POP CULTURE

American Blog Post

American Blog Post

Loyal readers of this website may recall an article I wrote a few years ago bemoaning a tendency in Hollywood for movies to be titled after their lead character. Last year I wrote a sort of follow-up piece discussing how in lieu of an actual title many films and television shows are lumbered with mere descriptive labels. More recently, a similar trend has caught my attention: movies with nationalities. Of course, the majority of the world’s commercially successful films are products of Hollywood, and are therefore technically American. The same films tend to be set in the United States, so…

Got a feeling I’ve been here before…

Got a feeling I’ve been here before…

In 1973, when Donald Fagen snarled disparagingly of “Show Biz Kids” in their “Steely Dan t-shirts”, he couldn’t have expected that forty years later he’d be embarking on epic cross-country tours, singing the same line night after night to thousands of fans dressed in over-priced garb emblazoned with the name of his very same band. The irony is not lost on Fagen nor his Steely Dan co-founder Walter Becker. Having given up touring in the mid-seventies, retreating to the studio to focus on the pursuit of jazz-rock perfection, the duo reformed a live band in the early nineties and have…

Where everybody knows your name?

A couple of years ago I wrote about what I had perceived as a growing trend in Hollywood for inserting the name of a movie’s main character into its title. While this tendency has not subsided completely, lately I’ve begun to notice other naming devices used by film and television producers (especially within the comedy genre) that do little to dispel perceptions that the industry’s creative well hath run dry. I no longer consider myself an avid viewer of network television, nor a frequent movie-goer (which I’d like to think says more about the deteriorating quality of both media than…

Speechless

Speechless

“I will not talk!” cries silent movie star George Valentin, as we fade in on his gaping mouth. Except his screams of anguish go unheard, both by his torturers and by two very separate cinema audiences: the one enjoying his latest Hollywood adventure and the one viewing The Artist, the new film by French director Michel Hazanavicius. Valentin’s words are only understood via a title card — a delightful joke that cleverly prepares audiences for cinema’s first commercial silent release in almost 85 years. But how would twenty-first century movie fans react to such an audacious premise? The effect of…

Characters welcome (their names less so)

Characters welcome (their names less so)

The poster for Larry Crowne, the new movie starring Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts, doesn’t tell us much, besides the fact that the film stars Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts, and that they are having a pleasant time. The two actors are seen riding what appears to be a flying motor scooter, judging by the sky blue background and complete absence of gravitationally secured objects. He smiles contentedly, his eyes, twinkling behind dark shades, fixed firmly on the road (or flight path). She perches behind him, her printed silk scarf fluttering in the breeze as she releases a trademark thousand-watt…

I was dreaming when I wrote this

I was dreaming when I wrote this

“ARE U READY?” A calm female voice pierces the darkness. The palpable sense of anticipation among the 20,000 people crammed into Madison Square Garden is ignited as the New Power Generation lays down a hard blues-funk groove. Moments later, a dark figure rises slowly into view, a Telecaster slung across his dimunitive frame completing his silhouette. He takes his position in the center of the glyph-shaped stage, motionless in four-inch platform heels, his gold rhinestone-covered playsuit dazzling amid a multitude of camera flashes. Finally the artist most people never stopped calling Prince introduces himself: “From the heart of Minnesota/Here come…

Spin City

Spin City

A few months ago, on the same day I turned thirty, I signed the lease to my first real New York apartment. To celebrate both occasions my wife surprised me with an unexpected gift: a record player, complete with amp and tuner. Nothing fancy (it had been donated to her by her boss) but perfect for a young couple looking to get its groove on in a one-bedroom third-floor walk-up. I owned only two LPs at the time, which I’d acquired in the vague hope that sooner or later I’d have my own turntable on which to play them. The…

The way he made <i>us</i> feel

The way he made us feel

THE WHOLE WORLD’S GONE OFF THE WALL. So proclaimed the promotional posters hailing the release of Michael Jackson’s solo album Off The Wall in 1979. Exactly thirty years later, the phrase seemed equally apt on a warm June evening, as news of Jackson’s hospitalization, shortly followed by the confirmation of his death at the age of fifty, began filtering through the early twilight. Sidewalks quickly swelled with people leaving work as passing car radios alternately blasted news updates and Jackson’s greatest hits. Cellphones lost reception. Internet browsers became sluggish. Twitter crashed completely. It was one of those rare moments in…

Still making sense

Still making sense

When David Byrne took to the stage to greet the crowd in Brooklyn last night, he was accompanied by an unusual accessory. Not a guitar, nor even a tape recorder containing a drum machine backing track of “Psycho Killer”. Instead, the former Talking Head wheeled out a white bicycle, which had apparently been designed to match his outfit (and hair). While many of the 27,000 who’d crammed into Prospect Park had taken the subway to attend the free concert, Byrne, now 57, explained how he’d simply ridden his bike across the river. It was a typically quirky introduction to the…

Liza Finn

Liza Finn

Blame Norah Jones, but it would be easy for some critics to dismiss the music of Liza Finn as the work of yet another girl-at-the-piano: the post-adolescent jazz-pop musings of a young, urban woman. But the apparent ordinariness of this 25-year old from North London is precisely what makes her and her music so extraordinary. Finn may compose pretty songs, and even has a pretty voice with which to sing them, but her abilities as a vocalist and a songwriter lift her above the swathes of supposedly like-minded artists with whom she could all too comfortably have been mistakenly grouped….

%d bloggers like this: