On not rising to the top

Over at Good Reports I’ve posted my review of Arlie Russell Hochschild’s Strangers In Their Own Land. It’s an excellent work of social reportage that stands alongside Brian Alexander’s Glass House as an attempt to explain and understand what is happening in the United States, and in particular the forces that led to the election of Donald Trump.

What I find interesting is that there was another book on the same general topic that was published at the same time: Hillbilly Elegy by J. D. Vance. To say that Vance’s book received far more coverage and enjoyed better sales than the other two books combined would, I think, be an understatement. And yet of the three I think it’s by far the worst. The cream doesn’t always rise to the top.

Hoodie horror

Another neighbourhood gone straight to hell.

Over at Alex on Film I’ve added reviews of a couple of horror movies about youth run wild: Them (2006) and Citadel (2012). Ciarán Foy, the writer-director of Citadel refers to this genre as “hoodie horror,” but this doesn’t seem to be a label that has achieved a lot of traction yet. I suspect it goes back to films like Don’t Look Now and The Brood, though in Don’t Look Now it’s a hooded raincoat and in The Brood the little monsters are wearing hooded snowsuits and pyjamas. Today, the hoodie is a class marker, and the movies are more about juvenile delinquency than the supernatural. The hood is short for a ‘hood full of hoodlums. But either way, the hood retains a power to threaten. Personally, I just hate to see kids driving with their hoods pulled up over their heads. What is this doing to their peripheral vision?

Take, taken, took

This never ends the way you want it to.

Over at Alex on Film I’ve been watching the Taken trilogy: Taken (2008), Taken 2 (2012), and Taken 3 (2014). This was a surprise franchise hit for which I have no good explanation, since I don’t think any one of them is worth watching. That said, I did think the third was the best, which I believe is a minority critical opinion. Not that I thought the third one was good, just that the first two were both crap.

Just visiting

Somebody took a wrong turn.

You never know what you’re going to see looking out your back window some mornings. When I lived on the farm this wouldn’t have raised an eyebrow, but I live right in the heart of the city now. I hope the little fellow made it home.

Those in wax houses

Melt, motherfucker, melt!

Over at Alex on Film I’ve been watching a bunch of movies dealing with the theme of the mad artist who makes wax sculptures out of his victims. The ball got rolling with Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933), which was a bit of a studio pot-boiler released without any great expectations. The source story had never even been published. With House of Wax (1953), however, the idea received its classic expression. They couldn’t really miss casting Vincent Price as the demented and disfigured sculptor. I then have some notes on a couple of cheap quickies — Nightmare in Wax (1969) and Crucible of Terror (1971) — that are nevertheless of some interest, with Crucible of Terror being well worth checking out just as a curiosity. Finally, I look at House of Wax (2005), probably best known today for being the one with Paris Hilton in it. She gets a pipe driven through her head. Though not a great movie, I was actually pleasantly surprised by this one, especially with the melting museum at the end. Apparently this caused some problems during production, with a big part of the Australian studio burning down and a subsequent lawsuit. That’s unfortunate, but I have to say it looks great.

You keep using that word . . .

Yesterday morning on CNN New Day co-anchor Alisyn Camerota was interviewing former Governor of New Hampshire and White House Chief of Staff John Sununu about investigations and broader speculations into the possibility of some kind of collusion between the Trump White House and Russia. Throughout the interview Sununu kept insisting on the lack of any evidence of “a veniality.” This is what it sounded like:

CAMEROTA: I’m trying to gauge your comfort level with all of this
SUNUNU: My comfort level? The only discomfort I have is with folks in the media trying to create a veniality without having the courage to specifically tell me what the veniality that I should be concerned about is. I don’t have . . . I have not identified a veniality. Have you?

Is “veniality” really the word Sununu wanted to use? It refers to a minor sin, easily forgiven. I don’t think that’s what anyone speaking about these matters is really interested in. My guess is that what he meant to say was “venality,” which means capable of being bribed or open to corruption. The two words are actually very different, coming from completely different roots. The weird thing is, I’m still not entirely sure what the intended meaning was, or if either veniality or venality were being properly used.