Homo homini rodentius est

The 3 Ages of Lohan

The 3 Ages of Lindsay
Who’s that girl? NYU artist Michael Cavayero examines our obsessions

If you’re in downtown Manhattan between now and April 19, stop by the [Broadway Windows] exhibition space to check out the work of [Michael Cavayero], a senior honors art student at NYU, who uses bold color and exaggerated line to deconstruct the tabloid princess. Lindsay then, now and — assuming she makes it — future.

Aggressive Imagination: Thoughts on Watchmen

Watchmen

A month following it’s release, it looks like Watchmen – while hardly a smash hit – has done respectably. At this writing, BoxOfficeMojo [estimates] that it has earned about $178MM, which means it will likely make back its costs (estimated somewhere between $120MM and $150MM), plus a modest profit. Still, that’s pretty impressive — considering it’s an R-rated movie, targeted to hard-core fans of a dark and violent story populated by not-very-nice characters, that was almost universally panned by critics. What impresses me most of all is that the movie was even made. I’m tempted to call it an act of love on the part of Hollywood – except we’re talking about Hollywood here. More likely, a few people who loved the graphic novel upon which the film is based managed to slip one by the suits. I’m glad they did. I’ve seen the movie twice and have been thinking about the value of comic dramas in general and this one in particular.

Many reviewers make the mistake of judging films taken from comic novels against the standards of a storytelling tradition that stretches back into the history of Western literature. In that context, the truer a movie stays to its comic origins the weaker it looks as a work of art: characters seem one-dimensional, plots are simplistic and the treatment of character motivation and emotions is clumsy. But, to me, comic novels stand outside of the literary canon. They’re more like Kabuki: representing the world through a brightly-hued prism that hardens edges and reduces subtlety. While there may be some conventional literary references (e.g., the tag line “Who watches the Watchmen”, taken from the Roman poet Juvenal) and appropriation of historical facts, comics are sui generis – designed for an audience that has not yet consumed the great works of literature. I suppose their success could be considered an indictment of a culture that cannot reliably transmit to its youth the collected genius of its classic literature, but it’s also evidence of an ingenious adaptation – reassuring us that even amid a cultural breakdown the important questions and challenges that humans must address (“What does it mean to be human? What is the nature of justice? What good is love?”) will be addressed anew by artists with aggressive imaginations. Their starkly drawn characters stand in for ideas that are contested on fields of epic proportion – those still standing at the end of the battle win. And make no mistake, the ideas that Watchmen takes up and the characters that represent them are big.

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The Crying Game

Boy George Then and Now
(Bad) karma, Chameleon…

Time has not been kind to Boy George. Sentenced last week to 15 months in jail for brutalizing a hooker, The Mirror [gleefully reports] — courtesy of a loose-lipped fellow inmate — the pathetic state to which George O’Dowd has been reduced: blubbering in a corner of his jail cell and fearful for his life once he joins the jailhouse rabble. Ironically, according to the report of jailhouse insiders, upon his debut at the jail he was mobbed by inmates seeking his autograph, not his blood. The chatty inmate who provided The Mirror with their quotes remarks upon how he tried to comfort the distraught singer:

“I joked that it wasn’t all bad and said he might even find himself a new boyfriend inside prison. But he just started crying again.”

He could take a lesson or two from Martha Stewart on how to manage the slammer. Tears are probably not the best bet. One wants to laugh at the pathetic spectacle of it — and many will — but one also wants to kick O’Dowd’s fat arse from here to kingdom come for orchestrating this stunningly Grand Guignol downfall (he is currently on suicide watch in the prison). For many people (read “straight” people), Boy George was always something of a clown, but for some of us (read “queers”) he was a bona fide hero back in the day. My first awareness of him came while I was still living in my backwater town in upstate New York. One day while listening to the radio, “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?” came on. I enjoyed the unique, blowsy sound of the singer’s voice but what got my interest more was the brief exchange between the DJs that happened after the song. “So, is that a guy?” one asked. “I don’t know,” said the other, “the picture on the album looks like a girl, but I think it’s a guy!” I was hooked. I liked the music, but I admired George more, who pushed queerness so far into people’s faces that they couldn’t avoid it. What I admired most was that he didn’t hedge — in a decade when the most flamboyant characters could still play “Is he, isn’t he?” about their identities, George had the balls to accept Culture Club’s Best New Artist Grammy in 1984 by telling the world, “Thanks America, you’ve got style, you’ve got taste, and you know a good drag queen when you see one.” Heroic.

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Review: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

F. Scott Fitzgerald published the story “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” in 1922 as part of a collection entitled Tales of the Jazz Age. As with so much of his work, the story, a fantasy about a man who ages in reverse, was a clever way of addressing pet themes concerning class, social standing and our tenuous hold on the conventions that root us to life. But, as Fitzgerald acknowledged, it was also about the meaning and value of maturity in a disordered world following the end of World War 1 where an entire generation of young men were robbed of the chance to grow old. The story begins in arch satire and ends in melancholy reverence of (lost) innocence.

Eighty-six years later, Hollywood and its special-effects wizards have discovered the story and brought it to the screen with Brad Pitt playing Benjamin Button and Cate Blanchett and Tilda Swinton playing his loves. Director David Fincher and his screenwriters depart from the original story fairly significantly and, sorry to say, not for the better. The film starts out promisingly with a parable — not in the original story — of a blind watchmaker who loses a son in the Great War and, out of his grief, builds a clock for the city that he lives in that runs backwards, as a tribute to all the boys who have lost their futures. It’s a moving little story unto itself, but the movie that follows doesn’t do it justice.

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Holiday Dieting Tips!

Roto Rooter for the personal plumbing
Patented Diet Elixir Think of it as Drano for your own personal plumbing…

People often ask me (and by “people” I mean “no one” and by “often” I mean “never”) “Sprague, as a busy metropolitan blogger — hip deep in the hoopla — attending social events right and left, how DO you keep your lithe boyish body? Especially during the holidays?!” And I just shake my head, laugh quietly into my armpit and say, “Well, just between you and me, I’ve come up with a sure-fire method that lets me keep those unsightly pounds at bay while still allowing me to plow through food like Kirstie Alley at a Las Vegas buffet.” My secret? A simple elixir of prune juice with a few dashes of hot sauce.

Disgusting? You bet it is — like everything that’s good for you. Broccoli, fish oil, cigarettes — they’re all disgusting. “But wait a minute,” I hear you say, “how could something so simple be the answer to such a vexing problem?” Well. For the answer to that, we have to spend a few minutes talking about how your body works…

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