Long time no see - on the city, opinions, Pure Colour, and being mad at TV
It’s been over a month since my last newsletter —things are busy, and sometimes, a person only has so much to say. With presentations and papers due throughout March and April, and some big life decisions being made — I’m starting my PhD in September! — other priorities have taken centre stage. And so instead of anything complete or whole, I give you a brief collection of very preliminary thoughts…
Things are supposedly ‘returning to normal.’ A few weeks ago, I went to TIFF to finally see The Worst Person in the World, but what has stuck with me much more vividly was the walk I took back to Union Station afterwards, striding through downtown in the dark, listening to people talking and to cars going by, sensing a rhythm in my body that I had forgotten about as I really tuned into urban life for the first time in a long time. I felt a quiet eagerness to be there, and to be alive — a kind of gentle, mellow activity, a soft excitement.
Roland Barthes in “The Neutral: Session of March 11, 1978” — “I had this vivid intuition (for me, the urban dusk has a great power of crispness, of activation, it’s almost a drug)."
Later that week, I saw Jacqueline Novak’s show Get on Your Knees with my friend Paige, and it felt strange and cathartic to “just be merry” (yes — those were my exact choice of words). These little moments were like signs of spring, so to speak — hope, potential, possibility thumbing at the edges of isolation.
Maybe spring is the right comparison, actually, because every year we call for it prematurely. Our visions of putting winter clothes away are always sullied by a blizzard in mid-April. In the same way, the sense that the pandemic is in any way waning is more wishful thinking than reality, and I am deeply bummed out by the wilful ignorance of ending mask mandates, vax passports, and social distancing.
I’ve still been thinking a lot about uncertainty and opinions, lately. I think the Oscars slap is to blame (I feel queasy even alluding to it… the discourse is so heinous and embarrassing). Everyone’s rush to not only take a side, but to express it, feels like a huge overvaluation of not only one’s own self-importance, but the already overblown importance of celebrity culture. Not saying anything is an option, and so is moving on.
Speaking of the Oscars: I’ve been hung up on a few great contributions to cinema last year that unfortunately were not recognised much at all. Mike Mills’ C’Mon C’Mon deserved major love for its screenwriting and I was also really touched by Gaby Hoffmann’s performance. Other amazing best actress/best supporting actress potentials for me included Ruth Negga in Passing, Vicky Krieps and Mia Wasikowska in Bergman Island, and Taylour Paige in Zola. I also don’t know what happened to all of the love for Jeffrey Wright in The French Dispatch, and it would always have been an extreme long shot, but Richard Ayoade in The Souvenir Part II? Impeccable! It was also the best film of the year, full stop.
Reading: I’ve just finished Sheila Heti’s latest novel Pure Colour, which I really liked. I’m not a big fan of Heti’s previous work, but this one took an experimental, imagistic turn as opposed to her usually more autofictional and psychological mode. I was especially struck by her meditations on the aesthetic and on the role of the critic, who for her is somebody with an innately corrective point of view; the same impulse to say that a line in a painting should be moved, or that some dialogue in a TV show is wooden might also be an aptitude for noticing other things about the world that are not as they should be, even turning inward to ourselves and our pasts. This sensibility is one that feels familiar to me, but I also wonder if it is too aggrandising to give critics that kind of authoritative perceptiveness. Nonetheless, I liked it. It was weird and lovely and thoughtful.
Watching: Is it just me, or is a lot of TV really bad right now? So many shows have returned with new seasons early in 2022, but none of them have delivered the primo quality that I had in mind. There is so much filler — people yelling at each other, clowning, fighting, and even singing, always literally doing and saying absolutely nothing in the process— to the point of exhaustion. I’ve been disappointed with shows like The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and HBO’s new Minx, so I rewatched High Fidelity and Shrill to cleanse the palette.
Listening to: The song “Simulation Swarm” from Big Thief’s newest album.