Sunday, August 30, 2009

HERE is our progress.



"WHERE is Sam Merlotte?" "True Blood's" Maryann Forrester does not ask questions, she delivers commands. While this character may be a disciple of the devil, an immortal creature who uses her powers of persuasion to inspire bliss, eroticism, and chaos, you've got to admire her presence. Even a vehement Vampire bite to the neck inspires nothing more than an Ursula-like cackle.

Ursula, there's another female force to be reckoned with, albeit, another evil non-human with feminine attributes. I suppose some might cry of misogynistic overtones, a demonization of women. I acknowledge the tangent, but offer an alternate view. Just as male villains serve to illustrate the evil of mankind, so can female villains. Man, women, black, white, gay, straight - it's humankind that we're dealing with nowadays. Yes, we've got a lot of progress to make as a species, many more strides we must take to achieve equal rights for all; but strong, complex female rolls like those seen on "True Blood" serve as touchstones, small but apparent proof of evolution in the perception and the reduced projection of gender roles in our increasingly global society.

For some reason, I happen to latch onto quotations that can rarely exist as anything more than a non sequitur when repeated outside of the original structure. "FIND - ME - SAM - MERLOTTE," I have been misquoting Maryann, daily, since the airing of the episode "I Will Rise Up." I never can remember quotes or lyrics correctly. I botch them as often as I recite them. Yet, the above promo has served to both correct my mistake and offer a new perspective on this odd obsession of mine.

A couple years ago, around the promotion and release of "Beowulf" I had the same issue with quoting Angelina Jolie as Grendel's monstrous mother. "Give me a child, Beowulf." In more recent history, my roommate and I shared a conversation for the sole purpose of dropping the tone of our voices down to the deep and resonating husk of Kathleen Turner. One could say I have nothing more than an affinity for a raspy female voice, in the deeper end, though, I might be flapping my figurative butterfly wings. I might be promoting the proliferation of gender equality through my incessant acknowledgment of these strong female characters.

It's no fresh territory, the love between gay men and their middle-aged female icons. Strong gay role models are scarce, even today, but substantial, sensual women have been fixtures in film, on television, and all through out popular culture for decades now. We identified with them. We looked to them for guidance and commiseration. We sought what we couldn't find in the heterosexual representations of our own gender, yet they will continue to illicit our fandom even as an absence of homosexuals becomes the anomaly.

In a future free of marginalized demographics, "WHERE is the diva love?" will continue to illicit a sea of hands, a caterwaul of consenting shrieks throughout most every bar in West Hollywood. Even in an enlightened world, escapism will retain its essentiality, even that which is merely sequins-deep. "We need to be out of control we, crave it." Maryann declares. And when she speaks...

You had better listen.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Red carpet, blue balls.

“Your butt looks really wide in those,” my roommate declared, “And they look like pajama bottoms. You can’t wear striped linen pants to a movie premiere.”

“Why would you tell me that?” I was scandalized. “My only other outfit is dirty.”

“You asked."
I suppose I did. And while a harsh perspective is my roommate’s very apparent trademark, in this instance she was correct. I’m glad the other shirt passed the sniff test; I wouldn’t have wanted to be grouped alongside that mother/daughter pair fresh off the Ft. Lauderdale boardwalk. They were hardly fit for a sit-down dinner, much less a red carpet soiree.

Soiree?!” you say? Okay, alright, not quite, but that’s kind of what we were expecting. I guess when your invitation is printed on a 4x10 sheet of orange computer paper and a machine accepts your R.S.V.P. you shouldn’t really anticipate strolling up the same crimson pathway as the film’s stars.

I don’t think we caught a glimpse of it, actually. Not a sliver. No, even though the lady dispensing the fluorescent slips assured me our admittance was all but guaranteed, it’s lucky we arrived as (uncharacteristically) early as we did or we wouldn’t of even been able to clomp up the concrete side alley and into the overflow theater.

That’s right, no Katherine Heigl, no Gerard Butler, not even a peek of Cheryl Hines (who would illicit more of a shriek from me, anyhow). Not between the cracks of our temporary civilian ghetto, not from the back of the Cinerama dome. Some of our fellow peons may have made the cut and they bought off the rest of us with complimentary popcorn and soda (of which my roommate took two – you show ‘em Kara); but as none of the stars could bask in our applause and we weren’t asked to fill out a comment card, I’m unsure of the pertinence of our attendance.

Were they simply quelling our uproarious indignation at standing in one place for more than 45 minutes? There weren’t a whole lot of fat people there. Should we view this outcome as fortunate, consider ourselves grateful for the charity of their pro bono screening? Maybe. Or perhaps “The Ugly Truth” here is that they needed us more than we desired them.

I had been anticipating this film for months, since the appearance of the first online trailer. It seemed as though a fresh perspective was en route, an explicit (R rated) voice with which both sexes could identify. Alas, as I hoped for something resembling the collision of “Knocked Up” and “27 Dresses” all we got was another incarnation of Katherine Heigl’s stock character.

Here she is again, the beautiful, sensual woman hidden beneath the guise that she is above it all when really, it’s nothing more than a smoke screen for her fear of failure. Although it doesn’t say much for her versatility, Heigl’s an ace in this role. In fact, keeping the genre in mind, all of the actors performed admirably. The fault of “The Ugly Truth” lies not in the performance, but the production. Sure, instead of mouthing off about the parts she herself signed on for, Katherine Heigl might want to consider taking greater risks, but the same can be said for the Hollywood machine.

This weekend brought the release of “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra,” delivered fresh to the people of America without the potentially harmful additives of entertainment critics. The heads of Paramount spin this subversion in favor of the greater good, telling The Huffington Post they “want audiences to define this film.” In other words, they anticipate hordes of mouth breathing rubes to swarm theaters, boost the box office, and spew undiscerning promotion from their yaps. Even I can taste my own elitism here, but I imagine that’s exactly what Columbia Pictures hoped would come from my gratis viewing of their latest romantic comedy.

I may only have two presentable outfits, but I believe we should expect more than just a few bangs, proverbial or pyrotechnic, for our bucks. Yes, it’s likely that last year’s writer’s strike may have influenced the green light on Columbia Pictures’ latest romantic comedy as well as Paramount’s third toy inspired action flick, but then what’s to excuse the heap of horribly written films currently spilling out of DVD bargain bins in discount stores across the globe? Instead of simply catering to the ignorant masses, greedily inhaling their had earned, yet poorly allocated dollars, let’s attempt to sway the common opinion, puff up the fluff. If Disney and Pixar can continue to roll out animated children’s films with intelligent, adult-oriented subtext, how difficult could it be to inject any other genre, every other script with a bit more character driven substance? Let’s get on it, fellow aspiring entertainers.

My first premiere experience may have fallen short of my expectations, but no virgin’s ideals are wholly realized upon their first foray. Whether laser printed or embossed, I shall gladly accept Columbia Pictures or any other studio’s invitation in the future. I like to think it can only get more cinematic from here. After all, if “The Ugly Truth” can make it to the big screen, then there is hope for my career as a screenwriter, yet.