Better a Witty Fool than a Foolish Wit

Inner Workings of My Twisted Mind.

Cult of Buffy

I’m a little obsessed with the Buffy musical at the moment.  I was avidly opposed to the T.V. show Buffy the Vampire Slayer for years.  I loved the cheese-tastic movie which debuted in the early 90s (and starred the boy of my pre-teen dreams, Luke Perry).  Then the T.V. show debuted and was nothing like the move and I hated it.  In all honesty, I didn’t get it.  I didn’t get that it was supposed to be campy.  I also didn’t get that there was philosophy behind it.

Basically, two years ago I read a book called Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Philosophy, where real Doctors of Philosophy talked about Kantian Morality in Buffy, talked about the allegory of High School as Horror, talked about the weird diegetic world of Buffy and how aware the characters are of their status as characters on a show.

Now, in season six of Buffy, there was an amazing episode entitled Once More, With Feeling.  It’s this total broadway nerd’s dream come true, a demon comes to town and people start breaking into choreographed song and dance numbers.  It’s like Enchanted, but not so fairy tale-esque.  Basically, Joss Whedon (god of nerd world) wrote this amazing hour long musical that drove the story arc of season six forward while being a great musical, and working like a good musical does (i.e. the songs move the story forward).  It’s self-aware of it’s ridiculousness and the characters are more than a little disturbed by the fact that they keep randomly breaking into song (wouldn’t you be?)

They played the Buffy Musical at comic-con; it was the closing ceremony, so-to-speak.  And it was like watching the Rocky Horror Picture Show at a midnight movie.  People sang along, waved parking tickets, copied the Grrr Arrrgh at the end of the episode, they jeered at Dawn, and cat called when Buffy and Spike finally make out at the end.  Basically, it’s every dork’s wet dream: vampires, musicals, hot girls, lesbians, and a tap dancing demon.

I have admitted this to the two people I sneered at when I was first introduced to the musical four years ago and now I’m admitting it publicly…it rocks.  I concede, the Buffy Musical is one of the greatest things to happen to television.

Peace, Love and Dancing Vampires,
Julia

August 6, 2008 Posted by | Comedy, Comics, Gay/Lesbian, Hollywood, Television | Leave a comment

Seventh Heaven

The world as we know it is coming to an end.  I just thought you all should get the heads up seeing as you seem like the kind of people that like to be informed about things like this.  It’s the apocalypse.  How, you might ask, do I know this?  ABC Family has aired a show that may be the beginning of the end of Civilization as we know it (that is if said position has already been filled by George W. Bush).  I’m not going to lie to you, I was attracted to the show for two reasons, 1) it’s about teenagers and I’m a sucker for teen drama, and 2) it co-stars Molly Ringwald.  Yes folks, the lady that 80s danced into our hearts, the lady that made herself the ugliest prom dress of all time, the lady that made us girls fall in love with Jake Ryan.  That’s right, Molly Ringwald, the mistress of the Brat Pack is back and lord do I wish she’d stayed in the 80s.  To be fair, she’s not the problem.  It’s the show she’s on.  

So ABC Family started airing a new show called The Secret Life of the American Teen which was created by the same person that created Seventh Heaven, the long running show on The WB that showcased an overpopulated Christian family.  As horrifically offensive as Seventh Heaven was (and man did it browbeat Jesus into it’s viewers), this new show is even worse.  It’s as though the 1950s ideal of what was proper behavior by teenagers crashed into American teenagers in 2008.  Basically, it’s horrendously unrealistic.  It is taking the ideas of abstinence only education and over the top Christian morality and ramming them down the throats of its 2.8 Million viewers.  
And on top of the fact that it’s trying to cram a pro-fundamentalist agenda into an hour of television, the acting is undeniably awful, the writing is trite and unrealistic, and the plot lines are just appalling.  It’s about a Christian teenager who gets pregnant (she states at one point that she’s not sure she even had sex, score one for abstinence only education) and has to deal with the consequences.  Hm, Juno but crappy much?  The sub plots revolve around a christian couple who have decided to wait until marriage, but the guy in the relationship is an unrealistic horny teenager who thinks about nothing but sex 24 hours a day.  Now, I know what it is to be a horny teenager, but realistically, I can see something like 18 hours a day, maybe 12 hours a day, and even less if you want to make an interesting t.v. show, but come on.  And really, what kind of a shitty character thinks about only sex and nothing else?  Of course, he’s sixteen years old and asking his girlfriend to marry him as soon as they get out of high school presumably so they can have sex.  I personally don’t have a problem with sending the message that sex should wait until one is ready (they even waited on Gossip Girl, which looks like a Las Vegas burlesque compared to American Teen), but what kind of society do we live in where it’s completely acceptable to get married to someone simply because you want to fuck them.  And we wonder why kids are so screwed up when it comes to this kind of stuff.  I’d also like to point out that this is, for the most part, the same demographic that opposes gay marriage because they would ruin the sanctity of it.  
Oh yes folks, the end of the world is near.  And the American Teen is reigning it in.
Peace, Love, and Sex Before Marriage (because it’s the smart thing to do),
Julia

July 10, 2008 Posted by | Culture, Gay/Lesbian, Hollywood, Politics, Sex, Television | 1 Comment

Pride

The gays are out in L.A. this weekend.  That’s right, it’s pride weekend in L.A. and I had front row tickets.  Lord knows I can’t miss out on spending the weekend with a bunch of Fabulous men and women.  

For anyone who hasn’t experienced it Pride Weekend in West Hollywood looks something like a huge carnival full of beautiful men that have no interest in me and beautiful women who also have no interest in me.  They shut down San Vicente Blvd., take over multiple parking lots and a relatively large park, there are four different D.J. areas, all complete with dancing, there’s a gay cowboy/cowgirl area (one of my personal favorites), an erotica exposition area where proper use of whips and chains are demonstrated to the public (this area is also inhabited by many older people wearing neon fanny packs and sporting huge cameras, taking pictures of the cute boys in boxer-briefs who hand out condoms and flavored lube).  Basically, it’s my heaven. 
Now, in comparison to San Francisco, West Hollywood is just much different.  Not better or worse, but different.  It isn’t as in your face as San Francisco (I have to say, after hours in SF, I tend to have to have a whiskey or three; there are some things better left to the imagination), but there also aren’t as many drag queens.  In fact, I only saw one in WeHo.  She happened to be a pretty famous one named Chi Chi La Rue, but there was only one.  Drag Queens are one of my favorite parts of San Francisco and pride weekend, they’re just so over the top, so flamboyant, it brings out my inner fabulously gay man to be around them.  
Of course, this being Los Angeles, we had to have some wonderful movie items.  I happened to score a Mamma Mia! poster and a fan proclaiming me Dancing Queen.  There are some rather incriminating photos with a fake chiquita banana hat on and one with my head in the body of a buff cartoon proclaiming my avid use of rogaine.  
On the plus side I also got to sign up for the AIDS walk and the human rights council that fights for gay rights (I finally have time to take up political and humanitarian causes now that I’m not working 100 hours a week).  Plus, I got to dance to DJ Chi Chi La Rue.  
All in all, it was everything I could ever want from a pride weekend.  Free stuff, surrounded by people celebrating themselves (and their newfound right to marry), sun, and great music.  The only thing missing was my harem of gay men.  So fellas, next year I expect you to be here.
Peace, Love, and Girls who like Boys who like Boys,
Julia

June 8, 2008 Posted by | Culture, Gay/Lesbian, Hollywood, Los Angeles, Movies, Parties, Politics | Leave a comment

Was God a Writer?

Wow.  That’s what I have to say about the response to my last piece ofwriting.  Wow.  You guys really came through and I think you answeredmy question.  Basically, like all things in history it’s a little ofboth, this decade is partially monumental change, as was theseventies, and partially feels like monumental change because I amchanging monumentally at the moment.  But there have been other thingson my mind as well.  I’m coming to find that being in your twentiesmeans you start making big decisions that may or may not effect therest of your life, and there’s really no way to know which decisionswill effect the rest of your life and which decisions just seem big atthe time and actually aren’t that big.  It’s all pretty confusing andfrustrating.It’s like, your whole life people say that being a teenager is hard,and you get there, and it is, but you expect it to get better and itturns out that being a teenager was just preparation for the realchallenge, which is actually being a person in the world.  My friendand I got in an argument today because I told him that I didn’t wantto be classified as ‘adult,’ I don’t think of myself as an adult, andI never want to be an adult.  I don’t want responsibility.  I don’twant kids or a husband.  I don’t want any of it.  I want to be able topack up and move to a different country with a moments notice.  I wantto decide to go to Seattle for the weekend, and three weeks later bein Seattle.  I want to decide that can survive on less money byworking less and actually do it.  I don’t want to be responsible foranyone but myself.But what happens when you start making decisions like that?  I madethe decision to try and be a writer.  But what does that mean?  Iwrite everyday.  When I feel satisfied with something I have written Iwill send it out and try to get it sold or published, but who knows ifthat will happen or not.  Have I doomed myself to a life of odd jobsbecause I cannot imagine a life behind a desk?  Have I doomed myselfto a life where I actually have conversations that revolve around thenotion that I actually may make little enough money to qualify forfood stamps?  The short answer is probably yes.  The thought ofsitting behind a desk makes me want to kill myself, and the thought ofdoing something completely uncreative makes me want to gouge my owneyes out, but what does that mean for the life I chose?  This is thepoint where I say ‘I guess we’ll see.’  Then I stop thinking about it.Truth be told, this is not what has been eating at me lately.  Truthbe told, my actual dilemma is a much more profound one.  What is therole of the artist in society?  So I’ve made this decision to write,because really it’s all I can do.  But does it matter?  In a worldwhere we face huge catastrophe due to Global Warming; in a world wheremen my age are dying in yet another mistake of a war;  in a worldwhere my best friend cannot get married (even if he wanted to) becauseof the fact that he is a man who happens to sleep with other men, whatis the purpose of the writer or artist?  Sure Rousseau changed thecourse of French history, but am I really that egotistical to thinkthat I have any sort of connection, that I could change anything withmy writing?  I would love to think this could be true, but it isn’t.In literature we often talk about the writer as god.  And many writersactually have a kind of a god complex.  I mean basically, as a writer,you spend your time creating a world and then making everybody in itdo exactly what you want them to.  You have complete control over awhole world of people.  It’s a very powerful and addicting feeling.You might write a situation that you yourself faced and change thedynamic or certain elements and reshape the outcome to something moreconducive to your own wants or needs.  So writers spend all this timeplaying God, but do they really change anything?On the flip side, I think about the books I read as a lost kid.  Bookslike Catcher in the Rye or On The Road; these books made me feel lessalone, less like I was the only person facing any of these moraldilemmas.  Same goes for Television writing: My So-Called Life made mefeel less like I was the only teenager that had problems with friendsODing on drugs or who couldn’t stand their parents, while trying tofiercely cling to them at the same time.In a world that needs so much help, that needs so much to have peoplenot just observe and critique, but act, is there room for writers?I have no idea, but I certainly hope so.Peace, Love, and Uncertainty,Julia

March 10, 2008 Posted by | Books, Culture, Environment, Gay/Lesbian, Literature, My So-Called Life, Television | Leave a comment

Didn’t We Have a Time? We Did. We Had a Time.

Okay, so I’m sure you’ve noticed that I usually write these little
rants or whatever we’re calling them and I don’t proofread or edit,
but this subject is just too important for me to leave anything out.
Often when I write these emails, I hit send and I realize that I
forgot to say a bunch of stuff that I really wanted to say, but it’s
too late, so I’ve been working on this one for a while now to try and
curb any potential mistakes.  This, as stupid as this sounds, may be
the most important rant I write, simply for the reason that I credit
this subject, to a large extent, with making me who I am today.  The
subject is a television show.  A television show that lasted only 19
episodes.  It is my favorite television show of all time.  It is the
show that made me love television.  It made me love television so much
that I decided I wanted to write it.  It made me realize the power of
television, of great television.  This show really did change my life.
It is called My So-Called Life.  And I’m aware that I wrote a rant
about the ’90s and didn’t include My So-Called Life, but it just
seemed like the show warranted its own piece of writing.  So here it
is.

Yes, it’s Claire Danes’ first real acting gig.  Yes, it was written by
the same woman who wrote the book for the Wicked Musical.  But to me,
My So-Called Life was so much more than that.  My So-Called Life was
my life on film.  It was the first time I really seriously saw how
right a piece of film could get it.  And really, as I look at it now,
it’s how I first sort of saw how my own writing would be because my
philosophy on writing, for T.V. especially, is that it should be
realistic.  I want what I write to feel real.  If I could write
something that means as much to someone as My So-Called Life means to
me, I’d be a success.

I guess I should start with My So-Called Life’s effect on my life.
Not my life as a writer, but my life as a young person.  The show
aired on ABC in 1994-1995.  I was in the sixth grade.  I, as most of
America, did not watch it then.  I watched it on MTV between
1995-1998.  That’s sort of indicative of my life back then, the fact
that I watched MTV pretty much non-stop. The fact that watching MTV
didn’t rob me of my will to live, as it does now.  But I digress.  I
just remember, in the time before TiVo, waiting the long arduous hours
until 7 pm everyday (when you get home from school at 3 pm, it seems
like an eternity).  By the time 7 rolled around I was bursting to
watch My So-Called Life.  I would record all the episodes onto a video
tape (yes video tape)  so I could watch them over and over and over
again.  In fact, I remember the first episode I ever saw was the
Halloween episode, where Angela dresses up like a girl from the ’50s,
and not like some caricature with a poodle skirt, she dresses like a
real girl from the ’50s.  She meets a ghost named Nicky Driscoll.  I
named the family in the script I’m writing Driscoll after Nicky
Driscoll.  I just remember, in that first viewing, thinking, what is
this?  It was unlike anything I’d ever seen before.  It was like my
life on the screen.  And from that moment I was hooked.

Claire Danes’ Angela Chase is, in my opinion, the best character that
has ever been on television.  I am always amazed that Claire Danes as
a 13 and 14 year old could be so good.  I mean, she hadn’t experienced
much of what her character was experiencing and yet her performance is
so nuanced.  The slight unease when she is with her mother out in
public…what teenager hasn’t felt that?  The fact that her friends
are the only thing that matter.  I always loved the first line of the
series, ‘So I started hanging out with Rayanne Graff.  Just for fun.
Just cause it seemed like if I didn’t, I would die or something.’  I
mean, god, I think the feeling that if you don’t do something you will
die pretty much sums up my rationale for every single thing I did for
approximately a 10 year period.  Maybe I even still am like this.
There’s this certain part of me that thinks I’ll always be Angela
Chase.  That I’ll constantly be partially this total geek who can’t
function normally and partially this cool person that other people
mysteriously want to be around.  Since I seem to be in a truthful
mood, I’ll come out and say it: I’ve never really understood why I
actually have the friends that I do.  I never got why people thought I
was a cool person.  I still don’t get it, and it always amazes me when
people think I’m interesting.  And that’s the part of me that will
always be Angela Chase.  That overly self-analytical, introspective,
person who lives mostly in her head and is thus relatively clueless
about her own life.  What a fucking genius character to write!

Then there was Rayanne Graff.  I always loved Rayanne and always kind
of wanted to be her (much like Angela seems to sometimes).  She was so
uninhibited, which may have been caused by the fact that she was
always drinking, but still.  I, like Angela, always admired kids like
that.  It was before I realized that those were the kids that often
ended up as raging alcoholics and drug addicts.  Back then they seemed
so cool.  They didn’t have to care about school, it seemed like they
didn’t have parents, and that seemed so great.  I obviously realize
now that it’s not so great, but back then it seemed like the life I
wanted to be living.  No parents asking me about homework or how
school was.  No one saying I couldn’t go out because it was too late.
I so wanted that.  The thing about Rayanne was that A.J. Langer’s
performance of her was so free, and at the same time so full of pain.
I never really noticed all the pain when I was younger, but watching
the show now, you can see how much Rayanne wants to be Angela.
Rayanne’s pain is the pain that you didn’t see in those kids in High
School.  The pain of having absent parents, and not having someone
care if you finished homework or ate a well-balanced meal.  Rayanne
was a total mess, but she cared deeply about her friends so you could
sort of forgive it.  And she was so charismatic that you looked past
her bad behavior and saw a great person.

Then there was Ricky, who rounded out the core three group of friends.
It’s easy to forget now, but Ricky Vasquez was one of the first gay
characters on T.V.  And the way they handled it was super classy.
First off, he was the moral center of the show.  He anchored the other
kids in a sort of moralistic reality, and that was a pretty big step
for a gay kid to be the moral center of the show (seeing as being gay
is considered to be immoral in much of this country, especially 12
years ago).  I mean, this show was before Will and Grace, it was
before Queer Eye, before Ugly Betty, before Ellen, before T.R. Night,
it was before all the gay fashion consultants strolled the red carpets
(I mean, they were still gay, they just weren’t as obvious).  They
rarely talked about Ricky’s actual sexuality.  Angela mentions that
Ricky is Bi in the pilot and then it doesn’t come up again until like
half way through the series.  But Ricky would hang out in the girls
bathroom, fixing his eyeliner, chatting with the girls, and no one
really took any notice.  That doesn’t mean that they completely
ignored it.  I mean, you saw him get pushed around in the halls, you
saw him get beat up once.  It was a non-sugar-coated portrayal of what
it was like to be a gay teen in the ’90s in someplace other than San
Francisco, New York or L.A.  Ricky may have been one of the first gay
series regulars on a t.v. show, but to me, Ricky was what I wanted.  I
always wanted that thing that Angela, Ricky and Rayanne had.  Where
they had such an easiness about them, they were friends and they cared
about her and they trusted each other, and there was none of that
sexual tension between the boy and girls, because the boy didn’t want
them.  Angela and Ricky are by far a better and more realistic Fag Hag
couple than Will and Grace.  And that’s when I realized my true
calling.  I always wanted a Ricky.  And the first boy that ever came
out to me was Ricky Mendez.  Kind of poetic, no?

Of course you can’t possibly talk about My So-Called Life without
mentioning Jordan Catalano.  The moment he appeared on screen all the
girls in my generation took one giant step towards becoming women.  I
realized lately that I’m actually still most attracted to guys that
look like Jordan Catalano.  With the slightly long hair and that
choker he always wore.  Jordan Catalano was that guy that you wanted
that was so mysterious you just couldn’t stand it.  It’s like, you
just found out anything you could about that person and you came up
with all these little facts that amounted to pretty much nothing, but
to you they were everything.  Angela said it best, ‘I just like how
he’s always leaning. Against stuff. He leans great.’  I always thought
that line summed up that feeling perfectly.  It’s like, you take this
stupid insignificant thing and focus all your attention on it because
if you didn’t you wouldn’t be able to function.  I didn’t have my true
Jordan Catalano until I was 19.  He was 26, and his name was Brendan
Brown, and I knew all this random stuff about him.  Like that he loved
‘Queens of the Stone Age’ and he drank Miller High Life…I was too
young to see that as a sign.  And I, much like Angela Chase,
embarrassed myself over and over in front of him before I finally
realized that he just wasn’t worth it.  He was my Jordan Catalano.
And I loved him for that reason alone.  But even still if you talk to
a twentysomething woman about Jordan Catalano, we all get that far
away look, like, ‘oh yeah, he was amazing.’It’s that little girl
obsession coming back, and we’ll always have it. Like Angela says, ‘If
Jordan Catalano is nearby, my whole body knows it. Like one of those
dogs that point. I’ll keep talking and stuff, but my mind won’t even
know what I’m saying. I keep wondering if there’s a term for this.’

When I watch My So-Called Life now (which I do often), I actually
relate the most to Sharon Cherski, Angela’s former best friend, turned
kind of enemy, turned close friend again.  I went through like three
different groups of friends in High School (for various reasons) and
as I watched Sharon and Angela something about them always stuck with
me.  Again I defer to Angela Chase, ‘There’s the people who you’ve
known forever who know you in this way that other people can’t because
they’ve seen you change. They’ve let you change.’  That’s always the
way I felt about my oldest friends.  Sure I went through a few groups
of auxiliary friends when I was a teenager, but there were a core
group that I’m still friends with today.  They’re the ones that let me
change.  And the thing that was always so great about Sharon Cherski
is that you could tell she was so hurt by the fact that Angela
basically ditched her for Rayanne, but she held it all in.  When I was
13 and 14 watching the show I always related to Angela, and maybe I
was more like Angela back then, but now I’m actually more Sharon than
anyone else.  Sharon was the first to sort of sacrifice herself for
anything.  She was always doing a million things like yearbook and the
school play, but she rarely did anything for herself.  I loved the
scene when her boyfriend hadn’t asked her to the dance yet, and she
says that she has too much to worry about without having to worry
about whether or not her boyfriend is going to ask her to the dance.
It just seems like such an organic and natural problem to have, at
least it seems that way to me.  Just the notion that I’ve got too much
shit to deal with for you, who is supposed to be there for me, to load
more of it on.  The other thing that is totally awesome about Sharon
is that she is the good girl on the surface and underneath she’s got a
little bad girl in her.  Those are the most interesting people, the
ones who try to hide their bad girl tendencies in good girl clothes.

‘I became yearbook photographer because I liked the idea that I could
sort of watch life without having to be part of it. But when you’re
yearbook photographer, you’re, like, never in the picture.’  Brian
Krakow, the nerdy neighbor that was in love with Angela Chase, was the
beating heart of the show.  He was the overachiever kid who always
knew the answer in class but never in life.  Brian was just so
earnest, but at the same time he could be so judgmental.  I think that
was sort of the brilliance of the show, not any character was just one
thing, no one was purely good or purely evil, they were all shades of
grey.  And Brian was one of those kids that always tried to do the
right thing, the right thing that turned out to be the wrong thing,
much to his dismay.  What made Brian so endearing, but at the same
time so annoying, was his unending love for Angela.  She was so
infatuated with Jordan Catalano and barely realized that Brian was
infatuated with her.  Or maybe she did realize it and just didn’t
acknowledge it.  In any case, Brian’s unending devotion to Angela
drove the big thumping heart in the middle of the show.  The
realization, in the final episode of the series, that Brian wrote this
great love letter to Angela, a love letter that Jordan gave to Angela
pretending that he wrote it, makes me mourn for the lost story that we
will never see because ABC didn’t know how to market a show like this
to the public.

It seems like all ‘teen’ shows have one set of parents.  Teen shows
usually center around one family unit and everyone else doesn’t really
have a normal functioning family.  I guess no one really has a normal
functioning family, but if we are looking statistically at television
teen drama and the parental figures, it seems like the main teen
character has parents and the rest of the cast really doesn’t.  Like
90210 had Jim and Cindy Walsh, but all of the other kids parents were
conspicuously absent.  Dawson’s Creek had Mitch and Gail Leery, but
none of the other kids had parents that were around.  My So-Called
Life actually fits into this mold.  Angela has Graham and Patty Chase,
but Ricky, Rayanne and Jordan don’t have parental figures around.
Brian and Sharon allude to their parents and we see Camile Chirski a
few times, but none are series regulars.  Now from a business
standpoint I get this.  There aren’t that many interesting story lines
that involve other peoples parents, seeing as this story revolves
around the Chases, I just think it’s a funny sort of trend.

I also think it’s a good way to transition into talking about Graham,
Patty and Danielle (a.k.a. the Chase family).  Graham and Patty have
to be the most realistic portrayal of parents of teenagers ever, in
the history of television.  They play their relationship as adults
spectacularly, but the true success lies in how they play their
relationship with their children, especially Angela.  I mean, the way
Bess Armstrong plays Patty’s masked hurt at the fact that her teenage
daughter is rejecting her, in the way that teenagers do, is
impeccable.  I’ll admit that I always sided with Angela in that war.
I got that she just wanted to be free of her parents, but was too
young to see that she wasn’t fully ready to be free of them.  Also the
true mother/daughter bond/divide was beautifully portrayed.  Like when
Angela states that, ‘When I was twelve, my mother gave me my sex talk.
I’m not sure either of us has fully recovered.’  I haven’t fully
recovered from mine either Angela.

Graham was the definite foil to Patty.  Patty could be uptight and
domineering, while Graham tried to be the cool dad.  And yes, they
fought about this.  The thing I loved about Graham and Angela’s
relationship was how different it was than Patty and Angela’s
relationship, even in the teenage rebellion/rejection.  When Angela
rejects Graham she says, ‘When you’re not sure you trust a person
anymore — say, a person you really trusted; say your father — you
start wishing they’d do something, like, really wrong, just so you
could be right about them.’  And when she rejects Patty she is a
little more drastic, ‘Lately I can’t even look at my mother without
wanting to stab her… repeatedly.’  I just love that she
rebels/rejects both of her parents in such completely and totally
separate ways.  And I mean, who didn’t feel that way at fifteen?  Like
you just wanted nothing to do with either of your parents, but at the
same time you still needed them desperately.  Maybe that is the whole
basis for teen angst.

In any case, Graham and Patty, though they both can be judgmental and
uptight and catty are great parents.  They are involved and caring,
and the actors give wonderful performances where they, like the kids,
show, even through the masks they wear, the pain that they really
feel.  There’s a scene in the episode where Angela meets Rayanne’s mom
(who is really more of a kid than any of the kids), where Patty sees
Angela hug Rayanne’s mom goodbye and you can see, just under the
surface, that it really deeply hurts her that Angela would be so quick
to let this woman in, when she has been pushing her own mother away.
It’s so subtle and so beautiful that it would, were it real life, slip
right by.  That’s what makes the show believable, the fact that most
of what we see would, were it real life, slip right by.

Of course, the youngest Chase, Danielle is the perfect little sister.
She’s annoying, while at the same time she worships her sister and
wants to hang out with her sister and all of her sisters friends.  She
walks that fine line between being a child and being a teenager.  And
she’s just absolutely perfect.  I think my favorite Danielle moment is
when she dresses up like Angela at Halloween.  She does Angela so
well.  But I also love this moment she has with Sharon Chirski when
they both realize that they’d rather be doing what the other is doing.
Sharon would so much rather be out trick or treating, while Danielle
thinks it’s so cool that Sharon gets to go to a party with her
boyfriend.  That’s so poetic isn’t it?  We always look back at the
past as a better time, but when we’re young we can’t wait to be older.
And this show somehow captures that with nothing more than a longing
look from two different people.

So needless to say, the acting,  in a word, phenomenal.  And of course
Claire Danes and Jared Leto went on to be much acclaimed actors in
their own right.  But really, if we’ve learned anything from these
times of strike, strife, and woe in Hollywood it’s that you can’t have
a great performance without a great script.  I think what really made
the script so wonderful was that a) they really talked like teenagers,
I loved Dawson’s Creek, but really, who talked like that? b) they
thought like teenagers, and c) there were realistic plot lines.  I
mean, I don’t feel like I’m reaching for the stars to ask for a show
where the plot somehow reflects something that may happen to real
people.  I mean, don’t get me wrong, I love the Grey’s Anatomy, but
really, what plotlines on that show resemble anyones real life (with
the exception of Meredith’s daddy issues)?  The writers of My
So-Called Life just had this way of writing that summed up everything
a teenager feels in one sentence.

As I have stated previously, I started watching this show in the
beginning of my teenage years.  So of course that’s when I was at my
most self-conscious, and my most awkward.  I don’t quite remember when
this happened, but I also was one of those kids who always knew there
was more out there.  I wanted more than my small town had to offer.  I
always knew that…it may have been the reason I was so miserable in
high school.  But there was one quote from My So-Called Life that may
sum up everyone’s experience in high school, be it good or bad: “It
just seems like, you agree to have a certain personality or something.
For no reason. Just to make things easier for everyone. But when you
think about it, I mean, how do you know it’s even you? And, I mean,
this whole thing with yearbook – it’s like, everybody’s in this big
hurry to make this book, to supposedly remember what happened. Because
if you made a book of what really happened, it’d be a really upsetting
book.”  I guess what amazes me so much is that I can’t think of any
show that has ever got it as right as My So-Called Life gets it, and
I’m not just talking about adolescence.  I can’t think of a single
show (except maybe thirtysomething and who wrote that?  the same
people that wrote My So-Called Life) that really just has its finger
on exactly what a certain group/demographic of people are thinking and
feeling.

I have to say, on a personal level as well, My So-Called Life did that
thing that great writing, be it literature, television, newspaper or
otherwise, it made you feel.  It made you feel like you weren’t
totally crazy for the fact that, “I couldn’t stop thinking about it.
The, like, fact that — that people — had sex. That they just had it,
like sex was this thing people — had, like a rash. Or a — a
rottweiler. Everything started to seem like, pornographic or
something. Like, Mrs. Krysanowski has sex. So does Mr. Katimsky. They
both have sex. They could — have sex together. Like right now. I am,
like, the sickest person.”  I mean come on.  I remember when that
realization first dawned on me…and it was exactly like that…that
realization that people have sex.  And sex became this ultimately real
thing that I could one day be partaking in, not just something I saw
in a movie or on t.v. where people make out and then it cuts to them
lying in bed, out of breath.  The show really laid it all out there.
I just can’t say enough about how good the writing is.

So I’ll talk about the music instead.  A few weeks back I wrote about
the ’90s and how good it was to be a ’90s kid.  I wrote specifically
about music.  Well, My So-Called Life had the best music.  It had
music that was so indicative of the times.  More so than Dawson’s
Creek, more so than The O.C., perhaps even more so than 90210, which,
I’ll admit, had some awesome Color Me Badd – tastic music.  There are
three scenes in particular that really stand out to me.  One was when
Angela is once again sad over something Jordan Catalano related
(specifically, it’s when the rumor that she slept with Jordan gets
spread around), and as her mom walks in to give her a rather awkward
and painful safe sex talk (what other kind of safe sex talk is
there?), she’s blasting the Cranberries’ ‘Dream.’  C’mon, kids of the
90’s, who didn’t blast this song in their room at least once?  I loved
that album, I loved the Cranberries, Dolores O’Riordan was the most
awesome person ever.  I always thought that it was the perfect, ‘I’m
depressed over a boy’ song.

The second scene is one of my favorites.  The song actually plays over
two different scenes, one depressing, one hopeful.  It’s Buffalo Tom’s
Soda Jerk.  The first time the song plays is when Jordan, after they
start dating, totally disses Angela in public.  But then it plays
again in that magical scene in the hallway when Jordan goes up to
Angela (she’s supposed to be in a geometry review) and he holds her
hand, and she forgets all about the geometry review (please, I forgot
about it the instant Jared Leto came on screen).

The Third song was my favorite song for much of the early ’90s (it was
in direct competition with ‘Come As You Are’ by Nirvana), a little
song titled ‘Blister in the Sun’ by The Violent Femmes.  When Angela
thinks (for about 5 minutes) that she’s gotten over Jordan Catalano,
she dances around to it in the morning before school.  Love it.  Love
it.  Love it.  God that was a good show.

Alright, so the music rocked, the acting rocked, the writing rocked,
and the cinematography rocked.  Cinematography is usually not too high
on the list of important elements in a t.v. show.  The DP (Director of
Photography or, as you know them, cinematographer) is in charge of
maintaining the look of the show, and, though I’m sure you all have
better things to do than notice this, most show usually have pretty
simple shots.  First you have the master (that’s the shot where
everyone is in it, it’s usually from far away) then you move in close
and cut between the people in the scene.  If there are two people in
the scene you start with a two shot (the one where you can see both
people) and move in for coverage (in other words get up close and cut
between the two people talking).  Most t.v. shows, especially now,
don’t do oners (that is a one shot, or a longer shot where there is no
cutting).  My So-Called Life employs this over and over and over
again, and that makes the show, a) technically amazing, and b)
visually different, and awesome.  The best shot of the series,
however, occurs in the pilot.    At the end of the pilot when Angela
and Brian meet in the middle of a street.  You might recognize the
shot from a little movie called Jerry Maguire.  Cameron Crowe admits
that he stole the shot from My So-Called Life.  You know the shot when
Renee Zellweger (before we knew who she was) runs into the street to
meet Tom Cruise (pre-crazytown) and there’s this great master shot
with the fabulous backlighting.  Yeah, that’s right folks, my man Cam
stole that from My So-Called Life.  Welcome to Hollywood…that’s how
we do shit here.

And My So-Called Life was a happy accident that slipped through the
cracks for 19 glorious episodes, and much like James Dean or Marilyn
Monroe, it didn’t last long enough to fade or lose any of its
innocence and attractiveness.  And that is both its blessing and its
curse.  And I love it.

Peace, Love, and “You know how sometimes the last sentence you said,
like, echoes in your brain? And it just keeps sounding stupider? And
you have to say something else just to make it stop?”  That’s my whole
life.  Why do you think I keep writing?

Julia

December 3, 2007 Posted by | Cameron Crowe, Gay/Lesbian, Grey's Anatomy, High School, Hollywood, Music, My So-Called Life, Sex, Television | 2 Comments

I Don’t Want to be a Traitor to My Generation or Anything, But…

When we were kids Aunt Mary used to take us on movie marathons. We
would go to a movie theater, sometimes in our pajamas, pay for one
movie and stay for two or three. Often times this was a birthday
celebration, sometimes it was just a declaration of our independence
from overpriced theaters. One thing it always was, loads of fun. So
in July of 1995, for Brian’s birthday we all went on one of these
movie marathons. I’ve said before the movies that really effected me,
I can always remember the setting in which I first saw them. This one
is no different. I remember we saw A Kid in King Arthur’s Court,
which I only remember because I had a crush on the lead kid. I forget
what the second movie we saw was, but the third movie just happened to
change my whole generation. It was Clueless. That’s right, now can
you see why I don’t tell everyone what my actual favorite movie is? I
mean, it’s a little embarrassing when you’re having a discussion about
favorite movies and people are naming The Godfather and I come back
with Clueless. So sometimes I say Almost Famous. So yeah, here we
go: Why Clueless is the best movie ever? Or How Julia became aware
of the power of film.

I’ve been working on a theory for quite some time now. The theory is
something like, if you take anyone, but mostly women, between the ages
of 21 and 28, they all have a similar way of talking, a similar way of
communicating, many similar gesticulations, they have some very
glaringly obvious similarities, and sure some of them come from
growing up at the same time and thus having the same cultural lexicon
to communicate with, but it’s more than that. My theory is that
Clueless actually changed the way we all talk, communicate, and act.
I know, I know, this is a big claim, but think about it (especially
you in the demographic I’m talking about). You probably remember very
vividly this movie coming out. You remember wearing the school girl
clothes with the knee high socks-no Britney Spears was not responsible
for this. Sure she slutted it up (shocking, I know), but she didn’t
popularize it. You remember dressing like this at the school dances,
running your hands through your now straigtened hair, like Cher did in
the scene with the Mighty Mighty Bosstones. I definitely wanted a
Jeep for years after. We all started listening to No Doubt after
Clueless. Like, as a way of pausing mid-sentence, became part of our
language. As if. I mean, I’m not saying that we still use the same
exact vernacular as they used in the film, what I am saying is that,
much like Shakespeare, Clueless opened up our collective minds to the
fact that we could actually make up our own words. How do you think
words like Gi-normous, or creep-tastic or bootylicious crept in to the
language of todays youth? It was Clueless. I mean, it’s not like
we’re totally buggin’, we just realized that we didn’t have to adhere
to the conventions of proper English, at least when we’re speaking.
So that’s my theory, maybe in 20 years I’ll finally have done some
actual research and I’ll write a book on it…if there are any
linguists in the crowd, feel free to steal, I just want Story credit.

Alright so I guess there are worse movies that I could like, love,
than Clueless. I mean, it is, perhaps, the best film adaptation of
Emma that’s ever been realized. And where better to modernize Jane
Austen than the halls of Bronson Alcott High School in Beverly Hills,
CA. I mean please, Jane Austen is nothing if not the 19th Century
version of 90210 in its heyday. I have to give Amy Heckerling credit
for the fact that she rocked the shit out of updating that material
and made it pertinent and poignant for the youth of 1995.

The thing that’s easy to forget about Clueless when we watch it now is
that it was satirical when it came out. Kids weren’t walking down the
halls at school talking on their cell phones, they weren’t having
those conversations where they start on a cell phone and then you run
into each other and continue the conversation while hanging up the
phone, no hitch in the conversation. This was not happening in
regular society in 1995. It was hysterical…now it’s just real.
Hmmm, prescient too. I guess there’s more to this movie than rich
teenagers in Beverly Hills.

It was also the first real portrayal of gay teens in the mainstream,
and what sorts of traits should set off the gaydar. I mean, now, it’s
not shocking to find out that Christian is gay. He certainly dresses
better than I do, what would I bring to the relationship? Christian
was when we girls of 1995 first learned that being a disco dancing,
Streisand ticket holding, oscar wilde reading, friend of dorothy were
all OGT’s (Obviously Gay Traits). We also learned that your gay BFF
could be your best shopping buddy. That’s where we got our education
about our gays before Sex and the City.

Not only was Clueless educational but it was also just damn funny. I
mean the freeway scene, I’m sorry but nothing on screen now can even
compare to how funny that scene is. Which actually brings me to my
next point. Clueless always just got better the older I got. It’s
the kind of humor that you get as you get more worldly. When I first
saw it at the age of 11 I never got the joke that a then chubby
Brittany Murphy utters, “You guys got Coke here?” Cher Answers,
“Yeah, this is America.” My 11 year old self thought, of course they
have Coca-Cola…where’s she from that she doesn’t have Coca-Cola.
Cut to three years later…’wait, is she talking about Cocaine?’ Oh
that’s hilarious. And there’s a whole new layer that comes when you
move to Los Angeles. When Cher’s dad claims that she should be home
in 20 minutes because ‘everywhere in L.A. takes 20 minutes.’ It’s a
sort of subtle joke that is so L.A. because theoretically everything
should take 20 minutes…and you’re still not where you should be 2
hours later.

So yes Clueless is my favorite movie. Now you know. And knowing is
half the battle.

Peace, Love, and Happy Thanksgiving,
Julia

November 22, 2007 Posted by | Gay/Lesbian, High School, Hollywood, Los Angeles, Movie Reviews, Movies | Leave a comment

Must See T.V.

Oh it gives me a little bit of heartache to quote the slogan from the
good old days of NBC. I have to say, I credit ‘Must See T.V.’ with my
passion for television. I remember a time when I watched every show
on NBC’s prime time lineup. Now though, the network that does it for
me is ABC. Everything is cyclical in the Entertainment Industry so
we’ll see who comes out on top next, but right now ABC is knocking
them out of the park. But I know that you all have lives and don’t
watch all the new shows that air. That’s why you know me. And I’m
here to give you the scoop on all the new shows. So here it goes,
these are my reviews for the new season.

Let’s start with the non-ABC shows and we’ll move into ABC towards the
end. First there’s ‘Back To You,’ the new sit com with Kelsey
Grammar and Patricia Heaton. Now, it’s not news that these two are
fantastic. And this show is very good. My personal opinion is that
there hasn’t been a truly great sit com since Friends started sucking
in about season 6. I don’t know if the comedies themselves aren’t
that good, or if I’ve just tired of hearing a laugh track (I’m pretty
sure it’s the former as I’ve been watching and cracking up at friends
dvds all week), but I’m not a big fan of the live audience sit coms.
In fact, most shows that are deemed ‘comedy’ on T.V. right now, I’m
not all that fond of. I haven’t gotten into The Office, I don’t watch
30 Rock, I’m not a religious Ugly Betty fan, I’ve never made it
through Two and a Half Men. It’s not that I don’t think that these
are good shows. They all are, I know that, but I just enjoy the humor
that comes from shows like Grey’s Anatomy. I mean humor is so much
sweeter in the face of drama. So ‘Back to You’ is good, but I’m not
going to watch it. Fox needs some edgy stuff…they need a new 90210.

CBS is too depressing to talk about. Basically they’ve got CSI
(a.k.a. the show about death that wouldn’t die), Survivor, and that’s
it.

But speaking of 90210 (the show that made me love T.V.), I’ve found a
new teen drama to fulfill my teen drama addiction. It’s on the CW.
It’s called Gossip Girl. Now, I’ll give you the fact that I’m a total
sucker for a good teen drama, and I’ve been addicted to most of them.
Starting with 90210 when I was in the third grade, followed by
Dawson’s Creek, The O.C., and Veronica Mars (but I don’t necessarily
count that as teen drama). Gossip Girl combines a sort of Cruel
Intentions kind of feel with an O.C. kind of proclivity for fist
fighting and rich people drama. And how do I love the rich teenagers
have drama. Of course, Gossip Girl is about rich New Yorkers as
opposed to rich Southern California teenagers, but that makes for a
nice change of scenery. (plus, we’re running out of rich
neighborhoods to set these things in). Anyway, Gossip Girl is my new
addiction…and as a plus Kristen Bell (from Veronica Mars) does the
voice over which makes me miss Veronica Mars a little less.

NBC is in a bit better boat then CBS in that it’s got some good
returning shows: the office, my name is earl, 30 Rock and Heroes. I
didn’t watch Chuck, one of the new ones, but I’ve heard that it’s
okay, but not one to watch every week. And they have the Bionic
Woman, which I’m boycotting on principle. Basically, it looks shitty
and they hired Isaiah Washington (who was fired from Grey’s Anatomy
for calling his co-star a Faggot). I won’t ever watch anything with
Isaiah Washington again because of that and I kind of want to hug
Stephen McPherson (the president of ABC) for firing him. It’s taken
us a while, but it looks like Hollywood is finally publicly supporting
the gay rights.

Now for ABC. There’s a lot to talk about on this network so let’s go
by day, starting with Monday Nights. So I’m not a big reality fan but
mondays have Dancing with the Stars and the Bachelor…I don’t watch
that so don’t ask me. But my oh my, how did I love the pilot of
Samantha Who? It’s restoring my faith in comedy. Sure this isn’t a
four camera, live audience comedy, but it’s hilarious and I love it.
I mean, it’s not shocking that Christina Applegate is in a good show,
but the supporting cast needs credit because they’re hilarious too.

Tuesday nights I’m not too fond of. Cavemen, the show based on the
geico Caveman commericals, doesn’t really strike my fancy, though I’ve
heard that it’s interesting and touches on interesting race issues.
However, ABC has made it less risque after the pilot got criticism,
saying it was too edgy. They’ve taken the good out of it though.
Tuesdays is also home to Carpoolers, the Jerry O’Connell show. I want
to support it because Jerry O’Connell is a really nice guy, but it
doesn’t interest me.

Now Wednesdays are when it really starts getting good. Wednesdays at
8 ABC’s got Pushing Daisies. I’m not completely sold on this show,
but I’ve watched every episode. I’m not quite sure what that means.
Here’s the deal. I’m not addicted, it’s not a must see yet, but it’s
new, it’s different, it’s totally refreshing. Plus, Kristin Chenoweth
is in it and I love her. And she sang in last weeks episode. I would
watch it every week if that was a guarantee. All in all, I give this
a thumbs up, but the jury’s still out on the second thumbs up.

At 9 pm we’ve got Private Practice. I feel the same way about this
that I do about Pushing Daisies. It’s good. I’ve watched every
episode, but I’m not hooked. I love Kate Walsh. I love Addison
Montgomery. I love Tim Daly, Taye Diggs, Amy Brenneman and I love the
L.A. setting. It’s not a must see yet. But they just need a good
hook and I’ll be hooked. As of now, I’ll keep watching.

10 pm Wednesday nights has been a nice surprise. I’ll admit I was
skeptical about Dirty Sexy Money. It’s filmed at Paramount, and the
people who work on it won’t let the tours on the set…that’s usually
indicative of people being too uptight, and thus, crappy shows.
People who take everything too seriously usually end up producing
crap…you’ve got to be able to make fun of yourself. I’ve enjoyed
Dirty Sexy Money because of it’s trashiness. Again, we’ve got the
rich people with problems scenario, which I love. But I have to say,
the story lines that got me were the ones with Stephen Baldwin and the
transvestite having and affair, and the one about the daughter being a
shitty actress. That’s a poignant story line if you work in Hollywood
and see all these rich people with know talent (Paris Hilton) running
around pretending to be actresses. It’s pretty beautiful, and you’ve
got to get humor where you can. So thumbs up on Dirty Sexy Money, but
I won’t be sad if I miss an episode.

Now Thursdays are my favorite day because of Grey’s Anatomy. Of
course, Ugly Betty leads in. It’s a great show…I don’t watch it.
Grey’s Anatomy is awesome and I’m loving the new season. I love the
new dynamics with the interns having interns now. I love that George
is still and intern. I love that Meredith’s sister is there and the
girl who plays her is amazing. I’m just having a big love fest with
Grey’s. After Grey’s Anatomy is Big Shots. I have to say this is the
big disappointment of the season. The cast is phenomenal and when
they were at the press tour just chatting they were absolutely
hilarious, but the show is lacking a little. I don’t know if it’s
just new, so it’s not tight yet, or if the writing itself is actually
lacking, but there seems to be something missing from Big Shots.
Plus, it’s pretty obviously supposed to be a male Sex and the City,
but that doesn’t really work because the whole point of Sex in the
City was that it was showing women that it was okay to be a sexually
active, sexually aware female. But that’s already okay for men. I
don’t know, there’s just something not entirely right about Big Shots.
Maybe it’ll get better, but for now, I’m skipping it.

In conclusion, Gossip Girl is my new must see, Samantha Who? is my new
must see. I’m liking Pushing Daisies (in fact, I’m watching it right
now). I’m liking Private Practice. I’m liking Dirty Sexy Money (and
all of the crew has email addresses like
dirtysexyjuju@gmail.com……which I love). Still loving the Grey’s.

And I’m loving Showtime….Weeds, Californication and Dexter are the
best on Television…but I know most people don’t get showtime so I
won’t really talk about them. If you have showtime and aren’t
watching these shows, you’re wasting your money.

Peace, Love, and Welcome to the New Season,
Julia

P.S. Two in one day….I’m pretty impressive.

October 18, 2007 Posted by | Gay/Lesbian, Grey's Anatomy, Hollywood, Sex and the City, Television, Veronica Mars | Leave a comment

Fuck Me Your Majesty!

I know, I know. It’s inexcusable to be incommunicado for so long, but
I’m very sorry. I’ve been working lots of T.V. shows which means no
access to a computer. But I’m back and you might actually be
recieving two emails today because I have a few very important things
to talk about. First though, I promised a movie countdown and we’re
on to number 2 in the final countdown.

So here goes. My second favorite movie of all time
is…………AMERICAN BEAUTY. I can remember exactly where I was for
almost all movies that have had a profound impact on my life. I can
remember what theater, who I was with, I can remember my frame of
mind, it’s a little weird, but whatever. American Beauty will always
stay with me as a movie that just got it right. Now I know a lot of
people that think movies should be an escape. Why go see a movie that
portrays how miserable life can be? And I totally get that arguement,
I just don’t agree with it.

The brilliance of American Beauty is how spot on it is. It’s a real
portrayal of a real American family. Who doesn’t know people like
this? People who like to pretend that everything is great, when
everything is falling apart. And the amazing part of this movie is
that this theme permeates all the characters in a variety of different
ways. From Annette Benning (who was totally robbed of an Oscar for
that performance), to Kevin Spacey (who deserved his Oscar), to Chris
Cooper (hello, who knew he had it in him?) and Allison Janney (is
there any role she can’t play?). American Beauty is the perfect
movie.

It starts out in the Sunset Boulevard type of noir
narrative…basically, it’s narrated by a dead guy who tells you he’s
dead, and takes you from a turning point to his death. I love the
noirish aspects of the movie: we hear everything from Lester’s (Kevin
Spacey) point of view, it’s a dark view of life (a.k.a. it’s
realistic), and the true mystery is who kills Lester Burnham, which we
find out at the end in a huge climax.

But that’s not enough to make it my favorite movie ever. I mean, I
love noir movies but none of them are in the top five. I think it’s
really the movie’s catchphrase that says it all…Look Closer. That’s
the thing about this film is it’s really all about what we are
underneath everything. What are we beneath the labels and the facade
that we put on for the rest of the world? And everyone does this,
everyone has some side of front that they put up in public, but what
are we beneath all that? American Beauty really explores this.

We all know that Annette Bening and Kevin Spacey were absolutely
flawless in those roles, but I want to talk about the other adults.
The underrated ones. Chris Cooper and Allison Janney are amazing in
their roles. Allison Janney is someone I always associate with
comedy. The first roles I saw her in were 10 Things I Hate About You
and Drop Dead Gorgeous, both comedies, both of which she’s
ridiculously hilarious in. I’ve seen Drop Dead Gorgeous about 8
million times and I still practically pee myself every time she comes
on screen with her Minnesota accent. But in American Beauty she is
silent almost the whole time. She stares off into space blankly, she
says very little, but when she does speak it’s always something like
‘would you like some bacon?’ She’s like a ghost. That performance
is so amazing it gives me goosebumps just thinking about it.

Now, Chris Cooper had definitely been lauded for his performance…you
might want to skip the rest of this paragraph if you haven’t seen the
movie. As I was saying, Chris Cooper has been lauded for his
performance, but he’s always overshadowed by Kevin Spacey. And sure,
Kevin Spacey was great, and yes he’s the lead, but Chris Cooper plays
the best uptight military man there is, and makes the best turn around
in film history. I mean, who sees it coming when he kisses Kevin
Spacey at the end of the film. It’s just amazing, and the
vulnerability in such a tough man is…I mean, that’s not easy to do.

As great as the adult actors are, and they are great, I always
identified with the teenage characters. I mean who hasn’t felt
completely embarrassed by their parents in one way or another (as most
of you know my parents live to embarrass me and try to do it whenever
possible). But also, as a teenager, who hasn’t been swayed by their
friends opinion, who hasn’t tried to fit in. At the beginning of the
movie there is a great scene where the two girls (Mena Suvari and
Thora Birch) are cheerleading, but they aren’t paying attention to the
basketball game at all, nor do they care what is going on. This is
the perfect example. They think they are supposed to be cheerleaders,
but they don’t give a crap about basketball. And of course, there’s
the big reveal, where we find out Mena Suvari’s character is a virgin,
even though she’s been talking about how much sex she’s had throughout
the entire movie. I love this because I know plenty of people who did
something like this in high school, exaggerating how far they’d gone
or what they’d done. It just rang true to me.

I remember leaving the theater (the Cinema 9 to be exact) with my mom
and both of us couldn’t speak. We just kind of blankly walked out of
the theater looking like deer in headlights. And I remember after
that first viewing being very struck by the relationship, or
infatuation, between Kevin Spacey’s character and Mena Suvari’s
character. I mean, it just seemed so wrong. But after my twentieth
viewing or so I now see everything differently. Now there are more
themes and instances that I find poignant. I love the humor.
American Beauty contains one of the funniest lines in cinema…I’ll
give you a hint, it’s the title of this email. When Annette Bening is
cheating on her husband with the real estate king she yells this out;
I pretty much think it’s the funniest line ever. The thing that’s
amazing about the use of humor in American Beauty is how it goes from
these great funny moments, to total seriousness. The best example is
when Annette Bening in her slip chants ‘I will sell this house today’
quickly turns into her breaking down and then slapping herself in the
face to try to stop crying. I mean, that scene alone should have won
her the oscar.

And I can’t talk about the film without talking about he music.
Thomas Newman’s haunting score really sets the tone for the whole
movie. It’s full of chimes and xylophones, which have a sort of
hollow sound. They’re rich but they almost lack a center. Isn’t that
a great metaphor for the film.

American Beauty is one of those films that has only gotten better and
more poignant the more I’ve watched it. It gets more poignant the
older I get. It gets richer and richer the farther I get into
‘adulthood.’ Even though it’s not my favorite movie of all time, it
may actually be the best movie of all time.

“Sometimes there’s so much beauty in the world I feel like I can’t
take it…and my heart is going to cave in.”

Peace, Love, and Rose Petals,
Julia

October 18, 2007 Posted by | Gay/Lesbian, Hollywood, Movie Reviews, Movies, Music, Oscars | 1 Comment

Fag Hags and Drag Queens and Judy Garland, OH MY!

Okay, so I know I promised to do a top five countdown and I promise I’ll get back to it, but I have to write about the most excellent adventure I had the other night at the hollywood bowl.

You see, years ago my best friend introduced me to a singer named Rufus Wainwright.  Now, those of you who don’t know Rufus a) should go out and buy one of his CD’s cause he’s awesome, and b) should know that Rufus is a fabulously gay man.  He’s not a ‘hollywood gay’ a.k.a. John Travolta (who stays married to a woman so no one will find out he’s gay), which I’m sorry, I just can’t respect that.  The second Rufus walks out on stage, it is blatantly and clearly obvious…it’s one of the things I love so much about him.  I mean, hello, I’m no one if now the worlds biggest fag hag.  I think I have some sort of fog horn like beacon that I give off that says, gay men come hither, so it’s really no surprise that I’d be seen at a Rufus Wainwright concert on a sunday night in Los Angeles.

I know a lot of you hate L.A.  And most of you hate it purely on principle.  You’re from Northern California, therefore you must hate Los Angeles.  You grew up here 30 years ago when it sucked (DAD), therefore you must hate it.  And you know what, I get it.  I really do.  L.A. is not for everyone.  I’ve learned to find humor in the ridiculousness, but I’ve also learned to embrace some of it.  I mean, sure, there’s doggy beauty salons (I’m pretty sure I’ve seen some in Palo Alto too), people pay $300 for a pair of sunglasses, and everyone has ‘done a movie with ________’  There’s some beauty in it all too.  I mean, you have to appreciate the constant sunshine, the house that fell off the back of the truck on the 101 (that really happened), the fact that your servers live a double life.  I mean, there’s beauty and humor in the ridiculousness of L.A.  But even for all of you who can’t stand it, you have to say something about the acceptance.  The thing about L.A. is that it’s tolerant (I’m going to venture to say that it’s more tolerant than San Francisco even), I mean, we really and truly accept all kinds here.  We accept the vapid gold-diggers, the screaming queens, and even, more and more so, the real, not a size 0, not full of botox and collagen, people.  New Yorkers are intolerant of non-New Yorkers, San Franciscans can’t stand the plastic, bottle-blonde, gold-diggers, but L.A. is made up of non-Angelenos, some of whom would sell their soul for a piece of a rich executive.  I mean even Marilyn Monroe spent time on her back on a casting couch to get her dreams met.

Now, I’m not condoning that kind of action, I’m simply trying to make a point.  And it’s a point that I’ve only recently come to myself.  In fact, Sunday night is when this point was truly home with me. 

You see, one of my dear friends got tickets to see Rufus at the Hollywood Bowl.  But this wasn’t just any old Rufus Wainwright concert, this was him doing Judy Garland’s concert from Carnegie Hall in 1961.  And I must say, it was one of the most amazing concerts of my life.  Now, the Hollywood Bowl, for those of you who haven’t been there is outdoors (yes San Franciscans and Londoners and Washingtonians, we can have concerts outdoors because it’s only rained one day since April…and it’s been 80 degrees at night for the past two months), and it’s one of the most beautiful theaters ever.  The L.A. Philharmonic backed Rufus as he belted out Judy Garland numbers.

As I was sitting in the audience I was kind of thinking.  Why is this concert in L.A. and not San Francisco?  I mean, you think gay men, you think San Francisco.  And here’s the conclusion I came to…feel free to disagree.  As I was looking around at the audience, I realized that, yes, there were a lot of gay men, but there was an extraordinary amount of other people too.  I mean, there were old jewish ladies, young fag hags (points to self), middle aged executives, college students.  There was every kind of person imaginable, and I actually think that were this concert in the city by the bay, the demographic smattering may have been much smaller.  I think you could get the same amount of people (that number being approximately 18,000) to a Rufus doing Judy concert in San Francisco, but would it be the same kind of people.  And anyone who has performed anything knows that it’s all about your audience. 

Rufus, in his trying to be as true to the original show as possible, told the story of Judy walking off the stage to the audience to give Rock Hudson a kiss before walking off the stage himself to kiss Debbie Reynolds, who was in the audience, most likely wouldn’t/couldn’t have happened in S.F.

Of course, the biggest laugh of the night came from the encore, when Rufus, in all his glory came out in black tights, heels, a tuxedo jacket, and top hat in a very Liza in Cabaret ensemble.  Though it played very well in L.A. I’m sure S.F. would have gone apeshit over that number.  Lord knows I loved it.

Though it may not seem like it, this is not meant to be a who’s better kind of thing.  I just finally realized what it is I love about Los Angeles so much.  And who knew it would be at a Rufus Wainwright concert, while thinking about why he wasn’t in San Francisco.

I guess my final thought on it comes back to the fabulous miss garland herself.  She was a Hollywood girl, so how fitting that this tribute be at the Hollywood Bowl.  She was only sixteen when she shot the Wizard of Oz in Culver City and was owned by MGM for her entire career. 

I mean, what better bittersweet place to bring her back to than Los Angeles.  Than Hollywood, the town that made her and broke her all in one breath.  Because this may be an accepting town, but it can also be a brutal one. 

It’s funny because at one point Rufus talked about the fact that at that original concert in 1961, it was a room 85% full of gay men, but being gay was illegal back then…now, there’s a gay man on stage and it’s still illegal in some states.  And as Judy’s glamour was being celebrated, there was a little hint of tragedy in the background, not just for her, but for all of us who live in this world where people still aren’t accepted because of sexuality, race, size, age, whatever. 

In any case, it was one of the best nights of my life.  Topped off of course, by the rainbow lit hollywood bowl.

Peace, love, and over the rainbow,

Julia

September 26, 2007 Posted by | Friends, Gay/Lesbian, Hollywood, Los Angeles, Music | 2 Comments

The Final Countdown

Alrighty Kids. This is something I’ve been thinking about writing
about for a long and because I know you’re all dying to know this
information, I’ve finally decided to impart it to you. Don’t you feel
special?

So, the next few emails (six to be exact) will be accounts of my
favorite movies. I’m giving you my top 5.5 movies. You’ll see why
there’s the extra half eventually, but I like to build a little
antici…….say it………..pation.

It wasn’t until I started working in this business that I actually
found any need to consider listing my top movies, but in many
interviews I’m asked what my favorite movie is, or my favorite
television show (don’t worry, I’ll write about that sometime soon). I
mean, what better business for me to be in than one that asks me
questions like that in an interview? Anyway, after much thought and
deliberation, here is the list I came up with.

So here goes…drum roll please. My fifth favorite movie of all time
is REALITY BITES.
Ethan Hawke, Winona Rider (pre-klepto), Steve Zahn, Janeane Garofalo,
John Mahoney, I mean, really, could you ask for more than that. Yes?
Well, here goes.

It’s funny because, as a writer, I usually write stuff that’s not
really broken down by a genre. I’m not writing Romantic Comedy, or
Drama, or Horror. I like writing drama that happens to have humor in
it. I like writing stories where two people get together in the end,
but not in a ‘here’s where the leading man and leading lady have the
big show stopping kiss.’ Most of my favorite movies, however, are
exactly this. They’re romantic comedies. I came to this realization
a while ago and as much as it pains me to admit, I love romantic
comedies. They give me little butterflies in my stomach, just like
when I’ve got crushes on people. I love the little butterflies.

Now, as you see my top five movies as this list goes on you’ll see
that those aren’t necessarily romantic comedies but many of the movies
I watch over and over again are Rom Coms. I love Moonstruck, When
Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle, the list goes on. But the
thing about the two Romantic Comedies that make the top five list are
that they have a sort of different take on things.

So without further adieu, Reality Bites. Basically, the thing that I
love so much about this movie is it’s a sort of Gen X response to
life, in the form of a Romantic Comedy. I mean, you’ve got these four
friends who just graduated from college and they are experiencing the
thing that we all experience when we graduate from college, where
basically you realize that just because you have a college degree,
doesn’t mean anyone’s going to pay you to do anything. I mean, you’ve
read great books, you’ve learned history, you’ve become somewhat of a
thinker, but no job is giving you benefits (just ask my mother, she’ll
tell you all about it). I mean, all your life you were told that
college is the way to succeed, and don’t get me wrong, I’m not
knocking college, but it’s a nice little slap upside the head when you
realize that you made more money as a waitress than you make at the
three plus jobs you’re working now. And you still have to ask your
parents for money.

I mean, this is where Reality Bites really hits the nail on the head.
There’s a scene where Winona Rider, playing Lelaina Pierce, loses her
job and no place will hire her, she’s over qualified for the crap
jobs, and underqualified for everything else. Welcome to being young
in the new millennium. She can’t get hired at Weinershnitzel and she
can’t define Irony, but she knows it when she sees it.

But laying out how much the work situation sucks is not sufficient to
rank on my top five. Perhaps my favorite thing about Reality Bites,
and something I’ve tried to emulate in my own writing, is the films
take on relationships, specifically modern romantic relationships.
Long, long ago I wrote about Sex and the City (I’m sure you don’t
remember it, but if you want to reread go to
http://www.wordpress.com/juliaisbadass), and in this little rant I mentioned
that there is a person that loves to fight with me about how
unrealistic Sex and the City is. Now, I argue that relationships have
changed over the past 20 years. There are new rules and regulations
on relationships and pre-sex and the city, Reality Bites was the best
display of this. Basically, you’ve got Janeane Garaffalo’s character
Vicki, who sleeps with tons of guys and is ‘out the door before the
condom comes off.’ Now, young ones, raise your hand if you are like
this, or you have a friend who is like this….everyone? Okay then.
There’s Steve Zahn’s character, Sam, who is gay, but hasn’t come out
to his family yet. There’s just a great vulnerability to him and at
the end you see him in his first ‘relationship’ and he’s so giddy.
Now, gay men, were you like this in your first relationship….yes?
Okay then. And the most important is the relationship between Lelaina
and Troy (ethan hawke, a.k.a. sexy beast). Basically, Lelaina and
Troy are two friends who share insane sexual tension. They’re in love
with each other, but don’t admit it, so they just get jealous and
angry every time the other one sleeps with someone else, but they also
don’t have real relationships because they’re in love with one
another. Then, when they do get their shit together and have sex,
Troy freaks and leaves and gets all emotionally disconnected. Hello,
this is almost every relationship I’ve ever had…but I won’t say who
the emotional disconnect comes from. Anyway, this seems to be the
way…we’re so afraid of getting hurt, that we run from anything that
could potentially be a gratifying relationship because it’s scary.
Um, hello that’s everyone I know. (besides the peeps that recently
got married and to them I say, cheers, you’re already doing better
than most people our age).

I know it’s sort of depressing, but this is the world we young folks
are living in. You’re not someone’s girlfriend unless you have a
discussion about it. Basically, they are (in theory) allowed to sleep
with someone else unless you have a full discussion about the fact
that you are there girlfriend, or, you’re not their girlfriend, you’re
just ‘exclusive.’ It’s all very confusing, and Reality Bites, in a
subtle way, shows this without flat out giving you a list of rules.

But these instances of Reality in Reality Bites aren’t the only thing
that make this movie a classic. Sure, it hits on veins that are
grounded in the reality of many young’n’s but it is the way in which
these things are hit upon that makes this movie such a work of genius.
For example, at the beginning of the move, in one of my favorite
scenes, the four friends are getting drunk on the roof of an office
building after their graduation. Vicky is singing and Lelaina says,
‘quick Vicky what’s your social security number,’ after rambling it
off with ease, she looks straight at Lelaina’s camera and says,
totally deadpan, ‘that’s the only thing I really learned in college.’
Now, this does go out to some of my college professors and I don’t
agree with this statement, I learned a lot in college, but you have to
admit it’s funny. The thing is, I think it really gets to the heart
of the matter (not trying to quote Graham Greene). It gets at what I
was saying earlier about not getting jobs after college. I mean,
vicky works at the gap, post-graduation, she doesn’t need to know who
Graham Greene is.

For those of you who don’t know Janeane Garaffalo is my one of my
favorite Comedienne’s and most of my favorite lines in the movie come
from her. But many people don’t know that Janeane is also an amazing
dramatic actress. Another major issue Reality Bites hits on is AIDS.
I mean, this is something that starting with Generation X, we’ve all
had to deal with as we’ve become sexually active. For the previous
generation, it was too late. Vicky, at one point in the film goes to
the Free Clinic, she, in a moment of flippantness calls it ‘the right
of passage for our generation,’ Yes, the way she says it is humorous,
but think about this for a second. It really kind of is the right of
passage for our generation. Sure, losing it is a right of passage,
but now we have another one, getting tested.

Later in the movie Vicky gives my favorite speech where she declares
that she worries that she might be dying of AIDS but it’s like it’s
not happening to her, it’s like she’s a character on Melrose Place and
she teaches everyone that it’s okay to be near her, and then she dies
and they all show up to her funeral in halter tops. Okay, so this is
something that I’ve noticed about the younger generations. We are so
exposed to media all the time, that we are constantly comparing
ourselves to characters. I don’t think this is a new thing, I mean,
how many boys probably saw a bit of themselves in David Copperfield or
Huckleberry Finn? How many girls see a big of themselves in Elizabeth
Bennett or Jane Eyre? But now, media is so pervasive that this is the
way we communicate. Things are Tarantinoesque, you’re the ‘monica’ of
the group, he’s ‘the dude.’ I mean, it’s easy to describe things in
terms of movies and television. When I say, I was like Angela Chase
in high school, the vast majority of people my age understand EXACTLY
what that means. For those of you who don’t, she was a character in
My So-Called Life, rent it.

I think that the thing that captures my heart the most in Reality
Bites is the almost unnoticeable way the writing captures the feel and
the subtleties of love in the ’90’s (and now the new millennium). It
captures the way we relate to each other, the way we talk to each
other, the fact that Lelaina drinks 8 million diet cokes a day (hello
Julia and her ridiculous caffeine addiction), and yes, it ends with a
‘lead man and leading lady share a show-stopping kiss,’ but they’ve
already had sex, so I guess that throws much of the Rom Com formula
off. Even that is an exclusively ’90’s act. I mean, sure, it
happened in When Harry Met Sally, but did Harry and Sally go shopping
for groceries at a gas station……………

I rest my case.

Peace, Love, and Gen X,
Julia

August 31, 2007 Posted by | Gay/Lesbian, Hollywood, Movie Reviews, Movies, Quentin Tarantino | Leave a comment