Thursday, December 29, 2011

Songs of 2011: "My Dilemma" and "What Do I Have to Do"

I'll be announcing my 20 favorite songs of the past year within the next couple of days (catch up with 50-21 here). But until then, I wanted to briefly talk about two of the most important songs to me this year that were ineligible for my end of the year list for various reasons (one is an album track while the other is over 20 years old). These two songs got me through some rough patches this past year, and I am eternally grateful that they came into my life when they did.

Selena Gomez & The Scene, in my estimation, is quickly becoming one of the best pop acts around. Between their debut album and this year's When the Sun Goes Down, no artist has matured and found their sound quicker than Selena & The Scene. And within that short period of time, they have become the go-to artist for songs about indecisive men who send mixed signals about what they want leaving you confused and frustrated. "Round & Round", their first stab at this type of song, was my fourth favorite song of 2010. With such incredibly large shoes to fill, how would another song in this admittedly small genre even compare? Not only did this song handily surpass its predecessor, it also outshines nearly everything in Selena & The Scene's entire discography. Lumped in between two of the album's lesser tracks toward the end, "My Dilemma" can be easy to miss if you're not paying attention.

But you would really be doing yourself a disservice underestimating or, even worse, ignoring this track altogether. "My Dilemma" touches on what I suspect (or I hope since it happened to me repeatedly this past year and I don't want to feel so damned alone!) is a universal problem for a lot of us out there: men who confuse the fuck out of us. It's a song about how you can see every fault a guy has and tell yourself that you are over them, but the minute they are online or they text you something nice, you have to stop everything and talk to them. You hate yourself for doing it later on, but it feels so right in the moment and there's nothing you can do to stop yourself. And it finally gets to the point where you are not even interested in the guy anymore, you just love all the attention and drama of the situation. The lyrics of "My Dilemma" are simple, yet they nimbly and ably navigate this precarious situation. What really sells the song for me, I must admit, is Selena's vocals. The way she switches between high and low notes reflects the indecisiveness of the song: just as she can't decide how she feels about this boy, she can't decide whether she wants to sing the song in a falsetto or in her normal range. It's a smart choice for a smart song, and shows off Selena as one of the smartest vocalists around.

Within the first few months of 2011, I really got into Kylie Minogue's discography, finally getting around to listening to all of her early albums. I was already familiar with "What Do I Have to Do" when I was going through her Rhythm of Love album, but it wasn't until this year that the song really clicked for me. And boy did it ever click for me--rather unfortunately, I must add, as the song is all about pining for an oblivious guy showing absolutely no interest in you romantically. It's quite funny, actually, because, sonically, "What Do I Have to Do" sounds like the uplifting, catchy pop song we expected from her at this time. But, buried beneath Kylie's sweet delivery is a raging torrent of melancholy and longing. "What Do I Have to Do" is quite possibly the most devastating song in Kylie's discography--and that's saying a lot because the woman has done quite a few melancholic tracks over the years.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The 8 Hotties of Hanukkah: Adam Brody

How appropriate that one of my first major crushes was also Jewish. It's like I was born to love Jewish men.

Hope you had a wonderful Hanukkah!

Monday, December 26, 2011

The 8 Hotties of Hanukkah: Jake Gyllenhaal

I think the recurring theme of this series is me finding out about these hot guys being Jewish long after I first fell in love with them. How did I go years without knowing Jake was one of the Chosen People?

Sunday, December 25, 2011

The 8 Hotties of Hanukkah: Armie Hammer

When I found out he was half-Jewish, I almost did a cartwheel. And given the fact that I like to move as little as possible, that means something.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The 8 Hotties of Hanukkah: Dave Franco

Most people would go with James, the more famous of the Franco brothers, but I've always had a hard-on soft spot for little Davey. How can you resist that face? Or those eyebrows?

Friday, December 23, 2011

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The 8 Hotties of Hanukkah: Zac Efron

Screw the Aryans! The Jews must be the superior race if this man is a member.


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The 8 Hotties of Hanukkah: David Beckham

Did you know that David was Jewish? My mind was BLOWN when I found out. Good one, Victoria, for getting hitched to one of God's Chosen People.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Top 50 Songs of 2011, Part 1

The time has come! The end of the year is approaching so that means the end of the year lists must start. And what better way to kick all that off than with the first installment of my favorite songs of the year? As always, I had a difficult time narrowing my list down and placing them in the proper order, but after moving songs back and forth around the list, I threw in the towel and stopped fiddling with the order. I decided to split this list in two this year because I wanted to write at least a little something about each of the songs and I didn't want the post to become dauntingly enormous. So please do enjoy this list and let me know what you think about my inclusions. And stayed tuned for the Top 20 coming soon!

Honorable Mentions: Demi Lovato "Skyscraper" | Natalia Kills "Free" | One Direction "Gotta Be You" | CocknBullKid "Hold On to Your Misery" | Will Young "Jealousy" | Britney Spears "Hold It Against Me" | Alexandra Stan "Get Back (ASAP)" | Eric Saade featuring J-Son "Hearts in the Air" | Selena Gomez & The Scene "Love You Like a Love Song" | Alexis Jordan "Hush Hush"


50. Simon Curtis "Superhero"
The moment I first saw Simon Curtis as a legitimate pop star.
49. Leona Lewis & Avicii "Collide"
Not quite the "Outta My Head" dance jam I was expecting, but it's nice to see Leona push herself out of her power ballad comfort zone.
48. Pitbull featuring Ne-Yo, Afrojack & Nayer "Give Me Everything"
Commercial as hell? Yes. But that chorus saves the day. You actually forget Pitbull is on this song!
47. Alesha Dixon featuring Jay Sean "Every Little Part of Me"
Alesha's career is deader than Floptina's at the moment, which is a shame when she's still releasing songs as fresh as this one.
46. Beyoncé "Run the World (Girls)"
My feelings on this song went from "What a piece of shit!" to "Ooooh, the video's interesting. Maybe this song isn't so bad after all" to "Who run the world? Beyoncé."
45. Bingo Players "Cry (Just a Little)"
This song is as barebones as dancehall songs get: a pounding beat and a couple of lyrics from the 80's song "Piano in the Dark" repeated over and over. But its simplicity is what makes it one of the most irresistibly catchy songs of the year.
44. CocknBullKid "Asthma Attack"
The new critical darling of the indie pop world, CocknBullKid burst on the scene the first half of the year. "Hold On to Your Misery" caught my attention first, but "Asthma Attack" is the song that I keep going back to.
43. The Sound of Arrows "Nova"
This sort of synth pop isn't always my thing. But when I think it works, it really works for me. "Nova" is absolutely gorgeous, as close to a hymn as pop music gets.
42. Alexis Jordan "Good Girl"
The moment Alexis Jordan truly arrived. Who knew she would be one of the freshest popstars of the year?
41. David Guetta featuring Flo Rida & Nicki Minaj "Where Them Girls At"
Even with Guetta and Flo Rida at their generic worst, Nicki Minaj classes up the joint with one of her most wicked verses ever. She's so good spitting out lyrics like, "No, no, I don't endorse that/Pause that, abort that!" she elevates the material surrounding her.


40. Wynter Gordon "Buy My Love"
Last year's "Believer" proved that Wynter had promise. And she makes good on that promise with this ode to becoming a kept woman.
39. Rebecca Black "Friday"
Somewhere in the past nine months this song went from a hilarious joke to heralding the arrival of the next big teen pop star. Whether you think it's a classic or a sign of the apocalypse, Rebecca carries this song with her infectious personality and the ability to sing the silliest lyrics alive ("Tomorrow is Saturday/And Sunday comes afterward") with a straight face.
38. Taio Cruz featuring Kylie Minogue "Higher"
This track is all about Kylie. She elevates this flaccid Taio solo into a sexy, sultry duet.
37. Frankmusik "The Fear Inside"
Vincent first attempt at a more commercial sound. It didn't exactly set the charts ablaze but it did solidify him in my mind as one of the few legitimately great male pop stars we have today.
36. Frankmusik & Colette Carr "No I.D."
In this age of guest rappers and female popstars belting choruses on rap songs, "No I.D." is one of the few legitimate duets around. Vincent & Colette's chemistry is blazing, turning this simple pop track into a repeat worthy jam.
35. Robyn "Call Your Girlfriend"
She still makes the best Dancing Through the Tears pop songs. And the video is to die for!
34. Joe McElderry "Someone Wake Me Up"
La Joe finally found success as Classic Joe this year. An unfortunate situation, it would appear, as this means that Popstar Joe is more or less on permanent hiatus. How sad. Who in the fuck actually prefers him doing opera shit over stuff like "Someone Wake Me Up"?
33. Agnes "Don't Go Breaking My Heart"
Agnes, of the Carlsson variety, thankfully returned to the music world with this in-your-face jam. That opening riff is legendary in its own right.
32. Rhianna featuring Calvin Harris "We Found Love"
I originally fell in love with this song because it showed off Rihanna in a subtly different light, pushing herself away from the hard edge of the Rated R era and the Back to Commercial-ness of the Loud era to something far more DJ/rave friendly. But I stayed interested in this song was because hidden under the insane Harris production, there's a tender, almost mournful love story about falling out of love.
31. Florence + The Machine "Shake It Out"
Florence is an artist I tend to admire more than I actually like, but there's something honest and ever-so-gripping about this power ballad.


30. Alexandra Stan "Mr. Saxobeat"
It's exactly the type of Eurotrash pop song most people who know nothing about European pop music assume all European pop music is...yet I can't help but be infatuated with "Saxobeat" for the very same reasons it's hated.
29. Katy Perry "E.T."
Outside of the album track "Circle the Drain," this is by far Katy Perry's most adult track. And the fact that she picked it as a single at all over the pandering "Peacock" is further proof of her maturity as both an artist and an icon.
28. Dev "In the Dark"
Dev's limited vocal range works far better in this sexy track than in "Bass Down Low" or in any of her umpteen featuring credits during the year.
27. Foster the People "Pumped Up Kicks"
Have we come across a unicorn with Foster the People: an act both the indie kids and the pop lovers can agree on? I couldn't begin to tell you what this song is about, and it's low key nature would normally annoy the hell out of me, but, like most of what Foster the People does, it just works. Sometimes you just can't explain it.
26. Take That "Love Love"
Who knew that in 2011 not only would I care about Take That post-"Back For Good" but I would also actually really love one of their new songs? The world is tricky like that sometimes.
25. Jessie J "Do It Like a Dude"
Forget about the annoying, wailing twat she has become. For a brief second, Jessie J looked the toughest pop star to come along in ages with this hard-as-nails anthem.
24. Ola "All Over the World"
This Swedish import was released in Ola's homeland back in 2010 but made it's way to the UK this year. It's three and a half minutes of pure, unadulterated joy, aka everything a pop song of this nature should be.
23. Britney Spears "Till The World Ends"
If the upcoming apocalypse in December 2012 is anywhere near as amazing as this song, the world will be ending on a high note.
22. Christina Perri "Jar of Hearts"
One of those tragic, old fashioned ballads that come along every few years and knocks the socks off everyone. Perri's version will no doubt become the standard, but "Jar of Hearts" is so brilliantly written nearly anyone can sing it and sound like they are a legend.
21. The Wanted "Glad You Came"
Every bit as poised as "California Gurls" to be an Easy Summertime Anthem but with a wicked, deviant sense of humor and clever wordplay (thanks in part to co-writer Ed Drewett).

The 8 Hotties of Hanukkah: Jesse Eisenberg

To celebrate Hanukkah and my love of Jewish men, I thought it would be fun to bring you a sexy Jew every night at sundown in honor of each day of Hanukkah. A big thank you goes out to Fuck Yeah, Jewish Men for bringing some men to my attention who I had no idea were Jewish. For this first night of the "Festival of Lights," I chose perhaps the most notorious young Jew in Hollywood: Jesse Eisenberg. Although not traditionally good looking, there's a lot to be said about his quick wit and charming personality (not to mention his bromance with Andy Garfield). We love him in these parts and wouldn't mind if he took a chance on this Gentile right here. Mazel tov!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

100 Hot Men and a Dame: #87 Tyson Beckford

87. Tyson Beckford
Occupation: Model
Nationality: American
Age: 41
Best Known For: Being one of the best known male supermodels in the world and, for a select group of people, hosting the short lived Bravo series Make Me a Supermodel.

Joining me for this entry is my favorite--and hopefully yours as well--green-haired, illegal immigrant from Mexico, Pablo (follow him on Twitter here). He really came through for me, so much love to him. Have fun reading this adorably schizo entry!

Dame James: When did you first encounter Tyson and, if it wasn't love at first sight, when did you fall in love with him?

Pablo: I probably saw him first in a fashion editorial in some magazine, but the first time I really payed attention to him was in the flaw free video of "Toxic", and, yes, he was smoking for being a chocolate man. I could just imagine myself at the back of his bike, rubbing his arms, me rocking, of course, a red wig and leather pants.

DJ: Maybe it's because I only saw the "Toxic" video a couple times when the song was current, but it wasn't until I saw the video again that I realized he was in it. Usually, Britney's typical guy has long, greasy hair and looks like your typical country bumpkin (see also: both ex-Mr. Britneys). It's a nice change of pace to see him in her video, especially on a motorcycle. I would not mind for a moment trading places with Britney.

I know I first must have seen him in some random fashion editorial as well, but I would be unable to pinpoint it specifically. The first time I ever remember being attracted to him, though, was on this America's Next Top Model rip-off called Make Me a Supermodel. He was the Tyra Banks to 14 or so aspiring male and female model. I know the show was about the models--and some of those men were SMOKIN'--but, dayum, Tyson was always the hottest. His arms must be his trademark because they always look great busting out of the tight shirts he wears. Did you ever see the show or were you too busy trying to sneak into the country to watch TV?

P: I did watch Make Me a Supermodel, both seasons, and he was smoking there as well. No, I wasn't too busy trying to sneak into the country--I was already in. Obviously we don't get those kinda shows in Mexico. I like his arms, yes, and his pecs, and his abs. He has one of those bodies that you just wanna lick expecting for him to slowly melt in your mouth and have this delicious, savory chocolate taste.

DJ: Silly me for thinking Mexico would watch the American version of Make Me a Supermodel with all of those gringos. They'd have their own version and they would probably compete to star on a telenovella. He does have a very lickable body, doesn't he? Oddly enough, that would be my first instinct as well. Just a question, though: You do realize that just because he's black it doesn't mean he tastes like chocolate, right?

P: I know he is not gonna taste like chocolate, but I can dream. I know he will taste like caramel.

DJ: So, imagine Tyson and Tyra are going head to head on the runway. What do you think THAT would look like?

P: If Tyson and Tyra would go head to head in the I've read that they are really good friends, and judging from last night's America's Next Top Model, I would say they are cause Tyra sucked on his thumb. That was disturbing. Although Tyson is a god, I would pick Tyra. As crazy as she is, she has a gorgeous face (minus the flat screen forehead) and I'm a sucker for women in fashion. But that runway would look like a chocolate fountain, fulled of muscles, boobs and Tyra's ego.

DJ: Tyra sucked on his thumb?! God, I love that crazy bitch. I'm also wildly envious of her. And I'd have to agree that Tyra would win. She would do whatever it takes to win. Then, when she did win, she wouldn't let Tyson forget it. Because Tyra knows that Tyra is the best.

P: Yes, they were making this movie editorial about her book "Modelland" and of course she was the main character named...wait for it, Tookie! She's this awkward wannabe model with one green eye and one brown eye who falls in love with this guy (played by Tyson) and since she is so awkward and unlucky in love, of course the first thing she does is suck on his thumb. Because you know everyone sucks a thumb on a first date.

I'd suck that thumb.

DJ: Oh Tyra. That's literally all I can say to that. (And I love how Tyra has even hijacked this conversation about Tyson!)

P: She's awful, right? Look at her getting into our conversations. That's the power of Tyra for you! But yes, Tyson is one sexy man, he really is. That smile he has and those little eyes, he is just a dreamy man. Like, he would make the perfect hot boyfriend that everyone's jealous of but your friends don't know why is he dating you.

DJ: I don't know about you, but he'd be dating me because I put out.

And what about you? Do you like to imagine Tyson tastes like chocolate?

Sunday, December 11, 2011

10 Things I Hate About New Year's Eve

I learned a lot about myself and life in general while watching New Year's Eve the other night. No, it was nothing in the movie that got me, even though it tried fucking hard to turn the holiday and the Ball Drop into a philosophical statement on life and beginnings and triumphing past adversity. Rather, I gleaned from the whole experience two important things. First, I need to start questioning my decision making skills now that I'm on a fixed income and don't have money to waste on absolute shit. Secondly, no matter how bad I make my life sound, it's still nowhere near as terrible as this film. New Year's Eve is an easy F, no bones about it, but let's countdown from 10 to 1 (Like on New Year's Eve...Get it? It's a very subtle metaphor for how the New Year holds all the promise for a fantastic year ahead!) the absolute worst things about this trash.

10. The Funniest Thing in the Movie Happens During the Credits
New Year's Eve was so lacking in actual jokes--Zefron & Sofia Vergara both wrung laughs out of their presence and way with words, not because of what was actually written--that the bloopers which accompanied the credits were actually funnier than anything in the movie. And it's pretty sad that Zefron dancing for a 90 seconds and a joke involving Jessica Biel giving birth to copies of Valentine's Day were the most memorable parts of the movie.

09. The Swankinator: Slaying Her Way to Oscar Glory Since 1999
Listen, I'll stan for the Swankinator and her shameless mugging for Oscar attention anytime, anywhere, but the girl cannot do comedy. She looks so bloody uncomfortable trying to be "loose" and "spontaneous". And I swear she was so rigid I thought at moments she was turning into Brandon Teena again. Plus, who else was looking forward to her hooking up Luda? Unlikeliest coupling in the history of couples? I think so!

08. Robert DeNiro: What a Debbie Downer
Not only was DeNiro saddled with the one depressing story line in the film, but the film cut to his story line at all of the most inappropriate places. Seriously, the film would go from a scene of Efron and Pfeiffer, being all charming and full of life, crossing off something on her Bucket List to DeNiro lying in his bed, hooked up to life support galore and decaying before our very eyes. I get that the screenwriter was trying to force some Really Important Topics into her fluffy screenplay, but cut to them at more appropriate times. It made DeNiro look like more of a buzzkill than he did in all of his Scorsese movies combined.

07. The Makeup
Abigail Breslin is a pretty girl, but she has an unusual face that could look almost alien without the proper attention. The makeup department's answer for this was to apparently slap a shit-ton of makeup and eyeliner on her so she looked like a small town transgendered teenage prostitute. And it's not like they were any nicer to the other ladies, most noticeably Katherine Heigl, who often looked like they had been Chris Browned right before the director started the scene.

06. The Slob & The Screeching Harpy
Would anyone seriously have minded if the elevator Ashton Kutcher and Lea Michele were trapped in had plummeted towards the Earth at 200 mph, spontaneously ignited in flames and burned them to a crisp before the metal in the elevator crushed their skeletons into a thousand pieces upon impact?

05. Forced Sentimentality
I understand that in a pure crowd pleaser such as New Year's Eve you need some kind of emotional pull to balance out the comedy; that's the nature of romantic comedies. But this film was really grasping at straws to pull any and all sentimentality out of whatever random situation the script found itself in. The entire movie, Josh Duhamel's character yammers about two things: this speech he has to make at a party and some girl he met the previous New Year's Eve that he may or may not meet again. We find out he's the heir to some record label empire and he's making the speech at the company's New Year's party. When he does give the speech, which he (of course) hasn't prepared for at all, he, for no reason other than to sneak a lot of sympathy, mentions his dead father and starts tearing up. The speech has absolutely nothing to do with his dad and is merely a SUBTLE cue for him to stop whoring it up with the sluts after him (who all seriously looked like 45-year-old Real Housewives) and go after the mystery girl. And then there's Halle Berry, whose mysterious New Year's date is a video chat with her soldier husband in Iraq. COME ON. Did we really need to throw in the war for more drama and conflict? Shameless, shameless, shameless (Although it did give me an opportunity to make a joke in the theatre. When the husband says, "I've only got a couple months left," I made the sound of a bomb exploding. Would you really put it past the makers of this film to have him die right before our very eyes? I mean, apparently the target audience is Nicholas Sparks fans, as evidenced by the two Sparks trailers before the movie).

04. Jon Bon Jovi? Is It 1988 Again?
When did Bon Jovi become relevant again? I have nothing against the man, and he's not any worse than any of the atrocious actors in this movie, but what? Can you talk about random, inappropriate casting? The dude is pushing 50, yet we're supposed to believe that not only 30-something Katherine Heigl is into him but also that he's this major rock star that teenage girls are willing to throw themselves at. On what planet is Bon Jovi as desirable as Justin Bieber to fifteen year old girls? Just because you fucked underage sluts in the 80's doesn't mean girls in 2011 know who the fuck you are, grandpa.

03. Do You Get The Theme?
New Year's Eve is a chance to reflect on the past year, the mistakes you've made, discern what you can improve on. It's also an opportunity to wish for the future, to hold out hope that the coming year will be your best ever and all your dreams will come true. In case you didn't get this from the opening voiceover (from either the Swankinator or Sarah Jessica Parker, I'm not sure), you will hear it repeated, ad nauseum, from a host of characters, old and young, important and tertiary. And then you'll hear the Swankinator repeat it in a press conference after a problem with the Ball is discovered, which leads me to...

02. The Fucking Ball
Why. The. Fuck. Was. Everyone. Going. On. And. On. About. That. Fucking. Ball? It's not a goddamn metaphor for anything, no matter how hard you try to make it one. And why the fuck is there a problem with it? Isn't it set up the same way every year? So much of the movie is consumed with the Ball and it's really a lot of pointless, wasted drama. Who gives a fuck?

01. The "Script"
Valentine's Day wasn't a masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination, but it was passable entertainment and I found it quite amusing in parts. Both that film and New Year's Eve share the same writer, Katherine Fugate, but, in that year or so, it's as if she has lost any sense of comedy she may have once had. Like I said before, the film is literally devoid of jokes. Anything that's funny in the film is because of the actors and the actors alone. They get absolutely no help from any other source. I'm sure Valentine's Day wasn't the laugh riot I'm remembering it to be, and I'm sure it was just as unbearably saccharine sweet, but something was obviously distracting from its awfulness. And that something is nowhere to be found in the joyless, painful script for New Year's Eve. Look, I didn't expect the world from New Year's Eve, but when you aren't even at the same level as Valentine's Day, or Bride Wars for that matter, you know there's a problem.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Short Rants on Crazy, Stupid, Love

Did Phyllida Lloyd secretly direct this movie? Not since Mamma Mia! have I been filled with such irrational, unexplainable hatred toward a star-studded, pure popcorn film. From the very first frame until the last, cringe-inducing second, Crazy, Stupid, Love manages to dumb down a stellar, intelligent cast with sitcom clichés and out-of-nowhere twists that even CBS would be embarrassed by, include a lazy happy ending which wraps up complicated interpersonal issues into a neat and tidy bow, and uphold prehistoric ideas about men and women's places in both society and relationships. This last point is what sent me over the edge. First of all, according to the film, the only way Steve Carell's character is able to recapture his manhood after his pending divorce is to follow the advice of Ryan Gosling, a well-dressed, impeccably groomed chauvinist who brags about tricking dumb women into wanting to have sex with him. The problem, however, is that we are supposed to respect Gosling's character as his tricks work for Carell and he becomes a close friend when everyone else has abandoned him to take his wife's side. This becomes a major problem later on in the film when SPOILER the girl Gosling has been serious about turns out to be Carell's daughter. So, he's a good enough guy to be your friend but now he's scum because he's dating your daughter, who, I must add, is now old enough to have passed her fucking BAR exam and become a lawyer. How utterly disgusting that even in 2011 we still have major plot points in major films--especially a comedy--where a father feels he has the right to decide whom his adult daughter may or may not date. But the gender politics in this film are merely the tip of the iceberg of what Crazy, Stupid, Love gets so completely wrong. Do we have time to cover the film's boneheaded attempts to validate the 13 year old son's "love" for his 17 year old babysitter (who is actually in love with Carell's character but let's not get into that)? Why on earth are we pretending that this 13 year old is any different than any other 13 year old boy who would stick it in the hole of anyone who gave them the slightest bit of attention? Because he's sensitive and intuitive, you say? Fuck that. He's an idiot, just as nearly everyone else in this movie is (Emma Stone remains unscathed by this hot mess). Love does indeed suck, but not nearly as much as this movie. F

Friday, December 2, 2011

100 Hot Men and a Dame: #88 Cam Gigandet


88. Cam Gigandet
Occupation: Actor
Nationality: American
Age: 29
Best Known For: Terrorizing Benjamin McKenzie on The O.C. and getting naked with a box of cookies alongside Cher and Floptina in Burlesque.

...And the hot men train keeps on rolling with the help of my friend Mike (follow him on Twitter or read his blog) as we discuss the first O.C. alum on the list.

Dame James: When did you first encounter Cam and, if it wasn't love at first sight, when did you fall in love with him?

Mike: The first time I saw Cam is probably the same for everyone, when he appeared on The O.C. as Kevin Volchok to fulfill the "Marissa's new dark and broody boyfriend" role, because Ryan was too busy sleeping with his adoptive mother's sister or whoever he was putting it in that season.

I don't think I paid too much attention to him at first, I was too busy planning my wedding to "perfect husband material" Seth/Adam Brody, but Cam did spend 90% of the time on The O.C. shirtless so I was definitely aware of how ridiculously attractive he was.
He was a complete dick on the show but he could make trailer sex with a talking twig look hot and his fight scenes with Benjamin McKenzie rivaled Brokeback Mountain for its latent gay tendencies.

Then after his role on The O.C. came to an end, it all went a bit quiet on the Cam-front until the equally homoerotic Never Back Down...

DJ: I pretty much have to agree on everything you said here. I was too busy focusing on Seth Cohen as well to notice Cam's Volchok on the first go-around. No doubt he was attractive but he was such a complete asshole to Ryan, whom I also loved. I was torn.

I don't think it was until Never Back Down that I really fell in love with Cam. He was also an asshole in that movie, but since I didn't care about any of the other characters, I relished him. He was charming and sweet, except for that scene where he beats up Sean Faris' scrawny friend. The best thing about that movie, though: his chest. And it makes quite a few appearances, thank the Lord Jesus.

You mentioned the homoeroticism that runs throughout his roles in The O.C. and Never Back Down and I think that's an interesting point to make. When you also think about his Burlesque performance (Floptina thinks he's gay for the longest time and the film is generally gay) and even Twilight, homoeroticism runs throughout his filmography. Why do you think that is, especially for someone who is such a commercial actor? Also, what do you think about him in Burlesque?

M: I hadn't actually thought about the fact that 90% of his roles have "the gay connection", maybe Cam is in fact *insert libellous claim here* a gay. Plus, he was in Easy A which will inevitably become the next Mean Girls in terms of quotability among the gays, and The Roommate, which I haven't had the pleasure of watching yet but looks ridiculously camp. I eventually will because of Leighton "Amazing" Meester but I wouldn't be too surprised if there was a homoerotic scene in The Roommate with Cam and Matt Lanter.

I thought Burlesque was amazing as a whole and will one day be recognised as the defining musical of the 21st Century. Cam was adequate enough in it, I don't think he's ever really considered for a film on the basis of his acting talents. The cookie box scene should have been enough to warrant an Oscar nomination though really.

DJ: I don't mean to imply that Cam's gay--the fact that he has a long-term girlfriend and a kid already implies otherwise usually--but I always find it interesting when younger actors tackle those kinds of movies and roles. He's clearly not in the same gay role league with Nicholas Hoult, who macked on dudes in TV, the stage and the movies (almost) just a couple years into his adult career., yet Cam's filmography is clearly veering towards the homoerotic. And if you're expecting The Roommate to be a campy gay classic, you'll be sadly disappointed. Leighton's amazingness is suppressed and Cam and Matt Lanter don't even share a scene together.

I hated Burlesque with every fiber of my being, but it was the first movie, I think, that showed off Cam's personality. He's always been a pretty face with impeccable abs but the acting has never matched. Then, suddenly, in Burlesque he was funny, charming, warm and interesting, words I had never used to describe him before. The cookie box scene was a delicious moment that cemented my love for him. It showed off all his best assets: his playfulness, his charm and, most of all, his abs. An Oscar nom may be a little much, but I'll be damned if I won't defend him every chance I can.

Any final thoughts on Cam?

M: Oh, I don't for one second think Cam is actually gay, it was just lots of wishful thinking/dreaming on my part. Speaking of his other half, how cute are all the photos of him and his daughter? Cam Gigandet, what a DILF.

Slightly upset that The Roommate isn't the campy gay classic it clearly started off as, and Cam and Matt aren't in a scene together (shirts optional) means it probably does deserve every piece of vitriol it got.

I think with all his backlog of homoerotic roles it'd be good to see Cam actually play gay for real this time. And have you seen the header photo from this website before? I think I have a new screensaver.

Hot damn, now that is a gorgeous header! What a way to make a first impression. Wouldn't you visit a site (repeatedly) that featured that image?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Crazy 80's Project: Hairspray


As a big fan of director John Waters, the legendary Divine and the musical adaptation of the film, I'm really surprised it has taken me this long to see the original Hairspray. But I have now remedied this situation, and boy am I glad I did. The story is the same as in every other incarnation: plucky overweight teen Tracy Turnblad winds up on the popular teen dancing show The Corny Collins Show and finds herself fighting against segregation in 1960's Baltimore. Although far less crude than earlier Waters classics like Female Trouble and Pink Flamingos, Hairspray has its own peculiar charm which works in this family-friendly--at least for John Waters--film. It's easy to see why Hairspray was turned into a musical, as the original is already so dependent on its soundtrack of 60's hits to provide atmosphere. The film is so fun and bouncy you hardly notice Waters' racial commentary sneaking its way into the film, which was the 2007 version's only major flaw. There's one scene in particular where Tracy and Link are making out behind a building and they utter ridiculous, Waters-ian lines like, "Our souls are black, though our skin is white." Lines such as this give the Race Issue far more intrigue and depth than anything in the musical version. All in all, Hairspray is simply a gloriously fun time, and probably the only Divine film I'd let a child watch. B+

Friday, November 25, 2011

100 Hot Men and a Dame: #89 River Viiperi

89. River Viiperi
Occupation: Model
Nationality: Spanish
Age: 20
Best Known For: Starring in ad campaigns for American Eagle and Calvin Klein while landing the covers of magazines such as Coitus and Guapo--all within a very short period of time.

For this installment of 100 Hot Men & a Dame, I have my good friend Kameron (follow him on Twitter and Tumblr) helping me out. Kameron and I met online a couple summers ago and, as we used to live in the same state, he's the only online friend I've made that I have met in real life. Our friendship appears to be based on disagreeing about everything, but, somehow, we have agreed on a few men on my list. So enjoy the first of a few conversations with him!

Dame James: When did you first encounter River and, if it wasn't love at first sight, when did you fall in love with him?

Kameron: It was love at first drool. I was a Men's Underwear "expert" at Bloomingdale's and we began getting a new line of Calvin Klein's in called "CK One". They were cute, sexy, young, hip, all of that... but the best part was the sexy new adverts placed in my section. The posters made me want to umm... further my product knowledge *cough* and in doing so I stumbled across this:

First off, Yum. Secondly he is European and if you know me, you know I can't resist those Europeans. This fresh face Spanish beauty had me at "hola".

DJ: Sigh, and to think the hottest guys I see at work are the generic male models wearing Target clothing. If I got to look at River every day, I'd be a lot happier at work! It's easy to see why that advertisement deepened your love of him. That accent! Although, I always find it strange hearing models speak after focusing on their looks for so long. They never sound the way you'd think. Thankfully, in River's case, he sounds better than you'd expect.

I first noticed River sometime in early 2010. I had had a slight interest in male models for a time but River had something special beyond the requisite good looks. He could actually model! And he has a wonderful, unexpected range, quite the feat since most male models only have to look hot in skimpy underwear. Have you looked into his portfolio? Any favorite photos? I've always loved this one with the cat on his head.

K: I've never obsessed to the point were I looked up his entire portfolio but I have seen quite a lot of sexy pics on the Fuck Yeah Tumblr blog made in his honor. To have to choose just one photo is criminal but I am fond of this one:

And I'm also particularly fond of his photos were he shows... how do I put this classy like?... his man-hair patch above the goods.

DJ: Pubic hair. You can say it. Pubic hair.

K: The picture above is one of my faves cos it's his ecstasy pose

DJ: Do you like to imagine that's the face he makes when he orgasms?

K: ...Yes.

DJ: Not that you think of that often, obviously. You have a boyfriend and everything.

K: No...never. ;)

DJ: Question: Would your boyfriend, Uli, let you have a threesome with River?

K: God yes. He probably wouldn't think twice about it. Niether would I. You have to prepare yourself/your relationship for such situations, come up with a list of "couldn't say nos"

DJ: I'm glad you and Uli have made time to discuss such important issues in your relationship. And I'm glad he understands how important River is to you.

K: If he's isn't willing, he ain't marriage material.

And how about you? Does River not float your boat or would you like to ride the rough River all night long?

Thursday, November 24, 2011

What I'm Thankful for This Turkey Day...

I'm actually thankful for this whole movie, obviously, but this scene is perhaps (it changes daily) my favorite in the entire movie. I can't wait to try this out whenever someone accuses me of being drunk.

By the way, it should be noted that I am always thankful for this. But it never hurts to celebrate it whenever possible:

Monday, November 21, 2011

In Which I'm Now Forced to Hate Emma Stone

I truly love Emma Stone, I really do. She won last year's Diva Cup Award for Best Actress, for goodness sake! But I love Andy more, arguably to the point of obsession, so that's why I must hate Emma now. Back off from my man, bitch!

But, goddamnit, these two are so cute together! Gah! So many conflicting feelings!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Bridesmaids: A Personal Essay

Last June, one of my best friends from high school got married. When she had gotten engaged the year before, she asked me to be her "man" of honor, which I immediately accepted. By the time of her wedding (to, I should add, her first serious boyfriend, a great guy she had been with for over four years), she had just finished school and her student teaching and was on the verge of landing a full-time job at her husband's school doing exactly what she wanted to do. Meanwhile, her man of honor was finishing up his Master's degree, no job in sight, $50,000+ of student loan debt looming after graduation, working a minimum wage job in retail to make ends meet and not only no man in sight but no significant relationship ever. Now, I don't mean to make her life sound easy or that she had things handed to her because she worked damn hard to get where she's at. But, at that moment, her life lined up perfectly for her.

Around the time of this wedding hoopla, a little movie called Bridesmaids was released. Superficially, the film mimicked my life and, therefore, I found the film hilarious beyond belief. I wasn't sure the film would hold up, but in the months between the theatrical and DVD release, I found myself thinking fondly of certain scenes and cracking up with laughter (usually at work, completely out of context). So when the DVD came out, I rushed to buy my copy and immediately came home to watch it. Not only was Bridesmaids as funny as I remembered, but I discovered it also had a deeper, darker, more bitter core right underneath the raucous comedy. And it's this core which makes Bridesmaids relatable on so many levels, not only to myself but to so many others .

Is This Real Life?

When we meet Annie (Kristen Wiig), the maid of honor for her best friend since childhood Lillian's (Maya Rudolph) wedding, her life is in a state of chaos. The bakery that she opened a few years previously has gone under, completely wiping out her life savings. Her boyfriend left her soon after the business's collapse. She now lives with two horrible roommates in a crummy apartment. She works at a jewelry store, a job she was only able to get because her mother knows the owner. If her present is currently glum, her future isn't any better as Annie is stuck in a rut and has neither the ability or the strength to get out of it. "Maybe this your bottom," her mother (Jill Clayburgh), a non-alcoholic who regularly attends Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, thoughtfully suggests early in the movie. It's a lovely thought, but we all realize things will get much worse before they get any better.

So this is where Lillian's wedding becomes both a blessing and a curse for Annie. On one hand, planning showers and bachelorette parties are a welcome distraction from the drudgery of her everyday life. On the other hand, though, the wedding presents another problem for Annie's already burdensome life: Lillian's new friend and fellow bridesmaid Helen (Rose Byrne). Not only is she rich, classy, beautiful, a touch pretentious and snobby in the subtle way where she would never say anything mean directly to your face, but she is also blatantly trying to steal Lillian away from Annie. Or at least that's how Annie sees it after Helen gives a heartwarming, extremely personal speech about her friendship with Lillian at the engagement party. The moment soon devolves into a hilarious gag where Helen and Annie refuse to relinquish control of the mic and end up making asses out of themselves trying to "prove" to Lillian who cares about her more. The scene is one of the film's comedic centerpieces--I love when Wiig says a host of random words in Spanish in response to Helen's recitation of a Hindu quotation on friendship--but it also provides Bridesmaids with a portion of its bitter, true-to-life backbone: with the sudden emergence of Helen in Lillian's life, Annie is afraid Lillian is evolving beyond their friendship.

While Annie's life is in neutral, Lillian's life is changing quickly and for the better. The fact that Lillian has chosen a friend like Helen, someone Annie claims they would have made fun of in the past, scares Annie. If Lillian is now friends with someone like Helen, who is beautiful, classy and has her shit together, will she need Annie anymore? The fear of being replaced has crossed the mind of anyone who has found themselves slightly out of sync with their best friend from childhood. Bridesmaids' response to this, like many of its darker themes, is to laugh to keep from crying. Instead of moping, wallowing in self-pity or attacking the conflict head-on, Bridesmaids laughs at Annie's situation and her increasingly erratic reactions to it, in this case by setting up a rivalry between Annie and Helen for the imaginary status as Lillian's best friend. Instead of merely laughing off Annie's fears, though, Bridesmaids treats them respectfully, which is daring simply because of the fact her fears of seeing her best friend move on without her are more universal than most people care to admit.

The Perils of Being Single

If you have seen nearly any TV show with a female lead in the past 25 years, you will know that in the mind of most people there is nothing worse than being over thirty and single. Look at Dorothy Zbornak, Fran Fine, Liz Lemon, Christine Campbell and countless others if you don't believe me. Bridesmaids understands this stigma and addresses it in a bizarre yet ultimately hilarious way. As Lillian introduces Annie to her other bridesmaids at the engagement party, not one but two of the bridesmaids mistake random strangers who happen to be idling next to Annie as her boyfriend. It's as if the thought of someone Annie's age being alone is so unbearable they have to pair her off with anyone who comes along, even the odd, unlikely men who pause next to her. The fact that even Megan (Melissa McCarthy), a woman who is not exactly Emily Post herself when it comes to social norms and etiquette, comments on this shows just how ingrained in our heads this idea that women of a certain age should be paired up is.

But Annie isn't completely alone. She does have Ted (Jon Hamm), a narcissistic, immature jerk who uses Annie basically as a blowup doll with very little consideration for her feelings. Lillian knows he's a jerk, and so does Annie, but it's better to have a booty call every couple of weeks than be completely alone. And Bridesmaids completely understands the subtleties of realizing the guy you are with isn't right for you but not wanting to admit to yourself or anyone because, at certain times in your life, any attention from a male is positive attention. You make excuses for him, talk about how you're just having "fun", believe his intent to not become serious as perfectly acceptable. I know I have been there, a couple times, and it is a fuzzy area no other movie I can recall explores as succinctly as Bridesmaids does.

Officer Prince Charming

The introduction of Officer Rhodes (Chris O'Dowd) as Annie's love interest is both fascinating and refreshing for a number of reasons. First of all, O'Dowd's casting as Rhodes is a nice change of pace, as O'Dowd is hardly most people's idea of a matinee idol and the more conventionally handsome Jon Hamm is the asshole in the film. Secondly, the fact that Rhodes pulls over Annie because he thinks she's driving under the influence--which, sidenote, leads into perhaps my favorite sequence in the entire film: "If I was drunk, could I do this?"--is not the typical romantic comedy meet cute. There's no obvious sign that this guy is The One: he's just a nice guy who takes pity on Annie. Third, the progression of their relationship feels wholly organic to the film and resembles something out of real life rather than a stock romantic comedy. When they do meet up again after the night he pulls her over, whether they are eating carrots in the parking lot or grabbing a drink at the bar, their chemistry is palpable but never off-the-wall, only-in-the-movies electric like, for example, Damon & Blunt in this year's The Adjustment Bureau. They crack jokes, but they often feel like jokes real people would make in real life. O'Dowd & Wiig make their pairing realistic without moving into indie movie territory, funny without overdoing it and cute without pushing tweeness. It's a remarkable pairing, one that brings out the best in both actors and only serves the movie better. Without O'Dowd, would we work as hard to try to understand Annie's insecurities and fears? And without Bridesmaids, would we consider O'Dowd to be the Prince Charming he turns out to be by the final frames?

Bridesmaids is no doubt the funniest film of 2011, but, perhaps more importantly, it's also the film that captures my life as a post-graduate, stuck in a rut, trying to figure out what comes next. The film doesn't offer any hard and fast solutions for how Annie fixes her life, nor does its happy endinfeel completely out of place or undeserved. For these reasons, and many, many more, Bridesmaids will no doubt remain my favorite film of the year. And anyone who thinks my attachment to this film is hindering my ability to review this film impartially can go to hell. If we can't form unhealthy attachments to films, why in the hell are we reviewing films in the first place? Bridesmaids may not reach Malick-levels of Art, but nothing this year has moved me quite in the way Wiig and company have done with this film. Sometimes that's far more important in the long run.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Crazy 80s Project: The Shining

I watched Stanley Kubrick's The Shining right before Halloween, hoping that it would both get me in the mood for the holiday but not freak me out too much. It turns out there was no reason to worry as The Shining is, for the most part, not a typical horror film. Instead of scary, the word I'd use to describe the film is unsettling. From scene to scene, you never quite know what to expect, whether Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson in Angry Jack mode) is going to be affectionate toward his wife (Shelley Duvall) and young son (Danny Lloyd) or completely fly off the deep end. Kubrick makes great use of the cold, isolated environment of the secluded luxury hotel Jack has been hired to look after in the resort's off-season. At once empty and claustrophobic, the hotel not only takes its toll on the characters but the audience as well, who quickly become intertwined with this polarizing environment. This sense on unease would be hard for most directors to keep up for a film half the length of The Shining, but you have to credit Kubrick, with the help of composers Wendy Carlos and Rachel Elkind's eerie score and John Alcott's fantastic cinematography (I absolutely love the repeated shots of the camera following the axe as Jack tries to break down a door with it), for making it work nearly the entire runtime of the film. The Shining is not a horror film in the traditional sense, yet the creepiness and feelings of dread it arouses stay with you long after the final credits have rolled. A-

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Rants on J. Edgar

It's an odd sensation, walking out of a Clint Eastwood film thinking, "God, that was a queer film." But I suppose anything is possible after the strange, constantly evolving career he has had. A film about J. Edgar Hoover (played here by Leonardo DiCaprio), the notorious director of the FBI who fought for decades cleaning up crime while wielding considerable influence to "keep tabs" anyone he considered a potential enemy of America, sounds right up Eastwood's alley, particularly with his recent trend of historical-minded film such as Flags of Our Fathers, Letters from Iwo Jima and Invictus. But when you throw screenwriter Dustin Lance Black, Oscar-winning writer of Van Sant's Milk, into the mix, things are bound to be shaken up. And boy are they ever, as J. Edgar, through its attempt to synthesize Eastwood's style with Black's queer theorizing, becomes something far more than its lousy trailer or a brief description of the film suggests.

Most of Eastwood's usual stylistic tics--muted color palette, heavy shadows, plinky piano score--appear in J. Edgar, but they take on a whole different meaning than they would in any other recent Eastwood picture. Black's screenplay covers a lot of issues and themes, but the one he is primarily focused on is the relationship between Hoover and his "number two man" Clyde Tolson (the dreamy Armie Hammer). The two were notoriously close, but it was only after their deaths that rumors started to swirl that they were lovers. No one knows the exact nature of their relationship, so Black is only able to speculate within J. Edgar, depicting Hoover and Tolson as would-be lovers whose sexuality is so repressed Ennis and Jack from Brokeback Mountain would find them odd. Eastwood's visual flourishes enforce this theme, shrouding Hoover and Tolson in shadows and darkness. Their environment is so dark and suffocating they can't express their true feelings for each other. Even in their final moments, when Clyde is led upstairs by Edgar's maid to see his dead body, Clyde grieving for the love of his life is shoved in the corner of the frame, hidden completely by a dressing screen.

Besides the sexuality of Hoover, J. Edgar also discusses the mythologizing of his legacy as the head of the FBI. Throughout the film, we are privy to scenes where Edgar recounts his life story to a slew of young writers compiling a history of the bureau. This is clearly where Eastwood and DiCaprio are the most comfortable exploring, and it's probably not a coincidence that this is what I was the least fascinated by in the film. Eastwood enjoys unraveling long-held myths, as Unforgiven proved so magnificently, but here it doesn't always work as well. Or maybe it works too well since Eastwood and Black seem positively riveted by Hoover as this monolithic figure, standing up for the America he believes it should be. They drink his Kool-Aid, so to speak, and barring one scene, they don't even begin to question his contradictions. This only makes his comeuppance at the very end that much more swift and tonally unexpected. DiCaprio certainly doesn't help in this regard, as he appears to be more interested in portraying the prestige of Hoover rather than any remotely human aspect of him. We can understand why someone in Edgar's position feels the need to make himself into a legend, but through DiCaprio, we don't understand why Edgar himself does it. Only when DiCaprio verges into the queerness of Black's script, such as the brief moment at a nightclub where he stammers in embarrassment when he is asked to dance by a woman, do we even start to see a real human instead of a ideological mouthpiece.

J. Edgar works best when it explores the queerness of Hoover's life. The way Black explores this reminded me, oddly enough, of Tom Kalin's Swoon. Not artistically or in the execution, mind you, but in the way Black twists rumors with facts to create a could-be version of what really happened. The two people who understand what Black is attempting better than anyone else are Hammer and Dame Judi Dench as Edgar's mother. Hammer plays Tolson like an unmistakable queen, the type of character you would read as gay in a 1950s film even if no one comes out and says it. From the way he gasps "No" when Edgar divulges a secret about Eleanor Roosevelt's personal life to the scene where he helps Edgar pick out a brand new suit and tie, Hammer certainly stands out amid the blandness of his surroundings. But it's an interesting way to play the character, especially one who is so completely repressed with his emotions as Clyde is. In a way, his queerness becomes an embarrassment to the straight-laced Edgar--it's not surprising that in an early scene depicting Edgar's later life we only see Clyde as a shadow hidden behind the door of Edgar's office, almost haunting him like a Ghost of Christmas Past.

Dench's entrance in J. Edgar provides one of the best and truest meetings between Eastwood's visual language and Black's themes. As Edgar enters his home, calling for his mother, we see Dench slowly emerge out of a shadow, in all of her Baby Jane glory, as Eastwood's plinking on the piano melodramatically underscores the danger that lies ahead for Edgar. It's a moment straight out of a Grand Dame Guignol film, which Dench brilliantly understands how to play without veering too far on the side of camp. Later on, when Dench's character is telling her son a story about a young homosexual who was tormented and then killed himself after his secret was discovered, she highlights the frightening coldness of the woman, even toward the son she has smothered with love for the last 90 or so minutes. She only has a few scenes, yet Dench brilliantly captures this woman's heart of darkness masked by motherly warmth.

J. Edgar is not a perfect film: the synthesizing of Eastwood, Black and the actors doesn't come together a good portion of the time and parts of the film are stuck in Biopic Cliché Hell. But this film has something to say, or at least presents certain viewpoints in ways that are fresh and intriguing. This isn't Clint in top form, but it sure as hell beats listening to Angelina Jolie scream, "I WANT MY SON!" for two and a half hours. B-