Hipsters Are All Right

DVD feature film: Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist — I am not generally a fan of many of the films that are aimed at the young hipster demographic, which may be why I resisted this film until recently even though its reviews suggested it was an exception to the rule of shallow pop culture pandering. And I’m pleased to say that it is one of the most charming and heartwarming romantic comedies I’ve come across in years while still retaining a cutting-edge hipness of the very best sort. It captures the smartest elements of music-obsessed youth, displays the progressive attitudes of younger generations towards gayness with its straight hero being a member of a “queercore” rock band with his homosexual pals, and ultimately keys in with the best values of male-female romance — that it’s the women with soul and substance who have the most appeal and not what the kids refer to as “hotties.” The comedic dynamic recalls the all-but-lost spirit of classic Katherine Hepburn romantic comedies like “Bringing Up Baby” and “Desk Set” with a contemporary élan, and makes me feel like, yeah, the kids are still sometimes all right.

DVD feature film: Jarhead — A few months back I picked up the memoir this film is based on by Anthony Swofford about his experiences as a Marine in Operation Desert Storm and was wowed by the writing and the wisdom in its pages, as well as its engaging storyline and telling honesty about military life. As well all know, books don’t often translate to the big screen that well. But this movie does the original work justice even if it narrows Swofford’s tale to focus on his experience in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Some progressives may decry war films, but my own values of pacifism, anti-militarism and wishes for a world without war don’t get in the way of feeling that war movies, as I have said here before, still constitute some of the most powerful cinematic works because war is one of the most intense human experiences on the planet. “Jarhead” is also a war movie with a twist I won’t reveal as well as a revelatory look into the culture of the modern Marine Corps. It is skillfully shot with moments of chilling if not horrid beauty once the fighting gets underway and filled with utterly believable characters, and well worth your time for an evening’s entertainment.

CD: Electric Dirt by Levon Helm — If you loved The Band and miss their vivid and rich style of musical Americana, this album asserts like its 2007 Grammy-winning predecessor Dirt Farmer that while Robbie Robertson may have been the songwriting brains of The Band, Helm was its Southern heart and soul. Even after a bout with throat cancer, he still sings with a crackling charm that’s authentically American and reaps from the best of country, blues and R&B to be the finest exemplar of roots music today. Backed by crack players and making savvy song selections, Helm is a national music treaure.

From The Progressive Populist, September 15, 2009

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