Monthly Archives: January 2011

Link Dump: #20

Anne Hathaway can try – and best of luck to her – but she’ll never out-Catwoman the beloved Eartha Kitt. I mean, her last name was “Kitt”! You can’t get more Catwoman-y than that. Luckily for Anne, though, she’ll undoubtedly outdo the previous incarnation – i.e., Halle Berry’s. Guess we’ll just have to wait until 2012 to know for sure! In the meantime, some links:

  • Runt of the Web has a very funny observation about “Why I Need To Quit Facebook.”
  • I think these film noir woodcuts by Guy Budziak may be the coolest things ever. Feel free to contradict me on that… but you’ll probably be wrong.
  • Oh, women. First they’re menstruating all over the place, now they’re falling asleep during movies. Luckily AskMen.com’s scienticians are here to tell us the very scientific reasons why!
  • If you’ve never checked out Banksy’s website, it’s got a great collection of his bitingly satirical graffiti pieces, both in and out of doors.
  • Speaking of Oscar nominees, aren’t the Coen Bros. awesome? This chart contains all 15 of their films to date, plus info about actors they’ve reused.
  • Christopher Hitchens in Slate points out a few of the “gross falsifications of history” present in The King’s Speech. A glossy piece of prestigious fluff chooses to overlook unpleasant truths? I know, I’m shocked too! (Matt Singer of IFC responds with a comparison to The Social Network.)
  • I always love jokey photoshopped posters, so TheShiznit brings us “If the Best Picture nominee posters told the truth.” The alterations of are of varying quality, and to be truly nitpicky, neither Love and Other Drugs nor The Ghost Writer was nominated. But it’s worth a laugh. And no matter what you do, there’s no way to make that poster for The King’s Speech worse.
  • This was published last June, but I just discovered it: an essay by Matt Mazur talking about Fassbinder alongside The Night of the Hunter. As a massive fan of both, I had to read it.

On the search term front, we don’t have much this week. But there is the odd, lie-filled “why aren’t gay men attractive”; the extreme long “first atempt menses vigina in indian femle with clear videos,” which doesn’t seem sure what it’s searching for; and finally, the ominous “pictures of pussys you’re not supposed to see.” Which pictures are those, exactly? Do I even want to know?

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Once more unto the breach!

Since I turned in the first draft of my comps project on Monday, I now have a life again! And that life, of course, involves blogging. I feel like I’m about to go into casual film writing withdrawal or something; so much time spent maintaining a stern, academic tone can be suffocating. So let’s get wacky, why don’t we! Just like Bertie in The King’s Speech, let’s throw off the shackles of pomp and circumstance, and start acting… well, acting however the hell we want to. After all, as Sean Parker says in another Oscar nominee, “This is our time.”

Yeah, I’m just all intoxicated with the joy of freedom, movies, and awards season (even if all the awards are just the problematic, self-congratulatory products of industry politics), and I want to write, write, write! So first of all, I want to write about a subject near and dear to my heart: horror director Lucky McKee (of May fame). As you may have heard, he recently had a film debut at Sundance. It was largely overlooked in the midst of all the Red State hoopla, but it sounds fascinating and disturbing—always the best combination.

It’s called The Woman and it involves the feral, nonverbal woman of the title being taken in and “educated” by the abusive, sociopathic patriarch of an average American family. Sound deeply weird? Yeah, I think we’re in prime McKee territory, folks. Better yet, The Woman‘s premiere screening was the site of a hysterical outbreak by one particularly vocal McKee detractor, who declared that “this film ought to be confiscated, burned… there’s no value in showing this to anyone!” You can watch footage of the event at the link above. Oh, and a woman was injured trying to walk out of the screening. You can read McKee’s well-reasoned response here.

And yes, as indicated by the picture above, I did watch The King’s Speech immediately after the nominations were announced. It didn’t exactly set my world on fire. It’s occasionally cutesy, and shows some fine British dry wit in its best moments, but for the most part, it’s just well-mounted historical fluff. Compared to something like The Blind Side, certainly, it’s high art—I’m not exactly outraged that it’s posed to possibly sweep the Oscar race—but it’s hardly in the league of daring, even ingenious films like The Social Network, Black Swan, or Winter’s Bone.

I love HBC as much as the next weirdo, but it’s sad to see her nominated for a role where she mostly just smiles and nods, when she’s done such ferociously good work in the past. And seriously, Geoffrey Rush is anything but a Supporting Actor. That’s just silly. But I’ll get more into all of this as February 27 approaches (and with it, my 21st birthday!). For now, suffice it to say that The King’s Speech was, to quote the impression my friend Rebekah had gotten, “pretty OK.” With that, may an era of renewed blogging begin! (Oh, and fun fact: did you know that HBC is nobility, as well as the great-granddaughter of a British PM? Like Wallis Simpson, Tim Burton clearly quasi-married above his social station!)

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The Key to Carrie

I’m in the midst of compsing, part of which entails writing copious amounts about gender/sexuality in Carrie (1976). And while rewatching the film’s opening shower scene for the umpteenth time, I noticed something strange: Carrie has a key on a string around her neck. So I’m wondering: why? Having just written all about Cat People and The Haunting, two films where keys play huge roles, I’m tempted to ascribe some symbolic significance to it, but I can’t think of anything. And why would Carrie even have a key at all? Her mother supervises every single aspect of her life, and seems unlikely to trust her with the ability to lock or unlock anything; furthermore, I don’t remember anything about a key in Stephen King’s novel.

Given how meticulously selected the props, costuming, and set design in Carrie are, I feel like there must be a reason for this, but it’s not coming to me. Thus, I go to you, the reader: have any ideas? Why is this key so important that Carrie must wear it in the shower? Any suggestions would be appreciated. In other news, analyzing this scene reminds me of just how scrawny and anguished Sissy Spacek looks. Carrie may have its faults, but her she’s damn near perfect. Those little, fast-moving eyes just get to me every time; they’re more powerful than any single line of dialogue in the movie.

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Link Dump: #19

As you may have noticed, Pussy Goes Grrr has been postless for almost a solid week. The reasons for this are twofold: 1) Ashley’s classes recently started and 2) I am still buried, à la Ted Danson in Creepshow, in my 25-page comps (i.e., giant senior project) on female sexuality in horror. But never fear! Starting probably next week, we’ll have some new, exciting blogging surprises in store for you. Potentially including something really, really awesome. Be sure to tune in and find out! (I love talking about the Internet like it’s a radio.)

In other news, Angela Bettis plays a great neurotic/psychotic in May (2002), which is what 1/4 of my comps is about, but Anna Faris as her lesbian coworker is just so goofy and lovable that she steals every scene she’s in. She’s the malapropism-wielding yang to May’s awkward, understated yin. “Do you like pussy… cats?” That should be this blog’s motto. That said, here are some links:

  • William Ahearn writes extensively about the origins of the term “film noir.”
  • Simon Hattenstone of The Guardian profiles influential (and awesome) feminist artist Cindy Sherman.
  • Not Coming to a Theater Near You has a piece on private eye movies of the 1970s, when Elliott Gould was the new Bogart.
  • EdenCafe gives us “Self-Love, Sex Toys, and Men,” which could also be titled “How NOT to Write About Sex Toys.” It’s comically atrocious, and inane enough to make an entertaining read.
  • Speaking of horrible things, Family Research Council leader Tony Perkins wants you to know that The Kids Are All Right sucks because it didn’t make enough money, and it’s about lesbians. Also the Golden Globes are evil. And MLK apparently agrees with him.
  • After making a jackass of himself at the NYFCC awards last week, professional martyr Armond White explains in voluminous, self-aggrandizing detail why he has been wronged. By the Internet, naturally. Then J. Hoberman responds. (If you can’t tell, I’m not a fan of White’s personality or his obfuscation-happy criticism.)
  • Gasp! Breaking news: Archie Comics is dropping the Comics Code Authority seal of approval from its products! Tony Perkins was right; the liberals are destroying American culture!

We had so many wacky search terms this week that I had to prune the list. We can’t just let any ol’ search term into the hall of shame, like the unimpressive “frog vag,” “leg cast fucking,” or “best looking vagina in 2010.” No, they had to be extra weird this week. Some I picked because of the phrasings: “you might gonna get raped maybe” sounds so indecisive that it renders itself meaningless, while “nope can’t go to hell,” with its unpunctuated urgency, makes me imagine a sequel to Rain Man where Dustin Hoffman travels to the underworld – flying Qantas, I assume.

From the “Bizarre Free Association” Department comes “bus ride,clit,” and we have another oddity that combines bad grammar and redundancy, “she are fucking a female cow.” The last (and best?) brings together unbelievable vileness, forcefulness, and length, and wins our Yuckiest Search Terms of the Week award (I guess), because it’s “i am going to hold you and that dog is going to fuck your pussie video.”

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Link Dump: #18

See? Even the unnamed couple from Alain Resnais’s Hiroshima Mon Amour (1959) loved kitties. They probably also loved links to cool things on the Internet, too… or at least they would’ve, if they were alive today. Anyway, here are those links:

  • Letters of Note has some cool documentation of Kubrick’s attempts to make his Napeoleon movie in the late ’60s, including his invitation to the semi-retired Audrey Hepburn to have her play Josephine.
  • If you’re like me (or, you know, not a fundamentalist psycho), you probably hate Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church. Here’s a documentary about them and their Lady Gaga-hating ways, as well as an article about an Arizona law banning them from protesting funerals after last week’s shootings.
  • What’s better than Criterion-style covers for new releases by a Criterion cover designer? Nothing. They’re just beautiful. Especially Toy Story 3 and Black Swan.
  • Shakesville has a well-written piece on the media’s treatment of work discrimination complaints.
  • The Advocate has an article on the gayest cities in America… and #1? Minneapolis! Yay, Twin Cities pride.
  • Vulture has the worst movies of 2010 – but really, Black Swan‘s on there? Vocal minority or not, that’s a stretch, especially in a year that saw Yogi Bear and Devil.
  • Holy fuck, there’s a plant that eats rats?!

Alas, we’re short on good search terms this week, but here are two vagina-centric ones: “niece wet cunt,” which I hope was a misspelling of “nice wet cunt,” because the other option is just kind of gross and weird, and “stolen pussy comics.” I’m not sure if that refers to comics about stolen pussy, or pussy comics that were stolen. Either way… weird.

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Bowie the Freaky Spaceman

And you thought David Bowie looked weird in real life! In Nicolas Roeg’s psychedelic sci-fi landmark The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976), he takes it all off, including his skin, hair, and irises. He’s a spaceman who’s supposed to be raising money so he can go deliver water to his home planet, but instead he gets distracted by TV, alcohol, and having sex with Candy Clark. He ends up as a fedora-wearing recluse while Candy Clark ends up married to rocket scientist Rip Torn; at least they got to experience plenty of bizarre imagery along the way. Like weird volcano bodies! And Bowie’s dying alien family! And Buck Henry with coke-bottle glasses!

The movie’s edited for maximum confusion, and it swallows its own narrative tail a few times. But hey, it’s from Nicolas Roeg, the visionary who brought us a Borgesian bullet hole through Mick Jagger’s head and a dwarf in a red raincoat stabbing Donald Sutherland. Would you expect anything less? If you want to learn more, I’ve got a review of The Man Who Fell to Earth up at 366 Weird Movies. Despite all the film’s missteps, you can’t deny that casting Bowie as an extraterrestrial was a major casting coup. I’ll conclude with one of my favorite images from the film, which proves that for all his pretension and self-indulgence, Roeg sure knew how to photograph the human body…

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Double Dose of Delphine Seyrig

On the left, we have the seductive, ageless Countess Elizabeth Báthory. On the right is Belgian housewife Jeanne Dielman, who’s somewhat less glamorous than the Countess as she peels potato after potato after potato. What do these women have in common, you may ask? Well, my friend, they’re both played by the great Delphine Seyrig, a Lebanon-born French actress who starred in countless art films throughout 1960s and ’70s. She worked repeatedly with Alain Resnais and Luis Buñuel; she was in William Klein’s Mr. Freedom (1969) wearing a poofy red wig and Jacques Demy’s Donkey Skin (1970) as Catherine Deneuve’s fairy godmother; she also directed a few movies of her own.

In short, she was a multitalented woman (and proud feminist) who worked almost nonstop for three decades before her death in 1990. You don’t hear Seyrig’s name bandied about much by cinephiles these days, which is a shame. Therefore, I’ve decided to bandy it about myself! Seyrig and her quiet mystique are at the center of the two very different films pictured above: Harry Kümel’s arty, nudity-filled vampire movie Daughters of Darkness (1971) and Chantal Akerman’s 3 1/2 hour experimental masterpiece Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1975). In both films, she plays laconic, enigmatic women, but still, you could hardly find more different roles than a bloodsucking aristocrat and a weary, working-class single mother.

Daughters of Darkness is almost all surface, with virtually no substance; thankfully, much of that surface is provided by the glittering, impeccably coiffed Seyrig, whose lipstick matches the blood that flows throughout the film. It reminds me of the work of Roger Vadim (who also made a lesbian vampire movie, Blood and Roses [1960]): pretty, sexy, a little weird, but totally empty-headed. The Countess Báthory follows the usual model of the beautiful, predatory lesbian vampire, as she gradually takes a newlywed couple under her wing and leads the wife in sucking the husband’s blood. And, as usual, she ends up as a burning corpse impaled on a tree branch. Such are the wages of fear.

Meanwhile, Jeanne Dielman is a patient, painstakingly shot document of three days in its title character’s life. Seyrig’s expression varies between a half-frown and a half-smile as she goes about her daily chores – brushing her hair, writing a letter, sending her adult son Sylvain off to school – but her emotions never quite breach the surface, and always remain tantalizingly ambiguous. Is she happy keeping her home clean? Does she hate the drudgery of her day-to-day existence? Despite its repetitive structure, it’s a masterfully dense film that requires far more discussion than I can give it here and now; incidentally, Jeanne also moonlights as a prostitute when her son’s not around, granting the film several additional layers of feminist subtext.

The substance of Jeanne Dielman is just the mundane, never-ending processes and rhythms of normal life, filmed in wearying detail. But through one geometrically composed long shot after another (several set-ups are repeated time and time again; the film doesn’t have so much as a single close-up), you achieve a greater awareness of the processes, the sheer time that they consume, and their emotional toll on Jeanne. (Even if Seyrig’s performance is minimalist practically to the point of being an automaton.) In Jeanne Dielman, the daily lives of women (and their cinematic representations) are joined to the techniques of avant-garde filmmaking, with bountiful if hard to watch results.

At the heart of all that, of course, is Delphine Seyrig. Her face and gestures reciprocate the camera’s patience; she goes about her day methodically, without a shred of movie star ego or exaggeration. In Daughters of Darkness, on the other hand, she brings in just the right level of exaggeration, playing the Countess as a decadent, glamorous, and graceful mass murderer. Yet she does it with surprising understatement – a giggle here, a kiss there. I’ll conclude with a single, beautiful image from the end of Jeanne Dielman, from just after Jeanne’s shocking final act. What is she thinking? What are her plans? All we know is what we see on Seyrig’s face.

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