Category Archives: pop culture obsessions

October 11, 2010, 5:18 am

Dislike?

Scott Lemieux says don’t pin the misogyny of The Social Network on Sorkin, because the film takes a critical stance towards Zuckerberg’s contempt for women.  I haven’t seen the movie yet, but it strikes me as relevant that in real life, Zuckerberg had a long-term girlfriend,worked with women when he created Facebook, etc.  I think even if we take it as given that Sorkin rewrites Zuckerberg to make him a misogynist and added all the details about Asian girls so mad for geeks they give blowjobs in bathroom stalls and Harvard parties where girls lose their tops all the time, and then critiqued it successfully, there’s something… off about erasing the creative role of women in the creation of Facebook completely in order to make that critique.

Whether that’s an aesthetic failure is a different question, and one that would have to wait until I get around to seeing the film (check back in…

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August 29, 2010, 7:55 pm

Will we do the other things?

As long as I’m having fun with YouTube’s “start here” feature, note this standard-issue awesome impassioned Shatner speech by Captain Kirk in “Return to Tomorrow”:

Do you wish that the first Apollo mission hadn’t reached the moon, or that we hadn’t gone on to Mars, and then to the nearest star?

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August 23, 2010, 8:08 am

LBJ thought civil rights was a big f*cking deal.

From the BBC’s Adam Curtis:

In Mad Men we watch a group of people who live in a prosperous society that offers happiness and order like never before in history and yet are full of anxiety and unease. They feel there is something more, something beyond. And they feel stuck.

I think we are fascinated because we have a lurking feeling that we are living in a very similar time. A time that, despite all the great forces of history whirling around in the world outside, somehow feels stuck. And above all has no real vision of the future.

And as we watch the group of characters from 50 years ago, we get reassurance because we know that they are on the edge of a vast change that will transform their world and lead them out of their stifling technocratic order and back into the giant onrush of history.

The question is whether we might be at a similar point, waiting for something to happen. But…

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July 26, 2010, 8:51 pm

On beginnings

I agree and disagree with Scott; were Inception properly a movie interested in answering “is it a dream within a dream?”,  or even a film that tried to get us to guess, I would agree that it fails.  But I thought the movie succeeded, though it was good, but not great.   There will be spoilers after the jump, though nothing I think that would rob one’s enjoyment of the film.   Nor will there be a defense of Nolan himself after the jump; it would not surprise me that the man’s intentions could be defended, but the only other work of his I’ve seen is the Batman reboot, which was notable mostly for Heath Ledger’s performance, the disappearing pencil trick, and Batman flipping the truck.

What can I say?  I enjoyed it, and as a curmudgeon-in-training, I have a low tolerance for entertainment that purports to be about something big and philosophical but is really about the authors putting…

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June 25, 2010, 3:01 pm

If you gaze into the ping-pong balls, the ping-pong balls gaze also into you.

OK Go’s drummer has a staring contest with Animal, overseen by Ira Glass of This American Life.

May 30, 2010, 8:15 am

Subtlety was ever his strong suit.

Some cutesy references are too heavy-handed even for Oliver Stone. In the early reports on Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, the villain was a character named—no, just read it for yourself:

The film will center on young Jacob Moore (Shia Labeouf) who acquires the assistance of former Wall Street mogul Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas) — who happens to be the estranged father of his girlfriend Winnie (Carey Mulligan) — in trying to bring down hedge fund manager Bretton Woods (Josh Brolin) who he blames for the suspicious death of of his mentor (Frank Langella).

In the currently reported version of the cast, this character’s name has changed to Bretton James.

Thanks to a colleague for the tip.

May 21, 2010, 11:35 am

Astonishing realism.

Today, as a number of blog posts remind us, is the thirtieth anniversary of the release of The Empire Strikes Back (better known as “the good one”). But me, I prefer the original 1950 version.

(With frame-by-frame of the real thing here.)

UPDATED to add, apparently Pac-Man is also 30; who knows how long Google will leave this up.

May 14, 2010, 12:07 pm

Stranger than fiction.

Lady Gaga, Bruce Springsteen, Elton John, Shirley Bassey, Debbie Harry, and Sting sing Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’.” Together.

That is all there is to say.

February 4, 2010, 9:33 am

The ability to destroy a planet is insignificant next to the ability to destroy the moral sense of a generation.

People keep pushing the 70-minute Phantom Menace video review at me. After all, Damon Lindelof thinks it’s great. And if you have seventy minutes and really don’t mind a creepy persona explaining to you why George Lucas messed up so badly, be my guest. For the record, though, my concern with the Star Wars prequels is not that they’re bad movies, they’re immoral stories. And it will take you less than seventy minutes to read why. And it will probably be less creepy.
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January 15, 2010, 10:35 am

As the sinews and other ligaments of a natural body.

In the latest issue of Dissent one can find (in addition to this fine article) this one by Michael Tomasky on television:

Jean Baudrillard turns out to have had it wrong: I say television creates real communities. Friday Night Lights is no false simulacrum. It’s practically as real as real life—a show about high-school football that’s also about race and class and physical handicap and angst and sex (fraught sex between teenagers, mature sex between their parents) and why people fear things they don’t know. When I watch it, and know that millions of others are—and when I visit its Web site or read chat rooms devoted to the show—I become a part of something.

I think Tomasky’s broad point is correct, though I prefer my virtual television-inspired community at an ironic remove—I never visit a show’s website, but I will go to its Television Without Pity site.

But I want to a…

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January 13, 2010, 7:28 pm

On doing without.

Roger Ebert writes about nourishment without eating and making out without having sex. (Briefly: the former he endures; the latter he adores.)

In the hands of a writer sick with ambition, these subjects might have become the occasion for a meditation on the virtues of discipline; for a writer poisoned by sentiment, they might have become treacly elegy. But Ebert seems these days just to be writing because he really wants to tell you how it is, and it’s very good writing indeed.1


1Which is not to say that I’ve never felt misled by his movie criticism. Not to go too deeply into things, but I would leap to play the dour Siskel to his thumbs up for Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull and Synecdoche, New York.

December 13, 2009, 6:48 pm

Come what might.

This video of the Muppets doing Cole Porter’s “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” seems to have been chased off YouTube by Warners, and I can’t embed it because, according to WordPress, the site hosts NSFW video (unlike YouTube? anyway). But you can see it if you click on that link. It’s a fine example of what made the Muppets great—there’s lots of serious weird in there with the sweet. This is especially true of the Muppet Show pilot (1, 2, 3), sometimes called “Sex and Violence.”

If only the Beatles had accepted Lorne Michaels’s offer.

December 1, 2009, 9:27 am

Too late to be the first.

Ari tells me I’m the last person to notice this, but what the heck: it’s totally obvious that Disney’s Robin Hood is a fable for the modern American right wing, isn’t it? I mean, the Merry Men, these guys who are traditionally English yeomen, are instead depicted and voiced as country music-lovin’, church-goin’ good ol’ boys who just want them some tax rebates. No, really, Andy Devine’s Friar Tuck actually says “tax rebates.”

Want to push this reading untenably further? Notice that Robin Hood and Little John shrug off the idea of running up enormous debt while cutting back taxes. Notice Little John stoutly defends what’s clearly, within the narrative, a foolhardy military adventure as a “great crusade.”

This has been another edition of too-close readings.

November 18, 2009, 9:28 am

A perfect Laocoön.

Kevin Drum writes,

But look: isn’t secular holiday music something we can all agree on? I mean, it sucks. It really does.

No, we can’t agree on that, you big square Grinch. Top of the list of things I would rather hear than a moany Muzak version of “Adeste Fidelis” is going to include the following, but most of all Mitch Benn’s “True Meaning of Christmas” and other songs, here.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s_W7p35SzuI

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H0Zx8c55f7Y

Not to mention

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vrd9p47MPHg

November 5, 2009, 7:59 pm

The past: kinda sucky.

Speaking of period dramas on television, John Rogers recently told me to watch Life on Mars. So I am. And so far it’s really quite good: early Hill Street Blues meets A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (or something).

Anyway, the thing I’m enjoying most is the show’s relentless critique of nostalgia. The main character, a contemporary British detective who finds himself transported back in time to Manchester in 1973, can’t seem to decide if he misses his friends or his cell phone more. When he’s at his most despairing, in the early episodes at least, he focuses on the dearth of creature comforts available to him. Even if you weren’t trained as an environmental historian, the emphasis on material conditions — a lack of central heat, spotty electricity, a studio apartment appointed with a twin bed — is pretty obvious. It’s a healthy reminder that the past, even the…

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