Archive for the 'gross' Category

She’s evil…and not just high school evil.

November 17, 2009

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I saw the movie “Jennifer’s Body” a while ago and it has really stuck with me.  I knew after seeing it that it really relates to the discussion of this course and blog.  I want to see this movie again, but it is out of the theaters now.  I am waiting for it to come onto DVD so that I can watch it several times in a row.  I was surprised to find that this film did not get such great ratings from the critics, despite the fact that it is written by Diablo Cody.

The reviews that I read stated that it fit into the horror genre comfortably.  I feel that is just a surface read of the film.  Sure, you can watch it and enjoy it without a close reading.  It has beautiful actresses, gore, complicated sets and contemporary costumes, but I feel that simply watching it loses many of the intricate cultural criticisms within it.

Firstly I see the two main characters as both playing within and also dismantling stereotypes of the genre.  There is the mousy character of Needy and the sensual character of Jennifer.  They are opposing, yet within the confines of the film they are best friends.  Yet they do not remain in their stereotypes.  As characters, they surpass them.  I saw this film as a great metaphor for the kind of toxic close friendships that many women experience in their adolescence.  Every woman has been a Needy and every woman has been a Jennifer.  Rather than stereotypes, I saw the two characters as archetypes.

This film feels very “of the now” with the embedded references to the Station nightclub fire, the rise of adolescent vampire chic and the cultural acceptance of the Emo male heartthrob within television shows like Gossip Girl and the OC. But it turns those conventional cultural landmarks on their heads.  The Emo heartthrob is actually a comedic satanic practitioner who wants to “make it big” with his band, the nightclub fire is a backdrop for the characters rather than a life changing event and the moody emotionless male vampire (Twilight, Angel, True Blood) has been replaced with a strong sexual woman who hungers for more than just flirtation.  The climatic scene in the film which occurs on Prom Night, rather than taking place in the dark hallways of the highschool has moved outside of the school.  It has been misplaced to an abandoned mansion’s pool filled with living fauna and flora.  The mansion as well as an earlier setting in the film of an abandoned subdivision speak to the landscapes teenagers have always sought out, yet are currently more available due to the economic downturn.

I felt that this film was a film for women, rather than a typical teen horror film aimed at men.  Diablo Cody has rescued actress Megan Fox from the likes of Transformers 2 and made her an interesting, flawed and real monster.  In the end, the film was about the relationship between two women, which I can think of no other horror film that fits that description.  Here’s hoping that this film will encourage other women writers to tackle the genre of horror and bring their cultural baggage into it.  This film felt a lot more messy and a lot more fascinating than any other horror film I can think of and I can’t stop thinking about it.

Sweeney Todd

October 24, 2009

Julia and I met to watch ‘Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street’.  The film was a musical, which neither of us had realized it was going to be.  I knew that it was a film adaptation of a Broadway musical, but I had no idea that the film was also going to be a musical.  I figured that it was going to be a version of the story with no songs.  The songs were okay, but I think that it would have functioned better without them.  It was a little jarring when the characters began to sing.  The songs seemed really conventional, flat and ordinary compared to the aesthetics of the film.

I had no knowledge of the story walking into the film.  I knew that the original musical was really bloody but I think I was not prepared for the amount of blood in this film.  It was a theatrical gushing of bright red that upstaged all the actors and became, for me, the center of the film.  The blood became the unexpected other in the cast of characters, more vivid than the gothic setting of shades of black and grey.

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I would like to discuss this film in relation to the aethetics of consumerism of Daniel Harris.  I was thinking about Harris’ proposal of quaintness during this film.  But I think that Sweeney Todd operates in both the realm of quaint and anti-quaint.  It is quaint in a sense that it is a period piece, so therefore an idealized version of the past.  But instead of idealizing the typical quaintness of London in the late 1800’s with warm cheery interiors, it idealizes an anti-quaintness of drafty, dirty coolness.  The anti-quaint is not authentic.  This is not a real dank basement filled with corpses and a machine that turns them into pies.  It is imaginary, even within the constrains of the film.  This is evidenced by Todd’s barber shop where the killing occurs, yet it remains as clean as a stage set even for all the gushing blood.

The dream sequence in the film is pretty extraordinary.  The anti-quaint aesthetic is transported via the characters to a scenery where it simply does not fit, the sunny beach.  The characters are not transformed in the change of locale, they remain their ever-morbid selves.

Watching this film and thinking about Harris’ book, made me realize that the aesthetic of this film, that of the macabre, is something largely ignored by Harris.  He talks about it in the chapter on Coolness, but I feel that it is much larger than that and is deserving of its own chapter.

If I am able to find the anti-quaint in this film, and the anti-cute is prevalent in so many films (Bride of Chucky, Problem Child), this makes me wonder how many other anti-aesthetics are out there?  Is it possible to have an anti-aesthetic that negates or respond to each of the aesthetics outlined by Harris?

The films of Tim Burton are prime examples of the pop-macabre genre.  The macabre is cool rather than seriously dark, and also rebellious and humorous.  Theatrical is a good way of describing his works.  Playful rather than austere.  All elements of the film are self-aware of their rebelliousness, which is perhaps the charm of them.

J. Crew is so gross!

September 20, 2009

Okay.  So speaking of our low/high culture clash conversation, here is an all time low.  A couple of days ago, I received the newest J. Crew catalog in the mail.  I urge you to get a copy of this if you can!  I will bring my copy to the next discussion group.

What’s so strange about a J. Crew catalog, you may ask?

Well.  Generally not much, but this time is a different story.  J. Crew is currently trying to re-vamp their image as boring basics peddler and become truly high class mass-produced sweat-shop-made couture.  With Michelle Obama wearing their duds and a slew of news stories surrounding their new look, they are on their way to changing their image.

I happened to notice in the last catalog that came my way, a photo of the artist Alex Katz decked out a la J. Crew.  I thought it was some sort of strange anomaly, but no.  The current issue of the J. Crew catalog is filled with artists wearing J. Crew clothes.  Okay, this is a little weird, no?  But it goes further.  The women’s section remains the same as ever.  The women’s clothes are all being sold by models. Flip to the men’s section and it is a completely different catalog.  The men’s section has NO models.  Artists in their studios are photographed wearing J. Crew clothes.  This is completely sick to me.

This catalog is telling me that

1. there are no female artists,

2. or, the only artists worth mentioning are men

3. that it is important to look good as an artist

4. j. crew = looking good

There are so many things wrong with this catalog.  I am seriously outraged over this.  I mean, what is avant-garde about J. Crew?  Why would anyone seriously do this?

The list of artists appearing in this catalog are:

Vito Acconci, Ryan McGinness, Chris Dorland, Glenn Ligon, Lucien Smith, Billy Sullivan and Stephen Shore

Why these artists?  What is so marketable about them, J. Crew?

Here is a link to some of the photos:

http://www.jcrew.com/AST/Navigation/openstudio.jsp

I want Jerry Saltz to write about this.  I want to write a letter to J. Crew and tell them how gross they are to me.  I want to NEVER shop at J. Crew again.

Since when did a catalog become a faux-magazine?

I was talking to Charlie about this and his thoughts comforted me somewhat.   He said that…

1. The women’s and men’s sides of the catalog probably have different photo editors and creators and that they probably had no idea that what they put together would be read as so offensive to me.

2. Vito Acconci is wearing a lot of make-up in his photos.

3. When I asked Charlie why they didn’t have architects (or writers or actors, etc.) he said that he  thought artists were probably cheaper.

P.S>>>Here is a link to a blog talking about Alex Katz appearing in the previous issue of the J. Crew catalog..

http://www.mediabistro.com/unbeige/people/alex_katz_j_crew_model_110042.asp