Tuesday

SCUM


This is utterly fucking revolting. It's unfortunate that we exhausted all the relevant (historical and contemporary) analogies two years ago –– or, hell, maybe back during the second Bush administration –– because now this irredeemable scumbag is writing about immigrants "infest[ing]" the U.S. while creepily hugging a flag and sending children off to detention camps. Each time you think things can't get worse, they do.
Morrissey's politics-etc. is my single least-favorite topic under the sun. And now we have Morrissey Central, ugh ugh ugh. I find the theories that the interview, as such, is bogus (i.e., that "John Riggers," the ostensible interviewer, is actually just Morrissey himself) very convincing, not least because this is one of the "questions" asked by "John":

JOHN: I Wish You Lonely and Jacky’s Only Happy When She’s Up On The Stage are your best ever songs. David Bowie was not writing great songs at this period of his career.

Literally no one – save possibly Moz himself – thinks this. And the Bowie dig is just bizarre, mean, and untrue. None of this is surprising per se (Morrissey's politics-etc. has long been a minefield), but that doesn't make it any less cringeworthy and depressing.

Thursday

What's Good


01. the NBA playoffs
02. Wild Wild Country
03. Soccer Mommy, Clean
04. Cardi B, Invasion of Privacy
05. You Were Never Really Here

Monday

In Memoriam

Mount Eerie's was the most low-key show I've ever attended, including those of far less accomplished and well-known artists (see, e.g., this excellent piece in The Atlantic). First off, Elverum was manning his own merch table in the lobby. I wasn't necessarily planning on buying anything, but when I saw that it was him, I kind of felt bad and bought a lovely book of his photos (taken all over the world, but somehow all looking like the Pacific Northwest) and he graciously signed it. Then, although there were unnamed "special guests" slated to perform, he took the stage just an hour after doors, with no opener at all. He played all of Now Only, most of A Crow Looked at Me (though unfortunately not "Soria Moria"), nothing pre-Crow, thanked the audience for "all this attention," and left. We tried to cheer for an encore – which felt slightly odd in that context – but he didn't come back out. I noticed that he was scheduled to play some music festival in Everett, Washington the next afternoon, so perhaps he just wanted to get back down across the border that night? Or maybe he doesn't think his current material lends itself to the ordinary, expected format of the rock concert? (As he humorously, surreally puts it on Now Only's title track: "I made these songs, and then the next thing I knew / I was standing in the dirt, under the desert sky at night / outside Phoenix at a musical festival / that had paid to fly me in to play these death songs to a bunch of young people on drugs / standing in the dust, next to an idling bus / with Skrillex inside and the sound of subwoofers in the distance.") In any case, his deeply understated presence/performance made a more poignant, lingering impression than more of a proper concert-event would have made.

Thursday

How Soon Is Now?

Now Only is just as devastating, and nearly as pristinely austere, as A Crow Looked at Me. Adjectives like "honest" and "earnest" are thrown around an awful lot in discussing art, but Phil Elverum's new records are so rigorously frank they cut right down to the bone. Yet, where last year's felt raw and still very much in medias res, this year's follow-up feels more – for lack of a better word – circumspect. Its title may pointedly refer to the album's ad hoc, impermanent status (more "working through," reflection from a different angle, etc.) but, Elverum seems to suggest, it's not only this music that's ephemeral--everything is, "always so close to not existing at all," as he aptly put it on the last one. Both of these albums have that kind of rare power that makes most other things feel frivolous or inconsequential. Tomorrow night, we're going to see him perform some of these songs, and while I've heard them all numerous times, I still don't know quite what to expect.

Monday

When you walk through the garden...


Collateral (why use a title already associated with a well-known movie?) is unexpectedly excellent. Its premise sounds like a cross between The Killing and The Fall, but in execution, it's closer to a miniature, British version of The Wire. At one point in this four-episode BBC2 miniseries, one character says to another: "People don't trust institutions anymore." It's inevitably a bit on the nose, yet, by that point in the show, it also feels earned, as a direct summation of Collateral's David Simonesque central themes. Collateral doesn't just tell us that institutions--governments, political parties, the police, the Church--fail people, but shows in persuasive, vividly realized detail how and why they do so, and what the real-world implications of these failures of service and representation are for the lives of individual people. As in The Wire, what prevents these ideas from ever feeling didactic is pretty good writing and really good acting. Carey Mulligan, always terrific, has probably never been better, but the rest of the show's large ensemble cast is equally strong. The expanding-web-of-interconnections structure that writer-creator David Hare favors is here only minimally schematic and forced, largely because all the characters pulled into his web are so interesting and fully fleshed-out and dynamically played, from the Shadow Cabinet MP at odds with party orthodoxy to the lesbian priest and her young Vietnamese lover to the arrogant, semi-racist MI5 agent swooping in on the local cops' investigation. Right, it's that kind of show, but--trust me, really--it's so much better than it sounds on the page, and at four hours, it doesn't overextend its myriad plot threads or overstay its welcome. My only complaint is that they could've come up with a more distinctive title for a show this good.

Tuesday

You can go with this or you can go with that

Wow, this Rosenbaum review of the Flintstones movie is almost eerily prescient, in several respects; however correct he was in 1994, his remarks (apply them now to the Comic-Book Franchise Reboot Movie of the Month, or, for that matter, to The Shape of Water!) seem even more spot-on in 2018.(And Umberto Eco's quotation about Casablanca is just fantastic.)
Come on, summer

Saturday

Oscar predictions

For what it's worth (I mostly just hope Dear Basketball wins):

PICTURE
Will win: Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri
Should win: Get Out
Should've been nominated: A Quiet Passion; The Florida Project

DIRECTOR
Will win: Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water
Should win: Jordan Peele, Get Out or Paul Thomas Anderson, Phantom Thread
Should've been nominated: Terence Davies, A Quiet Passion; Sean Baker, The Florida Project

ACTRESS
Will win: Frances McDormand, Three Billboards...
Should win: Meryl Streep, The Post
Should've been nominated: Cynthia Nixon, A Quiet Passion; Kim Minhee, On the Beach at Night Alone; Kristen Stewart, Personal Shopper

ACTOR
Will win: Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour
Should win: Daniel Day-Lewis, Phantom Thread
Should've been nominated: Armie Hammer, Call Me by Your Name

SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Will win: Allison Janney, I, Tonya
Should win: Lesley Manville, Phantom Thread
Should've been nominated: Tiffany Haddish, Girls Trip

SUPPORTING ACTOR
Will win: Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards...
Should win: Willem Dafoe, The Florida Project
Should've been nominated: Michael Stuhlbarg, Call Me by Your Name

Thursday

Policy: 2018

This is some seriously dystopian shit.

Monday

Because the music that they constantly play / it says nothing to me about my life

When Black Mirror is good, it's superlative.
When Black Mirror is sweet, it's totally disarming.

Thursday

Pop-Kerr 2020

If the whole non-politician-celebrities-being-presidents thing is a harbinger of things to come and not just an historical aberration, I can't think of a better prospective ticket than Gregg Popovich and Steve Kerr, both of whom really, truly get it.

Oh man, I miss the Obamas so, so, so much!

Tuesday

Has there ever been a better, more delightfully random ending to a TV episode?

(Yes, I'm still completely obsessed with this show.)

(rough translation:
Greenland, "Land of Men," is an island offshore of the American continent, located in the extreme north of the Atlantic Ocean.
The principal productive activities of Greenland are fishing for halibut and shrimp.
Greenlanders, like South Americans, are known throughout the world for their unbridled passion for dance.)

Saturday

Why do millennials dislike U2?


I mean, I get that Bono (very) often lowers himself to self-parody, and sometimes it's not intentional. I get that he tends to come across as pompous and self-important and kind of a prick (though young people like Kanye very much). I get that they're one of those bands that everyone is told they're supposed to like, and they've appeared on dozens of Rolling Stone covers. And because they've never broken up, they can't be missed in the same way as these 80s and 90s bands that reunite to much fanfare at Coachella or Glastonbury, prompting young people to "discover" their back-catalogues and buy their t-shirts. And, sure, it was kind of annoying when that album just appeared in everyone's iTunes (though the album wasn't bad, actually, if one bothered to listen before deleting).

But, all that said, they were (and sometimes still are) stupendously fucking good.

The early records are so full of real, palpable, complicated spiritual and political yearning, and the songs are mostly great, too.

Achtung Baby still sounds fantastic, start to finish. Listen to "Acrobat" right now; it's one of the best rock and roll songs ever recorded, and such a caustic, mordant self-critique, with Bono basically flagellating himself for being hypocritical and for not being better than he is.

Even the later records have good things on them. All That You Can't Leave Behind has held up especially well, but none of them are disposable cash-ins. U2 are four consummate professionals who are very good at what they do, but they still take chances and do weird and personal stuff when the mood strikes them.

Tuesday

Trees. Mountains. Islands.


I finally listened to this; it's great, and (appropriately) pretty much the saddest record I've ever heard. So beautiful, though, and -- after having lived out here for over a decade -- I'm not sure there's any musical artist who better evokes the very specific feeling of the Pacific Northwest. He's like Emily Carr, or Gus Van Sant.
I used to be really into the Microphones (High School Me listened constantly to The Glow, Pt. 2 and It Was Hot, We Stayed in the Water), but I kind of lost track of him after the Mount Eerie record and the band-name switch. So, weirdly, this is the first time I've listened much (or maybe at all?) to Elv(e)rum since moving out to the Pac. NW, and I'm connecting to it (the new stuff and old stuff) in a different, possibly more rewarding way than I did years ago.

Sunday

At the Edge of Empire

Lucretia Martel's latest film, Zama, is a masterpiece--a strange, immersive, genuinely extraordinary experience. I was going to write something about it, and might still when time permits, but it certainly wouldn't (or won't) be as interesting and insightful as this piece, which should be read together with Film Comment's interview with Martel.