Fatal Friday Cinco

The gods must have willed it, or the stars were in the proper arrangement, because this Friday Darragh and I finally had our painting session! For awhile I was afraid it wouldn’t happen, but when Darragh showed up she explained that she had been detained by a conversation with one of our professors. He had asked if she was on her way to a “Freidal Friday”? That was a euphoric moment for us.

Once at home, we fortified ourselves with chips, salsa, and fresh waffles (provided by my lovely housemate. Merci!) While listening to the comforting scream of Prince music, we unleashed our week’s stress on whatever unsuspecting paper came our way. As we loosened up throughout the evening, we tried more and more experiments. “I’ve given up my need for lines.” Darragh used mainly watercolor and graphite, often splattering the surface with a brush. At one point as Prince was walling, I heard a slap. Out of my peripherals I saw her simply hitting the canvas with her hand. (It became the penis drawing, don’t you know.)

 Meanwhile, I was incising an apple and using it to apply paint like a stamp. Overall, I used graphite, acrylic, watercolors, inks, apple pieces, and my teeth. At one point, Darragh looked up with a flash of joy and exclaimed, “I just learned how to paint tears!”

The night’s revelations only gained momentum from there. We had been invited to see the debut of drag queen Miss Scarlett Bleu at 11 pm that night. So we showed up, fashionably late, at The Venture Inn. We were in the heart of the Philly Gayborhood. What can I say if you weren’t there? Miss Bleu knows how to work it!

The Femmes ended the night dancing in our own little squares of the universe, at a nightclub recommended by Miss Bleu. Darragh had the supreme pleasure of meeting Mirror Man, a guy who ran his hands through her hair and then pushed her aside to look at his reflection with come-hither eyes. From my first drag show to Darragh’s first experience of really ill drunk ladies, this fatal friday was truly a night of firsts!

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Media Review – The Triplets of Belleville

The Triplets of Belleville 

Directed by Sylvain Chomet

2003

Well, that was….unexpected. Almost understated, in the sense that no one makes a statement throughout the movie, barring the beginning and the very end. Being an American raised on Disney animation, I’m used to hearing my animated characters babbling a mile a minute. It took me a while to accept the non-verbal qualities of these characters, who are anything but silent. The soundtrack is brilliant, adding an individuality to both characters and locations. But beyond formalism, beyond its stunning good looks, what’s the heart of this very deliberate work?

I’m mostly stricken by the movie’s very passionate portrait of aged womanhood. Old women in this cinematic world are protectors, strong, indefatigable, entertaining and unique. They are vital, full of life, and that’s why I said I was stricken. The contrast between how I view age and how Grandmother Souza and the Triplets express their age…..it’s the difference between quiet, colorless institutional walls and the heat and sound of the club where the Triplets perform. Can any of us imagine our grandparents and great-grandparents performing in a sleazy club….?

How about hunting for their dinner every night? Throwing explosives? Biking uphill? Or the most impossible of all, enjoying every minute of everything?

Ebert says,”Most animated features have an almost grotesque desire to be loved. This one doesn’t seem to care. It creates a world of selfishness, cruelty, corruption and futility — but it’s not serious about this world and it doesn’t want to attack it or improve upon it. It simply wants to sweep us up in its dark comic vision.”

Did we watch the same movie? Of course the film doesn’t want to be loved; when you’re old, you get your priorities straight. And if it is nothing else, Triplets is aggressively old. It does the unthinkable: equates female age with vigor, and youthful manhood with passivity.
Champion, the grandson, cannot do anything for himself, ever. He has to wait to be rescued by Souza, his grandmamma. Poor, horse-faced boy.
The film indicates to us that her grandson is Souza’s prized possession, exactly like a pure-blooded racehorse. He has no agency of his own. In fact, the men in this world are either passive like Champion or violent like the mobster villain. Cynical, right, but perhaps that’s how age always views youth? The young need direction, or they’ll grow into petty thugs…
I do agree with Ebert on one thing; these women Chomet has created are ferocious. And I don’t want them any other way. Willfulness, determination, and energy….for every tooth lost, another cackle and another song! That’s one vision of aging, and it is beautiful.
(Time to break your faith in humanity. Who did this film lose the Academy Award to? Pixar’s Finding Nemo. Ufff! Thank you, and good night.)

Fatal Friday Cuatro

9.21.12

Earlier in the week, Nicole and I planned on having an art therapy session for this week’s Fatal Friday. Although she dug out a lot of art supplies, all neatly set up in her room, we never once touched a single bit of it. Instead our night was filled with catch-up conversations, LOTS of shared food and much love to go around. Although I think we were both a little disappointed that the painting never happened, it is so important to be in the moment and appreciate the beauty of that second in time. Overall, I’d say the evening was just perfect.

Here’s a quick run-down:

  • While still at work, we found a giant box and used it as a fort, a canvas and a cave. Nicole fell asleep inside and after we drew faces on it.
  • We danced to beautiful music, courtesy of the best band I have discovered in the past three days, Electric Guest. “Troubleman” gets your grove on, baby.
  • We went grocery shopping. And by that I mean that we spent a good 10 minutes in the gourmet cheese section smelling the blocks and another 10 minutes picking out ice cream flavors. In the end, a wedge of brie, a pound of grapes, two liters of seltzer, two tubs of ice cream, a bag of clementines, mushroom pasta, and four sleeves of crackers were purchased (and eaten with the help of a room-mate and two boyfriends. This was all chased with cheesecake and brownies and apples.)
  • We cuddled. This a standard, an art and one of the many ways Nicole and I communicate.
  • We now say the same things at the same time. Uh oh.
  • I Googled Suzy Sutton, the “funny feminist,” and found out that Fatal Femmes is the first thing that pops up.  :O
  • There was a violent multi-person foam sword fight had at 10:30p in the back streets of North Philadelphia accompanied by live accordion music. I still have foam-burns to prove it.
  • And last, but not least, I proposed to Nicole, for several reasons. She is amazing, beautiful and I just can’t describe how fantastic she is. I think our boyfriends are going to cater the event.

Perhaps next week we’ll actually paint, instead of just look at the material laid out on the floor. But, if we don’t, I’m sure we won’t get too bored…

It truly was a beautiful box…

And a truly beautiful man…

 

Media Review–Hysteria

Hysteria

2011

Director: Tanya Wexler

Starring Hugh Dancy and Maggie Gyllenhaal

“That woman was hysterical.”

“Yes, very difficult case, that one.”

Symptoms: Erratic behavior, anxiety, depression, and physical aggression. Diagnosis? Overactive uterus. Cure? Hysterectomy. Makes you want to be a Victorian woman, doesn’t  it?

I couldn’t help but feel that I’d been attracted to this movie under false pretenses. The advertising campaign hyped the invention of the vibrator as the film’s main theme. I sat through an hour of Victorians dithering at each other with absolutely no vibrators present. Nada, not even an inkling. All there was by way of amusement were the “vulvar massages” given by the (painfully awkward) Dr. Mortimer in the name of some very flawed science. Volia.

So they hooked you with the vibrators, but what you actually get is just a banal romantic comedy. Honestly, the vibrators get much less screen time than they deserve. I know we’re all desensitized, I know that they wanted to keep the R rating, but something about the presentation of this film strikes me as miscalculated. You would think that the focus would be on women’s pleasure, women’s bodies, and women’s struggle to take back their bodies from men. You would expect sensuality. You would, gasp, expect to be turned on with the “patients” as they discovered the doctor’s invention.

Instead, the film can be summed up with this image:

That’s right. This is a film about men. Specifically, older doctors unwilling to change their ways in accordance with the findings of the younger professionals. This is a film about Dr. Mortimer realizing that his superiors are wrong, and that hysteria as it is defined does not exist. At the end of the day, the film centers around his decision to take the stand (literally) and proclaim that hysteria is merely an excuse to oppress women, to keep them fearful of insane asylums and hysterectomies.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that Romantic Comedy may have not been the best genre to deal with these themes. The comedy succeeded brilliantly at parts. And I think that any film dealing with the invention of vibrators must have humor in it. But this film is relentlessly light-hearted, even when it’s trying to be serious.

Observe:

This is Charlotte, our feminist heroine. She is always positioned next to blown-out windows, covered in pale light so we understand that she’s a saint. And then suddenly three-quarters of the way through we’re presented with this Charlotte:

AND THAT RIGHT HOOK.

Bugger the police.

While I adored that moment, it also pushed me over the edge. The playful tone of the entire rest of the film, the bright cinematography, the acting…the conventions of the genre dictate that nothing bad could really happen. Because we know she’s going to end up with the good doctor, like we know Juliet is going to kill herself over Romeo. Some things, like Shakespeare, are inevitable.  Surprise, Charlotte’s uterus was safe the whole time.

And there’s the problem. This film is a romance, with a little bit about body politics, when it should be a drama about body politics with a little bit of romance.

In short, fiery Charlotte is not enough to prod this movie from moderately amusing to mind-blowing.

Ladies, if there are too many mediocre things in your life, Dr. Mortimer and I recommend this once a week.

If you say so, Doctor.

Media Review – “Goodbye, Columbus”

Goodbye, Columbus

1969

Director: Larry Peerce

Starring: Richard Benjamin, Ali MacGraw and Jack Klugman

(based off the novel by Philip Roth)

In 1969, Larry Peerce directed Goodbye, Columbus, an adaptation of Philip Roth’s novella by the same name. The film is about a young love affair and explores the lifestyle of a nouveau riche Jewish-American family. With deeper analysis though, the film shows the conflict of growing up navigating traditionalism and modernity while practicing second-wave feminist sexuality.

The maturities of main characters, Brenda and Neil, are compared through aesthetic scenarios as well as dialogue and interaction. Brenda is a young, spoiled, college student whose family is socially and financially privileged, while Neil is from a working-class background, is a former military man and “has no plans for the future.” Part way through the film Brenda comments that she has had several boyfriends and was engaged up until the week before she and Neil met. She is highly comfortable in intimate settings and explains that she only does something when she wants to, including, but not limited to sex. She embraces the modern mindset of young, free love, but understands the importance of marriage and status as urged by her parents.

The movie begins through the “male gaze,” with a montage of close-ups of bikini-clad breasts and rears followed up by Neil’s face. Neil is never an aggressor, but actively pursues Brenda’s attention after meeting her for the first time at the private country club he is visiting. She is the first woman that demands his attention through interaction, not simply display. She, with her seemingly innocent disposition, is obviously aware of her attractiveness and teases him for her own entertainment, as if to show the power of her femininity.

Because of her family’s advantages, Brenda exhibits a careless air, one that lacks responsibility and maturity. With her child-like temperament, Brenda plays mind-games and uses her sexuality and self-aware femininity to pull others into them. As in the dinner scene in Brenda’s home, a hurried affair where no one of her family members interacts with another, she teases Neil by touching him inappropriately under the table while her mother interrogates him on his background. Also, during the party scene when she and Neil sneak off to argue, she demands that he love her and then she runs naked into the pool to distract him. He runs to greet her as she climbs out of the water and they begin to caress each other which is strobe edited with shots of the party to reveal the true excess of their relationship and of the advantages of youthful sexuality. Brenda exhibits herself in a voyeuristic way and flaunts her found sexuality both for herself and to demonstrate her carelessness when it comes to traditional standards.

Through her initial denial of sexual gratification, Brenda holds the upper hand in the relationship, as if a traditional courtship is being had. Since her ideas of privilege consist of ever-accessible material wealth and the ability to move seamlessly between assumed traditional trust and more modern practices, such as premarital relations, she taps into the availability of both. Although Neil consistently conveys that he wants to have sex, Brenda is the one that demands he “make love” to her when they are in her attic. In this moment she pursues him and he happily goes along. Later, Neil discovers that he has wrongly assumed Brenda had been using birth-control pills since he has not taken protective measures himself concerning the sex they are having. He demands she go see a doctor to receive pills and she refuses. This refusal is traditional in that it is against modern contraceptives, as well as it’s a refusal to Neil’s control over her, and, analytically, almost a refusal to use the man-made pill and its negative side-effects. This is seemingly a struggle of male dominance over the accessibility of female sexuality and simultaneous non-responsibility versus the female’s choice over when and who to have sex with, with or without protection. Although Brenda later gets a diaphragm, another man-made female contraceptive, she chooses to leave it at home and rid herself of it when she goes back to school. It is discovered at home and her parents become severely disappointed in her. This prompts her to hysterically question her ethics and decisions since her parents’ trust was invaluable, yet taken for granted.

This fast-lane lifestyle, funded by the assumption of safety and confidence, is mixed with privilege and vanity. It is a product of two opposing cultural standards that differ in response to sexuality and out-of-wedlock intercourse. Throughout Goodbye, Columbus, the paralleled differences are compared, side-by-side, and clearly show the issue young adults have in understanding their place, materialistically and expressively. Where Brenda and Neil may have the ability to be sexually active, there is the constant question of traditional ethics and modern sexual choice.

Fatal Friday Tres

After an impromptu dance party at our place of employment, Darragh and I started one of those long, multi-faceted, and rambling conversations for which we may be infamous. Curious childhood behaviors, places we want to visit, feminist material we’ve read recently, beautiful artists whom we admire, future plans….we went all those places and more in our discussion. We also took the mugshots of each other seen above.

There was an ellipsis of time. Like this….

…..and later that night, we caught a movie with a group of friends.

The movie was Samsara, and let me just say that the trailer does not prepare you. This film is an experience more than anything. What I felt most profoundly was a sense of wonder and awe. Not awe as in awful with a negative sense, but as “full of awe.” It gave me insight into how we as humans see, and how I personally look at things around me. Every frame was an OH MY GOD shot. It made me aware just how important paying attention is. And it helped me understand something about Darragh. She’s often said that she wants to meet every single living soul on this earth. After “meeting” all the people in Samsara, I get that. In the close-ups of human faces, there’s a living connection established without even an exchange of words. Incredible how much people move, even when they’re still. Incredible what can be felt and communicated with tiny movements of the face and eyes.

Darragh wants to meet every person alive, and I realized that I want to see every single piece of art on the planet before I die. Ambitious, just a little, right? But why not? I think that without challenging ourselves, we aren’t really living.

Fatal Fridays: Numero Dos

9/7/12

Nicole and I galavanted, oh hell yes we did, through the streets of Olde City last Friday night. Armed with cameras (or at least I was and my arm was breaking!) we took 2nd Street by storm with our co-workers for a night out on the town.

From Philly Fringe performances to Zombie Attack Consultations, we covered the bases last weekend. In between the adventures, I even had a few conversations about gallery art and nudes near Arch Street with two women I found questioning how unfair it was that women’s bodies are or materialized in art and men are always acknowledged. We chatted and I largely agreed that there was a pattern of the trending beauty of naked ladies in every time period in every art medium.

At the end of the night, a sleepy Nicole and I ate Easy Mac and Pop Tarts in her kitchen at 3a. I think I fell in love with her a little bit more as I climbed into a cot and drifted away, safe in the walls of her bedroom that were covered in French Nouveau art posters, sketches and reference photos.