Friday, March 31, 2006

My new favorite film critic

Move over Anthony Lane. Carina Chocano opens her review of Basic Instinct 2 with a line that had me laughing for several minutes this morning:

With "Basic Instinct 2," the "Basic Instinct" franchise (who saw it coming?) enters its unhinged rococo phase.


Thursday, March 30, 2006

Favorite lyric from Destroyer's Rubies

For now, anyway.... There's one about (pardon the paraphrase) friends being ancient beasts bronzed in tar that tickles me for its oddness. But this one stuck out at me this morning:

Oh, it’s just your precious American Underground, and it is born of wealth. With not a writer in the lot.

And of course, I immediately thought of The Strokes.

They're at Spaceland on May 9! Brando, we better rest up!

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Peter Berlin post-script

Separated at birth?


Peter Berlin

I went to see the interesting, occasionally bizarre That Man: Peter Berlin at the Silver Lake Film Festival last night. The movie's a fine social history and compelling biography, and frankly, it's a rather unguarded and unsentimental portrait of the guy. Berlin does much to contribute to this; when the model/photographer/porn-star isn't rambling incomprehensibly, his interviews are often more digressive than I am! For example, the excess of detail he provides in a story he tells about preparing his dying lover's suicide pudding goes from odd to poignant to downright comical.

His photos are striking, though; it doesn't seem like too much of an exaggeration to note what must've been a certain influence on fashion and fashion photography. In fact, I kept waiting for the film to investigate that a little. And then there's the whole Mapplethorpe connection....

Regardless, the best story of the movie was the one about him HOOKING UP WITH SAL MINEO. That anecdote sure left me wanting more. I mean, I did get a kick out of learning that sweet little Plato had a fetish for white cotton briefs, but what else, Peter? What else?!

Monday, March 27, 2006


and I forgot.

Thanks to -K- for reminding me.

If it's any consolation, I tend to do this. My mother's birthday was last Thursday and I forgot that too.

Happy belated, Frank! And Mom!

Richard Greenberg in the NYTimes

Just in case you didn't see it, there's a big profile of the Take Me Out author in yesterday's NYTimes Magazine. The link is here.

I'm not convinced I like this guy's plays yet; I only know the aforementioned baseball play, and it didn't really work for me. Regardless, any gay man who counts as best girlfriend Patricia Clarkson has a vote of confidence from me!

UPDATE: I finally finished the article, and needless to say, it gets adorable when Patricia arrives. Sample passage:

"I want you to see the new chairs I reupholstered," he told her, and she followed him down the winding staircase. "You don't feel there's a plethora of pattern, do you?" he asked worriedly.

And my favorite quote from Ms. Clarkson: "Richard, stop! I'm trying to be Southern. My parents are going to read this!"

Friday, March 24, 2006


I just discovered this story on the blogosphere this morning, but it was apparently featured in an article by Jon Swartz in yesterday's USA TODAY:

SAN FRANCISCO — A Christian group that promotes heterosexuality Thursday quietly dropped its beef against a blogger who poked fun at it.

Exodus International initially claimed the altered image of one of its billboards by Justin Watt infringed its copyright. But Exodus is no longer pursuing the matter after Watt stopped using its "watermark" logo, Exodus President Alan Chambers said.

Watt, operator of the Justinsomnia blog, says he exercised free speech when he parodied the Exodus billboard, which says, "Gay? Unhappy?" Wyatt re-created the billboard on his site so it read, "Straight? Unhappy?"

(Exodus uses ".to" as its domain suffix because ".com" was not available.)

Watt, 26, a Web developer in Northern California who enlisted the aid of the American Civil Liberties Union and high-powered law firm Fenwick & West, has posted his blog for four years. He posted the parody Sept. 19 because he found Exodus' message "offensive." A lawyer representing Exodus sent Watt a cease-and-desist letter on March 2.

The dust-up has made Watt a cause célèbre among bloggers. More than 40 other websites now carry the spoof.

Well here's one more!

Thursday, March 23, 2006


Unlike Ernesto and Leopold, she's not much into theater, thinking it tiresome and inaccessible. Truth be told she's not the most impartial of critics; ever since that dinner-theater-all-female Odd Couple debacle she got roped into she seems insistent the whole art form is to blame. If you ask me, she'll never really make the crossover from model to "serious actress" until she bothers to learn her lines.

She really digs rock shows, though, and wants everyone to know she was a runner-up for the cover of that We Are Scientists album:

bi-weekly Kevin/Kyle IM post

I'm behind on The L-Word, as I only watch the Netflix DVDs, and I've narrowed my Netflix subscription down to one disc at a time to save money and because I don't watch them regularly enough.... Although, if I could digress for a moment, I CAN'T WAIT to dig into my new disc...the gay-coming-of-age tale, Dorian Blues, starring Michael McMillan and Lea Coco. Bets on how many times I'll watch before I return?

Anyway, The L-Word. Yes, I know Dana died of breast cancer. Thanks NYTimes. That was sweet of you. Anyway, Kevin is not happy about this, as you'll note below.

zenokb: OMG. I am so boycotting The L-Word.
zenokb: I watched the scattering of Dana's ashes last weekend.
zenokb: They hiked out to this snowy waterfall to dump them and say nice words.
zenokb: Shane freaked out and threw a fit; Then several characters teared up as, after the ashes hit the water, each began to react to these awful CGI images of a "water Dana" dancing in the waterfall and making heart shapes in the water.
zenokb: It looked like something out of Terminator II.
zenokb: And this was after they all had had flashbacks about times when they had [slept with] her.
zenokb: IT WAS SO BAD!
kyletwilson: GROSS.
kyletwilson: I WANT TO SEE THAT NOW!
zenokb: It all felt like an Old Navy ad to me.
zenokb: And I was HOWLING with laughter though it all.
zenokb: The only thing that could really bring me back to the sense of terrible loss, the anguish and downright unfairness of human existence was to read again--for the fourth, eighth, tenth time--Teri Hatcher's interview in Vanity Fair.
kyletwilson: I think I'm going to subscribe.
zenokb: Kyle, you don't understand. She is so traumatized by her molestation she had to do the interview in a silicone mask to deal with the puffiness that comes from crying your eyes out.
zenokb: And she was so upset she had to answer the door in a bath towel when the VF interviewer showed up to talk to her.
kyletwilson: I think I'm putting this one on my blog too.
zenokb: OK, just correct my spelling.

Sure thing, Kevbo. Sure thing!

Going to see

Scenes from an Execution at my Unknown Theater tonight. I haven't even seen anything by these folks yet and I already like them. Mostly because they like me, but still....

And there are some Queer docs at the Silver Lake Film Festival I'm on the fence about seeing this weekend/Monday.
That Man: Peter Berlin

Sporting a blond Dutch-boy haircut, a perma-tan and well-stuffed, skintight pants, Peter Berlin was a highly photographed gay icon in the 1970s era of sexual liberation. Jim Tushinski’s affectionate documentary of Berlin’s life and career has swept through the Berlinale, London, San Francisco, and Rio de Janeiro Internationals and the Austin Gay and Lesbian International Film Festival, where it won the Audience Award for Best Feature Documentary. Peter Berlin wasn’t only a model and porn-star, he was also a photographer and film director, carefully sculpting his own highly stylized image. Born in war-time Germany and known to be personally shy despite his stardom, he has been called the “Greta Garbo of porn.” Still bleach-blond and boyish in his early 60s, Berlin recounts his adventures with Robert Mapplethorpe, John Waters, Andy Warhol, and others. Jim Tushinski is a filmmaker and fiction writer living in Southern California. His short video, Jan-Michael Vincent is My Muse (2002), has been screened at over 30 film festivals from Austin, Texas to Wellington, New Zealand. An exercise in pop culture appropriation, the video combines pirated video and music with paper cutout animation to tell the goofy tale of pre-adolescent, same-sex celebrity worship.

The Other Side: Back in the Gay

The woman Vaginal Davis declared “one of LA’s Punk Princesses” has put together a film about The Other Side – a bar and fixture of Silver Lake’s gay scene. Jane Cantillon’s doc invites you in to sit a while and sing along with a few show tunes at this old-fashioned piano bar. Local queens tell it like it was back in the day when looking at someone the wrong way on the street could get you a night in the pen. The Other Side has been a watering hole on the LA gay scene for over forty years and is a sort of “Cheers for the older gay crowd.” Rare archival imagery of gay life in past decades is mixed with cabaret numbers performed in the bar. Not so cheerful were moments in previous decades when undercover cops frequented the bar, dressing fey to entrap someone into propositioning them so they could hit him with a solicitation charge. Despite the risk of public ruin, the locals hung on, survived the AIDS epidemic and now struggle with the reality that, despite their new social freedom, they find themselves past cruising age. Jane Cantillon is a sometimes bawdy live performer and a producer of TV shows, including Entertainment Tonight, Hard Copy and Blind Date.

I love gay documentaries and social histories and whatnot, but I'm kinda craving down/quiet time lately. Knowing me I'll settle in to do some writing and start to worry I'll be missing something and take off for one of the screenings. Who am I kidding? I'll probably see both of them. They're playing back-to-back on Monday night, so maybe a double-feature!

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

top 100 albums

No, not my picks...I don't think I could come up with 100. I'm too band/artist-oriented. Once I got through the big chunk of Sonic Youth's Sister/Daydream Nation/Goo/Dirty genius, a couple of Tom Waits albums, a little Nirvana, every Pixies album (EVERY ONE, DAMMIT, EFF YOU IF YOU DON'T REALIZE TROMPE LE MONDE IS JUST AS GOOD AS DOOLITTLE), and the first three Pavement albums (DITTO WOWEE ZOWEE, EFFERS), I'd just get tired and want to find my Exile In Guyville to try and temper the boy's-club-indie-rock-overload. And no, I didn't forget about the Kims. I love the Kims. I'm just sayin'....

But Barton over at Vinyl Edition is doing his top 100, and, speaking of Pavement, I'm tickled by his take on Slanted And Enchanted (scroll down). Here's a sample:

77. Pavement – Slanted and Enchanted (1992)

Lights up on a music store. 1993.

A: Man, have you heard the advance of this new Built to Spill record, There’s Nothing Wrong With Love?
B: Whatever, they’re just ripping off Pavement, more or less.
A: Who’s Pavement?
A: Calm down, man.
B: What the fuck is WRONG WITH YOU?!

Good work including a 90s classic! I'm just glad it's ranked above Pyromania or I would've been a little creeped out. And NEVER YOU MIND the fact that I practically wore out my cassette of Pyromania in elementary/middle school and didn't catch on to Pavement until college, alright? I grew up in Arkansas! And NOT EVEN in Little Rock! Cut me some slack, em-effer!

To those of you who caught the Superchunk reference, I do what I can....

I'm such a poseur.

Friday, March 17, 2006

IMing the (old) Oscars

My friend Kevin and I just had a cute IM exchange about the Oscars:

zenokb: Liked your blog on the robbed.
kyletwilson: yeah, that was fun
zenokb: I am and will forever be happy that Cher got an Oscar, though.
kyletwilson: COME ON, Kevin. Glenn in Fatal Attraction?
kyletwilson: ICONIC
zenokb: Well, when I come home from Victoria's Secret with a new age defying hairdo and light a fire in the fire place and lay out all my wears thinking of the younger man who has invited me to the opera it is Loretta, not Alex I am thinking of. Now, when I have been scorned. . . . .And IGNORED!
zenokb: I will not be ignored.
kyletwilson: That's a hard year, you know. Holly in BROADCAST NEWS....
zenokb: Well Cher is a perfect example of how you cannot win an actress Oscar with imperfect teeth. Silkwood. . . . . You could still see those damn overly prominant incisors. . . .Moonstruck, perfection. now that is acting.
kyletwilson: I'm posting this on my blog....

Thursday, March 16, 2006


I've been debating whether to post about last weekend's 24-hour play thingy I did, and if anyone's following, you've probably noticed that I didn't post the play anywhere for anyone to read. It's not that I am dissatisfied with the play; well, I don't feel like I birthed a 10-minute-masterpiece, but I do think it's interesting enough...anyway, I just don't.... I don't know. And that's about all I'll say about that.

Robbed Actors?

PAUL GIAMATTI. And NOT for Sideways, but the amazing American Splendor. But he wasn't nominated. Oh well.

Seriously, my actors list will be shorter, mainly because I can't get myself worked up over much here, other than the following:

1983 -- Ben Kingsley in Ghandi.

Okay, whatever, but what about Dustin in Tootsie? And yes, he makes me crazy now too, but once upon a time he was DOROTHY MICHAELS.

1992 -- Al Pacino on Scent of a Woman

Annoying performance. For sentimental reasons I'd go with Stephen Rea in The Crying Game, which holds up well, even with Forrest Whitaker's horrid accent. But then there's Denzel in Malcolm X. Yeah, okay, I'll go with that.

1993 -- Hopkins in Remains of the Day over Hanks in Philadelphia.

Or Daniel Day-Lewis in In the Name of the Father. Nah, it's Hopkins.

1994 -- Looking at these nominations is making me a little crazy.

Morgan Freeman -- The Shawshank Redemption {"Red"}
* Tom Hanks -- Forrest Gump {"Forrest Gump"}
Nigel Hawthorne -- The Madness of King George {"King George III"}
Paul Newman -- Nobody's Fool {"Sully"}
John Travolta -- Pulp Fiction {"Vincent Vega"}

What? What does it all mean?? I'm going with the Brit; the rest I'm finding either boring or distasteful. But FORREST GUMP? I'm still not over it. Sorry.

1997 -- Jack Nicholson in As Good as it Gets.

This is almost as bad as Helen Hunt's win. Robert Duvall in The Apostle all the way.

1998 -- I COMPLETELY FORGOT about Roberto Benigni!

I don't know if I can go on.... Okay, I can; Sir Ian in Gods and Monsters. I remember that telecast and the look of joy he had on his face when the screenplay won best adapted; my guess is he had a nice night regardless. Especially if he had a hot young escort like he did the next time he was up for one. I just love that old queen!!

1999 -- Spacey in American Beauty.

Nope. How about Farnsworth in The Straight Story. Or Sean Penn in Sweet and Lowdown.

2000 -- Russell Crowe in Gladiator.

Uhm, sorry; sweaty and dirty, perhaps, but best? NO. That would be Javier Bardem in Before Night Falls.

Yeah, I think that about does it. I'm inclined to take issue with Adrien Brody in '02, especially after he showed up at Swingers when JW and I were having brunch and I suddenly couldn't get a refill on my coffee to save my friggin life for all the starfucking waiters checking on him. But he's good in the movie, and I'm not feeling too much outrage that the other nominees lost -- Daniel Day-Lewis in Gangs of New York, maybe. Yeah, he deserved it. And I feel strongly that he wouldn't allow my coffee service to stop just because he needs a table.

Thanks for playing! Or indulging, as the case may be.

You know which actresses got robbed, don't you?

Yesterday, just to throw JW a bone because he hadn't seen a post all day, I slapped up a question about which actors and actresses got robbed at The Oscars. Today, here are my thoughts.


Actually, I think her year was almost a toss-up between her and Ellen Burstyn in Requiem for a Dream. Both were robbed from that Julia Roberts Erin Brockovich travesty. Ugh. But Laura edges out Ellen by a nose because SHE. IS. RADIANT.

Okay, here's a lowdown on the rest.

1983 -- winner: Shirley (GIVE MY DAUGHTER THE SHHAAAWWT!!!) McClaine.

SHIRLEY -- "I deserve this."

ME -- "Did you see Streep in Silkwood? You haughty showboater?

1985 -- winner: Geraldine Page, The Trip to Bountiful

Whoopi Goldberg? The Color Purple? Just forget Ghost and her bad TV show, and everything about her that annoys you right now and remember seeing her in that for the first time. She's pretty damn good.

Okay, this post is already making me a little tired, so I'm skipping the Sally Fields and the Cher in Moonstruck and jumping to 1996, where I'm going with a controversial choice. Don't get me wrong; I love McDormand in Fargo, but EMILY WATSON IN BREAKING THE WAVES, PEOPLE. I can't think of a more raw, devastating performance.

She deserved it in 1998 for Hillary and Jackie, too. So did Cate Blanchett. So another toss-up. But Gwyneth in Shakespeare in Love? She's alright, but she ain't my Cate nor my Emily!

Oh no, I skipped '97. Who deserved it that year? Come on; you remember.... EVERYONE WHO WAS NOMINATED. Everyone EXCEPT HELEN HUNT. Geez! I would've even been happy to see the luminous Kate Winslet win for the silly Titanic picture that always kinda works on me in a way that makes me feel a little cheap and tawdry. Of course Judi Dench in Mrs. Brown is the obvious choice, but I love Julie Christie in Afterglow too. And Helena in Wings of the Dove, if only for the way she kisses her secret lover who has a fiance and then says, "Now I want you to go kiss her...with that mouth...."

2001's a weird year. I was kinda bored by all those performances. I can't say Halle was undeserving, especially in that field, but my gut tells me Sissy Spacek might just edge her out. I just hated that In The Bedroom, though. That was my Capote for that year -- the one movie in which I was in the HUGE minority of haters.

All I have to say about 2002 is Nicole Kidman in The Hours. GOD.

Okay, I have a little more to say; Julianne Moore in Far From Heaven. No contest. Except with Diane Lane in Unfaithful. I found that movie kind of dreadful yet deliciously dirty in a guilty pleasure kinda way, and I think we have Diane to thank!

2004 -- Hillary Swank. Sure, she was fine. But do we remember how much I love Kate Winslet and how luminous she is? And how fun she is in hooded sweatshirts and blue hair in the stunning Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind?

Okay, all that aside, I think Imelda Staunton in Vera Drake might've deserved it. Annette's good in Being Julia, but it's a bit showy and divalicious. This should guarantee my undying admiration, and it kinda does, but yeah, Imelda gets it.

And this year I LOVE REESE! Oh, I always love Reese, but she's extra lovable in Walk The Line. That and I haven't seen any of those other nominated performances yet.

Who said I've stopped caring about the Oscars? Still, that was a little exhausting. I'll do the actors later. I need some more coffee.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Who was robbed?

I'm taking a cue from this blog in posting this, but his "Which actor was robbed of his Oscar?" poll got my wheels turning. So I'll leave it to you; which actors and actresses, between 1980 and the present, do you think were robbed of an Oscar? I'll give you links to lists so you can ponder:



I'll comment tomorrow. Right now I have to head off to Adam's play. In the meantime, you can comment too! And if you haven't seen all these movies...DON'T TELL ANYONE....

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Annie Proulx lashes out!

Annie Proulx just might be my new favorite author. And I've never read her prose -- well, except for this great piece she wrote in The Guardian, which was excerpted in today's LATimes:

We should have known conservative heffalump academy voters would have rather different ideas of what was stirring contemporary culture. Roughly 6,000 film industry voters, most in the Los Angeles area, many living cloistered lives behind wrought-iron gates or in deluxe rest-homes, out of touch not only with the shifting larger culture and the yeasty ferment that is America these days, but also out of touch with their own segregated city, decide which films are good.

And rumor has it that Lionsgate inundated the academy voters with DVD copies of 'Trash' — excuse me — 'Crash' a few weeks before the ballot deadline. Next year we can look to the awards for controversial themes on the punishment of adulterers with a branding iron in the shape of the letter A, runaway slaves and the debate over free silver.
The Guardian piece is here. The LATimes article is here.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Barbara Guest, 1920-2006

I missed her obituary in Friday's LATimes until I got home. Here are its first couple of sentences:

Barbara Guest, a Modernist poet inspired by Abstract Expressionist artists Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning who was the only woman included in the New York School of poets that emerged in the late 1950s, has died. She was 85.

Her obituary in the print edition of the paper was accompanied by a gorgeous photo that I was dying to post on these pages, but it doesn't seem to be in the online edition and I couldn't find it elsewhere online, either. I did manage to discover this gem, though, and I think it might be even better:

As is mentioned above, Guest is associated with the New York School of Poets, which also includes James Schuyler, John Ashbery, Kenneth Koch, and Frank O'Hara. You can read some examples of her work here. I was going to post an excerpt from her poetry, but instead, I think I'll post a portion of an essay she wrote for American Poetry Review, which is also found in her book, Forces of Imagination: Writers on Writing:

Do you ever notice as you write that no matter what there is on the written page something appears to be in back of everything that is said, a little ghost. I judge that this ghost is there to remind us there is always more, an elsewhere, a hiddenness, a secondary form of speech, an eye blink. Not on the print before us. And yet the secret is that this secondary form of writing is what backs up the primary one, it is the obscure essence that lies within the poem that is not necessary to put into language, but that the poem must hint at, must say "this is not all I can tell you. There is something more I do not say." Leave this little echo to haunt the poem, do not give it form, but let it assume its own ghost-like shape. It has the shape of your own soul as you write.

Friday, March 10, 2006

A little end-of-week quiz for you....

Q: What's the best way for a straight actor to shed a gay image?

A: Why, star in a Neil LaBute play, of course! From the LATimes:

"Will & Grace" is ending its long television run in May — and Eric McCormack already has his next job: He'll be going off-Broadway to appear with Maura Tierney, another TV favorite, in Neil LaBute's play "Some Girl(s)."

In it, McCormack portrays a soon-to-be fiancé who is saying goodbye to four ex-girlfriends as he prepares to get married.

Way to butch up, Eric!

Whale of a Play

is tonight! Well, for me it is. I have to write a 10-minute play about whales by 6am tomorrow morning. Then I go down to Dana Point in Orange County to see it performed. You can all come too, if you want. Details are here.

Hopefully I'll like the script really well and then I'll add it to my page of short plays (Don't forget to scroll down...)!

For stats about those delightfully amusing, wonderfully touching short plays, check here.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

So yesterday

was my first day of getting up before 6am to get some writing done. Granted, it was only 1.5 pages, but it's a start!

Next up -- writing AND going to the gym, and all before work!!

I don't want to

belabor the whole "Crash is a bad movie" point, but I stumbled across an article that reminded me why the movie irritated me. Frankly, I saw it last summer and, until this article reminded me why I was so unimpressed with its lack of subtletly, all I could remember specifically disliking about it was a scene in which the word "truck" is repeated by Ludacris and Larenz Tate so many times I wanted to hire a tatoo artist to ink Paul Haggis with the word "pronoun." Color me nit-picky.

The article by Erik Lundegaard is here. A favorite sample is below:

The “Crash” quiz
Here, let’s take a little quiz. Say you’re an Asian woman who has just rear-ended the car in front of you. What do you do? Do you…

1. Wait in your car until a police officer arrives

2. Exchange licenses with the driver of the other car

3. Notice that the driver of the other car is someone who looks like Jennifer Esposito, immediately assume she’s Mexican-American (as opposed to, say, Italian-American), and then tell the African-American police officer that “Mexicans no know how to drive.”

How about this one? You’re talking to a bureaucrat on the phone about getting extra care for your father who is having trouble urinating, and she is not helpful. You ask for her name and she tells you: Shaniqua Johnson. You still need her help. What do you say?

1. “Shaniqua. That’s a beautiful name.”

2. “Shaniqua. You could do a better job of helping my father, who is in pain.

3. “Shaniqua. Big f---ing surprise that is.”

One last one. You’ve just been told by your hot, hot girlfriend, with whom you’re lucky to be sleeping in the first place, that she is not Mexican as you presumed; that her mother is from Puerto Rico and her father is from El Salvador. What do you say?

1. “I’m sorry, honey. I’m surprised I didn’t know that. Now come back to bed.”

2. “Really? How did they meet?”

3. “Who took [all Latinos] and taught them to park their cars on their lawns?”

And on and on and on. Every scene. Put a little pressure on somebody and they blurt simplistic racist sentiments. Right in the face of someone of that race.

Worse, none of it feels like sentiments these characters would actually say. It feels like sentiments writer/director Paul Haggis imposed upon them to make his grand, dull point about racism, when a more telling point about racism might have emerged if he’d just let them be. “Crash” is like a Creative Writing 101 demonstration of what not to do as a writer. To the Academy this meant two things: Best screenplay and best picture.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Short plays!

I took a cue from Freedom Spice and slapped up some of my writing online here (scroll down for titles). I'm sticking to my short plays and monologue plays for now, but maybe I'll put up excerpts from longer works later.

About the featured plays:

-- 60% are set somewhere in the great and once-blue state of Arkansas.

-- 20% previously appeared on Frank's Wild Lunch.

-- That same 20% have been performed before (by yours truly).

-- The other 80% are currently performance-free.

But you can change all that, can't you? CAN'T YOU? WON'T YOU???

Okay! Email me! Thanks!!

Monday, March 06, 2006

About The Cherry Orchard at The Taper

It's fine, I guess. I liked it less last night than I did when I saw it at the invited dress. I think the polishing of sound and light cues actually detracted from my involvement. There was a just a touch too much moody stuff going on during the heavy moments. Of course the big stars are just great, but that Jennifer Dundas as Dunyasha is just a joy to watch. I smiled and/or giggled every time she took the stage. Even if she ends up being mean to Yepihodov. Those poor souls! I just want them to get together!

Yes, I just talked about a major Chekhov as if it's a sappy romance. You gotta problem with that?

Favorite moment in last night's performance. Forgive the paraphrasing:

Who bought it, Lopakhin? Who bought the orchard?


(with great satisfaction)
I did.

(Stifled giggling from audience. Pause.)

(kind of over it)
I bought it.

I think this was also the same woman who exclaimed as Yepihodov made his final attempt to persuade the frustratingly resistant yet still adorable Dunyasha, "He is SO FAMILIAR!"

Yes, dear. He's an actor. They do TV sometimes. Next time try staying home and watching one. Thanks.

Oh, I'm just kidding, honey. You were a highlight! I just hope for your sake you didn't cross paths with Ms. Bening. I could totally see her ripping your tongue out for that misstep.


You might recall from earlier posts that I was planning to skip the Oscars altogether in favor of The Cherry Orchard. I don't regret that choice, especially after looking at a picture in the NYTimes of the set for the ceremonies:

To quote my bf, Mr. JW the aesthete, "HIDEOUS!"

And then there's the fact that Crash won, beating four vastly superior movies. Never mind the fact that I kinda had problems with all the nominees, and I didn't even like Capote...of course, in that case I'm also taking into account the fact that I'm apparently one of five people on the planet who didn't like Capote. Hey, my judgment can't always be sound.

Regardless, they're all better than Crash. And I think Kenneth Turan would agree with me when I say "Shame on you, Oscar! SHAME!"

But I'm over it.

As for The Cherry Orchard, I'll get to that in a sec. But here's a hint -- it's all about Annette's dress at the top of Act III. And Dunyasha, played by the irrepressible Jennifer Dundas. Adorable!

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

The Swimming Pool Library, The Line of Beauty, and Our Frank

So while I was Googling for reviews of The Line of Beauty, I found The Guardian's droll and snotty critique, which is rather mixed in its praise, but begins with this:

A few pages into Alan Hollinghurst's novel, something remarkable happens. The gay hero, Nick Guest, is on his way to a blind date but is waylaid by his land-lady's daughter, a highly strung neurotic with a history of self-harm. Smartly assuming control of the situation, Nick relieves her of the contents of the cutlery drawer, and chivalrously holds her hand until she calms down. This touching scene is unlikely to have occurred in one of Hollinghurst's previous books: first because there were few women in them; and second because nothing would be allowed to get in the way of a passage of graphic gay sex.

Hollinghurst's debut novel, The Swimming Pool Library (1988), was lauded for its startling conflation of high literary style and low-rent sex, and presented an eye-opening trawl through the London gay scene, from private clubs to public toilets, in the laconic tone of a latter-day Henry James.

All of this is rather accurate, but could it be more condescending? Actually, I take that back -- there was a lot that got in the way of graphic gay sex in The Swimming Pool Library; it's definitely hot, but if you're looking for erotica, be forewarned you'll have to wade through a lot of highly literate prose to get to it.

And never mind the fact that they're two entirely different books; The Swimming Pool Library is most successful as an acknowledgement, an embrace, and a celebration of the existence, the history of gay culture. Graphic gay sex might understandably play a role, I'd think. My blog's namesake, Mr. O'Hara, wrote a little something along those lines as well, which you can read here. O'Hara's poem is by no means graphic in the way Hollinghurst's debut novel is, but it records the rhythms and rituals of a certain kind of gay man of a certain era; its very title, "Homosexuality", is a recognition of an attempt to catalog a realm of human experience. Hollinghurst is not without literary precedent; I don't know why this critic feels a need to speak so smugly about this.

I take that back, too; I can't say I'm terribly surprised that a critic would speak so derisively of such an artfully-executed novel's gay subject matter, and I know I'm about two years two late, but am I being hyper-sensitive for being steamed by this?

Way to stay relevant, Wilson. Getting pissed about a two-year-old book review! Another reason I should read for pleasure more!

The Line of Beauty

I wish I had time to read for pleasure more. I do have the time, actually; I just don't take advantage. The upside to this is I tend to only read what I'm really desperate to get to, and as a result I'm usually pretty satisfied with what I choose. It's almost as if every book I read becomes my favorite book for about six months -- in part because it usually is really exceptional (I am a sucker for the buzzworthy and award-winning in fiction), and in part because the only other serious reading I do is unproduced manucripts for the stage.

It usually takes an airplane to get me really involved in a book, and luckily I took Alan Hollinghurst's The Line of Beauty with me on my trip home to Arkansas. Well I finally finished it last week and it is just about the best gay fiction I've read. I'm not surprised, of course; his first book, The Swimming Pool Library is incredibly rich as well. More on that in an upcoming post.

So I'm no book critic, and there's something so controlled about this book that it's hard for me to articulate why it's so effective...other than the fact that it's so controlled, of course...anyway, here's the NYTimes review's final paragraph (review by Anthony Quinn, and no, not that Anthony Quinn), which is a nice assessment:

It is highly characteristic of Hollinghurst to oscillate between the high and the low, often within the same paragraph: consider the moment of weird hilarity as Nick, ever the aesthete, absently recalls the details of a Gothic-style church seen through the windshield of his drug dealer's car. The pathos of old buildings is later reprised as Nick surveys the tearing down of a Victorian workshop, a melancholy intimation that beautifully dovetails with the sudden dramatic unraveling of his family idyll. It is also of a piece with the elegiac close, rendered with a grace and decorum entirely appropriate to this outstanding novel.

This element he describes is much of what is so interesting to me about the book. I was also so surprised to find the protagonist mentioned as an antihero upon Googling certain reviews. Of course he is, in a way, but the POV is so focused that upon reading it I was constantly curious of exactly what the author thought of these people; his protagonist is so gradually demoralized, and as readers we are immersed in this so thoroughly, that it takes a little effort to get some distance from the proceedings. It's a hugely intellectual novel -- highly accessible, mind you, but while I did feel emotionally involved in it, the satisfaction was not in any gasps or shocks, but rather in the regard for the prose, the curiosity about the author's intention, the curiosity about his expectations for my participation in the writing. Finally, though, upon reading the book's last pages, I was struck with how, even when faced with the most debased in ourselves and in others, the folly of our ambitions and decadence, we are so quick to eulogize the passing of it all. And we are so right to do so.

a couple of things

Hey, word on the street is I'm doing this in a weekend. Orange County better lookout! I've been told nautical themes and a conservative audience are to be observed. Do you think that means I should save the Sailors-In-Love idea for another day?

And I also hear that I'm going to be doing this in April and May:

A Queer Exchange is a performance workshop, for queer, trans, bi, and straight allied folks who want to create socially provocative theatre. Facilitated by performance artist Danielle Brazell, this series provides a forum to investigate how queer identity is marketed and assimilated into mainstream culture. Through performance investigations, theatrical improvisations, writing exercises and discussion, we will generate rich performance material for a series of public presentations on and off campus.

Come see them!


I am officially in a new apartment, where I am cohabitating with the JW. This is apartment four in less than four years in the City of Angels. I'm hoping it'll stick around for a while.

FYI, I don't recommend moving 2+ apartments during a rare Los Angeles rainstorm, as water + cardboard + paperbacks = BAD NEWS.