Rookie Magazine -- Tavi Gevinson's online features site for teenage girls -- has a fabulous feature called "Ask a Grown Man," and the featured "grown men" this week? Thom Yorke and Nigel Godrich of Atoms For Peace and Radiohead.
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My first reaction when I saw "Evil Dead" at SXSW was surprise that the MPAA had allowed the film to go out with an R-rating. I have no problem with extreme gore in a film, particularly if I'm going to see a movie called "Evil Dead," and I enjoyed the fact that Fede Alvarez goes berserk with the blood in the last third of the movie. I admire a filmmaker who goes for a lot of practical effects work and who is willing to ladle on the gruesome.
Having said that, I don't understand the rating. Not at all.
And more than that, I'm not alone in thinking that the ratings board made the wrong call on this one. It's not even just about "Evil Dead," either. There was a time when each film was rated in a vacuum, and just because one film got an R, it didn't mean anything regarding any other film. That all changed a few years ago when the CARA, the actual ratings board, decided to allow filmmakers to argue precedent in an appeals process. Now you can take clips from other films into the room, show those clips, and you can push for a sort of ratings parity.
I've had three conversations this week with filmmakers who saw "Evil Dead" this weekend, and all of them had the same question for me. These are all filmmakers who have been working on genre films, and all of them have been struggling with imagery that they were afraid might skirt the NC-17. They've second-guessed themselves on the set, they've been struggling in the editing room, and they've been worried about it. And now that they've seen "Evil Dead," they all have the same question: why are they worried at all?
A review of tonight's "Cougar Town" season finale coming up just as soon as I tell you the name of the graphic novel in which I fight a robot for your affection...
Do intentions matter? As controversy swirls around Brad Paisley and LL Cool J’s “Accidental Racist,” a song on Paisley’s new album, “Wheelhouse,” out today, the criticism is coming fast and furious.
To be sure, from a musical standpoint, the song is reductive and somewhat naive...and that’s just Paisley’s part. Don’t get me started on LL Cool J’s rap, which I will delve into more later. But if you can get past the awkwardness and clunkiness, the song raises some interesting issues that we like to pretend don’t exist, but still do.
I spent some time with Paisley recently for a cover story for the current issue of Country Weekly magazine. We talked at considerable length about “Accidental Racist.” He said he didn’t write the song to be “provocative,” but that he also didn’t want to pull any punches. He’d been accused of being racist once when he’d worn a music act's t-shirt with a Confederate flag on it, and that had served as a wake-up call for him.
In our conversation, it was clear he had spent a great deal of time thinking about race relations in the south and studying the Civil War. This wasn’t a song he wrote casually or without great care. He wanted the song to make people think and to continue a dialogue that he felt had been reopened by movies like “Lincoln” and “Django Unchained.”
As a fellow southerner (Paisley is from West Virginia, but now lives in Nashville and I was born and raised in North Carolina), there are parts of his lyrics that resonate with me. When I lived in Chicago and New York, I often met people who assumed I was prejudiced simply because I had a southern accent or who made other presumptions about me because I was from south of the Mason-Dixon. While I find some of Paisley’s lyrics overly simplistic, I can relate to some of what he brings up. I am so proud to be Southern, but the slavery issue will never be something that I can ignore as part of the South’s tragic past (even though neither one of my parents were Southern). It’s one of the most glaring examples of being on the wrong side of history that anyone can imagine. Paisley isn’t trying to excuse it or rationalize it away in any way, shape or form in “Accidental Racist.” He's trying to understand why it haunts us so much 150 years later and how we can move on.
On the other hand, LL Cool J’s rap just feels dunderheaded and it sinks the song. There are a few good points: when he brings up feeling a distrust of someone in a white cowboy hat, I can understand that, but the part I can’t wrap my head around is LL Cool J’s equating any of the prejudices that blacks may have against whites as in any way even remotely comparable to slavery. When I first heard, “If you don’t judge my gold chains, I’ll forget my iron chains,” my jaw may have literally dropped to the floor. Almost as bad is “If you don’t judge my doo-rag, I won’t judge your red flag” and “The past is the past, do you, feel me?” I understand the intention is to move ahead and try to focus on common ground rather than focus past differences, but his part just doesn’t work.
Paisley wrote his words and LL Cool J wrote his own, but since it’s Paisley’s record, the buck ultimately has to stop with him and I find myself wishing he’d challenged LL Cool J a little bit more to think about what he was saying there. By no means is Paisley’s part perfect, but I wonder if there would be such an outcry if the song only featured Paisley’s honest, earnest questioning about how to reconcile his heritage.
In the broader arc of Paisley’s career, there’s a point that not a lot of the pundits who are piling on him right now have brought up. If you’ve followed Paisley over the past dozen years, you know his heart is pure, when it comes to these kinds of questions. To be sure, he’s not clinging to his shotgun, declaring that “A Country Boy Can Survive” like Hank Williams Jr. He’s a post-modern southerner, proud of where he’s from, but very well aware of its unforgivably flawed past.
He’s shown us so many different sides. There’s the comedic Paisley who pokes fun of the internet on “Online” or rednecks with “Camouflage.” There’s the guitar wiz Paisley, who is awe inspiring with his combination of dexterity, speed, and clarity. Then there’s the Paisley that interests me the most: the Paisley that wants to make us, and all country fans, think and stretch our minds a little bit. Sometimes it’s done subtly and other times, more obviously.
On 2009’s “American Saturday Night,” verse after verse details what we consider a typical evening out in the United States without ever thinking about how much of our culture came from other places. It’s a reminder that we are a melting pot and that we, as a nation, drew the best from the immigrants who came here and made them our own. Find me one other country song that makes that point, as subtle as it may be.
Paisley wrote 2009’s “Welcome To the Future,” another song that explicitly mentions race, after Obama’s election. The song, one of his best, mentions a black friend who had a cross burned on his yard after asking out the (presumably white) homecoming queen, as well as references Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King and how progress comes and we should all embrace it. Paisley played the songs at Obama’s Inaugural Ball in January.
Even on his most recent No. 1, “Wheelhouse’s” “Southern Comfort Zone,” he talks about the wonders of travel and how it opens up one’s world. This is not your typical country artist who is content to sit on the front porch.
He’d probably blanch at my use of this word, but in my mind, Paisley is one of the few artists who consistently gets mainstream country radio play, who has a progressive streak.
For his part, Paisley took to Twitter last night and today to respond to the criticism: “...I hope the album rocks you,soothes you,raises questions,answers,evokes feelings, all the way through until [closing track] 'Officially Alive'” and added, I imagine about the controversy, “'Cause I wouldn't change a thing. This is a record meant to be FAR from easy listening. But fun. Like life. Have a ball, ya'll. love- brad.” Today, he added “This is what I love about albums. Especially country albums. So many different topics can be explored.So So many conversations can start here..”
That’s my hope too. It’s fine, and quite frankly, very understandable not to like the song simply because, as one website claimed, it’s horrible. But to dismiss it out of hand seems to squander an opportunity to continue the conversation that is very real and that needs to be ongoing.
Especially when it comes to music made by women, rock bands are frequently described in terms of their infancy or when they're all-grown-up. Rarely is there an album that so perfectly encapsulates the in-between, the space where Paramore now occupies with the release of their self-titled set out this week.
At the end of the day, as I turned out the lights in the bedroom shared by Toshi, age seven, and Allen, age five, when I asked them to vote for which of the four films they saw during the day was their favorite, they answered quickly, not even hesitating.
"'Beetlejuice,'" said Allen.
"'Harvey,'" said Toshi.
And keep in mind, this was the day they saw their first ever Indiana Jones movie. I'm as surprised as you are.
The first full day of the Film Nerd 2.0 Spring Break Film Festival started with a 10:00 AM screening of "Beetlejuice." The boys have seen the work of Tim Burton in no particular order. At this point, they've seen "Frankenweenie" (both versions), "Edward Scissorhands," "Pee Wee's Big Adventure," and Toshi has seen "Mars Attacks!" They know Tim Burton as a brand name, and they went with me to the LACMA exhibit on Burton's work. "Beetlejuice" has been a film they've been asking about for a while, and I figured they were ready to appreciate the mix of humor and horror that the film navigates.
It was a running gag in this season's "Justified" reviews that I wanted FX to create a web series around Jere Burns' Kentucky wiseguy character in which Wynn Duffy reacted to surprising things. A few days ago, a reader named Jason McNamara actually came up with the perfect premise and title: "Wynnipeg," a shameless rip-off of the Steve Van Zandt Netflix series "Lilyhammer," in which Wynn stays in Canada and teaches the locals how we do things south of the 49th parallel.
Little did I know that a "Wynnipeg"-esque spin-off of a current great drama was potentially going to be a real thing. Today, Deadline is reporting(*) that Sony is exploring the idea of creating a "Breaking Bad" spin-off centered around Bob Odenkirk as Saul Goodman, created by Vince Gilligan and veteran "Breaking Bad" writer Peter Gould, who wrote season 2's "Better Call Saul." The show would be a comedy, though potentially an hour-long one.
This article first appeared in part at InContention.com on May 24, 2011. It seemed like a good time to re-purpose it for new readers here at HitFix with the release of "To the Wonder" on the horizon.
Richard Linklater's "The School of Rock" was one of the best films of 2003. That opinion seemed odd to many at the time -- it's one of the handful of latter year declarations I've made that just didn't go down easily for some -- but I stand by it. It's a brilliant screenplay with a top notch movie star performance and it's a thematically resonant piece of work.
Apparently legendary musical theatre impresario Andrew Lloyd Webber is of a similar mind, as he's snatched up the stage rights to the 2003 comedy. The news apparently came via CBC radio as Webber said he was very excited to tackle the project.
Slowly but surely, the trailers for this year's (probable) Cannes selections are trickling in: we had "The Bling Ring" recently, "Only God Forgives" last week, "The Past" over the weekend and "Behind the Candelabra" yesterday. Today's Cannes taster isn't quite as eagerly anticipated, but it's for a film that is very likely to be in Competition: Italian auteur Paolo Sorrentino's "La Grande Bellazza."
Avril Lavigne’s new single, “Here’s To Never Growing Up” may reference Radiohead in its first line, but the act it most recalls is Ke$ha. The sing-songy track, built around a big, kick-drum stomp, sounds like a cross between the “Tik-Tok” singer and the arena hands-in-the-air, acoustic-guitar-strumming, simple-minded tunes crafted by Nickelback’s leader, Chad Kroeger, who just happens to be a co-writer on the song and Lavigne’s fiance. Throw in a little dose of "Girlfriend's" attitude and call it a day.
With lines like “we’ll be running down the street yelling kiss my HEY/We’ll be like, 'yeah, whatever,' we’re still living like that,” the song is an aptly-titled salute to staying forever young (so much so that one cover of the single features Lavigne holding a teddy bear).
Lavigne has always had an annoyingly mannered delivery, but it reaches new heights on “Growing Up,” “boom” sounds like “bim,” and when she sings, “This is who we are,” you’ll swear you fell into a vat of Ke$ha’s “We R Who We R.”
[More after the jump...]
A review of last night's "Bates Motel" coming up just as soon as I think you're pretty like an old woman...