The HIlls, but in a Nutshell

Tonight I watched The Hills for the first time. I’d just read a lengthy piece about it in Rolling Stone while I waited at the airport for my flight this morning and I have to admit, it piqued my curiosity, especially when the writer noted that many in the culture have likened it to the Neorealism filmmaking of Michaelangelo Antonioni.

I have to admit that, for a show where virtually nothing happens, even the slightest social nuances between the characters take on an oppressive, dramatic weight. When Lo snubs Audrina when Lo and Lauren visit the studio where Alkaline Trio are recording, the impact is virtually Ivory Merchant in its magnitude. And later, when Lo describes the puppy she and Lauren rescued from a shelter as “having two mommies,” succinctly subtracting third roommate Audrina from the equation (in front of Audrina, no less), it resonates.

A lot of people contest whether or not the show is scripted or if it’s just a new take on the reality genre. After watching a couple of eps, I’d hazard it’s somewhere squarely in between–not scripted, but not completely at the mercy of chance, either. There’s clearly enough manipulation of events that leads me to believe the show is ad libbed, that the actors are given certain information they have to convey in some way that feels natural, and then it’s slickly produced and packaged for MTV’s audience.

Here’s the general structure of an episode:

LAUREN: I keep thinking about having a boyfriend.
AUDRINA: I think we should have a party.
LO: I think having a party is the dumbest idea ever.
LAUREN: How could we get boys to talk to us?
LO: I know! Let’s throw a party and invite boys!
AUDRINA: [looks wounded]
LO: Also, the puppy totally hates Audrina. I think that means something.

HEIDI: I really need to focus on my life right now.
STEPHANIE: How come nobody lets me be friends with Lauren? It’s in my contract.
SPENCER: God, Stephanie, I wish you were never born. Also, Mom drank while she was pregnant with you.
HEIDI: Spencer, stop controlling everyone’s life.
SPENCER: I do not! Shut up, shut up, I’m not even listening.
HEIDI: I’m going to Vegas so I can flirt with yummy boys and ask them to shoot my music videos.
SPENCER: [sulks]
STEPHANIE: Spencer, if you don’t get off my couch I’m going to have you arrested.

LAUREN: Do you know what I really like? Going on dates.
LO: But isn’t Audrina a bitch?
LAUREN: I’m craving sushi.
LO: What do you think about other people who aren’t in this scene? Like, isn’t Heidi a total hobag?
LAUREN: I don’t even say that name anymore. Unless I meet a boy named Heidi, then I’ll think about it.


I was overjoyed yesterday when I saw in the Apr 7 issue of the New Yorker an extensive history/discussion of the impact of the friendship of Jean-Luc Godard and François Truffaut, two of the most important filmmakers of the last decade. Godard and Truffaut revolutionized French filmmaking and, I believe, had a big hand in legitimizing film studies as a discrete discipline when they founded the seminal film journal Cahiers du Cinema with other New Wave filmmakers Claude Chabrol and Eric Rohmer.

I thought today would be a good today to let everyone know which films I most love from the French New Wave. I was lucky enough to have a whole class on the movement in college (coupled with Italian Neo-Realism) and was really inspired by the work they did:

François Truffaut’s Jules et Jim
Agnes Varda’s Cleo from 5 to 7
Alain Resnais’s Hiroshima, Mon Amour

The Varda film is probably my favorite.

It tells the story of Cleo, a hip French pop singer, as she waits out the final two hours before she learns the results of a serious medical test. Beginning with a portentious tarot card reading and ending with a full life transformation, the film is a gorgeous, moving, and deeply emotional exploration of ninety minutes in a person’s life. The film was an early experiment in real-time filmmaking, where film time elapses in tandem with real-world time, and it plays out beautifully.

Man on Man Action

My review of the British publication of Dan Chiasson’s Natural History and Other Poems is on display over at Eyewear:

Chiasson’s work can be characterized by a deep, entrenched sadness. Poems frequently find themselves, sometimes inexplicably, worrying the concepts of death, decomposition, departure—even the implication of death, what Chiasson refers to as “the kitsch / of death” (“‘…and yet the end must be as ’tis'”). Particularly in The Afterlife of Objects does this preoccupation hold center stage as it creates tension between the inevitable failures of the body against the static persistence of things.

In “My Ravine,” the speaker describes a place in which a landfill for box springs, bookcases, desks, and even “somebody’s hairdryer” becomes the irresistible resting place for deer, who ultimately “stare at each other and wander / bewildered down my ravine and turn into skeletons.” Later, in “Natural History,” the image appears again, but as an elephant: “Worn out by suffering, we lie on our great backs, / tossing grass up to heaven – as a distraction, not a prayer. // That’s not humility you see on our long final journeys: / it’s procrastination. It hurts my heavy body to lie down.”

You wanna be on top?

It seems just a few months ago that the lovely Saleisha took the crown as America’s ninth top Tyrabot, and yet, here we are again, with a whole new crop of young women stepping on each other’s faces to get to the top.

Except when they’re crying and hugging each other, yo.

Here’s my preliminary team. I’m a big fan of this season’s “big girl” Whitney, who, in my opinion, looks like a healthy, normal woman. And she’s adorable. And I’m rooting for her. I also like unpronounceable-name girl, and mostly I’m hoping that Tyra will actually get the pronunciation down before the finals. Finally, weirdo Claire is on my list because, well, I don’t know why. I think she’s going to do well, but she probably won’t cry much until she starts missing her kid.

I thought the stunt with bringing 14 girls into the house was a big set-up for the whole season. The “surprise elimination” from the first episode seemed totally staged to me. I think Tyra wanted to bust some chops off the bat to scare the other women into submission. She needed to throw some weight around, now that she has some.

And cheers to Paulina Porizkova joining the judging panel and, on day one, taking both the models and Nigel Barker to task. I was only slightly shocked to discover the actual length of the stick up Nigel’s butt—the one Caridee so smartly identified in Cycle 7. She’s a little bit Twiggy, a little bit Janice Dickinson. It’s going to be hott, y’all.

Rock Out with Your iPod Out

This week I am rocking out all day long to this Mark Ronson CD I just bought. Okay, I didn’t buy the CD; I downloaded it from iTunes. Is that still what we say? Let’s say I bought an album. Too, let’s not argue over semantics. Let’s just have a nice time together.

Anyway, the Ronson album is sort of loungey/go-go/disco/funk. It includes “revisions” of some songs I love like The Smith’s “Stop Me” as a jangling disco number, Britney Spears’s “Toxic” as an Amy Winehouse-like rap-infused number, and Radiohead’s “Just” as it might have been interpreted by the Jackson 5. Coldplay’s “God Put a Smile Upon Your Face” gets retooled as a swingin’ lounge tune sans lyrics, and Winehouse herself shows up to sing the track “Valerie.” Other great guests on the tracks include saucy Lily Allen, Phantom Planet, Kasabian, and the frequently nude and always delicious Robbie Williams.

I love a good remake, remix, revision. I don’t know why. I like to hear mindless pop songs find new depth, new rhythms, new faces. I think it’s nice to make old things new again. It’s a tribute. It’s not an offense. It’s a beautiful thing.

Wayne Miller, This is For You.

I think Wayne Miller’s poem in Barn Owl Review is one of my favorite pieces I’ve read in a long time.

I love him for being so brilliant, and I hate him for not being able to do it myself.

I will write more about BOR soon, because the whole issue is a trip.

Another couple of poems I loved lately were the Aaron Belz pieces over at Anti-, another new journal I’m loving.

And D. A. Powell’s piece over at linebreak!

I’m drowning in beautiful poems over here.