Mentions | Summer 2022 ​


Luzifer |


In this Austrian horror flick, the monosyllabic, melancholic Johannes lives out a prelapsarian fantasy with his religious mother on an Alpine mountaintop. The duo engages in a tortured fanaticism involving nature worship, self-harm, and yonic caves. The threat of original sin looms — developers want the land for a new ski resort — but then an exorcism is performed, and we learn, once again, that nothing ruins paradise like a tourist with a drone.


Oudolf Garden Detroit |


If Dutch garden designer Piet Oudolf’s medium is flora, his subject is time. His plantings on Manhattan’s High Line made him famous, but Detroit’s Belle Isle is better suited to his trademark swathes of North American perennials and grasses; on the open, three-acre site, flowers, foliage, and seed heads harmonize in various stages of decay and rebirth. Buoyant or gloomy depending on the season, the garden, which opened in 2021, is rich in what Oudolf calls the “emotion of nature,” wherein “you feel more than what you see.” Don’t tell the urban renewal prognosticators, lest the garden become yet another symbol of Detroit’s comeback.


New York’s 10th Congressional District |


After Labor Day in certain portions of high-rent New York City, one doesn’t wear white or use a lefty third-party ballot line even in a safe Democratic district. Or at least that latter is what progressive runner-up Yuh-Line Niou decided in mid-September. It was the anticlimactic end to a primary that should have been electric: an open seat chance to represent Wall Street, Ground Zero, Dimes Square, AND Park Slope in Congress for a generation. But the heavy hitters tripped. A former mayor couldn’t reignite the Summer of Bill. A carpetbagging Hudson Valley congressman bungled the reverse Covid commute. Three local political women in the prime of their careers got outspent by the heir to a jeans fortune who dads and moms saw a lot on MSNBC. But the Times editorial board promised that “those who have worked with Mr. Goldman behind the scenes describe him as diligent and prepared and a person of integrity.” His mailers agreed! The Gray Lady also to-be-sured that Goldman might need to court his “lower-income” constituents. Well, there’s been weeks of cloudy, yellow tap water in a housing project on the northern side of the district. The complex is named after Jacob Riis (How the Other Half Lives).


VladTV |


This channel’s profane longform interviews with faded pop stars, athletes, ex-cons, and hangers-on (think “It Wasn’t Me” singer Shaggy, gun-toting former NBA star Gilbert Arenas, and hip-hop video vixen Karrine “Superhead” Steffans) are often more revealing than any sit-downs with A-listers. The eponymous Vlad gets his subjects, freed from the shackles of peak fame and P.R., to tell stories you would never hear on Oprah, like when a face-tatted, bandana-clad Aaron Carter details a foray into coke-dealing shortly after the release of his final teen-pop album. Vlad will never interview the stars when they shine the brightest, but he’s interviewed the women who have slept with them, and it turns out that they usually give the better quote. 


Airfix Model World |


Since its launch in 2010, this model-builders’ monthly has been steadily reinvigorating the hobby. Professional model-makers and military enthusiasts alike fill the pages with reviews, guides, and quippy snippets of war history, but the miniaturized machines — both classic and obscure — are the real heroes: picture World War II-era fighters alongside 1:72 models of the MQ-9A Reaper drone, used to bomb ISIS, and 1:35 reconstructions of NATO’s Leopard 2A6NL tank. There’s a strange disconnect between the models’ painstaking verisimilitude and the imperial realities of the original contraptions. Of a 1:48 build of the McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II jet, which bombed Vietnam with impunity in Operation Rolling Thunder, one reviewer concludes that “the lack of bombs” might “be a downside.” 


Irma la Douce |


In this 1963 Billy Wilder farce, an escort, Irma, captures the heart of a rookie cop named Nestor in Paris’s red-light district. Hoping to save Irma from a life of tricking, Nestor disguises himself as a wealthy British client and acquires the extra cash by secretly moonlighting as a butcher. One of them sneaks out of bed each night to lead a double life, and the other one earns honest wages through sex work. “Why is it nine out of ten try to reform me?” asks Irma.


How German Is It |


Insofar as the recently deceased Austrian-American experimentalist Walter Abish is talked about at all, it’s usually in the context of this PEN/Faulkner Award-winning novel from 1980, in which the two brothers Haargenau — along with the rest of Germany — cope with the news that everyone’s favorite up-and-coming city, Brumholdstein, was built on concentration camp grounds. Abish was a Jewish refugee whose family fled Vienna for Shanghai, Israel, and finally New York; decades later, without ever having set foot in “the new democratic Germany,” he glimpsed it through the films of Wim Wenders and Rainer Werner Fassbinder, and relied on old Baedeker travelogues to fill in the gaps. At least one German critic has described the book as “the Jew’s revenge,” but Abish’s chilling tone never rises anywhere near the level of hectoring polemic. Rather, his M.O. is to hint at vestiges of Nazi attitudes in 1970s and ’80s Germany and then abruptly change the subject, like an awkward tour guide dodging a penetrating question. How German Is It’s signal achievement is the artfulness with which it avoids rhetoric: it’s not even one-sided enough to agree with itself — and that might be the most Jewish thing about it.


Pocoyo |


If you have spent any time at all immersed in the world of entertainment for the pre-verbal, you have no doubt experienced the brain-softening that sets in after the first few minutes of garish colors and talking animals. Not so with the strangely compelling Pocoyo, a Spanish children’s cartoon from the mid-aughts that is set in a literal void. Every episode begins the same way: the eponymous Pocoyo is wandering around the blank whiteness when he is apprehended by a benevolent, disembodied voice (Stephen Fry in the English version) that proceeds to instruct the happily receptive Pocoyo and his friends Elly (sassy pink elephant) and Pato (deranged Cubist duck) in the mysteries of the universe (shapes! colors! numbers!). Imparted from on high, the primers on triangles feel less cloying than revelatory — which, for three-year-olds, they probably are.


“Requiem for a Norm” |


At nine years old, Lorenza Böttner lost her arms in an improbably extravagant accident: climbing to reach a bird’s nest atop a transmission tower, she was electrocuted and fell some 650 feet. A retrospective at the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Art displays the improbable art she made, mostly with her feet and her mouth, in the three decades between the fall and her death from AIDS. Most of the work is self-portraiture of a sort, iterating her authoritative jaw and flowing hair with a genderpunk whimsy; in one painting, Böttner reads a book held open by her toes, while behind her, a red rose blooms from a rock, its two leaves bent around the stem like legs encircling a lover. Most haunting is a pencil sketch of three jewelry clasps that look like hands, each clutching a black bolus. It’s a queer anti-portrait: what Böttner lost turned into accessories she might have worn, an absence made ornament. 


Marcel the Shell with Shoes On |


We should be afraid of — not delighted by — this 89-minute reboot of the 2010 viral sensation. It forecasts a future in which “rand0m” YouTube videos from the mid-to-late 2000s return as glitzy A24 films. Just imagine a feature-length version of “It’s Peanut Butter Jelly Time!!!”

L.L.N. |


At the apex of its influence, this vlogging site had a partnership with The New York Times, capital from the founding chairman of C-SPAN, and a monopoly on blurry videos of Matthew Yglesias and Ross Douthat. While its co-founder says that “the era in which Bloggingheads makes sense is kind of over,” the company’s newly renamed YouTube channel indicates that it still possesses an engaged audience. Glenn Loury’s vlogs with John McWhorter (about such subjects as “The ‘Badass MF’ Problem in the Black Community” and “Returning to the race and IQ debate”) make up approximately 94 percent of the site’s most-watched uploads. The only exceptions in the top twenty are an interview with a Singaporean diplomat on Sino-American relations and a video entitled “Sex with Older Women.” Occasionally reactionary, with whiffs of realpolitik and shamelessly horny overtones: maybe the era in which Bloggingheads makes sense has only just begun.


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