Film for a Friday: Sweet Charity

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I just needed some Fosse to get me motivated on finishing grading. Some great stuff but no time to enjoy it all — but I have some really sharp students (of course!). Once all this is done and graduation over, I’ll be updating more frequently. And having a little fun, laughs, and good times.

Panel Tonight: SHE’S BEAUTIFUL WHEN SHE’S ANGRY

marque-3Thanks to Peg Aloi, I’m going to be appearing with her (and possibly some other folks) on a panel tonight after the documentary She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry on 2nd wave feminism of the 60s & 70s. Join us for a lively discussion. See The Linda’s site for more info.

Review: Gimme Danger

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Music is life. And life is not a business.

When I came out of the theatre there was blood on the pavement and a guy whose face had been smashed by something. It seemed out of place on a quiet Albany afternoon, but not after this film.

The Stooges are a perfect meeting of the mind-bending exuberance of youth and the free-floating impotent anger that often accompanies it when that energy has no place to go. Surrounded right now by a cultural climate that has filled most of the women I know (mostly past that first exuberance of youth) with a rage that has few outlets, it was a good catharsis. It could have been many things — like an Iggy film — but it was tightly bound to the band. Jarmusch, too, stayed out of the way (I hate those big name doco directors who make it all about showing what good taste they had).

The film is stripped down, filling in missing footage with Iggy’s narration and found footage, crazy cultural references and even animation. I can’t even begin to tell you anything rational about it because I was so immersed in it that I wasn’t making mental notes. There was a point where all three of us in the theatre laughed out loud at something so unexpected I couldn’t tell you what it was because the movie clipped right along.

Things that stuck this first time around (because I will be watching this again and again as soon as I can get my hands on it): how weird it was to hear all these mid-Michigan accents I grew up with that now sound totally alien. Every time I hear Iggy talk there’s that dislocation. How the band all lived up to that hippie ideal of ‘communism’ — living communally, sharing everything, even song writing credits. ‘That was before we knew about intellectual property rights,’ he said drily. How the younger girls they met in Washington Square who were a[n unnamed] band were much better than them spurred the Stooges on to want to be better. How they saw the Rock-n-Roll Hall of Fame induction as crowning the coolness of losers. How visionaries like Danny Fields saw their promise and pretty much no one else did — until suddenly every band in the world seemed to be covering the Stooges.

Soupy Sales. James Williamson’s second career!

Near the end of the film, Iggy remembered bringing a bunch of guys from his high school back to his folks’ trailer, trying to get in with them and they made fun of where he lived and how small the bathroom was. And his avowal that he wanted to outlive them and show them and put them in their place (like Tori with ‘I want to smash the faces / of those beautiful boys’).

Anger is an energy, as that other guy said. Let it lift us.

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TOA/V: Anna Karenina

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The eternal struggle in Belle Ombre: agreeing on something to watch with my brother. One of the places our largely divergent tastes overlap is in the realm of costume drama, so the other night after one or the other of us voting down this or that film we finally agreed on the 2012 version of Anna Karenina.

I had vague memories of when it came out: Knightly and Law seemed an odd pairing, perhaps I had assumed he was playing Vronsky. He’s Karenin and I thought that was even more odd, but no. I should give him more credit. He was terrific. And of course Aaron Taylor-Johnson made a Vronsky you could imagine any number of people swooning for. Knightly was very good, Matthew McFayden should do more comedy —

— and that reminds me: the big thing I forgot that I ought to have realised at once when I was captivated and amused and immediately won over by the dialogue and the conceit that the whole story was unfolding in the world of a play. Tolstoy, but Tolstoy through the means of Tom Stoppard.

Well.

If that doesn’t already make you realise what a gem you also probably missed, let me also say a fantastic cast including Olivia Williams, Kelly McDonald, Domhnall Gleeson, and new to me but amazing Alicia Vikander as Kitty. The whole production design by Sarah Greenwood is superb. Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui who also choreographed for the NT Live Hamlet created such beautiful dance scenes — and the costumes by Jacqueline Durran! Absolutely sumptuous: if Tolstoy wanted to show the evils of uptight nobles, at least this film shows how they luxuriated in their wealth.

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As usual, check out all the overlooked works at Todd’s blog. Celebrate Peter Cook on his birthday. I’m off to Trinity to talk to a college class about White Rabbit.

TOA/V — Tea: The Dark Side of the Cup

“Billions of cups are sunk a day for centuries and nobody says a word – until now.”

A mockumentary exploring the silent epidemic of tea dependence. A plight, engulfing our society for a millennia – undocumented.

Click here to watch on Vimeo

I supported their kickstarter and received a lovely tea coaster like the image above. I will admit to a tea addiction but I see no harm in it. It fuels my whimsical imagination — how dull I would be without it!

Check out all the overlooked A/V gems at Todd’s blog.

The Drums of Fury Road

The late Layne Redmond, musician and scholar, put together the study When the Drummers were Women to explore the ancient connection with the instrument often seen as the embodiment of masculinity. In the clay and carvings, friezes and frescoes she discovered an ancient bond mostly overlooked or mislabeled by male curators (women with cake?!). In essence, the drum is an echo of our heartbeat, as Laurie Anderson literalized in ‘Sharkey’s Day’ and ‘Sharkey’s Night’ but with the rise of the regimented army, the drum was co-opted and romanticized as an instrument of the war machine.

guitar-imgThe first thing I said at the end of my belated viewing of Mad Max: Fury Road was ‘I have to have this soundtrack!’ Immortan Joe’s citadel runs to the beat of the drum….

Read the rest over at VexMosaic, your new home of deep thoughts about speculative fictions. If you haven’t already read it, check out my essay about medievalism and masculinity, related to what I wrote yesterday.

In other news, a good story well placed by my alter ego, and more news on that front as soon as they allow us to release it (cue bit champing over here). More translating of Hávamál (I keep forgetting to mention). Work getting done, ideas popping like corks, the only hard part it is to settle because of course I want to do all the things and there is never enough time and yet the best solution at time seems to be read a book — or as it always the case with me, read several at once because I am incapable of just doing one thing at a time (yes, that’s how I work too). Jamaica Inn at the moment taking top place, but several other things, too. Fiction, non-fiction, trying not to be too annoyed at things I see on social media (impossible, I know).

TOA/V: Valhalla Rising


Valhalla Rising (2009)
Dir. Nicholas Winding Refn
Mad Mikkelson, Gary Lewis, Maarten Stevenson, et. al.

BBC Two showed this the other night and we DVR’d it. Medieval-ish and Mads: I was sold! Where did I know that director’s name from? Hmmm, oh yeah, Drive. A movie people loved and I didn’t. I am going to have to use this film in my masculinity and medieval film book because it is like the über example of the trope. Women are erased from the medieval world apart from one brief moment where naked women huddle together after their village is destroyed by the Christian vikings and their men are reduced to a pile of burnt skeletons.

And then they’re gone, never to be seen again.

Never mind there’s no village to be seen (no homes, no agriculture, no livestock), this isn’t a film interested in people. It’s a film about images. Unfortunately, that seems to be a lot of films now. Here’s a bunch of images, you make the story — BYON. I resent that kind of film. I don’t mind crazy narratives — I’m a huge Argento fan after all, it doesn’t have to actually be coherent — but this kind of humourless, self-important wank irritates me.

Is the one-eyed warrior played by a mute Mads supposed to be Odin? He has visions–mostly digitally reddened scenes of battle to come. Don’t know, it doesn’t matter. Why is he kept in a cage and made to fight other slaves? Don’t know, it doesn’t matter. He escapes, spares the boy, but goes for a bit of the ultra-violence on his captors in a gruesomely specific manner.

The episodic parts all have pretentious titles. The scenes between the ultra-violence are generally men sitting, looking grim. I began to suspect that the director just didn’t want to move the camera. The sparse dialogue, which added little in the way of story, made Kaurismäki films look positively garrulous! So we had men sitting around looking grim in various places — well framed, I’ll give him that.

The places were confusing because it’s all filmed in Scotland so yes, gorgeous Highlands. But at the start it seemed to be supposedly Denmark or at least Scandinavia, then despite heading for the Holy Lands they landed to the ‘New World’ (I found it hilarious that IMDB commenters don’t seem to know that the vikings did indeed visit North America, this is not controversial). However, when the ‘Indians’ appear to attack, they’re um…Tibetan actors in red face. Perhaps they were filming another movie in Scotland at the time and were willing to take up roles.

It’s got that weird sort of confused modern masculinity as a theme: violence makes us men! But we’re vaguely Christian, so we believe in the power of sacrifice. But violence looks cool when the blood spurts out and the guts go ewww! We want to use the legacy of the vikings, but we don’t want to actually have to do any research. I thought this was going to be fun, but clearly Refn is a very serious filmmaker and I am just a frivolous girl.

See the round up of other overlooked films over at Todd’s blog.