Litro, November 22, 2013 Bourgeois self-congratulation—so en vogue in government and the City these days—rarely produces inventive or crowd-pleasing art, and especially not when it come with greased facial hair and a century’s coat of fustiness. Generations of English middle class portraits are safely lost in family attics, and some of the gilt-framed vainglory on display in the National Gallery’s new exhibition of Viennese portraiture should have been forgotten too. The most stuffily historical of them—Hans Makart’s sycophantic likenesses of richly-upholstered society women and Gyula Benczúr’s love-struck portrait of a young, smug Empress Sisi, decades after her middle age and a year after her assassination (and never as dewy as Romy Schneider)—are not so much “Facing the Modern” as staring stubbornly backward and plugging their ears to it. Read more at Litro.
Litro, 17 October 2013 Weimar Berlin is perhaps the most seductive of the twentieth century’s hindsight illusions, a glittering shard of pop history sexiness wedged between two warmongering and wicked regimes. This is a smashingly broken metropolis of cabarets, sexologists, brazen sadomasochism and other cubbyhole perversions. It’s a decadent in a tidy, parabolic way: a decline and fall story about a defeated people poisoning themselves with erotica and eugenics and having a gaudily good time doing it. Depending on your politics and tolerance for nightlife, Weimar culture is either a grease slick on the slippery slope from Wilhelmine aggression to fascist perdition or it’s a broad-minded cultural flourishing sadly betrayed. Read more at Litro
The AV Club, August 7, 2011 (no longer on their website due to loss of local interest content in website overhaul) Jenny Starrs, 15, has a storybook name, star-spangled eyes, mall princess clothes, and an open-diary honesty. She’s the self-identified biggest Taylor Swift fan among her girl gaggle of bffs, and ticks off her favorites with the fickle conviction of fifteen—and a thousand internet quizzes. Favorite Taylor Swift song: “Stay Beautiful,” a twangy, boy-dazzled chorus from Swift’s first album. Favorite Taylor Swift boyfriend: muscleboy and Twilight paramour Taylor Lautner. Saturday night, standing in line at Lincoln Financial Field to see her idol, the subject of a hundred magazine collages and leader of countless car sing-alongs, Starrs is ecstatic, beaming in anticipation of a fairytale come to life. Taylor Swift sung about fifteen once—that wobbly, diary-charted age between dolls and school dances, packed lunches and dinner dates, the tipping point where boy cooties become tongue kisses and promise rings mean nothing when it’s true love and he kisses you in the rain. That worldwise but nostalgic song earned her a VMA—but also, infamously, the ire of Kanye West. That real adult world has its glamour, its gold-plated astronauts, and its J. Mendel dresses—but […]
Philadelphia Weekly, July 6, 2010 (as Lauren Smith) She & Him, the duo of actress Zooey Deschanel—she of the dark bangs, elfin features, and cotton commercials—and singer-songwriter M. Ward lit up the Great Plaza’s River Stage Friday night with a pleasant but unremarkable set of fizzy, retro folk-pop. The lopsided pronouns of their name—selected, according to Deschanel, to draw attention away from their, or rather her, marquee light names—are a hint to the off-kilter stage dynamics of this twosome. Ward may be a Monster of Folk, a songwriter and guitarist with a retro twang and ear for subtle pop grooves, but beside Sundance sprite Deschanel, he’s the shrugged-off him, a producer shuffled on stage to back his winsome little wunderkind. Make no mistake: the butterscotch voice and dewy eyes may be Zooey’s, but the lush, strum and reverb music behind her is all Ward. It’s a thankless role. On stage Ward mostly played second fiddle to Deschanel’s jangling tambourine. She hopscotched across the stage, chattered with her trademark deadpan whimsy (“My dad’s family are Philadelphia people from way back. Maybe I’m related to some of you.”), and bent her voice from back porch drawl to cabaret croon. Like any good actress she stole […]