Friday, January 25, 2008


...for dissing the Academy Awards AND Juno:

The surprise, of course, is the Best Picture and Director nods for Juno, a movie I’m almost alone in disliking. Of course I knew it would work for younger audiences — I concluded my review, “Brace yourself for the Juno Generation.” But the outpouring of love from every critic surprised me. In several reviews, critics patted themselves on the back for having overcome their impatience with the first twenty minutes, especially the scene in which Juno strides around her local pharmacy ranting that her pregnancy test is positive... What those duped reviewers miss is that the screenwriter, who calls herself “Diablo Cody,” and the slickster director, Jason Reitman, engineered every response. Cody and Reitman introduce the characters crudely: no subtext, everything blurted out. The father and stepmother greet the news of Juno’s pregnancy by lamenting that she’s not into hard drugs and that she wasn’t picked up on a DWI instead. Funny. The father introduces himself to the couple that wants to adopt Juno’s baby by saying, “Thank you for having me and my irresponsible child over to your home.” The prim yuppie (Jennifer Garner) offers her guests Pellegrino or Vitamin Water. On and on, with sitcom banter laboring to be epigrammatical — except that each sequence ends with a switcheroo in which the characters display unexpected (and dramatically improbable) insight. Admittedly, my favorite thing in Juno is one such moment. Dad: “I thought you were the kind of girl who knew when to say when.” Juno: “I have no idea what kind of girl I am.” Lovely. But the rest of the time Cody and Reitman flatter the audience for its sensitivity while cramming in pop-culture references (and nonstop alt-pop) to make it feel hip. Even the sexual role reversal — the girl is the tomboy aggressor, the boy the passive femme with the long, skinny legs — is a con.

Why I'll Miss Heath Ledger

Why has actor Heath Ledger's premature death left me stricken with grief? I don't usually get this way with celebrities, and I feel a bit silly about it, but I'm not alone. Even my mother and boyfriend said they were incredibly shaken and sadden by the news of his death. It's not just because he was a great actor (which he was) and thus a great loss to film. He also had a two-year-old daughter and various film projects in the works. He also seemed like someone who never exuded entitlement or snobbishness because of his fame. He seemed, in photographs and interviews and in his films (where he disappeared into his roles), like a real person. You could see him walking down the street and he actually looked like he belonged: usually celebrities seem incongruous with their surroundings (at least in New York -- perhaps it's different in LA).

This makes the press' obsession and sensationlization of the actor's death particularly despicable. The bold headlines in the New York Post and the Daily News speculating suicide or an affair with Mary Kate Olsen or whatever just make me want to vomit. The actor had pneumonia and was already taking sleeping pills to help with his insomnia: the combination of prescription drugs and illness probably had something to do with his death. It's a profoundly sad, but not an entirely glamorous, way to die. Which is why these publications go out of their way to demean or sensationalize it; they'll sell more papers that way. Sick.

Anyway, A.O. Scott has a beautiful tribute to the actor in The New York Times. Read it and remember Ledger for his haunting work in Brokeback and Monster's Ball and for his infinite charm and charisma in 10 Things I Hate About You. (Seriously.)

Thursday, January 17, 2008

To Destroy or Not to Destroy

Is there an English lit major who does not adore Nabokov? (I have yet to encounter one.) I haven't read Nabokov since my senior year of college, when I took a Nabokov class, which was great but, ultimately, draining; what really did it for me was having to look up seemingly every other word in Ada, or Ardor in the dictionary which was not only annoying (seriously interrupted the flow of the prose) but did no wonders for my self-esteem either. (For the record, I never did finish Ada. Some day. Maybe.) But I loved Lolita (read it 3x -- rare for me)! And Pale Fire! And The Gift!!!! Oh, The Gift...

Anyway, where was I... oh yes. Nabokov. I haven't read Nabokov since my English major days, but I still have a soft spot in my heart for him. So, when I read that Nabokov's son may or may not burn his father's final, unfinished manuscript, I freaked out a bit. Nabokov expressly gave orders to destroy the manuscript (known as The Original of Laura) upon his death. So the question: should his son, his last surviving heir, grant his father's dying wish or should he do the world a great service and make Laura available to the public?

I hope he picks the latter, because I really want to read it!!!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

One Sentence Reviews: Spring Awakening

There is such a thing as too sincere.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

A List

My year in music...


Favorite Swedish crooner: Jens Lekman
Favorite British crooner: Richard Hawley
Favorite Canadian chanteuse: Feist
Favorite Pakistani/British chanteuse: Natasha Khan aka Bat for Lashes
Favorite French chanteuse: Charlotte Gainsbourg
Favorite folk chanteuse: Marissa Nadler
Favorite indie multi-instrumentalist "wunderkind" who's not Sufjan Stevens: Annie Clark aka St. Vincent
Favorite brash/bratty British pop singer who's not Lily Allen: Kate Nash
Three rappers whose albums/mixtapes I liked better than Kanye West's: Aesop Rock, Jay-Z, Lil Wayne
Favorite new garage band revivalists: Black Lips
Favorite "old" garage rock revivalists: White Stripes

You're so cute, Jens; photo by Emma Svensson

Favorite song about not getting any (man's perspective): No Pussy Blues by Grinderman
Favorite song about not getting any (woman's perspective): Another Weekend Without Makeup by The Long Blondes
Favorite song about New York: Myriad Harbour by The New Pornographers
Favorite song about Paris: Paris Is Burning by St. Vincent
Favorite guilty pleasure song: I'm a Flirt by R. Kelley (not quite "Trapped in the Closet," but its pleasures are more, um, subtle?)
Favorite song that gets the hipsters dancing: D.A.N.C.E. by Justice
Favorite song that gets the rebelz dancing: Boyz by M.I.A.
Favorite song that gets the teeny-boppers dancing: Lip Gloss by Lil Mama
Favorite song about dancing: I'm Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How to Dance with You by Black Kids
Favorite song that kind of freaks me out: When Under Ether by PJ Harvey
Favorite song about loss: Someone Great by LCD Soundsystem
Favorite favorite song: The Underdog by Spoon

St. Vincent photographed by Tod Seelie

Favorite album by a sexually ambiguous violinist/violist: The Magic Position by Patrick Wolf
Favorite album by a band I don't normally like: Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer by Of Montreal
Second favorite album by a band I don't normally like: Strawberry Jam by Animal Collective
Third favorite album by a band, er, musician I don't normally like: The Shepard's Dog by Iron & Wine
Favorite album by a reunited band: Beyond by Dinosaur Jr.

The song that really needs no superlative: Umbrella by Rihanna

Favorite Albums (in alpha order)

Bat for Lashes: Fur and Gold
Deerhoof: Friend Opportunity
Feist: The Reminder
Jay-Z: American Gangster
Jens Lekman: Night Falls Over Kortedala
M.I.A.: Kala
Radiohead: In Rainbows
Spoon: Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga
St. Vincent: Marry Me
Patrick Wolf: The Magic Position

Richard Hawley has cool glasses; Patrick Wolf has a cool jacket

Other favorite music moments

The reissues of Leonard Cohen's first three albums
The reissue of Sonic Youth's Daydream Nation
Seeing David Byrne at The Blow concert (I know he's supposedly at every show in New York, but it was still terribly exciting)
The Blow concert
Skipping class to drive to New York to see Bjork

The new wave/post-punk revival fever subsided a bit in 2007. (Finally! I mean, I like New Wave and angular rock just as much as the next child of the 80s, but most of the new stuff was so uninspired.) Instead, we heard bands dabbling in 1960s psychedelic garage rock. The most compelling of these bands (that I've heard) are The Black Lips for their sloppy, raucous, unhinged sound. (Their live shows are the stuff of legend: apparently, vomiting, urination, and nudity are de rigueur.) Bloggers are comparing Finnish four-piece Cats on Fire to The Smiths and Morrissey (the lead singer's voice does recall Morrissey's quivering, fragile baritone), but the Hammond organ on the song "The Smell of an Artist" makes me think of 60s psychedelic group The Zombies. (By the way, I love virtually anything with Hammond organ.) Pittsburgh (holla!) band Black Moth Super Rainbow creates hippie freak-out music so trippy and otherworldly with Moog and ostinato flutes and trance-inducing ennui-ridden vocals that I can't help but wonder if I actually really am on drugs when listening to it. Their label provides this description for the band: "Deep in the woods of western Pennsylvania vocoders hum amongst the flowers and synths bubble under the leaf-strewn ground while flutes whistle in the wind and beats bounce to the soft drizzle of a warm acid rain. As the sun peeks out from between the clouds, the organic aural concoction of Black Moth Super Rainbow starts to glisten above the trees." Far out!

An Introduction


I know. The place looks rather sparse. I just moved here. Well, not entirely. I only partially moved here. But my other home was getting kind of crowded. I know, I should really curb my bad fashion habit, but I can't stop reading and commenting on women's magazines and fashion shows or showing off my new cone-heeled platforms. That's why I needed another place -- to store all my thoughts on music and films and books, which have been piling up and collecting dust since I started working on a masters in fashion journalism and spending my days trolling the archives and reading Roland Barthes and Thorstein Veblen and, um, Vogue.

This space is to be more free-form, random: a film and music journal with maybe some short book reviews thrown in. (I also write book reviews for these guys.) I will continue writing about fashion and the media on my other blog.

Anyway, welcome!