The Verdict: DriveNicolas Winding Refn's latest film accelerates into a coercive, exhilarating masterpiece

FOR WAY, WAY LONGER than you’d expect, Drive is a polite movie. It goes the speed limit. It makes complete stops. It signals before turning. It brakes on yellow. (Should I keep going?) The film is so well-behaved that you’d be forgiven for thinking your mom might like it, right up to the minute the first skull gets blown open. Ryan Gosling is so dreamy.

Drive makes the most of the disconnect between its extraordinary violence and its overwhelming sexiness, and then some. Where most hyper-stylized, ultra-violent films inevitably end up romanticizing the carnage (some quite successfully), the blood in Drive hurts and delights in roughly equal measure. It’s not Schindler’s List, but it’s not The Boondock Saints, either. Thank God for that. 

Continue Reading…

Why Kanye West Is Good For AmericaThe most compelling man in hip hop is great because of his repugnant qualities, not in spite of them

THE LONG-AWAITED, much-hyped, almost-certainly-decadent Kanye West/Jay-Z collaboration Watch the Throne will finally drop (legally) on August 8. It’s an event that, for this Kanye fan, provokes conflicting emotions.

On the one hand, if latest pre-release single “Otis” is any indication, it seems statistically impossible that Watch the Throne will be anything less than awesome. On the other hand, I’m not sure I’m ready for another round of mainstream press coverage devoted to Kanye West, the bulk of which can be summarized and dismissed as: “Okay, fine, Kanye makes good music. But he’s such an asshole!”

The implication of such a statement is that were Kanye able to transcend his innate asshole-ism—if he found God (again), or started a charity, or saved the whales or some shit—his music would, accordingly, reach a higher plane. This all makes for good copy, but it betrays a complete misunderstanding of how great pop music works (remember Bob Dylan’s Christian period?) and, more importantly, a complete ignorance as to what makes Kanye so uniquely great.

Continue Reading…

From Four Till LateOne of Mississippi's last surviving juke joints provides a rollicking, rambunctious taste of Southern culture

THERE WAS ROOM TO DANCE, but not to move. I had sweat more in the past two hours than I had in the past two weeks. It was all but assured that if there was a mishap with one of the room’s many, many lit cigarettes, we would all be torched faster than you could ask, “Is this a fire hazard?”

A friend asked if I wanted to leave. I did not.

I was at Po’ Monkey’s in Merigold, Mississippi, a three room shack older than God but twice as fun. Ninety minutes south of Memphis and miles away from America as you or I know it, Po’ Monkey’s is one of the last surviving juke joints in the Mississippi Delta, though to describe it as “surviving” seems condescending. Survival is for capitalists; Po’ Monkey’s will die when it’s good and ready.

Continue Reading…