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Archive for the ‘Sheer Entertainment’ Category

well, most of the time, I try not to really care what people think of me. what I think about myself is what’s most important.

However, someone sent me a link to this page where you can find out how people view you. I thought it was a neat idea. It’s called a Johari window. By asking people to fill it out, you can sometimes identify things that are a blind spot for you (that others think you are but that you don’t think you are), or you can find out what you think you are that others don’t at all agree with!

So, here’s my Johari window. If you like, go and pick out 5 or 6 words that you think describe me. It’s your one chance to let me know what you really think of me!

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new in my ear

yep, another video post. Sorry, I’m in the middle of end-of-term stuff. Just thought I’d post something that was making me happy lately.

Patrick Watson – The Great Escape

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Personally, I think every song by those idiot pop groups should be performed with solo piano and a slower tempo and haunting vocals in order to expose the absolute inanity and misogyny of the lyrics, particulalry when combined with a parodic video performance outlining how disempowering and confusing the mixed message is.

No wonder I listen to so much Joni Mitchell.

May the discussion ensue.

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So, I watched both of these movies today, for the second time. I saw both in theatres when they first came out, but not again since. I was left with very different impressions the second time around.

Brokeback Mountain – so, check it out. What I think I missed about this movie before was the complexity of the sexual identities of the two characters. I was kind of hung up on thinking of the story as one about two gay men who couldn’t really be out because of time and place, beautiful unrequited love! (I am such a sappy romantic!) And, after Jack and Ennis’ first sexual encounter, I thought to myself, well, now they’re gay! It seemed to me that was what the filmmakers wanted me to think, anyway.

But that isn’t really the entirety of what was going on. Both men went on to hetero marriages, had children, and continued their affair. Jack was unsatisfied with their arrangement, and sought out other same-sex affairs, and also mentioned an affair with another woman. but, it seemed like the emphasis in the film was on Jack as being “more” homosexual than Ennis, based on the facts that he initiated the affair with Ennis, and that Jack had more same-sex partners than Ennis, who only had Jack, and that Jack was the bottom in their relationship, a classic move in determining which partner is “gayer” than the other (the one doing the penetrating has historically not been seen as necessarily gay; the one being penetrated is usually seen as the one that is “truly” gay). I dunno – seems like too simplistic an analysis. Seems like Jack just got around more than ol’ Ennis did – with both men and women.

And, what’s up with that initial moment, the “they turned gay” moment? I felt so weirded out with that whole thing – like that initial sexual encounter was enough to negate their entire previous lives as heterosexuals? That it revealed the “truth” about them, that was lying dormant all those years until then? How do we define sexuality – by acts, by desires, by identifications? By acts, both men were bisexual. By desires, Jack seems more bi than gay, but Ennis seems more gay than bi. By identifications, well, Ennis explicitly told Jack, “I’m not queer” and Jack said, “Neither am I,” so I guess both identified as hetero (seeing as that’s the only other option presented) – but that seemed like the line was there for the audience to go, “yeah, right!” and it was early on, not after 20 years or so of fishing trips together. nevertheless, they both still led lives that were largely presented to the world as het.

Anyway, I thought it was interesting to see it now, because I tended at the time I saw it first to think about sexuality in more rigidly defined terms. Now, I think of sexuality as something that’s more fluid, and not necessarily innately determined but also socially determined in lots of ways. The film seemed to me to be presenting the sexuality of the characters in harsh juxtaposition with their social and historical context – and I can’t help but wonder, if the story was told in the historical context of this decade, would things have ended up the same? I think not – more support for and within the gay community might have led to the two of them shacking up or getting married, and identifying themselves as gay, and having very different lives.

Anyway, I got the distinct impression that the idea was we were supposed to think of these men as sexually homosexual, and that “truth” about them was interacting at odds with their social contexts. But the more subtle message, I think, is that historical and social contexts actually work to shape and produce sexuality in significant and meaningful ways, and that placing sexuality at the centre of one’s identity does not make for a stable and homogenous “truth” about a person or his/her experiences. This time, I didn’t miss that message. (thanks, Foucault!)

Best Line: Jack, to Ennis: “I wish I knew how to quit you!”

Crash – the first time I saw this, I liked it. I thought it was an important kind of movie to make, to examine racial tension among various communities. This time, I felt differently. It made me mad.

Make TG Mad #1: the scene where Thandi Newton got felt up by Matt Dillon the cop while her husband Terrence Howard watched helplessly and Ryan Phillippe the other cop did nothing. White cop molests woman of colour while man of colour is powerless to stop it and other white cop watches uncomfortably but yet doesn’t question the power hierarchy.

I was so mad about this scene. Then, the next scene where Thandi Newton and Terrence Howard are at home arguing about what happened, and then when she went to see him at work the next day. Thandi kept saying things like, “why didn’t you do anything?” and Terrence kept saying things like “what was I supposed to do, he’s a cop?” So frustrating. Thandi’s character, in addition to being victimized by white male supremacy in the embodiment of Matt Dillon, was vascillating between blaming her husband for not taking better care of his stuff (her) and feeling bad for Terrence for being so emasculated. Traditional Gender Stereotpye 1: Woman Needs Man to Defend Her and Traditional Gender Stereotype 2: Man Must Defend Woman Or He Isn’t Really a Man were definitely upheld here.

What I thought they did a good job of was treating gender and race coherently. Matt Dillon felt Thandi Newton up not just because she was a woman, but because she was a woman of colour and because her husband was a man of colour. He wasn’t aiming just to hurt her, but also to hurt him through his objectification and subsequent use of her.

Made TG Mad #2: Thandi Newton is trapped in her truck after it flips and she can’t get out. Matt Dillon the cop who molested her the night before comes to her rescue and pulls her out.

Fuck this scene made me MAD! Now, this woman of colour who has been abused and victimized by this very same white cop has to rely on him to help her, to save her life. And he has the nerve to say to her, “I’m not going to fucking hurt you!” NEWSFLASH: he already did! And so, the woman of colour has to put her trust back in the very same white man who just finished molesting her, telling her what her value and worth and place was, and not just for her own knowledge, but for the emasculation of her husband, so he also could know his value and worth and place: look how powerful I am, I can finger your pretty black wife and you can’t do a damn thing about it but offer her up and apologize for taking too long doing it. And isn’t this pretty much how our social systems treat women of colour everyday? Let me show you how little you’re valued, and how mighty we are, and exactly how much you need and require and rely on us for the very air you breathe. You exist within our framework, our hierarchy of power, but you can’t participate in it.

Made TG Mad #3: Don Cheadle goes to see the DA about a case he’s working on where a white cop shot and killed a black cop (neither knew the other was undercover, I think). Anyway, the guy he talked to, who is the creepy guy who was on that show about the aliens and now he’s on Prison Break with the icy blue creepy eyes and the kind of blondish hair, kept on about “fucking black people” and how they can’t keep from robbing and killing each other and whatnot, in order to extract from Don Cheadle what he wants, which is something to do with the case but he brings up his little deliquent brother and throws him into the mix for further extortionary purposes.

So, what pissed me off here, aside from the references by a white man to a black man about “fucking black people” was the damn system, putting Don Cheadle in the middle of white men’s manipulations. That’s about all I can say about that, it was a really kind of general feeling of anger that scene generated, I’d have to go back and watch it again to get the full feeling.

There are a hundred other little and big moments in the film that pissed me off. But what kind of pissed me off the most was that this is a movie that is ultimately supposed to make white people feel good about opposing racism. Like identifying and opposing obvious cases of racism makes a white person not racist. Such a surface analysis of racism.

Best Dialogue (paraphrased):

Don Cheadle, on the phone with his mother, which he answered while in the middle of sex with Jennifer Esposito: “Mom, I can’t talk right now, I’m having sex with a white woman.” To JE: “Where were we?”

JE: “I was white, and you were jerking off in the shower,” pushes him off and proceeds to get dressed.

DC: “I’m sorry, I would have told her I was fucking a Mexican woman, but it wouldn’t have made her as mad.”

JE: “Here’s a geography lesson – my father is from Puerto Rico, my mother is from El Salvador. Neither of which is Mexico.”

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Oscar picks

Well, I haven’t had a chance to see most of the Oscar films this year, unfortunately for me. A couple years ago, my friend and I went to see all of the Oscar movies we could cram into a week (I think it was something like 8), and then had an Oscar party at her place. It was really fun, and we thought we were sure who was going to win, but neither of us was right on all our categories – there were some surprises that year.

Anyway, in the spirit of Oscar, here are my picks/best educated guesses for tomorrow night’s show (don’t worry, I won’t bore you with all the technical categories, just the big ones):

Best Actor – The Nominees are:

  • Leonardo di Caprio – Blood Diamond
  • Ryan Gosling – Half Nelson
  • Peter O’Toole – Venus
  • Will Smith – The Pursuit of Happyness
  • Forrest Whitaker – The Last King of Scotland

blooddiamond_dicapriol.jpgMy pick: Leonardo di Caprio. This is the only movie I’ve seen in this category, but I think this makes the most sense in Oscar-land. Leo’s been nominated a couple of times before and lost, most recently for the Aviator a couple years back, which he kind of should’ve won for instead of Jamie Foxx IMO. So, I’m guessing that maybe this year, he’ll take it. But I could be wrong. My second pick is Forrest Whitaker, ’cause everyone says he was amazing in this role. Who I’d like to see win: Ryan Gosling, because I love him!
Best Actress: The Nominees are:

  • Penelope Cruz – Volver
  • Judi Dench – Notes on a Scandal
  • Helen Mirren – The Queen
  • Meryl Streep – The Devil Wears Prada
  • Kate Winslet – Little Children

queen.jpgMy pick: Helen Mirren. I didn’t see this one yet, either, but my god, this woman is totally on a roll this year with this movie. And it’s about time she got recognized for her work, she’s an incredibly sophisticated actress. Judi Dench and Meryl Streep already have their fair share of Oscars, and the other two actresses, while both great, were both in those movies that the Academy nominates just because they want to pretend they care about independent film. My second pick is Penelope Cruz, jsut because you never know. Who I’d like to see win: Penelope Cruz. Go Latina!

Best Supporting Actor – the Nominees are:

  • Alan Arkin – Little Miss Sunshine
  • Jackie Earle Haley – Little Children
  • Djimon Hounsou – Blood Diamond
  • Eddie Murphy – Dreamgirls
  • Mark Wahlberg – The Departed

blooddiamond_hounsoud.jpgMy pick: Djimon Hounsou, because he totally deserves it. He was amazing in this movie, the Academy is into political movies lately, and I think he deserves this recognition. He is so talented. My second pick is Mark Wahlberg, because he kind of stole the show in The Departed. Who I’d like to see win: Djimon Hounsou.

Best Supporting Actress – The Nominees are:

  • Adriana Barrazza – Babel
  • Cate Blanchett – Notes on a Scandal
  • Abigail Bresslin – Little Miss Sunshine
  • Jennifer Hudson – Dreamgirls
  • Rinko Kikuchi – Babel

2249899.jpgMy pick: Jennifer Hudson. This one’s tough, because most of these women are little-known actresses. Cate just won in this category a couple years back for The Aviator, so I don’t know if they’re going to be ready to show her the money again this quickly. The little one from Mis Sunshine was adorable, but I don’t think she’ll take it. My second pick is Adriana Barrazza. Who I’d like to see win: Rinko Kikuchi.

Best Director – the Nominees are:

  • Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu – Babel
  • Martin Scorsese – The Departed
  • Clint Eastwood – Letters from Iwo Jima
  • Stephen Frears – The Queen
  • Paul Greengrass – United 93

departed.jpg My pick: Martin Scorsese. He’s been nominated about 8 times now and hasn’t won a single Oscar yet. He always seems to lose to actors turned directors. And while he is up against Clint AGAIN this year (lost to him two years ago (Clint: Million Dollar Baby, Martin: The Aviator), and also in the early 90s (Clint: Unforgiven, Martin: Goodfellas), poor guy!), but this year, Martin is taking it home. My second pick is Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, because I liked what he did with Babel. Who I’d like to see win: Martin Scorsese.

Best Picture – the Nominees are:

  • Babel
  • The Departed
  • Little Miss Sunshine
  • Letters from Iwo Jima
  • The Queen

babel.jpgMy pick: Babel. It just makes sense, and carries on the tradition of Crash from last year – political movie about race and culture colliding. Simple. My second pick is The Departed, because it really was just so good. What I’d like to see win: Little Miss Sunshine, because it made me laugh out loud the whole time. It’s very dear to my heart, that little movie.

marieantoinette.jpgSo there you have it. On a final note, I think that the Costume Design category is going to be a really tight race this year, all the costumes were just so beautifully done for the films that are nominated. (My pick is Marie Antoinette, for the record.)

Tomorrow, we shall see if I’m right on any of these! Please feel free to make your own Oscar predictions in the comment section, and do join me back here on Monday to discuss the outcomes!

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Scoop

You know, I just can’t help it, I love a Woody Allen movie. I enjoy him, his movies, his scripts, everything except his real life weirdo relationship with his ex’s daughter to whom he was like a father. What a creep.

Anyway, I do like his movies, and see them when I can, and Scoop didn’t let me down. It was bright and witty and clever and well-acted. Scarlett Johansson was great, I think she’s actually a pretty good little actress.  And Hugh Jackman is always a delight to watch, when he’s actually acting and not covered in fake fur sideburns and being a super-mutant.

Anyway, Scoop made me feel happy, enough not to tear it apart with feminist critique, so I thought I’d send it along to you with my recommendation. If you don’t like Woody Allen, don’t rent it. If you do, then do!

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Garden State

I saw Garden State last week, and it’s taken me a week to pin down why I really really hated it, and why my feminist spidey senses were tingling like crazy when I watched it. As usual, Beware of Spoilers if you haven’t seen it and want to and care about it being a relative surprise.

So, I do love Scrubs, mainly because of Zach Braff. And I had been meaning to see Garden State for a while now. But somehow I must have known I wouldn’t like it.

The whole movie is about Zach Braff. His character is screwed up, he hasn’t been home in 10 years, his father the psychiatrist has him all doped up on medication, he’s an actor who had one great role, and his mother has died. So he goes home for the funeral and falls in with old schoolmates who are pretty much losers. But he meets this girl, Natalie Portman. She’s charming and adorable and lovely, and he falls in love with her. And the movie becomes Zach Braff using people, but especially Natalie Portman, to figure out his life.

Natalie Portman is really wonderful. She’s the best thing about jsut about every movie she’s in, and I love her. Here, she was wasted against the backdrop of Zach Braff’s moping blankness as his character tried to get his shit together. And so here it is: This movie represented for me how everything is always about the guy. About his shit, about his fucked-up-ness, about how important he is, about his career, about his family, his movie, his screenplay, his favourite music, him him him. And this movie was just a big pile of masturbatory self-congratulation. Zach Braff made a movie about men using women to “find themselves.” And in the end, I felt bad for Natalie Portman. Not just the character, who was stuck with Zach Braff’s character. But for Natalie Portman. This movie was a disservice to her talent.

So, it sucked. That’s the bottom line. And I kind of think that without the soundtrack, the movie would have been truly exposed for the junk-heap that it truly is.

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Babel

OK, so I went to see Babel the other night. I liked it alright. It was all about communication, and barriers to such, both practical, like language, and emotional. It was an ensemble movie, which I usually always like, and it worked nicely here. Only thing with ensemble movies that’s tough sometimes is getting enough character development going. It’s a fine balance, and I think Babel could have done a lot better with this. Also, poor Cate Blanchett needed more to do. She’s amazing, and her talents shouldn’t be wasted for a single second, and I felt like they were in this movie.

I wanted more from this movie. I liked the overall message of the movie, but I guess I wanted more. The character I found most interesting was the one that was developed most, a young Japanese teenager who was deaf-mute. The actress was great, and the character was so great, layers of complexities. She just had all these barriers to communication, both emotional and practical, that were emphasized to pretty good effect. Only thing was, I don’t particularly like the whole fetishizing of Japanese women going on in the entertainment world these past few years, what with Kill Bill Vol.1 and that Gwen Stefani and her “Harajuku Girls” – and this was definitely going on in this movie.

Oh, and I’m not sure if that was makeup or not, but Brad’s starting to look old. *sigh*

what did you think of Babel?

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So I just saw this movie, Hard Candy. I got it because it stars a young actress from my hometown, Ellen Page. She’s been working a lot lately, and word on the street is that she’s pretty amazing, so I thought I’d better get in the know. And folks ain’t lyin’. She is awesome.

******************As usual, I give fair warning about plot spoilers. If you like surprises, stop reading now, but by all means, go rent the movie and come back and tell me what you think! Seriously, it’s worth seeing, and I know it wouldn’t have been as good if I had known all the plot twists and what have you beforehand. So stop reading if you haven’t seen it, rent it, and come back later.******************

So the movie’s basically about pedophilia, although not really in the way most would think. And it brought up a lot of issues for me. It’s been a somewhat controversial movie, aparently, because it turns the tables on a typical pedophilic situation. In it, the character played by Ellen Page, a 14 year old girl, basically lures in a pedophile (played quite well by Patrick Wilson, who I really think is quite a talented guy), takes him hostage, and tortures him.

So, issues. Well, there’s pedophilia itself. Technically, this guy is a hebophile, not a pedophile. Hebophiles are attracted to older children, young teenagers. It’s kind of under the general umbrella of pedophilia, so I’ll stick to that. On another thread, some of us have been talking about pedophiles, and child pornography. I’m not real sure how accurate this is, but I had a friend who worked at a sex offenders clinic, and the way she described pedophilia is that it’s basically a sexual preference, like heterosexuality. Pedophiles are sexually oriented toward children, like straight folks are oriented toward members of the opposite sex. The problem of course being that children cannot give consent to sexual contact, and so any sexual desire a pedophile acts on with a child is non-consensual rape. But it hit home with me how utterly untreatable pedophilia could be if this were true – and it certainly seems to be the current consensus that pedophilia is untreatable. It would be like telling a straight person to work really hard to just stop being attracted to the opposite sex, and become oriented to people of the same sex instead.

Patrick Wilson does such a good job of his role. He is handsome, charming, smooth, non-threatening. He does all he can to butter up Ellen Page’s character. I can see how someone like that would be very convincing, very flattering to a young insecure girl. He’s not at all a one-eyed scary monster. He looks like anybody else, successful, smart, charming. Normal on the outside. This is what’s so creepy and scary about pedophilia – pedophiles are everywhere. They look just like everyone else. But they’re not. They’re deviant sexual predators who will do and say anything to justify themselves and insinuate themselves into the lives of children in their communities, families, and beyond.

Some of the dialogue between the characters was really great. The pedophile has all the right lines, all the careful things to say to put attention away from the fact that he seeks out young girls to manipulate and exploit. Ellen Page’s character said something along the lines of, “just because a girl imitates a woman doesn’t mean she is mature enough to do what a woman does.” Which brings me to issue #2 – the hypersexualization of girl children in our society.

This doesn’t happen so much to boy children here, but it certainly does to girl children. Have you been into a girl’s clothing store recently? The kids clothing is getting more and more adult, more and more sexualized and provocative. I’m no prude, but I definitely see a problem with dressing little girls up like adult women might dress to go clubbing. Whose brilliant idea was this trend? Some pedophile, I bet. I read an article about this recently in MacLean’s magazine. Dressing our daughers like sluts, or something like that, was the title. And it’s true – we are. Why? Why on earth are parents allowing their daughters to dress in revealing, provocative clothing? God, it’s so weird. Don’t they know about the pedophiles? It’s on every TV news program all the time, about the child porn and the kids getting attacked. Like, wake the fuck up.

Issue #3: vigilantism. The girl spends several weeks talking to the guy online, meets up with him, lures him in, and takes the pedophile hostage, and tortures him emotionally and physically. She even makes to castrate him. Yup. The director spent a very long time on this particular part of the story – the lead up to the castration scene, the whole ordeal itself, what she does with the testicles once she cuts them out, his desperate pleas for her to spare him this act. Then we find out that she didn’t really do it after all, just made him think she had. What a relief, I’m sure many people watching would say to themselves! Thank god she didn’t cut off his balls – that would be going Too Far. This scene, it seems, is mainly what the controversy is about in regards to this movie. In the commentary I watched after the film, even the producer and director made comments that once filming began and the actors started the scene, they felt a lot of sympathy for the guy.

Issue #4: interesting how attached society is to men’s balls. And penises, of course – they’re everywhere you look, the ever-present phallus, incorporated into designs all over the place. This cultural attachment, surprisingly, extends to women a good deal of the time. So much so that many women report after attending self-defense classes that they found it really difficult to get past the old “never hit a guy in the balls” deal – even when the whole idea is to fend off a guy who’s about to rape them with those balls! Which is mind-boggling to me.

And issue #5 – my own reactions tot he movie. I was totally rooting for the girl, throughout the entire movie. I wanted her to get away with it all. I don’t advocate violence, or vigilantism, at all, but I had no sympathy for the pedophile whatsoever. Even while he was squirming and crying and begging for his balls to be spared, I couldn’t have cared less about him and his balls. My only worry with the movie was, “how will she ever get away with all this?”

Interesting movie, to say the least.  I highly recommend it.

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I’ve been watching TV shows about crime for years. I have always really liked these shows – anything to do with police or lawyers or criminalists or profilers. I’ve watched them faithfully – all the Law and Order shows, the CSI shows, the other stuff that comes along about serial killers and missing persons and bad-ass lawyers.

Well, tonight I made a decision to stop watching these shows. I watched a particularly disturbing episode of Law and Order: SVU, in which a serial rapist was targeting the same victims over and over again and tracking their ovulation so that he could impregnate them. Then, I watched an episode of Criminal Minds in which a guy kidnapped three teenage girls and held them until they turned on each other and one of them was killed out of desperation and sensory deprivation.

Now maybe it’s because the moon is in my sign today, or something, but I was really overwhelmed by these shows. And it reminded me of something Twisty has said about Law and Order: SVU being basically a show that exploits and pornifies the sexual torture of women for our entertainment. And you know, I think she’s right. Every episode there’s another mutilated and raped female body on display. But the show is never about the victim, not really, even despite the word being in the name of the show. It’s about the crazy guy who’s torturing women sexually. And look, isn’t he creepy and weird and twisted and insane and interesting. And entertaining. And it all just pushes sexual violence further out of the realm of something that happens everyday in far less sensational ways, and it makes us less sensitive to it in real life. And I don’t want to be desensitized to the occurrence of sexual violence in society.

So that’s it for me. I am not going to subject myself to watching these TV shows anymore. I’m done with these explicit, graphic crime shows and the glorification of psychotic rapists and killers for entertainment purposes. DONE.

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