Latest Blog Posts

by PopMatters Staff

18 Feb 2009

Athens, Georgia-based Kuroma make New York City the star of their new video for “In New York, Everything Is Tropical”. It features a pop art style, scenes from all over the city and direction from Adam Neustadter. Kuroma frontman Hank Sullivant explains that the video/song is “not parodic or contradictory or just referential. It is a minor and indifferent accumulation of certain trashed elements of pop and pop video, including pop parody itself. New York is a place of terror and stereotype and commercialism and art, but most importantly it is the place where these things synthesize in the most sublime way.” It’s pretty catchy too with a hooky melody and jagged chord riffs. The band is also touring with Primal Scream in the coming weeks (tour dates below).

 

TOUR DATES
2/24 - Savannah @ SCAD at the River Club
3/16 - Los Angeles @ Nokia Live*^
3/17 - San Francisco @ Fillmore*^
3/19 - Austin @ SXSW: Official Green Label Sound Party @ Opal Divine’s
3/20 - Austin @ SXSW
3/22 - Chicago @ Metro*
3/24 - Toronto @ The Phoenix*
3/26 - Philadelphia @ Trocadero*
3/27 - Washington, DC @ 930 Club*
3/28 - New York @ Webster Hall*
4/09 - Vancouver @ The Media Club
4/10 - Seattle @ Vera Project
4/13 - Fargo @ Aquarium
4/14 - Minneapolis @ 7th St. Entry
4/15 - Sioux Falls @ Nuttys North
4/16 - Des Moines @ Vaudville Mews
4/17 - Chicago @ Av-Aerie
4/18 - Toronto @ Sneaky Dees
4/19 - Montreal @ Il Motore
4/21 - New York @ Mercury Lounge
4/22 - Brooklyn @ Union Hall
4/24 - Chapel Hill @ Local 506
4/25 - Atlanta @ Drunken Unicorn
4/26 - Memphis @ Hi Tone Café
4/27 - Kansas City @ Czar Bar
4/29 - Denver @ Hi Dive
4/30 - Salt Lake City @ Urban Lounge

* with Primal Scream
^ with Brian Jonestown Massacre

by PopMatters Staff

18 Feb 2009

Ian Mathers said of last year’s Joan as Police Woman album To Survive that it “is probably even a little stronger as an album than Real Life, but it lacks the peaks and valleys that made the latter so compelling… But while it doesn’t quite bring one up short as Real Life did, To Survive does something arguably even more valuable; it shows that the debut was in no way a fluke, and that Joan As Police Woman are in this for the long haul. Here is the new video from that release, “Start of My Heart”. [via Interview Magazine]

 

by Rob Horning

18 Feb 2009

If you are familiar with Richard Florida, much of his engaging essay in the new Atlantic, “How the Crash Will Reshape America,” will not surprise you—those in cities lucky enough to be populated by the creative class will only be mildly discomfitted by the recession, while those Rust Belt unfortunates are basically doomed. As Florida points out, “innovation, in the long run, is what keeps cities vital and relevant,” and New York will continue to innovate in the vital fields represented by these creatives: “fashion designers, musicians, film directors, artists, and—yes—psychiatrists.”

My reaction to this is similar to Arnold Kling’s: “I don’t think that the arts are all that important. To me, creative innovation that matters is somebody in a lab at MIT coming up with a more efficient battery or solar cell. It is somebody at Stanford coming up with a way to make computers smarter or cancer more preventable. I just can’t get excited about some frou-frou fashion designers and the magazines that feature their creations.”

Even though it makes me a bit of a hypocrite, I tend to adopt that same skeptical sneer for pseudo-innovations of the fashion cycle, for casual abuse of the word innovative and creative. When Florida writes about cities incubating “idea-driven creative industries” I wonder what he means specifically. Obviously he doesn’t mean the swell financial innovation conjured up by the creative class of Wall Street bankers that helped put us into this recession that, as Florida rightly notes, will dump misery mainly in other parts of the country. But I can never grasp in my noncreative mind what is so beneficial about ideas as ideas, regardless of whether they are good or bad; about innovation for its own sake. Florida is undoubtedly right that cities allow ambitious people with money to find more easily other ambitious people full of conviction in their own ideas; they can then socialize in such a way that they can puff each other up with that right amount of trust and nepotistic networking confidence that’s necessary to launch implausible startups. They can be intimate enough to truly believe each other’s bullshit and craft an excellent marketing plan for it. And they can fashion a richer culture of social signifiers (the art world, etc.) that can alienate and put at a disadvantage those not fortunate enough to breathe in that rarefied air.

But when Florida writes of people “in the intangible sector—what I call the ‘creative class’ of scientists, engineers, managers, and professionals,” it’s hard not to wonder, what are they engineering? What are they managing? Isn’t their creative success ultimately contingent on the poor rubes doing the dirty work under them? Doesn’t their white-collar creativity at some point touch something tangible, a level at which actual human needs are being fulfilled through socially necessary labor? Felix Salmon remonstrates Kling with the implied point that libertarian economist types can’t go around judging businesses in moral terms, as long as they are generating jobs and income. But it seems a fair question to ask whether the fashion industry’s “value added” is more socially useful than a Las Vegas construction worker’s. Florida argues that the Sun Belt building boom, frighteningly efficient and innovative and “highly metabolic” as it was during the bubble, was built on a kind of lie, but I wonder if the same isn’t true of the dubious innovation coming from the media and fashion industries favored by the creative class. It all seems vulnerable to a more rigorous accounting of what is truly socially necessary.

Florida’s core argument is this:

The economy is different now. It no longer revolves around simply making and moving things. Instead, it depends on generating and transporting ideas. The places that thrive today are those with the highest velocity of ideas, the highest density of talented and creative people, the highest rate of metabolism.

 

But what are ideas about if not things? Ultimately, any idea must find tangible expression in human labor reworking some piece of material in a way that deemed socially necessary. Otherwise it never gets realized; it never enters the economy. Is haute couture any more necessary than McMansion developments in Mesa, Arizona?

Maybe there is a way for the ideas not to yield things, but an overarching ideology that’s not tangible but is nonetheless very valuable for those it protects. The ideas that are generated by that density of creative people working with fast-moving ideas are perhaps merely those that establish the hierarchy by which they seek to be judged, and the means for putting it over on the people who would otherwise prefer to play by different rules. The velocity is a matter of keeping the fashion cycle one step ahead of the populace they seek to dominate. As long as they succeed it putting this cycle over on outsiders, they “thrive,” because they then get to manufacture the ideas that make them gatekeepers to modern identity.

So much of the New York creative class may amount to no more than an entrenched group of ideological workers, manufacturing tokens of prestige to preserve the class structure while those in the noncreative classes suffer without recompense. So no wonder it won’t be such hard times for us here. The class structure is likely to need more propping up than ever. But I think this dooms Florida’s prediction that creative-class cities will assimilate the economy’s losers; these cities may thrive precisely by preventing those people out from peeking behind the curtain.

by Bill Gibron

17 Feb 2009

We critics love to give Oscar the razz. After all, they get it wrong so many times that, inherently, we view it as an out of touch, deeply political body whose process allows art to die at the hands of studio artifice. Recognizing that the voting membership is comprised of all previous nominees, along with occasional invited inductees, the insular nature of the beast is pretty darn obvious. But there are other instances where the Academy bungles its business so badly that you have to wonder if senility hasn’t set in, a kind of all encompassing lunacy that adversely affects the aesthetic of the constituency. It’s the bungles that burn our biscuits the most, slights and celebrations that mock the very nature of film.

While the list could go on forever, and accommodate everyone’s personal favorite and/or fiasco, the fact remains that the Academy Awards are one of the better bodies of recognition out there. After all, it could be a lot worse - it could be the Grammys. And don’t go harping about the old studio system. This overview is confining its critique to the ‘60s through ‘00s.  As a result, this is far from definitive. Instead, it’s just an example of AMPAS’s fairly consistent brain farts. Let’s begin with:

Robin Williams beats Burt Reynolds and Robert Forster

1998 Best Supporting Actor


Having chalked up almost every pre-ceremony award between them, predictions had the Boogies Nights and Jackie Brown veterans in virtual tie for their first Oscar. On the night of the awards, both men looked confident, especially as the nominations were being announced. Then the former funny man, known for his hirsute hissy fits, rode Miramax’s Affleck and Damon express to a totally undeserving triumph. While Forrester mostly kept his composure, Reynolds will always be remembered for his now classic hurt puppy reaction.

Roberto Benigni beats Nick Nolte, Ian McKellan, and Tom Hanks

1999 Best Actor


Some slights are unconscionable. Others are apparently the work of Satan himself. And then there was this undeniable abomination, a clear case of mass hypnosis where seemingly sensible people went pie-eyed for a Mediterranean stereotype in badly broken English. And his Holocaust comedy was pretty awful, too. Still, something about this Italian scallion’s shuck and jive wooed the weak willed Oscar body, resulting in a devastating loss for real actors who gave actual performances. It remains one of the Academy’s dumbest decisions ever.

Ron Howard beats Peter Jackson and David Lynch

2002 Best Director


Rewarding a journeyman for transcending his workmanlike trappings is nothing new, but the Academy usually picks a better movie than the underwhelming A Beautiful Mind. After bestowing unwarranted golden kudos on the supreme hack of the screenplay, Akiva Goldsman, Oscar went one better and tossed former child star ‘Opie Cunningham’ a little mantle magic all his own. That Mind made mincemeat of Mulholland Dr. and the first of what would be three massive Tolkien treasures stands as proof that it was still business as usual, even in a new millennium.

Kevin Costner beats Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, Barbet Schroeder, and Stephen Frears

1990 Best Director


The Academy has had a long history of giving first timers - especially actors - its directing love in comparison to established career filmmakers. Back in 1981, Robert Redford took home a statue for his work on Ordinary People. Nine years later, the Bull Durham star deconstructed the Western, and Academy voters went wonky. They ignored four other famous helmsmen to give the novice their notice. Dances with Wolves has its merits, but ‘89 was clearly the year of Goodfellas. Apparently, no one in AMPAS thought so.

Chariots of Fire beats Raiders of the Lost Ark

1982 Best Picture


In what many saw as a box office no-brainer, Steven Spielberg’s brilliant throwback to the Saturday matinee serials of the ‘40s was 1981’s clear fan favorite. By the time Oscar rolled around, the film racked up nine nominations, including Best Director and Picture nods. While his own personal fortunes were always suspect, there was no way Raiders would lose to Atlantic City, Reds, On Golden Pond, or some British film about runners. Thanks to a screenplay win early on, Chariots unseated the presumptive champion in typical underdog fashion.

Kramer vs. Kramer beats Apocalypse Now and All That Jazz

1982 Best Picture


Back when divorce was still a hot button social issue (the ‘70s was strange like that), Robert Benton’s family in crisis drama managed to walk away with several of the year’s statues. It was five for nine, snagging two for acting, screenplay, director and picture. Looking back, the movie makes for a fine character study. But when put up alongside Coppola’s Vietnam fever dream and Bob Fosse’s autobiographical binge, it seems like a less solid choice.

Rocky beats Network, Taxi Driver, and All the President’s Men

1977 Best Picture


It will always remain a surreal situation. While nominated for 10 total awards, it looked like Sylvester Stallone’s labor of love was about to be swept out of the ‘77 ceremony. Then, in one of the most unlikely upsets ever, John G. Avildsen won Best Director (beating shoe-in Sidney Lumet) and Rocky took home the top prize. While a fine film in its own right, the notion that it managed to trounce a trio of post-modern classics confirms the Academy’s occasional lose grip on motion picture reality.

The Color Purple Goes 0 for 11

1986 Awards


At this point in his career, Steven Spielberg was constantly referred to as the most popular, influential, and considered director not to win the big one (apparently, the East Coast bias against Scorsese was still in full force). So when he took on Alice Walker’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel about rural African Americans in ‘30s America, his eventual win (and several more for the film) seemed like a foregone conclusion. Spielberg even received the coveted DGA blessing, making him the presumptive favorite. In pure Oscar style, he wasn’t even nominated.

Pulp Fiction Goes 1 for 7

1995 Awards


Sometimes, the shortsighted nature of the entire awards process more or less mandates Academy missteps. Though many saw it as nothing more than an overreaching critical darling, Quentin Tarantino’s cult crime epic has gone on to be one of the most influential films in the recent history of cinema. Of course, it couldn’t beat the feel good flimsiness of Forrest Gump (that year’s Oscar sweetheart) and QT did get the conciliatory screenplay nod. He and his still remarkable film deserved much, much more.

2001: A Space Odyssey Fails to Get a Best Picture Nod

1969 Awards


While a sensibility soaked in Star Wars might argue about Stanley Kubrick’s sci-fi meditation on man’s place in the cosmos, the truth is that the 1968 spectacle stands as a singular cinematic achievement. Yet, somehow, it failed to earn a Best Picture nomination. Clearly, the Academy thought Rachel, Rachel, Franco Zefferelli’s Romeo and Juliet, The Lion in Winter, Funny Girl, and eventual winner Oliver! were much more representative of the medium. Almost 40 years later, it’s clear which film remains the most iconic, and important.

by PopMatters Staff

17 Feb 2009

New albums out this week that are available in full on lala.com for streaming…

//Mixed media
//Blogs

Ubisoft Understands the Art of the Climb

// Moving Pixels

"Ubisoft's Assassin's Creed and Grow Home epitomize the art of the climb.

READ the article