1st Quarter of 2014

We’re halfway through April, and I keep putting this off. I’ve spent months catching up on 2013, but I still haven’t seen everything I wanted. (Bastards is number one in my queue.) And the 2014 movies I’m excited about are rolling into the 504 slowly. Enemy curiously didn’t play at all, Under the Skin starts tomorrow, and Only Lovers Left Alive screens May 9. I guess “seeing movies before everyone else” is a stupid reason to move from the greatest city in the world though. In addition to the films below, I also liked Noah, The Broken Circle Breakdown, The Wind Rises, and Nymphomaniac, Vol. 1—but only Vol. 1.

1. Stranger by the Lake- Alain Guiraudie
All of the men in Stranger by the Lake are seeking and avoiding love at the same time. They have such conflicting definitions of it that they can’t even explain their ideas to anyone else. Thus, it makes sense that the protagonist is alternately attracted to and repelled by a man he knows is a murderer. Their dance around each other is subtle and hypnotic, and it’s explored through dialogue that never means exactly what it is on paper. Patrick D’Assumcao, the actor who plays Henri, stands out not only because he’s so natural but also because he plays the only character who isn’t evasive—which makes him the least comfortable or the most comfortable person in the society depicted.

The entire film takes place on the beach where the men cruise, and it’s a mysterious, captivating location to get lost in. As the film goes on, you learn that this place that supposedly has no rules actually has many to navigate. A lesser film might have inserted a scene of a maladroit Frank in the real world, trying to fit in (and probably fitting in just fine) at a McDonald’s or something.  Maybe there would have been a news report about the dead body found at this “neglected dump” of a beach. But Guiraudie is way too smart for that, and we’re so anchored at the beach that when a detective interloper does sniff around, just his presence is enough of an unnerving threat from the outside world. 


2. The Grand Budapest Hotel- Wes Anderson- In college I had this professor from New York and whenever I, as a person from Louisiana, would ask him something, I would preface it with enough apologies and explanations and preludes to get him to cut me off with a “What do you want?” That’s how I felt as Texan Wes Anderson started the film with two separate framing devices before dropping us into the main story. The Grand Budapest Hotel was shaping up to be his most empty chamber piece of all; he was arranging and rearranging beautiful paper dolls to no particular end. It doesn’t help that Anderson’s repertory of actors has grown large enough to be distracting; maybe some unknown should play Owen Wilson’s part so that I don’t get side-tracked at such a crucial point of the film. (Though Wilson’s appearance is the cinematic equivalent of “I got it from here ‘Ye, damn” on the “Diamonds [Remix].”)


It wasn’t until halfway through, as our protagonist is saved by politesse once again, that it clicked. This is a film about the moral victory of etiquette. In some ways, whether it’s dealing with the brute force of an invading army or an uncivilized family threatening your inheritance, it’s all you need. The film is still beautiful and intricate in every visual way, but it’s thematically richer than Anderson has been in a decade. He always shapes the worlds of his films according to his own visual aesthetic, and we all love him for that. It’s much more rare for him to shape the world according to his own philosophy, and he pulls that off here.


3. A Touch of Sin- Jia ZhangkeThe comically short-sighted IMDB synopsis for this film reads, “Four independent stories set in modern China about random acts of violence.” The film does interpret violence, but it’s actually about how every act of violence is motivated, even tangentially, by corrupt systems. That corrupt system in China, according to Jia, is commerce. Whereas the Chinese people used to be able to take pride in selflessness, sublimating their own identities for a national identity, anyone without money is now the underclass, especially the people who were promised a reputable middle class. How was I able to arrive at that conclusion? Because one character literally slaps another character with a stack of money, much in the way a horse was whipped earlier, as he shouts: “I will have you! Is my money not good enough?” It’s an urgent film, not necessarily a subtle one.


The first and third stories are the most interesting, which is probably how something like this should be structured, and I liked how the objectivity of the point of view lent itself to the hopelessness—even a character’s suicide is handled in a long shot without any rise in music or technique. Of course, that comes at a price. Jia holds the audience at a distance, and I never connected emotionally to anything. 


4. Afternoon Delight- Jill Soloway- When the film slows itself down and stops worrying about its own mechanics, it creates some poignant, beautiful moments. It’s at its best when it’s at its rawest. Unfortunately, the final five minutes kind of submarine a lot of Afternoon Delight's goodwill. Hoping that a great song could carry the ending, Soloway places an illogical and unnecessary “everything's okay” montage at the end. It's a strange period when the more tentative, touching resolution before it would have been a semicolon.


Though you should really see this for Kathyrn Hahn. In a lot of ways the film is about what Aristotle would have called “a false courage rooted in fear,” and Hahn plays that specific sort of over-compensation perfectly. It makes sense that a naturally funny person would be able to, after dropping some of her tics, convey that type of anxiety. In roles that are somewhat similar, I think Hahn delivers a better performance here than Cate Blanchett did in Blue Jasmine. She really blew me away.


5. Cheap Thrills- E.L. Katz- Cheap Thrills is an absorbing morality play that escalates believably until it reaches its savage breaking point. David Chirchirillo and Trent Haaga’s script doesn’t tell us any more about these characters than what’s necessary, and it lets the heavy lifting of the characterization come down to their actions. There are many films that leave you with nothing to say, but I can’t imagine an audience leaving this one in silence.

On the other hand, it’s really just a less postmodern version of Funny Games, reflective where that film is transformative. Turned down as he is, David Koechner is still a bit too glib for me to buy him as a puppetmaster. You can’t claim that the film ever pulls any punches though, so why should I? It’s on this list. 

8:30 am, by ahouseoflies
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Don Draker Quiz: Mad Men episode title or Drake song title?

1. “Time Zones”
a. Mad Men episode          b. Drake song

2. “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes”
a. Mad Men episode          b. Drake song

3. “Dreams Money Can Buy”
a. Mad Men episode          b. Drake song

4. “Free Spirit”
a. Mad Men episode          b. Drake song

5. “Hate Sleeping Alone”
a. Mad Men episode          b. Drake song

6. “For Immediate Release”
a. Mad Men episode          b. Drake song

7. “Trust Issues”
a. Mad Men episode          b. Drake song

8. “Tea Leaves”
a. Mad Men episode          b. Drake song

9. “Indian Summer”
a. Mad Men episode          b. Drake song

10. “Club Paradise”
a. Mad Men episode          b. Drake song

11. “Jodeci Freestyle (feat. J-Cole)”
a. Mad Men episode          b. Drake song

12. “Furthest Thing”
a. Mad Men episode          b. Drake song

13. “Shot for Me”
a. Mad Men episode          b. Drake song

14. “A Night to Remember”
a. Mad Men episode          b. Drake song

15. “Waldorf Stories”
a. Mad Men episode          b. Drake song


ANSWER KEY: 1. a, 2. a, 3. b, 4. b, 5. b, 6. a, 7. b, 8. a, 9. a, 10. b, 11. b, 12. b, 13. b, 14. a, 15. a

4:36 pm, by ahouseoflies
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upnorthtrips:

Cam’ron - We Made It

The official Cam’ron “We Made It” music video — filmed in NYC during Cam’ron’s M.B.F.W. collaboration with Mark McNairy.

I reblogged this before I even watched it.

4:42 pm, reblogged by ahouseoflies
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Best song of March:
Rick Ross feat. Kanye West and Big Sean- “Sanctified”- When a friend asked me earlier this week if I thought Kanye would have a new album out by the summer, I joked, “It doesn’t take very long to enlist the best underground producers and then slap your name over theirs.” That’s not only a low blow—although check Evian Christ and Gessafelstein and Travi$ Scott for Yeezus lifts—it’s also inaccurate, judging by what he does to DJ Mustard here. Mustard, a credited producer on this track, has the most recognizable sound on the radio, but he becomes another victim to West’s sacred-to-profane campaign here, disappearing under Ye’s grandeur. And by grandeur, I don’t mean the hundred plus violin tracks of Kanye 1.0. I mean little more than a Betty Wright sample and an organ line that is somehow both aimless and definitive. Kanye’s Quavo exercise of a verse isn’t his best, but his chorus-swap with Big Sean is infectious. It’s in the dregs of an insipid album, but Ross’s verse is one of his more demonstrably weird offerings in recent memory, boasting that he’ll ”Make grilled cheese for you the best” just before declaring himself “the fresh David Koresh.”

Best album of March:
YG- My Krazy Life- I can’t count the number of YG verses I’ve fast-forwarded through on supposed “west coast all-star” remixes. Until now, he has seemed like a charisma vacuum, no matter how competent he might be. It wasn’t until he hooked up with DJ Mustard’s elemental production on this album that he really came alive for me. What I interpreted as clenched-teeth lack of expression before sounds like economy of language here, aiming at targets that are surprisingly literal but surprisingly effective. (The defense calls “You know I’ll fuck you like I’m fresh out of jail” to the stand.) He’s kind of like Juelz Santana if Juelz Santana never stopped staring at the floor. Really though, this is DJ Mustard’s masterpiece. Every part of his sound, from the canned “hey” stabs to the tinny kickdrums, is artificial-sounding; but it all contributes to an ideal of realness. And those pawn shop keyboard presets serve as jabs to set you up for the occasional Liu Kang uppercut, such as the sustained swing of a chord on “Really Be (Smokin N Drinkin).” People are probably overselling this album as the Second Coming of G-Funk, but it’s only because the saw wave slide sounds so huge next to the same two or three combinations of tepid drums. Mustard’s writing sestinas out here.

Honorable mentions go to Evian Christ’s Waterfall EP, specifically the lost submarine haunt of “Propeller,” whose snare sounds are fake but want to be real. Also, who could resist Pharrell Williams and Justin Timberlake’s “Brand New,” a swirling pop duet with a goofiness that recalls something like “The Girl Is Mine”? Finally, I saw The Hold Steady for the first time at a festival, and they were having so much fun that they gave the audience no choice but to do the same.  

(Source: Spotify)

12:09 am, by ahouseoflies
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"Futures & Pasts: Wild Things"- Nick Pinkerton- FilmComment

Post-Empire.

1:25 pm, by ahouseoflies
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tagged: links, film, Wild Things,




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THE QUEST FOR THE MOST ’90s FILM OF ALL TIMECruel IntentionsI have a brother who is three years younger than I am and who was three times cooler than I was when we were growing up. Every month or so, he would get invited to a dance of some kind, and I usually had time to bring him to the venue, catch a movie, and swing back around to pick him up. As you could imagine, self-loathing characterized these trips, (“Hey, Matt, get any numbers? The Matrix was still good the third time. Thanks for asking.”) but 1999 was also a great year for a sixteen-year-old to go to the movies by himself. One of the films I remember most from that period was the Blockbuster Entertainment Award-winning Cruel Intentions. It’s still dishy fun, but it was perfect for the type of kid who could just barely catch the Freud reference and could just barely resist writing fan fiction about Sarah Michelle Gellar As a Brunette. Then again, sometimes I had to sit in the parking lot for a while…  STARS/PERFORMANCES  Actors Who Are Unquestionably Tied to the Decade- Sarah Michelle Gellar As a Brunette, Ryan Phillipe, Joshua Jackson [+15]Cruel Intentions was part of the fledgling genre of teen films sort of based on hoity-toity source material, in this case Dangerous Liasons. In a nod to the epistolatory nature of the book, Phillipe’s character Sebastian frequently writes in a journal [+1]. Like, with his hands. He does this right after the opening scene in which he psychologically manipulates his own therapist, who finds out on Windows ‘95 that he has put scandalous “photos” of her daughter Tara Reid “all over the Internet” [+5]. Cad alert!Interlude while the author cries over the demise of a really great magazine. Phillipe with that Kubrick Stare!From there, he comes home to his stepsister, Sarah Michelle Gellar As a Brunette. She seems overly interested in both Sebastian’s sex life and potential students at their tony prep school. One of these incoming students is Reese Witherspoon’s Annette, a teenager so set on her own chastity that she wrote an article about it for Seventeen magazine [+1]. Here’s Sebastian’s challenge if he chooses to accept its bizarre terms: If he can take the virginity of this girl they’ve never met, he can have sex with his stepsister; if he fails, then the stepsister gets his 1956 Jaguar Roadster. (Hope you know your way around a clutch, Sarah Michelle Gellar As a Brunette. Those cars have infamous ignition problems, and it’s difficult to even access the engine. Start trolling an eBay that doesn’t even exist yet to replace the front fender assembly!) Sebastian agrees to this grandiose wager because this is a movie [+5]. Three cheers for lascivious step-siblings and brunette Loki figures.- Other Notable Actors/Characters- Louise Fletcher, Christine Baranski, Swoosie Kurtz, Eric Mabius, Sean Patrick Thomas [+10]At first, Sebastian has trouble tracking down his conquest and determining her weaknesses, but he enlists the help of a Gay Friend go-between, a blonde version of Joshua Jackson [+5]. Jackson claims that “a friend wrote him” with some details [+1]. He knows where Annette is staying for the summer, but Sebastian will have to go over there in person because “she doesn’t have her own phone” and “e-mail is for geeks and pedophiles” [+5]. Sounds good. To show his appreciation, Sebastian calls this friend of his a “fag” for the first of three times in the film [+3].Sebastian hangs out with Annette and makes reasonable progress with her, mostly due to dissembling and false pretenses, although The Cardigans’ “Lovefool” certainly helps [+1]. However, he needs more help in convincing her that he’s a good guy. So, rather than just being a good guy, he contacts a friend of hers, the Gregster, who is able to be blackmailed because he’s a closeted homosexual [+2]. The film’s sensitivity toward these issues continues with a caricature of his secret love for disco and Spartacus [+3]. According to my notes, someone in that scene was watching a VHS tape as well [+1].TECHNOLOGY/CULTURAL RELICS- Could the Plot Reasonably Occur with Current Technology?Yes [-10]. Across cordless phones, payphones, and flip phones, all of the characters interact [+3]. Sebastian and Annette grow legitimately close, and she starts to soften him a little. This upsets Sarah Michelle Gellar As a Brunette, even if it shouldn’t—because letting his guard down brings her one step closer to a Jaguar—and she ends up throwing glasses at him and stuff [+2]. Phillipe and Witherspoon have a bit of chemistry as the relationship deepens with a Fatboy Slim song, but there’s nothing here suggesting that the two would end up being married in real life [+1]. Part of that, to my surprise, was that Reese Witherspoon wasn’t a very good actress yet in 1999.Here’s as good a spot as any to talk about this. I’ve already sounded like a creep, so why not go all the way? Other than maybe Walk the Line or her arrest video (both of which featured her as a brunette—I’ve said too much already), this is the best Reese has looked to me. And maybe I’m stepping out of bounds here, but I think it’s because of a little thing called skinny-fatness. You can tell from her face, shoulders, and overall bone structure that Reese Witherspoon is not supposed to be super-skinny. That’s not what God intended. But beginning with Legally Blonde, she has repeatedly lost weight and curves. (Strangely enough, this same phenomenon also happened to Jennifer Aniston in 2000.) Obviously, she wants to be fit, but there’s a happy medium called skinny-fatness that I wish she would observe. To remind us that Sarah Michelle Gellar As a Brunette still exists during these scenes, she’s involved in a subplot of her own, in which she corrupts a naive character named Cecile (played by a game Selma Blair). In a quite memorable scene (if you must), she teaches this character how to “french kiss,” which I remember eliciting vocal reactions in my theater [+3]. Sarah Michelle Gellar As a Brunette also manipulates Cecile into a romantic relationship with her African-American cello instructor, which creates some Inter-Racial Panic in Cecile’s mom [+5]. As a diversion, Sebastian starts fooling around with Cecile himself and spilling the details in his journal, which is what I hear all baller lotharios do. That’s enough evidence for Sarah Michelle Gellar As a Brunette to stir some jealousy in the cello instructor, who then, get this, initiates a Central Park fight with Sebastian. In this fight, Annette gets pushed into the street and Sebastian saves her by jumping in front of a car and gets hit and DIES. You expect the film to fade back in to a hospital bed or something, but no. It goes there. I love you because I’m getting hit by taxis in Central Park while you’re wearing all white, girl. You a slave to a page in my romantic conquests book.A young Amy Adams took over for Sarah Michelle Gellar in Cruel Intentions 2: Manchester Prep, the bonkers abandoned TV pilot that was later extended into a straight-to-video prequel. Upgrade!Sebastian’s funeral sets up one of the all-time best examples of a bad ending getting covered up by a great song. It makes no sense, but no one asked any questions because “Bittersweet Symphony” played over it [+1]. Let me walk you through. Sarah Michelle Gellar As a Brunette is giving Sebastian’s eulogy, but, much to her consternation, kids start whispering and leaving the pews. They go outside, where Annette is distributing copies of Sebastian’s journal, which paints Sarah Michelle Gellar As a Brunette as the coked-out Machiavelli that she is. (I guess his caring relationship showed him how evil she was, but he should have been able to judge her moral fiber when she made a pact involving someone else’s virginity.) So she’s exposed, but so is everyone else Sebastian ever slept with, including Annette and, I would presume, many other girls at the school? So he’s not going to look like much of a posthumous sweetheart either. Cut to Annette speeding along the highway in the Jaguar, which she inherited from Sebastian for some reason not having to do with any of the foundations of estate law? BUT IT’S A BITTER-SWEET SYM-PHON-Y THAT’S LI-HIIIIIIIFE!”  FASHIONCome on down to 1999 New York for all of the hottest trends. We’ve got v-necks, turtlenecks, mom jeans, huge sunglasses. We’ve got frosted tips and neckties that are the same exact shade as the dress shirts they’re paired with—aka Herman Blumeing. Ladies in Chanel suits? Got a nice ring to it [+7].But here’s the kicker. Sebastian wears a knee-length leather jacket [+3]. For whatever reason, these were so hot in the late ’90s. To the point that on a Christmas list, I asked my parents for a “long leather jacket—the kind McManus wears in The Usual Suspects.”  I never got one because, thankfully, my parents were just as conservative as I was outre. I was already the weirdest kid in 11th grade, but not everyone had to know it. I’m cracking up just imagining myself showing up to homeroom with a leather jacket billowing behind me like Blade or something.’90s FILM CONVENTIONS"Ya think?” [+1]"Call me!" [+1]Character Psyching Himself Up in a Mirror [+3]Hoity-Toity Source Material [+3]Obtrusive Score [+3]A Misunderstanding That Ends Up Spilling Out into a Busy Street [+5]OTHERCruel Intentions is a lot dumber than I thought it was back in the day, and the performances are all over the map. But my nostalgia counts for a lot. (As the tagline says, “In the game of seduction, there is only one rule: never fall in love.”) The film builds an interesting brand of cynicism throughout the entire movie, then gets moralistic out of duty. I did appreciate how frank it was in its depiction of teen sex and drugs, even if these characters aren’t anything resembling real teenagers.FINAL TALLYCruel Intentions scored an 89, which is way more than what I would have expected from a film released so late in the decade. Be sure to remind me in the comments that I haven’t done Reality Bites yet.

THE QUEST FOR THE MOST ’90s FILM OF ALL TIME
Cruel Intentions

I have a brother who is three years younger than I am and who was three times cooler than I was when we were growing up. Every month or so, he would get invited to a dance of some kind, and I usually had time to bring him to the venue, catch a movie, and swing back around to pick him up.

As you could imagine, self-loathing characterized these trips, (“Hey, Matt, get any numbers? The Matrix was still good the third time. Thanks for asking.”) but 1999 was also a great year for a sixteen-year-old to go to the movies by himself. One of the films I remember most from that period was the Blockbuster Entertainment Award-winning Cruel Intentions. It’s still dishy fun, but it was perfect for the type of kid who could just barely catch the Freud reference and could just barely resist writing fan fiction about Sarah Michelle Gellar As a Brunette. Then again, sometimes I had to sit in the parking lot for a while…  

STARS/PERFORMANCES  
Actors Who Are Unquestionably Tied to the Decade- Sarah Michelle Gellar As a Brunette, Ryan Phillipe, Joshua Jackson [+15]

Cruel Intentions
was part of the fledgling genre of teen films sort of based on hoity-toity source material, in this case Dangerous Liasons. In a nod to the epistolatory nature of the book, Phillipe’s character Sebastian frequently writes in a journal [+1]. Like, with his hands. He does this right after the opening scene in which he psychologically manipulates his own therapist, who finds out on Windows ‘95 that he has put scandalous “photos” of her daughter Tara Reid “all over the Internet” [+5]. Cad alert!


Interlude while the author cries over the demise of a really great magazine. Phillipe with that Kubrick Stare!

From there, he comes home to his stepsister, Sarah Michelle Gellar As a Brunette. She seems overly interested in both Sebastian’s sex life and potential students at their tony prep school. One of these incoming students is Reese Witherspoon’s Annette, a teenager so set on her own chastity that she wrote an article about it for Seventeen magazine [+1]. Here’s Sebastian’s challenge if he chooses to accept its bizarre terms: If he can take the virginity of this girl they’ve never met, he can have sex with his stepsister; if he fails, then the stepsister gets his 1956 Jaguar Roadster. (Hope you know your way around a clutch, Sarah Michelle Gellar As a Brunette. Those cars have infamous ignition problems, and it’s difficult to even access the engine. Start trolling an eBay that doesn’t even exist yet to replace the front fender assembly!) Sebastian agrees to this grandiose wager because this is a movie [+5]. Three cheers for lascivious step-siblings and brunette Loki figures.

- Other Notable Actors/Characters- Louise Fletcher, Christine Baranski, Swoosie Kurtz, Eric Mabius, Sean Patrick Thomas [+10]
At first, Sebastian has trouble tracking down his conquest and determining her weaknesses, but he enlists the help of a Gay Friend go-between, a blonde version of Joshua Jackson [+5]. Jackson claims that “a friend wrote him” with some details [+1]. He knows where Annette is staying for the summer, but Sebastian will have to go over there in person because “she doesn’t have her own phone” and “e-mail is for geeks and pedophiles” [+5]. Sounds good. To show his appreciation, Sebastian calls this friend of his a “fag” for the first of three times in the film [+3].

Sebastian hangs out with Annette and makes reasonable progress with her, mostly due to dissembling and false pretenses, although The Cardigans’ “Lovefool” certainly helps [+1]. However, he needs more help in convincing her that he’s a good guy. So, rather than just being a good guy, he contacts a friend of hers, the Gregster, who is able to be blackmailed because he’s a closeted homosexual [+2]. The film’s sensitivity toward these issues continues with a caricature of his secret love for disco and Spartacus [+3]. According to my notes, someone in that scene was watching a VHS tape as well [+1].

TECHNOLOGY/CULTURAL RELICS
Could the Plot Reasonably Occur with Current Technology?
Yes [-10]. Across cordless phones, payphones, and flip phones, all of the characters interact [+3]. Sebastian and Annette grow legitimately close, and she starts to soften him a little. This upsets Sarah Michelle Gellar As a Brunette, even if it shouldn’t—because letting his guard down brings her one step closer to a Jaguar—and she ends up throwing glasses at him and stuff [+2]. Phillipe and Witherspoon have a bit of chemistry as the relationship deepens with a Fatboy Slim song, but there’s nothing here suggesting that the two would end up being married in real life [+1]. Part of that, to my surprise, was that Reese Witherspoon wasn’t a very good actress yet in 1999.


Here’s as good a spot as any to talk about this. I’ve already sounded like a creep, so why not go all the way? Other than maybe Walk the Line or her arrest video (both of which featured her as a brunette—I’ve said too much already), this is the best Reese has looked to me. And maybe I’m stepping out of bounds here, but I think it’s because of a little thing called skinny-fatness. You can tell from her face, shoulders, and overall bone structure that Reese Witherspoon is not supposed to be super-skinny. That’s not what God intended. But beginning with Legally Blonde, she has repeatedly lost weight and curves. (Strangely enough, this same phenomenon also happened to Jennifer Aniston in 2000.) Obviously, she wants to be fit, but there’s a happy medium called skinny-fatness that I wish she would observe. 

To remind us that Sarah Michelle Gellar As a Brunette still exists during these scenes, she’s involved in a subplot of her own, in which she corrupts a naive character named Cecile (played by a game Selma Blair). In a quite memorable scene (if you must), she teaches this character how to “french kiss,” which I remember eliciting vocal reactions in my theater [+3]. Sarah Michelle Gellar As a Brunette also manipulates Cecile into a romantic relationship with her African-American cello instructor, which creates some Inter-Racial Panic in Cecile’s mom [+5]. As a diversion, Sebastian starts fooling around with Cecile himself and spilling the details in his journal, which is what I hear all baller lotharios do. That’s enough evidence for Sarah Michelle Gellar As a Brunette to stir some jealousy in the cello instructor, who then, get this, initiates a Central Park fight with Sebastian. In this fight, Annette gets pushed into the street and Sebastian saves her by jumping in front of a car and gets hit and DIES. You expect the film to fade back in to a hospital bed or something, but no. It goes there. I love you because I’m getting hit by taxis in Central Park while you’re wearing all white, girl. You a slave to a page in my romantic conquests book.


A young Amy Adams took over for Sarah Michelle Gellar in Cruel Intentions 2: Manchester Prep, the bonkers abandoned TV pilot that was later extended into a straight-to-video prequel. Upgrade!

Sebastian’s funeral sets up one of the all-time best examples of a bad ending getting covered up by a great song. It makes no sense, but no one asked any questions because “Bittersweet Symphony” played over it [+1]. Let me walk you through. Sarah Michelle Gellar As a Brunette is giving Sebastian’s eulogy, but, much to her consternation, kids start whispering and leaving the pews. They go outside, where Annette is distributing copies of Sebastian’s journal, which paints Sarah Michelle Gellar As a Brunette as the coked-out Machiavelli that she is. (I guess his caring relationship showed him how evil she was, but he should have been able to judge her moral fiber when she made a pact involving someone else’s virginity.) So she’s exposed, but so is everyone else Sebastian ever slept with, including Annette and, I would presume, many other girls at the school? So he’s not going to look like much of a posthumous sweetheart either. Cut to Annette speeding along the highway in the Jaguar, which she inherited from Sebastian for some reason not having to do with any of the foundations of estate law? BUT IT’S A BITTER-SWEET SYM-PHON-Y THAT’S LI-HIIIIIIIFE!”  

FASHION
Come on down to 1999 New York for all of the hottest trends. We’ve got v-necks, turtlenecks, mom jeans, huge sunglasses. We’ve got frosted tips and neckties that are the same exact shade as the dress shirts they’re paired with—aka Herman Blumeing. Ladies in Chanel suits? Got a nice ring to it [+7].

But here’s the kicker. Sebastian wears a knee-length leather jacket [+3]. For whatever reason, these were so hot in the late ’90s. To the point that on a Christmas list, I asked my parents for a “long leather jacket—the kind McManus wears in The Usual Suspects.”  I never got one because, thankfully, my parents were just as conservative as I was outre. I was already the weirdest kid in 11th grade, but not everyone had to know it. I’m cracking up just imagining myself showing up to homeroom with a leather jacket billowing behind me like Blade or something.

’90s FILM CONVENTIONS
"Ya think?” [+1]
"Call me!" [+1]

Character Psyching Himself Up in a Mirror [+3]
Hoity-Toity Source Material [+3]

Obtrusive Score [+3]

A Misunderstanding That Ends Up Spilling Out into a Busy Street [+5]

OTHER
Cruel Intentions is a lot dumber than I thought it was back in the day, and the performances are all over the map. But my nostalgia counts for a lot. (As the tagline says, “In the game of seduction, there is only one rule: never fall in love.”) The film builds an interesting brand of cynicism throughout the entire movie, then gets moralistic out of duty. I did appreciate how frank it was in its depiction of teen sex and drugs, even if these characters aren’t anything resembling real teenagers.

FINAL TALLY
Cruel Intentions scored an 89, which is way more than what I would have expected from a film released so late in the decade. Be sure to remind me in the comments that I haven’t done Reality Bites yet.





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Childhood Canon

I didn’t start making top ten lists until 1995, which is not coincidentally when I started watching R-rated movies. These are (alphabetically) movies that I loved between the ages of 3 and 11—specifically the day my parents separated. (Oooooh. Intrigue.) I’m now realizing I watched way more TV than movies. 


This list can be paired pretty well with my YouTube playlist of childhood ephemera.

3:07 pm, by ahouseoflies
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tagged: film, lists, childhood,




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"Ordinary Machines: The #Art of the Hashtag"- Pitchfork- Lindsay Zoladz

"If you have any doubt that the hashtag is a frighteningly powerful tool in our modern vocabulary, imagine a person you care about texting you that song’s title line out of the blue: "You’re beautiful." Now think of the same person texting, "You’re #beautiful." The second one is jokey, ironic, distant—and hey, maybe that’s what that person was going for. But it also hammers home that point that the internet too often asserts: You’re not as original as you once thought. "Beautiful" is analog, unquantifiable, one-in-a-million. #Beautiful, on the other hand, is crowded terrain. Ten more people have just tweeted about something or someone #beautiful since you started reading this sentence."

Every time I read Zoladz I think, “Man, we would be really good friends.”

8:54 pm, by ahouseoflies
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tagged: links, music, culture,




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8:27 pm, by ahouseoflies
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tagged: film, Wes Anderson,




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Over the past two years, Arnold Schwarzenegger has tried to resume his career as a movie star after an eight year run as the Governor of California. (I keep staring at it too, but everything in that last sentence is correct.)

Partly because he’s sixty-six years old, Schwarzenegger is using an outdated playbook. His 2013 double barrel of The Last Stand and Escape Plan was refreshing specifically because of its lack of invention. The films felt like simplified, straightforward action products from a bygone era. Schwarzenegger has a narrow idea of what his audience wants from him, and his presentation of himself is beginning to morph from welcome novelty into something perverse.

In the video above, he’s appearing on a past-its-prime web show to cook an 80,000-calorie sandwich on his own tank. (I double-checked that sentence too. Seems legit.) Because challenges involving bacon and tanks are manly, right? And who’s manlier than Ah-nuld? (Ha ha. I wrote it the way he says it.) 

In the last decade or so, the world has changed in ways beyond what kinds of action movies people want to see. Schwarzenegger’s influence as an actor is negligible. He’s far more instructive now as a model of a mode of masculinity that no longer exists. The way he’s trying to step right back into his exact old persona after a political layover illuminates only how different we all are. For example, in 2003 it would have been cool for Arnold to own his own tank; in 2014 that’s just sort of bizarre and unnecessary. Even the premise of Epic Meal Time is a posture, a wink to the idea that a “real man” doesn’t care about calories. The creators of the show seem to know that more than Schwarzenegger does, as he tips his weathered cap to the host and tells him to “pump up your bicep.”

If that disconnect I’m talking about isn’t sincerity, it might be commitment. It’s difficult to determine whether or not the cigar-chomping Schwarzenegger is in on the joke with his more sensitive, moisturizing, casual-shoed audience. But I do know that he’s determined to keep it from feeling like he is. Furthermore, the way he acts might be self-preservation—I’m not sure anyone wants his fourth act to be some sort of fragile artistry.

Schwarzenegger’s perception of his audience is narrow, but it might be precise. The chest-puffing that he does all the time is what most men are doing on an afternoon when they go to The Expendables. Maybe he’s being sincere so that we don’t have to. Maybe, to paraphrase from an action movie Schwarzenegger was not in, he’s the hero we need, not the hero we deserve.

4:05 pm, by ahouseoflies
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tagged: culture, Arnold Schwarzenegger, videos,




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