Archive for the In the News Category

The Kids Still Need Tea and Sympathy

Posted in ART, Critical Theory, Films, In the News, Stylez, Vintage with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 20, 2011 by effingjro

In the past several years, LGBT teens have made headlines for being bullied, beaten, and ultimately taking their lives after enduring daily harassment from their classmates. For gay men and women, this isn’t exactly news. That’s why Dan Savage started “It’s Gets Better,” a series of videologs filmed by celebrities, athletes,and people like us – promising the kids that they’ll be alright. To date, there have been 22,000 entries.

But bullying, unfortunately, is by no means a recent phenomenon. Last night, as part of their Vincente Minnelli retrospective, the Brooklyn Academy of Music Cinematek screened Tea and Sympathy, a 1956 melodrama that follows the trail of an “off horse” in a New England prep school populated by “regular fellows.” Protagonist Tom Lee is a sensitive guy. He spends his time listening to records and strumming his guitar – the other boys play football and go mountain climbing. Tom’s only allies are his roommate, Al, and the housemaster’s wife, Lauren, played by Deborah Kerr.

It’s easy to read Tea and Sympathy as a cult classic of the ‘so-bad-it’s-good’ variety. When Tom’s father complains, “I can’t tell my friends he wants to grow up to be a…folk singer,” he delivers it as though a folk singer were no different than a crack fiend. Later, the housemaster reassures Tom’s father: “Don’t worry, they’ll give him a real going over at the pajama party tonight,” which, to a gay audience, plays very differently than intended. Between the soaring orchestrations, bereft close-ups and the camera’s omnipresent focus on the tea set, one can imagine that Todd Haynes partly styled 2002’s Far From Heaven on this film.

Check the trailer (which really glosses over the gay parts)

While some scenes come off as shlocky, others can give gay audiences goose pricks ofrecognition. Tom’s father forces masculinity on him – encouraging him to flirt with the haggard woman at the coffee shop, nearly forcing him to get a crew cut so he’ll fit in the other boys. Tom’s interests, including gardening, sewing and cooking, immediately earn him the nickname “sister boy,” a moniker that sticks like superglue in an all-boysschool. The most poignant scene comes when Tom’s alpha-male roommate tries to coach Tom in the art of manliness. He has Tom walk around the room, and when he attempts to describe his stride, he can only produce a gesture, an unspoken, “You’re light in yourloafers.” Then when Al demonstrates his walk, a hulking stomp, it seems ludicrous –Tom won’t event attempt it.

“It wouldn’t do me any good anyway,” he says. Once you’ve become the class pariah,there’s really no way to shake it. Tom does try to bed the coffee shop girl but the plan goes horribly awry, and in a heartbreaking capitulation Tom casts aside the girl and riflesthrough her kitchen for a sharp knife. Only the intervention of strangers stops him from killing himself.

Many hold that the main character in Tea and Sympathy is not gay at all. The playwright Robert Anderson flatly stated, “It has nothing to do with homosexuality… It’s about a false charge of homosexuality.” While many gay audiences ignore this, the film is no-less poignant if Tom is simply a sensitive, straight teenager. Whether bullying springs from differences in race, class, orientation or anything else, the common denominator is difference. If the trappings have become outdated, the central theme of Tea and Sympathy is as important today as ever: students can be helpless at the hands of their classmates, but it only takes one understanding person to turn their life around.

In celebration of Spirit Day 2011, go be that understanding person. Check out Out.com’s post on how to show your solidarity with LGBT youth, and remember that your help can make all the difference in the world.

The Vincente Minnelli Retrospective at the BAM Cinematek runs through November 2. For information on screenings, tickets and times, visit www.bam.org

Lana del Rey: Video Games

Posted in Found Item, Hotties, In the News, Muzak, Pop, Stylez, Video Games with tags , , , , on October 13, 2011 by effingjro

I’m posting this without much comment. There’s all this ridiculous controversy about this singer – “Her lips are fake!” “Her music’s inauthentic.” Which is all bullshit, as Gawker will tell you. I love her stuff, and her videos are REALLY evocative of the kind of mid-century nostalgia I live and die for.

Reading Rainbow: Colson Whitehead’s “Zone One”

Posted in Abandoned Buildings, Authors, Critical Theory, In the News, Reading Rainbow, Role Models, Writing with tags , , , , , , on October 12, 2011 by effingjro

Zone One - Out October 18

Some books read like love letters to New York City: Joseph Mitchell’s Up In The Old Hotel, for example, and Joan Didion’s gut-wrenching essay: “Goodbye To All That.”

Zone One? It’s hate mail for the whole island. There is a lot of gut-wrenching, though.

James Maher's take on Chinatown post-apocalypse

Meet Mark Spitz – he’s managed to survive after most of the population has been reduced to mindless ‘skels,’ only because he is so exceptionally mediocre. A consistent B student, whether he studied or not. The member of the senior class “Most Likely Not To Be Named The Most Likely Anything.” That mediocrity grants him a longer lease on life than his parents, his girlfriends, than almost anyone he knew before the innard-chomping nightmare the survivors refer to as ‘Last Night.’

It’s a good name. For the survivors sweeping Zone One in southern Manhattan, the evening when the world went mad stays fresh in their minds. How can they escape it? Mark and the two other civilians in Omega Unit spend their days picking off the wasted victims of the disease – walking corpses who still sport haircuts copied from sitcom characters and bear passing resemblances to former gym teachers, girlfriends, relatives.

That’s the problem when the whole world’s gone skel – the victims still have some shadow memory: they frequent the same hang-outs, wear the same clothes, maintain the same piercings and haircuts and facial features (at least until the skin starts rotting away). In an interview with GQ, Whitehead sums it up: “The skels are ghosts, other people haunted by their pasts. I’ve certainly been stuck on certain periods and events in my life, so a skel is a statue dedicated to nostalgia.”

Each monster has its trope. With vampires it’s abusive lust, with werewolves it’s a split personality. Zombies come in mobs, and with mobs there is a mentality. The skels in Zone One invite contemplation, not as sad skin sacks, but as walking memories of the people they were, people who were always part-monster to begin with.

In 'Zone One,' the skels are incinerated, creating clouds of ash over the city. By inbrainstorm

Zone One didn’t have to be a zombie novel, but it’s a handy device to dissect the problems of the populace post-Empire, particularly in a city. As a new recruit to New York, there are certain lines that hit me in the gut. Spitz will pick off zombies and consider their former, waking lives – He wonders when they came to the city, bright-eyed and ambitious, and how they’d been forced to settle in the intervening years, crowding around cocktail bars and laughing too loudly in attempts to capture some Sex and the City fantasy. He thinks about the shut-ins who barricaded themselves against the coming plague, particularly “new recruits” like myself, who were too fresh to the city to develop the kind of support system that could have afforded them a means of escape.

It scares you. Scared me, at least, in a way blood-spurting zombie movies never have.

Formally, it’s excellent. Spitz falls through temporal trap doors constantly in the narrative, moving backwards to memories of ‘Last Night,’ the deaths of his parents, unexpected skel attacks, and then he snaps to at the last moment, when his life depends on it. The language is carefully chosen, and evokes spinal cords, joints and necrosis, even when describing entertainment systems and subways. And there’s humor, too, in the unlikeliest places. When Omega Team spots a few walkers in the distance, they try to tell if they’re human or skel. The deciding factor? They’re wearing ponchos. “Only a human cursed with the burden of free will would wear a poncho.”

Definitely pick up a copy on the 18th. Whether you’re a zombie fan or not, this book has a lot to say.

Julie Marsden’s Pre-Code Hollywood Masterpost

Posted in Films, Found Item, In the News with tags , , , , , , , , , , on August 24, 2011 by effingjro

This is just too cool not to mention immediately. I’m sometimes helpless in terms of downloads and bittorrents, because I’m always hearing about hapless school teachers in Iowa being arrested and charged millions of dollars for downloading illegal content. HOWEVER, dailydot.com just wrote about a ‘masterpost’ Tumblr (essentially, it gives you a list of links to download films/songs/episodes of your favorite actor/band/series).

Obviously I found the most backwards one around – a list of Pre-Code Hollywood films compiled by Julie Marsden, a very savvy 18-year-old. We’re talking Dracula, The Maltese Falcon, Mata Hari, Blonde Venus and more at your instant disposal. These are the movies released before Hollywood got boring and decided to impose morals on everything (separate beds for married couples, no homos, you get the picture).

Here’s her Tumblr, and here’s the masterpost. I know what I’ll be doing on Sunday afternoons from now on.

England’s Finest: Daniel Radcliffe In “The Woman In Black”

Posted in Authors, Films, Hotties, In the News, Reading Rainbow with tags , , , , , , , , , , on August 23, 2011 by effingjro

In addition to fish and chips and the choral tradition, England consistently churns out top-notch ghost stories. Harry Potter stars in a film version of one: The Woman In Black.

This movie looks like a trifecta of great British things:

  • Daniel Radcliffe (though probably not naked, as in Equus)
  • Susan Hill’s 1983 novella, The Woman in Black
  • Another step in the resurrection of Hammer Films – the British house that produced a slew of campy, technicolor gore flicks from the ’50s through the ‘8os like The Brides of Dracula and The Witches.
When I heard about the movie, I knew I needed the book. Since I live in Nowhere, NJ, and our book store only carries beach reads with the author’s name supersized and embossed, I ordered it online. I got it in the mail yesterday and spent the night on the couch tearing through it. It has a lot of hallmarks of a good British ghost story – a nice framing device (Christmas Eve ghost stories), a solicitor in a strange town, an abandoned house, a woman who keeps showing up in graveyards and a passel of superstitious townsfolk.
OK, now look at the trailer.
There are a lot of shades of Elizabeth Gaskell stories, The Turn of the Screw, even a bit of Dracula and The Woman In White. The book has a lot of slow build and first-person narration, which they’re not going to be able sustain in the film. It looks they added a whole lot of creepy little kids (and maybe some flashbacks) to keep things interesting.
It’s directed by James Watkins (the guy behind Eden Lake, which looks like a mash-up of Mad Max and Last House On The Left) and due out in February. Get ready.

Banana Republic: Too Mad For Mad Men

Posted in Advertisements, Found Item, In the News, Photos, Rag Mags, Rage Blackout, Soul-Crushing Materialism, Stylez, TEEVee, Vintage with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on August 20, 2011 by effingjro

I was enjoying my normal Saturday routine: G&Ts on the lounge chair in the back yard with the latest men’s mags, when I came across this Banana Republic ad in GQ.

OK, fine, Mad Men. I dig that just as much as any of human being out there. I love the show, I LOVE the costumes – I even went so far as to download the characters’ individual playlists on iTunes – that’s how taken I am with a mid-century modern lifestyle (no, I didn’t not craft a personal Mad Men avatar, but I was tempted).

The thing is, Banana Republic has been going Mad  for three years now. They started out with a ‘casting call’ promo in 2009. Then they rolled out their capsule collection in 2010 (I remember this in particular because I urged a straight friend to glean his whole wardrobe here). And now, in 2011, they’re putting out a third collection, even though the next season of Mad Men likely won’t materialize until 2012.

This show caused a bit of a style revolution, and I’m totally in favor of gents getting more dapper. The looks – a few of which I’m posting below – are still great, if extremely grey.

No arguments here, even if they are eschewing some of the preppier, Pete Campbell flourishes for The Man In The Gray Flannel Suit-style tailoring and homogeneity.

I just think it’s a bit lame that BR hasn’t come up with anything more exciting for the past three years than Mad Men. If I think your novelty capsule collection is starting to look familiar, maybe it’s time to change it up.

And for those of you trying to cultivate a little MM panache – try a vintage shop. It’ll be a whole lot more fun.

Anoushka Luca

Posted in In the News, Muzak, Photos, Role Models with tags , , , , , , , , on July 27, 2011 by effingjro

In February I took a trip to London to visit a best friend of mine by the name of Lizzie Breiner – you can find her blog to the right under a list of links naming incredibly talented people. We did a lot of things famously, but one sojourn in particular deserves mention – a trip to see the very skilled Anoushka Lucas at the Half Moon Club in Putney.

Oh, friends. It was just so good. This girl sings like Norah Jones with a much more sardonic edge and a little more heft to her voice. Please enjoy the two tracks below and tell me she’s not the second coming.

02 Runaway w_ me – Fmix1

03 Track 03 17

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