Holding out for that teenage feeling

I’m sorry, I can’t even write anything contemporary or even coherent. I just finished watching Twilight.

Did you know vampires play baseball?

Vampire Baseball

“You’re my own personal brand of heroin”

Also, they sparkle?

sparklingedward090709

“And so the lion fell in love with the lamb…”

Uh, and they take you to the prom and let you stand on their feet and dance?

twilight-prom

It’s just so potent, so much Pacific Northwest rainforest and bitten lips and feelings. And it ends with a vampire showdown in a ballet studio full of mirrors that they don’t even try to integrate into the story. It’s totally ludicrous and the things it has to say about women and sex are a bit horrifying, but I can’t stop thinking about it.

Blair would befriend a call girl named Brandeis

So I’ve been thinking about the deal with Gossip Girl this year. It’s not really suffering from the “high school show goes to college” Veronica Mars-type problems, more from “the first couple of episodes of every season feel a little off, until some Secrets have time to Build Up and cause Tension that needs to be Resolved.” For me it hit its stride around Rufus and Lily’s wedding, with the reappearance of Scott, and his big revelation leading to the reaffirmation of love at the centre of the show. And Sonic Youth.

Since then, the stakes are getting weirdly higher. The theme of this week was basically “we’re not in high school anymore,” at least in the A-story. The B-story centred around Dan and Olivia’s one-month anniversary, which is actually one of the most charmingly eighteen-year-old things that ever happened on Gossip Girl and still managed to feature Jimmy Fallon.1 But I can think of at least three different characters who pulled the “this isn’t high school anymore” line: Vanessa, to Nate when he asks her to sit on potentially damaging video of his cousin who is running for public office because of their “friendship”; Chuck, to Serena, in explaining why she had to suck it up because she couldn’t just take Blair (or anyone) for granted now; and Blair, to Serena again (because Serena really needed it, I guess), about how Blair is trying to “make a life for herself” while S is just kind of treading water, alienating people over her stupid PR job, and fake dating Robert Pattinson, and that’s not really someone Blair Waldorf needs in her life.

The point is: the high school code isn’t working anymore, which is a problem, since for Gossip Girl, high school is supposed to be a sort of mini-life, where you learn to deal with being a public person when that’s something you can’t really control the boundaries of anymore. But the “real world” isn’t so tight or so easily controlled.

GOSSIP GIRL

My spiel has always been that Gossip Girl’s about letting go, about realizing that “privacy” was out over and has been replaced with this new gossip-surveillance-world. But that this is okay, and that this configuration allows for its own various pleasures and games. You see it in the way that Blair’s liberation started with a public striptease; in the way Serena uses the paparazzi for her own gain, in the way Nate and Chuck and everyone instinctively manage public perception. But that’s easy when it’s as schematic as it is within the high school setup, where Gossip Girl basically stands for the media. It gets messier when the knowledge and power isn’t so centralized; it’ll be interesting to see how Gossip Girl deals with all this.


  1. Which, with 30 Rock, makes two of my favouite shows he appeared on within a week. He knows his demo, and his demo is me. Well, it would be if I didn’t have a real job that makes it impossible for me to actually watch late night TV. 

Dressed smart like a London bloke, before he speak his suit bespoke

So today is one of my days where I have Things To Do, that I’m not even really focusing on. Last night I had a dream that I was in London walking around taking pictures, so in honour, I am posting some of my favourite British lady music videos.

Lily Allen:

MIA:


M.I.A. – Boyz
Uploaded by OXYMORON. – Explore more music videos.

Estelle:

Amy Winehouse:

The September Issue

Anna and Grace

Making a movie about putting out a fashion magazine — even a fashion magazine as spectacular as Vogue’s epic September 2007 issue — obviously requires some shaping of the material. The makers of The September Issue found a wonderful story in the tension between editor Anna Wintour, “the most powerful woman in the United States,” and creative director Grace Coddington. The film starts out highlighting Coddington’s frustration as Wintour cuts her babies to make way for more shots of Sienna Miller running around Rome. (I actually thought Anna was right about losing the group shots!) As the movie goes on, Coddington emerges a hero, not just for her great creative instincts, which I think people have discussed elaborately elsewhere and go without saying, but her willingness to use the movie to totally fuck with Anna Wintour.

We see her in a meeting bugging Anna about the budget for her (totally stunning) couture shoot. Later, riding down somewhere in an elevator, she confesses that “I love talking to Anna about money in front of you” to the crew. It’s not a big moment, but it’s a way of acknowledging the crew that you don’t see Anna do outside interviews. (Though it’s hard to forget she’s being filmed; when we were headed home, both the work friends I saw it with noticed the intense, make-up free close-ups of Wintour, Coddington, and basically everyone else.) The camera crew clearly becomes part of Coddington’s world, enough that it becomes part of her work, as the camera man shows up in a last-minute shoot she’s assigned for the issue.

Jump!

Coddington actually puts the camera crew in the issue. I kind of love this, but I kind of love it more when — after hearing that Anna wants to airbrush out the cameraman’s gut — she makes a point of marching over to the nearest phone and calling the retouching department to leave Bob’s stomach alone, as the assistant manning the desk loses it in the background. She kind of knows she’s the hero by this point.

As for Anna? She’s not really a villain, you can’t really see her that way. She’s obviously really tough and really competent, and really an amazing mega-bitch (which I mean only as a compliment, I am all about reclaiming shit); but in the end the movie paints a picture of her as, not really weak or immature, but kind of lonely, I guess? The film starts with her talking about how people who don’t get fashion and who mock fashion — because it’s frivolous and expensive — seem scared of it, and are jealous of the cool kids (I think that was her atual line of dialogue). Later on in the movie, this line of questioning is picked when Wintour’s daughter is asked if she wants to go into fashion. She looks kind of horrified, and says she doesn’t want to knock it, but “there’s more important things to do with your life.” Toward the very end, the subject comes up again — in a talking-head presumably taken from the same interview — when Anna tells the crew about her serious British newspaper family, who are, she says “amused” by what she does. Wintour doesn’t seem wistful, doesn’t seem apologetic or regretful, I don’t want to suggest the tightness in her voice is hiding inner frailty, but it is a tightness.

Dancing vampires are still scarier than Twilight

So remember how I used to post regularly to my blog? And then I graduated grad school and basically stopped blogging, because having a full time job makes it hard to devote an hour or two a day to blogging and to keeping up with a full TV schedule? (And as I write I am weeks behind on Mad Men.) I do miss regular posting, but once you get out of the habit it’s hard to get back in. So I will be doing the National Blog Posting Month thing for November. I have some stuff going on this month, so I can’t promise that some of the posts won’t just be YouTube videos and exclamation points as opposed to thoughtful cultural critique, but I will do my best to make sure something goes up every day.

I hope everyone reading this had a good Halloween. I didn’t really do anything this year (which is lame, but I am Old and have been very Tired lately) except watch the Guy Maddin Dracula Ballet. It was pretty amazing, in that it was shot in classic silent film style (intertitles, coloured filters to set the mood, irises everywhere), but was also Guy Maddin so it was an adaptation that was subtly funny and self-aware in terms of the issues of scary foreigners and the threat of female sexuality in the original. (The ship arrives to intertitles saying “Immigrants!” “Others! From Other Lands!” I love Guy Maddin so hard.) Also, it had dancing.

Dracula ballet!

Movies, August 10-September 13

  1. Metropolitan (Whit Stillman, 1990): Oh my god, it’s like WASP Woody Allen. The style is very Woody — long talky scenes with people being self-aware but totally not self-reflective — and there are some long shots of people walking down the street straight out of Annie Hall. But the content is something else entirely. It’s a bunch of college kids during debutante ball season, running around trying to be witty and knowing but not really knowing things. “Oh, I don’t read novels,” our hero says after offering an opinion about the heroine of Mansfield Park, “I prefer good literary criticism.” Another character is disappointed in the false advertising in the title of The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie. It’s worth pointing out for the long analysis of this I’ll probably write someday that the action — mostly set in a claustrophobic New York City — ends in the Hamptons, near the beach, with a freeze frame, just like The 400 Blows. I actually watched this again a week later, I liked it so much. (And Alex obviously had to see it.)
  2. The Hurt Locker (Katherine Bigelow, 2009): I was a bit dizzy when I walked out of this one; I had to hold onto the escalator rail with both hands on the way out. Just really really well-done. I think this may have actually been the first fiction film about this Iraq war that I’ve actually bothered to see (despite having written a paper about filmic representations of the first Iraq war). The aforementioned first Iraq war movies all had a tendency to make the Iraqis themselves pretty much invisible — this distant video-game enemy — presumably because everyone was still operating under the assumption that history was over and wars would all just be fought remotely and no one important would get hurt. That is, um, not how The Hurt Locker rolls and it illustrates how different the two wars are in the popular imagination. It seems like the humanity of the Iraqis is all-too-present in The Hurt Locker, which is part of why the bomb squad we spend the movie has to spend so much time letting out aggression and stuff. Mostly you just walk away from it glad you’re on solid ground and not in the desert though. Intense.
  3. District 9 (Neill Blomkamp, 2009): It was so good, and so exciting, and so new, I wish people didn’t harp so hard on the political angle, since as far as I could tell, Blomkamp didn’t really make a political allegory (if he did — I don’t really want to think about what his point would have been). As a science fiction movie with, certainly, a background that was grounded in politics, which gave the story an urgency it would not have otherwise had, it was excellent. I loved that the protagonist was such a consistent dick: this really makes the whole thing more suspenseful, since you actually don’t know what will happen.
  4. Inglourious Basterds (Quentin Tarantino, 2009): I actually wound up seeing this one twice, as well. The first time, I was intensely uncomfortable watching it. I was fully aware of the people in the theatre, laughing along with the movie the way Hitler was laughing at his propaganda, and, I still think that Tarantino meant that segment to be uncomfortable and thought-provoking, watching the whole thing again I’m not sure what his point was with that in particular. I don’t know that he really had one — one of the things with postmodern cinema, something people respond to, is that it doesn’t really ever offer solutions or clear moral resolutions — though people generally want to find these resolutions. Watching it again and being prepared for the painful, uncomfortable tension he wrote into it (which is not a criticism, I think it was very effective), it was easy to notice how gorgeous it was. Like, visually, stunning. The scene where Shoshana’s making herself up so beautiful, more so than anything I can think of that Tarantino’s ever done.
  5. Paper Heart (Nicholas Jasenovec, 2009): Aw! I am one of the people who hasn’t gotten sick of Michael Cera yet, and he was literally playing himself in this, so I think that’s a prerequisite for liking it. Well, it helps to like Charlyne Yi, since the movie’s really about her. The premise is that she’s travelling the country doing a documentary about how she doesn’t believe in love — and then she meets Michael Cera and starts actually falling in love. It might come off a bit precious — there are little puppet shows of real people’s love stories, she writes a song about Michael Cera and how he smells like Christmas — but it’s pretty effective since all the stuff really feels genuinely homemade and personal. Also, because at its core is Yi’s inability to tell him that she loves him when she’s not sure she means it, it feels pretty real to the actual difficult part in relationships? Putting on my real media critic hat, it was interesting that they chose to make a fake documentary about a real relationship and have a lot of the conflict come from the invasive nature of the cameras, etc. Also, the ending with the puppets, where Yi puts herself in the muscular badass hero role (in Brampton!) is awesome.
  6. Female Trouble (John Waters, 1974): Amazing! I love John Waters so hard, I can’t even deal with what a genius he is. So this movie really drives home that his big theme is (and as far as I can tell, always was) celebrity. Dawn Davenport is “a thief, and a shitkicker, and she wants to be famous.” It’s somewhere between Sunset Blvd and I Want To Live! at the end, with the electric chair and the “ready for my close-up” insanity. It’s interesting given the way a lot of people have accused him of being exploitive of his stars that Waters would kind of deal with the adoration/exploitation difficulty so early in his career with the photographers who encourage Dawn in her insanity (and feed her make-up/drugs — which is a delightful metaphor, if unsubtle) and then turn on her when she actually makes people “die for art.” There’s so much to unpack here, I am kind of only hitting the serious theme bits and not the utter hilarity and total confrontational grossness of the whole thing, which I love!
    divine_female_trouble

“Weekly” Movies, July 20-August 9

So few movies this summer.

  1. Palindromes (Todd Solondz, 2004): I really wish that zip.ca had sent Welcome to the Dollhouse before this one, since it starts with the funeral of the earlier movie’s main character — and I feel like I would have gotten more out of that one if I’d understood the way the two movies interconnected. As it stands, I liked parts of Palindromes: the device with the different performers playing Aviva is really effective, the way it asks viewers to jump barriers of age, of race, of size, even of gender for a second (though I wonder why Solondz only used the boy actor for one, silent, though beautiful scene) in understanding all those actors as a single person. I’m sort of working through how I feel about Palindromes — I liked the way it used the abortion debate to deal with the way that people aren’t just their opinion on one issue, and you can see how that point would maybe not be embraced in 2004 America or even now. But it’s been days since I’ve seen it and I’m still not sure what his point was about identity. Are we palindromes, the same backward and forward? Is it really impossible to change? But then, like, what does Aviva and Otto’s moment in the garden mean?
  2. Cry-Baby (John Waters, 1990): This is one of those movies I’ll start watching whenever it comes on TV, and it never gets less good. I still laugh every time Baldwin says: “We’ll get married and live in suburbia!” His delivery is so enthusiastic and horrifying, I like his performance the same way I like Vincent Kartheiser in Mad Men — it’s brave to be such an awful character.
    Baldwin
    His bunny hop gets me every time. He’s just so gleeful about violently maintaining the social order. (Screencap source.)
  3. (500) Days of Summer (Marc Webb, 2009): This has exactly the flaws and exactly the great points you expect it to, which is fine. J G-L (oh my GOD look at the picture he has on wikipedia, it’s like the funny photo I would put on my Facebook profile as a JOKE) and Zooey were both good. J G-L was, honestly, pretty great, but the issue was more with the writing and it’s lean towards preciousness, and the fact that the first time director was basically like “look at all my techniques! Split screens! Montages! LOOK AT THEM!” (Actually he’s made like a million music videos, but that’s a really different medium and every minute maybe doesn’t need to feel so worked-over in a feature length film). Some of them worked — I thought the split screen bit (expectations on one side, reality on the other) was a bit on-the-nose, but fine in terms of the tone and themes of the story — but he didn’t need all of them. He did do a wonderful job of capturing a lot feelings, but I’m just saying he maybe could have done it more subtly. The main thing with this movie is the main thing with all these movies — it wants to have it both ways. This one does a better job than most of making it clear that Tom, our hero, is totally deluding himself the whole way through the relationship, but it still paints a really pretty, far too seductive picture of indie girls and holding hands at Ikea for us to be very cynical about it. Which brings me to the manic pixie dream girl problem — sometimes this works (Annie Hall, which this movie totally wants to be), but mostly it doesn’t (Garden State). Like, it’s fine to have a girl who is pretty and has a complicated personality, but you know, it would still be nice if Summer had, like, any life outside her relationship with Tom.
  4. Les Chansons d’amour (Christophe Honoré, 2007): Oh man, so good! It’s an Umbrellas of Cherbourg-style musical about love and life and death and it’s really beautiful despite the hero being a bit of a dweeb. The Cherbourg comparison is one I think everyone would have reached for even if Chiara Mastroianni (Catherine Deneuve’s daughter) wasn’t in it. She is pretty great though.

    As I wrote on my tumblr right after I watched it: They’re French! They have angst! Angst they express through song! The hero wears a striped sailor sweater and a charming yellow shirt. I loved it so.
    David Edelstein said this about it: “Honoré has proven you can make a movie musical in which style doesn’t upstage content–a movie musical that blossoms from the inside out,” which is a nice way of putting it if a bit insulting to the grand tradition of ridiculousness in movie musicals, but it is remarkably short on spectacle.

Mad Men Rewatch: Season 1, Episodes 7-9

The latest irregularly paced update in the rewatch. This show just gets better the more you watch it. Continue Reading »

Weekly Movies, July 13-19

I am trying to bring it back, again. This week, the Holocaust, Hollywood, and the moon. Continue Reading »

Mad Men Rewatch: Season 1, Episodes 4-6

I realize it’s been over a month since the first Mad Men rewatch post, but an actual offline writing project interfered! I do have a game plan for the next few weeks to actually cover everything by the season premiere on August 16th. We will try, but I can’t promise they will all be 2,000 word epics like this one. I’m sure you will be disappointed.

In more general blog housekeeping notes, I do want to point out that my tumblr actually still gets regular updates, though most of them are just pictures of stuff I like. so like, lots of Gossip Girl and Mad Men, and occasional clips of Anderson Cooper being adorable.

Anyway, recaps/thoughts:

Continue Reading »

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