Man, it must be rough getting dumped by the most beautiful woman in the world – it sent Salman Khan to jail and Vivek Oberoi to… this. I don’t think there’s even a term for it.
Monthly Archives: February 2009
Pity the female villain.
Male villains can look forward to world domination, tons of moolah and all the power they can handle; females, on the other hand, spend all their time scheming to sabotage various weddings when they’re not forcing their daughters-in-law to mop floors while dressed in rags or nagging their husbands to death. And if somehow they manage to stumble onto a bitchin’ gig, they might just find themselves laboring under gallons of body paint and CGI because God forbid they show an actual live woman having the sort of fun men having been having for ages now (before getting blown up or dissolved in a vat of acid, naturally).
Male villains get cool names, all the chicks they can bang, and fly around the world like the billionaires they frequently are; female villains are typically the mom or the wife from hell, nobody loves them much less wants to bang them, and all their plotting and planning usually leaves them with a wrinkly face.
Chee. Who’d want to be a female villain?
So it’s always nice to stumble across a proper villain in a dress. Especially when it’s Glenn Close.
Every ten years or so, Close manages to play one woman character who is so dead-on perfect for that decade, it’s absolutely uncanny. They’re not your run-of-the-mill female villains; they embody everything we’re supposed to fear about women that generation. It’s no accident that they’ve become by-words in pop culture.
Fatal Attraction (1987) – Clearly, there’s something fishy about Alex Forrest (Close). She’s a sexy, capable, career woman who knows what she wants and when. She could have anybody at all but she inexplicably sets her sights on the charming (some would say smarmy but that’s just Michael Douglas for you) Dan Gallagher.
Good ol’ Dan, our sympathetic hero, has a wife and little girl at home but when offered an illicit weekend with the sexy Alex, Dan couldn’t be more ready. The sex is amazing but once the weekend’s over and the wife is on her way back, Dan would like nothing better than to put it all behind him. This is when Alex informs him that she has some ideas of her own. Ideas she probably culled from a horror movie.
By the time the 80s rolled around, sexism was still rampant in the workplace not to mention the home, but change was definitely afoot in the gender wars. However, things hadn’t evolved to the extent where strong, successful women working outside their homes were the accepted norm. Close, dressed in those sexy suits with her hair done just so and the mascara smudging around her eyes so you wondered whether she’d just rolled out of somebody’s bed or was finishing up a long day at the office, perfectly captures the threat implied by women like Alex.
She is off the leash, so to speak, a woman whose sexual liberation conveniently masks a sexual predator; the ice queen who (spoiler alert!) could boil a child’s bunny rabbit without a qualm to send her prey a message; the bitch who threatens to emasculate you because she is more powerful than you. Even her uterus, that sacred vessel of life, is a threat to this decent family man who made one little mistake and his innocent family.
Towards the end of the movie, it really does transform itself from a thriller to a horror film, but that too is in line with its theme of a woman run amok – she’s not just an evil woman, she’s a monster. She can’t merely be defeated, she must be eliminated because she will not stop! By the time she meets her end at the hands of the Good Wife right when things look very black indeed for the Erring Husband, it’s turned deliciously 80s… yet Alex the Psycho is such a powerful image, she resonates even today.
God, I love auctions. Especially the high profile ones. Other people get their jollies from watching cage-fights; I like art auctions. And right now, there is no better drama than the sale of the private art collection of Yves Saint Laurent and his partner Pierre Berge, currently underway in Paris:
A leather armchair once owned by Yves Saint Laurent fetched 21.9 million euros, or $28 million, at the second night of Christie’s auction of Mr. Saint Laurent’s art collection. The price made the chair the most-expensive piece of 20th-century design sold at auction. The buyer was Cheska Vallois, the dealer who sold it to the French designer in the early 1970s. Why so much? The Art Deco chair is a rare masterpiece made by French designer Eileen Gray around 1917 to 1919.
Whatever can Robert and Cheska Vallois possibly do with this chair that’s worth $28 million?
1. They could put it in the foyer and charge admission for people to see it.
2. They could lock it up in a bank vault, create a replica and park it behind the owner’s desk to show who’s boss. (It’s the guy who can’t bear anything worth less than $28 million touching his bum-bum. Okay, $20 million if you ask nicely, I suppose.)
3. Lend it to a museum and bask in the glory of watching uncomprehending tourists file dutifully past the world’s most expensive piece of furniture, which bears the legend “On loan from the collection of Robert and Cheska Vallois.)
4. Retire to a secret location with their newfound joy and live the rest of their lives in the blissful contemplation of their pricey acquisition, in the daily expectation of a flying visit from the European knockoff version of Danny Ocean and his boys. (Plus Julia Roberts!)
5. Attempt to create the first human-furniture hybrid: what an impressive pedigree that, um, child would have.
6. Sell it.
But the guy who buys it and uses it as his favorite library chair? That’s the guy with all the money. Somebody page that Russian guy who lives in the house with gold bannisters. A $28 million chair should be right up his alley. Although I fear its style might be too restrained for him.
See all the pretty stuff you can’t afford to buy here.
So Slumdog Millionaire won everything. Anil Kapoor is the happiest furry on the planet! Everybody loves the millionaire man! As they should. Highlights of the night included:
The Voice: Tilda Swinton and her clear bell tones.
The Tabloid: Jack Black cracks a joke about Dreamworks sucking Pixar’s dust, Jennifer Aniston makes her Rachel Green face and the camera pans to Angelina Jolie in mid-laugh. What does it all mean? Answers in your favorite tab today!
The Surreal: John Legend and A.R. Rahman in a Wall-E / Slumdog medley. Next time, make him sing Rehna Tu, A.R.!
The Correct: Peter Gabriel who knew the songs were going to get slaughtered up there.
The Smug (The Stoned?): Brad Pitt, his squint, and his ginormous ring.
The Eager: Resul “Poocutty” (hey, props to Will Smith for landing in the neighborhood at least) practically mowing down the others to grab his statuette and have his say.
The Awww: Penelope Cruz remembering her roots and her old friends.
The Cool: AR Rahman sauntering out without a speech, cracking a lame joke or two (Did he seriously reference “Mere paas maa hai”? HAHAHAHA! There’s a reason I love this man, people!), thanking the “jury” and then saying the most subtly political line of the night: “All my life I had to choose between hate and love; I chose love and I’m here.”
The Best: Hugh Jackman comes to the end of yet another Baz Luhrman disaster and screams, “The musicals are back!” In the audience, Penelope Cruz rolls her eyes. BWAHAHAHA!
The Bestest: Kunio Kato and the Departures team. For giving amazing acceptance speeches. Sank you berry much. I am very, very happy! I hope you’ll be back too.
The Confusing: Frieda Pinto’s dress. One minute I hate it, the next I love it.
The Outclassed: Zac Efron + Vanessa Hudgens and Dominic Cooper + Amanda Seyfried (yay Lily!) dancing with Hugh Jackman + Beyonce. Jackman was just about keeping up with Beyonce, but the other two couples? Ouch.
The Classy: Sending past five winners of the acting categories to introduce the nominees.
The Classier: Shirley McLaine and Sophia Loren (and her hand on her hip). That’s who I want to be when I grow up.
The Classiest: Jerry Lewis. After they were all such cunts to him too.
The Adorable – Dev Patel pumping his fists, jumping out of his chair, and finally just shaking his head in disbelief as his debut feature cleaned up at the Oscars. Awww!
The Adorabler – Dustin Lance Black on the importance of Harvey Milk in his life. “God does love you.”
The Adorablest – the entire Slumdog cast. Everytime the camera panned to that section, they were having a party. So much more fun to watch!
The Awesome: Angelina Jolie (and Cate Blanchett) kicking ass in the action montage. More please!
No matter how you look at it, there is no way to sex up a description of Frost/Nixon. At best you could say it’s a battle of wits between a disgraced American President and a wily British entertainer. That sounds vaguely like a dominatrix movie, doesn’t it?
But unappetizing introduction apart, you cannot deny that this is truly an amazing movie – my personal favorite of all the movies in contention for the Best Motion Picture of the Year at the Academy Awards this year. Of course, it’ll be a miracle if it wins anything given the buzz surrounding the other nominees, but it’s true all the same – Frost/Nixon deserves every bit of its praise.
Based on the 1977 interview of President Richard Nixon by British “entertainer” David Frost, his first after his resignation in 1974 in the wake of the Watergate scandal, Frost/Nixon makes for an unlikely thriller. But as we follow the build up to that fateful interview as well as the actual taping, the tension begins to form.
On the one hand is the only man to have ever resigned the Presidency of the United States, desperate to reestablish his reputation and exert some control over his tarnished legacy; on the other hand is a breezy television personality with no particular political axe to grind who chases after the interview like a little boy who glimpses a shiny object from afar and wants it because everybody else wants it too. It is not a match of equals.
Nixon (Frank Langella) is a formidable man who dominates the people he meets through his intellect. He isn’t very attractive nor does he have any charm – at one point in the movie, Nixon wonders why he ever chose a profession that demands likability – and we only meet him when he’s suffering under the stigma of Watergate so he’s off kilter in public settings as well, but when he faces his interviewer in front of the camera, you can see him exerting his mental power over the flummoxed Frost and crushing him slowly with commendable ease. Even more dangerously, as an opponent he is a man who knows how to work his power to the best advantage – he sets the scene in his very first meeting where he stands cloaked in the mantle of the President and you can almost see Frost turn into an unworthy interloper in his private retreat. By the time he shows up for the interview in a cavalcade of black, very Presidential-looking limousines, the stage has been set. Frost is way out of his league.
As the interview winds its way to the final session, Frost and his associates are staring ignominy in the face. Nixon has hammered home his every point, trumpeted his every achievement and simply walked all over the hapless Frost. If Frost can ever manage to sell the interviews, which he financed with his own money and funds borrowed from friends, Nixon has a good chance of standing vindicated – a hero victimized by a hostile press and vile political opponents. The three men he hired to help him in his project – John Birt (Matthew Macfadyen), Bob Zelnick (Oliver Platt) and John Reston (Amrita’s Crush a.k.a. Sam Rockwell) – are all convinced that they can kiss their careers goodbye after the monumental failure of this outing.
What the movie performs at this point, to me, is its most fascinating feat – it takes the much reviled figure of Richard Nixon and gives us a glimpse of what failure must mean to this man. Usually, when people are sympathetic to Nixon, they always frame it the way Nixon initially puts it himself in the movie – that he didn’t deserve it, there was more to him than the scandal, he was a good guy who got short shrift, the press did it to him, etc.
Frost/Nixon is not sympathetic to Richard Nixon. But it does allow him to be a human being, not a cartoon character to be mocked and railed against as illustrated in one beautiful scene between Zelnick and Reston when they’re introduced to Nixon for the first time.
And he’s not just any human being – he was a man who used to be the President of the United States of America. The enormity of what that meant, the power of that office whether you love it or loathe it, and what its loss must feel like… we’re all so caught up in the drama by this point that it’s only as the camera zooms in on Nixon’s face as he expresses his regret for what he did to the people of his country that we realize he didn’t escape unscathed. That no man could ever hope to do that.
99.99% of all humanity will never come within breathing distance of power like that, and this was a man who had it all. He was at the top of the pyramid. He fought for years and did everything humanly possible to get there. And then – it’s all gone. And not even the semblance of it will ever come back to him. And he has to live with its loss every single moment of his life.
We use the term “epic fail” these days to describe just about anything that we consider lame – a boneheaded move on a video game, inability to satisfactorily spin a story to your advantage, anything really. But what Nixon did was the true definition of the words “epic” + “fail”. He could have been all the things he was so desperate to establish in his interview with Frost and more; instead, as Reston observes, his lasting legacy is the addition of the suffix “gate” to anything deemed scandalous.
Much of the drama, nuance and entertainment comes directly from the marvelous face of Frank Langella. There isn’t a trick of expression that he misses, a pause that he doesn’t mine for some deeper emotion. If there was any justice in the world, he’d take home the Oscar this Sunday but all he has going for him is his performance so that doesn’t look too likely.
As for the other man in this pair, Michael Sheen…Why wasn’t Michael Sheen up for an award this season? Or at least in consideration? I’ll never understand it. The man can do pretty much anything, from Tony Blair to Lucien the love-crazed werewolf. You might think they would have at least found space for him at the Golden Globes.
By this point, she’s just fucking with us, isn’t she?
Or else she ran over Ritu Beri’s dog, spilled ink on her gazillion dollar Persian carpet and stole her boyfriend. Animosity of this sort (not content with the above, she also wanted Vidya to wear crystal eyelashes) argues one seriously pissed off lady.
When you grow up in a home where they serve sambar for breakfast, the idea of a savory start to the morning is something less than the radical idea proposed by the New York Times.
But I can appreciate how liberating it must be for someone like Mark Bittman, especially if he grew up ploughing his way through cream of wheat with a little salt thrown in every morning, to find out that people elsewhere like to begin their days in considerably more flavorful fashion.
In fact, I appreciate it so much, I feel like an ingrate. After all, back when I was growing up, I was offered some excellent early morning fare, full of flavor and nutrition, cooked without any thought as to time or convenience, and I always turned my nose up at it.
You can chalk it up to my being a nightbird if you like, but the reason why breakfast has been a relatively recent addition to my diet is because I had to leave for school at half past seven. It sounds bizarre but you simply can’t force my body to swallow food at that hour of the morning. Around nine o’clock my body is finally awake enough to keep the food down, but anything before that and my stomach stages an instant revolt.
For a while there my mother thought it might have something to do with her idlis and dosas, and so out came the cornflakes and cold milk. No go. So she tried it again with warm milk. I ran for the bathroom and refused to come out unless she removed the revolting mess from the table. On Sunday morning, Daddy sat down to our weekly breakfast of leisure and asked for the despised cornflakes – “Me too,” I piped up. “If you vomit, I won’t take care of you,” my mother threatened. I rolled my eyes at her naivete. It was Sunday, it was nearly ten in the morning, why on earth would I waste my precious day off by barfing up my guts?
Next came the toast and eggs. I didn’t even get to eat that. (Any of that: she tried them hard boiled, soft boiled, poached, sunny side up and in an omelet. Zip.) The smell alone was enough to make me gag. She simply handed me my pocket money for the day and asked me to make sure I got in a good meal at recess before shooing me out. When I came back home, she asked me what I’d like to eat for lunch – “Toast and eggs, please,” I said. “Sunny side up. I’ve been dreaming of it all day.” She pursed her lips tightly and asked the cook to take care of it.
So then she went Punjabi on me and the parathas she usually made for my lunch made their appearance on the breakfast table as well. But then – problem! She didn’t think it was good for me to eat pickle at seven in the morning and she couldn’t serve it with curd because I wouldn’t touch that stuff at any hour of the day. Harassed, she gave it to me with jam. I surprised both of us by enjoying every bite. And then I came home early from school because I’d thrown up everywhere.
She toyed with the idea of toasted sandwiches long enough to actually buy a toaster. My best friend in school had recently opened my eyes to the fact that tomatoes could actually be very yummy, especially if you mixed them up with a little red onion and cheese before toasting the whole. I excitedly shared my discovery with my mother who carefully restrained herself from tearing me limb from limb and screaming “But I Made You That and You Refused to Eat It, You Evil Devil Child!” Somebody else’s kitchen was obviously the missing spice.
In the end she decided eleven o’clock was early enough for me to eat my first proper meal of the day and stopped trying to feed me before I left for school.
But the simple fact of the matter is that Ma’s example is something of an increasing rarity these days. Not only was she a stay at home mother, she had live in help who could cope with the kitchen while she sat guard outside the bathroom, banging on the door every five minutes to make sure I would be ready on time and on my way to school. She could experiment with recipes by simply telling other people to do this and that. I can’t imagine the average mother today having either the energy or the time, much less the convenience, to come up with an elaborate breakfast on a daily basis.
Or even dads for that matter. Mine was a workaholic who worked almost around the clock and the only reason he stayed home on Sundays was because he could never get anyone else to come in on that day – even with the promise of a free lunch. But he would still find the time to fix me my early morning chocolate milk and pick me up after school so he could eat lunch with me… and the reason he could do all that was because he was considerably older when he had me and was the boss man at work so he could arrange his schedule to suit his parenting needs.
I find it simplistic when people think money equals privilege, when it’s time that is the real privilege, at least as it pertains to raising a family. Money obviously helps, but by itself it’s limited in what it can do for you – it is what it facilitates that really gives it worth. Bittman, for example, is a food writer for the New York Times. In money terms, it’s probably pretty average if not low on the totem pole, especially by Manhattan standards… but it’s a high status job that allows him to change his dietary habits around so he can eat a polenta that took 40 minutes to cook for breakfast. Maybe he made it the night before and heated it up the next morning – but it’s still a lot more work than the usual person would sign up for, isn’t it?
It’s one of the paradoxes of the slow food movement that fascinates me, especially as an Indian who has seen the clock move so radically in her own, relatively short, lifespan:
The items Bittman recommends in his article, be it the congee or the polenta, are food that the people native to the lands that inspired them have consumed for ages. And it’s food that developed organically because it was the most convenient and cheap item available. Congee for instance is a dish from the rice growing parts of Asia, and it basically involves you throwing a little rice in with a lot of water and boiling it to hell and back, adding whatever you want on top to give it flavor, drinking it starchy water and all. You could even eat it plain with nothing but a little salt: it’s the Asian version of cream of wheat.
But such food is becoming increasingly marginalized in the countries of its birth, because it’s too time consuming to allow the people who traditionally ate it to compete satisfactorily with people who usually nuke a bowl of cream of wheat for breakfast. So they buy a box of Kelloggs or Poptarts or what have you because that allows them to run out the door faster in the morning, which in turn allows them to be more competitive.
And when they’re more competitive, it’ll lead to more success, which leads to their achieving a position of privilege… where it becomes once more possible to go back to the things that they discarded to get ahead in the first place.
Everyone’s either giving an excellent imitation of a hamster on a wheel or there’s a deeper philosophical comment to be inferred here.
… to remember: Read a book, read a book, read a motherfucking book!
And then write a goddamned review. I used to have those on this blog.
I’ve never found Sean Penn attractive. Shocking, I know, but all that brooding intensity is completely wasted on me, I’m afraid. Five minutes into Milk, however, as I watch him seduce the entirely-too-pretty James Franco in a matter of minutes with nothing more than a silly grin and a pick up line so tired they should shoot it to put it out of its misery, I suddenly got the hype.
It’s one of the many ways in which Penn so perfectly inhabits the character of Harvey Bernard Milk, the closeted insurance salesman from New York who became a gay rights activist, the first openly gay elected official in California and a symbol of hope for the LGBT community in the 1970s.
From the moment he bumps into Scott Smith (Franco), his lover for many years and a friend upto his assassination in 1978, in Milk, we’re constantly reminded that this is not a man who is conventionally handsome and is way too old to be deemed attractive in the gay scene he inhabits. But with his salesman charm and the sweetest smile you ever saw, his is a charisma that cannot be denied.
As the movie clips briskly along, you see him transform from the timid New York native who counsels the young Smith to be careful where he goes cruising to the man who openly makes out with his lover on the streets of San Francisco. On the other side of the continent from his old life and the fears that came with it, Harvey Milk is a man on a mission: forget bigotry, even mere tolerance will no longer do; he wants to be respected, openly acknowledged by the establishment (or as he prefers to call it, The Machine) for who he is.
That’s some dream for a man who can’t even get the gay establishment to back him, much less the larger Machine, which sends police officers with their badges covered to crack down on gay bars in the most brutal way possible. Although Milk and his avant garde friends revitalize his San Francisco neighborhood by making it gay friendly (now the preferred gentrification process in cities all over the United States), they are still at the mercy of the cops and bureaucrats who could care less.
As the neighborhood around Castro Street continues to attract more affluent people and its economy expands through the 1970s, the police continue their assault on the gay community… and pretty soon, Harvey Milk finds his soapbox. Although his political candidacy takes a while to find its wings, Milk is already the voice of the Castro and the gay community. He dubs himself the Mayor of Castro Street and the term catches on with the wider public.
But being the Mayor of Castro Street is far from a glamour job – it takes a toll on his personal life, and his political life continues to hammer around the fringes. Things finally come around for him, politically speaking, when the city allows each district to elect its own supervisor instead of following the citywide model it’d followed previously. In 1978, Harvey Milk is the first supervisor elected from the Castro District under the new rules.
It was going to be an interesting year, to say the least.
If director Gus van Sant and writer Dustin Lance Black had set out to merely chronicle the life and evolution of a charismatic activist, Milk would still have been a pretty entertaining movie. But they have managed to make a movie about a lot more than that.
The first thing that strikes you about Milk, for instance, is its subtle aura of danger. Long before the assassination threats, crudely drawn on notepaper, show up the movie has made it clear that there is a deep psychological element to being gay that outsiders may never understand or, indeed, have thought about – fear.
It’s not just the fear of outing (something, by the way, that Harvey Milk wasn’t opposed to as long as it served the larger cause). It is the fear of violence, that one day out of the blue someone who doesn’t know you but doesn’t approve of your sexuality might be moved to violence by your mere existence. They might beat you, maim you, sexually assault you, even kill you. And when you are found or your remains are found or your disappearance is reported, nobody will care because the general feeling might be that you simply got what was coming to you.