Friday, September 21, 2012

Cosmopolitan Magazine

I could never quite verbalise why I hate Cosmopolitan magazine so much.  Years ago I thought it was the garish way the publication was edited together.  The colours, the layout, maybe?  Maybe, or maybe my brain was trying to warn me about something.  Not that I ever bought this magazine anyway, it just happens to be what my housemate always bought.  

Then I realised, it is the backhanded way they treat women.  They send out deplorable mixed signals concerning woman's self esteem, which they then compound with a bunch of shit letting us know what men really want?

Anyway, watching this very articulate lady rant about Cosmo made me want to share her good word.   She saying it best, so I shouldn't really say anything at all. 

Here's her video; feast your eyes, ears, and brain. 

Finally Watched the Remaining Four Episodes of Veep....

.... and they were amazing.

Watch it.

Shopping the Film Stash #7 - Super High Me

Finally got around to watching Super High Me recently.  The concept for the film derived from a joke delivered on stage by comedian Doug Benson, filmmaker Michael Blieden's interests were piqued and thus the toke-reef-ic (I apologise, now that it is out of my system, it will not happen again, I swear) documentary was born.

Doug quipped that "...if there's a movie called Super-Size Me, why couldn't there be one called Super High Me, where I smoke pot every day?".

We follow Doug as he continues his stand-up comedy alongside two 30-day experimental cycles.  The first sees him go teetotal in preparation for phase two, where he smokes and or ingests cannabis all throughout the day, maintaining a state of inebriation for the entire thirty days.

It ain't all fun and games and sitting around listening to his breathing and marveling at the ways of the universe though, Benson is a self-professed seasoned smoker, and functions well in maintaining a productivity level befit to someone involved in making a film.

Thus we journey with Benson to some of the Los Angeles drug-dispensaries.  The proprietors detail the products they sell outside of the regular green.  They are in fact tending to medical needs, some of whom are suffering because of smoking-related troubles.  The idea of the lip-balm blew my mind.  Check it out.

What the film lacks in resolution it makes up for with its protagonist, if you can call Benson such, it being a documentary I am unsure.... our hero?  Benson guides us through the wayward path nicely, neither becoming preachy or defensive for the 420 past time.

Containing cameos from a slew of brilliant American comics, if all the wordy-ness and mind-boggling facts gets too much for the indulgers out there, you can enjoy the various snippets of comedy gigs where Benson and co preform.  The movie also features the legendary UCB comedy theater in LA, as well as footage from some of Benson's infamous "The Benson Interruption" shows.  (He literally interrupts another comic's set with querys, comments, and stoner confusion.)

The concept is hilarious, the outcome is curious, and the journey is equally hilarious and curious.

Shopping the Film Stash #6 - American Graffiti

Nostalgia is a glorious thing, for it allows you to rose tint the past and blur the memories of the not-so-fond times. Sometimes, however, nostalgia is utilised to expose flaws of both the past and the present.  This is my personal assessment of nostalgia concluded from the research I conducted during the course of my thesis.  My subject was Mad Men and American identity, so nostalgia was one of the first port of calls in theoretical aspects.  My journey through academia brought me to Frederic Jameson's essay, Postmodernism, or The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism, analysing the state of pastiche in film.

His main argument centered on the unoriginality and lack of depth that any postmodern text remotely nostalgic or indicative of pastiche.  He lambasts postmodernism and its attachment to commercialism, signifying how it favours commodity, indulges nostalgia, and ultimately negates critical value.

American  Graffiti is mentioned in his hit list of films that is guilty of submitting to pastiche and la mode retro (nostalgia mode).  On the offset, it contains all the symptoms of what Jameson's describing; we've got a period piece, 1962, perfect for the selective retrospective eyes; a coming of age tale; one night in the lives of Californian youth before summer ends and another school year begins; a ensemble cast, every niche and stereotype is ripe for the taking.  Jameson argues that this this template enables an ideology to be created.

Claiming the nostalgia mode to be a colonization of the past is redundant to the artifice of the film.  It's utilization of the historical past is hardly the kind that pillages an era of its own authenticity.  Yes, American Graffiti sets out to capture the mood of a certain era, that burgeoning transition between 50s American commercialism and the 60s revolution to be precise (ha, could that BE any more vague?), but it does not get lost in preoccupying itself with the recreation of the diners, the automobiles, the fashion, the haircuts, the lingo.

Perhaps it is because it was made merely a decade after it was set, but George Lucas's film feels raw and natural.  The cinematography isn't over stylised, so much so that it feels documentary unlike the romanticism that Jameson suggests.

The premise lends itself to pastiche, with the action taking place on one of the last nights of the summer, two soon-to-be college students, Richard Dreyfuss and Ron Howard as Curt and Steve, decide to have one last night out in their one horse town.  It is a transitory time in their lives, much like 1962 was a transitory time for America.

Along with a couple of more friends and memorable characters, (along with a particularly memorable cameo from a post-carpentry, pre-Star Wars, Harrison Ford), an unforgettable night ensues.  The original, modern-day coming of age high-schooler movie?

Sure the backdrops are familiar; the girls and boys toilets, the chats in front of the mirror; the drive-in movie; the local hang-out is a diner where the waitresses are on roller skates; the arcade; and there is even an open road notorious for drag racing, where a climatic scene takes place. 

Template settings aside, the teenagers feel like teenagers, a rarity in a film with teenagers.  There isn't a bulging jock, twerpy nerd, nor asinine cheerleader for miles around.  These are normal youth in flux, without the inexplicably wordy, introspective gobshites around to kill the moment.  Interestingly, Lucas is said to have vetoed the first version of the script because he felt like, "It was overtly sexual and very fantasy-like, with playing chicken and things that kids didn't really do, I wanted something that was more like the way I grew up."  

American Graffiti is more like a snap shot, a long lost postcard rather than a pastiche that threatens to obliterate our true relationship with the past.  This is not an attempt to be a sermon on our history, or even a rewrite of history, this is simply a moment in time, with ordinary people.  Bar an end-credit revelation of what became of the characters, there is no omnipresent wink, no case of dramatic irony setting the tone of film.  It is an homage to an era, and a dedication to lost youth and rebellion, taping into the spirit of early rock and roll culture of America.  

You are following these teens around on a night where nothing really major happens, because that is you.  Haven't we all wandered around aimlessly with friends, because we have all at the awkward age where staying home with the parents is boring, but there really is no place for you to go and be civilised.  You didn't belong anywhere and neither do these guys.  There is no motive about Kennedy, Vietnam, or the Civil Rights amendments (you know, the juicy stuff film usually sinks its teeth into in the 60s), this is pure unadulterated nothingness and that is what makes it fun and familiar.  However, as mentioned previously, there are some coming of age moments abound, but not in the epic, monumental, uncouth manner of today - it is more like Curt and Steve come to some realisations and then act upon them accordingly. 

Lucas has given youth a voice and depth of character that feels unaffected.  The nostalgia emerges not from the construction of the film, but from where we relate to the people and their happenings.  

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Alice's Tea Cup

Three years ago I spent a summer over in New York, where I was spoiled by my sister, and we had the greatest times exploring.  I had what you might call a New York bucket list.  And I accomplished and saw so much, but there always things that are left behind.  The grandest of intentions sadly do not always come to fruition.  So when I returned to the city this summer, things were seen.  Because bitches get stuff done

One of the excursions left at the wayside previously was a trip to Alice's Tea Cup.  As an Alice in Wonderland obsessive (though I shamefully still haven't actually read the CS Lewis classic) I had been dying to make it here for quite a while.

This time, within 48 hours of my arrival, we were seated in Alice's Tea Cup, Chapter II, but first...

We went to an 11 am showing of Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom, which was glorious.  Something I hate about living two hours away from a decent cinema is that I usually invariably miss all the great, limited release films.  I am sure some will think, "You were in New York city, where there is sunshine-a-plenty and you chose to go to a cinema at 11 o'clock in the morning?"  And to those haters, I say HELL YES.  Moonrise Kingdom was even more spectacular and uplifting than even expected.  

After that we descended on Anthropologie, one of my favourite places to shop and where I actually cannot afford, but let's just say I got some good deals.  With Anthropologie it's more than just going to browse and buy clothes, it's an experience.  While there is literally art exhibited within the store, the way the shop is so meticulously curated, the entire place feels like you have wandered into an interactive art installation.  Unfortunately I have no pictures of the beautiful new Anthrolpologie on 3rd Avenue, because I didn't want to be thrown out.  

After a tough morning of wandering around the decrepit paths of the Upper East Side we decided we finally needed to quench our collective thirst and hunger.  After all, our breakfast that morning was only a measly (read - delicious) buffet of popcorn and chocolate M&Ms.  

Soon we had finally entered the fabled quarters of Alice's Tea Cup.

In all it's glory from the street.  Classy and dingy.  So Upper East Side.

There was a twenty minute wait to get a table, which I guess for a Sunday afternoon in Manhattan is to be expected?  I was honoured to sit on the dog piss-infested stoop beside Alice's Tea Cup.  The anticipation to enter was that blinding. 

I've noticed throughout the years, when I take pictures, only a small percentage of what I seem to take are the stock expected photos.  Fear not, you will find many snaps of the New York skyline in my library.  There is, however, another strange, probably more boring side to the photos I take.  Maybe it's the lifestyle blogger in me waiting to escape, but I love taking pictures of the finer details in places I go.  And Alice's Tea Cup presented a treasure trove of opportunity for me.  
(I restrained myself once our order came.  More on that momentarily.)

The details that catch my eye are usually what give the place I am visiting at that given time the character that is so enthralling, and the brief snaps I take are my attempt to capture that spirit.  The were only a few that were taken in Alice's Tea Cup.  There were a lot of children roaming about in fairy wings who were enjoying their own tea parties (jealousy knows no bounds, oh to be a child and grow up in New York) and I did not want to be that person.  So in the end I just bathed in the atmosphere.


Makes me yearn for an old timey displace case.

I am not normally, in fact at all, a tea drinker,  (I know *GASP*, what kind of Irish person do I think I am?), except it happened to be my un-birthday, and when in Wonderland...

Parousing the menu alone felt otherworldly.  It was a directory of teas from around the globe.  It seemed like traditional tea was there for obligatory reasons, the rest pandered to the brave, the Alice in everyone.  

I stuck to the sweet family, it was a safe option.  Shamefully.  But I wasn't about to spend $6 on a tea that was going to be abandoned.  The caramel chocolate goodness felt natural.  It catered to my senses.  'Cause I am a smooth operator.

After we had made our quaint order, one of the waiters arrived to the table next to ours with what could only be described as a banquet befitting the English countryside, after an afternoon of croquet.  Vintage cake platters laden with sandwiches, scones, and deserts, along with multiple pots of tea, were sprinkled around the table.  We could only look on in envy.  

Tucking into the curious deliciousness of blueberry and orange and bacon and cheese scones obliterated the green eyed monster and we reveled in our mini feast. 

My beautiful sister drinking tea in all her New Yorker fabulousness

Blueberry and orange scone with caramel chocolate tea.  Much NOMS.

Awh yeah.  That's the stuff.

See.  It's the little things that make a place. 

Mitch-matched crockery everywhere.  Eclectic eccentricity heaven.

We had been meaning to return, go for an all out Alice-inspired day, one that would have seen the tea party followed by a trip to the statue in Central Park.  But as I said, grand intentions, and there were other, more emergent things to be seen to.

There is room for a rabbit-esque quote in here, but I feel I have done enough injustice to the worlds of word play, puns, and Alice in Wonderland for one day.

Go.  See.  Explore.  Have some tea.

Monday, June 25, 2012


Americana.  Tis a wonderous style that many a wannabe immigrant tend to emulate.  Artistically and stylistically.  The fourth of July is nearly upon, so whenever the media decides to get over its nauseating Royal family obsession, the next trend they will be cooing over will most likely be that of Americana.  Prepare for magazine spread with Star Spangled banner embellishments and classic American pie recipes.

I was thralling through a little music shop the other day, trying to decide what to do with my last fifteen euro, when what should I see before me but this:

It was in the new releases section.  I was perplexed.  I thought this collaboration had long since ceased recording together.  Checking the date in disbelief, seeing a 2012 stamp, I purchased the album with unbinding excitement and anticipation.

Once out in the car, upon further inspection while pouring over the enclosed booklet, it revealed itself to be a bit of a concept record, the hint lying in the title Americana.  It is a collection of folk songs and ballads, shaken up with an alternative edge by Young and Crazy Horse.

Something about American folk has always been haunting.  It may be the lonesome vagabond quality attached to the voice of the respective singer; most likely however, it is attributable to the underling presence of the Frontier Myth and the colonisation of the Native American people.  Folk embodies conflicting emotions: the pride of the Frontier Myth and the so-called honour attached to that, and subsequent disintegration and obliteration of Native tribes.

Geronimo himself is referenced in the album art, where Neil Young and Crazy Horse's heads have been superimposed onto a press photo of Geronimo in a Locomoblie during a 101 Ranch Show in 1906.  Geronimo's significance as a historical American figure complements the weighted themes of American folk.  Geronimo  was a Bedonkohe Apache leader who rebelled and protested against the infiltration by Mexico and America into Apache tribes.

The song "Clementine" is particularly resonant when recalling the history that the sleeve refers to.  The harmony is eerily reminiscent of a war chant, possessing the same charging momentum as Johnny Cash's "Ghost Riders In The Sky".  It evokes resilience and strength, and a unity that reinforces the usual solitude of lone folk heroes.

Another tune on offer, "Oh Susannah", epitomises what Americana has done with what one assumed were traditional and outdated songs.  You anticipate that Young will simply croon his way through a rendition of Oh Susannah and beg her to cry for him, but instead they have delivered a grungey orchestration, leaving a decidedly melancholic stamp on a otherwise old hat.

This is a case of faith in folk being revitalised with a spirit of transgression, essential to that of any American arts canon.  Neil Young and Crazy Horse lift away the stigma of cringe-inducing "she'll be coming round the mountain when she come"  narratives, to instead present a story of gravitas and integrity.  "Jesus' Chariot", similarly to Clementine, retains the momentum of the chant and serves to reinstate folk as a musical force once again.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

I'm Shakin'

Jack White for Interview Magazine, May 2012

Shopping the Film Stash #4 - Dogville

*Whoops forgot to publish this*

I can't imagine how difficult it was to review Dogville as a film journalist.  I personally could never have reviewed it objectively because of the emotional journey and visceral toll this brought me.  But luckily this is a personal blog so I will not have to worry about that until I am being paid.  Any day now....

Dogville tells the story of a young woman Grace, Nicole Kidman, who, seeking sanctuary from a gangster, stumbles into a tiny, isolated village and thus comes under the mercy of its mysterious inhabitants.

At first, though the village elders are reluctant to take Grace in  and shelter her from her undefined threat, once she has been welcomed into the community, things seem altogether rosy.  Lars von Trier is the master of luring one in to a false sense of security (hark back to the lavish wedding festivities in Meloncholia, the seemingly innocent band of outsiders in The Idiots).

Little by little, deceit and foreboding treacle into proceedings.  As the vulnerable asylum seeker, the residents of Dogville begin to take advantage of Grace both mentally and physically.  They use their apparent kindness in taking her in as collateral to commit abhorrent acts.

Just when Grace, and the audience, think that they can rely on Tom (Paul Bettany) to uphold his knight in shining armour role, he too succumbs to the decaying morality of the Dogville locals.


Aside from the relentless storyline, one of the most striking elements of the film is obviously the set design.  The sparse, stage-like open plan serves to reiterate the bleakness of Grace's position and the invisible walls emphasise the ignorance of Dogville folk.  She is helpless in the isolated and unforgiving terrain of Dogville.

Without spoiling anything, just a note of the closing credits, whereby the use of the David Bowie's "Young Americans" inspires a severe "a-ha" moment.  Von Trier's scathing criticism is as equally grim as this bastardised Gothic fairytale.

Dogville and its people represent the nature of human flaws and the misguidance of greed and selfishness that in the end cripple modern society.  The vocabulary of cruelty and manipulation are all too familiar, and the casualness with which they are wielded in Dogville provoke uncomfortable reassessments, particularly alongside the final, redemptive act of the film.

Shopping the Music Stash #2 - Oh Land

Another album eponymous of the artist, this could very well become a trend in this loge.

Danish songstress Nanna Oland Fabricius, stage name Oh Land, is another of my NYON-inspired musical finds.  She further epitomises hipster cool and fails to buck trends as she has since relocated to Brooklyn since her first album Fauna back in '08.  (As of yet I have still failed to get my hands on her debut).  Oh Land's like-named 2011 album does however serve to sound a million miles away from the Williamsburg oeuvre that clouded the music scene in recent years.

If I were to describe Oh Land's sound generically, then it would be a contemporary fusion of pop and electronica, Bjork's baby perhaps.  But this is my blog, my territory, so from henceforth, I decree that Oh Land is the Queen of celestial pop.

Close your eyes when listening to her sophomore effort, you'll feel like you been transported to a outer space cavern looking down upon earth, doing cartwheels of inexplicable glee, free from the anxiety-ridden gravity of this world.

Now, if anything, Oh Land's style has been cultivated through the school of Arcade Fire and Polyphonic Spree thought.  Multi-instrumental pieces, containing everything but the kitchen sink, but in the hands of the right minds and producers, the finished product is cohesive with beautifully distinct elements, like a patchwork quilt.

All at once introspective and uplifting, Oh Land's lyrics weave a philosophical and endearingly defiant tapestry when combined with the percussion-dominated melodies.

It sounds ghastly redundant, but when listening to Oh Land's music, you sense twinkling.  I feel so twee after stating that.... So to reassert my academic credentials, it is an otherworldly experience, and due to her pseudonym, Oh Land is obviously greatly conscience of her second self and in contradictory possession of her Other.  Jane Eyre, she is not.

She owns, and cultivates the fiction surrounding her.  She tells Interview that she has created what she feels is an epic poem, something that is not hard to agree with when she gives a glimpse of the environment she grew up in.

“We had turtles and rabbits and cats and guinea pigs and birds and chickens,” she continues, describing the fable-like environment of her childhood. “We had sewing machines and instruments and there were always the craziest people coming in and out because my mom was teaching opera or my dad was rehearsing with some musicians or my sister was making clothes.”  Source - Interview Magazine

It's little wonder her music excels in eclecticism and celestial manifestations.

I shall not litter the post with song suggestions, but this, Turn It Up, was one of my anthems from last summer, essential, I believe, to all playlists.  Enjoy.

She's a more refined Lady Gaga, this is music you will not tire of, you are welcome.  

*Disclaimer -  I admire Lady Gaga, even listen to some of her music, but it gets tedious let's be honest.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Shopping the Film Stash #5 - I Could Never Be Your Woman

Let's just get one thing out of the way before I continue, a great disservice has been done to the world because Amy Heckerling's I Could Never Be Your Woman was never released in theaters.

Heckerling's film is an ode to the sorry state of 21st century feminism.  Michelle Pfeiffer plays the disillusioned heroine, Rosie Hanson, working as script writer and producer for a TV show that invariably encapsulates the garish influence of commercialism in society.  Her confidence and personal identity is already under threat due to her neurosis, but that further multiples with the onslaught of her daughter Izzie's adolescence and the unexpected presence of a younger lover, the goofy Adam (Paul Rudd).

Rosie is what has been missing from the canon of the romantic comedy, and what, invariably due to how poorly the film was clearly received, will continue to be absent from this canon.  She is an honest depiction of the modern woman, particularly that of the more mature, successful variety.  Sure she's sexy and has a thriving career, but she's also a divorcee, a mother, and a frustrated (read - pissed-off) feminist.  She is pissed at the male-female dynamic, and she's passing her wise philosophies onto her protege.  Saoirse Ronan has often played beyond her years, but this time it's nice to see her play her own age with abandon, if depicting one who is a little precocious.  She is well on her way to becoming a very independent and self-possessed lady.  She teaches us all a lesson worth noting.  See video below.  (These days this message may be more applicable to the likes of Katy Perry or Rihanna, amiright?)

The film is not perfect, the plot's a little thin, the subplots are way too Scooby Doo-ish, Paul Rudd is the anti-love interest, but not in a good way.  But there's something about the message I just find to be rather empowering, as I just don't see it enough in cinema, or in media for that matter, nowadays.  On an aside, the recent backlash targeted towards Girls is just pissing me off....  Which brings us to the best part of the film, Mother Nature.  Tracey Ullman brings life to Heckerling's sardonic pessimist and Rosie's personal conscience/wise-ass.  She's pretty much a personification of everything women, of the realistic and honest variety, would like to say, do, and eat.  She empowers Rosie with her honesty and witticism, but is also there to ground her and call her out for being ridiculous.

This bohemian, rational version of Mother Nature is the antithesis of the Mother Nature that predominates in culture.  Usually we are led to believe women are at the mercy to the whim of the all-ruling mistress of our bodies.  The cliches of the emotionally unstable crying lady, and the hormone-enraged bitch.  Mother Nature is blamed.  We are weak because of the apparent existence of this ruler and our subservience to her.  Women, Rosie in this instance, can in fact live harmoniously with her.  It's a democracy, not a dictatorship.  Rosie and her Mother Nature have a back and forth; a relationship rather than a negotiation.

Sorry for the rant, but this film just magnified for me how women are treated and portrayed.  I'm not exactly one to talk, one of my favourite genres is War film, where women are one of three things usually, the mother, the devoted partner, or a prostitute.  And I couldn't even name a list of fabulous female directors or writers that I respect and yearn to emulate.  If anything this movie has called me out on my own sexism.  My own ignorance is palpable in my preferred tastes.  Rosie struggles to sustain the love of what she does, not because of her own issues, but because there are people like me who are forcing her into to unfulfilling careers because it's convenient for us.

Guys, let's just try to be better to each other.  

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

21 Day Photo Challenge

My sister drew my attention to this the other day, and as I have been dying to expand my creative horizons these days, I'm definitely going to partake.

Elle Moss's blog has a lovely DIY feel to it, and her aesthetic matches my own.  Unfortunately I can't seem to comment or subscribe to her blogger or Tumblr, so, sadface....

Here's the breakdown of the list for those who might be interested.

1 - Favourite Colour(s)
2 - Trees
3 - Little Things
4 - Rainbow
5 - Architecture
6 - Low on the Ground
7 - Signs
8 - Dress
9 - Grass
10 - Favourite Place
11 - Words
12 - Horizon
13 - Favourite Colour    (Hmm is this an intentional repeat?)
14 - Three Things
15 - Travel 
16 - Warmth
17 - Music
18 - Pretty Patterns
19 - What's in your Bag?
20 - Symmetry 
21 - Breakfast

Stay tuned for results!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Mirror Mirror

I wanted to love this movie.  So bad.  It could be my distaste for Kirsten Stewart's acting range that motivated me, but I wanted to adore this film.

Mirror, Mirror as you may, most likely, already know is a retelling of a the Snow White fable, with a few new innovative adjustments to the story.  The reference to Stewart of course refers to the second Snow White film which is to follow later this year, while Stewart's takes on a darker, brooding concept, Mirror Mirror bathes in a mash-up of romance, comedy, and caper.  This will be one of its downfalls, it doesn't know what it wants to be.

There were many elements going for it, the costume and set design is spectacular, fantastical, and whimsical, everything you would crave from a fairytale.  The dresses of the two leads, The Queen and Snow White were particularly impressive, each costume change expressing their character and providing a indicative motif for the viewer.  The Queen was ostentatious, Snow White was innocent, decent, and fair.

It was refreshingly tongue-in-cheek.  The sarcastic pinging gleam of teeth punctuates the smaltz so as to prevent the audience from lapsing into a sugar coma.

The few narrative additions were surely an attempt to give the Snow White tale relatability for those who aren't fans of princess-romances.  The seven dwarves were given motivation in life beyond their lust of Snow White; Prince Charming was given a personality; and to make The Queen really wicked beyond her hatred and neglect of her step-daughter, the film made sure to show the poverty-stricken subjects of the kingdom, whose only hope is, you guessed it, Snow White.

All the elements are there for a successful and enjoyable film, but Mirror, Mirror has spun itself a web too big. It fails to control all these subplots and bring them together as a cohesive entity.

It's disappointing, particularly when the opening is deliciously good.  The Queen is narrating over a brief animated summary of the last sixteen years, and we are led to believe this is going to be her story.  This is a ploy to lure you in to a false sense of intrigue.  Because the apparent focus on Julia Roberts's fantastically wicked Queen bitch is soon overshadowed by Lily Collins's pathetic protagonist.  Talk about casting actresses with no emotional dimension as Snow White.  Sure she looks the part, but it was if she just copied the Snow White from the original Disney animation.  She lacked the endearing passion that is so intrinsic to carrying a film.

Unfortunately for me, this cinema outing lacked the promised fairytale quality.  Had the story stuck with the Queen it may have been saved.

Shopping the Music Stash #1 - Cat's Eyes

I noticed a few weeks ago that I was in a right rut with my music playlist.  I was trapped in the repetitive abyss of seeking solace in the recently-played playlist, which ensured that even songs I love dearly have become over saturated in my under-stimulated mind.

It all began after catching up on the "What's in my Bag?" videos on Amoeba's Youtube channel.  Even if your taste doesn't match the featured artist, it is the passion with which they speak about their chosen albums that made me yearn for a similar emotional connection with music.  I mean we all have it, and when I started thinking about what I would pick out if given the chance to run wild in the Amoeba store, the list and reasons were numerous.  But still, I couldn't shake a feeling that I was occupying a bit of a musical wasteland.

First I hit HMV with abandon, yet bought classic albums that I wanted to catch up on.  You know, the kind that belong on "listen to this or you will die" lists.  Then my mind wandered to a musically fertile time in my life.  Why, it was just last summer.

I wanted new music to join my library in a an effort to help fight the cause of mundanity while the leader, moi, was writing and editing her thesis.  While most albums were listened to, a few fell through the cracks of the expansive back-catalogue.

The first album I'm going to talk about in this little series is going to be Cat's Eyes's eponymous debut.

Ordinarily with a duo such as this, I should give a little background information considering Faris Badwan comes from a background with British band, The Horrors, and Rachel Zeffira is of a classical background, as Wikipedia would suggest.  But because I know nothing about The Horrors's music and nothing about Zeffira, I will just briefly say that I heard about them through Nylon magazine and my interest was piqued.  But then the album was abandoned in the annals of my iTunes, only to resurface a fortnight ago.

Straight off, it comes across to me as spooky sixties pop.  I'm not talking Monster Mash and the like, there is no kitsch here, and rather than merely reference, they have adopted the structure and dreamy, LSD-soaked sound of the late sixties.  Plus, I think Brian Wilson would be impressed with the layers going on throughout these songs.  Thus it came as no surprise that when I finally did my research on these guys, that Cat's Eyes was conceived after Fadwan introduced Zeffira to the girl groups of the sixties.  

Their sound is more mature and muted than that of sixties girl groups, but Zeffira's lyrics and vocals mirror that same complexity of vulnerability, innocence, and strength at the forefront of the girl group oeuvre.  

The closest to a classic ballad you will find on this album, epitomizes the spooky pop feel I spoke of earlier.  

I'm not Stupid

One of the stand-out tracks on the album Over You is something akin to what a James Bond theme would sound like if it was sung by a Bond girl done wrong by Mr. Shaken not Stirred. It is everything that is right about sixties pop, a la Nancy Sinatra.   

Over You

Apologies for not being able to find a better clip, but hey I just figured out they are really good live, good translation of song from album!  So Bandit would have to be the stand out track for me personally, I would describe it as the older sister to Over You.  It's a wise woman speaking about a man who done her wrong, but instead of thrashing him, she's just warning the others.  Simple as.  Perfection.


It is pathetic that I was deliriously pleased with this album.  You know when you take a chance on a record that you know nothing about and then feel bitterly disappointed that it fails to move you in any way?  Luckily I struck gold with this.  The talent is palpable, and after studying postmodernism, I always appreciate a good reference.  This is a slightly askew ode to the sixties, making it personal and unique and leaving me anticipating more from Cat's Eyes in the future.  I'd highly recommend it, especially for those nights with the wind howls outside.  It'll add to the atmosphere.  Maybe accompany it with Wuthering Heights?  I feel like they would go together. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Really need...

I really need  to stop catching up on so many TV shows and get back to movies...

but first more Spaced!

Picture of the Day

Exhibitionist 18/02: daniel fogarty

Daniel Fogarty from his Totem exhibition 

A Dangerous Method

I didn't know what to expect when going into see A Dangerous Method. The collaboration is such a eclectic fusion of talent.  At the helm there is director David Cronenberg, renowned for his visceral films that veer into the horror genre.  Then we have Viggo Mortensen and Michael Fassbender, two actors who come from the school of method.  Then the limp noodle of the bunch, I have to be honest, was the mention of Kiera Knigthtley.  Though a previous Oscar nominee, Knightley has never astounded or transfixed on screen, she works with what she has but had so far demonstrated little range.

Now back to the plot, the gloriously tense plot.  It begins at the dawn of  psychoanalysis, focusing primarily on Carl Jung (Fassbender), his observations, opinions, and relationship with Sigmund Freud (Mortensen, who soaks up the screen with a measured but relaxed turn as the original shrink).

Freud takes a shine to the younger, less experienced Dr. Jung, taking him under his wing as they delve into the uncharted field of psychoanalysis.

When Jung takes on the case of Sabina Spielrein (Knighley) the Jung and Freud dream team is thrown into jeopardy.  Spielrein is, for all intents and purposes, the guinea pig of the operation.  Spielrein's condition conforms to Freud's theories of sexual repression being central to the experience of psychological anxiety.  Jung resists this notion, though this resistance may stem from denial for when he embarks on an affair with Spielrein his own repressive habits are highlighted, and he would prefer to develop a psychological study that is not so centralised in the realm of sexuality.

First of all, my problem with this film is how it was advertised.  Sure, lunacy and spanking are part of the story, but only initially.  The trailer makes it out to be a fetishistic, psycho-orgy.  To me Cronenberg is more interested in looking at the tensions evolving between Jung and Freud as psychoanalysis develops.  The tension, the diverging opinions, the father-son, possibly underlined sexual attraction between the two.  (Who knows though, maybe I'm just taking Freudian theme and getting ahead of myself).

Spielrein is the foil and catalyst by which the cogs turn in the movie, which is why I was (shockingly) impressed with Knightley's performance.  She did hysteria without being caricature, she has mastered the physical tics and bulging eyes thus denoting that paranoid fear that comes out of repressed anxieties.  These all sound a little stereotypical sure, but she does this in such a subtle way, contradictory I know, a lunatic being subtle.  Maybe it's because my past opinions of Knigthley veer on the side of can't stand, this was almost poetic.

A must see for performances alone.  I have heard others say the story line lagged, or something to that effect, but the slow, defined unfold of the plot reflect the tension between the three leads as well as underlining the conservatism of the society they were a part of.  Radical thinking such as their's wouldn't have been accepted overnight.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Murder She Will Write

My sister asked me to find mom's old typewriter and all I could think about was this.


The soundtrack in Spaced makes me feel spaced.

ahhhh  *edit

forgot about THAT


The Descendants

Although it would be nice for the Academy to get over their George Clooney-love in, The Descendants trailer was undeniably appealing.  It looked invigorating, spiritual, a perfect anecdote to the gloomy shroud that consumes you during winter.

(Will not be held accountable to adverse affects experienced from lusting after Hawaiin climate...)

The film marks also the return of Alexander Payne, last heard from with Sideways.

The film opens with a brief shot of a woman on what appears to be a jet ski, what is compelling about this scene is her expression, one marked be utter contentment.  The fade to black is ominous.  We soon learn that that woman was Elizabeth King, now in a coma, a wife to successful and frugal lawyer Matt King, who is diligently working by her hospital bed in the establishing shot where he narratives a brief summary of life and up to there.

The coma acts as a catalyst which through Matt's otherwise comfortably uneventful life is thrown into disarray where he must acknowledge things and take action.  He is forced to commit to parenting for the first time in his life, referring to himself as the back-up parent.  His unruly seventeen year old Alexandra, played by the unexpectedly sublime Shailene Woodley, and petulant Scottie are independent forces to be reckoned with.

He learns his wife was cheating on him and planning to leave him.  While this sets things in motion for the journey of the film, the trailer makes it seem like this is what the film centers on.  Wrong.

Matt's entire journey seems to be summed up in the allegory of the land.  He is the named trustee to a large acreage of land, and he and his cousins are in the process of figuring out who to sell the land to.

Because the subplot of land, (woah careful now, I am making this sound like a sequel to The Field) Hawaii predictably becomes a character in and of itself in the film.  It clearly has a profound effect in rebuilding the relationship between Matt and his daughters, and helping them through their grief and anger experienced in the aftermath of their mother's accident.

This would be my only gripe about the film.  Its predictability.  It does not shy away from cliche or sentiment, which is probably a result of the source material, the novel by Kaui Hart Hemmings.  While it is far from a run of the mill chick flick, there is almost a paint-by-numbers characters progression but this has thankfully been peppered with enough Alexander Payne flair to rescue it and brings it to life.

It's a genuinely funny piece.  It combines many levels of humour without going overboard, we get a little bit of physical comedy, thanks to out of shape Matt's jog in flip flops down a spiraling Hawaiian suburban hill.  There's a little bit of stoner exploitation, courtesy of Sid, (Nick Krausse), Alexandra's inexplicably present boyfriend.  The caper quality, perhaps a nod to Clooney's Ocean Series, bestows the film with an adventurousness that involves the audience, giving a emotional connection.  You will root for this family as they scour the beaches in search of the adulterous mother's partner.  Also the Hawaiian uniform provides a good ole laugh, probably unintentional.

Clooney is obviously promoted as the face of the movie as he's a big box office draw, but the way each character is drawn in this story is genius.  Each character is given such dimension.  Even Brian Speer (Matthew Lillard), the man whom Matt's wife was in love with, is likable because his vulnerability is shown.  So even though the movie itself delves into cliche, the characterizations and actual performances strengthen any weaknesses.

Even though I was hyper aware of the cliche, blame my English course in film for making me so judgmental,  the film still manipulated an emotional response out of me.  Because what is shown in The Descendants is truth in many ways.  It does not dwell on the "why me"s, but simply shows these people dealing with everyday life even though their world has utterly changed.

Cliche is cliche for a reason, even though we think we are all individual, we all invariably go through similar experiences of pain, beauty, happiness, and grief.  The Descendants is actually a very refreshing take on that, not unearthing shattering, but thank Hawaii.  And Alexander Payne.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Shopping the Film Stash #3 - Frankenstein (1994)

So how grossed out were you when Frankenstein was covered in amniotic fluid?

Overall I think this film was unintentionally hilarious.

Good day!

Monday, February 6, 2012

The Ignored

While the Oscars, in the long run, do and should not affect the quality of a film, the awards show and a nomination sure as hell invigorates the life of the film and actors and manipulates the public's own perception of a film.

Let us take George Clooney for instance.  Who really took him seriously before he won for Syrianna and was nominated for Good Night, and Good Luck?  He was ER star who transitioned fairly seamlessly to film, but was primarily known for his roles as a playboy-esque, cheeky chappy.  He started working with the right people however, the Cohen Brothers, Steven Soderbergh... and has since possessed a glistening Academy Award sheen.  He can literally do no wrong, and even though as an actor he is flat and little bit of a one trick pony in terms of depth of character, he has for the last few years pretty much been a permanent fixture throughout awards season.

Sure he doesn't really deserve to be there, but is there, and is being acknowledged, like so many other "meh" performances.  Not that are really and truly meh, and not that I really have a problem with Clooney, but Awards season has become achingly predictable.  Every show basically has the same list of nominations.

(On a side note, who would have thought such a mediocre novel such as The Help would have inspired such a passionate response for its filmic version?  Either that or voters are afraid it would have been prejudice not to include it.)

While my distance from a cinema has sadly hindered my access to most of the nominated lot this year, there are a few glaring omissions that I would love to briefly discuss.

more in-depth review here

Maybe I am alone here, after all it received only average ratings, from the likes of Total Film and Empire, from what I can tell, but I felt Melancholia was the "revelation" moment of cinema in 2011.  In a society so bruised by economic strain, a possible impending apocalypse, and in a planet where depression is still discussed in hushed voices, Melancholia was unafraid to tackle the everyday strain of existence and expand it into a feature length masterpiece.

Lars von Trier has more than likely been permanently shunned by Hollywood after his bizarre Nazi comments in Cannes, but what a shame that the film and actors anchoring the project have been ignored also.

Kirsten Dunst and Charlotte Gainsbourg achieve something so very rare in film, they deliver muted suffering that speaks volumes more than hysteria.  There are intricacies of gesture, expression, and hesitation that is magnified by hand-held camera motion.

Performances such as these always impress me more than a portrayal of a real-life character. Not that Meryl Streep's performance as Margaret Thatcher wasn't amazing and powerful, it was.  But to bring to life a character so vividly from its foundations in the two-dimensional space of screenplay is something really worth speaking of.

Super 8

Yes it was a summer blockbuster.  Yes it was sentimental.  And YES it was a Spielberg pastiche if ever I saw one, but those are also the reasons I adored this film!  I can guarantee it will just bring you right back to when you were a kid, when you first started watching films, and were in awe of the very medium you were witnessing.  It is the Cinema Paradiso for the 21st century.  And yes, I am aware that was released merely twenty odd years ago....

The storyline was a little cliche, but a lot of films are cliched.  Super 8 just reawakened the soul!  I can barely describe this probably I just simply urge you to see this.  It gave children a voice beyond the wacky, cheeky, snide cartoonish renderings we have been seeing in the past decade and it was showed the parents and children can be vulnerable as well as brave.

It was the perfect anecdote to the summer/thesis blues.  I have not seen Hugo, so I guess I am being completely bias, but Hugo looks so extravagant, I am all for the blue collar underdog which is what you will find with JJ Abrahams pet project.  And Hugo was 3D. Eugh.

Where is the best original screenplay?  And WHERE is Elle Fanning's recognition?

The Guard

Maybe this movie didn't travel well.  It is extremely colloquial, and to weaker disposition, probably offensive.  Besides comedies rarely capture the Academy's attention as well as a good weepy.

But wait.  Melissa McCarthy, nominated.  Maybe there will be hope for Brendan!  Nooo.

Yeah I have a love hate relationship with Bridesmaids.  It was funny, sure.  I laughed, yes.  Those girls were funny, yes.  But I would not return to this film.  There's nothing there beyond a single viewing.  The only revolutionary thing about it is that is starred and was written by women.  Women writers have been around a long while and have been doing just fine for themselves.

The comedy was gross out comedy with girls.  Not terribly engaging, sorry to have to say.  It was funny in a kneejerk, slapstick kind of way but on repeated watch the lustre will fade.  McCarthy was brilliant because it was a unabashed physical and comedic performance, but it was like her antics was carrying the film.

Gleeson, on the other hand.

I know they say Ireland, the Irish, carries a beautiful duality of humour and melancholy and this is what Gerry encapsulates.  Just when you think he is one dimensional thuggish cop, you see him with his mother.  He is humanised.  He has woes, and faults, and he is real.


Yeah I've spoken about this before too so I promise I really won't bore you with this one, but let us just say it has been robbed everywhere by all accounts.  Bryce Dallas Howard for being a heartless bitch in the face of cancer.  Seth Rogen for being the obnoxious but lovable and caring friend.  Joseph Gordan Levitt, for enlivening a character who is suffering but who refuses to go down the route of caricature, where the bucket lists reside.  It is relatable, and endearing, and Angelica Huston remains a force to be reckoned with.

We Need to Talk About Kevin

Terrifying and challenging to watch. Yet refreshing to see a portrayal of a mother who find it hard to unearth the patience to rear or even love her son.  She's a woman tormented by unfulfilled aspirations, and barely hides the fact that she blames her son for her stilted life.  Then there is Kevin.  Damien incarnate.  Not so much evil as seeking his mother's love.  A film calling attention to the fact that we are all products of our environment.

Tilda Swinton and Ezra Miller have suffered a grave injustice.


I literally think my favourite thing about film in 2011 is when filmmakers and actors just went for a more pared down version of a film character, and situated you in a more realistic space and life.  Relatability is a very attractive thing in cinema.  Don't forget this Film of 2012.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Currently Reading...

So far, a tough read, Lou's inner voice is very convoluted.  You feel like an accessory to the crime just by being privy to his thoughts. 

The Iron Bitch

Courtesy of The Guardian

Shopping the Film Stash #2 - Drive

Wikipedia, I know, not the most illustrious source, describes Nicolas Winding Refn's Drive as an arthouse action drama film.  I say it is more like the arthouse version of watching paint dry.

I was a latecomer to this film, which came out last September if I am not wrong.

It received huge plaudits at Cannes, and most critics fell over themselves with love for this, but at the time I had little acces/funds to see it in the cinema, so put it on the back burner.  I went retro the other day and rented it out at a local DVD shop.

Now it is not that I was disappointed with the movie, all the elements are there.  The cinematography is unbelievable, the performances are fantastic, bar may I saw the leads, the soundtrack is all kinds of amazing, the script is even decent, but combined it feels like it knows its good and it is the smug self-assurance that throws me off.

I just don't understand
Drive rested on its laurels as simply being a beautiful film. Even the smearing of violence lacked the capacity to be thought provoking.  Ryan Gosling's Kid, or Driver, was underdeveloped.  Though this mute hero has become something of a cult obsession now, some people like the way we are literally dropped randomly into his story, and he of all people gives no clue to who or why he is.  His motivation is undefined, thereby the romance between him and Irene seems completely implausible.

I am still undecided as to whether Gosling is overhyped in general or underused in this film....

Due to the lack of emotional depth, and therefore empathy, the characters are decidedly bland, and when characters are bland everything else is washed out and dull.

Albert Brooks, who got a lot of Awards buzz, but no cake, does light up the screen in a way.  It is fun to see him play against type as a thug.  He at least creates a ripple in another wise still ocean.

I am obviously missing something, but all I really took away from this was the killer soundtrack along with the honourable cinematic homages, (cheap pastiche?), to Taxi Driver and Bullit.

Driver will never be McQueen.

Shopping the Film Stash #1 - Heathers

As I now live two hours from a decent cinema that offers variety and limited release choices, I have been both gathering and diving into the DVD archives.  I have found myself creating a list as long as my harm, a bucket list of films to see, to study, to learn.  Directors, script-writers, and actors constantly site various source material when speaking of their craft, and throughout the last year while writing my thesis and pouring over various film reviews I have learnt that a film critic is no different.  The annals of film is a critic's bible when writing an objective review.

So to train my amateur writing hand a little better I am setting out on a little exercise and visiting some cult classics, films that have come to my attention over the last year but have so far been somehow neglected, and perhaps even some oldies that I love!

All in the hopes of extending my film vocabulary....

Heathers (1989)

I remember seeing Mean Girls in the cinema thinking it was refreshingly different from the other teen comedies that had been circulating around that era (the era I speak of is that Golden Age of Millenia-teen films, 10 Things I Hate About You, Down To You, She's All That, but to name a few, I guess Mean Girls was a few years after, but you get my drift).  Mean Girls came along and set about debunking the romantic notions of teenage-hood, and decided to shed some light on the harsh realities of High School.  There was less, I stress less, of a focus on the girl-likes-boy dilemma while the examination of the fickle foundations of female friendships really takes center stage.

Though Tina Fey's originality and wit are boundless, Mean Girls, its plot, and characters owe everything to Heathers.  Heathers is a far superior, satirical, more sinister commentary on the tenuous years of High School.  It villainises these characters, giving them unprecedented power, the exaggerated (but not altogether unimaginable) murder plot parodying the usual hormonal deviations of an American teen.

"I just killed my best friend"
"And your worst enemy"
"Same difference"

Well hello, shoulder pads...

Veronica, the oft under-appreciated Winona Ryder, is a girl who is not named Heather but who has been given divine access to the elite Heathers clique, for reasons unknown.  At first she feels privileged to be included and is even enthralled by the warped superiority of the malevolent lead Heather.  She is enamoured by Heather's philosophies, that in fact justify her tyrannical ways, "Dear Diary, Heather told me she teaches people real life."  The film is full of gems like this, Fey wishes she could be this raunchy and self-assured in her writing.  Heather 1 is like a cacophony  of teenage-hood and adulthood, she is self-possessed, relishing her youth yet outgrown the anxieties of her peers.  She is acutely aware of her surroundings, so much so that she has created her own glossary, according to her authority, "very" marks a seal of coveted approval, Heather desires very, because she desires excess and vitality.

She blithely critiques the stereotypes of youth, and condemns her followers for falling victim, "Grow up Heather, bulimia is so '87."  Still inevitably lacking sympathy, Heather's independence is what makes her both enviable and caustic.

She eventually tethers nerves, leading Veronica to naively succumbs to her new boyfriend's scheme to throttle the queen bitches, after unwittingly becoming an accessory in Jason's murder plot, when Heather 1 ingests her poisonous end.

Christian Slater plays Jason Dean, and though in Jack Nicholson's psychosis The Shining mode, when clothed in leather jacket and straddling a motorbike he personifies James Dean 2.0.  He is an 80s incarnation, the upper-class rebel without a cause who sets about invigorating a spirit into an era that lacked the rebellious attitude that drenched the Hippie 60s and 70s punks.

Slater, making evil acceptable in 1989.
Though murder and mayhem landmark her journey, Veronica is actually an admirable character, even somewhat a feminine role model.  She takes a stand, an intense one, against bullying.  And though they are the MTV generation's Bonnie and Clyde, when she realises that she has descended into psychotic territory with her boyfriend she transcends this too.  She evolves beyond the suburbia complex, the vacuous pandering of unmitigated angst.  Even this is tackled ironically, when after further rampage, Veronica consults her diary again, professing that " teen angst bullshit has a bodycount."

Veronica's rebellion from standards is where it is actually a reverse of Mean Girls.  Mean Girls begins with Cady and her friends devising a plan to conquer and destroy the influence of The Plastics.  Cady herself is blinded by power leading to a somewhat smaltzy ending where everyone learns their lesson and lives happily ever after.  Heathers' resolution, if it can be called that, is far more cathartic.  It abandons sentiment, a pitfall that much mainstream American cinema.  Both film's exhibit climatic scenes in a school gym, both are executed extremely differently.  Mean Girls looks like an after-school special in the shadow of Heathers' explosive metaphors.

The final word on Heathers.  How very.