Entries in the Category "the av club"
The Dixie Chicks and Our First Amendment Rights
Isn't it weird how you can love something and forget about it for awhile, and then have it be immediately rekindled when you experience it again? It's been like three years since the Dixie Chicks put out a new album, and I hadn't listened to them in ages. Then, today, I clicked over to the AV Club and saw this: Dixie Chicks, Badass Motherf**ckers. Yes, that's really the title. It's a write-up from Nathan Rabin, one of their music guys, who's trying to educate himself in country, as he realizes that just because the Dixie Chicks are cute doesn't mean they're not awesome.
I read the thing, I watched all the embedded videos (haven't seen "Goodbye Earl" in awhile?), and then I was seized by the desire to rewatch Shut Up and Sing, a documentary about the band trying to come back from the unexpected controversy that was generated over an off-the-cuff remark during a concert in 2003.
Rabin seems to be positioning most of the vitriol that was directed at the Chicks as based on them being women—pretty, (mostly) blonde, popular chicks. They're supposed to be wholesome, they're not supposed to have opinions at all, and certainly not divisive ones. Watching the movie again (which, of course, I did), I think Rabin is really on to something.
This morning, I was reading a fun story over at the AV Club: Life-Changing Art
Some of the blog writers talk about works of literature, film, and art that changed their tastes fundamentally—that made them say, “if a movie can do this, how can I be satisfied with a movie that does less?” and so on. And I have a few of those: The Philadelphia Story, Flannery O'Connor, Arrested Development.
But somehow, my immediate reaction to this question was to remember my experience with Ang Lee’s Sense and Sensibility.
It came out in 1995, when I was a freshman in high school. Even though I was already mostly an oddball, not interested in skating along with what was popular or cool, at fourteen I was still feeling a selective kind of peer pressure. I had my small group of friends, and I believed that my tastes needed to be in line with theirs. If I took a step in a direction they didn’t agree with—well, they would drop me like a hot potato, wouldn’t they? When you’re fourteen and everyone around you allies themselves based on shared tastes, liking the wrong thing is fatal. The logic is unimpeachable, so long as you haven’t lived to know better.
So anyway, one day I was watching TV with Jamie, my best friend at the time. A commercial came on for Sense and Sensibility, and it was all British, and full of straw hats and gowns and fancy dancing. Please be aware that this was Pulp Fiction times. Absolute baseline requirement for coolness at the time was subversion—drugs and violence and swearing, the harsh, the crude, the angry. (I’m talking of course about popular culture, because in our own lives we were totally suburban honor students.) And Jamie scoffed at the commercial, because Jane Austen was clearly a tool of The Man. Any movie you could see with your mom was officially lame.
As it happened, I had seen Sense and Sensibility with my mom, and I had dug it immensely. And at that moment, all my teenage frustration and righteous anger—and outright exhaustion with the effort of trying to keep up with who and what I was supposed to be—overcame me, and do you know what I said? “I loved it. And I bought the book, and I’m going to read it.” I didn’t hedge, I didn’t hesitate, I may have said it in the timid mouse-voice I was mostly using at the time, but damn if it didn’t feel monumental. And Jamie? She considered for a moment, then shrugged and said, “That’s cool.”
And thus it started. Half my lifetime ago I came to a realization: if I like something, that’s justification enough to like it! In fact, it’s cool of me to be sincere about what I feel! It shows strength, and people respect it! And never again have I apologized for liking anything. My tastes—broad and diverse—are all a part of the strange and sometimes contradictory sum of me.
I have sometimes gone almost too far in the opposite direction, sharing my opinions much too freely. I remember discussing movies with someone once, a person I didn’t know that well, and getting a little bit too excited, and responding to one of their recommendations with, “No way—that SUCKS,” and then having that person look at me very confused and insulted. I sometimes have to remind myself that not everyone communicates this way.
But we all should! I’d like to inspire everyone to express a controversial or embarrassing opinion about art today, and to not care what anyone else thinks about it.
No Use Lying in the Electronic Age
Oh, Chloe Sevigny! Caught red-handed!
Just a few days ago, the oddly fashionable actress did an interview with Sean O'Neal of the AV Club, where she made some dismissive comments about the TV show Big Love. That's the show she's on, incidentally, the show for which she won a Golden Globe this year.
Well, O'Neal commented about the show being "over the top" in its most recent season, and she agreed with it, but more than that--she ran with it. She riffed on the question, talking about how "awful" it was, comparing it to a telenovela, ultimately finishing on this statement:
Oh God, I know. Oh, God. It’s too much. It’s too much. But I hope the fans will stick with us and tune in next year. There’s a lot of people who really love this season, surprisingly. God, I’m going to get in so much trouble. [Laughs.]
Hey, she was right! She did get in trouble, and immediately announced that she had been quoted out of context, that she was exhausted, that she didn't know what she was saying, and (this is my favorite) that she hadn't even seen the whole season yet because she doesn't have a TV.
Well, that made everything all kittens and roses again--excepting for Sean O'Neal, who recorded the interview and posted a clip of it on the AV Club site. Was Sevigny exhausted? Well, maybe. She kind of always sounds exhausted. That's how she sounds. Was she confused about the question? No, she and O'Neal bantered about it, there was back-and-forth. Did he "provoke" her into saying it? He did deride the show first. But she hasn't confessed to being under some magic spell which makes it impossible for her to disagree with things.
Did she cross some professional boundary by making the comments? Well, that's less cut-and-dried. Don't bite the hand that feeds you and all that. There's a great rundown of the whole thing at The Fien Print. Fienberg asks,
why is it acceptable for an actress to throw a professional journalist under the bus (pretty clearly without cause), but it's unacceptable for an actress to have a clearly articulated and intelligent point of view? Why can't Sevigny just be proud to be smart and opinionated?
Good question. I agree that if an actress doesn't personally love and adore the show she happens to be on, it doesn't have to be a PR crisis. Do you think there's an actor anywhere who would declare, "I am in love with every project I ever took part in! Every movie I made is my favorite movie." Personal taste is variable. What does she really owe her show-runners other than turning in the best performance she can every week? She has to be the show's Number One Fan also?
In my opinion, the most insulting thing she said was actually this line: "There’s a lot of people who really love this season, surprisingly." That takes it out of the realm of "Chloe didn't like it," to "if you liked it you're stupid." But she hasn't apologized for that line. Interesting.
Revisit the 90s with The AV Club
The AV Club has just started running an incredibly fun feature based on those ubiquitous NOW! compilation CDs. As he explains in the introductory feature, Nathan Rabin, one of the site's writers, recently was subjected to the original NOW! from 1999 and marveled at how much of a snapshot of the times it was. He writes...
A strange spirit of musical democracy pervades the CD. It’s a curious world where one-hit wonders like Marcy Playground breathe the same rarified air as Janet Jackson and Radiohead. For a brief period, they were peers, at least where Billboard and NOW That’s What I Call Music! is concerned.
This week the second feature went live, revisiting the Britney Spears phenomenon in its nascent stage, discussing whether the New Radicals' "You Get What You Give" has enough layers of subversion to be cool, and vindicating my secret belief that Semisonic was cool.
Read it--especially if you were a teen in the 90s like I was--but skip the comments section lest you get too engaged in the debate about which ironic cover of "Baby One More Time" is the best.
For the record, my music taste never having been particularly cool, I never bought a NOW! CD, though if there had been a Lilith Fair edition, you can be sure I would have been all over it. Here's who I spent the majority of the 90s listening to...
Oh, you mean you don't remember Lisa Loeb?
Here, maybe this will help.
Breaking my silence on the late night feud!
...I know, people were on pins and needles. I avoiding taking a position on the whole Conan O'Brien-Jay Leno feud, based solely on the fact that I didn't watch either show. In general, though, I find Leno smug and unfunny (and easily one of the worst interviewers on the talk show circuit right now). Thus, I have no problem showing some anti-Jay propaganda.
This is a real promo for the return of Leno's show, with the original music replaced by a classic Radiohead tune. Tipped by the AV Club.
Incidentally, even though Conan has collected his millions and walked into the proverbial sunset, the feud continues--now it's just a matter of rhetoric. Look at these two completely different takes on the guest lineup for Jay's first week.
No Leno boycott as celebs line up to welcome Jay back (from the Washington Post)
Sucky Jay Leno announces sucky guests for his sucky return (from the AV Club)
Shameful Movie Cliches
Seen yesterday at The AV Club: Which movie clichés would you like to see abolished from culture?
They hit a lot of my favorite bad clichés—even “Cool guys don’t look at explosions!”—and Tasha Robinson’s inclusion of the suddenly whiny wife is one of my favorites. Gone Baby Gone had a pretty terrible one—I remember commenting to Jeremy after that movie, “Hey, you know why Michelle Monaghan left Casey Affleck at the end of the movie?” “Why?” “So we would know how completely the case destroyed his life. You know, in case we weren’t getting that.”
Here are some other clichés that make me groan, roll my eyes, slap my forehead comically, or sometimes just say, “Oh, hell no”:
- characters explaining who they are to each other so that the viewers at home understand the relationships: “Jennifer, we’ve been best friends since we were 5! We shouldn’t have any secrets from each other”
- revealing that a character is pregnant by having her faint or vomit in one scene and facing the positive pregnancy test (and/or doctor) in the next
- guys who jog on sandy beaches at sunrise live charmed lives, but if they are running on a treadmill, they are soulless, bourgeois go-getters
- the hero is a crack shot who can take out the villain with one bullet between the eyes; the villain's forty-seven henchmen were unable to so much as wound the hero, instead sending bullets whizzing past his head, where they lodge themselves in the drywall
- crime thrillers in which detectives input evidence into ADVANCED HIGH TECH MACHINERY and get all the answers they needed, and/or seek the assistance of psychics or otherwise spiritual people who can “envision” the crime, all so the detective may avoid any type of critical thinking or, you know, investigation
- the mom bustling around the kitchen in the morning serving eggs and bacon and orange juice; while the dad and the kids race through, on their way to somewhere, mom idles away, as though she has nothing to do until 6pm when it’s time for her to serve everyone another meal
- the morbidly obese person as un-self-conscious sex maniac
- the girl who was a nerd in high school who (for some reason) wanted to date the dumb, sadistic captain of the football time
- superhumanly attractive actresses who are thought to be more relatable if they have boy’s names like Alex, and/or fall down a lot
- montages where an actress tries on a bunch of outfits or different pairs of shoes
- romantic comedies where the couple's fights are about the guy leaving the toilet seat up or the cap off the toothpaste (get better things to fight about!)
- romantic comedies where the protagonist whines that they “just want to grow old with somebody!”
- romantic comedies where the couple’s relationship is established through a series of still photos of the two of them gazing into each other’s eyes and/or kissing—who continually takes pictures of themselves nuzzling each other?
- romantic comedies in general
There's room for more hated cliches in the comments!