Friday, October 24, 2008

Current Events: Popular Culture

The New York Times editorial board has endorsed Barack Obama for president, amid its own paper’s news reports that the U.S. and world financial market continues to be in a crisis, with panicked selling of stocks, and a cut in the production of oil by OPEC, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. The Times board cites Barack Obama’s sound judgment and criticizes his opponent Senator McCain’s “ugly” campaign. (There is also an site; and Percival Everett, a writer I like, has participated in one of its events.) Senator Obama is emerging as an important contemporary figure and an historic icon, someone who embodies large aspects (intellect, personal and communal ambition, multiculturalism, progressive politics) of our political and social life.

The magazine Oxford American, which focuses on southern culture, has a special issue devoted to New Orleans and the Gulf Coast three years after hurricane Katrina. It features social commentary, visual art and celebrations of film, and a statement by Ernest Gaines on living in Louisiana. Gaines, the author of A Gathering of Old Men, A Lesson Before Dying, and other books, is also associated with a local Louisiana university. I like how his books deal with local, intimate life and still manage to handle significant ideas and issues. In A Lesson Before Dying a smart but now discouraged teacher is asked to reach an ignorant, condemned man; and it is a story about knowledge and ignorance, compassion and indifference.

There is a photography tribute to painter and sculptor Robert Rauschenberg at the Guggenheim in New York, from October 22 through November 5. (I had liked Rauschenberg's openness and his cultural ambition, his collaborations with people from other countries: I had liked his work, but after he died I looked at a book of his work and felt a certain repulsion--I just thought some of it was ugly, unfortunately.)

The Canadian band the Dears have a new album from Dangerbird Records: Missiles. I liked the Gang of Losers album and hope to hear this one. (I have been listening a lot to Death Cab for Cutie, an antidote to bad southern radio, which indulges old music set lists, fear-mongering conservative talk, and aggressive religiosity.)

Diana Ross will be the featured performer at the 15th Nobel Peace Prize concert on December 11, 2008 in Oslo, Norway.

Opening now: Angelina Jolie in Clint Eastwood’s film Changeling; Colin Farrell and Edward Norton in Gavin O’Connor’s Pride and Glory; and Charlie Kaufman’s Synecdoche, New York, featuring Philip Seymour Hoffman.

The film digest Greencine Daily reports that director Alexander Kluge is planning to film Karl Marx’s Das Kapital, that old revolutionary text (and college reading assignment).

Cate Blanchett will be seen soon with Brad Pitt in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, about a man who becomes younger rather than older, a fantasy film. (I've liked Blanchett ever since she played Elizabeth, the queen.)

Chiwetel Ejiofor and Thandie Newton are going to be in the disaster film 2012, which also has John Cusack and Amanda Peet as part of its cast, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

Jude Law is scheduled to play Watson to Robert Downey Jr.’s Sherlock Holmes in a Warner Brothers film to be directed by Guy Ritchie, whose divorce from Madonna Louise Ciccone was announced recently.

Johnny Depp has been reported to be playing Tonto in a Jerry Bruckheimer film and the Mad Hatter in a Tim Burton film.

The new television show featuring Simon Baker, "The Mentalist," has done very well in the viewer ratings, as has "Eleventh Hour," with Rufus Sewell: and the actors are smart, appealing, and both shows have fictional detective work that emphasizes eccentricity and complex situations.