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May Gems

Desiderata

Emma Komlos-Hrobsky (Assistant Editor, Tin House Magazine): My best cultural encounter this month? I’m so glad you asked! You have to, have to, have to go see We Are the Best! (Vi är bäst!), which is positively the greatest film I’ve seen so far this year. Set in 1980s Stolkholm, We Are the Best stars pre-teen punk Bobo, a totally charming social outsider whose round glasses and apple cheeks give her a decidedly Moomintroll look, and her fast-talking, instigator friend Klara. After a group of older boys at their youth center (youth centers! bless you, Scandinavia!) make fun of Bobo and Klara, the girls take their revenge by co-opting the boys’ band’s practice space, which requires starting a band of their own. Totally unphased by their lack of musical qualifications, Bobo and Klara cross enemy lines to recruit their devoutly Christian classmate Hedvig to teach them guitar. This spurs debates about the ethics of punk, DIY haircuts, and a great scene in which Hedvig outplays the youth center organizers who try to mansplain the guitar to her. (Added bonus: apparently the youth center guys are played by two real Swedish punk musicians from the 80s.) Best of all, unlike just about every other film where outsiders triumph by winning the approval of their peers, Bobo and Klara and Hedvig are all nothing but themselves from the movie’s beginning to the end, peers be damned. Sweden. Pre-teen ansgst. A song called “Hate the Sport!.” What more could you ask for?

Heather Hartley (Paris Editor, Tin House Magazine): Duke Ellington called Canadian jazz pianist Oscar Peterson “the Maharaja of the keyboard” and in his more than sixty-year long career, the Maharaja played in duets, trios and quartets with everyone from Count Basie to Dizzy Gillespie. At six feet three inches tall, with eight Grammy Awards and a style that is a little bit swing music, a little bit blues and lots of groove, when he sat down at the piano, people listened. Lately, it’s been hard to choose between his “Boogie Blues Etude” and “Waltz for Debbie.” (And then there’s his fantastic “Chicago Blues.”)  And as June comes on with warmer nights, longer evenings and weekend picnics, you might want to pour a little glass of something chilled and sweet and add the Maharaja’s “Summer Samba” to your list of favorite tunes.

Thomas Ross (Editorial Assistant): Fun month! My favorite comic book, Saga, came back from a seasonal hiatus. I finally saw the new X-Men and Godzilla movies. I binged on the first season of Arrow and wished, for just one awesome moment, that Enrique Iglesias had played Oberyn Martell on Game of Thrones. Yet the most fun I had this month was catching the last half of Orson Welles’ F for Fake last night on TV. I hadn’t seen it in years, but I immediately fell back into the fun of watching fat old Orson’s bleary bloviating at a hippie picnic or a thousand-course dinner; Clifford Irving‘s insanely cagey one-man dance around the Hughes hoax; and Elmyr de Hory’s charming, nonsensical defense/denial of his habit of art forgery: “I don’t feel bad for Modigliani . . . I feel good for me.” It’s funny to watch these self-obsessed fraudsters congratulate themselves on deceiving one another, but the real thrill is just in trying to figure out what the hell Orson Welles is doing with this movie. Is it a film essay about deception, or maybe just a portrait of that peculiar glint in the eye of a master trickster? It’s the last rite for Orson Welles’ induction to the canon of great tricksters: Loki, Hermes, Eshu, Coyote, Orson Welles.

Lance Cleland (Workshop Director): The Northwest Film Center is currently showcasing the wonderful films of French auteur Leos Carax, whose five features represent some of the most memorable and daring filmmaking of the last thirty years. Boy Meets Girl, his debut (and a film I had previously not seen), could have easily been titled Boy Meets Godard, so strong are the marks of its influences. Like so many of those New Wave films, you can’t help but get caught up in the monumental love for cinema that Carax displays. I mean, how do you watch a scene like this and not wish you could step into the frame and walk the same streets as Denis Lavant?

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