Sky K Studios Movie Blog

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Big Fan - parking while Malbin is down

We live in a Golden Age of sports revisionism movies. 2008 brought Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck's Sugar, a tender hymn to washouts, and Darren Aronofsky's The Wrestler, the athlete as sex worker, a body for sale. 2009 brought Wrestler writer Robert Siegel's Big Fan (which the former Onion writer--who claims responsibility for the 'Area Man' trope--wrote and directed), which finds the serious fan on a perpetual seesaw of striving and emasculation. Some spoilers after the jump.

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Tuesday, January 23, 2007


How a naked Japanese schoolgirl can make you cringe, or Why Academy voters are killing me (for the second year in a row).

Now that the Oscars nominations have been announced, there’s really no more avoiding the topic of Babel. I saw it two and a half months ago, and I meant to blog about it right after. And then a little while after that, I decided that too much time had passed. But I can see now that I’m going to have to go on record defending my claim that this was the Worst Movie of the Year.

I didn’t go into Babel expecting to hate it. But by the time that Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett were being helicoptered away from those brown people and their warm Coca Cola, I found myself silently rooting for their helicopter to please, please crash, get shot down, something. Part of this was because the script was so amazingly bad (Border agent to nanny sin papeles: “They are not your children. Plus you’re in this country illegally.”). Most of it was because of the truly offensive nature of the movie.

Babel was nothing more than very beautifully shot, reasonably well acted porn. Suffering porn. Watch all of these people suffer, Iñárritu tells us; feel good that you’re not one of them. Ah, but aren’t we? we’re to ask. Isn’t Iñárritu saying that we are all connected, whether in joy or suffering?

That is what he seems to be saying, and it’s a great thesis for a political film. (True, too, but that’s neither here nor there.) The problem is that Babel undercuts its own claim to be political.

Babel has all of the trappings of a political film: the hotbutton locations, the conflicts, the nationalities. Witness: Rich Americans vacationing in war-torn north Africa. Poor Moroccans struggling to eke out a living under a brutal government. A nanny in Southern California, here illegally, trying to cross the border. All right, you might say, rubbing your hands together, as the lover of political cinema that you are, All right, bring it on.

But all of that setup is just a tease. The movie has no politics at all, it turns out. None of the horribleness that befalls everyone in this movie (and there’s quite a bit of horribleness) stems from any identifiable political cause. What then causes all of the suffering that we’re forced to endure? Interpersonal misunderstandings and accidents are the problems, not political, economic or structural conflict. The movie is called ‘Babel’ after all, and it is saying, in the most wide-eyed and simple-minded way imaginable, “If only we all spoke the same language then we would have no conflict.” In this way, Babel is basically just Crash with subtitles. (Babel = Volcano minus volcano plus subtitles?)

That Babel has a serious chance of winning Best Picture, just one year after Crash took that honor, should depress the fuck out of all of us. (If, you know, anyone — besides Jeopardy contestants — really cares about the Oscars.)

(If the Academy really wants to make it up to us for last year, they’ll have to not only give Best Picture to Little Miss Sunshine, but they’ll drag Iñárritu into a screening room and make him watch Soderbergh’s Traffic until his eyes bleed.)

Friday, November 10, 2006

The Queen

Stephen Frears’ The Queen begins with an epigraph from Shakespeare: “Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown.” The association with classical tragedy is audacious, and the film’s great achievement is that it undermines and complicates that association in a very contemporary way.

The movie begins with the ascension of Tony Blair and his “modernizing” Labour government; the meat of it takes place in the two weeks following the death of divorced Princess Diana, as the royal family fails to apprehend the public dimension of the princess’ death and finds itself needing advice from the striving, smiling prime minister.

Almost the entire thing is shot in interiors. It could be a stage play, divided between the royals hunting and taking tea at their Scottish summer home and the Prime Minister working in his casual, frenetic, first-name-basis offices and slouching about his “constituency”, or household, where he’s so modern as to do his own dishes. (Really?) There’s really only one sweeping exterior shot, a helicopter fly-by of the Scottish cliffs where Charles and Diana’s children stalking a stag. In its way, it doesn’t break the pattern of alternating interiors between the public offices of the Prime Minister and the cloisters of the royals: this landscape, after all, is just another private room in the House of Windsor.

The lead actors’ work is uniformly perfect, especially Helen Mirren’s as the Queen, and the movie asks on some level for empathy with the royal family. It accomplishes this: the royals represent the last gasps of the Stiff Upper Lip, and they are pained to find themselves estranged from an emotional and demonstrative public, even more captive to the spectacle of Diana in death than they were in life. But the seams and spans, however ill-fitting, of the dress of private grief do not make royal tragedies.

Intercut with the interiors at Downing Street and Balmoral are real bites of video footage, from CNN and the BBC and half a dozen other news agencies, of the country’s and the world’s reaction to the Princess’ death. The public haunts the movie but does not exactly appear in it. Blair may be the Queen’s subject, but he does not represent the public, who have no more of a stand-in in The Queen than does the storm in King Lear. Rather, the public becomes context, and it unmoors the royals from their thousand years of precedents and power.

Laying seas of cellophane-wrapped flowers and Mylar balloons at Buckingham Palace, mediated through grainy video, the public is a storm, a force of nature (post-nature?) that structures the conflict of the film. Diana, famously a ‘candle in the wind’, gives over to it, amplifies it, and succumbs to it (an early statement from the royals lays the blame squarely at the feet of the media; Blair’s oily-genius communications director clucks, “that’s not who you want to blame”). The Queen suspects it will blow over, that she has no more to fear from it than do the cliffs at Balmoral. Only Blair understands it perfectly: he knows that this wind, ill or true, can be neither turned nor controlled, but it can be sailed. His wife, a “known anti-monarchist”, hopes that the public’s souring feeling towards the royals will result in their abolishment, but Blair knows that his New Labour isn’t so revolutionary (he chastises his staff for including the R-word in a speech). Canny and empathetic at the same time, he rides the public’s feeling, absorbing its power but knowing that it does not crave the abolition of the royals, just the royals’ recognition of themselves.

Of course, it’s nothing new. Hobbes insisted that the King’s right comes not from on high but compiles the people’s will from below. Blair agrees: he doesn’t think the royals are going anywhere, he just understands them better.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

The Last Kiss

Paul Haggis brings to gender relations the same nuance and sensitivity that he brought to race relations.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

X-Men 3: The Last Stand

The novelty of the first X-Men movie was that mutants can allegorize social alienation like nobody's business. The novelty of the second X-Men movie was that damn, Wolverine just goes around killing people, doesn't he! With Part Le Troixieme, we have all the metaphorical baggage and body count you could ask for, but no real new elements to make it interesting. Frazier Crane makes an admirable Beast, the evil mutants would have been cooler if they had had more screen time, and Angel never should have been played by whiny little Russell from Six Feet Under. The guy's a handsome, wealthy playboy! What happened to the days when handsome wealthy playboys were played by people like Cary Grant? Not that Cary Grant would have looked good flying around with a pair of bird wings, but still. The X-Men could use a dapper charmer to offset all the mopey metaphorical baggage handling.

Any comics fan knows that boys and girls have slightly different roles to play in comics scenarios. The X-Men series, like Spider-Man, Batman and most superhero movies, offers a lot of Big Character Issues, and notably, most of the female characters' Big Character Issues are about S-E-X.
  • Rogue's power is that she absorbs the identity and powers of anyone she touches, traumatically for both her and the victim; this has prevented her from getting it on with her boyfriend Iceman, because no one at Xavier's School for the Gifted can find the URL for Good Vibrations.
  • Mystique, presented in true ComiCon form as a really hot, bumpy-blue naked chick, falls out of Magneto's good graces when a de-mutantizing dart leaves her a hot, white depilated naked chick on the floor of a van; the movie wrings a cheap laugh out of how ugly Magneto finds a hot naked white chick who is no longer a mutant, and then Mystique squeals on the Evil Mutants because "hell hath no fury like a woman scorned".
  • Most telling, and most central to the plot, Jean Grey returns from the dead as Dark Phoenix, psychically powerful beyond all control. How does she manifest this new unleashed power? By fucking Cyclops out of existence. Back at the ranch, monitored in her (hot) underpants on a shiny hospital table, she tries to do Wolverine into oblivion too, but he gets away from her wily vagina.

This all brings to mind what Twisty over at I Blame The Patriarchy calls "the sex class". (I'm sure someone else thought of it. If you know, let me know.) Under patriarchy, sex is located on and in women's bodies. Men act out of courage, or out of fear, out of fellow-feeling, or for power; women act, or are acted upon, because of sex. It's a useful heuristic for understanding, say, why it's harder than you'd think to tease out a space for non-patriarchal "erotica". Or just imagine Hugh Jackman lying on the hospital table, writhing in his underpants, threatening the world because he's just so fucktastic. Much less giggle-worthy if you just have him stick his claws in people.

Of all the main character mutants in the movie, Storm has the least sexified problems. Her big problem is that she's played by Halle Berry.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Is this a movie blog?

A song pairing for you:

"No Children", Mountain Goats

"Good Man", Josh Ritter

Sunday, March 26, 2006

North Country

I don't know why I didn't want to watch North Country in the theaters. It would have passed into rapid obscurity after middling reviews last year except that during Oscar nominations, someone smacked his head and said, "Oops! We forgot to put women in movies last year!" and so they gave Charlize Theron a nomination for best actress, and that put the movie back on some people's radar. Mine included.

In Essential Cinema: On The Necessity of Film Canons, Jonathan Rosenbaum distinguishes his project from those of other canon-builders by saying where others (e.g. Harold Bloom, or hell, his evil twin* Allan) worship at the altar of a necessarily transcendent quality of Transcendent Quality (I am so paraphrasing here), he insists that some movies you should watch simply for the importance of their content, not because they necessarily advance the art form qua art form. (Jane Smiley, Ernest Hemingway, have at it.) So that was my attitude going into the movie: it's a fictionalized telling of the first class-action sexual harrassment suit, filed in 1989 against a Minnesota mining company. I like a good social drama, I like movies about labor, and I'm down for a good feminist yarn, and who cares if it ain't gonna give me insights about storytelling.

The movie is a bit clumsy with its storytelling, in telling ways. It's divided into two parts: the straightforward telling of how Charlize Theron's character Josey Aimes came to work at the mine and the harrassment she and the other women experienced there; and the courtroom unfolding of her sexual harrassment suit—specifically, her petition for class status.

The mine story is harrowing and believable in the best of Hollywood underdog stories. Degrading sexual mockery comes nonstop. Women are told they're humorless, to take it like a man, etc. When Ames complains about an assault from a co-worker, she's accused of trying to seduce him&mdashand the accusation comes from the man's wife. (The way that the harrassment shapes the community at large is rendered very well.) Classic Hollywood heartbreaker: Aimes' son calls her a whore. Ooch.

[Spoilers ahead, if you care.]

Unfortunately, the courtroom drama is simply inane. It's hardly news that realistically grinding legal proceedings don't lend themselves to drama, and since the end-title informs us that the case was not settled for nine years, it's reasonable that the filmmakers would choose to use the certification of the class as the fulcrum for the legal drama. But what is this thing? I'm no lawyer, but I feel fairly confident that you can't win in court because, during a lull in the proceedings, your ALS-debilitated co-worker (Frances McDormand) in the back of the room has her husband read a defiant statement announcing that she joins the class, and then some women stand up and join the class, and then some men who work at the mine do too, and then some men who don't work at the mine do as well. I'm pretty sure that's not how it happens. In fact, it smacks of "we are running out of film", and I hope that the development of digital video will relieve us of such artistic compromises in the future.

Other parts of the courtroom scene are a bit more troubling. It comes into the drama a little creakily, but it's no surprise that the company's defence includes labelling Aimes as promiscuous by letting one of her workplace assailants, who knew her in high school, describe her rape by a teacher as consensual. The courtroom mechanics are preposterous, but the technique of using rape as a tool for economic control of women deserves the exposure. The scene, however, is played as a showdown between two men: Aimes' lawyer (Woody Harrelson!) and Bobby, her workplace tormentor. It devolves into a kind of cock-waggling I Deride Your Truth-Handling Abilities showdown.

The most pernicious thing about the movie, in fact, is its inability to show women as the heroes of their own lives. Included on the DVD is a deleted scene that dramatizes this exact problem: the lawyer confesses to Aimes that, behind her back, he met with the company president to discuss the possibility of a settlement.

Another key climactic scene comes when Aimes's friend's husband, played by Sean Bean The Menschy Guy, challenges her young teenage son, who has turned against his mother in the face of the town's animosity. It's another showdown between two males, positioned as the emotional climax to complement the courtroom climax, and it suggests that the real accomplishment of the movie hasn't been women taking power in the face of the twin threats of rape and poverty, but the recuperation of a situation that threatens patriarchal control into one that demonstrates its essential decency. Life lesson: be a man, not a member of the mob.

The same function plays itself out in the relationship between Ames' parents, affectingly portrayed by Richard Jenkins and Sissy Spacek. It's thrilling when Spacek, who has defended her husband's rejection of her daughter when she takes "a man's job", leaves him a note and a sandwich and checks into a hotel. But Mom's emancipation is just a tease for Pa's redemption: in order to keep the social order of his home intact, he has to defend his daughter against the mob of men at a union meeting.

The portrayal of the union hall as a mob scene was troubling, but not totally unbelievable. I would have liked to see the movie state more explicitly how useful it was for the company to have the male workers energized against their sister workers—assigning the blame pattern downwards, as Utah Phillips likes to say. And it's good to see Silkwood for a version of how a union makes it possible to speak truth to power in the workplace.

This seems like an indictment of the movie, but it shouldn't serve as one. The movie was three-quarters great Hollywood underdog drama, with genuine social consciousness in the depiction of sexual harrassment in the workplace. It avoided the trap of portraying white-collar workers as somehow more decent: the company management is somewhat more silken-tongued in its sexism, but just as vicious. It's just that dramatically, it can't bring itself to show women as the agents of their own victory, and I suspect that that's a fundamental trap in Hollywood storytelling.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Matt Feeney on V for Vendetta

Uh-oh, a pile-on's starting. At least I've seen this one.

Nothing better illustrates the simplism of V for Vendetta, or better highlights the unflattering contrast with Brazil, than V's motto: "There are no coincidences." The comic beauty of Brazil's portrait of totalitarianism is that everything rests on random coincidence, which nudges the bureaucracy into its own blind and murderous momentum: A dead fly falls into a computer printer and—voilà—poor law-abiding Buttle is mistaken for dangerous subversive Tuttle.

In V for Vendetta, there are no coincidences because, of course, it's all a big, seamlessly executed conspiracy. The fascist supreme leader's (John Hurt) total control dates back to a terrorism crisis that the government itself concocted [...] The regime's very evil propagandist Prothero (Roger Allam) is also the former commander of the concentration camp where V was experimented on. So, V kills him. And the camp's indifferent chaplain is now not only a high-ranking Anglican bishop, but also a vicious pedophile. So, V kills him, too. (In other words, there are coincidences. Very convenient ones.)

The author, Matt Feeney, is a terrific critic who inspired me to watch Cruel Intentions and Wild Things with this piece and wrote a very nice tribute to Noah Baumbach's Kicking and Screaming here. As one of two former owners of Los Angeles' only "I'd Rather Be Bowhunting" bumper stickers, I tip my hat to him. I hope Slate gives him a steady gig.

(via Hit and Run.)

Saturday, March 18, 2006

V for Vendetta

I feel bad for V for Vendetta. It would not seem easy for a movie to fail by being at once too faithful and not faithful enough to its source material, by being too handsome and not handsome enough, and by being too smart and not smart enough, but V has done it. Maybe it was the fault of the man two seats down from me who shushed me during the preview for An American Haunting ("Ken Burns' Poltercrap!" I may have shouted), but the very expensive-looking thing on screen never even rose to the level of fourteen-year-old boy opening-night excitement.

It's easy enough to fail by not sticking to the source material, and Alan Moore's pre-emptive refusal to participate—he took his name off it before it was made, based on what had happened to other movies—seemed bratty and prima-donnaish, though, in the end, correct. It's more interesting to me how the source material bogs down the movie.

For starters, the titular terrorist V wears a Guy Fawkes mask through the whole movie. On the page, the frozen smile of the mask is iconic and haunting, depersonalizing the revolutionary ardor of V into a free-floating cloud of question and dissent that gets inside Evey and fuels her transformation. On the screen, however, it's as if Natalie Portman has to fight, love, and hide alongside King Friday from Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood for two hours. He doesn't really give a lot back, and he's a bad kisser.

Friday the V

The nature of V's resistance also seems better on the page of a comic book than blown up on the screen. V doesn't lead a slave rebellion: the film never quite makes up its mind whether the whole populace is suffering under the government's heavy boots, or whether a few outgroups suffer in secret gulags to justify the complacence and security of a middle class that doesn't take its government too seriously. The book, though it leans more towards the first scenario than the movie does, never solves this problem, but on a structural level, a comic leaves more up to the imagination than a film does. It's not just that there's more activity for the mind between the panels on a page than there is between the 29 frames per second; it's also that a big-budget film defaults to Triumph of the Will before your eyes in a way that a little-known graphic novel becomes Common Sense in your hands. A scrappy little thing can be inspiring and open-ended in a way that a heavily CGI'd extravaganza, twenty feet tall and luminous (I do love the Arclight) reifies and beautifies the violence of both the state and its antagonist.

Not to mention that the things just falls down at the level of storytelling. It's an action movie in which Hugo Weaving's V never comes into physical jeopardy, a police procedural in which Stephen Rea's unanswered questions never tantalize, a romance in which Natalie Portman's yearning never approaches the physical. It was opening night at the Arclight, and I never once whooped or hollered.

Except during the trailers. Can't wait for Take the Lead! ("You put your chocolate tango in my hip-hop peanut butter," I may have muttered.)

UPDATE: All is forgiven, Natalie.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Temporada de Patos (Duck Season)

A day in my childhood that I remember very clearly I would not, at the time, have called childhood, not at all. I had my bicycle at school, and found myself with three friends. One was a boy who could not leave soon enough. The other two were girls. One of the girls had a crush on me, and I had a crush on the other. In a patch of grass by a small bridge over a drainage pipe, they covered me in purple flowers and we recognized to each other, in so many words, the futility of our situation. We hid in the first girl's bedroom as the day turned dark, whispers straining to become innuendos. At last I drove home to find an angry father. "Did you ever have one of those days..." I began in my defense. It didn't work.

In the apartment where Duck Season is set, the passage of time is as undependable as the electricity, which cuts out in the middle of a couple of video games, handing the day over to magic and love.

"Quince minutos, nada mas." Fifteen minutes, no more, says Rita as she arrives towards the beginning of the movie, complicating and catalyzing the two boys' time outside time. If the apartment is an Edenic space, she plays both Eve and serpent with neither blame nor expulsion. "Fifteen minutes" means nothing, of course, as sex and drugs flow from her presence and weave into the day, free from the cumbersome conventions of moralizing.

Instead of wringing melodrama from the conflicts of the characters, the conflict arises from time against timelessness. The arrival of a pizza delivery boy in his twenties (significantly named Ulises as T. reminded me) allows the boys to stage a fight over paying for the food, but serves really to introduce a theme of disappointment and the threat of the passage of time. "El asunto es ver quien se chinga a quien", the issue is who fucks over who, says Flama, gazing into the painting of ducks over which his parents have chosen to stage a custody proxy battle.

The structural challenge of the movie is keeping the gang of four together. The kids have nowhere else to go, and affection for each other, but how on earth does the pizza delivery boy justify staying in the apartment when he so clearly needs his job? The movie has a sufficient number of gambits to keep him put, but the answer is this: he is no less subject to the magic of a timeless day than the children. My straining suspension of disbelief betrays my father's No in me, and tells me where my childhood ends.

Friday, March 10, 2006

More Crash Hating

Since I didn't see Crash, I feel it's proper to explain why I felt so justified in not bothering. I will happily add your picks to the examples below:

Left-wing Crash-hating (thesis: by dwelling on universal culpability for racism, Crash excuses it, closing off the possibility of political and social action that would fight racism and inequality.)

Kenneth Turan, L.A. Times
Manohla Dargis, New York Times
Nathan Newman
Richard Kim, The Notion
Armond White, New York Press (last two via Left Behinds)

Right-wing Crash-hating (thesis: Los Angeles isn't really that bad. People do get along, honest! Here I find the evidence accurate but the intention dishonest: yes, L.A. mixes up people, but that's insufficient to disprove that power here is divided on antagonistic racial lines. The Lopez piece is just funny.)
Matt Welch, L.A. Times
Steve Lopez, L.A. Times

Altogether different: Tom Hayden (thesis: people who say Crash is a bad movie are covering up that Los Angeles is a racist cauldron. Here I find Hayden's evidence useful to marshal in the left-wing Crash-hating column, though Hayden himself clearly does not hate Crash.)

Up next: commentary on a movie that I have seen! And maybe even enjoyed! Maybe.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Crash vs. Volcano

(I've been on a comments tear at other people's blogs about Volcano and Crash, so I thought I'd reproduce my comment 46 from over here. See also this discussion at Left Behinds.)

Thank you, thank you, thank you for pointing out the importance of Volcano as a precursor to Crash! Much more so, I think, than Short Cuts and Magnolia, though those vastly superior antecedents also bear mention. But what’s wonderful about Volcano is that it has both a much more cogent argument about race in Los Angeles AND Tommy Lee Jones kicking the ASS off a volcano.

Now, Michael, you probably remember Volcano’s argument about race as the treacly end bit where once everyone is covered in volcanic ash, they all look the same. Well yes, that’s there, and hey, outta the mouths of babes! but the setup for that is actually a much more politicized account of spatialized segregation in Los Angeles than that offered by Crash.

You see, the heavy in Volcano (besides the volcano) is the developer who opposes the extension of the subway to the Red Line because it will bring poor brown people near his fancy condo tower. That’s a real conversation that happened in Los Angeles and helped thwart a cross-town subway. L.A. is just now moving past it. Compare that to Crash’s account of spatial segregation, which is the bit how in order to meet people who look different, you need to bend their fender. (Compare also to the Cronenberg ‘Crash’, which also recommends auto accidents as a good way to get to know people better.) Anyway, while critics pointed out that people mostly have their prejudices confirmed in Crash, Volcano provides a much better ending, because the racist developer gets his beautiful condo tower BLOWN UP to stop the volcano—in essence, Tommy Lee Jones kicks the developer's ass as a byproduct of kicking the ass off the volcano. And the racist developer’s girlfriend leaves him for being a racist, which is the kind of comeuppance that you should have in a good liberal movie.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Brokeback Mountain

A conversation between Minky and me, via e-mail:

Seton: I saw Brokeback Mountain last night, finally. I can see why you are newly into Heath Ledger. He pulled off being unbelievably magnetic in spite of the fact, as CSM commented, he had his eyes closed for half of his performance. I've never seen anything like him on screen, though I feel like I do know him well in men of my acquaintance, which is what made him so riveting to watch.

Minky: That's interesting. And yes, definitely riveting. It's interesting (as I probably already said) to watch the earlier movies after this one--to watch the heart-throb version of Heath Ledger--because you can kind of see it in there somewhere: both the actual acting ability and that particular tone of tortured detachment. It makes those films (I've seen A Knight's Tale and Ten Things I Hate About You) almost comically miscast. And it makes you realize how cookie cutter hollywood's romantic roles are. He just seems vaguely ridiculous chasing after this princess in the knight film. (Made all the more ridiculous, though somewhat more enjoyable, by the fact that her dresses are all inexplicably this contemporary sort of haute couture, and not at all medieval.) (But then the film's soundtrack is all early eighties classic rock, so I guess you can't really hold it accountable for anything.) It's really difficult to believe that he actually wants this woman, and it made me think how little that actually matters in mainstream films. The fact that he's supposed to, expected to, is enough. Which, I guess, only underscores the significance of Brokeback Mountain as a film.

Though I have to say, I'm getting getting a little uncomfortable with all the hype. Did you know that someone paid $100,000 for those two shirts yesterday? I'm convinced that a similar sort of force is lying latent in Ryan Philipe, just waiting for the right director. I've always liked him without quite knowing why, and there was one moment in Cruel Intentions where I saw it struggling to come out: this interesting, potentially rich brand of masculine woundedness.

Michael Pitt comes to mind, too, as some a young male actor who brings a really interesting sort of presence in films. And he's managed to bypass (I think) the hearth throb thing. I've been thinking about him because I've had it in mind that one of the characters in my book looks a little like him. Did you see the Dreamers? I'm a little embarassed to say, but I really loved that movie. I think he's pretty mesmerizing to watch. In Hedwig and the Angry Inch too, which I also loved. And of course in Last Days.

Seton: I saw that item about the $100,000 shirts in the LA Times today. Where does a gay rights activist get a disposable income that allows him to spend that much on shirts? I don't really get it, either. I didn't come away from the film thinking it was about gay men, but about men and masculinity in general--the fact that they are gay of course complicates all that, but really it seemed to me a device for framing a way broader exploration of male identity. Which is to say, I think I was moved by HL not because he embodied so well the sad particulars of his situation as a gay man, but because he just reminded me of so many guys I know who seem to struggle with how to be who they are in a culture that doesn't care who they are but, as you say about the romantic comedies, only that they behave in the way they are supposed to, expected to, behave.

I haven't really seen Ryan Philipe in many movies, but I figure he must be quality if he's married to Reese. He was roguishly attractive in Gosford Park, and forgettable in Crash, which itself was pretty forgettable so it's not his fault, I guess. The only film I've seen with Michael Pitt is Last Days.

Minky: I totally agree about the gay thing. Well put. Which is one of the big problems with that sort of identity politics: that it's reductive, doesn't acknowledge the full scope of human experience, and all the factors involved.

Friday, February 17, 2006

"Inspired by a true story."

"It's not a docudrama. But this event happened, and that is what the whole movie is centered upon," Mr. Marshall says. He adds that the words "inspired by" are used because "it's important to know that this could happen. It validated the hook of the movie."

In the Wall Street Journal, John Lippman considers the trend of movies based or inspired on a true story (or real dog). While Lippman doesn't actually demonstrate that there are more "reality-based" (truthy?) films in theaters tonight than there were twenty years ago, it's fair to say that memoir, reality television and based-on-a-true-story have a cultural privilege right now over fiction and invention.

Why? Since this has been sitting in the draft pile for a while, I'll leave it as a question and come back to it in a later post, if it continues to nag me. I suspect that our tolerance for lies is at one with the denigration of imaginative capacity, of the truth in fiction. Now, evidence!