We know that halfway through The Force Awakens, Luke Skywalker won’t suddenly develop cancer—we won’t be forced to watch him manage whatever sorts of treatments they had for that a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. Episode VII won’t become a film about a man having to abandon his hero’s quest and face his mortality from a hospital bed.
We know Episode VII will not document the plight of nerf herders.
We know it will not be about Chewbacca coming to terms with his sexuality.
These are the stock books they’re using to fill shelves at The Container Store in Columbus, OH.
Some notable inclusions:
The Soul’s Code, by James Hillman. (A Jungian psychologist—I actually have this book.) The Age of Turbulence, by Alan Greenspan. America by Heart, by Sarah Palin. Dispatches From the Edge, by Anderson Cooper. Tenth of December, by George Saunders. Travels in the Scriptorium, by Paul Auster. Fetish Lives, by Gail Jones. Someone to Watch Over Me, by Richard Bausch.
I’m late to the game on this, but I finally saw Whiplash. And although it held my interest, and I did enjoy the music, I found the film irredeemably problematic. It would be easy enough to criticize the story. Although the characters are apparently very skilled as musicians, as people they can only play the same two notes (“driven” and “asshole”). The romantic subplot is not so much understated as unstated. But it’s perhaps more interesting (and more important) to consider everything the film got wrong about music, or more specifically jazz, or even more specifically, studying jazz at a major music school, which is something I can speak to. Here’s a list of five problems:
1 Most disturbing is this idea of jazz as a highly institutionalized form, with white people like Terrence Fletcher as the gate keepers. In Whiplash, jazz is like French cuisine—it’s prepared in oak-paneled rooms with track lighting, performed wearing tuxedos in grand halls where panels of judges make or break your career. The pinnacle of jazz is not found in some shitty club, but rather at Lincoln Center. Certainly, some of this sort of thing exists, but the film completely ignores the history of jazz as being an African American art form that was created on the streets of New Orleans and New York City. Jazz exists because people like Miles Davis dropped out of Juilliard to hang out in Harlem. The film is suggesting that a type of aristocracy has now completely taken over this form, and will decide who succeeds and who fails (and if they decide you’ll fail, you have no other recourse, you’re finished). Whiplash stresses this point quite strongly—that achieving “greatness” means being acknowledged by the elite power structure. If the film indeed means to suggest such a world exists (if not in real life, at least on screen), it would be a tragedy worth exploring, but these circumstances are never for a moment questioned.
I recently re-watched the series, which I had not seen since it originally aired (but not every episode because back then when you missed an episode, you were SOL). I then watched Fire Walk With Me, which I also had not seen since its release. Quick reactions, in no particular order:
It would have been obvious to make Cooper a hard-nosed G-man, maybe someone recovering from an alcohol problem, or some such trope. But Lynch did something you’re not supposed to do with your characters—he made Cooper a nice, swell guy, barely flawed, if at all. He’s sincere, kind, a true humanist who sees the essential goodness in all people. He displays feminine qualities of nurturing and holism. It’s this contrast of a sleek and stylish, but kindhearted FBI man wandering through the haunting wilderness that makes Twin Peaks so compelling. He’s navigating a hostile landscape, he’s plagued with visions, and in that sense he’s not unlike David Carradine’s character from Kung Fu. (Now that show needs a reboot.) There are a few episodes when Cooper loses his suit, and the show loses its power. Cooper in flannel is not interesting.
In typical Columbus, Ohio fashion, my wife and I comprised half the audience of last night’s 10:30pm showing of Birdman (a Saturday, no less). Sitting in this nearly empty theater, and seeing Times Square on the screen, with its thick herds of tourists, superheroes, marching bands, everything gleaming from a million watts of advertisements—and hearing it too, that unique cavernous acoustic signature of the crowds wedged into the giant asterisk-like convergence of Broadway, 7th Ave, and 42nd St, I began to really miss New York, not in a heart-aching kind of way, but just as something I once had that now feels very much out of reach. There has been plenty of raving about Birdman, its energy, acting, imagination, and so on… But the sound design is great too. When outside, we hear the layers of voices, traffic, and music; when inside, we hear the belly of this theater echoing just as it should, and the overall effect is one of complete transportation into this weird, mad world that Iñárritu has created. Even the drum score—and the drum score is incredible, performed by Antonio Sanchez—it changes acoustically to match whatever space we’re currently occupying. The film is one long continuous pulsing rhythm.