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Links for the Day: Björk at MoMA, The Pop Music Critic as Public Intellectual, Noah Michelson on Russell Tovey, Rebels of the Neon God Trailer, & More

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Links for the Day: Björk at MoMA, The Pop Music Critic as Public Intellectual, Noah Michelson on Russell Tovey, Rebels of the Neon God Trailer, & More

1. “Björk Is on Display, Up Close and in 3-D at MoMA.” For the New York Times, Melena Ryzik on the Björk retro at MoMA.

“[Klaus] Biesenbach, who like Björk is 49, called her the paradigm of a ‘90s artist, a compliment. ’The ‘90s, my generation, said it’s all about relational aesthetics, it’s all about collaboration,’ he said. Many tried to cross over to art, film and design; ’she lives that.’ A centerpiece of the exhibition is ’Songlines,’ a labyrinthlike audio tour through Björk’s music and psyche. Visitors wear headphones connected to Bluetooth beacons, which locate them through the space, cuing the proper songs and visuals. The technology was adapted by Volkswagen, a sponsor of the show, from a hands-free program it made to soundtrack driving. (The geolocation obviates the problem of continually looking down at a device, rather than up at the exhibition.) For ’Black Lake,’ the architect David Benjamin and his team, working with the firm Autodesk, turned the song into a literal blueprint, mapping the music’s volume and frequency. Then using that for a 3-D topography to place the cones.”

2. “Creativity Under Capitalism: The Pop Music Critic as Public Intellectual.” Ivan Kreilkamp on Robert Christgau’s memoir, Going into the City: Portrait of a Critic as a Young Man.

“Christgau is rock criticism’s closest analogue to Pauline Kael—a critic he acknowledges as a major influence on his early sense of what pop music criticism could be and do. Like Kael, Christgau brought to a relatively disrespected popular genre in the 1960s and ‘70s a new degree of critical intensity and erudition, delivered with an American vernacular energy and wit and let-it-fly opinionatedness. As music editor at The Village Voice—he began writing for the Voice in 1969, returned as music editor in 1974 after stints at Esquire and Newsday, and stayed until fired in 2006—he exerted massive influence on pop music writing, both for his own work and (also like Kael) his role as a professional mentor to countless protégés and acolytes. Aside from the new memoir, he’s published two essay collections and three book collections (one each for the 1970s, ‘80s, and ‘90s) of his influential and infamous capsule-length, letter-graded ’Consumer Guide’ record reviews, of which he has now published almost 14,000. (One of my favorite lines from the book: ’To the eternal ‘Opinions are like assholes—everybody’s got one,’ I just say, ‘Yeah, but not everybody’s got ten thousand of them.’’)”

3. “A Few Words on Russell Tovey and Why If It Weren’t for My Father, I Wouldn’t Be a Faggot.” Noah Michelson is proud to be a faggot who never felt the need to toughen up.

“Tovey states that he ’had to toughen up,’ which implies that his natural state of being wasn’t tough. What’s more, when he says, ’If I’d have been able to relax, prance around, sing in the street, I might be a different person now…’ I can only read longing in that statement. Despite how much the lady doth protest, he gives himself away. He wanted to relax. He wanted to prance. He wanted to sing in the street. But because his dad—and society—wouldn’t allow him to ’go down that path,’ he didn’t. That’s not something to celebrate or be thankful for, even if it did result in ’the unique quality that people think’ Tovey has (which is what exactly? Not coming across as a faggot?). In fact, it just makes me feel sorry for him and his dad—and all of us..”

4. “The Weird Problem with Focus.” Richard Brody on how the film squanders the seductive charm and intoxicating chemistry of Margot Robbie and Will Smith.

“For all the able exertions of the cast, which, in addition to its stars, offers bright supporting turns to Adrian Martinez, playing an accomplice with an undisciplined dirty mouth, and Gerald McRaney, as a veteran criminal with a highly disciplined dirty mouth, Focus is a disaster of a particular sort. It’s a failure of excess calculation, a movie that’s crushed by the hermetic mutual reinforcement of its screenwriters’ clever intentions. But it does raise a question that casts a peculiar analytical light back through the history of movies and into the theory of screenplay practice, namely, the connection between what a protagonist knows and what a director shows.”

5. “Future Projections.” Erika Balsom on the collected writings of Gregory J. Markopoulos.

“In ’Sto Palikari,’ he calls for collectors to purchase films from commercial galleries through a ’limited print sales plan.’ At the time, Markopoulos was involved in a partnership with Gimpel Fils gallery in London to offer for sale limited editions of his films—a very early instance of this now-common practice—but no buyers were forthcoming. This initiative is notable not only for its prescience, but also because it underlines the extent to which Markopoulos’s vision of the Temenos developed out of an active and sometimes pioneering engagement with virtually all distribution models available to him. He pursued television commissions, the sale of 8-mm prints to home viewers, film rentals, and gallery sales. It was only after he had exhausted these possibilities that he settled on the Wagnerian dream of a cinematic Bayreuth. The fifth and longest section of Film as Film, ’Towards a Temenos,’ documents Markopoulos’s shifting elaboration of this project.”

Video of the Day: The trailer for Rebels of the Neon God:

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Watch: Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood Gets Teaser Trailer

When it rains, it pours.

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Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Photo: Columbia Pictures

When it rains, it pours. Four days after Quentin Tarantino once more laid into John Ford in a piece written for his Beverly Cinema website that saw the filmmaker referring to Ford’s She Wore a Yellow Ribbon as Tie a Yellow Ribbon, and two days after Columbia Pictures released poster art for QT’s ninth feature that wasn’t exactly of the highest order, the studio has released a teaser for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. The film was announced early last year, with Tarantino describing it as “a story that takes place in Los Angeles in 1969, at the height of hippy Hollywood.”

Set on the eve of the Manson family murders, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood tells the story of TV actor Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his stunt double, Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt), as they try to get involved in the film industry. The film also stars Margot Robbie (as Sharon Tate), Al Pacino, the late Luke Perry, Damian Lewis, Dakota Fanning, Emile Hirsch, Timothy Olyphant, Kurt Russell, and Bruce Dern in a part originally intended for the late Burt Reynolds.

See the teaser below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Scf8nIJCvs4

Columbia Pictures will release Once Upon a Time in Hollywood on July 26.

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Watch the Stranger Things 3 Trailer, and to the Tune of Mötley Crüe and the Who

A wise woman once said that there’s no such thing as a coincidence.

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Stranger Things 3
Photo: Netflix

A wise woman once said that there’s no such thing as a coincidence. On Friday, Jeff Tremaine’s The Dirt, a biopic about Mötley Crüe’s rise to fame, drops on Netflix. Today, the streaming service has released the trailer for the third season of Stranger Things. The clip opens with the strains of Mötley Crüe’s “Home Sweet Home,” all the better to underline that the peace and quiet that returned to the fictional rural town of Hawkins, Indiana at the end of the show’s second season is just waiting to be upset again.

Little is known about the plot of the new season, and the trailer keeps things pretty vague, though the Duffer Brothers have suggested that the storyline will take place a year after the events of the last season—duh, we know when “Home Sweet Home” came out—and focus on the main characters’ puberty pangs. That said, according to Reddit sleuths who’ve obsessed over such details as the nuances of the new season’s poster art, it looks like Max and company are going to have to contend with demon rats no doubt released from the Upside Down.

See below for the new season’s trailer:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YEG3bmU_WaI

Stranger Things 3 premieres globally on July 4.

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Who Killed My Father Is Heartbreaking but Prone to Pat Sociological Analysis

Édouard Louis’s latest is strong as a portrait of a family unable to communicate through anything but volatile, toxic outbursts.

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Who Killed My Father

Author Édouard Louis’s father has been an important figure in each of his previous works, even when he’s never seen or mostly at the periphery (as in The History of Violence). With his latest, Who Killed My Father, Louis finally turns to directly examining his most important, damaged relationship. Both in his previous books and interviews, Louis has repeatedly acknowledged this broken relationship, largely stemming from the author’s open homosexuality. Alongside this, Louis’s prior works have circled around a number of themes to which he returns here: the French political and working classes, the small-town prejudices that surrounded his upbringing and drove a closeted homosexual boy to escape to more cosmopolitan Paris, and the role of state power in producing social and physical illness.

With Who Killed My Father, Louis invites inevitable comparisons to Abdellah Taïa, another talented French writer who’s also gay and largely estranged from his place of origin, and also primarily an autobiographical novelist. Like Louis, Taïa incorporates his complicated relationship with a parent into several of his books. Taïa also connects that relationship, his writing, and his experience with the society he left behind in Morocco and the one he found in France. But what distinguishes his writing in, for example, Infidels or Salvation Army from that of Édouard Louis in Who Killed My Father is a strong sense of meaning. Taïa incorporates his relationship with his mother, M’Barka, to convey something more meaningful and developed.

Louis begins down this same road before clumsily inserting a political tract at the end of Who Killed My Father that doesn’t knit as effortlessly with parts one and two. The book situates Louis’s relationship with his father front and center as compared to his previous work. It’s clear that he’s exposing the painfulness of their relationship for the purpose of speaking about political power and its physical and social toll on those who don’t possess it, but Who Killed My Father stumbles in conveying its message adequately.

Louis’s account of his father’s suffering and violence toward those around him is both painful and sharp. Who Killed My Father is strongest when Louis is demonstrating his father’s most private acts of kindness, as when the father gives Louis a copy of Titanic for his birthday after trying to convince him to ask for a more “masculine” gift. After Louis realizes that his carefully planned tribute to the pop band Aqua at a family dinner has embarrassed his father, the man reassures Louis that “it’s nothing.” In the book’s first and strongest part, Louis expounds not only on the relationship with his father, but also excavates what might have made his father the man he grew up with. At one point, he recounts finding a photograph of his father in women’s clothes—undoubtedly some adolescent joke, but also inconceivable from the man who insisted to his son that men should never act like girls.

Regrettably, part one ends with a trite conclusion that says everything and nothing at the same time. In part two, the story attempts to braid together all the malignant threads of Louis’s family narrative. Louis recalls igniting a violent outburst between his father and older brother as a result of his mother shaming him for acting too much like a girl (“faggot” is what some others in the neighborhood more precisely call him). The insinuation hurts and angers him so much that he betrays his mother’s confidence on another family secret, setting loose a new wave of violence. Part two is short and important to moving Who Killed My Father toward some wider evaluation of the questions Louis begins the book with, but it ultimately fails to find its footing by pivoting in part three to an unearned polemic against the political classes.

Who Killed My Father is strong as a portrait of a family unable to communicate (except in brief moments of tenderness) through anything but volatile, toxic outbursts, but the book at its weakest when trying to ham-handedly force this narrative into some broad theorizing about power and society and structural violence. Part one aligned beautifully with a narrative of meaning more comparable to Taïa at his best. Unfortunately, the story quickly falls apart when Jacques Chirac is indicted for destroying Louis’s father’s body through changes in health care coverage. It’s not that the questions Louis ends with aren’t necessary and important ones; it’s that there’s so little threading the narrative together into anything cohesive. What was the point of the first two-thirds of the book? His father was cruel, occasionally loving, but never mind because the state is killing him? The life of the poor is one of abject powerlessness against an unremittingly powerful and callous “ruling class”?

Louis deserves credit for the attempt to tie it all together into some grander commentary on the political class and its ambivalence, but the conclusion is simultaneously glib and condescending. Perhaps Louis didn’t intend it, but the book’s conclusion drains away responsibility for the cruelty and bigotry of those like his father, and patronizes them as with a quick How could we expect any better of the noble, working poor? Is it the state’s or the ruling class’s subjugation of his father’s body that’s somehow also responsible for his inability to sympathize with gays or immigrants? Of course, the poor are subjugated by the rich and Louis has written more meaningfully about the implications of that relationship elsewhere. But in Who Killed My Father, he inadvertently demonstrates that the answer isn’t to sanctify them any more than it is to demonize them.

Édouard Louis’s Who Killed My Father is now available from New Directions.

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