Thursday, March 29, 2012

Britney's Videography: "Do Somethin'"

Britney Spears "Do Somethin'" # # # # #

Released during those dark years that I stopped following Britney's career, this was my first time watching her "Do Somethin'" video, the final single released from her first greatest hits collection. Expecting the worst, I was pleasantly surprised by this video. It's nothing groundbreaking by any stretch of the imagination, but it's cute and fun and sometimes that's all you need. What struck me the most about this clip was the fact that this was Britney's tribute to (maybe even a parody of?) the stereotypical hip-hop video from around this time period. There's Britney and her crew in her gas-guzzling (pink, of course) Hummer, showing off her bling and throwing cash around like it's nothing. When she finally steps up into the club, everything around her literally stops as she becomes the focus of all the club-goers. There's even a scene where Britney sits in her throne and her crew pushes her through the club like the Queen that she is! Whatever she is attempting to pay tribute to, the video comes off as genuine Britney, something only she could pull off. It's no classic, nor is it something I'm likely to watch again anytime soon, but it was a pleasant way to spend three and a half minutes.

Rants on The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (2011)

What sets David Fincher's version of the Swedish bestseller The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo apart from the original adaptation (and, I'm guessing, the book itself) is the punk rock spirit that drove the marketing campaign and provides the foundation for the film itself. It's certainly an interesting way to set the film apart from one of the few foreign language films in the past decade average movie-going Americans actually saw. The problem is that it's an inappropriate choice for this film. What Fincher is attempting to do is bury Dragon Tattoo under so much style and edginess that you forget that what he is actually trying to sell is a conservative, middling, over-long mystery that, apart from a couple of sodomy scenes, would have been tame 40 years ago. I give him (some) credit for trying to turn this turd into something, but, in the end, it's like putting lipstick on a pig: no amount of stylization is going to make up for the deficiencies of the story or the fact that I've had more fun at family gatherings, cramped with 14 other people in a single-wide trailer, then I had watching this movie. It's the first of many failures in this attempt at making this dog of a story cool.

My main gripe with the film, even before I saw it, was the fact that it has a nearly three hour runtime. I saw the original on a whim and detested it, one of my main complaints being that it was far too long. Surely, I thought, Fincher or someone on the team will realize this and cut something, anything from this story. Nope. In fact, it's even a little longer than the Swedish version. How is it even possible to need 160 minutes to tell this story? The problem is that both films cater far too much to the Lisbeth character. I understand that she's supposed to be this edgy, instantly iconic, teetering-on-the-edge-of-sanity firecracker, but did we really need a whole hour to introduce her character? I got it after a couple of scenes, thank you very much.

The bloated adaptation is actually very indicative of a major problem in Hollywood today. When fans of a huge bestseller, particularly one that's part of a series, go to see its inevitable movie adaptation, they don't want to see an adaptation that works the best for the film medium. Oh no, they want to see the entire damn book on the screen, length or narrative sense be damned! This ideology is what ruined the Twilight franchise (I know I said it's like putting lipstick on a pig, but they could be mildly enjoyable if someone had said no to Stephenie Meyer along the way) and makes the Harry Potter movies incomprehensible to anyone who hasn't read the book beforehand (never has the phrase "Oh, that made more sense in the book" been used more freely and treated as if it isn't a problem then with the Harry Potter franchise). Dragon Tattoo suffers the same fate and not only because of its coma-inducing length. One of the big criticisms thrown at the film was that it was still set in Sweden even though everyone speaks English and no one seems particularly interested in attempting an accent. While it was a silly choice, I understand why everyone was hesitant to change the setting. The fanboy uproar that this film takes place on an island not off Sweden but Maine and that Mikael Blomkvist's name had been changed to Michael Bloom would have been much larger than the tiny dissent that arose from keeping it the same. "How dare you change our beloved novel!" they would have protested. "How dare you hold these books captive so that we can't get adequate, film-appropriate adaptations from them!" I respond.

As I mentioned earlier, the character of Lisbeth Salander, with her severe haircut, tattoos, clothes and lack of social skills, is meant to be instantly iconic. Noomi Rapace, the original Lisbeth, went on and on about how difficult it was adjusting back to her normal self after living with Lisbeth "insanity" for the duration of the Swedish trilogy. Rooney Mara earned raves and an Oscar nomination for "transforming" herself into such a "dark", "disturbed" character. While neither of these actresses were "terrible" in any sense of the word, I'm still not clear on where all of these adjectives showed up in their respective performances. In Mara's case, we learn everything about the character a couple of scenes, just from the way she is dressed and the way she interacts with people. Mara doesn't add anything to Lisbeth to make her appear as dangerous as she allegedly is. Aside from one notorious revenge scene, Mara's Lisbeth comes off more as a bored, bratty teenager who lacks the proper manners to thank those who have helped her or make basic conversation with others rather than the anti-social psychopath she is supposed to be. Just like the film, Mara is all style with very little substance. You can try to put black lipstick on her, but it's like putting...well, you know where I'm going with this. C-

Monday, March 26, 2012

100 Hot Men and a Dame: #84 Gregory Peck

 84. Gregory Peck
Occupation: Actor
Nationality: American
Peak of Hotness: The mid-1940's through the early 1950's.
Best Known For: Playing (and winning an Oscar for it) everyone's favorite, idealistic father Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird.

Another day, another hot man. This time I'm flying solo discussing this hot piece of Golden Age ass. An underrated one, no doubt, but a hot piece nonetheless.

Like many people, my first encounter with Gregory Peck was in To Kill a Mockingbird. I saw this film in my ninth grade English after, what else, reading the book (to "enrich  the experience," I'm sure). My cinephilia was still in its infancy at this point, so although I knew about the film, I had never encountered Gregory before. I don't want to say that this is where I first fell in love because a) that seems so completely inappropriate given Mockingbird's content, legacy and Peck's character and b) the film, appropriately, de-emphasizes Peck's sexuality. What I will say about Peck in Mockingbird, however, is that he certainly made an impression on me and didn't exactly dissuade me from seeking out any of his other work.

Looking back now, I guess the moment I fell for Gregory was in the film Roman Holiday. It has been far too long since I've seen it, but I was totally enamored with that movie--especially by the idea of a tall, gorgeous, deep-voiced man whisking me away on a whirlwind tour of Rome. I mean, who could say no to that prospect? More than Mockingbird, Roman Holiday plays up his sexuality, or, at the very least, the sense that Peck is a man who enjoys and desires the company of beautiful women. Gregory's not the typical romantic comedy lead: he reads a bit "serious actor slumming it in a light movie" and he's certainly not a Cary Grant. Against all odds, though, Roman Holiday works for him, finding a charm and attractiveness not seen in many of his other films.

I hate to keep talking about Peck's sexuality, because, for the most part, he wasn't a sex symbol in the same way someone like Clark Gable was. Even in his early films like Spellbound, The Valley of Decision or Gentleman's Agreement where his prettiness was at its absolute peak, Peck was sold as a thinking man's sex symbol, never as a sexual object of lust (Duel in the Sun excepted). Sure, he usually got the girl in the end like nearly every male lead during the Golden Age, but sex was never the first thing on his mind. There's no doubt that Gregory liked to get down in the bedroom. You can rest assured, though, that he wasn't going to kiss and tell with his dumb friends. He was a gentleman in every sense of the word.

With his persona firmly in place, I want to talk more about two performances of Peck's from 1945, his breakthrough year in Hollywood. The first, The Keys of the Kingdom, I only want to mention because he plays a priest and, as you will see, this is a recurring motif in the countdown (e.g. Belmondo, Clift, Ruffalo). There's something so wrong but oh so right about lusting after a hot guy in a priest outfit, especially when they're playing the saintliest of all saintly priests. I suppose that's just the bad Catholic in me, though. The second film is Hitchcock's Spellbound, which is about a female psychologist (Ingrid Bergman) who helps her male co-worker (Peck) recover his memory after a traumatic event causes him to be an amnesiac. Unusual for its time, Spellbound is fascinating because it's one of the few films I can think of where the male lead plays the damsel in distress while the female lead is the strong catalyst for change. Emotionally damaged men make me weak in the knees and Peck in Spellbound is no exception. I saw both of these films a couple of years ago and, in their own way, they both solidified my attraction to that tall drink of water Gregory Peck.

Of course I couldn't write this post without at least mentioning Ethan Peck, Gregory's grandson who is also an actor. I've never actually seen Ethan in anything, but there's no denying that he got his grandfather's good looks. So, who do you want to be with, Gregory, Ethan or both?

Monday, March 19, 2012

"The Worst Episode of RuPaul's Drag Race Ever"

I highly doubt that after 20+ years of development hell, Glenn Close intended for her dream project, the gender-bending drama Albert Nobbs, to be laughed at as uproariously as I did when I finally got the chance to see it. But there I was, forcibly biting my lip to the point of it turning white in order to (unsuccessfully) stop the torrent of inappropriate laughter coming out of me. It certainly didn't help that my friend would, out of nowhere, come up with comments such as the title of this piece and send me into another fit of hysterics. Just to be clear, Albert Nobbs is not a hysterical comedy in the vein of Bridesmaids. It's actually the exact opposite in nearly every way. Albert (Close), a butler at a late 19th century Irish hotel, leads a very quiet and reserved life. Day in and day out, he keeps to himself while doing his job, never stepping out of line, getting in anyone's way or even raising his voice. Albert is the sort of man you'd never expect to have a dark past or any sort of secrets, but he has the most surprising secret of them all: he is really a woman, driven by poverty and desperation years ago to dress up as a man for a waiter job and continuing to do so to remain employed. The most surprising thing about this, to me anyways, was that anyone bought that Albert was a man. Granted, I knew going into the film the secret but come on. Albert was able to go decades as a man without someone going "Really, Albert?" These comments apply doubly to Janet McTeer when her character, Hubert, first appears in the film. He accidentally discovers Albert's secret, only to reveal later on that he too is also really a woman. No shit, Sherlock. The make-up work in Albert Nobbs is fine, but no amount of it on the planet will ever disguise the real sex of Janet McTeer. I mean, did you see her tits busting through her shirt?

In the first of two scenes that sent me in a fit of hysterics, Hubert shows Albert his real gender by opening up his shirt and fishing out her gigantic tits, letting them hang out as free as the wind. Even funnier is Albert's reaction: he recoils in fear as if Hubert had pulled a knife out of his shirt and was about to murder him in cold blood. The second occurs later in the film as, after a series of rough patches in their lives, Albert and Hubert decide to recapture their femininity by putting on dresses and taking a stroll along the beach. If the idea doesn't already have you chuckling, just wait until you see hulking Janet McTeer in a dress easily three sizes to small waddling down the beach. I had a hard time believing her as a man earlier in the movie, but after that scene, I didn't buy her as a woman either.

The problem with these scenes--and the rest of the film, if we're being honest--isn't that they are funny in and of themselves. It's that they clash so violently with the downbeat, middle-brow drama that the rest of the film is aiming for. Albert Nobbs is really four or five downbeat, middle-brow dramas rolled into one, none of which are really interesting enough to be developed into a feature on its own. The main crux of the film, a character study of Albert, works to a certain degree, but I feel like there may have been a more imaginative way to explore this than in the conventional way Close chose. Albert is a character who has spent so many years hiding his identity, (s)he has no idea who (s)he really is anymore. He's a dull character because he has to be in order to survive. Albert couldn't risk becoming close to anyone, so he became someone so dull and uninteresting, no one would bother him. The problem for Close, then, is how to portray a human being without a personality and make them a character worth following for two hours. I'll say she gives it her best--"A" for effort, as they used to say on Idol to contestants they loved but sucked that week--but the challenge is too insurmountable for even someone with her talent and skill. The scene where she reveals her past to Hubert is quietly heartbreaking, thanks mostly to Close's subtlety. However, the entirety of Albert Nobbs is so vociferous, Close can't keep up and her performance suffers. As wild and nutsy as Albert Nobbs is, I feel like I should mention that I had a wildly good time at this movie. Sure, most of it was terrible in the traditional sense, but it was a good deal more entertaining than any of the "feel good" movies nominated for Best Picture this year. Although she may have not intended this in her 20 year struggle, it looks like Close may have accidentally made a future camp classic. C

Monday, March 12, 2012


For the third installment of our Queer Anglo Films series, Dave and I tackle avant garde director Derek Jarman's debut film, Sebastiane. In the post, we discuss the film's take on homosexuality and Christianity, it's nakedness and influence on modern porn, "love vs. lust" in the gay community and why homoeroticism is deemed okay in films set in Ancient Rome. We even discuss a bukkake scene! So, join us. There's plenty of fun to be had!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

100 Hot Men and a Dame: #85 William Holden

85. William Holden
Occupation: Actor
Nationality: American
Peak of Hotness: The 1950's
Best Known For: Playing the cynical sex symbol in a host of films, particularly in the early to mid 50's, including Born Yesterday, Sunset Boulevard, Stalag 17, Sabrina and Network.

After my first solo post last time, I'm back with another collaboration. Told you they weren't going away! Joining me to discuss today's hunk is my friend Jesse (whom you can follow on Twitter here). Let's get crackin', shall we?

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

Jesse: Okay, this is a weird one. Talking about sexy men who died before we were alive is kind of morbid in a way, don't you think? I want to jump his bones, but he was six feet under nine years before I was even born.

Nevertheless, the first time I encountered William Holden was when I was really young. I remember watching Network on TV when I was 11 or 12. I was mesmerized by Peter Finch and Faye Dunaway mostly. I guess I didn't really find Holden attractive because he was quite old at the time. 60 maybe? Years later, when I started to become more interested in film and being ravaged by men, is when I realized how gorgeous Holden was when he was younger. I remember going to the library and taking out Born Yesterday, Sunset Blvd. and Picnic. After watching Picnic I completely fell in love with him. I had dreams about a lovely drifter having his way with me at a local picnic for months afterwards.

I remember my father had the movie poster for Stalag 17 hanging in the living room of our house. The poster is basically comprised of William Holden's face and not much else. He's holding a cigar and has this smug look on his face. I would stare at this poster for what felt like hours. I admired him so. He's so classically handsome, definitely in the same league as Cary Grant and the like.

DJ: Morbid? Perhaps. I'm usually so distracted by the sexiness that I never think of whether its right or wrong to be attracted to dead men. It probably is a tad weird in the grand scheme of things, but part of my mission with this project is to shine a light on sexy men from the past. Because, as sad and weird as it sounds, not everyone knows about these hot movie stars from the 50's.

I can't remember which William Holden film I saw first, but it was definitely between Sunset Boulevard and Network. Both films remain two of my favorites of all time, but I don't think I noticed William's sexiness in either right away: Network for the reasons of age you already mentioned and Sunset Boulevard because, well, I'm still not sure. I guess I needed a bit of time with that one. Just like you, oddly enough, I think the one film that truly sold me on him as a sexual object was Picnic. I couldn't tell you anything about the film's plot anymore, but the memory of him as this sexy drifter/hulking object of lust to Kim Novak's character remains permanently etched into my brain. Boy, would I love to be invited to that picnic of yours.

J: You can certainly attend that picnic, but I don't think there will be much eating involved.

DJ: Well, we'd be eating something. It just won't be food.

Part of the reason William continues to be a favorite of mine, in addition to that chest, is the fact that he was a Hollywood leading man who often played cynical bastards. Considering the time period he worked in and the fact that he made this his stock in trade after the immense success of Sunset Boulevard, I find it miraculous he was able to make it work for so long. Hollywood has always had hard-boiled, rough leading men such as Bogie & Cagney, but not many of them could be considered a sex symbol in the way Holden was. And did he ever make it work for himself! Maybe William is where my attraction to dark, pessimistic men started. Does William's persona do anything for you or are you strictly a "Take off your shirt and let's do this, William" sort of fella?

J: I like to think I fall into both of those categories. His rugged persona is definitely his appeal and that leads to me saying "take off your shirt and let's do this, William".

I say that every time I see one of his movies. Hell, I even said that the first time I saw him in that iconic episode of I Love Lucy. The way Lucille Ball creeps on him in that episode is exactly how I would have gone about that situation as well. Buttering my hand and everything.

DJ: Oh man, I totally forgot he was on that episode of I Love Lucy! That's definitely where I first saw him, although it was in a time when the oldest movie I had ever seen was The Little Mermaid and I was in love with Emma "Baby Spice" Bunton. Needless to say, I was merely a shadow of the Dame I am today. My, oh my, have times changed.

Please tell me this Old Hollywood hunk strikes your fancy. We may not be able to be friends if he doesn't.

Monday, March 5, 2012

100 Hot Men and a Dame: #86 Jeremy Renner

86. Jeremy Renner
Occupation: Actor
Nationality: American
Age: 41
Best Known For: An actor on the verge of making it big, Renner finally broke through after back-to-back Oscar nominations for The Hurt Locker and The Town.

Wow, has it really been two and a half months since my last entry? Apologies all around! You know how life gets in the way sometimes. But rest assured: I am back and (hopefully) better than ever.

In my absence, however, I realized that at the rate I was going, I was never going to get this series done. Part of the problem was that it was taking ages to round up friends to help me out with every single post. I have a lot of talented friends but nowhere near enough for a project as large as this. I have decided that in order to get these posts out, I'm going to tackle some of them on my own. Don't fret: I will have collaborators on a number of future posts, so that element is not going away. But, basically, I'm sick of begging people for help and I'm sure they are sick as hell of me nagging. Let's just get back to what the series was founded on: hot men. And without further ado...

My fascination with Jeremy Renner probably didn't begin at the same time as everyone else's, which was, obviously, the release of The Hurt Locker. When it came out, I liked Renner and certainly appreciated his gratuitous shirtless scene. But I remained ambivalent about his hotness (even when a close friend became obsessed).

It wasn't until, of all things, Oprah's Oscar Interview special, where various celebrities, either past winners or current nominees, interviewed each other, that I first fell for him. Despite The Hurt Locker being the talk of Oscar town for months, I didn't know much about him, much less seen an interview with him. The only thing I had heard, of course, were the gay rumors. Not that I believed them for a second, mind you. Despite my complete and utter lack of a gaydar, Jeremy never gave off that vibe to me. Taylor Lautner? Yes, definitely. But Jeremy Renner? I mean, look at him! He looks like a tough, scrappy dude who slams back beers with his bros and will smash a dude's face in for looking at him wrong, not someone who will check out guys' asses with me at the local gay bar. Those gay rumors get out of hand sometimes, and this had to be one of those times.

But, then I saw the interview, and my whole world flipped upside down. I remember watching the special in my room at my parents' house and thinking, "Maybe those rumors weren't as far off as I thought..." Re-watching the interview, I'm not exactly sure what got my Spidey Sense tingling--maybe it's the way Jeremy casually mentions that "men and women" look at him differently after his Hurt Locker triumph and Ben Affleck's subsequent, half-knowing eyebrow raise afterwards--but it was definitely a-tinglin'. And I don't mean to be shallow enough to say that this was the only reason I fell for him. He carried himself well in the interview, coming across as charismatic and charming in ways I never imagined he could be, judging him solely on his Hurt Locker work. It was a triumph all around. And to think I would have missed it if my mother hadn't recorded it for me on a whim!

If that Oprah special initiated my attraction to Jeremy, The Town solidified it. In that movie, Jeremy plays Ben Affleck's hard as nails, almost psychopathic childhood friend who drags him into one last bank robbery. Generally, I'm not attracted to "bad boys" or guys who will potentially beat the shit out of me at some point in our relationship (sorry, Chris Brown). But, hot damn, Jeremy was sexy as hell in that movie. Something about his swagger and the way he could violently go off at any moment really had me in a tizzy the whole time I was in the theatre. As soon as I came home from my screening, I tweeted this great joke, which I unfortunately forgot how it went, about how I wish that Jeremy Renner's character would shoot a load on my back and then shoot me in the back with a gun. Or something like that. Either way, the point still stands: as long as Jeremy Renner has sex with me, he can do whatever he wants with me afterwards.

As always, what do you think of Jeremy Renner? Do you give him a 21 Gun Salute every time you see him? And since I didn't interview anyone, I didn't get to ask a silly question. So here's mine for you: You must remember that story about a year or so ago about Xtina getting completely hammered and making a fool of herself at a party Jeremy threw before passing out in his bed. Which popstar do you think would have made a more interesting bedfellow for Jeremy? Joe Jonas would have gotten drunk on purpose, hoping Jeremy took advantage of him. I'm going with either Archie ("Gosh, Jeremy, that's an awfully big gun you have!") or Cheryl Cole (The Queen deserves a decent man, don't you think?).

Crazy 80's Project: Fitzcarraldo

A would-be entrepreneur/opera aficionado, Fitzcarraldo, (Klaus Kinski) hopes to break into the thriving rubber business in South America so that he can get rich and build his dream opera house in the jungle. In order to do this, Fitzcarraldo makes a dangerous journey down the river through the heart of the savage (read: non-white) lands, where very few white men have ever made it out alive. And if this wasn't a big enough obstacle to overcome, he then must move the ship he has been traveling on literally over a mountain in order to get to the rubber. If this doesn't sound like the makings of an epic film, I don't know what does. But the problem with Fitzcarraldo is that it never quite feels like the epic it should be. Don't get me wrong, there are quite a few spectacular moments, such as the quiet scene when Fitzcarraldo's ship enters the savage territory or when we first glimpse the complicated pulley system devised to move the ship over the mountain. But, more often than not, I was watching with a passive interest, rather than becoming particularly awed by the whole experience. I'm certainly glad I saw Fitzcarraldo, but it's not something I will probably ever feel the need to revisit. B-