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Tuning in with Thomas Conner

Not to be too incestuous, but...

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Two more quick links: the Village Voice on Kimya Dawson and a piece on the backlash to the "Juno" backlash from Jim Emerson's Scanners blog.

Oh, there's also this blogger, who had a very funny one-line reaction to all the fuss, and this one, a Chicago high school teacher, who not only disagrees with me, but accuses me of shutting down the debate on this blog because I 'can't take the heat"!

Um, teach, did you miss the 100 or so emails in the last week (averaging, I'd say, 60 con/40 pro) that I've posted here?

And listen, it don't get much hotter than Roger Ebert accusing you of being out of touch. But we've traded a couple of emails this week, and while neither of us has changed the other's mind, I don't think that my critical hero is really too mad at me.

I hope.

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21 Comments

I saw Juno last night, and while I don't think it's the best film of the year, I thought it was a fresh take on the topic and delivered an overall positive message. The film and Juno's character are certainly a refreshing departure from the tired, cynical, self-absorbed adolescent fare typically seen onscreen these days. To pick apart every little thing the characters say, or don't say, is pretty pointless. Juno is SUPPOSED to be a quirky, march-to-her-own-drummer type of misfit, so of course she's not going to behave like the so-called "typical" 16-year-old (whatever that is) will. That wouldn't make for a very enjoyable movie.

What offended me most was the "anti-abortion/anti-woman" comment and the bit about Juno displaying her pregnant belly as a sort of status symbol. This trivializes her situation and decision in the same way you claim the clinic scene does. The implication that a truly bright, "emancipated" young woman would have terminated her pregnancy is more anti-woman than anything I can think of. I agree with the reader who said Juno's decision goes against the grain and is therefore truly rebellious. You say that denying a woman the right to decide is anti-woman, yet when the Juno character does exactly that, you and others sneer at it, because it's not the choice you like or you would have made. If the character had aborted the pregnancy, would you have questioned why no one in the film asked her to defend THAT decision? Talk about hypocrisy. This reminds me of all the controversy over Madonna's "Papa Don't Preach" back in the '80s. If you support the right to make one choice, then you've got to support the other.

First the Copy Editor, and now Ebert. Jeeze, Jim. Sounds like all your co-workers just spend their time ripping on your columns. I'm waiting for Mariotti to take a whack at you next.

Hey Jim,

I've been reading your music reviews and listening to your radio program for years. I can first recall really listening to you while you were reviewing Pavement's "Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain" album. I remember driving through some severely eerie fog, barely being able to see the supposedly haunted cemetery on Cuba Road and thinking, "who do these guys think they are? I believe Bill Wyman (sp?) was your co-host at that time. I haven't stopped listening since then, (besides the several times you either changed channels (Q101, 93XRT, and now NPR) or were canned or whatnot).

Through all of these years, I cannot recall a time when people reacted as strongly as they have to your recent article on Juno and its soundtrack. I have always been of the opinion that any time you can excite people by writing, the writing itself (article, essay, review, etc.) has been successful. Although I enjoyed viewing Juno, I enjoyed reading your article and witnessing the reactions from folks who loved the film and from the haters even more so. Creating conversation and forcing people to take sides on issues always means that the job of the writer was fulfilled. If anything, you caused more people to see Juno so they could take part in the debate, too. For this, I thank you because even if the common man hated this film or loved this film, I have to say it was fun to hear people discussing it with their friends these last couple of weeks! Bravo to you... and I suppose to the filmmakers for creating a film that could and should be talked about.

As always, I'll be "tuning in" this upcoming weekend and reading what you have to say about tunes in the Sun-Times. (Man, that paper's getting small on weekdays.)

Hope you're well, Jim-
Dave Marrinson

P.S. I couldn't believe that even Kimya Dawson wrote a response to your review. That kind of reaction equates to some great journalism on your part! Keep it up!

P.P.S What do you think of "American Hearts" by AA Bondy? How about Anders Parker and/or Varnaline? Just curious.


Thanks for the kind words, Dave.

I have to say, Varnaline I've heard -- intriguing, but I haven't spent a lot of time listening -- but "American Hearts" I'm unfamiliar with. I'll have to check it out!

Funny I saw the movie last night with my girlfriend who wanted to see it.

my review??? well since I didn't see your review until after I saw it, I can see what you mean...Musically I enjoyed the Kinks song...and I did think that it was odd to choose the "Superstar" song to represent Sonic Youth...while never a fan of the Youth..I would think that the Jason Batemen character would have been Appalled that Sonic Youth would even attempt to cover a Carpenters song..well anyway...I did enjoy it. besides the other choice I had to see was that "Atonement" film....(Chick Flick???) So that alone made me like Juno better.LOL


Jim, as a loyal sound opinions listener and advent reader I say thanks for turning me onto a lot of great music over these many years. Grinderman Rocks!! (What a find) and that Air album gets better and better over time. However, I have to ask, as a loyal reader of Roger Ebert, did he feel undermined by you crossing over and playing movie critic for Juno?

I have to say it kind of felt like it was back handed slap at him, knowing how much he loved it, and him being the Sun Times film critic and all.

For the record I agree with Roger. For an example, the characters in Pulp Fiction, probably wouldn't talk like that in real life, but its a lot of fun to believe they do!!. Do you really believe that only current 16 year olds can make movies about 16 year olds? Isn't that like saying only Criminals or Mobsters can make movies about Criminals and Mobsters?

Anyway, keep the great music choices coming.

A back-handed slap at Roger? Lord no! No more than if you were having a spirited debate with a good friend about a movie or album. It's not personal. It's about ideas!

As for straying onto Roger's beat, most critics do write about other forms from time -- at least half a dozen times a year, Roger will ask me to review a movie that deals specifically with music; I also do book reviews and the occasional theater piece. And Roger certainly doesn't hesitate to voice his opinions about music in a movie review. It's all part of the exchange and dialog that criticism has to be a part of in order to be worth a damn.

Glad you dig the Grinderman and the Air. And thanks for writing!

Mr.Derogatis,

Thank you!

I'm 29, same age as Diablo Cody. I'm also a young adult librarian, who spends alot of time with smart, well-read teens in my work.

And I hate hate hated Juno. Ever sickening, saccharine second of it.

You're absolutely right when you wrote about the falseness of Juno's voice (she sounds alot like my girlfriend, who is a very mature 25 year old) and the inanity of her banter. I thought the character came across as cruel and manipulative. The male characters in the movie are either completely spineless (her boyfriend looks like he suffered a cranial injury, though that seems to be his acting style) or presented as bastards. Her father was some idealized form of dad who was at once totally protective and yet totally cool. This ain't Minnesota, it's Candyland!

Daria, My-So-called Life and hell, even Buffy the Vampire Slayer, portrayed more nuanced and interesting teenagers than Juno. I think it's getting alot of credit for being a teen film that isn't a gross-out comedy or filled with cast members of American Idol/The Hills. That doesn't make it good. The smart "juno-types" aren't watching this tripe anyway. They're sneaking into "There Will Be Blood" or at home reading.

The last half hour of musical montages were just godawful. Stringy, strangly whining acoustic drone that all sounds like the kind of nonsense I was subjected to back in college at open mic nights. When she talked up Patti Smith and the Stooges I thought Juno might be cool. But when her and the boyfriend pulled out their guitars and wanked out some soft-rock stylings I realized that I, like the characters in the film, had been fooled.

Thank you sir. I've forwarded your column to more than a couple of Juno-loving friends saying "He says it better than I can".


-Michael Garrett Farrelly

Haven't seen Juno, but my 12 year old and her mom saw it and loved it. However, I did see Into The Wild and found the soundtrack to be the most annoying choice and placement of music I can remember. Loved the book, hated the movie.

THANK YOU for "Get Real, Juno"!

I attended a forum at Northwestern Law School last night about torture. One issue debated was how social norms are being radically changed. Torture is being normalized. And is women's reproductive role, or her rights as an independent human being, the fundamental thing? Cristina Page, author of How the Pro-Choice Movement Saved America, suggested we ask all the presidential candidates a question: When Roe v. Wade is overturned, how long in prison will women get who obtain abortions? This is where it’s going, not back to 1969, but back centuries. Like with habeas corpus and torture. Tthe "F" word. Check out review below by Sunsara Taylor, who's debated Bill O'Reilly on morality issues.
Love Sound Opinions. Keep it up. --Lou Downey

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From: Nick Perry [nick_perry@comcast.net] Sent: Tue 1/15/2008 3:56 PM
To: Derogatis, James
Cc:
Subject: Juno review
Attachments:
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Dear Mr. DeRogatis,

I just read your article and, as a teen, I felt obliged to roll through your article and politely disagree with your assessment of Juno's "problems." To begin, I would like to point out that not all teenagers are the same. Not all high school dialogue is "wisecracking." Keep in mind that high schoolers are on the brink of adulthood. MOST (yes, most) teenagers have an extensive collection of idioms, and have spent enough time around adults to have an intelligent, and even profound, conversation.
The character Juno is almost a perfect representation of an independent, confused teenager. There are kids who can't wait to reach adulthood, and they will come off as mature beyond their years. I believe Juno was intended to be one of these people. 99% of people in my high school (albeit, this is a public school in a Boston suburb) loved Juno's quips. It was truly refreshing to see a high schooler portrayed as a scholarly human being rather than a big, hormone-rampant, angsty conflict.
We are in agreement that Juno's parents were far too accepting. Also, nobody would forget to bring birth control. And if they did, the act wouldn't happen. At least not without a lengthy argument in which the male vainly attempts to convince the female that it will all be fine. That argument would have had a place in the movie.
I really don't think Juno is "anti-woman." Juno didn't get an abortion because the movie wouldn't go anywhere. It makes more sense from a movie standpoint for her to overlook abortion. Diablo Cody is very likely a feminist. Look at her illustration of Juno's step-mother. She comes off as much more supportive of Juno in the long run than her semi-ambivalent father.
Now where I could not disagree more with you. THE SOUNDTRACK IS ABSOLUTELY BRILLIANT. It's all indie because Juno is indie, Ellen Page is right that Juno would without a doubt listen to that music. The soundtrack's whole purpose is to diminish the severity of the subject matter of scenes. The lyrics and the videos clash in perfect harmony. You don't expect to hear such a sing-songy tune during birth; it avoids an overly-climactic moment as many movies have and, quite frankly, makes the scene a little more comfortable.
I hate to say it, but I think you are just a little frustrated at the modernization of the music scene, and it gives you a bias against the new-age Juno soundtrack. Music is undergoing another revolution. I recommend seeing the movie again, and instead of over-analyzing and criticizing the music. Just let it flow and you might see how the music really fits like a puzzle piece.

I Hope You Read This,
Nick Perry

Hi Jim,
Thanks for your review and follow-up comments. You are right on the money!

I'm curious no one has mentioned the similarities between Ellen Page's character in the Indie film, Hard Candy, and Juno. Have you seen this film? Both girls are unnaturally sarcastic, lacking in authenticity and totally unlikeable. My theory? Ms. Page has a very limited acting range and she's just going to keep planning this same character over and over. Yikes!

I felt manipulated by the film and the soundtrack. Glad you challenged all those good reviews. All that hype created a nasty Emperor's Clothes effect - no body wanted to challenge Ebert et al.

Cheers,
Julie Paradise

So I've come up with an idea. Instead of Juno, we'll remake it, and call the film Dero. Instead of getting Kimya Dawson to write the soundtrack, we'll get Wayne Coyne (who never wrote puerile lyrics about jelly or anything) to contribute songs. In it, you can preach to teenage girls about what you consider to be GOOD rock and roll :)

Okay, I'm being silly. Seriously, though, Jim... as an avid fan and supporter of yours (bought all your books, met, spoken with you about the world of music criticism)... I think you're way way way off the mark here in your assessment of Juno and Kimya. First of all, I'm a folk musician that has stumbled into the "indie folk punk" underground, and the content is not all full of infantile hooey. Granted, "Anyone Else But You" is my least favorite Kimya song but it fit with the context of the movie. I've played house shows with a few Plan-it-X records individuals like Paul Baribeau and Ghost Mice. They sing about real issues that plague them... everything from growing old to living on the road to not having enough gas money. Kimya's songs are peppered with the mix of sweet and sour... childish perspectives as seen through the eyes of adulthood (or vice versa). And I've always maintained that the WORST argument a person can make for not liking a film is "people don't talk like that." I've heard that crap about teenage dialogue since Dawson's Creek, and it just don't sit. It's fiction. People don't have to talk like that. Is Juno perfect? No. But it's akin to Little Miss Sunshine, Ghost World, and Rushmore... in that it creates its own universe using witticisms, pop culture, and the occasional real-life observation. It's actually effortless in the way it integrates all of these things to tell a bittersweet story.

I understand why you would take this personally having a near-teenage daughter; watching it to imagine your own child going through something like this (and knowing that she or her friends don't talk the way they do in the movie). I still cringe at the idea of even 18-year-olds promoting and talking about how cool the "Suicide Girls" are. But you have to be objective about this. There are precocious teenagers that have come to shows that adore Kimya Dawson and hate noise rock of Sonic Youth because it doesn't settle in their ears too well. I see the contradiction in that Juno herself never says "I listen to The Moldy Peaches." I agree that her dismissal of Sonic Youth is a throwaway line at best, but did you notice the way they incorporate grunge? How about the scene where Jennifer Garner is wearing an Alice in Chains t-shirt while she's painting to clearly indicate that she's wearing it to spite Jason Bateman's character. That entire scene is played with realism in a subtle way. You're also overlooking the best scene in the movie, that Juno has with her father at the kitchen table. That's the message. It's not a film espousing about teenage pregnancy rather about budding maturity and the acceptance of love with open arms. I really think people are focusing on this film as a political statement, rather than an entertainment. I don't think teenagers are going to suddenly want to get pregnant because it "looks cool" as you said on Spike's show this morning. If you want to watch a movie about the internal conflict revolving around the issue of abortion, go to the theater this weekend or the next and see a foreign film called 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days. And there is far more offense material to criticize than this movie, or the music of Kimya Dawson. I still remain a fan and devoted listener to Sound Opinions,

Sincerely,
James Eric Laczkowski


Also, one final correction --

*The notion that kids -- even smart and sarcastic ones -- talk like Juno is a lie only thirtysomething filmmakers and fiftysomething movie critics could buy. You want accurate wisecracking high-school dialog? Go back to MTV's animated "Daria" or Sara Gilbert's Darlene on "Roseanne." Or, as Juno says, "Honest to blog!"

Juno doesn't say that, rather, her best friend does, when they're talking on the phone.

Jim -

Geez. Why vent all your frustrations on this gently funny subversive little film? Try interacting with a wider range of real teens, if you must make sweeping generalizations about what they do and don't like, or how they speak...and keep in mind that entertainment generally doesn't feature the "routine" or "normal" subject. This is a fiction comedy, not a documentary.

While it's true most teens follow the musical herd, and many bomb the vocab section of their SATS, exceptions occur often. Smart, witty sixteen year olds with maverick music tastes that reside outside their demographic (and time frame) made up a fair share of my circle of friends in high school, and while I'm now a decidedly less-hip 40-something, many of my kids' friends sound very much like Juno.
Anecdotally ... my 13 year old - a skate-boarding vid gamer with a pierced ear and shoulder length hair, and a 145 IQ, has an unfortunate love for 80's power ballad bands.
Point is, movies about typical teens should have a place - but films about quirky and different characters can be more interesting. Did the typical teen girl speak with the humor and self-awareness of Molly Ringwald in "16 Candles?" Or a typical teen guy have the comic smarts and chops of "Ferris Bueller" - a bonafide Wayne Newton fan?
Lighten up, and take yourself less seriously. It's an occupational hazard for music critics.

I was listening to you on Spike's show this morning
and totally agree with you about Juno. My husband and
I walked out of the movie about 30 min. into it.
Something we never do! We thought it was trying too
hard and no teenager I know speaks that way.

Glad to know there is someone else out there that
didn't like the movie and.

Beth Ryan

Jim,

The structure of Juno is a complex plot; in that, the structure seems to rest on deconstructing the sterile and materialistic values of suburban life by an “indie”, blue collar, super-hip teen.

Thankfully, the movie spares us this story and the plot turns on its head at the last minute and takes-aim at the superficial values of the consciously-hip. At this moment, the audience realizes that the main character does not take her self too seriously and transcends her “super-cool” façade to embrace values not constructed by any fad. This is something an aging hipster could learn something from.

My guess is that, if the Justin Bateman character was real, the douche-bag would tell you that he was a “feminist”.

Hi Jim,
If Fred Durst were to review Juno right at this moment, yours is what it
would sound like. From title to last line.

-Eric

Hey Jim,

Happened upon your review on the net. You obviously had a problem with the sharp witted Juno. Don't think teenagers can be that smart and quick? You've never taught or met one. You let this bleed over into your critique of the soundtrack. Was it a critique of the soundtrack? I don't know much about your taste in music... but is it that hard to comprehend a 35 year performing much of the music for "Juno"? Do you have a problem with kids digging Dave Matthews? He's 41. The Beatles? They started in 1963. I'm 47 and I'm pretty up to speed with what they like. And my kids loved the music in the movie. I saw "Juno" with my three teenagers. You talk to teenagers often? As often as I do? I teach them. I coach them. I know what their musical tastes are. I also sat next to hundreds of them, singing every word, during "Across The Universe". They do know the Kinks, Patti Smith, Mott The Hoople, Iggy, and even the Carpenters. She dissed the Carpenters and Sonic Youth because it wasn't her music. It's only lame until they figure out that it's pretty cool stuff. Ellen Page is quoted as saying she would have loved to be a teen in the 70s. It was a great time Jim. The "Juno" soundtrack fits the movie perfectly. It's fun and engaging and witty and, albeit, a bit simplistic at times. "Too smart to bring birth control"? Ummmm... that's the art of being a teenager. So smart and dumb all rolled into one. Hey... it's a movie. And a really good on at that. Quirky humor from quirky characters in a quirky setting. I don't think that delving deeply into Juno's motives would have served a useful purpose. Gotta run... the kids are jamming to "Cream" and "The Rolling Stones" on Guitar Hero. They can't get enough of that music...

Joe Z

--

Juno is a phony?

Already nominated for honors by the Producer's Guild and the Golden Globes, Juno today garnered nominations by the Oscars for best picture, director, and screen play.

So much for your stint as a movie critic.

I think you are letting your personal politics interfere with your public works...

Hank Chase
Chicago

Hello Mr. Derogatis,

I just read your article about Juno and loved it. I've never emailed a writer before but I felt the need to concur with you. All of the people that I know that saw this movie thought it was "AWESOME." I hate this movie. I go out of my way to argue with someone who says it was good. It went absolutely no where and had lacked a good plot. Thank you very much, it is reassuring to know someone else hates it as much as I do.

Oisin Kenny

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This page contains a single entry by Jim DeRogatis published on January 18, 2008 7:29 AM.

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