Vs. the (Pop) World

By Juan Manuel Freire

Vs. the (Pop) World   Juan Manuel FreireWith the arrival of “The Social Network” in cinemas, many people have taken the opportunity to read the riot act to Facebook and it’s users. How nice, someone dares to slag Facebook off on the screen, they seem to say. I was right and my friends weren’t, etc. But “The Social Network” isn’t so much about the experience of Facebook as it is about the building of an empire, and with that, the personal costs and gains involved for Mark Zuckerberg, who, really, doesn’t come out of the film looking too bad. He is presented as a bloke shut up in his own world, and who’s hard to get on with, but also one who has a lot of ingenious ideas and a very personal sense of style (we’re referring to those Adidas thongs). In Aaron Sorkin’s script there are traces of nostalgia for the pre-internaut world, but director David Fincher, with his dynamic quality, drive, and intensity, doesn’t hide a certain fascination, and even admiration for Zuckerberg, the nerd who beat the jocks. Yes, “The Social Network” is the “Citizen Kane” of John Hughes’ films.

What it isn’t, of course, is the great anti-Facebook film. I don’t know anybody who has dropped out of the social network after seeing “The Social Network”. Essentially because Facebook is good. The medium isn’t the message. It all depends on the use you make of it. Of course, it can be a gossip mill and the quickest way to get rid of an ex-girlfriend in a beastly manner—something I’ve never seen, by the way—but it is also an infinite source of information and discussion, in a more closed, personal way than on Google, since one chooses whose opinions, recommendations—even moods—one wants to know about. Personally, I see nothing wrong with a space where every day, every hour, every minute, I can know something new about friends or about people that I admire. Film critic Tim Lucas said that he got less out of “The Social Network” than out of two hours on Facebook. I don’t entirely agree, two hours with Fincher and Sorkin has a lot to offer, but Lucas’ opinion is bold and refreshing.

Disappointing New Music Pitchfork, what have you come to? In recent weeks, not only have you put down the latest work from El Guincho, The Hundred In The Hands and, recently, Darkstar (more in 5x140), but you also raised a frankly irregular album like Sufjan Stevens’ album The Age of Adz to the category of “Best New Music”. That score of 8.4 puts it a few tenths of a point above “Seven Swans”, and that is not on. Because Stevens’ new album contains moments that cause Stendhal Syndrome, like the sex scene between the princess and the fish in the latest film from Apichatpong, but it is drowned in indietronic rhythms, inconsiderate use of Auto-Tune, and poorly-assimilated new age influences. It is the sound of an artist fleeing from himself—from his former affectedness and one-time classic sense of beauty and art—and I doubt that he is really moving forwards. The previous EP, “All Delighted People”was infinitely preferable, seeming in retrospect like a sort of consolation prize for those of us who expected more poetry than ugliness from his new album.

There is Nothing ‘Uncool’ Left

Among the clear influences on the latest from Sufjan is Mike Oldfield, and not exactly the best Oldfield, either—when is James Murphy going to do a revision of “Family Man”?– it’s more Oldfield in his endless solos. “Vesuvius” left me a little speechless, and not for good reasons. The song, on the other hand, forms a part of a mini-current of reclaiming-rehabilitating 80’s names that weren’t very highly respected by current indie. Not long ago, the Norwegian program Lydverket broadcasted an interview with Phil Collins and, as a sort of introduction, it showed clips of Alan Palomo (Neon Indian), Derek Miller (Sleigh Bells) or Anand Wilder (Yeasayer) speaking about their love for Genesis and Phil Collins. And later we have Gayngs, which after covering Godley & Crème’s “Cry” (“you make me wanna cryyy”), have now recorded themselves performing Alan Parsons’ “Eye in the Sky”in the country. It seems like a sincere act and, besides, it’s emotional. For better or for worse, there is no longer anything uncool.

57 Channels (and There’s Nothing on) Last month I was wondering, already at the end, if I was still going to be able to enjoy “The Big Bang Theory” now that its actors –Jim Parsons, Johnny Galecki and Kaley Cuoco– are being paid US $200,000 an episode. Laughing with Galecki is going to be a particularly tough challenge: it turns out that he secretly dated Cuoco for two years, a romance recently made public in the magazine Us. But I’ll have to give it a shot, because if our laughter had to depend on the new sitcoms out since the summer, our facial muscles would surely atrophy. “Outsourced” is a string of offensive jokes (which claim to be for the general public) about the population of India. The only joke in “Mike & Molly” is that the starring couple is fat. Poor and mediocre. “$#*! My Dad Says” will soon become “$#*! Nobody Sees”. A little better, though nothing to write home about, is “Better with You”, a new “Friends” clone –its creator is Shana Goldberg-Meehan, veteran of the series– whose jokes about the contrasts between relationships in different generations smell like mothballs. There might also be a certain hidden potential in “Running Wilde” from the creator of “Arrested Development” Mitchell Urwitz, or “Raising Hope”, by Greg Garcia, similar in landscape and tone to his popular “My Name Is Earl”. If none of this works, it is almost better to be serious, but happy: “Mad Men” and “Rubicon” have finished their seasons in style.

Post-LOSTIt’s true that really, Facebook can fix your day, although it can also make you miserable. Like when my friend Daniel Pérez Agudo said that he was about to see “The Constant” –the best episode of “Lost”– commented on by Carlton Cuse live and in person, at an event held in Madrid. If I had won the Euromillons that day, I would have still been upset and in a bad mood. At least the announcement served to start up an educational discussion in which some people said that “Lost” wasn’t such a big deal, while others of us confessed and proclaimed a cosmic sense of missing it. While awaiting the unlikely spin-off, we can follow their faces on the small screen or the big one. The remake of “Hawaii Five-0” (see the video) includes Jin (Daniel Dae Kim) as Detective Chin Ho Kelly, in the original role played by Kam Fong. “30 Days of Night: Dark Days”, the direct-to-video sequel to “30 Days of Night”, seems to have been made with the fans of “Lost” in mind: the heroine is—look out—the unspeakable Nikki (Kiele Sanchez, a poor substitute for Melissa George), and poor Michael (Harold Perrineau) also appears. And the latest addition to the geek dream that is “Mission: Impossible IV” is James Sawyer, or Josh Holloway. His fellow cast member Simon Pegg was already dreaming on Twitter about all of the impossible nicknames he’ll get from him.

What the Heart will Bear

Yes, it’s true. Watching all of “30 Days of Night: Dark Days” only because Nikki and Michael are on it is an act of blind faith. There is a limit to everything, or almost everything. There shouldn’t be for love, though, as Feist reminded us in “Limit to your Love”, a reproachful pop ballad –in the intersection between Nico and the Carpenters– now wonderfully redone by the post-dubstep demigod James Blake. The version is accompanied by a subtle, emotive video clip by Martin de Thurah, who has been creating musical images that are not at all cliché, possessed by magic, for half a decade—check out his video clip for Carpark North’s “Human" .

Robyn, Again

No, please. Let’s not wait for it’s inevitable appearance as an ordinary album to celebrate all of the virtues of the three-part project “Body Talk” by Robyn. Her presence in this column is beginning to be suspicious –no, no, I don’t have any Swedish blood– but faced with songs like “Indestructible”, her absence would be suspicious. Like she did with “Hang with Me”, acoustic on “Body Talk Pt. 1” and danceable in the second part, Robyn has made the ballad that closed her previous EP into dance-pop suitable for all publics and, nevertheless, tolerable. More than that: ecstatic. Why isn’t this playing on the radio? What has to happen? How many centuries have to pass?

Beef of the SeasonYou can see in the opening of sections like “Where’s The Beef?” on Stereogum: the alternative public likes gossip just as much or more than the anonymous visitors who enter Perez Hilton’s blog. In this column we’ve reported the face-offs between Bethany Cosentino and Marnie Stern, and Wyclef Jean and Sean Penn. In recent weeks, the public and critics have faced off against Joaquin Phoenix for driving people crazy for months with a trick that has really only served to make a mockumentary that is of much lower quality than “Borat”. But the conflict between Shia LaBeouf and Frankie Muniz ( “Malcolm in the Middle”) is juicier, already old and now revived by the former. On the radio program “The Bert Show”, LaBeouf made a derogatory remark when asked about his long list of recent successes: “You could have put Frankie Muniz into any of the movies I’ve been in and it would’ve still been No. 1.” And assuring the audience he wasn’t afraid of revenge, he added: “I don’t go to many parties… and I really don’t hang out in Frankie Muniz-type zones.” Old Malcolm’s response? Brief, but intense (via Twitter): “Dear Shia Labeouf. It’s getting creepy the fact that you can’t stop talking about me. It’s been 12 years now. I don’t know you. Thanks.” Frankie is right. And of course, if you’re going out with Carey Mulligan, what more can you ask of life? Shannyn Sossamon

If you don’t remember her name, don’t worry. It’s been too long since this actress made a truly memorable film: the last one must have been “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” in 2005, in the role of the Girl with the Pink Hair. (Before, we had fallen in love with her successively in “A Knight’s Tale”, “40 Days and 40 Nights” and “The Rules of Attraction”). But don’t think that Sossamon was wasting her time between 2005 and 2010, because she had time, for example, to play the drums in Warpaint, one of the most promising girl groups—look, we had better just leave it with “one of the most promising groups”—in recent indie rock. Now their album, “The Fool”, has come out, and Shannyn isn’t in the line-up anymore, but she did direct the video clip of “Undertow”. Now, let’s see if they also slip the song into the series that she is participating in, the addictive hipster dramedy, “How to Make It in America.”

You Have to Come in, Of Course

Besides “The Social Network”, there is another film out in the cinemas now that is a total must-see. The idea of an American remake of “Let Me In” –so recent, so perfect– seems a little odious, but in the hands of Matt “Cloverfield” Reeves it becomes one of the most moving film experiences of the year. A more subjective, warmer point of view (fewer general shots and more close-ups), a central action sequence not included in the original and not suitable for people with heart problems, and masterful use of pop songs (David Bowie, The Vapors, Culture Club) are among it’s peculiarities, but they aren’t the only ones. In a better world, one that isn’t so uptight, with so many prejudices, it would be nominated for awards—it is up for a Gotham– and it should be at the top of the lists of the year. See it and enjoy it from the edge of your seat.

5x1401) Kurt Wagner & Cortney Tidwell/Invariable Heartache: The giant and the sweetheart of Nashville, together to kill. The more torch song, the better.

2) Ben Folds & Nick Hornby/Lonely Avenue: The cult singer-songwriter did the music, Nick Hornby the lyrics. It had to happen, and it has happened big-time.

3) Antony And The Johnsons/Swanlights: Atmospheric, furtive, easy to listen to, hard to untangle. The only false note is “Thank You for Your Love”.

4) Salem/King Night: Like Lil Wayne slowed down and dragged by the hair out of club nights to isolationist nights. Brutal.

5) Darkstar/North: A wonder of nocturnal pop in (deceptive) low fidelity. Like the missing link between the latest Hood and Junior Boys.

Next: The dubstep remix of “The Room”, who Taylor Swift’s songs are about, the sinister Julie Christmas, the popular rehabilitation of Mel Gibson, “The Event”, some beef, etc.

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