Hipsters Try to Make It in Manhattan

TV series: How To Make it in America. I initially wasn’t so sure about this new HBO show when I tuned into its first season. I was afraid it might be plagued by the all too common slavish hipsterism that infects entertainment with shallowness and silliness.

As an ex-New Yorker who was involved in its Downtown scene in the late 1970s and 1980s, I was afraid the show wouldn’t accurately capture its contemporary counterpart in a way that didn’t evoke how much I miss the Manhattan that once was and has largely disappeared.

But with each new episode this tale of two young streetwise aspirants in the fashion world felt redolent with real life in its fun dramatic story graced with a sweet and gentle humor.

With its second season that started airing this last fall, I knew I was hooked by the characters, milieu and unfolding story. It’s not hipster at all but rather very hip in all the best ways.

Documentary film: If A Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front.This evocative and compelling film show on PBS’s POV series rides on the fulcrum of the question about just when does radical activism become domestic terrorism, a term that has been applied to the underground environmental group.

To some, the acts of property damage and destruction go beyond the limits for acceptable protest. For others their campaign offers striking call to action to save our planet from destruction and plunder. The path from protest and resistance to radical action shown in this doc parallels that of the SDS into the Weather Underground in the 1960s.

The way it also personalizes the story via convicted ELF member Daniel McGowan and his almost sweet and naïve idealism adds to the power of the issues and questions it raises. As Occupy Wall Street revives Leftist activism in this nation, If A Tree Falls offers an instructive view on what could possibly transpire as circumstances unfold.

Documentary film: Pearl Jam Twenty. True confession: As much as I am an avid rock’n’roll devotee, I have never been moved in a deep way as has happened with other great bands by Pearl Jam, undoubtedly one of the greatest rock groups of the last two decades.

As much as many critics have major issues with just about every film made by Cameron Crowe, who directed this rock doc, I am a major fan of his work. Even if I will admit that many of his movies could lose 20 minutes or so without any ill effect and maybe play better by doing so, I’d still miss the excised stuff.

Perhaps that’s the result of having written for some of the same music magazines as Crowe in the 1970s and being acquainted with him.

However, I also can make the case for why I enjoy and admire his work.

Yes, this look at Pearl Jam from the milieu it arose from and the career that followed is so positive on its subject that it could be typed as a “schlockumentary” (as discussed in an earlier column here that looked at my friend and peer Bill Wyman’s criticism of Martin Scorsese’s George Harrison doc).

On the other hand, Pearl Jam are admirable in how they have forged a musical career with integrity and managed to keep the fragile ecosystem that is a rock’n’roll band intact for as long as they have.

This movie only enhances my respect for the band and shows them to be likable, soulful people.

Even if it still doesn’t make me a fan, I can’t deny the excellence and power of their music.

Rob Patterson is an entertainment and political writer in Austin, Texas. Email orca@prismnet.com.

From The Progressive Populist, February 1, 2012


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