Saturday, September 25, 2010

This is Happening!

The LCD Soundsystem show on Thursday at the Wellmont managed to be both amazing and somewhat hilarious.

Amazing for all the reasons you would expect. James Murphy sounded great, the band sounded great, he played good songs, he seemed nice, etc., etc. Even from the balcony (which practically seemed like it would collapse), the fervor of the fans was infectious, and it was one of the truly great concerts I've been to.

But why hilarious? Well, James Murphy manages to be incongruous with both the music he makes and his audience. A chubby 40 year old, dressed like a sloppy suburban dad trying to be hip, Murphy shuffle-danced around the stage, while roughly 1000 20-somethings danced raucously to his songs about mid-30s burnout. He does not look, or come across as particularly "cool" to say the least, and certainly not the person to inspire so many indie kids (unlike Sleigh Bells, the opening act, who were like 4 years of weekends at Vassar condensed into half an hour), or to make such pure, interesting dance music.

And why do we 20-somethings listen? I mean, yes, it sounds great, and it's fun, but do we relate? Are there major differences between a midlife crisis, a mid-30s crisis, or a quarterlife crisis? All My Friends may be about that time in your life when you realize you've spent so long working on your "goals" that you've missed all the fun, and try to recapture that, but it's also a great post-college anthem, when your friends are scattered around, and you want to be able to drink on Wednesdays instead of working (not that I would know about working, but you get the point). And while he may not have looked too hip right now, Murphy did give off the air of someone who knows they used to be a lot hipper, which is what makes his songs self-aware without being self-indulgent, a rare feat among indie-popular (not to be confused with indie pop) bands nowadays.

I'm not much of a dancer, and don't tend to listen to anything that could possibly be labeled as electronica, but LCD Soundsystem really transcends all of that in a way. Whether or not I can relate with his music may be besides the point when I'm dancing to it, but it definitely doesn't hurt. And so, I'm incredibly glad that this is happening, and that this show did happen.

Friday, September 17, 2010

I'm Still Here

Is Joaquin Phoenix's documentary I'm Still Here a hoax? Of course. On one hand, it seems completely obvious, once you see it, that it's not remotely real. Even if you didn't read the Casey Affleck interview that admitted it was a hoax (Unless of course you just thought that was a meta-hoax. But mostly I just wanted to use the term meta-hoax). By the time I walked out of the theater it seemed rather crazy that anyone was debating that fact. On the other hand, it took me almost until the credits (which, by the way, are rather funny, with crew members such as "gene splicer" and "philosopher") to fully come to that decision.

I'm not sure anyone would deny that Joaquin Phoenix has always been a little crazy. I could be wrong about this, but I'm almost positive that his whole "there's frogs on my head" red carpet walk was during press for Walk the Line, which happened at least a year before the documentary started. But the type of crazy he displays in I'm Still Here is just sort of sad. To believe that this is real, you essentially have the believe that his friends and management team are all terrible people. How else could they not only watch their friend and client self-destruct like this (doing lots of cocaine, having both private and public meltdowns) without intervening, but in some cases, actively encourage him, and record it all? It may not be completely unfathomable, but still, it's hard to believe.

But assuming you believe/know that it was a hoax, that still leaves two questions. First, who was in on it? Casey Affleck claims that Letterman didn't know about the hoax during Joaquin's infamous interview, but other sources claim that Letterman did know. And what about P. Diddy (since apparently the correct name to call him is "Diddy"...) and Ben Stiller, both of whom make appearances? Diddy seemed guilty, but not too guilty, when he nearly makes Joaquin cry, and if Ben Stiller didn't know the insanity was a hoax, it his Oscar sketch just seems cruel, since he would be making fun of someone who seems to have a real problem. Plus, to be honest, Ben Stiller doesn't seem like he has much of a sense of humor in real life, so I doubt he would agree to have his scenes in the movie if he didn't know. And what about the audience member Joaquin fights at his show in Miami? I'm pretty sure he was planted there for the sake of the movie. I really can't decide whether or not Letterman knew, but I assume Diddy and Ben Stiller did, which seems to simultaneously add depth to the hoax (that so many people knew) and cheapen it (that so many people knew).

Secondly, what's the point? I know this question is asked a lot about art in general, and performance art in particular*, but it really struck me with this movie, particularly as it's described as a "hoax." To me, a hoax seems to have some sort of point, unlike a mere prank. And this doesn't really seem to have a point. Maybe it's to somehow do an expose of our celebrity culture, and how we'll talk about anything to do with anyone famous, and love to hate celebrities to the point of making fun of someone who seems to have a problem. But that point is murky at best. It seems like Joaquin was just always a bit wary of celebrity status, and wanted to see what he could get away with, and what people would believe. And that's not much of a purpose.

Supposedly Joaquin is getting a lot of offers for acting roles after this, which actually surprises me a little. I wouldn't have been shocked if his announcement about retiring from acting was the only true thing in the movie, but I guess not even that is. In some ways it's a complete testament to his acting skills that people were so unable to tell whether this whole thing was real or not. He really does give the performance of his career, as Casey Affleck called it. But just the fact that he did this makes him seem like somewhat of an unlikeable person. Maybe that's just because I'm one of the mass media-consuming people he tried to pull the hoax on. It just doesn't really seem like a springboard to another Oscar-nominated role. But what do I know? At least he'll always have his rap career...**

* I most often think about this in relation to Lady Gaga. Is she Lady Gaga all the time? Is it a performance? Is she in on the fact that its' ridiculous? Does the performance aspect of it undermine the fact that she's talented, or does her talent allow her to do such crazy things? Do I really care, as long as Just Dance and Paparazi are played?
** Turns out he's not quite as bad a rapper as the online videos made him seen. Sure, he's not great, or even particularly good, but he's far from the worst rapper I've heard. In fact, given the love of AutoTune in today's music world, Joaquin could probably have a reasonably successful career, as long as no one knew it was him...

Thursday, September 16, 2010

It's been a while...

I guess I could tell you about my family's trip to Vancouver and Seattle, and how I found Vancouver somewhat unsettling, an uncrowded, too quiet simulacrum of the Miami skyline. Or I could tell you about my trip to DC, various trips to New York City (including Fashion's Night Out, which was basically a fabulous Mardi Gras of the well-dressed on Fifth Avenue), or my upcoming trip to Boston.

Or I could write the entry I had been planning for a while, about the NY Time's article on 20-somethings, and whether being lost, jobless, and confused is a new life phase. I could tell you that while the article itself was much better than most of the writing the Times does on my age group, they more or less skipped over the important influences of somewhat over-supportive parents and school systems (who insist that their kids can do anything they want, and only deserve the best), and the economy. And, as usual, they use pictures that suggest that we are all hipsters, which is clearly not true. As a lost, confused, jobless 20-something, I recognized far too much of myself in that article, though completely disagree that this is a new phase of development.

Of course, being lost and confused doesn't just apply to joblessness. After taking the GREs, in the midst of studying for the English Lit GREs, after looking at various programs, and emailing professors for recommendations, I've made the (not quite set) decision to not go to grad school next year, despite having been set for the past few months on going to an English PhD program next fall. But, like most of the jobs I've looked at, nothing just quite feels right when it comes to grad school, and I just can't really picture myself committing to so many years of school, or a career based on that schooling.

I could write about how both of the above tie into the fact that I'm planning on moving to Maryland at the beginning of October, to live with my cousin and continue to job hunt. I could try to explain why I want to leave the Manhattan area, despite the fact that most of my friends are here, and I know I'll never stop believing that it's the center of the universe. But most of my reasons for that aren't quite conscious or logical, except that I need to see what else is out there.

On a lighter note, I could tell you about the wonderful t.v. that goes along with unemployment, as I'm currently watching a third episode in a row of Kourtney and Khloe Take Miami; the Kardashians have become a bit of a fascination lately. Or on a more pretentious, but equally entertaining to some, note, I could try to say something smart and witty about Infinite Jest and my current reading odyssey.

These entires, and others that I don't even remember have more or less been written in my head, in those intervals where I try to go to sleep "early" and end up thinking up blog entries, or emails, or conversations instead. But none have been put on paper (or screen), and so most of the details have been lost over time, and as you can probably tell by the fact that my last entry was over a month ago, this blog can be called somewhat dead. I don't think it will die completely for a while, but having nothing to do makes it hard to think about/do anything, and once I have things to do, I won't update much either, for obvious reasons. As I've learned from various job descriptions, social media has become a really important part of the landscape of today's culture, and I don't want to fully give this up. Hopefully some insightful/funny/whatever blog entries will appear soon...