You know what I love? When people complain about things to hide the fact that they’re talking about something totally awesome about themselves. Like: "You know what the problem with having a lot of money? All the taxes." Or "I can’t believe how many men were trying to fuck me on Friday night, it was unreal how many people were trying to get up in this."
I do this though; I can’t help it. But I try and be cagey about it, though I think I fail. It’s like Morrissey said, something about friends hating friends when they’re successful. That’s not totally true, but no one likes a braggart. I say this because I’m amused when people say I’m a really good dancer, cause I think it’s reverse racism due to my whiteness. I should just take the compliment, though, shouldn’t I?
THE MOST INTERESTING FILM OF THE WEEK
In the altogether execrable American Wedding (2003), Stifler (played by Seann Williams Scott) is stuck in a situation, rather forcibly (by the writers that is), where he must pick up a piece of dog feces and pretend it’s a truffle. The shit may have been fake, but this was the moment where Hollywood essentially admitted that the entire subgenre of shocking-but-touching sex comedies (launched by There’s Something about Mary) was born of the sweetness and transgression of one John Waters. Though his Pink Flamingos (1972) was once christened akin to "witnessing a septic tank explosion," there is no denying that it’s a film about family, about sticking together and caring about the people closest to you. Divine and her kin (incestuous cannibal mongoloids though they may be) do love each other (and sometimes they "love" each other), and that is why they are the heroes of the piece. The film hit theaters 35 years ago, which is a scary thought in itself. But all the more so because, as John Huston opined in Chinatown, old things that survive have the funny habit of becoming respectable.
Flamingos was a seminal movie, and it’s no surprise that it eventually became influential, but such is the art of the great Baltimore genius that is John Waters. PF is definitely early Waters, he matured to a certain extent and was able to pay homage to the artists he loved (a strong Sirkian streak runs through his oeuvre) with such films as Polyester. But there was a period were Waters himself almost became respectable in 1987 when he made a film that some might call a sell-out (honestly, I think the only film of his which might be even close to labeled as such would be Cry-Baby, though that’s not so much sold-out as off-beat) entitled Hairspray. It was his first PG movie, and offered the world future TV talk show host Rikki Lake. It was smothered in nostalgia, and was the first film of his that parents and children and grandparents might tolerate, if not enjoy… with or without knowing that its lead once consumed dog feces as the punch-line to a film that still holds the crown for the most transgressive movie ever made (though Miike has tried, lactation and necrophilia can’t top singing assholes and pre-op transsexuals. By the way, please feel free to show Flamingos, Ichi the Killer or Visitor Q to your parents if you don’t want them to talk to you again.)*
Armond White’s evisceration of 2007’s cinematic adaptation of the Broadway musical version of the 1987 film (whew!) paints the picture of the original in much kinder terms than I would. I don’t know how much I’m willing to concede to Waters’ art, as it’s always been sort of scattershot, but I like the idea that it was Waters’ pop deconstruction of how integration and racism were being whitewashed in the Reagan years as the problems of a bygone era. What I will latch onto, however, is the idea (that White didn’t suggest, but because it evolved from his thoughts I feel I must pay homage) that Hairspray is ironically celebrating the co-opting of outsider art by the majority. The film’s victory of the integration of Corny Collins’ dance show is also the beginning of the mainstream’s assimilation of black music, which it eventually learned how to exploit to its own end. Partly, partly, by watering it down, and making it palatable for the masses. This was also the message in Dreamgirls (which was made by gay white men, go figure), but ironically it’s now an underground homo-friendly vision that is being raided and co-opted by the mainstream, and has been for nearly ten years.
It’s nothing new for something gay-friendly to make hay in Hollywood, and gay culture has long existed in the shadows of mainstream entertainment. But any worthwhile minority culture will be watered down and exploited by the mainstream: any movement, any artistic idea be it Hackers, Shaft, In and Out or Lambada: The Forbidden Dance. So it’s sort of brilliant that John Waters commentary on co-option has been co-opted, watered down and stripped of its greater purpose. Then again, there are some who may still be shocked that Amanda Bynes character interracially dates, even if that too is not treated with due respect.
And here is the PC version of my take on the situation: what will make Hairspray still interesting in twenty years is if John Travolta (who has long been suspected a friend of Dorothy) is outed. Like John Frankenheimer’s Seconds to Rock Hudson, Travolta playing a woman will add layers to his then-outed persona. Though all his roles of duplicitous characters will have new meanings, such as Face/Off. Hell, even Staying Alive will be viewed through a different filter. Though another role to which it will likely be compared is Tom Cruise’s turn as Lestat in Interview with a Vampire. Please do not read any subtext into these films of men suspected of being homosexuals playing thinly disguised homosexual characters. For the love of god. Don’t.
MOST INTERESTING INDIE
Aint’ no Sunshine when she’s gone. It’s not warm when she’s away. Ain’t no Sunshine when she’s gone. She’s gone much too long. Any time she goes away.
(PS: I hear Goya’s Ghosts is not very good)
I WANNA SPREAD THE NEWS THAT IF IT FEELS THIS GOOD MAKING PREDICITONS, THEN PREDICT ME UP
This weekend offers both I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry and Hairspray, both of which look to be crowd pleasers. And both of which are gay-centric mainstream cinema. Is the co-option of bisexual culture next? Since chicks making out with chicks seems to do it for about 70% of the population, it’d have to be Bi men. Do they have a culture to exploit? I’ll be interested to see if bisexuality becomes the new gay. And by interested… eh, this is going no place good.
All that gayness should do good business but Harry Potter should stay on top (I guess that makes Harry a pitcher, not a catcher), with Chuck and Larry right underneath… I’d put Harry near 40 and Chuck and Larry in the high 20’s. Transformers should stay in front of Hairspray, which should do teens business, as should the Trannies. Though Hairspray is based off a hit Broadway show, the big names are Travolta and Michelle Pfieffer, and New Line is the new MGM. If this works it’s going to be because of word of mouth. Ratatouille should round out the top five.
There’s a sneak this weekend for No Reservations and it looks terrible. But here’s how it rocks out with its cocks out:
1. Hairy Potter and the Bi-Curious Cousin – 39.2 Million
2. I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry – 29.4 Million
3. Transformer - $18.1 Million
4. Hairspray – 15.8 Million
5. Ratatouille – 13. 4 Million
Sunday’s going to bring some interesting results. Join me then, won’t you?
*My mother has gay friends back east. They showed her Pink Flamingos and she loved it. It’s one of those things where if I showed it to her, she would never forgive me. Her gay friends… she loved it. Still doesn’t mean I think she’d laugh at Visitor Q, but I wonder.