Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Dakota and Ariam: Both Better Than Me (and I'm Cool with That!)

Dear readers, I've been having quite a good week, doing my best to earn your patience with my infrequent postings of late. In the past week, I finally got an article accepted for publication at a good journal and, even better, I scored a dream job as an assistant professor at a college that I'm hugely excited about. I even pulled off a tenth-place finish in my brother's Fantasy NASCAR League, which I wouldn't be caught within 500 laps of if it weren't a favor to his enthusiasms. (I can't even bring myself to link to NASCAR, y'all; you can bring NicksFlickPicks to a red-state sport, but don't worry, you can't really make him drink.) Maybe I'm gonna have to ask Nathan to cast a vote on Best Dressed at the Oscars this Sunday, just to even the stakes a little.

Anyway, I was feeling good about all of the above until the IMDb reported that Dakota Fanning turns 11 today. This girl has thrown down with Sean Penn, Denzel Washington, Michelle Pfeiffer, Charlize Theron, and Robert De Niro, and she's barely in her double digits? What am I even doing with my life, you guys? The fabulous Kimberly Snyder and I were just debating yesterday when we're going to actually get around to writing those Oscar-winning screenplays we've been housing deep down in us all these years, and here goes Ms. Fanning running laps around us, stealing our checkered flag. (Holy Batmobile, an unintentional NASCAR analogy!)

Since I'm a mature adult, I'm going to avoid the urge to begrudge the pint-sized Dakota her amazing movie career. Dakota, I hope Chuck E. Cheese is a blast tonight; say hi to Sean and 'chelle for me, wouldja? Meanwhile, here's a real-life grown up person whom I actually know that is also better than me, but in a terrific way. My former student Ariam Mogos just found out this morning that she earned a prestigious internship working under goddess/producer Christine Vachon over at Killer Films. Killer's resumé of titles is stunning, and that's even before you count up those projects Vachon produced herself—you know, little nothings like Todd Haynes' Poison and Safe, Rose Troche's Go Fish, Mary Harron's I Shot Andy Warhol... Christine Vachon is like the one woman in America whom our current queer cinema simply wouldn't exist without. And now, my Ari is going to work for her! Ari is talented, adventurous, motivated, energetic, and totally fun, and she deserves every nanosecond of this internship—even if she winds up losing it because her ex-professor won't stop showing up at her desk begging to be introduced around. But I'll save those indignities for later. For right now: Ari, you're my new hero!

Friday, February 18, 2005

Off the Shelf: Forms of Being

Ever disappear from your own blog less than a month after you started it? It's been a crazy week, babies. Trains and buses. Interviews. Work. Anti-corporate campaigns. Craziness.

Also, 'tis nice to say, I've been reading a book again, and a pretty good one. Leo Bersani and Ulysse Detoit's Forms of Being is a slimmish book, at 177 big-typed and small-sized pages. And especially for an academic book, these fellas aren't dithering around: no acknowledgments, a tiny intro, three chapters with not too many footnotes. Bersani has written tougher books before, like the comparably succinct but purposely provoking Homos from '96. Forms of Being feels a little like one of those books that gets cobbled together out of three essays the authors just felt like writing, about films they really like. Even if Godard's Contempt, Almodóvar's All About My Mother, and Malick's The Thin Red Line don't seem like an obvious trio for joint review, Bersani and Detoit adroitly use each film as a platform for exploring different notions of individual life and personality than the typical we-are-all-special-snowflakes ideology of most American movies (and most American rhetoric). B & D, already challenging myths of individualism by writing a book together, essentially argue that the thwarted couple in Contempt suggest the pure potentiality in all human relationships; the women in Almodóvar embody both the actively performative and fluidly repetitive aspects of identity, including the intersections between imagined ideals and concrete circumstances; and the often barely-"personalized" men in The Thin Red Line are photographed, voiced, and edited into a kind of interdependent summary group who see the world, reflect the world, are the world, and disappear from the world, all at the same time. Sound interesting? Check it out.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Will the Real Dante Ferretti Please Stand Up? (...that is, If He's Allowed?)

Of course I'm making a mountain out of a molehill, but...

Oscar devotés everywhere should be outraged by the breaking news that producer Gilbert Cates has decided to streamline the show by presenting many of the technical and "lower profile" Oscars directly to winners, in their seats. Meaning, fewer speeches, no glory-walk to the stage for the winners in many categories, and serious displeasure for Oscar-watchers like me who actually think the ceremony should be about recognizing excellence and congratulating all kinds of filmmakers, beyond the ones who get rewarded and celebrated all the time. Obviously, "Oscar" and "excellence" only have a loose relationship, but this is the one time per year when cinematographers, art directors, editors, sound technicians, makeup artists, etc. get any exposure at all. If AMPAS isn't going to defend the notion that movies don't spring fully formed from Adam Sandler's head (or even Clint Eastwood's), who else will?

My girl Sandy Powell will likely be collecting her second cosutme-design Oscar this year for The Aviator, or else the estimable Alexandra Byrne will scoop her for Finding Neverland (even if it's one of her less creative efforts). They are costume designers, and Powell is a certified genius: check those credits. Let this chick stand up! What she's wearing is probably gonna be good, and besides, she's got more talent in one thimbled finger than Leo DiCaprio has got in his whole self. James Newton Howard, who has written yet another beautiful and mood-assisting score for a Shyamalan picture (unfortunately, the risible The Village), is nominated for Best Score, and he deserves whatever close-up is coming to him after laboring valiantly on such a crappy product (and for being Oscarless after six nominations and 108 scores in only 20 years).

Most gallingly of all, the absolutely genius designer Dante Ferretti, art director to Scorsese, Fellini, Pasolini, and Gilliam—also the man behind the design glories of Interview with the Vampire, Cold Mountain, and Titus—is finally destined to win his first Oscar after eight tries, again for The Aviator. I've been a Ferretti fan for years, and I would like to see him walk to collect his trophy, even if he's homely, even if he waddles. I want to hear what this paragon has to say, even if he just thanks his Uncle Silvio. Anybody who really cares about the Oscars should be agreeing with me. Anybody who doesn't care shouldn't be watching anyway, and it shouldn't bother them that the show is long. There's, like, 9000 other channels out there now. If Dante's keeping you down while he enjoys a peak moment of a 30-year professional career, watch something else.