Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Gay Marriage makes a widow...


Sad news. It seems that Del Martin, one half of the first same-sex couple to wed in California, has died at the age of 87. If there is any couple that should riddle the proponents of prop-8 with doubt and shame it was these two. Here is the link:

Friday, August 8, 2008

Virtual Thespis!

For all of CGI's wonders the technology has yet to capture that most ineffable and important of images, the realistic human face. Looks like that's all about to change! CGI characters with complicated emotional expression, like Gollum in The Lord Of The Rings, are getting better and more realistic every day, but actual human faces have still been, in my opinion, a distant dream. But this new test clip gives me pause. With technology progressing like this, in 50 years will the actor be a thing of the past? A relic of antiquated cinema technology thrown into the dust-bin alongside stop-motion animation or CinemaScope? I doubt it but...if a perfect computer simulation of a human face (that is is to say an indistinguishable one) is a 10, this is at least an 8.5!

I Am A Scam-DOWNLOAD ME!


Now why can't I think of these things?

From Gizmodo:
Confirmed: Eight Morons Bought the $999 I Am Rich iPhone Application

The New Pseudo-Intellectual!




David Brooks, he of "Bobo" phrase-coining fame, has a great new article on the subtler points within the world of contemporary pseudeo-intellectualism. Navigating the minefield of 21st century snobbery is a treacherous endeavor, lined as it is with 20th century pitfalls. Quoting Slovoj Zizek is a must, but referencing Baudrillard or Norman Mailer, well, you may just as well start collecting a social security check early. Reading the New Yorker every week is, however, still a prerequisite. Like Death and Taxes, some things never change. Thank God we have the always funny and satiric Brooks to set us straight.
Money Quote:

Now the global thought-leader is defined less by what culture he enjoys than by the smartphone, social bookmarking site, social network and e-mail provider he uses to store and transmit it. (In this era, MySpace is the new leisure suit and an AOL e-mail address is a scarlet letter of techno-shame.)

Today, Kindle can change the world, but nobody expects much from a mere novel. The brain overshadows the mind. Design overshadows art.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Where is Henry Higgins When You Need Him?

This is kinda stupid and goes on too long BUT...it made me laugh. Batman definitely needs some elocution lessons!

Friday, August 1, 2008

Bobo say "Hipsters Are Not Hip!"



Being a Bobo, my interaction with Hipsters has been mostly tangential. An endlessly dissectible social phenomenon, my feelings toward the group have always been apathetic at best. Seeing how apathy is the dominant stance of a hipster toward, well, everything, the reaction is not without some appropriateness. I do love reading about them though. Here's the link for a biting smackdown of the whole hipster counter-culture. Here are some money quotes:
The American Apparel V-neck shirt, Pabst Blue Ribbon beer and Parliament cigarettes are symbols and icons of working or revolutionary classes that have been appropriated by hipsterdom and drained of meaning. Ten years ago, a man wearing a plain V-neck tee and drinking a Pabst would never be accused of being a trend-follower. But in 2008, such things have become shameless clich├ęs of a class of individuals that seek to escape their own wealth and privilege by immersing themselves in the aesthetic of the working class.


An amalgamation of its own history, the youth of the West are left with consuming cool rather that creating it. The cultural zeitgeists of the past have always been sparked by furious indignation and are reactionary movements. But the hipster’s self-involved and isolated maintenance does nothing to feed cultural evolution. Western civilization’s well has run dry. The only way to avoid hitting the colossus of societal failure that looms over the horizon is for the kids to abandon this vain existence and start over.


An interesting response is here. His money quote:

The question, though: does any of the above matter? Adbusters seems to think that because a portion of youth culture subscribes to this meaningless lifestyle that Western civilization as we know it is doomed. Their mistake is to assume that those who choose hipsterdom had the potential to be meaningful cultural contributors in the first place. If you'll allow the analogy, hipsters are the thieves that would never be customers. If they valued anything in the first place, they wouldn't have made the unconscious choice to value nothing.


While a tad alarmist, I am incined to agree with most of the AdBusters criticisms. If the earnestness and "free-love" flower-power dreams of the 60's seem silly to jaded modern eyes at least we can say that the Hippies really believed in their dreams of social progress, free-love and a liberated consciousness. Hipsters, believing only in irony, exist in an ocean of random yet meticulously chosen signifiers, undoing all meaning rather than bolstering it. Neither left nor right, political ideologies are something to be undermined and not endorsed- a lazy cynicism about progress is a staple of the hipster diet. Indeed, they could be called anti-Hegelian but even being against an ideology is to retroactively endorse the concept of ideology itself. But, maybe this is the Hegelian end of history: Francis Fukuyama's dream of capitalist democracy's triumph is true, but the price we pay is that we all morph into self-referential, uber-sarcastic, consumption pod people who, in capitalism's sneakiest trick, think that this very consumption is the purest expression of our individualism. Self-obsession and the free-market go hand-in-hand, and by being too "meta" to believe in meta-narratives anyway, the hipster is nothing if not self-obsessed- all the while, like a moth to a flame, subscribing subconciously to the most insidious kind of groupthink and conforming to the most rigid and insidious social standards. I suspect the only way to eradicate this hipster problem is satiric ridicule. And so, for your enjoyment pleasure...who needs Beijing when you have THE HIPSTER OLYMPICS:

Blurring the line between hilarious and inappropriate....

At least he makes sure that we know he just was too tied to write a guy version of the song. Lest anyone get any ideas....

Friday, July 25, 2008

NEW ARTICLE!

As you may know, this blog has been light on material for the past few months because I've been busy writing for a great web magazine called The Simon. I have been thrilled to be in such a great company of writers. Check out my newest article, this time on video games (quoi? you ask. Just check it out). Check out these youtube clips first:







My Friends Are So Funny!

Quick plug for my friends Jeffrey and Cole also known by their YouTube moniker: VGL Gay Boys. I can't figure out which one is Rowan and which is Martin. Or is it which one is Martin and which one is Lewis? Or maybe which one is Lewis and which one is Clark? In any event, they are hilarious. They are writing a new column for HX magazine-the New York gay rag- and have some live dates coming up. The info is posted below, as is one of their hilarious videos. For an added chuckle I'm also posting the Golden Girls Parody we made together. Check them out:

TWO NIGHTS ONLY at the D-Lounge,
at the Daryl Roth Theater in Union Square!

JULY 31st at 10PM
AUGUST 7th at 10PM

Directed by Christian Coulson
Musical Direction by Michael Arden, the bartender

Featuring a SURPRISE CELEBRITY GUEST!

Tickets are $5 at the door
(no drink minimum but a full bar!)

For info and reservations email VGLGAYBOYS@gmail.com


Wednesday, July 23, 2008

I'm a New Old Gay!


I'm a "New Old Gay!"-and proud of it. Check out this great article from the New York Observer....every word of it is true. Marie's Crisis WAS the first piano I ever visited. Money Quote:
To be classified as a New Old Gay requires more than an appreciation of Patti LuPone, though love of somewhat tragic, just a tad grotesque, totally fabulous divas is a requirement. In some ways the New Old Gay can be read as a reassertion of a gay identity that had all but been given up for dead: If gays can be married and have children and live contentedly in the suburbs, or on the other end of the spectrum, do the same drugs at the same loft parties as their Oberlin classmates, and if everyone thinks AIDS is no more serious than diabetes, then, really, what’s the difference between the gays and the straights? By dialing back to and reinventing the old gay stereotypes, they may have the best shot at reclaiming gayness as something actually different.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Long Day's Journey into THE DARK KNIGHT. A Dissenting review.


When people ask me if the much lauded new Batman movie The Dark Knight is as good as the critics are saying I first ask if they liked Batman Begins. If they respond that they do, I assure them that they'll probably like the new Batman even more. If however they were, like me, disappointed in Christopher Nolan's first go-round with the caped crusader, then they will probably be equally unimpressed by the sequel which, in many ways, offers more of the same. While The Dark Knight is in most ways a more exciting, involving and thrilling film than it's predecessor, it also pissed me off more than Batman Begins and highlights the deficiencies in Nolan's interpretation of the character more acutely.

Memento was one of the greatest films of it's genre; more than a simple screenwriting stunt, Memento transcends it's M.C. Escher narrative gimmicks and uses it's plot to question deep and philosophical problems about human nature, epistemology, and the power of memory. Nolan's The Prestige, though less successful, was a film about illusions that itself was something of a mind-bending magic trick-though the thematic ideas raised never quite became actualized with the elegance that Nolan displayed in Memento. In any event he is certainly one of our most important and talented new filmmakers. But his take on Batman is all wrong.

Batman Begins was primarily a reaction to the so-campy-drag-queens-stayed-away aesthetic that Joel Schumacher employed in his two terrible Batman films, Batman And Robin being one of the worst big-budget movies ever made. Draining away all humor, color, and camp Christopher Nolan refastened Batman as an utterly realistic action film with "deep" Freudian overtones. Nolan was willing to "take Batman seriously" and fanboys swooned.

Bumping up the portentousness and length, The Dark Knight only furthers Nolan's tunnel-visioned agenda. If Batman Begins was a globe-trotting action movie with a kung-fu vibe, The Dark Knight is pure contemporary crime caper, more reminiscent of the Michael Mann oeuvre or Scorsese's The Departed than the other Batman films. And here is the problem: to play Batman with a totally straight face-to demand that the audience believe in the "realism" of the story is to siphon away all the mythic and larger than life undertones that sustain Batman in our collective imagination. Worse yet is that Nolan is not even playing by his own rules, fashioning a story that, upon even the barest scrutiny, is utterly ridiculous, confusing and plain unbelievable. Of course, stretching the credulity of an audience in a superhero movie is par for the course, what makes it a problem here is Nolan's bull-headed refusal to own up to this fact. Everything stylistically about the movie asks us to take what we see literally. But to do so is to believe in a confusing plot with gaping holes and all-too-convenient turns of events.

I guess I should be up front and say that I think the original Tim Burton Batman is the pinnacle of the genre: a stylish, funny, brilliantly-cast, popcorn picture that strikes a perfect balance between the silly and the serious. Burton's sequel pushes both those two categories even further making for a Batman movie that, while fascinating, was more about Burton than Bob Kane's creation. Burton, with Anton Furst and Bo Welch's invaluable assistance, created a whole world for Batman, one that was not exactly contemporary but not period either-it was as much set in '39 and '89. A dark, squalid Gotham City of Gothic Arches and expressionistic angles, it was a world where a Batman makes sense. Our hero was an extension of the unique urban mise en scene. Nolan's Gotham is a bland, non-descript realistic city (actually Chicago) where Batman looks like a non sequitur. In this environment it's hard not to feel that a man dressed as a bat is not just bizarre but downright stupid. As is a homicidal terrorist dressed as a clown.

Speaking of the clown, there is one bright spot in this movie and it's the one everyone is talking about- Heath Ledger's performance as The Joker. Relentlessly fascinating, Ledger dives headfirst into Nolan's rethinking of the character. No longer a demented comic prankster, The Joker has become a no-holds-barred terrorist with a nihilist streak. The screen comes alive whenever he is on. Stumbling out of a burning car licking his lips and grinding his yellow teeth, the image is hard to take your eyes away from. Ledger is a monster for the ages. Though his sense of humor is a only fit for an audience of one (he does have one sick and funny bit with a pencil) his lithe gait, and emotional unpredictability make him immensely watchable. Sadly, while Ledger performs admirably, Nolan's overall vision of the character suffers from the same problems that plague the whole movie. More a textual effect than a character, like Chiurgh in No Country For Old Men, The Joker is an idea actualized. Spouting lines that sound like fringe characters in Tom Stoppard's Coast of Utopia trilogy, this Joker informs us of his ideological perspective at every opportunity. He's sounds like Max Stirner on a mean bender. As he tells one character, "I am an agent of chaos." Yeah, no shit. What's ludicrous is that there is no point, as there arguably is in "No Country," where the filmmaker pushes the character into that ambiguous realm where the audience questions his very authenticity as a "real person." Yet, looked at objectively, Ledger's Joker does utterly impossible things: single handedly take over the crime syndicate of Gotham, avoid any and all detection by the police (even though he's hardly, shall we say, inconspicuous), lay trap within trap and plot within plot-a matryoshka doll of scheming impossible to actually execute, (Oh, I see he planned to get caught only to escape by detonating the bomb he planted in the other inmates stomach beforehand. How very, ahem, elaborate!) and most egregious of all, he plants massive, massive amounts of explosives at relatively protected buildings and boats and no one notices! Even his total absence of back story is a testimony to a conception of the role that is more than human. One can but wish Nolan had the guts to create a whole world where this sort of character made sense. Instead, the gaps in the plot look like just that: gaps.


The rest of the cast fares moderately with Bale having almost nothing to do as Batman but growl as ridiculously as he did in Batman Begins . He has even less to do as Bruce Wayne. Just as Tony Stark is more interesting than Iron Man and Clark Kent's the thing that makes Superman enjoyable, Bruce Wayne should have a character to play that actually holds our attention before he dons the batsuit! So far only Michael Keaton has played a Bruce Wayne who is anything but bland. Aaron Eckhart is fine as Harvey Dent/Two-Face though the maneuvers in the plot that turn him into the villain feel forced, as does the bizarre, over-determined canonization of Dent at the end of the film. Maggie Gyllenhaal is an improvement over Katie Holmes (as every single review is OVERJOYED to mention-is there some weird Schadenfreude going on here?) but the character is still a non-starter. Vicki Vale had more to do. Not to mention that the chemistry between her and Bale is utterly phlegmatic. Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman add some gravitas to the proceedings but their characters are still only plot placeholders and mouthpieces for Nolan's thematic occupations. Neither are granted a life outside the narrowly confined cog they serve in the plot. Perhaps the best supporting performance is by Gary Oldman (what role can't this man play?) who imbues Commissioner Gordon with real sensitivity and dignity. He is the real heart of Gotham. Nestor Carbonell makes for a Gavin Newsome-esque mayor and it's a delight to see the underemployed Eric Roberts as a big shot wise guy.

Ultimately, The Dark Knight collapses under the weight of its own ambition and self-importance. If the moment to moment excitement of the action was stupendous the lugubrious hand wringing would be more forgivable but Nolan, as in Batman Begins, has little clue how to film an action sequence. While there is one exciting car chase sequence in the films middle and the bank heist sequences that opens the movie has some style (though of a kind not a appropriate for a Batman flick) most of the action is an over edited, extreme close up-ed mess. While Burton was never a Spielberg or Cameron when it came to action sequences, he nonetheless was able to give them a narrative clarity and perspective that was both fun and lucid. The finale of The Dark Knight by contrast is an incomprehensible, darkly light, tortuously organized set piece that, using his new batty echolocation powers, Batman saves various hostages, fights the cops (though hurting none of them), disposes of some fake Batmen and finally has a showdown with the Joker who, wouldn’t ya know it, is protected by a hitherto unseen pack of hungry Rottweilers. Half the sequence is shot in sonar and the other have in near total darkness. Needless to say it's anticlimactic-especially true since we have a further climax and showdown with Two-Face yet to come.

Confusing humorlessness, literalness and solemnity with profundity and seriousness of purpose, Nolan can't make Batman soar. In the end, for all its talk about justice, chaos, social rules and vigilante violence, the films themes are extremely muddy. The finale even implies that a noble lie is better than hard-earned or tough-to-swallow truth (and it doesn't even illustrate convincingly THAT point of view). Is that what Batman has come too, a dirge? A sepulchral morality play that can't even muster up a coherent lesson to teach? Is having, you know, "fun" at a Batman forever off-limits. Though Ledger sometimes breaks through the barricades stacked against him, with Nolan at the helm, those days are over.

In a final note, I want to say something that the rabid fans are going to get their panties in a twist about. It's easy to wonder: Why all the love? Why the knee-jerk approval and devotion to Nolan's conception of Batman? I don't want to disparage any viewer’s enjoyment of the movie for its merits. I am sure many people like and even love the film for the qualities in it, even if my take on those very same things garners the opposite reaction. I venture to guess however that the critical hosannas showered upon Batman Begins and The Dark Knight is largely due to a deep desire in comic book fans (or at least comic book movie fans, which is to say a majority of the American population) to have their hobby taken seriously as art and a equally deep desire in critics to have summer blockbusters at least attempt somthing resembling thought and art. Though anyone who pre-judges any work of art based on the stereotypes of its genre is a douche bag, it is nonetheless true that superhero movies are usually considered adolescent larks, comic books themselves neither legitimate as art or literature. While this attitude is unfair, the prejudice is widespread and not without some justification. By making a realistic, humorless Batman series and weighing it down with heavy-handed talk about "fear" "justice" and "chaos" the fanboys feel legitimized and the critics are simply grateful for the gesture. "See, all this comic book stuff isn't just for kids! Look how MEANINGFUL and SERIOUS it all is!" If fanboys have too much fun at a Batman movie it only reinforces the idea that Batman is something fit for a Happy Meal and if critics have to much fun the assume it can't be a good film behind all the frivolity. Approval by the chattering classes and the mainstream is something important to people, even though many deny any such thing. A movie like The Dark Knight begs to be treated as a "serious" work of art. What's ironic is that this desire is the exact thing that makes it fail.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

No Day But Today....

If my generation has a musical, and (I'm afraid to say) it probably doesn't, it's RENT. So though it's had a remarkable long run at the Nederlander Theatre on Broadway I couldn't help but be saddened by the news that it's time has finally come. My favorite memory of the show: Algebra class Freshman year of high school. Sitting in front of me was BJ, a large somewhat effeminate black boy. Day after day instead of paying attention to mathematrical proofs and the quadratic equation BJ would teach me the lyrics to Rent's showstopping Act-One closer: La Vie Boheme. It would be two years before I saw the show on Broadway but, by the time I did, I already knew the whole thing by heart. Goodbye Rent, we'll miss you!

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Go Hillary!



Now that Edwards is all but dead in the water, Bobofag has become a full-on Clintonhead! I don't know what it is about Obama: His "above the fray" attitude? His bad health care plan? His habit of style over substance (what does all his talk of "change" even mean?) Whatever it is...I'll take Hillary's tough talk and specific policy initiatives any day. Plus, it's about time we get some estrogen power into the White House. Congrats Hill on New Hampshire...no one thought you could do it and you proved them wrong!