Every time I run across a decent-looking YouTube clip from Shampoo, I have to post it. It just gets better and better, this thing. The understated satiric tone is such a pleasure to settle into. And it’s so rare to find a lead protagonist as screwed up as Warren Beatty‘s George Roundy — immature, scrambled mind, compulsive — who’s this vulnerable and touching. His final line is “I don’t trust anybody but you.” One of the saddest endings of a comedy ever.
And riding a Triumph with no helmet! And finding an empty lot in the Beverly Glen or Coldwater Canyon area that you can just pull into and have a heart-to-heart. Those days are so far gone it’s not funny.
Oh, to have been gay and feisty and lucky enough to have been at the Stonewall Inn in the early morning hours of June 28, 1969, which is where and when the gay rights movement began. You can’t “nice” people into abandoning oppression or prejudice. You have to tell them to stop it, and nothing says “no” like a little street action. Shoves, shouts, cuts, bruises and broken glass have a way of getting right to the point.
Instead of accepting a typical rousting by the NYPD for the crime of being themselves, the patrons at this West Village bar at 53 Christopher Street hit back. They fought, jeered, threw beer bottles, broke windows, and persuaded the arresting officers to take refuge in the bar out of concern for their own safety. A few more nights of disturbances followed, and it was clear to those on either side that things would never be the same. A year later the first Gay Pride parade happened, and the long drip-by-drip process of de-prejudicing straight American began.
Homophobia obviously lives some 40 years later. In early May an Obama adminstration spokesperson referred to rumblings about Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan possibly being gay as a “charge.” But it’s a different country now than it was back then, significantly, and it’s a real emotional pleasure to savor the spirit of awakening and revolt that the Stonewall riots signified, if only to grasp the changes that have happened and the upheavals that were required.
This is what Kate Davis and David Heilbroner‘s Stonewall Uprising — a doc based on David Carter‘s “Stonewall: The Riots That Sparked the Gay Revolution” — does for the average viewer, gay or straight. It takes you back to the bad old days and shows what it was like to be gay in the ’50s and ’60s (“There was no out — there was only in,” as one veteran recalls) and allows for a sharing in that flashpoint Stonewall moment.
(l.) Stonewall Uprising co-director Kate Davis, (r.) director John Cameron Mitchell (Shortbus, Hedwig and the Angry Inch) during Stonewall Inn after-party following last Wednesday’s premiere screening at Film Forum.
David Heilbroner, Davis, Mitchell.
The chief accomplishment of Stonewall Uprising is the concise delivery — the discipline and tight editing and impassioned, first-person recollections that provide a blow-by-blow, hour-by-hour history of how that night unfolded. I was in the grip of it from the beginning. I got a kind of contact high from it, in a way. I recommend the film to anyone with the slightest interest in the ’60s rebelllion dynamic, or who simply wants to learn a few things about the Stonewall convulsions without buying Carter’s book.
I remember talking to an older actor in the late ’80s who wasn’t exactly enlightened in his view of homosexuality, but he once confessed that he respected — feared — the anger of gay people. “Those guys are brutal,” he said. “You don’t ever want to mess with the fags…whew. They’re like hornets.” I don’t think too many older homophobes had that trepidation before Stonewall.
It’s fascinating to consider how homosexuality was generally seen in the mid to late ’60s. It really was the Pleistocene era. Consider this 2.12.65 article in Time magazine called “Psychiatry: Homosexuality Can Be Cured,” and this May 1967 article in Harper’s magazine, “A Way Out for Homosexuals,” by a “curing” proponent named Dr. Samuel B. Hadden. Or The Detective, the 1968 Manhattan melodrama in which Frank Sinatra‘s character, portrayed as relatively decent and humane in his attitude toward gays, says at one point that “these people are sick.”
I’m having a late breakfast at a cafe near my place, and there’s this jabbering Hispanic guy sitting two tables away who’s louder than hell. To be heard by his tablemate he’d need to talk at a level 4 or 5 (which is how I do it — I talk to someone like I’m having a conversation, not like I’m giving a speech in an outdoor arena without a microphone). This guy is talking at a level 8 or 9.
A couple of Latino guys sitting at the counter are doing the same thing, bellowing from the diaphragm so everyone in the cafe can hear what they’re saying. Except they have to talk even louder because they have to be heard over the first loud guy.
There’s no way around it — New York Hispanics can sometimes be socially unsubtle people, and they don’t seem to care if people like me are bothered by their patter. It never even occurs. We all act thoughtlessly from time to time, but the mark of a real animal is someone who never considers that he/she might be giving offense.
Is this primarily a New York-area thing? Or something that only low-rent Latinos do? I’ve been all around Spain and I’ve rarely noticed this level of conversational obnoxiousness in cafes. Nor did I notice this element when I visited Buenos Aires a few years ago. The Latin men and women I’ve observed in other countries can be spirited and exuberant, of course, but they mostly seem to converse at moderate levels. People with money and/or accomplishment under their belts are always more soft-spoken. You can bet that if you were to go to a cafe with Paul Shenar‘s Alejandro Sosa, the Bolivian drug dealer in Scarface, that he wouldn’t be carrying on like these three nearby donkeys. Does Edward James Olmos bellow in cafes and cause guys like me to complain about him? I seriously doubt it.
I finally saw Toy Story 3 last night — 10:40 pm show, 3D, small plex on Second Ave. and 12th Street. And I get it all. The people doing cartwheels over this thing are responding to the usual quality Pixar stuff — a deft application of charm, wit, soul and panache. The key ingredients are cleverness plus heart, relatable emotionalism, polished story-telling skills and a script (primarily written by Little Miss Sunshine‘s Michael Arndt) that fits together like a fine Swiss watch.
Plus…what else? Thematic resonance, dazzling digital painting, top-of-the-line craft in all departments and the usual double-track appeal to adults-plus-kids.
It’s an exceptional, grade-A entertainment — a family ride that tickles and massages and sinks in and never slacks off. It’s the most emotionally touching film of the year thus far, and one of the most smartly constructed. It’s going to make gazillions, and it’ll probably win the Best Animated Feature Oscar next February.
But very few have identified another obvious characteristic, which is that while Toy Story 3 is nutritious, it’s also a heaping plate of comfort food. As much as it invests in the idea that we all need to be loved and needed, and that loyalty to family and old friends is essential to a fully-felt life, it never stops shovelling corporate-created brands and associations that we all knew and felt relaxed with as kids (or as young parents). This is what makes the film feel “good” and “reassuring” — I get that. We know and relate to the world it’s recreating and is playing with so cleverly. But I began to feel as if the story was taking place in some emotionally-finessed corporate gulag.
Armond White has taken a lot of heat for being one of two or three critics to pan Toy Story 3, and I know he can be a reflexive sorehead and a contrarian, but he’s not entirely incorrect in saying that the film “is so besotted with brand names and product-placement that it stops being about the innocent pleasures of imagination — the usefulness of toys — and strictly celebrates consumerism.”
That said, I loved Big Baby’s macabre vibe (a little bit of Attack of the 50-Foot Woman) with that one half-closed eye, and Mr. Potato Head’s trying to make do with a soft tortilla instead of a plastic potato for a body — this was the one bit (a kind of Salvador Dali nod) that I laughed out loud at. Ned Beatty‘s voicing of Lotso, the emotionally resentful camp commandant, was perhaps the best of the lot. And a malfunction turning Buzz Lightyear into a passionate Latin lover — that was a funny (if thematically meaningless) bit.
I got the trash-furnace holocaust allusion, of course, but…whatever. It didn’t fit into the theme or the milieu so I was like “okay, I see that, yeah” but that’s all.
I have to say that I didn’t quite believe the transformation of 17 year-old Andy (voiced by John Morris) from his first-act identity — a kid who’s into the excitement of college and adventure and hormones and (presumably) girls and who’s mindful of what his toys used to mean to him (especially Woody) but isn’t all that concerned with their fate apart from an instinct to stash them in the attic — and his third-act identity as a tender and loving toy-parent who wants to be extra-sure that the little girl he’s giving them to will be extra caring and considerate.
It’s very gratifying to see Andy be that guy at the end, but I didn’t buy it. At best, some 17 year-old boys might be into saving one or two of their favorite toys but — let’s face it — most toys get the heave-ho (and I don’t mean into a daycare donation box) and most high-school or college-age kids don’t look back. Life is cruel in that respect, which again is why everyone is embracing Toy Story 3 — it’s selling a dream about love and caring and loyalty that we’d like to see embedded in our own day-to-day.
I believe in hanging onto toys myself. My kids’ toys, I mean. I still have a Boris Karloff Frankenstein model and a Lon Chaney Wolfman model also — both purchased at a Universal toy store in ’97 or ’98. I also have a large black Alien queen left over from the early ’90s. I wish that Dylan’s best friend, a monkey named Babiki, was still around. I know that Jett still has a hand-made Joey Ramone doll that I bought him about ten years ago.