Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. —Henry Fielding

29 March 2008

The Subject

I said before how one of the revisions I was asked to make in my thesis was to add a description of how I was using the concept of the "subject." I was initially quite irritated with having to do this, but I've finished that portion of my revisions, and what I wrote kind of made me happy. So it appears that this complaint was a blessing in disguise. To wit:
As mentioned above, popular discourse often conflates gay, lesbian, bisexual, transvestite, transgendered, and other queer persons into a single identity. Images and representations of queer people are constantly being produced in various media and come from numerous sources, leading the philosopher Didier Eribon to state that “As Barry D. Adam comments, a gay man finds himself confronted with a ‘composite portrait’ of himself, proposed by a set of images, representations, and discourses, all providing him with a degrading or inferiorizing image of himself.” In Eribon’s narrative, Barry D. Adam is hailed by the representations of gay men in public discourse. Throughout this document, I refer to the “composite portrait” that interpellates Adam as “the queer subject.” The subject is created by discourse and exists as a discursive representation of an actual queer body. Characters in plays represent and stand in for actual queer lives, and these representations both exist within and shape discourse about queer people. The queer subject, then, is what Eribon calls a “contested space, a space of political and cultural conflict” (75). The queer subject is an object of discourse that has the power to shape popular (heteronormative) conceptions of actual queer lives, and the production of these images is, therefore, a crucially important site for exploration.
AND I don't really have to fix my citation method at all. I had to add a couple of words and delete some commas and that's it!

The Nilo Cruz Play

For years—since the play became hugely popular and everyone started doing it—I have been unable to remember the title of Anna in the Tropics. I always call it "the Nilo Cruz play" and then people tell me the play's title but I promptly forget it.

Anna in the Tropics won the Pulitzer Prize for drama in 2003, of course, and it is kind of ridiculous that I haven't read it, but it was assigned to me for class on Monday and now I've finally read the play. I doubt that will have any impact on me remembering the play's title, however.

I don't get this play. I don't get what happens in it; I don't get why everyone loves it so much; I don't get why it won the Pulitzer; I don't get Cruz's themes. Worse yet, I think the play is kinda sleepy, and by sleepy I mean boring.

27 March 2008

I Guess Microsoft Word Must Have Hyphenated "Reichian The-rapist"

I defended my thesis this afternoon for my committee.

The document is entitled Violence and the Queer Subject in the Plays of David Rudkin and Mark Ravenhill, and I passed my defense.

The committee talked to me for about two hours, and I talked back. We discussed the choices I made: the reasons I did certain things, omitted certain referents, ways in which I could improve, words I could define better, etc. They gave me seven notes that I need to address before they will sign off on the thesis. Well, actually, everyone but my advisor has signed off on it. After I address the notes then she will sign it and it can be approved by the university.

Some of the notes are big deals: one of my readers would like me to clarify my use of the term "subject." In fact, during my defense she asked me to define the term as I was using it in my thesis. I don't know why the term needs a definition, but she thought it was unclear. "A subject is an object," is what I told her. And then I quoted Althusser. While she was reading, I guess she kept thinking I was speaking about the characters in the plays as though they were Lacanian subjects. So now I need to define it in the thesis. No small task. How am I going to work something that clunky into my argument? "Let us pause for a moment and address what I mean by 'subject.'" Yikes.

Some of the notes are very minor: the committee, for instance, unanimously agreed that they want me to turn off Microsoft Word's automatic hyphenation function. Hahaha!

The committee also dislikes my citation method and they asked me what format I was using. Now, I knew from the start that this was going to be a problem but I like the way I am citing things and so I wanted to argue about it. "I got the format from Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick's Epistemology of the Closet," I said. "I copied the format directly from there."
We argued about this for a bit. Everyone still dislikes it, although I can't figure out why. I think it's very clear. And then came my most brilliant moment of the day:
Someone asked "Well, who published Epistemology of the Closet? What press was that?"
"I believe it was the University of California Press out of Berkeley," I said.
"I think it was Routledge," one of the guests offered.
"I'll look it up," another of the guests said. (She had her computer out during the entire defense. It was actually quite distracting.)

Now, there is no earthly reason for me to know who published Epistemology of the Closet, or for anyone else to know that information for that matter. But, sure enough: UC Press, Berkeley. I grinned to myself. Totally meaningless trivia, but I knew it anyway.

25 March 2008

Netflix Drama

I have been having minor Netflix drama. Not really, it's just that the movies that I want to come to my house in this moment in time all seem to be unavailable to me. This was partially remedied today when Netflix told me that the next flick (see what I did there?) they are going to send me is Ernst Lubitsch's The Love Parade. About time! It has been #2 in my queue for, like, six weeks. Or so. The Man of My Life has been there even longer, and I have been patiently waiting, while the sixth movie in my queue kept getting sent to me. But all that is about to change, when The Love Parade comes my way.

This post is nuts. Sorry. Please notice how many gay-interest films are at the top of my queue, too, and don't be shocked. I have been feeling extra gay these last few weeks. Maybe it's all of that thesis-writing.

Why am I still awake?

23 March 2008

Mary, Queen of Scots

I probably shouldn't have watched a movie this afternoon, but I'm done with a lot of my work and I felt like a break.

So I watched the Charles Jarrott film Mary, Queen of Scots. Jarrott had a huge hit previously with his film Anne of the Thousand Days, the story of Henry VIII of England and his lover (and later wife) Anne Boleyn, mother of Elizabeth I of England. Anne of the Thousand Days starred Richard Burton and Geneviève Bujold. Now, it may be that I'm misremembering, but I recall it as a really great movie.

The reason I think I might be misremembering is that Mary, Queen of Scots is a sixteenth century soap opera that treats its lead women (Mary Stuart and Elizabeth I) as scheming, catty bitches. There is a lot of good acting in the movie: Glenda Jackson is Elizabeth and Vanessa Redgrave is Mary, but Mary jumps from bed to bed and is consistently outwitted. She comes off as a bit of an idiot and completely inept at ruling a country.

Even the film's tagline is reductive and sensational: They used every passion in their incredible duel... and every man in their deadly game of intrigue!
It's laughable.

I didn't completely dislike it, but this film is about as silly as Elizabeth: the Golden Age with Cate Blanchett. Still Redgrave and Jackson are good in Mary, Queen of Scots. I hadn't seen a Glenda Jackson movie in a long while, so that was nice. Redgrave was nominated for an Oscar for this performance, and Jackson was nominated in the same year for her performance in Sunday Bloody Sunday.

22 March 2008

A Soldier's Story

Yesterday I finally watched Norman Jewison's film A Soldier's Story (1984), which is based on Charles Fuller's play A Soldier's Play. This is a really interesting film for many reasons. First off, I had forgotten all about Howard E. Rollins, Jr. He is the lead in this film and the guy on the poster.

Recognize him? He got an Oscar nomination for his role in Miloš Forman's Ragtime as Coalhouse Walker. He also played Virgil Tibbs in the long-running television series "In the Heat of the Night." That show was on when I was a kid and I don't really remember it, but evidently Rollins got kicked off the show after a couple of DUI incidents and other various disorderly conduct that got him in trouble with the law. As I was watching A Soldier's Story I kept wondering why I never see Rollins in films anymore. He was the iconic black actor of the early 1980s, starring as Medgar Evars in For Us, the Living on tv and in dozens of other tv movies, a presence on daytime soap "All My Children" and the star of two films nominated for Best Picture. Rollins obviously had many personal problems and his trouble with the law was a manifestation of that. He died in 1996 at the age of 46 (!) of complications from AIDS. I can't find anything out about his sexuality on the web, but that shouldn't come as a surprise.

A Soldier's Story was nominated for Best Picture, and it deserves its nomination. It's a total genre picture: military mystery film, but it's superbly directed by Norman Jewison. (Think In the Valley of Elah without the boredom.) It also boasts a great cast with some wonderful performances. Rollins wasn't nominated for an Oscar for this performance, but the mystery's dead man (Adolph Caesar) was. He's a scary, hateful old man, and it's an intriguing role. David Alan Grier, David Harris, William Allen Young and Denzel Washington (in one of his first films) are also in the cast. And Patti LaBelle stars as the owner of the local juke joint. And she sings. Twice! The music is by Herbie Hancock. My favorite performance is by Robert Townsend, who plays Rollins's driver throughout the movie. His excitement when he realizes the captain they sent down to investigate the murder is a black man is palpable and a lovely thing to watch. Townsend was the dad on the tv show "The Parent 'Hood" in the late 1990s. He's fantastic in this movie.

The film itself is a lot like Jewison's earlier In the Heat of the Night (1967) with Sidney Poitier and can't really escape comparison, but A Soldier's Story is further advanced than that movie, coming twenty years later. A Soldier's Story is about being black and how best to be black in the Army. The characters debate real issues of racism within the black community and systems of power that help some black people while keeping others down. It's fascinating and nuanced and makes for compelling drama. Recommended.

20 March 2008

Le Sacre du Printemps

Went to hear the University Symphony Orchestra play Igor Stravinsky's seminal Rite of Spring tonight.

We stood and applauded. The audience went wild. It was amazing. I'd never heard it performed live before. The moment it was over I wanted to hear it again.

16 March 2008

Miss Pettigrew Lives for 90 Minutes

For my first movie of 2008, I wound up seeing Bharat Nalluri's Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, which is a star vehicle for Amy Adams more than it is anything else. It's a silly little movie exactly like a dozen other movies just like it, mostly from the 1930s (and mostly directed by Frank Capra). Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day is a lot, in fact, like the movie inside Woody Allen's The Purple Rose of Cairo. Still, I liked this champagne cocktail of a movie, and its two stars are very likable indeed. The movie also stars Ciarán Hinds, Lee Pace, Tom Payne and Shirley Henderson (love her).
It's about a down-on-her-luck English governess who gets fired by everyone and then lucks into working for an American club singer named Delysia LaFosse. Miss Pettigrew is transformed by Delysia into a new woman with a change of clothes and a bit of makeup. She then begins to help Delysia out in myriad ways, sorting out her complicated life and giving loads of relationship advice, also finding love herself along the way.

It's really homoerotic at times, too, which I thought was fun. And Shirley Henderson, who is sort-of the villainess of the piece, is great fun too. Actually, the whole thing is fun, heady nonsense. The boys in Delysia's life are pretty, the costumes are lovely. The films frantic quality is endearing, and I thought it was cute. It's nothing more than that, but it doesn't really wish to be either.

The Man I Love

One of the good things about Eytan Fox's film The Bubble is an extended sequence in a gay bar where Israeli pop star Ivri Lider sings the old Gershwin tune "The Man I Love." I keep trying to remember if I've heard the song sung by a male voice before, but if I have, I can't recall. Anyway, it's a really neat song for a guy to sing, and I'm a little in love with Ivri Lider doing it:

Someday he'll come along, the man I love
And he'll be big and strong, the man I love
And when he comes my way
I'll do my best to make him stay

He'll look at me and smile, I'll understand
And in a little while, he'll take my hand
And though it seems absurd
I know we both won't say a word

I know I shall meet him Sunday, 
Maybe Monday, maybe not
But still I'm sure I'll meet him someday
Maybe Tuesday will be my good news day

He'll build a little home just meant for two
From which I'll never roam. Who would? would you?
And so all else above
I'm waiting for
The man I love

15 March 2008

Fun with Denim

I haven't purchased jeans since I moved across the country from Los Angeles to Talla-classy. And since then, two (count them, two) pairs of my jeans have worn out. I mean, all I wear is jeans anymore now that I am back in school. I never used to get to wear jeans and now I wear nothing else.

So I decided for one of my spring break events that I would go jeans shopping. Good jeans are impossible to find anyway, and I am on a (kind of) tight budget so I have to limit myself to the chains in the mall. I found two okay pairs of jeans at the Gap (ugh) and then I went to Express, where I found a very cute pair that I really liked.

They were $90.

So I asked the cashier if they were on sale. He says, "let's find out" and then rings them up. Sure enough: not on sale. I waffled for maybe a second and a half before he was like "What if I gave you a $30 gift certificate?"

", that would be great," said I.

That's right. I'm cute. I mean, at least thirty dollars worth of cute.

14 March 2008

Some More Spring Break Movies

I liked Marc Forster's The Kite Runner better than his last film Finding Neverland, but like that film, The Kite Runner is also rather a sentimental mess. Mind you, I cried about six times. It's a sad story, but it isn't moving, if you know what I mean. It's a kind of surface sadness based on situations. I haven't read the book, but I bet it's really good. Not to stray too far from my thesis topic, too, The Kite Runner contains a scene of male rape and the film's villain, in addition to the Taliban, is a kind of homosexual pervert who looks like an Afghan John Lennon. I should mention that I loved two things about the film: the credit sequence, which is beautiful, and the score (which was Oscar-nominated) by Alberto Iglesias, which is complicated and intelligent as well as very pretty.

Pascale Ferran's French film Lady Chatterley of D.H. Lawrence's novel John Thomas and Lady Jane is a long one (2 hours 40 minutes) and a rather boring one. The most interesting thing about the film is the way that it subvert's the male gaze. This is a film made by a woman about a woman and I'm not sure I can explain exactly why but it feels like it. Everything is from Lady Chatterley's point of view. This is not a film where the central female is still an object. Lady Chatterley is a sexual subject. Still, the filmmaker makes a lot of bad decisions: title cards to show passage of time and to tell us things she can't figure out how to show us. She also yadda-yaddas what could have been a beautiful sequence in the film, Lady Chatterley's trip to Paris and Italy. The director uses a kind of hand-held home video camera to relate this period in the book and it makes her journey abroad seem unimportant in her transformation. It's a very bad decision. The performances are good in Lady Chatterley, but this is not a very exciting movie.

I really, really liked Paris, Je T'aime, though. This film consists of 21 short films by world-renown directors (the Coen Brothers, Olivier Assayas, Gérard Depardieu, Gus Van Sant, Alexander Payne, Tom Tykwer, Richard LaGravanese, Gurinder Chadha, Wes Craven, Alfonso Cuarón, Christopher Doyle, you get the drift) all about Paris, and the film stars about a million people you know and love: Gena Rowlands, Juliette Binoche, Willem Defoe, Nick Nolte, Gaspard Ulliel, Miranda Richardson, Steve Buscemi, Catalina Sandino Moreno, Natalie Portman, Javier Cámara, Hippolyte Girardot, Bob Hoskins, Fanny Ardant, Ludivine Sagnier, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Elijah Wood, Emily Mortimer, Rufus Sewell, Alexander Payne (as Oscar Wilde), Ben Gazzara. I pretty much loved almost every sequence, and none of them lasts very long. The best short film among the troupe is Oliver Schmitz's sequence Place des Fêtes about a would-be romance and tragedy. It's a perfectly contained little story and it's excellent. Anyway, this one is definitely a renter: romantic, lovely, filled with good miniature movies.

10 March 2008

A Few Movies, I Guess

The thesis is having problems, I think. I mean, I am working on the conclusion, but I just don't have anything else to say. I am so tired of my own voice that I don't want to conclude anything.

Plus, this shit is not exactly the most uplifting of topics. So today I took a break from working on my (for many reasons) depressing conclusion and watched a gay romantic comedy that had gotten good reviews called The Bubble. It's by Eytan Fox, the Israeli director who also directed Yossi & Jagger and Walk on Water. Well, I thought it was a gay romantic comedy. Turns out, it's much more of a gay romantic drama. The film is set in modern-day Tel Aviv and it's a sort of Romeo & Romeo love story where one Romeo is a Palestinian and the other is an Israeli. It's actually filmed like a romantic comedy for most of the movie, too. I was going along with it and loving this movie, and then The Bubble turned on me and it got very serious all of a sudden. I suppose that a film about the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory and suicide bombers entering Tel Aviv should not be all fun and games and anal sex, but this movie was not what I needed to make me smile after writing about the links between queer subjectivity and violence. I guess it isn't the movie's fault that I wanted it to be a romantic comedy, but I did and it wasn't.

Also caught Vincent Paronnaud & Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis. The animation is pretty, but there's no plot to this movie. It sort of started to drive me crazy after a while. Plus, the lack of plot means that there's no emotional hook for the film. Instead of following a narrative arc and involving me in the characters, the film just sort of keeps happening until it finally ends. Strange. It was, as I said, very pretty to look at, I did laugh out loud once when Karl Marx appeared, and there were some other really smart moments, but mostly I was bored.

There was a moment in Persepolis when the little girl who is the film's star is hugged by her uncle and he's so large and she's so small and I leaned over to my companion and said "I wish I were that small so someone could hug me like that." I don't even think I can remember ever being hugged like that by someone so big. It seemed like such a nice feeling in that moment on the screen.

Also watched John Huston's 1984 Under the Volcano. It was alright. Rather Tennessee Williams-esque, and I guess I don't mean that in a good way. Tragic, earnest. Very Night of the Iguana. It starred Albert Finney as a total drunk and Jacqueline Bisset as his wife. I guess I thought it was kinda unmemorable.

And then tonight I went to see the Coens' No Country for Old Men again. I liked it even better this time. What a fucking brilliant movie! I think I am going to try to see There Will Be Blood in the theatre again, too.

07 March 2008


Still... working... on thesis...

Hope to be done by Monday afternoon. I want this to be over so badly I can taste it.
When you write 90 pages of scholarly work that you have to read and re-read and read again to make sure that you are being precise and clear and intelligent, you get kinda sick of your own voice. I am tired of reading my own words. I am sick of myself! It's gotten so bad that I have to take constant breaks from staring at this document. I mean, the thing is almost done, I just need to keep tweaking it. Oh yeah, and I have to write a conclusion, still. Not sure how that's gonna turn out.

And I'm going to New York soon. I said before how I got a paper accepted to a conference. The conference is in NY and it is April 2nd through the 5th, so I am staying in NY for 5 nights. It's going to cost me a bundle, but it should be fun. I've never been there before, if you can believe it. The conference link is here.

Some fun stuff from my thesis:

I mention Ecstasy a lot in the rape chapter, so I felt the need to explain what the drug actually is. So I included the following in a footonote: "In case you are unfamiliar, Ecstasy is the drug Methylenedioxymethamphetamine, also known as MDMA, or simply by the letters E or X. Ecstasy is frequently taken at dance parties called raves. The drug heightens sensation and increases heart rate, sociability, and the user’s sense of well-being." My advisor writes "Any downsides?!?"

04 March 2008

Black Book

This weekend I watched Zwartboek (Black Book) after allowing the DVD to sit on my shelf since September. It was really good, too, so I shouldn't have waited so long to watch it.

The reason I have been delaying watching this film is its opening sequence, which is one of those (so very typical) framing devices where movie starts with the end of the movie. These drive me crazy because they usually spoil the ending. Black Book, for instance, is a drama about World War II in Holland, and it's filled with twists and turns. The thing is, you can never really be worried that the character is going to die because you've already seen where she ends up in the future.

It's a really good film, though, and a sexy one. The lead, Carice Van Houten, is really great: always interesting, totally hot, and a great actress. Sebastian Koch, who played the writer in The Lives of Others is also in the film and is, again, great.

Black Book is suspenseful, fairly intelligent and very pretty to look at. It contains a couple of really powerful moments, emotionally speaking, and the film never strays too far from its heroine (a smart decision, considering how compelling Carice Van Houten is). It runs out of steam near the end of the picture, and as I already mentioned, the framing device is contrived and unnecessary, but this is a good movie that I really liked, worth watching for the film's lead actress alone.

02 March 2008


I finally saw William Friedkin's film version of Tracy Lett's sensational play Bug. The film stars Ashley Judd, Michael Shannon (the original Off-Broadway star), Harry Connick Jr. and Brían F. O'Byrne.

You can read my review of the play here. I wanted to see the movie because I loved the play so much, and I have to say I was a little disappointed. Bug still works on screen. It's freaky and disturbing. The dialogue is still great. The performances are excellent. But the shock value that is inherent in a stage play that features as much blood and as much nudity as Bug does is all lost on the big screen (almost wrote bug screen).

Oh yeah, and they cut out the nudity, which is weird. On stage, the actors were naked for like 30 minutes and it was awesome. On screen, they are naked for about 2 seconds. So tame.

Still, it's a creepy, fucked-up movie, and I liked it, even if it is better on stage.