Obvious comparisons to Sinead O’Connor’s “Nothing Compares 2 U” video aside, Janelle Monae’s video for “Cold War” strikes a jarring contrast. The song’s driving beat coupled with a close-up of Monae–alone, singing, struggling not to cry–is a notable departure from her two-toned tuxwear and James Brown-like spasm dancing. I love her character–but seeing the singer behind it is cool, too.
This afternoon I went with a friend and her mother to Plimoth Plantation, the museum and living history site that focuses jointly on the native Wampanoag people and the settlers from the Mayflower and following ships who founded the Plymouth colony. My friend and I are both into history and have done a fair amount of reading in the area – I read Philbrick’s Mayflower, for one – and we were both the type of kid to pay rapt attention in school, anyway. But we found as we went through the exhibits that almost all of our knowledge and reference points could be traced to historical fiction written for children and teens. Patricia Clapp’s Constance – now, sadly, out of print – is the story of a teen girl who sailed on the Mayflower with her family, and we found ourselves talking about it constantly as we walked through the reproduction village. For colonial information not specific to Plymouth, we referenced The Witch of Blackbird Pond and American Girl’s Felicity series far more often than any of the non-fiction we’d read in school or for fun.
I doubt my friend and I are alone in this, and it makes me wonder why schools don’t integrate history and literature classes as a matter of course. (I know some do, of course.) There can be factual issues, of course – some historical novels are far more accurate than others, and fact-checking is necessary when it matters whether a detail is actually true. But kids, and adults, remember characters and stories more easily than names and dates, and even when the names and dates are important to know, story can provide a vital entry point.
And really, if you ever come across Constance at a library or used book store, you should read it. I’m going to go back and reread it myself, now that I’ve seen the setting. The novel informed my visit to the place, which, in turn, will make my reading experience all the richer.
Tonight I’m heading off to the Arcade Fire/Spoon show at Merriweather Post Pavilion — first time to this venue, actually. Pitchfork has highlights from last night’s Madison Square Garden webcast and you should check out Amanda Mattos’ pre-show interview with Spoon’s frontman Britt Daniels over at Pinna Storm. It looks like you can also still listen to the new Arcade Fire album, The Suburbs, on streaming over at NPR. Anyone else seen them/plan to see them?
io9 ran an interview yesterday with Matt Reeves, director of the American remake of Let the Right One In, a supremely creepy Norwegian vampire film. The interview delved into the differences of Let Me In from its source material — since many have said the trailer so far looks nearly like a shot-by-shot remake. It seems there will be differences with the new film, like a change in the perspective of the storytelling and fewer cats.
But this all makes me wonder where the impulse to remake popular foreign films into American ones comes from. We saw instant interest in remaking the Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, for instance. Either American audiences really hate reading subtitles or Hollywood is really devoid of original ideas. When I think of remaking cult classics, I tend to think of the remake of Psycho, which was far inferior to the original. To me the most successful remakes of old or foreign films are the ones that have flawed source material so they can take great liberties.
Granted, there have been some great American remakes of Japanese horror flicks — The Ring is an obvious example. And the early feedback from the Let Me In screening at Comicon leads me to believe this film might be good.
Still, I have to wonder what the standard for remaking a foreign film or cult classic should be. When is it OK to just leave it to the arthouse crowd?
Jessica Winter’s appreciation of director Adam McKay (Anchorman, Talladega Nights, Step Brothers) is brilliant and much needed. Judd Apatow gets more than his share of love, but McKay has always performed better on a pure laughs level. Winter’s outlining of the difference in the pair’s approaches is particularly sharp:
The riffing in an Apatow movie tends to be grounded in a mutually-agreed-upon reality and is heavy on pop-culture references—think of the volley of nicknames for the hirsute friend in Knocked Up (“Serpico,” “Chewbacca,” “Scorsese on coke”) or the flirtation scene in The 40-Year-Old Virgin that pivots on the command “Be David Caruso in Jade.” By contrast, McKay at his best is a true absurdist, guiding his performers into hallucinatory parallel dimensions (a cockfight featuring a death by trident, perchance) with references and internal logic of their own.
The important thing is that each character in a McKay movie has his own dream world. The other characters usually notice that something’s off. Ron Burgundy is aware that Sex Panther smells like pure gasoline, even if Brian Fantana is not. This recognition is sometimes even central to the plot. Step Brothers‘s story gets set in motion by having the single parents of the titular characters bond over the ridiculousness of having 40-year-old children living at home and acting like elementary schoolers.
But while the recognition exists, it’s never judgmental, and always respected by the other characters. Richard Jenkins’ fantastic dinosaur monologue in Step Brothers, which Winter mentions, illustrates this well:
Brennan and Robert are slightly confused (“you’re human, you could never be a dinosaur”) but they don’t dwell on it, and they don’t treat their (step)-dad like a crazy person, perhaps because their own dream lives are just as absurd. There are no straight men in McKay films; there’s no character for viewers to with whom to identify and share a sense of superiority. Everyone’s weird and fanciful in their own way and that’s okay.
Hi again, everyone, and thanks, Alyssa, for inviting me back. Happy to be here!
Over the past few weeks, some details about the second season of Glee have been trickling out, and it got me thinking about what I’d like to see on the show. Like many people, I thought the first half of the first season was quite good, while the second half was somewhat of a mess, although I loved the finale. Here, in no particular order, are some things I’d like to see in order for them to recover next season:
1. Fewer musician-themed episodes. The music is a large part of the show’s attraction, sure, but the plot is important, too, and in episodes focused on one artist, the plot often gets even more strained than usual to make things relate. And episodes that feature music from a variety of artists and genres offer entry points to a larger portion of viewers.
2. Less stunt casting. Same idea, in some ways. I’ve greatly enjoyed some of the guest stars – especially Kristin Chenoweth – but I don’t want them to mess with the plot in order to get celebrities on the show.
3. A holiday episode. I just think it would be fun, and I’d love to have an album of holiday songs sung by the Glee cast to add to my extensive holiday music collection.
4. A non-pregnancy storyline for Quinn. Quinn wound up being one of the most interesting characters in the first season, and I’m looking forward to seeing what lasting effects the pregnancy and birth experience had on her, but I want them to let the character move on and have a story not directly related to that.
5. A real Rachel/Finn relationship. We’ve seen plenty of the build-up to this. Now the show should just let it play out for a while. They’re very different people, but they honestly seem to care for each other, so how will they negotiate that relationship in the fraught high school setting? I’d love to see Rachel attend one of Finn’s games or a party with the football team, for example.
6. Rachel’s dads! It seems completely backwards that we met Rachel’s long-lost mother before we met her fathers, so I want the show to fix this. Who are these men who made Rachel into the person she is? And you’d think that Rachel would be the type to decide that one or both of her dads should be role models or mentors for Kurt. Why haven’t we seen that?
7. More Brittany, but not too much. I’m thrilled that Brittany (and Santana) will have expanded roles this season, as they’re great characters and both actresses are quite talented. But much of Brittany’s appeal is in the fact that her character is so understated and used rather sparingly. Her brilliant one-liners will lose a lot if they’re happening all the time.
8. Less Sue. I know this is an unpopular opinion, but I’m not that much of a Sue Sylvester fan. I understand the importance of having a character of that sort on the show, but during her scenes – especially the ones that don’t involve students – I find myself wishing the show would just get back to the kids.
9. Finn’s side of the Kurt story. In the conflict between the two boys, the show completely took Kurt’s side. It wasn’t even acknowledged that Finn was being forced, by his mother, into a situation in which he was receiving constant unwanted sexual attention. If a teen girl was made to share a room with a straight not-quite-stepbrother who was constantly hitting on her, I seriously doubt that the audience would be told they should take the boy’s side. There’s no real reason why this should be different.
10. More of Will as mentor. I like Will best when they’re focusing on his relationships with his students, rather than his own love life. His interactions with Finn were particularly well-drawn, and I completely bought the “To Sir, With Love” from all the kids in the finale. (I know some have questioned whether he could possibly have changed the lives of some of the more minor characters, but I’m willing to accept that some important things happened off-screen.) More of this, please.
Agree? Disagree? What do you all want to see next season?