Reflections on the Revolution in Hollywood

Fenster writes:

We have serious excesses of male power and energy on display. And we have a pushback in which can be seen some of the wisdom of Madame du Deffand when she told Voltaire that women are never stronger than when they arm themselves with their weaknesses.

There are characteristic near-symmetries in tension here, and the tensions unleashed from their pent up state has us frazzled, with some seeing the arc of history against patriarchy and others seeing signs of a classic moral panic.

The current moment pushes me away from certainties toward a characteristic ambivalence that is uncomfortable in the moment but which I welcome as necessary. Breathe in; breathe out; breathe in. Gain certainty; become confused; gain certainty. This is called living.

I am showing my age here but I take something of a longer view. Enthusiasms of all kinds–utopian communities, outbursts of hopeful anarchism, moments of perceived sexual freedom and moments of intense sexual prurience–tend to burn out. Western New York was hot with religious enthusiasms of all types in the early 1800s until it got too hot and was “burned over.” What was left behind?

It is fine to object to the excesses of male energies and moral panics, and it is OK to worry about the damage energies and panics will do as they run zir course.  But take some time, too, to reflect on the nature of the system that gives rise to such zeal.

The morbid symptoms of an infection are not fun to look at but they evidence the body trying to get itself well again. There are an infinite number of ways to die, and while there is not one way to be healthy, good health is not an infinite thing, and will evidence itself within a certain range of conditions, with those conditions reflecting a kind of bounded interplay between things that can vary.

In the current situation we are dealing with the highly variable issues of sex, gender and power–these are the things that interact with one another, sometimes in volatile ways. How they interact, and the nature of the bounded interplay, can sometimes get out of line. An infection-fighting response is called for.

Our wealthy world, shielded from elemental disruptions for the lifetimes of most in it, too easily considers that it is is ordered, like turtles, all the way down. It is not. We are guided by laws and mannered directives from the human resource departments and then are shocked shocked when the system gets suddenly very tippy, and we are lurched in unexpected directions. We are sick, but perhaps we are getting better.

So what will the world look like then this current set of enthusiasms die down? What will our “burnt over” state look like?

Well, I doubt it will look like The Handmaid’s Tale. But neither do I think it will represent the opposite, and that we are seeing the creation of female tyranny and permanent warlock hunts. Men who worry overly about this should have a bit more confidence in the intractability of the male-female polarity, and that the somewhat predictable tensions it sets off are not about to go away.

My tentative prediction at the moment?

As the knotty issues get worked through women will find themselves successful in containing excess male enthusiasms but may not be as successful in creating a utopian state in which gender equality is the norm and familiar gender conundrums do not exist. The furious tensions of the moment will give way to a new but still familiar equilibrium. Not an equality. A tentative equilibrium only, one that will appear somewhat stable and which will for a time wobble less, but will eventually wobble more once again.

Men may be invited to walk more softly–but will they give up the big stick? Likely not.

In turn if not in consequence women may be invited to accept a kind of bargain. It may once again become a truth universally acknowledged that no one can truly have their cake and eat it too. This is called, variously, tragedy, comedy, drama, farce and life.

Perhaps these are just the reflections of someone who grew up in an era of more traditional gender roles, and who thinks that the swinging of the pendulum will bring us back to a world that would be more familiar to my parents. Could be.

If I am relatively sure of anything it is this: that while issues that partake of polarities are fought out by the different poles, with the energies supplied by the edges, in the end all change is understood best as a dynamic between the poles.

But who knows? As my parents quite often said to me, we’ll see. It is one of life’s little ironies that people with less time left sometimes are more willing to let time take its course.

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Naked Lady of the Week: Rachel Garley

Fabrizio del Wrongo writes:

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Rachel Garley, a popular Page 3 girl of the last century, almost makes me feel nostalgic for ’80s hair. She was born in England, but to my eye she looks more than a little Irish. I do love Irish girls…

Her name was in the news a few years ago when it was revealed that the artist Sebastian Horsley had made her the beneficiary of his will. Can you blame him?

Nudity below. Have a great weekend.

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Notes on “The Shape of Water” (2017)

Blowhard, Esq. writes:

In this interview with Matt Zoller Seitz, writer-director Guillermo del Toro says, “Every film is a political film.” After the rock-’em-sock-’em robots of PACIFIC RIM and the Gothic reverie of CRIMSON PEAK, del Toro (along with co-writer Vanessa Taylor) returns to the territory of the political fairy tale in THE SHAPE OF WATER. Del Toro has mined this vein before in his most critically lauded film, PAN’S LABYRINTH, only this time he approaches it in terms of romance. (Warning: SPOILERS follow.) Set in 1962 Baltimore, the story concerns a mute, middle-aged cleaning woman (Sally Hawkins) who works at a secret government facility. She has two best friends — a sassy fellow cleaning woman (Octavia Spencer) and a closeted gay neighbor (Richard Jenkins). One day, a mysterious, amphibious creature referred to as “The Asset” (del Toro regular Doug Jones) is brought to the facility by a menacing military operative (Michael Shannon) where it will be studied by a government scientist (Michael Stuhlbarg) hoping to learn something about its anatomy in an effort to give American astronauts an edge against the Russians in the Space Race. Our heroine, sensing a marginalized soul such as herself, immediately falls in love with the creature. The inevitable complications ensue.

Del Toro says the inspiration for the movie stems from watching THE CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON as a child and his disappointment that the creature and woman never consummated their love. He wanted to rectify that. Although our heroine’s encounter with the fishy beefcake takes place off screen, as a Mexican ex-Catholic, del Toro is not squeamish about gore or nudity. I was a little surprised that this mainstream movie contains a few nice moments of gratuitous nudity, the first coming within a couple minutes of the opening credits. (Great ass, Sally!) But when it comes to handling actual romance, del Toro stumbles badly. The movie lumbers from one predictable plot point to another without much charm or energy. The production design, costumes, and photography provide plenty of eye-pleasing details (as Fabrizio said here, del Toro is a great miniaturist, as well as discerning collector of exotics), but del Toro’s attempts to add whimsy and lightness are constantly undermined by his efforts to invest the material with sociological importance.

This problem is inherent in the film’s basic conception: how can you achieve a fairy tale atmosphere when you’re constantly reminding the audience of everyday political realities? Del Toro isn’t content to just address loving the Other (the theme of a zillion other stories), he must include banal broadsides against white racism, homophobia, immigration, Cold War politics, and American consumerism. In one of 2017’s most incredible scenes, the closeted gay man played by Jenkins finally works up the courage to make a pass at the owner of a local diner. The owner recoils in disgust. As he’s doing so, a black couple enters the diner and asks to sit at the counter. The owner refuses. The strong black woman defiantly observes that the counter is currently empty. The owner asks them to leave, turns to the Jenkins character, says “This is a family restaurant,” and orders him to leave too. The only thing missing from this scene is the owner loudly shouting, “I’m heading to Charlottesville!” before putting on a MAGA hat and marching out to burn a cross. Has anyone ever watched Cocteau’s BEAUTY AND THE BEAST and said to himself, “Y’know, this is pretty wonderful, but what it really needs is a critique of medieval serfdom”? Has del Toro ever seen SULLIVAN’S TRAVELS?

On the other hand, it’s entirely possible del Toro will have the last laugh because didactic parables seem to be the order of the day. From genre fare like MAD MAX: FURY ROAD to Oscar bait like MOONLIGHT and HIDDEN FIGURES to auteurist products like JACKIE and SILENCE, Hollywood specializes in stories where progressive heroes suffer at the hands of reaction. This was brought home to me in the post-movie Q&A. I was lucky enough to attend a preview screening hosted by the Eastern divisions of the Producers Guild and Writers Guild at which del Toro himself was present along with the entire main cast sans Hawkins. Del Toro started the chat by saying there was too much cynicism in the world, he believed in love, and that “as storytellers, we have to be willing to go to unpopular places.” (Saying you believe in love is unpopular? Since when?) When a trans-woman raised her hand to say that the heroine’s desire for love and acceptance was all she ever wanted too, del Toro got choked up and Michael Shannon gave him a comforting squeeze on the shoulder. The last comment from the audience was provided by a black woman who wanted to praise Spencer’s performance. Although Spencer played a black cleaning woman, hers and Hawkins’s performances were so rich that the relationship “transcended race.” Spencer thanked the woman for her comment and added that, as a black woman, she was very aware she was playing a character “without any agency.” Spencer added that it was “important” to note that the two lovers in the movie are literally voiceless yet their figurative voices were provided by a black woman and gay man.

I should note that I don’t for a second doubt the sincerity of del Toro, the actors, or anyone else in attendance that was moved by the movie and testimonials. But it was still an odd glimpse into a mental life that is foreign to me. For some people, it’s still 1962 in Baltimore and they really need to hear the most trite of cliches. The next time I hear some nerd scoff at the silliness of a Katherine Heigl rom com or Lifetime weepie, it’s going to be hard for me to refrain from pointing out that those works are no dumber than the ideas, such as they are, contained in this movie.

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Couldn’t Do It Today

Fabrizio del Wrongo writes:

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Wonder’s the neatest way to trap a boy since…well, apples. Try tempting him with his favorite Wonder sandwich. He’ll bite. And…ZAP!…you’ve got him.

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Naked Lady of the Week: Casey Calvert

Fabrizio del Wrongo writes:

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Casey Calvert, one of the most popular porn stars of the last few years, claims to have adapted her stage name from the name of her college law professor. Now there’s a thing a faculty member can be proud of!

She’s a sculptural little thing, both smooth and delicate. I have never seen someone take it in the butt quite like she does.

She was brought up in a conservative Jewish family. How does a well-bred Jewish girl end up in the porn business? She explains:

After I graduated from college, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I considered medical school, or getting my Ph.D., but nothing called to me like sex work did, like sex work always had. I entered porn for the freedom — the freedom of choice, the freedom of expression, the freedom of being an open, sexual person. I can’t speak for my peers’ experiences, but I know I made the right decision. I am happier now, here, than I have ever been.

You can learn more at her personal site and by following her on Twitter.

Nudity below. Have a great weekend.

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Juxtaposin’: Halos

Fabrizio del Wrongo writes:

 

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Movie Still Du Jour

Blowhard, Esq. writes:

A woman inspects some travel posters in Jacques Tati’s PLAYTIME (1967).

Click on the image to enlarge.

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