Saturday, July 31, 2010

I wrote this on a plane, yo

I’m composing this in a word processing document as I am flying home to Houston. The past four days have been more than slightly ridiculous. In addition to interviewing, packing to come home for two weeks, not knowing if those two weeks would turn into two months, three months, four, I also had to be packing up all my shit to move out of my apartment.

For various insane reasons relating to my quasi-employments and my parents desire not to be guaranteeing the lease on an apartment that I might be forced to vacate at any moment I had to leave my beautiful orange room in Lord Washington’s Fort, the apartment my buddies and I had occupied for a year in Washington Heights. We all got along really well as roommates, even when we had disagreements about decor or cleaning out the stupid drain catch (which no one ever really mastered the art of, except Steph, who just started using her own).

It’s going to be really strange not going home to that apartment when I get back to NYC, and I’m honestly a little verklempt thinking about it. Those guys are my pals, and that room was my home, and I’m really going to miss it. I am fairly confident that I will be able to find something in the way of housing- I’ve already warned my friends who offered me couch crash-age that I will be cashing that shit in.

Being at home is going to be great. I haven’t seen my dad since Christmas and my mom since March, and since I lurve them, I’m going to spend a lot of time hanging out and they’ll probably be like “don’t you have friends? get out of the house.”

I’m also going to try and see approximately 100 movies when I’m at home since they’ll be a full FIVE DOLLARS CHEAPER than NYC. I haven’t seen Inception yet because both times that Raygan and I attempted to see it the showings were sold out. For the whole evening. At almost every location within a twenty minute subway ride. We were just standing there at a loss, indignant that the most media-y city in the city would be filled with people wanting to see a wildly popular movie. There were two guys behind me in Starbucks discussing the plot about a week after it came out and I wanted to turn around and punch them in their macchiato-ordering faces. They should have gotten themselves a Cone of Silence and written SPOILER ALERT all over it. I also want to see Salt and Predators, which will hopefully not have left theaters.


(Now when I’m on planes and there is turbulence I think of that scene in The Day After Tomorrow where there is the crazy insane turbulence and Emmy Rossum is all “Everything is fine! They’re still serving drinks!” and then the turbulence gets so bad the drink cart careens down the aisle and almost hits Jake Gyllenhaal in his impeccably well-groomed face.)

... and now, watching The Mummy. Gotta love travel!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Rediscovering my love for The Candybutchers.

I dated a kid briefly in college- I say "kid," but in reality he was 28 and not very bright, and at 18 I think I had my shit way better together than he did- but the one good thing that came out of the relationship was the copy he gave me of The Candybutcher's excellent album "Hang On Mike." Here is a crappy version of their song "What To Do With Michael"

And a much better version of "Nice to Know You" with bonus Carson Daly:

I think my favorite song from this album is "Hang On Mike," followed closely by "Painkillers." Definitely worth checking out.

What I Watched Last Night: Pig-Faced Policeman Edition

Last night I had a hilarious double-feature of the 2006 whimsical fairytale romantic comedy Penelope and the classic 1985 Hong Kong cop movie Police Story. Imagine the dreams I had last night: horrifying and hilarious nightmares of Christina Ricci fighting pig-nosed Chinese businessmen, throwing briefcases and leaping off escalators, all the while being sexily pursued by James McAvoy and Burn Gorman.

Penelope tells the story of a girl who is the victim of her wealthy family's curse: many generations back, some douchey grand knocked up a servant, whose subsequent suicide caused her witchy mother to hex the family: the next Wilhern girl would be born with the face of a pig. Six generations later Penelope is born to Richard E. Grant and Catherine O'Hara, both charming and underutilized in their roles as harried parents to a pig-faced daughter who they must hide from the world while simultaneously trying to find Penelope a fiance.

You see, the curse can only be broken when "one of [the family's] own" accepts her for who she is, "till death do they part." Her mother kicks the husband hunt into overdrive, searching for seven years for a man who will love Penelope enough to marry her (and her sizable dowry) without running for the hills. This would all be more convincing if Penelope were actually, you know, ugly, but at its worst the nose is just charmingly snubbed and not really all that monstrous:

OK, so maybe that is a little gross. Anyway, if you guessed that the plot of Penelope would involve a swindler trying to get a photo of Penelope for a tabloid, then falling in love with her, then leaving her for reasons that aren't quite what you expect, causing Penelope to strike out on her own and make friends, then returning home to get married only to discover mid-vow that she loves herself the way she is, thus (spoiler) breaking the curse, then you'd be TOTALLY RIGHT. It turns out all she needed all along was to LOVE HERSELF. As Catherine O'Hara points out, the curse could have been broken ages ago if she had just accepted her daughter as who she was. Then they wouldn't have had to go through all the agony of hunting down every eligible "blue-blood" in the land.

Penelope herself borders right on the edge of Manic Pixie Dream Girl-hood but is never really fleshed out enough, nor is James MacAvoy as brooding, be-emo banged, down-on-his-luck blue blooded gambler suitor Max:

Not visible: the Emo Bang of Intense Emotion. Visible: McAvoy's champ-like brooding skills. Also invisible: the tree he is brooding in. Seriously. A tree.

Anyway, I thought the touch at the end of having Max kiss Penelope while she had her mask on, thus signifying that he Loved Her Even Though Her Nose and Presumably Her Ears (And, Possibly, Hind-Parts) Resemble a Pig's was very sweet. The message of "Accept Yourself and Dudes will Find That Sexy" is also kind of nice, although I'm not sure how losing the pig nose worked with that. And I wish that what looked like the beginnings of a romantic subplot between Reese Witherspoon's spunky vespa deliveryperson and the bar owner had actually happened. They looked cute! He knew her usual! They made adorable and awkward wedding-related small-talk! Alas, twas not to be.

My roommate Raygan rented both Police Story and Police Story 2, which I haven't seen yet. What I love about Police Story and about Chinese movies in general (Hong Kong, Taiwan, and mainland alike) is that they like to signify the mood change with really ridiculous music shifts: like, "THIS IS A COMEDY, LISTEN TO THE HAPPY CLARINET MUSIC." Since there are lots of cute comedy moments in Police Story, including Jackie Chan's character duping Selina with a fake intruder, only to get totally hosed by actual attackers later, this music change happens a lot. I can't wait to see the sequel.

Jackie Chan's friend learns the hard way that both home invasion and people getting injured are HILARIOUS.

Did I mention that I am unemployed?

I casually referenced it when telling the story of Man Who Is Actually a Crazy Conspiracist Teabagger In Real Life, but I don't think I've elaborated for the three people who read this blog, including my parents (Hi Mom! Hi Dad!) just how I came to be haunting this starbucks instead of being at my Nine to Five.

I had long felt that I was spinning my wheels in my previous position. Between supervisor turnover, personalities not meshing, and my own lack of enthusiasm for the job I was so burnt out that I was basically an emotional wreck, left weeping and cowering, spewing gibberish and rolling my eyes in a corner every morning before heading out into the world. I said before how I uncomfortably related, through gut-busting laughter, to the Hyperbole and a Half blog post on "This is Why I'll Never Be an Adult." The way she describes her cycle of guilt and inactivity was a basically pitch-perfect portrait of the way I worked at that job.

Since leaving, however, I have achieved magical new levels of Gittin' R' Done. I have, as previously stated, managed to get out of bed every morning before noon. I have signed up with two temp agencies. I have interviewed for a part time position at a literary agency that would be BALLER, and another EVEN MORE BALLER position at a women's film organization. (The Jen Udden Wheelhouse, Let Me Show You It.) I have had some great informational interviews and I have more on the horizon. I'm basically making it work, one day at a time, like an alcoholic. (Did I mention I'm also drinking less? GO ME.)

Anyway, the immediate result of me quitting my job without having anything else lined up has been me having to give up my fabulous room in Lord Washington's Fort, the beautimous apartment I have been sharing for the past year with my pals. I'm now homeless and semi-jobless (I consider temping a job, even if I haven't actually gotten a temp job yet) but I seriously cannot describe how much happier I am. I don't dread waking up in the morning. I don't hate Sundays for their proximities to Mondays, which mean going back into the office. I'm moving on with my life and pursuing my dreams. (CLICHE ALERT.) It's too bad that the Montage of Jen Changing Her Life would be super boring and look a lot like me sitting at a table with the same watery-ass iced coffee for hour upon hour, typing!

I'm headed home to Houston this Friday, and when I quit my job I told myself that this trip could turn into a long-term one if I didn't have anything lined up in NYC. I'm starting to think that even though I don't have anything solid I have a shot at putting it together, inch by inch, cobbling together a life out of temping and part-time interning and whatever else I can scrape together. We'll see how it goes!

Monday, July 19, 2010

My unemployment is off to an... interesting start

On my first day of unemployment I managed to not only wake up before noon, but actually shower, put on clothes that aren't sweatpants, leave my apartment, and decamp to the local starbucks* to be moderately productive. Yay for adulthood!

Now, not wanting to be an asshole, when this older looking black man with an oxygen tank was looking around for a place to sit, I offered to share my table. I know how annoying it is when someone is taking up a table and doesn't want to share- after all, I had my headphones on, I was in the zone, it won't be a big deal to have a pal at the table.

We exchanged pleasantries about the weather (it is hot as balls) and I kept on working, sending out email after email to people who might be able to point me in the direction of gainful employment. At some point we started chit-chatting, as two people sharing a table are wont to do- he offered me his receipt that was stamped for a $2 drink as a thank you for letting him share my table, and I was like aww, sweet, you don't have to do that.

At some point he started telling me about his life, and as the conversation progressed it got very wierd, very quickly. He's telling me all about how he keeps busy, you know, with his LAWSUIT AGAINST OBAMA.

Here, in bulleted form, is a list of the forms of crazy this man talked at me about:
  • obama not being a real american
  • said president trying to 'forcibly convert' all united states citizens to Islam
  • Also, in between his busy religious activities, trying to merge the US with Mexico and Canada, thus depriving us of our sovereignty
  • the mosque being built downtown being built with billions of dollars of al qaeda money, as a monument to the vanquished world trade center

Day 2 has been much less exciting. I sent approximately five thousand emails to various MHC alums who work in film asking for informational interviews, a phrase I hate, but hopefully that will net some valuable information. I'm meeting Raygan's cousin for drinks tonight to talk about other part-time work, and tomorrow I have not one, but two interviews with temp agencies and a quasi-date! So, all in all, life, it's pretty good. Now if only I had brought a cardigan with me.

*blogger's spellcheck wants me to capitalize this. I REFUSE.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Saturday, July 10, 2010

What I Watched Last Night: Hungry Like the Wolf edition

Hunger (2008) dir. Steve McQueen

Do you like my wildly insensitive title? Do you like the way I reduce the Troubles and the 1981 Dirty (or Blanket) protests in the Maze prison to an overplayed Duran Duran reference?

Well I'm not proud, but I don't have a whole lot of time to pull together my thoughts on this movie, which I watched last night in fits and starts. Pausing frequently because literally shit got really real, and became very, very difficult to watch.

Hunger tells the story of the 1981 hunger strikes in the Maze prison and the death of their leader, Bobby Sands, in a manner both loose and terribly, terribly focused and specific. Almost wordlessly, McQueen uses his camera to capture small glimpses of life in the Maze: the blood on a prison guard's hands, the almost-artistic swirls of brown (oh my god is that what I think it is holy fuck it totally is oh my god) on the walls of a prison cell, a trembling guard after administering a brutal beating. I say "wordlessly" and "almost" because there are very few words in the movie, the bulk of them during an extended twenty-two minute scene between Sands and a priest, as they dance around each other on the morality of what Sands is about to do, about what he's about to ask others to do:

Towards the end of the movie, as Sands is dying in his bed, the camera dances around him like an anxious parent as a flock of birds flutters and retreats- it's a scene that breathtakingly combines Sands' hallucinations and reality, as he dry-heaves without the strength to hold himself up.

Steve McQueen, the director, is apparently primarily known as a visual artist and also sharing a name with another BAMF, Steve McQueen.

One of these things is not like the other, although both rule.

You can really see it in the really painterly way he composes his shots. Aaagh. I really have many Feelings And Thoughts about this movie but they'll have to wait.

Friday, July 9, 2010

A Bout de Souffle: No one is immune to the sexy allure of submissive American expats

I went and saw Breathless at the Film Forum on Wednesday with my pal Katherine, knowing next to nothing about it except that it was Godard's debut feature, that it started the French New Wave of cinemaaah, and that Jean Seberg has really, really cute hair:

(Seriously. How cute is this hair? I have the Poor Fat Person's version of this haircut right now, and I'm not ashamed to say that when I was bored while watching the movie-which was frequently-I would try and figure out how she got it to look like that. Combined with my acquisition lust for every item of clothing she wore in the entire film I think that it is safe to say, in the end, that I'd really rather I looked like Jean Seberg.)

The "plot" in a nutshell: Michel (Jean-Paul Belmondo, whose abs of glory half-concealed by giant waist-high boxers were the most exciting thing about the extended bed chatter scene, but I digress) steals a car, kills a motorcycle cop, goes to Paris where he reconnects with his sweetie, American expat journalist/newspaper vendor Patricia (Seberg), they loll about on a bed talking about Art and Literature and Music, they have sex, she tells him she's pregnant and that the baby is HIS oh noes, and then he gets caught and shot by the cops. FIN. (Literally, FIN, which maybe I have seen parodied on Clone High too often to take seriously.*)

If I had seen Breathless when I was younger, I would probably have responded to it really strongly and positively. I would have coveted not just Jean Seberg's terminally cute hair and adorable minimalist wardrobe but her very existence: her tiny flat in Paris, her fraught relationship with the sketchy Michel, her ennui about her life and her inability to give a serious think to anything, really. Maybe I've officially joined the rank of The Olds, but when she sighs "Michel, I'm pregnant" in the same tone she uses to declare that she's bored or annoyed I just want to grab her by the shoulders and shake her for being an idiotic cliche. Watching Patricia follow Michel around at 24 doesn't feel like I'm watching the ebullient spirit of the New Wave or whatever AO Scott would have me believe. I am not turned on by Michel's hipster insouciance and faux-Bogart posturing. I am infuriated that after Michel shrugs off shooting a cop to death with a gun she's basically like "Sigh. Shall we steal a Cadillac?" as though it's a game that isn't particularly fun, but she's going along with it anyway because to put up a real resistance to it would be too difficult.

What Breathless reminds me most of on further reflection is Lost in Translation. I saw Lost in Translation when it came out and thought it was the absolute shit. Charlotte (ScarJo, who is super pretty and who I loved in Iron Man 2) also didn't know what she wanted, and felt out of place, and resented her husband for dragging her around Japan when she didn't want to, and also judged the vapid ignorance of the movie stars her husband hobnobs with. As a judgey, indecisive person myself, I could and do still to a certain extent relate to this kind of hipster posturing, one of my very, very worst traits. "Evelyn Waugh was a man" etc. At seventeen I thought that Lost in Translation perfectly captured some kind of phantom rootless feeling felt by all expats, and that her rootlessness was glamorous.

This comparison isn't quite cohering the way I want it to. The parallel I am trying ham-handedly to draw is between Patricia's desires to just be able to think about something and her lack of resistance to Michel and Charlotte's half-silent, semi-dazed wanderings through Japan. The desire to connect with anyone when you're abroad and don't know anyone and sometimes you just kind of graft yourself onto the first person who understands you, man, and that shit doesn't always work out well. Michel seemed quite predatory to me, and I think that's why I didn't respond to him as a kind of lost soul the way some reviewers seem to. Beyond than the obvious stealing, cheating, and FUCKING MURDERING he also badgers Patricia. He doesn't leave her alone when she asks him to. He steals a key and stays in her room without her permission. I'm sitting there, feeling intensely, intensely bothered by all this watching the movie- like, is nobody going to call out Michel for being an enormous, predatory douche?

In his article about this 50th anniversary print of Breathless (which, to be fair, was a great print, and the translation I am told is much improved) A.O. Scott uses words like "heady," "historical significance," "entirely original," and then rolls out this peach of a paragraph:

It still, that is, has the power to defy conventional expectations about what a movie should be while providing an utterly captivating moviegoing experience. A coherent plot, strong and credible emotions and motivations, convincing performances, visual continuity — all of these things are missing from “Breathless,” disregarded with a cavalier insouciance that feels like liberation. It turns out that a movie — this movie, anyway — doesn’t need any of those things, and that they might get in the way of other, more immediate pleasures.

Other, more immediate pleasures are what are going to strand Patricia in Paris knocked up by a dead cop-murderer with no money, guys. Beyond my rather Puritan moralizing about this movie-which, I admit, is very pearl-clutching, Nancy Reaganesque, I know, I know, Jesus- things like "coherent plot, strong and credible emotions and motivations, convincing performances, and visual continuity" are all things that I highly value in a moviegoing experience. I don't think that by throwing all that shit to the wind you get a good movie. Instead, you get Breathless, a visually intriguing puff pastry. A.O. Scott says it is a movie that feels "cool." Cool to me is some soulless bullshit. Lost in Translation is "cool" and ultimately it's an empty movie. I felt the exact same way about Breathless.

Who loves ya, Baby? I kind of might but I kind of might not. Don't my shades look cool?


Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Breathless at the Film Forum

Going to see the 50th anniversary of A Bout de Souffle (Breathless) tonight, a movie I have never seen but which is apparently super super amazing and important. And, subtitles! But, AIR CONDITIONING! Everybody wins.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

And now, back to your regularly scheduled foolishness

BEHOLD! The trialer for Predators, which I am totally going to see despite the fact that it takes the Bechdel rule and sets it on fire with a bazooka.

I'm just a Jealous, Fat, Petty, Outrage-Machine

Recently Jezebel (which I am not ashamed to say I read regularly and enjoy) posted an interesting piece on the gender dynamics of The Daily show in the wake of their hiring of Olivia Munn, regulation hottie, to be the first new female correspondent in seven years.

The piece pointed out that while The Daily Show is a fairly left-leaning, often hilarious show whose politics most Jezebel readers would probably agree with, their record on letting women's voices through is pretty dismal. Only something like three or four of almost 20 writers for The Daily Show are women. Counting Munn, the only other female full-time correspondent is Samantha Bee. Munn was chosen after an "exhaustive" search that included several female comedians. In addition to her time hosting Attack of the Show on GTV (which I fully admit I have never seen, but now knowing that she once licked the port of a Wii while her male-cohost told her to "lick it, lick it, put your tongue on it" I think I can safely say that I will never, ever seek it out) Munn has also written a book and is, as I said before, super hot.

Now, the gist of the article was basically this: TDS, which has a kind of progressive outlook, is not progressive in terms of who is involved, and that maybe The Daily Show could increase its already-considerable liberal street cred by, you know, maybe making their demographics reflect the actuality of the human population a little more. That maybe equality of numbers is, you know, a good thing. And that maybe the women who make up more than half of the viewership of late-night television (and the population! of the world!) would appreciate having themselves reflected a little bit more in these shows.

But the women of The Daily Show didn't like this at all. Olivia Munn, in a fit of sisterly feeling, said that

“I never tried to use anything besides my own sweat and blood and talent to get somewhere. I think that anyone who’s out there trying to bring down why any woman would get anywhere, or why we’re different, just needs to f***ing turn her f***ing computer off, take the sandwich out of her mouth and go for a god**mn walk f***ing walk. You know what? Just walk it off, b***h. Just walk it off, b***h.” hollywoodlife via ontd

Her sage advice and opinion is that the writer of the post and the commenters on Jezebel agreeing with it were 1. lame, lonely blogging hermits who 2. need to stop eating, fucking fatty and 3. just get some fucking exercise. Leaving aside the stunning originality of these statements (Really? Feminists are fat? People on blogs are losers who are chained to their computers? WOW) what is even less surprising is that the women of The Daily Show came back today with an open letter to Jezebel and the author of the post that just as staggeringly missed the entire point:

"And so, while it may cause a big stir to seize on the bitter rantings of ex-employees and ignore what current staff say about working at The Daily Show, it's not fair. It's not fair to us, it's not fair to Jon, it's not fair to our wonderful male colleagues, and it's especially not fair to the young women who want to have a career in comedy but are scared they may get swallowed up in what people label as a "boy's club." the daily show
Like, what does that even mean? That by pointing out a gender imbalance, by pointing out that the women at the top of this successful, important, funny, popular show are hugely outnumbered by men is somehow hurting the women who have already made it in the door?

At first, reading the TDS women's rebuttal of the Jezebel piece I felt a little confused. Their arguments seemed pretty valid- women make up 40% of the staff of The Daily Show, they contribute in a lot of ways, Jon Stewart is Totally A Great Guy- but something still didn't sit right with me. I looked at the helpful list they provided at the bottom of the post, with their names and positions and the length of their involvement, and thought, wow, there sure are a lot of assistants on here. Luckily, Sady Doyle of Tiger Beatdown was there to articulate my feelings of helpless discomfort:

"Yes, women is what we are, and also we work at The Daily Show. We are all sorts of things: Production assistants! Administrative assistants! Writers’ assistants! So many of us women are assisting! Why, we even sometimes get our jokes on the air! But not our names, apparently, in many cases, or our faces, in all but three cases. Just because our names do not appear on the writers’ credits — just because we do not, as the saying goes, “get credit” for our work — this should not imply to you that our work is not valued! We are women! This is enough!" tiger beatdown
Over on Slate, Emily Gould, former writer for Gawker, in a post entitled "Outrage World: How Feminist Blogs like Jezebel gin up their page views by exploiting women's worst tendencies" wrote that the concern over Munn's hiring and the gender balance at The Daily Show was pure, slut-shaming jealousy:
"Paradoxically, in the midst of all the deeply felt concern about women's sexual and professional freedom to look and be however they want, it's considered de rigueur to criticize anyone, like Munn, who dares to seem to want to sexually attract men."
"They're ignited by writers who are pushing readers to feel what the writers claim is righteously indignant rage but which is actually just petty jealousy, cleverly marketed as feminism."
Furthemore, Jezebel commenters who point out the privilege of the white and rich and thin are "bitter." Comment views are accompanied by an ad for Cheetos. The benefits of articles about the problems of body image in mainstream publications are completely nullified when accompanied by a picture of a thin woman. And on, and on, and on.

So what Emily Gould (and Olivia Munn) would like us to take away from this is that:

1. Jezebel writers and those who agree with them are jealous, ugly, fat, lazy bitches, who are just jealous because Olivia Munn is super hot
2. You should be glad that women are employed at the Daily Show in any capacity
3. Worrying about the makeup of the people at the top, their salary breakdown, promotion patterns, etc. is being a jealous hater
4. Oh, and did we mention, you're a fake feminist if you don't support any woman who gets promoted anywhere at any time?

I guess what I'm trying to say is that the whole situation makes me sad. Instead of saying "hey, maybe we don't have a good gender breakdown, but here is what we have, and how it affects the writing" the Daily Show issued a self-serving rebuttal saying "Hey everything is fine and also Jon Stewart is awesome." Emily Gould, whose writing I usually admire, turned to the age-old "Those bitches are just jealous" line. People: the numbers matter. Where women are placed in the hierarchy matters. How often they get promoted matters. The titles they have matter. The contributions they make matter. The attitudes they take up in order to get their voices heard matter.

To go at it from another perspective: 18% of plays produced last year in New York were written by women. That means 82% of all the productions in New York, arguably the most important center for theater in the country, were written by men. These. Numbers. Matter. And blithely dismissing concerns about gender parity by saying that the critics are just fat, jealous bitches is only making everything worse.

UPDATE: The NYTimes ArtsBeat blog has joined the conversation.

And now, the final word on how bad Jonah Hex was

Courtesy of Defamer:

"Despite being the worst-reviewed movie of the summer, Airbender didn't flop in the same way that, oh say, Jonah Hex fell of its horse and lay weeping and farting in the dust. You know how much money Jonah Hex made this weekend? None. Because they took it out of the movie theaters."

Via Defamer: Vampires Defeat Airbenders at Bunker Hill