Ethel Cain shares her top ten

  • RIDLEY SCOTT, THELMA & LOUISE (1991)

    The first time I watched this movie, I immediately told my best friend that we needed to go on a road trip. We didn’t wind up taking one for another two years, but once we did, Thelma & Louise was all I could think about as we drove. It’s one of the only films I’m mad I didn’t make. My favorite shot is toward the beginning, when Susan Sarandon is washing a glass in a sink. I couldn’t tell you why I love this moment, but I pause the video to stare at it every time. Maybe I’m just obsessed with how well the scene’s baby blues and soft whites work together.

    Ridley Scott, Thelma & Louise, 1991, 35 mm, color, sound, 130 minutes. Louise (Susan Sarandon).

  • ANDREW WYETH, CHRISTINA’S WORLD, 1948

    I recently had the pleasure of visiting New York City, and the first thing I did was walk into the Museum of Modern Art and march straight to the fifth floor to see her. I stood there for a good twenty minutes simply looking at Christina. There’s something about the painting’s emptiness; it’s mostly just her in a field, staring off at a house in the distance. I subconsciously pose like Christina every time I find myself in a grassy plain. She’s my role model.

    Andrew Wyeth, Christina’s World, 1948, tempera on panel, 32 1⁄4 × 47 3⁄4". © Andrew Wyeth/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

    Andrew Wyeth, Christina’s World, 1948, tempera on panel, 32 1⁄4 × 47 3⁄4″. © Andrew Wyeth/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

  • THE POPOVY SISTERS’ BALL-JOINTED DOLLS

    When I was in high school, I would spend hours watching “face up” YouTubers customize these beautiful, lithe figurines and turn them into the most whimsical little sculptures you’ve ever seen. I’ve been emailing the Popovy sisters, trying to get a custom one made of myself. I’ve recently decided that I need an army of dolls that look like me to watch over me as I sleep, scaring my sleep-paralysis demons away. 

    Popovy sisters’ doll models, 2015, polyurethane, porcelain, each approx. 15" tall.

    Popovy sisters’ doll models, 2015, polyurethane, porcelain, each approx. 15″ tall.

  • AN EXCERPT FROM ANGIE SIJUN LOU’S POEM “JESSICA GIVES ME A CHILL PILL” (2017)

    “I / ask Jessica what drowning / feels like and she says / not everything feels like / something else.” I think about these lines very, very often. Jessica is so goddamn right.

  • RACOONS

    Keeping a raccoon is legal in Florida, and I submitted paperwork to own one (as an exotic pet) when I was twenty-one. However, I moved out of the state a year after I filed, so I had to put my plans on hold. It’ll happen someday: For the past three years, I’ve been dreaming of owning a really fat one that likes to roll around. I’ll throw frozen vegetables at her at snack time. I’ll name her Peas. 

    Raccoon, Mont Royal, Montreal, June 29, 2010. Photo: John Mason/Flickr.

    Raccoon, Mont Royal, Montreal, June 29, 2010. Photo: John Mason/Flickr.

  • JIMMY SCREAMERCLAUZ, WHEN BLACK BIRDS FLY (2015)

    ScreamerClauz makes all these insane animated movies that are just endlessly entertaining. The first time I ever watched When Black Birds Fly, I got mind-numbingly high and disappeared into it. It’s like doing acid in Jonestown, but there are globe-headed sex gods and cats with boobs everywhere. I show it to all my friends, and after it’s finished, they look at me and go, “What is wrong with you?”

    Jimmy ScreamerClauz, When Black Birds Fly, 2015, digital video, color and black-and-white, sound, 124 minutes.

    Jimmy ScreamerClauz, When Black Birds Fly, 2015, digital video, color and black-and-white, sound, 124 minutes.

  • FUNKADELIC, “MAGGOT BRAIN” (1971)

    I discovered this song in high school via Gaspar Noé’s Love (2015). It’s, like, a ten-minute-long sex scene, and that song just plays uninterrupted through the whole thing. I watched the movie during a sleepover—it was 4 AM, and I was surrounded by, like, ten of my friends, thinking, I have never been this turned on in my life. I got a matching tattoo, of the words MAGGOT BRAIN, with one of my friends in the black-mold-riddled basement of a hardcore venue in Brooklyn right before a show we were playing together. I could spin that song over and over again and still slow-grind to it with a glass of whiskey in my hand—each time I hear it is like my first. Pure sex in a bottle. 

    Gaspar Noé, Love, 2015, 2K video, color, sound, 135 minutes. Electra (Aomi Muyock), Omi (Klara Kristin), and Murphy (Karl Glusman). Production still.

    Gaspar Noé, Love, 2015, 2K video, color, sound, 135 minutes. Electra (Aomi Muyock), Omi (Klara Kristin), and Murphy (Karl Glusman). Production still.

  • MARTI NOXON AND JEAN-MARC VALLÉE, SHARP OBJECTS (2018)

    Twitter spoiled Sharp Objects for me when it originally aired, so I put off seeing it for three years. When I finally started it, I was only going to watch an episode or two and then drag out the rest. But I couldn’t stop myself—I binged the entire series in one night, finishing as the sun rose. I haven’t been captivated by a TV show like that before in my life. Even the ending, which I knew was coming, still spun my head around because the plot was that well-executed. The setting, the acting, the story—I swear it was all tailored to make me want to gnaw my own foot off. I didn’t, but I seriously wanted to. 

    Sharp Objects, 2018, still from a TV miniseries on HBO. Episode 2, “Dirt.” Adora Crellin (Patricia Clarkson) and Camille Preaker (Amy Adams).

    Sharp Objects, 2018, still from a TV miniseries on HBO. Episode 2, “Dirt.” Adora Crellin (Patricia Clarkson) and Camille Preaker (Amy Adams).

  • TUMBLR

    My favorite website on the entire internet. I’ve been on-and-off Tumblr-active since 2012, but I really got back into it in 2018 and now it’s my happy place. It’s the most concentrated source of the types of visual inspiration that help put me in the right zone creatively. There’s nothing quite like it anywhere else online, so I cling to it pretty tightly. Sometimes I just go to my own blog and scroll for hours to soak it all up. I adore a good pretty picture.

    Screen captures of Ethel Cain’s Tumblr, 2022.

    Screen captures of Ethel Cain’s Tumblr, 2022.

  • OLD HOME RENOVATION VIDEOS ON YOUTUBE

    I love to make a PB&J and sit at my computer for hours and watch terrible people buy lovely old houses and ruin them and yell at my screen and curse their bloodline for destroying a beautifully tiled bathroom or hear them talk smack about a wood-paneled basement just to paint it all gray. I’m looking at buying an old home in the near future, but they’re getting harder to find because of flippers, whose renovation vlogs I enjoy screaming at. I really do think flippers are terrible people. Horrible, truly.

    Still from Jon Schoeller’s house-flip video, 2021. Jon Schoeller/YouTube.

    Still from Jon Schoeller’s house-flip video, 2021. Jon Schoeller/YouTube.

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