Saturday, April 23, 2011

A Face in the Crowd--a review

Comparisons to familiar subjects aren't always necessary, but A "Face in the Crowd" (1957) is a definite predecessor to 1976's "Network," directed by Sidney Lumet.

Kazan, post "Streetcar," post "East of Eden," in his fluid universe of method acting, introduces Andy Griffith, in this timeless film exploring the danger of media popularity and the subsequent power that comes from it. How in the wrong hands, or with a lack of humility to buffer it, life can spiral out of control for all parties involved. 


Synopsis: An NPRlike lady radio producer doing fieldwork in a small town jailhouse comes upon a local blues boozing, guitar wielding hustler, whose charms win her over, landing him a daily spot on a radio show. Having free reign to display his everyman philosophies on air in favor of the working class, Lonesome Rhodes becomes an overnight sensation, and climbs the rungs of success all the way to the lavish life of a major celebrity living in New York.

When the swell of influence changes Rhodes into a vain, asshole megalomaniac, his comrades lose faith and mutiny one after another, seeing the walking trainwreck as he truly is--a flash in the pan con artist side show act, who's run hiss course in the show business world. 

What stands out about this film is the feasibility of the next big thing swooning crowds like the plague. Reminiscent of Elvis and the fanfare he rippled in tidal waves with every sway of his hips, all the way to the sensationalism of Howard Stern or Limbaugh. 

The average American craves the reincarnate messiah, the glittering Jesus shrine of accessible human sacrifice, a singing holiday card of tragic sentimentalities to open and close as we please. Knowing at the end of the day, it can all be blamed away on human nature.

Lust, Caution--a review

For a fairly long film (2 hr. 38 min.); Lust, Caution had a way of not feeling like it given the fact that it wasn't completely predictable, and the storyline was intriguing, it felt historical without being stiff. 

The main character/lovers were convincing, minus an excess of longing looks which might be expected and conveyed in this genre; but then again it's made to be more foreign thriller than romantic, emphasized in the title containing the term "lust" versus love.

lust caution.jpg

For a woman lured by the danger of being a political spy there must be a certain thrill involved with being in the shoes of Mata Hari, the ultimate femme fetale, sleeping with the enemy, a murderer's mistress...until it gets emotional. And it always does, doesn't it? Especially if the person you're groping on the regular has power and won't let their guard down without a fight.

Regarding the NC-17 rating, there was no way around that; the sex scenes, a vividly comprised ten minutes of violent to tender lovemaking, was key to illustrating sexual chemistry between the two protagonists in three major scenes. The scenes were considered by Ang Lee to be critical to the story. They reportedly took 100 hours to shoot.


A beautiful film overall, with a great blending of score, charm, costumes, acting, scenery and ominous inevitability: Lust, Caution is a proud marriage of style and substance, raising the bar in the filmmaking world, resembling anything but trite attempt to exploit audiences, or to make a blockbuster buck for the sake of it alone.


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

privacy is the holy grail of now

I should've known from the start what a bad idea it was to rent the top floor of a duplex apartment.

You'd think with having a property manager live on the property, things would be nice, say something breaks, or you get locked out. What you couldn't count on is the property manager being so territorial, lurking around every corner to say hello or goodbye whenever you leave. Telling you to park or move your car to a different spot day to day to day to get something done in a garage.

Yesterday, he rang the doorbell again, after I ignored it the first time, so he and his wife could look at the air conditioning unit on my wall, telling me to put the setting on auto--when it wasn't working regardless. Then they called at ten to tell me to shut the air off completely and open a window, as not to burn out the system.

Then half a dozen loud Asian repairmen came into my home today, leaving my front wide open tempting my cat to get out and run away. Friends of the property manager, obviously, they felt as home as well. Clinking beer bottles by my parked car after they finished the job of fixing the air, finally; it hadn't worked all week causing my pregnant body to swell and sway awake at night atop my covers from the heat.

The place we lived in before was small, too small for guests to stay, too small to give private space to two people and a cat, but it was cheap, and we (my husband and I) managed to get by, without too many fights caused by cabin fever, or the lack of doors to close for separation. We used headphones, ran errands, to give each other space.

And in that space, no one bothered us, even when the front door was ajar for most of the day to let the heat in. The cat could play all day and come in at night. There were no sounds, aside from sporadic geese honking by going north to south. When the tub was clogged, Javier from upstairs came down with his roto rooter in tow, then Javier would disappear, and only occasionally say hello.

But then we had to upgrade our space to make room for a baby, guests who would come to see him. We found a three bedroom place with marble bathrooms, ceiling fans, in a fenced in property. Privacy we thought. Roots. Even more than before. So far that hasn't been the case.

And now I'm missing New York for its respect for proxemics, aka personal space, one of the three P's, aside from pacing and pizza, which make that city so great. Even in cramped, hive-like apartments there with two roommates, no one bothers you because they don't want to be bothered. Everyone's too busy trying to organize their lives to make smalltalk there. Unlike this place where the couple who oversee the property, also feel as though this is their kingdom, which we are merely guests, abiding to their scrutiny.    

The lease here is month to month and almost three times the cost of the place we lived in previously. We had to buy a refrigerator, already on the fritz, a washer and dryer, a bed and a few cheap dressers from Sweden. Already it's tempting to think about leaving, hauling all of our appliances and cramming them into a place surrounded by silence, in a neighborhood less nice, something smaller, anything...except the baby will be here soon, in 40 days, and the stress of moving again is the last thing either of us need.

Him with his neurotic leanings, and me being in over my head with a newborn I've never wanted until he was inside me, growing. Against my own nature, I have become a surly tenant, avoiding eye-contact whenever confronted for repairs even remotely necessary. It doesn't help things that the property manager always tells me I look tired when he sees me. Oh, you look so tired: he says.

I look tired because you've just ruined my life: I'd like to say. Who looks awake--furrowing from hatred? Not me or anyone else who wants to be left alone to incubate the remaining months needed to hatch this egg. I'm sensitive, and already lacked the patience for foolishness. The only way to take the edge off now is with an ax, and soon I regret to think I will gaze at one longingly for a way to escape.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

skinny jeans & pillow talk

I tweeted this today: If you can't pull off skinny jeans--you probably shouldn't write about sex either. Sex from the perspective of a sausage can be unappetizing.

I'm sure this offended people. Especially people who a) are insecure about their weight b) write about sex a lot c) hate hipsters or feel like outcasts from hipster society d) hate fashion trends or e) all of the above

From Vice

My statement wasn't mean to offend anyone's sensibilities as much as it was commentary on the idea that people go out of their way to write about sex to be subversive, to seem edgy, in the same way that people wrote about shooting up smack in the 60's. 

At least 80% of readings I've been to in the last two years have been to showcase excerpts of sex scenes, fantasies, trysts in park bushes, panties in the back seat, I teased her with my cock, and so on and so forth. What is with this? 

One night I go to a vermin on the Mount reading in Chinatown. Three girls read and a guy, and every one of these people had some kind of sex experience to share. They called it fiction, but it felt more like sitting around a campfire where everyone took turns reading the raunchiest confessions from their journals. Even an older woman who wrote mostly children's books had something to say about doing her husband in some "not normal" way. Talk about awkward.

Just last night I went to a reading at Skylight books; two young men read. The first read a horny guy masturbates to the thought of his crush story and I thought: Jesus. Another journal entry. At least this one felt edited to a tee, stylistically into a prose piece, but this guy didn't look to have much sexual experience; he was not incredibly attractive, though I wouldn't call him ugly...or tall, or physically fit. 

The point I'm trying to make here is: unless you're Philip Roth, who is the king of sex jive in fiction, don't write stories and read stories to an audience about your sexual fantasies--unless you're really apt at writing about anything--including how to bake a cake, or you're super experienced at sex and have something to teach me that I wasn't trying to avoid on purpose, i.e., getting it on with a fumbling idiot who has nothing but desecration on his mind. 

If I wanted to know second hand what that was like, I would've sure made more liberal choices in my love life. Otherwise, if you want your stories or skills in general to be an asset to anyone's time or existence, get good at something, whether it be naming wild birds or step by step instructions on how to give mind-blowing oral. But please, leave your masturbation fantasies under your pillow and leave the hard core to the pros. 

Just because you've wanted it, and read about it, or tried it, it doesn't mean that you're good at writing about it. Like skinny jeans--they don't look good on everybody; they mainly look good on people who are slender with slender legs. Just because they're in the now, that doesn't mean they look good on stocky Reid who loves Panda Bear and PBR. Trends often have limitations. Know yours, is all I ask.  

Friday, April 1, 2011

the Graduate--a review

Have you ever hated something completely lauded by your peers as being brilliant? A band, a book...I'm taking about the opposite of guilty pleasures. How about a classic Oscar winning film? It's tough, isn't it, to go against the grain of a strong consensus. Peer pressure's one thing, but my confidence reaches a whole new level to say that I thought the Graduate was an absurd pile of crap.

Mike Nichols won a best director Oscar for the classic. Hoffman, then 30 playing a 20 year-old, won praise for his first major role as Ben the neurotic, naive, bourgeois-bored depressed and obsessed dumbass.

Anne Bancroft is a stunning, sexually desperate cougar, clad in enough animal prints to have invented the term used now for older seductresses saturating reality television and night time soaps. And Katharine Ross is confused and rebellious. Everybody else is an asshole, breeding assholes. In fact the film is a giant asshole smorgasbord; with a great soundtrack by Simon and Garfunkel.

Does the film's much-barbed commentary on generation gaps, the alienation of youth, and mid-life complacency define the 60's Zeitgeist, making it thought-provoking and hilarious? Maybe to some people who lived it and want to look back reminiscing the good old days of hippies and dumb love and all that. But how am I supposed to believe Hoffman's character Ben had enough mojo to get seduced by a beautiful older lady, friend of the family type, and also fall for that lady's daughter after one date to the burger shack?

Not only that, but Ben becomes obsessed and stalks the daughter!, at her school, following her around like some lost psycho, professing his desire to marry her over and over again, while she can have her pick of the campus being one of the most beautiful girls there. The Graduate's entire premise, though I do see what sacred attempts it made to preserve a mess of controversial issues in 60's society, was utterly obnoxious.

On a lighter note: If I ever meet someone who can eloquently defend their love for the film, without time-capsule cliches, with any explanation aside from saying "it's a classic!" or "It's Hoffman at his best!" I will be more than interested to hear what they have to say.
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