Yakkin' About Culture
8

The Honeyed Light, The Magic, The Majesty, The Endless Boredom: Terrence Malick's "To the Wonder"

In which Maria Bustillos and David Roth venture to the movies to see the latest by Terrence Malick. It is called To the Wonder and it is 113 minutes long.

David Roth: There's a thing that happens to me watching Terrence Malick movies. I marvel at the way they look—which I know is a novel response, but I'm a unique dude—and kind of chuckle to myself at the involuted, ponderous what-if-God-was-one-of-us philosophical stuff. And then I walk outside secure in my sophistication and am instantly struck by how THE WORLD IS SO RICH AND BEAUTIFUL HOLY SHIT.

Maria Bustillos: Yes, first things first: I nearly died of the BEAUTY. Every [...]

23

Why We Need "Enlightened"

Michelle Dean: We have gathered here today because, and I think this is not an exaggerated term, we are devoted to "Enlightened," the struggling HBO show from Mike White that stars Laura Dern as Amy Jellicoe, a woman who… is struggling to figure out life. That sounds kind of patronizing, but it's the only way to put it.

Recently I found myself actively worrying about the show's potential cancellation as I went about my day. And I keep tossing around different reasons of articulating why. One is of course that like David Haglund at Slate, I think it's the most interesting show on television right now, as well as [...]

16

"House of Cards," Episodes 1-3: Bloggers With Their Wine

Carrie Frye: Jane, so I was lazing around Saturday morning when I saw a series of ecstatic tweets from you about the amazingness of "House Of Cards." Up till then I'd only been paying dim attention to the show's release (basically, I knew it was a series released on Netflix about Washington politics that, disappointingly, did not seem to feature any secret vampires), but on your word, I tried an episode at lunch. And then, next thing I knew, "Portlandia" Battleship Galactica marathon style, it was dusk… and then it was 10 p.m. and I had no circulation left in my legs.

I'm now on episode 7 and view [...]

31

The Great, Forgotten Sci-Fi Novel About The End Of The World

David Roth: So, tell me again, please, how you found this novel, The Last Western? I know how I found it, which was by you giving me a copy and telling me it was important that I read it.

David Roth: It was like Natalie Portman's "The Shins will change your life" moment in Garden State, except you are shorter, smarter and less pointy than she is, and I am marginally less grumbly-sad than Zach Braff, and you were right and also The Shins couldn't conceivably really change anyone's life.

Maria Bustillos: A guy named Mark Harris went all crazy over it on this listserv I was on back [...]

40

'The Dark Knight Rises': And Michael Caine Wept

Elmo Keep: So, THE BAT?

Maria Bustillos: Yes.

EK: I celebrated my 103rd birthday somewhere in the middle of this film.

MB: You look so young for your age!

EK: Thank you. It is the remarkably smog-free air we enjoy.

MB: This movie was very interesting to me as a political document.

EK: Because it was about Occupy?

MB: Yeah? But really, beyond that.

38

Our Week With Marilyn

David: So, had your mind blown in a very understated way by any octogenarian restaurant critics lately?

Maria: Yes, and marveled at their sangfroid, also.

David: If we will all remember this past week as the one in which Marilyn Hagerty, elderly journalist in Grand Forks, North Dakota, became famous for a very factual review of a new Olive Garden—and was then punished for it by having to talk to Piers Morgan on CNN, as she will be tonight—it's still a little unclear how she and we got here. That is, I'm still trying to figure out what The Internet thought about all this. It had some [...]

52

'Breaking Dawn': The Dress, The Vampire, the Fetus and the Headboard

Natasha: Did you love Breaking Dawn? Did you die during it? I DID.

Mary: I mean… CAN YOU EVEN? Because I maybe cannot. I went to a midnight showing on Court Street in Brooklyn with all of the Eighties babies. And we all DIED.

Natasha: !!!!!!!

Mary: We were STARING at each other like we weren't COMPLETE strangers.

Mary: Let's begin with the wedding as this movie does… QUE CELLO.

Natasha: This is the wedding every young girl pictures, right?

Mary: Yes. Outside. With all those plants I can't name.

Natasha: Let me just say, I SWOONED.

Mary: OH IDK what this swoonage refers to because ME TOO 360.

Natasha: [...]

5

Game of Crones: A Chat About Jane Campion's "Top Of The Lake" So Far

Jane: Wow, so the third episode of Jane Campion's seven-part series, "Top of the Lake," aired last night and it wasn't until I started reading reviews that I realized how divisive Campion can be. Granted, this is her first television venture to be released in the U.S., and perhaps viewers are more used to Campion's lush aesthetic on big screen, but it's not like exaggerated dramatics are unknown quantities in TV-land either.

So I know we're both Campion enthusiasts (Bright Star, would other films be steadfast as thou art?!), and while I'm absolutely loving "Top of the Lake," there are definitely moments that leave me [...]

7

"House of Cards," Episodes 9-13: The Ones Where Everything Goes Nuts

Carrie: How smart of Netflix to release its series a week before a historic blizzard hit the Northeast. I wonder how many people who had no intention of ever watching this show ended up reluctantly streaming it this weekend, because it was that or the 9th rewatch of All About Eve or Grizzly Man?

Jane: Now, I don't think one could ever watch Grizzly Man enough times, but beside the point! (If Netflix ever wants to release a 13-part Herzog meditation on chaos and murder, though…) Did all of Netflixing NYC spend the weekend colluding with Frank Underwood? Inversely, when hysterics about snowfall (along with attendant talk of "House of [...]

36

The 17 Best Failed TV Shows Of The 80s (As Judged By Their Openings)

Sarah Marshall: I'm not especially proud of any of the hobbies I used to waste my free time, but perhaps the most inexplicable is my fondness for watching compilations of old TV themes on YouTube. As a general rule, I love all sludgy runoff of pop culture past and present, and the themes to failed 80s TV shows provide its most potent concentration: the montages, the glittery synth music, the streetwise detectives running on the beach in tiny shorts. I vacillate between feeling ashamed of how many no-name actors I routinely recognize, and feeling that I'm spending my leisure time in exactly the right way.

Michael Magnes: It's oddly thrilling [...]

15

'Breaking Dawn – Part 2': A Trampera Has Ended

After a long captivity, Mary HK Choi was liberated from the Rihanna plane, and now she and Natasha Vargas-Cooper are here to render verdict on the final installment of the Twilight series. Read the previous chat for Breaking Dawn here.

Natasha: I feel like this movie was essentially about outerwear?

Mary: I have so many opinions about the clothes.

Natasha: It was like a Nordstrom winter sale. NOT NEIMAN MARCUS.

Mary: Agreed. It was Burlington Coat Factory. BCF Holiday Sale for frenz and famz.

Natasha: This was definitely more of a coda to the series than an actual ending.

Mary: True, though I would approve of [...]

44

'Spider-Man' And 'Prometheus': The Not-Even-Mildly-Amazing Blockbusters Of Summer

Having gabbed at some length regarding Hollywood's abject betrayal of our cultural hunger for narrative, Elmo Keep and Maria Bustillos repaired to the movies to remedy the defects in their Summer Blockbuster education this weekend. Keep took in The Amazing Spider-Man, and Bustillos, Prometheus.

EK: I quite enjoyed the Spider-Movie!

MB: NO, Elmo.

EK: Tell me why this new one fails. It is pretty audacious I guess. You could not call something "The Amazing Prometheus."

MB: They're trying to be retro. And FAILING to be retro. O the terrible heart-clutching betrayal of this new Spider-Man.

MB: Here's the thing. The myth of Spider-Man is that he's an [...]

46

The Battle For Planet Flanagan

David: I need a haircut, Maria. I look like a duckling right now.

Maria: And a stiff drink, if you listened to that radio interview with Caitlin Flanagan, like we were supposed to. Evidently the women of America had calmed down too much since her last book, To Hell With All That, caused such a ruckus over what was widely perceived as the author's throwback and essentialist anti-feminist ideology. So not content to get people in a stir with Atlantic Monthly and New Yorker appearances, she's written a new one, Girl Land. Even the cover of which is pretty provoking.

All these moms are fine [...]

36

Adam Gopnik And The Bourgeois Guillotine

David Roth: Let's talk about how Adam Gopnik feels about French food.

Maria Bustillos: OMG HE REALLY LIKES IT.

DR: Which is perhaps the least surprising thing one could learn about Adam Gopnik. I guess if it were somehow to be revealed that he is blown away—to the point where he thinks you might also find it fascinating—by some things his kids said at the Museum of Natural History, that might be less surprising. But I'm kind of with him on this one, to a great extent. Who doesn't like food?

MB: Well, you! That is to say, I have noticed that awful food, at least, exerts a [...]

15

The 19 Best Failed TV Shows Of The 90s (As Judged By Their Openings)

Michael Magnes: When Sarah Marshall first told me about her hobby of watching old TV show themes on YouTube, I probably made fun of her, and then immediately told her about this early 90s Fox show called "Woops!" The exclamation point is part of the title. It was about last six humans on earth, survivors of a nuclear holocaust. They all found a farm somewhere in America and did things like fight giant spiders, have their aging process reversed, start their own currency, and find hallucinogenic berries. Later I'd find myself at parties trying to explain the show and no one believed me. They suggested I'd made it up, [...]

5

"House of Cards," Episodes 4-8: Who's Making Themselves Available?

Carrie: Jane, remember when the world was new, you were dewy-eyed and I was not yet so haggard, and "House of Cards" had only just become available for streaming on Netflix? It seems like years ago, but it was only last Friday.

Jane: Now it's a week later, Spandau Ballet's "True" is playing in this cafe, and if we were sitting together, I'd probably be telling you not to Bogart the whiskey. We've passed binge-viewing, Carrie, to re-watching, to you using "House of Cards" characters as verbs ("how much will I Peter Russo myself in the morning if I do this?"), to me looking up which of the series' actors [...]

9

'Not Fade Away': 5 Years After 'Sopranos,' Does David Chase Still Hate People?

Amy Monaghan: Talk to me about how, as a "Sopranos" fan, you felt about the news of a David Chase movie at long last, the coming-of-age-in-Jersey film Not Fade Away, which we are here to dismantle today.

Sean Burns: Mostly I wondered what took him five years. I knew Chase had taken off to France for a while, presumably hiding from the folks with torches and pitchforks after that "Sopranos" finale. But he has such a distinctive cinematic sensibility, I thought he'd be making movies a lot sooner.

Amy: His distinctive cinematic sensibility? Remember, I'm the only person on the planet to never watch "The Sopranos." No, wait, I [...]

26

'The Master': We Do Not Wish To Join Your Cult

Maria Bustillos: I'm trying to parse all these Metacritic reviews of The Master. Mainly they seem to be saying, "I hate it, but I think I'm supposed to. A masterpiece."

David Roth: David Thomson, in the New Republic, had a great first line. Which was "Well, at least it's pretentious."

MB: Yay? I'll say this, whoever reconstructed M. Phoenix's shoulders deserves a special Oscar. His bod is all Cubist, suddenly.

DR: It seems to me like this: a fine director made a mostly perfect-looking film, with an interesting musical score and fine performances. Except that it is also totally inert, with no real characters one can or could [...]

89

Free To Be… Straight White Males

Here is a tweet that Gawker writer Max Read retweeted a few days ago.

RT @DavidWinkies: @max_read actually if you call a lawyer and say you're white a dude and str8, they say you have no case #truestory

— max read (@max_read) May 23, 2012

So, sort of a backstory, to begin. Last week brought us two Internet rumpuses regarding and/or demonstrating an especially privileged kind of blindness/obliviousness/ridiculousness. One was TED curator Chris Anderson's flabbergasting decision to withdraw a TED speech about wealth inequality on the grounds that it was "too political." The other, John Scalzi's head-patting essays on Kotaku, comparing [...]

19

Cronenberg's 'A Dangerous Method': The Way We Rut Now

David Roth: A film about Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung and ostensibly weird sex, from a director who has spent his career making films about how terrified/fascinated/aroused/disgusted/disgusto-roused humans are by their bodies and what they do and the horrible things that come out of them. So why, Maria Bustillos, would the two things I remember most from A Dangerous Method be 1) how cruel my female friends were about Keira Knightley's breasts and 2) the nagging question of whether David Cronenberg is trying to make interesting movies anymore?

Maria Bustillos: A film worth seeing, I thought—though not one worth talking about until after, so I'm glad we waited. I [...]