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Guardians of the Galaxy

In many respects, “Guardians,” directed and co-written by indie wit James Gunn, and starring buffed-up former schlub Chris Pratt and Really Big Sci-Fi Blockbuster vet…

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Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

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Patrice Leconte's "Monsieur Hire" is a tragedy about loneliness and erotomania, told about two solitary people who have nothing else in common. It involves a…

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A Journey to the End of Taste

View image Their hearts will go on, even if they're all wet.

Who says there's no accounting for taste?¹ Maybe there is. New Yorker music critic and Alex Ross (whose brilliant book "The Rest is Noise" I wrote about last month) mentioned another book on his blog and now I've gotta get ahold of it (as Barak Obama maybe sorta allegedly did).²

It's called "Let's Talk About Love: A Journey to the End of Taste," by Toronto Globe and Mail pop music critic Carl Wilson, and it critiques a Celine Dion album. The one with the "Titanic" love theme on it. Well, kind of.

If you've been following posts and discussions around these parts recently ("Moviegoers Who Feel Too Much," "Are Movies Going to Pieces?," "Don't let this affect your opinion of Juno..."), you'll know why that title immediately grabbed my attention. And it's not because I'm a Celine Dion fan.

From a review by Sam Anderson in New York Magazine: Wilson’s real obsession here is not Céline but the thorny philosophical problem on which her reputation has been impaled: the nature of taste itself. What motivates aesthetic judgment? Is our love or hatred of “My Heart Will Go On” the result of a universal, disinterested instinct for beauty-assessment, as Kant would argue? Or is it something less exalted? Wilson tends to side with the French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu, who argues that taste is never disinterested: It’s a form of social currency, or “cultural capital,” that we use to stockpile prestige. Hating Céline is therefore not just an aesthetic choice, but an ethical one, a way to elevate yourself above her fans—who, according to market research, tend to be disproportionately poor adult women living in flyover states and shopping at big-box stores. (As Wilson puts it, “It’s hard to imagine an audience that could confer less cool on a musician.”)

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