Tuesday, July 28, 2009

And the excitement grows...

Do not get on my case for this being my seventh post about October's Where the Wild Things Are. Just enjoy this behind-the-scenes featurette of author Maurice Sendak talking about why he loves the movie: 

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Monday, July 27, 2009

Drug references remain intact

Tim Burton and Johnny Depp premiered the trailer for their upcoming Alice in Wonderland a few days ago at Comic-Con. The result? A resounding, "Meh," in my opinion.

As I was concerned might be the case, the thing looks way too CGI-heavy, and might be destined for Burton's "disappointing remakes" pile, considering dude's hit-or-miss record. 

Still, maybe I'm judging too harshly without seeing much, and it'll turn out great. But his Charlie and the Chocolate Factory still leaves a decidedly un-sweet taste in my mouth...


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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

LollapaNEWSa (...see what I did there?)

When this year's Lollapalooza lineup was announced, I told myself that, should Saturday - the day that Beastie Boys play - also offer a few other acts I'd want to catch, I'd go ahead and fork over the exorbitant day-pass fee. Turned out the date would also include Animal Collective, Atmosphere, TV on the Radio, Santigold (formerly Santogold), Ben Harper, and Tool, so I was in. The Beasties have been favorites of mine since the Check Your Head poster hung on my bedroom wall, and since this fall's Hot Sauce Committee, Pt. 1 will be their first proper LP in five years, I was pumped.

Then, the bomb was dropped Monday that Adam Yauch - aka MCA, aka Nathaniel Hornblower - was recently diagnosed with a cancerous neck tumor, and the Boys would subsequently be canceling all of their summer shows and postponing Hot Sauce's release. The good news is that, according to Yauch, the condition is "very treatable, in most cases," and patients generally remain free of cancer, post-surgery. The other (more selfish) good news is that, if and when the dudes tour later, they'll be more likely to play headlining shows, rather than festivals.

No sooner did Yauch's announcement hit the wire than speculation began to brew about who would replace them at Lolla. Two days later? Cue the excitement...Beastie Boys' slot will be filled by none other than the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, who I'd originally complained about not playing the fest, as was rumored. Sure, Radiohead or Kanye would've been nice, but I'll certainly take two YYYs shows in three months. Color me stoked.

We're pullin' for you, MCA...

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Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Everyone's a critic

Despite the fact that I'm not a real one, I've always struggled a bit with the idea of "critic" as vocation. However harsh or misguided, there's probably some degree of truth to the accusation often leveled against critics: that, were it not for lack of talent or drive, many professional critics might prefer to be doing whatever it is they're critiquing, rather than making a living off of writing about pieces that others have produced. While that argument discounts the talent and drive needed to write, think, and conceptualize effectively and interestingly, a part of me still has a hard time trashing a piece—regardless of the "greatness" of its art—that people have usually worked hard to produce.

When "contribution to society" (whatever that means) apparently isn't the artists' primary intention behind making something like G-Force, for example, does a snarky takedown hurt? Does it matter whether or not a bad review can deter moviegoers from buying tickets for such blatant product-by-committee? If not, people ask, what exactly does the professional critic contribute to society? The thing is, all critics (and many readers) have to have some level of belief in the idea that, given a certain set of parameters, the critical community is a positive force that helps to shape art and cultural dialogue in meaningful ways. In this age of click-throughs and hits, though, there's an increasing temptation to gain a reputation as an overly-clever smack-talker, when most of us would probably prefer to use culture journalism as a platform for championing and discussing work we're interested in and appreciate.

All of which is why I enjoyed The A.V. Club's recent post on depictions of critics within popular culture, including the expected (Siskel and Ebert imitations abound), the funny (The Muppet Show's Statler and Waldorf), and the bizarre (Bob Balaban in Lady in the Water). But my favorite example given is from Ratatouille, in which the critic character, initially presented as a pretentious stereotype—his name is Anton Ego—is revealed to be much more complex. As The A.V. Club points out, Ego is invested enough in food, the culture he critiques, to put his reputation on the line, defending an unlikely artist whose work reminds Ego of why he became a critic in the first place.

Ego's review, which comes at the film's end, not only changes the trajectory of both his and chef Remy's life and work, but prompts questions about the nature of an artist, and the positive and unexpected ways art can change people. The A.V. Club post's comments are also worth a look, if only to hear from the many readers whose passion for film was stirred by growing up watching Siskel and Ebert thoughtfully debate the cultural merits and impact of art. And isn't that what we want out of a critic?