Friday, August 29, 2008

The Power of Barack Obama

"And I'll tell you another thing: I will not be intimidated by Richard Dreyfuss."

Maybe when you saw that post title you thought I'd write something about Barack Obama's acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention last night. Something about how it left me teary-eyed (which it did, but only in my left eye, which is either politically symbolic or has something to do with allergies), or how alternately thrilling and cathartic it was to hear someone in a position of power stand on a stage in front of the world and articulate the pain, anger, sadness and outrage that everyone who loves and cherishes the founding principles of this country has felt so deeply over the last eight years.

Well, I'm not going to do that. You know I don't get very personal here. But last night, after hearing MSNBC's political commentators repeatedly (and rather excitedly) invoke the name of Andrew Shepherd, the character Michael Douglas played in The American President, as they discussed Obama's speech, I checked the movie's sales rank on Amazon.

As of 10:50 PM, it was #1,389. Pretty respectable for a movie that has been on DVD for nearly a decade. By mid-morning it had jumped to #699. It currently holds spot #447, outranked in popularity by various and sundry TV shows (the fifth season of NCIS is performing particularly well for something that only my grandmother watches) and an eclectic mix of films ranging from 10,000 B.C. to Babette's Feast and the forgotten Meryl Streep/Ed Begley Jr. masterpiece She-Devil. It is, at the moment, more popular than 10 Things I Hate About You, the extended edition of The Bourne Identity and Napoleon Dynamite.

That's how powerful Barack Obama is. People are more interested in 13 year-old Aaron Sorkin-penned movies that might have influenced his speech than Julia Stiles and Jon Heder. If only he'd worked in a subtle reference to Showgirls -- maybe something about levitating nipples or Ver-sayce -- perhaps the Fully Exposed Edition of that movie wouldn't be languishing at #3,403 right now.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Obligatory U.S. Open Post

Oh, yeah. You knew I'd have to whip this bad boy out.

Any other tennis fans start contemplating suicide every year when USA subjects us to countless hours of Tracy Austin nattering on about her accomplishments and her family and her lunch and what she's wearing? I've had the TV on mute for several days now because of her. But this afternoon, in the first set of the James Blake-Steve Darcis match, the gods of tennis smiled upon us and let Mary Carillo (or MarCar, as they call her in the tabloids when they cover her late-night club crawls with Puff Daddy and his crew) pop into the booth with her pal John McEnroe (who, as the Times pointed out over the weekend, still throws tantrums like he's a pop diva with five ex-husbands, three sassily-attired Chihuahuas and a huge gay following) to say hi to us miserable bastards.

Carillo, as everyone who tuned into NBC's Beijing Olympics coverage knows, just spent a couple of weeks filing stories on Chinese cuisine curiosities and the mating habits of pandas (zoo officials can say whatever they want, we all know the pandas just listen to Al Green and do what comes naturally). The assignments were weak stuff compared to her antics with ice queen Johnny Weir at the 2006 Winter Olympics, but I guess it could've been worse -- she could've been dispatched to milk more tears from the mascara-streaked eyes of Debbie Phelps, or we could have endured an extra ten minutes of Bob Costas's self-important blathering each night.

I'm just glad that USA allowed her to check in with viewers today, because the monotony of their coverage has been driving me crazy. And the monotony of the commercials. Oy vey. We get it, you want us to watch "Burn Notice." Things explode in "Burn Notice," and hip characters wear sunglasses and pepper their top-secreet cell phone conversations with sarcastic barbs, impervious to the danger around them. Now shut up about it. But the commercials for the remake of "The Women" that they've shown incessantly during the night matches, those can stay. Eva Mendes looks hot in those.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

TCM Gets Its Gay On Thursday

Ebba (Elizabeth Young) enjoys being a royal subject in Queen Christina

Greta Garbo cross-dresses, dallies with John Gilbert and kisses a woman -- all things she did away from the camera as well -- in Rouben Mamoulian's Queen Christina, which will be shown at 3 PM EST on TCM tomorrow as part of their day-long look at her career.

Unfortunately, TCM's Garbo marathons are almost always the same: The Kiss, Mata Hari, Anna Karenina, Camille, Ninotchka, Grand Hotel, plus a couple more of the usual suspects, most of them long available on DVD. I'd like to see TCM (or any channel that has the rights) air something rarer, like The Painted Veil. It came out in 1934, a year after Queen Christina, and had Garbo in another lesbian liplock, this time with Cecilia Parker. To satisfy the demands of the newly created Hays Code, their kisses were presented as mere sisterly affection. But all you have to do is see the movie, or even glance at a screen cap, to know there was nothing familial about it.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Isabelle Huppert and Dead Russian Writers

Isabelle Huppert reclaims bathroom encounters for heterosexuals in The Piano Teacher

If you'll permit me to act like a squealing fangirl for a moment, I've gotta get this off my chest: Isabelle Huppert is God. I challenge you to watch La Cérémonie and The Piano Teacher (or Gabrielle, though that's better left to the advanced Huppert viewer) and disagree. Or watch her cry in anything (the final moments of Merci pour le chocolat immediately come to mind) and tell me I'm wrong. There has never been an actress like her; she is formidable in ways that defy description. Her face is somehow capable of doing things other actors can only dream about -- and most of them aren't even imaginative enough to do that. We're talking about an actress who, using only her eyes, can tell you more in two seconds than entire movies with casts full of big-name actors and armies of uncredited screenwriters and a mercurial director and tens of millions of dollars worth of CGI effects couldn't begin to tell you in three hours.

Not only that, I'm pretty sure she has magical powers. She can probably transport things across the room just by looking at them, or cure people of insomnia by snapping her fingers. That's the vibe she gives off in every movie she makes -- it's impossible to think there's anything she can't do. In today's Independent, she sounds off on a variety of topics, including her part in Joachim Lafosse's Private Property (and she's right that the film isn't focused enough on her character, though it's still very much worth seeing), whether David O. Russell deserved Lily Tomlin's wrath on the set of I Heart Huckabees (naturally, the answer is yes), and current acting trends. Speaking of which, when Huppert told reporter Kaleem Aftab that:
"Because of the current fashion for biopics, in the past few years there is this view that acting is the ability to be someone else, which I don't think it is. Now, the more visible a performance, the better people think it is."
How much you want to bet she considered mumbling Marion Cotillard's name under her breath?

In literary news...

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn has died in Moscow at the age of 89, and the Times responded by publishing an obituary that is almost as long as A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. Check out the accompanying slide show for nine amazing pictures of Solzhenitsyn's rockin' beard.

And in 'Someone please tell my grandpa about this' news ...

Did you know there's a "Jewish HBO?" Neither did I, but now I gotta find a way to get my local cable company to carry it. You see, my grandfather has been a little bored with Turner Classic Movies and The History Channel lately, and he's under the mistaken impression that when he can't find anything to do, it's up to the rest of us to entertain him. I love him and everything, but if that retired bastard calls me at work one more time in the middle of the day to ask what I'm doing, I might have to throttle him.

Taking Dyke Drama to a Whole New Level

Madonna, ever the trendsetter, tried her hand at lesbian bigamy in 2003.

Laureen Wells-Weiss is one angry lesbian. In 2001, the New Yorker married her long-time partner, Shari Weiss, in Toronto. Five years later, Weiss broke up with Wells-Weiss and promptly took up with another woman, later entering into a civil union with her in Vermont. The problem? She never got around to divorcing Wells-Weiss first.

Now Wells-Weiss is seriously angry, and if there's anyone you don't want to piss off, it's a lesbian. When you piss off a lesbian, especially one you vowed to spend the rest of your life with, you know there's gonna be hell to pay. And now -- pretend the guy who narrates trailers for suspense films is saying this next part -- Laureen Wells-Weiss is ready to collect.

Not only is she still engaged in a legal battle with Weiss in New York over their assets, she has also, as Molly Walsh notes in the Vermont Free Press, "been on a letter-writing campaign to Vermont officials urging them to pursue a case against her estranged spouse on bigamy or perjury charges and to void her civil union." This, as Wells-Weiss openly admits, is largely designed to bolster her case in New York. So far, her letter-writing campaign has been about as successful as, well, something that is ... completely unsuccessful. (Crystal Pepsi comes to mind.)

Her lack of results, she is certain, has to do with her sexuality. As she told Walsh, "I am offended as a gay person and I am appalled as an American that somebody can commit a crime and not be held accountable and the people who are supposed to uphold that law are dismissing it."

However, a state's attorney for the Vermont county in which Weiss was civil unionized, or whatever you want to call it (with terminology like that, can't you just picture Norma Rae serving as the couple's witness?), isn't sure any crime has been committed. He also thinks it's a bunch of hogwash to suggest that Weiss has escaped prosecution because the justice system doesn't take gay marriage seriously. In his words, "I think the rather unique facts and the multistate and international aspects combined with the fact that it appears to be civil, not criminal, makes it not likely to attract the attention of those whose job it is to prosecute criminal matters."

Honestly, I'm not sure what to make of any of this. Clearly it's wrong to enter into a civil union when you haven't legally dissolved your previous marriage, but these are untested legal waters and it's disingenuous for Wells-Weiss to cry homophobia when she knowingly entered into a marriage that wasn't legally recognized in the United States. What I keep going back to are the words "multistate and international," which put the magnitude of this kind of dyke drama into perspective.

These women have managed to drag New York, Vermont and Canada into their fucked up relationship. That has to be some kind of record. (It certainly makes me feel better about myself. My screwed up relationships have all stayed local. The courts were never involved, reporters were never contacted. Most importantly, no one has ever written about my failed relationships on their sucky blog.) Whatever the outcome of all this legal wrangling turns out to be, this case ought to serve as a cautionary tale for gay couples everywhere.

The first thing it taught us: Don't be scuzzy. If you got married in one place, even if that union isn't recognized elsewhere, you're married. You're a disgrace to the gay community when you marry one person in Toronto, then take advantage of the fact that American courts don't know how to deal with gay marriage in order to practically marry another person in the United States. The second lesson: If your desire to get married is so incredibly strong that even horror stories like this don't make you reconsider legally binding yourself to your partner in a country that can't figure out how to handle gay unions, at least do the rest of us a favor and keep your own name. Seriously, lesbians, do we have to do everything like our mothers? All that typing Weiss and Wells-Weiss drove me fucking crazy. Especially Wells-Weiss, which sounds like someone with a speech impediment trying to say Rolls-Royce.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Dirk Bogarde's Girl-Girl Squeamishness

Unhappy with the roles he was being offered, Bogarde considered joining The Village People

A collection of Dirk Bogarde's personal letters is set to be published in England later this month and, if anyone's interested, The Telegraph offered their first batch of excerpts this morning. I gave them a skim to see whether Anthony Forwood, Bogarde's partner of several decades, was mentioned (he is, repeatedly), and found myself amused by this recollection of the 1984 Cannes Film Festival, where Bogarde served as president of the jury, that was sent to Kathleen Tynan:
24 in 12 days, starting at 8.15am! I got rather to like it all... but some pretty crummy movies flashed over the screen I assure you! And if I have to look at another pubic-hair or another shot of a cow being slaughtered, a horse being drowned, a fat man having his orgasm, I'll choke. All that, I may add, jammed with Lesbian-Love scenes of extreme explicity, at eight of a morning is really not adorable.
Bogarde's description of art-house movie hell is just about perfect, but we're not on the same page when it comes to lesbian love scenes. While I agree that 8 AM is a bit early for such viewing (I'm not at my most lecherous until later in the evening), I'd say the same of sex scenes featuring two men, a man and a woman, or threesomes of any variety. That he jokingly singles out lesbian love scenes as being enough to put him off his breakfast is a little obnoxious, but more than that I resent that he wasn't specific. How many films with such scenes of "extreme explicity" were being made in the early '80s -- and screened at Cannes, no less? The only film from that era that I could think of that might have played at the festival was Diane Kurys's Coup de foudre (released as Entre Nous in the U.S.), which is famous for its lack of lesbian love scenes. Obviously I'm overlooking something, but what could it possibly be?

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Strange Lesbian Quote of the Week

Okay, kids, who wrote this:
"Yet again this week I found myself suspecting I might have lesbian tendencies, though this time it had nothing to do with the tingling feeling I sometimes get when I see Jodie Foster in her pants."
If you guessed it's an entry from Juno star Ellen Page's diary, you're wrong. Or so I'd assume. I mean, if Page has a diary, it's not like I've seen it. And being highly principled and whatnot, I don't believe in invading other people's privacy. So if I, through some odd series of events, came to possess a diary that's cover said, in giant letters, "Property of Juno star Ellen Page," know what I'd do? Not read it, that's what. (Anyway, I'm going to theorize, based on the fact that Page seems bright enough in interviews, that she had her tendencies worked out years ago.) If you guessed that it's something some straight guy wrote about the Subaru Forester, you obviously cheated by Googling the quote because, c'mon, what kind of guess is that? There's no way you could come up with that on your own.

Friday, August 1, 2008

It's Okay With Me

Dennis Lim talks to one of my favorite actors, Elliott Gould, in today's New York Times, and reading the article made me not-so-cranky for a few minutes. Then I remembered that Robert Altman and Ingmar Bergman are dead, that most teenagers couldn't pick Elliott Gould out of a lineup, and that Little Murders and California Split are currently out-of-print on DVD. (Little Murders isn't a movie you have to see before you die, but California Split is essential viewing for anyone who loves Gould, who loves Altman, who loves George Segal, who loves not being someone who hasn't seen California Split, and so on.) Just like that, the crankiness started to return. I might have to re-read J. Hoberman's 2007 profile of Gould later to keep from feeling too despondent.

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