Category: Politics

Side Effects? Of what? Lesbian sex?

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Spolier alert. Evil lesbians’ evil plan foiled by super sleuth Law. Hetero-hegemony restored and all is well with the world. Phew!

Am I alone in being somewhat thrown by Soderberg’s latest? To be honest I thought I was about to see a pharma-thriller of some sort, perhaps an exploration of drug company corruption, or fraught examination of a descent into moral ambiguity, you know, that sort of thing. And to be honest, that’s kind of how the film started out. And then it seemed as if, at some point, someone did a nifty script exchange. And didn’t tell anyone. And no-one noticed.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big Soderberg fan. He knows how to entertain. And this schlocky thriller looks great, sounds great and is a tremendous amount of fun. A barrel of laughs you might say. So much so, that we were rolling round in the isles, pretty much paralytic with mirth, by the time the final credits rolled. Casting Channing Tatum was a master-stroke, although I have to confess I didn’t know who he was until this evening, and I’m not convinced I’ll be able to remember who he is tomorrow morning. And isn’t that a girl’s name anyway? Never before have I witnessed someone on screen so totally forgettable that Jude Law emerges from the void a charismatic scene-stealing dynamo. Catherine Zeta Jones and Rooney Mara are immensely watchable, and look great too, which evil lesbians really ought to if they possibly can. Amazingly though, given the fine acting capabilities of these two, as well as their unfair share of God-given good looks, their pseudo-sex scene that allows for the denouement of film is spectacularly unconvincing. What a shame.

I really can’t object to Catherine Zeta Jones being cast as a femme-fatale. She does the job admirably. And why not write her character as a lesbian? And why not have her character have a relationship with Rooney Mara’s character? And why not write these characters as cunning, amoral schemers who ultimately get their comeuppance? Except, well, wouldn’t it be nice if, you know, just occasionally, the hero happened to be a lesbian character. And could, just maybe, have sex with another lesbian character, not as part of an evil plan, but just coz they happen to, you know, feel like it. And maybe the sex could go unpunished. You know, just occasionally. Occasionally…

Come on Soderberg, don’t bow out of Hollywood just yet. Clearly you have more work to do.

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Bad Girl Warning

I was having a drink with a couple of pals the other night. Our train of thought meandered from the policies of the Israeli state to the resignation of Pope Benedict to baptising babies to Methodism to Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit to, yelled out in unified bingo-style abandon, MARMALADE ATKINS! Talk about 6 degrees of separation. Now to those of you who aren’t from the UK, this last one might be a bit niche. In fact to those of you who are from the UK, but aren’t of an age to have been watching kids TV in the early 80s, or whose parents thought ITV was a bad influence – you know who you are – this will also seem a bit niche. Nonetheless, I was struck by the profoundly powerful memory we all shared of this anarchic character from the dark and distant days of three TV channels. (OK you purists, I know she started out in book form but for a whole generation Marmalade Atkins was that girl from TV). And she was our hero.

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That got me thinking about other anarchic characters from my youth. Minnie the Minx. I loved her. She was my alter ego. What am I saying, there was no alter, she was my ego. She has a statue in Dundee, you know. I was an avid ‘70s Beano reader, a member of the Dennis the Menace and Gnasher fan club, had one of those badges with the wobbly eyes, but Minnie was where it was at.

In the late ’80’s Darlene, the younger daughter in Roseanne took up the banner for irreverent youth, saving those of us with no interest in Disney Princesses from a fate worse than death. And for those aspiring to more adult themes (alcoholism, sexual violence, bereavement, relationship trouble), hard-talking, gun-toting, gin-swilling Chris Cagney saw us right through the decade.

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By the time I left home in the very last year of the 1980’s, TV as we had known it – a scheduled event, galvanising a family, a nation, a subculture – had only a few years left to live. There were now four channels, satellites were springing up like extra-terrestrial beings clinging to the sides of grey houses (everything was grey in the 80s). Video recorders were in vogue. Soon there would be a fifth channel. And then cable. And then internet TV.

So let’s raise a toast to simpler times and remember when a few tough talking female characters scattered first through our comics, and then across our cathode ray tube TVs, offered a bit of feisty escapism for those of us who’d never much wanted to be one of Charlie’s Angels.

Unchained Melody

So, Twitter has been hacked and passwords stolen ‘n’ it’s all just so awful. On the plus side, if the hackers have got my details, I’d really appreciate a reminder coz I can’t keep any of my trillion or so passwords in my head. Can anyone?

After my ‘Lincoln’ induced rant last week (oh, and don’t get me started on ‘Life of Pi’ popping out of the screen at me like Disney on acid) my faith in cinema has been somewhat restored, though not entirely without reservation, by ‘Django Unchained‘. Thanks Jamie Foxx: dodgy moniker aside, you make a mean cowboy. I won’t go any further here as controversy enough surrounds this flick, and you can pick up reviews and follow microblog spats to your heart’s content all across cyberspace. Perhaps there’s a point to blogging.

However, this restoration of faith has been just a little shaken by the news that Steven Soderberg’s taking his leave of Hollywood. I understand that I’m a bit behind the times on this one, rumours have been circulating for a while, but I only caught up on the news a few days ago. I must admit to having a soft spot for Soderberg – who doesn’t love Clooney and J-Lo in the boot of that car? Does anyone know what make of car that was, anyway?

Perhaps he’s right, though – perhaps the really interesting work has migrated to television. Still, it seems a shame that while the House of Commons dragged itself into the 21st century and voted to legalise gay marriage last night, leaving the embittered entrails of Roger Gale splattered on the chamber floor (an added bonus), across the pond Soderberg says that Hollywood studios are still refusing to fund projects deemed too gay. So, I thought I’d put together an itsy, pretty montage of leading-man moments that inexplicably slipped beneath the studio bosses gaydar:

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And let’s not leave TV out of the picture. No subtext here – this one’s for you Roger:

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Am I missing the point of facebook? or Why Lincoln is crap.

Yesterday, after going cold turkey for 37 days (yes, I was counting), I reactivated my facebook account. Who knows what precipitated this move: a fear that a big party’s going on somewhere and I’m not invited? Nosiness? A nagging suspicion that if I’m no longer parading myself on my very own cyber-rag then I’m not really here at all? A messy flat and some reading that needs avoiding? Anyway, whatever the real reason, the one I gave was that I needed to re-emerge to tell the world how truly crap ‘Lincoln’ is.

And truly, it is. I mean Spielberg can put a slick film together, we all know that, and if painting by numbers is your thing, and you like those numbers to add up to a Jack Vettriano, then maybe you’ll go for ‘Lincoln’. I was left cold. And just a little irritated. Of all the complex stories that could have been told about the 16th President of the USA, the workings on Capitol Hill, the American Civil War and the abolition of slavery, this film seems to have opted for the most crassly simplistic, one dimensional, hero-worshipping, whitewashing one of all. Really, he should have stuck to sharks and aliens. Oh, and I liked that one about the truck.

Daniel Day-Lewis, all got up in comedy whiskers and a death-like pallor, chanelled his inner Atticus (Henry Fonda did better) while marginal, simple black folk look on in admiration. Or is it adoration? Really, 50 plus years ago when Harper Lee gave us such sorry representations of black characters in ‘Mockingbird’, we winced a bit, but let it pass. The civil rights movement was in its infancy, ‘black power’ hadn’t yet taken centre stage, in its own way the work was revelatory, and, importantly, the whole thing was couched in such sublime prose you’d forgive it almost anything. But you’d think in 2013, what with a black President ‘n’ all, a little human complexity could be given a voice. To be fair on the great SS though, this cartoonish representation isn’t reserved solely for his black characters: no-one really escapes the flattening. I expected Mickey Mouse to pop up with a frying pan at any moment and literally flatten the lot of ’em. At one point, an actual mouse did scuttle across the bottom of the screen, projecting a cheeky black shadow in its wake. Honestly. The Barbican really ought to contact pest control.

Back to the reactivation of my facebook account, though. The first thing I noticed was that my roll-call of friends had decreased in number. I had expected this, but what was marginally interesting is that I have no idea who the hell are no longer my facebook friends. Scroll down and stare as I might at image after image, the absent faces do not present themselves to my mind. Not revelatory, I know, but this does highlight the very particular nature of being a ‘facebook friend’. I took another look at my friends list and at a rough guess, I reckon that fewer than 20% of those on it are actually, in the traditional sense of “I like you, you like me, let’s sit in the pub and have a beer together”, friends. Am I missing the point of facebook?