18 November 2010

Now Playing: Arcade Fire's "The Suburbs"

A new video by Spike Jonze for Arcade Fire's "The Suburbs" was released this evening on the band's blog, which has featured links to annotated versions of T.S. Eliot's The Wasteland alongside memorable articles from the past few years on the death of the suburb and Hollywood's antagonistic views towards suburban life.

The beginning was quite slow and I feared the entire video would be nothing but a look at teenage boredom. As the song changes its tone and mood from apathetic to anxious fear, so do the images. Jonze has taken the mention of bombs literally and transported these teenagers into some sort of military state. People are being arrested, homes evacuated, and those who are the age where you're aware and yet still helpless just sit and wait in fear.  And yet life continues normally, with bikes, and parties, and romance, and jealousy.  I often wondered what the image would be for the final moments of the song would be.  As Win Butler is belting out "In my dreams we're still screaming" over and over again, it became clear that the sudden and relentless beating couldn't have captured the anxiety of the final part of the song any better.

Watching this video, Spike Jonze has managed to convey that whole "harrowing life of a teenager" concept more effectively in 5 minutes and 15 seconds than James Franco could in the entire 196 pages of Palo Alto.

16 November 2010


I too go tree shopping in the snow in heels and socks with bare legs and an unbuttoned coat. 

(via J.Crew)

09 November 2010

Dressing in Dodecahedra

SWINTON would be all over this dress.

Geometry fashion!

(via Amelia Hrustic and Make)

08 November 2010

The Music Video

MTV wants to bring back the music video with a new series called Supervideo, according to Vulture, which would pair a famous director with a popular musician in hopes of creating something great. 

Sound familiar? It should. As much as people like to joke about the lack of music videos on MTV and VH1, MTV's Making the Video was on air from 1999 till 2007 and kind of did exactly this. The goal of Supervideo seems to have artistic ambitions that are loftier than merely observing the mediocre videos that 'Nsync or Jennifer Lopez were going to make anyway, but I have my doubts. 

MTV is claiming that they want to give a voice and a lift to new directors in the way that earlier in the decade, music videos really did help to launch the careers of Spike Jonze, Mark Romanek, and Michel Gondry, but at the same time, they clearly want to get more established directors and artists in order to make the series enticing. Their first attempt was released late last week (and hyped for weeks in advance on Pitchfork): LCD Soundsystem's "Pow Wow" directed by Training Day writer David Ayer starring pretty young Oscar nominated starlet Anna Kendrick. 

Sure it's cool and expensive-looking, but I think the way we consume music videos has fundamentally changed, and for the better. Music videos are thriving on YouTube and Vimeo thanks to both artist-funded productions and the success of talented amateurs and their fan videos.  MTV is trying to recreate a world that only existed in the absence of MP3s and video sharing sites, and I think will just come across as some antiquated albeit well-funded bully trying to reestablish their old hierarchy of distribution. Unless they somehow manage to get some really unbelievable pairings (Martin Scorcese and Yeasayer? Sofia Coppola and Lady Gaga??), I fear that it'll only be a matter of time before the show turns into another vehicle for Miley Cyrus, Justin Bieber, McG, and those other Twilight media whores.  

05 November 2010

Now Playing: "Just Like Anyone"

Because I'm suddenly feeling nostalgic for middle school here is a My So-Called Life era Claire Danes starring in Soul Asylum's video for "Just Like Anyone."

 I also felt the need to remind that Natalie Portman was not the first girl to grow wings...

03 November 2010

Having Tea with Graham Greene

Women Reading should be the kind of site that I love. And yet, after spending some time there, my enchantment quickly turned to annoyed rage.

The images in and of themselves are indeed lovely and are pulled from a wide variety of sources like paintings, magazine spreads, and flickr. But looking at shot after shot of extremely styled waifs half-reading in the middle of various sun-soaked fields starts to get both tiring and comical after the third page. They all look so SERIOUS and SELF-CONGRATULATORY, and really are kind of funny when you start to realize that they all kind of fit into a few categories.

Women Reading The Little Prince

Women Reading in Fields 

Women Reading in the Woods

Women Reading Scripts 
(because they are actresses) 

Women Not Really Reading
(but just happen to be near lots of books)

Women Reading in Pastel 

Women Peeking Coyly Over the Book that they're Probably Not Reading

02 November 2010

HIMYM: The Comedy Problem

My review of last night's episode of How I Met Your Mother is up on TheAtlantic.com.  It is a corny show, and clearly not the best comedy on television, and yes sometimes the best characters on the show (Jason Segel and Neil Patrick Harris) just seem like they're being held back by their own dialogue, but in spite of the flaws, I find it oddly compelling. The characters are endearing, the comedy is goofy, and the writers make sincere efforts to address the real lives of twenty and thirtysomethings living in a city (in the hyper-reality world of a sitcom). They just seem to choose all the wrong moments to try to promote the show...

01 November 2010

Songs and Clothes

A friend recently sent me Joanna Newsom's "Does Not Suffice," a mournful song about a relationship dissolving and the methodical, sentimental act of packing and moving out.  In the song, Newsom uses lovely and specific words ("coats of boucle, jacquard and cashmere") to describe the materials and adornments that she is packing away, adding an easy poetry to a type of song that we've heard many times before.

Clothes are not an uncommon subject for songs - they can add an immediate sense of context and specificity to stories made intentionally bland to uphold some sense of universality. What this song gets so right  is the reliance on fabrics names that are fundamentally pretty words, and the consequence of adding a level of reality to the emotions she is trying to convey. Newsom could have made the song vulgar as many modern singers do by adding brand names and associations with specific styles. But she doesn't - we just get glimpses of of the "gilded buttons" she is tucking away, and the generic silks that she is binding in shapeless bales and wrapping in reams of tissue.

So what other songs get clothes right?  (And not in the Kanye West, "Material Girl" kind of way...)

29 October 2010

The Movie Map: The Sequel

Yesterday, The Daily What published a map of the United States from Redditor subtonix, with film titles instead of state names. The goal was to find movies that best represent US states. Ambitious? Yep. Really vague? That too.

What are we really going for here?  A sense of place? Movies that were shot in that state or just based there? And what the heck are we supposed to do with states like California and New York that have libraries far too extensive to narrow it down to one iconic film. Plus, I just didn't really like this list. Fast Times at Ridgemont High for California? Jesus Camp for North Dakota AND Missouri? The Shawshank Redemption for Maine?

So instead of getting all CAPSY in the comments section...my friends and I made a new map.

It's not perfect. Some states just really don't have any good options. I refuse to put Jesus Camp in North Dakota so that's just blank. So is Delaware. Seriously, look at their wikipedia pages, the choices are slim.  Also, even though I committed to titles for some states, I'm still not thrilled with them (127 Hours for Utah, Sling Blade for Arkansas) and I'm open to suggestions. Finally, some states just have too many good options that I just couldn't choose.

What do you think?

Special thanks to @smitty4657 and @mcslaven.

26 October 2010

Here Comes My Baby

When nothing you do is original, and everything even vaguely twee, hipster, or precious can be mocked mercilessly (and sometimes deservedly), and categorized and stereotyped immediately, any attempts at pop culture homage seem destined to fail.  Now that the brilliant Alex Blagg has parodied the insidious alternative wedding trend, we're all kind of doomed to be conventional if only to save ourselves from the embarrassment of this painfully accurate parody of the folks who fancy themselves unique. If it's vanilla and if you're not trying too hard, who can really judge it?  This is especially true after finding out from an excerpted N+1 article that apparently the real modern hipster movement only lasted till about 2003...and everything since has been derivative.

And yet, there are some brave souls out there still. Consider "Sean and Hayden." Instead of mailing a normal save the date, they created a short film in the style of...WES ANDERSON. Yes, Wes, the twee-est of all the twee directors destined, I think, for some sort of Burton-esque backlash in the next few years. Proof? The preppies covet Margot Tenenbaum.

Anyway, Sean and Hayden's save the date is a love letter to Rushmore and they got it all right, from the font, to the music, to the images. And you know what? It's actually kind of charming.

25 October 2010

She Just Likes to Fight

Carey Mulligan is just getting cooler by the day. Proof? She's broken up with the slimy seeming Shia LaBoeuf and is living at a $69/night Best Western in Los Angeles.

photo by Mikael Jansson for Interview

But not all Best Westerns were created equal.  This particular branch is home to the super hip/not hip at all/isn't that the point late night diner the 101, where I've seen my fair share of 20-something celebs picking at sweet potato fries in the early morning hours, and I don't even live in Los Angeles.

(via New York Magazine)

22 October 2010

Now Playing: The National's "Guest Room"

What's old is worth watching again. A testament to the quality of fan videos, here's The National's "Guest Room" shot in a hazy Los Angeles.  We miss being deviants, indeed.

20 October 2010

The Trailer Series

In a bout of nostalgia for the Gia Coppola directed Opening Ceremony short "Non Plus One", I realized that I failed to really consider her co-director, Tracy Antonopoulos. Little exists about her online besides an uninspiring twitter account, a random blog post claiming she's a film student at NYU, and a series of Vimeos from about 8 months ago that includes a series of trailers for fake movies. They're charming, pretty fantastically (but forgivably) unoriginal, and just make me hope that Ms. Antonopoulos continues making more fun shorts. She's friends with a Coppola for goodness sakes. Couldn't be that hard...

The Corner (Trailer Series) from Tracy ANTONOPOULOS on Vimeo.

Girls (Trailer Series) from Tracy ANTONOPOULOS on Vimeo.

runAWAY (Trailer Series) from Tracy ANTONOPOULOS on Vimeo.

19 October 2010

Vast Carelessness and Boats Against the Current

This week in on again, off again rumors, it looks as though Baz Luhrmann's plan to direct a new version of The Great Gatsby is back on, according to Vulture.  The all-too ubiquitous F. Scott Fitzgerald novel has been adapted for the screen four times, beginning with a silent version in 1926 (a lost film...no prints exist).  Of course the most famous adaptation at this point is the generally despised 1974 attempt, directed by Jack Clayton, and featuring Mia Farrow and Robert Redford. I wish I could have found some of the original reviews to cite as well, but none were easily findable.  Upon the release of the DVD in 2004, however, Roger Ebert took the occasion to write a scathing review, lambasting the movie for being too faithful to the book and failing to actually capture the spirit of it.

Like it or not, The Great Gatsby has a fan base that is vast and devoted. It's a terribly resonant tale and has become so common in pop culture that sometimes it seems more in fashion to proclaim that the book is actually lacking as a work of great art.  And to commit something so popular to film?  A dangerous venture to say the least.  It's no surprise to anyone that people judge adaptations of favorite novels in a much harsher light than new stories. And rightly so. Remember Bogdonavich's Daisy Miller? Scorsese's The Age of Innocence? Wright's Pride and Prejudice?

Then again, Luhrmann was the reason most of my peers began to like Shakespeare. Our 7th grade English teacher was elated, to say the least.

The word is that Luhrmann would like to cast Rebecca Hall or Natalie Portman as Daisy, Leonardo DiCaprio as Jay, and Tobey Maguire as Nick.  I'm hopeful that Ms. Hall will be better than Ms. Farrow at capturing Daisy.  Although the lovely and waifish Mia Farrow might always be what I see when I picture Daisy, her performance, according to Ebert, was "all squeaks and narcissism and empty sophistication."

18 October 2010

Argyle, Frills, and Tights: The Carefree Girls of Seventeen in the 60s

Seventeen magazine put together a wonderful slide show of vintage covers alongside some dated advice from each issue. (For example, in 1945, a section advised girls that boyfriends in the navy overseas would appreciate care packages of "foot powder, saddle soap, and sun lotion.")  I'd be really interested to read some of these articles, if only to find out what a "Pancake Party" is.

Alas, all we have are the covers and what the Seventeen editors with access to all of the archives chose to convey.  That said, it is fun to take a look at what the teens were wearing, or at least aspired to wear, in the 60s. Things definitely seemed to get better for the outfits as the decade went on.  My personal favorite is the turtleneck dress from the 1968 cover.











15 October 2010

The Junior Varsity on The Social Network

The Junior Varsity rolled out a brilliant series on The Social Network this week.  Some really thoughtful and funny writing.

Mike on Class, the "So What?", and Our Generation

14 October 2010

New Robyn!

Though it won't be officially released till November 22nd, Robyn has released 5 versions of "Indestructible" on her Songcloud account.

Indestructible by robyn

(via Discopop)

Belle and Sebastian and Nostalgia

Tonight Belle and Sebastian are playing at the Daughters of the American Revolution, Constitution Hall (oh, DC, you make me laugh sometimes). I expect every 25 to 35 year-old in the audience to be overcome with soul crushing nostalgia and wistful joy.

13 October 2010

Getting Kicked Out of the Igloo

Girls are getting meaner, younger, according to The New York Times. It's probably the fault of Hanna Montana. Or the mother. It's almost definitely a class thing. And certainly a cleanliness thing (kids totally notice when you're too poor to have your private school outfit laundered daily).   

But of course this shocking trend is also based on about four case studies.  Anyone who actually experienced childhood knows that no matter what the child psychologists say, bullying amongst girls did not begin after the 5th grade in some bygone era. It begins, and has always begun, pretty much as soon as kids start interacting with each other.  

At this point I've come to accept the very particular case of Times "trend" stories, if only because they seem to be written in some sort of vacuum void of relevant cultural references and general life experiences and therefore are always kind of amusing.  But let's assume for a moment that there is something real happening here. That somehow bullying is beginning earlier. What should we do?  Having gotten too caught up in anecdotes about Strawberry Shortcake t-shirts and vague statements from Arne Duncan, the Times seems to have forgotten to offer up a larger point.

Basically the only piece of cautionary advice the article gives is that singing along to Beyonce, Alicia Keys, and Jay-Z ("Single Ladies" is called out by name...they're talking about you Arianna) at age 2 will only lead to cellphone requests and Lady Gaga at age 8.  It also makes sure to remind that none of the cool kids actually like The Jonas Brothers or Miley Cyrus. And just in case you were wondering, parents are usually powerless to regulate. 

12 October 2010

Blue Valentine: The ACTUAL Trailer

Ok, before I turn into the official tracker of all things Blue Valentine, this past week was an exciting one - a true, teaser trailer was released and the MPAA decided that the film would carry an NC-17 rating.

The Internet is in a semi rage over the harsh rating.  As the folks over at The Playlist point out, this sort of rating will definitely impact distribution, thus those who don't live in Los Angeles or New York will probably have a pretty slim chance of actually seeing the film in theaters on December 31st.

For now, though, please enjoy the sweet and heartbreaking teaser set to Ryan Gosling's goofy rendition of "You Always Hurt The One You Love."

A Very Stella Evening

Because commercials are quick, easy, and probably very lucrative, Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola have teamed up to direct a jazzy one-minute spot for Stella Artois. 

Silly girl, trying to play with technology!  She's little more than a cute prize, after all. 

16 September 2010

Blue Valentine

Why, oh why does it take a film that premiered in January 2010 to great critical success almost an entire year to become widely distributed? IT IS SO UNFAIR. 

Even Nathan Rabin was moved:
Watching Derek Cianfrance’s excruciatingly intimate drama Blue Valentine felt like reliving the most agonizing moments of every romantic relationship I’ve ever had, but in a good way. 
Anyway, the release date is sort of, almost around the corner (well, December, but whatever), meaning we finally have a trailer....

BLUE VALENTINE: Movie Trailer. Watch more top selected videos about: John Doman, Blue Valentine

...and a beautiful magazine cover....

...and awkwardly delightful quotes about the, er, intimate scenes. 

9/16/2010 UPDATE (1:36PM): FINE, IT'S NOT A TRAILER.

12 August 2010

Did You Make The List?

I have a complicated relationship with the Vanity Fair International Best-Dressed List. It represents lifestyle lusting at its worst. It always features the same people (princes, princesses, queens, actors, actresses, ladies and gents about town). And of course, it is completely ridiculous.  Is looking halfway decent really all that difficult when you have all the resources (time, money, shoppers, personal brand consultants, assistants, nannies...) to do so?

And yet...I still look at it every year. Because where else am I going to find out that Javier Bardem favors a four-button tuxedo jacket, or that Bruce Weber still wears his dad's Timex, or that Helena Bonham Carter considers Marie Antoinette a style icon? It's all good, absurd fun.

Normally these "best-dressed" are treated with the utmost reverence. But, after browsing through this year's slideshow I began to wonder if, when they show people looking like this,

By Stephanie Cardinale/People Avenue/Corbis 

...and this,

From WWD 

...and this,

By Olivier Douliery/Abacausa.com

...some VF staffer hates Carey Mulligan? 

By Christopher Peterson/BuzzFoto/FilmMagic 

10 August 2010

Mimsy-Mumsy Eliza Doolittle

The other day in The Telegraph, the occasionally too blunt actress Emma Thompson was interviewed about an upcoming remake of My Fair Lady that she's been asked to write. She took this as an opportunity to offer her take on the 1964 version of the musical.
I was thrilled to be asked to do it because, having a look at it, I thought that there needs to be a new version. I'm not hugely fond of the film. I find Audrey Hepburn fantastically twee. Twee is whimsy without wit. It's mimsy-mumsy sweetness without any kind of bite. And that's not for me. She can't sing and she can't really act, I'm afraid. I'm sure she was a delightful woman - and perhaps if I had known her I would have enjoyed her acting more, but I don't and I didn't, so that's all there is to it, really.
The internet consensus so far seems to be a collective "yeeesh."  It's no secret that Audrey Hepburn struggled with the role from the outset. The young, bankable, glamorous actress was given the part of Eliza Doolittle over Julie Andrews who originated the role on broadwasy with Rex Harrison for a then-absurd paycheck of $1 million. Then, about halfway into production, the decision was made that the world would not be hearing Audrey Heburn's voice in any of the musical numbers. (Audrey was rumored to have stormed off the set when she heard the news. She came back sheepishly the next day with cookies for all to apologize for her behavior, though.) The final version of the film shows Audrey Hepburn lip synching to Marni Nixon's voice. If that wasn't insult enough My Fair Lady ended up winning 8 Academy Awards (Picture, Director, Actor, Cinematography, Sound, Original Score, Art Direction, and Costume Design).  Best Actress that year went to Julie Andrews who took on the role of Mary Poppins after being passed over for Eliza Doolittle.  Audrey wasn't even nominated.*

This is all to say that we all kind of already knew that Audrey hadn't done the best job as Eliza, but we just don't like to bring it up all that often because she was so freaking beautiful, and she died sort of young, and she always just seemed like such a good person, and obviously, 8 Academy Awards later, My Fair Lady wasn't completely ruined by a less than perfect lead. She even criticized her own performances (“I probably hold the distinction of being one movie star who, by all laws of logic, should never have made it. At each stage of my career, I lacked the experience”), and Humphrey Bogart often felt the need to tell the press how much of an amateur she was. Both Audrey and the world seemed painfully aware of her shortcomings.

So was Emma Thompson's remark unfair? Probably not, but it's also not the most becoming thing to say about a film that many remember quite fondly. If you are going to do a remake of a cherished (though flawed) classic, it's probably best not to alienate your built-in audience.

*All of this information comes to you from an unhealthy 6th, 7th, and 8th grade obsession with Audrey Hepburn.


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