The State of Noir

With luck Tim'll be a regular contributor around here. Frankly if anyone's got something to say, let me know.

The State of Noir
by Tim Earle

“What could be more Noir than hot pink cursive?”

In a stark apartment under dim lights, a figure in a white jacket with a scorpion on the back stands in his window arranging some dubious undertakings for the night. Harsh shadows dress Gosling’s indeterminable expression as he chews his tooth-pick, driving though LA’s shadowy underbelly. Every little detail just screams Noir at me. So why are the opening credits hot pink and cursive? And why does it work so well?

The fact is that not one detail in this film is accidental, each costume decision, each sound queue. Bryan Cranston’s tucked in Harley Davidson T shirt, Carrey Mulligan’s long flowing skirts, Christina Hendricks’ unfortunate spike heels, Gosling’s skinny jeans and previously mentioned Scorpion jacket, each a carefully placed stylistic choice on the way to making one of the most distinct Noirs of the decade.

So why hot pink? When I saw the credits font I couldn’t help but think of Pretty in Pink, and the whole John Hughes compendium. It seems that Refn really likes the 80s. The purely synth pop score and nearly anachronistic costumes strongly support this fact. And I can imagine, as a director, saying “I love X, so I’m going to put it in my movie,” the effect here is a film that is far superior to the sum of its X’s. Refn is surely not the only guy who madly loves ‘80s pop music out there. Even I felt a strange twinge of nostalgia when the credits came up. I wasn’t even alive for most of the ‘80s. But that nostalgia really brought this movie home for me. Let me explain.

See, Noir has always been a product of afterthought. It’s the side effect of being defined, as a genre, years after it surfaced. By the time these dark and shockingly violent (for the times) tales had a name, they pretty much vanished. Now, 80 or so years later, Noir is a thing of profound nostalgia. The Tommy Guns, downturned hats, smoking everywhere. So when the Neo noir movement came around, they had two choices: Update or time travel. Either you brought the brutal cynical world of noir to the modern times or you took the audience back to the 1940s (ish). It’s been this way for decades. Rarely were their cases outside these two choices (Batman: The Animated Series comes to mind for being simply without a coherent time period). And now here’s Drive, a film that proves that the nostalgia of the Neo-Noir doesn’t have to be for the glory days of Bogart and black and white, but in fact any nostalgia at all.

There’s a great scene in Drive where Gosling, Mulligan and an unnamed assassin all ride in an elevator. The scene features both, a spot lit, slow motion, make out sesh, complete with anthemic synth pop, and a brutal, excruciatingly long face smashing. Once the scene ended and the elevator doors shut it occurred to me, “This is Neo-Noir!” Deep ingrained nostalgia + Brutality. I thought back to every Neo-Noir I’ve loved. Sin City: check (black and white + cannibalism), Brick: check (high school + murder). Memento: check (a man incapable of any memory besides nostalgia + rapemurder). It’s almost too obvious now. The veil has lifted and now I walk around, head high, eyes open, shouting at strangers “It HAD to be hot pink cursive!”

Art History in the making

Joe Swanberg is a brilliant filmmaker and is pretty much exclusively the reason I decided to make Tron Wayne Gacy. This year I've seen the debut of four of his new films (and there are still more to come if you can believe that) this year and no other filmmaker is taking the risks he is, no one else exploring his pet subjects with the same fearlessness and naked honesty. They are terrifying, they are real, they are mesmerizing. So when I heard that he had teamed up with Factory 25, a terrific label based in Brooklyn for a special deal, I read on, intrigued. Turns out it's even more interesting that I initially thought. Me and the FFM guys have been patiently awaiting a Silver Bullets/Art History DVD release (still the only double feature/among the best films of the year) but Joe one-upped our expectations by releasing a quarterly DVD box set of his new films, including one exclusive to the set and bonus content that would shame the Criterion Collection. Swanberg's attempting to beat out not only outmoded distribution models but to stay ahead of the constantly shifting landscape of streaming/home video. He's taken ahold of his artistic works in a unique and brave way. The package is amazing, and on its way to becoming a collector's item. There are only 1,000 being made. I asked Swanberg to talk a little about this unconventional choice of release:

"It's great that the Internet makes everything instantly available, but I'm suffering from instant availability fatigue. I want to make something that arrives in the mail every three months, feels cool in your hands, is fun to show off to your friends and has super limited edition tangible stuff that nobody will ever be able to have ever again. This is it. One time only. 1,000 available. Get it or forever kick yourself for not getting it."


I've got mine. How about you?

Pilots, twins, bunnies and Van Gogh

Tim Earle watched all of the pilots this season, so you don't have to. This is what he found.

A deeply bitter look at 2011’s fall pilot season so far

So, as a heads up, they’re all bad. Yup. If that’s all you wanted to know, you can stop reading, go back to watching Archer and check in next fall. But, if you’d like an in depth review of all the ways they suck, a rating of how much each one sucks compared to the others, then go on. But, remember, you’re better off just watching Breaking Bad and ignoring the lot of them.

How much it sucked: 10
I’m glad we started the fall season with Sarah Michelle Gellar’s scrunchy little face, her inability to form a cohesive unique character, her sad attempts at expressing complex emotions, her cringe-worthy line delivery. I’m glad we started off with some of the least convincing special effects I’ve seen on TV (and simple ones too, like being on a boat). I’m actually happy this premiered first because it managed to set the bar so low that the rest of the pilots this season actually seemed decent by comparison. Honestly, I wish it were just Gellar’s horrid acting that ruined this perfectly solid concept. But alas, it was actually every single aspect of the show AND Gellar’s horrid acting.

How much it sucked: 4
There isn’t a whole lot wrong with UP ALL NIGHT, to be honest. Maya Rudolph’s deeply inflated role treads water sometimes. Arnett sometimes seems to provide all the energy for a scene while Appelgate just follows him around. But these are just minor bumps that will surely be worked out as the show goes on. But the problem is that there isn’t a lot right with the show. There were very few jokes, way too much karaoke, and the actual relationship with the baby was maybe a grand total of two minutes of screen time. They managed to avoid the usual sit com pilot pit falls but unfortunately they missed the memo about being funny while doing so.

How much it sucked: 2
I imagine it must be awkward to be asked to write a pilot for a TV show when you wrote the pilot for the British version two years ago. The result being that I kept thinking the writer was trying to fix something he'd already gotten perfectly the first time. But as soon as the show starts to sprout its own legs and is no longer a line for line remake it becomes delightful. I'd say the British version is better, only because the American version seems to be wearing the British version's shirt, and it doesn't fit.

Hot much it sucked: 4
The CW certainly doesn’t have a great track record when it comes to impressing me. So, it was a little painful for me to write that 4. But if I’m going to be honest with myself, the pilot wasn’t really that bad. It was well paced and even decently acted (especially by the older cast members). The show’s mystery was established efficiently. The bad guy was certainly the most interesting character in the mix but we all know, sometimes that’s a good thing. The problem was that beneath the passable acting and directing was a deeply stupid concept. Pretty young people use magic. If that sounds like something you’d care about, go ahead and watch the pilot. If that sounds really dumb then you’re lucky because I’m never going get those 45 minutes of my life back.

How much it sucked: 2
I was expecting way more suck from this show. And sure, on paper it had its problems. But regardless of all the contrived plot points and flat acting the show had something that not a single other sit com provided this season: Laughter. The jokes were funny. In the way that you want to be funny when you imagine yourself making fun of people you hate. Sure, a sit com needs to be more than just funny, but that can come later. In the mean time I’m just so thrilled I actually got the chance to laugh.

How much it sucked: 5
The comparison is inevitable. So let’s get this out of the way. It sucked a lot more than MAD MEN. Why? Because Don Draper is a carefully constructed, deeply relatable yet ethereal main character. Eddie Cibrian’s character is a suit with a smile. Beyond that, the show had some good lines and a sort of fun plot involving murder and hot women dressed as bunnies. But, at the very end they ruined everything by trying to make some sort of social statement about how they were ahead of their time or socially progressive or whatever. The problem is that as soon as I was invited to see this work as a social statement I had to ask “so what is your statement?” which was answered by cricket sounds and “Hey, did you notice that Sean Maher was gay?”

How much it sucked: 4
There is no amount of awkward/uncomfortable things you can make Zooey Deschanel do/wear to make her even a little unattractive. It’s a simple fact. Any guy can tell you this. Sure, I have to accept I’m in a TV world where everyone looks like a model and fat people look like Toni Collete, but there are disbelieves I just can’t suspend. That aside, the show failed on other fronts as well. The chemistry between the roommates was strikingly absent. The laughs were mostly just attempts at feeling less awkward. The only thing I was impressed by was Lamorne Morris’s performance.

How much it sucked: 7
You’d think a show about a cop with eidetic memory would be more, well, memorable. Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter how solid your concept is, you’ve got to make your characters shine. Just look at the Mentalist. That show’s concept is paper thin, yet it’s starting its fourth season. You want a fourth season, Unforgettable? Hire Simon Baker, or anyone with character.

How much it sucked: 4
When I heard this show’s premise I got really excited. A procedural where every episode the main character ruins the life of some other person we hate. Not a cop or a vigilante, just some biddy with tons of money and hate. Awesome. Unfortunately I was given more pretty young people arguing with their parents. And that life ruining I was talking about, amounted to, “You can leave, and take your Van Gogh with you!” Yeah, you gave that bitch what was coming.

How much it sucked: 3
Despite how much I enjoy seeing Caviezel run around smacking the shit out of everyone (and there is a whole lot of that) I will be the first to admit that this pilot has little else going for it. When Caviezel isn’t hulking out he looks barely awake, the bad guys are all grimacing stereotypes, and the concept, while intriguing, makes very little sense. I hope they eventually present some reasonable explanation but if J.J.’s previous work is any indication, they likely won’t.

How much it sucked: 5
We all needed another show about pretty white girls getting bored with their relationships. Look at her! She’s single so she’s drunk all the time. Look at him! He’s pussy whipped, so he has a pink tie. There was one funny scene where a couple engage in sexy role playing and the sexy nurse gives her boyfriend a bunch of paper work to fill out, but besides that and a few sporadic funny lines the show suffers from having an ensemble of cardboard characters.

How much it sucked: 3
Most cop shows suck. I admit this, even though I watch them. But there is one cop show that doesn’t. THE CLOSER. I love THE CLOSER, which means I’ve just recently sunken into a deep depression. For one brief moment, I was lifted out of my deep trench of sadness by watching this show. Here we have a tough, savvy leading lady played by an actress of serious caliber, backed by a terrific ensemble of character actors including Kirk Acevedo, whom I love. Maybe this will be my new cop show that doesn’t suck. But, much like THE PLAYBOY CLUB, after a great first few scenes, the show jumps ship in an attempt to find some sort of social relevance. Yes, it’s tough to be a girl cop, but having all your man cops grumble and call her a bitch doesn’t teach me anything. As far as feminist statements go, I would say that this show failed in the precise way THE CLOSER succeeded. In an attempt to make Bello seem strong, they simply made her more masculine. The stupid hat, the scarf, the whole get up just screams sexual ambiguity. So while the show is saying “woman can be just as good as men” it’s showing us that women have to transform into men. Meanwhile THE CLOSER gave us a woman who was feminine as hell, and maybe human, maybe imperfect, never weak. I’m going to miss you Sedgwick, because with your departure so departs the last semblance of popular feminist television. Now, all I have is women trying to be men or women enjoying the lot as dumb girls. For more examples, see below.

How much it sucked: 8
The reason that CHARLIE’S ANGELS was successful back in ’76 is because, back then, people didn’t expect much from their TV. A bunch of hot babes fight crime and obey their charming yet faceless lord. Awesome. It was all steeped in Freudian logic, bringing forth the voyeuristic nature of television. It was a distinctly “empire” (to use an Ellis term) frame of thinking that made it possible. Even CHARLIE’S ANGELS, the movie, managed to make a pretty big splash when it came out less than ten years ago. But a lot has changed in the last ten years, let alone the last forty. Only, no one told these guys. Everything about this pilot just screams “we found this script in a warehouse that’s been locked since 1982, blew off the dust, threw in some cell phones and made it.” But, when it comes down to it, exploitation films and television of the 70s are only cool because of the clothes and the lingo. Take out the afros and the bell bottoms and suddenly it’s just backwards and offensive. Sort of an ouroboros of sexism where men don’t have to put women down, they’ll stand tall in their six inch heels and do it for us.

How much it sucked: 1
Not a whole lot of suck to be found in this pilot. I found myself really enjoying it. It was well acted, fun, detailed, accurate, well paced, and brilliantly directed by Jonathan Demme. But then I tried to explain the pilot to someone else and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t manage to explain it without sounding sort of dumb. It was the part where the goofy, hippy shaman opened Patrick Wilson’s chakra that did it, really. Then I realized that while I liked the pilot a lot, I really didn’t like show.

My Brother's Ears/My Sister's Eyes

On facebook I saw some friends talking about a film they'd seen the day before. One said he was still thinking about it. That took me a little off guard. Of course you're still thinking about it. Do you ever stop? The best art doesn't just happen near you like a traffic accident, something you tell your coworkers about in passing if you remember to. The best art lives with you and comforts you and keeps you awake. The best art is what you turn to when the rest of the world doesn't make sense. You need to think about it at least the day afterwards or you won't understand it as fully as it deserves. To not give it the full breadth of your consideration is to say that it isn't worthy of it, too shallow to be able to make a dent. All this is my way of saying I kept trying to write about the Psychic Babble record but everytime I sat down to do it, I'd turn it on and get lost. I'd start thinking about influences and points of reference, but just enjoy the record and get distracted.
The first thing to note is that for a solo record, nothing feels convenient. Typically experiments like Psychic Babble, the first record from Circa Survive guitarist Colin Frangicetto (the two projects could hardly be more different), are done on a single guitar with a drum machine. They may sound as professional as this, but hardly as well-realized Every beat, every percussive blow feels deliberate and practiced. This is a record heavy on reverb, but the negative space is hardly its greatest feature. Listen to the opening of "Nothing Familiar," what makes this sound different than most reverb-and-delay records, and admittedly it's small, is that cabasa-like cranking sound. It's an unconventional choice for the sort of song it starts. Then there's the plucking of what sounds like it might be mandolin as it draws to a close. It last a fraction of a second, but it's there and it's beautiful. Either he utilized his free hand to simply follow every urge that seized him or he knew precisely what he wanted for even the smallest moments. Either answer is heart-warming. My Brother's Eyes/My Sister's Ears drips with the fervor of an archeologist setting foot in a cave he's read about his whole life and now has all the time and equipment he could ever want to scrutinize every ancient painting and natural formation. The songs are pretty enough on their own but it's the embellishment that Frangicetto gives himself that's the real draw. He's a one-man Cocteau Twins; tambourine, keys, treated acoustic guitar and of course, his excalibur, the electric guitar. Here and there, "Radio Songs" springs to mind, his sublime and assured electric sounds more the lead instrument than even his voice. Which isn't to say his voice doesn't suit the songs. You can't quite place what it reminds you of, which is perfect, it is as uniquely soft as the production.

His songs are redolent of the best minimal mid-80s post-punk, but whereas most disciples of that era are more concerned with the feel of the rhythm section (Joy Division's tone, Gang of Four's groove) Frangicetto's background as a painter serve him better than his record collection. Like the best of the era, each song seems to take place in a warehouse. Instead of embracing the dead space, the peeling walls and hollow feeling (like Iceage or Cults, for instance. Nothing against them, they just dig minimalism), he paints the walls with synth, melodica and percussion until you hardly recognize the place anymore, as on "Crocodile Tears." And even more remarkably he stops just shy of cluttering up the place. "Tears" many elements snap around each other like fireworks thrown by many different hands, but there's just enough space to pick out each sound. It's never too busy. Nor is he afraid to change horses. "Boulevard" initially bounces like mid-period Gang of Four, though much softer and then recedes quietly to make room for a verse that sounds lifted from Heaven or Las Vegas. And then goes even quieter before bursting into the ether like something from UNKLE's latest record. And all this referencing really gets you nowhere because the sound is far less abrasive than anything mentioned here and never seems to date itself. I could go on and on but the best compliment I can think to pay it is that when I go driving at night, this is the album I play. I'm hesitant to publish this because I still feel like I have some listening to do before I truly know it. I'm still thinking about it, still trying to figure it out.

Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall

I was given a small gift just now, four posters for a horror/thriller called The Year After Infection about living after the end of the world. Here are the four posters representing the four seasons that the film takes place over. I don't quite know what else to do with them, but I'm definitely going to see this film if I get the chance. It sounds interesting!

The Seventh Moth

Here's a bit about Ingmar Bergman and Virginia Woolf. Thanks Christina Carlson!

Film and literature are blessed with different methods of attacking the reader’s unconscious. Be it through film’s ability to represent in purely visual terms the sensation of dreaming, birth and death, or through literature’s ability to directly address in the strictest and most poetic language imaginable those same phenomena; words are the most direct line to the brain when engrossed in a novel you read the words: “"I'll give it you!" he cried, and flung himself vigorously, violently down on to Mrs. Filmer's area railings”. The immediacy of one vs. the other is not in question, but what is most remarkable is that death was of central importance in both the twentieth century novel and what could be thought of as the twentieth century art film, personified in this case by two of each form’s most talented poets, Ingmar Bergman & Virginia Woolf. Because while both told very different stories, the styles they chose to tell them in were incredibly similar. Death lurks behind the most-loved works of both which brings out in their works a fascination with life’s little mysteries. Woolf let her pen wander from the conversation of her two main characters to the comings-and-goings of those they shared a park with, be they perfect strangers or even insects. Bergman’s highly disciplined writing and incredibly focused direction stayed fixed on the psyche of only a few characters but his fleeting departures from their narrative help illustrate the fullness of life. In Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway and Bergman’s Wild Strawberries, a single day is used to show the intricacies of life, the presence of death and while it doesn’t immediately seem so how beautiful life can be.

There may be better examples of a confrontation with death in both artists’ canon. There’s a reason, after all, that both To The Lighthouse & The Seventh Seal are thought of as representative of their respective authors’ body of work and I would venture that it’s that their not inconsiderable talent is put in service of a sprawling tale with a disparate cast of characters and a very direct attitude toward death. In each work there is a moment of clarity, a passage that lets the audience know exactly what’s on the mind of the creator. In each case it’s that death unites us all. In The Seventh Seal death is a man who follows the characters throughout the movie. In the final scene day breaks on the last surviving characters, the actor and his wife and he sees that Death has finally taken his companions for good. He looks on the ridge above them, sees his deceased friends dancing in a line and says to his bride:
I see them, Mia! I see them! Over there against the stormy sky. They are all there.…And the strict master Death bids them dance. He wants them to hold hands and to tread the dance in a long line. At the head goes the strict master with the scythe and hourglass. But the Fool brings up the rear with his lute. They move away from the dawn in a solemn dance away towards the dark lands while the rain cleanses their cheeks of the salt from their bitter tears.

This monologue and the phantasmagorical shot that accompanies it of the dance of the dead are unforgettable, but they don’t erase the sense that we were cheated of the characters that death has claimed. We were so certain that the cunning Antonius Block and his squire have made safe all those who have fallen under their protection during their journey. In To The Lighthouse, death similarly leaps from the woodworks in one of Woolf’s most remarkably unpoetic and memorable passages from any of her novels, the section entitled Time Passes. Woolf’s electric prose is rarely as captivating as it is here, and yet she undercuts her gift for crafting sentences by simply announcing death’s presence as if he had walked into the room as he does in The Seventh Seal:
So loveliness reigned and stillness, and together made the shape of loveliness itself, a form from which life had parted; solitary like a pool at evening, far distant, seen from a train window, vanishing so quickly that the pool, pale in the evening, is scarcely robbed of its solitude, though once seen. Loveliness and stillness clasped hands in the bedroom, and among the shrouded jugs and sheeted chairs even the prying of the wind, and the soft nose of the clammy sea airs, rubbing, snuffling, iterating, and reiterating their questions—"Will you fade? Will you perish?"—scarcely disturbed the peace, the indifference, the air of pure integrity, as if the question they asked scarcely needed that they should answer: we remain. (106)

As haunting and gorgeous as this is, we find this: “A shell exploded. Twenty or thirty young men were blown up in France, among them Andrew Ramsay, whose death, mercifully, was instantaneous (110).” It’s so shockingly forward it comes as a disappointment. Here was a character we’d gotten to know so well in the first part of the novel, dispatched with no romance or backwards looking or even a decent sentence; the thing’s in parenthesis for crying out loud. And they pop up all over Time Passes. To quote the film critic Mike D’Angelo’s reaction to an unprovoked murder in Badlands “…you know what, it seems disrespectful. That’s what it is.” Or in the parlance of college kids, it’s lame. It’s like death walking out of nowhere to claim the victims we thought had outsmarted him in Seal. And for that reason, both novels are both more honest than their contemporaries who grant meaning and glory to the deaths of their heroes. Woolf and Bergman have no qualms about death, they just let it happen. But what they did have was a chance to examine all the little things that do give a life, and thus a death, meaning. And they did so no more beautifully and lovingly than in Wild Strawberries & Mrs. Dalloway.
Both texts are about memory, death and about trying like hell to appreciate what you have even if circumstance tells you you got dealt a bad hand. Mrs. Dalloway’s twin narratives follow socialite and parliament member Clarissa Dalloway as she throws a party for her associates at which her two best friends who she hasn’t seen in a number of years show up. Meanwhile the shell-shocked veteran Septimus Smith tries to get through a day marked by visits to his doctor, flashbacks to a fallen friend and pervasive thoughts of the grave. Wild Strawberries follows Dr. Isak Borg on a car trip with his daughter-in-law Marianne to receive an honorary degree. The day starts with a dream foretelling his own death, is specked with shocking revelations about his son from Marianne, flashbacks and daydreams that seem to tell him he’s wasted his life or at the very least, he’s had a better one stolen from him by circumstance. But to say that Mrs. Dalloway is about a party and a veteran and Wild Strawberries is about a road trip would be to sell short the joie de vivre with which Bergman and Woolf pass the time before the conclusion.

As Wild Strawberries opens, the sweater clad Borg sits writing in his diary in the middle of an ornate and dusty study. He is quite alone and the ominous chiming of a clock before the action can only signal one thing: his time is short. “In our relations with other people we mainly discuss and evaluate their character and behavior. That is why I have withdrawn from nearly all so-called relations. This has made my old age rather lonely.” Mrs. Dalloway, Woolf’s heroine, has also been shut off, but it wasn’t by her choosing. “She had the Oddest sense of being herself invisible; unseen; unknown; there being no more marrying, no more having of children now, but only this astonishing and rather solemn progress with the rest of them… this being Mrs. Dalloway; not even Clarissa anymore; this being Mrs. Richard Dalloway (8).” Clarissa’s life has been reduced to social functions, just as Isak’s has been one of isolation. One can picture their “narrow” beds being all too similar (22). Their routines are fixed, only changed by “larks” like buying flowers on their own for a change or driving themselves to the ceremony instead of letting the maid drive (1). It is only real changes, the ones they can’t predict that bring about any kind of real shifts in their perception, fleeting though those might be.

Isak is shaken awake the morning he is to receive his degree by a “weird” dream ("weird sisters" weird) where he is confronted with a lot of bizarre imagery, all of it spelling his death, the chiming clock chief among them. When he wakes, he has decided that today is going to be different. When his daughter-in-law decides to drive with him, he is sidetracked in his reevaluation when she reminds him that his son, her husband, hates him because of the ways he’s become set in. “You’re a selfish old man, Uncle Isak.” He even misremembers the invitation he extended to Marianne a month ago when she first came to stay with him away from her husband. Her relationship with her husband, the brute Evald, is not unlike Clarissa and Richard’s, in that neither seems to understand the other, but Isak’s telling Marianne she ought to see a shrink smacks of Rezia’s cluelessness about Septimus’ condition. She and every doctor he meets thinks he just needs a little more help; he so tires of it that he throws himself out a window. Clarissa’s “dream” that awakens her comes in the form of Septimus’ death announced at her party. Her life, she realizes, is not something she herself evaluates: “Nothing could be slow enough; nothing last too long. No pleasure could equal, she thought, straightening the chairs, pushing in one book on the shelf, this having done with the triumphs of youth, lost herself in the process of living…(132)” She doesn’t think of life because she’s too busy living it. And yet she seems ambivalent at best about whether death is something she herself wants herself. She seems torn for the first time realizing what it might mean. “She somehow felt very like him–the man who killed himself…he made her feel the beauty; made her feel the fun.” It is only with death in her mind that she sees that she must make the most of herself, something both she and Isak Borg had forgotten.

It wasn’t always so, of course, as both texts lovely flashbacks tell us. Clarissa goes back to the party to be with Peter Walsh and Sally Seton, two people whom she’s had striking and powerful relationships with in the past, but who she understands she has to remain separate from. What’s past is past. And what’s past for Clarissa is an all-too-brief love affair with Sally. She remembers being kissed by Sally (“the whole world might turned upside down”) and a time when the thought of Sally walking down a hallway naked was the most exciting thing in the world. “Sally's power was amazing, her gift, her personality (24).” And yet when she meets Sally again, time has changed her. A mother of five, no longer the spirit she once was. Clarissa doesn’t come out and say it, but she understands that those things are in the past. She must live beautifully and that’s all there is for it. Borg’s flashback is given to him in the same form as his dream of death.

In a profoundly beautiful scene, Isak revisits his childhood home and as an old man relives a time from his youth in a dream. He sees the girl he once loved, pursued in secret by his older brother Sigfrid. Embarrassed by the whole family for her secret tryst with Sigfrid she runs off and through tears confesses to her sister and an invisible Isak: “Isak is so fine and good, so moral and sensitive...And he talks about sin. He’s on such a terribly high level and I feel so worthless...And Sigfrid is so bold and exciting.” Isak realizes that he has tried and failed to be the man he wanted to be. “I was overwhelmed by feelings of emptiness and sadness…” But seeing this makes him put on a much more positive attitude that extends to flirting with a passing girl, Sara and even offering a lift to her and her friends to the town where he’s receiving his degree. They also pick up a bickering couple who nearly crash the car in a heated argument; a potent reminder for both Marianne and Isak that life is simply too short to be mean-spirited or do things you regret (apologies for the semi-colon).

Clarissa realizes that her life is among party guests and that she has an all-too crucial role to play in the lives of those she hosts. Her art is being herself and even though she sees the things she’s left behind in her journey to her current self, she also sees that life is simply too wonderful to let slip by and fill with regrets and worries. Even those she leaves in her wake, Peter and Sally, see that she is right where she belongs. “What is this terror? What is this ecstasy? He thought to himself. What is it that fills me with extraordinary excitement? It is Clarissa, he said. For there she was (139).” Just as Clarissa is captivated by life anew after Septimus’ death, Isak may not have long left and precious few people to share his life with but he’s going to live what little there is to the fullest. He makes up with his maid though she rebukes his attempts at being overly familiar, just as Clarissa does with Peter and Sally, though just as he goes to sleep, Sara and her friends sing a song for him beneath his windowsill. As they part, their triangular relation reminding him of his own with Sigfrid and his one-time love. Before going Sara leans in close and says to him “It’s you I really love, you know. Today, tomorrow, always.” “I’ll remember.” He says, a look of resignation on his face. He will never hear from them again and he knows it, but he’s happy to have touched one more life before it was time. He is himself, no more, no less, and like Clarissa Dalloway, the world would be far less rich without him, now that they know what they are meant to do.

Woolf, Virginia. To The Lighthouse. Feed. Web.
Woolf, Virginia. Mrs. Dalloway. Feed. Web.

100 Albums Beyond The Canon

Seeing my friend and colleague Tucker Johnson take on the arrogant listmaking over at Rolling Stone has come to make me see that populism and crowd-pleasing have ruled the "last word" in criticism for far too long. Who gives a shit how many staff writers like The Beatles? Is that any excuse for shutting down your exploration of what must be nearly a billion albums made in the last hundred years at one band and its followers. I'd rather listen to Wilco and Elliott Smith adapting their love of those records than the genuine article anyday. So, taking a cue from Cinematical, I thought I'd share 100 albums that no major publication would ever champion despite their largely being better than what the mainstream accepts as a classic. You embrace context, nostalgia and personal taste; Yes, Exile on Main Street was important, but it's fucking boring and sounds like every other post-68 stones album. And worse still you put like two dozen greatest hits and live records which can't be judged together. An album is by a band in a studio, not assembled by money hungry suits. A live performance is also too different to be judged alongside a studio recording. You haven't been right in decades and you put reality tv stars on your magazine covers. So here are 100 fantastic albums Rolling Stone would never tell you to listen to, that I love so much more than anything in their top 20 best albums of all time. And no I'm not going to rank them. Limit one per band.

1. Echo & The Bunnymen - Porcupine
2. John Cale - Paris 1919
3. Living Sisters - Love To Live
4. Regina Spektor - Soviet Kitsch
5. Kings of Convenience - Quiet Is The New Loud
6. Kitchens of Distinction - Strange Free World
7. Stars - In Our Bedroom After The War
8. The Decemberists - Picaresque
9. Chavez - Ride The Fader
10. The Futureheads - News & Tributes
11. Grizzly Bear - Yellow House
12. Broken Social Scene - Broken Social Scene
13. Talking Heads - Speaking In Tongues
14. Wolf Parade - Apologies To The Queen Mary
15. Apostle of Hustle - National Anthem of Nowhere
16. Holy Fuck - Latin
17. Belle & Sebastian - The Boy With The Arab Strap
18. Killing Joke - Killing Joke
19. Do Make Say Think - & Yet & Yet
20. A Place To Bury Strangers - Exploding Head
21. Julie Doiron - I Can Wonder What You Did With Your Day
22. Sonic Youth - The Eternal
23. Astor Piazzolla - Lo Que Vendra
24. Supergrass - Life on Other Planets
25. Doves - Some Cities
26. Gordon Bok - Clear Away In The Morning
27. Wilco - Kicking Television
28. Yo La Tengo - Painful
29. Air - Talkie Walkie
30. John Frusciante & Josh Klinghoffer - A Sphere In The Heart of Silence
31. The A Frames - Black Forest
32. Witchcraft - Witchcraft
33. Tom Waits - Swordfishtrombones
34. Bauhaus - The Sky's Gone Out
35. Amy Millan - Masters of the Burial
36. Godspeed You! Black Emperor - Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven
37. World Leader Pretend - Punches
38. The Chills - Kaleidoscope World
39. Loose Fur - Born Again In The USA
40. Roy Orbison - Crying
41. Dungen - Tio Bitar
42. Iron & Wine - The Shepherd's Dog
43. Red Lorry Yellow Lorry - Paint Your Wagon
44. Rufus Wainwright - Want One/Want Two
45. Emitt Rhodes - The American Dream
46. Manic Street Preachers - The Holy Bible
47. Feu Thérèse - Feu Thérèse
48. Animal Collective - Strawberry Jam
49. Sondre Lerche - Phantom Punch
50. Sunset Rubdown - Random Spirit Lover
51. The Helio Sequence - Keep Your Eyes Ahead
52. Portishead - Third
53. British Sea Power - Man of Aran
54. Bundy K. Brown - Directions in Music
55. Handsome Furs - Face Control
56. The Horrors - Primary Colours
57. Patrick Watson - Wooden Arms
58. Sparta - Porcelain
59. Ali Farka Toure - Niafunke
60. The Ronettes - Presenting The Fabulous Ronettes
61. Sparklehorse - It's A Wonderful Life
62. Grandaddy - Sumday
63. The Dipers - How To Plan Succesfful Parties
64. Death From Above 1979 - You're A Woman I'm A Machine
65. Madvillain - Madvillainy
66. Fela Kuti - Zombie
67. The Von Bondies - Pawn Shoppe Heart
68. The Walkmen - Bows & Arrows
69. Bloc Party - Silent Alarm
70. Tom Vek - We Have Sound
71. Sam Roberts - Love At The End Of The World
72. J. Tillman - Vacilando Territory Blues
73. Julie Fader - Outside In
74. Kris Kristofferson - Jesus Was A Capricorn
75. The Besnard Lakes - The Besnard Lakes Are The Roaring Night
76. Nancy Sinatra - How Does That Grab You?
77. Amon Düül II - Yeti
78. Howlin Wolf - Moaning In The Moonlight
79. Nico - Desert Shore
80. David Bowie - Lodger
81. Wire - 154
82. Richard Thompson - You? Me? Us.
83. The Chameleons - What Does Anything Mean, Basically?
84. Cocteau Twins - Head Over Heels
85. Ride - Nowhere
86. French Kicks - Two Thousand
87. Chapterhouse - Whirlpool
88. Eric's Trip - Forever Again
89. Chad VanGaalen - Skelliconnection
90. Final Fantasy - Heartland
91. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - The First Born Dead
92. Fly Pan Am - Sédatif En Fréquences Et Sillons
93. Fairport Convention - Liege & Lief
94. The Feelies - The Good Earth
95. The Cramps - Off The Bone
96. The Mars Volta - De-Loused In The Comatorium
97. Basia Bulat - Heart of My Own
98. Women - Public Strain
99. Rolling Stones - Their Satanic Majesties Request
100. Orchestra Baobab - Specialists In All Styles