Tag: Criticism

Liking *Low* Culture – Jersey Shore, example of

King’s favorite chapter in Tacky is the one following how the reality TV show Jersey Shore helped her bond with her father. She recalls coming home from college for winter break, and stumbling upon her dad transfixed by the show. When King went back to college, her dad would call her every Thursday at 11 p.m. for recaps of the latest episode.

“I was having a really hard time at college, just really depressed and felt really adrift and untethered. And those phone calls were a real lifeline to me, I mean, my dad kept me tethered to the Earth.”

Ever since her father died, King remembers those phone calls even more fondly. She hopes her family’s love for Jersey Shore proves that culture’s purpose isn’t only to be be “good,” but also to bring people together.

“Like yeah, Jersey Shore was silly and loud… But it was also really important to us in its way. I think that one big part of being able to engage with any piece of culture joyfully, regardless of what it is, is having somebody to do it with.”


Discussion with author Rax King regarding her book,
Tacky: Love Letters to the Worst Culture We Have to Offer

KISS and the Arbiters of Cool

I asked Gene if he remembered that line and he said, “Yes. The rock press was always attracted to the Talking Heads, Television, the Ramones, the New York Dolls, the Sex Pistols—bands who couldn’t sell out a stadium or even an arena. There is a side to that media completely devoid of connection to the people who make up most of the rock audience, a holier-than-thou Jon Landau disease, as if they are telling kids that they and they alone know what’s important. We are still not in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but there are three thousand licensed Kiss products, a Kiss toothbrush that plays ‘(I Want to) Rock and Roll All Nite’ when you put it in your mouth, and everything from Kiss caskets to Kiss condoms. There are no Radiohead condoms.”

Bumping Into Geniuses
Danny Goldberg

Nanny Barron – Emerson’s Tortured Neighbor

And surely this journal entry should refute Henry James’s view that Emerson possessed no awareness of “the dark, the foul, the base”: “Now for near five years I have been indulged by the gracious Heaven in my long holiday in this goodly house of mine, entertaining and entertained by so many worthy and gifted friends, and all this time poor Nanny Barron, the mad-woman, has been screaming herself hoarse at the Poorhouse across the brook and I still hear her whenever I open my window.”

Bound to Please: An Extraordinary One-Volume Literary Education
Michael Dirda
from a review of:
Emerson: The Mind on Fire
by Robert D. Richardson, Jr.

Andrew Sarris Remembrance

THE ARRIVAL IN MY LIFE of Film Culture 28 in the spring of 1963, with Andrew Sarris’s preliminary sorting out of American movie directors that became the basis for his greatly expanded The American Cinema (published in 1968), was one of those before and after moments. It’s hard even to reconstruct what it was like to have the past of American film suddenly spread out, a map of a country known previously only through rumor and fragmentary glimpses. Not just a map: a map accompanied with pointed commentary by a guide at once passionate and endlessly curious. It was all so exotic then. The very titles of the movies seemed like a strange kind of recovered poetry. But it was our own past, a lost world of universal neighborhood experience that had been occulted and buried. He pointed out things that I didn’t know existed and argued persuasively for their importance. Rarely had there been such a cascade of information and insights and urgently communicated judgments.

andrew sarris, 1928–2012
O’Brien, Geoffrey. Stolen Glimpses, Captive Shadows

Vincent Vega in the Bathroom – Pulp Fiction FAQ

5. Why did Vince leave his gun on the counter at Butch’s apartment when he went to the bathroom?
Quite simply, he didn’t, the gun belonged to Marsellus. Vince was clearly with somebody else at the apartment as he didn’t react when Butch came in, thinking it was his partner. Jules had given up ‘the life’ by this point and Marsellus was probably filling in on this job. For further evidence look at the scene where Butch runs Marsellus over; the ‘big man’ is carrying two cups and as he is near to Butch’s apartment, we can assume that he is Vince’s partner.

8. What was the book that Vince was reading on the toilet?
“Modesty Blaise”, a pulpy novel written by Peter O’Donnell in 1965 which is very much in keeping with the film’s title.

The film opens in a diner as a couple of thieves discuss the possibility of holding up restaurants. This leads us into three distinct strands; a date between a hit man and the wife of his boss, the boxer who is supposed to throw a fight and the cleaning up of a hit man’s mistake. The stories are told in non chronological order and we finally return to the diner for the final scene.


Eric Bentley, Critic Who Preferred Brecht to Broadway, Dies at 103 – The New York Times

Mr. Bentley published one admired collection of criticism after another, among them “In Search of Theater” (1953) “What Is Theater?” (1956) and “The Life of the Drama” (1964) — “the best general book on theater I have read bar none,” the novelist Clancy Sigal wrote in The New Republic.

Mr. Bentley’s book “Bernard Shaw” (1947) prompted Shaw himself to say that he considered it the best book written about him.

Eric Bentley, Critic Who Preferred Brecht to Broadway, Dies at 103
Christopher Lehmann-Haupt
August 5, 2020

Related: In Praise of Self Pity, an excerpt from The Life of the Drama.

Threepenny Opera Review – Village Voice

“There are two shows, really, at the Theatre de Lys. One has a cast of 20 ebullient and engag­ing actors and actresses.… The other show has a cast of one, and her name is Lotte Lenya. Miss Lenya is, as you know, not merely the widow of Kurt Weill but the original Jenny of the original Berlin production of Dreigroschenoper. For rea­sons of plot, she is hardly seen, much less heard from, until somewhere near the middle of Act II, when the scene shifts to the reception room of a whorehouse. What happens next is I hope enough to raise the hair on your neck, as it did mine. Critics are always being advised to stay away from the word electric; I can only say that there is no other word available to me, at this late hour, with which to categorize that instant when Miss Lenya shambles front and center to exhale the first weary, husky, terrible notes of her hus­band’s famous song about the Black Freighter.… Her voice lifts and hardens into the reprise (‘ …and the blaaaaaack frayta…’), and suddenly all the essential blandness and healthiness of all that has gone before is swept away, and we are stark up face to face against a kind of world and a kind of half-century that no one born this side of the water can ever quite fully make, or want to make, his own.” – Jerry Tallmer, 1955

A Brief History of Off-Broadway, 1955–1985
A special supplement — with selections from 30 years of the Voice — dedicated to the artists of Off-and Off-Off-Broadway.

Creem Magazine Documentary

In 1973, the commune experiment ended and Creem relocated into a proper office in Birmingham, one of Detroit’s toniest suburbs. Still, the city’s scrappy, underdog spirit remained a crucial element of the magazine’s aesthetic. “I don’t think it could have existed anywhere else,” Alice Cooper said in a phone interview. “In New York it would have been more sophisticated; in L.A. it would have been a lot slicker. Detroit was the perfect place for it, because it was somewhere between a teen magazine and Mad magazine and a hard rock magazine.”

The Wild Story of Creem, Once ‘America’s Only Rock ’n’ Roll Magazine’
A new documentary traces the rise and fall of the irreverent, boundary-smashing music publication where Lester Bangs did some of his most famous work.
Mike Rubin

Dwight MacDonald – Hangs it up as Esquire’s Movie Critic

When kitsch becomes not predominant – it has been for two hundred years – but monopolistic, then one finds that as the years go by one has already reviewed, under another title, almost every new film one sees. While a good movie is sui generis, so that one has to respond to it specifically and individually, bad movies fall into categories and, once one has dealt with the category, it is tedious to keep repeating the demonstration. I seem to have been making the same essential criticisms, for example, of anything-goes unfunny comedies from Zazie in 1961 to What’s New, Pussycat? last year and Morgan! last month. It gets tiresome. About all one can do with bad movies, after a while, is to treat them tangentially, as sociology or cultural history, but this isn’t criticism, and it also gets tiresome, for here, too there is repetition. I’ve said as much as I can, directly and tangentially, about those corny Biblical epics and about the “underground” school, and I cannot face having to grapple with any more of the same. I have been accused of “not liking movies,” which is nonsense: my difficulty is I like them too much so cannot bear to see the medium’s wonderful, infinite possibilities not used to the utmost; I still think as I did in the twenties that the cinema is the great modern art – potentially.

While I like to carp and complain, even for me there is a limit.

Dwight MacDonald, On Movies