One of the essential functions of popular culture is to provide relief from the stresses of everyday life. Another is to offer thrills, joy and insights from unfamiliar perspectives. Here’s a sampling of moments from this year that accomplished those goals for me. Happy Thanksgiving.

Continue reading

Tracing “Reputation” to…Kanye West (Who Else?)


A few people who know me know that I love Kanye West’s “Bound 2.” For those reading this, congratulations — you now have something in common with those good people.

I can’t entirely justify my love for this song, which arrives at the end of West’s aggressive, oppressive 2013 album Yeezus like a splash of cold water on a humid summer day. The rest of that album is striking and nasty; “Bound 2” is bracing and cuddly.

Continue reading

“The Florida Project”: Wishing Only Goes So Far

Happiness doesn’t come cheap. For many outside the privileged class, the price is prohibitively high. Those in the privileged class glance at this inescapable truth and wonder, with little intent to follow up, what they might do to subvert it.

The Florida Project — directed by the increasingly essential filmmaker Sean Baker, who also co-wrote the script with Chris Bergoch — trains its eye on the darkest corners of that tension. Its characters live, almost literally, in the shadow of Orlando, Florida’s Walt Disney World — known to its legions of visitors and admirers as “the happiest place on earth.” That golden sheen doesn’t stretch so far, though, and what lies beyond it is often ugly. To its credit, The Florida Project works hard to find a few bright spots amid that ugliness. It’s a complicated portrait that neither moralizes nor equivocates.

Continue reading