Monthly Archives: August 2009

Frank Kogan posted a blistering response to Ann Powers’ weekend Beatles feature, to which I say, A-fucking-men. His title says it all. What the hell does “poptimism” mean in 2009 – that Pitchfork can review The-Dream without worrying about robbing Iron & Wine of space?


This week:

Bloc Party goes house, Taio Cruz discovers Auto-Tune, Pitbull and his female companion discover Expose, Chris Brown discovers his no-surprise douchebaggery, Mark Ronson discovers a protege, DJ Quik and Kurupt keep making fresh discoveries,  The Pastels and Tenniscoats discover late eighties dream-pop, Wilco discover George Harrison, and Madonna discovers how often she can raid her bag of costumes and tricks.

About “District 9….”

Fun for thirty minutes, until director Neill Blomkamp loses interest in his own faux documentary style and refuses to sort through his incendiary concepts. The hero’s Cheney-esque father-in-law, the Nigerian gang dealing in cybernetic weaponry, and the Soweto-style township in which the aliens live demand more than Blomkamp’s affectlessness. Also: Sharlto Copley’s a shrill, one-dimensional actor.

The lion of Camelot, the dean of Chappaquiddick

The announcement of his death hadn’t yet been linked on a million Facebook pages when Our Corporate Masters decreed that all references to the late Edward Kennedy would confine themselves to the tags “Camelot,” “Lion of the Senate,” and “Chappaquiddick.” No mention more than a minute long of his legislative accomplishments, of which I was unaware.

Slate‘s Timothy Noah has a good round-up – and some criticism.

Lost in music

The Last Days of Disco disappointed me in 1998. Writer-director Whit Stillman’s Metropolitan formula of putting hyperaware preps in the same room for just under two hours had worn thin; his low budget crimped the production values; and scene to scene the movie didn’t cohere.

Sadly, these things remain true. Criterion’s sparkling DVD transfer (the movie’s been out of print since its VHS release in fall ’98 but enjoyed multiple cable showings subsequently) only underscores the multitude of shortcomings. I’d totally forgotten this one: Chris Eigeman’s character pretends to be gay to get girls. Not so absurd in 2009, but totally daft in the “very early eighties” period in which the film is set. His confessional monologue, centered on “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom,” (complete with hamhanded Marlin Perkins reference if we didn’t get the joke) is the most leaden, offensive writing of Stillman’s career.

That’s why Disco is so disappointing. Like one of Bunuel’s Mexican films, the writing in Metropolitan helped you ignore the wrinkled tuxes and paper napkins substituting for linen. Here, Stillman’s bon mots are mostly stale pastries: he directs conversations about the erotic possibilities of Scrooge McDuck and Lady and the Tramp lovingly and serenely, as if his characters were debating Lionel Trilling (there’s one bright exchange late in the film between Eigeman and sleazy club owner about the use of the past perfect).  The production design still looks chintzy; the Studio 54 manque in which most of the action happens looks like a late eighties imitation; the men wear bowl haircuts. Chloe Sevingy does her Chloe Sevingy thing, slumping her shoulders like she’s carrying a wooden cross stolen from a Home Depot. Stillman, the gossamer-light ironist, can’t even maintain a steady tone: the last ten minutes, complete with magic-realist musical number, belongs in another movie.

There’s no sense of danger or discovery in the project. I’m not expecting Bright Lights, Big City from Stillman — he’s too smart, too frightened of crassness — but he either doesn’t understand the period’s generational and sexual fault lines or can’t work up enough energy to lampoon them. And he’s clueless about the music. 1998 was also the year of 54, the terrible movie about the awful things that happen to Ryan Phillippe at the disco; but as nattering as it was, the movie understood how its characters nourished themselves on the visions of excess offered by Evelyn “Champagne” King, the O’Jays, Chic, and Gloria Gaynor. I don’t know — maybe it was Stillman’s intention to make a film whose characters are so detached from their surroundings that music exists as wallpaper.