Monday, February 21, 2011

Public Speaking

"Sitting in bars and smoking cigarettes—that's the history of art." So sayeth Fran Lebowitz. If you're a longtime fan of the truly iconoclastic essayist (responding to one lecture attendee's inquiry as to how she feels about being called the modern-day Dorothy Parker, Lebowitz snaps that's she's "not big on emulating"), expecting to learn what makes her tick then “Public Speaking,” Martin Scorsese's loving profile of the early bloomer who subsequently spent a decade with "writer's blockade," is certain to disappoint. How exactly this high school dropout (well, she was kicked out) who fell in with Warhol and his crowd after fleeing Jersey for the Big Apple developed into a NYC legend in her own right is never addressed. Instead, we catch only glimpses below the surface of this whirlwind of wit as Scorsese steps out of the way and lets Lebowitz herself run the show. Which ultimately proves to be the smartest move. When a language locomotive as entertaining as Lebowitz barrels your way, it's best just to jump on then hang on for dear life.

To read the rest of my review visit Slant Magazine.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine’s Day to the Haggards

I confess. Ted Haggard is my hero. Ever since the once-fallen preacher became the victim of both the religious right that kicked him out of the New Life mega church that he built—and in an ironic Biblical twist, even his homeland of Colorado Springs—and the equally narrow-minded, left-wing "journalists" that tried to make a name for themselves by smearing the loving family man as a homo hypocrite. (I guess it takes one to know one. That ironic twist came courtesy of the same folks that otherwise insist, "It's who you love not who you screw" that makes one gay.) So I was quite pleased to read The Last Temptation of Ted in the February issue of “GQ,” in which reporter Kevin Roose probes Pastor Ted with an open and questioning mind—and has his own preconceptions about not just sexuality but life itself wonderfully upturned in the process.

An excerpt:
"Here's where I really am on this issue," he half whispers. "I think that probably, if I were 21 in this society, I would identify myself as a bisexual."

After a weekend of Ted trying to convince me of his unambiguous devotion to his wife and kids, I'm at first too surprised to say anything.

"So why not now?" I ask finally.

"Because, Kevin, I'm 54, with children, with a belief system, and I can have enforced boundaries in my life. Just like you're a heterosexual but you don't have sex with every woman that you're attracted to, so I can be who I am and exclusively have sex with my wife and be perfectly satisfied."

"But what does it have to do with being 54?"

"Life!" he says. "We live an ordinary life.”

Roose then goes on to allow: "In a way, hearing Ted talk about his self-imposed boundaries makes it easier to understand how he can seem so fulfilled with his new, cleaned-up life. These days what Ted craves is not total sexual satisfaction but exactly the things he used to have—a church, a loving wife, camping trips with his boys—and getting those things back will require amputating a part of who he is and what he might, at some point, have wanted."

In other words, Roose has made the startling discovery that Ted Haggard is…a grown up! Like every other mature adult regardless of sexual orientation, Pastor Ted has decided to "amputate"—though the more appropriate term would be "sacrifice"—some superficial youthful desires for the sake of deeper ones. Why? Because at the age of 54 screwing is just not high on his priority list any longer—a concept that both the sex-obsessed religious zealots and young and horny queer bloggers couldn't possibly fathom in their immaturity. The middle-aged preacher isn't in denial, forcing down a teenager's raging hormones, but has simply found peace and fulfillment in spending time with his kids and growing old with the woman he loves. (Yes, as hard as it may be for some to believe, snorting meth with a male escort pales in comparison.) So I salute you, Gayle and Ted! If happiness is the best revenge, then this resurrected pastor and his wife of 32 years have had the last laugh.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

“Into Eternity”: An Interview with Michael Madsen

I first encountered Michael Madsen’s “Into Eternity” at the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam this past November. What struck me most about the film – a visually and sonically stunning, existential leap into the very future of civilization via Finland’s nuclear waste storage facility Onkalo – was how little it resembled a documentary at all. Images from “Lord of the Rings” and “2001: A Space Odyssey” danced in my head as I tried to wrap my brain around the overwhelming concept of this enormous underground burial chamber that will continue to be under construction until the 22nd century, that is to be built to last for 100,000 years. Fortunately, I was able to sit down with the Danish director in the lobby of the infamous Hotel Chelsea before the flick opened at NYC’s Film Forum to discuss documentary versus fiction genres, the current cinematic climate in Denmark, and the necessity of myth in our modern-day rationalist society.

To read the interview visit Global Comment.