“Away From Home Through No Wish of My Own”: 20 from 2020

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I opened my work laptop this morning to a collage of Dorinda Medleys gesticulating expressively at someone(s), her mouth silently shouting “I’ll tell you how I’m doing. Not well, bitch!” ad infinitum. An amusing enough, if not especially unique, sentiment to describe the last year, and perhaps discomfitingly auspicious. (Could anyone have predicted that the Real Housewives would become, first, an obsession to theorize and intellectualize, and then its rightful sweet spot as fascinating, pulpy via affluence pop cultural artifact to zone out to while doomscrolling, sans fake thesis titles?) 

It’s an absurd image, from this or any year, not just one rich lady asserting herself in loose appropriative body language garb — hand curved like a C, just short of a barrel bent threat or some more rapid and articulate bodying — but an endless scroll of them, wordlessly in sync with one another. I do not know what she is wearing other than a black sweater and pearl earrings, but her aggression implies she’s ready to take them off, finding a queasy cocktail of bizarrely hilarious drag and dystopian lane hopping. (The “someone” was Candace Bushnell, author of the Sex and the City books.)

Anyways, the point is that opening up to the gif of Dorinda from season 9 of Real Housewives of New York is as absurd as the scenario itself. I think, in other images of absurdity, or surreality, one can find tenderness, softness, beauty. 

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I’ll Have What…: Some Thoughts on “Happiest Season” and Questions of a Queer Romcom

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Abby (KRISTEN STEWART) and Harper (MACKENZIE DAVIS) listen to Ted’s speech in TriStar Pictures’ HAPPIEST SEASON.

Recently I watched The Prom and Happiest Season, and I don’t have a third example, so this isn’t useful as a trend piece to be featured in your favorite publication. These are different movies that effectively have similar genre topes, similar politics, similar conceptions of the closet, similar ideas of, as Erik Hinton puts it, “the rosy-cheeked triumphalism that the truth will set you free, the belief that someone can shape the world merely by shaping their picture of it.” Hinton notes that the convergence of personal identity revelation movies and coming out movies highlight the more aggravating parts of the respective types and augment them beyond tolerability. 

My sense is that the two films have become foils against one another, depending on whom you ask, either representative of either the failure of grasping a contemporary vocabulary of relational dynamics or the success of a reformed genre that has been stuck in the mud of creakier perspectives that reveal the worst of a society audiences know can be better. 

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Quaran-Scenes: “So Close” in “Enchanted”

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Screen Shot 2020-05-15 at 11.45.51 AMScreenwriter Bill Kelly probably imagined Enchanted taking on a much darker life, negotiating the chasm between the reality of sex and relationships and the cutesy version of love peddled by fairy tales and, specifically Disney movies, but the product that came out of it is more than serviceable. Its defanged nature is detectable in the finished film, especially when you read about how the version of Manhattan that bubbly GIselle (Amy Adams) finds herself in is harsher, scarier, the untamed concrete wilderness of one of those ‘80s comedies. I’m thinking, what would it have been like if Adams’ unhinged adventure looked more like Martin Scorsese’s After Hours than, I don’t know, the Disney version of New York City where the male romantic lead (Patrick Dempsey) has a nice apartment overlooking Central Park. Enchanted still has its charms, though, their deconstructionist exercise feeling a lot more like homage than a real concerted effort to interrogate the values of these texts. It’s Into the Woods-lite, and its existence just makes their own spin on the Sondheim musical, directed by Rob Marshall a little less than a decade later, feel redundant, as it, too, was victim of Disney’s navel-gazing neutralizing. But the maturity and calloused irony of whatever may have been in that first draft remains present in Adams’ delirious performance and in one particular scene at, of course, a ball.  Read the rest of this entry »

Quaran-Scenes: “You Only Live Twice” in “Tully”

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Screen Shot 2020-05-13 at 6.39.15 PMI tend to describe Jason Reitman and Diablo Cody’s Tully, which seemed to be shrugged off when it was released in 2018, as “Follies, but about motherhood”, a reference that, though it may only register for some people, seems apt to me: certainly, it is about the challenges of motherhood (in particular, raising three children), and the skewed and inequitable manner in which the labor and work of motherhood is discussed, and a thoughtful character study of a woman, Margo (Charlize Theron), experiencing postpartum depression. I think it is also about the lives we lead, the ones which we wish explored and embodied, and the struggle to reconcile our past dreams and aspirations with present reality.  Read the rest of this entry »

Quaran-Scenes: “Hopelessly Devoted to You” in “Pushing Daisies”

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Screen Shot 2020-05-06 at 11.40.35 AMIt is of my opinion that pining is, essentially, quite boring for everyone except for the person who pines, a little world of stasis where one can wade through feelings, tumble through them with uncertainty a kind of propeller. Do they like me? Do they know I like them? What would happen if they were to find out? Am I too obvious? Will my lack of subtlety eventually be my downfall? None of these questions is especially interesting to the outsider, and the friends who listen patiently do so out of social contract and, if you’re lucky, genuine investment in your wellbeing. And while there may be a narrative arc that may appeal to the friend, longing in and of itself is basically a solitary experience, until it’s not. (I would even be inclined to argue that it’s still, basically, a solitary experience with occasional collaboration.) 

And that yearning is basically predicated on lack of tactility. Rather, one is caught up in the ineffable, the horrid swirl and whirl of time, a delirious trap that confines only you. And all of it is so absurd. So silly. Imagine if someone walked in on you in the throes of wanting! How ridiculous that would be. Read the rest of this entry »