We have much to discuss, friends! There will be lists!
Thomas Michael Duncan wrote a really insightful and generous review of Ayitii. I really appreciated his perspective
on my book and how he “got” what I was trying to do with the collection.
I was also interviewed by Weston Cutter for the Kenyon Review blog. We talked about identity and labels and transactions and erotica and more!
And then in kind of unreal but awesome news, Ayiti was recognized as one of twelve notable small press books this year by Rigoberto Gonzalez for the National Book Critics Circle blog. I kind of fell over about this one.
Jason Diamond was also kind enough to note Ayiti as one of his favorites from 2011 at Vol. 1 Brooklyn and Jason Jordan gave my book a shout out too.
These recognitions mean a lot and I am very thankful to see my little book being welcomed so warmly.
I have a book to give away!
On December 27th, Penguin Books will be publishing the debut fantasy hit A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES by Deborah Harkness in paperback for the first time. This novel debuted at # 2 on the New York Times bestseller list and became an international phenomenon with major publications following in 34 countries. (I did not write that fancy sentence at ALL haha!) This summer, Warner Brothers acquired screen rights to A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES and its sequels. (OOOH!) More than 300,000 copies have been sold which feels like a lot. I have a copy to give away so if you’d like to read this book, which seems quite interesting, leave a comment. At the end of the week, I will randomly draw a winner using one of those Internet random drawing generators. Also, the cover is pretty. And if you win, we can talk about this book because I have a copy too.
What do you do when you make a terrible movie based on a classic franchise, and still insist on having a sequel? You kill the entire original cast in the opening sequence! OMG Y’all! They are making a sequel to GI:JOE, which is a stunning example of Hollywood’s hubris these days. They are so ride or die right now in their commitment to bullshit. This trailer, well, there’s a lot to discuss. The Rock is exceptionally shiny and just like in Fast Five, his head is triangular. It’s like he wakes up every morning and thinks, “I want to rub myself down with Crisco,” and then he does just that! He could throw me around though, real talk.
I read The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo to better prepare for the movie which I cannot wait to see. I’m pretty fascinated by this book. The translation is so terrible I want to learn Swedish fluently, read the original version, and then re-translate it. This translation, you can just tell that a good 70% of the book’s problems are the hack job of translating fro Swedish to English.
- The Kalle Blomkvist joke doesn’t translate at ALL
- Lisbeth isn’t anorexic; she looks anorexic. I wish that distinction was made more often.
- The Swedish title–Men Who Hate Women–is way better and more accurate as to what the book is about.
- Oh the rape scene is so terrible and disturbing. Like, Stieg Larsson has issues and his issues have issues.
- It’s kind of weird how Larsson is pretty explicit in writing about sexual violence, but during the consensual sex scenes, he suddenly becomes quite the prude. Dude.
- Lisbeth Salander is quite an interesting character but my goodness, the obsession with portraying her as anti-social is hilarious and poorly handled. She’s not anti-social. People don’t understand her. There’s a difference. She’s feral, and that’s way more interesting but even feral creatures want to be loved. Lisbeth wants to be loved. She wants to be loved right.
- Swedish prison seems okay. I could handle a brief stint.
- Blomkvist calls all ladies his “friends” and then he sexes them.
- He is also a terrible father. He sees Pernilla like three times in a year and doesn’t seem terribly bothered by this save for the occasional acknowledgment that he is a bad father.
- Larsson spends an inordinate amount of time telling us about what Blomkvist is eating. He went to a cafe and had lingonberry pancakes! He had a liver and cucumber sandwich! He made a stew. Yes, we get it. The man eats.
- The ending can kiss my ass. Weak. Weak as hell.
- There is no detail Larsson won’t bore you with. I feel like I know the entire history of the Swedish financial system now and I’m sad about that.
- The plot of this book is really quite interesting minus all the excessive verbiage.
- I would have liked to see more done with this idea of men hating women.
- It’s awfully convenient that Lisbeth has spent some of her free time studying the psychology of sadists? What is that about? OMG!
- The technology stuff is LOL. iBook! Modem! There is like a whole page dedicated to the specs of Lisbeth’s computer. I seriously wanted to frame that page with the caption, “This exists in a book that was not written by Tom Clancy.”
- It’s so weird how Blomkvist has this inconsistent moral code. Like, hacking is a big terrible thing but regularly nailing a married woman is no big deal?
- Books like this make such a compelling argument for the importance of editors.
- Cecilia Vanger. I mean, GIRL! What? Make up your mind. Get some therapy!
- The Vangers, on the whole, are just the worst. Racists, fanatics, liars, thieves and not in an interesting way.
- Poor Harriet.
- The production values on this show are exceptional. The castle! The village! The clothing! The cars! I cannot get over how meticulously rendered this show is.
- If I were any other television show, I would be fucking embarrassed to show my face next to Downton Abbey. It is no wonder they won all the Emmy’s.
- This show is better than Mad Men because it doesn’t have that smugness that is imbued in Mad Men where the people involved with that show know they are heads above the competition.
- Oh Edith, poor Edith. She is so pathetique. We hates Edith, yesssss. She’s very Jan Brady.
- I really like Sybil. She’s a spitfire and I can totally tell she’s going to make it with Driver who is so hot. I love his uniform. If I were dating Driver, he’d have to wear that uniform to bed.
- I’m Team Mary all the way. Mary is in such a terrible position as the eldest daughter. She has to marry properly and doesn’t even get a chance to figure out her heart or her mind. I love her witty tongue and also, I hope she and Matthew get together eventually. I peeked at Wikipedia to see what happens in Series 2 and UGH! I am holding out hope for Series 3.
- How on earth did Elizabeth McGovern get a role on this show? She’s no longer having a baby! (That is a reference to her earlier work, not the miscarriage that broke my heart.) Why is her acting so terrible? I am OBSESSED with her performance because it is so perfectly terrible. She is committed to the badness of her performance and I really respect it.
- Maggie Smith. Again, if I were a working actress right now, save for Judi Dench and Helen Mirren, I would just not even want to breathe in a world where Maggie Smith exists. She is some concept beyond perfection. Her outfits! The Dowager Countess is fierce.
- Life sucked for the nobility, in these ways that are at once easy to empathize with and infuriating.
- Life really sucked for the working class and especially sucked if they had any sort of disability.
- Oh Mr. Bates. I love him. He’s so noble and his mysterious dark past makes him sexier. And Anna! She is divine and level-headed and reliable in a crisis, like, say, dragging a dead body from one end of an enormous castle to another. Good help is a treasure.
- When the Turkish diplomat died after nailing Mary, I was like, OH HELLO! It was so unexpected and perfectly handled. He was so pretty and I loved how they said his name–Mr. Pamoook! It made me so mad, though, that Mary’s reputation could be affected by having her basic needs met. Every woman needs maintenance. There ought to be no shame in it.
- I cannot with O’Brien and Thomas. They are so petty and evil but at the same time, it’s not hard to see why they got that way. It’s pretty reasonable to seethe with resentment when you have to serve people who are born into wealth and privilege. Also, the cinnamon bun at the front of O’Brien’s head. What a bold styling choice! Whomever does that hair must really hate the actress who plays O’Brien and/or the character.
- Gay Thomas! Poor lamb. Can you imagine having to suppress your queerness in ye olden days?
- Matthew needs to man up. I’m sick of his wishy washiness. Over it entirely but he has nice eyes so I forgive him.
- The father is Bernie from Notting Hill! I think all English actors must naturally be able to play nobility. Noblesse oblige or something. It is coded into their DNA.
It feels pretty important to deconstruct the new Dior commercial starring Charlize Theron. She is really creating an oeuvre with her commercials for this perfume. The first commercial was amazing because she was just ripping her jewels off while giving WALK and FACE and that was amazing. GOLD IS COLD! DIAMONDS ARE DEAD! YES GIRL! FEEL WHAT’S REAL! How many times did she need to practice this walk? Because, for real, it’s kind of perfect and amazing.
But the new commercial. Let’s take a look:
First of all, Paris. Fabulous. Where else would Charlize be?
Then, Charlize is just a busy lady so she’s on the run. In heels. Because busy ladies run in heels.
She has improved her pronunciation of J’adore, Dior, since the first commercial and anyone who speaks French is grateful for that.
Flawless sunglasses indoors? YES!
Hand off purse, hand off glases because you are so important you do not need to manage your accessories? YES!
Air kisses? YES!
Stripping off her blazer, and naked underneath? YES!
Mad Max gold bra-shirt with tassels? YES!
Pretty ladies doing pretty lady shit? YES!
Marilyn Monroe, cooing “Dior”? WTF?
I love how Charlize whips her head around like, WTF is Marilyn doing above ground? And then Marilyn looks at the bottle of perfume like it’s got some magic in it. Girl, it’s just perfume.
Also, I love how the underlying premise of this commercial is that Charlize is so beautiful, she can run in off the street, and hit the fucking runway. BAM! YES!
Charlize walking through the crowd to get to the runway, running without a bra? YES!
But what’s particularly impressive is that she’s fucking acting her ASS off, in a commercial, no less. Professionalism. There’s some urgency from 1:06-1:10, and at 1:11, when she hits her mark and you see her flawless silhouette? Ridiculous. And then she just gives WALK. It is a clinic on walking and also, smizing. Tyra must be so jelly of this commercial. From 1:11, to the end, Charlize’s facial expression is basically, “Fuck you, I am beautiful.” Also, she’s not doing just any walk. She has a bit of that horsey stomp canter models seem to enjoy but with a little extra sass. She’s shaking the girls is what I am saying. I live for her body of work for Dior. It’s nuanced.
When Valentine’s Day was released people went to see it because some of us still harbor romantic notions once in a while. As much as I discuss romantic comedies critically, I also enjoy them. I am fine with the formula because I have the critical skills to understand that on the whole, it is bullshit and I have enough heart left to still wish upon a star.
I find it fascinating that a movie as terrible as Valentine’s Day somehow necessitated a sequel. There are even a couple crossover actors from the first movie–Hector Elizondo (Mr. Everymovie), Jessica Biel and Ashton Kutcher–but, and this is the first of many fuck ups, they play COMPLETELY DIFFERENT CHARACTERS so you’re watching and waiting for some kind of connection to the original only to realize it’s just a horrifying coincidence that these same actors are in a holiday movie. Why have the same cast members if they aren’t playing the same roles? How on god’s green earth did this happen?
After Love Actually, Hollywood needed to simply stop making holiday ensemble romantic comedies. That movie set a bar so high that most people making movies today cannot hope to reach it. That movie was sweet and a little sad and a little funny. Each story got enough screen time to make it satisfying and there were plenty of happy endings to go around.
New Year’s Eve is based on a flawed premise, the idea that New Year’s Eve holds the same common cultural romantic relevance as Valentine’s Day. It doesn’t. It’s a night to party or stay at home. It’s a night to drink. Sometimes, it is just a night. Sometimes, it is more, but when we think of NYE, most of us don’t think romance. So. This is a movie that, for so many reasons, is violently committed to sucking.
Another deep flaw of this movie is that it includes Katherine Heigl. And Ryan Seacrest, who plays Ryan Seacrest and makes a mildly amusing joke about his hair.
Rather than trying to discuss this movie chronologically, I will simply focus on each story as a discrete unit of horrible, rotten shit.
Katherine Heigl is trying to make herself happen by being the surly ingenue. Fine. I’m not mad at her. Hollywood is tough and when you’re not a great actress and you’re not a size 0, you’ve got to work an angle. It’s just that she’s so unpleasant. She isn’t charmingly surly. She’s just… entitled and surly which is boring, at best. In New Year’s Eve, she plays the owner of a catering company. Her sidekicks, because this movie is the United Colors of Benetton, are Sofia Vergara, and Russell Peters. Sofia plays up her sexy busty Latina shtick that she does in EVERYTHING, and Peters is (I think), the gay Indian guy. Their performances are so uncomfortable, you will likely spend the entire time they are on screen thinking, “THAT IS RACIST/HOMOPHOBIC/FUCKED UP!”
Heigl has the sads because her ex-boyfriend, who walked out on her after proposing, is the main act at the party she’s catering for NYE. He’s a super famous rockstar and is played by Jon Bon Jovi who is super famous Jensen. Heigl slaps him around a few times and then gives a half-assed performance where she keeps him at arm’s length even though he desperately wants her to love him again. It’s so boring. They have no chemistry at ALL. Also, Jon’s hair could use some conditioner. He doesn’t age, though, which is certainly worth discussing at some point. Anyway, they end up together. BUT, at the end, Heigl’s dress looks like, I don’t know… a metallic, unflattering tent dress that was trying to be this:
Then there is Michelle Pfeiffer. She has the sads because she has no backbone and is in a dead end job. Remember how she played that mousy office person in that one Batman movie where she died and became Catwoman? She plays that same lady in NYE! Before Catwoman! I was so excited to recognize the performance. I was sad she felt the need to take this role. She’s such a fine actress. She too does not age. In this “movie,” she works as an assistant for a music executive, played by John Lithgow, who is a real asshole for the 30 seconds he’s on screen. When he pushes her too far, she snaps and quits her job. Mousy girl found a backbone, oh my! (SHE LOOKS TERRIBLE IN THIS MOVIE AND IT IS SAD. In particular, she wears a barrette that is very distressing.) She goes outside of her office building, all, what do I do with my life now, and Zac Efron, a bike messenger, is there. He’s a good looking, loving life young man, and she asks him to help her fulfill all her sad new year’s resolutions from a year ago before midnight. If he does, she’ll give him four tickets to the party where Jon Bon Jovi is playing, the party that is supposed to be the hottest ticket in town. As if. They go on their little May-December adventure. She gets a massage and swings on a Broadway stage and walks through all the boroughs at the Brooklyn Museum and blah blah blah. It’s just dreadfully dull. It’s so dull, it’s not even fun to make fun of. Turns out her last wish is to kiss someone at midnight and even though she lets him go, he runs back to Times Square and gives her a terrible-looking kiss as she exclaims something like, “I could be your mother!” If the situation were reversed, a man would never say that. So annoying. Girl, kiss that pretty boy. Then take him back to your apartment, get properly laid, and work your hairdo out.
Meanwhile, Ashton Kutcher just hates New Year’s Eve and stomps around his apartment building tearing down other people’s decorations like an asshole, while he is in full beard and pajama pants. His inability to act staggers me continually. He is not pretty enough to merit so much work. On his way to somewhere to throw away the decorations, the elevator gets stuck and the phone doesn’t work. Guess who he is trapped with? Another annoying person! Lea Michelle! Look, she was good in Spring Awakening and I even liked her in Season 1 of Glee, but then she got notions and became a fame monster and I cannot with her anymore. She and Ashton spend their portion of the movie in an intense competition to see who can pull of the more exasperating yet pointless performance. It ends in a tie. At the start of their confinement they hate each other. Then the elevator starts working again just before they kiss because all it takes to fall in love is one crappy industrial elevator, a dirty douchebag in pajama pants, and a starlet in a red Herve Leger bandage dress. Lea is going to be a backup singer for Bon Jovi in Times Square so she runs into the night like Cinderella, only she leaves her good luck charm behind so, like the hero he is, Kutcher chases after her and they finally kiss in Times Square and she gets to sing. There was no way this girl was going to be in a movie where she did not get to sing. Fact.
At some hospital, two couples are trying to have the first baby of the new year (to win some MONEY) so we get to see their silly attempts to bring labor about. One of the couples is Seth Meyers and Jessica Biel and the other is that guy from King Arthur, the Germanic barbarian son, and Sarah Paulson (whose ex-partner, Cherry Jones, also happens to be in the movie). Jessica stands on her head and eats things and whatever. Their competition could be funny but it isn’t and then they try to manipulate some sweetness from the stupidity by having Meyers pretend their baby was born later because the other couple has like three kids and clearly need all the help they can get. It’s just… so uninspired. In every way.
Robert DeNiro is dying and nobody loves him because he’s an asshole. The doctor, Dread Pirate Roberts, asks DeNiro if he wants the hospital to call anyone but he says no because blah blah blah he deserves to die alone. All he wants is for the doctor to take him to the roof at midnight to watch the ball drop but Dread Pirate Roberts is a cockblocker and says it probably can’t happen. His nurse happens to be Halle Berry who, goddamnit, is flawless, and fucking A, I want her haircut so badly.
I found this twist funny because as we know, DeNiro sure loves his brown sugar. As Paul Mooney (I think) said, the only thing a white woman can do for DeNiro is point him in the direction of a black woman. I love him for that, DeNiro, that is. Anyway, he looks terrible and dying-ish and Berry is super sweet and sits with him as he dies. Just before midnight, she excuses herself and changes into an amazing dress and we think she’s going out, but instead, she goes into some room in the hospital, and SKYPES HER HUSBAND, Common, who is away “in the war.” This franchise’s obsession with the military is… weird. Like, yes, let’s just have Halle give her man a little something to look at. Whatevs.
Random ASS casting: Alyssa Milano, bloated, gets about 37 seconds of screen time and 1 line as a nurse. I’m really rooting for her. It can’t be this bad.
Hilary Swank is the vice president of the Times Square association and in charge of the ball dropping so of course, there are stupid complications involving the ball dropping. OMG! WILL IT GET FIXED? Who fucking cares? They seriously tried to make this the underlying tension of the movie. As a writer, this sort of trite bullshit is just offensive. Hector Elizondo is the fired crazy repair guy who is the only one who can fix the ball and he does blah blah blah. Ludacris is also hanging around. He’s a cop and is talking to Swank the whole time in this bizarrely familiar set of conversations that’s supposed to make us think they have some kind of romantic connection but they DON’T and you can tell they don’t. It’s lame. It’s weird. They basically just needed a black guy to win at Benetton Bingo. Anyway, before midnight, she realizes she can’t stay. She leaves Hector in charge and runs into the night and we think, wait, where the hell is she going?
Aside: there are some annoying voice overs and motivational speeches about NYE in the movie I won’t bore you with but basically, worst writing ever. Ever.
is in this movie and he is one of the less sucky parts because he’s so hot and he doesn’t ruin everything when he speaks. He’s got to get back to NYC after attending a friend’s wedding outside of the city. His car runs into trouble, so he catches a ride in an RV with some aw shucks small town people and tells them this story of how last year, on NYE, he met the most amazing woman, but her life was complicated so she told him to meet her, if he still was interested, at this one spot. OF COURSE. How original. But first, he has to give a speech at the big party everyone is trying to get to. Turns out, he is the president of the record company Pfeiffer worked for, and he’s a good guy if a bit of a cad. His mother is Cherry Jones. Now, you may not know this but Cherry Jones is one of this country’s FINEST working actors. She is a Tony Award winner and a thespian of the highest order. Why she is in this movie is one of those painful life mysteries that will plague me for a very long time. A bunch of hot women throw it at Josh and he bats the pussy away. Suddenly, he has to leave! Where the hell is HE going? OMG!
Zac is the younger brother of Sara Jessica Parker and you don’t want to think about that too hard because that means he was one hell of an oopsie baby. She is the mom, recently divorced, of a teenage girl who just wants to spend NYE in Times Square with the boy she wants to kiss but her mom is overprotective and wants to spend NYE at home watching Dick Clark’s Rockin’ New Year’s Eve and shit. The daughter is NOT having that so she sneaks out and then SJP is running through the city like a psycho mom trying to find her kid and she does, in Times Square where the daughter sees her dreamboat kiss some other tart and when she turns around, Mommy is there to make it all better. They go to a restaurant to talk it out. The daughter is grounded but she can go hang out with her friends. There’s this other psycho mother there, spying on every one. SJP is the costume designer or something for The Rockettes (HAHAHAHAH WOT???), so she runs to the theater and changes into this Carrie Bradshaw dress she’s been making and then she too starts running. So many people running! It’s a race!
I won’t torture you.
Swank is DeNiro’s daughter. She takes him to the roof. He sees the ball drop. They reconnect. He dies.
SJP is Duhamel’s One True Love. They find each other even though midnight has come and gone and they kiss and whatever. By now the movie has been so excruciating it’s hard to care about anything.
To recap: If you need to destroy someones soul, this would be the movie to take them to.