Tag Archives: Bourdieu

Everyone’s a critic

According to David Andrews, “Personal taste isn’t the province of the film scholar.  It is the province of the mainstream film critic” (Theorizing Art Cinema, 33).  In other words, instead of constructing elaborate theories of or rationales about why the movies we love are the best ones and the most worthy of watching — that is, the movies that we think should be the most canonical — scholars should ward off the temptation to “articulate or defend that very personal form of connoisseurship” in favor of being “more detached, telling us what is going on and how that relates to what has gone on in the past” (33).

 

Well, sure.  But I don’t think that’s going to happen any time soon.

 

My (academic) career traveled an old-school (ahem) route from the English Department to Film Studies to Media Studies, and many of my (aged) colleagues followed a similar route (kids today, they seem to jump right into “media studies” or something comparable).  The chief reason for people to spend a decade in grad school studying literature, as I recall, was that these folks loved to read the stuff; further, they (that is, the PhDs I left behind when I jumped into the Media Industry proper) specialized in the books they liked to read most.  Nobody suggested that the Dryden scholar, for instance, should be more “detached” and shouldn’t like and advocate the (unreadable, imo) works of the Restoration; in fact, text-based “taste hierarchies” were sort of expected of ’em (and part of how profs would compete and attract grad student followers).  For film/tv acads that trickled into the electronic disciplines from literature, then, the whole point of being in film and tv is to study (and champion and pontificate about) things they love most (full confession: in my own case, I preferred watching Hitchcock to reading William Dean Howells).  Yes, Andrews is right: it is “better” to step aside from the tangentially related discipline of “film (and tv) criticism” to be more critically removed — well, better if you’ve got an agenda grounded in Cultural Studies, Marxism, Political Economy or some other discipline that treats creative works as means to an end, texts to prove larger socio-political-cultural points (and Andrews’s unspoken assumption is that one should).  But didn’t “aca-fandom” make the (ivory tower) world safe for personal taste?

 

Interestingly enough, the “detached” perspective Andrews advocates seems to be more descriptive of my former colleagues in television: it is the hallmark of a good tv programmer, as an example, that his or her personal preferences do NOT get reflected in the acquisition or scheduling of anything on a network (and the reverse — that revealing one’s taste on-air via scheduling or acquisition is a sign of amateurishness — is also true).  And for the record: I think Andrews might be a lot more believable on this “detached” score if he didn’t keep advocating the (crappy, at best) films of softcore “art-cult” filmmaker Tony Marsiglia — but to each his own, right?

 

Chantal (Marsiglia 2007)

Maybe you’ll love it?  Even more than Showgirls?

 

And I hope my (middlebrow? nobrow?) roots aren’t showing, but my favorite film in this sorta genre is Coyote Ugly:

 

 

  • I’m a Radley Metzger fan — where can I find me a copy of Anna Biller’s homage to his work, Viva?  Andrews makes it sound like fun! [YouTube]
  • Andrews’s book about soft-core sounds pretty fantastic too.  I’ll be checking it out post-comps! [Amazon]
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Welk This Way

I’m still wrestling  with Victoria Johnson’s Heartland TV*, but I was most intrigued by (maybe the same as “bored with,” paradoxically, which may be as the author intended) her fascinating(/dull) chapter about Lawrence Welk as avatar of Midwestern Squareness.  I’m no Welkian  (although I watched many an episode alongside my Bubbe during the ’70s), but I do think that the following assessment of his resistance to innovation is overstated, if not untrue: “He is also seen, in the 1960s and 1970s, as the only musical series star to counter the medium’s ‘current kick of exalting teenage beat music and the weirdos who play it'” (79; the internal quote is from a 1970 newspaper review by Pete Rahn of Welk’s “Red, White, and Blue Special”).

Well, maybe.

Submitted for your enjoyment: LW’s fantastic bass singer Larry Hooper teams up with Kenny Trimble and the LW Orchestra to tackle a brand-new rock’n’roll song that tore up the charts in 1963.  As you can tell, Hooper and Trimble double-down on the “weirdo” cred — the former as a fast-scattin’ beatnik, the latter as a what-the-fuck twin of Joe Besser’s Stinky.  Welk wasn’t the only music head who recognized how cool Mr. Bass Man was — the alt-folk/psychedelic/weirdo cult band The Holy Modal Rounders covered it after Larry W did (retitling it as “Mr. Spaceman”).

Who’s the square now?  Dig it, daddy-o, and decide for yourself:

Lawrence Welk & Co, “Mr. Bass Man”

More of LW “not chasing the teen demo” with his version of “Hey, Jude”:

… and here’s Larry Hooper the Hipster again in 1962’s  cover of the Orlons’ smash “White Watusi” (uh, sorry, I guess it’s called “Wah Watusi.”  My mistake):

 

 

… like LW says, let’s “Rock Around the Clock” …

 

 

… and a real mind-blower: Larry goes hippie, circa 1969 (in which LW “flips his bippy”):

* There’s lots of stuff I’m not sure about in Heartland TV.  The chapter on MTM shows as “Heartland” irked me, more than once: as a there-the-first-time viewer, I’m not sure I really associated the “Mary Tyler Moore Show” with the “Midwest” or a regionally specific “Heartland,” but rather a near-fictional “not New York” — a place where there was still lots of snow and a cityscape, but not so many African Americans (other than Gordy, of course).  In fact, I’d argue that there was a lot more continuity between the “Dick Van Dyke Show” (and Mary’s white-bread New Rochelle) and “TMTMS” — including a thick vein of Yiddishkeit that ran through both shows (unsurprisingly — to me, anyway — MTM’s creative team of James L. Brooks, Alan Burns, Stan Daniels and Ed. Weinberger are all East-coast Jews.  And, of course: “Rhoda”).  And as for MTM locating its shows (and their sensibilities) in the Heartland — well, what about “Paul Sands in Friends and Lovers” (NYC), “Rhoda” (NYC, duh), “The White Shadow”(LA — although I guess you could argue that the lead was a “Heartlander” who played for the Bulls), “Tony Randall Show” (Philly), “Phyllis” (the character was a SF native who returns to her coastal home), “Lou Grant” (LA again), etc.  I guess I’m also grappling with the distinction between “Heartland,” “Rural,” and “Southern” — at one point Johnson suggests a claim for Jimmy Carter as a “Heartlander” (in a reference to the “emergence of Jimmy Carter as ‘small-town virtued …'” 113), for instance — and the theme of anti-urban agrarianism that runs through the 20th Century starting with “I’ll Take My Stand” which lurks behind a lot of “Heartland-y” programming.  Was “Heartland” a re-location program for nonurban shows when “Southern” became too racially charged a geographical setting (in the post-Civil Rights era)?  By bet is so …

 

 

 

  • Larry’s gone, but you can still party on at one of his resorts! [Welk Resorts]
  • Get Stinky … or I’ll give you such a slap! [YouTube]
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Monochromatically Eponymous

In listening to the 1980 John Peel show (I’m still wallowing in nostalgia, as noted previously), I became pleasantly reminded of The Monochrome Set’s entry in one of my favorite genres, the eponymous band song.  (I’ll go out on a limb and suggest that the genre is a scourge of middlebrow critics — can you imagine a “Hey, Hey, We’re The Brown Eyes”? If such a thing exists, feel free to destroy it on my behalf).

“The Monochrome Set,” The Monochrome Set (1980)

As a lagniappe: here are a few more eponymous band songs that I love.  I hope you’re going to be insomniacally surfing the YouTubes to find some of your faves too!

“(Hey, Hey) We’re the Monkees,” The Monkees

 

“Everything’s Archie,” The Archies

“Join the Professionals,” The Professionals (here covered by The Fabulous Stains, the titular (if not eponymously named) stars of Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains (and yep, that’s Diane Lane.  And also yep, you should Netflix this movie tonight).

“The Yachting Type,” The Yachts (a slight cheat, perhaps, but I love this song)

And a cheat:

“Jocko Homo (Are We Not Men?)”, DEVO

 

 

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What’s in your barista’s messenger bag?

Samsung bashes the iPhone 4 with Mac’s own “cultural creative” stick.

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