Tuesday, July 29, 2003

subtlety is not one of their finer points

I can't believe I'm about to say this but Bad Boys II is the most fun I've had at the movie theatres this whole summer. Finding Nemo is the safe, respectable choice (and it's just a great film, something which I can't say about BBII) but for sheer guilty pleasure kicks? Bad boys, bad boys.

Typically, I detest Jerry Bruckheimer's films with a passion - they're almost always completely overblown in a way that shoots past spectacle and lands squarely on obnoxious. Armaggedon is the best example I can think of, though, re-watching it the other day, I realized that it was one of the best un-intentional comedies since Starship Troopers but minus the subtle, fascist critique and pleasures of watching Doogie Howser get all SS on us.

With Bad Boys II though, I actually think it nailed spectacle just right and every bit of excess in the film (actually, now that I think about it, the whole film was excess) just adds more motion to this ridiculous ride you're put on for 2.5 hours. Is it dumb? Yup. Could it have used a LOT of editing? Hell yeah. Are there moments so egregiously over-the-top (morgue cadavers being decapitated by runaway cars for example) that you just sit there dumb-founded? Uh huh.

I mean, the whole "second ending", which takes place in Cuba feels so tacked on you kind of wonder if Bruckheimer and Michael Bay were going over the books, realized they still had $20,000,000 they hadn't spent yet and decided, "f-ck it, let's blow up a mansion in a a tropical locale."

This all said, I thought the film was a blast.

It's funny, exciting, entertainment, blah blah blah, all the qualities you'd want in a solid $8 popcorn movie and while you might leave thinking, "wow, that was dumb", you'd also be thinking, "it was fun though." Trust me. At the very least, sink a matinee into it but don't play the wimpy route and wait around for the DVD - why deny yourself one of the best times you're going to have for under 3 hours and $10?

mama said knock you out

This is why I love pop music.

There's been an incredible sh-t storm over Liz Phair's new album, Liz Phair and it's steadily spiralling to become far more than just a conversation about song-writing or musical production. What happened is this:

There was an early round of critics who trashed Liz Phair's new album, most prominently being Meghan O' Rourke's review in the New York Times though she was only one of many critics who all thought Liz Phair was garbage. See Matt LeMay's review for Pitchforkmedia.com for another example.

There are two sets of "reasons" why her album has been so thoroughly hammered. What's in print is that critics think she's sold our her indie rock cred in order to be the new Avril Aguilera or something like that - so they attack the album's shiny, happy sound, they ridicule her MILF self-embrace, they say she's lost her way, etc. Not having heard the album or followed Phair's career, I can't really say if their venom is truly legit or not but it sounds like a familiar story (i.e. aging star reinvents themselves, alienates old fan base).

All this backlash against Liz Phair's album has created a secondary backlash against the critics who wrote them. Liz Phair herself got it rolling with her Letter to the Editor sent back to O' Rourke at the NY Times. Gina Arnold's column in the East Bay Express nicely sums up the stance of the backlashin' backlashers (even if she lays it on REAL thick). According to these critics of the critics, the real reason why these people had such an adverse reaction to Liz Phair is because they're neo-Victorians who can't handle a middle aged, middle class white woman embracing motherhood and multi-orgasms on the same album. While it looks like they're striking out against her album, they're really attacking Phair herself for daring to be a Madonna/whore. This argument sounds perfectly reasonable too: a lot of us are probably more prudish than we care to admit to ourselves and I can see how Phair's mix of sensibilities might unsettle some. Hey, maybe Phair's just waiting to audition for the role of "Mrs. Robinson" once Jeri Hall is off tour.

So, just to make sure I have this right - there was a backlash against Phair's new album. Then there was a backlash against the critical backlash.

And now, potentially, there's going to be a backlash against the backlash against the backlash, with people going out of their way to criticize the album but being very careful to note it has nothing to do with Phair's new image and has everything to do with how the album sounds. In other words, people intent on trashing Liz Phair are going to be extra careful to make the point that her album sucks but they'll be very careful not to seem like reactionary fuddy-duds in the process.

I think this is all great if only because it proves the point that an album is rarely ever just an album. There's always backstory, there's always a larger context that influences how we - as critics but also just as listeners - receive the music we're immersed in. Yeah, I know, I'm not revealing a new planet or anything but I know, somewhere in this orgy of backlashes, someone will cry "why can't we just talk about the music?" And to that, I think the only responsible response is to say that that's EXACTLY what people have been doing all along.

Tuesday, July 08, 2003

six degrees of obsession

Ok, it used to be Napster. Then I got DSL and discovered eBay. Now...Friendster. I'm not going to go on and on about it since, hell, everyone already has and those who haven't probably will but let me just say that this is some insidious sh*t devised to suck even more productive time out of your schedule. I've been spending precious hours plugging in random names from my past to see what serendipitous connections I still have with folks and frankly, it's pretty f*cking cool or freaky depending on your disposition.

For one thing, I just found out through Friendster that a former girlfriend (my first as it were), with whom I had a brief but sufficiently tumultous relationship with 10 years ago is now married. Holy mother of god! (Clearly, I've been out of touch for a minute). My best friend from that same time just told me the other night that he got engaged last month. Cot damn! And another ex from that same era is getting married in September. Jeezus...I feel really old these days considering that in the intervening 10 years, I've been in five relationships and have been engaged and married a grand total of ZERO times. Not that being 30 and unmarried is a real problem in this day and age. I can understand how that can cause some concern back in feudal Chinese days when the average life expentency was probably like...I don't know, 12 or something.

I digress.

Until I started my Saturn's return at 28, I never gave much thought to getting older and now, these days, I feel inudated about those thoughts. Getting married. Getting a real job. Having kids. Buying a house. Hell, just buying a car seems like a monumental deal though Sharon's cousin did offer to sell me a used Porsche Boxster at a good price though. Hmm...picture me rollin'...

whoops, wrong saturn