Last night, The Museum of the Moving Image in Queens hosted a preview screening of the upcoming film Spring Breakers as part of a retrospective on the work of the director, Harmony Korine.
Due largely to the movie's high profile cast of starlets (Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens, and Pretty Little Liars'Ashley Benson) and a marketing campaign which played up a movie wardrobe that consists almost entirely of day-glo bikinis, Spring Breakers has been the subject of a dizzying amount of pre-release "buzz."
The movie's been tabloid fodder for the past year as provocative photos from the set leaked out onto the Internet, but that's not the only factor which has fueled public interest. For nearly two decades, Korine's enjoyed a certain amount of cult celebrity as a fringe director. After writing Kids at 21, Korine went on to make a series of original and bizarre films like Gummo, Julien Donkey-Boy (starring the director's friend and mentor, Warner Herzog) and Trash Humpers. None of these projects ever found mainstream success, but they did cement Korine's status as an experimental filmmaker.
Piling on to the already ludicrous combination of a teen idol cast with an avant-garde director, the film takes as its subject spring break, a hedonistic mass ritual which has been an American lightning rod ever since we saw its excesses documented and celebrated in the 90s by MTV.
Spring Breakers hasn't opened yet, but it's already the target of an immense amount of criticism. The trailer (below) and movie posters don't misrepresent the amount of nudity and violence featured in the film. The graphic content is especially provocative given the young stars and their even younger, predominately female fan base. People that haven't even seen the movie yet have already billed it as an exploitative teen flick, made solely to capitalize on the public's prurient interest in explicit sex and senseless violence.
I walk around with my feminist knives sharpened and am fairly culturally conservative in some respects (I, too, bemoan how our culture glorifies the blowjob and objectifies the teen girl) and yet still I can say that anyone who's complaining about the movie's "message" or lack thereof has either not seen it or is attached to a set of predetermined judgments which are at odds with the film's sense of humor and sensibility. In the latter case, that's fine; nothing has to be for everyone.
But for anyone that hasn't seen the movie and is already condemning it, you're not doing yourself any favors. Spring Breakers is in some ways a complicated and difficult film, but it's also extremely fun to watch. It's immersive, it's engrossing. I'm worried about sounding cheesy or overselling, but these are some of the descriptive words which have been lodged in my brain since I saw the movie: beautiful, fascinating, funny, sublime, transcendant, bizarre, true, brilliant, important, special. It's like a poem made out of pop culture. It's also a kind of response to anyone who says work like Terry Richardson's is not pornography but art. I told you my reaction verges on cheesy and parts of the movie are cheesy or even borderline bad, but it worked. I'll just say this: I wish there were more films like it.
Rachel Korine (the director's wife) joins Gomez, Hudgens and Benson as one of the four bored co-eds who goes on spring break looking for adventure. After a brief period of consequence-free misbehavior, the girls are arrested and put in jail. Enter James Franco's character, Alien, a local rapper-slash-gangster (like an actor-slash-waiter but bloodier) who bails them out and shows them the dark underbelly of St. Petersberg, Florida. There are Britney Spears covers (yes, more than one), gang fights, squirt-gun hold-ups, neon pink ski masks. There is only one actual sex scene and it could be considered scandalous, but it also involves giddy joyful laughter.
Anyone who thinks Gomez would do anything that would seriously tarnish her public image seriously underestimates her handlers and is going to be disappointed. The pop star plays the good girl, and even though she's central to the movie, she's also one of the least interesting characters. She leaves just about halfway through.
After the movie was over, Korine spoke about the film with MOMI's curator and then took questions from the audience. The interviewer mentioned that his 11-year-old son was probably at home watching Selena on TV and asked Korine about his decision to cast teen idols:
"That was exciting for me, obviously. Because I want your eleven-year-old kid to see it. [Lots of laughter.] So that was exciting…
You know, it wasn't a conceptual stunt but there was a lot of — I like the idea that those girls are representative of this kind of pop mythology. And they're connected culturally to that world, in some ways. And I thought it brought a whole different layer. "
A member of the audience later asked more specifically about working with Gomez:
"I didn't know much about her, I didn't know much about her personal life and all that stuff. She's great. Whatever you can say about Disney (I don't know much about Disney either), those girls are like, tough. And she was like, down for it.
You know, there's a lot of chaos and a lot of fanaticism that follows her and follows a lot of other girls like her. You know, shit I've never seen before, like people hiding under floorboards. I had like, tween kids with signs in front of my condo. But she has a lot to contend with, there's so much energy. When there's that much energy around you as a human being, it's crazy. But I can't speak highly enough about her. She took a risk with this movie and I'm grateful to her. She was amazing."
Here's the official trailer. Spring Breakers opens in New York and Los Angeles on March 15 and nationwide on March 22.
Top image: Spring Breakers promotional poster via NYDailyNews
Despite her huge and seemingly loyal fan-base, most of the magazines she covers do merely average issue sales on the newsstand. And the exceptions do worse, not better: her December Cosmopolitan cover sold 20% below the six-month average. Swift's cover sold below even Zooey Deschanel's, WWD notes, which seems like, to my mind, a case of bad casting: if Cosmo's readership isn't interested in accessibly hip young women with bangs who wear lots of bows and preppy dresses, why would anyone expect Taylor Swift to convert them?
Anna Wintour's decision to photograph celebrities for the cover of Vogue in the 90s was considered revolutionary and some stars really do boost a magazine's sales (Lady Gaga's Vogue cover was gangbusters, for example), but no one really knows what motivates readers to open up their wallets and buy a magazine. There's the way previous issues have shaped audience perception of the glossy's brand, the way the celebrity was photographed (tight close-up, in a natural setting, and so on), how the cover text is laid out — all of these factors are in play. If magazine editors imagined Swift would be a magical magazine-selling unicorn just because she has a lot of Twitter followers and YouTube video views, they're idiots.
Asked about the pop star's disappointing performance, Glamour editor Cindi Leive attributed it to Swift's relationship with One Direction's Harry Styles: "There may have been a little hiccup for her right around the 1-D relationship. But it’s nothing a pro can’t come back from. I’d put money on her for the long run." WHAT? Oh so people are only now getting distracted by Taylor's roller-coaster love life? "Nothing a pro can't come back from." That's such garbage. Maybe it's just that the singer's fans aren't going to the newsstand anymore because magazines are boring and expensive and the people that produce them are full of it and out of touch. Sorry Cindi, maybe the problem has nothing to do with Swift's ex-boyfriend, everything to do with your product.
Do you want to watch an intense short film which features muscular young men shouting at each other because their feelings have become too much to bear? The answer to that question is obviously always, "Yes."
Written, produced and also starring Noah Mills, Wracked is about what happens when a young man returns home after finishing a five year prison sentence. Directed by Victoria Mahoney and co-starring Alexis Knapp, Wracked looks immensely watchable: there are basketball games, tattoos, sexy baths (!).
Mills (represented by Wilhelmina Models) has been working as a model for ten years, and he has an impressive body (&) of work behind him. He's walked for Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent, been under contract with Dolce & Gabbana — the typical resume of any legitimately successful male model. He recently shot the Carlo Pazolini campaign (which was posted to the tFS Forums here), had a recurring role on 2 Broke Girls and appeared as the terrible ex-boyfriend (reportedly based on Jake Gyllenhaal) in the music video for Taylor Swift's "We Are Never Getting Back Together." We commonly hear models express the wish to be taken seriously, to be perceived as "more than just a pretty face," but Mills didn't just sit around wishing, he wrote a movie and found a way to make it.
Based on the trailer (below), it looks thoughtful and enjoyable, like it was made by someone who cared a lot. That's the awesomest thing anyone can do, make something and care about it. I like when people do that. And (who am I kidding?) I also really really like shirtless boys. Win win win win, win win.
Wracked is trying to find a way for you to see it someday so stay, as they say, tuned. And for now, watch the trailer below:
For Vogue Paris' April 2013 Issue, Mario Testino shot model Isabeli Fontana in the mountains of Cuzco, which are located in the photographer's native Peru. The publication's editor, Emmanuelle Alt, essentially offered up the Vogue Paris cover for Testino to pay a tribute to himself and he … wow. I've seen better versions of this photo on ANTM.
Possibly because there's a pom-pom/fedora monster eating her head, Fontana looks uncomfortable. That might also be because she's unfortunately styled in a beadedDolce & Gabbana crop top and skirt combo, which looked bizarre enough on the Spring 2013 runway, but is just plain tacky in the image above. I understand that Alt and Testino were trying to bring a more colorful and spirited "Latin" sensibility to the glossy's typical moody chic, but this is so cartoony it's practically offensive.
How do you sell Chanel’s Boy handbags? Apparently, you enlist a tomboyish woman, and an actual boy. Oh, and a horse too. Chanel tapped British model and heiress Alice Dellal and model Jake Davies to front their Spring 2013 ad campaign, where they give off a sort of grown up, prep school equestrian vibe. You know, the kind of lifestyle we all aspire to, right?
Forum members had mixed feelings about the campaign.
“Karl, stop trying to make Alice Dellal happen, it's not going to happen,” naya remarked.
Alien Sex Friend posted, “I love the contrast between such girlie bourgeois clothes and her rough rebel face.”
“I like it,” iluvjeisa shared. “Curious about what kind of pockets this bag might have.”
If the ads have gotten iluvjeisa to start mentally shopping, then it looks like the campaign is working already. I could have used a clearer image of Jake Davies though. Just sayin’.