Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Gayer Than Batman’s Rubber Nipples

You’d be forgiven for thinking that the gay themes in the original Batman movies begin and end with close-ups of nipples and codpieces in Batman & Robin.

You’d be wrong, but I’m forgiving you now.


I decided early on that every time I post a new episode of my podcast, We Are Not Young Anymore, I wouldn’t necessarily post it to this blog, but in the past week, WANYA did a back-to-back twofer of Batman movies and why they’re pretty damn gay. That wasn’t necessarily the goal that Co-host Chris and I had in mind when we decided to talk about them, but that is where the conversation veered. I suppose we should have seen this coming.

First, there’s Batman Returns, which opened in theaters on June 19, 1992 — twenty-five years ago this Monday. In this episode of WANYA, Chris and I talk about how Heathers screenwriter Daniel Waters gave Batman Returns the highest snappy comeback-to-dialogue ratio of any of Batman’s cinematic outings. The Penguin works as a gay analogue (as well as a Donald Trump analogue, and yes, I’m as surprised as anyone that it could be both), and then in a WANYA first, my roommate Glen makes a cameo in which he explains how Michelle Pfeiffer’s transformation in the film works as an extended metaphor for coming out, owning your sexuality and using it to defend yourself.



Tuesday marked the twentieth anniversary of the final film in the original series, Batman & Robin. Now, this is a movie that has been talked about a lot, especially since it changed the direction of comic book movies in general but also because it was released around the dawn of internet nerd culture. People really hated Batman & Robin, and I think that dismissal is largely justified because it’s simply not a good film, though I was happy to find that I loved Uma Thurman’s performance as Poison Ivy every bit as much as I did when I was a dopey fifteen-year-old who was still figuring stuff out.

However, a lot of the criticism of Batman & Robin smacks of homophobia, particularly when it’s being discussed by straight nerds who are angry that Joel Schumacher injected homoeroticism into a universe they saw as a sort of hetero safe space. In this episode, we talk about how Schumacher did not, in fact, pull those gay (and gayish) elements out of thin air, and how Thurman was correct in choosing to play Poison Ivy like a drag queen.



If you’ve been listening to our podcast so far, thank you very much for giving us your time and tolerating our dumb voices. I feel like seven episodes in, we’re getting the hang of this whole process, and I’m excited to burn through the 1992 and 1997 summer blockbuster seasons for the next few months. If you use iTunes to listen to podcasts, you can subscribe to We Are Not Young Anymore there. And if you’re really interested in our creative output, please give us a review. It’s helpful for us, and it also give you a chance to point out the ways we might be sucking.

In closing, I suppose I should apologize for not giving the infamous Bat-nipples much discussion at all. I guess we felt like more than enough had been said about them at this point, but it occurs to me now that Schumacher’s explanation about them being inspired by anatomical studies and classical statues seems disingenuous, because shouldn’t have Batgirl have had nipples too?

Friday, June 02, 2017

David Lynch Explains David Lynch (Sorta)

David Lynch doesn’t want me to write this. He didn’t say so, exactly, and I have no personal relationship with the guy. But over the years, he’s made it clear that he does not want to explain his work — and he’d rather you and I didn’t attempt a single, encompassing explanation for it either.

“When something is abstract, the abstraction is hard to put into words, unless you’re a poet,” he told an audience during a 2007 Q&A that might mark David Lynch at his most self-explanatory. “But these [are] ideas you somehow know, and cinema is a language that can say abstractions. I love stories, but I love stories that hold abstractions. And cinema can say these difficult-to-say-in-words things.” Lynch goes on to say that he often doesn’t understand the meaning of his ideas, and he didn’t even understand the meaning of Eraserhead, perhaps his most abstract work, when he was making it. But it doesn’t matter, because he’d rather you found an “inner knowingness” — a sort of idiosyncratic translation of his own idiosyncratic system of symbols.

All that said, I think Lynch lets on more than some people might guess. Perhaps as a result of him opening up his unconscious mind and letting all that mind goop flow out uninhibited, he’s revealing more substantial, meaty bits than even he may realize. Now, I’m aware of the arrogance involved in taking an artist’s work and claiming to perceive his or her true intent, especially when you haven’t asked about it directly, so I’m simply going to leave this here with the following note: “Hey, isn’t this a neat way to look at David Lynch’s work?”

My thesis is this: In several works, David Lynch would seem to be suggesting a critique on interpretation, and in each of them he does this using the metaphor of a performance or other such viewed entertainment.

Lil the Dancing Girl

My first example of this is a brief scene from Fire Walk With Me, in which regional FBI director Gordon Dole (Lynch himself) greets Agent Desmond (Chris Isaak). Rather than explain the specifics of the case for which Desmond has flown to Oregon to investigate, Lynch introduces Lil (Kimberly Ann Cole), his “mother’s sister’s girl,” who performs a bizarre dance.



Later, Desmond and Agent Stanley (Keifer Sutherland) are driving away, and Stanley asks what was up with Lil. Without hesitation, Desmond explains away each unusual facet of Lil’s appearance and dance as meaning something important to the case.
  • Lil’s sour face = problems with local authorities
  • Lil’s blinking eyes = “trouble higher up”
  • Lil keeping one hand in her pocket = authorities hiding something
  • Lil’s other hand being clenched = authorities would be belligerent
  • Lil walking in place = legwork
  • Cole’s reference to Lil being his “mother’s sister’s girl” and placing four fingers over his face = the sheriff’s uncle is in federal prison
  • Lil’s dress being tailored = a code for drugs
  • Lil wearing a blue rose pinned to her dress = “I can’t tell you about that” (and indeed, in the new series, we are still left wondering exactly what the blue rose might signify)
Even in the world of Twin Peaks, it seems improbable that Desmond was able to interpret all these things so quickly and clearly. I suppose it’s possible that Cole might have instructed him in his own personal language of signs, but I think it’s maybe also true that Lynch is having some fun with the viewer, especially the type of viewer who watched and re-watched the original series and attempted to read meaning into every loose end, every abstract detail. In the absurd world of the show, every aspect of Lil’s dance does mean something — and, in the end, most of what Desmond deduces from the dance turns out to be correct, it should be noted. And while this moves the plot along, I also think Lynch is perhaps making a joke about the way some people might scrutinize every little detail as opposed to taking in the whole of a given work, more like you’d take in a painting, less like you’d take in a traditional narrative.

No Hay Banda

I feel like Lynch could be making a similar comment with the Club Silencio scene in Mulholland Drive. Whereas Lil’s dance comprises only a small part of Fire Walk With Me, the Club Silencio sequence may be the most pivotal in all of Mulholland Drive. And whereas I think the Lil scene is mostly meant as a joke, I think Lynch is talking the idea a bit further and saying, “No, don’t do this. Instead, do this.”



A quick and dirty recap: Betty (Naomi Watts) and Rita (Laura Elena Harring) attend a late-night show at jazz club where they are repeatedly made to watch performances then are reminded that the thing they think they’re seeing is not actually happening. The host (Richard Green, credited as “The Magician”) keeps introducing different instruments and then telling the audience that there is no such instrument, no actual band, no orchestra. Betty and everyone else is only hearing a recording, no matter how real it may seem. Eventually the host vanishes, and Rebekeh Del Rio (credited as herself) steps onstage to sing a Spanish version of Roy Orbison’s “Crying.” Midway through the song, she collapses, yet the song continues. It’s implied that she was only lip-syncing.

Again, I’ve always interpreted this as David Lynch’s way of telling the audience not to get hung up on the details. Just as it’s absurdist comedy for Agent Desmond to read such specific details into Lil’s dance, the Club Silencio sequence discourages you from thinking that the bare components of the performance — the one Betty is watching onstage, the movie you are watching in real life — should be taken at anything more than face value. Betty and Rita don’t follow this advice, however; they are both moved to tears by “Llorando,” and at one point Betty starts shaking violently, maybe as a result of intense emotion she’s feeling. In fact, when they arrive back home after the show, both cease to exist, and the movie enters its bizarre, plot-bending final third.

There’s a lot more to consider in this scene. Perhaps most notably is one of the film’s final images: the blue-haired woman watching from the opera box speaking the word “silencio” one last time. It’s been theorized in various analyses that this could either represent “Quiet in the theater,” because you’re about to begin the “real” performance of piecing together your own interpretation of Mulholland Drive, or “Quiet on the set,” because you’re about to begin making the “real” movie of living your life. We don’t know, even all these years later. It’s worth mentioning, I feel, that the DVD printing of Mulholland Drive includes ten clues to unlock the film’s mystery, but I’m not sure they would lead anyone to any singular, concrete understanding. I think Lynch wants us to sit with it, think about it, consider and then re-consider it. This should not be a thing that is quickly processed.

Tracey Has Two Lattes

tracey sam twin peaks glass box scene

And then we have the new Twin Peaks. Probably the most talked-about scene from the four episodes occurred in the first episode. It features two characters, Tracey Barbarato (Madeline Zima) and Sam Colby (Benjamin Rosenfield) in New York, in a strange, living room-like setup situated around a mysterious glass box.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Any Workout Video Can Be Pornography, I Guess

I just this week realized that I neglected to post and share a video I made late last year. It’s nothing major—just a silly thing I cranked out while at home for the holidays. I strung together a bunch of vintage workout clips and then paired them with the theme to the Dario Argento slasher movie Tenebre.



The song may be more familiar to you as “Phantom,” a remake by Justice.

I’d intended to use this footage as part of my horror movie video project, but in the end that veered in a different direction, and I didn’t have a place for this. In any case, I think the idea came to me while working out at the gym and watching one of the TVs play an episode of Bones in which this poor guy was reduced down to the smallest possible human fragments. Something about exercising my own body while being confronted by the inevitable conclusion of all human bodies seemed funny, so here you go: slasher music + workout videos.

In scouring YouTube for any usable footage from the right era and in a high enough resolution, however, I realize I may have included some segments that aren’t actually design to instruct you how to exercise. I think they may actually be gay softcore. You can see the segments at 0:59, 1:30, 1:51 and a lot of other places.

Am I crazy? Or am I revealing more about myself in how I don’t see any eroticism in this and not in any of the footage of women bending and flexing in their leotards? (Guys, I think I might be gay…?)

Here are the original clips in full.



Like, this is basically porn, right? It lacks frontal nudity or actual sex, but it’s designed to titillate more than it is to get the viewer into any kind of physical shape. Right? Aside form erect. Right? Also is it gay, necessarily, or is it just the style of the time, which reads as gay today? I am totally unable to tell.

In trying to identify what these videos might have been called, I did find one more that I hadn’t seen before. It’s exactly as ambiguously gay and porny as the others.



Your input is welcome.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Marion / Marion

I’ll blame Twin Peaks for this. I’ve had doubles on my brain for months now, but at least I’ve managed to make something of it.



Also, I have a bold declaration: I actually like the 1998 remake of Psycho. I don’t think it was necessary, exactly, because the original was no less great in 1998 than it was in 1960, but the Gus Van Sant version makes sense, thematically speaking.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The Businesswoman Special

I promise not to use my blog as a means to trick you into listening to my podcast, but I will point out that Romy & Michele’s High School Reunion was released in theaters twenty years ago today, and that a handy way to celebrate this occasion might be to listen to Episode Three of We Are Not Young Anymore.



The process of recording and producing a podcast has been fun, and I think on this third time around, my co-host and I managed to iron out some of the technical kinks from our first two episodes. Also something to think about: Barring Wizard of Oz-style “it was all a dream” twist endings, is Romy & Michele the movie with the longest dream sequence ever?

Saturday, April 22, 2017

1984’s Best Song About Being Ejaculated Upon

Here, please watch the video for Vanity’s 1984 pop song “Pretty Mess,” which is not just sexual in nature but unusually specific in the type of sex it seems to be celebrating. Have a look and listen for yourself.



“Pretty Mess” is not a good song, exactly, but you have to admit it’s efficient in communicating its message. if there were any doubts about what Vanity is singing about, those would be tidily removed by the video, which manages at least six metaphors for genitalia and the substances that come out of genitalia. These metaphors are as follows:
  • at 1:06, Vanity getting showered in white feathers
  • at 1:26, the female bartender dripping honey all over the counter
  • at 2:04, Vanity getting showered with champagne that’s gushing out of the bottle
  • at 2:37, Vanity attempting to catch a white throw pillow (and notably failing to catch it)
  • at 3:02, Vanity dancing at the rear of a long, arguably flesh-colored hallway while singing “and then he found a hallway that went all the way”
  • at 3:08, Vanity and her male companion getting showered in white confetti
And that list excludes the references made in the lyrics but not accompanied by a visual metaphor: “boiling like a kettle,” “dripping like a hot tea” and the strange line “he pulled a seam and it went all the way,” in which Vanity runs the “and” into the “seam” so it kind of sounds like she’s saying “semen.”

I’d imagine that if you were in your car listening to the radio during the few weeks “Pretty Mess” would have been getting airplay back in 1984 and you were just hearing the lyrics, you might ask yourself, “Wait, is she singing about getting jizzed on?” But if you were watching the video, the message would be clear: Yes, she really is singing about getting jizzed on. I liken it to Grace Jones’ 1981 track “Pull Up to the Bumper,” which seems like it’s about having sex with a guy with a big black dick but which Jones herself insists is not the case. It’s maybe even funnier for Jones to pretend that she just made a song about parking a car, but the video at least keeps it ambiguous: It’s just Grace Jones dancing onstage, superimposed on images of traffic.

Not that there’s anything wrong with writing and performing a song about getting ejaculated upon, I suppose.

People who have been reading this blog for a while might remember that I wrote about “Pretty Mess” before. However, since that posting, the video disappeared from the internet. I’m posting this today because I finally found the video again but also because looking back on the original post, I hate the way I talked about this song. The post title was “‘Pretty Mess’ Is a Filthy Song for Prostitutes,” and I was implying that Vanity shouldn’t have made this song. If I thought this back then, I no longer think so now. I love that she made this song, bad as it is, and I think we can celebrate it in the context of “Wow, can you believe this song got made? Can you believe she got away with this video?” And it’s all the more notable when you consider that “Pretty Mess” was Vanity’s first solo single after dropping out of Vanity 6, the girl group assembled by Prince and the group responsible for the 1982 hit “Nasty Girl.” As Prince was wont to do, he gave Vanity her stage name, though it the context of this song, it’s notable to point out that she told People in 1984 that he initially wanted to dub her “Vagina.” Even considering how forthright sexuality was a part of Vanity’s persona since the beginning of her music career, “Pretty Mess” still seems remarkable in how blatantly it discusses the matter at hand. (Or you know, at other body parts.)

So please, pop singers of the future, if you feel inclined to write further songs about being ejaculated upon, feel free to do so. It doesn’t seem like a tall order to make a jizz-positive song that’s better than this one.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Duckface Revisited

A few years back I wrote a post that I think of as the “Duckface, Drew Mackie” post. Some of you do as well. In fact, more often than you’d expect, I get people arriving at my blog by searching for the term “duckface drew mackie.” It’s funny enough, this original post. The long and short of it was that I accidentally signed an email “Duckface, Drew Mackie” rather than “Thanks, Drew Mackie,” and then I further embarrassed myself in the presence of this person in ways that indicate that I shouldn’t use email anymore. In any case, both posts featured a screengrab of Walter “Duckface” Berman, Stephanie’s nerdy classmate on Full House, because that was the obvious visual aid to use.

Because the internet is weird and unpredictable, that image took off, and a lot of other people have subsequently used it on other platforms and linked back to me or credited me. As a result, I get periodic reminders that yes, that is an image I made and posted. For a few years, it also showed up when you google my name, though I’d like to point out that that is not me. That is the actor Whit Hertford, who would later become the kid that Sam Neill both impresses and terrifies with a raptor claw in Jurassic Park. But as Duckface, as an image that I featured on my blog years ago, he’s just become a persistent part of my internet presence.

Last night, I posted something on Facebook. And it got a reply.





I’m not posting this to brag about a glancing interaction with *the* original Duckface himself, although that totally wasn’t something I had expected would happen yesterday. I’m sharing this little nothing of an anecdote because I want to convey to you how strange it is to be a human being in Los Angeles when you’ve grown up on a steady diet of pop culture, when you primarily interact with the world via the internet and when you realize that you’ve ended up in the same geographic area as most of the bit players from your childhood. It’s strange to encounter an image of a person again and again and maybe disconnect that image from the living, breathing person who appears in it to the point that you forget that he went on to play other roles and also does things independent from an acting career. (You know, like use Facebook in the exact way everyone else does.) And it’s strange to see that person—say, in line at the grocery store or just online on Facebook or maybe Minkus from Boy Meets World gets the last ticket to a show you’re trying to get into, because that is also a thing that happened once—and to have the internal reaction of “Oh! I know you!” only to have that immediately followed by “No, wait. I don’t at all. I’ve just seen you. In fact, I’ve seen you but you haven’t seen me,” and that’s a normal thing because that’s how TV and movies work.

It’s just all weird, when you think about it.



Duckface,
Drew Mackie

Monday, March 27, 2017

I Have Some Questions About Beauty and the Beast

If you are like me, you greeted the trailer for the live action Beauty and the Beast with sentiments along the lines of “Okay, they’re doing this now. This is a thing they are doing.” But then you went and saw it anyway, and its attempt to translate the original story into a kinda-sorta-maybe more realistic world left you with questions you did not have when you saw the animated version. (Never mind that you were nine when you saw the animated version and that your thought processes at the time were more focused on Tiny Toons than anything else.)

Here are those questions, in no particular order.

How many people live in this goddamned castle?

Like, are there just scads of servants-turned-talking furniture laying dormant until it’s time for the “Be Our Guest” number? And are they otherwise allowing most of the talking and moving to be performed by Cogswoth and Lumiere and the other A-list furniture?

Even then, wouldn’t this caste would have to be mostly bedrooms under normal, non-sentiment furniture circumstances?

Doesn’t it seem like someone would have spoken the Beast’s real name at some point?

Like, if I left the theater being fully aware that Belle’s horse was named Philippe, because it’s mentioned several times, shouldn’t I have also heard what the Beast’s name was, pre-curse?

Do you think Belle and the Beast had to go out and buy new housewares after all their stuff reverted back to humans?

Or do you think there was, like, an old set of dishes that the Beast put in storage upon arrival of the sentient dishware?

Would sentient dishes be pleasant to use? Or would that be weird?

Wouldn’t it make more sense to maybe use the old dishes as dishes and not eat food off your friends and coworkers?

Do you think the castle servants developed some really weird fetishes while being used as furniture and housewares and all that?

Do you think that, for example, someone who had been turned into a couch would subsequently feel compelled to make people sit on him for long periods of time?

Why wasn’t there a singing toilet?

If there had been a sentient toilet, do you think Belle would have used him? Or would she have maybe gone to the bathroom outside, just because she felt bad about it?

What if the toilet begged Belle to use him?

What if Belle only found out months into her imprisonment that the toilet was sentient after all, and she was all, “Wait, why didn’t you say anything?”

Why was the singing wardrobe given narcolepsy as a character trait? Is there some connection between wardrobes and sleep disorders that I’m not getting?

What if when the Beast reverted to the human form, Belle broke up with him because it turns out she was only into guys who were covered in hair and had horns?

What if that water buffalo fetish maybe made more sense, seeing how the Beast’s personality is generally terrible?

Wouldn’t Mr. Potts have just gone out and married someone else if he’d forgotten that he had a wife?

Wouldn’t people in town have wondered why they had, for example, clothes and personal effects in their house that didn’t belong to any family member they could remember?

So if the enchantress has crazy magical powers and can distort reality, why is she spending her spare time living like a bag lady?

Not but really—what possible reason could the enchantress have for dressing like she’s homeless and hanging out in a town that is defined by being mundane and provincial? Unless she’s watching the townspeople go about their fake lives and not remembering the loved ones who are trapped in the Beast’s castle and have been transformed into sentient furniture?

Wouldn’t it be a hundred times more interesting to hang out in the castle with all the magical talking furniture?

Wouldn’t it also give her a better perspective on the Beast and how well he’s dealing with the curse that was specifically designed to punish him for his bad behavior?

Wait a fucking minute—if this enchantress is in in the business of punishing people and also hangs out in town, wouldn’t she do something about that asshole Gaston? Like, wouldn’t she use her magic to punish the vain man who treats everyone badly, since doing exactly that is what cursed the Beast and transformed the servants and made the town forget the castle existed and, you know, propelled the whole plot?

Why do you think the writers of this film made the effort to explain away one of the potholes from the first movie—that no one in Belle’s castle seemed to remember that big honkin’ castle that was a day’s horse ride away—but then wrote into the story an enchantress who can control reality but just inexplicably choses to do nothing for almost the entire movie?

And finally (and most importantly), how did this film rob an impressionable young minds of a live-action glimpse at Gaston’s chest hair?