Monday, December 18, 2006

Inland Empire, the Review

Caution: Spoilers Abound!

Saturday night I finally made my way over to the IFC Center in the West Village to see the highly anticipated Inland Empire, David Lynch’s newest film since the mysteriously amazing Mulholland Drive. The atmosphere in IFC was that of an audience inside a theatre readying themselves to see a play rather than a movie. My friend and I sat inside the cafĂ© (we arrived forty-five minutes early) and before we knew it, suddenly there was a line to get inside the theatre. We rushed to get in queue.

IFC of course, is not your regular theatre. The people that go to see movies there, presumably, are not your regular movie-goers. Generally, people that go to see David Lynch movies are not regular people, either.

I have to say that the audience was rather chatty during the previews, but once the titles came on, you could have heard a pin drop. I have never, in my entire life, been in a movie-theatre audience that was so quiet and respectful of the film onscreen.

David Lynch is an experience, to say the least. My friends and I refer to him as “the fiber of cinema.” You go see Lynch just like you read Henry James or eat spinach: it’s good for you. Well, not necessarily “good” but in the end, you’ve grown as a person. I have to say that Inland Empire is the least linear film I’ve seen, possibly ever, next to Le Chien Andalou. “But none of Lynch’s films are linear!” you might say. Well, believe me, Inland Empire is the least so.

The film’s tagline is, “A Woman in Trouble,” and damn, is this an understatement. Nikki Grace, played by the ever malleable Laura Dern, is an actress preparing for her next film. In a scene that rivals that of Oedipus Rex, a neighbor comes to congratulate Nikki on her new role, asking if there will be murder, and making various other assertions, “a girl went outside and got lost” and terrifyingly funny facial expressions. This woman turns out to know what she’s talking about, and as Nikki gets further into her film role, and into her co-star, Justin “my perfect man” Theroux, things get ugly. Things get really ugly.

So here’s my take on the whole thing. Lynch is, in my opinion, a feminist. Mulholland Drive attempts to make some sort of commentary about what happens to innocent young actresses when they come to Hollywood expecting to make it big: they turn into lesbian heroin addicts that end up blowing their brains out and rotting where they last laid their heads. Most of these things are motivated by the fact that their very gorgeous actress girlfriends are taken advantage of by their sleazy directors and hearts get broken. It’s a mess, really.

Inland Empire makes some of the same claims. Nikki literally gets lost in an alley way while filming a scene for her movie. Her journey includes a new house with her white trash husband and friends, a gaggle of (prostitute) girls that function as a Greek chorus of sorts, and, of course, there’s the whole other narrative going on about Russian women and the men that beat them.

After Nikki gets stabbed in the chest with a screwdriver by her co-star’s wife (in real life? In the film?) and coughs up more blood than I’ve ever seen anyone cough up in a movie, and dies—she’s seemingly resurrected in that “it’s all a movie” scene where the camera pulls back and she gets up. But, it’s not over yet—this is David Lynch. Nikki does some more wandering, blows the bad guy’s head off, and finds the Russian girl that’s been watching the whole time on a TV with static and sometimes, human sized bunny rabbits. They kiss (again, this is Lynch) and somehow everything’s okay.

I don’t presume to know what any of this means, but I have a feeling it has something to do with Hollywood and acting in general, the idea that you can “lose” yourself in a part. It’s my understanding that the Russian girl is the “part” Nikki’s playing, and in the end, when they finally find each other, and Nikki kisses her, she transfers the part back to the real girl, and then the real girl is reunited with her family and the world is in harmony. Meanwhile, the actress, bloodied and dirtied, returns to her life, changed, but in one piece.

That’s my bit of wisdom.

My friend, the next night, at a party said that she “hated” the movie and felt like it was “just pretentious bullshit.” As much as I’d like to believe that David Lynch is just some dilettante like me, trying to make high art out of a few inventive ideas, I just can’t. I really do believe that he’s functioning on some higher level, and if I spent enough time trying to decode these movies I might actually achieve a solid explanation. But of course, that’s not what his films are meant for. As he said in the introduction to the movie, “I don’t like to explain things. I’ll tell you how the film was made, but what it’s about—that’s for you to figure out.”

After three hours of Laura Dern failing about in torturous agony, I felt like I had been through a war. We headed over to bar, where for a few minutes, being in the company of frat boys felt somewhat comforting. But not for long. And that’s why I love David Lynch.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Theatre Review: Hedda Gabler

Hedda Gabler, a production by Thomas Ostermeier
Brooklyn Academy of Music, December 2nd 2006

Hedda Gabler is quite easily my favorite play of all time. When I heard that BAM was doing yet another production (it seemed almost too soon) to follow last year's zeitgeist starring the brilliant Cate Blanchett, I was intrigued. Not only did it seem an incredible act to follow, but this production was being performed in German with English supertitles, and it was modernized. I had to see.

The star of the show was the set. In Ostermeier's production, Hedda and Tesman live in a Frank Lloyd-Wright-esque glass house (literally) with a key-lime sofa and concrete walls. The set pieces are mounted on a black stage which is fitted with hydraulics and turns a complete 360 degrees. As if that weren't enough to get theatre people going, a mirror has been mounted above the stage, so that no matter where the characters go, the audience can see them from all angles wandering about the house.

Katharina Shuttler, our Hedda, is a pixie of a woman. About two feet shorter than the lanky gawky Tesman played by Lars Eidinger, she flits around the stage like a perturbed tinkerbell, exuding the same sexuality as Nabokov's Lolita-deceivingly innocent and dripping with sex.

Mr. Ostermeier has also fitted this production with a soundtrack by the Beach Boys, and without an intermission, the small breaks after each Act are totally necessary--but rather than filling them with darkness or empty stage time, he has the concrete wall turn towards the audience and work as a film screen. One particularly interesting and touching scene was that of Hedda, in a car, driving down the highway while Brian Wilson's "God Only Knows" blasts from the speakers.

I've always read Hedda as a fucked up love-story of sorts. Lovborg and Hedda seem to share this undying hatred of the world and by the idiots that surround them, and there are lines that imply such a sexual connection that cannot be ignored. As Lovborg calls Hedda by her maiden name, “Will I ever be able to call you Hedda Gabler?” chills ran down my spine. Unfortunately, the only time the audience gets evidence of Hedda’s passionate connection to Lovborg is when she destroys the manuscript Mrs. Elvsted and he have labored over for so long. In this production, the manuscript is a laptop which Hedda places between her legs “Now I will destroy Lovborg and Nora’s child!” and smashes to death with a hammer. But the connection between the two former lovers seems lost when Hedda gives Lovborg the gun and tells him to “Make it glorious.” Shuttler is leaning against the wall in way that suggests she could care less whether Lovborg offs himself or not, regardless of it being glorious. The two actors were so far apart—I just wanted to walk onstage and push them together in some sort of romantic embrace, or at least one final touch or kiss. But then, this modern Hedda, and things are more complicated, I suppose.

Ostermeier’s production of Hedda is rife with sadism and humor, best illustrated by his interpretation of the last scene. We all know how it ends. BANG!!! Hedda retreats into the other room, and the ceiling mirror is tilted so the audience can’t see the final shot—Tesman says, “She’s playing with those pistols again…..Hedda?” Silence. As he smirks, he remarks, “She’s shot herself,” and laughs. Brack retorts, “What a naughty thing to do.” The audience, along with Brack, Tesman, and Mrs. Elvsted, all laugh as the stage rotates around to reveal Hedda, propped up one leg under the other, pistol wound to the temple, blood spattered all over the concrete.

Traditionally, Tesman usually walks off the stage, finds Hedda and runs screaming back into the main room, “She’s shot herself!” Upon which Brack replies, “What kind of a person who do such a horrible thing???” Curtain.

In this production, the three remaining actors go about their business putting together Lovborg’s notes, as the stage rotates again and again, “God Only Knows,” comes back on, silently mocking Hedda’s suicide—since life certainly goes on without Hedda. No one even notices that she’s dead!

I found myself laughing, just like the rest of the audience. In retrospect, though, I wonder, should we really be laughing at Hedda? Is her suicide a non-issue in today’s society, where women (sometimes) can get what they want without having to shoot themselves or stick their heads in an oven, their middle fingers an eternal “fuck you” to those who have done them wrong?

I’m not so sure. In 1890, Hedda was a girl who knew what she wanted. In 2006, Hedda’s a girl that doesn’t want anything—just only to not be surrounded by men who act like horny teenagers or lovestruck schoolboys. Hedda’s pistols are the symbol of power and control—she strives the whole play to feel the way she does with a warm gun in her hands. Do modern day women want the same power? Or are we still manipulating others and ourselves into thinking we’re content?

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Low Art

Whew, forgive me for the lapse in writing.

Above you'll see the lovely girls from E's The Girls Next Door . For those of you who don't know, this is a reality show based around the lives of Kendra, Bridget, and Holly who all function as the girlfriends of Playboy magazine founder, Hugh Hefner. Bridget and Kendra live in the playmate house, and Holly shares a bedroom with Hef.

I love this show. Don't ask me to explain why. I find it intensely entertaining that three beautiful women all under the age of 35 would choose to spend their time with an 80 year old man promoting the Playboy regime. Perhaps I find it interesting because it's a life so different from mine, not necessarily glamourous, but so over the top that it seems like fiction (and I'm sure some of it is). I find myself loving these three girls. Kendra for her laugh, Bridget for her intense sensitivity and sweet demeanor, and Holly for her courage and take-charge attitude. (I also love Holly's nickname for Hef- "puffin.")

On the way home from the gym tonight I had to explain to my roommate that I was excited about the show coming on, and when I told her what it was, she rolled her eyes and said she "wouldn't be watching that." It got me thinking--where is the line between high and low entertainment, and how do people determine when too much is simply, too much?

This dilemma is pointedly illustrated in the Britney/Paris/Lindsay genital slips of late. These three women have been flashin' their shit all over town for years, but the minute an actual cooter or tit comes out, HOLD THE PRESSES! Suddenly they're out of control. Granted, Lindsay's was most likely a honest mistake. Britney's got two under her belt now, and I doubt that she's so unaware that it could be a coincidence.

The line is thin pertaining to people's reactions to the genital slips, too. Most people are either a) disgusted b) non-plussed c) amazed or d) totally disinterested. After Thanksgiving dinner at my Aunt's house, I was telling my cousin about and how they had posted the Lindsay cooter slip. He wanted to see it, and soon my Uncle, Aunt, Brother, and Cousin were all crowded around the laptop, eager to catch a glimpse of Lindsay Lohan's vagina. My Mom and my step-dad, while laughing in spite of themselves, elected not to look at the picture, and eventually went home abruptly without saying goodnight. The next morning, my mom said, "Last night was a little over the top."

My mom was mad at me for showing the cooter to my family. She reacted as if the cooter posted up on the internet had been mine. Everytime Lindsay Lohan or her cooter was mentioned, she shot me a disapproving glance and shook her head at me. I felt, for maybe the first time in my life, that was an embarrassment to my mother.

(The chocha picture is apparently too much for blogger, but you can see it on The Superficial).

Two or three years ago, my reaction would have been analagous to my mother's. Obviously I'm a feminist and I believe that women should be more than just T&A. Unfortunately women like the aforementioned seem to have a problem getting press for anything but their T&A or events related to their T&A. This isn't sexuality- it's just raw immaturiy and irresponsibilty. As I've gotten older, though, I've realized that sex and fun aren't always Bad (with a capital B). In fact, women who own their sexuality like Christina Aguilera or Dita von Teese are a semi-inspiration to girls like me who were always taught that the most attractive thing about a woman is her intelligence.

Who knows. This could be a crisis in my newly single identity. Perhaps I'm just a bit jealous of Paris and Brit and Lindsay, who can go out there and flash their tits (and etc), get drunk, have sex like men, and somehow manage to pull it all together (sort of) at the end of the day. Granted, Lindsay's worrying me a little with the coke. I'm trying to make sense of what this all means for feminism. Someone once said that there's no such thing anymore. I'm not so sure. These women seem a little invincible in their superficiality- as if all that plastic and gloss has hardened into some defensive force-field that makes them into superheroes of some sort. Girls that fuck and party and smoke and have babies and break up marriages, get divorces and survive major break-ups. These aren't small feats. And they aren't small breasts, either Lindz.

But then again, maybe I'm just buying into all the T&A. Maybe I'm a self-confessed, self-loathing feminist.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

It's the End of the World, as I know it--- or is it?

Sylvia Plath to Richard Sassoon (her ex) on March 6th, 1956:

This part of the woman in me, the concrete, present, immediate part, which needs the warmth of her man in bed and her man eating with her and her man thinking and communing with her soul: this part still cries to you: why, why will you not only see me and be with me while there is still this small time before those terrible and infinite years; this woman, whom I have not recognized for 23 years, whom I have scorned and denied, comes to taunt me now, when I am weakest in my terrible discovery.

For, I am committed to you, out of my own choice (although I could not know when I let myself first grow toward you that it would hurt, hurt, hurt me so eternally) and I perhaps now know, in a way I never should have known, if you made life easy and told me I could live with you (on any terms in this world, only so it would be with you)--I know now how deeply, fearfully, and totally I love you, beyond all compromise, beyond all the mental reservations I've had about you, even to this day.


Four months later, she married Ted Hughes.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

To Slope or not to Slope

As I was sighing and fretting through the crowd of people today at Bed, Bath, and Beyond on 6th Avenue, I thought to myself:

Why would anyone ever leave Brooklyn?

When Manhattan is like a piece of sweet bread constantly being devoured by wild, angry, and insane fire ants, why, why, why would anyone leave the comfort that is Park Slope?

Park Slope. I can't tell if it's the newness of our relationship that makes it so wonderful, or if it's a genuine attribute of this lovely town. Here I can go to CVS. There will be a cash register, with a credit card machine. Or, I could rent a movie at Blockbuster. Fuck, I could even buy a $70 purse at Brooklyn Industries, $20 Shampoo at Aveda, or a $567 Stella McCartney dress at this boutique down the street! This is fucking amazing! It feels just like home (i.e. suburbia, only more expensive and with attractive twenty-something married people). But really, I've upgraded from Bushwick and I couldn't be happier. Bushwick and I, we had some good times. Homeless people hiding in the dark, dog shit everywhere, insane crack-head roommate....late night ice cream runs, the projects, eight year olds out at 3AM, just chillin'. I don't want to idealize our relationship, Bushwick. You and I both know: it wasn't perfect.

Here I can be surrounded by 22 year old mothers of two, taking a break from their incredibly successful bead-making business to pop out a couple of brats that in ten years will be standing on the corner at 2AM, yelling "you are so over-reacting" at each other in matching miniskirts. I can watch these women and their astoundingly attractive indie rocker Chris Robinson look-alike husbands parade their bundles of joy in high-tech strollers. I can think to myself: and I thought I had a lot on my plate!

Don't get me wrong. I love Brooklyn. I love the ability to actually WALK, not SQUEEZE down the street. I love the quiet. With the exception of my pot-smoking, indie-rocking neighbors. (But they're great, really, remind me of the good ole alma mater). I love the nice Indian family that runs that magazine shop. Most of all, I love the behemoth on 6th Street that is....Barnes and Noble. Oh, and Starbucks, right across.

So today as I walked through Bed, Bath, and Beyond, otherwise known as time square, I thought to myself: Brooklyn VS. Manhattan: there's no real winner here. This Gore v. Bush all over again: except instead of a money-grubbing, idiotic, drug addict, Manhattan is just New York...

And the ants are the icing on the cake.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

"The Keep" by Jennifer Egan

I purchased this novel impusively this afternoon, around 3pm, and I have just finished it.

Most definitely a page-turner, Ms. Egan is attempting to do something here with narrative and point of view that many other contemporary authors shy away from: the unreliable narrator (or unknown, or changing narrator). I'm a big fan of this technique. As "The Keep" is a gothic novel, there is not only one but two surprises to the ending of the story this way- the big bang ending, and the identity of Ms. Egan's characters.

"The Keep" is the story of a prisoner's story he is writing on for a creative writing class in prison. The story is that of Danny and Howard, two cousins forever connected by an unfortunate "traumatic" event from childhood. Ray, the author of the story, claims that he didn't make it up, but rather that "some guy" told him the story. There are several loop-holes already in the plot- who is Ray, and what is his connection to these characters? Do they truly exist? This is what makes this novel a page-turner. Ms. Egan is unwilling to give the reader any sort of respite from wondering what will happen- is this really a ghost story, or simply a story of human evil?

Ms. Egan's most unique stylistic choice is her dialogue, written as such:

Danny: What do you mean? He felt strange.
Howard: Looking at him intently. Nothing.

The structure of the dialogue forces the reader to blend the character's thoughts and words, as if the two cannot be separated. The reader wonders if everything on the page is spoken, or perhaps if nothing is spoken at all.

"The Keep" is certainly not brilliant by any means, but it is certainly adventurous and well-written. My only complaint is that Ms. Egan spent more time on the history and nature of the castle, but this remains a mystery.


Sunday, September 03, 2006

On Friendship

As I get older, I find it harder to make friends and even more difficult to keep friends.

Why is that?

I suppose by the age of 25 or so, one is supposed to have carved out a life for oneself. At 25, you're either still in school, or working, possibly married, maybe even a parent. Life starts settling down. People take sides, move to the suburbs (or get rich and stay in the city) and start living.

But now people get married later, stay in school longer, move more- all of my friends from high school are still in school- my friends from college still in college. I have several friends here in New York, luckily, but what is the chance that everyone will return to the same place?

Maybe I've been spoiled by those four ladies on Sex and the City, or the close friendships I had in high school- always having a best friend to turn to, either in person or a phone call away. But people change. Their priorities change. Relationships take a first seat, sensibly. But I keep calling and trying because I want it to work. Friends are invaluable. They are essential.

At the end of the day, all you need to survive (if you're me) is someone who knows you, understands you, and accepts you for who you are. Sounds simple, but these people are extraordinarily hard to find. These friendships require time, effort, and commitment.

Because when everything goes to shit, knowing someone's there, behind you, proping you up even though you feel like you don't have two legs to stand on-- that support is the best connection between two people: greater than passion, or love--it's understanding.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

New York will do that to you.


Here I am- I've finally hacked back into my blogger account after I had forgotten my password and attempted every combination of each of my email addresses with the only two passwords I've ever used in my entire life about 50,000 times.

I've been living in New York (Brooklyn to be precise) for almost exactly four months now. Since then, mishaps, mishaps, mishaps:

1. The day I moved in, the girl I'm subletting from was nowhere to be found. If it had not been for my current roommate, my mom and I would have been waiting outside of the apartment for over two hours in 100 degree heat.

2. I got horribly lost somewhere near 42nd street coming back from the NYPL, called my boyfriend, who was in Washington D.C. expecting him to be able to give me directions.

3. Felt inadaquate at my internship when a reader (a volunteer, only comes in one day a week) got an interview for a job I had applied for a week previous to her application.

4. Spent almost every single weekend in Williamsburg, wishing I were a) more indie or b) rich.

5. Acquirred about forty books. Oops.

6. Dealt with insanity from roommate who expected me to pay more than half the electricity bill because I "turn on my lamp."

7. Dealt with insanity from said subletee who is coming tomorrow to get her furniture out of this room even though I paid for a furnished room until August 31st.

8. Been ashamed to take my map out in public.

9. Spent $13 on a cocktail.

10. Watched fireworks over Manhattan from Park Slope, Brooklyn.

11. Attempted to return shoes. When salesperson would not take them back (quote, they were "worn") I threw said box of shoes at him, flicked him off, and walked out of the store. (I lost $50 because of my rage).

New York has been everything and nothing I expected to be, which I assume is why people love it is so much and flock to live here, despite the insane living costs. There is certainly something to be said about sitting in Central Park on a Sunday, watching pugs and babies go by near the sailing pond. There is something to be said about reading on the subway, going to a show, or constantly being surrounded either by insanely attractive people or just insane people.

Getting an apartment and job simultaneously is one of the most difficult things I've ever done in my entire life. I have a new apartment, in Park Slope, THANK GOD. The job- I'm still working on. I've gone on three job interviews and counting.

Somehow, at the end of the day, all hell could break loose, the roof could cave in on your head, you could get mugged, or a homeless man could try to talk to you about baseball, but you'd still be in New York. I know the sentiment is inane and tired, but it's true. Somehow, it's all worth it, all the bullshit and the assholes and the stench of Canal Street, it's all worth it.

French Bulldog Count: 134

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Valley of the Mall Rats

I have done it. I have sold my soul to the devil. I have, for the first time ever, purchased a handbag that cost over $100.

There it is; there, that black inconspicuous looking one in the background. This picture doesn't really do it justice. But before you try and convict me, I want to attempt to defend myself.

I have spent the past few afternoons at the mall. Sounds like a nice way to pass an afternoon, right? Noon, one, two p.m. - a good time to shop: the mall is less crowded. Everyone's at school or at work, right?


Apparently there are people in this town (Roswell, GA) that do not work and do not attend school. I knew such people existed, but I had no idea they existed in such mass quantities! They shop like crazy. They go in the mall for one very specific item. They are on a mission. They have the time and the energy to go through mountains and mountains of apparel to search for that one thing they MUST have. I always wondered how housewives managed to coordinate outfits better than the First Lady of the United States. It's because they have NOTHING ELSE TO DO BUT SHOP.

Granted, I did see one lady walking out of Toys R Us with a kiddie swimming pool for (I'm assuming) her kids. That's sweet. There's a Mom who gets shit done during the day. I wonder if she made at stop at Bloomingdale's on her way out of the parking lot, with the pool in her $100,000 SUV.

In Nordstrom's, there was an incredible mother-daughter pair, akin to the likes of Ivana and Ivanka Trump, or Mrs. and Paris Hilton. I'm talking bleach blonde hair, black (most likely armani) suit on the mom, and matching bleach and pounds of makeup for the girl, who looked about eighteen. She's probably 14. They were purchasing a handbag made of black leather and the most disgustingly tacky gold chains I have ever seen. No doubt the "purse" cost over $100. In fact, I was curious to see how much it did cost - the answer? $998. FOR A PURSE. As the cashier finished the transaction, I overheard the mother say, "this purse is just fantastic. It's just delicious!"

So, please. Don't be angry with me when I tell you I've spent a considerable amount of money on a bag that will hold my shit. I've been under the influence of capitalism. I've been hanging with the wrong crowd.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Cheerios and DaVinci Codes

I woke up this morning to a bowl of cherrios and the New York Times review of the upcoming summer blockbuster, The DaVinci Code. I expected the critic's opinion of the film to be less than stellar, but what I truly reveled in was his unabashed attack of Dan Brown's novel, "the movie that inspired the book."
Of course Mr. Brown's novel was a screenplay before it was ever a novel, and this seems glaringly obvious as one reads this atrocity of a work of fiction.

A few months ago, I was reading an interview with Mr. Brown in which he stated that on beginning a day of work, he and his wife (who apparently is also a novelist, please please let her be a better one than her husband) begin the day with breakfast, yoga, and then continue on into their four to five hours of writing. FOUR TO FIVE HOURS? It takes him FOUR TO FIVE HOURS to produce something that lousy???

Granted, I never finished The DaVinci Code. I couldn't. I literally (ha ha) couldn't make it through the thing. Apologetically, I do make concessions to those who looooove the book, as it is a piece of entertainment, and I give it to Mr. Brown: there are certainly less interesting narratives. BUT THE WRITING IS UNFORGIVABLE.

So my question is, what the hell is America's obsession with mediocrity in the arts? We certainly don't praise mediocrity in any other arena, namely in business or economic matters we are over-producers, stellar workers, we take pride in what we do. Right? Then again, maybe not. Our President was a C average student and we're damn proud of that, capisce? Or are we too afraid to admit to ourselves that we truly are mediocre? Or, is it the opposite? Do we love being mediocre--is that why we classify any artistic effort that soars above our heads to be snobby or inaccessible?

Of course I will go see this movie about Jesus gettin' it on with Mary M. I have to, right? Otherwise, how could I have a conversation with anyone for the next month? Also, if the movie is good it's good, but if it's bad, that's a month I can spend tearing it to pieces. Isn't that what's so wonderful about art? That we have standards we can hold our choice of pleasure up to? I haven't quite mastered the art of applying this same dedication to greatness to my personal life, but when I have figured it out, I'll surely let you know.