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Artistic Influences

By Alyssa Rosenberg on December 23, 2009 at 4:02 pm

"Artistic Influences"

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Everybody working in culture’s got ‘em.  Artists love to talk about ‘em.  AllMusic even includes a standard (if sometimes suspect) list of influences and influencees in artist pages.  And as a critic, I’ve got mine, too.  I love A.O. Scott’s mordant tone (This line from his Star Trek review stands as one of my favorite all-time sentences in a critique: “Jim still manages to defy the continuity team and switch hair color from dirty blond to redhead and back again. Don’t worry, he’s still a natural dickhead underneath.”) if not always his conclusions and Manohla Dargis’s crusading spirit.  But if I’m going to name someone who changed not just the way I write about movies but the way I watch them, credit has to go to a less famous source: Tony Palumbi.

Tony and I were buddies in high school.  We were fellow debate nerds, he was on a better swim team than I was.  For a long time, during the summer, he’d meet me after my job at the town swimming pool, we’d bike over to his house, and we’d watch a ton of action movies.  I don’t know that I’d actually seen an action movie before Tony and I started hanging out.  I was pretty freaked out by violent action sequences due to a tendency towards bad nightmares.  He helped me get over that, and to appreciate the art of a good fight scene–and the unique sense of humor that often accompanies such fights.  The movies we watched ranged from ridiculous to awesome, but a lot of them stuck with me, among them Hackers*, Plunkett & Macleane (the combination of which gave me a Jonny Lee Miller fixation for a while…ahh, youth.), Blade, and Starship Troopers.  Maybe I would have gotten there on my own, but without Tony, I’m not sure I would be writing pieces like this one praising our transformation into a fanboy nation.

We sort of fell out of touch towards the end of college and after.  But thanks to the magic of the internet, Tony found me through Ta-Nehisi’s post on my piece on Brittany Murphy.  Turns out, he has a blog that’s a combination of pop culture and humor writing, and it’s really good.  You should check it out.  I clearly get the most out of being back in touch with one of 

*Hackers may be dated as hell, but it is totally awesome, and informed a huge amount of my high school bravado.  If only real-life hacking was so hilarious, and involved so much cross-dressing.  And if only Jesse Bradford had gone on to have an actual career.

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