Home Invasion: On Being an Outsider in “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” and “[Safe]”

Posted on Updated on

large_close_encounters_third_kind_blu-ray15At the heart of Steven Spielberg’s sci-fi epic Close Encounters of the Third Kind (which opens in theaters for its 40th anniversary September 1st) and Todd Haynes’ (whose new film, Wonderstruck, will play at NYFF) masterpiece [Safe] is the all-consuming desire to feel comfort and belonging when the world you live in offers no such pleasure. Though different in form and approach, Spielberg, whose unapologetic sentimentality is a hallmark of his work, and Haynes, who makes heady, intellectually rigorous movies that more often than not comment on sentimentality than are necessarily culpable of it, find a common feeling that infects both of their lead characters: displacement and —  no pun intended — alienation. Read the rest of this entry »

Advertisements

Tilt Shift: Andy Muschietti’s “IT: Chapter One”

Posted on Updated on

e470cd420e1f51e13806fa2aa2ad4721What is it about Andy Muschietti’s It, an adaptation of Stephen King’s monstrously sized novel of childhood trauma and clowns, that makes the film feel so bland and unimportant? It certainly wants to feel lively and fun and maybe even a little important. It wants to feel alive. The various iterations of It have all tried to reconcile with otherness, being an outsider, a “loser”, if you will. But the gravity of those implications isn’t there perhaps because It is a film that is unsure of what It is, shifting and transforming in tone as quickly as the monster haunting the film’s characters. But It is unable to settle confidently in any one of its tonal or aesthetic personae.  Read the rest of this entry »

The Mirror Has Two Faces: On Fame, Politics, and Taylor Swift’s “Look What You Made Me Do” and Beyoncé’s “Formation”

Posted on Updated on

1219533Regardless of the accuracy of the claims of stealing from Beyoncé lodged against Taylor Swift regarding her new single and video “Look What You Made Me Do”, directed by the prolific Joseph Kahn, there is nonetheless a quick jolt of schadenfreude when someone quips, in quotes, “Okay ladies now let’s gentrification.” The riff on the chorus from Beyoncé’s single “Formation” sits atop one of the first images that appeared from Swift’s video, of the singer standing before a “squad” of dancers, in black. After seeing this teaser, before the video actually dropped, folks on Twitter ran with the vague similarities between that and a shot from the Melina Matsoukas directed “Formation” video, making a litany of variantly amusing jokes. But while the resemblance between the two music videos is arguably a stretch — the shots in question barely have the same blocking, never mind a difference in costuming, color palette, set design, and general scene composition, in context of the whole video or otherwise — there is a likeness between the tracks themselves that seems to have gone without much comment. It’s two women, under intense public scrutiny, answering the public in very different ways. Read the rest of this entry »

S(Car) Tissue: David Cronenberg’s “Crash”

Posted on Updated on

crash3David Cronenberg begins his film Crash, based on the novel by JG Ballard, with perhaps the purest iteration of the meet cute. He has James Spader, as film producer James Ballard, lose control of the wheel and collide directly with another car, that vehicle throwing its male passenger through both the original window and into his car. Remaining in the opposite car is Dr. Helen Remington (Holly Hunter), still strapped in by her seatbelt. While pulling at the seatbelt that has her harnessed in the car, she reveals an exposed treat — that her sports jacket covers only her bare body. The two lock eyes with one another through the shattered front window pane. It’s like love at first sight.  Read the rest of this entry »

Angels and Demons: On Andrew Garfield

Posted on Updated on

Header2.-Andrew-Garfield-Prior-Walter-in-AngelsInAmerica-Perestroika-photo-by-Helen-Maybanks“What sort of resources did you have in terms of resource for research, or did it all just come during rehearsals?” an audience member asked an actor during a NT Platform panel regarding a six hour long play, reports GayTimes UK.

The actor responded, per GayTimes’ reportage:

“The preparation had begun before (rehearsals began) with a lot of my friends. (The play is) As much devoted to my friends in the gay community as it is those that passed during the epidemic.”

[He] later revealed that a certain drag superstar’s show has helped him find his character: “I mean every single series of RuPaul’s Drag Race. I mean every series.

“My only time off during rehearsals – every Sunday I would have eight friends over and we would just watch Ru. This is my life outside of this play. I am a gay man right now just without the physical act – that’s all.”

The play was Tony Kushner’s Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes. The actor was Andrew Garfield. His role as Prior Walter leaves him with the difficult work of playing a gay man living with AIDS and a prophet, whose message to humanity is overwhelming.

This isn’t really a story, more of a quick anecdote about his acting process. But a story was picked up nonetheless, with places like Attitude and Out Magazine decrying the actor’s comments as insensitive, specifically regarding the “I am a gay man right now, just without the physical act” bit. Read the rest of this entry »

My Home Has No Heart: Xavier Dolan’s “It’s Only the End of the World”

Posted on Updated on

the end of the worldA ball bearing drops onto its track, the little sphere rolling smoothly held between metal wires, its path never too crooked, never uneven, never too wide or narrow. Marbles need support, but otherwise, they seem like little else but totems used to set things off in motion, as the grander design of the path reveals the intricate workings of something like a Rube Goldberg Machine. For me, it was a letter, or an invoice, rather, that arrived a year after my father’s death and a few weeks after my first semester in college, on Christmas Eve. Seated in the living room, before the enormous television that acted as the only string that could keep my mother, my sister, and me together in any semblance. The string between the three of us had been taut since his death – a combination of emotional abuse, physical abuse, pathological lying, betrayal, and manipulation had been the things to cause the relationships to unravel without control. I avoided leaving my room whenever I was home, lest any threads deteriorate beyond fixing. But, as always, returning home sent me into a fury and depression. My skin crawled when I knew I had to be at home. My mother and I were rarely not at each other’s throats, a simple question to either of us (“What do you want for dinner?”) enough to send us down a spiraling, dizzying path to a shouting match. This letter was the catalyst, the climax taking place the next morning when my sister placed her hands around my throat and, in an effort to get her off of me, I smashed a coffee cup on her head. Merry Christmas to us.

Being in the midst of an argument with a loved one, a family member especially, is like seeing red. Everything disappears – your sense of space, time, the language you use. They’re either volcanic eruptions, building up, or when a flame touches the sulfur tip of a match: an overwhelming burst, a spectacle.

If Xavier Dolan knows anything, he knows that he likes spectacle. His most recent film, It’s Only the End of the World, returns to family dysfunction on a slightly larger scale; where his previous films concerned two or three characters at most, giving the works a focus and a balance, his newest jumps around between the four family members of Louis, a gay prodigal son returning home after a 12 year absence, with the intent of telling his family that he is dying. He is the ball bearing, the marble, and domino, and yet he is not unaffected by the events that follow his homecoming. He must contend with his younger sister, Suzanne (Lea Seydoux), who always wished to know him; his smothering mother Martine (Nathalie Baye); his petty and volatile older brother Antoine (Vincent Cassel); and Antoine’s perceptive and compassionate wife, Catherine (Marion Cotillard). Before long, madness ensues. Read the rest of this entry »

Dancer in the Dark: The Loneliness of Joshua Harmon’s “Significant Other”

Posted on Updated on

58b6ee8d22000020004adef4

“It’s the light of day that shows me how

And when the night falls, loneliness calls”

– “I Wanna Dance with Somebody”, Whitney Houston

There is much dancing throughout Joshua Harmon’s new play Significant Other, which opened on Broadway at the Booth Theater on March 2. The dancing takes its form literally, as four friends – Jordan (Gideon Glick), Gay Jewish dweeb; Kiki (Sas Goldberg), loud and mess; Vanessa (Rebecca Naomi Jones), professional and cynical), and Laura (Lindsay Mendez), Jordan’s best friend and former college roommate – as they dance at each other’s bridal showers, bachelorette parties, and weddings, in clubs, bars, and Kentucky, with the number shrinking as each successively pairs off, and somewhat more figuratively. Figurative in, again, two senses: the cast literally bounces around the almost MC Escher inspired set, room stacked upon room, and with its language. Finding a nice comfort spot between the quasi-naturalistic dialogue of ‘90s sitcoms and romantic comedies, the cast bobs in and out, talking to one character in one scene and then easily bleeding into another conversation, a relentless swing time that inevitably leaves Jordan alone. And that’s what Significant Other is very plainly, very boldly in some ways about: being alone and trying to figure out what to do when you have to dance by yourself. Read the rest of this entry »