Culturology 013 – Back for the New Year and as Half-assed as ever!

Well, I meant to come storming back into this new year of culturological musings with all guns blazing, but here I am, already well into the work day, the doldrums of which this post is intended to ameliorate already well set in, I imagine. And I am not at all confident that I got the grammar correct in the above sentence. That’s how poorly things are already going. I suppose I could waste this post on some kind of set of cultural resolutions for the coming year (though, those of you that also listen to the podcasts on this site know that I do not really celebrate New Year’s as such–I may be willing to suspend my disbelief in order to fill up a post, however). I try not to let too much personal information into these posts, but (again, if you listend to the podcast that I guest-casted on (along with my comment-nemesis Kirsten)) my only resolution to be codified yet is to buy and regularly wear a pair of dark blue pants (my current pants being that unmistakable shade of janitorial/auto body shop green).

I suppose if I were going to play along and make some resolutions as an scientific (read empirical) investigator of culture, they might be things like the following:

1. I will cynically (ironically (again, in the podcast, we discussed a bit of a semantic shift on the topic)) enjoy at least one piece of industrially produced cultural swill that I would otherwise not even recognize the existence of. I will not let my well-documented bias against the recreational cynics that provide secondary support to a cultural industry that doesn’t need their help to maintain its vile vice-grip on America’s collective creativity interfere with my sincere attempts to be ironic this year.

2. Actually, you know what? I don’t really want to bother with this exercise…

Anyway, so that’s better than nothing, and look! we’re already part way down the amount of minimum page-space that I hope this post will absorb.

One thing I did want to mention: I saw the movie Slumdog Millionaire over my little Winter Break there, and thought it was really quite good. I was just talking to a friend about it yesterday, very briefly, and he felt that it was completely ripped off of the movie City of God. Did anyone else notice this? I didn’t/don’t really think that that’s the case. There are perhaps some legitimate comparisons to be made between there being highly stylized sequences through areas of abject poverty in both movies, but after that I don’t think they were all that same at all. I don’t know much at all about the whole Bollywood thing, but to me it seemed like Boyle, rather than trying to reinterpret or reenvision the Bollywood film, instead sought to make a fully contemporary version of a Bollywood movie, which answered to contemporary international aesthetic demands, rather than the apparently still kind of ’50s era Hollywood studio movie aesthetic that still rules in Bollywood.

Also, the Slumdog soundtrack finally has me on the M.I.A. bandwagon. It’s got that song with the ka-ching noises in it from Pineapple Express and a couple others as well. Way to go M.I.A. Though some would argue that the fact that I’m pretty much oblivious to most of the aspects of pop culture that I claim to be writing about in these posts (generally never watching TV (no, not even Conan O’Brien) and never ever listening to the radio), I do like the experience of catching on to something that everyone else has known about for a year or more totally beyond the curve. It also pretty well trend-proofs me as well, I reckon.

I was going to spend the next bit of this post appraising Boyle’s career output, but isn’t working right now and I can’t remember what all of his movies are. Except that I’m generally lukewarm on Sunshine in that it was not better than either Solaris or Event Horizon. Sam Neill running around all naked and demented was probably more awesome than the guy that gets naked and runs around all crazy like in Sunshine. The only thing I can remember to comment on about 28 Days Later is that I’m still completely confused as to how Godspeed You! Black Emperor agreed to have their music used in such a chopped up form in that movie. Some fucking anarchists they turned out to be. What other movies did Boyle make? I’m pretty sure there are others (though I can admit to kind of conflating him with J.J. Abrams in my brain) but without imdb I’m useless…

I also saw The Wrestler over the break (I’m planning on catching a bunch more movies in the next couple weeks so I’m not too worried about blowing my movie-talk wad on this first post back). It was also quite good. The B-story involving Mickey Rourke’s character’s estranged daughter was disturbingly canned/cliche/trite/etc. though. She actually says “You missed my birthdays!” in on of her few scenes. Feels very tacked on–it’s clearly only in the film to act as a catalyst to get Rourke together with Marisa Tomei’s character outside the confines of her strip club–and is distractingly underdeveloped in an otherwise very well-constructed plot. It’s also good to see that Aronofosky can still so carefully control his visual aesthetic even when copping the kind of documentary feel that he went for. With Aronofsky, I’m generally quite willing to forgive the melodramatic aspects of his first three films, given that I’d rather watch well-constructed sincere fare than shoddily made ironic trash (say, American Beauty, for instance), but this time the melodrama, however real-to-Jersey it might be gives me greater pause than with Requiem for a Dream or The Fountain.

Also, I’m canceling the “Things that…” sequence from Culturology. I’ll try to think of something to replace it. Have any ideas? What else should I be spouting off about?

7 Responses to “Culturology 013 – Back for the New Year and as Half-assed as ever!”

  1. 1 kirsten

    The “Things that . . .” sequence was my fave, actually. The times that I had no interest in the body of your post, that little postscript always gave me something on which to comment.

    Also, “comment nemesis”? I had no idea we had such a formal relationship.

  2. 2 SammyG

    Trainspotting. Danny Boyle made Trainspotting, in addition to 28 days later and sunshine.

  3. 3 neal

    Holy crap Samay. you actually read the AS?? This is major. Also – how about a getdown at the end of this month? any upcoming weekend concerts?

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  5. 4 pete

    Oh right. Trainspotting. Haven’t seen that since High School. I seem to recall thinking it was pretty good (though Requiem for a Dream makes it look like Sesame Street).

    I promise, Kirsten, I’ll think of a new annex. It was just getting too hard to come up with more “Things.”

  6. 5 nick marino

    why not replace “Things” with “Something That Should Have Sucked But Actually It Was Okay”? that seems in keeping with your sincerity manifesto.

  7. 6 neal

    related to nick’s idea: things that used to suck but suck no longer

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  9. 7 neal

    regarding M.I.A – Paper Planes is a great song from a tight album, but it got the shaft when it came to music videos, censorship, and sampling. The shotgun blasts were frequently omitted from television airings and the video was outright dull. Also, it took almost a year for the label to release it as a single, (at least where I live). Then, when it did get super popular, Jay Z and Weezy made a cacophonous mess of the sample. Still, I suppose any exposure is good exposure. Bamboo Banger and Hussel are pretty sweet cuts also.

    I mean, the song carries enough weight by itself that if the video was going to be such a butchered mess they should have done without – or went with a performance video.

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