“An air of Hitchcockian menace and free-floating sexual perversity is by now nothing new for Francois Ozon, but rarely has this French master analyzed the cracks in his characters’ bourgeois facades to such smooth and pleasurable effect as he does in The New Girlfriend. A skillfully triangulated psychological thriller about a woman who learns that the husband of her deceased [best friend] is harboring a most unusual secret, this delectable entertainment is as surprising for its continually evolving (and involving) dynamics of desire as for its slow-building emotional power, making for a warmer, more open-ended experience than the creepy Ruth Rendell tale from which it’s been ‘loosely adapted.’ Powered by beautifully controlled performances from Anais Demoustier and Romain Duris, Ozon’s Girlfriend should have willing arthouse escorts lining up worldwide.” — from Justin Chang‘s 9.10.14 Toronto Film Festival review.
Two days ago N.Y. Post critic Lou Lumenick called for a shunning of Gone With The Wind, not because it suddenly stinks but because its “undeniably racist” attitudes are no longer tolerable in our current socio-political climate, particularly in the wake of the Charleston massacre and Gov. Nikki Haley‘s decision to remove the Confederate flag from the South Carolina statehouse, and everyone else calling for a similar banning. So it’s not as if Lou is standing against the wind here.
There’s never been any question that David O. Selznick‘s epic ignores and sugarcoats the realities of 19th Century slavery, and that its Technicolor depiction of the Old South as a fair land of cavaliers and cotton fields makes it in some ways a dark and odious fantasy piece — the anti-12 Years A Slave. Consciousness does evolve and for all its elan and polish, Gone With The Wind has become more and more of an unsavory antique in some respects. No argument there.
Lumenick notes that GWTW “isn’t as blatantly and virulently racist as D.W. Griffith’s Birth of a Nation, which was considered one of the greatest American movies as late as the early 1960s, but is now rarely screened, even in museums,” but he’s suggesting that it may one day disappear from the cultural conversation and suffer a permanent downgrade when it comes to estimating the all-time great films.
Lumenick is not wrong, but I feel misgivings. I don’t believe it’s right to throw Gone With The Wind under the bus just like that. Yes, it’s an icky and offensive film at times (Vivien Leigh‘s Scarlett O’Hara slapping Butterly McQueen‘s Prissy for being irresponsible in the handling of Melanie giving birth, the depiction of Everett Brown‘s Big Sam as a gentle, loyal and eternal defender of Scarlett when the chips are down) but every time I’ve watched GWTW I’ve always put that stuff in a box in order to focus on the real order of business.
“It’s true, the flag did not cause these murders,” President Obama said during a eulogy in Charleston today for Rev. Clementa Pinckney and the other eight victims of Dylann Roof. “We all have to acknowledge the flag has always represented more than just ancestral pride. For many, black and white, that flag was a reminder of systemic oppression and racial subjugation. We see that now. By taking down that flag, we express God’s grace.”
Last night I paid $15 and change to see Seth MacFarlane’s Ted 2. I needed to see the damn thing for the column so I didn’t mind the expenditure, but I definitely felt soiled as I drove home. All in all MacFarlane’s mind has (a) made my life feel a tiny bit uglier, (b) sprayed a stinky after-smell around the room and (c) left faint grease streaks on my soul. MacFarlane seems like a sharp and amusing guy when he’s talking to Kimmel or Fallon or Conan, but the stuff he creates (Ted flicks, A Million Ways To Die in the West and “We Saw Your Boobs” on the Oscar show) is aimed at the lowest and laziest — those tens of millions of jocky, ESPN-watching, ball-scratching, aggressively unenlightened couch gorilla loyalists. MacFarlane fans are 21st Century Archie Bunkers, guy-guys who’ve probably loved watching Family Guy since ’09 or ’10 and love to sit around and get high and squat in their little dinosaur-brained realm. And because Ted 2 is so precisely tailored to the sensibilities of these dipsticks (who are really on the level of your typical 12 or 13-year-old parentally-abused sociopath) it’s not funny. Two or three goons sitting behind me were chortling but I was sitting there like a vacuum cleaner with the power cord ripped out. Ted 2 is pure drainage.
Okay, that’s not 100% true as I quite enjoyed the opening Busby Berkeley number. I was also amused by the Raging Bull kitchen-argument parody scene that happens around…what, the 10-minute mark? But the rest is shit on a stick. Let’s get high, dude. Wait…a pretty blonde attorney representing Ted in a human-dignity case (Amanda Seyfried) gets high in her law office? Down wit dat but why does she say “eff” Scott Fitzgerald…ya gotta problem with the guy? We don’t have a lot of income but we live in Back Bay. If you want the sperm of New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady so you can artificially inseminate your wife, you can’t ask Brady for a favor — you have to sneak into his bedroom and try to jerk him off without waking him up. And speaking of greatly impressive schtufenhaufers, every Google search is two clicks away from “black cock.”
You’ve read about Ted 2‘s big scene in a Boston sperm bank –i.e., Mark Wahlberg‘s John covered in splooge after tipping over a cart filled with dozens of samples from black guys with sickle-cell anemia, and Ted cracking that “you’re covered in rejected black guys’ sperm…you’re like a Kardashian.” I was shaking my head and going “what the fuck is this?” What kind of a baggy-shorts-wearing beefalo would find this remotely funny?
This morning the social momentum in favor of gay marriage found fruition in the form of a landmark decision from the Supreme Court. The Supremes have had quite a week. A day or two ago they upheld key provisions of Obamacare, and this morning they’ve ruled 5-to-4 to legalize gay marriage in all 50 states. The liberal legacy of Barack Obama is locked and ratified. We all have something to celebrate tonight while rural rightie homophobes are, I hope, cussing and punching their refrigerator doors and dropping to their knees in despair, crying and clutching their Bibles. Marriage is no cool breeze, no picnic, no walk in the park. A good one requires loads of work and the stamina of a plow horse (especially sexually), but it sure takes you out of yourself. It’s nice to pool your resources (financial, spiritual) and to watch your significant other’s back from time to time, to have someone to share chores with and to argue with about this or that. And it’s profoundly calming to have someone to shop at Pavilions with on Sundays.