In Support of Beards

April 3, 2012 § 5 Comments

No, not the fake girlfriends gay men have to keep their sexuality secret (I just accidentally typed “sexcret.” This should be a new word.) I’m talking about the hair that grows on your face, if “you” are a man with the consistent ability to grow face hair.

This is not a beard:

If the mustache, soul patch, and chin-strap bit don’t connect, it’s not a beard. It’s unfortunate furry patches that are obscuring your face.

And I gotta say, I hate the term “soul patch.” I also hate actual soul patches. It’s like having toothbrush bristles sprouting from your chin cleft.

Anyway, my last post (from a long-ass time ago…sorry about that) focused on pretty men who hide their pretty with heinous facial hair and my annoyance/outrage at said hiding. After writing the post, however, I thought that it perhaps gave the impression that I don’t like facial hair. This is untrue; I simply don’t like ugly facial hair.

A recent conversation with some girlfriends started out focusing on what type of men we each like, which soon morphed into debate over beards, with the question being yay or nay (or yay with a caveat <= that last one’s me). Friend #1 likes outdoorsy men that tend to have bushy-ish beards, wear flannel, drive beat-up pickups, and work for environmental causes. Friend #2 likes clean-shaven men that have their shit together. I tend to go for artsy types with close-cropped beards, and I like beards that are kept in check and regularly trimmed.

In fact, in many cases, a good beard makes me more likely to be attracted to someone.

I think a big part of that is that facial hair is a fashion statement, and the way you trim it, or fail to trim it, works to communicate what identity you want the world to recognize in you. So a guy with a close cropped beard that I’d be checking out is communicating, “I’m an arty hipster-type who probably likes Neutral Milk Hotel and whiskey, and who has more than four pairs of shoes and an apartment with a lot of books.”

When I tried to think of examples of this type of beardy man, the first name that came to mind was Matt Berninger, the singer for The National. He’s the frontman for one of my favorite bands; he has a gorgeous, gravelly baritone (I like Justin Timberlake as much as the next person, but why does every current male singer have to be a tenor?); and when I saw him perform, he was drinking from a tumbler that he periodically replenished with a bottle of white wine (I really like it when performers drink onstage; I don’t know why, especially since, as I singer, I wouldn’t want to drink anything other than water or maybe tea during a performance; maybe I just like that they’re less tight-ass than I am).

Also, Matt Berninger’s face looks like this:

Sign. Me. Up. I’m also a fan of this picture of him holding his daughter:

It's a child! What do I do with it?! HELP. ME.

I love the look of sadness combined with sheer panic.

Okay, so the daughter here (and the wife I also know he has) means this one’s off the market.

Well, there’s always George Clooney, a perpetual bachelor. Though the man has skin so flawless that he doesn’t have to wear makeup on camera (What kind of devilry is this?! )he also can pull off a nicely trimmed beard.

Oh, I'm sorry, does this beard make me look even more handome and distinguished?

While the above photo from the 2012 BAFTAs is obviously lovely, I’m particularly partial to the below shot, which is more candid and taken while The Cloonester, his father, and some former senators led a protest in Washington D.C. to draw attention to the ongoing violence in Sudan, calling on alleged war criminal Omar-Al Bashir to stop said violence and allow humanitarian aid workers into the country.

Your humanitarian aid workers can enter my country any time. I mean, what? Wow...that was in incredibly bad taste.

Jon Hamm also looks damn handsome with a beard, but I’m starting to think Jon Hamm would look damn handsome with squirrels stapled to his face and a traffic pylon as a hat.

The man is brilliant comic actor as well as a dramatic actor, and he looks like that. Let’s pray to God he can’t sing…

I wonder if Jon Hamm and John Slattery hang around the Mad Men set talking about how they could have a sexy beard competition if it weren't for the show they're in the middle of taping.

Depending on the man, I can sometimes get behind the “bald head but with a beard” look. Black guys have a better chance of pulling this off; in second place, hipster-y white dudes.

My personal favorite example is Common. Holy hell.

THAT MAN. HIS FACE. HOW IS HE THAT BEAUTIFUL?!

I’m also often greatly in favor of the scruffy look, in which a man doesn’t go full grizzly but rather seems to have lost his razor for the past few days.

Mr. Miley Cyrus (ick), a.k.a. Gale Hawthorne (okay fine, his actual name is Liam Hemsworth) is greatly benefited by this look. 

As a side note, I think this is the prettiest and the classiest Miley Cyrus has ever looked. At least she takes the Oscars seriously.

Hemsworth is very pretty (I prefer him with his Hunger Games dark hair rather than the blondish he’s usually got going on), but there’s something about his prettiness that is too smooth, that makes him look manufactured, a la Chace Crawford, although significantly less so (and even Chace’s alien “good” looks aren’t enough to keep his character from becoming totally superflous on Gossip Girl). Some stubble makes Hemsworth’s face look less like it sculpted from plastic by some overworked peasants in China. He looks so good here; keep it up, Gale.

Of course, some men with faces so pretty they seem unreal should definitely not have scruff.

Matt Bomer is unnaturally handsome. My dad started watching White Collar when it first came on (great fluff show — lots of fun), and the first few times I saw it, and thus Matt Bomer, I kept saying, “Why is the Rolex model talking?”

Matt Bomer’s face can handle only the bare minimum of scruff. I think even this might be too much.

John Cho is another example of someone who should always go sans stubble.

I've chosen this photo from People's Sexiest Man issue because well, hello, he certainly is, and also because I think the photo inset at right of him as a kid is super adorable. I had those same bangs until I was 12. True story.

Some, though, really do look good in scruff.

Jake Gyllenhaal

ON THEIR FACES.

Penn "I dressed like this on purpose" Badgley

Pardon me while I go throw up.

Okay, so I have become much more amenable to chest hair as of late. When I was a teenager, I didn’t like it. I think was largely due to the fact that I was raised with the shiny chests of young Hollywood males, specifically Hayden Christensen. (I was obsessed with him after the second Star Wars prequel. I know; it horrifies me too. Some of my early crushes, like Ewan McGregor at age 10, also due to Star Wars, I still think were spot on. Others, like Hayden, not so much…)

At age 13 or whatever, my girlfriends and I were a big fan of the scene in Attack of the Clones when Anakin wakes up from a nightmare (shirtless!! teehee!!).

My mother found my attraction to guys with shiny, shaved chests appalling. Choice quotation from our discussions of this issue: “I don’t like bald-chested men!”

Since Hayden briefly pulled me to the dark side, however, I’ve come to prefer chests in their natural state, hair and all. Or rather, I’ve come to find chest hair itself attractive. Assuming his torso doesn’t look like a shag carpet.

Now, when a guy’s chest is all smooth and shiny, my thoughts tend to run as follows:

1) What are you, twelve?

2) You probably had to get that waxed. You chose to get your chest waxed and then went through all the trouble to do it. Yeah…we’re not gonna work out.

That said, I’m not a fan of the deep-v trend and all the man-cleavage, especially when it comes with bonus chest hair. I mean, is this joke:

And we get a mini snapshot of Jessica Szohr trying to tame her ratty extensions. These two were a hirsute hurricane as a couple.

So to sum up the post thus far: beards, yes, depending on the man. Scruff, almost always yes. Chest hair, yes; hairy man cleavage, no.

One final tip on how to pull of the “I’m a scruffy rake” look. Just look to Bradley Cooper. He knows his look is working…

SO FLUFFY! Until recently, Cooper had two rescue dogs that he'd named Samson and Charlotte (good names, I approve), but recently Samson died. Luckily, Bradley and Charlotte can have each other when they need consoling.

…but even a face like his can use a little help. Let’s take that scruffy man and add a scruffy dog. Perfect.

What’s Wrong with Handsome?!

March 9, 2012 § 2 Comments

So I have this friend. He’s very pretty. Like, his skin was made by elves and his hair spun out of rose-gold by fairies.

No, not that kind of fairy.

Moi???

Except…well, okay, that works too.

My point is that this friend has been genetically blessed when it comes to his physical appearance. He has those ice blue eyes that are so piercing they kind of scare you, and his strawberry blonde (though more strawberry than blonde) hair is so silky and perfect that I’ve talked with a number of friends about it, and we have all admitted to sometimes getting distracted just staring at his hair, seeing the light glance off it, watching him run his hands through it — see, I’ve wandered off into a daydream just thinking about his hair.

And this isn’t just a “break me off a piece of that” kind of situation. A straight guy recently made an envious comment regarding this hair, which was basically like, “How is that possible? Come on!

And yet recently, my pretty friend has been letting his hair grow too long. Whereas he once had that slightly shaggy “I’m an artist!” haircut, he let the bangs grow until he had to sweep them awkwardly to the side in The Zac Efron:

I know, Zac Efron, squeal!, or whatever, but seriously people, this is not how you want your hair to look.

I'm actually frightened by how much my friend's hair looks like this. This may be a picture of him wearing a Zac Efron mask.

At times, loathe though I am to speak of them, his hair even approached The Justin Bieber:

Even The Biebs has since realized the error of his hairstyling ways, and I don’t think “Justin Bieber!” when I think “someone who makes great fashion choices.”

I’m sure you can imagine, given the mental picture I’ve painted for you, why I recently commented (nicely! casually!) to said friend that his hair was getting really long and asked if he was planning on cutting it (he’s the kind of person I can see going off into the woods on a “spiritual quest” for the weekend and then turning up three months later, not realizing how much time has gone by and surprised people have been worried about him, so I wouldn’t have been surprised if he’d just forgot to cut his hair).

But, horror of horrors — he told me he was growing his hair out! To waist-length! On purpose!!! And that he was always going to wear it down because he doesn’t like when men wear ponytails!

I remember that I excused myself from the room to go vomit, but I must have actually stayed, since he then revealed to me that he’s had long hair before and that, in fact, he used to have dreadlocks! He took his straight, shiny, magicked-into-existence-by–woodland-fairies hair and made it into a dirty mass of wtf are you doing, white boy? 

At one point when he had dreadlocks, he also had a bushy beard, and when he saw his mother for the first time with these new style choices, she took one look at him and burst into tears. True story. (Also, he said that he no longer grows beards because the beard splits in the middle of his chin and gathers into two points. May I quote Joey Tribbiani when I say, “That goatee makes you look like Satan.”)

Now, my friend has no reason to give a flying #&$% what I think of his hairstyle, me or anyone else — although we are the ones who have to look at him all the time — but his desire to go from “Hellooooo there” to “I think that guy is going to try to steal my purse!” got me thinking: what is it that makes really handsome guys work to uglify all their natural pretty?

It’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately since it’s been awards season, and despite the fact that the Oscars are better than Lunesta at combating insomnia, I somehow watched all of it. And all of the Golden Globes. And I think I watched part of the Emmys? Although I avoided the Grammys like the plague because I hate that shit — also, I want Chris Brown to crawl under a rock and die.

The point is, I watch these shows partly out of masochism (who doesn’t love watching mediocre art beating out good art for the title of “year’s best”!) and partly out of my love for fashion. I watch for the dresses, and the hairstyles, and the jewelry, and the shoes, and oh yeah, the suits and other men-type-things.

Unless you’re Ryan Gosling in that olive green suit from the Ides of March premier, or Darren Criss in that cranberry slim-cut, or any other sexy man in a suit that I want to pour into my glass and drink, mostly men at the Oscars (etc.) succeed through understatement, i.e. by simply not doing anything wrong.

The other night I ordered an olive in my martini, but he did not come with it.

Ditto every Cosmo or vodka cranberry I've ever had.

If you’re a man at the Oscars (etc.) and I don’t remember what you were wearing the next day, that’s probably a good sign — not an incredible sign, you didn’t wow me, but still, high five for you — a sign that you wore a black tuxedo that fit you well enough, rather than putting on something too crazy.

Since menswear excellence is often based around less-is-more (or around Tom Ford — everything that man makes is stunning), it’s other parts of male stars’ appearance that stand out to me. Lately, it’s their panic to cover up handsome.

And why? What, pray tell, is wrong with handsome? I’m a huge fan of handsome! Why are you taking the handsome away from me?!

If the media is going to push unrealistic beauty expectations on us at every waking moment, I might as well have some pretty men to show for it!

The Oscar Man Fug that had one of my best friends texting me in horror occurred on the face of one of my all-time favorite pretty, pretty men: Bradley Cooper.

Baby, WHY?! Let’s hope and pray this was for a movie. And we know it’s not actually for the role of Satan because that 3-D Paradise Lost flick got cancelled, thanks be to all that is good and holy.

Others, however, can’t so easily hide behind the “It’s for a role!” defense. Take, for example, Ashton Kutcher, who’s role on Three and a Half Men recently led to his being forced to fix his horrifying face. And by that I mean cut his hair and evict the rodents living on his chin.

Hey there! Sorry about destroying your ability to see! #lolz #megadouche

Now, while Ashton Kutcher is majorly not my type (and by that I mean that he is astonishingly accomplished in the art of douchebaggery), he does actually have a pretty face. You know, when he allows it to go outside.

I'm actually surprisingly cute, right?

That look is okay. The guess-how-long-it’s-been-since-I-showered! look? Not so much…

No high-fives for you. Go get the electric razor.

Christian Bale is another one that I’ve been having trouble with for a while. Look, I know that he’s a very good-looking man. I’ve seen Batman Begins. I’ve seen The Dark Knight. I’ve seen 3:10 to Yuma, and The Prestige, and Public Enemies. I even saw Terminator: Salvation, though I can’t imagine why. I’ve seen Newsies. I’ve even seen Pocahontas, and in Pocahontas he’s sexy as a cartoon!! And yet, when I see him at any public event lately, I can only think, “What did I see in this guy, again?”

Seriously, what did I see in him? Oh right, that’s what:

Mmm.

The movie-star-on-his-off-time-skipping-a-shave-or-two is a pretty common occurrence in tabloid photos/in actors’ actual lives, and that makes total sense to me: if it’s your job to look perfect every moment, I can see why you’d trash the razor and eat entire pizzas given the chance. However, I think this should stop at a point.

Yes, sometimes when I’m working on a paper (graduate school = now I’m a perma-student), I don’t leave my house for four days and I don’t shower or put on makeup or wear anything aside from pajamas or sweatpants, and my bangs are all twisted on top of my head and I get that twitch in my eye…but the point is that after I finish the paper (or happen to look in a mirror), I take a shower and put on some real clothes. Also, though I do frequently grocery shop after I go to the gym and thus venture into public with no makeup, a red face, and sweaty, sweaty hair, I usually don’t want to punish strangers for having to look at me.

And I think, given these recent photos, that Shia LaBeouf has reached the “punishing strangers who have eyes” stage.

via The Daily Mail

If I hadn’t been prompted by the headline to know that this was Shia LaBeouf and you’d asked me who this was a picture of, I’d have replied, “Some homeless guy,” or “A hipster.”

Shia’s not in the upper echelons of “Bring the smelling salts! She’s fainted!” handsome, but he is definitely not bad-looking, and he has this strangely sexy vibe that I’ve never been able to pin down. And if you can look like that bum/painter above or like this:

…guess which look I think you should pick.

Plus, my best friend K has run into him in Burbank and apparently he’s super chill and a great sport, and he dated Carey Mulligan for several years whom, if you read the site regularly you’ll know I totally adore, so I’ll continue like Shia — or as we’ll soon be calling him Shi-Yeti.

But while Shia LaBeouf is a young guy who seems like a bit of a wild card, some of the other “Keep the handsome away from me!! The power of fame compels you!!!” menfolk are less young and far more handsome.

Brad Pitt is potentially the worst offender of all, in that he been hiding his handsome behind bad haircuts and bad facial hair for years, and also because he has the most handsome to hide.

So close, and yet...

I despise his hair. Despite the fact that he probably has a stylist following him around his house adjusting his hair/clothes, Pitt’s long hair always manages to look like it hasn’t been washed in a few days.

And don’t tell Angie (or the tabloids), but I’d suggest that in the above picture (his official 2012 Oscars nominee portrait), he looks like he’s channeling ex Jennifer Aniston during her early Friends years. 

Short in the front, long in the back for no reason? Yep, it’s The Rachel, only without the proper styling — Brad forgot to add the mouse and blow-dry the top with a large round brush! Shame on you, Brad…

Also, that goatee has got to go. My favorite photo from the 2012 Oscars red carpet is the following one, because Brad’s facial expression is admitting what Brad himself refuses to admit: that facial hair is heinous.

"Please! Get it off me!" - Brad's face

We know you’re not 25 anymore, Brad, and that’s okay! We know you won’t look like you did in Thelma and Louise,  but you can still look like this:

Or like this:

Don’t let Angelina’s perma-perfect alien-skin get you feeling down about your wrinkles — you’re an earthborn human so you’re going to age, while she doesn’t seem to have that problem.

You’re still handsomer than 99.99999985% of men. Who have ever lived.

Brad, we love you, not as much as we love The Clooney, true, but we love you. So please, bring back the short hair and the clean shave, or even just the short hair!

But whatever you do, don’t go back to this:

I stand corrected. THAT goatee makes you look like Satan.

A Book is Just a Movie Waiting to Happen

December 18, 2011 § 1 Comment

I am inextricably invested in an outdated form of written art called “the book.” These “books” are made up of many pieces of paper glued or sewn together on one side such that they can be read in a fixed order. (“Paper,” for those members of the digital generations who would never have seen a book outside of a museum, is a thin, flat material made from wood pulp, i.e. ground up trees, that is designed to be written on with “ink,” a dark pigmented liquid that leaves a permanent mark.)

Ancient artifact called a "book."

I recognize that “book” has become a fairly abstract term used to describe various digital, written documents, but I can assure you that historically, books were physical objects used to house the written words of novels, poems, non-fiction, etc. etc., which is why  “novel,” a specific type of written fiction, has become nearly synonymous with “book.”

The written word existed in non-digital form centuries before the invention of the computer, or even the invention of film!

It turns out, therefore, that books and movies are different art forms with their own means of expression and experimentation! I thought books were just proposals for movies! A novel is more than a movie waiting to happen? Hollywood certainly doesn’t think so.

Many (if not most) films take their source material from books (usually novels but also nonfiction or collections of short stories — poems not so much, although heeey For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf! But even that was a play basically made up of poems…).

Everything from Drive to Die Hard was based on a book.

I understand that filmmakers need to take stories from novels so that they aren’t continually making Dukes of Hazard, Part 15 and its ilk, but there’s a difference between a book focusing primarily on plot and a book using myriad literary devices to make artistic statements beyond what literally happens.

Some filmmakers understand the differences between these art forms and use cinematic techniques to make interesting aesthetic and thematic points that are inspired by a book but not an attempt to filmically transcribe it. For Little Children, Tom Perotta altered his own novel for the screen, dramatically changing his original ending, exchanging it for one that plays out better cinematically. (Or maybe he made a political choice and decided that the protagonists’ casually enjoying a cigarette with a child molester in the final scene was simply too much for audiences to handle after all the other disturbing things in the movie.)

Usually, however, when Hollywood filmmakers attempt to turn a literary book — a book in which narrative perspective, visual/textual format, choices of syntax and diction, etc. are highly important — into a film, they approach the plot as the entire content of the book and think they can accurately translate a novel to film by simply having the same things happen to the same characters.

This winter, a movie version of Jonathan Safran Foer’s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close hits theaters. It stars a cute, precocious child alongside Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock. When I heard that Hanks and Bullock were attached to this project, I thought, “There are no main roles for people their age. The main characters are a child and three elderly people. How is Hollywood going to fit these big stars into a story that only has space for them on the sidelines?” I was immediately afraid that attaching star talent would distort the focus of the narrative, but my worry about such possible distortion is really a tiny issue within a larger cornucopia of NO — this book should not be made into a movie, and for many, many reasons.

This just makes me want to cry. Thanks, Hollywood; let's destroy beauty any time we have the chance.

How will a film represent important perspectival shifts in the narrative that are effected by the three separate narrators? How will the film represent Foer’s visually experimental use of text and image? His mixture of poetry and prose? Could a mainstream Hollywood movie even begin to do this literary masterpiece justice?

I, of course, have not seen the film, but I cannot believe that the answer is anything other than “Hell to the f#%$ no!!”

In the spirit of my outrage, here is a list of seven other upcoming films based on literary texts that seem like exploding car-wrecks of Oh gods, don’t do it! Spoiler: not all of them are terrible ideas! Another spoiler: most of them are.

1. The Beat work of the year is On the Road because they already did Howl. With James F’ing Franco. The 2012 take on Jack Kerouac’s twentieth-century classic will undoubtedly be of high quality, since it features the A-list cast of the guy with the sad goatee from the Country Strong trailer (and presumably also the movie, but I definitely did not see that and do not intend to — also, the new TRON apparently?),

This would be the saddest goatee I'd ever seen if it weren't for an awkward Asian guy I knew in high school.

someone I have never heard of from movies I have never heard of, and the cardboard cutout that stars in Twilight.

Calling her "cardboard" gives cardboard a bad name.

2. Since remaking Shakespeare with $#@%@&$ garden gnomes wasn’t enough, we’re facing another Romeo and Juliet, starring the talented Hailee Steinfeld from last year’s (very good) remake of True Grit, opposite a young British actor/model named Douglas Booth, who apparently acted in Pillars of the Earth and modeled for Burberry alongside Emma Watson.

He's pretty in a very Chace Crawford kind of way. So, not attractive to me at all, actually. But seriously, are we sure this isn't a picture of Chace Crawford from Gossip Girl?

Of course, in this one he looks like Justin Bieber. Double "no" on that one, then. Ew ew ew.

But speaking of Gossip Girl, Ed Westwick has been cast as Tybalt, which could turn out to be genius, since he is deliciously evil as Chuck Bass.

"I am going to devour your soul with my eyes and then drink a delicious Scotch."

But really, even if this film is pretty good, it’s just unnecessary. We’ve already got the classic Zefirelli film, as well as Baz Luhrmann’s modernday gang saga Romeo + Juliet, and if that’s not enough for you, there’s bound to be a production of the play happening at a local theater company and/or the local high school at any given time.

3. A film version of Paradise Lost is slated to come out in 2012, starring Bradley Cooper as Satan. I heard “film version of Paradise Lost” and began to bang my head against the nearest available surface, so it took me a while to learn that Bradley Cooper is going to play Lucifer. Paradise Lost is Milton’s great legacy for many reasons, one of which is the character of Satan, who is not only the poem’s (btdubs, this is a poem, y’all) most compelling character, but who is often identified as the hero. The idea of Cooper as Satan actually excites me — he has the perfect smooth-talking sex appeal combined with a dark glint in his eye. To reuse my earlier phrase, I think he could be deliciously evil in this role. However, I don’t think this role should exist.

This is the sole teaser image that Legendary Pictures has released so far. So the Devil's not going to be rakishly handsome?

Paradise Lost could be an incredible stage play — and at some point in history, I’m sure it has been — but I just don’t see it working as a film, unless perhaps it is shot in a strange, experimental, independent aesthetic. Since the director‘s best-known movies to date are I, Robot and the 2009 Nic Cage vehicle Knowing, I seriously doubt that will happen.

Others attached to this project include I-think-she-used-to-date-a-Jonas-brother-or-something Camilla Bell, I-used-to-be-in-Oceans’ 11-but-now-I’m-just-in-a-parody-of-Oceans’ 11 Casey Affleck, Spencer’s working-class (horrors!) boyfriend from Pretty Little Liars, and Rufus Sewell??

Rufus Sewell is not taking the news of his involvement well.

I adore Rufus Sewell and think that he is a really top notch actor, from A Knight’s Tale to The Holiday to more artistic and serious movies like The Illusionist, so I wonder about his involvement with this project. Maybe it will be more legitimate than I anticipate? A seventeenth-century epic poem doesn’t exactly seem like a blockbuster waiting to happen, so maybe the director is taking it seriously. Oh wait, the film’s going to be in 3-D. Never mind.

4. Baz Luhrmann’s upcoming adaptation of The Great Gatsby could be truly incredible, and I’m hoping it will be. Like Tim Burton, Luhrmann is a love-him-or-hate-him kind of director, with a very apparent and consistent aesthetic, but I’m definitely on the “love him” side of things. His Romeo + Juliet is phenomenal, even though Leonardo DiCaprio may chew the scenery a bit (the scene after Mercutio’s death when he’s driving the car? Really??), and I think Moulin Rouge is a goddamn masterpiece, so haters can shut it.

IIIII will love this movieeeee, until my dyyyyiiiiiing daaaaaay!

Anyway, this latest film take on Fitzgerald’s classic novel will reunite Luhrmann and DiCaprio, with the latter playing the titular hero, and will feature Toby Maguire as Nick (the novel’s narrator — that could work, I suppose), Joel Edgerton as Tom (Edgerton has the perfect rough edge to play the suave but violent Mr. Buchanan), and Carey Mulligan as Daisy, the girl who motivates Gatsby’s every choice from the moment he meets her.

And she glowed with the light of a thousand angels...

I completely adore Carey Mulligan and cannot communicate strongly enough how glorious I think this casting is. Beautiful in a unique and interesting way, Mulligan will be able to portray Daisy’s enigmatic and elusive attractiveness much better than someone more conventionally pretty, like talking mannequin Blake Lively. And more importantly, Mulligan has the hard-core acting chops to make Daisy both inescapably enticing and repulsive as a human being.

Admit it, you want to hug her, too. Also, is it just me, or is Leonardo DiCaprio getting younger?

The above is an actual still from the film that has been released to Entertainment Weekly, so click on over to EW’s website to see a larger version of it, as well another photo that shows Nick and Gatsby alongside the woman (Mulligan) who makes their worlds go ’round.

Baz Lurhmann’s trademark colorful, visually-packed, explosive aesthetic is the perfect one to take on the rich (both aesthetically and economically) world of Gatsby and the Buchanans, so I look forward to this film as one that potentially does the book justice while approaching it on the terms of an entirely different artistic genre. I defer to you, Mr. Luhrmann.

5. The Bell Jar starring Julia Stiles. You must be joking.

I love 10 Things I Hate About You, of course, like anyone who grew up in the 90s; as a literary nerd, I appreciate its erudite jokes and copious Shakespeare references. I even thought that Miss Stiles was good on Dexter and that role made me think of her as a real actress rather than someone who used to be weirdly popular but stopped making movies after about 2004 — a bit like the male version of Freddie Prinze Jr, though I never thought she was that bad.

But her hair WAS that bad...

Yes, Julia, I don’t have anything against you, per se, but I will if you do this movie!! Sylvia Plath’s mournful, psychological novel telling the story of a mental illness so similar to her own is devastating and beautiful. You were in The Prince and Me. It had a tractor race. Sylvia Plath stuck her head in an oven; she went through enough in her life without this monstrosity degrading her legacy.

Save the Last Shreds of Dignity?

6. James “Mega-Douche” Franco has decided that he’s a director now.

The "mega-douche" is also known as a "gross douche" -- 144 times more douchey than a regular douche.

Franco has announced he is in talks to direct film versions of Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian and William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying. Understandably, this announcement prompts the urge to kill myself,

Hello, sweet death...

but I will stave off these instincts, for you, my dear readers. So: though a number of McCarthy’s books have been made into successful films — including All the Pretty Horses, No Country for Old Men, and, to a lesser extent, The Road — his violent and devastating 1985 novel presents a serious challenge to the filmmaker willing to take it on. Blood Meridian features a truly horrifying villain, and casting an actor up to the role is a tall order, though Javier Bardem was reportedly fantastic (I never got around to seeing it! I’m sorry!) in his portrayal of another murderous McCarthy character in No Country for Old Men, so it can be done — I just wouldn’t leave it to James Franco to get it done.

James Franco: perfectly equipped to be incredibly pretentious, grow a gross mustache, not much else.

7. Then there’s As I Lay Dying. Full disclosure: I wrote my undergraduate literary critical thesis on  As I Lay Dying, so I feel intense affection for it, along with a special ownership. My thesis focused on character consciousness and narrative voice — important to a novel that has 59 chapters and 15 separate narrators — things that I don’t think film could adequately represent. Franco is already on record as saying he’s going to “be loyal to the book” by essentially destroying the importance narratorial perspective plays in the novel. Neat-o. So As I Lay Dying as a film = NO

And since one thing is never enough for multitasking addict Franco, in addition to directing, he’s also planning to write the screenplay for his movie based on Faulkner’s 1930 masterpiece. Hell, he’ll probably want to play Darl, too  — and that makes me want to cut a bitch.

Specifically this bitch.

So…I Watched the A-Team Movie

December 15, 2011 § 2 Comments

What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.

No, that’s not a reference to Battlestar Galactica.

And no, we're not talking about the 1970s.

It is, in fact, a verse from Ecclesiastes. It simply means that thousands of years ago, God knew that by the twenty-first century, humans would be plum out of ideas and would start remaking existing things up the wazoo.

It has already been brought-en. In four movie sequels.

Remaking something bad into something awesome (a la Battlestar) makes sense; remaking Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory with someone other than Gene Wilder should get you sent to pop culture jail. Yes, even you, Johnny Depp. And maybe if you’re incarcerated for a while you’ll stop making Pirates of the Caribbean sequels.

The new A-Team movie is based on a TV show from so long ago, it doesn’t even exist according to Hollywood. I mean, they’re already rebooting Spider-man, and while I support the production of any movie with Emma Stone, Spider-man 3 came out less than 5 years ago. Granted, it was a flaming train-wreck of awful, but I vividly remember going to see it. Hollywood, on the other hand, now has the memory of a goldfish, which (according to my Snapple top) is only three seconds long.

But I digress: this new A-Team movie exists, and I watched it. Alone. On purpose. This was not like the time I was sick and accidentally watched all of 27 Dresses despite the following: 1) I dislike “chick-flicks” more often than not and won’t watch just any rom-com. I’ll admit to actually liking The Notebook (probably due to Ryan Gosling’s magic power of never being in a bad movie. Seriously, watch any of his movies, even the ones from when he was like 19: not one of them sucks. Come on, man, be human for a moment) but other than that I’ve been hoping that Nicholas Sparks will be murdered in a creative way and then someone can make a movie about that that’ll be far better than any based on his god-awful books. 2) I severely dislike James Marsden. Not to be confused with James Marsters, who is a compact, bleached-blonde pillar of pure awesome. 3) I hate Katherine Heigl with the fiery passion of 100 gay suns. But apparently I was tired/ill/not-giving-a-crap enough to watch the entire thing.

What, you ask, would prompt me to watch The A-Team? For a while now, my best friend S has been telling me I should watch it. He and I like all of the same movies, television, and music, so I trust his recommendations, and his description of this film in particular really piqued my interest.

“Have you watched the A-Team?” he asked me.

“No. I heard it was bad.”

“It’s bizarre. It’s like two movies stitched together. One of them is this ultra generic, terribly written action movie and the other is a tongue-in-cheek action film with all these smart comedic moments — and there are too many of them for it to be accidental. Someone wrote these jokes on purpose.”

He also mentioned that The A-Team breaks one of the cardinal rules of film directing, or at least mainstream film directing: the characters talk all over each other. Multiple characters speak at once, saying different things, and the crisp break marking the transition from one person’s line to the other is absent. In real life, of course, people interrupt each other and overlap their speaking all the time, but in mainstream film and television, that aspect of realism is usually reigned in so that the audience can make out what the frak is being said.

S’s description left me intrigued, and considering that The A-Team stars Liam Neeson and Bradley Cooper, along with Sharlto Copley, I was pretty willing to watch it anyway. While the South African actor hasn’t been in too many films, I really liked Sharlto Copley in District 9, and he happens to remind me of Jackie Earle Haley — something about how they both play mentally unsteady really well? — whom I adore (Little Children is one of my favorite films, and in it Haley gives a complex, heartbreaking performance as a sex offender returning to live with his mother after being released from prison. Also, Kate Winslet and Patrick Wilson get naked if that appeals to you more than pedophiliac sex offenders).

I’ve mentioned my love for Bradley Cooper before, and I’ve actually liked him since he was in this WB show from the early 2000s called Jack and Bobby, which was about two brothers named (in a shocking twist) Jack and Bobby, one of whom grows up to become President, but somehow these brothers are not the Kennedys. It did not make a lot of sense as a show, but at the time I was willing to try out pretty much anything on the WB. I was still watching Smallville on purpose.

Apparently B-Coop was a minor character, since he's not in this cast photo. Also, IS THAT JOHN SLATTERY?! ROGER STERLING, WHAT ARE YOU DOING IN THIS MESS?

In Jack and Bobby, B-Coop played a graduate student who has a (romantic/sexual) relationship with his older professor and who was an adorable relief from the complete confusion that was the show’s larger story arc. Then, a few years later, he was hilarious in Failure to Launch alongside Zooey Deschanel and Justin Bartha (whom I adore in the National Treasure movies — “This car smells weird” — which I don’t particularly like in themselves). Failure to Launch is actually an enjoyable movie, provided you skip all the scenes with Matthew McConnaughey and Sarah Jessica Parker. So, the entire main plot. And then there’s The Hangover, which I will proudly say is one of my favorite movies of all time, which leads others to have conversations about me like the following:

Best friend K: Yeah, she’s obsessed with The Hangover.

K’s Friend: I thought she went to Stanford.

Sooo yeah. As for Liam Neeson, I’ve never not loved him, though I did find it distracting that he voices Aslan in the new Narnia movies. I’ve only seen the first one, but the entire time I kept thinking, “Liam Neeson is Jesus!”

Wait, QUI-GON JIN IS JESUS?!

About 1/3 of The A-Team is a great movie, but that 1/3 is scattered throughout the entire film, so it’s not like you can watch the first 30 minutes and then turn it off, like most Ricky Gervais movies (I want back the two hours I spent watching The Invention of Lying with my dad. That movie was so dull, a piece of my soul disintegrated like a Cheeto that Ricky Gervais sat on — before the weight-loss).

The good lines in The A-Team are not doled out equally, however. Many of the things that come out of Bradley Cooper’s mouth are gold. Nothing that comes out of Liam Neeson’s mouth is. Sorry, Liam. As the boss, the writers apparently needed him to explain in very overwrought language everything that the movie should simply have been implying. One thing audiences always love is being talked down to. Then again, Jack and Jill made $25 million its opening weekend, so clearly stupid is the new black. (Well, it probably has been for a while…)

The movie’s opening sequence of 15 or so minutes takes place 8 years before the rest of the story and exists as exposition establishing what to expect from each character and how such wildly varied personalities coexist. We learn:

Liam Neeson is a badass with a heart (he doesn’t shoot the dogs that are attacking him, which I appreciate). Also, a cigar.

Bradley Cooper will sleep with your wife and then say a lot of snarky things (assuming “you” are a Mexican drug lord).

The New Mr. T really likes his tricked-out van, and he doesn’t like flying. At all.

Sharlto Copley is a brilliant pilot but also certifiably insane. The team goes to pick him up from the psychiatric wing, from which he has escaped, allowing him to pretend to be a doctor and extract the bullet from New Mr. T’s arm, then sew up the wound with a bunch of stitches in the shape of a lightning bolt. Clearly Sharlto and New Mr. T will have some relationship tension to come.

Fast forward eight years. Near the beginning of the main section of the film, Hannibal (Neeson) and his crew have a school-yard name-calling match with their equivalent bad-guy crew, introducing the audience to villain Head Douchebag. The tussle ends with Head Douchebag spitting, “Yeah, well I make more money than you!” and Hannibal basically saying that money can’t buy cool.

Do you have a cigar? I didn't think so.

Oh, and by the way, by “school yard,” I mean “Army encampment in Iraq.” Patrick Wilson is also there, as a mysterious CIA agent whose most pressing mystery seems to be what he is doing there, as Wilson stands around awkwardly flicking his eyes around for most of the scenes in Iraq. At times he also puts on and takes off his sunglasses. He’s been watching a lot of CSI: Miami.

Oh yeah, and Jessica Biel shows up as an Army captain whose actual job is incredibly vague but seems to consist of bitching out Face (Bradley Cooper) because they used to date and I guess it ended badly. I found myself saying, during their first interaction and then about every fifteen minutes until the movie’s close, why is Jessica Biel in this movie? The romantic subplot only receives lip-service

though it does allow the writers to give Bradley Cooper all the bad lines poor Liam spends so much time trying to make work, so Face may get some of the best lines in the film, but he also gets the most pathetic (and pathetically written) laying-my-heart-out-for-you scene. In a photobooth. Yeah.

In terms of plot, it’s basically this: the Team gets framed for a crime they didn’t commit (theft, murder, and insubordination, the last probably being the worst in Army think, if the murder wasn’t of their commanding officer) and are consequently stripped of their ranks and incarcerated in separate prisons (and one mental hospital).

Mysterious CIA Agent Patrick Wilson shows up again, acting more focused and less like a rabbit during Rabbit Season, perhaps because he gets to wear a suit instead of body-armor. He helps break Liam Neeson out of jail, and Liam/Hannibal frees the other Team members in amusing ways. Face, for example, has obtained an (upright? Is that a thing?) tanning booth in prison, and Hannibal wheels him out inside the tanning booth, while he’s pounding on it and yelling, which obviously no guards would notice. Baracus (New Mr. T) gets sprung from a moving prison transport van, and Murdock (Sharlto Copley) rejoins the team after they drive a van through the wall of his hospital, perfectly timed with a 3-D movie the patients are watching of a van driving at them.

The Team then set about trying to clear their names by catching the real killer/thief/traitor to the Armed Forces, which leads to their abandoning a burning airplane, inside a tank, which they then fly by taking advantage of the backward momentum provided by firing the tank’s guns.

Because this movie is this movie, the Team survives to fight another day. For the rest of the film, Jessica Biel shows up intermittently (why is she in this movie?) and Patrick Wilson is revealed to be the real bad guy, with Head Douchebag just a lower-level bad guy, if extremely violent and probably unhinged. As it becomes more and more clear that the Mysterious CIA Agent is the true villain, his character’s lines get better and better.

When he springs Head Douchebag from Jessica Biel’s custody, she yells about how the CIA doesn’t have any rules. Patrick Wilson responds, “The CIA has rules. Our rules are just cooler than yours.”

In order to demonstrate that Mysterious CIA Agent is a desk-jockey without experience in the field, the screenwriters give him a bunch of (pure gold) lines comparing real live violence to video games.

“Wow, that looks just like Call of Duty!

The screenwriters, probably inadvertently, turn him into a hilarious commentator on the effects of our society’s violence-suffused entertainment culture (video games, action movies…) and of technological advancements in warfare that allow soldiers to be detached from the real people that they’re killing.

Twists are revealed, snark is snarked, Bradley Cooper’s naked torso is gloried in, things are blown up, and the movie progresses exactly as you expect it would, only with much smarter lines from Patrick Wilson than I could have dreamed considering his first five scenes in the movie. When it ended, I felt that I had been (intermittently) very entertained, but I mostly felt confused about the fusion of wit with terribly overwrought and clichéd language.

S, who first recommended this movie to me, voiced his desire to watch films written by the three screenwriters responsible for The A-Team and figure out which one was secretly brilliant and which simply sucked. It turns out that 1/3 of the team responsible for writing the Team is actually the actor playing Head Douchebag, and has never written a film before. The second 1/3 is the director for The A-Team, who has previously written Smokin’ Aces  and Smokin’ Aces 2, among other things I’ve never heard of — though he’s apparently writing Liam Neeson’s upcoming action-thriller The Grey, which I like to think of as Liam Neeson vs. Wolves. Since he directed this hot mess, I just don’t see him being responsible for it’s small percentage of good parts, since he could have theoretically made it all good parts. The final screenwriter previously wrote Thursday (which I’ve never heard of), Swordfish (which is maybe theoretically good? All I have ever heard about the movie is that Halle Berry is topless in it), Hitman, and X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and is the in midst of writing Die Hard 5: A Good Day to Die Hard  and two other movies.

I’m guessing, then, that the actor playing Head Douchebag (Brian Bloom) is the writer who is secretly hilarious — he does act pretty well and is sufficiently creepy and douchebaggy in the movie. So Brian, I look forward to more from you as a writer; hopefully the blog post required from your next film will be unequivocal praise, rather than the written equivalent of shrugging your shoulders and saying, “Eh?” while pointing to a picture of Liam Neeson and/or Bradley Cooper.

We are just way too cool for this.

I Want a Dog!

December 2, 2011 § 8 Comments

My parents will tell you that my first words were “Mommy, Daddy, puppy please!” I think this is a bit of an exaggeration – but not much.

I’ve been wildly in love with dogs since I can remember existing. From the time I learned to speak until the 5th grade when my parents actually agreed to get a dog (a very specific dog, not “a” dog; they had many requirements the pet candidate had to fulfill), I pestered them nonstop, with only occasional breaks for eating, sleeping, and breathing – and I learned to talk much earlier than most babies. After around nine years of my begging for a dog and my parents trying to placate me by giving me stuffed animals and pet-sitting family friends’ dogs for even months at a time, I finally had a puppy of my own! Okay, “our” own, I had to share with my parents and younger brother, but I thought of our new puppy as my personal soulmate. I hugged her for about 12 months straight.

She was a tiny ball of fluff when we got her. We named the puppy Tara (long a), after the plantation in Gone with the Wind. A weird namesake, I know, especially when the namers are 10 and 7, but my younger brother and I had just finished acting in a musical version of the Southern epic – only with all the characters played by animals. The play was called Gone with the Wind in the Willows and was the story of Mr. Toad and his friends putting on their own production of Gone with the Wind. Plus songs, one of which was a stirring ballad called “I’ll Never Be Hungry Again!”

Do not ask me why – I was in a children’s theater company for years that put on the original musicals of our director, who I’m pretty sure decided which plays to write based on the pun potential of the title (Spam Spade: Pig Detective was another one). So, being a fan of human names for animals, of our play, and of the name itself, we dubbed the puppy Tara. Actually, in our play the plantation was called Tararaboomdeeay (or some other spelling of that – I’m going with phonetics), so she really got off easy.

Tara the puppy was so cute that she literally stopped traffic (people would pull over when we were walking her to ask what kind of dog she was and to generally squeal in admiration). Half Queensland Heeler and half Brittany Spaniel, as a puppy, she looked like a long-haired, incredibly fuzzy Dalmatian, because she had very pronounced black spots on a white coat, with a black mask across her face.

I don’t have a photo of her as a puppy on my harddrive, but this is what Tara looks like nowadays.

She’s incredibly smart, affectionate, and basically perfect. Okay, she can be a bit annoying if she’s not getting her way, but still, basically perfect.

I miss her like mad when I’m away from my parents’ house. I went to undergrad less than an hour and a half away from  my childhood home, so I went home every few weeks and got my Tara fix. (You’re nice too, parents.) When I went abroad to Oxford my junior year of college, I started sobbing when I had to say goodbye to her. I can explain to humans where I’m going and why I’ll be away, but you can’t communicate something that complicated and abstract to a dog. It just kills me that she might think I’m abandoning her.

Now I live across the country from Tara (and my parents – hey again, parents! – and brother), and I’m so dog-deprived that I have to keep myself from screaming “DOGGIE!!!” and running up and hugging every dog I see on the street. I tell myself that these are strangers’ dogs, strangers who might get freaked out by a random girl running at them, or at the very least think it’s weird.

I desperately want a dog of my own, and I actually live somewhere that I could have one – a first since I’ve been living on my own. As much as it saddens me to admit it, though, I don’t think I’m at a stable even stage of life to care for a dog like it deserves.

I currently know multiple people my age who have dogs who I don’t think adequately care for them. I’m not of the “the dog can fend for itself most of the time” variety. I think dogs should be exercised daily, given affection, and if at all possible, not left alone for long periods of time. I don’t think I can currently promise that.

The fact that I’m not getting a dog, however, doesn’t mean that I don’t spend copious amounts of time fantasizing about having one, just like I don’t let the fact that I’ve never met Bradley Cooper get in the way of my plan to marry him. (He can cook! He got honors in English from Georgetown by writing a thesis on Nabokov! And, yep, he loves dogs! Bradley, call me.)

I am a medium to large dog kind of person; if I would worry about stepping on it, it’s not a dog, at least not one I’d be interested in owning (Chihuahuas, however, are definitely not dogs). Tara is around 37 pounds, and I wouldn’t really want a dog any smaller than that. Lately, however, I’ve been fantasizing about getting a small dog, but not just any small dog: a Jack Russell Terrier.

My love for Jack Russells started at the tender age of 7 or so. I was a mad fan of the TV show Wishbone on PBS, which featured a dog narrator that dressed up in human clothes and acted out classical works of literature. So basically, the best idea for a television show ever. PBS somehow cancelled it after only a season and a half, probably because they hate joy.

Do you hate joy, PBS?!

Wishbone was smart, funny, and starred an adorable dog pretending to be Mr. Darcy and Robin Hood. For a dog-obsessed book nerd whose mother enforced the rule that I was only allowed to read for one out of the three daily recesses in elementary school, Wishbone seemed like it was made specifically for me.

The cutest Robin Hood in memory.

And the theme song was damn catchy too.

I definitely still remember most of the words. What’s the story, Wishbone? Do you think it’s worth a loo-ook? It kinda seems familiar, like a story from a boo-oo-ook! 

The location of the story: a book.

(You still can’t buy the full series; only four episodes are available on DVD, and a few others are on VHS. This is a travesty of significant proportions.)

Dapper dog is disturbed by this news.

So the erudite Jack Russell Wishbone saturated my consciousness for much of my childhood, but what brought this adorably clever breed back into my ken was the sweet, offbeat film Beginners, which I saw over the summer. It also stars Ewan McGregor, who was my first celebrity crush when Star Wars: The Phantom Menace came out (even though he had that disgusting haircut with the  short, jutting ponytail and that nasty mini-braid).

Wtf, George Lucas? The prequels themselves weren't enough?

Much better.

In addition to Ewan McGregor and a Jack Russell, Beginners also stars Christopher Plummer as a very enthusiastically gay man, as well as some adorable French chick (apparently her name is Melanie Laurent). Basically Beginners was massive amounts of adorable in one place. The only thing that has since come to rival this level of adorable is the Tumblr “Ryan Gosling vs. Puppy,” which asks the age-old impossible question, “Is Ryan Gosling cuter than a puppy?” This is the hardest question I’ve had to answer since I got Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper, and Jake Gyllenhaal in a game of Marry, Bang, Kill.

Victor? Puppy.

Puppy.

Ryan Gosling.

Too. Difficult. Brain. Exploding.

Ah hell – I plead the fifth (I think how hard I find this question is incriminating enough.)

By the way, for those of you keeping score at home, the correct answer is Ryan Gosling AND a puppy.

To be fair, the correct answer is anything AND a puppy.

Yep, that works too.

But moving on to the supposed point of this post: I want a Jack Russell. The one in Beginners is adorable.

Ewan McGregor’s character has recently come into possession of the dog, which used to belong to his (now deceased) father, and he can’t bear to leave it alone, so he brings it everywhere. He brings it to a costume party.

He and his adorable French girlfriend have breakfast with the dog (called Arthur in the movie; the actor-dog is named Cosmo – apparently Ewan McGregor went through Cosmo-withdrawal when they finished the film).

Arthur even talks! In subtitles! (He’s a dog; he can’t speak aloud. That’d just be ridiculous.)

This pup reduces me to a quivering pile of jelly.

Then I saw The Artist at the Virginia Film festival last month. Fantastic film, if you haven’t heard of it; it’s actually a modern-day silent film about the historical transition from silent movies to talkies. The Jack Russell in this one not only does innumerable tricks, but it saves Jean Dujardin’s character from a burning building!! That is love.

Also love: the way I look at this dog.

Basically, I need to get a Jack Russell stat – but I guess I’d settle for Bradley Cooper, Ewan McGregor, or Ryan Gosling instead.

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