A Welcome and a Definition

Culture Vulture: "A person with a strong, sometimes obsessive, interest in the arts." Culture Vultures spend a lot of time observing the world. This is where those observations come out.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

If U Seek Janie

I am a member of the Jane Austen Society of North America, a rather large organization that seeks to unite Austen fans stateside and in Canada. Yesterday I received their quarterly newsletter, and there was an article about the popularity of Austen on YouTube. The author was pretty down on this particular video where scenes from various Austen movies are shown with Britney Spears' "If U Seek Amy" playing. Most of the scenes show that bit of sexuality that's always brimming just below the surface. The author called the video "disturbing." However, I was immediately intrigued.

I have to say I have a soft spot for when high and low culture gets intertwined. Usually, they make for delicious juxtapositions. Another thing I like about this video is it highlights the modern take of Austen and sex. While many Janeites like to highlight the romance of the films, there is an element of sex in all the movies. Sex is for the most part barely mentioned in the novels. Of course, it's harder to capture what is not said in a novel, something the movies do so well. Some experts say that's what made the resurgence of Austen possible, that juxtaposition of sex and corsets. My message to YouTuber Jasnira: Don't let the uptight Janeites get you down!!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Strange Genius

As a rule, there are two things I hate about celebrity culture: 1) the term genius applied to everyone with a People's Choice Award 2) So-called journalists who interview celebs and kiss ass no matter how obscure and untalented that person is. That being said, I am going now to throw around the term "genius" and make glowing statements about a celebrity that could be construed as kissing ass in this post because frankly, I think he deserves it.

I wish I could say I have always loved Joel McHale and how underrated I always thought he was. I have been watching The Soup for some years now, and I always liked Joel. However, he was a piece of the furniture in the TV set: the guy who quipped great one liners about TV. He did it well, but so did Hal Sparks and Greg Kinnear. However, right before Community premiered, The Soup started doing these specials on Mondays where they would pick a theme and show weird clips from TV. He started to shine more, and he stood out from the other Soup hosts. However, when Community came out, it pretty much sealed the deal of my love for him.

McHale's humor on The Soup is somehow edgy, yet all-encompassing. He'll take the joke to that strange place in the back of your mind that always think about but never say out loud. He says it out loud. The show is never dull, and always feels fresh. On the other hand, there's the meandering musings of Community. If you have never seen Community, it's a sitcom that doesn't want to be a sitcom. There's no laugh track and it makes weird references to TV and to tried and true sitcom formulas.

McHale's character is not that different from characters he played in the past, but not in this fashion. Community seems to be an acquired taste, drawing a cult following. Many times I see comments on blogs that say something to the effect of: Love Joel, love The Soup, hate Community. I, personally, hope Community stays around for awhile. The show makes a lot of offbeat, pop culture references and self-aware of its own ridiculousness. I think what some people deem as "trying too hard" is actually what makes the show funny to me. It knows it's trying too hard.

Another thing that makes Community so interesting is that McHale is even in it. He probably could have had a moderately successful career doing The Soup and some commercials and make enough money to retire comfortably and do the occasional stand-up gig (He still does stand-up shows btw! Joel, if by some accidental click you find yourself reading this, PLEASE come back to Orlando!) I really think he is on it, to show people like me that he could do more. Forget anyone on SNL or even The Daily Show, I really think McHale could be our next Bill Murray or Chris Farley, or even outshine the career of his co-star, Chevy Chase.

I feel like I can't be a gay man talking about Joel McHale and not mention his gay following. Maybe it's because he's tall and handsome, or the fact that he is witty. Maybe it's because he's a straight guy who embraces his gay side, or it could be all that and more. Either way, I give him major brownie points for embracing his gay fans so readily, including doing a recent interview with The Advocate.

A new episode of Community is on tonight at 8pm. I also assume there's a new episode of The Soup on Friday because I'm pretty sure E! never gives him a break.

Friday, April 16, 2010

New Low

I made another trek to the Florida Film Festival to see the rather offbeat New Low. I was curious to see it for three reasons: 1) it takes place in Gainesville 2) I love offbeat comedies 3) I heard it was in the Sundance Festival. I have to say, I definitely not disappointed. The movie was written, directed and starred Adam Bowers, a former UCF student and UF graduate.

The movie centers around Wendell (Bowers), a neurotic slacker with no real ambition other than working at his current job as a video store clerk. He meets bartender Vicky, another slacker whose view of life is pretty similar to Wendell's. Their tumultuous relationship eventually leads to a break-up, and Wendell starts dating Joanna, a socially responsible social worker and artist. Wendell feels he should want to be with someone as giving as Joanna but finds himself drawn back to Vicky. An unusual love triangle is formed.

The movie is full of great one liners and had the audience laughing out loud. My favorite scene was when Joanna drags Wendell to a meeting of Food Not Bombs. Wendell is asked to introduce himself and says: "Hi, my name is Wendell. I don't know that much about Food Not Bombs but I know I would much rather go to Fuddrucker's than get blown up." Bowers is a master of deadpan humor.

I always enjoy movies and books with a strong sense of place, where the city or town almost becomes another character in the story. Landmarks and places in Gainesville are mentioned throughout the movie. Bowers' Gainesville is an indie city of hipsters, artists, and comedians. Bowers gave a Q&A after where he said he felt Gainesville's artist community was on par with places like Austin or Portland, OR. While I have been to Gainesville several times and definitely seen aspects of that life there, I never really thought of it from that perspective. Very interesting. 5 stars.

The movie will play again at FFF on Saturday 4/17 at 4pm.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Midnight Madness

So I went on my first foray to the Florida Film Festival 2010 and watched the Midnight Shorts program with a few friends from Rollins. Midnight showings are always notorious for being a little racier and gorier than the usual festival fare. We watched 17 short films in all, so it's a little difficult to talk about them all in a blog. However, I'll mention some highlights and ones that just stood out:

BMZ (Director: Corky Quakenbush): One of the shortest of the shorts, by definitely a favorite. BMZ lampooned the paparazzi-celeb relationship portraying cartoon characters as out of control celebs. Hilarious!

Oral Report (Director: Daniella Urdinlainz): Another animated short short and also very funny. Juju, a third-grader in Catholic school, tells the story how her gay neighbors fell in love. Fabulous!

Tub (Director: Bobby Miller) : Tub tells the story of Paul, a chronic masturbator who can't get close to his girlfriend. He discovers his sessions in the shower create a rather hideous baby. This one just stood out, and was probably a little longer than it needed to be.

True Confessions
(Director: Ian Miller) : Another short short of the animated variety! (I didn't realized I had this bias.) True Confessions is based on a phone call from a drug addict hotline. Another one that made me laugh out loud.

(Director: Joseph Ernst) : Feeder gave a new meaning to a "unique perspective." The whole film is shot from the vantage point of the inside of someone's mouth and all the things that go into that mouth (including someone else's tongue!). Much of the movie was hard to watch because of a major gross out factor (I will never chew gum again), but I guarantee it's something I will never see anywhere else!

Treevenge (Director: Jason Eisner) : Treevenge tells the story of killer Christmas trees who rise up against the humans who decorate them. It's just as funny and gory as it sounds, and it made me want to only celebrate Hanukkah.

Here's the complete list. There's another showing of the Midnight Shorts on Saturday April 17.

Friday, April 9, 2010

RH of NYC Part Deux

Go Team Frankel!

Forgive my indulgences to talk again about the Real Housewives of New York City, but I just had to throw in my two cents about the season and damn it, it's my blog! So here's my opinion, broken down housewife by housewife:

Bethenny: In my previous post, I mentioned that B is my favorite of all the Housewives ever. Despite her clashes without many of her castmates this season, my opinion of her hasn't changed. I am totally team Frankel on the feud that rocked the franchise, Frankel vs. Zarin. More about the feud later. I can't believe her father wouldn't see her when she flew to LA. Honestly, what could she have done when that would make him hold that grudge so deeply?

Alex: I have to honest, Alex was my least favorite housewife Season 1 and somewhere just above Kelly during Season 2. I always felt she spent too much time talking about her great love for her husband and her brilliant (yet unruly) children. However, I must say I am coming to like Alex this season. She's not joined at the hip with Simon and she's shut up about her kids (maybe she watched the footage). Anyways take that artifice away, she is actually very likable. She comes off this season as the voice of calm and the level headed one. Despite a few flare-ups with Jill, she is the only one not in a feud with someone else in the cast.

LuAnn: LuAnn seems a little lost this season, probably still reeling from her divorce. Sometimes she seems in control of her life; other times she seems like a raw nerve. I happened to agree with her in a mini-feud with Mario, but why did she have to pick at it with Ramona? She must be aware that Ramona is a little loopy and would take it the wrong way. I also hate the way she has treated Bethenny, in the attack at the bar and for getting in the middle of the Bethenny/ Jill feud. Which brings me to:

I have always liked Jill. She was spunky and outspoken but she always seemed like she had a good heart. However, I can't believe how she is being with Bethenny. Bethenny has tried three times during the show to reach out and Jill can't be bothered. She claims she was hurt and she cried but she has to get passed that if you want to repair the relationship! Even though I was always Team Frankel, I wanted to give Jill the benefit of the doubt.

However, that email to Kelly speaks volumes of Jill's character. Bethenny claims that Jill wants undying loyalty and Jill proved it by telling Kelly they couldn't be friends if she liked Bethenny! (Bethenny and Kelly don't even really like each other, they are cordial for goodness' sake! They just don't rip each other's throats out upon seeing one another!) It's also telling that Jill has taken LuAnn under her wing like she did after the divorce. Bethenny says Jill likes an underdog (well, actually Ramona said it), and isn't LuAnn now the underdog with her divorce? Sorry Jill, but you really screwed this one up! She seemed on the verge of a breakthrough during the so-called ambush, hopefully that's a good sign....

Ramona is acting like a IED this season because you never know when she will blow! For the most part, I think she has been classless, especially confronting Kelly about her breasts at the Saks party. I actually felt bad for Kelly,which has never happened! I do give her points for trying to get Jill and Bethenny to talk, even if she went about it wrong.

Kelly: The only revelations I've had about Kelly this season is that she is even more shallow than I initially thought. For instance, I can understand being flattered and honored about posing for Playboy after 40, but she talked about it like she was chosen to be a Rhodes scholar. The best moment, possibly all season, was when she told her daughters about Playboy and she asked her daughter if they knew why this was important and her youngest: "It's important because you can entertain people with your weirdness!" I almost fell off the couch laughing! I'm glad even her children realize how weird she is!

I am looking forward to seeing the fallout of all this turmoil this season, especially the reunion!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Were the World Mine

Usually, I would never review a movie once it's out on DVD. I always figured, once the DVD is out, it's usually old hat. However, I am making the exception for the excellent Were the World Mine, mostly because it only came out last year and was a very small movie.

Many movies with strong gay characters and gay themes are frankly not great movies. I wonder if it's because these directors feel they will draw a gay audience and no else, so they cut corners with the plot and character development. Or maybe it's just the fact so few movies with strong gay themes are made that anyone immediately gets a certain amount of distribution. Either way, Were the World Mine is one shining exception.

Timothy is a young gay man, living in a small town and attends a private boys' school. He has only recently come out, and is contending with the fact that he is the only gay person he knows. Meanwhile, he is teased mercilessly in school by the rugby players and must deal with his homophobic mother. He is also tortured by his crush on Jonathon, one of the rugby players. However, everything changes when he receives the role of Puck in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. While rehearsing his lines, he stumbles upon a love potion formula. He uses it to turn everyone in the town gay and to make Jonathon fall in love with him.

The movie is punctuated with musical numbers that bring to mind more Baz Luhrmann than High School Musical. The movie definitely is a homage to Midsummer with an ethereal lightness that gives the movie a dream-like atmosphere. Tanner Cohen does an amazing job as Timothy, as does Wendie Robie who plays the English teacher who directs the play and mentors Timothy. Nathaniel David Becker plays the lustworthy Jonathon and does an excellent job singing in the movie. Gay or straight, this is definitely a worthwhile add the Netflix queue. 4 stars.

Friday, April 2, 2010

April Showers Brings the Arts

If you live in the Orlando area, you are probably aware that today kicks off the unofficial festival season. April and May in Orlando is high season for all the arts festivals, with several film and theater festivals going on throughout these 2 months. Today, Playfest starts at the Orlando Shakespeare theater, with several readings and workshops going on for ten days. Next week the Florida Film Festival starts, probably the biggest film festival in the Orlando area. The Orlando Cabaret Festival starts April 30 at one of my favorite local theaters, the Mad Cow Theatre. Finally, the largest theater festival starts May 20, the Orlando Fringe Festival. The Fringe Festival also has its annual preview show April 12. Even if I do half of what I would like to, I'll still be very busy. See you at the theater!