COLUMNS

  • Film

    John Waters

    JEANNETTE: THE CHILDHOOD OF JOAN OF ARC (Bruno Dumont) An insanely radical heavy-metal grade-school religious pageant that is sung in French from beginning to end. The actors themselves seem like they might burst out laughing, but this is no joke. It’s the best movie of the year. You’ll hate it.

    AMERICAN ANIMALS (Bart Layton) A true-crime story with a brilliant ensemble cast and the real-life culprits and victims edited in, commenting throughout on the action. Adolescent group madness is a beautiful thing to watch.

    NICO, 1988 (Susanna Nicchiarelli) A small, sad, fearless biopic that asks

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  • Film

    James Quandt

    DEAD SOULS (Wang Bing) Wang’s epic eight-hour-long documentary about the Maoist reeducation camps of the 1950s collects the clandestine testimony of survivors in a heroic act of historical witness.

    2 THE IMAGE BOOK (Jean-Luc Godard) A surging requiem for a world addicted to its own annihilation.

    UN HOMME MARCHE DANS LA VILLE (1950) (Marcello Pagliero) The revelation of the mini-retrospective dedicated to the Italian-French auteur Pagliero at II Cinema Ritrovato in Bologna, this neorealist noir set in Le Havre deserves classic status.

    THOMAS BAYRLE (New Museum, New York) The films and videos

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  • Music

    Sasha Geffen

    1 SOPHIE, OIL OF EVERY PEARL’S UN-INSIDEs (MSMSMSM/Future Classic) An emphatic departure from her initial singles, SOPHIE’s debut album deploys the producer’s unique pop vernacular to probe questions of identity, survival, and freedom. Plasticky synthesizer sounds warp around vocals from Cecile Believe as the record proposes an ecstatic vision of utopia beyond the body’s historical confines.

    SERPENTWITHFEET, “CHERUBIM” (Secretly Canadian/Tri Angle) A love song doesn’t have to be light. It can dent the earth with the weight of its singer’s devotion. In “cherubim,” serpentwithfeet renders queer

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  • Music

    Vivien Goldman

    1 LUDWIG GÖRANSONN FEAT. BAABA MAAL, “WAKANDA” (Marvel) It is ironic that it took a film (Black Panther) about a fictional country to make much of America embrace the idea of Africa. Nonetheless, Maal’s sustained griot vibrato summons and enthralls on Göransonn’s theme song “Wakanda.” All bow to the handy magic of the imagination.

    CARDI B, BAD BUNNY, AND J BALVIN, “I LIKE IT” (Atlantic) The surge in rich-world collaborations with Afrobeat and reggaeton artists de-exoticizes the squirmy tag “world music.” Are Brits and Yanks really out of this world? Debates aside, it’s joyous when phenom Cardi

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  • Top Ten

    Polly Watson

    1 BA((s1))[[BY GRANDE, 1975–77]] (HoZac) Chicago’s HoZac Records specializes in glammy power pop—modern (Mama, Velveteen Rabbit) and master-level (check out the incredible Julian Leal!). This album of previously unreleased tracks finds the Church’s Steve Kilbey and Peter Koppes wasting their pre–Blurred Crusade (1982) talent on derivative, stomping glam, and it is fucking AMAZING!

    ((s1))[[2 SNAIL MAIL, LUSH]] (Matador) Just this year, Sunflower Bean’s twenty-two-year-old Julia Cumming sang of her age as being one at which a woman is viewed as “busted and used.” Snail Mail’s Lindsey Jordan,

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  • Music

    Jeremy Toussaint-Baptiste

    TIRZAH, DEVOTION (Domino) Devotion is refreshingly tender and an exciting departure from Tirzah’s more club-forward work. Repeat listening reveals the intimate complexities of her understated voice, a perfect pairing for Mica Levi’s restrained production.

    JULIA SANTOLI’S PERFORMANCE OF SIREN SORE: BURNING BODY OF LOVE WITH ZACH ROWDEN (Issue Project Room, Brooklyn, NY, July 13) Santoli and Rowden really did something special that evening in July. When Santoli dragged a metal ring across Issue’s marble floor, creating otherworldly feedback, my hair stood on end. The frisson of sonic potential

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  • Books

    Ralph Lemon

    In early 2018, I read three books at the same time, all of them propositions for freedom, all contemplating its seeming impossibility and the inspired labor of working toward the impossible—of believing.

    From J. Krishnamurti’s On Freedom (1991): “Freedom is not from something. It is an ending [of knowledge]. Do you follow?” No, not quite. But since I was eighteen I’ve trusted, without submitting to, most of what Krishnamurti has written. (I fashion that I am an innocent.) Angela Y. Davis’s Freedom Is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the Foundations of a Movement (2016) is

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  • Books

    Heike Geißler

    Anne Boyer is an expert in fresh ruptures, new avant-gardes, manifestos, and life (or some such thing). Her book A Handbook of Disappointed Fate (Ugly Duckling Presse) helps me to regain focus when my sight is blurred. It helps me to believe again in tenderness when I shout for radicalization and acts of revenge. Anne Boyer writes: “Many lambs work for years to steal fire but do not know what use a lamb has for flames.” I am such a lamb. Forlorn. Misled. Raised on its predators’ rules. But it is never too late to learn when we have the right handbooks. The handbooks that perform their knowledge,

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  • Books

    Dodie Bellamy

    In The Assassination of Kathy Acker (Guillotine), artist and writer Matias Viegener chronicles and grapples with Kathy Acker’s death as well as with her legacy. Viegener, who was close to Acker but never lived in the same city as she did, attended to her on her deathbed and agreed to become her literary executor. Acker’s dying consumes Viegener. Of sitting beside her in the hospital he writes: “She is so absolute to me. Every pore of me reads every pore of her. I read her with a passion beyond sex. I see everything. We’re merged.” The two enter into a sort of spiritual marriage. Although he’s

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  • Books

    Sukhdev Sandhu

    The premise of Syeus Mottel’s delightful, disorienting CHARAS: The Improbable Dome Builders (Pioneer Works Press/The Song Cave) is the stuff of retro-futurist fantasy. First published in 1973 and brought back into circulation this year, the book is an account of how Chino Garcia and Angelo Gonzalez Jr., both New York gang leaders, decided to take on the system they believed was killing their communities in the mid-1960s. Ditching their initial plan to organize a mercenary army to invade Cuba, they formed the Real Great Society and, from their headquarters on East Sixth Street, set about supporting

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  • Books

    Momtaza Mehri

    Wendy Trevino’s Cruel Fiction (Commune Editions) tells the truth about life as we know and endure it, restlessly picking at the hangnails of both history and heartbreak. Trevino posits race as a “cruel fiction,” nationality as its attendant mythology. Trevino asks: How do we resist these fictions without reproducing their murderous, hierarchical logics? For Trevino, “poetry is not enough” as long as we are not enough. Trevino’s insurgent colloquialism is a sleight of hand. Cruel Fiction speaks plainly but never simply. Trevino reflects on the lies with which we arm ourselves to refute the lies

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  • Books

    Charlie Fox

    “What manner of man is this?” Jonathan Harker wonders when he sees Dracula creeping down his castle’s ramparts in the moonlight. Asking this question of the writer and illustrator who transformed precocious little oddballs into goths long before Jack Skellington or Marilyn Manson descended on suburbia, Mark Dery pens an eerie portrait of the artist, Born to Be Posthumous: The Eccentric Life and Mysterious Genius of Edward Gorey (Little, Brown and Company), in which answers only conjure extra lashings of ambiguity—a very Gorey trick.

    Was homosexuality the antic bat in Gorey’s belfry? “Everything

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