movies, people

Joan Rivers Tribute Post

“I don’t want to retire. I don’t want to sit in the sun. I don’t want to learn to garden. I paint. Who gives a shit.”

Last night to honor the passing of Joan Rivers, I re-watched the touching 2010 documentary about her life and career, Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work. Given the context of the viewing, it was even more heartbreaking the second time around. For a woman who had gone ‘under the knife’ so often, it seemed particularly tragic and sad that she had died, seemingly still full of vim and vigor, from such a relatively simple medical procedure.

I think most people of my generation and the generations after only associate Rivers with the later half of her career, when her caustic fashion-policing and grating turns on reality TV shows like Celebrity Apprentice positioned her as this kind of manic, slightly freakish, aging, and desperate comedian.

That’s why this movie is so enlightening, it gives you a glimpse of her golden years and shines a light on the darker insecurities that fueled her style of humor and relentless work ethic. Before she was on the red carpet, or winning over Donald Trump, or headlining shows at depressing Midwest casinos, Rivers truly was a game-changer. When she emerged on the scene in the mid-60s, in appearances on The Tonight Show with brand new host Johnny Carson, she joked frankly and freely about sex and abortion, topics people still get squeamish about to this day. Carson loved her style and nurtured her career – she became his permanent guest host in the early 80s.

But for all the early love and admiration, her career seemed destined for tragedy and pain. When she accepted an offer to host her own late night talk show on then newcomer FOX’s network, Carson was furious. He had her blacklisted from Late Night and never spoke to her again, for the rest of his life. Rattled by the loss of her mentor, Rivers lost her confidence and the show foundered. FOX asked her to fire her producer, her own husband Edgar Rosenberg. She refused, was fired herself, and the show was cancelled. Rosenberg committed suicide shortly after because he was allegedly so distraught over the whole episode. (Clinical depression didn’t help matters.)

The thing you take away from the movie is that Rivers has been fighting her entire life. Against critics and sexists, against the mainstream, and her own negative self-image, against people who said she should just stop working already and learn to garden. But she can’t. She needs to work, to entertain. The thought of giving it up is never an option. Driven by passion, by compulsion, you know at the end of the film that she’ll never, ever stop.

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movies

Back in the Saddle for a Psycho Beach Party

And committing to posting again!

I won’t do the whole intro/apology “sorry for not posting for a while” thing.’ For one thing, that assumes I have actual readers beyond my best friends and boyfriend. For another, it’s just boring. It’s been a few years. I live in Copenhagen now. Moving on!

One of my favorite things about living in Denmark is the movie-going experience as a whole. It’s expensive, yes. But you get a reserved/assigned seat, the concessions include beer and wine, and every theater is immaculate.

The Danish Film Institute here in Copenhagen is one of our favorite spots, with various festivals throughout the year featuring the best of International Cinema, plus occasional screenings of old American classics.

As part of their Summer Movie Series this year, they put out a few perfect collections with names like “Sun, Summer, and Psychopaths” and “Evil Hotels.” Summertime and horror greats like Jaws, The Shining, and Psycho mixed with Euro art films like Hotel and Dirty Pretty Things, mixed with modern B-movie magic like Sharktopus. “It’s not a shark! It’s not an octopus! It is Sharktopus!”

psycho-beach-party-08-1

The highlight for me was catching the camp comedy/horror film Psycho Beach Party. Based on the off-Broadway play written by Charles Busch, the plot follows main character Florence “Chicklet” Forest, played by Lauren Ambrose, a naĂŻve, “gee-whiz” teen we soon learn has multiple suppressed personalities. When her alter-egos appear, Chicklet blacks out, emerging clueless and confused while her friends and family try to cover for her strange behavior.

A series of inexplicable Malibu murders start knocking off her cohorts one by one, and Chicklet wonders if she could be the one committing the crimes, unaware. The whole plot and character set are a direct spoof of the 1959 classic Gidget, with silly, self-aware sexual innuendoes, twangy surf sequences, and lots of slang like ‘daddy-o’ and ‘dig it’ poking fun at the 50s/60s beach party genre and constructed teen slasher plots. It definitely has its high and low points, (highlights are Busch’s turn in drag as Capt. Monica Stark, Ambrose’s short-circuit-style alter-ego purge, and a beach luau dance off starring Amy Adams), but it embodies everything a great summer flick should be, and it certainly doesn’t take itself too seriously.

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art & design, movies

The Future and The Hallway

Gearing up to see Miranda July’s latest film, The Future by poking around on her super entertaining personal site, which is filled with psychic interviews, random musings & jet-lagged video testimonials from her latest publicity tour…plus links, pictures and cool bits of info from some of her older art projects.

This 2008 piece called “The Hallway” was commissioned by the Yokohama Triennial. It made me laugh a lot.

Here’s the exhibition’s blurb:

A 125 foot hallway lined with fifty wooden signs, hand-painted with text. As the viewer/participant walks down the seemingly endless hall, weaving between the signs, the text acts as an internal voice, “It’s too late to go back now, but the end seems far away…” The “you” in text realizes that you’ll be walking down this hallway for the rest of your life. And like life, the hall is filled with indecision, disappointment, boredom and joy – and it does end.

 

The Hallway from The Hallway on Vimeo.

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movies

TABLOID

Sexual obsession, brainwashing, Mormon rituals, pitbull cloning, Indian disguises, prostitution, general madness…all are on display in Errol Morris’ latest feature TABLOID. The film recounts the freaky life and times of former-beauty-queen-turned-kinky-kidnapper, Joyce McKinney. With interviews from various UK journalists (where the story reached manic-levels), an ex-Mormon missionary (to dish some religious-insider dirt) and McKinney herself, the story goes from weird to weirder to utterly jaw-dropping. Fascinating stuff.

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movies, random good

I Wept When We Parted, & Wept When We United.

This video KILLED me. Made me want to cry, made me want to dance.

Animation is by Montreal-based visual artist Sinbad Richardson. Check out his site for the cute backstory on the video’s tragic pink heroine, aka Jennifer Harris, along with the original ‘bizarre bus trip’ short film he resurrected and revamped for Young Galaxy.

Thanks to Said the Gramophone for posting it up.

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