September 26, 2007
“I woke up, and it was like Christmas1: I was a nervous wreck,2 but I was just so excited at the same time.3 Spencer said, “I’m so proud of you.”4 It was like he was wishing me well off to school5: “Love you! Bye!”6 But surgery is a very big deal.7 Right before I went in, I was like, What if I don’t wake up?8 Oh, this is scary.9 Then I thought, I don’t care.10 If I don’t wake up, it’s worth it. I just wanted it so badly.”11
she can even do an existential crisis with carveresque compression! i would love an audiobook of her reading “the stranger” or “notes from the underground” – how good would that be! please God let her do a memoir.
p.s. i love her pose on the cover and the way the text is arrayed around “the girls.”
5 cu l8r
6 brb luv
September 25, 2007
[splashcast MRDJ5167JJ TRCU7740GR]
- god that was bad. what happened?
- the looping was just ridiculous. i caught the tail end of an episode of “newport beach” the other day and there was this climactic scene where a teenage girl was in the jacuzzi with her new boyfriend at night. and they’re doing the kind of awkward glancing that this form does so well and then the camera cuts to a wide shot so we can’t see her eyes or her mouth or the expression on her face and she tells him, “i’m a virgin” and the line is looped. and it’s not like the producers are trying to redirect what the scene’s about; the next shot is the natural reaction of the cool manly surfer dude to her letting him know she’s still pocketing the v-card. i guess there was just obviously something about the way the girl said she was a virgin that just wasn’t an acceptable reading and what it really makes you wonder is how she said it, what words she used, what tone, what the look in her eyes was, how she was breathing, what she did with her hands. and i thought that was some pretty bold looping, but after this shit tonight…
- because really, I have no problem with looping as it’s usually done on “the hills.” i usually mention it here because noticing it is part of a thorough analysis of “the hills” and also because it raises interesting questions about televisual reality.
- and one question it really raises is, why not just reshoot the scenes? if there’s eventually going to be looping in every episode anyway, why not just do another take or two on location? maybe that’s interfering with the reality of these girls’ lives too much (maybe it’s in their contracts), but god, how is it really that different than them looping the lines later? i don’t think the authenticity division of the LAPD is going to show up at Teen Vogue and shut down the shoot.
- and so many dropped-in lines that aren’t necessary, that don’t make any sense, like the editor all of a sudden developed tourettes. like in the scene where heidi and jen bunny are looking for bridesmaid dresses, they enter the dress shop and as the door closes, they drop in heidi saying “oh, i can’t wait to show you this dress.” this is necessary for…continuity, context? she wants to show her a dress? no shit, that’s why they’re at the dress shop! the audience can make this connection, kuleshov figured all this out like 90 years ago and he didn’t even have final cut pro. and then as she stands trying on the dress in front of a mirror, they drop in another line, heidi saying “my heart is beating so fast.” stop with the cliché placeholder dialogue! please, give me some odd framings of her face and her eyes and a short cut to her hand gripping the tulle and play under the whole thing an anxious but marketable emo-ballad and i will feel that her heart is beating.
- john gardner describes the goal of fiction as creating “a vivid and continuous dream’. i think john gardner was a conservative jerk who would’ve hated meta-tv like “the hills” and i don’t agree with him on principle, but, still, there’s something to that line that describes why dubbing fucked up tonight’s show so royally. the dubbing was so obvious that i have to believe that even a viewer who has the least possible knowledge of the mechanics of television production was going “what the hell is going on?” and when that happens, all dramatic tension dissipates.
- any good things about the episode? the first scene was great. there was this excellent push pull editing between jason’s bullshit and lauren’s reactions. her eye moves and head bobs were all perfectly pitched. really all the stuff between lauren and jason was good (i never thought i would say jason was the best part of an episode). the “we’re taking shots” montage was really well done, there was a great shot of audrina holding her nose. the speidi shopping spree was okay and what a fantastic line out of left field when spencer says “i think we need to go to tibet” (is tibet still in? it seems so woodstock ’99). what if they had this total brangelina moment and went all granola and spencer grew out one of those monk beard/pony tail combos! the lauren and whitney scene at the end was decent, although the last smile is way too big to come so abruptly, it’s a little scary.
- i have made clear my feelings that whitney is the best performer on the show and this is obviously “the whitney episode” of this season, in the same way as that episode in the second season where whitney is picked to be a model on “good morning america” and walks and falls and recovers and its adorable and it’s touching, etc. and that episode was great. this episode sucked, not because of whitney, but because she had nothing to work with. wooden lisa love (hasn’t she seen ‘the devil wears prada’, doesn’t she know how she’s suppposed to act)? bland “artist you oughta know” pop-punk band (i’m just guessing) where the only one who talks seems like a less interesting clone of mr. fall out boy? predictable plot arc where she is set up to gently fail and then (shock!) does? please. give her something where she can actually express emotion. there was a scene in the trailer where she was breaking up with her boyfriend. when she said “i hope i don’t get wasted” and then the show went into that great liquor montage i allowed myself to believe for a second that the episode was saved because whitney was going to get trashed and then do something incredible. but no.
- i don’t even want to talk about this anymore. it makes me want to stop watching and write about that tila tequila show instead.
- yet i think there are only two episodes left and that is gut-wrenching.
in the player is a song called “phoning it in.” i really wasn’t feeling it today and i kind of phoned it in, so that is what the song is about. i recorded this before the episode of the hills tonight, so it’s kind of funny how coincidentally we both phoned it in. i almost went all laser floyd and put in some echoey telephone rings, but i think it’s enough as is. sorry. maybe i’ll do another song later in the week to make up for it. you know that stupid hypothetical question about which beatle you would rather be and everyone always says john or paul or george? it’s such bullshit, any sane person would be ringo in a heartbeat. if you’re john you get addicted to heroin and get shot. if you’re paul, your wife dies of cancer. if you’re george, you get stabbed, then you die of cancer. ringo just coasts along, free and easy.
September 18, 2007
[splashcast EKWP2489IM EHJF2695LL]
- easily the best episode this season. there was the exact perfect balance of things happening and things not happening.
- this episode felt different than the ones previous. it was baroque, it was the high “hills” style. almost every shot seemed to to pop with faux-reality. when lauren and jason first sit down at ketchup, they do such a crazy combination of things: the weird sitting down shoulder dancing, jason’s incredibly overtelegraphed head turn, all the facial expressions. so close to being over the top, almost self parody, but i don’t think it was. chaplin, keaton, conrad, wahler.
- what i enjoy most about “the hills” is seeing things represented on television that i have never before seen represented on television. and i don’t mean in a “giant bear having sex with a great white whale” big kind of way, i mean in the micro sense: the small gestures and body movements, the casual poses, the verbal tics, word repetitions, and vocal inflections; all the things that color the fabric of everyday existence. the hills, by foregrounding what is unnoticed, defamiliarizes it. it makes what’s completely normal feel strange, and that’s why i think it’s great.
- whitney continues to be a revelation. she owns every shot. her specialty is of course the close-up, but she’s equally adept at medium shots and wide shots (see the way she contorts her body in the medium shot on the location scout, then in the wide shot how she plays with the camera strap). my nonsexual fantasy is that there is going to be some “videodrome” moment where she does something so authentic that she just comes out of the television into my living room and sits indian style on the floor. and at first i would be startled, but then it would be “e.t.” heartwarming; i would present her with various objects (reeses pieces, a fleece blanket, a toothbrush) just to see how would react. then she would touch me on the forehead with her index finger while crossing her eyes and sticking out her tongue and i would learn to be a natural and authentically goofy person.
- the scene where lauren and whitney are at teen vogue is possibly my new favorite scene on “the hills,” surpassing my old favorite scene from season one where they ate sushi together.
- there’s some very blatant dubbing in the first scene when heidi and spencer talk about elodie. if you listen to the inflection, it’s like all of a sudden they’ve stopped having a conversation and are suddenly ESL students reading about the adventures of dick and jane in hollywoodland.
- lauren seemed to discover that she has hair in this episode. this is a positive development. she did a lot of gestures with the hair that were varied, dynamic, and powerful. the best was when she was sitting in the car with jason and she brought both hands up under her hair and sort of plumed it out, while smiling and opening her eyes wide, and i feel that the look says, “hey, i am a woman and at one point i was your girlfriend and you found me attractive and you still do because i still am and maybe i am slightly interested in you also but i am reserved about this and can only express it by doing this thing with my hair.”
- the scene at ketchup could have easily devolved into something cliché in another show, but it’s impossible when you have heidi, almost giggling with evil, saying “maybe they’re back in the movie making action” it’s such a bizarre way to phrase that! and then when lauren and jason send the obviously insulting drinks back, she says “well, that’s rude” and her tone of voice is like she actually means it, like she actually thought they were going to drink these insults and enjoy them! and lauren looking at her cellphone while sending back the drinks.
- i don’t know what was up with the weird video treatment when lauren and jason were driving home. but when the car stopped, more incredible expressions. the concluding gambit, wherein jason tugged at his left ear with his mouth open and lauren looked down slightly while touching the base of her throat and sliding out of the car, wow.
- i was talking to someone last week about how you can read “the hills” as a feminist inversion of hollywood stereotypes. it was re: the gawker piece about “the hills” as the new sex and the city. what i feel is that men on “the hills” aren’t present to be fully rounded, important characters. this is obvious; for as much screen time as they get, they’re not even included in the credit sequence. they’re tools (ha), boy toys that exist for the the female leads to use to define themselves like so much lipgloss. whatever plot points are centered around them (for example spencer “breaking up” with brody jenner) aren’t important in and of themselves but only in the ways that they affect the female leads.
- you can really see this at work in the heidi and spencer domestic scenes, which read like a flip-it-and-reverse-it parody of classic sitcoms, “i love lucy” or “dick van dyke” or what have you. spencer is the one who stays at home, who decorates the apartment, who sits and fiddles with his laptop the way women might have darned socks when socks needed darning. as heidi is getting dressed to head to the office, powdering her face instead of shaving, they talk about the position of the toilet seat. then spencer asks, in this sarcastic, nagging tone whether “we get to go to breakfast before work?” and it’s like, he should be wearing curlers or something! fantastic.
- ((obviously heidi isn’t really the breadwinner, spencer owns the apartment and everyone knows he’s sitting on piles and piles of money, that’s probably the padding for their sofa, but the hills isn’t about reality, remember, it’s about surfaces.))
- because that, the incongruity between the surface and reality, is what’s interesting. the absolute hilarious thing about heidi’s new job is that it’s not work at all, it’s the facade of work. heidi goes to the costume closet and gets dressed in her “businesswoman suit” and goes to this giant fisher price office. and her computer doesn’t really have a screen, it’s just stickers, and inside her desk drawer is a scale model of the office she is sitting in and in the chair is a barbie doll that looks and is dressed exactly like her and she plays with its hair until the bell rings and she’s allowed to go home.
- ok that last thing that was a bit much, but really. the way she interacts with her assistant…
- the scene with elodie brings me back to something i noticed a few episodes ago, in a scene that made me feel like elodie was “someone who watches “the hills” and happened to miss the season premiere, and so has to be caught up.” i am getting an analogous vibe from the the scene she has from heidi and also the intermittent shots of her sulking around the office. she hates heidi now, ostensibly because of the job, but it what it really feels like is that she has become someone who hates the television show “the hills” but is simultaneously living inside of it. kind of like a really surly greek chorus.
- there is that virtual hills thing, which i have actually registered for and am going to try, but i think what would really work is a “mortal kombat” style fighting game. the arenas would be teen vogue offices, heidi and spencer’s apartment, les deux, coffee shop, gym, beach, etc. you would have to tap out combos: for example, hitting x would flutter an eyelash and if you roll the analog stick in conjunction you roll the eye also. the counterattack would be a half smile or possibly a left hair flip.
in the player is a song called “after a lot of people” the loop is messed up but i don’t understand how to fix it, so that’s what the beginning of the song is about. the rest of the song is about the state of the aura. it is very simply built from a sample of the opening two chords of satie’s “gymnopedie no.1”. i find it weird that most of my songs are about two chords and in this song when i go to sample something, i only sample two chords even though there are an awful lot of chords in the original. i think that two chords is about all i can handle, which means i am one short of rock and roll.
September 11, 2007
this is an incredibly touching video. this is the tone i am aiming for w/re:to “the hills” on this blog, except with more pretentious allusions and a little less crying.
and less being a transvestite, of course. much much less.
September 11, 2007
[splashcast FTON3005RU IEWO3982YY]
- there was some superb face acting in this episode. whitney opened things up with her usual bravura performance. note the way she tilts her head back to the left at an extreme diagonal and, then, in the next shot, she has her face over on the right side of the frame prone, and then transitions back with a hair flip and blink to the left side of the frame; it’s like some modern dance shit. lauren had some great eye rolling and hair tugging in the dinner date scene, and heidi was excellent in her scene with elodie after she got the job. she did two great expressions that were these combinations of like shrugs and gasps and coughs and blinks and muttered apologies and just great, like a braque painting animated by the team that did “waking life”.
- an interesting character insight involved lauren’s paranoiac musings on what i will call “guy radar.” in the first scene, she imagines jason constantly monitoring her with a beeper, which goes off the moment that everything is going okay in her life so he can come disrupt it. then two scenes later, with audrina, she shapes the idea into loser guys calling her at the exact second she’s stopped thinking about them “because they KNOW you’ve stopped thinking about them, it’s like a RADAR.” this is interesting 1) because everyone knows people repeat the same shit with slight permutations over and over again and 2) it keys in to lauren’s general distrust of anything with a penis in an interesting pynchonesque kind of way.
- i still don’t like the fact that elodie is actually a character now, but i’ve decided it does serve a purpose. after heidi quit school and got the job at bolthouse, there was the initial “heidi-is-a-ditz-and-crappy-at-her-job” drama and then absolutely nothing interesting happened there ever again. all the bolthouse/work scenes consisted of heidi ranting to elodie about what was happening in the rest of the show. now at least there’ll be some drama to those work scenes.
- in terms of dialogue, this episode was probably the best of the season. i think my favorite exchange was when lauren was on the phone and lo whispered, “oh is that your daddy?” and lauren said, “it’s jason”. i imagine teen freud eating skittles and reading “teen people” and sniffing a perfume sample from said teen people all while watching this episode of “the hills” and when those lines come up he just loses it and has to be revived with smelling salts.
- speaking of dicks, this season “the hills” is really big on larger-than-life symbolic representations of the male ego. first, of course, was the giant graffito-tagged hollywood sign that spencer had put up on the wall of the apartment. in this episode, one scene opened with a massive motorcycle filling the frame and then there was a focus pull to reveal audrina and justinbobby coming up off the shore, dwarfed by it.
- i’ve talked before about the use of music cues in “the hills.” something which i’ve seen before but only really noticed in this episode is the way that the scene proper (the dialogue, action – the meat) will end and then, as the music cue builds up in the background, there are one or two shots where the characters hold their poses, as if in the scene they are hearing the music; like instead of living in real life, they are living in the edited version of the show. you can see this demonstrated all over the place, but i feel its presence most at the end of heidi’s meeting with brent bolthouse and after lo and audrina and lauren’s dinner and after lauren and jason meet for coffee and ok really it’s like almost every scene and i can’t believe i haven’t verbalized it before. it would be interesting to have something like this in real life, music cues rising in the air around you to capture the convesational zeitgeist and let you just sit there and soak in the moment with a perfectly chosen song by God’s music supervisor and then you could go on with your day. ((p.s. i was watching this interview with mike figgis about godard on the dvd of “weekend” this weekend and he was talking about godard’s use of music in that and how the detached, ironic way he used music actually allowed the music to permeate the scene in an even more emotionally powerful way than standard hollywood mantovani schmaltziness. and i don’t know what the connection between that and the thing i just talked about is except i do think the use of music on the hills is hyperselfconscious and there is more discussion to come on that topic.))
- the use of unexplained allusions to stuff outside the show really points to the importance of web gossip culture to “the hills” audience. the big thing at the start of the season was the sex tape rumor, which was something that was introduced before the actual season even started via gossip blogs. and in this episode there was jason saying “i was out of control. i had some bad habits” and “i went to my morning group” which would’ve been weird and out of nowhere and unbelievable except anyone that cares about “the hills” (and no, i don’t think this is just the province of obsessives) read in the the last couple of days that jason had come out of rehab to deny all the sex tape shit. you couldn’t have pulled that off 2 years ago, the flow of information via teen magazines was too slow. (actually this makes me interested in what the “teen vogue” coverage of the hills is like)
in the player is a song i wrote called “t.s.a.” i wanted to do something heartwarming and life affirming for september 11th, so this is a public service announcement about the importance of regular breast examinations for fine ass women. i am really hoping for the best with regards to this kanye west/50 cent faceoff, the best being that they will both get even richer and that this opulence will reflect itself prismlike in their music. i like them both; i’ve probably listened to kanye more but 50’s “hate it or love it” is one of the most beautiful and perfect songs of this century.
September 4, 2007
[splashcast HFVA3520GX ZFNP9984AM]
- i love the rarity of lo’s appearances and how this has no impact on anything at all. it’s very convenient for the producers, to have a character that can just be dropped in and yanked out without any plot triage necessary. but it’s also entirely realistic, everyone has those kind of friends that you aren’t really close with but see on saturday night. it is to her credit that with a very limited amount of screen/plot time that she has established a shtick, gestures, patent pending looks etc.
- at first i was unsure about justinbobby but i have really warmed to him. the reason is that he introduces a whole new male verbal style to the hills. previously, the men on “the hills”/”laguna beach” were either functionally retarded and seemingly unable to speak (jason) or spoke in a very predictable cliché driven orwellian “dudespeak” (spencer (though he does have flashes of brilliance), talon, every other male character). justinbobby is the first really verbal male character and his chosen patois is this sort of “jim morrison doing a staged reading of ‘he’s not that into you'” greasy mystic shit that some girls (like audrina) lap up like chicken noodle soup (for the soul, obv.).
- whitney was back this week in top form, doing the things she does best which are purposefully goofy facial expressions. whole books could be written about her faux-awkwardness. the director i think she would work best with, besides the aforementioned youtube “passion of joan of arc”, is probably like soderbergh or something. the obvious choice would be all those mumblecore dudes, but while i liked “funny ha ha” and that young american bodies thing on nerve (it’s like a hipster version of the hills with nipples and bare asses), i think whitney is far too talented for them. maybe rob zombie
- i don’t know what to say about spencer’s facial hair. maybe that it feels like five o’ clock foreshadowing. he is probably going to go all howard hughes and sit there on youtube with a beard and long fingernails while heidi washes towels, folds them, unfolds them, washes them again, folds them etc. in an endless loop.
- the pool scene was exquisite. the tableuax of bodies in the long shot and, in the close-ups, all those giant sunglasses so you couldn’t see anyone’s eyes. dazzling.
- the scenes from next week were both troubling and intriguing. as much as jason is a horrible actor and will be awful on the show i think it is probably a good thing for the plot because it puts lauren in a more complicated moral situation (whether or not brody actually spread the sex tape rumors will also add to that). but the idea that heidi’s ugly, old coworker at bolthouse (i can’t remember her name) is suddenly a character who is supposed to have things happen to her instead of being a plastic sounding board for heidi’s issues is ludicrous. if there is anything the show needs, it is not more major characters.
(p.s. i enjoyed the ad-break music things with mark ronson, even if they were a little over the top. i want his suit and his guitar and his decks. wasn’t there an amy winehouse song somewhere around the middle of the episode? i haven’t been paying attention but i wonder if the people in the ad breaks always have a song in the episode.)
in the player is a song called “having a coke with you”, which is a musical setting with embellishments of the frank o’hara poem of same name. recently, MTV chose john ashberry as it’s first “MTVU poet laureate.” while i am aware that this is a title that means absolutely nothing at all, less than who wins “celebrity rap superstar” (and actually a lot less because that is an important thing), I still i have to say that frank o’hara would have been a much better choice for the position. i don’t care that he’s dead, in this post-anna nicole age, dead is as alive as alive is, if not moreso. o’hara’s the poet of facebook and myspace (god, how many friends would he have); his poems trace dense webs of connections and friendships and he name-drops like nobody else. he’s the poet of product placement, of the mention and/or rhapsodic celebration of the commercial object. most importantly, he speaks to our horribly transcendent celebrity culture better than anybody. listen:
Lana Turner has collapsed!
I was trotting along and suddenly
it started raining and snowing
and you said it was hailing
but hailing hits you on the head
hard so it was really snowing and
raining and I was in such a hurry
to meet you but the traffic
was acting exactly like the sky
and suddenly I see a headline
LANA TURNER HAS COLLAPSED!
there is no snow in Hollywood
there is no rain in California
I have been to lots of parties
and acted perfectly disgraceful
but I never actually collapsed
oh Lana Turner we love you get up
all the wonderful mess of paris/nicole/britney/lindsay/lauren/(insert the next girl’s name here) — all of it is summed up right there. this poem is over fifty years old.
so basically for the MTV crowd i tried to turn the poem into this sort of pop punk love romp, which is most obvious in the chorus where the eloquent superlatives and reflections of the verse give way to a set of crude similes in which i tried to do my best mall punk imitation even though i was never punk in high school maybe for about ten minutes. still i mean all of it, it’s not just empty parody, except with the exception that really i have no interest watching monkeys have sex at all much less all day but it was something i could imagine a fifteen year old boy in a hoodie say to a fifteen year old girl in a food court somewhere. in closing, i would say the song is about 37% ironic, which is a pretty good percentage these days, what with the interest rate debacle and everything.