls to me, and boasts a respectable line-up of talent cast as authority figures (Thomas Haden Church, Stanley Tucci, and Patricia Clarkson all in a teen movie?).  Yeah, I'm going to see it when it arrives in theaters this September.  The odds look good.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Review: Please Give

I'm late to the party when it comes to reviewing writer/director Nicole Holofcener's Please Give.  The critical round table has already assembled, munched on a white-chocolate drizzled popcorn appetizer and eaten half of the entree.  All the comparisons to Woody Allen's 80's dramas have been made, and for me to restate them now would be like asking for someone to look up, notice I don't belong, and inform me that my points were already made.  More succinctly.  By someone else.  Not only that, though, that Allen comparisons don't really cut it. Holofcener's Please Give is like, say, Hannah and Her Sisters, only in that it's a human, New Yorker-centric, ensemble melodrama that revolves around neurotic tendencies and good old fashioned qualities like solid scripts and strong acting.  Please Give isn't Allen or Baumbach or Stillman urban haute bourgeoisie, it's Holofcener dropping into the lives of her characters and giving viewers an appealing, frequently sharply funny, almost literary film....


It's Friday afternoon, I'm packed and waiting for a blow-off weekend, and I'm slowly writing up a new review over at Love & Squalor.  So, these tidbits, two of which are sort of undeserving of full posts in and of themselves, will have to piggyback on number 1: Robyn's new video for "Dancing on My Own".  Summer pop songs, people, summer pop songs.  I don't know about you, but when it starts getting warmer the electronically influenced tracks in my music library start building up higher and higher play counts.  "Dancing on My Own" was supposedly inspired by the singer's "love of inherently sad, gay disco anthems" [source].  As someone who unabashedly loves Bronski Beat's "Smalltown Boy", I think I can get with that.  I was a big fan of Robyn's last (self-titled) album a couple years back, and her newest release: Body Talk pt. 1 is due out June 15th.  Speaking of things I can't wait for: Hercules and Love Affair supposedly have a new album coming soon (!?), I need more information on this.  Like, now.  Disco summer.  Complete with a hopefully guilty pleasure indulgent Kylie Minogue track or four.  And a shockingly promising looking Kelis album (BTW: Kelis and Robyn are touring together).  Also, have you listened to Janelle Monae's ArchAndroid yet?  No?  What the hell is wrong with you?  I'm still spinning Caribou's album Swim on a loop, too, I'll have you know. 

Robyn 'Dancing On My Own' (Official Video) from Robyn on Vimeo.

Numero 2: You've likely already heard that Megan Fox will not be in Transformers 3.  For some reason, this news was all the rage yesterday, though I honestly have no idea why.  I've advocated for Fox in the past, and pretty much totally opposed to the continuation of Michael Bay's robot soldier franchise, so when it comes to speculating about whether or not this is a 'good' or 'bad' career move for her I have to lean towards the former.  Transformers is miserable, people, and Michael Bay is indeed some sort of testosterone-pumped hack.  If I were Fox, the more distance I could put between those films and my career, the better I would be.  Past that: Transformers doesn't need Fox's character.  She was there as an objectified sex symbol shell, not much else.  Why was I posting this?  Oh, yeah.  So, apparently, while news first broke that Fox had been "fired" from the Paramount film (supposedly relating to her badmouthing of Bay as "tyrant" last year), it would seem that the claims from her camp that she quit in an attempt to avoid ill-treatment at the hands of said "tyrant" might be more credible than not.  The reason?  /Film claims Deadline broke the story, and that there may be some buddy buddy relationships between Paramount higher ups and famed blogger Nikki Fenke.  Doesn't this feel so gossipy?  I think it feels gossipy.  Either way, Transformers were way better as toys, guys.

3: In a brilliant stroke of viral marketing, SNL film MacGruber has launched a Tumblr dedicated to deriding the film it unfortunately shares a release date with: Shrek Forever After.  Leading me to a segment I like to call: Really?  With me, myself, and I.  Really?  No one's thought of this before?  Really?  No, seriously.  It's great.  I mean, what's with Shrek anyway?  Are people really still interested?  Do kids like these movies anymore?  I mean, the third one was too melodramatic for kids and too boring for adults.  This one just looks excruciatingly, awkwardly painful.  Also, is there a reason why the animation doesn't appear to have improved over a span of nearly a decade?  Mike Myers, I love you, no more sequels, no more fart jokes.  No more. You're better than that.  You're Wayne Campbell.

You know what?  Bonus: Slow Loris!

This Pie...

It's not just the pie, but damn good coffee as well.  Hot!  This video ridiculous by MC Chris makes me feel the sudden need to re-watch all of Twin Peaks.  It may be time to finally cave in and invest in the Gold Box. Multiple birthday and holiday wishlist fails tell me it's never going to happen otherwise...

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Novelty Treats: What's in the Box?

Pixar story artist Josh Cooley has been working on a slew of side projects, some of which you can view on his blog.  The best?  A Golden Books inspired take on scenes from some of his favorite, very un-Pixar, R-rated films.  Nostalgia freaks and movie fanatics may want to keep Cooley bookmarked, as prints of the work will go on sale some time post Comic-Con later this year.  [source]

Seen & Heard: Goldfrapp "Alive"

Goldfrapp has been watching too many 80's films.  The video for "Alive" (the second single off Head First), is all fun and ritual Satanic aerobics until it's Olivia Newton-Johnness  becomes, well, Once Bitten.  

Adventures in Idiocy

This just in: E!Online is reporting that an LA judge revoked Lindsay Lohan's probation, pinned her with $100,000 bail, and issued an arrest warrant on the disaster-prone supposed actress.  Lohan, who was scheduled to appear in court this morning in conjunction with her twin 2007 DUI charges, has been attending the festivities in Cannes, where she claims to have lost her passport.  Now, upon her arrival in the states, she may be facing jail time and will have to wear an electronic monitoring device at all times.  

Seriously, Lindsay?  Seriously?  You "lost your passport"?  This is just tiring.  How hard is it to just stay home for awhile, keep out of the public eye, stop dying your hair colors it shouldn't be and just regroup?  I'm exhausted.  Image consultant: you need a new one.   [source]

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Who You Gonna Call?

For their latest stunt, Improv Everywhere reenacted a scene from Ghostbusters in the New York Public Library.  From their website:
"The New York Public Library approached us about a month ago and asked if we would want to stage an Improv Everywhere mission on their property. The library is facing serious budget cuts, and they thought having us do something awesome there might serve to remind people of how great the NYPL is. We couldn't say no to the opportunity to do something in their gorgeous, 100 year-old Rose Main Reading Room." [IE]
Yeah, at my library, if anyone walks in with a face mask, the patrons and librarians all speed dial the cops.  If they didn't have clearance for this one, they would have been dealing with some seriously perturbed librarians.

Seen & Heard: How to Destroy Angels

Trent Reznor and his wife, Mariqueen Maandig, now are a band called How to Destroy Angels.  When I heard this, a couple days back, I thought the name was at sigh inducing levels of lame.  I'm standing by that notion, though my inner goth deems the first taste of the actual music acceptable.  The song "The Space in Between" uses (as can be expected) the sort of industrial instrumentals Nine Inch Nails was known for and with Maandig's vocals the track's sound is very similar to Snake River Conspiracy or early, Kelli Ali-fronted, Sneaker Pimps. It's bloody, ominous, and asking to be added to my late night driving playlist.

Question for any truly hardcore NIN fans out there: is Maandig considered a Yoko in any circles, or is this new collaboration good to go?  Also - does that faux blood just look too much like chocolate sauce for anyone else?

I want a sundae.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Dior + Lynch + Cotillard

Oh, wait, you haven't left the modern art museum.  You thought you did, but you wound up trapped in another labyrinth and down an austere hallway and into another darkened room with a strange soundtrack and a flickering digital projector.  David Lynch, who is paradoxically surprisingly and unsurprisingly no stranger to advertising, was recruited to direct a sixteen minute film ad for Dior.   The film, "Lady Blue Shanghai" is actually the third installment in Dior's short film campaign featuring Marion Cotillard.  The other ads were directed by international filmmakers Olivier Dahan and Jonas Akerlund, respectively, but this one is unabashedly and unflinchingly Lynchian down to its shadow play and close ups.  Of course, that doesn't necessarily make it a great ad, but it is a pretty curiosity.

Mr&Mrs Myth

Mr&Mrs Myth from Vassilis Karidis on Vimeo.

Because you just turned a corner and walked down that dark hallway into a darker abyss at the modern art museum (and didn't even know it), here's "Mr&Mrs Myth" by Vassilis Karidis and Nicholas Georgiou.  The short film was shot for the Atopos Cultural Organisation's project Atopic Bodies [one]. 

Friday, May 14, 2010

Uh. Roman Polanski, What's Your Damage?

British actress and former Playboy model Charlotte Lewis has stepped forward claiming that she too was sexually abused by controversial director Roman Polanski at age 16.  Now 42-years old, Lewis starred in Polanski's 1986 genre clunker Pirates.  The film was released when Lewis was 19, though it supposedly took several years to complete.  Reports are quoting Lewis, alongside attorney Gloria Allred, as stating
“Mr. Polanski knew that I was only 16 years old when he met me and forced himself upon me in his apartment in Paris. He took advantage of me and I have lived with the effects of his behavior ever since it occurred. All I want is justice.”[Radar]
It should be noted that the legal age of consent in France is, in fact, 16 assuming that force was not involved.  Lewis hasn't given details into the occurrence, but if the incident did occur, it's relevant to Polanski's current case.  As you know, the Rosemary's Baby and Chinatown director is already deep in hot water after being arrested in Zurich on a warrant from 1978 for a similar incident involving the then 13-year old Samantha Geimer.  He posted an open letter on the subject earlier this month on La règle du jeu

The Smell of Success

I'm wondering who buys all these celebrity scents?  Jessica Simpson is adding yet another fragrance to her line: Fancy Nights.  With a little digging, I now know that it's called Fancy Nights because her original perfume is called Fancy.  Yet, in spite of this simple logic, I think Fancy Nights sounds absurd.  It should be advertised in a poor imitation of a British accent and by a child decked out in Disney princess gear and trying to carry an obese Russian Blue.  Why? Because Fancy Nights is basically what a child calls it when their parents get dressed up and park them with the babysitter. Fancy Nights. 

"What's that smell?" he asked, "It's so rich, so the check out aisle at Kohls." 

 "Oh," she replied, all a flutter, "Fancy Nights."

Kiss kiss.

Also, something that I learned today:  Alan Cumming had a fragrance.  It was called (you guessed it and don't shoot the messenger) Cumming.  Oy.  According to a near ancient (in internet years) post on Now Smell This, it was a scent "all about Sex, Scotch, Cigars and Scotland”  with "bergamot, black pepper, scotch pine, whiskey, cigar, heather, douglas fir, rubber, leather, Highland mud, peat fire, and white a heavy dose of pine and some burning rubber" [source].  I repeat: oy.  Though, at least with him, it's pretty obvious that he's deriving some sort of entertainment value from it, and knows it's perhaps more strange novelty joke than an activity that makes him a serious actor/business mogul.  Yeah. There's an ad for it below.

Jody Hill Directed Toyota Commercials

Jody Hill (Observe and Report, Eastbound & Down) was commissioned to direct a series of ads for the 2011 Toyota Sienna.  Apparently, he did, quite awhile ago, and the blog community has just now caught on to their existence.  /Film has the whole lot posted here, but the entire campaign, I would agree, can be summed up with the mini-van rap video "Swagger Wagon".  The rest are Modern Family-esque...but selling cars.  [Source]

Because It's Friday Morning: Hexapod Robot Rock

DANCE BREAK!  Now, when I attempt to do the robot, I'll know that I really need to be doing some crustacean break dancing instead of doing halfhearted judo chops. B-Bots are go!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

I Read It So You Don't Have To: The Carrie Diaries by Candace Bushnell

When I'm wrong (which occurs more frequently than I'd like to admit), I'm wrong.  Sometimes I'm really wrong about things that seem, at first glance, transparent. 

Last November I speculated on the vapid, fluffy content and great teen book disservice that was about to be done by author Candace Bushnell with her Sex and the City prequel: The Carrie Diaries.  Well, now I've read it.  I'm almost embarrassed to admit it.  I should probably just sweep this confession into a dark corner, but I won't. Don't give me that look.  I didn't move straight from Palahniuk to Bushnell.  It's just that Bleak House is kind of tedious... I needed a late night palette cleanser.  Oh, shut up.  I don't have to defend myself because what I'm trying to say is: I was wrong.  I was really wrong.  About everything.  Now I have to own up to the fact that as high school-centric young adult books go, The Carrie Diaries is alarmingly smart and frankly, a welcomed breath of fresh air.

I'm a quasi-adult who reads more young adult fiction than I should.  It's fun, quick, easy, literary candy directed at kids with limited attention spans and filled with snark and cliques and strangely filtered variations on adult situations.  Most of the time, though, when it's aimed at the female population, it's also brainless dreck.  There are, of course, exceptions to the rule (Andromeda Klein, Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist), but, disappointingly, these days it seems that girl-centric teen lit is split one of two ways.  It's either supernatural (Twilight, Shiver, Beautiful Creatures, You're So Undead to Me, etc) or rooted in a label-dropping popularity contest (Gossip Girl, Pretty Little Liars, Private).  Both directions are often fueled by massive crushes and usually have as their protagonists the slightly 'different' girl who must find her way in the locker side battles of the wits.  Obviously, Sex and the City doesn't have much to do with the supernatural (not counting the outrageous credit card bills the ladies must surely receive each month), and it's admittedly a story very close to the latter.  The difference, though, is Carrie Bradshaw herself.  One would expect that Carrie Bradshaw's teen years would be loaded with shoe obsessions, casual trysts, and bad puns.  Well, not quite.

There's nothing new about The Carrie Diaries at first glance.  The plot is filled with familiar strains that anyone who's seen Mean Girls will recognize.  The primary difference is that Bushnell doesn't bother updating the language for 2010 mini-fashionistas, and thus creates something that feels almost pure.  This is Carrie Bradshaw circa 1980, living in a small town, battling lofty romantic tendencies, and figuring out how to deal. As she enters her senior year of high school, this Carrie has yet to have a boyfriend and is slowly realizing that she's one of the last remaining virgins amongst her "anti-clique" clique.  She's recently been rejected from the New School's summer writing program, is still coping with the headstrong rebellion of her younger sister in the aftermath of their mother's death and her father's spotty parenting, and trying to separate planning for her future from the personal dramas of her slowly separating, but likable, friends.  As the school year begins, she meets the new kid at school: slick-talking Sebastian Kydd, who takes a shine to her and who she winds up inadvertently snatching from the school's queen bee.  As she begins seeing Sebastian, Carrie gets sidetracked and begins to realize that paranoia and focus on her first real high school relationship are getting in the way of the rest of her life. 

Quite simply, at its core, the book is a tale of girl meets boy, girl gets boy, bad things happen.  Yet, what saves The Carrie Diaries from falling into an eye-rolling pit of self-despair is that this Carrie is a believable early model of the independent woman she becomes.  She's got a reputation for being outspoken, is loyal and decent to her friends, and bears the seeds of budding, yet still confused, feminism planted by her mother.  Bushnell doesn't cater to young readers who might not get the pop cultural references or are on a hunt for Manolos.  This Carrie is a product of her times.  She's an unspoiled girl who spits out notions picked up from the feminist authors she admires, telling family members "most forms of sexual intercourse can be classified as rape… I don't plan to get married, it's a legalized form of prostitution" or offering up surprisingly wise observations on the social hierarchy of her high school.  Bushnell writes Carrie as witty, engaging, and clever.  She's a down to Earth girl who, even with a penchant for cigarettes and underage drinking, feels like a fully formed study of what many voracious teen girl readers would want in a best friend.

Carrie, and the novel, won me over.  At a time when so many young adult literary heroines are defined by their male love interests and resort to conniving schemes to climb the social ladder, Carrie Bradshaw's struggles feel real.  She's not the made-over freak or geek, nor is she some stereotypical cheerleader looking down from atop her pyramid.  She's just someone in between.  A girl who says she wants to be a writer, but keeps her writing hidden away.  A girl who is there when her friends need her to be and who reflects on her own actions with some regularity.  She's caught between staying true to personal philosophies her own friends don't seem to understand (however unpopular her opinions might be), and succumbing to the easy route: being the girls she despises.  All of that, to me, gives the book an edge over the sugary, boy-crazy teen titles that are dropped with repeat regularity.  Sure it has its flaws, and I'm not saying it's some huge feminist triumph.  But, as a guilty pleasure and quick distraction, The Carrie Diaries is, somewhat amazingly, pretty worthwhile.  It's an honest coming of age story with an appropriately conflicted narrator.  Say what you will about what Carrie grows up to be (I'm looking at you, mothers), but as fictional role models go, Carrie Bradshaw takes Bella Swann any way you slice it.  

Now back to Bleak House...       

Trailer: Super 8

For those who didn't get a chance to run out and see Iron Man 2 this past weekend, the much discussed teaser trailer for the Steven Spielberg/J.J. Abrams pseudo-collaboration (the former is the producer, the latter writer/director) Super 8 is now available online.  It's plot is being kept secret and open to speculation, much like Abrams's monster project Cloverfield.  All we know is that it's not a sequel to the NYC disaster flick and that it's supposedly (according to Ain't it Cool sources) based on the early film making efforts of both directors.  So, go crazy geek squad.  Go crazy.    

Here We Go Again...

The next installment of the Twilight Saga, Eclipse, will be released in a massive frenzy of teenage shrieks and raging hormones on June 30th.  If you haven't read my thoughts on New Moon (and Stephenie Meyer's series in general) here's where you can do so.  Needless to say, my interest level when it comes to this film is somewhere in the negative numbers.  I can begrudgingly admit, however, that the last film's soundtrack was one of the better "music from and inspired by" collections in a long while.  Featuring original tracks by critically esteemed artists who should have known better (Thom Yorke, Grizzly Bear, Lykke Li, etc), the album was a surprisingly solid byproduct of an otherwise frothy trend.  Somebody knew that, because the new soundtrack for Eclipse is shaping up to be equally loaded with college rock and indie street cred.  The album's contents are being slowly revealed today...every half-hour, on MySpace, and I suppose that since the list is already mostly complete, I'll fill in the blanks here later on for those who (rightfully) are unwilling to seek that out on their own.  Here they are...all the artists your liberal arts school radio station can be counted on to spin in heavy rotation.

1. Metric – “Eclipse (All Yours)”
2. Muse - "Neutron Star Collison (Love is Forever)"
3. The Bravery – “Ours”
4. Florence + The Machine – “Heavy In Your Arms”
5. Sia - "My Love"
6. Fanfarlo – “Atlas”
7. The Black Keys – “Chop And Change”
8. The Dead Weather – “Rolling In On A Burning Tire”
9. Beck and Bat For Lashes – “Let’s Get Lost”
10. Vampire Weekend – “Jonathan Low”
11. UNKLE – “With You In My Head (featuring The Black Angels)”
12. Eastern Conference Champions – “A Million Miles An Hour”
13. Band Of Horses – “Life On Earth”
14. Cee-Lo Green - "What Part of Forever"
15. Howard Shore - "Jacob's Theme"

And, as long as we're on the subject, check out the new video for Florence + the Machine's "Cosmic Love".  It's the seventh single off of Lungs and once again serves as a reminder that I should probably re-dye my hair now.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Everywoman

A week or so ago, Andre Leon Talley, Vogue editor and Top Model judge-extraordinaire appeared on Martha Stewart's daytime show and revealed, while wearing a couture apron, that Martha used to be a model in the 60's.  Not just a catalog model, no, Stewart modeled for the likes of Chanel.  When I heard this, I hadn't been able to do a quick Google image search, nor do I know that that would have yielded the results that have now surfaced.  Yes, the photos posted are Martha Stewart.  Way before all the cookbooks, scandal, and domestic mastery.  I'll be honest, I've never in my life associated she of khakis, button downs, and sensible haircuts with glamorous magazine spreads and high cheekbones, and I find this completely strange and intriguing.  It's like being in elementary school and seeing your teachers interact outside of the classroom, or watching zoo animals.  More than that, though, it raises a very serious questions about what territory Martha hasn't yet conquered.  She'll probably beat James Cameron to Mars on decorating merits alone.   Anyhow, Tory Burch has a little slide show of additional photos, with Stewart commentary, on her blog, and Styleite has collected a few others on their site as well.    

The Kids...Are Alright.

This kid.  Can this kid (greyson97) replace Justin Bieber?  He can?  Good. Make it happen.  Really, though, I think my favorite part of this is definitely watching the faces of all the girls sitting behind him as they slowly turn from mildly interested to WTF?  Yeah, this kid is in sixth grade.  This is a talent show.  Man, when I was in middle school, nobody had any talent.  Our talent shows were like accidental comedy acts. Just sayin'.

Rodarte + Godard

I was scanning the Criterion Collection website trying to figure out what happened to their Festival feature in conjunction with the Auteurs, when I happened upon a bit of news that relevant news for the fashionista film fanatic.  It seems that in celebration of the 50th anniversary of Jean-Luc Godard's nouvelle vague instant classic Breathless, Rialto Pictures has recruited Rodarte's Mulleavy Sisters to create a new design based on the New York Herald Tribune t-shirt Jean Seberg dons during the film's memorable opening sequences.

The shirts will, of course, only be available through Barneys and likely will cost a good portion of my paycheck, but do I suddenly want one?  Yes.  I kind of do.  Moreso, though, I feel like someone needs to jump up and start creating original t-shirt designs centered around Godard's other films.  Alphaville the t-shirt?  Yes, please.  Mulleavy's, we should be friends, you like Cocteau's Beauty and the Beast and made light-up heels.  There are no other qualifications.  [source]

Monday, May 10, 2010

Banksy in Chicago

Guys!!  Banksy has been to Chicago! Exciting times!  The British graffiti artist left an Untouchables inspired mark at the corner of Randolph and Peoria.  Yep, it's even been confirmed on his official website.  Run! Go check it out before Mayor Daley's Graffiti Blasters get to it! [Via Chicagoist]
[Photo credits: Maxwell Colette]

Update: Public apologies to gallery Maxwell Colette for the uncredited use of their photos.  No harm intended, just got ahead of myself and didn't notice the photo credit when checking my facts on Chicagoist.  Past that, further apologies for apparently writing up an excited blurb so completely bland and fact-based that it appears in any way unoriginal.  It was my intention to quickly cite the location for friends and readers who wished to visit, noting the bureaucratic risk to the artwork in question by an organization we Chicago graffiti aficionados all know exists, and pointing out what every film fanatic will recognize as an homage to the Battleship Potemkin Odessa steps sequence in the Chicago-centric, Union Station filmed The Untouchables...there are only a handful of ways to get that information across.  It's pretty tough to crib blunt truths.    

Photo Lab: Happiest Place on Earth

An ad for Star Wars Weekends at Disney World.  Say what you will about Episode I, this is hilarious.

Review: Iron Man 2

In my mind, I equate Iron Man as Marvel's variation on DC's Batman. He's the regular guy. The insanely wealthy, quick witted, possibly a super genius, regular guy whose wealth allows him to become a superpower through technology. The difference is, of course, that where Bruce Wayne is a vigilante fueled by dark secrets and a desire for revenge, Tony Stark is Iron Man largely just because he can be. He's all superego, driven by a daddy-issue need to be loved, a short attention span, and the constant search for an easy thrill or a round of applause. Iron Man is a selfish showman. The first of Jon Favreau's Iron Man films showed us Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) at a turning point. He went from Randian, nihilistic weapons monger to a self-aware playboy in need of penance. Consequently, and in large part because of Downey Jr.'s undeniable charisma, the audience fell in love Stark and all his flaws. With Iron Man 2, Favreau allows Stark to both progress and regress, balancing the character's dangerous traits and keeping him human. Though he wears the suit and keeps the peace, Iron Man is a risk. Stark is caught up in a war between his indulgent, egomaniac, selfish nature and that which the public, and the people in his life, needs (and demands) him to be. The groundwork layed with Stark's character keeps Iron Man 2 above the pitfalls of so many action flicks with bigger and better sequels, without skimping on the explosions...

Novelty Treats: The A-to-Z of Awesomeness

When I was younger, I loved Graeme Base's alliterative Animalia.  Now that I'm a little older, I still love Animalia and retain an adoring appreciation for aptly-illustrated, adroit uses of alphabetical alliteration.  That said, Neill Cameron's "A-to-Z of Awesomeness" sort of made my day.   Put together over 26 days last June/July, Cameron took the public suggestions of fans and created poster art for each letter.  It's delightful, and nerdily indulgent.  I've posted some of them here, but the complete run-through is well worth a look.

I Read It So You Don't Have to: Tell-All by Chuck Palahniuk

Confessions of a lit snob:

Truth: I was a Chuck Palahiuk/Fight Club fuh-reak throughout high school and upon my entrance to college.  Age 14 initiation. Like a merit badge. 

Truth: I've kept Palahniuk as a semi-guilty literary indulgence.  This is my version of summer beach reading. May is usually kicked off with a fast, fast new Palahniuk title from my local library.

Truth: I'm something of an anomaly amongst folks immersed in literary academia and amongst those who suffered through what I suppose can now be referred to as the 'first wave' of teenage Chuck-cultism, I don't begrudge him much of anything, though I know better. But...

Truth: I get real irritated now when I meet 25-year olds who think they're well-read because they've conquered the Palahniuk canon and tell you about it like they think it's shocking.  Bitch, please: the definition of weird is not in your vocabulary.  It's time to expand your horizons.

Now, down to business.  I have read Tell-All so you don't have to.  I read it Thursday night in the commercial breaks and, let's be serious, this is no feat.  It's a slim volume, under 200 pages with relatively wide-set margins and zippy text.  There's glitter on the cover and that's just fine but not worth the $25 list price.  Yes, I've read Tell-All so you don't have to and I hate writing book reviews but I can see things that are both good and bad and I'll try to tell you about them concretely and abstractly.

I think Chuck Palahniuk is like a gateway drug into experimental fiction.  There's one thing that he's rarely at a loss for and that's a unique story with style.  Unlike most authors of easily accessible best selling fiction, you can usually count on Palahniuk for this much: something uniquely his presented with an added ounce of cleverness.  At times, the results are quite effective and surprising.  Fight Club, for its flaws, has earned its place on the cult radar, it's an acceptable addition to the novels read by angsty seventeen year old males (and females) and in all honestly I'll always like it more than Catcher in the Rye.  Choke and Invisible Monsters offer up some truly, legitimately memorable protagonists and situations.  Are they the greatest of books? Certainly not.  But as pop fiction, they provide a valuable service for our wayward youths: they pull them into a different vantage point and allow them to see the possibility of what literature can be, away from young adult morals, required reading structure, and Dan Brown, but cinematic and engrossing.  For many, these books are an introduction to the non-genre, to 'literature' away from mystery and chick lit and into worlds they don't expect to find.  That's a good thing.  If just a few Palahniuk cult kids move from Rant to Naked Lunch, Kathy Acker, or Jean Genet, it's a service to the writing/literary community.

Why am I going on like this?  Well, because Palahniuk is shifting, and the direction of his shift is kind of interesting.  Many, at this point, have written him off as the guy who feeds lame shock value to illiterate college kids. Yes, though I wouldn't quite put it like that.  But something is happening, and in the world of publishing that something is bizarre.  It started with Rant, I think.  While not particularly solid in execution, its oral history dystopia felt like a departure from standard mainstream narrative.  Then it flatlined with Snuff,  which felt too much like a hollow experiment with form and not much like a novel.  Last year there was Pygmy, a novel written in clipped syntax and so deep in cultural satire that it kills itself...but which solidified my suspicions (though it was an irritating read):  Palahniuk is testing the waters.  He's moving away from traditional narrative and starting to write (possibly) the way he really wants to write.  His books are being automatically published where they would normally be rejected immediately from the big name presses.  And people are buying them.  They're reading them. They're adjusting to them. This might be a little bit important.

Tell-All is the latest of these endeavors.  I'd hesitate to say it's good.  In fact, personally, I found it grating.  It suffers from a self-imposed, vaguely oulipian structure in which it insists on name-dropping in bold print a "tourettes-syndrome" of old Hollywood personalities usually prefaced with animal sounds "tweet quack meow...".   This sits like a veil over the actual story, forcing the reader to focus and dig deeper to parse through the tale; an exaggerated blending of Lillian Hellman filtered through something that's a touch Sunset Boulevard, a hint All About Eve Of course, when you find the story, it's flimsy and frequently downright dull.  Tell-All is the tale of aging starlet Katherine Kenton relayed through her snarky and suspicious (kind of Stroheim-y, yes) servant, Hazie Coogan.  The book becomes too caught up in clever turns of phrase (an ex-husband is a "was-band", groan) and setting its scene via cinematic camera angles and stage directions.  The point, I have to admit, was lost on me. I got the tabloid set-ups, the running commentary and inflated narcissism, but wasn't satisfied or sucked in any deeper.  But then again, maybe the superficiality is the points.  The novel is ultimately campier than What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? but it's repetitive and bland.  Its attempts at interesting imagery and high energy, ADD rattling sentences fall lifeless and limp.  Really, the most interesting thing about Tell-All is that it exists at all.  It feels like a cut-up and while it's a poorly produced one, perhaps, that unveils nothing further about its subject matter than the obvious absurdity of it all, there's something about it that feels artistically sort of applause worthy and dangerous for an author with such an established fan base (even if this draft should have been left on an external hard drive as a practice run). 

I didn't much like Tell-All, and frequently found myself too willing to skim already staccato chapters.  Yet, I'm fascinated by it.  It feels like an interesting step in a few different directions that's at once a personal injustice (Doubleday, I can almost guarantee you'd reject my legitimately ADD manuscript...but of course, you wouldn't get that far until I roped in an agent...) and a movement towards a different kind of pop fiction.

Make of that what you will, I told you I don't like writing book reviews.

In Case You Missed It...

Guys, this weekend's Saturday Night Live was actually really solid.  Betty White played host alongside a crew of SNL's "women of comedy" from the last decade or so.  Not only were we given the gift of a Molly Shannon / Ana Gasteyer "Delicious Dish" reunion, we also got a skit that's right up there with that Christmas double-entendre classic: Schwetty Balls.  We can expect to hear many a reference to dusty muffins in the future. White was wonderful; a totally game talent and a spry 88 1/2 years old, cursing, crude and delightfully grandmotherly.  The cast seemed to love her, and used her well.  This episode was a great success and proves, once again this season, that there's still a lot of life left for SNL.  Hulu has most of the episode, and web exclusives, available to watch online...thought the metal rendition of the theme song to the Golden Girls is a noticeable exclusion.  So I found it and posted it here.  Watch it now before NBC pulls it from Youtube!

RIP: Lena Horne

Singer, actress, and African American history-maker Lena Horne passed away Sunday in New York City at age 92.  A legendary performer, Horne began her career as a teenage chorus girl in Harlem's Cotton Club during the 1930's and from there skyrocketed to fame as a multi-threat balancing roles in film and television with the Broadway and musical stardom for which she is most frequently recognized.

Horne was the first black star in the Hollywood studio system, signed to a 7-year contract with MGM and refusing to play stereotypical roles.  While her refusal meant that many of her roles became limited to nonspeaking singing parts, Horne found exceptions in the 40's musicals "Stormy Weather" (the title song of which she's closely associated with) and "Cabin in the Sky".

Later blacklisted from Hollywood for a progressive political stance, Horne became fed up with the film world and became a musical headliner as she toured nightclubs the world over.  A jazz diva and a legend, Horne was a talent who will truly be missed.   

Friday, May 7, 2010

Ebert Refuses to Rate Human Centipede

I subject myself to a lot of awful in the name of cinematic curiosity and masochism; Salo, Sweet Movie, Antichrist, The Notebook, Bratz... it's something that has to be done.  Tell me I don't want to watch it and suddenly I do.  I really do.  When it comes to bad taste on screen, I'm fairly jaded.  My shock, schlock, and gore meters operate on a scale that's maybe a little too high and traditionally, I go into the traumatizing excited and leave fairly nonplussed.  Don't ask me why this is.  Some people like roller coasters, I like weird movies.  Yet, in recent months it seems like some filmmakers might be getting the jump on me.  Pushing things too far outside of art and into the realm of real bad taste, Videodrome bad taste (not the actual Cronenberg film, which I love, but the scrambled channel within the film) and I find myself, for the first time, more worried than intrigued.  What has me feeling this new, unfamiliar feeling of dread?  Two things: Serbian Film (Srpski Film), primarilyand Human Centipede, a different type of messed up.  I'll say more on the first, if you haven't already heard, in a minute, but now the latter...

Let's talk it out.

Human Centipede is the latest underground horror film building up buzz via word of mouth.  Supposedly flat -out revolting, the titular 'creature' is the product of mad German science.  This is a centipede not in a creature-feature way, not in a monstrous 'blob' manner, not campy, not fun.  Think more along the lines of Mengele.  The film's doctor traps tourists and surgically connects them to one another, mouth to anus, to form his human centipede.  The food comes out one leaves the other, the victims in pain and torment, forced to function as one.  Yes, that means everything you think it means in between.  Feel free to gag.  Rumor has it that Dutch director Tom Six takes the nightmarish truth of this and gives it to you without any humor, and instead with a seriousness reserved for the most sincere of dramas.  All I can say is, thanks, but I'd really rather not.

If I did, though (and I won't kid that there may come a time when I will on both counts...judge), I'm sure I'd have to write up a long treatise on this.  Roger Ebert has seen the film.  His stance on it is one that's pretty extreme, a first for him: he's refused, outright, to grant The Human Centipede a star rating.  Ebert has made a glorious career out of being a fair and partial film critic open to conceits of genres and rating according to how well that film operated within its niche instead of merely on notions of importance or straight quality.  He's the guy you look to for an assessment of that dumb blockbuster action film that'll rank it honestly, right next to the Oscar winners, according to its sheer entertainment value.  He's seen a lot, and for him to stand up and shake his head is kind of a huge statement.  He has this to say:
"I am required to award stars to movies I review. This time, I refuse to do it. The star rating system is unsuited to this film. Is the movie good? Is it bad? Does it matter? It is what it is and occupies a world where the stars don't shine." [SOURCE
In a way, it seems easy to take objection to the lack of a star rating, it's a cop out, almost.  The easy way to avoid affixing a label to something unpleasant.  But I honestly don't think I can blame him.  There are some films that defy our own personal logic, or exist outside of that which we feel we can assess impartially or measure for what merits they have.  Ebert's written assessment is enough.  He finds the positives of Six's film and points them out.  Yet, Ebert's always been honest about the existence of individual bias in criticism at the end of the day, and sometimes, that's just fine.

Now, we return to Serbian Film. Google it.  Look that up and find all the reviews from the blog critics who witnessed its horrorshow at SXSW.  Read and find that almost every review skirts around listing the vile events that the viewer has beheld.  See how many rephrase the "well, i can't un-watch it" sentiment.  Serbian Film is a cousin, albeit a product of a different generation, to the political torturous pseudo porn of films like Pasolini's aforementioned Salo: The 120 Days of Sodom and Finnish Sweet Movie, there's a legitimate political undercurrent to its madness.  Serbian Film's fearless director, Srdjan Spasojevic, created the film as a direct response to the repression and real instances of human rights violation at work in the titular country. The goal, as I understand it, is to force the world to experience the horrors that they have experienced in real life.  The Wall Street Journal has this blurb from the film's midnight showing Q&A:
“This is a diary of our own molestation by the Serbian government,” he said. “We’re giving this back to you.” He pointed out that the movie, which has yet to play in its native country, reflects a hidden anti-government sentiment. “In the past 10 to 15 years, the only films made in Serbia have no connection to Serbian reality,” [Source
There's something about that that makes sense, but, just like a Peta anti-cruelty shock doc, Serbian Film isn't something you watch for sheer entertainment.  If it is, from the sounds of it you might be a damn sick puppy.  This is the movie that horror freaks and film nerds will dare each other to see...and if you're as curious as I was now, I have the spoilers for you right here. I'll admit it, part of me just wants to talk about the crazy shit going on this film with no other motive.  I mean, I'm certainly not one for any sort of censorship and if I'm not calling for judgment, I'm not quite sure why I'm telling you all of this.  Anyhow, the premise is that Milos, an ex-porn star tight on cash is offered one final job for major monetary compensation. A mysterious figure wants to have Milos star in a film without a script, to simply react to whatever situation he's placed in.  Milos accepts, but what he accepts is a dark and depraved world far from what he anticipated. The worst of it?  *Spoiler/quite possibly ruin your day disturbing alert* There's supposedly (again, I haven't seen the film) a scene in which a pregnant woman gives birth, and the newborn is subsequently raped to death.  GAH!  Puke.  Is it shown or implied? I don't know. I'm not sure I need to know.  We'll see.  All I know is that that's the sort of thing that Fox news starts tea parties about, right?  I have to say, though, this sort of transgressive symbolism is nothing new to literature.  Authors have been committing these crimes on paper or centuries and, in spite of the occasional banned book, not much has come of it.  There's something about the translation, the visual, that really hits a moral outrage trigger, even when we know it's not real.  There's power in that is something to be respected. There's something almost impressive about a film that pulls no punches, that makes no allowances in what it dares to put before you.  And that's vaguely terrifying. I think that's part of why I find myself watching shock cinema.  Why I go through phases where I seek it out.  It's actually scary, not an escape but a horrible reminder.  For me, it's almost academic, there's something that can be gleaned from seeing that which you are otherwise never shown.  It's jarring in a way that shakes you.  Serbian Film is the product of rage, a rage that cannot be ignored.  So is there a difference between the sick and wrong of Human Centipede and the sick and wrong of Serbian Film?  I think there is, yes, and without having seen either film, I think there's something to be said about the difference in purpose and inventiveness between the shock of The Human Centipede (almost just because he can) versus the cold shocks to A Serbian Film (which, to the filmmakers, seem to feel urgent and necessary).  Is that shallow?  Is that the old "it isn't porn, it's a tasteful foreign film" excuse?  Maybe.  Do you feel like you need a shower now?  You should go.


I complain when I have to walk like a block in heels.  I mean, I can run, jump, and possibly climb trees in them, but I complain a lot about concrete or moving in general.  This is because I'm maybe a little whiny and overdramatic, yes, but I sense most women (or, people in general) feel similarly.  That's the difference between Chicago and New York, right?  There all the Carrie Bradshaw transplants are trying to will themselves to live and become by stomping their Louboutins down into the subway, here, ladies just pack a pair of walking shoes.  With this in mind, let's take a moment to look at what Lady Gaga wore for a visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  Hooves.  Those are hooves.  She's a faun.  A faun in a spiked face mask. 

That's amazing, but she's going to have seriously massive podiatry bills later in life.  I like those shoes. Because I'm weird.  I would totally wear them.  But, you'd likely never see a picture of me standing in them.  Because those are shoes for sitting down and inviting others to admire how ridiculous your shoes are.  All I'm saying, really, is that you should be impressed.

Update: Search the web, Little Monsters, there are 6 new leaked Gaga tracks floating around the internets.  She's rapping heavily on one called "Ribbons", so go scavenge...

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Trailer: The Killer Inside Me

The trailer for Michael Winterbottom's controversial adaptation of Jim Thompson's novel, The Killer Inside Me, premiered today.  The film has been building up angsty discussion and festival credibility with screenings at Sundance and Tribeca, alongside talk of the brutal extent of the murder sequences and battering of its female characters.  Thompson collaborated in his life with Stanley Kubrick on The Killing and Paths of Glory, and the director famously blurbed that The Killer Inside Me was "probably the most chilling and believable first-person story of a criminally warped mind he had ever encountered."  I've read Thompson's novel and can honestly say I found Bret Easton Ellis's American Psycho more thoroughly warped in every direction, though a comparison of the two stylistically would prove them to be pretty disparate pieces of work.  I found Thompson's work, in written format, intriguing, but perhaps too monotonous and sparse for my personal tastes.  That being said, I think Winterbottom's translation looks spectacular.  As a director, he's a risk taker; no two works are the same and every format feels like a personal challenge.  I love 24-Hour Party People and his postmodern comedy take on Tristram Shandy, but this one, trailer alone bristles with an unnerving intensity.  I'm worried, a bit, with all the talk of the abusive brutalization for entertainment, but sense its slant and impact on screen will be slanted as a terrible, tragic occurrence instead of mere shock value.  We'll see when the film is released in limited theatrical release June 18th, but right now I'm conjecturing that The Killer Inside Me might prove to be one of only a couple films Jessica Alba is incapable of destroying with her presence.  That's called me putting money on the line.  


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