Saturday, January 23, 2016
There's a heady dose of politics around The Danish Girl that I can't claim to be an expert on. I've heard and read folks who claim it's pandering, that it relies too heavily on a kind of old school visual language of understanding the trans body that may now be outdated, that it's problematic for the trans woman at the film's center to be played by the cisgendered Eddie Redmayne. I've heard, too, that some feel the narrative's dramatic center is refigured and displaced so that it belongs less to Lili Elbe (Redmayne) and more to Gerda Wegener (Alicia Vikander); the woman who was her wife. While I try to keep on top of the constantly evolving discussion of gender politics, I'm not sure I can address any of these arguments in a way that would make for a satisfying analysis. I can only discuss it as a work of cinema.
Of course, this is what I do with most films on this site, so why the disclaimer? Well, perhaps because The Danish Girl has been positioned less as a work of narrative cinema and much more as a sort of political object. Part of this has to do with its timed release as a piece of awards bait at a time when the Oscars have become - increasingly - a microcosm of our national issues, especially around questions of gender, identity, and race. The Danish Girl is uniquely positioned as a work designed both to continue a very significant cultural discussion and also, via marketing, tone, etc, to make that conversation melodramatically digestible for those with delicate sensibilities. It asks you to feel, it uses every formal method in its arsenal to draw you into the world of its characters, it's impossibly pleasant even when it delivers its harsh sentences. Its biggest problem, simply put, is that it believes it is brave and revolutionary when, in reality, it's little more than a very pretty work of portraiture.
Wednesday, January 13, 2016
The Big Short is tragedy disguised as comedy, a podcast of dramatizations built into a movie, a collage of scattered characters and sequences glued together with flourishes of narrative happenstance. It's a true crime film, a whistle-blowing indictment, and a fourth-wall breaking metafiction designed to explain the mechanics of 2008's financial crisis while keeping you entertained. The editing is zippy, laying down a hodgepodge of celebrity noise, pop songs, and narration that strings together the cartoonish eccentrics who bet against the housing market and won. It's smart, it's timely, and the work it does to demystify financial abstractions is impressive. You will leave - almost undoubtedly - feeling as though you have learned something, that you have unlocked a new section of a very large and complicated puzzle. This is no small feat. Writer/director Adam McKay (Anchorman, The Other Guys) and Charles Randolph have adapted Michael Lewis's nonfiction book of the same name with a keen sense of how best to cut through the bullshit.
Tuesday, January 12, 2016
A note on some noteworthy omissions: you won't find Adele's "Hello" on here. Perhaps it's because I have no soul, but really I'd prefer to side with those who believe it's time for Adele - an otherwise very talented artist - to move on to new material. It feels like a retread, nothing new, and no different than reaching back and grabbing one of Celine Dion's biggest ballads. It's my fault I just can't deal, but, really, I don't get it.
Closer to the edit: Rihanna's "Bitch Better Have My Money" almost made it, but was cut in the final moments if only because the visuals seemed to do more than the track itself. Consider it #101, if you must.
Thursday, January 7, 2016
The third section of our end of the year music wrap up is a little bit like two mixtapes smashed together. The front end has a certain progression of more internet friendly artists (often with electronic edges and riffs on the PC pop move) and the back half is a strange blend of folks who could be described as hippies by comparison. Basically, if you're one of those people lamenting an audible "lack of instruments" (as much as that's probably an illusion) in part one, it will all change midway through. Funny how these things work out, isn't it?
Read on. Play on. Find the 8Tracks playlist at the bottom of the entry, click through to collect them all.