Monday, August 25, 2008

Guilty Pleasures - or - Songs I Should Hate but Don't

As some of you may or may not know, the Pussycat Dolls (of "Don't Ya" fame) have released a new single called "When I Grow Up".

They can't sing, the beats are typical, the lyrics are horrendous, and yet, I find myself listening to it over and over again.

In all regards I should hate the song, I mean it's like Barbie in music form - a song that tells girls to worry only about fame and their appearance ("When I grow up I wanna have boobies." That sounds more like something a transsexual would say, but I digress...). It promotes a materialistic view of life that is just simply outrageous and unacceptable.

So why do I like it? I can't understand my love of crappy pop music sometimes, it's like a wound I keep picking at. I guess you need something to dance like a whore too...

Sorry this post sucks, and I haven't been posting really at all lately. I have been very busy and very tired.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Brick - New Noir

Brick, a 2006 film written and directed by Rian Johnson, is worth seeing for its versatility and re-imaging of old school film noir. Much the same way Baz Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet juxtaposed the language of classical Shakespeare with modern imagery and culture, Johnson places the lingo of 1940s and '50s private detectives in the setting of modern drug rings and high school drama.

I mean seriously, check out this dialogue:
"Throw one at me if you want, hash head. I've got all five senses and I slept last night, that puts me six up on the lot of you."
..."Ask any dope rat where their junk sprang and they'll say they scraped it from that who scored it from this who bought it off so and after four or five connections the list always ends with the Pin. But I bet you got every rat in town together and said 'show your hands' if any of them've actually seen the Pin, you'd get a crowd of full pockets."
For a film geek like me, this is just awesome.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt, whom you may remember from 10 Things I Hate About You, plays the lead guy who tries to uncover the happenings that led to the murder of his ex-girlfriend. He seems to channel a strange but compelling combination of Humphrey Bogart in Maltese Falcon and Heath Ledger in Brokeback Mountain - the semi-silent but determined outcast with an instinct for digging for answers in the right places, motivated by a still broken heart and lingering sentiment for the past love in question.

Emelie de Ravin, who is now fabulous on ABC's Lost as Claire, makes only a few appearances in the film but is beautiful nonetheless. She plays the ex-girlfriend, an elusive and frightened character that begs for sympathy without saying much at all. 

The cinematography is great, and the use of non-linear time (typically via flashback) is one of the traditional markers of classic film noir. The character Laura fulfills the role of the femme fatale of unknown allegiance, another noir marker that was first made famous by the eternally amazing Marlene Dietrich as the genre came of age (in America) in the 1940s. Nearly all the performances are spot-on, and the setting of this story against high school seniors (rather than midlife detectives and criminals) makes for a backburner commentary on the kind of reality that kids grow up with today.  

Overall, the film is an excellent resurfacing of this under appreciated genre, and is a refreshing change of pace from the usual Hollywood attempts at something different.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Wall-E: Imitation and Replication

(This is also posted on my other blog, linked on the side of this page!)

So I think it's time for me to chime in on Wall-E. I've seen the film twice now in theaters, much to the dismay of my grad student wallet. I loved it from the moment "Put On Your Sunday Clothes" from Hello, Dolly echoed through the digitized streets of a desolate version of New York City. The recognition of the skyscrapers as no more than buildings made of compressed garbage and cultural remnants began a long series of stunning visual commentaries on our seeming direction. And, speaking from a geek's perspective, the allusions to 2001: A Space Odyssey only made the movie that much better in the canon of sci-fi flicks.

But if I may, I'd like to explore the more subtle suggestions of the film when it comes to gender.

I should first say that I very much appreciate the creation of Wall-E and Eve as, for the most part, androgynous characters. Granted, Wall-E is noticeably mechanical and angular - traditionally masculine associations - while Eve is smooth and curvy. Also, Wall-E's electronic "voice" operates at a lower frequency than Eve's. Nonetheless, after carefully watching the film, the robots never use any gendered pronouns or language toward one another. The robots not only remain androgynous, but they also defy traditional gender stereotypes at various points. As The Pop Perspective points out, Eve was the one to carry a weapon and exhibit violence, while Wall-E was the (literally) starry-eyed dreamer and lover. In fact, we only read them as male or female because that is the first categorization our minds make upon encountering a new individual. We look for anything, any small attribute (like the ones I listed above) to give us a hint of sex. But these robots are without sex - we have assigned them an arbitrary sex in our minds. A queer couple, to say the least.

However, my favorite part about this film may in fact be that, in numerous ways, the actions of Wall-E and other characters only serve to confirm Judith Butler's suggestions that gender, and all the acts of coupling, friendship, and the very ways we relate interpersonally on any level, are imitative. The film presents us with a world devoid of humans, where Wall-E is the last remaining garbage compacting robot. Although he is without human companionship, he is not without human ritual. As the action progresses, we watch Wall-E discover the intricacies of humanity through various cultural remnants like Hello, Dolly. It is here, in societal representations of love stories and relationships, that Wall-E learns about holding hands, about companionship, about how "it only takes a moment to be loved your whole life long." When Eve comes along, Wall-E has a chance to imitate these devices. One wonders how Wall-E would have interacted with Eve had he not discovered these cultural productions that taught him, like all the rest of us, how men and women relate to each other and view the world.

Furthermore, Wall-E shows us that these imitative rituals are indeed perpetuated through society and media. This, of course, is not surprising. Most people (I hope) are aware of the power of media to simultaneously reflect and reproduce cultural values, thus creating the classic question, "Does life imitate art, or does art imitate life?" Wall-E inherits these romantic rituals through Hello, Dolly, just as the captain of the ship later learns how to live on Earth from pictures and writings stored in the ship's database. Our society and its values are continually replicated and passed down through these rituals and cultural productions.

This movie, when considering these points, leaves me wondering how we would recreate ourselves if given a blank slate. If we'd been in Wall-E's position, except without the Barbara Streisand and Michael Crawford, what brave new world could we invent?

Friday, August 1, 2008

This Week the News Was Unreal

Not only am I a news junkie, I must also keep track of multiple Web sites belonging to various media entities for my summer internship at a local newspaper. Ergo, there are a lot press releases and news briefs I go through on a weekly basis. And this week there seemed to be an unusual amount of stories that were simply unbelievable, so much so that I felt the need to present them here.

First off, there was the post on about the announcement that Olympic officials in Beijing will be subjecting “suspicious-looking” women to sex tests to make sure they are not men. This announcement has been rippling through all the major feminist blogs, so there’s not a lot I can really contribute to this discussion beyond the fact that ridiculous doesn’t even begin to adequately describe the situation. And also, I feel sorry for the women who will inevitably be tested because I can’t imagine anything more demeaning than being subjected to a sex test (well, I can imagine some things) but as far as stupid decisions are concerned, this is pretty brainless.

Apparently a monster washed up on the shore near New York City earlier this week. I’ve examined the picture of this thing for way longer than I probably needed to, and the only conclusion I can come up with is that it is a. dead and b. decomposing. My favorite theories so far are that it is either a turtle without a shell or a part of a viral marketing campaign.

Speaking of ill-made decisions and things washing up on shore, the body of the Brazilian priest who took off in a chair affixed to hundreds of latex helium balloons was identified this week. His death is rather unfortunate, but much like the previously mentioned monster, there were several theories being passed around as to what happened to him, including one that suggested he floated away ... to heaven. I’m not really sure how seriously that was put out there, but I guess you could say he made it to heaven after all.

Then there was the story about the inventor who showed off his jet pack at an annual convention for experimental aircraft. As far as futuristic modes of transportation are concerned, I’m more of a flying car kind of girl, but jet packs are still pretty cool. This guy’s doesn’t seem like it as it only stays in the air for less than a minute, but then again the first airplanes didn’t do all that much either in the beginning.

This morning in the daily e-mail I receive from, the top story was about someone getting stabbed and beheaded on a Greyhound Bus in Canada. In my opinion, decapitation is one of the most horrifying ways to die, so I can only sort of imagine the terror that knowing that some guy who was sitting on the bus with you was stabbed and beheaded by some other guy who was sitting on the bus with you. I don’t ride the bus in St.Louis, but next month on a visit to Denver I’m going to have to take the bus a few times by myself. Can you guess what I’m going to be thinking about?

Finally, this was news to me this week: I was informed that a man in Nevada (sort of) owns land on the moon. Four words for you: capitalism at its best.


It appears that now the Bush administration is attempting to classify birth control and IUDs as.... abortion.

That's right, you heard me correctly. Abortion.

I cannot believe the lengths conservatives will go to try and make babies happen, as if the world wasn't overpopulated as it is.

At least Obama has outright opposed the bill - very uncharacteristic of a person running for president - and McCain has declined comment. The pill has been around for so long I doubt this will go anywhere, I just can't believe someone would actually try this.