Movie Review: The Last Days of Disco (1998)


Title: The Last Days of Disco
Release Date: June 12, 1998
Director: Whit Stillman
Production Company: Castle Rock Entertainment | Westerly Films
Summary/Review:

This movie is set in the “very early 80s” around New York City’s disco scene when bouncers maintained power by holding people behind a velvet rope. Disco culture originated in the Black, Latin, and LGBT communities but these people serve as wallpaper to a story of white young adults, recent graduates of New England colleges, making their way into the City’s business world. Then again, since this story is about the demise of disco, it’s appropriate to focus on people like them.

I appreciate that the movie doesn’t overdo the disco-era costuming. On the other hand, there are numerous anachronisms, such as a conversation about Yuppies years before the term was in common use. The subways are miraculously free of graffiti and their apartment doors lack multiple locks. The movie is as much about the 90s when it was made as the 80s when it was set.

The main characters are Alice (Chloë Sevigny) and Charlotte (Kate Beckinsale), who knew one another at Hampshire College and have entry-level positions at a publishing company. They end up socializing and becoming roommates despite not really liking one another. Alice is a bit shy and naive, but intelligent. Charlotte is self-absorbed and casually insults everyone on the pretext of offering advice. Everyone knows someone like this and Beckinsale’s performance is deliciously obnoxious.

Into their lives come several men that are all white, have the same haircut, and wear ties so I had trouble telling them apart. Des (Chris Eigeman) is the manager of the disco who pretends to come out as gay to end relationships with women, and casually dates Alice for a time. Jimmy (Mackenzie Astin) is an ad exec who uses his friendship with Des to sneak clients into the club, and ends up dating Charlotte. Josh (Matt Keeslar) is an assistant district attorney with mental health issues who slowly develops a relationship with Alice. And Dan (Matt Powers) is a co-worker who mocks the women’s disco lifestyle.

The movie has some good dialogue and humor and does a good job capturing that uncertain period after college. I just wish it focused more on Alice and her self-discovery and less on indistinguishable dudebros.

Rating: ***

Podcasts of the Week Ending March 16th


Twenty Thousand Hertz :: The Booj

In a world where every movie trailer sounds exactly like every other movie trailer, how does one make their trailer stand out?  The story of The Booj and other elements common to the blockbuster movie trailer formula.  Confession:  I love the sound of The Booj, but can live without the cheezy song covers.

Radiolab :: Asking for Another Friend

This episode investigates several mysteries, including people who don’t clean up their dog’s poop, racist dogs, and why the New York City subway plays the opening notes of a song from West Side Story.

Re:Sound :: Lefty Disco

The first story is the oddly fascinating story of how discrimination against Black and gay people, a radio shockjock, and a baseball double-header collided to become a disastrous promotional event and The Night That Killed Disco.

Best of the Left :: Democratizing our presidential elections (National Popular Vote) ​

The Electoral College is anti-democratic and despite what its supporters say does not help smaller states.  This episode discusses alternatives such as the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, replacing “winner take all” with proportional allotments, and eliminating the Electoral College entirely.


Running tally of Podcast of the Week appearances:

Podcasts of the Week Ending December 2


The Story Collider :: The Bats and the Bees

A reluctant field researcher finds purpose in showing drunk 17-year-olds how to tag bats with microchips, and a bee researcher who is allergic to bees.  Science!

Radiolab :: Stereothreat

Research into the effects of negative stereotypes and the difficulty of replicating that research.

Hit Parade :: The Queen of Disco Edition

Things I learned about Boston’s own Donna Summer: 1. she got her start in the Munich production of Hair where she became fluent in German, 2. she wrote or co-wrote most of her songs, 3. she and her producers basically invented electronic dance music, and 4. she continued to have club hits into the 2010s.

Afropop Worldwide :: A Brief History of Funk

A brief but beautiful story of funk with many funky classics and interviews with Bobby Byrd and George Clinton.

Slow Burn: A Podcast About Watergate

A new podcast that tells the story of the Watergate scandal with an as-it’s-happening approach focusing on long-forgotten key players in the scandal.

30 for 30 Podcasts :: The Lights of Wrigleyville

The story of the contentious battle between theChicago Cubs and their residential neighbors to install lights in Wrigley Field in the 1980s.

More Perfect :: Mr. Graham and the Reasonable Man

The story of a legal case that underlies our current crises in policing in America, and the legal fiction of the “Reasonable Man.”

Songs of the Week: The Island of Dr. Electrico by The Bombay Royale


Australia-based band The Bombay Royale recreates the feel of Bollywood in the 1960s and 1970s with a mix of funk, disco, and surf music.  Honestly, I always wonder with these kind of things if it wouldn’t be better to just listen to Bollywood recordings from the 60s and 70s, but The Bombay Royale are entertaining enough to be worth a least one listen.  I can’t seem to break down the SoundCloud tracks one by one, so I’m just embedding their entire 2014 album The Island of Dr. Electrico below.  I’m also posting the video for “Henna, Henna” which isn’t my favorite song but it does show the band’s unique aesthetic.