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Month: September 2016

The Slow Disappearance of Meaning and Truth

The Gucci Iced Tea

Summer seems to be here to stay and the need for stylish fresh beverages has never been greater. But getting out of the comfort of your air-conditionned penthouse seems to be too much off a hassle? Modern Monsters has just the right solution for you! It only requires three very easy steps:

Step 1: Infuse some Gucci tea.


Step 2: Add Gucci ice cubes.


Step 3: Add one Gucci sugar.



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Chef’s Table France: Alain Passard (2016)



Take a duck, take a chicken, saw them longitudinally and sew together back a half of each. Cook in a cocotte full of hay. Here you have it: the Arpège signature poultry dish, inspired by ballet dancing. Alain Passard is not afraid of mutations,as he proved it in letting go of the flesh in 1998, when he decided that his one and only restaurant would serve only vegetables, a decision scandalous then and worthy of attention for the Ducasse and Robuchon of the culinary scene, them of the 20+ Michelin stars on three continents. Passard has three, for more then twenty years. The concept of executive chef eludes him, as the idea of menu itself. Each opening day, he’s at L’Arpège and operates his magic in person, according to what is delivered from his two gardens. “Gardens saved my life”, he says at the end of this episode. Voltaire is not far, and one muses what the writer would have thought of the Frankenchicken.

Some meat and seafood are back à la carte, but they serve more as punctuation than as the meal grammar. That day in 1998 when the chef decided that he had enough for his three star restaurant to be what he calls “une rotisserie”, he found his true call, whether or not he knew he wanted to be a chef since childhood, when his grandmother taught him “the school of fire”, something that sounds like a part of the dark arts but is the opposite. Playing with fire can make you a witch, but not working with it.

Different topsoils nurture different variety of the same vegetables; this is the essence of taste, and the cook needs the gardener as the gardener needs the cook. There is a lot of humility in the way Passard talks about his career, from his painful apprenticeship with a regal chef to the delight growing his own material brings him. The morning arrival of the vegetables and fruits feels like a nuptial parade, with an equal measure of sensuality and intense concentration. He’s a very quiet man, one that considering his behaviour and his track record you would never think has been accused of crime against the sacrament of French cuisine.

No wonder his true mentor was Alain Senderens, the chef who discovered his true call when he gave back his three stars to do the cuisine he wanted. Passard understood what chef he was after he got his. “A more than apt pupil, could do without so much meat” might have been Sanderens’ final verdict. Passard did that and went far beyond. His tasting menu at L’Arpège costs 150€ and is a succession of 14 dishes, a kaiseki during which fauna can be glimpsed among a rich flora. As three star lunch menus go, it’s the same price than everywhere else. The result, however, might completely change the way you look at a turnip.

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Scream Queens Season 1 (2015)


Lifestyle of the Rich and Famous

Brad Falchuk And Ryan Murphy’s fourth brainchild after Nip/Tuck, Glee and American Horror Story (which Season 6 debuts this week and will be reviewed here), the series was witten specifically, and pitched to, Jamie Lee Curtis, maybe the original scream queen in Halloween (1978). She said yes before reading a screenplay. And what it must have been to receive that particular one. She is all across the board in the role of Cathy Munsch, Dean of the exclusive Wallace University who nurtures a specific hatred against its elite Kappa Kappa Tau sorority. Presided by Chanel Oberlin (Emma Roberts, Eric’s daughter and Julia’s niece, having inherited the family mouth), whose sisters’ only name are Chanel N°3 (Billie Lourd, Carrie Fisher’s daughter, wonderful in her Princess Leia earmuffs), and Chanel N°5 (Abigail Breslin), because, why the hell take the trouble of remembering their name. The family ties involved smartly reinforce the implicit snobbery of such a backdrop.

Problem: a serial killer starts offing the sorority pledges, wearing the mascot costume of the football team, the Red Devils. Interestingly, he starts with a character named “Deaf Taylor Swift”. The body counts escalades fast. Will Chanel survive the season, allowing her Uncle Karl to deliver his new collection to her in a timely fashion? Will the new girl in town, Grace (Skyler Samuels) make it through herself? Who was the baby born in a bathtub in the pilot’s prologue? More importantly, what’s for diner apart cotton balls and barbecue sauce? You have figured out by now that Scream Queens is serious drama, not to be trifled with. Truffled, maybe. Shaved on cotton balls.

The series jubilantly plays high camp, giving the impression that liberated from a specific activity (cosmetic surgery) or genre (musical, horror) the writers can gayly – very, very gaily – frolic in slasher clichés, over the top outfits and witty banter. One can try to give you a flavour of what they have in store here, but frankly, where to begin? Dialogue is endlessly quotable and it comes from all directions, including the main frat boy, Chad Radwell, who never met a corpse who didn’t make him hard, or the larger than life Denise Hemphill (Niecy Nash, straight out of a blacksploitation flick), security guard promptly promoted to Chief of Police who will, whatever trouble one is in “come a-running”, then fly away screaming.

There some urban legends, including the mandatory Japanese one. There is the obligatory Nietzsche abyss, to which one retorts “You’re already a murderer, you don’t have to be a douche as well”. There is the uncanny concept of mix tapes as investigative technique. There is an attempt at killing Jamie Lee Curtis like her mother was in Psycho, only by a Supreme Court judge this time, and one at suicide via a garter snake wearing a Freddy Krueger sweater. A high-on-acid final Hercule Poirot sequence, a threat on the life of the Duchess of Cambridge, and more. Scream Queens requires a high level of tolerance for schriecking but it’s a riot, pop trash of the first magnitude.

As Denise Hemphill would say, there is no way to “stop the hot tsunami of truth come a-rolling into that house”. A second season is already made. One will kill anyone trying to prevent one to watch it asap. Happy hazing!

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Showgirls (1995)


Snow White Does Las Vegas

The fact that Showgirls is back in theaters speaks volumes about reevaluation, and as far as prep talks go it says a lot about media hype and the burning of idols, too. That movie would be a cautionary tale if anything of the sort still existed; as such, it nevertheless takes part in a conversation about Short Attention Span Disorder that no one is able to follow, and that’s the irony of it.

Irony is not exactly foreign to Paul Verhoeven, as demonstrated by Robocop, Starship Troopers (is it the best bad movie ever, or is it the worst good movie, the jury will ever be out) or even Basic Instinct. The man is one of the few European directors to have left his mark on Hollywood at the end of the 20th century, directing big budgets blockbusters which were hot topics at the time, mainly for their violence but also for their sexuality (remember that particular piece of the True Crotch?) But, but, violence is good, violence is fun, and sex is not. Sex is evil, well, women sex is. The female sex in general. Whores and witches, all of’em, ya know.

By switching focus from violence to sex, Verhoeven spoke the unspeakable and committed a cardinal sin. Backlash was swift, the same ones who enjoyed Total Recall (Violence + Comedy) and Basic Instinct (Violence + Sex) rejecting with puritan horror Showgirls (Sex + Comedy). What the hell was he thinking, desecrating Las Vegas, the Wedding Meccah? Focussing on strip clubs and tacky shows, when there is so much to gamble about, what Ocean’s Eleven, a perfectly apt American movie made by a less controversial European director, made six years later?

But what about the movie itself, you think? Well, think of it as an adult version of Snow White and fuggettabout the Seven Dwarves. If you can’t, you have a fetish and you are very much welcome, but you have a problem, too. So: Snow White, the Evil Queen, and Prince Charming. Las Vegas is the mirror on the wall, the bad guy who says to the Queen (Gina Gershon, one of the most carnivorous actresses who ever were) that there is a fairer of them all. Snow White (Elisabeth Berkeley, not a great thespian by any mean but the quintessence of bimbo, and as such an inspired casting) does what Zach Snyder’s limp dicked Sucker Punch was unable to show: she dances like hell, thank you very much, and when she does it is impossible not to watch (the impossibility of the male gaze not to stare at beauty being our fetish of the week).

Showgirls is a great movie, but it’s the Versace in a row of Prada. It’s tacky, expensive and camp, yet smart as a whip and, at the end of the day, surprisingly human for all the caricature involved. Its backstage scenes are as superiorly filmed as its show scenes are flatly vulgar, all organised confusion and petty revenge when no natural empathy is involved. And a lot of empathy is at work here. For all its bare breasts, implied sex and titillation, Showgirls is at its core a feminine movie, its men helpless or unable to touch (Kyle McLachlan, miscast but not as Prince Charming). It’s Grrrl power two years before Spice World. It’s a shame to the Razzie Awards, which Verhoeven was the first director to attend to collect his. Irony, see, is a tightrope, but if you get to the other side the same ones who derided you will clap, given time. And balance.

Also, writer Joe Eszterhaz was at its best with this one. “They wanna fuck Hope. This is a classy joint”. This is screwball for the millenium. A perfect companion to Wall Street (1987), except that one got an Oscar even though it is much inferior, Showgirls is like its “Goddess” heroin, ambitious as hell and how fuck does it know the moves to get there (this one pool sex scene with Prince Charming a cyborg terror one). But when a drag queen becomes the closest she has to a mother, Nomi is genuinely happy to see her again. “Full of shit”, the fat lady sings. Irony, yes?

MONEY   Monstrometer3
LONELINESS    Monstrometer3
BOREDOM    Monstrometer1
FEAR    Monstrometer3
TIME   Monstrometer3

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Money Monster (2016)

Screenshot_20160901-090848~2 copy

Occupy The Screen

If not a stylist in the slightest, Jodie Foster is a very smart lady and a capable director with a keen flair for tone. Both funny and utterly pessimistic, Money Monster brings welcome memories of (admittedly better) movies like Network, and there are much worse associations than this one. Presenting the alliance of computer trading and cable television as a weapon of mass destruction, of value as well as lives, Mrs Foster packs up a convincing case, if not escaping all traps of such a complex subject having to be laid out and resolved in 138 minutes, which by the way breeze by as if they were 98, one of the best possible compliments for a movie in our age of bloated freak shows.

The Ibis corporation took a plunge of 800 M$ after a “glitch” affected its high-speed trading, this mere weeks after Lee Gates, star anchor of the Money Monster cable programme, has deemed its share safer than any life insurance policy. Kyle Budwell (Jack O’Connell), one of the 99%, having lost everything, breaks in the TV studio, takes Gates hostage, put an explosive vest on him and asks for answers. They prove difficult to get, as Ibis’ CEO has vanished. Gates can only rely on himself, and on Patty Fenn, the studio director (Julia Roberts).

It is not useless to underline that the ibis is the animal form of the Egyptian God of Knowledge, due to its ability to make the difference between drinkable and corrupt water, a form of wisdom which all concerned are deprived of, intoxicated as they are with the promise of money acquired faster than the speed of light, thanks to inscrutable algorithms in a world shrunk to a few stock exchange places. Greed, once heralded as good, is still the same, though, and for lack of a better word, greed is a bulimic monster that cannot be satiated.

There is a measure of squeamishness in having close friends Clooney and Roberts sharing top billing. Both are consummate professionals, but it is hard not to think once or twice during Money Monster that they are not stretching their acting chops to a dangerous extent in it. Clooney is his usual jerk with a heart of gold and easy empathy to his fellow humans, whatever disturbed they are, and Roberts is her trademark strong woman whose inner vulnerability allow her to act noble instead of curt. They make the show, however, since the other actors are something of a white noise, except Emily Meade as Molly, the hostage taker’s girlfriend, who is brought on the air to mollify him and has one excellent, enraged scene.

Money Monster wears its ideas on its sleeve, but they are treated without naivety. On one hand Mrs Foster is obviously sympathetic to the “Occupy Wall Street” movement and clearly thinks that unregulated finance is the enemy. If something catastrophic occurs, blame it on computer programming, on Europe, on the ways of the world. Never blame yourself for your mistakes regarding others as long as you make a load out of them. Last time one checked, this was the 21st century definition of capitalism, a battle of financial kaijus eradicating industrial sectors or countries alike. On the other hand, her movie is pessimistic as hell regarding the ability of the common man to make any change to this current state of affairs. There are a couple of chilling moments towards the end of the movie, one an enthusiastic flash mob marching in support of Kyle Budwell, only to vanish like a flock of sheep as a gun is fired, the other the immediate loss of interest for whatever the same had to say when his fate is sealed. Case closed, let’s have a commercial break. “What kind of programme will we have tomorrow?” ask Lee Gates to Penny, whom Drama Day has obviously brought together (again).

Ending up in memes and tweets like most things do whenever they start nowadays, Money Monster sums up in a rather tight bundle a sizable portion of what is going wrong in our wretched century, bringing short attention span disorder in the realm of terminal illness. We don’t have enough memory to process everything happening at the speed it is happening. Our short bursts of indignation are followed by long bouts of complacency. If money has always been the root of evil, it is now a very modern and capable monster indeed.

MONEY   Monstrometer4
LONELINESS    Monstrometer3
BOREDOM    Monstrometer1
FEAR    Monstrometer2
TIME   Monstrometer3

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