Hey there, buddy. You’re probably wondering why I asked you here today. Two reasons: 1) We need to talk. 2) You’re physically attached to my person; wherever I go, you go. You didn’t have much say in the matter.
So listen. You and I have been chummy for a while. Why, I even remember when we got acquainted! My close friends Pizza Rolls and Mt. Dew threw a party that lasted for pretty much the entirety of high school and college. Pizza Rolls, sweaty and breathing heavily, introduced us. “Katie, this is Belly Fat! Belly Fat, Katie. Y’all are gonna be tight as fuck, whether you like it or not.” Mt. Dew hollered at us from the kitchen. “DUUUUDE, Belly Fat is my BROOOOO!!” Then he did a sick kickback on his skateboard or something.
Point is, we go way back, you and me. But I think it’s time we reevaluate our relationship a little. I realize that the legal parameters of squatting rights aren’t a specialty of mine, and it’s perfectly possible that your having chilled at my middle section for the better part of ten years probably gives you some rights as a legal tenant. But that doesn’t mean you have my permission to invite your friends, Muffin Top, Fat Roll, and Chunky McWaistChubbers O’FlopFlops. They showed up around my 27th birthday and have refused to leave since.
Granted, it’s not like I’ve worked real hard to get them to go away. Case in point, the following is a transcript from the last time I voluntarily went to the gym:
Hhhhnnnnnnnnnnnnnng. No. No no no no no no no. Ooooow. OOOOOOOWCH. Ooooooowie it hurts whyyyyyyy why am I doing this to myself this is abuse! This is self-abuse! Someone should call Adult Protective Services on me on my behalf! I didn’t emerge at the back end of millions of years of human evolution to have to TAKE CARE OF MYSELF and WATCH WHAT I EAT and CONTROL MY PORTIONS like some sort of…well actually I guess those are pretty unique to humans but WHATEVER STILL I FUCKING HATE THIS WHYYYYYY.
And that’s before I’ve even left the house.
You’re like this weird conjoined twin that nobody else claims to notice but who screams in my ear pretty much constantly, just to remind me you’re there. HELLO HI. YES, HELLO. YOUR BELLY HERE. JUST SAYIN’ HI, LIKE USUAL. HOW ARE YOUR PANTS FITTING THESE DAYS, NOT GREAT? HAHAHAHAHA YEAH I KNOW. SORRY JUST A BIT OF BELLY HUMOR, DON’T MIND ME I’LL JUST BE HERE FOREVER BECAUSE YOU’RE A LAZY BASTARD.
On the one hand, I want to just learn to own you. I want to learn to accept the fact that I’m a woman in her late 20s who loves loves loves eating food and also it’s pretty normal for fat to just start to show up in that area in anticipation of future fetuses that may never happen, like prepping a five star hotel room years in advance for guests who might not show up. On the other hand, I’ve sort of let you consume my life and sometimes I’ll just stare at you in the mirror after I get out of the shower and try to imagine which fruit I most resemble. I don’t have the hips to be a pear, I’m not round enough to be an apple, and my hair’s not pokey enough to be a pineapple. I’m more like a skinny mango. I cannot but marvel at how disproportionate you are to the rest of my person; long legs, thin arms, small boobs, slender neck…I have as logical of body proportions as Spongebob Squarepants.
The one force keeping me from coming to terms with you is every single other person in my life. “Nooooo, you don’t have a fat belly! That’s ridiculous!” they say, unconvincingly, as my stomach brushes their arm while we have casual conversation. “But you’re so skinny!” they argue (which is mostly true), ignoring the mound atop which I am gingerly resting my plate of chicken wings while I tear into them like I’m a velociraptor and they’re some terrified children trying to hide from me in the kitchen. I SEE YOU, TERRIFIED CHILD. IN THE REFLECTION OF THAT CHROME CUPBOARD. THIS IS WHAT YOUR GRANDFATHER GETS FOR PLAYING GOD.
My point is, I’m not trying to be self-deprecating here. I mean, I’ve got a pretty level sense of self-awareness. I am fucking awesome at quoting The Emperor’s New Groove. I can say the alphabet backwards as quickly as I can say it forward. I can belch on command. The fact that I’m aware of my built-in flotation device doesn’t mean I have some misplaced body dysmorphic issues, it means I know my body. Telling me I’m wrong, or I’m seeing things, or I’m exaggerating, means you think the way I see myself isn’t as important as the way others see me. But it is, because I’m the only person whose opinion matters. Sometimes I just wanna hug my middle and whisper it’s ok, baby. I see you. I know you’re real like it’s my own personal chubby unicorn.
I’m not even really sure what I’m getting at. Just think of it like this: you’re dead weight like a 30 year old kid who won’t move out of the house. I love you, you’re a part of me, and I’ve probably put more time and energy into cultivating you than I have into any one of my college degrees. So I’m just gonna need you to decide for yourself that it’s time to go, because I don’t have the heart to ask. And by “I don’t have the heart” I mean “I’m a lazy bastard” in case I hadn’t already made that abundantly clear.
XOXO, your host body,
-Katie Sisneros‘s mother freely admits she has a poochy belly, which Katie appreciates.]]>
Very Good Girls is about two girls who find their lifelong friendship tested during the summer before college. It stars:
a. Sophie Turner and Hailee Steinfeld
b. Abigail Breslin and Sasha Pieterse
c. Dove Cameron and Zendaya
d. Dakota Fanning and a 25-year-old Olsen sister
The two girls are trying to:
a. Start a non-profit
b. Make enough money that they don’t have to work freshman year and can concentrate on their studies
c. Troll B-list celebrities on Twitter
d. Lose their virginity
In the movie’s opening scene, just for fun the two girls decide to:
a. Re-watch the entire run of Gossip Girl
b. Get drunk at a baby-sitting job
c. Plant the stems and buds from the bottom of a bag of pot and see if anything grows
d. Get naked
The girls meet a cute guy via:
c. A mutual friend
d. Accidentally running their bikes, giggling, into the sign advertising his ice-cream cart
One of the girls has a father who’s a therapist. He:
a. Lends a supportive, non-judgmental ear without asking if his daughter is trying to “shock” him
b. Encourages his daughter to pursue a doctorate
c. Likes all his daughter’s Instagram pics
d. Fucks his patients
When the cute guy secretly takes the girls’ photos and then posts Fanning’s photo in public with the caption WHERE DO YOU LIVE, her character reacts by:
a. Filing a police report
b. Rolling her eyes
c. Sending a snap of the sign to all her contacts with the letters WTF scrawled on top
d. Smiling gently, then telling the guy exactly where she lives
The cute guy lives:
a. With his parents
b. In a dorm
c. In a basement apartment lacking the legally required egress window
d. In a huge, gorgeous photography-studio loft
As two of the characters fall in love, we see:
a. Them discuss whether to change their Facebook relationship statuses
b. One of them farting in bed
c. Them constantly taking cheek-to-cheek selfies on the beach
d. An indie-rock montage of them being adorable together
At one point, a random guy rolls his bike up to a bunch of kids playing basketball in a public park. This guy takes off his shirt and pants and proceeds to dance ballet among them. The kids react by:
a. Screaming and calling their parents
b. Mocking the guy mercilessly
c. Beating the guy up
d. Dancing along with the guy while laughing delightedly, as the cute guy from the ice cream stand swoops in to take pictures
The first time one of the girls has sex, it’s:
d. Passionate and beautiful
Answers: What?! You didn’t think this quiz was going to include spoilers, did you?!
- Jay Gabler
Image courtesy Tribeca Film]]>
Telling your male friends you love them.
Hugging and kissing your male friends.
Having a feminine nickname like Chrissy or Pussy.
Working around strippers without paying them much attention.
Having a Goomah (girlfriend).
Getting out of prison and getting back on your feet.
Going down on women.
Seeing a therapist, especially if it’s a woman.
Killing a stripper.
Beating a woman (before she’s your wife).
Being a rat.
Betting over your head.
-Becky Lang just started watching this/adoring it now that it’s on Amazon Prime]]>
Lana Del Rey’s new album Ultraviolence is excellent. With songs like “Fucked My Way Up to the Top” and “Money Power Glory,” she lays down insane critiques of society while stopping to coo gently for the men who are still caught up looking at her lips.
It’s no surprise that her album is good. Her last album was too. She’s a killer songwriter but more than anything she’s a master at creating tension between the tone and content of her songs.
In one of her first big singles, “Video Games,” she sings, “I’m in his favorite sun dress/Watching me get undressed/Take that body downtown/I say, You the bestest./Lean in for a big kiss/Put his favorite perfume on/Go play a video game.” The lyrics make it sound like a love song, an ode to this man who she tries so hard to please. But her voice is bored as hell. She hates this guy. All he wants to do is play video games.
In “Money Power Glory,” she sings, “I want money, power and glory/I want money and all your power, all your glory/Hallelujah, I wanna take you for all that you got/Hallelujah, I’m gonna take them for all that they got.” If you don’t listen to the lyrics, it sounds like any other moody pop song. Her voice is breathy and ultra-feminine, even sweet. But then when you listen to what she’s saying, you’re like holy shit. It’s like she wrote a song in the voice of Muammar Gaddafi. Not your typical pop fare.
And then you realize, for just a minute, how weird it is to think of a woman wanting money, power and glory. Cuz, historically at least, that’s a man thing.
If you sit with Lana for awhile, you’re going to see some critiques of men, all delivered with lyrical complexity and whipped cream and a cherry on top. There’s something so interesting to me about this long-haired, gorgeous vixen sitting there critiquing men by playing dress up. Meanwhile men aren’t listening much to her because they are saying things like this about her:
-She’s so inauthentic. Her name is actually Lizzy Grant. As if half of pop stars don’t have stage names.
-She can’t sing. Crap maybe she’ll never make it to round 2 on The Voice!
-She’s shallow. Get back to your Iggy Azalea.
-She probably doesn’t write her own songs.
That’s the one that kills me most. If you listen to her songs, each one has a very distinct LDR stamp, because she writes songs like no one else. They’re all super lyrical — on Born to Die she was practically rapping she had so much to say. She slows it down on Ultraviolence, but only so she can play with repetition in new, interesting ways.
Plus you can just look at Wikipedia and see that she’s the first writer on all of her songs. She’s not just waiting around for the next song that Rihanna rejects from Skylar Grey.
It’s just tough for people to believe women can be both hot and smart, even in this day and age.
But if you’re a man and you don’t like Lana Del Rey, that’s ok. Just consider that maybe her music isn’t necessarily for you. I know it might be confusing because she’s pretty and has big lips. But her music is moody and dives deep into what being a woman is like. I don’t expect my boyfriend to drive around all summer spinning her album, thinking about all the complexities of romantic relationships and power dynamics of sexism. That’s ok!
But chill out before you troll on this particular female artist. She is different/weird/bold/risky and definitely sticking around. And that’s good.
I’m in a relationship right now that’s hard to explain and even harder for those listening to understand. But I’d like to try.
I am a sub, or submissive. I don’t have a boyfriend. I have a dom.
The popularity of Fifty Shades of Grey has afforded BDSM a wave of intrigue and recognition, but the logistics of this kind of relationship remain largely undiscussed. When people think of dominance and submission, they probably think of typical BDSM kitsch—whips, chains, ball gags, dungeons. Cheap pleather booty shorts with many zippers. BDSM can come off as no fun to vanilla sex enthusiasts, who may associate it with nipple clamps and getting candle wax dripped on them. That just sounds uncomfortable, right?
Dominance and submission, at its core, is about a power dynamic. One party likes to be in control, the other likes to submit. The psychological implications can be just as intense as the physical. Every dom-sub relationship is different, and my experiences certainly don’t reflect those of all who pursue this lifestyle. But I’ve learned a few things in the years I’ve been playing rough that I believe a newbie could benefit from hearing before embarking on this twisted, exhilarating road.
I was introduced to dominance and submission by an older man I dated a few years back. What started out as experimenting soon turned into a real dom-sub relationship, in which he explicitly controlled everything we did in the bedroom. Dom-sub sex is just like normal sex, except, well, you know how Mozart includes little frills, or ornamentations, in his music? Just little extra notes that make the song twinkle and feel more fun? That’s how dominant sex is, except instead of trills in The Magic Flute, you have things like spanking, slapping, choking, name calling, hair pulling, and much more.
Before you try this kind of play, you must set boundaries with your partner. The way I usually do this is telling him upfront what I’m not willing to do, and then everything left over are options he can choose from. That’s part of what makes being submissive so exciting—you never know what your dom is going to do with you. However, there are times when this grab bag of fun can get a bit too grabby. That’s why you need a safe word (mine is “veto”). I often find that just knowing I can stop at any time by saying the safe word makes me feel more confident to push my limits and try new things.
You also need to emotionally prepare and evaluate before trying dominance and submission. Get real with yourself first and make sure your soul is going to be okay if you allow someone to voluntarily treat you like garbage. Recognize up front that letting yourself be abused will be emotionally taxing. If you have any misgivings, you might want to take a step back and start with something more novice, like handcuffs. If you like that, work your way up. If you don’t like that, this isn’t for you. It’s just not for everyone.
It seems simple: the dom is in control, the sub submits. But how far do you go with it? In a dom-sub relationship, it’s so easy to let the bedroom dynamic leak out into the real world interactions between the two partners. Sometimes, that’s intentional, and can be extremely hot. But if you’re not on the same page as your dom about when the rules apply, that’s unhealthy. I try to remind myself all the time that this is one big, drawn-out role play. You’re role playing a relationship where one person calls all the shots.
My current dom and I take a mixed approach. First, we got on the same page about our real beliefs: equality for women, equality in relationships, we both think physical and verbal abuse is abhorrent. But, we realized we liked talking to each other and texting in our roles, and that means that sometimes we’ll be in those roles when we’re not banging. My dom loves ordering me around, and even gives me little assignments during the day sometimes (they’re not necessarily sexual—it’s a way of asserting dominance.) Balancing when you’re in your roles and when you’re not can be tricky, and there’s a difference between being a dom and being a dick–so communication is key. It’s okay to change the arrangement frequently—and speak up if you’re not cool with the terms. Your agreement can be as intense as a monogamous relationship, or as loose as a sporadic hookup. In my current arrangement, I’m allowed to date other people and I do, but when my dom and I are interacting, he owns me.
My dom and I both consider ourselves feminists despite the fact that he hits me while we’re having sex. We concluded that since being treated poorly by a man, or treating a woman poorly, goes against everything we both believe in, that’s why it gets us off. It’s wrong, it’s dangerous, it’s bad, and that’s sexy as hell.
The most immediate concern I’ve always had when it comes to rough play is actually being hurt/injured by my partner. I never want to have to explain to my family or boss why my face is bruised. Again, you need to have great communication with your dom to make sure you don’t get hurt. Me and my dom use a spectrum—before we begin, I say we can go soft, medium or hard and he adjusts his behavior accordingly.
Another risk of dominance and submission is getting hurt emotionally. When you’re with someone in this way, it’s likely you will form a strong bond. Even though your dom abuses you, you know he really does it to satisfy you, and that fosters a foundation of trust. Being someone’s sub makes you feel extremely special—he jealously owns you and wants you completely, and you give him more than regular lovers ever could. When you become someone’s sub, even though you both know it’s all a big act, you give yourself to them entirely. And that’s an emotionally charged decision.
My first dom and I were not monogamous, and I was convinced that was fine by me. However, I didn’t really pursue others when we were hanging out because our sex life satisfied me so much. He did pursue others, and when he eventually found love and moved to a different state, I was shocked by how heartbroken I felt. I couldn’t figure out how someone who wanted me so fiercely for so long could suddenly walk away. But he did. The experience made me more aware of how dangerous this game can be, and now I constantly remind myself to date other people and try not to attach emotionally to my dom if monogamy isn’t in our contract. I never sleep over. I never text first. I make a point not to see him two days in a row. It’s a delicate balance that requires effort to maintain.
There is no rush like dominance and submission. I’ve tried my share of drugs and decadent desserts, but this is my ultimate vice. I once read a quote that emphasized the role of fear in sex—fear is the reason it’s more exciting to leave the bar with a stranger than your husband of 35 years. Fear makes BDSM the roller coaster traveling through a hurricane that it is. You trust your dom, you turn yourself over to him, but you never really know what’s about to happen.
Pain itself is part of the pleasure of dom-sub play—it makes you more aware of your body and how it reacts. The pain heightens your senses and turns your adrenaline on. And there’s something exciting about feeling the bruises on your ass while you sit in your cubicle at work the morning after taking a good spanking.
Giving up control is incredibly freeing. You take risks when you have BDSM sex, but once you trust your partner and can completely submit, it’s the best release imaginable.
And the attention! Have I mentioned the attention? Doms generally keep pretty close tabs on their subs. They want to know what they’re doing all the time. The more intense the sex is, the more ravenously interested your dom will be in getting more and going further.
At the end of it, I think the reason I love dominance and submission is the depth of the relationship it creates. This weekend, I was walking down the street when I saw my dom on the other side. It was unexpected since we live and work in different parts of town, but this was a popular area and a popular event. When we made eye contact, I felt as though I had been struck by lightning (pardon the cliché). He ran across the street and stood close enough to me that I could smell him. Standing close to my dom in public—people milling around us with no idea how depraved our bond is—it felt sexy, and powerful, and right.
He threw his arm around my neck in a sort of joke headlock and whispered, “How’s my good girl?”
I felt alive.
- Rachel Green]]>
The Framing of the Shoe
Hats in the Belfry
CleaVe The BOUTIQUE
Bubbles For Hair
Poppy and Stella
Then…& Again Antiques
Mary and Blanche!
- compiled by Jay Gabler]]>
Any excuse to hang out in the American Swedish Institute’s Turnblad Mansion is welcome—especially at dusk, when the illuminated nooks and crannies feel especially cozy and mysterious. If feathers occasionally fall on you, all the better.
The overlapping musical elements—some performed live, some played on record or tape or other media—are eerily beautiful.
This dance/theater production—created by Sally Rousse and Noah Bremer—has an appealingly leisurely pace, with lots of room for wandering and contemplation during its 60 minutes.
The cast is multigenerational, and every member has compelling moments.
As the performers move you through the space, they alternate between performing for you and engaging with you—sometimes making eye contact, sometimes taking your arm or holding your hand. It’s memorably unsettling in a way that interactive theater too rarely is.
You’re asked to wear an adhesive mustache.
If you don’t know much about August Strindberg (anyone?), you may feel a little lost.
The climax is so gentle, you may not realize it’s come and gone.
The show is a triumph of style, less so of substance.
Did I mention the mustache?
- Jay Gabler
Kom Hit! runs through July 10.]]>
In the short period between breaking up with my boyfriend and settling into a new apartment I’ve experienced every feeling on the emotional spectrum.
I picked up smoking cigarettes again, which could mean something existential but mostly just means another drain on my bank account.
I’ve started, and given up on, three separate books.
In the afternoons and evenings I spend a few hours at the apartment I shared with my ex boyfriend, attempting to pack, using the computer, showering. Nothing seems to change each time I come back. The same beer cans, socks on the floor. A pair of my underwear.
I don’t know how to remove myself from this place.
The hole he punched in the wall the first time we broke up just hangs there, echoing. A piece from a museum or a grave marking.
Here Lies the Beginning of the End.
I feed the cat, the cat eats, the cat disappears out the window.
The deli down the block blew up a few days ago.
I walk by the boarded up remains and wonder, “meth lab.”
So instead of there I buy my cigarettes at a smoke shop the same distance away in a different direction.
One night I pay with my card and the guy says he has to charge tax and I say it’s fine and he says it’s still cheaper than the other places and then he says “but you know what they say, cash is king.”
Cash is king.
Each day it feels harder to keep going like this. The air sticks to my skin with a tighter grasp than it did in the beginning. I wander around manhattan, just wander. Put off going anywhere specific. Eat a sandwich in front of a movie theater. It feels good to be aimless. Then sit in the hot apartment, choking, but I can’t leave.
Once a year I change my life drastically only to learn it’s hard being alive no matter what you’re doing. Get scared, jumped into the deep end only to realize I can’t swim, but it’s too late. Time moves one direction. You don’t get younger.
Wander the streets of Manhattan looking for magic. The hot air feels familiar. I remember emotions in my fingertips but it is just remembering.
I remember how to feel passionate but I am not passionate.
So it rains, so I shower, so I sleep in unfamiliar beds. My chest tightens in unfamiliar ways. The air is clouded, I have trouble distinguishing whether or not I am dreaming. Lights change color. I wish for more storms. So here I am. So here I am in limbo, in dreamland where my friends feel like ghosts.
Where my days feel like long, twisted jokes with no punchlines.
Last night I ran into my landlord on the stoop.
She was “just chillin,” her words.
I told her about the break up and she seemed to understand.
Somebody she knew passed by and they chatted for a minute.
Afterwards she told me she was sick of people taking advantage of her.
She said she’s going through so much shit and there’s nobody trying to help her.
She said she’s so tired.
She said at some point, you just realize like, you don’t have anybody. Nobody gives a shit. You’re on your own.
She said the building is going into foreclosure and nobody gives a shit.
I didn’t know the place was going into foreclosure.
I guess it’ll be a condo building soon.
- Moon Temple]]>
One day when I was a little kid, I was at my grandma’s house being watched by a few of my aunts and uncles in their early 20s. A commercial for a new flavor of ice cream came on TV, and everyone agreed it looked good. My uncle went out, got in the car, bought some ice cream, and brought it back. As we ate it, I thought, “So this is what it means to be an adult. When you want something, you just go get it.”
I remembered that afternoon tonight as I got in my car to drive from Minneapolis to Hudson, Wisconsin. It’s Sunday, which means that Minnesota liquor stores are closed by law: if you want to buy some beer, you can either go to a bar or go to Wisconsin. I wanted to fill the fridge, so I pointed my Taurus toward the St. Croix River.
Even more than the beer, really, I wanted to drive for a while on the open highway in the setting sun. Most days I take my car to work in St. Paul, but that’s rush-hour city driving. To distract myself and to allay the frustration, I usually listen to audiobooks while commuting. Tonight, I wanted to roll my windows down and listen to some loud music.
Working on the Internet, you grow accustomed to a floating, rootless feeling: news from the other side of the world bumps up against tweets from five feet away, and the sun never sets. Driving through fields of soybeans at Minnesota’s eastern edge, I felt acutely in and of a particular place and time—a time in history that was slipping away with the sunlight.
When sociologist Orlando Patterson asked Americans, a few years ago, what activities they associate with freedom, he was disappointed to find that very few mentioned voting or exercising their first-amendment right to free speech. Instead, most of his respondents talked about their cars. Americans love to drive, and to many of us, our cars are the most tangible representations of what we consider freedom.
Will that last? It seems unlikely that it will, alternative-fuel technology notwithstanding. Our car culture—especially our fossil-fueled car culture—is unsustainable, and if we survive the next several decades of global warming, our great-great-grandchildren certainly won’t be hopping in their Fords to combust fuel as casually as we do now. The American age of the automobile is waning, and we’ll need to find another way to feel free.
Almost certainly much nearer in the future is the demise of the blue law banning Sunday liquor sales in Minnesota. After decades of shoulder-shrugging, a new generation of Minnesotans with a more acute perspective on the absurdity of this puritan law are agitating for its repeal. Whether or not that happens before Super Bowl XXVI shines the international spotlight on our Sabbath-day dryness, the change seems inevitable. My first Sunday border beer run might turn out to have been my last.
Though I’d crossed that border to Wisconsin innumerable times, I’d never done so on Sunday explicitly with alcohol purchase in mind. I realized, when I got to Wisconsin, that I’d subconsciously expected Wisconsinites to be waiting at the roadside with bushels of booze at pop-up establishments like produce stands. Instead, when I chose what looked like the first exit, I had to drive past several Hudson hotels before I found a strip-mall liquor store.
I pulled in next to another car from Minnesota, which contained the only other customer browsing the beer coolers. I grabbed a case of New Glarus Spotted Cow, an ale that holds mythic status in Minnesota because it isn’t distributed outside Wisconsin. “You can take it there to drink it,” said the clerk when she saw my Gopher State ID, “but you can’t take it there to sell it.”
Obeying her injunction, I brought the bottles back and stashed them in a private refrigerator, to be enjoyed exclusively by me, my girlfriend, and maybe our neighbors if they come to hang out on the shared porch where we’re now tapping on our laptops while sipping Spotted Cow. I wanted this beer, so I climbed in my car and went to get it, because I could.
It’s a beautiful Minnesota night circa summer 2014, and there will never be another quite like it.
- Jay Gabler
Appropriately for a franchise centering on robots with the ability to dramatically change their appearance, the Transformers stories have evolved from a small toy line and gently absurd comic—created, on Hasbro’s order, to provide a new American narrative involving pre-existing toy molds from Japan—into a series of four increasingly gargantuan feature films directed by Michael Bay.
Really, it hardly seems appropriate to call Transformers: Age of Extinction a “movie” at all. It’s more akin to an IMAX symphony: a symphony in the mode of Mahler, sprawling and clamoring, disdaining conventional niceties of structure and development in favor of its own logic of scaffolded, massive happenings.
There’s a plot, but there might as well not be: it’s clear that Bay is not going to be bound by time, place, or character when it comes to doing precisely what he wants to do with $165 million. For the fifth Transformers film, Bay really ought to abandon a conventional plot altogether and just make a three-hour battle between Optimus Prime and Megatron (now Galvatron, in an increasingly rare nod to the first-generation continuity).
Then, we could be spared the mockery of character development we’re subjected to in Age of Extinction, as hot-single-dad Cade (Mark Wahlberg) struggles to let go of hot-teen-daughter Tessa (Nicola Peltz). We could also let go of the ethnic stereotypes that, in what I can only interpret as an anti-PC fuck-you, are actually dialed up from the original comics and cartoons. We used to have the black Transformer, the Brooklyn Transformer, and the British Transformer; now we have the Samurai Transformer (Ken Watanabe), the Hogan’s Heroes Transformer (John Goodman), and the exaggeratedly black Transformer (Reno Wilson).
What makes Age of Extinction compelling, in its way, is Bay’s total commitment to spectacle. As Transformers and humans slide down buildings, jet into the stratosphere, and barrel through countless windows, Bay’s camera flits around like a paparazzo. There are a lot of flying shards of things in Age of Extinction, and the motion frequently slows down so we can fully appreciate the detail of Bay’s digital creations. Even the light seems computer-generated: 3D lens flares seem as tangible as beach balls.
I say “spectacle” rather than “thrills” or “excitement,” because though the tempo of Age of Extinction is consistently high (except in the excruciating scenes of would-be family drama, as Walhberg makes wincingly meta references to his daughter’s tiny Daisy Dukes), Bay—seemingly by choice—foregoes almost every opportunity to create a genuinely suspenseful situation.
Only one scene, as Walhberg is chased down the terraced exterior of a Hong Kong apartment complex by a CIA officer, is sufficiently anchored in tangible space and time for the audience to become invested in what falls where; another promising scene, as humans crawl along vertiginously high moorings between a spaceship and the Sears Tower, disintegrates into jump cuts and whiny, gendered dialogue (Dad, Boyfriend, and Daughter venture forth; guess which one gets scared? Bingo!) until a Transformer comes along to bring us back to our regularly scheduled commotion.
Towards the end, the super-size Dinobots are summoned, but they’re almost incidental: the climactic showpiece of the film is a sequence that has a powerful spaceship sucking ships and cars up into its maw, then dropping them several hundred feet to rain down on the implausibly lucky human characters below. The soundtrack throbs and buzzes, theater seats shaking as objects the size of small skyscrapers pound against the ground. To continue the symphonic simile, this is Bay’s Ode to Joy.
Transformers: Age of Extinction represents Michael Bay turning the Michael-Bay to 11. It’s an extreme film, and moviegoers looking for this particular brand of extreme experience won’t want to miss it. Moviegoers looking for an actual movie may want to look elsewhere.
- Jay Gabler]]>