Tuesday, January 29, 2008

I've Heard of Them but I Haven't Heard Them, aka an indie music post.

I'm not going to write a long review of Juno, for a lot of reasons. Someone spoiled some key scenes for me, which really took a lot out of my first viewing (I've seen it twice, and will probably see it at least once more, thank you student discount). Please, if you see a good movie, don't try to tell other people what parts made it such a good movie. You are ruining a good movie. This shit should be right after "turn off your cellphones" and "visit our concession stand". "The exits are in the front to the left, and also, don't describe the best scenes to people who would rather watch them."

I'm also not writing a long review because it's been reviewed to death, with either crazy high praise or great irritation. I think most of the irritation comes from the unbelievable sharp-tonguedness and cheesey slang packed into the first thirty minutes, which was not my favorite part of the film by far, but I accept as important to the overall arch. I've come to learn that the more witty things a character has to say in the beginning, the more meaningful does their silence become. Juno's speechlessness would not be important if she wasn't such a vocal smartass.

I'm also not writing a long review because watching it get this famous- and of course, watching the soundtrack get this famous- has been a completely bizarre experience for me, and I think that's more interesting than anything I could say about anything that happened on the screen.

I've been a fan of Kimya Dawson for three years. That's an understatement: I've been totally stupid for Kimya for three years, one month and twenty three days(ish). Now she's on The View, and in Entertainment Weekly, and it's a little freaky. I knew if Juno got wide release then KD would get some more recognition, but it's a phenomenon. It's up for an Oscar (Jennifer Garner, however, totally snubbed for best supporting actress). Kimya Dawson is number one on the charts. I've read some articles questioning just what the heck is so appealing about her. I think a lot of people don't understand the possibility of being silly and sincere at the same time- "I Will Never Forget" starts with the line I sat in the swamp with the little pink piggy who loved roller skating and playing pretend, but the song is about death, suicide and bullying. Listen to it sometime, it is one of those songs that invariably makes me cry.

This got me upset- I read someone somewhere criticizing the lines if you want to kill yourself, remember that I love you, call me up before you're dead, we can make some plans instead, send me an IM I'll be your friend, and the writer said that this is mocking of suicide or something, that this is a display that Kimya doesn't really understand the youths as much as she pretends she does. (This is also a common criticism of Juno, and a stupid one, because- duh- just because you're a middle-aged journalist or critic that knows some teens does not mean you understand all teens or the experience of teendom, and young Kimya/Juno fans would likely beg to differ.) It's really upsetting because Kimya Dawson's music changed my life, and changed a lot of lives, and probably saved a lot of lives, too. That song, Loose Lips, was the first song I ever heard from her, and call me sentimental or tell me I'm "mocking depression" or whatever, but those words made me feel like I wasn't alone. They're not empty promises, either- she really will talk to you, hug you, play a show at your house- being a Kimya fan is being a friend of Kimya, which is why her sudden fame is, to me, so bizarre. She's got millions of friends now, but they don't know that, and the media doesn't really understand that.

Anyway, that needed to get off my chest, but this was really intended to be me suggesting music to the masses, since the nation seems so strangely in tune to my sensibilities at the moment. Sort of. While it's totally outside my scope that people don't like Kimya's lyrics, I can understand not liking the lo-fi folk-punk aesthetic. (I can also understand being in love with it, because I am.) Since KD is so darned famous, my suggestions are in "You like Kimya Dawson, but you don't get..." format. Or maybe it should be "You don't really get Kimya, but you do like..." Oh well, here goes.

If you like Kimya Dawson's folky-punky sound and rapid-fire lyrics but wish the sound was a little more polished and the lyrics a little less cryptic, you might like:

Jeffrey Lewis.
Check out the "I spooned Kiyma Dawson" hat around 57 seconds in. Jeff and Kimya have collaborated, which produced one of my favorite songs ever, "A Common Chorus". He's really brilliant, and not in an overused brilliant-is-the-new-awesome kind of way.

If you like Kimya Dawson's absurdness and the lo-fi vibe, but wish it was less cutesy and folksy (or, if you like The Moldy Peaches but not Kimya Dawson) you might like:

Adam Green.
He was the other major component of The Moldy Peaches, and now has a solo career also. I prefer Kimya by far far far, but if you're not the pink kitties and yellow doggies kind of person, Adam might be more your style.

If you like Kimya Dawson's delightful weirdness but would like the whole sound to be more elegant and professional (or, if you like Kimya Dawson but want to be able to find your CDs in mainstream stores), you might like:

Regina Spektor.
Ok, so everyone knows who Regina Spektor is by now. I think. I can't keep up with the kids these days. I hate the radio. However, I don't think people know she's classified as anti-folk, the genre of which Kimya Dawson is currently the poster child. Also, if you've only heard "Fidelty" and don't see the delightful weirdness I attribute to her, I advise you to delve into "Reading Time with Pickle".

If you like Kimya's quirky sweetness (or just like K Records) but want something a little more pop, you might like:


The Blow.
I guess I automatically associate these two because I saw them play together. Oh well. I'm running out of steam, here. These are not the best recordings, obviously. They're surely worth looking into further.

If you like Kimya Dawson but wish she was like eleven or twelve people and sounded slightly more unhinged you might like (or, if you don't get Kimya, you seriously will not get):

I saw them play with Kimya once, and the experience was sort of amazing. It's like they create their own universe on stage. Of course, it was different people when I saw them. They morph a lot. I like to describe them as "orchestrated chaos".

If you like Kimya's... um... people she's played with, but uh... oh shit, I don't even know how to describe:

Daniel Johnston.
Just go rent The Devil and Daniel Johnston, for goodness' sake.


Saturday, January 26, 2008

Episode 9: Nyah nyah!

I love, love, love challenges in which all of the designers have to use the same materials. Their technical skill and their ability to innovate is much more apparent when they're all working from the same starting point. How perfect is it that my favorite won, and my least favorite got aufed? This episode was so validating for me.

I'll admit it- at first I thought Ricky's win was highly producer-influenced- that while his dress was great, it probably didn't hurt that there was pressure to justify his presence. But the more I look at the above image, the more I am certain that Ricky won this one on talent alone. It's stellar. The seams are beautiful, the fit is great, it looks like jeans (while I loved Sweet P's and wanted her to win, it did not look like a pair of jeans- which you would think would be good, but this is of course Project Illogicalway), it's polished, and very wearable. Sweet P and Ricky's pieces were the only instantly wearable ones on that runway, which was apparently important in this challenge because they secretly planned to sell the winner online, but didn't think to tell the designers that, at least on camera.

Christian's biker look, for example, was a good concept, but certainly couldn't be worn straight off the runway and would be incredibly difficult to reproduce. I admired his idea of making a pant out of a sleeve. However, I also thought it was kind of tacky and not helping to change his emo kid image, which he must change if I or anyone over the age of 19 is ever to take him seriously. Also: if he makes another puffy sleeve I am going to die of barfness. Also: what the fuck does dying of barfness entail? Also: if Lisa put her feet together, she would be a isosceles triangle.

The main thing Rami's dress had going for it was the zippers. And I know a million bloggers are going to say it, but come on: been there, Jeffrey done that.

I liked Chris' look more than the judges did, but I did not get the boob armor. It's my only remaining question about Ricky's dress, too. What is with the chest flaps? Did I miss a fad or something? They're bizarre.

I don't have anything specific to say about Jillian or Victorya's pieces, since they were the same idea taken to different extremes- Jillian did too much, Victoria didn't do enough. I'm glad Victorya went. She seemed to be sleepwalking through this episode. Maybe she was- that would explain why she confused Sweet P with Kit twice.

Victorya was also one of three people I felt were in danger this episode, based entirely on the fact that she shared some personal details about her life, as did Rami and Sweet P. It was smart of whoever made the call to include a slew of personal stories. In the candy episode, I knew right away that it was Elisa's time- she told a long and moving story about her past, and no one else got nearly that much interview time. They had milked her; she was doomed. Shame, however, on the person who made the call (probably the same call-making person, eh?) to keep stating how fabulous Ricky's outfit was and how he was doing this for himself and everything but never showing us the dress until the end. A little obvious on that one.

These call-making people also love filming the designers running:

Seriously, is this a subtle message that they need to lose weight, or just suffering for suffering's sake? Can't they stroll jovially to their materials sometime? Or skip merrily? Even a relaxed jog would be a nice break.


Thursday, January 24, 2008



(more to come)


Friday, January 18, 2008

Sporadic Project Runway Coverage!

I could not agree with Elisa's face more. Smirking disappointment all around!
Actually, I took a lot of screen caps of Elisa's face before her departure, and this one was my favorite. All of her expressions are stunning, however, and will be missed:

I call this one "How Elisa Stole Winter Solstice".

This one is of course "OH MY FUCK CANDY FUCKING CANDY!"

Of course, I want to honor Kevin and Kit too, especially considering they were the two people I considered most likely to make it to the final four- seriously, screwed my predictions right up. If Victorya and Jillian make it I will be pissed. I prefer to be awake during the finale, thank you.
That's a bit harsh, I suppose- their avant-garde look was pretty good, though the post-apocalyptic punk thing I think was a bit obvious, it was well-executed. And Jillian has been growing on me. Not as a designer, but a person.

Good thing she wore her rainbow suspenders that day, right? I love me some rainbow suspenders. I also loved how she was all, "We were in Times Square, so we thought we were costuming a musical". That was her first thought. Not clothes stores- theaters. She's adorable, if a bit pouty for my taste.

Anyway, yeah, I really had Kit and Kevin picked for the final four, and when I saw this:

I had Kevin picked to win. I'm not so sad, though- his prom dress was not ok. The taste level was just not there. Period. I was shocked to discover that people overwhelmingly voted for Ricky to be aufed over at BPR- sure it was a bit boring, but it was pretty, and made his model look pretty. Kevin's was not flattering, at all. I'm not exaggerating: there was nothing I liked about Kevin's dress that episode, which was staggering considering his consistent skill.
Unfortunately I don't have any screen caps from that episode, so my tribute to Kevin is from the candy episode, as all these screen caps are:

Alas, no more shirtless Kevin.
My only picture of Kit is also not very flattering:

I felt so bad for her. White tank tops are a bad scene- she had to do that stealthy nipple coverage the whole time.

The only underdogs I have left (I did consider K&K underdogs, though they were well-liked, they were always just under the radar. The front runners are obviously Rami and Christian, and to a lesser extent Jillian and Victorya. Chris is in a state of constant limbo) are Sweet P and Ricky, whom I love, but who have a much smaller chance of winning the whole thing than Kit or Kevin did. Sweet P did give me some hope on the prom dress challenge. I'm sorry, Victorya's dress was great, but not prom, not at all. They judging panel really should have had someone high school age on it, or at least someone who's been to a prom in the past ten years- a high school principal or a design teacher or something. Prom dresses are supposed look ludicrously fancy. They were afraid Sweet P's was too Hollywood glamor and not enough high school, but Victorya's short, funky dress was the one, to me, that looked more at home on a red carpet. Sweet P's dress for the avant-garde challenge was good, too. All the problems were on Rami's side, but I think his head is so big it's affecting his eyesight. That insult sort of makes sense, right?

Ricky is still my love, and I thought his prom dress was adorable, but he needs to step it up. Isn't that right, Elisa?

Oh Scarecrow, I will miss you most of all.

Sorry the coverage is not so comprehensive, but my semester is already crazy- I've had three days of classes and I've already written two papers. I have four readings, two papers and a presentation all before next Wednesday. I'm working ten hours at my office job, where I just got a promotion, and the RA job can be better described as a constant gnawing pain instead of broken down into hours. To top it all, I have to wake up at or before 9 every. single. morning. I'm praying my boss will eventually learn the true extent of my not-morning-personhood, most likely when she comes in to find I have passed out over my laptop, and my drool has rendered it completely unusable.

That said, I like my classes and I like my jobs, unfortunately for you five faithful readers, more than I like Project Runway. I get to talk about the portrayal of gender in Frankenstein, rip on how douchey the New Critics were, write newsletter articles about the ordination of women or Margaret Cho or breastfeeding, and watch documentaries about the portrayal of disability in art. I mean, I love pretty clothes and all those wacky designers and everything, but they don't give me the same sort of satisfaction. I'm pretty enthralled with my work right now, so expect more content with political themes than pop culture coverage. The best scenario is when pop and politics intersect, as they often do in advertising, and have before on Project Runway. I also enjoy when I get to flaunt my geekiness in my work, as I got to in my Women's Center article on female superheroes, I will for the LOST season premiere party I'm hosting for my residents, and I did on this poster advertising the RA position:

P.S. I didn't know where to squeeze this in, but it made me so mad: I think having four people in the bottom on the prom challenge was not only unnecessary, but a slap in the face for the "safe" designers: sure, one of you got a top three score, but you were not good enough to be considered for a win. My anger with the judges/producers (since they have a hand in judging, too), week after week, knows no fucking bounds. I would seriously suggest at least setting some new guidelines for judging for season 5, and following them. They don't have to be too constrictive- just things like, you know, always have a top 3 and bottom 3, and maybe, if you don't follow the rules of the challenge you shouldn't win the challenge. It's a bit ridiculous.

P.P.S. Also ridiculous: how Project Runway, before the season started, touted some of their designers (Simone and Elisa, to memory) as "green", but some of the most ridiculously wasteful challenges have been featured this season. Season 3's recycling center challenge was green- this:

Is the damn opposite of green. I guess on the color wheel that would be purple. 45 yards of fabric on one dress (while really cool looking) is damn purple.

P.P.P.S. I guess depending on the shade of green, it could be purple, but is really more likely red. Purple, however, is more fun to say. Go on, say it a few times.


Thursday, January 03, 2008

Film Advertisers Seem to Be Unable to Grasp the Concept of Original Concepts

Ever since a friend rented "The Last Kiss" which was touted on back cover to be a quirky romantic comedy and turned out to be one hundred and fifteen minutes of bleak, uh- bleakness, I've been wary to not view movies based on what they advertise themselves as.

So, I'm in a quandary with the movie Teeth. It was discussed on Feministing a while back, and a friend saw it at the Williamstown Film Festival (which she covered for the school paper, you can read here). She seemed to like it a lot, and certainly the subject is interesting, so I've been anticipating a chance to see it. However, the advertising has created some confusion as to what the tone of the film is- you see, the first poster looked like this:

It's very fluffy, and our hero strikes an almost Clueless-esque pose, but without pants, of course. The writer at Feministing took issue with this, and rightly so- there is rape and castration going on, and this poster looks like an American Pie sequel- but I was at the time at least hopeful that this indicated satiric humor. I thought some humor might not only bring people out to theaters to see a movie about, you know, a vagina with teeth, but also could be useful in discussing the sad state of sexuality in the country. Abstinence clubs and purity pledges are inherently funny to me.

This afternoon I was browsing movie trailers when I saw one for Teeth, and I was obviously excited. However, my excitement faded when I see the advertising spin switched from fluffy teen movie fare to straight-up horror. Not fluffy to dark comedy (as I had hoped), not fluffy to riveting drama- there is no mistaking, if I knew nothing about this movie, I would think it was a bizarre and even tacky (every rose has its thorns? really?) low-budget thriller instead of a feminist Sundance gem. You can watch the trailer out on the official website. Also observe the black-and-red horror motif of the website itself, which seems to clash with the blue tint of all the screen shots I've seen. There is also, less importantly, poor grammar- the tag line, Every Rose Has It's Thorn, implies Every Rose Has It Is Thorn. Tsk!
Here's the new poster:

From what friends and reviews tell me, the film is an interesting (though intense) way of confronting society's fear of sexuality, particularly female sexuality, and is generally empowering. However, these ads just seem to be exploiting this fear- the quote on the film states that is an "alarming cautionary tale for men". Herein lies the problem, or at least my problem.

Why is the film suddenly about/for men? I'm sure there's something to be learned for men here, but is it comparable to Fatal Attraction, in which the female antagonist tortures a family and eventually gets killed? I don't want to spoil the ending of Teeth (though I obviously don't know all the details yet, I do know the general arch), but the answer to the conflict here is not violence, and the woman is certainly not a threat to be eliminated. She is, you know, the heroine and everything. But you wouldn't know it from the trailer- the protagonist (or at least her vagina) is made out to be the monster and her touchy-feely gyno to be one of many hapless victims (by the way, the friend that covered it stated that in a Q&A following the film, one male viewer expressed he did see the gynecologist as an innocent victim- a statement to which anyone in the audience who had ever been to an actual OB/GYN appointment scoffed).

Revolutionary idea: pitch the film about female sexuality with a complex female protagonist to women for what it is, instead of a sexy teen comedy or a tacky rehashing of an old horror story.