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Monday, August 07, 2006

Last night I saw The Devil Wears Prada, and yes, I am attempting to transition from a death notice about a political philosopher to commenting on a blog about a movie about working at a fashion magazine, based on a thinly-veiled roman-a-chicklit. (Now I understand how hard it is to be a local news anchor!) Anyway, I won't share my general impression with you, since when I shared it with my moviegoing companions the reaction seemed to be the sort of awkward silence that crops up so frequently in my day-to-day life. Instead, I will say that my reaction had a lot in common with Jeffrey and Jack Lewis' "Williamsburg Will Oldham Horror," which you can find at Fluxblog. (You can, and should, read the lyrics here.) Matthew mentioned that he immediately thought of me upon hearing it, and indeed, those two of you familiar with my complete musical works may notice that the instrumental componant here is fairly similar to that of one of my speaky-speaky solo songs, and one of the verses is remarkably similar to one of the verses of the title track on my band's last CD. I point this out not to be self-aggrandizing or to conjure dark intimations of plagarism (since, among other things, the verse of mine that a verse of "WWOH" resembles is actually something I stole from Alanis Morissette, so even if I wanted to complain I couldn't), but merely to point out that this sort of thing is out there, in the air, etc. etc., although as evidenced by the fact that I'm referring you to other people rather than actually talking about it myself, I think it's something we're all a bit embarassed to be thinking and talking about. ("WWOH" deals with this conflict in a satisfying way--it's a great song--which is not surprising given that Jeffrey Lewis and Kimya Dawson are BFF and share a remarkable ability to talk about fears in a self-aware way, to be emotional without being emo.) This relates to something else and its cousin (yay more links, yay less talking about me!), the main thrust of which is sort of questionable given the author but does seem to represent a viewpoint that is, again, Out There. And it does raise some interesting questions: are bands actually more careerist now, or are the receptacles for bands (publicists, labels, bookers, audiences) just dealing with them in a different way? Is the problem that bands should, like Pavement, pretend to be more untouchable, or that bands and critics and listeners remain too concerned with shame? Has indie's bubble status concealed the fact that, if it were to break wide, the most mediocre acts would in fact triumph, since an indie breakthrough, no matter how much we want indie to be otherwise, is really just chomping into the demographic that likes Dave Matthews and KoRn? And are we really expected to feel shame both for failing and for not failing enough?

Anyhoo, there's one point in Devil Wears Prada (remember that?) where Anne Hathaway is in the townhouse of the Anna Wintour character, looks up, and sees faux-Wintour's twin girls leaning over the bannister, looking down at her. In the midst of all that opulence and luxury, it's clearly intended as a sort of Hallmark image, but it struck me as a reference to The Shining or Children of the Corn. It's interesting to think of this movie not as a modern-day descendent of Breakfast at Tiffany's but as an alternate way for Americans to make a Japanese-style horror film: jam-packed with grostesqueries and tension, but with the promised bloodbath failing to come, for reasons that are never really explained. Maybe the ritual sacrafice of an unpublished Harry Potter book put it off; maybe the two scenes where Hathaway sees, in essence, Grendel without his monster-face on somehow deflate the threat. But ideally, they would put out a Final Destination 3-style DVD where, at this juncture, you could press a button and choose instead to have Hathaway climb the stairs and intrude upon the Wintour character feasting on the entrails of a chubby pre-teen girl, surrounded by blood-smeared models with hairlips, and would spend the remainder of the movie scurrying around the darkened, steam-shrouded streets of Manhattan, her every respite interrupted by the heart-rending sound of stilettos on cobblestones, with a final shot of the sun rising on the meatpacking district, animal blood mingling with old women's blood in the gutter and splashing the tires of a towncar heading down the West Side Highway to Wall Street, filled with old men in suits, laughing and laughing.