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.