Tuesday, June 29, 2010
Finally, like its sister film Normal, here is a film that doesn't employ the transgendered person as the butt of a visual running gag for shock purposes.
Transamerica is the story of Bree, a pre-op transsexual, who has a 17 year old son in jail and must come to terms with him before transitioning. You would think she'd be ecstatic. She's not. This means opening the door back to her old life as Stanley and she's not about to do this. The kid is a total hindrance. So she decides to keep it a secret, bail him out, drive him to his foster home pretending to be a missionary, and be done with him.
The story has other things in mind... especially when it introduces a sexually abusive father and Bree continues to be stuck with Toby, en route to the West Coast. A series of misadventures lands them in Phoenix, Arizona where situations threaten to veer into screwball but remain muted---comic, but not over the top, but the young Kevin Zegers and Felicity Huffman have the right kind of chemistry together to sustain the interest in their budding relationship.
Huffman by proxy carries the movie from start to finish. Because not much is said about Bree or her motives other than the omnipresent "I'm a woman", everything is left to Huffman's body language, voice intonations, and facial expressions. Otherwise, the character might have been too thin to be believable. As a viewer I kept wondering what it was that made her, as Stanley, veer off into what seems to be an underachieving life when she had it all. Since many transsexuals have gone this path -- leaving a life of "normalcy" and working odd jobs, trying to blend in or to live as a "stealth" -- it didn't surprise me when I saw that Bree was a waitress in a Mexican restaurant. Many live lonely lives, on the fringes of society, seen as "sight gags" to be snickered at. That is what society has imposed on them: a friendly alienation, even in large cities. Huffman manages to bring all baggage that forth in the way she behaves among people -- even how she is in her own home, all practiced gestures and shy manners. She is her role, down to her (prosthetic) private parts.
Sunday, June 20, 2010
One look at Roy (Tom Wilkinson) and "masculine" comes to mind. Added to that, other adjectives such as "beefy" and "virile". However, Roy isn't your ordinary guy who happens to be married and with two teenage kids. Roy is a woman trapped in a man's body, about to come to terms with this predicament.
Jane Anderson's Normal is, from its title, a question of what truly constitutes the meaning of such a term. Set in the Midwest, where values and morals are strictly on the conservative side of the spectrum, Roy's acknowledgement is one that defies explanation... or maybe not.
It all depends on what side of the coin you are looking into. On one hand, there's "if God made you a Man, thus you must remain..." as the saying goes. But when you are Roy -- and indeed, there are many people who have come to terms that they are in the wrong gender -- such a postulate flies out the window.
This acknowledgement will come with an immense toll on the family. A complete redefinition. Roy's decision begins to affect his two kids and his wife Irma who teeters between a vague resignation and sheer fury not at the thought that Roy states he is a woman, but at what this all means for them. In her mind, this is something so alien to her, and now it's being thrown at her face.
Jane Anderson tackles an extremely delicate material, a preamble to Transamerica. However, less a movie about transsexualism than about the ultimate power of love transcending gender, Normal won't be for all tastes but is worth paying attention to. It's one of the first films bringing to life a subject that has until now been occasionally touched. Tom Wilkinson and Jessica Lange take their characters and have a great deal of ease playing them -- Wilkinson never overplaying his newfound femininity; Lange never quite losing it to her situation. While somehow the ending comes a little too pat, it chooses to show things as they are and give room for acceptance, even when it may not be fully understood.
Saturday, June 19, 2010
A hint of nostalgia and longing permeates through the fabric of Kylie Minogue's newest song "All the Lovers" which was just released and is already racing up the Billboard Dance/Club Play chart. It's too new to see if this will become one of her signature hits but it has an ethereal quality and an emotional build that weaves itself slowly but surely, as if describing a wonderful, climactic reunion between lovers who haven't seen each other in a long, long time.
Not a revision of any genre in particular---other than her own signature style---it has strong nods to her very first hit "I Should Be So Lucky" as well as the equally anthemic "Go West" by The Pet Shop Boys. This is the flip-side of electropop. Sound that makes you soar, feel, and forget your pain, embrace love and loss equally as she softly sings, flanked by a velvety, angelic chorus. Gay men should love this one from the moment it hits their favorite club of choice. It's quite a musical piece, and Kylie has never sounded more mature and relaxed---she makes her singing effortless. Not bad by a singer who's clocking in on twenty-five years in the music business....
Thursday, June 17, 2010
I barely have any time to churn out some words since I have to be in my favorite hangout in an hour and change, but tonight, as I got dressed, I listened to this song for the first time in its entirety and I shed a tear.
In time, it'll become to represent this City, the Greatest in the world, where everything starts and ends. Thank you, Jay-Z, thank you, Alicia Keys, thank you everyone who made this city something to love, and even hate. Yes, even you, terrorists. You can't stop us.
Long live New York. I am, truly, from the Empire State.
You can't beat that.
Friday, June 11, 2010
Five words: At least I survived it.
Sometimes you have to let that horse's carcass just rot into the ground and fertilize it. After all, it's not going anywhere. It doesn't have a red carpet event to attend. It's not a panelist on Chelsea Lately or that other talking cadaver, Larry King. It hasn't lost its mare and thus needs to begin a trek around the country, galloping hither and thither, perchance to have One More Kiss with her. It's just there. Dead. On the ground. Slow-w-w-ly decaying.
Sex and the City 2 is that inanimate dead body. True, it's got good meat to chew on, and its creators added a lotta spice this time (thanks, Samantha!) and a lo-o-o-otta man candy to the heavy-handed drama its predecessor threw on our laps like a giant box of Kleenex drenched in estrogen. I'll give it that. But here is my question to you.
When is Happily Ever After... not?
When you finished a novel, even in serial form, weren't you glad that your Heroine had finally beaten the odds and managed to settle back, sip a cosmo, and look into the sunset, knowing that Everything Was Gonna Be Alright? It felt good, didn't it? True, you also felt a little sad that you wouldn't be experiencing the pain she felt, the sense of insecurity she'd been thrown into by life itself... but you could always re-read it, re-live her drama, and know that there wasn't a word out of place, not a scene missing, and that even with a page torn out of the book she'd still reach the finish line and have it all. The... fucking... end. Finito.
When Carrie went to Paris at the end of Season 6, we really didn't know how she'd end. Big had been mostly out of the picture for the longest and her relationship with Petrovsky was a mockery of happiness: it existed out of sheer chauvinistic convenience for him, and fear of never finding Mr Right for her. And what woman couldn't identify with Carrie Bradshaw? She was Everywoman. Just think, women have it---even now---worse than men in the relationship war, especially when they're up past 40 and men have an ageist attitude towards relationships. Men don't go for women their age; they want young boobs and terse skin and the option for babies. An older woman? She'd have to look especially good considering how most women age, and good luck with that. Age, pass the knife.
Such was Carrie's fate. She faced ending back in New York, alone. And while this choice felt true to the character who had been the representation of the independent career woman who doesn't rely on a man to exist, the audience wanted a little extra. The romantic finale.
In came Big, and you all know the rest. It was one of the most emotionally satisfying endings a series has ever had, highlighting not only Carrie's story racing towards its climax as Big hunted her down in the streets of Paris, but of all the girls. Big's search paralleled Miranda's as she went after her mother in law Mary who'd left the house and had a mental problem; Charlotte received priceless news, and Samantha reconciled with her own emotions and gave into possible monogamy with Smith Jerrod.
I loved that. How it ended. Yes, I would miss the show, and yes, I saw every damn episode with Bob and Vic at home. We all cried at the end, we were satisfied. La Belle left Le Bad Boy and was now happy.
In walked the movie, a grandiose spectacle blowing up the show into Hollywood heights, and its success (i. e. $$$$) led to the inevitable "part deux".
I liked it. It was long just as first, but it entertained quite a bit more than the first. Some glaring minuses, though:
- The Liza sequence performing "All the Single Ladies" in the (extremely, nauseatingly) gay wedding didn't do it at all for me. Then again, I don't engage in diva worship and if I did, Liza would be the last one I'd go nuts for. Do gay men really flip for this? Where was I when this became the norm?
- The Aiden insert was terrible. It almost ruined the movie for me. Who runs into a boyfriend in the middle of the fucking desert? I know, women who saw the series felt cheated on how Carrie's and Aiden's relationship ended, but in the series he was seen as being happy and married. It's called an ending of a character's story. No need to bring him back and it shrieked the movie into a grinding halt. I hated every single second of it.
- I know Carrie was shrill to begin with in the series, but here she went beyond and landed straight into Bitchville. What a nag. Someone make it stop.
Can we let this beast die? Please? No more Sex and the City 3?
At least one thing was interesting about this release: The New York Times featured their review right to the left of an article called, "Poverty and the Pill."
Oh, the irony of these two themes side-by-side.
Wednesday, June 9, 2010
Tonight I sat with my friends watching the newscasters on HLN chirp away endlessly about the latest celebrity oops, and I kept bemoaning there was a time when HLN actually showcased real news, on a ticker tape that they would update regularly, but have since relegated to making it all about tabloid fodder complete with in-depth speculation.
Of course, one of the several hot topics was Sandra Bullock's appearance on the MTV awards and her Bul-locking of the lips with Scarlett Johansson, a feat that's been done so often now it's almost a throwaway plot device. I didn't see it live, because I have better things to do with my life, but my friend Jill did ask my opinion on this so I posted on my page (and hers):
It was obviously staged like so many other kisses, all the way to Madonna's kiss to Britney and Christina---titillation, get the boys to cheer, yay and let's move on.
Frankly, I like Sandra Bullock. I don't get 'bitch' from her, not then, not now, and I just saw The Blind Side and she worked that Oscar. It was hers, and I admire Meryl Streep, Meryl will most likely hit twenty nominations, win a third, maybe even a fourth a la Kate Hepburn, and future accolades. Sandra's is this---this is her Mildred Pierce, her one shot to be taken as a serious actress.
I wasn't really buying into her possibly being a Neo-Nazi as well and I'll tell you why. Firstly, none of them feed me or pay my bills so that didn't let me get too deep into the mess the media created due to Jesse James' indiscretions. Secondly, I maintain an impersonal approach to things so I won't get clouded by passion. I do think she really did fall hard for James since she expressed it so fully on her Oscar night. When you fall for someone you bypass their quirks and women in particular (and some gay men) have this thing for the "maybe he'll change, maybe I can make him better, he's a great guy if you get to know him". Her being 45 didn't let her get pregnant via amnio so adoption was (and is) her only way to have kids. Who knows, perhaps they'd had rough spots and this was a way to "cement" a relationship---she's not the first one to go by the baby route as a means to save a marriage.
The reason I side with Sandra (hell, even Chelsea Handler does, and she's also Jewish, have you seen her lambasting Jesse James and Bombshell McGee?) is simple: look at her reactions---or non-reactions---from day one. She hasn't been making this her drama, she's actually kept mum until now. James, on the other hand, has been milking this for what it's worth---his "My father abused me" excuse to gain sympathy, punctuated by "I wanted to get caught; she was gonna leave me anyway."
No one admits to this. Not unless you want to ellicit some kind of tears, usually by a gullible woman. I am neither, but even my co-workers were spitting at the TV screen that ahd nothing to do with his own inability to keep his pants on.
So really... I wouldn't be so hard on her. I follow my gut and it tells me she's been dragged enough through the mud and fought it off quite bravely with her trademark smile. If she were even remotely guilty she'd be trying to gain sympathy by turning the waterworks and if anything she hasn't.
And there you have it. And this will be one of three blog entries this week!
By the way, feel free to use Helen Thomas as your new target for throwing the dart---she's a bitch. And attacking your people. Sandy is not.
It's bad enough when someone you superficially know throws empty compliments at you---compliments you can clearly see are a bit too good to be true and you know what that usually entails---but when you confront that person, nicely, and ask them what part of the story in question did they enjoy (in lieu of calling them out on it), they completely flake out and say,
There's something to be said about this, you know. You see, I don't want to be a principal member of my own fan club and I guess this is a part of what I'll have to deal with from now on, but it's a bit annoying---actually, let me rephrase that, it's a fucking headache with the floodlights turned on all the way up to get the same "I'm your biggest fan, I love your writing" by people who never once come to my blog and read what little I have to say but need to throw insincere compliments to "be cool". I don't know if people understand the work that goes into writing---it's not just fingers tapping on a keyboard, but much more, it's an entire body and soul commitment to telling a story even if the story is nothing short of imaginary but a real experience with fictional overtones for dramatic effect; after all, life as it is is pretty darn boring, might as well make a stiff meringue out of it and hope for the best, right?
"I soooooooooo enjoy your blogs!!! U R D BEST!!!!!"
I can see it now. extending to the horizon, forever: me, quaintly observing people as they email or leave me Facebook bon mots, going on and on about my work and they don't even read me. This is going to be a repetition of that classic scene in Annie Hall where Woody Allen confronts a snob in a movie theatre as he goes on and on about Marshall McLuhan's work, irritating the hell out of Allen's already wired-up neurosis, and fed up with the dude, he reaches out to what seems to be an indoor plant and produces the very McLuhan in the flesh, who tells the poor fool, "You know nothing of my work! How you ever got to teach a course in anything is totally amazing!" I guess it's okay, I mean... do I really expect people who don't do any more reading than what's in front of the computer monitor or a Marie Claire magazine to actually open my page and read me? And who do I think I am, anyway? Some must-read blogger of the week?
Meh... I guess I'll do as my friend Jill says and learn to take the good feedback from the bad feedback.
Friday, June 4, 2010
I walked home with a little Absolut between my legs... and I liked it!
This is why sometimes you really should bow out of the party while the lights are still on and no one is falling asleep with your repeat performances. You might not know Helen Thomas. Certainly her physical appearance might not conjure up memories and images of Raquel Welch, circa 10,000 BC. If anything, you wouldn't be wrong to confuse Thomas as the disheveled cat lady down the block who hasn't (assumedly) laid eyeballs on a man undressed since she became correspondent for the United Press International and furthermore, its Bureau Chief.
I know I didn't as much as have a vague notion of Ms. Thomas until I saw the video below but that's because I attempt to restrain myself from imbibing in too much political verbiage. Then again, I can barely read full-on sentences longer than the fragmental "Absolut (insert your word here)" so that in itself might not be so much an effort. The same way it's not that much of an effort to get me completely smash-faced after one too many martinis, sobbing dejectedly over clips of Rue McClanahan's wicked Blanche Devereaux as Frank pours me another one at my favorite hangout and tells me it'll be all right. All right, I said? Tell that to the Van Der Sloot kid who just got arrested because he just couldn't help himself and went for seconds. After all, stab a woman dead once, shame on... her, but stab her twice? Now, really. Tsk, tsk.
Some people. So tactless.
And here we are, back at point one, the finger aiming straight at another Somewhat Imprudent Person I initially was writing about before my over-thinking mind veered into the week's principal highlights (sorry, Gary... maybe next life) and they decided to cloud me into sneaking themselves into my short little piece today. Why I let them is really my own fault. Why can't I stay focused on one damn thing? For that reason, why do all evil things, KFC included, come out of Kentucky, for that matter? Might it be the water or just a general malaise? I don't know, but one native Kentuckian decided to croak a little bit of bigotry into the already polluted air and cement her status as a Not So Nice Person, or Person You'd Most Likely Want to Slug One for making quite a commotion. [Yes, I said "slug."]
You see, it seems Helen Thomas, speaking on the situation in Israel, believes that all Jews (she didn't specify which, but I'm going for broke and signaling the ones who live in Israel) should "get the hell outta Palestine.... Remember, these people are occupied. It's their land, not German(y), not Poland..."
When asked where should they go, Helen suggested with gravelly insouciance, "Go home. Poland... Germany..." she hesitated a little when suggesting "America, and everywhere else," which leads me to believe she is really on the button with current events and Israel's history---unless you throw in a little detail of how she is an Arab-American. Lebanese, in fact.
How sympathetic of her, to tell the people of Israel to "get the hell outta there" and go back to countries where they met their death between 1939 and 1945. How positively quaint.
I'm going to go out on a limb and parlay the question of the unseen reporter interviewing her: "Any better comments on that?"