Since I’m travelling in Italy, I definitely want all of my address bar searches in Italian. I mean, sure, I’m logged into my Google account and all my accounts are in English, and my profile shows what city I live in, and I haven’t used an Italian IP address in two thousand days or so, but of course for the three weeks I’m here I would like nothing else than to force myself to become culturally sensitive by finding out what Italian websites have to say about all of the American things I’m searching for.
Seriously, this is driving me insane, and I can’t find a fix.
Loving the Screaming Females new long player. I guess it’s a bit premature, but this band is starting to fill the giant hole blown in my heart when Sleater-Kinney bit the dust.
I was gonna post an audio but came across this lovely description of their live set in DC a week ago. Wish I woulda coulda been there. And I totally agree with rendit about the Corin Tucker comparisons - not apt at all, really.
Screaming Females w/ The Gift // Black Cat // Sept. 14, 2010
Because she is a female, who screams, in an aggressive guitar rock band and also does the intense vibrato-bellow deal, Marissa Paternoster gets compared to Corin “The Voice” Tucker a lot. Which is fine, but a little lazy. (Gender essentialist.) What really gets me, though, is that she has such a mastery and knowledge of her own voice, as an instrument. It doesn’t have the most mind-blowing range, but she knows exactly what her range is and uses it to wring every ferocious drop of energy out of every line she sings. Not only that, but in a technically precise and idiosyncratically inventive manner. She’s more a punk rock Bobby Darin or, dare I say, Zevon than anything else. (more)
Imagine that there was a pile of shit, a giant pointy one, like inhumanly large, like the Jolly Green Giant pinched it off. Imagine, now, that you dropped your pants and squatted over it, butt cheeks spread open like the wings of a bird that will never fly, and dipped your ass in that pile of shit, the point just barely tickling your sphincter, brown poo smeared all over your inner ass.
And when you got done with your ass dipping, you notice that there is a stack of tiny pieces of paper, each of them the size of a small photograph, and these sheets of paper are really thin, translucent, almost, and they fall apart with the slightest touch. So you use these tiny sheets of paper to wipe your poo-smeared ass as best you can.
And then you notice that there is a sink, except the sink is really low to the ground, like at your knees. But still, you grab the washcloth and you squirt some soap on it and you squat over that sink and you wash yourself clean, scrubbing away the tiny shit-encrusted bits of paper from your ass-hairs. And you squat lower and you let the warm water run over your butt, showering your raw anus with pure spring water piped in from the crystal clear ponds of Mount Olympus itself. And you towel yourself off on the little hand-towel, or rather ass-towel, and you walk away feeling cleaner and more alive than you ever have in your entire horrid little life.
But seriously: a realistic drama about the meaningfulness of independent rock, with a focus on live music in the 90s and 00s.
I know it’s completely narcissistic to think that what’s important to you is important to other people, but I really think there’s something special about the live indie scene of the 90s and 00s. I’m thinking of something like what Penelope Spheeris did for 80s punks in Suburbia, or what Cameron Crowe did for early 90s grunge in Singles, but updated, with perhaps more focus on the importance of music itself. (Not just live sets and graphic sex).
Not a movie about the rock band breaking big, or their rise and fall, or the sex and drugs lifestyle, or the tensions in the band. No, I mean the scene itself, the culture and interplay of musicians and audience, how they feed off and need each other, how they interact, how deeply important this scene is to so many people. Not just the rockers. And not just hipsters and groupies. But also people with 9-5 jobs. Lawyers by day, drummers by night. People who live and work in bars to be a part of the scene. Bands that play to 20 people, most of them friends. People who blog about it.
I imagine something like Dazed and Confused or Last Days of Disco in the sense of this feeling of place and time and a wide net of characters.
Music is such a centrally important piece of so many of our lives, yet there are so few movies that explore why that is.
Iron Giant: I loved it from the first shot. I reviewed it for In Pittsburgh, I think. Or was it Pittsburgh City Paper? I can’t even remember. It’s on Netflix Instant, so I put it on for my toddler son. He was into it for a little while, then wandered away to play with a ball. I, of course, couldn’t turn it off.
Brad Bird followed it up with The Incredibles and Ratatouille, two other movies that rival Iron Giant in greatness.
Honestly, though, there are just so many great animated movies that it’s pretty much a roll of the dice. I previously mentioned Fantastic Mr. Fox and Grave of the Fireflies, but some other faves include The Triplets of Belleville, The Nightmare Before Christmas,Akira, Ghost in the Shell, Finding Nemo, and Princess Mononoke. And I still have a soft spot for Disney’s Pinocchio and Fantasia.
“He knocked the seahorse off my mailbox, too”—Catching up on Dexter, season four. Lithgow, Culture Club, Bananarama, Lundy’s hat, Masuka’s lightning-emblazoned monster truck… This show just gets better and better.
Jem Cohen’s Instrument, about one of the best bands ever, Fugazi. A beautiful and patient film that focuses quite a bit on live performance. It’s not revolutionary in terms of style or content, and the band seems so grounded and at ease that there really isn’t a tremendous sense of drama, but the fact that it covers ten years really brings home what made this band great.
Also: The Thin Blue Line, Gates of Heaven, Grey Gardens, The Last Waltz, We Jam Econo, Roger & Me, Night and Fog, The King of Kong
“I think a lot of the problems we’ve been experiencing come from the fact that no one embraces the miracle and amazement of the present. So many people—steampunks, fundamentalists, hippies, neocons, anti-immigration advocates—feel like there was a better time to live in. They think the present is degraded, faded, and drab. That our world has lost some sort of “spark” or “basic value system” that, if you so much as skim history, you’ll find was never there. Even during the time of the Greeks, there were masses of people lamenting the passing of some sort of “golden age.” But I’d never go back and live in any other time than teetering on tomorrow; this is the greatest time to be alive.”—
“I respect people with a conservative philosophy,” he continued. “This country has been well-served by having two broad traditions within which people can operate. If you have a philosophy, it means you’re generally inclined one way or the other but you’re open to evidence. If you have an ideology, it means everything is determined by dogma and you’re impervious to evidence. Evidence is irrelevant.
“That’s how I see Rep. Bachmann. She’s very attractive in saying all these things she says, but it’s pretty stupid.”
“They’re saying that Barack Obama represents the spearhead of this vast socialist conspiracy to have government swallow up the fabric of American life and he’s going to crush our individualism, and our freedom, and the vitality of small business … They tell us that they they represent America the way it used to be, self-reliant, virtuous individuals and small businesses. And the truth is, what they want to do is dismantle government so corporations, big corporations will control our destiny.”
Great, short article.
Clinton’s distinction between philosophy and ideology hit me like a lightning bolt. Not only does it seem like a helpful narrative for Democrats to pitch, it feels very very true to me. It helps to explain, for example, how Birthers can continue to insist on their beliefs despite all evidence, and it helps to frame it in the context of the broader Republican perspective.
Ideology can be very persuasive because it seems, in some ways, “pure.” There is a sort of righteousness that comes from those, like many tea partiers, who refuse to compromise their principles for ugly back-room deals. But it stops being persuasive to reasonable people when it stops recognizing reality, when evidence ceases to matter. This is a very strong counterargument, and I hope Democrats can learn to employ it well.
After the exhausting Pynchonian three-post Day 18 wordathon, I’m taking this shit under the knife. What’s bacon if you cut the fat off? I don’t fucking know. Sounds disgusting, probably like a bunch of scabs, like if you peeled a bunch of dried skin off your torn up knee and ate it with some eggs, over easy. Maybe make an SLT sandwhich? Horrible, right? Probably true, but that’s the analogy I’m working with.
This blog post should be better than a scabwich, though. I’m pretty sure.
Day 19 - Favorite movie based on a book/comic/etc
Best in general? Best adaptation? What is “etc”? I have no idea, so I’m interpreting this as best adaptation of a comic I actually like. My gut says Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, but it’s just too soon, while another part of me wants to say American Splendor.
But I’ll say Ghost World. Some Clowes fans hate it and it’s got some problems, but to me it captures a certain ineffable something about suburban nerd teenagerhood that just gnaws at my heartmeat. It’s got a few absolutely terrific moments that have stuck with me for years, plus, when I saw it, I was 26 and kind of crushing on 16 year old Scarlett Johansson. So kudos for turning me into a creepy perv.
Day 20 - Favorite movie from your favorite actor/actress
Tough call for favorite actress. Laura Linney, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Cate Blanchett, Helen Mirren, Catherine Keener? All are so very good, but I’ll go with Frances McDormand in Fargo, but particularly in Blood Simple.
Day 21 - Favorite action movie
The Bourne Identity seemed made just for me. It took the best parts of the classic seventies spy genre (one man, hunted, unraveling a major conspiracy, defending himself one assailant at a time) with a new form of close-quarters combat and lots and lots of velocity. Unlike most modern action movies, it’s character-driven and somehow, despite mounting absurdities, it feels very real. The trilogy only gets better from there, culminating in The Bourne Ultimatum, an exhilarating global cat and mouse chase movie with a brooding broken hero who never lets up. Paul Greengrass, of Bloody Sunday, takes action sequences into totally new territory - chaotic yet clear, disturbing yet electrifying. Bad action movies feel robotic, this one feels organic, thrillingly alive.
Runners-up: The Matrix, Aliens, Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Professional, The Dark Knight, Hard Boiled, The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly, The Magnificent Seven
-/- is a Carolina hardcore supergroup, staffed by Raleigh scene vets from Erectus Monotone, Snakenation, Shiny Beast, Patty Duke Syndrome, Polvo, and a handful of others. While their earlier LP clung too hard to convention, and the follow-up single swung away at abstract aggression almost… (more)
I love the Elliott Gould of the early seventies, but it’s not a pretty kind of love.
For a few years there, Gould played a number of variations on a theme, but it was always intense, and most of the movies were sheer lunacy, even for their time. I even went through a bit of a phase where I tried to hunt them all down.
Gould broke big with Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice in 1969 and MASH in 1970. But his career imploded a year later after an on-set meltdown and rumors of psychological problems, and he spent another twenty years cobbling together a career. Still, in just a few years, he cranked out a pretty astonishing set of bizarre countercultural comedies, bleak dramas, and popcorn adventures:
Getting Straight(1970), with Candice Bergen, an odd take on Vietnam activism on college campuses
I Love My Wife(1970), a meandering comedy about a philandering surgeon
Move(1970), about a guy who writes pornos and starts to get reality and fantasies confused. (Never saw this one)
The Touch (1971), an Ingmar Bergman marriage-on-the-rocks drama with Gould as an American archeologist who turns out to have deep-seeded Holocaust sex issues. Weeee!
Who? (1973) (retitled Robo Man for VHS), a Cold War sci-fi thriller about a top US scientist who returns from the Soviet Union with a metal face and arm following a devastating accident and emergency surgery by Russian doctors. Is he really the US scientist or a Soviet spy? That’s what Gould must find out! Totally strange and awesome.
Busting (1974), a horrendous buddy cop movie where one cop is uptight and the other one has long hair
S*P*Y*S (1974), a horrendous spy spoof with Donald Sutherland
Whiffs(1975), a horrendous military heist comedy revolving around poison gas
Admit it, though, have you heard of even ONE of these?
There are two movies from this time that I absolutely love, though.
The Long Goodbye(1973) is Robert Altman’s strange, sun-bleached deconstruction of film noir and Gould’s mumbling, smart-talking, cat-loving Philip Marlowe is a far cry from Bogie’s in The Big Sleep. This Marlowe isn’t a straight-backed hat-cocking hero, but a clever, unshaven guy who simply knows how to take a beating. He just pushes on through the madness, muttering nonchalant one-liners to himself along the way. He’s always saying, “It’s OK with me.” The story kind of plods along patiently, full of asides and characters that capture the self-absorbed lifestyle of California in the seventies. It’s a gorgeous film, the kind you fall in love with on looks alone. Great seventies decor, night time shots of LA, Marlowe shuffling along, cigarette hanging from his lips.
Little Murders is something else entirely.
It’s a bleak slice of dark lunacy about a love affair between an nihilistic artist who literally photographs shit for a living (Gould) and a woman who decides she’s going to redeem him (Marcia Rodd). The movie is about the gulf between his beaten-down apathy and her unyielding hope, and it takes place in a NYC that’s falling apart around them.
I was struggling to find a way to describe the movie when I came across this astute appraisal by David Cairns. He writes, in part:
The film’s story world, which starts off-kilter, with Gould as its most extreme oddity, gradually comes adrift from “reality”, aided by the actors playing Rodd’s family (the apoplexy of Vincent Gardenia, the denial-denial-denial of Elizabeth Wilson, the peevish hysteria of Jon Korkes) and by a trio of exuberant cameo players, who basically wrest the wheel from the dependable Rodd and steer us ever deeper into waters both kook-infested and blood-dimmed. The nightmare destination can be intermittently glimpsed, as if through a haze or stupor, until all at once it is falling upon us and nothing will ever be alright.
Well, that’s a start, I guess.
It’s based on a Jules Feiffer play, so it’s pretty stagey and definitely has a love for the written word. In his first and one of his only times in the director’s chair, Alan Arkin is careful and methodical with his camera, so it’s full of wonderful shots but it lacks the velocity of a modern film. In its deep browns, golden yellows, and burnt oranges, its look predates a lot of seventies cinema.
In a lot of ways, though, the movie is all about its performances. Gould is remarkable for somehow managing the impossible challenge of making a lazy do-nothing protagonist somehow interesting and dynamic, while Rodd (never seen before or since, at least by me) holds up her own as his opposite.
Donald Sutherland nearly steals the film as a hippie preacher (“First, let me tell you, Alfred, and to you, Patricia, that of the 200 marriages I have performed, all but seven have failed. So the odds are not good.”), and Vincent Gardenia is hilarious as an uptight father so angry he’s losing his mind. Lou Jacobi, Jon Korkes, John Randolph, Doris Roberts, and Alan Arkin eat it up in their small cameo roles.
The American New Wave of the seventies is my favorite period of film, and Little Murders certainly epitomizes the kind of smart, risky auteur film-making that so rarely gets made anymore.
Still, I can’t quite explain why I love it so dearly. Part of it is surely that when I discovered Little Murders, it was a dirty, dusty box on a shelf that upon viewing became a gleaming diamond. Part of it is that it manages to exist in that uncomfortable place between comedy and tragedy and the strange joy I get when people watching it for the first time aren’t sure how to react. Is it funny? Is it sad? Yes.
There’s more to it, but I don’t know. I guess some things aren’t for explaining. Some things just hit a nerve somewhere in the nexus of brain, heart, and anus. You know what I mean?
In 2007, David Foster Wallace wrote four paragraphs for the Atlantic Monthly on the subject of 9/11 that do about as good a job as any four paragraphs can do at conveying my feelings on the matter.
Here is the first:
Are some things still worth dying for? Is the American idea one such thing? Are you up for a thought experiment? What if we chose to regard the 2,973 innocents killed in the atrocities of 9/11 not as victims but as democratic martyrs, “sacrifices on the altar of freedom”? In other words, what if we decided that a certain baseline vulnerability to terrorism is part of the price of the American idea? And, thus, that ours is a generation of Americans called to make great sacrifices in order to preserve our democratic way of life—sacrifices not just of our soldiers and money but of our personal safety and comfort?
Follow the link to the other three paragraphs.
After that, a few silent thoughts into the darkness.
Nine years ago today, I watched smoke rise from the Pentagon from the office roof and saw the towers fall live on TV with my coworkers.
News came of explosions and attacks at the White House, the Capitol, all around town, news of car bombs on the Mall, where my girlfriend was interning at a museum.
I couldn’t get her on the phone so I just started walking. Incredibly, I ran into her on a street corner a few blocks away.
We heard a roar, looked up into the bright blue sky, and saw a fighter jet, an anxious moment to be repeated often in the coming weeks.
We went to Whole Foods and saw people buying water, milk, bread. I decided I wasn’t going to die a vegan. We said fuck it, bought cake, ice cream, candy, cookies, wine, and good beer.
We walked up to the house at Euclid St and gathered around the TV and ate and drank.
In the following weeks, cops were too busy erecting concrete barriers to protect monuments and memorials to do much about actual crime. I was mugged and cut walking home from an American Analog Set show at the Metro Cafe.
I now consider the small scar on my hand minor physical proof of the 9/11 attacks. Silly and absurd, I know.
That girl is now my wife and as I look at my 16 month old boy, playing with Matchbox cars and running around with pure joy, I think about how lucky I am.
I think about the friends and coworkers I was with that day, wonder where they are, how they’re doing. I think about the one person I knew that died, and how I barely knew him. It makes me think about the people I know who lost friends and family, and about the people I don’t know who lost people.
I think about book burnings and mosque protests. I think about all the people we killed in the name of justice, and people we lost killing them, and terrorists we created in the process. I think about nine years of war and wonder: what if we had just cried for a while and left it at that?
Hal Hartley’s early movies really aren’t for everybody, but I love them and also happen to think that they’re really important. In films like The Unbelievable Truth, Trust, and Surviving Desire, done in 1989-1991, Hartley found a certain magical combination of stilted dialogue, deadpan humor, and herky jerky where-the-hell-is-this-going storyline. You can trace a direct line from Hartley to Kevin Smith, Wes Anderson, Noah Baumbach, and Diablo Cody, for starters.
Trust is my personal favorite, probably because it was the first one I saw. It stars Martin Donovan, Adrienne Shelly, and Edie Falco in some of their earliest work. It’s a love story, of sorts, between a pregnant high school dropout and a literate TV repairman who carries around a live grenade, just in case. It takes place everywhere and nowhere. The dialogue pops, like Mamet dialogue pops, but like Kicking and Screaming, there’s a lot going on below the surface.
I watched it again about a week ago for the first time in ten years or so, mortified that I might not like it anymore, but thankfully found myself still in love.
A bunch of Hartley’s films, Trust included, are newly available via Netflix Instant.
I guess this is about wishing movies you loved were more popular, but let’s face reality here, the asswipes who made The Expendables the number one movie in America aren’t going to enjoy La jetée. So instead, I’m going to interpret this as movies that I love that I often recommend to like-minded friends.
In some ways, this is the hardest entry because these are the movies that mean the most to me. Thankfully, I’ve already covered Kicking & Screaming and Before Sunrise/Sunset, but still, I need to break this into three parts.
An insane, allegorical fever dream, the sprawling 3 hour story follows two Yugoslavian brothers from before WWII through the Yugoslav wars of the early 90s that broke up the country. The central conceit of the movie is that one brother hides underground with a bunch of people making war munitions. They stay down there for decades, thinking that World War II is still underway, but it turns out the other brother has been faking it with air sirens and so forth, and instead has been living above-ground as a war profiteer.
The story is nuts but also massively entertaining, full of energy and life and absurd, dark humor. There are multiple weddings and gypsy music and lots and lots of drinking and dancing, but also moments of genuine tragedy and some of the most haunting, unforgettable imagery I’ve ever seen.
I’m telling you, the fact that this album is only available between now and the 14th online via NPR means that I AM NOT TURNING OFF THE INTERNET.
I resisted the urge to post this link until I had a chance to listen to the whole thing. And man. Man! So good. I’ve given it the go ‘round a few times and I keep picking up new awesome things.
They’ve gotten so much more sophisticated with their melodies and instrumentation, and Mac’s singing is no longer the strained nasal whine it was in the early days, but this beast will still kick you through a wall. OK, I’m old, it’s not THAT loud. But still. Some thundering arena rock riffs here and there and plenty of anthemic sing-along vocals.
I wish the “Tumblr crushes” mosaic math considered the rate at which you heart a particular Tumblr, and not just which Tumblrs got the most hearts over the last day or whatever time period they use.
There are some Tumblrs that post infrequently but who I heart the fucking shit out of, while aggregator and photo Tumblrs get only like 10% heartage but because they post seemingly thousands of entries per day, they totally rule my roost.
I can’t tell you how close I am to writing up the math.
30DMC: Day 17: The Movie That Disappointed You The Most
I’ve been disappointed with many a movie, particularly sequels, and it would be difficult to convey in words the extent of my disappointment in the three Star Wars prequels. But I don’t think anything has ever let me down like Eyes Wide Shut, a movie of such precisely boring boredom that I had to watch it twice to make sure I wasn’t actually a mentally challenged nutcase stuck in my own shuttered island of despair.
I love Kubrick. I think he’s a genius. But this turkey of a movie pretends to be sexually shocking while actually serving up a lame-duck morality play about jealousy, monogamy, and sex without love.
But it’s a movie out of time, or rather, served up about 20 years too late. The sexual revolution was ages ago, and we’ve gone through the sex-fear of AIDS, and now, at the turn of the century, Kubrick is going to lecture us about sex and marriage?
There’s absolutely nothing in this movie with the charged impact of his great movies, movies which dealt with similar themes. It’s just a big flat sigh. Yeah, there are titties, so what? And I’m not just talking about the orgy scene, a scene that’s supposed to be full of danger and anxiety but provokes only a snarky giggle, regardless of digital manipulation. But the rest of it, too. Oooh, a naked chick on drugs! Who cares?
I’ve read the reviews, trying to find what I’ve missed, but it just seems to me that most of those who had nice things to say were being kind to a dead friend they couldn’t quite bear to criticize. This movie is a highly polished turd. Bummer, right?