Thursday, April 30, 2009

FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION

Alison Iraheta, future American Idol? I certainly hope so. Sorry, Adam. She had me at "Papa Was A Rollin' Stone."

BOYS KEEP SWINGING

It's time to get some new material, boys.

My girlfriend had a short-lived dalliance with a Peruvian guy that began decently enough. His texts were on the predictable side -- "hola linda. como estas? todo bien? que haces? te mando un beso. blah blah blah" -- but most guys here (gay and apparently, straight, too) operate from the same script. Unfortunately, his true motive quickly became crystal clear. He would SMS her on a Friday night, and instead of inviting her out for drinks or offering to join her wherever she was, he would casually and not-too-slickly suggest that she come over to his place later, like around the crack of dawn. Eventually, partly following my advice, she stopped returning his messages. Booty calls are so five years ago! Even Samantha was so over them in the Sex and the City movie.

My question(s): What happened to the fine art of courtship? Where have all the smooth operators gone? Does anyone who invites someone to their house for a 5am booty call at 11pm actually think the invitee will show up? At least give them credit for being able to hook up with someone else!

Another friend recently told me about a close encounter of the most horrifying kind with a BA local. He left a nightclub with someone he was somewhat interested in and walked several blocks to the guy's apartment. I'll skip the part where the guy tried to service my friend behind a garbage can because the story actually gets better. Once they arrived at the apartment, my friend began to have second thoughts and suggested that maybe they talk a bit -- you know, get to know each other better before hitting the sheets.

The guy's response: "Sacá tu ropa o vete, negro!"

Translation: "Take off you clothes or get out, nigger!"

Okay, the "nigger" part is overstating things a bit ("negro" means "black" in Spanish and generally does not carry a negative connotation). But I'm still a little in shock several days after hearing the story. As I've said before, I have nothing against one-night stands, and after nearly three years in Buenos Aires, I've come to accept -- expect even -- that most of the guys one will meet here (and all over the world) are not looking for anything more than a quick meaningless hook up. But by God, why be so nasty and obvious about it? Wouldn't it further their cause if they turned on a little charm, at least pretended they were about more than just a quickie?

It's not like my friend was looking to start anything serious with this person, but who wants to be treated like a piece of cheap, common meat (not even medium rare)? My mother used to say, "You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar." She had a point. And you can catch even more flies with a pile of shit, which, basically, is what both of the guys above were offering. Good thing about that fly-shit connection, because with such rotten, stinky attitudes, I can't imagine that they're going to do much better than flies.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

PRETTY, DUMB

This thing is getting so out of hand (insert major eye roll here). What am I going on about now? Facebook's new Living Social application, which, I must admit, has its charm. I'd much rather find out what 5 famous people my friends have met or the 5 celebrities they'd like to sleep with than read the umpteenth banal status update. (Who cares that you're going to the gym, at the gym or just left the gym?) But when people start listing the 5 trees they'd most rather sit under, we're entering dangerously inane -- and insane -- territory. I mean who sits under trees? And even if anyone did, who cares what kind of tree it is? Even Sir Isaac Newton was too busy discovering gravity to pay attention.

Give me Top Five People I Want To Punch in the face any day. My personal picks: George W. Bush (natch!), Paris Hilton, Osama Bin Laden, Chris Brown and Carrie "Miss California" Prejean. A Facebook friend publicly took issue with my last pick, not because he agrees with the assertion she made during the Q&A segment of the recent Miss USA 2009 that marriage should be between a man and a woman, but because, he wondered, why can't we all get along? "I think... saying you'd like to punch [women] is inexcusable," he wrote to me in an email after sending me a link to his blog post, which further excoriated my unbelievable behavior. (I suppose Paris wouldn't qualify as a member of the fairer sex then?) Personally, I think that's way too much ado about nothing. It's only a silly Facebook application, dude, lighten up. It's not like I called her a "dumb bitch" on national TV (as did celebrity blogger and Miss USA judge Perez Hilton, who asked her the question in the first place).

But the truth be told, a punch in the face might not be punishment enough for Carrie, whose marriage views may or may not have cost her the Miss USA crown (she had to settle for runner up). Sure, we are all entitled to our opinions, as my Facebook friend's post noted. And in turn, we are all entitled to our reactions to said opinions. I recently wrote a post for my friend's in-development website detailing my argument against Miss Prejean. In it I compared the current struggle for gay marriage rights to the fight for the right to vote by blacks during Reconstruction and suffrage for women at the beginning of the 20th century.

"I find it risible to suggest that gay couples who can't marry in the US are suffering the same kind of oppression endured by pre-emancipation blacks," wrote my Facebook pal after reading what I had written for my friend's website. Well, who suggested that? I didn't. My point was that as more states continue to recognize same-sex marriage, one day, perhaps 50 years from now, maybe 100, society will look back at people like Carrie who would have continued to deny such a basic right to anyone with the same scorn and derision with which we now view 19th-century bigots and chauvinists who denied suffrage to blacks and women, respectively.

But now that I think of it, the comparison that my colleague suggested might be an apt one. Like the debate over the right to vote for blacks 150 years ago, the argument over gay marriage is representative of a larger issue. Declaring, as Carrie did, that marriage "should be between a man and a woman" is tantamount to saying that gay people are second-class citizens. She can use all the qualifying passive-aggressive language she wants to ("I think that I believe," "no offense to anybody out there"), but when it comes right down to it, she's a homophobe. "That's how I was raised," she said. Well, weren't most of us brought up to think of marriage as being between a man and a woman? Is that a valid excuse for continued discrimination? Is that the best she can do?

I'm sure anyone who has been violently attacked because of their sexual preference would agree that homophobia is akin to racism, as the historical treatment of gays in the US is to the historical treatment of blacks. No doubt the family of Matthew Shepard would agree. It's not a question of who had/has it worse (although if it were, my vote would certainly go to blacks), but rather that they both result from a basic intolerance that has spawned extreme acts of oppression and violence. Not that I, someone who has spent a lifetime on the more dangerous side of both discrimination divides, would really expect a straight white man from Australia to see things from my point of view, but hey, everyone's entitled to their opinion.

GONE, BUT NEVER FORGOTTEN

Watching my Golden Girls DVDs for the zillionth time will never be the same. Rest in peace, Bea "Dorothy Zbornak" Arthur.

Friday, April 24, 2009

DANCIN' DAYS ARE HERE AGAIN

"Paul Oakenfold is running around the studio naked because I won't put the air on. It's hot in here, but the music is hotter!!!!"

That's Madonna, who's in the studio with producer Paul Oakenfold working on new songs for her upcoming greatest hits album. It's a relief to find out that Madonna (above, in W with her Brazilian boy toy, not Paul) is back on the dance track after the one-third undercooked, one-third overcooked and one-third just right R&B of her last album, Hard Candy. Does anyone care anymore? I, for one, am looking forward to what she'll do next. Though he's never worked on one of her albums (correct me if I'm wrong), Paul Oakenfold feels a little been-there-done-that. Still, my intuition tells me that their collaboration will be beyond fierce.

FOUR IS A CROWD

Our mothers always told us, "If you can't say something nice about someone, don't say anything at all." Sorry, mom, right now I'm about to say something unkind that I know everyone else has been thinking all along: It's time for the Americal Idol powers that be to pack up Kara DioGuardi and send her back to where she came from. "Kara, you're going home." (Cue Carrie Underwood's season 8 exit song.) How sweet those words would be to these ears. I don't care how many hits she's played a role in or how many superstars she's worked with, as an Idol judge, she's added absolutely zero to the peanut gallery this season.

And worse, at times, she makes Paula Abdul look like the smartest woman on the planet. It's bad enough that she mangled the title of Saturday Night Fever during disco week ("Saturday Night Live"? Indeed!), but at times she comes across like an overeager intern who can't believe her good fortune. By now we're all used to Randy's mad pitchy non-critiques (a real review would never include the words, "I don't know..." and "It was alright") and Paula's wackiness (which, in a strange way, keeps me watching long after nasty megalomaniac Simon has begun to bore me to tears), but if you're going to bring on a fourth wheel, at least make it someone who is somewhat likeable with a strong point of view.

I may be in the minority here, but Quentin Tarantino comes to mind. His mentorship during movie soundtrack week actually surprised me because some of his musical direction was stronger than the lame advice given by performers who make their living creating music. When he told Anoop Desai to dirty up "Everything I Do (I Do It For You)" and Matt Giraud to keep it simple, stupid, when singing "Have You Ever Really Love A Woman," I nodded in agreement. And had Matt followed Quentin's advice, he may not have ended up the lowest vote getter, prompting the judges to prematurely use a save that may have been better served down the road on frequent bottom-three dweller Allison Iraheta.

Also in Quentin's favor: During his season three stint as guest judge, he dared to tell that red-headed stranger and Frank Sinatra manqué John Stevens that he straight up did not like him. Kara has had nearly an entire season, and she has yet to make even a fraction of the impression Quentin made at that moment. And now, due to the time crunch, we don't even get to hear from all three original judges after each performance. Would anyone even notice -- or care -- if Kara were to suddenly vanish never to be heard from (on Idol) again? Matt Giraud would probably be more missed.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

O SISTER, WHERE ART THOU?


There's a good post on Film Experience about the twilight and possibly in-progress resurrection of Winona Ryder's career that got me thinking about formerly A-list, now-underemployed actresses. I was never a huge Winona Ryder fan. I thought she was the weakest link in movies like The Age Of Innocence (which I didn't care for anyway) and The Crucible (God bless, Joan Allen, speaking of drop-dead-talented, underused actresses), but I could never fathom how fighting the law (her 2002 shoplifting debacle -- the law won) could be the nail in the coffin of a once-hot career. If Ingrid Bergman could come back from a scandalous extramarital affair and win not one but two more Oscars, couldn't Winona (above, top, with Billy Bob Thornton in Transformers, out on Friday, and below, with Leonard Nimoy in the upcoming Star Trek movie) at least re-emerge above the title of a decent box-office hit?

It might happen yet (both of the above, as well as the much-hyped indie, The Private Lives Of Pippa Lee, are ensemble films), but what about her fellow former shining stars currently blinking dimly under the radar, if at all? Of course, for so many actresses, turning 40 in Hollywood is a crime greater than any you can commit against the law, but it hasn't hurt Nicole Kidman or Julianne Moore. (Of the late-fiftysomethings and above, if your name isn't Meryl Streep, Helen Mirren or Judi Dench, you were probably long ago relegated to TV or supporting film roles, but that's a story for another post.)

All things considered, the fate of actresses settling into middle age is a mixed bag. Sure things have slowed considerably for Sandra Bullock, Ashley Judd, Bridget Fonda, Elisabeth Shue, Demi Moore, Jennifer Lopez (who turns 40 in July) and presumably, partly by choice, for Julia Roberts, but Cate Blanchett (who turns 40 on May 14), Jennifer Aniston, Diane Lane, Marisa Tomei and Halle Berry continue to work steadily in high-profile or high-pedigree projects, and Renée Zellweger still hasn't run out of chances. Meanwhile, Geena Davis is said to be on the verge of a comeback with the upcoming black comedy Accidents Happen, and Debra Winger proved in a brief role in last year's Rachel Getting Married that she's still every inch the movie star. Does that mean there is still hope for Angela Bassett and Annette Bening and second-tier but still-vital talents like Andie MacDowell and Rene Russo, who hasn't been onscreen since 2005?

Most of the fortysomething actresses who work steadily -- Naomi Watts, Laura Linney and Patricia Clarkson, among them -- arrived at their Hollywood fortunes post-dewy phase. On the other hand, early success can be costly. Although the good fortunes of Natalie Portman and Kirsten Dunst are dwindling slightly, the actresses probably can coast for a few more years, but Drew Barrymore, now on a Grey Gardens-induced upswing, has travelled a rocky road from day one. Former ingenue Winona Ryder, like her Mermaids costar Christina Ricci, may be navigating that same difficult path, but the good news is that these days there are detours (HBO, Showtime, a guest arc on Ugly Betty) that can ultimately lead to streets of gold -- or at least Emmys, SAGs, Golden Globes and miraculously revived box office. Just ask Sarah Jessica Parker.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

AND CO-STARRING AS ZAC EFRON'S MOM, MARY-KATE OLSEN!

Last night I was watching a new (for South America's Sony Channel) episode of Grey's Anatomy, and my wandering mind settled on something intriguing and slightly disconcerting. It involved guest star Tyne Daly (above), Tony winner and Emmy winner for Cagney & Lacy, Christy and Judging Amy. It had nothing to do with her performance, which was as bold and blustery as usual. It was the role she was playing: Dr. McDreamy's mom.

Nothing too peculiar there, right? After all, at 63, the actress is certainly old enough to play the mother of Patrick Dempsey, 43, and when it comes to the ages of Anatomy's cast and the characters they play, watching requires a slight suspension of disbelief. But once I started to play Six Degrees of Separation in my head, the creeps started to settle in. Dr. McDreamy is the ex-husband of Dr. Addison Montgomery, now the central character of the Anatomy spin-off, Private Practice. In early Practice episodes, Addison was dancing around in the romantic orbit of Peter Wilder, played by Tim Daly, Tyne's brother, who recently was involved in a romantic story arc with Violet Turner, played by Amy Brenneman, who called Tyne "mom" for six seasons on Judging Amy.

Got all that?

Alright. Now, what's wrong with this picture? Basically, the casting directors are saying that Tyne could potentially play the mother of her real-life brother, who, at 53, is 10 years her junior. True, Tim Daly is a hunky, youthful 53, and Tyne has the matronly, overbearing mom thing down, but come on. As an actress, Tyne -- who, by the way, I think looks great -- always has been refreshingly vanity-free (she even allows her hair to go naturally gray, a rarity in Hollywood), but what an ego boost!

Consider a similarly age-gapped brother and sister duo, Eric, 53, and Julia Roberts, 41. Would any casting director even consider hiring Eric (who was born in the same year, 1956, as Tim Daly) as the Brothers & Sisters love interest of Sally Field, who was born in the same year, 1946, as Tyne Daly, played Julia's mom in Steel Magnolias, and is closer to his age than Julia? Or would they cast him as the father of Jude Law, Julia's love interest in Closer who, at age 36, is chronologically young enough to play his son?

Probably, no. But why not? Actresses seem to almost always get the short end of the casting stick when it comes to playing mothers and lovers? In order to land her greatest screen role, in 1962's The Manchurian Candidate, Angela Lansbury had to play the mother of Laurence Harvey, who was almost exactly three years her junior. Three years earlier, Laurence had been nominated for an Oscar for playing the supposedly much younger lover of Oscar winner Simone Signoret, only seven years older, in Room At The Top. Then there is Unfaithful's Diane Lane, 44, and Oliver Martinez, 43. In that film, he was supposed to be the "younger" man. Compared to whom? Richard Gere? Diane's husband in Unfaithful (and her love interest in two other movies), Gere, at 59, is nearly 20 years older than Diane's real-life husband, Josh Brolin?

Something's rotten in the state of Hollywood. Sure Sean Connery, 78, once played onscreen dad to Dustin Hoffman, 71, but he also got to play the romantic lead opposite Catherine Zeta-Jones, 39, an actress who knows a thing or two about vintage leading men (her husband, Michael Douglas, is 64), in 1999's Entrapment. According to an interview I once read with Angela Bassett, 50, she was up for Catherine's role but didn't get it -- presumably because she was too black, too old or both.

If Jack Nicholson, who turns 72 tomorrow, can win an Oscar for playing the love interest of Helen Hunt, 45, in As Good As It Gets, without the age difference ever being mentioned in the screenplay, why can't Eric Roberts romance Sally Field on Brothers & Sisters? For the steadily employed but under-appreciated actor, it certainly would be nice work if he could get it.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

NOT JUST A PRETTY FACE

Color me confused. I don't get all the commotion over Susan Boyle and the Britain's Got Talent performance heard around the world. Sure, I agree with Simon Cowell and company: The lady's got talent. Yes, she offered a spot-on rendition of "I Dreamed A Dream" from the musical Les Miserables. Do I think she will be the next Elaine Paige, as she aspires to be?

A resounding hell, no!

Here is my problem with the hoopla over Ms. Boyle: Why is anyone surprised that she can sing in the first place? Because she's 47 (but doesn't look a day over 57)? Because she's not paper thin, model gorgeous and styled within an inch of her life? But how many of the great singers of the last 40 or so years are: Barbra Streisand? Liza Minnelli? Celine Dion? (Okay, she does make paper look a little zaftig.) Elaine Paige? Have any of them ever been heralded because of their stunning beauty. Or their up-to-the-second musical taste?

I was talking to an Argentine friend who is 20. He was going on and on about the talented Ms. Boyle. For him, it's not so much that she looks like any fútbol mom on the No. 152 colectivo. It's her age. In his mind, old people (yes, to him, 46, the age of his mother, is practically Pleistocene) cannot sing.

Whoa! With the exception of Celine Dion, who is 41, all of the aforementioned talents are over 60. So is Patti LaBelle, Aretha Franklin and Linda Ronstadt. Annie Lennox is 54. Whitney Houston is 45. Reba McEntire, Trisha Yearwood, Patty Loveless and many of country music's most talented female singers are in their 40s and 50s. Mercedes Sosa, Argentina's iconic folk singer, is in her 70s, and her legend is based firmly on talent, not looks.

That everyone was so expecting Susan to embarrass herself says something disturbing about our culture. In this American Idol age, we expect talent and good looks to go hand in hand (or at least talent and great styling). It's a huge turnaround from the early '90s, when groups like Black Box and C+C Music Factory ruled the charts, and gorgeous models were used in their videos to lip sync to the vocals of plus-size diva Martha Wash. For years after the Milli Vanilli scandal, any attractive singer with a big voice would more than likely face lip-sync accusations at some point. Why? Because, you know, aside from Whitney, pretty, thin people didn't have huge voices.

But how our great expectations have shifted. If Susan Boyle looked more like a traditional pop star, would the judges -- or any of us -- have expected her to fail miserably? Would they -- or any of us -- have been so surprised or impressed by her great but by no means earth-shattering performance? Before you accuse me of being deaf, dumb and blind, consider this: If she were 20 years younger, how would she fare on Idol? If she were facing off week to week with Adam Lambert, Danny Gokey and Lil Rounds, Simon, Paula, Randy and Kara would probably be damning her performances with faint praise (as they so often do with superior but hard-to-market Idol contestants Allison Iraheta and Anoop Desai) due to her limited Billboard Hot 100 potential.

And if she were beautiful, too, she still wouldn't have a chance, as Idol prefers its women non-theateningly attractive like Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood. Syesha Mercado could sing circles around Susan Boyle, but she made it to No. 3 last season on Idol with minimal fanfare from the judges or the press. Not even her stunning version of Mariah Carey's "Vanishing" could get Simon to muster up more than a "very good" critique. And before you bring up the likeability factor, let me say that, yes, Syesha was sorely lacking in the personality department (and would her extreme self-possession have been considered less of a beauty-pageanty liability had she not been so drop-dead gorgeous?), but as Simon and Randy are so fond of saying, "Idol is a singing contest," so while likeability is bound to effect America's decision, it shouldn't factor into the judges' critiques.

But I digress. Everyone keeps asking, "Why didn't Susan Boyle make it big before?" Because of her looks, of course (not to mention the lack of an Idol-style platform like Britain's Got Talent). And the grand irony is that is exactly why she'll make it now.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

ANATOMY OF A MOVIE SCENE



I was talking to a friend about great movie looks -- as in expressions, like the one on Jeff Daniels's face in Speed as he discovered the bomb that was about to introduce him to his Maker -- and we digressed into the even richer conversational terrain of awesome movie reactions, which led to an evaluation of Oscar clips (some of the most effective ones feature incredibly moving reactions as opposed to actions). I was sorely disappointed this year that the Academy dumped the Oscar clips in favor of having previous winners in each category introduce the nominees.

While I am not downplaying the coup that it was to get the likes of Sophia Loren, Robert DeNiro and Goldie Hawn (who, as a friend of mine accurately observed, looks like she's being held together by string) on the Oscar stage, do I really need to hear Shirley MacLaine read seemingly scripted praise about Anne Hathaway, an actress she probably never met in a movie she may or may not have seen? I would have preferred a snippet from Anne's character's train wreck toast during the rehearsal dinner scene or from her confrontation with Debra Winger. What about reinstating the Oscar clips and having the former winners present together without the awkward speeches.

After all, those acting clips are what the Oscars are all about. My Oscar-obsessed friends and I have as much fun predicting them as we do the nominees. Sometimes they inspire me to change my predictions at the last minute (as was the case with My Left Foot's Daniel Day-Lewis in 1990 and Pollock's Marcia Gay Harden in 2001), and they've no doubt inspired less Oscar-season obsessed viewers to go out and see the films.

My all-time top two clips are Glenn Close shedding a single tear in the denouement of Dangerous Liaisons and Toni Collette's wordless reaction to Hayley Joel Osment's revelation about her deceased mother in The Sixth Sense. I remember being devastated in 1989 when Glenn lost to The Accused's Jodie Foster, as Glenn's ferocious performance remains one of the most indelible in my mind. Toni Collette's loss to Girl, Interrupted's Angelina Jolie affected me less because at the time I was one of the few people who hadn't seen The Sixth Sense and was not yet privy to The Big Secret.

But watching the scene again, 10 years later with 10 more years of experience, it actually brought me to tears, for reasons both personal (anyone who has had a fractured relationship with a parent will relate) and technical. If you are unconvinced of Toni Collette's thespian prowess, check out 3:45 to 4:15 (then rent The Hours, About A Boy, Emma, Velvet Goldmine and Clockwatchers). It's 30 seconds of flawless acting, a true master class. Her reaction to Hayley, who played her son, is so raw and so authentic, without a hint of actressy fussiness. I'm so glad she's finally out of the supporting ghetto with her leading role in the Showtime series United States Of Tara. Move over, Kate and Cate. Toni belongs in the holy triumvirate of great thirtysomething actresses and I suspect -- I hope -- that she's about to take her place.

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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

THE OUTSIDERS

I've devoted a considerable amount of time on this blog writing about my life in Buenos Aires, sharing my experiences as a black man in a city where there are so few of them, talking about how for better (it gets me laid) or worse (it gets me laid), to be a black American man in Argentina is to be twice an outsider. They can stare if they want to and ask obnoxious questions, but all things considered, I've never felt under suspicion or under siege in BA because of the color of my skin. I can not say the same thing about my life in the United States.

But yesterday I was presented with an uncomfortable glimpse into the Argentine psyche and how Argentines view anyone who's not Argentine. I was having a meeting with the man behind one of BA's hottest new gay parties when I mentioned a friend of mine who is a bartender at the club where his bash is held. I repeated my friend's name several times without seeing even a glimmer of recognition. "He's from Mexico; he works at the outside bar," I said, expecting those two specifics to finally do the trick. They did. "Ah, The Mexican!" he said, suddenly coming to life. "I didn't know him by his name. We just call him 'The Mexican.' "

He was smiling wide. He seemed a little embarrassed because he hadn't known my friend's name, not because he calls him "The Mexican." Clearly, he wasn't trying to offend. But he kind of did. It's bad enough that he didn't even bother to learn the name of a colleague. But fueling the fire, to him, my friend wasn't even a person; he was just a geographical location (and one, I am well aware, that is looked down on my many snobby Argentines). What if, in some other context, one employee referred to another as "The Black" or "The Gay"? How would that go over?

Not very well, I suspect. Despite the negative effect of his words, they didn't make me think any less of him. Unlike the redneck who tosses around the word "nigger" like a grenade, he didn't mean any harm. In BA, such borderline racist talk is as common as tacky tango joints, but generally, they are not intended to demean or humiliate. As Buenos Aires continues as a top South American tourist destination, this is just the porteño way of restoring order to a rapidly changing universe of increasingly varying ethnicities.

When porteños ask me if it's true, the myth about black men in bed, many of them still don't get how insulting the question is. (Neither did Sophia Petrillo, who asked that very same thing on an episode of The Golden Girls, but her character was pretty much based on inappropriate remarks.) They don't understand why I blow them off when they ask me about the size of my penis (I was out with my friend Rob, who is also black, this past weekend, and he actually overheard two guys say, "Hay dos pijas negras!" or, as one might say in English: "Two black dicks!") or why it turns me off when someone courts me with the line, "Siempre ha estado mi fantasia estar con un hombre como vos" (translation: "I've been fantasizing about black dick all life long -- and I can tell by that look on your face that my fantasy is not about to come true").

And ignorance is all kinds of bliss, isn't it? I don't get angry -- or even -- anymore; I just pretend like I've gone temporarily deaf. Which is what I did with the "Mexican" comment. I'm not sure if it was the product of an ingrained attitude toward certain demos, just words, or a little of both. Or maybe I'm overthinking this entire thing. After all, if I had to choose between being labeled "El Negro" or "Nigger," there'd be no contest. Now pass the malt liquor.

DANGEROUSLY IN LOVE

"Holding on to you, means letting go of pain, means letting go of tears, means letting go of rain. Holding on to you, means letting sorrows heal, means letting go of what's not real." -- Terence Trent D'Arby, "Holding On To You" (from 1995's Terence Trent D'Arby's Vibrator)

I hope that I will be able to relate to TTD's gorgeous sentiment just once before I die.

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Friday, April 10, 2009

IN PRAISE OF SHARLEEN SPITERI

As frontwoman of the band Texas, Sharleen Spiteri has given me some of my favorite musical memories of the last 20 years. How do I love thee, Sharleen? Let me count the ways -- or rather, the reasons: 1) "I Don't Want A Lover," 2) "Fade Away," 3) White On Blonde, 4) The Hush, 5) "Carnival Girl," 6) Red Book, 7) "Stop I Don't Love You Anymore." But most of all, there's the video below, in which Sharleen describes her close encounter with Paris Hilton.

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BEHIND THE MASK

During a recent visit to Buenos Aires from Los Angeles, my friend Nancy told me about an interview she once read with Robert Redford in which he explained how he came to cast America's one-time sweetheart Mary Tyler Moore as the ice-queen bitch mother from hell in his Oscar-winning 1980 film, Ordinary People. As he told it, he was sitting on the beach, when in the distance he noticed Mary Tyler Moore walking by. She looked nothing like the sweet-as-pie Mary Richards that her fans had come to know and love during her years on her eponymous TV show. Instead, she was wearing a brittle, frosty expression on her face, like a steely warning to anyone who might consider interrupting her deep contemplation. Robert Redford had an epiphany: This seemingly sweet as apple pie actress had a dark side, and she could do justice to the role. His female lead was as good as cast.

Listening to this story, I began to think of one of my favorite quotes, from Maya Angelou. The first time I heard it, many years ago, Oprah Winfrey was repeating it on her talk show: "When people show you how they are, believe them." The idea is simple enough -- if not drop-dead obvious -- but what an effective way of expressing it. I'd come to a similar conclusion years earlier, in middle school, when I realized that the best way to discover a person's true colors is to look at them when they don't realize that anyone is looking.

The first time I tested this theory was when I was in seventh grade, and my sister's college boyfriend, Eric, came to visit. The entire family loved him. He was handsome, charming, and most of all, he professed to be God-fearing. But during this visit, he showed me how he was -- and I believed him. I walked into the bedroom where he was crashing, and before he noticed I had entered the room, I caught the strangest look on his face. It was steely and calculating, almost scary in its intensity and the complete antithesis of the blank, guileless mask he had been wearing in front of the family. I knew then and there that Mr. Right was all wrong, and as it turned out, I was right.

So was Robert Redford. No one will ever know for sure what was really going on behind that smile that MTM used to turn the world on during the '60s and '70s, but if you're going to tap into your dark side, you might as well wow the critics (see the video below to find out why) and score a best actress Oscar nomination in the process.

MORE MONSTROUS MOVIE MOMS
  • Gladys Cooper as Mrs. Windle Vale in Now, Voyager
  • Gladys Cooper as Mrs. Railton-Bell in Separate Tables
  • Angela Lansbury as Eleanor Iselin in The Manchurian Candidate
  • Faye Dunaway as Joan Crawford in Mommie Dearest
  • Angelica Huston as Lilly Dillon in The Grifters
  • Oprah Winfrey as Sethe in Beloved
  • Julianne Moore as Laura Brown in The Hours
  • Debra Winger as Abby in Rachel Getting Married
  • Kate Winslet as April Wheeler in Revolutionary Road

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Thursday, April 9, 2009

IN PRAISE OF ROZ DOYLE

Did you ever see the episode of Frasier where guest star Felicity Huffman's frosty radio host and Peri Gilpin's man-hungry Roz spar at the coffee house. The writers gave Felicity Huffman the best zingers of the verbal throwdown ("At first, I wondered who you slept with to get that job. Then I realized, everyone"), but to the non-victor went the spoils: Peri's delivery and reactions were more fun to watch.

Looking at the scene I felt disappointed that Roz, a character I always adored, spent so much time on the fringes of the show, regularly relegated to the opening scene and only occasionally getting a central storyline, while Jane Leeves's Daphne (above, forefront -- of course! -- with Peri) hogged all of the screen time. Nothing against Daphne or the actress who played her, but the majority of her jokes always seemed to hinge on her over-the-top Cockney accent or some out-of-character bitchy behavior. And like Courteney Cox on Friends, Peri was the only regular cast member to be denied an Emmy nomination during the series' run.

Peri's has worked steadily in TV movies and episodic guest work since Frasier's 2004 cancellation, but here's hoping that someone can create a showcase vehicle for her that's worthy of her comedic talents.

ALL THE SMALL THINGS

Recently I was talking to a friend about grand romantic gestures and how it's the little things that really show us love. For her, nothing says, "I love you," like picking her up at the airport. I'm not sure why or when this became tantamount to caring truly, madly, deeply about her, but I suppose no one wants to be stuck, like Catherine Zeta-Jones in The Terminal (above), waiting for a lift after a long, exhausting flight.

The gestures that move me are even smaller. A few months ago, I was eating delivery Chinese food at home with a date. We had our entire lunch spread -- chicken chau-mien, spring rolls, Sprite Zero -- laid out on the living-room table. At one point, he reached over and pulled a few paper towel sections off the roll. I expected him to hand at least one of them to me (you know, just in case I had any embarrassing food remnants clinging to my upper lip ), but he didn't, so I pulled off a couple of sections myself and dabbed away. Later, when he poured himself another glass of Sprite Zero, I wondered if he'd finally get it right and pour some for me as well. This time, he didn't disappoint. My lunch date, I thought, has potential (never realized, of course, but faithful readers of this blog figured that out on their own).

I know it's a crazy way to size up someone, but I can't help it. I once decided five minutes into a first date that I'd never go out with the guy again when he dared to answer his cell phone mid-sentence (mine!). I've since relaxed my ban on answering cell phones, although I still believe they should be neither seen nor heard when one is in the presence of romantic company.

I think my obsession with proprieties of conduct began years ago, in the mid-'90s, after I interviewed Sting at his Central Park West apartment. His wife, Trudie, greeted me at the front door and led me into the living room, where Sting arrived a few minutes later. After an hour-long conversation, we'd covered plenty of ground, from why he'd never reunite with the Police ("The only reason to do it would be for the money, which I don't need") to why he's not more selective about his duet collaborators ("I have a hard time saying no").

I returned to my office, starstruck and excited about what, up to that point, had been the most A-list interview of my career. But when my colleagues asked me how it went, nobody cared about the actual interview. Every single woman wanted to know the same thing: "Did he offer you something to drink?" This, I thought, must be the mark of a true gentleman. Thus they created a monster obsessed with the tiniest of gestures. And I never recovered.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

CATFIGHTS AND TIARAS

"Oh, well. At least I won't have to lose to Cher." -- Lillian Gish, 94, nonchalant after failing to receive a best actress Oscar nomination for 1987's The Whales Of August

I live for bitchy, catty comments from Hollywood legends -- especially when they're at the expense of a fellow icon. My other favorite was from Marlene Dietrich, who, upon hearing that Madonna wanted to play her in a Dietrich biopic, sniffed, "She needs to get some new material, girl."

Brilliant.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

BURNING QUESTIONS

Today I was listening to a compilation of hits by the Supremes, one of the biggest U.S. groups of the rock & roll era, and second only to the Beatles in the 1960s. As "Where Did Our Love Go" played, I wondered, Why aren't there more cover versions of Supremes songs? The only hit covers of Supremes songs that I can think of off the top of my head are by UK acts: "You Can't Hurry Love" by Phil Collins (No. 10 US, No. 1 UK, 1982), the aforementioned "Where Did Our Love Go" by Soft Cell (No. 8 US, No. 1 UK, 1983), "Stop In The Name Of Love" by the Hollies (No. 29 US, 1983), and "You Keep Me Hangin' On" by Kim Wilde (No. 1 US, No. 2 UK, 1986). And my all-time favorite Supremes cover: "When The Lovelight Starts Shining Through His Eyes" by the late Brit-soul legend Dusty Springfield.

Why is it that whenever I compliment the physical appearance of a straight guy in front of a straight girl, she always points out that the guy is straight? Do we do the same thing when straight girls compliment gay guys? When I rave about the unbelievable beauty of, say, Cate Blanchett, does anyone say, "But she's a girl?" It's not like I'm angling to jump into bed with every cute guy I see. Well, maybe I am, but believe me, alleged straightness does not rule that out.

Whatever happened to Bridget Fonda? I was recently reading old posts on my new favorite blog, The Film Experience, and the diva obsessed Nathaniel Rogers wondered the same thing. He also prayed that Bridget's Aunt Jane would get one more great role -- and perhaps a eighth Oscar nomination? -- for the road. Coming one day: a post on great missing-in-action actresses.

Why did my friend Lori dream about Robert Redford the other night? I'll have to remember to ask her tomorrow when we leave for the weekend in Colonia, Uruguay.

Why is it so much tougher to pack for one or two days than it is for one week? Playing favorites with my shirts and trousers is such hard work.

Why do Argentines always insist on taking a sip of your drink in bars and clubs and then offering it to their friends? I'm not so keen on sharing a straw with people I do know, much less total strangers.

I'm watching an old episode of Friends (the one after Monica and Chandler got engaged -- the show is always on in South America), and I'm asking myself, Why was Courteney Cox the only regular never to receive an Emmy nomination? Bad acting (I don't think so) or playing a slightly annoying character. It sure didn't hurt one-time Oustanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series nominee David Schwimmer (not bad acting, playing a slightly annoying character).

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

WHO'S MY CELEBRITY BOYFRIEND?

I thought I wanted a bad boy. I mean, don't we all want a bad boy? I'm not talking about a modern day Jesse James, but a rough neck who lives on the edge (albeit on the right side of the law). So when I took the Facebook quiz, "Who's Your Celebrity Boyfriend?", I was sure he would be Colin Farrell. He was for several of my Facebook friends, and I figured the cliché would apply to me as well. I answered all of the questions, certain I was on the path to a perfect match with the In Bruges Golden Globe winner. So imagine my surprise to discover that my star other half is (drum roll, please), Will Smith.

Will Smith? Apparently, that one provided my friends with an interesting conversation piece. I'm not sure why. Maybe it's because, like me, Will Smith is black, and I haven't dated too many black guys. Or perhaps it's just that my friends consider me to be funny in my own right, and my relationships have never been about the pursuit of regular laughing fits. I hate comedy clubs, and even more, clowns. But what about the guy who cracks me up without even trying (and I'm not talking Jim Carrey in The Majestic)?

I've spent most of my dating years chasing bad boys (great kissers, terrible boyfriends); strong, silent types (sexy, at least for a few weeks, then drop dead dull); artists (so self-involved); and model wannabes (too busy trying to make an impression to make a good one, plus terrible in bed). I ain't much on Casanova, heroes or daredevils. But what about the guy with a surplus of wit? I can't recall ever dating one seriously. Maybe I've always been afraid that we'd have so much in common that we'd spend the entire romance competing for airtime.

But do opposites really attract for long? Or do all those foreign qualities that one initally finds so alluring, ultimately repel? When the sex is no longer exciting and new, don't the strong, silent types bore me to tears, the bad boys start to seem kind of juvenile, and the artists and model wannabes begin to annoy me?

Now I know what I have to do. I never thought I'd actually take one of those Facebook quizzes seriously, but if this one works out for me, I'll have Facebook to thank for it.