Russell Brand is trying to use comedy to incite political revolution. James Poulos on what Americans can learn from his British brand of politics and celebrity.
If you’ve been paying attention to the recent spate of news-making media appearances, you know we’re supposed to take Russell Brand seriously. It’s actually a good idea: Brand is smart, engaging and politically informed. His curious brand of celebrity radicalism won't succeed at transforming American politics where Obama (and so many others) have failed. But it might just help us where we need it most.
Russell Brand performs on stage in Atlanta, Georgia during his 'Messiah Complex' tour. (Splash News)
Like most people we are invited to take seriously, it has been a really good couple of months for Russell Brand. Surprisingly and delightfully, he has rocketed to newfound fame not by taking himself more seriously, but by devoting his life to matters deeper than Arthur or Katy Perry. Moved and touched by the prospect of radical politics, he edited an issue of Britain's New Statesman magazine, released last Wednesday, that includes his own 4500-word manifesto. He publicly criticized Hugo Boss for dressing the Nazis (and was purged for this dire offense from all things GQ). He appeared on the MSNBC show co-hosted by Mika Brzezinski, depicting it as an infantile puppet show, revealing that even media figures can be liberated by the imprisonment of vapid fame.
Lou Reed served as gatekeeper of New York City’s dirty, sexy underbelly filled with drugs, transvestism, and prostitution, writes renowned NYC nightlife columnist Michael Musto.
“Cool” is one of those words that is completely meaningless because the second you apply them to someone, they totally evaporate. Being truly cool means never having to say you are, and certainly never having to get anyone else to say it either. But I’d make an exception for Lou Reed. Dripping with NYC attitude and angst, Lou was the epitome of cool from day one, when his impenetrable shades, leather jacket, and droning voice made him the modern day answer to the tough, bisexual antiheroes of 1950s cinema. The man was cool personified, and his passing due to his liver-related ailment today at age 71 sounds the death knell for irony-laden rock chic.
Brando and Dean by way of Cale and Bowie, Lou had an acid-drenched view of the world’s horrors, but he infused it with wry wit and sweet sentiment that made his world a haunting place of dark romance and transcendence-seeking. He’ll always have a place in the history books for having gotten a chart hit out of transvestism, drugs, and prostitution by way of “Walk on the Wild Side,” his 1972 song that detailed the Warhol superstars’ original treks to New York, which they brought to its knees (while they were on their knees). The song became my guidebook to the freaks and fabbies I’d missed out on because I was still in school at that time and actually doing my homework. It was my invaluable introduction to the wonderfully racy glamour of the nightlife underworld, and with the record’s deadpan vocals and woozy guitar riffs, backed by “colored girls” do-wopping, it made me a believer—in transvestism, prostitution, and Lou Reed.
Those themes remained Reed favorites with his ’73 album Berlin, which I picked up in a one-dollar bargain bin in L.A. three years later, and which changed my life all over again. I was mad for the junkies-in-love theme and loved the decadent use of Berlin as a bleak and hazy backdrop for a zoned-out rock opera of a concept album. This one made the Who’s Tommy look like Mary Poppins by comparison. The despairing songs could never be chart hits, but that made them all the more delicious, with certain phrases searing into my impressionable young mind forever. (One example: “After the applause had died down…,” with Lou perversely leaning on the “the”.)
Don’t expect the lawyers at Lockhart/Gardner to unite against a common enemy this week. In ‘Hitting the Fan,’ exit plans rile up the firm. It isn’t pretty. Warning: spoilers.
Pardon the hyperbole, but there has never been a more aptly titled Good Wife episode than “Hitting the Fan.” The proverbial shit did indeed hit the fan when the Lockhart/Gardner partners discovered Alicia (Julianna Margulies), Cary (Matt Czuchry), and the rest of the fourth year associates’ plan to leave.
Alicia (Julianna Margulies, right) and Cary’s plans to depart Lockhart/Gardner are suddenly exposed, leading to mass firings and a desperate battle between the two firms to retain clients, on "The Good Wife." (David M. Russell/CBS)
Tonight’s episode capitalized on the tension that has been building up not only since this season’s outstanding premiere, but also since the first season. “Hitting the Fan” is so momentous because of the degree to which it contrasts with last week’s equally excellent episode, “Outside the Bubble.” That episode felt rather like the calm before the storm as it juggled multiple storylines and we saw the lawyers at Lockhart/Gardner united against a common enemy: a paralegal suing the firm for sexual harassment. This week finds them desperately fighting each other over clients in the wake of the exposure of Alicia and Cary’s exit plans.
Lou Reed died Sunday a legend. Punk old-timer Legs McNeil on how, despite his best efforts at acting like a grump, the Velvet Underground front man was beloved.
Lou Reed was always a grumpy old man. Okay, so I did my best to ask him the most annoying questions when the Punk magazine staff first interviewed him after our first night at CBGB’s, with questions like, “How do you like your hamburgers cooked?”
Lou Reed, 1942-2013. (Michael Ochs Archives/Getty )
Lou never forgave me, which was OK by me. I was a bit put off by Lou’s date, Rachel, a transvestite with a 5 o’clock shadow, who sat next to Lou during the interview and didn’t open her mouth. Weird. It seemed to me that Lou inhabited some ultra-hip netherworld where all the rules had been discarded or rewritten—gay, drug addict, narcissist—and as repulsed as I was by this place he occupied, I was also fascinated.
The rock legend died Sunday at the age of 71. Take a walk on the wild side and remember him with The Daily Beast’s playlist.
Lou Reed didn’t rank among the artists with the top 100 best-selling albums of the 1970s—but his songs will outlast almost all those marquee names. Reed’s subjects were drugs, dislocation, and alienation, and the sometimes lonely life on the wild side. His only constant companion was the city of New York.
Lou Reed, circa 1970. (Michael Ochs Archives/Getty)
Reed specialized in finding the light in dark corners. He first found fame as a singer, songwriter, and guitarist for The Velvet Underground, whose debut album captured the horror and fleeting joys of the junky life in songs such as “Waiting for the Man,” “Heroin,” and “Sunday Morning.”
A documentary at last pays tribute to Divine, one of the most influential figures in drag and gay culture. By Jimmy So.
One of the more peculiar ironies of notoriety is that the more a work is hyped as controversial, the less likely it is that you have actually seen the film and know it enough to extol or decry it. People have been talking about Pink Flamingos ever since naturalists expecting a documentary about birds have been known to come out of the theater vomiting. But what does the 1972 movie actually show? Poop, we’ve heard. Specifically, the drag queen Divine eating dog poo at the film’s end. It is director John Waters’s “exercise in poor taste,” as we’ve gathered from the tag line. It is a cult movie, a camp movie, a controversial movie, and a perverse movie. But what does that all mean?
Divine in "Pink Flamingos." (Everett Collection)
If you were to actually sit down and watch Pink Flamingos, you’d find yourself plunged into a deliberate world of weird, as two families compete to be “The Filthiest People Alive,” and make a run at the title of being stupidest as well. The first third of a list of the film’s indefensible acts would go something like this: impregnating kidnapped women and selling the babies to lesbian couples, peddling heroin in inner-city elementary schools, crushing a live chicken while having sex, flexing one’s anus to the song “Surfin’ Bird.” The staged offenses are so numerous that they become numbing in abundance.
That scene where Cameron Diaz has sex with a car? Cormac McCarthy wrote that. From a motor-powered garrot to lyrical pillow talk, read the best passages from the screenplay of ‘The Counselor.’
Though Ridley Scott faithfully adapts Cormac McCarthy's first feature film screenplay, the director could not possibly include every passage of lyrical prose, crammed into a wordy 175-pages. Here are the best scenes and speeches (some that you won’t see on film) from The Counselor.
The Counselor (Michael Fassbender) tries to navigate through a world with which he’s totally unfamiliar. (Kerry Brown/Twentieth Century Fox )
1. ‘Auto’ Erotic
From Ylvis’ newest song to a 2-year-old’s LED costume, watch our countdown of this week’s buzziest videos.
5. Sweet Facts
Just in time for Halloween, YouTube star John Green runs through 38 hilarious and intriguing facts about some of the world’s favorite candy.
Robert Hilburn’s vivid new biography, ‘Johnny Cash: The Life,’ provides a piercing look at a man besieged by the demons of addiction but steadied by Christian faith and an abiding love of music. Read excerpts from two crucial moments in Cash’s saga.
Robert Hilburn’s vivid new biography, Johnny Cash: The Life, thoroughly examines all aspects of the performer’s life, from his start in the Arkansas cotton fields to his late-life renaissance working with producer Rick Rubin. But Hilburn is particularly canny when it comes to Cash’s genius for slipping in and out of musical categories. He was not exactly a country singer, but not really in the rock ‘n’ roll camp either. Nor was he a straightforward folk or gospel singer, although he excelled in those genres. At every turn, Hilburn ably conveys the impossibility of pigeonholing this unique artist, but two moments, excerpted below, stand out: when Cash wrote and recorded ‘I Walk the Line’ and when he performed for the inmates at San Quentin.
ABC Photo Archives/Getty
In an industry dominated by hits like ‘Exploited Teen,’ raising the minimum age would weed out the rule-obeying responsible. By Aurora Snow.
For those who leave home for the first time and spread their newly minted adult wings, there may be a difference between being 18 and 21. I wasn’t one of those kids. I left home at 17 and was ready to grow up.
I wasn’t coddled, to say the least. After my first year of college I wanted a job that paid well. Hello, adult entertainment. Not long after my 18th birthday, I was as ready as I’d ever be. I got in for the same reason many others do: It was a way to pay for a higher education. In my mind the end justified the means. If I’d had to wait until I turned 21, I might have found another way. I might not have become Aurora Snow.
Faulkner, Fitzgerald, Huxley—none of the great novelists ever had an original screenplay produced. Cormac McCarthy has. But is his new movie, ‘The Counselor,’ any good? By Andrew Romano.
Hollywood has never been kind to great fiction writers. But The Counselor—the new Ridley Scott film starring Michael Fassbender, Brad Pitt, Cameron Diaz, Javier Bardem, and Penelope Cruz—is different. Somehow novelist-turned-screenwriter Cormac McCarthy has avoided the curse of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Aldous Huxley, and Vladimir Nabokov and managed to convince a lot of very powerful people to make exactly the movie he wanted to make.
Cameron Diaz as Malkina in "The Counselor." Cormac McCarthy attends the HBO Films & The Cinema Society screening of "Sunset Limited" after party at Porter House on February 1, 2011. (Twentieth Century Fox, Getty)
The question is whether that’s a good thing.
Justin Long, who played the ‘Mac Guy’ in a series of ads, responds to Jonathan Franzen’s calling him “smug.” His movies, 'A Case of You,' and 'Best Man Down,' are in theaters soon.
I’m a huge fan of Franzen’s work, so in a weird way, just to be mentioned by him—no matter how pejoratively—was flattering. I’ve got to say, I thought a lot about The Kraus Project after I read it, and I thought it was an interesting essay—and one that I don’t necessarily disagree with. I love what he had to say about Karl Kraus, and the German point of view versus the romantic Italian and French way of looking at art, and finding aesthetic beauty in just walking down the street. Franzen is making a larger point about that, and our media-saturated culture, and the disdain he has for the state of things. And he frames it all within the Mac-PC marketing debate, and it was one that pitted utilitarian interests against more aesthetic ones. I kind of get it.
I think technology has diminished a lot of the joys that can be found in our personal communication. There’s an art to it, and there’s something that’s really troubling about the advent of all this social media. We started writing the film A Case of You about five years, back when MySpace was big, and now they have this dating app called Tinder, which is literally just a picture and a little blurb! I think the Karl Kraus essay was very prophetic in terms of that. I don’t think it’s inherently misguided to be on Twitter, but it’s a tool that can be overindulged in, and I see that all the time. I go on Twitter occasionally, and see people that are on it constantly. I see people on dates and they’re on their phone the whole time. There’s something very sad about that.
This week in pop culture history: ‘Halloween’ scares us for the first time 35 years ago, the iPod revolutionizes music, and more.
This past week was one of innovation in pop culture history. Apple’s first generation iPod debuted on the mark twelve years ago, Halloween, one of the most successful horror films, celebrated its 35th anniversary, and NBC’s landmark medical drama St. Elsewhere began its six-season run. Check out our video rundown for you weekly dose of nostalgia.
October 24, 1969
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is released.
Taye Diggs, Idina Menzel Split
After a decade of marriage.More
READY FOR OSCARS?
SAG Nominations Announced
“12 Years a Slave,” “The Butler” get the most nods.More
Lovato Admits Cocaine Addiction
Says she would “smuggle it” onto airplanes.More
THAT’S NOT MY BOY
Forbes: Sandler Most Overpaid
Followed by Katherine Heigl and Reese Witherspoon.More
NBC Plans ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ Series
Will be set in Paris.More
NBC Plans More Live Musicals
After success of “The Sound of Music.”More
Former stockbroker Jordan Belfort once had sex on $3 million in cash. Check out more stats about the man behind Leo DiCaprio’s leading role in Martin Scorsese’s latest.