Monthly Archives: September 2011

Link Dump: #46

This week’s kitty is from the ’80s horror classic Night of the Creeps, which gave us Tom Atkins as a zombie-killing cop with an unforgettable catchphrase (“Thrill me”). If you’ve seen the movie—or, really, any horror movie—you know that misfortune awaits this kitty. So let’s just appreciate its brief, non-undead appearance here. And then appreciate some links:

We had one outstandingly weird search term this week: “Чарли Кауфман пьессы,” Russian for “Charlie Kaufman pessy.” Yeahhh. I don’t know what to make of that. But it’s weird.

2 Comments

Filed under art, Literature, Media, Politics

One Against All

By Andreas

Two very different movies, a western and a film noir, blossomed from the paranoia of the early 1950s with identical scenarios. In each film, a lone lawman sees an Absolute Evil that he’s morally compelled to fight. (In one, that Evil is paroled gunfighter Frank Miller; in the other, it’s mob boss Mike Lagana.) In each, that lawman’s world is permeated by cowardice and corruption, and his would-be allies refuse to help fight the Evil. And in each, he takes a stand, risking his life for the town that deserted him.

These similarities between High Noon (1952) and The Big Heat (1953) are anything but coincidental. Rather, they’re open-ended, metaphorical reactions to America’s Cold War crisis of conscience. Bombarded with threats from without and within—China! The Rosenbergs! The Soviets! The Blacklist!—the nation spent the early ’50s twisting itself into knots. Naturally, Hollywood followed suit, albeit in a genre-colored fashion that sufficiently distanced its stories from present-day political realities.

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Cinema, Politics

Extremely Loud and Incredibly FAQ

By Andreas

So. You’ve just watched the trailer for Stephen Daldry’s film adaptation of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. You’re confused, and perhaps a little curious. “Why does that title have so many adverbs?” you wonder aloud. “And can my body really withstand that much exposure to U2?” I understand. I was once like you. In order to assuage your confusion, I’ve assembled this little set of Frequent Asked Questions…

Q: Are you fucking kidding me?

A: No. It’s for real.

Q: After 2 1/2 minutes of über-precocious voiceover, I really hate that kid. Is this normal?

A: Oh my yes.

Q: Why does Tom Hanks laugh so hard when his son brings him a rock? It’s just… a rock.

A: I don’t know, but the answer probably has to do with 9/11.

Q: How many shots does the trailer contain where Sandra Bullock cries while reminiscing about her husband, embracing her son, or sitting down?

A: So many. But seriously, it was like 6.

Q: Why would finding what the key fits be a miracle?

A: Because, silly: New York! Imagination! Adventure!

Q: I see that the kid meets an irascible Max von Sydow. Will he teach Max von Sydow to stop being so irascible and appreciate life again?

A: Almost certainly YES.

Q: The kid then encounters John Goodman, who also looks pretty irascible. Will the same life appreciation lessons apply here?

A: See previous answer.

Q: At 1:44, why is the kid surrounded and touched by “ethnic” people?

A: I don’t know, but I’d guess it involves the words “precocious,” “messianic,” and “9/11.”

Q: Do the streets really have no names? Or are their names just very well-hidden?

A: Only Bono knows for sure.

Q: Was this trailer inspired by the “Forts & the Inbetween” video?

A: Probably.

There you go! The trailer has been demystified. I’ll have another FAQ ready in January, when EL&IC sweeps up every possible Oscar nomination, including one for Best Animated Short Film.

2 Comments

Filed under Cinema

Things That Confuse and Anger Me About The Harry Potter Series: Half-Blood Prince Part 1

So, we are slowly but surely reaching the end point of this project of mine. Rereading this book was a much more pleasant experience than rereading Order of the Phoenix, obvs, but I still had quite a few problems with it! So without further rambling, here’s the first part of my critique of HBP.

1. I am four chapters in and I have found nothing to say yet. This is pretty astounding. Especially considering that in Order of the Phoenix it took me about 3 pages to start bitching. What an improvement. (Oh, my God, I’m into the sixth book and I’m still talking about book five. I think this reread has made me hate that book. Okay, maybe not hate—I don’t hate any of them—but it’s made me realize that it’s my least favorite and probably the worst in the series.)

2. This is something that is a bit of a joke between Andreas and I: the way J.K. R. just cannot stop herself from describing how fat Slughorn is every single time he’s on the page. Like…seriously, there is always like five different mentions of his huge stomach or fat hands or how he resembles a walrus or…something! We get it! He’s fat! We got it the first fifty times you mentioned it. She might as well write “Slughorn fatly moved his fatness across the room and he was fat while he did it. FAT.” This kind of connects to something else that I have an issue with: almost every single fat or larger-than-average character is mean or unpleasant. Dudley, Vernon, Aunt Marge, Millicent Bullstrode, Crabbe and Goyle, Peter Pettigrew, Myrtle. Even Neville doesn’t get “cool” and more confident until he’s older—and thinner. I’m surprised she didn’t go all the way with the “fat=bad” shit and make Voldemort a 400 pound snake-man who swoops in on a flying bed covered in ice cream and Cauldron Cakes.

Hit the jump to see who gets unfairly hit by the “implausible love” train, Harry being a dick (shocking, I know), Ron’s ugly jealousy and more…

Continue reading

3 Comments

Filed under Literature

Things That Confuse and Anger Me About The Harry Potter Series: Order of the Phoenix Part 3

So, here it is, finally. The end of my massive criticism of OotP! Enjoy!

1. “Young people are so infernally convinced that they are absolutely right about everything. Has it not occurred to you, my poor puffed-up popinjay, that there might be an excellent reason why the headmaster of Hogwarts is not confiding every tiny detail of his plans to you? Have you never paused, while feeling hard-done-by, to note that following Dumbledore’s orders has never yet led you into harm? No. No, like all young people, you are quite sure that you alone feel and think, you alone recognize danger, you alone are the only one clever enough to realize what the Dark Lord may be planning…” BOOM. Phineas Nigellus, much like Severus Snape, is spot on about this kid. Why does J.K. Rowling make these absolute truths come out of the mouths of characters we’re supposed to dislike? What the fuck? And because Harry is exactly like what Phineas said, his immediate response is “He is planning something to do with me, then?” Like…wow, did you not just hear that entire paragraph worth of character analysis? Jesus Christ. Also, I’m gonna call people “poor puffed-up popinjays” from now on because that’s a sick burn.

2. Snape and Sirius are both such assholes who need to get over their old bullshit, like yesterday. But I expect Snape to be a doucher; there’s never been any evidence to suggest otherwise in any of the other books. Sirius’s behavior is just so much more annoying, mostly because he wasn’t like this in the previous book, but also because he is, once again, affirming Harry’s own distrustful attitude against Snape and Dumbledore. And anyone who’s read the fifth book knows where that attitude leads them.

Hit the jump to finally conclude this epic bitchfest…!

Continue reading

5 Comments

Filed under Literature

Things That Confuse and Anger Me About the Harry Potter Series: Order of the Phoenix Part 2

By Ashley

OOTP PART DEUX! ACTION:

1. Fond as I am of the Sorting Hat, I have a bit of a hang up with its new song. It just makes all the founders except for Hufflepuff sound not so nice. They’re all into teaching certain students, but Hufflepuff is just standing there like, Uhm, okay, I’ll just take the magical children you douches don’t want. Hufflepuff is the only house that seems to be interested in equality among students, and yet J.K. Rowling never does anything interesting with it. All the cool characters from that house (all two of them) end up dead and we never see Hufflepuff house at all. J.K. Rowling really undermines her tolerance message with the lack of development for Hufflepuff (and to a lesser extent Ravenclaw).

2. Why are Harry and Ron still taking Divination? They hate it and I’m pretty sure it’s not necessary. Like you have your sort of general education classes, which I would assume are potions, transfiguration, history of magic and charms. And then other shit that you take that suits the career you want. Divination is not required to become an Auror. WHY ARE THEY STILL TAKING THIS CLASS?

3. “Cedric had been Cho’s boyfriend and the memory of his death must have affected her holiday almost as badly as it had affected Harry’s…”

Almost. 

How self-centered is this little shit? Like, okay, yeah, you saw Cedric die and you’re traumatized from your fight with Voldy, I get that. But you weren’t close friends with Cedric; he was a guy you sort of knew and often times didn’t like very much because you had a boner for his girlfriend. Cho was in a fucking relationship with him. She probably spent the entire summer in a deep depression, you insensitive fuck.

Hit the jump for Sirius being even more of a dick, racially charged insults, even more angsty Harry, and more…

Continue reading

3 Comments

Filed under Literature

Lost in Termination

In the inaugural piece for her new GQ series “The New Canon,” Natasha Vargas-Cooper writes the following:

Whether reverence for movies from a bygone era is rooted in merit, nostalgia, or neurosis about film being an inferior medium to literature, movies keep pace with social mores of a time and deserve to be free of the tastes and prejudices of people who grew up without Quentin Tarantino.

Am I crazy, or is Vargas-Cooper completely full of incoherent shit? I really want to know! Every time I reread the intro section of her article, I question my sanity a little more. Is it an elaborate prank? Is she trolling her readers? Or does she really believe that “any movie made before, say, 1986 has received its due respect”? Is she just trying to flatter the ignorance of her audience? Or is she trying to look edgy and populist in a way that, as Glenn Kenny rightly points out, is about half a century behind the times?

Mind you, I’m just addressing the article’s first five paragraphs and their philistine manifesto. The rest of the piece, discussing Terminator 2, is pleasantly written and generally inoffensive, hardly appropriate for the first skirmish in a culture war. Where are the bold claims and aesthetic gambits suggested by her introductory bravado? She really just echoes what everybody’s been saying about T2 since it was released two decades ago. Could it be that she’s all bark, no bite? Or that she has no idea what the hell she’s talking about?

Take a sentiment like this: “[I]t’s an obligation that every generation must take upon itself in order for art to thrive: tear down what’s come before and hail our own accomplishments as good enough. Otherwise we exist in a sort of dead time, retreating back to the nostalgic and sacrosanct.” Why, it’s like she took a handful of somewhat iconoclastic ideas, then mashed them together without worrying about whether or not they made any kind of sense!

Because yes: it is good to question received wisdom. (Duh.) But no, it’s not good to “hail our own accomplishments as good enough”—i.e., settle for mediocrity. This seems obvious. Is this obvious? I mean, why would any person with a modicum of critical thinking skills ever want to trash everything that came before the past 25 years, let alone use that desire as a battle cry in a GQ article? (And on what planet does being open-minded cause us to exist in a “dead time”?)

I could go on and on about Vargas-Cooper’s ridiculous bullshit—her reference to nonexistent “purists” who refuse to discuss Paul Thomas Anderson; her framing of the series as a wacky but noble experiment; her apparently belief that militant anti-intellectualism and blatant ageism are radical ideas—but I’d be wasting my breath. The point is that we have enough blind spots as it is; we don’t need to validate them! And for Natasha Vargas-Cooper, the lesson is that you can slaughter sacred cows without slaughtering your own credibility.

2 Comments

Filed under Cinema