Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Jennifer's Body

You may remember Diablo Cody as the screenwriter of Juno, 2007's smash indie hit starring Ellen Page as a young, whip smart high school student who just happens to get knocked up. I, however, have still not seen Juno. I realize this is problematic and I promise to rectify this situation as soon as possible.

Fortunately this is a review of Diablo Cody's newest offering, Jennifer's Body. The New York Times, in an interesting but belated article called "Girls Gone Gory," describes the surge in horror films geared towards young women. These films are simultaneously scary and empowering, featuring women who find power by overcoming or becoming evil.

Too bad Heathers hit the nail on the coffin way back in 1988. A Mean Girls cum Friday the 13th murderous high school romp starring Winona Ryder and Christian Slater, is really the jumping off point for films like Jawbreaker (1999), Jennifer's Body, and countless others.

So, now that the shout out to Heathers is done, on to the film at hand. Jennifer, played by the unbelievably smokin' Megan Fox, is that girl, the one every girl wants to be, and every guy wants to be with. Inexplicably, Megan has chosen "Needy," (Amanda Seyfried) as her BFF, even though, true to her name, Needy is a bit clingy and nerdy.

But Jennifer needs a wing-man, and Needy's perfect for the job. That way, Jennifer doesn't have to worry about competition when it comes to seducing "salty" dudes. Unfortunately for Needy (and for Jennifer) the cheesy ass emo boy band they go to see ends up burning down the bar and abducting Jennifer, driving off in their van. Jennifer shows up later at Needy's doorstep looking like this:


Jennifer's become some sort of monster, who feels weak and strange unless she's full. And full means she's got a belly full of teenage boy.

So there's the "scary" stuff.

The real scary stuff, however, is the relationship between Jennifer and Needy. Jennifer's never really been a good friend to Needy, and since becoming un-human she's even less sympathetic. The shit really hits the fan when Jennifer goes after Needy's adorable boyfriend, Chip. Then the movie becomes an all and all cat-fight between the living and the undead.

Now, I know all of this is entertaining and results in a fair amount of comedy gold. But what I'd like to ask Diablo Cody is: why is Jennifer punished for her bad behavior? She's technically a victim, after all. And why the hell can't we see a movie where Needy might prevail? Or, even better, a movie where Jennifer and Needy rule the world? Or at least their high school?

The title of this movie says it all. Horror movies, even those written by women, still have a way to go when it comes to girl power. The ultimate girl power, to me, would be watching two lady friends triumph over evil by working together. And yeah, women fight, but it would be cool for once if it we weren't using the same subversive, sexist violence to fight each other.

Lick it up baby, lick it up.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Thoughts on Mad Men

Until several weeks ago, I had not seen a single episode of Mad Men. This fact does not stem from my inherent snobishness over popularly consumed media, but rather because when the show began I did not have cable television, and by the time friends invited me over to see the series, I felt I was already too far behind to catch up.

When season three premiered, my boyfriend and I both expressed interest in watching the show from the beginning and we were delighted to discover that Netflix offered Seasons 1 and 2. And so we began to watch.

Right off the bat, I found myself depressed and disturbed at the end of each episode. Mostly because of blatant and unrelenting misogyny, that, while I've no doubt is entirely accurate of the time period, left me feeling so upset that several nights after viewing I could not sleep.

And the female characters aren't the only ones who are trapped - most of the men at Sterling Cooper waffle back and forth between rapists and o.k. guys - their complete and total lack of respect for the women in the office and in their personal lives stemming from some cycle of masculine insecurity and violence that none are willing to step outside of. I find the show, in general, tragic and extremely difficult to watch.

I have to wonder if the popularity of the series stems not from its incredible art direction: including an obscene attention to detail in costumes, setting and the characters behaviors that borders on insanity, but rather from its' audience's deep-seeded enjoyment on entering a world that is perhaps not-so-long-gone, in which women are the victims of sexual abuse practically by the minute, and men ticking alcoholic time bombs.

Being only ten episodes into Season 1 [so no spoilers, please!] I have to hope that the women (and by proxy, the men) come to have some positive agency on the show - that they can at least attempt to overcome the crimes perpetrated against them, even if they don't succeed. In the meantime, I would love to hear your thoughts on the show: why you love it, why you don't, if you're a feminist how you deal with the disgusting culture that permeates every single moment, and why you think it's the best thing on television (or not).

Sunday, September 27, 2009

David Chang: The 99%

Last week I interviewed uber-chef David Chang for The 99%, a new website that explores the ideas of entrepreneurs, where their inspiration comes from and how they get their dreams off the ground. David is the owner and chef of Momofuku, an empire that will soon feature five restaurants here in New York.

He was a wonderful interview subject, who told me the need for expansion is not only related to growth and success, but also to provide more opportunities to his employees. What a guy!

Read the interview here!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Fashion Inspiration

Julie Delpy: Two Days in Paris. Highly recommend the film, if you haven't seen it, which is basically a complete autobiographical account of Adam Goldberg and Julie Delpy's failed relationship - the movie even stars her real-life Mom and Dad! But really, I'd give anything for those glasses, long blonde hair, and effortless French fille style.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Mrs. Doubtfire, 1993

When my brother and I were young, Mrs. Doubtfire was one of our favorite movies. It remains the sort of film that just has that homey feeling to it. I'm always pleased that whenever I mention the movie people in my age group or a bit younger will readily smile and recount their favorite quotation.

The success of this film is largely due to Robin Williams' absolute manic comedic genius. It should come as no surprise that most of the incredible jokes were improvised. And he has a fantastic supporting cast that includes Sally Field, Pierce Brosnan, and Harvey Fierstein. Who can forget the musical makeover montage when Williams does Barbra Streisand?

This film is a product of the glorious decade that was the 1990s. Our parents had jobs, maybe they had even managed to set aside a nice trust for our college or our first car. Mostly, they were still married, aside from a few kids we knew who split time between their Mom's house and their Dad's depressing apartment. The future seemed bright, and there was just a hint of the inevitable tarnish to come. Mrs. Doubtfire is remembered as a comedy. But what it should be remembered for, aside from the multitudes of comedic moments, is a sensitive comment on marriage, divorce, and parenting.

Daniel Hillard is a down-home actor Dad who barely makes money doing voice-overs. When he throws a birthday party for his flunking kid, and his uber-successful interior designer wife comes home to find a petting zoo in her house and a goat who ate her begonias, well. That's the last straw. She gets a divorce and because Daniel doesn't have a steady job or an apartment, she also gets full custody. In frustration Daniel comes up with the scheme that he'll apply to be his wife's new housekeeper with the help of his makeup-artist brother. Ultimately, he just wants to see his kids.

Hilarity ensues, involving a "run-by-fruiting," a death by drink ("oh, how awful, your husband was an alcoholic?" "oh no dear, he was hit by a Guinness truck"), a decline to swim ("oh no dear, i think they've outlawed whaling"), and an incredible twenty-minute sequence where Williams constantly shifts between Mrs. Doubtfire and Daniel in one evening at Bridges restaurant.

But the truly intriguing moments of this film are the most personal ones, of course. In a discussion with his ex-wife, Miranda, Daniel learns (undercover as Mrs. Doubtfire) the reason why his wife decided to divorce him. "I didn't like who I was when I was with him," she says. He was always the fun one, and she the bad guy. In the beginning he was great, but the lack of seriousness over time just wore her down. "Did you ever tell him any of this, dear?" But of course she hasn't. There is some incredible, overlooked acting in this scene. For Daniel, it's akin to being at your own funeral and eavesdropping the conversations. It's a heartbreaking moment.

This is tragicomedy at its greatest. There are moments when you have to laugh out loud at the ridiculous situation, but at the same time you want to weep because, yes, divorce is difficult. It's more than difficult. And like any great romantic comedy, Daniel and Miranda really come out on top in this game. It's the perfect ending on a perfect San Francisco street. And maybe that's why I return to this movie over and over again, in hopes that it will give away its secrets, and alert me to a better route to forgiveness.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009


I won't lie to you, this post is filled with blatant self-promotion. Mainly because I cannot figure out how to make my "professional" website worth looking at. Look at this thing. It's terrible. If anyone has any advice on a better format for published work, I'd love to hear it. Or, if you're a bored web designer and you'd like to take a crack at it, I'll buy you a drink in exchange for your labor. Seriously, it's gross.

The main issue with the page is that it doesn't give the websites and magazines in which I've been published the accolades they deserve. I was honored this past week with publications from the following:
Stay tuned for my monthly column at Bookslut, and surprise you'll also find on their site.

Thanks so much to all my editors, and to you, precious readers.
High five.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

My Favorite Film of 2009

Quentin Tarantino’s latest, Inglourious Basterds, will disappoint if you’re looking for the sequel to Pulp Fiction. You’ll get your fix of violence—but the strengths of this film are rooted in its masterful dialogue and storytelling, making it one of, if not the greatest revenge fantasies ever told.

Bill, of Tarantino’s last film Kill Bill, is a pretty nasty foe. He asks Beatrix, “Do you find me sadistic?” before he blows her brains out and steals her baby. We root for her as she slashes through person after person to get to Bill. In the end of Volume 2, when she lies weeping from joy on the hotel bathroom floor, we laugh and cry with her. But Tarantino’s taken it one step further in his genre of villain. This time, it’s the Nazis. And instead of going through a middleman, namely, the Allies, to ensure that the scum get their comeuppance, Tarantino has handed the sword (or, in this case, the baseball bat) directly to the Jews. What ensues is the most exciting movie I’ve seen in years.

The opening scene of this film is the perfect example of suspense—it’s agony to watch, but you’re totally incapable of not watching. Hans Landa, colonel of the SS, arrives on a French farm to tell the owner that his house needs to be searched, again, for Jews. Landa’s manipulation of the English language is so deft that it wears the farmer down, word by word, until he eventually must give up the ghost. It’s a terrifying sequence, and only proves that Tarantino’s talent not only lies in his ability to mix violence and humor, but his dialogue, which has the uncanny ability to seem completely realistic, and alien at same time.

Unforgettable performances from Christoph Waltz, who will undoubtedly be nominated for an Oscar, Brad Pitt, Mélanie Laurent, Michael Fassbender, and practically the entire cast, coupled with an insane attention to detail in costume and art direction has made WWII into a Western, complete with trading card heroes and heroines. But in respect to its nasty history, the ending of this film can only be described as pure, unadulterated catharsis. Bravo Tarantino. Bravo.