Be sure to sharpen your pitchforks before reading Gabe Sherman’s New York magazine schadenfreude-fest about pouty investment bankers, who from behind the cloak of anonymity complain about how unfair life has suddenly become for them. It turns out the bankers are “angry” because they are having to pay higher taxes and because their plutocratic bonuses seem to be a thing of the past. As Sherman notes, “In a witch hunt, the witches have feelings too”—but then, one could sympathize with the witches because they were singled out unfairly by an unruly mob of religious bigots. The fury at the bankers, in their callous cluelessness and their reckless endangerment of the global economy in pursuit of an extra Hamptons mansion or two, seems altogether justified and rational. The bankers aren’t some misunderstood group of well-meaning citizens; they are a group that prided themselves on their sharklike mercilessness and tenacity in extracting every last bit of advantage for themselves, and they would smirk when they rehearsed the exculpatory excuse that such single-minded greed had the inevitable by-product of economic efficiency. They were wrong about that, and they should probably get as much forgiveness as they would give us if we were opposite them at the bargaining table.
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It’s not a hard genre to mess up. There are so many pre and post production hazards to overcome that the moviemaking winds up the easiest part - some of the time. Writers and directors have to deal with producers and advisors with a vested interest in the outcome (and in most cases, how they see themselves depicted onscreen) and the subject usually gets lost in a web of superficial anecdotes, obvious symbolism, and the sort of hackneyed hero worship that fails to get behind the reasons for their fame. That’s right, of all the Hollywood go-to categories, the biopic is the most misunderstood and misapplied. From the earliest days of the artform to the current cliché ridden examples, the cinematic retelling of a noted person’s life is usually decent, but not definitive - and that’s where the problem lies.
You see, it’s almost impossible to figure out - film wise - what makes a celebrity celebrated? After all, for the most part, they are just people given over to a remarkable talent or skill that few others have. They aren’t the people they play onscreen, or represent onstage, or muse over on the printed page. Instead, they are (usually) normal individuals who have the luxury of using creativity, imagination, prescience, ability, or physical/mental acumen to forge a path in this wounded world. We admire them out of inferred jealously and/or envy, secretly wishing that we could run as fast, think as quickly, or hold enough corporate sway to become the kind of limelight the movie moth is drawn to.
‘80S NEW WAVERS BACK TO RULE THE CHARTS
Depeche Mode: Sounds of the Universe
Pet Shop Boys: Yes
Both of these artists began their lengthy careers in Southern England back in the early ‘80s, 1980 and 1981 respectively. Their 30-year careers have been punctutated by stylistic shifts, most notably in the case of Depeche Mode who began life as among the poppiest of new wave’s synth pop bands and steadily turned darker and rockier over the years. Both artists return this week with new albums that will be competing heavily for attention among Generation Xers.
Ever want to be immortalized in a song? Or, more critically, do you have a spare $150 laying around?
Say Anything, for the uninitiated, is a surprisingly literate, self-consciously humorous emo-rock act fronted by Max Bemis, a young man who has a strong, distinct personality that stands out amidst the sea of generic Alternative Press flavors-of-the-week that come and go every month without much notice. Bemis’ “official” debut album, 2004’s excellent … is a Real Boy, was a theatrical, intelligent affair that got all the attention it deserved: few emo-rock albums carry as much pop-savvy or emotional heft as this album did, never once leaning into overly-poetic (see: indulgent) lyrics, simply because Bemis was so self-deprecating to be nailed with heavy criticism. Though his follow-up disc (2007’s double-disc affair In Defense of the Genre) was predictably bloated, Bemis showed no signs of slowing down his Pollard-like output, contributing to last year’s Punk Goes Crunk album (a cover of Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s “Got Your Money”) and releasing a full-length album from his Two Tongues side-project just a few months ago.
The State (a sketch show that aired on MTV in the early 1990s) had a rabid following in its day, but its unavailability has inspired an even more intense devotion in the years since the show went to CBS to die. Its creators and cast members graduated to many other successes in film and television, but this DVD set of the complete series is something to celebrate, as it represents the starting point for the creative forces behind Stella,Reno 911!, Wet Hot American Summer, Role Models, etc.
That the set (to be released on July 14) exists at all is noteworthy. But if the MTV show site is to be believed, the five-disc release will be “jam-packed” with special features. If the set really is as impressive as advertised, perhaps fans will someday admit that this was almost worth the decade-plus wait.