Thursday, May 25, 2006

Pulp Fiction

Slate Magazine is doing Pulp Fiction Week! Yay! I enjoyed Terry Castle's article on Patricia Highsmith's The Price of Salt, even though it's mostly a summary and tribute to a novel I know and love. I like Terry Castle, author of The Apparitional Lesbian, and I like The Price of Salt, so it's a pretty good combination. I especially want to find some good scholarship on Pulp Fiction, to help with my upcoming diss chapter on film noir. While Slate's articles aren't scholarly, they are fun and I'm glad to see some literate attention to the genre.

It's not Bring It On

Stick It. 5/19/06.

I was honestly excited to see Stick It; I wasn't expecting great cinema, but a fun gymnastics movie written and directed by Jessica Bendinger, the creator of Bring it On, sounded delightful last weekend. Unfortunately, I left the theater groaning "What were they thinking?" although I did so in amused high spirits. I actually managed, despite the fact that the film had giant flaws, to thoroughly enjoy myself at Stick It; though I wouldn't say it was a good movie by any definition of the term, I did leave the theater laughing heartily.

First of all, the highlight of the movie for me was the main character, played by Missy Peregrym. Like Eliza Dushku in Bring it On, her adorably alienated and vaguely butch character is enough to keep my interest throughout the movie. It's not often that you see a cute, tough girl who doesn't completely sell out in favor of pink and prom dresses. If only there had been even the slightest hint of sexual tension between her and one of the other gymnasts, I would have been a much bigger fan of this movie.

So, if you don't know, Stick It is the story of female gymnast Haley Graham (Peregrym), a champion-quality gymnast forced to return to the sport she abandoned as a far-fetched way to avoid a sentence for juvenile hall. After much bitterness, and thanks to creepy, patronizing (well, he was supposed to be fatherly) coach Burt Vickerman (played by Jeff Bridges), she regains her mastery of the sport and then leads a revolt at the championship meet to recapture the joy of gymnatics.

What made the movie a fiasco when we saw it may have been the fault of an inattentive and incompetant projectionist rather than the film itself. In my version of Stick It, the boom mic was the star of the show. He was in almost every scene, often causing other actors to duck out of the way to give him space to perform. He had a range of appearances and styles, but he always upstaged and outperformed the actors. The image was so badly framed that not only was the microphone in every scene, but the gymnastic routines were all truncated, completely marring the running gag of girls falling down because when they fell, they fell off the screen. Panoramic and overhead shots intended to showcase gymnastic skills Busby Berkeley-style were off-center and frequently half missing. I'm not sure proper framing would have made the moment in which gymnasts proliferate as if they were a kaleidoscope any less ridiculous, but it might have allowed me to concentrate on the complete insanity of the multiplying gymnasts rather than the stupidity of the director, editor, cameraperson, and/or projectionist who allowed such a thing to happen.

In my opinion, parts of this movie are appallingly bad. It is frequently trite and too unjustifiably proud of its own cleverness. But I had a wonderful time watching it nevertheless, and if you approach it with a sense of humor and low expectations, you might really enjoy Stick It.

Here are reviews by Dave White, who liked it, and Scott Tobias from The Onion AV Club, who did not. Judge for yourself.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Transgiving Weekend

This weekend's Transgiving is the last to be curated by the event's long-time guiding spirit, ryka aoki de la cruz. de la cruz's work has made Transgiving an amazing event combining truly impressive professional performers with local artists to create an event that combines community-building with artistic prowess. I truly hope that those taking over for her manage to maintain the spirit and professionalism of the event. I don't know much about most of the perfomers at this weekend's event, but I believe I may have seen an enticing snippet of work by storm florez before. I'm also intrigued by the sex theme of this transgiving - this could be hot.

From their press release:

Trans/Giving's May showcase celebrates sex with a
hot and steamy spring show!
The sex-abration takes place on May 27th from 6:00-9:30 at Fiesta
Hall, Plummer Park, 1200 N. Vista St. West Hollywood, CA 90046.

We have a fabulous array of performers for this special show,
including Helen Wong and Trans As Fuck with Storm Florez, Annie
Danger, and Seeley Quest. We will have two steamy fashion shows from
Babeland and Glamour Boutique and enjoy hot visual art by Dan Dumont,
Mea Starr, Faith and Eva Sweeney.

This show is 18 and up and will include explicit sexual content.

This is the last show that Trans/Giving's founder and director Ryka
Aoki will be curating. She has worked so hard to give Trans/Giving the
respect and popularity it has now. We are very sad to see her go but
we know she will accomplish many other groundbreaking things.

Suggested donation is $5-20, with no
one turned away for lack of funds.

Now in its 3rd year, Trans/Giving is Los Angeles' pioneering
trans/genderqueer/intersex get-together, art show and performance

Friday, May 19, 2006

Tangled Rose Vines

Tea, Michelle. Rose of No Man's Land. San Francisco: MacAdam/Cage, 2006.

This book was terribly beautiful. I fell in love with the cover, with its retro styling and two shades of pink, even though the character depicted seems to me a little too sylish to be either of the characters in the book. Of course, I was already in love with Michelle Tea, so I knew I wanted the book long before it came out, and I defied my own policy of avioding hardbacks by purchasing this one at the first opportunity.

Rose of No Man's Land is the story of Trisha, a disaffected young teenager, condensed mostly into one day in early summer, followed by a night of adventures with Rose, her wild new friend. The two share a dangerous evening, demonstrating the scary possibilities for two girls on their own.

I must commend Tea for the intensity of her writing - these girls felt like real, not always likeable, vibrant and complex characters. And their adventures carried the sense of risk, peril, and fear of real life with consequences rather than novelistic mishaps. These girls were dirty, spunky, and a little bit dangerous, both completely independent and youthfully foolish and as a result, everything that happened to them felt dreadfully honest to me, capturing some of the excitement and fear of my own youthful misadventures, however tame they might have been in comparison.

I finished Rose of No Man's Land in a haze - I would have read it through for two days straight until I finished it if I could have, and I almost did. I wanted to share my reactions with the world immediately, but I was also numbed to silence - it didn't feel over to me; I wasn't ready to let the characters go. I needed time to think about them, and thus I was slow to post my response, but I did love this book.

Part of my reaction was questioning who the audience of this book was. With its fourteen-year-old protagonists, it seems to be a young adult book, but it was also so bitter, so cynical, so adult in both content and spirit, that I had to wonder if perhaps it was more appropriate for adults who can appreciate its brilliance. But I also wonder if it isn't good for girls to have characters with the hard, glittery personalities of Trisha and Rose with which to identify. Better, perhaps, than all the stories telling you to conform and be beautiful in such conventional ways. These characters are misfits, with lives that aren't easy, and that in itself is amazing. While I might give children Dangerous Angels or Boy Meets Boy before Rose of No Man's Land (although I'm aware that there's a solid classist critique to that reaction that I'd be delighted to spell out if anyone wants to discuss it), I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this book to anyone who might appreciate a fascinating, complex, emotionally realistic coming-of-age adventure.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Perfect Title

Miller, Tim. 1001 Beds. Highways Performance Space. 5/12/06.

When people hear the title of Tim Miller's new performance piece,
1001 Beds, those who know Miller or his work generally respond "how appropriate" with a chuckle. Miller's known for telling many stories of sex and love as a gay man in his performances, and 1001 Beds is no exception. It's a wonderful piece telling the story of some of the 1001 or so beds Miller has slept in or will sleep in over the course of his life as a travelling performance artist. It's a story combining sex and opera in a tale of coming of age as a gay man, a loving account of Miller's relationship with his partner, and a triumphant vision of revolutionary queer sex and politics. The show demonstrate's Miller's delightful charisma and amazing command of an audience as he runs around an almost empty stage in gym shorts, and conjures visions of entire political movements. This performance, exactly what one wants and expects from Tim Miller, demonstrates his prodigious performing and storytelling skills in a wonderfully human tale. I highly recommend that you see it this weekend if you have the opportunity.

Here's an interview in LA City Beat to help convince you or tell you a bit more about Miller.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Karen Finley: More than Just Reading

Finley, Karen. George and Martha. Hammer Museum. Los Angeles, CA. 4/30/06.

Karen Finley kicks ass. She's an amazing author, artist, and perfomer, and it was a pleasure to see her in person. She perfomed what was supposedly a reading from her new novel, George and Martha, but this was much more than just a reading. She took the text and put it on screen so that we could see her illustrations as she read, and we could also read along with her. Which meant that we could tell when she inserted the repetition characteristic of her solo performance. Rather than merely reading the text, she performed excerpts as spoken word pieces, modulating her voice dramatically for character and emphasis. It was beautiful and quite effective.

George and Martha is a novel that originated as a performance and it's about a fictional 30-year affair between George W. Bush and Martha Stewart. She talked about the mythical and psychological resonances of these two characters, talking about war and loss and relationships between parents and children. It seems like a fascinating, edgy, challenging book and I can't wait to read it.

I was impressed with Finley as an author and a performer, so it suprised me to hear that she had such a disasterous panel at the LA Times Festival of Books the day before, as Susie Bright relates on her blog. Apparently, brilliant, challenging writers Bright, Finley, and Dennis Cooper were placed on a panel with Late, Late Night Host Craig Ferguson, who turned out to be a jerk who tried to hijack the panel. From all reports, Finley kicked ass there too. Pretty awesome.