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[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]

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 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]

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 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
»Deerhunter
Halcyon Digest
4AD
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
»Robyn
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Konichiwa
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Lisbon
Fat Possum
LOSTATSEA.NET > FEATURES >

January 31, 2007
It's so much harder to write something about a movie you loved than it is something you detested or, better yet, something you detested but everybody elsed raved over. I always worry about becoming repetitive: "Notes On A Scandal is great. The directing was top-notch. Cate Blanchett? Hooray!" The good thing about this film, however, is that it's so good/top-notch/hooray that it's OK to use giant, sweeping superlatives like "paramount," and "masterpiece" and occasionally throw in a really good hyperbole, like "it made me want to petition the British government to change the rules of their monarchy so that Judi Dench can just become Queen of England once and for all and in doing so, oversee the making of every film, just so that she can decide whether or not she should grace it with her presence on-screen."

The scandal upon which the aforementioned notes are taken involves the deflowering of a 15-year-old boy by the winsome Sheba Hart (Blanchett), his high school art teacher. Barbara Covett, a fellow teacher and lonely soul, records every detail in a series of neat journals and uses her knowledge of Sheba's sketchy dealings to blackmail her into a bizarre friendship. Director Richard Eyre does a skillful job of confusing our loyalties. Do we vilify the child molester or the selfish manipulator? Who do we feel the most sorry for? The free spirit who has been robbed of her youth or the spinster whose loneliness is painful to observe?

It's really a toss-up. We're privy to Barbara's inner machinations thanks to her alternately funny and chilling voiceover, but it's hard to really connect with someone who makes fun of kids with Down syndrome. But Sheba? Her professed disenchantment with life as an upper class wife is supposed to be her excuse for "giving private sculpting lessons after school" (if you know what I mean), but it's hard to swallow. Sure, she might be tired of her older husband (Bill Nighy), but couldn't a hot twenty-three year old bartender fill the ol' void? Our indecision isn't a defect on the film's part, though. It's this tension that keeps us riveted, if only because the deviance of both characters is so fascinating and so well-acted that it's really impossible to predict who will come out on top of an increasingly tangled mess.

Dench and Blanchett have both been in enough movies in recent years to give Christopher "Cast Me" Walken a run for his money, but if you think Denchett's been spread too thin, think again. Both performances deserve immediate Academy Awards - that is, in an era in which Oscars aren't awarded solely on the accuracy of one's impression of a famous person (Tough luck, Judi!).

You're going to think I'm exaggerating, most likely because of Notes On A Scandal's cheesy crime drama poster, which features Cate Blanchett, in profile, looking wistfully into the distance and Judi Dench creepily staring at her, awash in a red shadow. In fact, there is a lot of crime in the film and some very dramatic scenes, but it also manages to be witty and elegant while at the same time disgusting and base. None of it is cheesy, all of it is fresh, and some of it will make you feel so tense and uncomfortable that you cannot believe you thought it would be a good idea to take your mom with you to the movies.

Your mom will survive, though. Mine did. In fact, she loved it. That's the other compelling thing about Notes On A Scandal: at the end of a series of scenes graphically depicting boy-fondling and Dench-slapping, your mom will somehow leave the theater feeling heartwarmed. And that's movie magic.

SEE ALSO: www.foxsearchlight.com/NOAS

--
Susan Howson
A staff writer attending graduate school in Richmond, VA, Susan Howson cannot be persuaded to stop talking about movies.

See other articles by Susan Howson.

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