Saturday, March 29, 2008

[Blank] is the New [Blank], or How Academia meets Pop Culture

We all know that GAY

is the new BLACK

But did you know that (in Academia AND Pop Culture!)...


is the new QUEER?

is the new POST-COLONIAL?

My favourite? 


is the new HUMAN

And if you have any suggestions or modifications - let me know!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

BufFray, or How I'm Seeing Double

Bad day.
Started bad.
Stayed that way.

Buffy Season 8 Issue #16 can't come soon enough...

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

HIMYM, or How DID we meet the Mother?!

How I Met Your Mother for Beginners (ie. for all those who tuned in for Brit-Brit and not for Ted)

Did you catch How I Met Your Mother last night?
Of course you did - if only to catch that paparazzi-magnet pop star, but even if you watched it for the schadenfreude (and it's okay if you only know that word from the Avenue Q soundtrack), wasn't it awesome?
Did you fall in love with Neil Patrick Harris and his magic?
Did you have to stare for a while and go "Is that that girl from the American Pie movies/Buffy only hotter and with better designer clothes?" and/or "Hey, it's the guy from that Sarah Marshall movie that's being advertised everywhere... including in every second commercial right now!"?

Blonde and Blonder

Sure everyone will be buzzing about that blonde guest-starring on How I Met You Mother [you gotta admit she did a good job, mostly because she got given great dialogue: "You look like a young Tom Selleck only a thousand times handsomer. Doctor, Magnum's here to see you. Pause. Sorry that was stupid..."], but I want to take the time to talk about that other blonde who made a (very welcome!) appearance on last night's episode. Where was the media frenzy over Elliot joining Ted and the gang?

The Mother?

I mean, is it me or is Sarah Chalke being set up as The Mother? The One we've been dying to meet? She did say the only party she had gone to in the past year was... (yes!) St Patrick's day! Do I think she's missing a yellow umbrella? I do. And if this is indeed true, casting couldn't be better - with Scrubs wrapping up, Chalke's addition to the HIMYM cast would be stroke of brilliance and would prove that the show's producers know exactly where they're going and who/how they need to keep the story going strong. True, I would have loved to see Elliot outside of her white coat, but hey, if the shoe fits, buy in it every colour, right?

Monday, March 24, 2008

Paris' BFF WTF? or How I lose more faith in humanity the more I browse those profiles...

Where in the world have I been hiding that I didn't know about this horrid MTV Reality TV show I Wanna Be Paris' New Best Friend! ?

Now, I am as tolerant as the next person when it comes to airhead, blonde, rich, useless, famous for no reason other than uninspired taglines ("That's hot"? Not) and exploitational reality TV shows (The Simple Life 1, 2, 3...) heiresses who cater to the $tar-$truck overwhelming majority of American viewers who apparently not only dream of becoming a performing artist, a world-class dancer, smarter than a 5th grader, a neglige-wearing overpaid and overpampered cabaret dancer but also the "BFF" of Paris fucking Hilton... but seriously? Seriously?
I know I can't expect everyone to have my same tastes and instead be looking forward to the return of one of TV's best scripted shows, or y'know, following the US democratic race (possibly via Amy Poehler skits on SNL)... but I do feel the world as we know it is ending: one only needs to browse through the profiles of the bff-wannabes to see what the children of the Perez/Paris Hilton era look/sound and type like... and it's not pretty.
Some excerpts (with no links to the real profiles cause in my mind they are all interchangeable commodities, which is probably what they are to the producers of this show whose eyes are rolling into dollar signs as we speak, while their dignities have stopped deluding themselves into thinking they'd ever get a chance to enter back into their lives):
- "Poor People are Gross: one of the people running for president should do something about that - if they did they would have my vote"
- "I love hello kitty, designer things and tanning! Starbucks might as well be my middle name."
- "I drive a Light yellow convertible VW Bug! I often see yellow cars like that bright yellow and I think to myself “who would drive a yellow car”…then I look around me and I am like “ohhh wait I do…” "
- "I am one fierce bitch."/ "Im having a Biotch attack!"
- "I am Italian, so dressing to impress is in my blood!"
And now... having wasted enough time and neurons on that site, let us go back to reading Thomas Friedman...

Friday, March 21, 2008

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, or How Amy and Lee sparkle!

If you've been reading this blog at all you may or may not have noticed that Amy Adams is one of my fave "new" actresses after watching Enchanted (though Junebug and Buffy's Season 5 Epiode 'Family' might also have added to that obsession).
Also, you faithful (dozen of) readers might also have noticed that I fell head over heels with ABC's Pushing Daisies - my new fave show from the 2007-2008 fall season.
Needless to say, the thought of live-action princess Giselle and piemaker Ned in one film made me too giddy to function, and now too giddy to write a full-on review of the film that got 'em together. Instead, I thought I could offer a couple of moments that stood out for me in the film (Which, despite its fluffy nature, light script and all-too predictable plot, made me fall in love eve more in love with its two leads):

- Shirley Henderson as a bitch but showing emotion (oh how she nailed crying and being a scary bitch at the same time...)
- Michael O'Connor's dresses! (Okay, so it's not a "moment" but I can't help but notice good wardrobe when it happens to good people)
- Gratuitous male nudity (before hitting the half hour mark nonetheless!) Where has Tom Payne been hiding (read: Amy's sheets) and why hadn't Frances woken him up sooner?
- Amy as a ''bathing Venus de Milo" tableau: okay, so just like the rest of the film this is a wee bit too much light fare; but can't we just enjoy it when films wink at us?
- Lee and Amy singing If I Didn't Care: Amy's eyes are just (if not more) expressive as her voice, so it's no surprise she can nail a lovelorn ballad that underscores her broken heart. Add a spice of rugged-Lee, and I was left speechless. (And this is now on loop on my iPod)
Overall, the film is a bit uneven but just as in Amy's latest (this one, not that one) she's able to elevate the material and make one fall in love with Delysia - and what if the name's a pseudonym! she does seem to have picked the aptest name of them all! B+

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Hard Candy & E=MC2, or How they're all cover girls now...

Okay, so I know that if you're an established diva you can pretty much just write your name on a napkin and pass it off as an album cover, but is there a reason why Mimi and Madge have such underwhelming cover art for their upcoming albums?

Mariah's looks like she is wearing the skin of some poor drag queen and is just standing there behind her generic MARIAH font to 'sexually' tease us... but I'm only left wondering: who taught Mariah about Einstein?Madge's on the other hand: Willy Wonka the Wrestling Champion? I kinda like her look but hate the font (Is this one of those 'Confessions was 70s' so 'Hard Candy will be 80s' type deal?) and hate the contrast of her outfit with the pink lollipop.

To compare, some recent bombshell covers: love the simplicity of Ms Keys, I'm ambivalent about play-doh Janet, /hate/ Brit's and really love Kylie's sophisticated and sexy look.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Smart People, or How I wonder where all the good academic role-models are...

I recently caught the trailer for the Sundance comedy Smart People and while I really want to see it (Sarah Jessica Parker! Ellen Page! Ned from Ned & Stacey! Julianne's Homo-Husband!) I was left with this odd sensation... are academics (mis)represented on the silver screen?

Let us look at the trailer and maybe we'll understand what I am getting at:

First thing I thought after watching the trailer (actually second, first one was: Juno and Carrie?! Yay!) was: "Here we go, yet again another disgruntled, bitter, socially awkward academic." I couldn't help but being reminded of Noah Baumbach's The Squid and the Whale (or how as I like to call it: "The Movie That Shows Me What Type of Person/Academic I Do Not Want To Become") where Jeff Daniels' Bernard Berkman is a self-obsessed, pendatic, pretentious, socially and fillially (is that even a word?) ignorant... tool (for lack of a better word) who epitomises everything I er... don't like about this "Industry" (read: Academia).

Case in point:
Bernard: Ivan is fine but he's not a serious guy, he's a philistine.
Frank: What's a philistine?
Bernard: It's a guy who doesn't care about books and interesting films and things. Your mother's brother Ned is also a philistine.
Frank: Then I'm a philistine.
Bernard: No, you're interested in books and things.
Frank: [pause] No, I'm a philistine.

I mean sure, Quaid's Lawrence Wetherhold probably won't be as ascerbic as Baumbach's character, but he does seem to continue a retinue of 'Bitter Academic' roles that seem poised to become as trite as, say, the 'Grieving Wife/Mother' type in biopics or the 'Naive Waif' type in any Austen-esque modern chick-flick. Not that there are many movies featuring academics (really, one has to wonder why.../rolls eyes/) but it does seem that when academics are portrayed on screen they either get the inspirational treatment (think of mentally ill characters such as Russel's in A Beautiful Mind or Dame Judi's in Iris) OR the bitter treatment (think academic-ey writers like Meryl in Adaptation, Michael D in Wonder Boys, Steve C in Little Miss Sunshine, Mr Burton in Who's Afraid of Viriginia Woolf?) the latter treatment being much more pervasive - save for that random Harrison Ford character, or that Tom Hanks character from that best-selling novel (though Sir Ian could add a somewhat similar name to this eclectic list).
I have not done extensive research, but I do wonder why and how is it that Academics find themselves confined to these type of roles - unlikable, unapproachable, socially stunted, self-absorbed pedants...
Can anyone think of more examples? (Maybe some that will prove this entire post wrong? Please?)

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Charlie Bartlett, or How "I'm as fit as a fucking fiddle" is my new "I drink your milkshake"

Charlie Bartlett
Jon Poll
Starring Anton Yelchin, Hope Davis, Kat Dennings, Tyler Hiloton (he's hot AND he sings?!) and Robert Downey Jr.

Charlie Bartlett is a film that takes the expression 'dark comedy' to its extreme. For every lol/rotfl moment, there is an equally (gasp!) wtf (what the fuck?) *hand to mouth* moment. For every scene featuring a Ritalin-high skivvies-wearing Anton Yelchin, there is a drunk Robert-D gun-toting scene. For every 'people like you are the reason people like me need medication' t-shirt, there is a suicide attempt. You get the comedy and you get the dark. That it balances the two so organically (though less smoothly than one would wish) is one of the movie's highlights. It doesn't shy away from dry humour (see: every line delivered by Hope Davis) nor does it veer away from social issues (suicide? check. prescription drugs? check. peer pressure? check...) - and while some might say it is at once too grim and too optimistic, too satirical and too gritty, I think the fact that it knows that and works within that dichotomous framework works in its favour.
Compliments must be paid to young Yelchin who completely owns the role of Charlie (he sings! he dances! he fraternizes with bullies! he monologues!) and sells the movie. He's a lovable prick. And a rich one at that - those are the ones harder to love - but how can you not love someone who gets his driver to take him to a secluded area where a mentally handicapped student will play bouncer on the local bully so you can go all Godfather on him? Okay, so maybe Charlie's "heart of gold" is buried under years of psychiatric problems, family ordeals and fucked up-ness, but he's true to himself and after-school specials and saturday morning cartoons teach us that's important, so why should we deny a prescription drug dealer the role in 'role model'? Discuss. B+

Friday, March 7, 2008

Alison Bechdel's Fun Home, or How "Cartoons are like maps" Part 2

Alison Bechdel
Introduced by Hillary Chute
Wednesday, March 5, 2008
7:30 PM

[Part 2 of 2] Check out Part 1 here.

He used his artifice not to make things, but to make things appear to be what they were not. That is impeccable.

After a wonderful "lecture" as she called it, Alison offered a reading of Fun Home's first chapter 'Old Father, Old Artificer.' Now, if you are wondering how one does a reading of a comic-book, you're not alone. I, myself, was wondering how it would work exactly. Aided by the beauty of technology, Alison had every panel blown up and projected, sans the 'narrative' dialogues that border every panel in the graphic novel, which she read out loud. The entire experience was haunting, moving and at times hysterically laugh out loud funny. Hearing Bechdel's very personal and confessional words in her own dry tone, seeing her wince and scrunch up her face at certain times, pausing for laughter or for dramatic effect, lingering on certain words to heighten the irony of certain text/image juxtapositions... was just wonderful.

After the reading, and changing the tone of the room completely (we were a black hair dye, some mascara and a pair of black tappered Levi's from going all emo by the time she finished chapter one) Alison proceeded to show us a bit about the graphic novel-ing process comes to pass. She ran through a typical page construction: everything from the laying out in Adobe Illustrator, to the creation of a font based off of her handwriting (she called it 'cheating' I call it practical - can you imagine that much work?!), to the rough draft of the panels through to the inking and then the watercolouring (done on a separate sheet, of course) giving us something that resembles the pages we have read avidly from our TPB purchased at Borders last Fall.

This led of course to the mandatory "Q&A" part of the session - a part of readings/lectures/etc. which I usually find tedious, uninteresting and honestly more times than not unnecessary. Oddly enough, the questions fired at Alison (usually prefaced with the usual 'you were awesome!') though seemingly obsessed with the IMAGE/TEXT dichotomy, still sparked great responses from the graphic novelist. Basically while the questions kept wanting her to choose ("If I had a gun to my head... words would edge out images... not by a lot though") Alison kept stressing that to think of the two as distinct was counter to the way she thought about them - which led her to go back to her interesting suggestion: "cartoons are like maps." That is to say, they are at once re-presentations of real places, but they also suggest a life of their own, there is depth and flatness, words and images, not distinct, not one, but both.

The more interesting questions?
"What are you working on next?" - Another memoir, and she told us she feels the weight of this book (and its advance!) every day when she sits down to work on it. Needless to say, we can't wait!
"Is Fun Home gonna be a movie?" Or something along those lines. To which Alison spilled a great spoiler, which I won't divulge here. Let's just say cryptically that Fun Home might not be going the Persepolis route ("Why does everything have to be a movie nowadays?" she pondered... too many answers came to mind haha) but might go the... Seussical route...

Favourite Alison lines:

"Thank you Writers (no apostrophe) House"
"Why am I so compelled to talk about myself? Cause my parents never listened to me and I wanted someone to! I felt neglected!"

Check out Alison's blog (and/or Part 1 of this blog post):

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Alison Bechdel's Fun Home, or How "Cartoons are like maps" Part 1

Alison Bechdel
Introduced by Hillary Chute

Wednesday, March 5, 2008
7:30 PM

He used his artifice not to make things, but to make things appear to be what they were not. That is impeccable.

One of the things I really do love about the English Dept here at Rutgers is its incredible ability to have something happening every week (if not every day!) This Wednesday, for example I had the pleasure of attending the Alison Bechdel lecture/ presentation/ reading hosted by the Writers at Rutgers Reading Series (click here for more info) and thought - because I haven't been as prolific in my "Rutgers" blog posts as I was last term - that we could all revel in my fanboy-ness and (re)live the event through my (albeit limited) talents as a blogger.
Here goes, my 'retroactive live-blogging' for the event:

The evening began with the mandatory 'Thanks to everyone who made this possible' spiel, given by the soft-spoken (though, if I may so myself at the risk of sounding too much like a groupie - also brilliant) Richard Dienst. Following Richard, was a wonderfully witty and hilariously deadpan introduction by a former Rutgers Alum Hilary Chute. In her own words (and quoting her editor at the Village Voice at the time when Hilary wanted to interview Alison) she traced Fun Home's rave reviews (named one of the top books of 2006 by TIME, EW, the NYTimes and People - yah, try finding another book not bearing a certain Ms O's sticker that can cut across such diverse print behemoths!) and introduced her, not without offering a rave review as well: "I was ... blown away." And I couldn't have said it better myself.

[Sidenote, though not really: First thing Alison said once she got to the podium, "Look at all these people!" /end Sidenote]

Later in the talk [and I know, this entirely violates my whole 'retroactive live-blogging'™ approach] Alison said that the one thing she feared the most was to bore people. I can safely say (and the seemingly endless and overwhelming applause at the end of the talk seemed to agree with me) that she didn't bore anyone, nor could she. I mean, we are talking about a woman who wrote the bitingly sad (and funny!) Fun Home and who, in the middle of the talk, still had the grace to comment on Richard Miller's boisterous and greatly welcomed laugh. Boring is not something I think she'd be able to provide: not to a rapt audience at Rutgers, and not anywhere else.

Alison began her talk by discussing the influence of Charles Addams' cartoons (y'know... the cartoons that inspired those movies featuring a deliciously devilish Angelica Huston and introduced Christina Ricci to the world?) summing up the feeling she had when she contemplated Addams' cartoons (in the same she contemplated her own house, her own family) simplistically as "nothing matches up." "Nothing matches up" as in, word and image, reality and fiction, secrets and appearances.

Tracing her own 'coming into being as a graphic novelist,' Alison talked about the way the comic-book form, by bridging the gap between image and word, was the best outlet with which to both rebel against her parents (who wanted her to be a writer or an artist, never thinking she'd go with both!) and be able to live in that space between image and text. If language is deceiving and images shroud themselves in appearance, what better way to get beyond, within that, than to embrace the comic book form?

Like maps, she said (here also reminiscing about The Wind in the Willows' map we get in Fun Home) comic books offer a layout of words and image that apprehend reality and bridge that Saussurian gap Bechdel had been so suspicious of ever since she was a little kid, littering her diary entries with squiggles to mark the ways she wasn't sure what she was writing was accurate, real, true.

For more on this event (the reading and the Q&A session) check here and you can check Alison's blog here:

Beauty and the Beast, or How Everything I Know I Learnt from Animation

Singing with Belle Edition

Beauty and the Beast (1991)

Dir. Gary Trousdale & Kirk Wise

This might just be the greatest animated movie of all time (and, for all those who love statistics and trivia: it is the only animated feature to be ever nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars - how Toy Story didn't manage to repeat that feat in 1996 is beyond me, I have yet to see that pig movie, but I can't anticipate liking it more than John Lassetter's brilliant toy-movie; of course there are a couple of other animated features that might also (read: should) have been nommed. I am thinking of Ratatouille [which reaped a total of six nominations and one win!), but now that the Academy has ghettoized animation Beauty and the Beast's surprise (but well-earned) nomination might never happen again, though I have high hopes for Wall-E, which POP COLONY has got me even MORE excited for!) But I digress.
I have seen this film far too many times - it was a staple at home on lazy Sunday afternoons, and the VHS was constantly on top of the VCR throughout all my summer holidays. You probably don't understand how much I love this movie: I wished I had musical numbers happen around me, I wanted to be Lumiere, I longed for Belle's library, I dreamed of owning Beast's castle... and I wanted nothing else than to beat up Gaston (whoever said a good Disney villain makes a movie might not have been thinking of Gaston, but oh how I love to hate him!)
So, without further ado I give you 7 Things I Learnt from (re and re)watching Disney's Beauty and the Beast:

1. Reading is important - it teaches you everything you need to learn to be able to look down on 'simple townspeople' and fantasize about far out places, daring swordfights, magic spells and princes in disguise ::sigh::
2. Heterosexual men are dumb. Throw rocks at them (or maybe just their stinky muddy boots). Okay, maybe not all of them. Just the hunting type het-men who eat five dozen eggs for breakfast and have incredibly thick necks. 21st Century Gastons: protein shake gym/athletic jocks ::barf::
3. Brunettes > Blonds. Especially when brunettes read (See #1) and blonds just swoon and come in packs of three ::rolls eyes::
4. Servants want to serve me. They wish I were they guest! "For a servant who's not serving/ He's not whole without a soul to wait upon" sings Lumiere, and I'll believe anything a flaming (candle)stick tells me ::wink::
5. Beauty lies within. I know, it's a cliché, but if anyone has a patent on clichés, it's good old Walt - so I'll let 'im have this one ::smile::
6. It logically follows then that Prince Charmings come in all shapes and sizes. Yep, no need to wait for an Eric or a Phillip - B&B teaches us our Prince Charming might be buried under a rough and hairy exterior, y'cubs out there taking notes? ::smirk::
7. "If it is not Baroque... don't fix it" ::tongue in cheek::

Also, on the more practical side Belle and her friends taught me that
- books should be kept away from sheep (they'll chew on everything!)
- I shouldn't go out into the winter cold where wolves abound (unless I have a certified Beast bodyguard)
- mobs don't mesh well with such bizarre things like 'logic' and 'witness accounts'
- I shouldn't plan a wedding without proposing first
- everything is a weapon (scissors? okay true... boiling water? yah, I'll give you that... but a makeover in a closet? that's impressive!)
And many more...

Check out past "Everything I Know..."

Pixar Edition
Lilo & Sticth
The Smurfs

Monday, March 3, 2008

Robert Downey Jr, or How to play an Alcoholic

Is it me or is Robbie-D monopolizing all the high-profile "alcoholic" characters in Hollywood?
[No complaints of course... just saying]

Example Numero Uno:

Paul Avery in David Fincher's Zodiac
Example Numéro Deux:

Principal Gardner in Charlie Bartlett
and of course Example Number Three:

Tony Stark in Jon Favreau's Iron Man