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by PopMatters Staff

29 Apr 2009

Dead Oceans has just released a new MP3 from the upcoming John Vanderslice album Romanian Names (US: 19 May / UK: 18 May). The singer-songwriter also has a packed tour schedule beginning in May, highlighted by three appearances at the Outside Lands Music Festival (tour dates after the jump).

John Vanderslice
“Too Much Time” [MP3]

“Fetal Horses” [MP3]

by Bill Gibron

29 Apr 2009

Welcome back traditional Spring film season - how we missed you so. You remember don’t you, the times we used spend together? We’d take four months out of every year and just hang out, your weekly selection of Summer/Awards cast-offs and long delayed failures clogging up the local Cineplex with nothing but shoulder shrugging specials. This is the way it used to be, the way we film fans remember the span between January and May - before the blockbuster moves in and takes over the ticket line landscape. There’s no popcorn fare in your past - just lots and lots of ideas that got really, really lost in the tepid translation. Oh sure, you tried to pad your rep, resorting to surprise hits like 300 and Passion of the Christ to change your image. But now…now things are back to the way they used to be, and the feeling of familiarity is intoxicating.

Indeed, Spring 2009 was terrible, the overall perspective more mediocre than memorable. This was the time of Blart, of Mall Cops so warm and cuddly that they made the chunky in the demographic wet themselves, Susan Boyle style. It was the quarter of bad future shock (Push) and even worse action antics (Transporter 3, Dragonball Evolution). It was the period that gave us Inkheart, The Soloist, Sunshine Cleaning, and the piled up cordwood corpses of A Haunting in Connecticut. Not every offering was so horrific, but we did have to suffer through Hannah Montana’s movie, said series’ purity ring off-shoots, and the fourth Fast and Furious film. Things were so bad this time around that Tyler Perry’s latest, the hit and miss Madea Goes to Jail, was more satisfying than most of what came out of Tinsel Town’s tainted factory.

Still, there were five that really stood out, five that made their limited running time in the theater the cinematic equivalent of being waterboarded with Sean Hannity. Some of them were obvious from the minute they were announced - even a ‘minkey’ could see that. Others snuck up on you like unwelcome relatives at a social occasion. Eventually, it’s embarrassing for everyone involved. While we still have an astonishing nine more months until this year is officially over, one wonders how high up some of these turkeys will land come final annual aesthetic tally time. More disconcerting is the notion that, indeed, things can and WILL get worse. Let’s begin with:

5. The Uninvited

Nothing sucks harder than sitting in the theater watching a supposedly suspenseful film and then realizing, halfway through, you remember the third act plot twist that’s still 20 to 30 minutes away. It’s all downhill from there - and that’s exactly what happened with this remake of the Korean hit The Tale of Two Sisters. Long before the dramatic denouement, this critic experienced the kind of narrative déjà vu you don’t want to have during a thriller. By the time of the reveal, he was practically screaming for the spoiler to show up and get it over with. The rest of the movie has a moody atmosphere that can only come from an older man sleeping with a much younger trophy wife, and the Hand that Rocks the Glass House Cradle conceits are truly dull and lifeless. Of the many wannabe fright flicks of the Spring, this was the most disappointing.

4. He’s Just Not That Into You

By its very definition, a romantic comedy has to have (a) romance, and (b) laughs. What this dreadful dissertation, based on that most elusive of literary sources - the self help book, has is lots of screaming women and their equally whiny weepy best friends. This is the kind of movie that, if it were possible, would have Susan B. Anthony and her fellow zombie suffragettes rising from the grave in order to stage posthumous protests. Nothing works - not the quasi-chemistry between to the onscreen lovers, not the male POV advice from a seemingly lost Justin Long, not the patented ditz of Drew Barrymore or the barely alive ennui of Jennifer Connelly - and that’s just the talent with their names above the credits. This film truly contains the single worst performance of 2009 so far - the cloying, cliché-filled failure that is Ginnifer Goodwin’s grating, borderline retarded Gigi. It’s a literal pain to watch.

3. Outlander

Okay, here’s the deal. This is clearly the work of some insular geek who invests way too much time in Viking themed role playing games and not enough actually experiencing the real world. In between servings of Hot Pockets and mediocre science fiction, he dreams up this idea of an alien crash landing in the middle of a Nordic reenactment society, and then adds a glowing CG monster just to make things more “nerdgasm”-esque. Ew. That’s right, folks - a blink and you missed it affair starring Mel Gibson’s favorite big screen savior (James Caviezel), John Hurt, and Ron Pearlman - it was clearly paycheck cashing time all around. The only thing missing was Ben Kingsley and Uwe Boll’s name on the credits. Had any of the material come close to meeting the expectations of the D&D dork who dreamed it up, we could have had a guilty pleasure. All we wound up with was a bunch of Valhalla vomit.

2. The Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience

Miley Cyrus may be the female equivalent of the entertainment antichrist, but these three losers from the rejected pages of a pedophile’s Tiger Beat truly wear the number of the beast, and it’s significantly less that 666 if you go by the box office. Bombs don’t thud quite as hard as this craven concert movie, especially when there was so much pre-publicity hype about how popular these wholesome rockers really were/are. Apparently, like their proposed talent, said build-up was all desperate House of Mouse smoke and mirrors. Some have argued that the movie’s box theatrical release comings can be linked to parents finally figuring out that the Jonases are nothing more than a way to sell sex to their pre-pubescent tween children. Of course, the fact that their tepid music blows donkey butt doesn’t mean anything, right? When The Monkees, Menudo, and The Banana Splits have more artistic integrity, you know you’re bound to fail.

1. Pink Panther 2

This one is so bad, so egregiously awful, that the rest of the list looks like 2001, Citizen Kane, and The Dark Knight by comparison. Someday, perhaps when he’s dead, a tell-all tome will come out about Steve Martin, and at that time, the bile soaked grudge he has against the late, great Peter Sellers, and the reason he keeps pissing all over the man’s memory with a vengeance, will be revealed. There is no excuse for this film save for one - money. The first remake was an unfathomable hit, so following the Hollywood maxim, the more cash you make, the more copies you’ll create. Never mind that the script appears gleaned from a dozen dopey slapstick efforts, and Martin has aged out of his physical comedian shtick. The direction, by someone named Harald Zwart, takes every tired idea and drives it into the ground with the subtlety of a sledgehammer. And that’s just the tolerable bits.

by Rob Horning

29 Apr 2009

First, I saw this PSFK item that posited a link between the economic downturn and the reutrn of some grunge-fashion tropes.

Ripped stockings, boots, and short babydoll dresses (in floral and solids) are being donned by women, while boys are sporting the ubiquitous flannel button down and tights pants…. One theory on why these trends are re-emerging is that perhaps in times of economic instability youth prefer to dress down out of modesty and solidarity with those experiencing hardship, as opposed to showing off an opulent style, which is prevalent during boom times. This idea isn’t that far-fetched in that grunge fashion as we know it grew to popularity during the recessions of the early ‘90s, and that the king of all British fashion movements, punk, was in theory started as a social reaction and act of rebellion as opposed to merely a fashion statement. While for some time trend watchers have predicted the demise of heavily branded logo apparel, it seems that conspicuous consumption has truly become gauche in the fashion world.

by Tara Malone / McClatchy Newspapers (MCT)

29 Apr 2009

CHICAGO — As newspapers reinvent themselves, high school newsrooms are locked in their own transition amid the economic tumult that has jolted the industry.

Several school newspapers in Illinois, for example, now publish online only, while others are turning to the Internet to post stories edged out of a shrinking newspaper.

These days, the pressures of tighter budgets, thinner papers and slumping ad sales are as central to the lessons of journalism as beat reporting and editing, educators said. “If we want to make it as real world as we can make it, you’ve got to be able to pay for the pages (through advertising). If you can’t pay for the pages, you figure out another way to do things,” said Michael Gordy, adviser to Antioch Community High School’s paper, The Tom Tom.

by Rob Horning

28 Apr 2009

An NYT piece by Joanna Kaufman wonders whether the Kindle will rob people of the opportunity to do what I talked of yesterday, judge people based on what sort of books they own.

How will the Kindle affect literary snobbism? If you have 1,500 books on your Kindle — that’s how many it holds — does that make you any more or less of a bibliophile than if you have the same 1,500 books displayed on a shelf? (For the sake of argument, let’s assume that you’ve actually read a couple of them.)
The practice of judging people by the covers of their books is old and time-honored. And the Kindle, which looks kind of like a giant white calculator, is the technology equivalent of a plain brown wrapper. If people jettison their book collections or stop buying new volumes, it will grow increasingly hard to form snap opinions about them by wandering casually into their living rooms.

//Mixed media

Because Blood Is Drama: Considering Carnage in Video Games and Other Media

// Moving Pixels

"It's easy to dismiss blood and violence as salacious without considering why it is there, what its context is, and what it might communicate.

READ the article