Side B: A line from Mrs. Parker’s poem about the beauties of early Manhattan, Kansas. But because that place is so cold, because its only warmth is the hearth, its crooked lines of fire must be those traced by the people moving among its cold beauty. (via Geoff Ryman’s Was)
Also in Was: Ryman’s amazing way of taking a zero-dimensional literary character (Baum’s Dorothy) and a fully dimensional historical figure (pre-Judy Garland), upgrading the former and downgrading the latter so they become equally dimensional. Dorothy has her awareness of death and Frances Gumm her trained response to social cues*, and in these remarkably fictionalized human traits, they are mirrored portraits of sensitive girlhood.
*A while ago, a thing was going around the social media world asking you to go to page 52 of the book closest at hand and post the fifth sentence, and pass it on. In mine, I found a revelatory detail that might have gone unnoticed, a perfect distillation of a central character, the possible secret to Judy Garland’s sadness: “Frances decided to laugh too, even louder than they did.”
And this, from Was’s near-present-day storyline – It was impossible to catch the past. "You know, someday they’ll do a computer model of every town every ten years. The shops, the cars, the parks, the houses. The people in them, the clothes, everything. And you’ll put on your electronic glasses, and your earplugs, and you’ll walk through it. You’ll say hello to women in cloche hats and brown silk stockings and they’ll say hello back." He paused, and Ira saw that he was almost near tears. "In very slightly tinny voices."
Which sort of describes what happens in Marwencol.
At the 2012 Southwest Gay & Lesbian Film Festival:
Sexual Tension: A very thorough study of the title subject, and, by extension, eyes.
Keep The Lights On: Give an Oscar to Thure Lindhardt, please. Portrait of the selfless lover (there’s one shot during the first getting-high-together scene, of orange-red face and yellow wall, that I especially need to see again). Extra points for the Arthur Russell soundtrack.
BearCity 2: The Proposal: The original leans heavily on an appealing cast, the inherent humor of their situations, and scenes of honest talk. This one has that, too, but also snappy editing and dialogue and real comedic momentum. It’s still pretty dorky, but probably the most fun I’ve had in a theater this year.
Gayby: These titles don’t lie, do they? This one conceals a very likable sitcom movie.
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Never have I seen such a fine replica of the physical reality of a town as I saw in ParaNorman, and its cracked plain of sidewalk and asphalt out of which buildings and stuff grow.
Premium Rush joins the Phone Booth-Red Eye-1408 school of frivolous and mildly violent late-summer delight (but, I’m not certain all of those came out in late summer).
Dark Horse starts as a single character portrait a la Welcome to the Dollhouse, and ends up Todd Solondz’s strangest movie yet. To enter the consciousness of one character and emerge out of the consciousness of another is an old literary trick, but I’ve never seen such a long-form example of it, or found so much that is pure dream in between. Critics tend to offer the most pat, uninspired descriptions of what a Solondz movie does (quirky misanthropy, blah blah blah), but I’ve yet to see his art put into words. Nor am I capable myself. There’s a scene between Jordan Gelber, talking about how no one understands his problems better than he does, and Mia Farrow, maternal and ineffectual, that’s so bleak and heartbreaking, my tears emerged as sweat, or vice versa.
On the big screen: Bridge on the River Kwai and Lawrence of Arabia. But I was as much newly awed by how smart these movies are about the disappointments of war, as I was by the major appointments of the cinematic experience.
I’m not the first to call Don Hertzfeldt’s mind-blowing It’s Such A Beautiful Day (here I refer to the film that compiles his Bill trilogy of films, including one called It’s Such A Beautiful Day) an animated Tree of Life, nor can I think of any other way to come close to suggesting what this movie is, or does. Particularly resonant with cosmic sensation is a moment when Bill looks at some brains in jars and wonders if they still contain pieces of the people they were, or if the archives (I love the use of that word, archives) are erased at the moment the body dies. This has been on my mind a lot lately: How can the soul survive when all the soul knows is from the body? Our experience of the world is our body’s experience; our loves are what our bodies love. Bill’s body experiences unimaginable crisis.
The Master [insert reckoning].
What we have here, in Margaret, a.k.a. Don’t Talk (Put Your Head On My Shoulder), is failures to communicate, and Kenneth Lonergan’s tribute to the Metropolitan Opera. At the end, two women who will never be able to talk to each other find they share a horror of the anxious, endless, exhausting, futile attempt to communicate, and, inspired by the opera, finally come together in a crying, wordless embrace.
The great, sweet Perks of Being A Wallflower, like other great high school movies, makes me feel not just regretful, but a little guilty, for not having had a similarly momentous teenage experience. But, the vicarious thrill remains. I liked, a lot, the way this one divides its sensitive youth into those who think The Smiths are a great breakup band and those who know The Smiths are the band of eternal loneliness, and then, alas, allows them to come together and turn The Smiths into something shared and permanent.
Among other things, Looper knows what to do with a voiceover. Just go ahead and tell us what we need to know about the rules of your world, as long as you can establish its more intangible but just-as-fictional textures through purely visual means.
From a community humming in the subway tunnels as bombs fall on London, to a drunken sing-along in a pub years later. The Deep Blue Sea reminds us what drinking songs mean, how they only get sadder as times get better and solidarity becomes optional.
Probably my favorite movie of the year, Searching for Sugar Man is a limitless procession of total awe. Chief among its fascinations are those that appeal to anyone who’s ever beheld an album sleeve, wondering what, if anything, can be gleaned from its weird, fragmentary collection of details.
At least Samsara, unlike Koyaanisqatsi, has a cumulative sense of real anger in its images, and doesn’t try to bend them to a “life out of balance” message that doesn’t fit. I know these movies want to show us life in a way we’ve never seen it before, to see what feelings it might stir up. But again, I can’t help feeling that this strategy of beautiful images set to music is anathema to understanding, that the overwhelming propaganda of the results rules out any attempt at analysis. Speeding up an image might make you feel something, but you shouldn’t bother, because real life doesn’t move at that speed.
God Bless America is smart, and then a little smarter than it appears to be, if you ask the question: Why won’t Frank just turn off the radio and TV? A: He’s actively seeking reasons to kill. The movie then becomes as much psychopathic character study as wish fulfillment/revenge fantasy.
Argo Fargo, adj.: Artsy fartsy, but with Oscar potential. Not that Argo is very artsy, or that Ben Affleck is more than a capable director with a keen understanding of story… but Jim Emerson suggests ways that Argo’s climax is so absurdly suspenseful that the suspense takes on an abstract quality.
Some Days Are Better Than Others gets a lot of nice observations out of its somewhat quaint perspective. I especially liked how patient the movie is in setting up the visual joke about how roommates live in different worlds.
Top ten Portlandia moments, season two:
1. Around the World in 80 Plates
2. Pre-school record donations
3. “Oh L’Amour” performance art (I am still very confused about how this has affected my relationship with one of my all-time favorite songs.)
4. Come watch me spin tonight.
5. Origins of Catnap
6. Night preparations of a sentient fruit
7. Joanna Newsom’s harp
8. Johnny Marr’s bike
9. 18,000 unsold jewel cases (pickled)
10. Two Girls, Two Shirts
For the record:
Movies that were showing in theaters during the last weekend of September in Albuquerque (commentary courtesy of Alibi):
Runaway Slave: “Who knows more about the history of slavery than Glenn Beck and Andrew Breitbart?”
Saints and Soldiers: Airborne Creed: “Our gung ho guys attempt to liberate some members of the French resistance… Oh, and spread the word of Mormon.”
2016: Obama’s America: “Take it with a pillar of salt.”
Last Ounce of Courage: “Then, he gets kicked out of school for bringing a Bible. Black people, homosexuals and other un-Americans are destroying our way of life!”
Unconditional: “Don’t expect revenge or romance or anything like that—just an endorsement of God, forgiveness and community service.” (That sounds like a movie I can finally get behind, sort of.)
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Albums from 2012 that I’ve sold to the citizens of Albuquerque:
2 Chainz, Based on a T.R.U. Story
Fiona Apple, The Idler Wheel
Bloc Party, Four
Ben Gibbard, Former Lives
GOOD Music, Cruel Summer
Insane Clown Posse, The Mighty Death Pop
Kendrick Lamar, good kid, m.A.A.d city
Maybach Music Group Presents Self Made 2
Miguel, Kaleidoscope Dream
Van Morrison, Born to Sing: No Plan B
Nas, Life Is Good
Frank Ocean, Channel Orange
Pet Shop Boys, Elysium
Pink, The Truth About Love
Bonnie Raitt, Slipstream
Rick Ross, God Forgives, I Don't
The Shins, Port of Morrow
Taylor Swift, Red
Sharon Van Etten, Tramp
Waka Flocka Flame, Triple F Life
Neil Young & Crazy Horse, Americana
ZZ Top, La Futura
(Some other notable ones, too, I'm sure, but these are the ones I distinctly remember passing my register.)
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Dreams I’ve recently dreamt about musicians, from a bed in Albuquerque:
The early Beatles, playing some lounge where the people sitting at tables are only mildly interested. I’m viewing from behind the band, and want to shout at the unresponsive dark beyond how important this night is, or will be.
My old band, and the fatigue of playing the same few songs live, all these years later.
Two separate explanations, in different dreams, of what the name Perfume Genius means, but I can’t remember either. I think one of the dreams had the name as a sort of response to Chocolate Genius, singer of the great “My Mom.”
Many involving Danny Brown, from the academic to the, um… less-than-academic.
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People who have recently played or will soon be playing Albuquerque:
Open Mike Eagle
Waka Flocka Flame
(A much better average than any other style, here. I’ll be seeing these last three tonight.)
…and, at the New Mexico State Fair, an excellent group called Vengence played an excellent set to almost no one. I haven’t been able to turn up anything about them on the Internet, but a tree fell, and it must have mattered. And there was amazing art everywhere, but especially at the African American Pavilion. Remember the names: Kabu MBII, the Aakil-Bey family.
Secrets laced with Stand-Up Comedy, & other Ideas:
-Highs in the 70s and lows in the 40s, and already my hands are ice most of the time. My desire to return to Minneapolis looks more and more like a death wish.
-We are often to be found carrying bags of our future feces.
-Dirt is Jesus. It turns water into wine, via grapes (the hands of Jesus?).
-I worship dirt (for unrelated reasons).
-I never learned how to read. It just happened.
-And what of the world’s other sensitive receptors? Does a thermometer feel heat like this? A scale weight?
-Everything reminds me of music, and music reminds me of everything. (adapted from Scanners)
-Everything I see and experience becomes a sound metaphor. (direct quote from a guy, name misplaced, who once recorded some music in Canyon de Chelly)
-Music is the biggest piece of my sedateness. Sedateness is the biggest piece of my happiness. (all me)
-I read fiction for poetry, not story. I don’t read poetry. As ever, I am very confused about what this means I ought to write.
-I never had to work very hard to squeeze out meaning.
-America’s a lot to believe in. And, conversely, a lot to not believe in.
-They say zombies are all played out, but I can think of two very interesting things left to do with them: 1. Employ them as a metaphor for the life force. They just won’t stop; hence, a kind of optimism? 2. Develop a character who enjoys having sex with zombies, in particular the thrill of avoiding their mouths and hands, as he seeks pleasure so close to death.
-A body-swap story, except this one involving two gay men, as a means of confronting the unspoken taboo that surrounds the act of masturbating in front of the mirror. Story culminates in a sex scene unlike any other.
-We speak about “reliving” the past, which means that the past is something that was lived.
-When Paul Westerberg sings about “the way they used to do in the last century” on “Androgynous,” the moment now refers to itself. Somehow it had never occurred to me.
-Maybe we’ll all be dead and forgotten, but things* seem more meaningful to me when I imagine them from the next century looking back.
*For example, the lists I offered above (for the record). Those are my gift to the future, as they are mostly uninteresting right now.