Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Here's a list

of things I almost posted on Facebook until I remembered I still have a blog.

1. I came super close to buying a bow tie just because an 11-year-old from Memphis made it. I don't wear bow ties but I think just knowing that it was made by an 11-year-old from Memphis (and why the fact that he's from Memphis is persuasive to me is a little puzzling but not really) might make me start wearing a bow tie.

2. Work today reminded me of Grey Gardens (well, not reminded me...made me think of) (and the charming part, not the teary, shouty part), and I now have a new favorite line from the film..."Mother wanted me to come out in a kimono, so we had quite a fight."

3. Why is it that when I read Martha Stewart's recipes, I read them in her weird, flat, patrician monotone?

(In the first comment for #3 I would also include "Why am I reading Martha Stewart recipes at all?" And then in the second comment for #3 I would add, "Much less reading them aloud?")

4. I'm expecting my favorite movie of the year to be either Inside Llewyn Davis or American Hustle, because that's what everyone's saying should be my favorite movie. But until I see those movies, I think my favorite movie is Prince Avalanche.

5. 2013 has been a pretty good year.

(In the first comment for #5 I would say "Aww, Tori Amos!" and then post this--


Monday, December 16, 2013

Homo History

Speaking of which, I don't know if I ever linked to this site, but isn't it darling?

Favorite recent photo. Hubba hubba!

I saw the Tom of Finland / Bob Mizer show

at MOCA Pacific Design Center a couple of weekends ago. Christopher Knight wrote a good review in the LATimes here.

I mostly find this stuff more camp than actually hot, but seeing all those Tom of Finland drawings did make the mind reel somewhat. His pornier images are both funny and a little, uhm, nuts. I was also just fascinated at looking where some of the loans came from. Not that I recognized any collectors' names (other than the Tom of Finland Foundation), but I just love the idea that some of the carefully preserved pencil drawings of acrobatically pornographic acts hang over the mantle of some affluent art collector and his wife.

The Bob Mizer photos are innocent and handsome and also tawdry. But even amidst the softcore muscle shots, he has a lot of style and humor. I especially love this shot; can't recall if it's in the show but I pulled it off the internet.


Although I have to say that I much preferred what I saw at the ONE Archives over on Robertson near the back of the Library parking garage. They have this fantastic show up now called "Art and Physique Circa Bob and Tom" that does a lot to offer historical context and display great ephemera from their collection. It's a tight, focused show; my favorite pieces are these delightful collages made in the 40s by someone named Harold Dittmer. The show suggests he just made these for fun, but they're easily a highlight of both shows. 

Of course both shows are fine and necessary. I'm pleased to get to look at these images in a museum, being taken care of, valued, archived. Just think of the illicit, (hopefully) shameless pleasure they brought. 

Is it weird that I get sentimental over vintage softcore porn?

Thursday, December 12, 2013

It was Fred Astaire / Cyd Charisse night

on TCM last night. God bless em. I watched this clip with JW about 3 or 4 times before moving on.

God bless Fred too, but I get irritated when he moves in front of Cyd for those two seconds. Who's looking at him with those gloves and that dress?

This is a fan letter

to Anjelica Huston.

Ms. Huston:

I went to the ALOUD event surrounding your new book, A Story Lately Told on Monday at the Wilshire Ebell Theater. I feel like I made a massive fumble in my book-signing meet-and-greet moment with you and wished I could get a do-over. I would like to use my modest corner of the internet to do the gushing I was too meek to do in person.

A little background, for my small handful of other readers. I read the fun Q&A about the reading in the L.A. Times the day before and immediately looked online to see if tickets were still available. I snatched up a ticket and bought a copy of your book on the spot, thinking it would be a good gift for my best friend Kevin (and something I could maybe read before I gave to him). The book is his surprise Christmas gift, but I don't think there's any chance he reads my blog on a regular basis anymore so I needn't worry about letting the cat out of the bag. I'm not sure anybody reads my blog anymore, but I don't really care.

This reading's sudden appearance seemed all too perfect to me, as you've been on my brain a fair amount since I accepted a last-minute invitation by some friends to join them at the opening of Avedon Women at the Gagosian Gallery. I had no idea what I was getting into and was awe- and starstruck to see you there, stunning in black and chatting with fellow guests. By the end of the evening, after a cocktail or two in the neighborhood, I was getting sentimental about how I was just some boy from Arkansas and how in the world did I end up sharing space with Anjelica Huston?

I can't remember exactly when I became so enamored with you onscreen, but The Grifters seems a safe enough bet. I'd bought a used VHS from a video store and watched it several times in college and thereafter. Manhattan Murder Mystery and Crimes and Misdemeanors had an impact as well. I remember Kevin quoting to me our favorite line you spoke from Manhattan Murder Mystery at least once: "First I'm gonna go take a piss, then I'm gonna tell you how he did it." In short, I've spent about 2+ decades delighted with you showing up in movies.

There was an added bonus to the ALOUD event as well, as Colm Toibin was providing the questions for you onstage. I have always been interested in him, and I figured I'd take along my copy of The Master for him to sign if I got a chance.

So, I very much enjoyed the event and hustled into line for the signing. While waiting I thought of all the many things I could say to you during the signing. I thought I could maybe tell you about seeing you at the Avedon exhibit, or just being a fan, or loving The Grifters, or Prizzi's Honor, or The Royal Tenenbaums.

I also wanted to thank you for something unrelated to any specific film performance. Over a decade ago when I was new to the city, desperate for work and submitting my resume all over town, I sent it out for a job as personal assistant to a well-known performer without knowing who the person was. Shortly thereafter I got a call from someone in your office, thanking me for applying, letting me know the position assisting you had been filled but you would keep my resume on file for future reference. When I hung up the phone, I said to myself, "I KNEW Anjelica Huston was a class act!" No one ever called me back on a resume except on those rare occasions that they wanted an interview, and it was so frustrating to fax dozens of resumes out on a daily basis without even an acknowledgement that it was received. That call brought a lot of cheer when I was struggling mightily to find stability in Los Angeles. I still tell people about it.

I did run through that story in my head, thinking about how exactly I'd tell it. But then I saw people taking pictures of you. And I saw all the people in the line behind me. And I worried about taking too much time. And I noticed that Colm Toibin was wandering through the auditorium and remembered that I wanted to get my copy of The Master signed before he disappeared. And I worried about stumbling over my words when I got up to the table. And I got nervous. And my mind started racing. And I didn't know what to say. And I freaked out a bit.

So when it was my turn, I went nearly mute, telling you only that the book was for my friend Kevin, that he's going to be thrilled. You signed it. You passed the book along to the handler to give it back to me. I took it, said "thank you," and as I started to walk away, you said, "Tell Kevin I said 'hello!'" And moved on to the next person in line.

After leaving the stage, I headed down to Toibin and caught him, got The Master signed and had a pleasant chat. He was a little easier for me to muster up the courage to talk to. Like you I feel like I can talk to writers. Maybe it's because I'm a writer. Maybe it's because fame as a writer is a far different thing. But all actors I admire, famous or not, have the ability to get me starstruck. Even actors that I've cast in my own plays can make me nervous with their grace, their ease, their intelligence, their intuition. A fine, classy actor such as yourself is so majestic. I guess you'll always have the power to make me turn into a kid from Arkansas at the movies, grateful for the simple, impossible things you can do that have transported me so thoroughly, throughout my life.



Sunday, December 08, 2013

I finished watching season 2 of GIRLS

before the holiday. I had every intention of writing a blog post about it but never pulled the trigger. So now seems as good a time as any.

A friend of Isaac's wrote a good post about the show that articulated some of the oddities of the tone in the second half of the season. She suggests it starts around the episode where Jessa confronts her father before disappearing, but I'd track it a little earlier, to the arty episode in widowed doctor Patrick Wilson's brownstone. This seems to me the turning point where the show loses much of its sharp satirical lightness and everyone involved becomes some kind of basket case.

I really like this show. I even find its excesses endearing, including the awkward sex (to a point), and Dunham's exhibitionistic nudity (most of the time). That said, I reject the "you don't get it" argument that people think makes it immune to criticism by anyone older than 29 (or the related "I don't get it" dismissal from anyone older than 29). And I also reject the "it's honest" argument that some people think lets it off the hook for being gratuitous, degrading or just downright confused.

Regardless, one of the things that I realize is consistent about it, and is possibly its most resonant aspect, is the tension all the women feel between a modern attitude about womanhood and an attraction to conventional feminine gender roles.

But, within that tension is the reality that it's contained in a show about a bunch of privileged middle-class strivers looking for comfortable lives. There are times when the show feels like a clever commentary on this, and times when it feels like a trendy, conservative con that embraces the spoiled, bougie desires of its characters.

To me, the pivotal show in last season was the aforementioned arty Patrick Wilson interlude. This show involves teary-eyed Lena Dunham's Hannah in a fantasy realm brownstone having a weekend fling with an exquisite, WASPy, sensitive stud, crying about the fact that she should be allowed to want the nice doctor husband and the beautiful house. That episode was definitely not satire. It was too excruciating.

To Dunham's credit, she doesn't linger in that realm long. By season's end she has Laird, (I love Laird), one of Hannah's various other male champions and saviors (and she has several, starting with daddy Peter Scolari), telling her she's the most self-absorbed person in the world.

Meanwhile Marnie dances around a couple of powerful, talented men who don't treat her that well. There is 1) first the horrid artist who repeatedly deserves to be kneecapped for his treatment of her; she responds by either making out with him or crying. 2) Then her boring ex-boyfriend -- he invents some magic relationship app and suddenly she's all over him again. Shoshanna (I love Shoshanna and she might be the most consistent character on the show...also possibly the least textured as a result) breaks up with her lovable misanthrope boyfriend because he has no ambition.

We can point to Jessa starting this trend at the end of season one by suddenly marrying the Chris O'Dowd character, Thomas-John. In hindsight it sets up the relationship dynamics between each of the pairings in season two really well. Jessa, being the mess that she is, gets the boldest writing around her love/hate relationship with comfort and affluence -- selfish cynicism as a guard against the pain of wanting something that she can't make fit with her (deluded?) sense of identity.

So after all that, we have Jessa letting herself get a payoff and a divorce from her sugar daddy, then having actual daddy issues, Shoshanna dumping the guy because he doesn't have a good job, and Marnie running back into the arms of the guy who suddenly has a good job (a fact she's so self-conscious about she needs to tell him that she's not throwing herself at him for his money), which brings us back to--

Hannah, who is completely immobilized by her first legit professional opportunity, her first chance at real independence. It gives her such extreme OCD (a recurrence from her girlhood), that she throws up her hands and screams for help, first at her parents, then her absent friend Jessa's voicemail, then at her dysfunctional ex-boyfriend, desperate to have somebody save her. I was stunned by the romance/damsel-in-distress ending of season two, with Adam running across Manhattan and breaking his woman's door down to scoop her into his arms. Is this just a clever soap opera about girls looking for men to take care of them? Is this really complex satire? What is going on here?

There are two characters in this show who I wish were treated better. One was essentially a stunt -- Donald Glover as a black Republican could've been a great addition and offered some challenge to these people's insular lives, but it seems the show only wanted him to address critics' concerns that it was too white. So, in comes a fine black actor having to play a jokey idea, only to be dispensed with after two episodes. He is then replaced in later episodes by the occasional ethnic actor with one or two scenes (the artist's assistant who snuck the ice cream, Shoshanna's random college friend).

The other character I still have high hopes for is Adam's new girlfriend, Natalia (played by Shiri Appleby); I hope they haven't dispensed with her entirely. I was pretty appalled at his treatment of her during an ugly bout of sex after Adam went off the wagon (a development particularly alarming since Natalia enables it...after her AA veteran mom matchmade them). What I appreciate about Natalia's character is that she stands up for herself. Even after the show depicts him climaxing on her bare chest and the messy, degrading clean-up, she at least is given the dignity of voicing her disgust with the treatment (however measured it is...her line is something like "I didn't like that. That wasn't fun."). The subsequent episode shows the two in bed together; she does an even better job of taking care of herself. He tries to pull his "dirty whore" talk and she shuts it down in a totally sex-positive, instructive way. She tells him what she needs; she tells him to slow down. This all seemed really healthy to me; I saw the possibility of him learning how to be in a respectful relationship with another person.

So, what is his reaction to dating a woman who asks to be treated with respect in the sack? He trashes his apartment (filled with some construction/art piece/woodshop nonsense/what the hell is he doing in his apartment anyway?) in a rage and runs across Manhattan to save the girl who will let him call her a whore.

Sometimes I think this show is fumbling around as much as its characters are. And sometimes I think it knows exactly what it's doing.

(Either way, I'm still a fan.) (I mean it.) (Andrew Rannells is genius in it.) (And I want more scenes with Marnie and her mom Rita Wilson over posh lunches and white wine.) (I get to like nice things too if I want.)

Saturday, December 07, 2013

I wish you could see

this trio I'm sitting across from right now. If I were more shameless I'd sneak a picture, but I'll stop short and just try to paint one for you.

The one on the stage-left end of the mod black quilted sofa  is an Ugg-wearing, Lena Dunham sound-alike. She has her smartphone resting on her chest while chattering away, intently focused on picking at her cuticles while she talks. In the middle is a young woman literally on her back with her legs folded in front of her; her ass is pointed at the ceiling and she's kind of half-fetal, in sweatpants and noodling on her red-and-white polka dotted iPhone. The third one is actually not looking at a device of any kind and is actually listening to the Lena Dunham stand-in; she's in green sweatpants and has one foot on the sofa and the calf of her other leg resting on her bent knee. And I am quite possibly an asshole for writing about them on my blog while they lounge there, but I can't resist.

Okay the one in the green sweatpants just asked loudly, GUYS? while leaning her body slightly towards the middle of the sofa and pushing her flip-flopped foot into the face of the girl in the center. This behavior seemed completely acceptable to the fetal one in the center, but after a bit, green sweatpants pulled back slightly, resting her flip-flop on fetal one's shin. They're like three puppies over there.

I came here to get some work done but I could possibly do this all day with utter fascination, or at least until they leave.