Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Burning Questions: The Tel Aviv Edition

When did everyone else catch on to the fabulousness that is Thursday? It's been my favorite day of the week for decades, ever since the mid-'90s, when it was the best night to go to the star-studded Bowery Bar in New York City for a few hours of celebrity spotting. (In this corner table, Matt Dillon, in this one, Wesley Snipes, in this one, Madonna, and at the bar, nodding politely at the guy a few feet away from him who's ordering a kir royale and giving him the eye -- that would be one of mine -- Madonna's ex, Sean Penn!)

But in the post-Thursdays-at-Bowery Bar era, my appreciation for Thursday has had more to do with my realization that the best part of any great event is the anticipation leading up to it, and on Thursday, you still have the weekend to look forward to. You can imagine it being anything you hope it will be because it hasn't yet disappointed you by being just another weekend, and most importantly, it's not even close to being over because it hasn't even yet begun.

Which brings me to Wednesday in Tel Aviv, which, due to Shabbat, is technically their Thursday, which inadvertently got its due props on Monday night (the equivalent to Tuesday in the world outside of Israel) in the words on a poster I saw on my way into OCD, a gay hip hop party whose soundtrack reminded me of Wonder Bar in New York City in the late '90s: "Wednesday is the new BLACK." I don't think I've been so excited about Hump Day since the Hump Day when I wrote a blog post about my soundtrack to one.

Speaking of soundtracks, when did rap replace Motown as the go-to incidental black music in all-white affairs? And I'm not just talking about the dance floor at OCD. For years, it seemed that whenever you went to see a Hollywood movie starring white actors as characters who were middle class to affluent, you couldn't leave the theater without hearing at least one Motown singalong. (I'm still rolling my eyes over the memory of Susan Sarandon's cancer-stricken mom and her two kids trying to cheer each other up while dancing and lip-syncing to Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell's "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" in 1998's Stepmom.) Hell, 1983's The Big Chill, which didn't include a single black actor among its principal cast, had a major hit soundtrack that featured predominantly '60s golden Motown oldies sung by black artists.

Then faster than you can say "Tropic Thunder" (the title of the 2008 film in which a bald-capped Tom Cruise attempted to send-up his white-boy image by gyrating and rapping along to "Low" by Flo Rida and "Get Back" by Ludacris, and one that featured a white actor, Robert Downey Jr., playing a "black" character and a black actor, Brandon T. Jackson, playing a rapper playing a soldier named, yes, Motown), white mainstream Hollywood's musical emphasis shifted to rap. In the last few days, I've finally gotten around to watching three of the five top-grossing comedies of 2013 so far (The Heat, We're the Millers and The Hangover Part III), all of which feature white actors in all of the principal roles, and all of which feature rap music blaring on the soundtrack in at least one key scene.

In the case of The Heat, rap music was all over the movie, and some of it -- particularly Azealia Banks' 2011 debut single, "212" (featuring Lazy J), a Top 20 UK hit -- actually made the slapstick antics of Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy (the star of Identity Thief, the third-biggest comedy of 2013 so far, who also popped up in The Hangover Part III, playing basically the same character she's been playing onscreen since Bridesmaids in 2011) worth watching. BTW, I'm not saying that McCarthy doesn't have range. The characters that made her a TV star -- her sidekicks in Gilmore Girls and Samantha Who? and her lead in Mike & Molly -- had/have entirely different dispositions than any of her of recent big-screen alter egos.

Where the hell am I from anyway? Frankly, I'm confused and probably not a little bit confusing, which gives me something in common with the people in Tel Aviv, many of whom, despite their Israeli status, originated elsewhere, or have parents who did. I'm still saying I'm from New York City, but it's been seven years since I actually lived there. Should I now shift the emphasis to the U.S. Virgin Islands, where I was actually born? Nobody in this part of the world even knows what those are. Or how about Florida, where I grew up? Nah, too long ago.

Of course, I could say Bangkok or Melbourne, but then I'd be like the Israeli girl I met at OCD who was claiming to be from Los Angeles just because she happens to live there now. She was so excited to meet a fellow American that I didn't have the heart to tell her that she's still Israeli (her accent was what immediately gave her origin away), and that I haven't actually been to New York City in three and a half years, and I currently have no idea when I'll be going back.
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