Monthly Archives: July 2010

Tea With Chris: Feral Yet Friendly

Tea With Chris is a roundup of recommended links, posted every Friday. Here are our favourite things from the internet this week:

Carl: Sam Anderson’s massive investigation into just what the hell James Franco is up to these days: A classic of post-New-Journalism or an incredibly self-absorbed making of minutia into monuments? In places it’s reminiscent of the very funny chapter of Jennifer Egan’s recent novel A Visit from the Goon Squad that takes the form of a Vanity Fair article, in which a novelist manque turned celebrity profiler gets so deeply confused (by way of David Foster Wallace-esque footnotes) in the course of an interview with a young starlet, over the issue of who is serving who in their exchange, that he has a psychotic break and ends up confusedly assaulting her. But because I have a (thankfully unmentioned) walk-on role in the events depicted, I can’t help sharing Anderson’s fascination. At the least, it’s an extraordinary, Oliver Sachs-like case of celebrity (and/or extreme attractiveness) as a sort of neurological phenomenon that can produce unpredictable perceptual side effects. It’s as if Franco is going to bed (on the few nights he does go to bed) and reciting to himself the closing credits of his day: “… with special guest James Franco in the role of James Franco.” Capgras Syndrome in reverse.

Chris: Joe McCulloch reviews Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (the movie).

Anonymous Twitter sadist “Discographies” dispatches lifetimes of music with 140 characters each.

And all-female L.A. crew Pink Dollaz finally release their first mixtape.

Margaux: Lynn Crosbie asks a good question: “What if these maniacs form real friendships and start traveling in packs?”

I just found Agnès Varda’s Ydessa, the Bears, and etc. (Ydessa, les ours et etc…). http://mubi.com/films/25438, 2004, 44 Min, 3 dollars.

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Super Couture

by Chris Randle

Earlier this month, publisher/critic/gadfly Dan Nadel went on Comics Comics to rant about the costumes from Marvel Studios’ upcoming Thor movie, which are still trickling out in press releases and breathless exclusives. (The specific production still that set him off is above.) Vacillating between drab Tolkienism and Jack Kirby’s original “Norse gods as space aliens” aesthetic, they’ve only duplicated that house style of superhero adaptations, Generic Steel. The colossal weirdness of Stan Lee and Kirby’s source material seems shriveled; you’d never guess that Thor was a series where deities exclaim “Verily!” and “Forsooth!” mid-fight, or where the protagonist temporarily became a frog, or where a villain named Ego the Living Planet debuted. A leaked trailer suggests the filmmakers have added plenty of army men and black-ops intrigue, like so many other superhero movies, as if to stress the obvious butchness of a character first seen in winged helmets.

It’s disappointing, since Thor is one of the first Marvel adaptations made by the publisher itself, but unsurprising. The handful of superheroes that most North Americans would immediately recognize – Superman, Batman, Spider-man, perhaps a couple of others – have already been successfully licensed and franchised. Their iconic costumes were longstanding brands, so there was no commercial motive to alter any of them, especially with hordes of fanboys waiting to be outraged. But the typical characters spinning off from Marvel and DC Comics now are second-tier at best, faint outlines in the public consciousness and niche concerns even among nerds. For example, a Doctor Strange film is apparently in development, which means someone will be obliged to merchandise this:

I actually like that outfit. I’ve always thought there was a touch of Noel Coward in the Sorcerer Supreme; if he’s not searching for camply named artifacts or battling the Dread Dormammu on another plane, he should be chilling at his Greenwich Village pad in tights and a pointed cape. But I don’t see how it gets past a table of studio executives intact. Even more popular figures have been heavily made over for their film introductions – in next year’s Green Lantern movie the classic, clean-lined GL costume will be replaced by some sort of all-CGI, radioactive-looking bodysuit. Myriad cartooning aesthetics are being flattened out into a single cinematic one.

Occasionally, stylistic changes in an adaptation filter down to the comics themselves. (This happened more often in the days before the film industry hungrily farmed pamphlets for new intellectual properties, and before many cartoonists conceived entire works as pre-storyboarded Hollywood pitches.) When X-men ditched spandex for black leather ten long years ago, the characters did the same on paper. The forced convergence ended up fitting neatly. Writer Grant Morrison was taking charge of the X-books, and shifting their decades-old allegory of minority persecution (complete with an analogue of apartheid South Africa) to a story about human evolution and mutanthood as the ultimate modish subculture. He made the uniforms even more punkish and brutalist as part of his project. It was fitting in a cosmic sense too: the ’80s X-men, with Storm channeling Grace Jones, must be the most fashion-forward superhero comics ever. As Bryan Lee O’Malley once noted, they were au courant by decades. Style is a mutant power.

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Friday Pictures – Shary Boyle

 

Shary Boyle / To Colonize The Moon

 

Shary Boyle / 2002

 

Shary Boyle / Spring

 

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Le Bonheur (Happiness) – (1965) written & directed by Agnès Varda

By Margaux Williamson (mostly spoilers)

( I went to Suspect Video, the best video store in Toronto, to look for Agnès Varda’s 2004 “Ydessa and the Bears” but they didn’t have it. Though it is one of my favourite movies, I haven’t seen “Ydessa and the Bears” anywhere other than at a 2004 film festival. I think maybe it was never distributed. Instead, I rented Agnès Varda’s “Le Bonheur (Happiness)” because I had never seen it before and because it was in colour. I popped it in when I got home just to see the what the first 5 minutes was like. It was so weird and gorgeous that I didn’t turn it off.)




“Happiness” starts with a young family. Their joy with each other is obvious and they have a simple, pleasurable life. The husband then falls in love with a different woman whom he sees often in his work. The husband and the other woman begin an affair that is easy, happy and not so sordid. The husband reasons that what he has is simply a double happiness. When his wife points out, during a picnic in the country, that he seems doubly happy, the man looks suddenly troubled and confesses to his wife that he loves both her and another woman. The wife is initially hurt but then seems to quickly follow his reasoning and recover. What is best for the family is best for her. The husband and wife then have reconciliatory sex, there on the picnic blanket in the country. She wakes up before he does, leaves him and their two small children who are taking a nap close by, walks down to the lake, and drowns herself.

This is followed by alarm, an appropriate mourning period and then a gentle reconciliation of the two remaining lovers. At this reconciliation, they decide to be together. In the following scene, the woman walks to work the next day. Foreboding music only comes once in this movie, and it comes here. To me, the foreboding music sounds like a warning of moral judgment approaching. I peer around the woman in the movie’s frame as I watch her walk through the town, looking for reproach. It is a small town after all, and we are inside a fable.

But no stones are thrown. And there are no real bad intentions from anyone’s side. The foreboding music is for something more sinister: life moving on easily, happiness returning. We watch one human effortlessly replace another: in a marriage, at a family picnic, in the children’s bedrooms, with not a whimper of protest from the universe.

Behind the camera, Varda is a happy and curious God – as interested and amazing by a vase with flowers as she is in a family at dinner or in the strangeness of elbows as they move about during sex. I think when things comes naturally to one, one is often suspicious of those things. And here, it seems as though Varda the director is like the husband – each scene of the movie filled effortlessly with spaces and objects and people of incomparable value and importance but all taken in with equal attention and wonder. Varda would have been a very good painter.

The only review I could find for “Happiness” was a 1966 New York Times review from A.H.Weiler. Though Weiler praised Varda’s movie in some ways, he also says “Miss Varda’s dissection of amour, as French as any of Collette’s works, is strikingly adult and unembarrassed in its depiction of the variety of love, but it is as illogical as a child’s dream”.

I wonder if people said that about Kafka’s “The Metamorphosis” (where a family’s main breadwinner, Gregor, wakes up one morning to discover that he is a monstrous verminous bug) which “Happiness” made me think of – particularly at its most sinister and truthful moment. This comes at the end, after the nightmarish alienation and slow death of the now repulsive and useless Gregor. After he dies, Gregor’s family leaves the house together in a state of tremendous relief and take a tram towards the country – towards fresh air. They are suddenly giddy with the future and with possibility. This is when the parents notice how their remaining child has become so beautiful, voluptuous and strong. We catch a tiny glimpse of the parents imagining a potentially prosperous new future through her. We see her in the instant before (we imagine), before she is ushered into the rotting shoes of the family bread winner.

Both fables make you feel sorry for humans – and also quite wary of them and their human natures. We all know what it’s like to feel like a cog in the system, but it is easy to forget that our homes and families are systems too. That even there, where our beauty and usefulness are often most greatly appreciated, we are so easily replaced.

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Little Boxes #6

(from “Blood of the Twilight Reign” in House of Mystery #276, by Mark Manhart (script) and Michael Netzer (art), 1979)

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Tea With Chris: Avian Time

Tea With Chris is a roundup of recommended links, posted every Friday. Here are our favourite things from the internet this week:

Chris: Two, three, many links. At his blog Sit Down Man, You’re a Bloody Tragedy, the young author/academic/Marxist Owen Hatherley often dwells on hopeless Blair-era architecture. Last weekend, in reviewing a book called Unbuilt Masterworks of the 21st Century, he regarded buildings that never were with the same scorn. The final sentence is like a shiv: “As a whole, Unbuilt Masterworks is one of the most damning indictments of the last decade – even its fantasies were banal.”

Someone’s writing 28 essays about Prince’s Purple Rain and for obvious reasons I am compelled to pass on the first one.

And finally, via Douglas Wolk, here’s Loretta Lynn.

Margaux: I just read a review of the 2010 Whitney Biennial that my friend Sheila Heti wrote. A really thoughtful view of a show that I never saw.

This is the first Youtube video link that my father has ever sent me. He sent it today. It’s about hummingbirds. The footage is slowed down in order to see in detail what the hummingbirds are doing. The whole videos is kind of slowed-down – with the people featured talking very slowly too. Makes me think of when time was slower and less hummingbird-like.

Carl: Let me add to Margaux’s dad’s discovery another study in avian time – but in this one, humans are accelerated to bird speed, and burst forth with song. If only this were what people mean when they say they’re going to “tweet.”

I just read a review of the 2010 Whitney Biennial that my friend Sheila Heti wrote – http://bysheilaheti.blogspot.com/2010/06/whitney-biennial.html. A really thoughtful view of a show that I never saw.

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Friday Pictures – Francisco Goya

 

Francisco Goya / disasters of war – they do not want to

 

Francisco Goya / Don Manuel Osorio Manrique de Zu ga

 

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