One Bad Thing and Three Great Things About “American Hustle”

Before I tell you why you need to see American Hustle, I need on my end to explain why it is not a great movie. A movie with great things in it, yes, but not a great movie all around.

After my own viewing of American Hustle, my brain began to ponder my love for David O. Russell’s body of work and came to this conclusion: there’s a theme that runs through his movies about how something, be it war (Three Kings), the search for the meaning of life (I Heart Huckabee’s), or life itself (The Silver Linings Playbook) is fundamentally absurd, does not deserve to be on a pedestal, and may ultimately be meaningless due to its random ability to completely shift your world on a dime with one act, one new piece of information, one ridiculous coincidence.  But, and here I borrow two definitive phrases from one of my new Twitter friends, David Roth of SB Nation (@david_j_roth…follow him), if one Lives Life Passionately and displays a Radical Compassionate Sentimentalism, appreciating the absurdity but never neglecting to care for others, one finds their own meaning and ultimately fulfillment, purpose…their silver lining as Pat Saliterno would call it, or their happy ending, their deserved happy ending, as I would call it.

The problem with American Hustle, a film that now allows Russell to revel in the absurdity of institutions, from government to law to organized crime, while filling it with passion, compassion, and a positive ending, is…

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Long Players – Rapping, Confessing, and Two Guys in Helmets

I once said some disparaging things about the Grammy Awards on this site, but while I still think the concept of pitting all forms of music against each other in competition is the most ridiculous of any merit ceremony, I also cannot deny that the Grammys have their place in capturing the diversity and the zeitgeist of American taste, no more so than in the Album of the Year category, in which rock and pop meet blues, country, jazz, classical, and soundtracks on equal terms, and after a somewhat reactionary first decade (three awards, two definitely deserved for Frank Sinatra, but also Vaughan “JFK” Meader and GLEN CAMPBELL (winning over RICHARD HARRIS) taking home honors), the category more or less hit its stride and may, more than the Oscars, give us a reflection of the country’s mood.

But SERIOUSLY this might be the best Album of the Year nomination ever. Not nominated record. Two different things.

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As My Whimsy Takes Me

If you haven’t noticed, we at the Addison Recorder, along with our best friends, have a strong and specific dose of Anglophilia, not for the monarchy and the “let’s boil everything for hours” cooking but for the culture. Doctor Who, Sherlock, Rowling and Tolkien and Gaiman, Hilary Mantel and the other Booker Prize winners, almost everything on the BBC at times, to say nothing of William Shakespeare and Jane Austen…the list goes on and on, and I have observed much as of late that this not a peculiar phenomenon but an ever-growing and ranging one. My coworkers carry TARDIS lunchboxes and local schoolteachers tell me how their students come to class in Premier League jerseys and gear. Americans keep developing a Britannic fix, and this piece offers a good suggestion readily available at any public library to boost your dose.

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A Brief Rumination on Certain Traits of Steven Moffat and a Scene from “The Day of the Doctor”

Disclaimer: this article is entirely based around spoilers, sweetie.


I wasn’t kidding!

There’ve been a lot of big television events in the past month: heart-stopping college football, including the Auburn-Alabama game destined for mythological status, as well as the call in which the local radio announcer went from 0 to orgasm in seconds, and The Sound of Music – Live!, a stunningly not terrible blockbuster which revealed how Carrie Underwood has three facial expressions when not singing—REALLY happy, REALLY surprised, and REALLY confused. But the one which meant the most to my friends and I was “The Day of the Doctor,” which may have been the first time I watched 75 minutes of programming with a goofy smile never leaving my face. Except for one part which will be the focus of this piece, but really, for the duration, it was goofy smile time, from the high-speed opening with Clara teaching at Ian and Barbara’s school and motoring into a very happy Eleventh Doctor’s TARDIS, to the Daleks’ cameo to the Tennant-Smith interplay to the glorious final scene between Matt Smith and Tom Baker, a man who only seems to have changed by letting his hair get white. It was everything a devoted Whovian could have wanted. And more importantly, it may have, at least in part, redeemed Steven Moffat.

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Magical Educations, Imperial Afflictions, and…um…the Spice Must Flow

One phenomenon which has swept pop culture media as of late is a replacement for the classic “Let’s count down the 10/20/50/100 best examples of something or other of all time!” article as a way of ranking the greatest somethings or other. Instead, websites from Grantland to Vulture have swiped the NCAA Bracket model, picking the 64 greatest songs of the Millennium or television dramas and having readers vote to knock them out one by one until only a single example remains. If the seeding process is even less scientific than the NCAA model (How did they decide to pit The Wire against My So-Called Life in round one?) it’s still no more random than sticking “Tower of Song” one spot ahead of “Waiting for the Miracle” when Flavorwire picked the 79 best Leonard Cohen songs of all time. And allowing the audience to have their say makes it a bit more fun, giving one a reason to care about something arbitrary. The reason for bringing up the subject is that Entertainment Weekly recently did a bracket which I found out about a little too late…okay, just after the Final Four had been cut to the ultimate Two…but I was attracted to right away because it touched a subject dear to my heart, and I think the hearts of my colleagues and our own readers as well.

The 64 Greatest Young Adult Novels of All Time

Naturally, this could not escape some commentary on the level of Alex and I’s dissection of the Sight and Sound poll last year, for even more than cinema, there were books on this list which will forever be associated with key moments of my childhood, my personal growth as a writer, and inspiring thoughts on love, life, the universe, and everything. Douglas Adams does not appear on this list, by the way, though you could argue if any of his work could be defined as young adult, and even then he is NOT the most glaring omission. That being said, quibbling over the reduction of the shelves upon shelves of literature I used to keep in order at Barnes & Noble to a scant 64 titles is not the game I wish to play, especially because the field got one very important thing correct right away, and which made this bracket a worthwhile endeavor.

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Caroline (and Jane)

I had to write something about Lou Reed this week. Had to. He not only makes a bit of a cameo in my new book, as I spend an instant musing on how my six year-old self sang along with his father and the radio to “Walk on the Wild Side,” merrily intoning the phrase “giving head” without knowing what that meant. But also, as a wealth of articles and tributes has confirmed, Lou Reed was special. He was someone people cared about perhaps more than society expected.

And this goes beyond the four-piece band who hung out with Warhol and briefly featured a sexy German model with the flattest voice on the planet. If the Velvet Underground no longer seem as strange and daring as they once did, and there are plenty of moments I still find them strange and daring, it’s because everything they recorded was studied and absorbed by rock, pop, even, I would argue, metal and rap. They took the traditional forms of rock music and injected avant-garde experiments which still sounded accessible, mixed in unflinching, coldly real lyrics that read with all the poetry of Dylan, and refused to do anything normal. Even their most conventional songs had tricks in the tails: “Femme Fatale” has a melody worthy of a 70s California soft-rock song, but Nico’s intonation makes it terrifying. “Rock and Roll” mixes its heart-on-sleeve pop feel with guitar sounds I’ve never heard before or since and that piano which comes out of nowhere. And then we have “European Son,” “Sister Ray,” “The Murder Mystery,” “I’m Sticking With You…”

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Visions of Lionesses – The Ideal Children’s Writing of Tamora Pierce

My next piece here will NOT be about literature and will NOT reference the shutdown and the narrowly averted crisis (the news felt like Strong Bad was announcing it every hour), but I ask our readers to bear with me for one more week. And since this one includes sex, violence, and magic, you may find it worth your while.

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New York Comic-Con and Comics From Beyond New York

Last weekend, for the third year in a row, I settled down in my friends Adam and Lexie’s guest room and took in New York Comic-Con at the Javits Convention Center on 34th Street. I learned a lot of things this trip, including that NYCC is rapidly turning into the junior SDCC, which is both excellent (more fans and exposure) and lame (nobody can move, and the amount of harassment and unwanted attention regarding female guests has gone up). That half of the people I know now can and will get sick before and during the con as opposed to after. That walking the entire floor in one day will make you feel drunk despite not having had a drop stronger than coffee, but a bowl of real ramen will awaken the soul. That every kind of pizza you can get there is fantastic. That people love to cosplay as Hunter S. Thompson now.

That I don’t know quite as much about the 1970s as I think I do…so next time I audition for Millionaire it’s going to be the general program, and believe me I will because I don’t like to lose. That when a restaurant abbreviates “Angel Hair Pasta with Turkey Meatballs” to “Angel Meat” on the receipt, it’s too darn funny. That the Carlton Hotel’s martini (Beefeater with three olives) and 14 year-old single malt Oban are pure ambrosia. (J., back me up on this.)That my friends, old and new, from New York artists in gentrified neighborhoods to number-one New York Times bestsellers, just keep getting more awesome. That I am more lucky than ever to have Kate Kasenow as my artistic partner. And that there are few honors more great, more soul-stirring, more convincing that you found your true vocation, than when a book you wrote is singled out as a book teachers should introduce to their classes—as I found out from someone who attended the Teaching the Graphic Novel panel.

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Why Anthony Trollope Would Take John Boehner to Heel


The older I get and the more life experience I obtain, the more life imitates art…in rare cases the stories I imagine telling come true (more on that fifty years from now or when some of the principals are dead), but more specifically I see the ideas, hopes, and fears of past generations manifest in our reality. Above all, the work of Anthony Trollope (1815-1882) seems to be the most prescient.

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