Film/Music/TV
God Helped The Girl

God Helped The Girl

I guess it’s impossible to write about God Help the Girl, the new musical film written and directed by Stuart Murdoch of Belle and Sebastian, without weighing in on the larger aesthetic it embodies, what some have even called a movement: Twee. But I’m going to try, as we’ve tread that ground a number of times already. Suffice it to say, if ice cream cones (with pirouette cookies), Left Banke singles, and coonskin caps turn your stomach, you probably won’t be able to get beyond the window-dressing on this one. As the opening line of The Vulture review put it,…

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Almost Like The Blues – Leonard Cohen

The sage’s brilliantly titled new record, Popular Problems, comes out on Tuesday, but NPR is streaming the whole thing this week. Of particular note, thus far, is the Exodus-leaning “Born in Chains”, to say nothing of lead “single” “Almost Like the Blues”, the words of which were printed in verse form in The New Yorker a few weeks ago. The final verse stopped me in my tracks:

There is no G-d in heaven
And there is no Hell below
So says the great professor
Of all there is to know
But I’ve had the invitation
That a sinner can’t refuse
And it’s almost like salvation
It’s almost like the blues

Step Into Their World: The Parallel Universes of Alzheimer’s and Improv

Step Into Their World: The Parallel Universes of Alzheimer’s and Improv

By following the rules of improvisation, one family finds love and humor within the wilderness of dementia.

The episode “Magic Words” aired last month on This American Life and in it you’ll hear “Rainy Days and Mondys,” the story of Karen Stobbe, her husband Mondy, and her mother Virginia, who recently moved into their house because she has dementia.

Liv Ullmann on Something Better Than Violence

While we’re on the subject of social media, a highly unusual interview came across my desk this week, with Swedish actress-director Liv Ullmann, widely known for her collaborations with Ingmar Bergman. If at first it sounds like the rant of a septuagenarian, keep reading–would that we all could be so frank. It’s almost enough to make a person want to go rewatch Scenes from a Marriage (which is really saying something!):

Liv+Ullman+2012+IIFA+Awards+Day+2+1gzfVbxS37Il“What is this chatting? And then they Twitter, and I understand the Twitter can be so mean and horrible and people are killing themselves because of what they’re reading about themselves. A lot of evilness comes when you are anonymous.” It’s a false democracy, [Ullman] thinks, a veneer behind which powerful groups can slip in and assume power.

Maybe being famous means she can’t understand why others might want to be celebrities. It’s true, she can’t fathom it – why people would set their self-worth by such a measure. “We should tell them what is really to be cared for. It’s not because you’re suddenly famous, it’s really when you’re sitting one person to another and you are listening to each other and the other person is seeing you and then you have maybe a strange thought and you say it and suddenly see some understanding in the other person. Or you go to a movie and things you didn’t have words for are there. That is the communication I prefer.”

Ullmann apologises. She’s gone off topic, she says. Her eyes are gleaming. She’s made this screamingly mean movie [an adaptation of Strindberg's 'Miss Julie', starring Jessica Chastain and Colin Farrell] to try to show people how not to behave. People ought to feel bad more than they do, she says, to try to make amends. “If you have a row with your husband and you see them lying down trying to sleep and you see they’re so scared, instead of saying: ‘You have to change or I’ll leave’, you should say: ‘I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry.’” When Jesus hung on the cross, he asked forgiveness of the brutes. There’s something that is better than violence. ‘Forgive me’, you should say, even if you have been wronged.”

Where Have All the Grown-Ups Gone?

Where Have All the Grown-Ups Gone?

There I was, reclining in the waiting room while my son met with his speech therapist, as I do every week. Computer on my lap—heaven forbid I sit there unoccupied—I was reading A.O. Scott’s new treatise for The Times on “The Death of Adulthood in American Culture.” I like Scott’s writing, so I ignored the instinct to roll my eyes at the prospect of yet another think-piece about stunted millennials; I had time to kill, after all. It opens with some bold claims:

Something profound has been happening in our television over the past decade, some end-stage reckoning. It is the…

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Another Week Ends: Commodified Experience, Counterproductive Shaming, Fake Asia Trips, Net Addiction, and Star Wars Minus Williams

Another Week Ends: Commodified Experience, Counterproductive Shaming, Fake Asia Trips, Net Addiction, and Star Wars Minus Williams

1. The New Yorker weighs in on “bucket lists“, ht DH:

Whence the appeal of the bucket list? To stop and think about the things one hopes to do, the person one hopes to be, is a useful and worthwhile exercise; to do so with a consciousness of one’s own unpredictable mortality can be a sobering reckoning, as theologians and philosophers recognized long before Workman Publishing got in on the act…

As popularly conceived, however, the bucket list is far from being a reckoning with the weight of love in extremis, or an ethical or moral accounting. More often, it partakes of a…

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Ideology and Its Discontents (an Apology for Eutyches)

Ideology and Its Discontents (an Apology for Eutyches)

Maybe you’ve noticed this trend too: Lena Dunham’s Girls, despite critical acclaim, has suffered from reviewers saying it’s not racially diverse enough. Game of Thrones has been lambasted for its sexism and weak female characters. The Cosmopolitans has been written off for lacking socioeconomic variety.

Such things can be painful and troubling to watch, and sometimes it’s best not to view them, perhaps not even to screen them. But such criticisms, for me, are also strangely reminiscent of the one-dimensional cultural lenses prevalent in the Christian world. Drugs are bad, so watching media which contains drug use should be avoided. Affairs are bad, so Madame Bovary was listed…

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Motivation that Works: Colbert Introduces the Pavlovian Fitness Band

Sadly, this actually exists (ht BFG).

U2’s Songs of Innocence: Familiar But Surprising, Free But Costly

U2’s Songs of Innocence: Familiar But Surprising, Free But Costly

That didn’t take long! This review comes to us from Nathan Hart:

The biggest surprise of the launch of U2’s new album isn’t the way it was released—it’s how good the songs are.

It has been five long years since No Line On The Horizon, an album with some great moments but one which also revealed a band in artistic decline. In those five years, they knew they were one more misstep away from irrelevance. The reports weren’t hopeful: a new producer here, a scrapped album concept there. They seemed “stuck in a moment that they can’t get out of”, finally crushed…

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When Everyone Loved U2

When Everyone Loved U2

In honor of the surprise release of the new (free!) U2 record, Songs of Innocence, we bring you a reflection on the band from Andrew Barber:

Weird Al Yankovic made me a U2 fan. I’m not proud of it. But it is true.

Every now and then our local library would sell some of their less popular stuff for cheap. On a whim, my dad picked up a cassette for one dollar. You know, one of those small square things you sometimes had to wind with your finger. A single track of the orchestral score from the 1995 movie Batman Forever was…

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The Virtue of Irreverence

The Virtue of Irreverence

I don’t remember the first time I heard Joan Rivers crack a joke, but I’m pretty sure I remember my reaction: shock. And asking whether women were allowed to talk like that–whether people were allowed to talk like that. And, over time, a deepening appreciation for the no-holds-barred humor that perfused everything she ever did.

Writing about Joan Rivers is quite a different animal from writing about Robin Williams. A few weeks ago I did the latter, and the feeling that accompanied that tribute was warmer, more familial. There was a quiet bravery to Williams, and a tenderness that inspired admiration–but…

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Love in Creature Form

Love in Creature Form

This week, I had the privilege to interview the man responsible for one of our favorite sources of grace in practice, the Editor of the Modern Love column in the New York Times, Daniel Jones. In a ninety-minute conversation we talked about some of the favorite Modern Love columns, about the reasons couples fall in love and the reasons couples cheat, as well as some of his thoughts on online dating and the new delusions of control offered us in the tech-savvy and convenience-seeking age. (We will be publishing the interview in the next issue of The Mockingbird, which is…

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On TV: The Leftovers, “The Prodigal Son Returns”

On TV: The Leftovers, “The Prodigal Son Returns”

In Gene Wolfe’s Book of the New Sun, a young man named Severian works as a torturer, and in one scene, he helps administer the torturers’ most mysterious and sacred device: the revolutionary. After having gone through it, the victim says, “I thought I saw my worst enemy, a kind of demon. And it was me…” She will spend the rest of her life – about a month – vying with the long-dormant specter of evil, newly-awakened within her, wrestling it as it slowly takes control of her body. Wolfe’s brutal justice is reminiscent of Dante: the source of her tormenting punishment is…

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Joan Rivers Fought the Law…

Joan Rivers Fought the Law…

If you’re like me (and I hope you’re not), then the name Joan Rivers meant little more to you than “that horribly plastic old woman who can’t think of anything better to do than provide red carpet snark for E!”. Which is why, as news of her passing spread last week (having occurred during a “minor elective procedure”) it seemed at best trivial and at worst ironic, especially in light of other recent celebrity comic deaths.

And then I saw this video, from April 1967…

… and I had the following thoughts:

1. Joan Rivers used to look like a human being!

2. Wow. She’s really…

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PZ’s Podcast: Does The Name Grimsby Mean Anything To You? and Everything Is Tuesday

PZ’s Podcast: Does The Name Grimsby Mean Anything To You? and Everything Is Tuesday

Episode 175: Does the Name Grimsby Do Anything to You?

Ever since 2007 I related to Eliot’s succinct line, “Old men ought to be explorers”. Not that I was exactly an old man, but the line gave me hope. Notwithstanding the end of something, there was something hopeful I could still do. I could try to understand.

Could I become the first man on the moon, like ‘Major Franklin Grimsby’ in Rod Serling’s short story? If I were, would anyone care? (“Does Anyone Know What Time It Is?” – Chicago) Well, at least I’ve tried to try. Lo, a polyptoton.

In this cast,…

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