Thursday, October 1, 2015

Straight Outta Compton

There’s no doubt Straight Outta Compton is relevant to our current social moment, and no question its success indicates something important.  The film is a biopic on recognizable black tastemakers that chronicles not only a significant contribution to the cultural landscape, but also highlights the injustices often suffered by a group at the hands of a corrupt system.  It’s a conversation we need to be having, and one illustrated clearly as a subplot to NWA’s story.  

There are moments of strong pathos in Straight Outta Compton, and with the audience it’s reaching, we can’t discount the possible impact of those situations.  And yes, it’s good to see a film with a mostly black cast reign at the box office.  And yes, it’s important to send a message to Hollywood about the voices audiences want to see represented.  And as a whole, Straight Outta Compton is a smartly cast, very structured example of a conventional filmmaking.  But here’s the thing: for all the fuss – positive and negative (yes, the film’s treatment of women is abysmal) – the film is ultimately just another overcooked, too long, selectively edited Hollywood biopic with a sense of vague hero worship and a focus on too much, too fast.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Mistress America

Mistress America marks the second collaborative effort of director Noah Baumbach and actress Greta Gerwig, and the second Baumbach film this year.  It’s a bright, watchable comedy about insufferable people and ways we all seem to desperately seek some sense of connection. The title is taken from the short story being penned over the course of the film by _Tracy (Lola Kirke), a Nick Carraway-like observer to Brooke (Greta Gerwig) unique ownership of a 21st century American Dream.  Brooke is a type of social autodidact (a word she’s quick to tell you is one of the things she taught herself), a manic vagabond who lives like the self-aware inverse of Gerwig’s Frances Ha.  She’s shooting to make it big, open a restaurant that feels like home, but along the way live large at the center of Manhattan: flitting between concerts, parties, events, and meeting with investors and leaving admirers in her wake.  Tracy is one such admirer. She’s a first-year undergrad student, struggling to make friends and in awe of the slanted glamour she sees in her soon to be stepsister.  It’s a few short steps between seeing Brooke’s bohemian living space in the middle of Times Square and reimagining her as a self-created, self-destructive, ego-driven Gatsby; enigmatic, eccentric, desirable, and constructed entirely from lies.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Paper Towns

A boy pines for the girl next door. He's loved her for years, since a time when they had been co-conspirators. As they grew apart he held on to the world she'd evoked for him.  Now, at the end of their high school lives, he believes that she is somehow magical, the only girl of her kind. He is so in love with her that he believes that they are bound to be together, and he reads her every move as a sign.  She's prone to disappearing, to running away, and when she takes off yet again she leaves him clues.  Though he knows that this is a pattern of hers - her way of reassuring everyone that she is safe-  he interprets every moment, every word, every nuance of their last evening spent together to mean that she wants him to come and find her.

This is Paper Towns - a kind of sentimental teenage Gone Girl in which the parents are impossibly absent, the kids wander untracked, and no one bothers to hunt for a teenage runaway but the crushed-out kid she used to hang with.  It's another in a seemingly endless line of John Green properties appearing at a theater near you, and while it begs a suspension of disbelief unique to teen flicks, we can at least be thankful it is stripped of the gross sentimentality of last year's The Fault in Our Stars. Instead of tearjerking tragedy the focus is twofold: building a mystery and then using it to dismantle the myth of the manic pixie dream girl.    

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Mixtape:You Were Supposed to Love Me, Weren't You?

It's been a minute, but we return with the filmcentric "fanmix" in a very long time. Hopefully there will be more to come (and I'm open to suggestions for future themed entries), and I'm in the midst of adding a bit of image cohesion to the whole of my 8tracks back catalog.  For now, though, I present you with this: a moody, restless 20 song mixtape to soundtrack the the rise of India Stoker.
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