My Favorite New Movies of 2010

I changed my mind! I loved it!

Hello and welcome to 2011. Time to make a list of what I liked and didn’t like in 2010. A word though first: I don’t consider the following definitive; I’m not trying to pronounce some final judgment on each of the following films. In ten year’s time, I might feel very differently about these movies; who knows? But I think it’s worthwhile to document one’s critical impressions, and I’d encourage you to check out the films I liked (if you value my opinion).

For comparison’s sake, here’s my 2009 list [and 2011 is here]. One correction I’d make now: I saw Jane Campion’s Bright Star a second time, and it’s become one of my favorite films of 2009 (alongside Beaches of Agnes and Face).

Like last year’s list, the following is divided into three parts: my absolute favorite new films, other films that I liked, and the ones that did little or nothing for me. Without further ado…

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Where Do Our Desires Come From? (Want as Tradition)

Owl City: I steal, therefore...

I’ve been thinking about comments that darby and Mike Meginnis made on Amber’s recent post “I Don’t Like Crap Games.” In response, darby wrote:

[…] im saying dont think/worry about what editors want. dont worry about “what they like.” read what you like and write what you like. dont study a journal just to try to get published by them. first, you should love what you write. then you should love what you read. then think about maybe this fits here maybe.

Mike then added:

Yeah, I pretty much agree with Darby’s thinking on this. When editors ask me to figure out what they like I don’t think very much of them. That’s their job. My job is to make what I like. Sure, it’s possible to take that attitude too far, but editors who want fewer submissions can limit their window for slush or etc. I want everyone to submit to Uncanny Valley who wants to so I can choose the best possible, coolest work. I don’t want them worrying in particular about what I want. And I never worry too much about what they want.

I agree with Darby and Mike (and I admire Mike’s editorial stance); I’ve said things like this myself: writers should write whatever they want to write, and damn everyone else’s eyes.

But today I want to try thinking past that thought. Why do I want to write what I want to write? And is it really entirely my decision?

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Hail the New Puritan

Michael Clark and company

Hail the New Puritan (1987) is a feature-length film directed by Charles Atlas. The choreography is by a very young Michael Clark, who was then still the enfant terrible of the London dance scene, famous for his post-punk ballet. (He later went on to play Caliban in Peter Greenaway’s magnificent Prospero’s Books (1991); today he’s a well-respected choreographer.) The costumes and decor are by the late Leigh Bowery. The music is by The Fall, with additional music by Bruce Gilbert (of Wire) and Glenn Branca (who was everywhere in 1987).

The movie is essentially a fake documentary about a day in the life of Michael Clark, who worked with The Fall throughout the 1980s:

The dynamic diary film, Hail the New Puritan, inspired by the Beatles’ dancing movie A Hard Days Night, documents the daily life of Britain’s bad boy of ballet Michael Clark in a pastiche of narrative, performance and fantasy. It follows his professional life as director of his anarchic dance company, and also offers a glimpse into his personal life as he lustily mingles with numerous London scenesters including bi-sexual clubgoer and original party monster Leigh Bowery. “What I was trying to do was put Michael’s work in a context where you wouldn’t need an explanation,” Atlas explains, acknowledging the ethics involved in collaborating with dancers (one must not upstage them).

Alas, the film is very hard to find—or, rather, you can find it, but renting it will really cost you. (Quite a shame there isn’t a mass-market DVD available. It was recently restored and screened, and screenings have been popping up here and there, so here’s hoping!) So I’m assembling below all of the clips up at YouTube, for your viewing enjoyment.

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Looking at Movements, part 2: Post-Punk

Siouxsie Sioux

Part 1: The Post-Punk Revival
Part 2: Post-Punk
Part 3: No Wave
Part 4: New Wave (UK)
Part 5: New Wave (US)

We were looking at how five different bands in the Post-Punk Revival of the Naughties drew from fairly different influences:

  • Interpol: Joy Division, The Chameleons; visuals: Minimalism
  • Franz Ferdinand: Orange Juice, Josef K, The Fire Engines; visuals: Russian Constructivism
  • The Killers: The Cars, New Order
  • Bloc Party: Gang of Four
  • The Strokes: The Ramones, The Cars, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, The Vibrators (h/t Gerard Stocker)

While some might see little difference here (“all those guitar bands sound the same”), others might consider these differences pretty significant. So is the Post-Punk Revival a real thing? Is it a coherent “movement”? And, if so, what makes it one, when its members are coming to it from different directions?

Let’s take a few steps backward and see what was supposedly being revived. What, precisely, was post-punk?

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