Friday, May 30, 2008

us and them

Okay, I'll fess up. I have seen every single episode of "Sex and the City." I was there for every orgasm, every bad date, every sex talk over lunch, every marriage, every not-so happy ending, and then some. I'm not afraid to admit this because as much as men, or straight men more specifically, won't admit it, "Sex and the City" has potentially forever changed men and how we communicate, interact, and in some ways, approach sex with women. A breath of fresh sex-soaked air in the late '90s on HBO, "Sex and the City" offered a glossy, gleaming world of cocktails, late night parties, and a smorgasboard of designer frocks, but more importantly it was a show that asserted the importance of love, intimacy, and self-acceptance. The greatest love we learn at the end of the series is the love you have for yourself. As trite as that might sound, that idea woke up women up from their fairy tale fog of being saved and defined by a man and gave them permission to desire the best life on their own terms. What does this have to do with men? Quite a bit, actually.

What makes "Sex and the City" such compelling and unique entertainment is the dichotomy of the real and the unreal. The women of "Sex and the City" were unashamed to pay $485 for a pair of shoes and yet we also watched them endure difficult break-ups, disappointments with the trajectory of their lives, and other harsh realities we all must face as we age and live. The artifice aspect is what seems to put off men the most, but the show brilliantly balanced that world with an emotional realism that was palpable enough to became a tonic for women to feel good about themselves that not only have they had to deal with men that weren't right them, but so has Carrie and the gang. Michael Patrick King, the director of the new film and one of the creators of the original series, was a guest on "Charlie Rose" last night and mentioned that he found as the show has gone into late night syndication that it has become a source of cozy comfort for women before they go to bed. They watch it piously and never tire of episodes they've seen time and again. It's a relationship that can't be broken. As a result they have ingratiated the ideology of the show into their own lives. Women are now allowed to no feel wrong, improper, or irrelevant for the mistakes they make. They can also be strong, sexual, assertive, and yet human, weak, and still wanting more. I can't think of too many television shows or movies that have retained such a captive audience always willing to come back to watch Carrie, Miranda, Samantha, and Charlotte assure them that life is full of triumphs and despair.

With a newly discovered sense of self via the magical world of "Sex", it has in turn made women want to emulate that same sort of quest for self-love and defined acceptance from the opposite sex. Love yourself first and the find the guy who will love you the same. If women want to wait to find themselves, then where does that leave men? A new breed of men, of course.

I caught a matinee of "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" not too long ago and it made me think of the funny era we're in cinema right now in terms of male representation. What does it mean to be a man in the 21st century and how is that reflective at the movies? Well, if you look at the flaccid, sobbing, insecure mess that is Peter Bretter (Jason Segal), we're clearly not in John Wayne territory. It's suddenly become okay for men to accept and voice their feelings. We can look pathetic, needy, sullen over a break up. Peter just wants to be loved, and isn't that something we all want? We might have never been aware of it had it not been for the the sex and love life of Carrie Bradshaw and its persuasive pull on women.

If "Sex and the City" has changed men through the stories of the women on the show, then surely the stories of the men on the show have changed our perception of maleness too, right? The three loves of Carrie Bradshaw can be broken down into the good, the bad, and the ugly. Aidan, the sensitive furniture designer, was as open and perfect as she could want from a man. However, the thought of settling down with one guy frightened her, as it does for a man to think he's chained to one woman the rest of his life, and caused her to ruin the relationship by cheating on him with Mr. Big. I once had a guy tell me he thought Berger was the most accurate representation of a man on the show. If that's true, then men are in trouble. Berger was threatened by the success of Carrie and turned inward like a child and resulted to insults and not dealing with his feelings in a grown-up fashion. He eventually dumped her on a Post It note and faded away into douchebag obscurity. The ugliest of them all is of course, Mr. Big, in all of his alpha male-emotionally-unavailable glory. Mr. Big typifies the kind of guy every guy wants to be--wealthy, powerful, attractive to any woman--but this is a an archaic definition of men. The show was always smart to not only use women as archetypes to make a point, but to abstract men as well. Aidan, Berger, and Big are in no way the summation of men, but filtered through the perspective of a woman and what she wants, their purpose is to empower women with the feeling of "don't make the same mistakes we did." The standards for attractive qualities in men and women have not been the same since.

Most of fall, the show is about friendship, which in my mind is not gender specific. Men socialize in groups similar to when Carrie and co. have lunch or go shopping. Substitute locker rooms, sports bars, and other stereotypical places you might find the average Joe talking about who crawled into his bed last night and it's the same principle. It's always perplexed me that men find this part of the show inaccessible. Men depend on their male friends just as much as the women on the show do. Male friendships minus their macho surface entail the same intimacy, honesty, and acceptance we want from the opposite sex. Admit it or not, it's true. One of the most poignant moments in the series happened when Carrie, down about a recent break-up, stumbles upon her friends at a local eatery where she immediately perks up and is warmly welcomed in. Over voice-over she eloquently states, "The most important thing in life is your family. There are days you love them, and others you don't. But, in the end, they're the people you always come home to. Sometimes it's the family you're born into and sometimes it's the one you make for yourself." I'd like to know what man can't relate to that sentiment.

"Sex and the City" has changed our culture in more ways than one, but what persists is the way it has trickled down to the real world of what we want out life and what we deserve. We're all creatures wanting to be loved and accepted and most of all, content with ourselves. That might sound like something Carrie would say and that's because she has. I challenge men to tell me this isn't a truth in their own life. Deal with it guys, this show has transformed us and them.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

snap judgment: song of the summer?

Ciara, "Click, Flash"
This would acceptable if she started singing," G-L-A-M-O-R-O-U-S." C'mon Ciara, I had so much hope you would provide the ultimate summer '08 jam. Oh well, here's hoping the second single makes up for such an uncharacteristic misstep.

In case you need to be reminded of the genius of Ciara...

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

it comes down to a tie

Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie
and Sam Riley at the 61st Cannes Film Festival

Classic glamour versus modern. Who wins?

Friday, May 23, 2008

how do you say?

In honor of the new Charlie Kaufman film, "Synedoche, New York", premiering today at Cannes.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

chew-uh-tell edge-ee-o-four

He's played a drag queen, a pianist, sidekick to Denzel Washington (twice), an underground political rebel, and now a jiu jitsu teacher in David Mamet's "Redbelt." One of the most mercurial actors working in cinema right now, Chiwetel Ejiofor fits easily into the Mamet universe of repetitious speak and moral complexity. His role as teacher Mike Terry is perhaps a symbol of those of us who want to do good in a world that can often be very bad. Ejiofor talked with NPR about how that idea mirrors the teachings of jiu jitsu, what it's like to spar with David Mamet (a jiu jitsu enthusiast himself), and what it's like to strut around in a sequined gown and blonde wig. Click here to listen.

first look: australia

directed by Baz Luhrmann
November 14, 2008

Is this supposed to be a joke?

the pop singer

Romain Duris in Christophe Honoré's "Dans Paris"

For a character who is depressive, uninterested in communication, and spends most of the movie firmly planted in bed, Romain Duris manages to surprise with such buoyantly poignant moments like this.

P.S. There's a short film starring Louis Garrel and a band of American tourists on the special features of the DVD that is worth watching for any film snob.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

happy hour

Myth: Guys can't drink Cosmos.
Fact: Guys can drink White Cosmos.

After a fantastic dinner at El Mundo the other night, post-dinner cocktails at Proof hit the spot in more ways than one. It's difficult to justify $10 cocktails, but when it's this good, you pay exactly for what you get.

White Cosmo
1 ounce Pepe Lopez Tequila
1/2 ounce Triple sec
1 ounce white cranberry juice
1/2 slice lime for garnish

In a shaker with cracked ice, combine the tequila, triple sec, and cranberry juice. Shake well. Strain into a martini glass, garnish with the lime, and serve at once.

These are best appreciated on a late spring night at the Proof bar where your eyes is pulled in every direction to take in the mid-century pop art, black and white boobie photos, and apple-toting bronzed nymph that sits atop the bar.

first look: the last mistress

"The Last Mistress"
directed by Catherine Breillat
June 27, 2008 (limited)

"Asia Argento is the Maria Callas of orgasms."--Amy Taubin, Film Comment

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

cherry bomb sale like whoa

American Apparel Pique Polo in Raspberry

I love a good impulse buy, especially when it was on sale.

second look: vicky christina barcelona

"Vicky Christina Barcelona"
directed by Woody Allen
August 29, 2008 (limited)


the lost boys

Gus Van Sant has never shied away from his enduring love affair with the young male misfit. Whether it be River Phoenix fulfilling fantasies as a hustler in "My Own Private Idaho" or Michael Pitt quietly marching to his death as a put upon rock star in "Last Days", Van Sant's vision has always been filtered through the eyes of boys becoming men and all of the confusion, ennui, and malaise that stirs through their dreamy days of youth. A sense of plaintiveness paired with an emotional inertia persists in these young men's lives. Calling them a modern Peter Pan seems too easy, but there is a great resistance to grow up, gain responsibility, or accept convention, which in a way could describe Van Sant himself. His heroes are bright young things pining for meaning, but very much rebel rousers of their generation, which belies the fact that Van Sant is approaching his sixties. An accidental death in his latest impressionistic opus, "Paranoid Park", is besides the point, rather it's the way the skater punks involved react, or don't, that interests him and the audience.

"Paranoid Park" could be viewed as a part of a loose tetralogy of films that finds the archetypal Van Sant anti-hero in search of something or appear to be literally lost, all the while filmed in a very hypnotically slow pace. "Elephant" was essentially a collection of tracking shots following the day in the life of a school effected by a student shooting spree, "Last Days" held the frame for an eternity to gaze upon its Kurt Kobain-esque subject having an exchange about a telephone book, and "Gerry" followed two men in a desert for an entire film. These are not always the easiest to watch films. They are so stripped of visual tricks and choppy editing that it's almost an exercise in tolerance to take in such a minimalist approach. "Paranoid Park" utilizes a similar method, but in this film Van Sant and cinematographers Christopher Doyle and Kathy Li loosen up a bit with handheld cameras and rigorously spend a great deal of time re-examining moments in the hero's mind. They're impressions of moments that plague and obsess him. I can't remember seeing a film in a long while that questioned morality through it's visual schema, but Van Sant wants to immerse his audience in the mind of this kid who is neither good or bad, guilty or innocent, naive or calculating. He's just a teenage boy floating from school to the skate park to the beach to his bedroom.

Flight and its many implications are a clear theme in the film. The ability to fly away from the teenage wasteland that can be high school, dating, peer pressure, and the constant quest to achieve coolness is articulated very delicately and persuasively in "Paranoid Park." Striking slow motion shots of skateboarders in mid-flight in the pale air of a Portland skate park as if a part of a modern ballet resonate and leave your cinematic appetite with a breathless feeling. It's all very intoxicating but Van Sant is in no way the choreographer, just the quiet observer that finds a kindred spirit in his subject. Van Sant's alter-ego, Alex (Gabe Nevins), looks on with such delighted reverie at the more experienced skaters. In some ways you feel like Van Sant was the last kid picked for dodgeball. These moments and many others conjure up comparisons to Hedi Slimane images, in their gritty cool and constant surveying of the power and pull of youth. However, it all becomes much more morally and psychologically complex when Alex becomes implicated in an accidental murder of a train yard security guard. How does he react? How doesn't he? Is he different or the same? Are we all remorseless coldblooded killers or innate liars? We never really know, and Van Sant wouldn't want us to know either.

Existing as an American teenager in the 21st century is an unusual feat. The generation of post-Clinton, post-Napster, post-Columbine, and post-9/11 could be easily summed up in one gesture: a shrug. The collective ambivalence and apathy these teenagers exudes answers those questions that the audience wonders about how Alex reacts to the murder. Alex's Antoine Doinel-like vague and unflinching features are a perfect fit for a story about someone who we don't know much about and are never told explicitly how he's feeling or thinking. To ensure "Paranoid Park" isn't an out of touch trick disguised as an arthouse vehicle, Van Sant slows down the action like a modern Antonioni to allow the audience to glean some meaning from the spatial relationship between inner and outerworld of an otherwise private hero. An empty beach becomes the playground for Alex's confessional, a suburban bedroom and a horny cheerleader can't seem to rouse much feeling or truth from the hero, and a shower in the dark functions as a space to wash away the sins and regrets that come with age and consequence. Van Sant guides us to and fro into his awkward riptide of youth. We see these images out of sorts, blurred, blocked unusually, and played out repeatedly, much like a rush of memories settling into the mind. Luckily for the audience, the film does the same.

let's hope it's not rihanna again

"Electric Feel"

Where, oh where is our song of the summer?

Monday, May 12, 2008

big screen

Although I'm using my Economic Stimulus check in the most responsible of ways (damn you car payments), I would like to start saving for a new TV. I'm not concerned about the size (although in the 30"-50" range would be nice), but I would want something bold, slim, and fully capable of displaying a sharp, crisp image. I need something that can best serve watching this. Any suggestions?

short shorts

Via The Sartorialist

In my mind, this is the perfect proportion to wear in between spring and summer.

P.S. I've been experimenting with the hemline of my shorts. Should I stay with just above the knee or slightly cuffed a little higher?

Tuesday, May 6, 2008


Hmmm. You have to appreciate how honest we men can be, especially when it comes to $1300 luxury goods.