Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Armored Vehicles



I don't know how I missed this, but ace comics critic Douglas Wolk recently engaged in a lengthy, fascinating interview with comics blogger Tom Spurgeon over at The Comics Reporter, talking about the state of the medium, the health of the modern superhero, and the brilliance of Matt Fraction's ongoing run on The Invincible Iron Man. Embedded within the Spurgeon-Wolk piece is an equally fascinating back-and-forth between Fraction and one of his heroes, Denny O'Neil: the two men have a grand time talking about the armored hero they've both written, how the editor-writer-artist relationship has changed in the last forty years, and what the future holds for the funnybook. It's worth reading the two pieces back-to-back, as Spurgeon-Wolk and Fraction-O'Neil are coming at some of the same issues from either side of the reader-writer divide. But the commonalities of the two articles suggest that it's not so much a divide anymore as a fascinating dynamic of creation and reception, the disparate pieces coming together like one of Tony Stark's sleek, powerful inventions.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Preserving The Past


"For The Love of Film: The Film Preservation Blogathon" begins tomorrow and runs through Feb. 21, and it's the best Valentine's Day event a cinephile could ask for. Co-hosted by Ferdy on Films and Self-Styled Siren to benefit the National Film Preservation Foundation, this blogathon will raise both funds and awareness for a crucially important body of cinematic work, and for the Foundation whose efforts are so central to maintaining it. As noted in the ad embedded below (made by the excellent Greg Ferrara, who has been doing wonderful work promoting the event), "Over 80 percent of all films made between 1894 and 1930 are lost forever."



This is tragic, not only for cinephiles, but for anyone interested in history and culture. In my blacklist class yesterday, we talked about the ways in which film offers a window on the uncertainties of the past, thinking about that quality of embalming memory noted by Andre Bazin as part of cinema's ontology: if nothing else, movies can preserve the beliefs and desires and means of representation of a certain moment, in all its glory, strangeness and contradiction. But of course, it can only do that if the films themeselves are preserved.

As someone who writes and teaches so often about the movies from the first half of the 20th century, I am deeply thankful for the work the NFPF does to protect this heritage, from restorations to community projects to DVD releases (coincidentally, much of tomorrow afternoon's CINE 110 screening will be taken up with selections from their excellent "Treasures from the American Film Archives" boxes, which I can't recommend highly enough). I am gobsmacked and grateful for the herculean efforts of Siren and Ferdy in organizing this fantastic event. And as a confirmed film nerd, I am very much looking forward to seeing what some of the best writers in the film blogosphere have to say about those films over the next seven days.

Please go to Ferdy's and Siren's sites for more information. Please browse the Foundation's website through the link above. You can become a fan of the blogathon on Facebook, too. And if you can give money or just the time to read the excellent posts coming in the week ahead, please do so-- this is our shared history, and renewing our connection with it is the best way to look ahead to the art form's future.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Snow Patrol



"The snow is fallin' down/On our midwestern town..." Well, that's what the otherwise fantastic Fountains of Wayne should've sung. And it certainly describes things here in Cineville, where a day-long weather blitz has shrouded us in piles and piles of drift, and the sky's been transformed into a permanent snow globe. And you know what? That's OK. In fact, even a springtime partisan like myself, grumbling as he has to tromp carefully across the ice (and wincing at the way the slush-piles muck up his boots) felt humbled by how beautiful it all looked this evening. Coming out of tonight's class screening, seeing the black, empty branches of the trees spill like ink against the dark gray of the sky, and watching everything in front of me fill up with dots and dots of white, well....It was pretty cool. And very, very pretty. I give this good feeling about a week, but it's nice while it lasts.

More blogging again soon-- the first week of school is always its own snowstorm of busy, but I'm very psyched at how classes look thus far (I'm teaching What is Cinema? (our intro course), Comics and Animation, and a course on Hollywood and the Blacklist). Stay warm, be safe, and remember-- that sure sign of impending warmth is only a few weeks away.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Snowberlin















3-In-1: "Heroes"


I recently finished Marc Spitz's new biography of David Bowie. The book itself, which I hope to blog more about soon, is something of a mixed bag, but its great gift is to cause readers to go back and re-discover the music; I've been listening to everything from Hunky Dory to Outside to Let's Dance to Lodger with renewed appreciation for Bowie's talents. On this cold and snowy weekend (at least for those of us in the north), it felt like a good time to rub up against Bowie's avant-rock heat, and especially to return to my favorite song of his, " 'Heroes'."

Recorded as the title track from his 1977 collaboration with producers Brian Eno and Tony Visconti, and featuring the stunningly layered guitar work of Robert Fripp, " 'Heroes' " (the quotation marks around the word were a deliberate irony on Bowie's part) tells the tale of a young man and woman in love, but separated by the Wall on either side of a divided Berlin. "Heroes" was recorded in West Berlin (it's usually marked as part of Bowie's "Berlin Trilogy" along with Low and Lodger, although that's a stylistic gathering and a nod to Eno's involvement, rather than an accurate geographic marker-- only "Heroes" was actually recorded in the city). Escaping a Los Angeles existence that had produced brilliant music on Station to Station, but had also been soaked in drugs, mysticism and paranoia, Bowie decamped to Europe with Eno, Visconti and Iggy Pop to clean out his system and find renewed aesthetic inspiration. For my money, this period is his most creatively fruitful-- Eno's taste for offbeat arrangements, improvisation and experimentation blended brilliantly with Bowie's gift for melodicism, conceptual imagination and theatricality. While Eno and Bowie would separately go on to make good and great music up to the present day, it's arguable that neither man would ever again find such a sympathetic collaborator.

Naturally, the best place to go after recording your masterpiece in the heart of the 1970s European avant-garde is...The Bing Crosby Christmas Special! Then again, what's more surreal than a video framed by Uncle Bing's words of wisdom?



By 1981, Bowie was a hero himself to many of the New Wave, post-punk and neo-glam rock bands that followed in his wake. He would write and record with one of those bands, Queen, on "Under Pressure," and then pay tribute to their late lead singer, Freddie Mercury, in 1992 (a performance that also marked a reunion with Spiders from Mars co-conspirator Mick Ronson, who died just a few months later) :



Ten years later, after Tin Machine and further Eno collaborations and tours with Nine Inch Nails, Bowie would perform the song on a tour of smaller theaters and arenas. There's no Ziggy Stardust here, no Brechtian performance artist and no Glass Spider stage pyrotechnics; there's just a 55-year old soul singer confident in his legend and comfortable in his skin. I love the stripped-down, funkier arrangement here, the way he walks out (tie undone) like a post-modern Sinatra, and uses a Lou Reed-like growl to slowly build the song into something overwhelming and transcendent:

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Trailer Time: Greed Could Be Good



Self-Styled Siren recently asked her readers about cool and uncool movies and stars-- who or what do we love, even at the risk of public shame? A related question is, what counts as a good movie-- or a bad one? It's a question I like to explore with my Cinema 101/110 students every semester by contrasting two films that are generally put into either category: Citizen Kane and Beyond The Valley of The Dolls, for instance, or Rules of the Game and Plan 9 From Outer Space. Responses to these films might be shaped by perceived technical competence or lack thereof, box office popularity or cult status, critical acclaim or disdain, canonization or disavowal-- all those elements that shape questions of taste. But the question remains-- when we think of movies we love or hate, is there something inherently "good" or "bad" about them for us, that no amount of attempted rescuing or dismissal can ever quite eliminate?

All of this brings me to Wall Street, a film whose critical reputation seems to yo-yo depending on which moment in time one discovers it. Following on the heels of director Oliver Stone's Platoon, Wall Street did pretty well at the box office, won an Oscar for Michael Douglas, and got decent reviews. But my memory is that it was seen as a bit of a letdown for Stone after the cultural impact of Platoon-- critics also noted the simplistic Oedipal conflicts, the melodramatic tone, and the woodenness of Daryl Hannah. "Greed is good" entered into the lexicon (even if it did so stripped of the irony found in the scene where it's spoken), but the film's hyper-timely plot (it came out the winter after the stock market crash of 1987) and unapologetically broad tonal strokes meant that it got a bit lost in the rush of Stone's other Vietnam films (Born on the Fourth of July, Heaven and Earth, arguably JFK), his psychedelically violent fantasias (The Doors, Natural Born Killers), and his historical epics (Nixon, Alexander). It's become a cable staple, and a reference point for real-world discussions of economic irresponsibility, but as Stone's own profile has dimmed over the last decade, it didn't seem like it was talked about as much as a movie anymore.

Which is a shame, because I think it might be his most interesting film--it's the only one of his that gives me any pleasure. I love it, in fact, for all the reasons noted above as markers of critical disdain: its shamelessly operatic structure, its cartoonishly blunt look at father-son relationships (which is present in Platoon, too, and far more obnoxious there), its garish fetishizing of cars and homes and over-sized cell phones. Even Daryl Hannah's pointlessly arch line readings (I'll forever be haunted by the way she reads "I'd say Gordon is one of the most astute collectors out there" like a community theater Cruella DeVille) work, because they're framed by a world where everything is over-the-top, and everyone is straining to craft a larger-than-life public image. "Greed is good" is not only Gordon's motto-- it's the film's, whose beautiful people, energetic mobile framing and neon mise-en-scene mock and invert the easy moralisms of its screenplay (cinematographer Robert Richardson is Stone's Bud Fox, getting the sheen the director needs to make his larger points). "I never judged a man by the size of his wallet!," a very good Martin Sheen screams to his son Charlie, and we nod at his sage proletarian posturing; but you can almost imagine Oliver Stone giggling behind his viewfinder, thinking of another way for his camera to lust after Gordon Gekko's striped shirts and Cuban cigars.

Wall Street is the one time Stone gives in to his considerable talent for melodrama; he certainly doesn't put his desire for a political cinema aside (check out that title, after all), but it's forced to filter through rich blues and oranges and yellows that soak through his lens like red wine falling on Gordon's shag white carpet (see? It's so powerful it even makes you write like Edward Bulwer-Lytton-- and that's not an entirely bad thing). And best of all, he seems to have a sense of humor about it, and not the bleak, tries-so-hard-to-be-funny-that-it-begs-the-question humor of Natural Born Killers. Yes, there are the Big Serious Speeches and the showdown at the end in the rainy park (and Charlie Sheen's furrowed brow and constant grimacing are enough to make you forget that he would soon be hilarious in Major League, which was just two years away). But Stone must have caught a bug of gleeful enthusiasm from Michael Douglas, because every time Gordon Gekko is on the screen, the movie threatens to become high comedy (and you really wish it would). Douglas tears into the part with relish, nailing every line (it was a well-deserved Oscar), and his energy is what makes a lot of the film. But I also like the strange campiness of Sheen and Hannah simultaneously making pasta and closing business deals while opera plays in the background; or John C. McGinley's sly creepiness bouncing off of Hal Holbrook's dignified calm; or the line-readings of Terrence Stamp, whose deadpan masks an impishness that occasionally squeezes out; or the sheer perversity of casting James Spader as a lawyer struggling with his ethics. There's something big and lush and marvelously decadent about Wall Street, and I wish Stone had followed that impulse and tried to become Douglas Sirk, instead of working so hard to become a social commentator.

Twenty-three years later, Stone has finally offered a sequel, perhaps realizing that the recent financial meltdown offered him both creative opportunity and possible commercial salvation. The teaser trailer for Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps is at the top of the post. I'm not sure it works, although I love the metallic gray of the 20th-Century Fox logo, and the lovely grace note of the 1987 big cell phone (a good sign that the funny might still be hiding in Stone somewhere). Douglas looks old and haggard in the early shots, sleek and game in the later, even if I miss the Pat Riley grease of his 1987 hair. Shia LaBouef is both smart box office and an upgrade over Charlie Sheen (with his hunched shoulders, darting eyes and pliable face, it's somehow easier for me to imagine him as an ethically challenged corporate raider-- his body screams "hungry"). And the quick cuts to various signifiers of wealth (planes and penthouses and shiny skyscrapers) is certainly alluring.

It may be a case of too little, too late, and there is a depressingly nostalgic, "late in the Rocky series" vibe about some of the moments it shows: it could either be brilliant or embarrassing. But Stone has never been afraid to walk that line between "good" and "bad" movie-- it's that tension of styles and tones that made the original Wall Street work, and it's why Gordon Gekko is Stone's most compelling creation: because he disavows nothing. After more than a decade of mixed success, Stone must feel a bit like Gordon Gekko-- out for one more score that will bring him back. Which I guess makes me a wary Bud Fox-- I know it might be bad for me, but I can't help but be curious about his latest raid.

Friday, February 5, 2010

What Is Cool?


That's the question Self-Styled Siren is posing in a roundabout way, by querying her readers about what movies or film icons they consider uncool-- but love, anyway. It's a great topic, explored with the Siren's usual grace and wit, and it leads to one of the best comments threads I've read in a long time, one that will have you filling your Netflix queue with every new post.

What's undoubtedly cool is Dennis Cozzalio's annual Best of 2009 Movie Overview. I'd still like to do one of my own, one of these days, and I'm heartened by Dennis' very true observation: "If the Oscars can wait until February to announce their honorees, then why can’t I?" Yes. And it was worth the wait, as it always is-- Dennis' wide-ranging, staggeringly detailed, beautifully written summary of the best and worst of the year just passed is required reading. On what other post would Seth Rogen, Brad Pitt, Mike Tyson (who makes the best and worst lists) and the Food, Inc. guys all jostle for space?

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Sheep Trick

In a WORLD.... where senatorial candidates face each other in primaries...only Carly Fiorina has the courage to go into Michael Bay territory with her attack ads.



I especially like the sheep falling off the pedestal at the beginning. It's like the perfect mixture of action epic and local used car lot ad.

(h/t Andrew Sullivan).

Getting Kreativ

A few weeks ago, both the illustrious Dennis Cozzalio and the engaging Greg Ferrara were kind enough to nominate me for something called the "Kreativ Blogger" award, designed to recognize voices that you think offer something creative (and creatively spelled!) in the blogosphere. It was very nice of both men to recognize me (Dennis even said some wonderfully embarrassing things about my blogging that false modesty prevents me from mentioning here), and I promptly rewarded their kindness by not blogging for a month and failing to pass the award along to seven more bloggers (per the instructions). That's just how a Kreativ Blogger rolls, yo.

Actually, it was because I was taking some time off from blogging in January, and because I wasn't sure how to fulfill one of the central requirements of the award: saying something interesting about myself. But I'm getting ahead of the game a bit, so perhaps I should explain.

Here are the KB Award rules:

1. Thank the person who nominated you for this award.

Thank you, Dennis and Greg! You are both men of obvious good taste. More seriously, you are both good blog pals, and I'm very grateful for your company.

2. Copy the logo and place it on your blog.

See above.

3. Link to the person who nominated you for this award.

See the links above, and please spend time perusing their excellent blogs! I know you won't regret it.

4.Name 7 Things about yourself that people might find interesting.

Ah, so here's the crux of the problem. So, let's come back to this after I've mentioned the remaining rules.

5. Nominate 7 Kreative Bloggers.

Well, I'm always coming to these parties late, so chances are all of these folks have been chosen by other bloggers already. But I will name:

-- Brendan Riley, captain of the Digital Sextant;
-- Blogger, bon vivant and TCM guest programmer Self-Styled Siren;
-- That Little Round-Headed Boy, even if he does seem to be taking an extended hiatus from the pitching mound at the moment;
-- Kimberly Lindbergs at the swingin' nightclub known as Cinebeats;
-- Academic and cinephiliac omnivore Paul Johnson, at Expressive Esoterica;
--Edward Copeland, whose return to blogging is the best New Year's gift a lover of smart film criticism could ask for;
--Ed Howard, whose blog Only The Cinema is a model of breadth and depth, and radiates with a passionately poetic love of movies.

6. Post Links to the 7 blogs you nominate.

Done and done (and done five times more).

7. Leave a comment on each on the blogs letting them know they have been nominated.

Will do.

So, the question remains-- how, in the words of Toby Keith, do I "talk about MEEEEE"? In a sense, this blog is always a memoir, even if in a slightly displaced way (it's like when someone asked Pauline Kael when she was going to write an autobiography, and she replied, "I think I already have"-- it's all in the way you look at other things). While I've sometimes talked more directly about teaching, or travel, or family, for the most part I feel more comfortable addressing objects of pop culture and letting the personal seep through, slink around, reflect off of the movies, comics, political figures, or pop songs under discussion. Actually saying, "this is me" is a bit disconcerting (and also a little alluring-- I suspect there is an exhibitionist quality inside every blogger I suspect).

But is it interesting (or, to bring it back the award, kreative)? Well, you be the judge*:

1) I was once hit by a car in college. There, violence is a grabber, right? It was late on a weekday night. I was coming back from studying at the student union, and going to get coffee at a nearby living-learning center that had a javahouse in its basement. I started to cross the campus street, a wide thoroughfare that, in my mind's eye, I now see in a chiaroscuro of pitch-black shadow and blue wash. There was a long line of cars slowly moving up the road towards the performing arts center, and given the darkness and the long row of vehicles, I misjudged how fast they'd move. WHAM! Everything moved in slow motion, the heat from the front of the engine pushed against my leg, and I was knocked to the ground. I was fine-- more shaken up than anything, given that the car was moving, at most, about a mile-per-hour. The driver was very nice, getting out of the car to check on me (I'm sure he thought I was crazy as my embarrassment caused me to quickly mumble, "I'm fine, I'm fine," and scurry away). For months after, the screech of car brakes, even a mile or two away, sent shivers up my spine. But the most lasting consequence was musical: that long line of cars was heading towards an Indigo Girls concert, which forever burned an aversion to didactic folkie music into my brain.

2) I had the good fortune to interview blues singer Koko Taylor in college for the Indiana Daily Student (which I think has now shortened its official name to the IDS). I remember my friend J.J., who played in a blues band, was jealous: "You're interviewing Koko Taylor?!?" It was really just timing: she was coming to Bloomington that summer, and the reduced staff during the office in those hot months meant I got the gig. She and I talked about her career in Chicago, "Hound Dog," and her love of Elvis Presley's voice. I only wish I'd known more about her then, so I could've asked better questions (but I thank her for being such a good sport as I "ummed" my way through our phone call). I felt really sad last year when I heard of her death: I only talked to her for maybe fifteen minutes over the phone, but her kindness and wry sense of humor really came through, and I still think of that summer when I see her CDs in record shops.

3) I played "King Rat" in our fifth-grade musical production of The Pied Piper, and could still sing you some of my lyrics, if you asked nicely. "Today I rule these rats!/Tomorrow, I'll rule this town!/For I am the king of the rats!" And yet, Sondheim never called...

4) Last bit of celebrity name-dropping: I got a special thrill when Jonathan Demme gave me the thumbs-up last fall. Demme came to Oberlin last semester, to do a joint lecture with his friend (and Oberlin alum) James McBride (the novelist and screenwriter who worked on Spike Lee's The Miracle at St. Anna). Two of his children go to school here, and he was kind enough to do a table reading with Oberlin cinema and theater students of his current screenplay-in-progress, as well as participate in an "Inside the Actor's Studio"-style talk/Q&A with McBride. And let me tell you-- he could not have been nicer. Seriously, every Oscar-winning movie legend should be as warm, funny and down-to-earth as Demme was that weekend. He had great anecdotes about working on his movies, he talked about the politics of cinema in a generous, un-self-righteous way, and he displayed a cinephile's true geeky passion when they showed a clip from John Carpenter's The Thing (McBride and Demme decided they wanted to bring clips of films that inspired them-- I think The Thing was one of McBride's choices): the look of pure joy on Demme's face, and the whoop he gave out when the clip was done ("that was cool!," he exclaimed after Kurt Russell took a blow-torch to the monster) was, as Chris Farley might have said on SNL, really awesome. What I mostly remember was how he took every opportunity to turn the spotlight away from him and on to others: McBride, the students, the folks in the audience. He showed such a generosity and curiosity about everyone around him that it was easy to see how his own work-- which I've loved for years-- was an extension of his personality.

So, the Q&A is breaking up and Demme's saying hello to folks who approach him. In my official Oberlin capacity as a teacher, I don't want to completely geek out, but c'mon-- how many times am I going to meet Jonathan Demme? So, I tentatively approach him, put out my hand (which he shakes), and thank him for coming, and for the great table read the previous afternoon. He smiles and nods, and then I say, "I don't mean to completely geek out, but I wanted to tell you-- my girlfriend and I drove across a lot of the country this past summer, and a lot of that ride was spent listening to the Rachel Getting Married soundtrack." His eyes light up and he smiles and gives me the thumbs-up. "Alright!," he says. Yep, totally worth geeking out.

5) In high school, I sang in a vocal jazz group. I do a mean scat, daddio.


Yep-- exactly like that.

6) Babies sometimes intersect with movies. I was born on a military base in New Jersey, as my dad finished up his stint in the army. One day, late in my mom's pregnancy, some friends asked her if she wanted to go with them into Manhattan. She demurred, saying she felt tired and didn't know if she really wanted to make the trip. When she next saw those friends, they excitedly told her that they'd "seen a movie filming outside the Plaza Hotel. And Robert Redford was there, and Barbra Streisand!..."



Of course, it was the filming of the final scene of The Way We Were, one of my mom's favorite movies, and a scene she knows by heart. I think of that story whenever I teach the film.

7. My favorite comic book character is Spider-Man. I can't imagine a single reason why I'd identify with a nerdy guy who makes corny jokes while battling bad guys. It's a mystery, really...


*Some of this also appeared on a Facebook note/quiz I was tagged in last year. I know it's supposed to all be brand-new, but I only have so many anecdotes about myself, alas. Hope this doesn't violate the spirit of the award.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Image Is Everything

Portrait of the ad man in 2010...



...Portrait of the ad man in 1988.

The second season of thirtysomething arrived in the mail the other day. I was too young to appreciate the show when it debuted in 1987 (I was fourteen, and found it self-indulgent and whiny, even as I devoured other totems of boomer culture, like Beatles reissues and Rolling Stone), but now that I'm the same age as the Steadmans, I find its depictions of the suburban quotidian and the compromises of youth-on-the-verge-of-middle-age fascinating. Sometimes, you have to be in just the right moment for something to hit you, a lesson that all of the series' confused characters learn again and again on their varied, stumbling paths towards a kind of grace.

It helps that creators Marshall Herskovitz and Edward Zwick brought a keenly cinematic sensibility to the program that allowed them to play with the square space of the '80s television in off-beat ways; along with Michael Mann's Crime Story, Garry Shandling's It's Gary Shandling's Show and Glenn Gordon Caron's Moonlighting, thirtysomething was one of a handful of prime-time television programs in the 1980s determined to make an aesthetic virtue out of self-consciousness (Pee-Wee Herman and David Letterman were working the same groove on the daytime and late night ends). Zwick and Herskovitz's film pastiches, dream sequences, interweaving of musical numbers and constant intertextuality can feel a bit heavy-handed two decades later (and no doubt did at the time), and not all of it works; but it's never boring, often witty, and more often than not an effective way to connect us with the characters' tangled emotions. Even better were their subtle plays with space: the mise-en-scene of the Steadman house, with all its family responsibilites, often feels cramped compared to the brightly-lit glass enclosures of the "boys will be boys" advertising office, a sensation enhanced by the framing of the former in tight medium- and close-up shots, and the framing of the latter in spacious long shot. thirtysomething was often mocked for its earnest self-examination, but the layered visuals and experimental sequences twist the straightforward dialogue and naturalistic (and uniformly excellent) performances into something more ironic and ambiguous: the characters might be painfully self-involved, but the show is watching them with a distant-yet-sympathetic eye.

I thoroughly enjoyed thirtysomething's first season when it finally hit DVD last fall, after being in television limbo for far too long (honestly, if multiple seasons of Too Close For Comfort could be released on DVD, this seminal program should not have had to wait almost twenty years after its cancellation to see the light of day). Season two's premiere doesn't quite feel up to par with the episodes in the earlier box-- it writes the characters in a shorthand that feels barely sketched in, and relies too much on a sweet-but-slight flashback to the house's 1940s tenants for its strained emotional payoff (the second season debuted after a contentious writers' strike in 1988, and this first episode feels rushed to meet the marketplace). But I have faith it will get better as it goes, especially since I know the wonderfully Mephistophelean advertising executive Miles Drentell is right around the corner. Drentell is Michael Steadman's id, what he both fears and longs to be at different moments, and it's not hard to see how Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner would blend Drentell and Steadman into Don Draper all those years later, creating the fierce alpha male with the wounded soul.

In the meantime, I'll enjoy the tiny details of the show-- the plays of light and shadow, the grace notes of an actor's glace or gesture, and the wonderfully cluttered bric-a-brac of the office desks and bedside tables. Those are the little things that we too often rush by on our way to 'meaning,' but that thirtysomething reminds us are the keys to unlocking the strange, wonderful mysteries of the everyday.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Last Night A Mash-Up Saved My Life



DJ Earworm's mash-up of the "Top 25 Pop Songs of 2009," a reminder of how a smart DJ invites us to forego divisions and become musical omnivores.

(h/t to my friend Kevin, who posted the link on his Facebook page. Thanks, Kevin!).

Quick Notes



After a glorious six weeks down south, I'm back in Snowberlin, where the frost is on the ground and the white flakes are flying through the air; it seems like a good moment to cocoon, put on the Feelies and give some attention to my long-neglected blog. School starts up again next week, so I don't know how frequently I'll post, but I'd like to take a moment to call your attention to other folks in the blogosphere, who are both more industrious than I, and offering a lot of great reads:

--Everyone's favorite stuffed bull is back with his annual "Fun Fifty" overview of the funnest comics from the previous year. As always, be prepared to guard your wallet-- Bully makes everything he mentions sound like a must-have. But even if you're allergic to four-colored fun, Bully's witty voice and generous sensibility make him an essential read.

--Glenn Kenny is mourning his lack of an Oscar nomination today, but he's working through it by offering fascinating insights on the late Eric Rohmer, the pitfalls of press junkets, a keen appreciation of the crucial new Rossellini box set, and a counter-intuitive defense of Ishtar. As my friend John West would say-- go, read.

--Speaking of the sublime Mr. West, he's back to blogging after a winter break/end-of-semester hiatus, and he's tackling everything from the Dollhouse finale to the I-pad to the relationship of the long-form drama to the half-hour sitcom. As always, John writes in a voice that's curious, open, humorous and righteous without being self-righteous. Go, read.

--Yeah, Up got two Oscar nominations today, one for Best Picture and one for Best Animated Feature. Wanna make something of it?? Then go over to Cinema Styles, where Greg Ferrara unleashes his fury on the cult of Pixar and starts an interesting dialogue in the comments section. The fact that Greg is wrong (so, so wrong) about Up and Ratatouille doesn't change the smart, funny and usefully provocative nature of his argument. And stick around his site and check out great posts on Inglorious Basterds v. The Hurt Locker, 1941, and the brilliance of Bunny Lake Is Missing's opening credits (he is so, so right about those).

--Bill R. has been on a tear this week, offering wonderful screen-grabs of two very different Andersons, a nice remembrance of J.D. Salinger, a strange anecdote about work, and a fascinating look at one of my favorite films, A Face In The Crowd. And all this from a guy who's always apologizing that he doesn't blog enough.