Friday, November 30, 2007

Golden Satellite Awards, or How Nominations are out!

Tis the season... nominations from that very obscure awards group (I mean when you were formerly part of the Golden Globes and don't even air your awards show you know you're kind of in the dark) are out.
Regardless: short comments on the nominations (which like the Globes cover both TV and Hollywood and do that annoying thing where all the supporting players are lumped together in the same category)

As per usual I find myself enjoying more the Comedy/Musical categories since I watch more of the eligible shows on this side of the categories - [Random rant: When oh when will the Drama categories stop gushing over Whine's Anatomy?]
Love the fact that they showed some love for Pushing Daisies (nominated for Best Comedy Series, Best Lead Actor and Actress), for Ugly Betty (nommed for Best Comedy Series, Best Lead and Supporting Actress) and for both 30 Rock leads (the Emmy-winning show managed to miss a nom for Best Comedy Series how exactly?).
More noms I was happy to see: Felicity Huffman (one of only two noms for D-Hos) and Michael C. Hall for Dexter.

Pretty much all over the place - I mean when you have Ben Kingsley and Seth Rogen (or 300 and Ratatouille) in the same category you know you're in for a motley crew of nominations. Don't know why Sweeney Todd didn't show up at all and why Daniel Day Lewis (There Will Be Blood) missed out on a nomination. That said, I was happy to see 3:10 to Yuma represented (though only Ben managed a thesp nomination). The Comedy/Musical category seems lacking (Once anyone? How did Shoot 'em up get there anyways?)
More noms I was happy about: Hairspray, and Lars and the Real Girl for Best Comedy, Amy Adams for Enchanted and the Atonement thesp noms (though no Best Drama?)

So to sum up: Random and probably irrelevant. Check them out here.

30 Rock, or How I'm Gay for Jamie as well

Can I just say I loved last night's cougars storyline? Seeing Liz dating the 20 year old coffee boy was just deliciously funny. [I refrain from commenting on the less than stellar Jack/ Kenneth/ Tracy storyline which read like it came out of a Rick Moranis 1990s movie...]

If 30 Rock does something right is portraying Liz as an insecure woman who seems to go against everything Sex and the City taught us women in NYC should/would be. Her cluelessness when it came to dating younger men, going out later than 10pm and keeping up with current pop culture (including references to the Zeffron and Gnals Barkley's website) were highlights of the show.
But the main reason I loved the episode was Jamie - isn't he beautiful and perfect as the ever-so-adorable 20 year old New Yorker to be preyed upon by Liz? Just like Frank I am Gay for Jamie... anyday!
Also hilarious was Jenna's attempt to one-up Liz and dating a 'sophomore from NYU' who looked right out of Superbad.

Favourite Jenna line:
"These things happen Liz. I had my no sex with Asians rule but then one day you walk into Sharper Image and there's Quan"

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Vancouver 2010 Mascots, or How THIS is How First Nations Anime Looks Like

Meet the Mascots for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics!

As if the simplified (smiling and primary-coloured) Inukshuk that the Canadian/Olympic authorities branded as the Vancouver 2010 symbol hadn't sparked enough 'is this Politically-correct?' conversations - most of them directed at the potentially misappropriation of what is so obviously a First Nations symbol to denote "Canadianness" to the (albeit touristy) world Olympic watcher/audience; the Winter Olympic Mascots were unveiled earlier this week.

Let's meet them:
[the following descriptions were taken from the official website]

Miga: Miga is a young sea bear who lives in the ocean with her family pod, out past Vancouver Island near Tofino, British Columbia. Sea bears are part killer whale and part bear. Miga is part Kermode bear, a rare white bear that only lives in British Columbia.

Sumi: Sumi is an animal spirit who lives in the mountains of British Columbia. Like many Canadians, Sumi's background is drawn from many places. He wears the hat of the orca whale, flies with the wings of the mighty thunderbird and runs on the strong furry legs of the black bear.

Quatchi: Quatchi is a young sasquatch who comes from mysterious forests of Canada. Quatchi is shy, but loves to explore new places and meet new friends. Although Quatchi loves all winter sports, he’s especially fond of hockey. He dreams of becoming a world-famous goalie.

One need not be a doctoral candidate to see the ways in which National symbols lend themselves easily to be analysed and explored as cultural artifacts that instead of creating a sense of National Unity more often than not show us the process through which 'Nation' is a cultural construct...
But before I get carried away in academic discourse I want to just isolate a couple of things in a more direct manner:
- Each mascot tries to evoke 'Canadiana' (Hockey? Check! First Nations totemic art? Check! West Coast mythology? Check! Totemic iconography? Check! - Seriously it's as if they just walked by Granville Island and Gastown and pre-packaged what we portray to tourists what the 'West Coast' is all about, I'm actually surprised Salmons didn't garner any mention...)
- Just as with the Inukshuk, First Nations (if only commodified for the rest of the world) are represented mainly in Sumi (Token FN mascot) who functions as a totem-mascot, who 'just like many Canadians' comes from many places and is a mish-mash of West Coast First Nations iconography - mainly the Haida art in his 'killer whale hat' and his Thunderbird wings.
- The artwork (or cartoon-work) is anime in style: an acknowledgment of the increasingly Asian community in the West Coast? an appeal to 'younger, hipper, manga-reading' audiences?

They are quite adorable, and I'm just sad I don't get to see the media reactions out West which I'm sure will range from 'Where's the political correctness?!' to 'OMG! So Canadian!'
And yet with all their (albeit artificially constructed) 'Canadianness' they manage to epitomize what Vancouver was for me: can't you just see these mascots plastic wrapped in Hello Kitty stores in Metrotown as well as in T-shirts sold at the Bay for them Robson-loving tourists?

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

FYC, or How Hairspray is Big, Blonde and Beautiful!

For Your Consideration (A Blog Next Door Style) - Hairspray
It's my blog and I'll FYC if I want to, FYC if I want to...

Hairspray (2007) was one of my favourite movies of the summer - it was light, fun, vibrant and had Michelle Pfeiffer playing a bitch. What more does a summer movie need? (a high-octane chase? an action sequence involving helicopters? I don't think so...)
Based on the Broadway musical by the same name, which is in turn based on the 1988 John Waters's Hairspray, this updated version tells the tale of Tracy Turnblad as she becomes part of the Corny Collins Show, fights racism, falls in love with Link Larkin (the beautiful Zac Effron) all the while maintaining ridiculously big hair and keeping the beat going. Smoother around the edges, less sexual and much less queer than the original John Waters film, this 2007 version of the Tracy story works because it so readily embraces its own saccharine, colourful, big-haired style. Adam Shankman (of choreographing Once More with Feeling fame) manages to keep the movie going full-throttle showcasing newcomer Nikki Blonsky, drag-ed up John Travolta, snowqueen Ms Pfeiffer, teen hearthrob Zeffron, dreamy James Marsden and company. But what's the best part is that the entire movie is packaged in bright colours, vibrant sets and wrapped in a beautiful palette. There is really nothing to hate in a movie that so warmly welcomes you to love it. When all is said and done - you really can't stop the beat!

Check out A Blog Next Door's other FYC campaigns:
Superbad & Knocked Up

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Spirit Awards, or How Nominations are out!

The Spirit Awards Nominations came out earlier today. I don't have much to say about them except that I am amazed that Lars and the Real Girl and Away From Her are nowhere to be found (are there some eligibility issues I am not aware of?)
I was also sad to see Keri Russel miss out on a Female Lead nomination (while Ms Sienna-I'm-a-ubiquitous-talentless-actress-Miller got one - wtf?), and Ms Laura Linney be overlooked - I have yet to see The Savages but isn't everyone raving about her performance?
Interesting how warmly the Spirit Awards took to both Lust, Caution (3 noms - They do love Ang don't they? I wouldn't have been surprised if they'd nominate him) and I'm Not There (4 noms) - pics who have been receiving mixed reviews (which obviously won't stop me from seeking them out later this month). Also glad to see Once in the mix as well as Persepolis in the Foreign Language Category.
I'm sure more keen oscarwatchers will be making alot of the nominations - does this cement the chances of Ms Blanchett? strengthen Diablo Cody's nomination/win chances for Juno? create momentum for The Diving Bell and the Butterfly? Only time will tell, right.
Next: Golden Globe Noms Dec 13th

Georges Jeanty Part I, or How Buffy is ready for her close-up

After (re)reading Brian K Vaughan's Buffy Season 8 issue 8 (one of the best issues yet!) I was quite impressed with Georges Jeanty's art. I have been admiring his work from issue to issue, but it was in this one where I realised he's just getting better and better (can't wait for next week's issue!)

I thought I should show some love to Mr Jeanty (recently 'seen' on Dexter) and I decided to showcase what I consider is Georges strength: Close-ups. Since I seem to work on threequel posts (I swear, Spidey, Captain Jack and Jason Bourne have no influence on my blog whatsoever!) I will be featuring Georges' three leading ladies in three different posts: Buffy, Willow and Faith.

"Ms Buffy Summers is ready for her close-up Mr Jeanty"

Check out:
Georges Jeanty Part II, or How Faith is ready for her closeup and
Georges Jeanty Part III, or How Willow is ready for her closeup

Monday, November 26, 2007

Enchanted, or How Disney is Back

Five Reasons I fell in Love with Enchanted:

5. The Traditional Animation Opening
Because there is nothing more exciting than seeing Disney doing what Disney does best: traditional animation starring a feisty, fun and fearless female protagonist.

4. Alan Menken & Stephen Schwartz's Songs and Lyrics
You can't just have great female heroines (Ariel, Snow White, Belle) you have to pair them with great songs. That's how Disney became what it is today and Enchanted surely delivers great tunes that take their rightful place in the pantheon of good Disney music. I am still humming 'So Close' (and wanting to dance to it with a handsome young prince) and will probably make 'That's How You Know' an iTunes favourite.

3. The Disney-related cameos and references
Wikipedia alone lists close to 50 Disney intertextual moments. My favourites:
- The song True Love's Kiss is a tribute to the songs I'm Wishing, A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes, and Once Upon a Dream. The construction of Giselle's dream prince with the help of the woodland animals is also a tribute to a similar scene in Sleeping Beauty.
- The song "So Close" is a tribute to the song Beauty and the Beast, from both the moment in the film the song is played, as well as that the song is sung from the perspective of an observer. The camera angles during the song are also a tribute to the same scene.

- The canoe scene is reminiscent of the Kiss the Girl in Little Mermaid.

2. James Marsden as Prince Edward
I love James in all and every of his endeavours (though I am not a big fan of his turn in 24th Day, or of his stale character in Superman Returns). That said, here he is deliciously vain as Prince Edward and even showcases his singing talents, which fans will of course remember not only from the film version of Hairspray but from his stint in Ally McBeal's last season.

1. Amy Adams as Giselle
I have never been a big fan of the man-crazy Disney princesses. Snow, Aurora and Cinderella are probably the least appealing of the Disney girls (I tend to like the feisty Belle, the tiny Lilo and even the rebellious Ariel). That said Amy Adams makes Giselle lovable and makes her ingenuity adorable rather than annoying. Plus, I think other than Mulan she is one of the the few Disney princesses to wield a sword so skillfully.

That said, there were three things that nagged me about the movie, but the whimsical world Kevin Lima created made me forget about them:

3. Patrick Dempsey
McSteamy over Cyclops? Really...?

2. Disney's heterosexism
What can be said that hasn't been said already? We live with it and hope that one day we'll be able to see a young, handsome, singing boy finding his Prince in the same Disney fashion we've seen a mermaid find her prince, a beast find his true love and an ape-man find his mate.

1. The fact that I'll never hear the Idina Menzel-James Marsden titular song 'Enchanted'!
How did we miss out on a Corny Collins-Elphaba duet? Do I need to wait for a great Broadway producer to find Idina and James singing together anytime soon?

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Act, Natalie Act! or How Tykwer's Paris est Magnifique!

After moaning about how I missed Ms Portman I got Paris Je T'aime in the mail yesterday and HAD to watch Tom Tykwer's short film (and the rest of the film of course - The Coens Bros short is also good fun). It was so good I thought I'd share and get some interest in watching this collection of short films/love letter to the city of lights:

Friday, November 23, 2007

Like you'll never see me again, or How Alicia Keys goes all Reverse Chronology on us

Taking a page off of Seinfeld's 'The Betrayal,' X-Files 'Redrum' but more likely ER's own 'Hindsight' Alicia Keys uses Reverse Chronology to tell the story of a fateful accident in her new video:

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Double FYC, or How 2007 was Apatow's Year

For Your Consideration (A Blog Next Door Style) - Knocked Up & Superbad
It's my blog and I'll FYC if I want to, FYC if I want to...

Everyone might be talking about that Variety ad regarding the upcoming Judd Apatow-produced movie Walk Hard - The Dewey Cox story but I thought I'd highlight two of this year's funniest comedies: the Judd Apatow-penned/helmed Knocked Up and the Seth Rogen/Evan Goldberg written Superbad:
I know comedy is sometimes avoided by the Academy (when they do embrace it they tend to steer away from R-rated comedies and prefer the 'indie' films with dysfunctional families) but I do think that the screenplays for both the films are hilarious and offered the best laughs of the summer.
While the overall story of the Katherine Heigl/Seth Rogen vehicle was not as realistic as one could hope for, it still delivered rambunctious laughter and an amazing comedic performance by Leslie Mann as Heigl's bittersweet sister. Raunchier, and much more homoerotic, the Jonah Hill/Michael Cera buddy movie proved that the Trojan Wars-like genre is not yet dead, but on the contrary quite alive and well.

Favourite moments:

Knocked Up: Any scene at the E! studio including Alan Tudyck and Kristen Wig:
"Oh, no, we're not asking you to lose weight. That would be illegal. We just want you to be healthy, by eating less. So go home, weigh yourself on a scale, write than down. Then subtract 20 from that number. And weigh that. Yeah. "

Superbad: The penis drawings scene (and the credits at the end of course) and any scene with awkward Michael Cera:
Becca: Your cock is so smooth!
Evan: Yours would be too... if you were a man.

Check out A Blog Next Door's other FYC campaigns:

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Unfortunate Movie Titles Ever, or How I Rant... Sometimes

Things like this make me feel glad I have a blog and can air my comments (when of course, the site in question does not offer said option).
Over at ReelzChannel, a one Thomas Leupp discusses the The 10 Most Unfortunate Movie Titles Ever.
Now, I don't just want to rant about the fact that judging a movie by its title is at its best disrespectful and at its worst downright moronic but what I do want to point out is that 5 out of the 10 titles listed are lifted from their literary counterparts - something that obviously slips the mind of the writer who speaks of these titles as if they had been thought out for an implicit mainstream, uninformed American audience who decides which movies to watch based on their titles as they appear on the Friday paper. Titles, the article seems to suggest need to (and should) be advertising ploys over anything else - why else would Joss Whedon choose to name his movie Serenity if not to alienate his otherwise non-Browncoat audience?
Also where in the world do statements like "Movies named after countries rarely do well at the box office. On the other hand, movies named after cities, like Chicago, Fargo, Philadelphia, Nashville, Munich and Casablanca, are guaranteed moneymakers" hold? Last time I checked Munich hadn't even made two thirds of its budget, Fargo made $24 million (true out of a budget of $7 million), Nashville barely made $10 million (is this what "guaranteed moneymakers" are?) and I dare anyone to tell me that the box office hits from Chicago, Philadelphia and Casablanca come from the fact they were named after cities and not due to star-power + cinematic pedigree + great film-making.
Case in question: Love in the Time of Cholera. Regardless of the critical reception (which in every single case in the list gets downtrodden over 'box office sums') the movie has been garnering Leupp somehow doesn't even acknowledge that the title comes from a novel from a Nobel Prize Winner and instead goes directly to WebMD to check what the symptoms for cholera are.

The Other Boleyn Girl, or How February 2008 is 'Delayed Movie' Month

The Other Boleyn Girl trailer has been making the rounds and it reminded me how much I miss Natalie Portman. She is one of my favourite actresses working today and the trailer had me asking - why has it been so hard for me to seek out her movies in the past year? Whether it is the critically maligned Goya's Ghosts that hasn't seen the light of day in theatres near me; the sickeningly sweet and child-oriented Mr Magorium's Wonder Emporium that I can't bear myself to watch or Wes Anderson's Darjeeling Limited (whose films I've never found the appeal of) I have yet to find a good Natalie Portman film since V for Vendetta (Paris Je t'aime is on my Netflix Queue)
Yet, 2007 was supposed to bring me two Natalie Portman movies I was looking forward to and they both got slated for a February 2008 release, which as I researched looks like a dumping ground for delayed 2007 films:

The Other Boleyn Girl
Original Release Date: December 2007
Current Release Date: February 29 2008

Clearly best-selling novel status and lavish production did not translate well for Columbia Pictures who pushed the release date back two full months for this film. Since I have not read the novel I only have the poster (which I hate - seriously, how horrible is it?) and the trailer (which I'm not a big fan of either - how many times can they say "sister" in it?) to go by I have to say I am less and less inclined to look forward to this Peter Morgan-penned Tudor drama. That said Eric Bana as Henry and Natalie's performance will probably outweigh all these promotional hiccups and I'll find myself there on opening weekend.

My Blueberry Nights
Original Release Date: 2007
Current Release Date: February 13 2008
Rachel Weisz, Natalie Portman, David Strathairn, Norah Jones and Jude Law all in one movie? How could I not want to see this movie? True, it was not warmly welcomed at Cannes earlier this year but didn't every reviewer also tell me Natalie was the one worth watching? And why is every other country getting a Limited 2007 release except the United States: Canada (Nov 16), France (Nov 28), Switzerland (Nov 28 for the French speaking region) ... okay, maybe I'm starting to see a trend. Regardless I am still intrigued by this American Roadtrip movie - if only for Natalie and the cinematography.

Charlie Bartlett
Original Release Date: August 2007
Current Release Date: February 1 2008
You know, when I saw the poster I had no idea what this movie was. And then reading the synopsis: "Wealthy teenager Charlie Bartlett (Anton Yelchin) is failing miserably at fitting in at a new public high school run by the world-weary Principal Gardner (Robert Downey Jr.). As he begins to better understand the social hierarchy, Charlie's honest charm and likability positions him as the resident "psychiatrist" dishing out advice, and the occasional prescription with his partner and fellow student, Murphy Bivens (Tyler Hilton), to other students in need." I remembered watching a trailer for it. It looked kinda funny. And I love me some Robert... but then that other Robert movie next year is higher on my list of anticipated 2008 releases.

Original Release Date: Spring 2007 --> August 2007
Current Release Date: February 1 2008

I always found it weird that in the trailer for this movie Reese Witherspoon was billed as an Academy Award Winner. Not to say that she isn't but c'mon does Nicolas Cage bill himself as Academy Award Winner for the National Treasure (1 & 2) trailers? Will Helen Mirren (when/if her name gets into the trailer)? Anyways.
I was actually looking forward to this because of... okay, mostly James (and Reese, and Ricci but mostly James) - and yeah, why not the quirky premise of a girl born with a pig-nose.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Southland Tales, or How This is How the World Ends...

Southland Tales
Dir: Richard Kelly
Starring: The most eclectic cast I've seen this year, Sarah Michelle Prinze (née Gellar) as Krysta Now a porn star; Sean William Scott as racist cop Roland Taverner, Justin Timberlake as Pilot Abilene, Miranda Richardson as Nana Mae Frost, Dwayne (NOT The Rock) Johnson as Boxer Santaros + SNL cast members Cheri Oteri and Amy Poehler, a cameo by Janeane Garofalo (her character got cut, ouch), Jon Lovitz with platinum blond hair, and Mandy Moore reprising a 'Chasing Liberty'-like character Richard Kelly style.

Now if the above cast list has not confused you enough, I have not done a good job of highlighting the crazy anti-type casting choices which Kelly has arranged for his newest directorial attempt (the first since his cult-classic Donnie Darko hit screens in 2001).
To try and make sense of this movie is futile. It begins - in Star Wars fashion - with Chapter IV 'Temptation Awaits' (the first three can be purchased as a 360-page graphic novel 'Southland Tales: The Prelude Saga') and thrusts the viewer into a world concocted to dizzy, confound and admittedly bewilder him with stats, faux-US history all framed as an interactive website. Giving a plot-summary would be futile - all you have to know is it involves a not-so near future, political struggles, drug, anti-Marxists, a movie script and the fourth dimension...
You have to admire a film-maker for so earnestly trying to weave together so many stories, so many characters into a story (and a world) that seems to privilege chaos and mayhem over logic and coherence (two things the movie inadvertently (?) shies away from). As a movie it doesn't work. Too many loopholes, too many plot strands, not enough character development, etc. But as a movie-going experience it was quite a treat. Once you take it in its own terms (granted Kelly wanted those terms to be satire and camp) you have in your hands a movie full of crazy one-liners, a series of 'did I just see that?' scenes and performances that you have to admire for their willingness to participate with Kelly in this roller-coaster ride.
How else is one to enjoy an ad that shows you graphic car on car sex? or a drugged out Justin Timberlake lipsynching to The Killers? or a choreographed dance sequence between Gellar, Moore and Johnson in a zeppelin?
And yet, it has its moments of brilliance:
- Amy Poehler yelling at Cheri Oteri: "Just because it's loud doesn't mean its funny!"
- SMG's 'Teenage Horniness is not a crime' music video (or ANY scene with Ms Gellar really, whose portrayal of ambitious Krysta Now is one of the highlights of the movie - mainly due to the fact that she has the funniest lines in the movie and makes the best of the erotic ingenuity of her character)
- The moments of meta-cinematic commentary where staged/scripted scenes play themselves out for real as if the fictional and the real were always intertwining (the double murder scene or the entire movie for example)
- The very plausible (and scary) Orwellian scenario of USIdent (a surveillance agency under the guise of a national security think-tank)
And yet, there is much to hate in the movie - the anti-type casting, which in any other scenario would have been welcome seems to stretch itself thin sometimes - I have way too many good memories of the funny SNL girls that their performances kept jarring me; I could also have done with less Timberlakean biblical narrative (the 'messiah speech' at the end seems kind of ludicrous given the camp element of it all); I also didn't enjoy Johnson's twitchy and comedic-paranoiac performance - only Gellar, Scott (in a double role) and Richardson stand out for me as performances that at once understand and subvert the different tones and genres within which Kelly is working.
To say that the movie fails miserably is an understatement, but just like INLAND EMPIRE last year I think the movie is just too much in Kelly's mind and ends up looking like a scattered effort that flashes brilliantly at times, that is, when it is not covered in the same special effects mist that clouds the screen so many times throughout the movie.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Queering Disney, or How Walt's Villains play for our team

This post is part of Queering the Apparatus 'Queer Film Blog-a-thon' so don't stop here - go check out what QTA & co has to offer by visiting the Blog-a-thon's HQ and browsing through what is bound to be a great selection of musings on/about Queer Films.

[Dedicated to the boyfriend as he'll recognize more than o
ne of our conversations in the next couple of lines]

Seeing how Disney's Enchanted opens this Wednesday (featuring a much touted about Amy Adams performance and lest we forget the work of hottie James Marsden) I have been bombarded with images of Ms Susan Sarandon's Queen Narissa; the newest addition to the pantheon of now (in)famous Disney Villains.
Now, much has been said of the horribly traumatic influence the Disney Princesses (except maybe Mulan and Belle) can have on young girls' notions of femininity and much has been said of the stereotypes of 'queer villains' in mainstream movies (think Notes on a Scandal, Silence of the Lambs) but little has been said of the impact of the long list of 'queer' villains in the Disney animated features. This post is a rumination on these questions - at once provisional and provocative, more so than exhaustive and conclusive...

The Drag Queens

According to good ol' Wikipedia a "A Drag queen is usually a man who dresses (or "drags") in female clothes and make-up for special occasions and usually because they are performing or entertaining as a hostess, stage artist or at an event." Now, of course Disney has never portrayed men in drag (does the Genie count? does Timon count?... not really men, though) - but what I want to suggest is that a handful of Disney villains are configured as drag queens - flamboyant entertainers who exist as if to display themselves to an audience, not just because of their overexpressive faces and their overly detailed costuming but because they exist in performance, always spotlit, always on stage.
Among the many to choose from we can readily think of Ursula, the sea witch from Little Mermaid who more readily than the other contenders (the crazy Yzma, the stylish Maleficent and the fashionista Glenn Clo... ahem Cruella DeVil) epitomizes the 'drag queen' persona, mainly because it has been openly stated that she was modelled after John Waters' own Divine. Take a look at the Ursula from the Broadway version and you'll clearly see this has not been lost in translating the show to the stage. But in the movie, you just have to look at the 'Poor Unfortunate Souls' scene, hear Pat Carrol's voice and you'll instantly feel she's crooning at a gay bar singing to the ladies in the audience about how to land a man:
The men up there don't like a lot of blabber
They think a girl who gossips is a bore!
Yet on land it's much prefered for ladies not to say a word
And after all dear, what is idle babble for?
Come on, they're not all that impressed with conversation
True gentlemen avoid it when they can
But they dote and swoon and fawn

On a lady who's withdrawn
It's she who holds her tongue who get's a man

The Asexual Dandies

In trying to come up with a term that would apply to all the villains I had in mind (Scar, Frollo, Captain Hook, Jafar, Hades among others...) I decied on 'asexual dandies' - mainly because these are men (and lion) who are asexual (while the princes are all ga-ga over the leading ladies, all these villains pursue them not romantically or sexually but for ulterior motives: does Scar care for Sarabi? Jafar for Jasmine? Hades for Meg? Exactly...) and have a flare that evokes the late victorian dandies (men who placed particular importance upon physical appearance, refined language, and the cultivation of leisurely hobbies): isn't Scar decadent? Jafar a stylish freak? Hades a fast-talking wit-slapping flaming... er, god?
I wanted to focus on Scar mainly because seeing Julie Taymor's The Lion King Broadway Production cemented in my mind the idea of him as a queer villain. I mean, hyena go-go boys can't be all that subtle, right? Just like most of the other male villains portrayed in Disney films, Scar is oddly asexual in a narrative that focuses on sexual as well as social maturation (isn't Can you feel the love tonight one of the few love/sex scenes in Disney history?). Where heterosexuality is what drives the Simba/Nala narrative, Scar is always on the sidelines trying to at once delay and overpower their heteronormative union; just like Voldemort, Scrooge and Captain Hook in Lee Edelman's No Future, Scar functions as the queer antifuturism counterpart to the innocence and drive to mate and reproduce we find in Simba. As Edelman tell us "The Child... marks the fetishistic fixation of heteronormativity: an erotically charged investment in the rigid samenes of identity that is central to the compulsory narrative of reproductive futurism" (21). This of course would apply to any of these villains - their queerness lies not in their sexuality (which we should not rule out of course) but in their characterisation as unmarried, childless, asexual males that functions to contrast with the virile, heterosexual coupling in the films and their focus on futurism (that 'Circle of Life' stuff in The Lion King, for example); in that promise of the future in the figure of a child (why else would the movie end with a newborn lion cub?)
The queers seem to be out to get us in Disney films, we SHOULD be prepared:
Be prepared for the murkiest scam
Meticulous planning
Tenacity spanning
Decades of denial
Is simply why I'll
Be king undisputed
Respected, saluted
And seen for the wonder I am
Yes, my teeth and ambitions are bared
Be prepared!

Disney Villains

Sunday, November 18, 2007

300 Beowulfs, or How I am Seeing Double

Preposterous Hollywood 'adaptation' of an old myth?
Character development as nonexistent as the hero's wardrobe?

CGI-looking male bodies with chiseled abs?
Rampant homoeroticism, phallic substitutes & gratuitous nudity?

Breathtaking visuals and expertly choreographed battles?
Sub-par storytelling that relentlessly aims for a PG-13 male demographic?
"THIS... IS... SPARTA!""I... AM... BEOWULF!"

Friday, November 16, 2007

El Amor en Los Tiempos del Cólera, or How Shakira goes back to her roots

El Amor en los tiempos del cólera is one of those books that I look back with fondness - even though I read it in high school, vaguely remember the plot details or characters' names, I remember loving reading it. But then, I have had that same experience while reading any one of Gabriel García Márquez's works. So when I heard they were making a movie about it, I was hesitant despite the fact that the last Gabo book-turned movie I had seen (Crónica de una muerte anunciada) was actually pretty good. The problem with 'Amor' was that it'd be an English production directed by Mike Newell. And yet knowing that Gabo would never let one of his books be turned into movies without his consent (he's always said that if his magnus opus 'Cien Años de Soledad' were to be turned into a movie he'd have requested Kurosawa to direct it) I was optimistic about what Newell and his cast (which includes Javier Bardem, Catalina Sandino Moreno, Giovanna Mezzogiorno, Benjamin Bratt and Liev Schrieber as well as an array of Colombian actors) would do. They gave me hopes when they shot it entirely in Colombia - Cartagena to be exact.
Then came the publicity: with the overly sentimentalized tagline (How long would you wait for love?) and a trailer that seemed targeted at Oprah's audience/reader's club I was afraid audiences not familiar with Marquez's book would be turned off by what is arguably a very demographically inflected publicity.
And yet... since it was opened to the critical scrutiny of the industry it has not fared well: Currently, Rotten Tomatoes has it at an appalling 20% and I have to wonder whether I'm still up for watching it or whether I should spare myself...
Maybe I can go watch it when it opens this weekend and enjoy the visuals, the score and the three Shakira-penned songs (which I have already bought on iTunes and love in that nostalgic, closeted-latin way) and try and block out the travesty of it all. We'll see.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Supporting the Writers, or How Joss is Just Plain Funny!

And if you don't yet know why, it is because (among many other things) Joss Whedon can write things like this off the top of his head (from Whedonesque):

I have news... that I might have news!

PURPLE PROSE: because you (meaning “I”) demanded it!

Friends, Echo, Bunnymen, lend me your ears. Well, eyeballs. It’s been a few days and I wanted to tell you what’s the what in me-land. Yes, I’m still sick (@#$&#!). Yes, I’m still striking… ly handsome! Zing! Still got it! I haven’t been on the front lines as much as I’d like but I do have some reports.

PICKETING WITH THE STARS! Unbelievable! An amazing experience. Wasn’t there.

PICKETING WITH THE WRITERS at Fox. Still a good experience, though starless. The oddest part of the strike to date: A man came up to us, expressing sympathy and wishing us success and handing out his card… for his jewelry store. I guess he thinks we’re gonna win big. Or maybe he was handing out his card to the wrong side. SO random.

(After picketing I went to an acupuncturist for the first time ever in order to help beat this terminator-like cold. A warning to the uninitiated: this is not like visiting a typical Western physician. Do you have any idea what goes on at an acupuncturist’s office? For the love of God, they PUNCTURE you with needles! They really ought to make that clearer in the name.)

But the big event of the day: got together with a bunch of showrunners whose fans have significant online presence. I won’t say which shows, as the meeting was tippety-top secret, but I will tell you – JUST BETWEEN US – that one of them rhymed with “Cattlecar Flalactica”. And one rhymed with “Gyureka.” And one sounds just a little bit like “Fritz Galway’s Bunny is Really Wealthier”. MORE I CANNOT SAY. And Jane and Marti were there. And a lot of others. There was no food.

The point of the meeting was that the WGA is aware of – and a little blown away by – the passion, tenacity, and organizational savvy of the online community. The “Jericho” nuts are the stuff of legend. Whedonesque and the creation of Fans4Writers were spoken of in awed whispers. I’m not kidding: one of the WGA workers asked me, “So, your fans. WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE?” I swear, having you guys in my corner is like being friends with Zorro. People in the community are amazed.

We met to see if there was some way for US to organize the way YOU have – to use the nettyweb to show the studios that there are no longer two sides to this struggle; there are three. The audience has a voice, and a right to be heard. We talked about different ideas that have been floated by fans to make some kind of nut-like show of unity and support. How can we do something so noticeable it might even get into the mainstream press? I’ll let you know when it’s worked out – should be within a day or so. Should be fun, too. Hell, it was fun just being in a room full of smart writers again, pitching ideas. (Also fun was typing “Hell”. Makes me sound butch.)

I also asked about a Mutant Enemy strike day, and the WGA peeps said they had no problem with that. We still don’t have a date (I still don’t have a lung) but I’ll be organizing that soon. Here’s the deal for whomever can come: Bring a sign, walk the line. (If you can’t make one there’ll probably be extras, but I think it’s more fun to make your own. Nothing rude, please.) I’ll get as many M.E. writers (and hopefully a few actors) as I can to walk outside one studio for a four hour shift alongside… well, any fan that carries the banner. More on that as it develops. Back to you, Bob.

Jaime Paglia of “Eureka” – I mean Flaime Flaglia of… florget it – talked about getting this movement into the non-California-or-New-York states, and I thought that was wisely wise. There are shows shooting in Boston, Rhode Island, Philadelphia – and there are fan-bases in EVERY state. We talked about getting some rallies going at local affiliates all over the country. I, of course, got to boast about the Browncoats and the “Serenity” screenings… The idea of people massing in different cities, whatever their fan-affiliation, is exciting, newsworthy, and let’s face it, fun. (Personally, I’d like to do a whistle-stop tour of the country, but right now that may be a bit ambitious for a man who can’t stand up for more than two hours.) (Still, standing at the back of a train, waving – and the WGA offered to provide bunting. Who doesn’t love bunting?)

The point is twofold. The first is that we expect this to take a long time. We want to make an impression NOW, but we also want to keep thinking of ways to spread awareness and keep you all engaged and, frankly, entertained. Because the second point is that there was no one in that room who didn’t understand that they were there BECAUSE OF YOU, because you guys have already proven yourselves not just dedicated fans but an active, forceful community. Take a moment to be all up in yourself. Now get over yourself. Now doubt yourself. Now hug yourself. Now touch your knee – Hah! Didn’t say “Simon says”. Like, ever. FOOLS! It’s you unauthorized-knee-touching fools who are proving that the internet is indeed the line in the sand (“…must be drawn Heah! This fah! No fuhther!”), for it’s the one medium the congloms don’t control. Televised news is largely ignoring us, the print media is eating Nick Counter’s astonishing lies like candy they get paid to eat, but you upon the ether… you haven’t been silent and you can’t be silenced. Go ahead. Touch that knee. Simon be damned.

It’s nice to blog sans rage for a change. Better for the immune system, too. Thanks, all, and keep watching the skies.


Wednesday, November 14, 2007

FYC or, How Once is a musical gem

For Your Consideration (A Blog Next Door Style) - Once
It's my blog and I'll FYC if I want to, FYC if I want to...

The musical is back, there's no question about it. One could ask whether it really left, but either way last Christmas's Dreamgirls, this summer's Hairspray and the upcoming Sweeney Todd are but a few examples of the way the industry has embraced musicals and has invested enough money on them (Dreamgirls: $75 million, Hairspray: $75 million, Sweeney Todd: $65 million). And yet, amidst flawless editing, polished production, A-listers and heavily post-produced soundtracks Once sticks out to me as one of the best musicals in quite some time. Where Moulin Rouge was epileptic, Once is subdued; where Chicago was theatrical, Once is organic; where High School Music was campy, Once is confident in its plausibility.
If I begin talking about John Carney's film in terms of comparison I don't mean to do it to dismiss the value of the other musicals evoked (I am a fan of all of them, actually) - but I do feel it is important to preface any review/commentary on this film with the way it breaks off from what we have come to expect from movies that may be termed 'musicals' for it is this aspect of the film which makes it more of an achievement.
The premise: at its simplest it is a movie about an unnamed Guy (Glen Hansard) and an unnamed Girl (Marketa Irglova) who spend a weekend together composing, rehearsing and recording songs.
The beauty of the movie is the music. It is driven by it and works with/in it. At times the songs that Guy and Girl compose speak directly to what is happening but instead of being interludes or show-stopping numbers, they spring forth organically from the action and seamlessly wind down and disappear into the background. In particular I enjoyed one scene where, after getting new batteries for her walkman, Girl leaves the store listening to Guy's music and sings the newly written lyrics for it on her way home. It is a beautiful moment that I think epitomises the entire film's M.O. - a fine line between musical magic and realistic plausibility.
Overall, it is an endearing movie that stays away from Hollywood sappiness and succeeds still in making the last scene in the movie quite moving. I'll leave you with lyrics from my favourite Once song: Falling Slowly:
I don't know you
But I want you

All the more for that

Words fall through me

And always fool me

And I can't react

And games that never amount

To more than they're meant

Will play themselves out

Check out A Blog Next Door's other FYC campaigns:
Superbad & Knocked Up

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Battlestar Galactica Razor, or How I frakking missed the cylons

Battlesta Galactica: Razor (Silverscreen edition in NYC!)
Set somewhere in late season 2 of the beloved sci-fi show, Razor follows Kendra Shaw - a former Pegasus crew member that Ronald D. Moore & co have introduced as a way to unravel some plot strands that let us peak into Pegasus' history prior to encountering Galactica, meet a young Admiral Adama, and follow a mission to die for (literally!).
After what has been an unwelcome hiatus it was nice to see the crew back: I missed the political allegories, the dizzying camerawork, the blond-girl power and the Brit eye-candy that make the rebooted BSG one of the best show to hit tv in the last while - I still believe that "33" (season 1 first episode) is one of the best written/directed hours of television...EVER!
But I digress.
In one of the final scenes of the 2-hour event, Admiral Adama tells Lee that he can't judge Admiral Cain or Kendra's actions because, had it not been for the fear of facing Lee, the moral standing of Tigh, and the liberal political mind of Roslin he doesn't know whether he would have made different choices. Razor plays like an exploration of the 'dark Galactica': Pegasus, which ever since it was introduced in season 2 worked as a foil for Galactica. If the Pegasus crew - after Cain, are 'razors' (hence the title) one has to wonder what the Galactica crew are (I want to say swiss army knives but I suppose something less witty like "just humans" is what Moore was going for).
Telling the story of Kendra Shaw as she takes on the XO position to Lee's Pegasus and remembers her time under Cain's command, Razor also works as a story about the choices we make and the burden we carry for having made them. Socio-politically aware, Razor shows us a world (or the possibility of a world) where we fight because we are fueled by anger; because we'd rather sacrifice our troops rather than bear the thought of 'getting off the treadmill'; a world where after being hurt we go for the pain and not for the kill...
Keeping this spoiler-free requires me to stay now within the confines of a stylistic and purely production-based review: structurally I was impressed by the way new characters were introduced, old ones were recovered and our favourite ones given a piece to work with (except for dear Ms President Roslin who was relegated to a cameo and Baltar, who only makes an aural appearance in the episode). If nothing else, Razor is a master class in sophisticated tv production. Maybe it was seeing it on a big screen but I really appreciated the editing, the art direction and overall cinematography each of which added to the creepy bio-tech mood of the cylon ship, created a cold environment in Pegasus and gave us the staple 'documentary-style' camerawork for the scenes out in space.
The only thing that bugged me a bit was the 'Matrix-like' scene with Kendra and the 'hybrid' - I was waiting for Keanu and Carrie-Ann to burst into the scene any minute while the new BSG mantra was being introduced yet again: "This has all happened, and all will happen again..."
Other than that, it was fun ride full of surprises, revelations and teasers for what is coming as the Galactica prepares for its last run starting 2008 (WGA strike permitting...)

Favourite moment: Old School Cylons!

Best revelation: Cain and Gina? Lesbian Power couple that could rival Portia and Ellen had one not been a psycho Razor-Admiral and the other a cylon-spy...
Oh and there's that one regarding Starbuck...

Best Line: "I can't believe you found an XO meaner than Sol" Adama to younger Adama