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Ken Tucker
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I’d pretty much had it with serial-killer narratives – on TV, in movies, in pop novels. I was tired of the dead-helpless-women trope that recurs in too many of these plots, weary of the murderers who are frequently portrayed as brilliant masterminds we’re meant to reluctantly admire, exhausted by the hardboiled ethos that’s accrued around the men and women who solve these cases. But then along came, last weekend, the premiere of True Detective, on HBO. It’s about two police homicide detectives in Louisiana and how they handled a very grim case. The detectives are played by Matthew McConaughey and... Continue reading
Posted Jan 16, 2014 at The Best American Poetry
The subtitle to the film Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer, a documentary airing on HBO tonight (June 10, 9 p.m.), is accurate: Nadia Tolokonnikova, Masha Alyokhina, and Katya Samutsevich, who were arrested on Feb. 21, 2012, after performing for 40 seconds on the alter of Moscow’s Christ the Savior Cathedral, do indeed embody many of the precepts of 1970s punk-rock culture. Although presenting themselves as a band, they view their work as performance art as much musical performance. A collective of unstated numbers of young women, Pussy Riot has found its most effective communication tool to be planned “spontaneous” musical... Continue reading
Posted Jun 10, 2013 at The Best American Poetry
George Jones, who died this past Friday at age 81, had long been lauded as one of the greatest voices in country music history. He was also, along with Hank Williams, one of country music's most cautionary tales, with a history of alcoholism, substance abuse, marital woes, and career mismanagement that would have forced a lesser man into early retirement or (as in the case of Hank) an early death. Unlike Williams, Jones was never a great songwriter; he was a great interpreter of others' songs. He was very much a contradictory artist: A loner who did some of his... Continue reading
Posted Apr 28, 2013 at The Best American Poetry
Richard Hell wrote one of the best songs built around one of the least useful, or at least most misunderstood, phrases of 1970s punk rock in “Blank Generation,” for his band the Voidoids. To his great credit, as his new memoir I Dreamed I Was a Very Clean Tramp: An Autobiography (Ecco Books) proves, he and a few of his cohorts were among the least blank, most thoughtful and informed young musician-writers working during that period, not nihilists but poets with the romanticism wrung out of them by some combination of natural asperity, experience with music-biz venality, and a genuine... Continue reading
Posted Mar 17, 2013 at The Best American Poetry
The wonderful TV and literary critic and dexterous light-verse emitter, Clive James, once wrote that “J.R. Ewing’s reign as the King of Dallas reached its apotheosis under Reagan. Now that corrupt America was passé and straight-arrow America was back in business, it was time for J.R. to get his. The shooting of J.R. was announced in advance all over the world. It was fictional, but it made news like fact… J.R. was no longer an actor, he was a real man. He was more than that, he was a Messiah. He rose from the dead and continued with the next... Continue reading
Posted Mar 12, 2013 at The Best American Poetry
This week’s Girls was a high point in a second season that’s been a bit of a disappointment. After making a well-deserved media splash as a novel TV approach to the depiction of Young Women In Our Time, Girls is showing some of the wear and tear that occurs when an ambitious creator also becomes The New Voice of Her Generation. (Promise: no more capitalized theme phrases from hereon.) At least, that’s the sense I get, given the timing, shooting schedule, and result of Lena Dunham’s intensely scrutinized, It’s Not Just TV (oh, damn – sorry) creation. The second season... Continue reading
Posted Feb 25, 2013 at The Best American Poetry
Here’s my Christmas book gift recommendation. To (re-)discover a first-rate critic, and read about a life that went wrong in a harrowing way, you must read Everything Is An Afterthought: The Life and Writings of Paul Nelson (Fantagraphics Press), by Kevin Avery. Nelson, who died in 2006 at age 69, was part of the first generation of rock critics, instrumental in bringing attention to musicians including Bob Dylan, Jackson Browne, the New York Dolls, and Warren Zevon. He served as the record-review editor of Rolling Stone and was an A&R man for Mercury Records. But this thumbnail sketch of Nelson’s... Continue reading
Posted Dec 4, 2011 at The Best American Poetry
Following the death of Jerry Leiber (see David Lehman’s fine tribute below) comes the news that another half of another fine songwriting team – Nick Ashford of Ashford and Simpson – has died, at age 70. While I would never claim that Ashford and Simpson’s body of work is nearly as important as Leiber and Stoller's (the latter remained unequalled until Lennon-McCartney for the range and ambition of their pop songs), Ashford and Simpson made some very beautiful music together. Early on in its career, the husband-and-wife team wrote hits for other duos, most notably Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell... Continue reading
Posted Aug 23, 2011 at The Best American Poetry
Gladys Horton, one of the lead singers for the Marvelettes, has died. It’s a measure of how little respect this great girl-group has been given that The New York Times obituary of Horton had to resort to many hedges due to a lack of outside scholarship about the group. Horton was either 64 or 65 when she died; she was born either in Inkster, Michigan, or Gainesville, Florida; the Marvelettes broke up either “in the late 1960s or early 1970s.” Sigh. I think we know the exact moment the Beatles broke up, and the precise moment Dylan “went electric,” don’t... Continue reading
Posted Jan 28, 2011 at The Best American Poetry
Newsweek has already hailed Howl as "a great film," which is exactly what it is not. Now, a great performance -- that's more like it. James Franco (above, right) captures the Allen Ginsberg we hear in our heads and know in our bones. The actor lowers or raises his diaphragm and pitch to achieve Ginsberg's soul-vibrating chant-recitations of the movie's title poem. Franco never once relies on his own crinkly-eyed smile to charm or wink at his audience. Instead, he looks at the camera with Ginsberg's cock-eyed, moist deadpan, or reproduces the Elated Allen Grin -- an ear-to-ear face-splitter that... Continue reading
Posted Sep 25, 2010 at The Best American Poetry
Kyra Sedgwick, what the hell? Connie Britton, you were robbed, football muse. Continue reading
Posted Aug 31, 2010 at The Best American Poetry
MAD MEN II Peggy peeks into Don's office sees his despair No schadenfreude, kid Continue reading
Posted Aug 28, 2010 at The Best American Poetry
MAD MEN Betty slaps Sally Children are playing outside Don drinks in the pain EMMY AWARDS THIS WEEKEND Jane Lynch will win prize Great glee splurge through cameras If Conan wins, too Continue reading
Posted Aug 27, 2010 at The Best American Poetry
My mother died a few years ago. I’ve discovered what many people already know: that you can’t predict how you’ll remember someone after she or he is gone, what memories will bob to the surface again and again.I’ve found that I’m frequently reminded of my mother just before or after I read a book. As I was growing up, my mother was the reader in the family. The only books in the house were my mother’s, and they were almost exclusively mysteries: Ellery Queen, Rex Stout,and John Dickson Carr (and Carter Dickson) were favorites. Kids imitate their parents, and so... Continue reading
Posted May 9, 2010 at The Best American Poetry
Bill Murray reads poetry while wearing a hard-hat: Continue reading
Posted May 3, 2010 at The Best American Poetry
I urge you to watch tonight’s episode of Breaking Bad, which finds Bryan Cranston’s Walter White adjusting to the dissolution of his marriage while declining to abandon one big reason it dissolved: He still wants/needs to make meth to pay the bills. He goes to a new location to ply his chemistry-teacher skills and acquires a new assistant, played by David Costabile (the scruffy villain from last season’s Damages, among many other credits). New Assistant finds it comforting to quote Walt Whitman’s “When I Heard The Learn’d Astronomer” to justify his illegal, and let’s face it, immoral ways to God... Continue reading
Posted Apr 25, 2010 at The Best American Poetry
Not content to daydream about the scenarios in which you'd like to place your favorite characters from Mad Men? Bored waiting for the new season to begin? Play with dolls. Barbie dolls. Barbie dolls of Don and Betty Draper, Roger Sterling, and Joan Holloway. (That last one isn't really fair, since Christina Hendricks is a living doll, isn't she?) Mattel is releasing what it calls a "Mad Men Barbie Collector doll collection," and even the redundancy within that phrase cannot prevent it from sounding like an unholy cross between John Fowles and Thomas Harris. The limited-edition collection has a "suggested... Continue reading
Posted Mar 10, 2010 at The Best American Poetry
The death of singer and songwriter Kate McGarrigle, at age 63 on Jan. 18 of clear-cell sarcoma, is an awful loss. As recently as Dec. 9 of the year past, she performed with her sister Anna and her children Rufus and Martha Wainwright -- one of the annual "family Christmas" shows that the McGarrigles and the Wainwrights liked to put on, this one at the Royal Albert Hall in London but more frequently at Carnegie Hall in New York.Her debut album with her sister, entitled Kate and Anna McGarrigle, was released in 1976. It set the template for every album... Continue reading
Posted Jan 20, 2010 at The Best American Poetry
Elvis Presley was born 75 years ago yesterday. As the terrific musician Patterson Hood wrote yesterday, his birth is the date the celebrate, not the anniversary of his death, since, among other reasons, "Pat Boone's daughter had the #1 record in the land the day Elvis died with 'You Light Up My Life,' so Rock and Roll wasn't much healthier than Elvis was then." It's impossible to pick a greatest-Elvis moment, of course, so I'll just give you one of mine, from his brutally great 1968 concert. The poetry occurs about 1:45 into this video, when Elvis cannot bear the... Continue reading
Posted Jan 9, 2010 at The Best American Poetry
This past Wednesday, The Poetry Project hosted a "Tony Towle at 70" celebration. Towle, to my mind the New York School's most distinctive lyric poet, was well-served by the procession of poets who saluted him, preceding his own reading. One of my heroes, Ron Padgett (a white popsicle-stick of serious whimsy), and the finely meticulous poet Jo Ann Wasserman each read separate selections from Towle's Memoir 1960-1963. Anne Waldman shook a bit more of the flaky plaster loose from the ceiling, while Bob Hershon worked the crowd (and it was indeed a crowd) like a savvy tummler. Nine poets in... Continue reading
Posted Dec 3, 2009 at The Best American Poetry
• Early on, Pete cuts off wife Trudy's questions by snapping, "Trudy, stop it with the Ellery Queen." Ellery Queen was, of course, the fictional detective and pseudonym of Frederic Dannay and Manfred B. Lee, author/star of over 20 novels and at the time of Pete's remark, probably the most well-known American detective character this side of Nero Wolfe. Two Queen mystery titles could serve as alternative-titles for this Mad Men episode: Calamity Town and The Devil To Pay. • It was nice to see news footage other than the usual Walter Cronkite-voice-breaking moment on CBS in reporting JFK's assassination.... Continue reading
Posted Nov 2, 2009 at The Best American Poetry
Thanks, everyone--made those corrections. (Sometimes I still think of Jared Padalecki as Dean from Gilmore Girls--duh.) Happy Supernaturalizing!
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Mr. Phillips--you're right: Hader's Malkovich was very good & I shd have mentioned it. Done. Thanks.
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Really, really funny... because, as they say, it's true. Thank you, Whitney.
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AJ--You're right: Larry, not Henry. Got my names-ending-in-"ry" confused. Thanks!
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