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You Could Be a Font: 19 from 2019

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2019 in film 2Another year, another couple homewrecked, another layer of calcification, another foot away in ironic distance, I mean, another foot into my obsession with Stephen Sondheim’s Company. But you knew that! I don’t think I could wrap-up 2019 better than this piece about alienation, displacement, Sondheim in pop culture, and why “Being Alive” haunts us, with thanks to my wonderful Paste editor Dom Sinacola. (Don’t worry, I’m not completely devoid of self-awareness when it comes to my Company content. At this point, it’s sort of a bit. But! I did write/finish my Company screenplay, which I had been talking about doing for five or so years. So, I’m very proud of that.)  Read the rest of this entry »

Women Under the Influence: Ivo van Hove’s “All About Eve” and Cyril Teste’s “Opening Night”

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women mirrorsIn two different plays, adapted from two different films, and by two different directors (one Belgian and one French), two women—“of a certain age,” someone, more likely than not a man, might write colloquially, garden variety sexism dotting the fibrous page—look into the mirror and see their unsavory fates, and the loss of what was once so promising, even if under a particular paradigm. They’re two actresses playing actresses in play adaptations of films about plays, and theatre, and performance, and all of that baggage. One actress, Margo Channing (Gillian Anderson), reacts to her growing obsolescence with venomous wit, peppered in with drunken desperation. The other, Myrtle Gordon (Gena Rowlands) responds with a sort of actorly paralysis, like the yips, and also with sloshed conduct. And as two live feeds amplify and project the frustration and neuroses these women are experiencing, men loom in the background, flattening it all for the sake of their own thrill. 

It’s fairly interesting that, at least in New York, that the international broadcast of the National Theatre’s production of All About Eve, directed and adapted by Ivo van Hove, and the United States premiere of the stage adaptation of Opening Night, directed and adapted by Cyril Teste, should “run” in such close proximity to one another, mere weeks apart. They’re effectively very similar texts, with equally iconoclastic leading roles for women, and presented in not dissimilar, but extremely disheartening ways. It could be argued that the films from which these plays are adapted are in dialogue with one another, and, in a way, so are the adaptations themselves, though I would really designate it as a pompous shouting match that grates on the ear than a conversation.  Read the rest of this entry »

Goodnight, Ladies: 18 from 2018

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best of 2018 round 4Imagine having the intellectual or emotional bandwidth to talk about 2018 at all, is something I keep saying to myself. It’s a sentence I could easily write over and over again for this little post. I am truly exhausted, but I’m glad I’m alive. I’m glad I have people around me that I can share parts of myself with, and that they can, hopefully, share their lives with me.

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The Fame Monster: “A Star is Born” as Drag About Drag and the Self-Mythology of Lady Gaga

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shallowIt’s telling that Bradley Cooper begins his version, the fourth, of A Star is Born in a drag bar. A drag bar is, in not precisely insulting but at least somewhat paternalistic, not like other bars, even though, for his needs, it served alcohol. Queens in full face and wig line the bar, and then Lady Gaga comes out, her angular face also painted in drag makeup, as the one resident AFAB-queen. It’s commonly agreed upon that drag is about artifice, but it takes a little more thought, maybe more camp or irony, to get at artifice being a gateway to truth. So, Ally sings “La Vie en Rose” and Jackson sees the beauty and truth of her artistry not because or augmented by this drag, but in spite of it, an artistic purity that seems to be stifled by the fake eyebrows and harsh, accentuated faux contours. And when the well-worn star is birthed and begins to eclipse Jackson’s gravely country dulcet tones, via pop stardom, the movie, too, begins to view her genre stylings as just another form of drag. Read the rest of this entry »

The Glitch is Back: UNFRIENDED: DARK WEB and the New /er Film

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unfriendeddarkweb__article-hero-1130x430Stay on the computer long enough and the contours of its design, the pixelated dreamscape you fall into becomes almost like another universe to inhabit. The tools whose interfaces we are so familiar with have, in a late capitalist economy, become necessary extensions of our identities and the primary way we exchange information, money, and even foster intimacy. The digital universe is its own setting, and that’s never truer than in the Unfriended films. Desktop films like Unfriended, its sequel Unfriended: Dark Web, the short film Noah, and the upcoming Searching… are the next logical step from found footage, which intimates that the footage exists within reality. Desktop films, conversely, acknowledge that the mediated reality is a new space, with its own way of articulating information and performance; desktop films are like if you lived in funhouse mirror maze. But Unfriended and Unfriended: Dark Web don’t operate exactly like other found footage films, like the anthology V/H/S or even the phenomenon igniting The Blair Witch Project; instead, they’re a unique nightmare that revitalizes the slasher genre because the mediation between reality and new media digital space traps the viewer in limbo. The social context of slashers have changed, and so did the way we experience them.  Read the rest of this entry »