Todd Solondz’s Warped World
Todd Solondz’s films are nothing if not controversial— Happiness and Welcome to the Dollhouse were met with much resistance (and praise) from viewers and critics—but they are so deliciously weird it’s impossible to look away. This weekend, while the crowds are waiting to get into Inception and Salt, one might do better to sneak into a screening of Life During Wartime, Solondz’s new ensemble drama starring Ally Sheedy, Allison Janney, Paul Reubens, and Charlotte Rampling. The film follows the kooky Jordan family over a decade during which time their lives have been blown apart and no one is ever completely stable (an elementary schooler, for example, freely takes her mother’s Klonopin). While the bizarre world of the Jordans may delight and even disgust, Solondz’s warped vision of the world is always worth a deeper look. As EW’s Lisa Schwarzbaum writes, “In a staring contest with his audience, Solondz never blinks. He picks and picks at the themes that consume him, and he doesn't care who stays and who leaves. Me, I'm rapt.”
Blazing Through Europe With a Pen
Comic writer Rachel Shukert is barely over 30, and yet she has already published two memoirs of impossible wit and humor. In her first book, Have You No Shame?, she spared no detail about her overly neurotic Jewish upbringing, and her latest work, Everything Is Going to Be Great, chronicles her misadventures abroad in Europe as a young twentysomething. While she was a failing actress in New York, Shukert decided to travel to the refined continent to “find herself”—then luckily, Customs failed to stamp her passport and she was able to remain in Europe for however long she pleased as a free agent. And, of course, hijinks ensue: experimental theater in Amsterdam’s underbelly, a date with a potential Nazi, an inspiring love story, and the lessons that can only come from running away to discover who you are, along with the realization that your problems have a tendency to run with you. It’s a great summer read for anyone who likes funny ladies—or who has a friend who is threatening to give it all up to teach English in Prague. This should stop them cold.
Folk Music’s New Queen
Next weekend, folk music fans will gather in Rhode Island for the Newport Folk Festival to see acts including The Swell Season, Brandi Carlisle, and comedian Steve Martin (and his banjo), but one need not hop on a plane to hear one of the genre’s most promising artists. Frazey Ford, best known to folkies as one-third of the Canadian trio The Be Good Tanyas, has emerged anew this week with a solo record, Obadiah, a quiet stunner that begs comparison to the best of Neil Young and Joni Mitchell while still standing out as wholly original. Ford’s voice is warbling and fierce at once, and the album, recorded over one blistering Vancouver summer, contains messages about pain, change, and hope that will help you coast into autumn.