• Stromae is my thought-provoking summer jam

    Back in college when I first heard Yelle, I steeped myself in her music for longer than I care to think about. My love for Yelle’s music is still strong, but I’ve been in a pretty folk/bluegrassy mood so far this summer, thanks in no small part to seeing Lake Street Dive and River Whyless in concert a couple months ago. Well, this morning I was browsing an AskReddit thread about people’s favorite non-English songs, and someone posted “Papaoutai” by Stromae, a Belgian rapper/singer/songwriter. Now it looks like I’m headed for a summer of French pop music.

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  • Review of Fifty Shades of Grey Movie (Spoiler-Free)

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    I wouldn’t call myself a “fan” of the Fifty Shades books. I recognize how problematic they are from a consent perspective. Also, the writing is just bad. The inner monologue is hysterical, the romance tropes are prevalent, and the structure is downright awful (though I think the much-maligned character development is actually OK). Nonetheless, I can’t deny I like the books. You can call it hate-reading, but cliches originally become cliches because people love them, and a domineering billionaire hits all the right escapism buttons for me. Just like Richard Gere in Pretty Woman.

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    Anyway, last night I found myself at a late-night showing of the new Fifty Shades of Grey movie. Overall, I don’t mind telling you that I liked it (though I’m apparently in the minority, given the current 30% rating on Rotten Tomatoes). Also, it was an interesting experience watching it at the theater with what were clearly diehard fans. They laughed at all the right times and grumbled with most deviations from the book.

    Regarding said deviations, I thought that the movie did a great job. The changes from the book were minor, but subtly updated the tone. Austin native Dakota Johnson brought a fabulous sense of comedic timing and goofiness not present in the book’s Ana; it’s as if she’s honestly reacting how an average person might in such ridiculous situations. The film also omitted Christian’s creepiest moments. For those concerned with portrayals of abuse in media (and you should be), I would say that the movie is qualitatively 50% less OH-MY-GOD-CONTROLLING-STALKER-RUN-FAST-RUN-FAR.

    There were definitely sexytimes, though pretty tame and thankfully not totally dominating (heh) the film. I thought they successfully walked the line between passionate and gratuitous; imagine somewhere between Game of Thrones and Cinemax After Dark. Both Mr. Dornan and Ms. Johnson probably spend a total of a few minutes topless, and there are butt shots from both stars. Inevitably (?), the nudity skews strongly toward the female lead, though we are treated to a very brief (200-300ms) flash of partial Dornan-Dong (just the base).

    Which brings me to my main criticism. Dakota Johnson is not only hilarious, but hot-hot-hot. She pretty much brings the modern American ideal of feminine beauty to the film. Even in actress terms, she’s a 10, hands down. And her male lead is… Jamie Dornan? Even putting his acting aside (and believe me, it’s rough), he’s an L.A. 7, max. Look, I understand Christian Grey is not supposed to be some giant beefcake, but this is a blockbuster film based on bestselling erotica that outsold Harry-mother-fucking-Potter. They should have spent the time and money to give us a regular-sized guy but with perfectly sculpted arms and chiseled abs. Instead, I spent the whole movie thinking how much he looked like Ewan McGregor, and wondering why flabby Obi-Wan was being such a controlling dick. Oh, and also wishing that the dreamy Charlie Hunnam hadn’t dropped out early in production, leaving Christian to be recast.

    Anyway, the movie leaves off almost exactly where the first book does, which makes for kind of a strange (albeit intriguing) ending when viewed as a standalone film (which it was originally supposed to be). But I’m excited to report that talks are now underway to complete the trilogy. Hopefully they’ll swap out Dornan for someone who can really keep up with the delightful Ms. Johnson.