Archive for October, 2011

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Millstone

I made this film in August. It’s about the interleaved experiences of three people who have never met one another. It centers on the idea of abortion as an often confusing, incongruous human experience, rather than a reductive political one.

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RuPaul’s Drag Race will not get you through the winter, but that’s not to say it’s not really really good

It was freezing in my apartment yesterday and my landlord (who lives downstairs and controls the radiator) was up in cottage country, so the situation was not being rectified. It was Antarctica in my apartment, but it was the coziest alpine lodge under my comforter in bed. I think my plan was to wait there for Spring or something, and my strategy was to marathon a show I’d never watched before, and I’d just been listening to the AV Club’s weekly podcast and one of the people was like “RuPaul’s Drag Race is the full realization of the reality genre,” or something, and I’d heard similar things from elsewhere (I think someone on the Slate Culture Gabfest at one point kvelled pretty hard about it).

The point is that this is the show I watched. Specifically Season 2. More specicifically, the first like five or six episodes (which left me feeling that sick kindof heavy-headed you feel when you’ve been awake and horizontally passive for way the fuck too long). At no point did Spring come.

Anyway, they were right and it’s amazing. The contestants are preposterously versatile as talents — able to sew, do makeup, hair, dance, in some cases sing, create and learn choreography, impersonate celebrities, read a bitch (see below), and a lot more. They’re also hilarious. And the challenges the producers come up with put the producers of Project Runway, Top Chef, whatever else to fucking shame. Again, e.g.:

Funny moment highlight:

In one of the episodes the challenge is to do a TV interview in which the contestants were supposed to promote three things — themselves, their “book” whose title and cover they’ve just designed, and this weird brand of Absolut Vodka. The Puerto Rican with bad English — Jessica something — pushes the vodka like your creepiest drunk aunt might have promoted it to you when you were nine and she wanted to get in your pants.

Another thing: These are people to whom real shit has happened (many of them have no relationships with their family, which they talk about; one confesses to having attempted suicide a few times before discovering drag; another has a young child who he (I think to his son he’s a he) hasn’t been able to support but clearly loves dearly and who’s been living in his drag mother’s living room; one says that he used to just answer to “faggot”). All this is handled with a directness that might seem clumsy, but is itself sobering as a contrast to the more or less self-reflexive artifice / fantasy they’ve embraced and are so much more comfortable existing from.

I also really like that instead of being directly eliminated on the basis of the challenge, the two worst performers have a chance to “Lip-sync…. for your LIFE!” which ballasts the show towards what seems to ultimately be the most important thing in the craft it’s built around: putting on a performance. It’s always a pissoff when a really strong performer who’s work still has you curious in Top Chef, Work of Art or Project Runway tries something, fucks up, and is gone while a clearly far shittier contestant coasts through. This mechanism provides a nicely non-bullshitty failsafe against that.

Finally, it made me think a lot. Judging from the show, there are a lot of things that are pretty problematic about drag culture from a feminist perspective. Is there an aspect of gender colonization? There is an aspect (or at least awareness) of ridicule to the whole thing, but what is the culture’s relationship to it? Who is being ridiculed? Who all is ridiculing? Is it feminine men embracing the ridicule they’ve been subjected to, amplifying it and turning it back on the culture from a position of power? If so, is it really improving the larger social picture? They’re certainly committed to achieving a position from which they can shill hyper-gendering commodities, and what are they doing if not totally ambandoning themselves to the purest commodification of gender identity. Is it satire? If so, who’s in and who’s not in on the joke? They’re doing it because it feels right, and that what it is feels right I think is telling, but where does it leave them? I’ve never seen anyone so infatuated with anything as Tyra seemed infatuated to a point of paralysis with Beyonce. And why are they such assholes to each other (not all of them, but I was shocked by how mean many of them were)?

It’s a really great show.

And RuPaul > Tyra Banks by like a factor of something approaching infinity.

Watch it.

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More breaking hipster news!

Speaking of Michael Cera, MTV has the pants-wettingly exciting announcement today that “The Arrested Development movie is finally happening.

Yeah, I know. Stop me if you’ve heard this one. But

No, seriously. After years of rumors, denials, hedging, backtracking and wishful thinking, series co-creator and executive producer Mitchell Hurwitz confirmed over the weekend that not only are the seriously, hilariously, unapologetically dysfunctional Bluth clan headed to the multiplex, but they will get tuned up for their movie debut by making a short trip back to TV.

Speaking on Sunday at theNew Yorker Festival, Hurwitz broke the news, with”Development” actor Jason Bateman confirming it a few hours later on his Twitter feed. “It’s true. We will do 10 episodes and the movie. Probably shoot them all together next summer for a release in early ’13. VERY excited!”

Let the Final Countdown begin!

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A near-perfect movie

If I described a movie to you as a “video game-stylized hipster comedy” and then added, “Think Michael Cera meets The Matrix,” I’m guessing there is a better-than-even chance that this sort of movie would not interest you. However, if it did sound like the sort of movie you’d be into, do yourself a favor and Netboxter®™ Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. Why? Because! goddamnit. Or if that’s not enough, how about the fact that it is, in my humble (though, I admit, frequently erroneous) opinion, a near-perfect movie — not because it’s the BEST MOVIE EVARRRRRRR!!1! or anything like that, but because it executes its vision so flawlessly and so uncompromisingly that it’s almost impossible to imagine what else could have been done to improve the material.

I only mention this because a) I just saw the movie Friday, and 2) even though it pulled 81% on Rotten Tomatoes; and even though it features Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz) in the director’s chair and Bill Pope (The Matrix and — who knew? — the pilot episode of Freaks & Geeks) behind the camera; and even though Michael Cera does his Michael Cera thing as perfectly as usual and Kieran Culkin redefines the role of gay best friend in way that will ensure that all others, past and present, forever pale in comparison, the movie barely grossed half its budget at the global box office. That, to me, is a minor tragedy — at least as far as these sorts of things go — since, like I said, the movie is not just an entertaining way for its target demo to spend two hours, but also an object lesson in realizing a very specific movie in a very specific way.

Plus, it’s filmed in Toronto…and actually takes place there as well. Instant hipster cred!

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Fifteen Definitions of Freedom

Over at Rortybomb, Mike has put together a list of fifteen definitions of freedom that he collected when he went down to the Occupy Wall Street protests. I’m partial to this one:

Fifteen:  ”Liberation.”

“Liberation from what?” you may ask. That’s a very good question, and there are lots of ways it can be answered, but I’d suggest that the notion that there is something to be liberated from is important, and I’m glad it’s gaining purchase among the general public.

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Steroids might have been a thing

Remember 10 years ago when Barry Bonds set a new major league record for home runs in a season with 73?

Guess how many the major league leader had this year? If you said 60, you obviously don’t follow baseball anymore. If you said 50, you at least have a general knowledge about how things have been trending recently. If you said 45, you’d be very close — but still wrong. That’s because Jose Bautista led the major leagues this year with 43 home runs.

Think about that: 43 home runs. That’s a 41 percent decline from the all-time high recorded a mere decade ago. You have to go back to Matt Williams in 1994 for the last time someone hit 43 or fewer homers while still leading the majors — and that was a strike-shortened season. By way of comparison, in the 18-year span dating from 1976-1993, league leaders topped 43 home runs a mere dozen times, while the feat was accomplished more than double that amount — 27 times, in fact — from 1994-2011. (If you’d care to check my math…)

And now, because I have no ending for this pseudo-rant, a picture of my Halloween costume from two years ago:

Alex Roid-driguez

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