Sunday, September 28, 2008


Lately I've been thinking about mortality. My mortality. The mortality of others. The other day I was talking politics with a part-time Bostonian expatriate in his '70s who, I should mention, had an attractive blonde on his arm who couldn't have been more than 50. I was saying that all great things come to an end, and if John McCain is elected President of the United States in November, it might be the United States' turn. "Think about it," I said. "The Roman Empire didn't last forever. Great Britain and Spain were once major world powers." He nodded in agreement and said that thankfully, he wouldn't have to worry about it because he won't be around.

I wondered what it must feel like to be at an age when you know death is probably right around the corner. I'm well aware that it could strike suddenly for any of us, but when I go to sleep at night, I'm fairly certain that I'll wake up the next day. Someone who's pushing 80 can't be so sure. How does it feel?

The stars of my youth are getting old. The legends of my youth are dying. Last night I was watching an episode of the excellent series The Game, a rare TV comedy that presents beautiful black people in a realistic light, and there was Lee Majors, looking centuries older than he did when I used to watch The Six Million Dollar Man as a kid in the '70s.

Then there is Paul Newman, who died September 26 at age 83 from lung cancer. He'd been sick for a long time, so I knew that it was just a matter of time before he succumbed. Like Clint Eastwood, who is still kicking and seems to direct about two films a year at 78, Paul Newman was supposed to live forever. Along with Burt Lancaster and a very young Marlon Brando, he was quite possibly the most beautiful man I've ever seen on celluloid (see evidence in the photo above).

For me, the most indelible Newman image is him on the track field in the opening scene of Cat On A Hat Tin Roof, a film that features what I consider to be his and Elizabeth Taylor's greatest performances. He's one of the few actors from Hollywood's golden era who continued to generate great performances and decent box-office up to the end. His final major film, The Road To Perdition, even earned him an Oscar nomination for Best Performance By An Actor In A Supporting Role, his first in that category. And for his final telefilm, Empire Falls, he won an Emmy, a Golden Globe and a Screen Actors Guild Award. As Joe Elliott of Def Leppard once sang, "It's better to burn out than fade away."

In the coming years, more greats will make their final exit. Others will be crossing over into senior citizenship. Next year, Meryl Streep, Jessice Lange, Sissy Spacek, Sigourney Weaver, Richard Gere and Bruce Springsteen turn 60! When did they become my parents age? I guess they've always been, but they seemed to have taken a dip in the fountain of youth. Still, as fantastic as Meryl looked in Mammi Mia!, there's no denying 60.

I can't help but wonder who will replace them in the pantheon of greats. Leonardo DiCaprio and Will Smith (two of a rare few who balance commercial and critical clout) come to mind. So do the great K/Cates (Winslet and Blanchett). There aren't too many contenders, as Hollywood currently seems to be more intent on producing stars and building blockbusters than molding legends and creating classics. Will Angelina Jolie matter so much once her beauty starts to fade? Will we still love Jennifer Aniston tomorrow when those toned arms start turning to flab? Time will tell, but I'm not counting on it.


It's traditionally the toughest acting category to predict and the one most likely to produce a major upset (Marisa Tomei, Juliette Binoche, Tilda Swinton, to name but a few). At this point, Penelope Cruz is the only solid contender, but we still have a long way to go. So sit back and enjoy the ride--er, the show?


Debra Winger: Rachel Getting Married
Her performance as the mother of the bride--and Anne Hathaway--is being compared to Mary Tyler Moore's nearly 30 years ago in Ordinary People. If it's half as good, she'll get her fourth Oscar invitation and first in 15 years.

Kate Winslet: The Reader Director Stephen Daldry's last two films, Billy Elliott and The Hours, earned supporting nods for Julie Walters and Julianne Moore, respectively. If history repeats (and barring a dip in the skills of everyone involved, why shouldn't it?), Kate's role as the object of a teenaged boy's affection in postwar Germany will make her this year's Cate Blanchett.

Kim Basinger: The Burning Plain It's been downhill since her Oscar for L.A. Confidential 10 years ago (though I must admit that Cellular remains one of my greatest guilty pleasures). But her role as Charlize Theron's adulterous mom (left, with costar Joaquim de Almeida) in the directorial debut of the writer of Amores Perros, 21 Grams and Babel could reverse her fortunes if she doesn't end up being overshadowed Babel-style by one of the unknown actresses in the multi-arc ensemble.

Penelope Cruz: Vicky Cristina Barcelona Two years after her nomination for Volver, Penelope's generating buzz again for her leading role in Elegy and this. In the past, director Woody Allen has had an excellent track record with supporting actresses. (Just ask Mariel Hemingway, Diane Wiest, Judy Davis, Jennifer Tilly, Mira Sorvino and Samantha Morton.) Right now, I think she's the one to beat.

Taraji P. Henson: The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button She and the Academy already have history: Taraji sang on "It's Hard Out There For A Pimp," the 2006 Best Original Song from Hustle & Flow. On the evidence of her two brief appearances in the Benjamin Button trailer (watch it here), the role looks like it might by showy enough to nab her a spot in the final five.


Marisa Tomei: The Wrestler Time flies! When did Marisa (left) become old enough to play an "aging stripper"? She's been making smart choices lately, and I think it's just a matter of time before she gets her third nomination. I just hope someone somewhere is writing a kick-ass leading role for this very talented actress.

Sophie B. Okonedo: The Secret Life Of Bees She's said to stand out in an ensemble that includes Queen Latifah, Jennifer Hudson, Alicia Keys and Dakota Fanning. The film doesn't have much buzz yet, but as Oscar has been embracing multi-culturalism lately, I wouldn't rule out a second nomination for Sophie.

Saturday, September 27, 2008


Ah, springtime in BA. Blues skies. Rays of sunlight. Trees in bloom. People doing the most peculiar things. Today, I was riding the collectivo to an appointment when I spotted two young boys washing car windows for extra change at the stoplight of a particularly busy intersection. While I applauded on the inside because it was nice to see kids working hard for the money rather than begging for it or, worse, stealing it, my clapping stopped when I saw the older of the boys, who couldn't have been more than 12, accept a cigarette from a man in the passenger's seat of a truck, drags on it three times and hand it back to man. When mommie dearest taught us how to share, I don't think this is what she had in mind.


She's back! Today, Britney Spears released "Womanizer," the first single from her sixth CD, Circus (due Dec. 2, her 27th birthday), to radio. Britney has described the set as "her best work ever" and as being "more urban"--than what, she hasn't specified. In my humble opinion, 2007's Blackout was not only her first solid CD but as "urban" as contemporary pop gets without being straight-up R&B. It's a shame she was in no frame of mind to properly promote it, but at least having too much time on her hands got her into the studio quickly to record a follow-up.

Unfortunately, she seems to have left a bit too soon. Maybe she's just at her musical best when she's under emotional duress. Or perhaps her having too much creative input (one suspects she emailed her Blackout vocals to the producers and let them do the rest) disturbs the groove. "Womanizer" is a step in the wrong direction--sideways instead of forward. It sounds like a Blackout outtake that was deemed unfit for that album. The repetition of the titular phrase "Gimme More" may have worked wonders on the chorus of the last album's first single, but on "Womanizer," it makes Britney sound like she doesn't have anything to say, which is alarming, considering all that she has been through the last couple of years.

In the end, it's an interesting title in search of an interesting song. If it had been released a year or two after In The Zone, it wouldn't be so disappointing. But with Blackout, Britney--or rather, her producers--raised the bar. Let's hope the rest of Circus crosses it.

LISTEN Britney Spears: "Womanizer"

Friday, September 26, 2008


It's Heath Ledger's world, his fellow potential nominees just live in it.


Heath Ledger: The Dark Knight
He was practically a shoo-in nominee even before the film opened to rave reviews on it's way to becoming the all-time No. 2 box-office champ. Not to take anything away from his eye-popping performance, but his untimely and completely unexpected death in January makes him perhaps the strongest sentimental favorite in Oscar history.

Josh Brolin: Milk Overlooked last time for his performance in the thankless role of No Country For Old Men's good guy, Josh (left) should have more luck as the baddie who offs Sean Penn's gay San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk. Playing the 43rd president in director Oliver Stone's upcoming biopic W will boost both his profile and his chances.

Liev Schreiber: Defiance After years of quietly impressing under the radar, the film and stage actor is said to totally upstage James Bond (costar Daniel Craig) as one of three Jewish brothers who escape the Nazi's during World War II. Add to that the Academy's obsesssion with Holocaust-themed films and director Edward Zwick's remarkable track record with actors in supporting roles, and an Oscar-nominated star is born.

Michael Sheen: Frost/Nixon If the still-untested film is as great as it's expected to be, expect Oscar to make up for snubbing The Queen's Tony Blair two years ago.

Robert Downey Jr.: The Soloist It helps that director Joe Wright has gone two for two, nominations-wise, with his first and second films, Pride And Prejudice and Atonement, respectively. But Robert has more than promising odds on his side. Hotter than ever with a pair of 2008 hits, Iron Man and Tropic Thunder, and a just-announced role as the title character in the upcoming Sherlock Holmes, the actor could seal his comeback with his second nomination.


James Franco: Milk His performance as Sean Penn's gay lover is already being singled out, and if momentum builds, the Academy just might forget that he had anything to do with Pineapple Express.

Tobey Maguire: Brothers It's been forever since we've seen Tobey (left) out of his Spider-Man tights! With former supporting nominees Jake Gyllenhaal and Natalie Portman along for the ride in this remake of a critically hailed Danish war drama (when Tobey goes missing in Afghanistan, his kid brother, Jake, bonds with his wife, Natalie, and kid), the star of previous Best Picture contenders The Cider House Rules and Seabiscuit could finally get some Oscar love of his own.


I confess. I'm addicted to General Hospital: Night Shift. Previously a casual oh-let's-see-what's-going-on-with-"Scrubs" viewer, I now find myself practically counting down the days, the hours even, until the next episode is posted on YouTube.

This wasn't supposed to happen. A few months ago when I was in New York City, I unintentionally caught the second-season premiere of the once-a-week prime-time SoapNet-only General Hospital spin-off because I was getting ready for a lunch appointment and didn't feel like interrupting my grooming to change the channel. I'd purposely avoided Season 1 because I thought the very idea of a SoapNet-only GH spin-off was the cheesiest thing ever to hit the small screen (most reality TV notwithstanding).

But nine episodes later, after weeks of incrementally increasing interest, I'm totally hooked. The thing I love most about Night Shift is that it brings me back to the days of my youth when I watched daytime TV with my mom. Back then, relationships--romantic, platonic, familial and otherwise-- drove soap story, not bloody mob wars, outrageous sci-fi twists and tired vendettas. For the most part, daytime drama was populated by characters doing a lot of the things people do in real life.

Night Shift is a huge step back in that direction. For the first time since the late-'70s, General Hospital --yes, the hospital--front burner, driving story and getting major screen time. Tuning into Night Shift is almost like watching Grey's Anatomy without all the graphic detail and the hammy semaphoric acting. With the exception of Nurse Epiphany's romance with an orderly played by a 70-something Billy Dee Williams (looking old enough to be her daddy and slightly embarrassed because of it), all of the main continuing storylines have slowly but surely pulled me in.

There's Dr. Kyle Julian, the gay intern at odds with his adopted older attending-resident brother, Dr. Leo Julian (and about to punch him in the photo above), who has just slept with Kyle's roommate, Dr. Claire Simpson, after freaking out from fear that his once-tentative romance with holistic-medicine specialist Dr. Saira Batra was going too smoothly. (So true to life: Everybody plays the fool, yearning for love and romance but suspicious and unwilling to accept it when it comes too easily--or at all.) Then there is the budding triangle between GH's Dr. Robin Scorpio and Dr. Patrick Drake (collectively dubbed "Scrubs" by fans) and Jagger Cates (played by hunky-as-ever Antonio Sabato Jr., who originated the character on GH in the mid-'80s and revived him for Night Shift after some 13 years away). And the most touching storyline of all has Robin's dad, legendary super-agent Robert Scorpio, battling colon cancer.

No wonder Emmy winners Anthony Geary and Finola Hughes (Luke Spencer and Anna Devane, respectively) and '80s GH vets Sharon Wyatt and John D. Reilly (Tiffany and Sean Donely) will bring their characters to Night Shift's two-part finale on October 14 and 21. (I pray that it's not to say goodbye to a slipping Robert Scorpio.) If that doesn't say something about the show's perceived quality, well...well...let me go on....

Despite the fact that the Night Shift storylines involving core GH characters seem to exist in a separate universe from the parent show (last season, heart-transplant patient Maxie was knocking on death's door on Night Shift while prancing around town half-naked, stirring up trouble on GH), I find myself completely invested in all of the flawed but mostly likeable characters.

In fact, a few days ago, as I watched the final scenes of Episode 10, I actually found myself tearing up twice. Once was when the mother of the Leo and Kyle (played by ex-All My Children star and Emmy winner Kathleen Noone), after being admonished by both sons for not being Mommie Perfect, apologized and pleaded with them to reconcile, because when everything else is gone, she promised, they'll be all each other have left. The second time was over something Robert said to his pregnant HIV-positive daughter, Robin, who has been burned so many times by loved ones (including dear old dad) that she's basically encased her heart in armor to avoid being bruised by her baby daddy and would-be fiance, Patrick. "Any life worth living," he promised, "is going to be just a little bit dangerous."

Memo to daytime's head writers: This is how real live intelligent people talk. Lose the outrageous (whoever's idea it was to send several One Life To Live characters back in time to 1968, I'm talking to you!) and get back to telling engaging, semi-realistic stories about life, love and pain. Stat!

Thursday, September 25, 2008


Today, Round 2 of my 2009 Oscar-nominee predictions.


Angelina Jolie: Changeling
Acclaim at Cannes doesn't necessarily translate to Oscar glory, and costar Amy Ryan already rode a vaguely similar role, mother of a missing child (though the twist here is that the tyke is reunited with mom, who suspects he isn't her actual son), to a nomination this past year in Gone Baby Gone. But I have a feeling that lingering guilt over snubbing her for A Mighty Heart and having director Clint Eastwood in her corner will overcome the Academy's apparent aversion to Angie.

Kate Beckinsale: Nothing But The Truth For years, she's epitomized an actress on the verge, a la a pre-Monster Charlize Theron, and finally, she has an Oscar bait role as a reporter jailed for not revealing a source. Director Rod Lurie previously guided Joan Allen to a best-actress nod for The Contender. My money's on Kate being next in line.

Kate Winslet: Revolutionary Road Another year, another shot for the five-time nominee. There's been limited early word on the '50s-set drama--which reunites Titanic stars Kate and Leonardo DiCaprio (left) and was directed by Kate's Academy Award-winning husband, Sam Mendes (American Beauty)--other than that it might be Kate's strongest bid for Oscar yet. (P.S. Leo looks so great in the trailer, which I just watched for the first time, that I'm tempted to put him on the guys' short list.)

Meryl Streep: Doubt What's an Oscar contest without Meryl...or Judi Dench...or Cate Blanchett? But this time, Meryl--Winslet's main competition at this early stage--may actually have a snowball's chance in hell of claiming the prize that has eluded her since her win for Sophie's Choice more than 25 years ago.

Nicole Kidman: Australia The trailer markets it as an epic of Atonement proportions. But don't hold that against it. After all, the Capital-F Film reunites Nicole (above, in an Annie Leibovitz photo taken on set) with Baz Luhrmann, director of her Oscar breakthrough, Moulin Rouge (songs and dance not included). Need I say more?


Anne Hathaway: Rachel Getting Married She's had box-office hits, Oscar-winning costars/directors (Meryl, Julie Andrews, Ang Lee) and tabloid coverage (thanks to her four-year relationship with fraud suspect Rafaello Follieri). Now all Anne (left) needs is a little Academy cred. Word on the street is that her twisted-sister take on the Nicole Kidman role in last year's Margot At The Wedding might do the trick.

Melissa Leo: Frozen River I know nothing about this film other than that I keep reading articles predicting big things ahead for Melissa, whom I loved as Benicio del Toro's long-suffering wife in 21 Grams. Oscar usually reserves one slot for a first-timer, so if she's embraced by the precursors, the 48-year-old former All My Children star could likely sneak in.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


Tis the season to be jolly! No, I'm not already plugging Christmas (of which, for the record, I'm no fan). I'm jumping for joy because after a summer of dull-as-dirt big-screen blockbusters (I may be in the minority, but I was underwhelmed by The Dark Knight), the Oscar contenders are finally upon us. Nights in Rodante, starring a nomination-less Richard Gere and Academy bait Diane Lane opens on Friday, and things only get better from there.

Every year I share my Oscar predictions with my friends, and my track record is pretty solid. My former colleague Mara and I actually used to have an Oscar board at work for all of the major acting categories (more an admirer of the thespian craft than filmmaking, I've never been much interested in Best Picture and Best Director), and my expert credentials include winning at least two office Oscar pools.

So shall we begin? Without further delay, here are the first of my 2009 Oscar Picks. (Each day I will highlight a different category.)


Frank Langella: Frost/Nixon No one knows much of anything about the film other than that it's based on an immensely popular Broadway play, which means its critical fortunes could go either way. Langella, who won a Tony and practically ever other major stage award for his performance as the highly compromised 37th U.S. president, has been touted as the frontrunner since the day after the 2008 ceremony, mostly because he was so egregiously snubbed last year for Starting Out In The Evening. I'm jumping on his bandwagon, too, because, let's face it, he's due--at least a nomination.
Brad Pitt: The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button The trailer alone has many deeming this the Best Picture frontrunner. Will Brad Pitt (left) ride its coattails to a much-delayed second nomination (his supporting nod for 12 Monkeys was 13 years ago) after two straight years of being overlooked in favor of his costars in supporting roles? Eventually, Oscar will have to get past his excess baggage (matinee-idol good looks, tabloid-bait status, untraditional nuclear family with controversial live-in lover) and recognize that the man's got talent.

Clint Eastwood: Gran Torino He was the only thing I liked about Million Dollar Baby (I cheered loudest when he sneaked in a best-actor nomination), and I think that sooner or later the Academy will appreciate his acting as much as they already worship his directing. If that's even possible.

Mickey Rourke: The Wrestler He's the talk of the festival circuit for his title-character role in director Darren Aronofsky's drama. Oscar loves a comeback, and not even his fashion disasters at the Venice Film Festival (featuring clown ties and a miniature pooch as accessories--see above photo) will probably stop this one.

Will Smith: Seven Pounds Hollywood's most bankable box-office star + a reunion with his Pursuit of Happyness director = Oscar nod No. 3?


Richard Jenkins: The Visitor This year's Julie Christie? Jenkins (left, perhaps best known to the masses as Six Feet Under's dead dad) is another veteran character actor who's finally getting his due. The reviews for his performance as a dead-on-the-inside recent widower who's reawakened after being thrust into the orbit of a family of illegal immigrants received unanimous praise early this year. But will Oscar remember? He's been known to have a short memory.

Benicio del Toro: The Argentine Although the perfectly cast del Toro won Best Actor at Cannes for his performance as Argentine revolutionary Che Guevara, the picture has been saddled with mixed buzz all year and only just got distribution from IFC Films. Considering that the director is the infinitely marketable Steven Soderbergh, that can only mean one thing: It's a truly tough sell. Plus, it's actually one of two movies--the other being Guerilla--that make up a four-hour-and-counting biopic called Che. Still, I think the Oscar winner (for his role in Traffic, another Soderbergh film) has more than a fighting chance of snagging his third nomination (and first for a leading role).

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


Shh... Don't tell a soul. But I was secretly entertained by the Emmys last night. For one thing, it's the first major awards show I've watched in Buenos Aires that wasn't dubbed badly in Spanish. For another, it was actually kind of enjoyable. Sure there were moments both must-see (though I was never really in on the joke, it was great to see Jo Anne Worley and Ruth Buzzi of Laugh-In, above, after all these years) and cringe-worthy (I kept wondering how much they paid Josh Groban to so thoroughly embarass himself by singing the TV-theme medly). But the latter as well as the former are what make award shows watchable. Middle of the road just won't do.

And since we're on the subject of cringe-worthy, I know she's no actress, but someone needs to teach The Hills' Lauren Conrad how to clap like she means it. Instead of raiding TV's C-list for presenters, why not upgrade and trade Conrad for, say, Cold Case's Kathryn Morris, Medium's Patricia Arquette or any credible (read: not reality) actress from a credible (read: not reality) show that people old enough to drink actually care about?

Still, it's always a pleasure to see Steve Martin, Kathy Griffin, Betty White, Mary Tyler Moore (scarily thin!) and newly minted Emmy winner Don Rickles (82, but not looking a day over 90). And for the first time ever, I was rooting for many of the winners: Bryan Cranston, Glenn Close, Alec Baldwin and Jean Smart. I didn't see any of the movies or miniseries--Does anyone even watch those anymore?--but how can I find fault with giving Emmys to Laura Linney, Paul Giamatti, Dame Eileen Atkins and Tom Wilkinson? (And now I'm kind of dying to see both John Adams, starring Linney, Giamatti and Wilkinson, and Susan Sarandon and Ralph Fiennes in Bernard And Doris.) It would have been nice if Atkins, Wilkinson and Dianne Wiest had been there to pick up their trophies. I know Wiest is busy costarring with Katie Holmes in All My Sons on Broadway. But what about those other absentees? If Oprah and Tom Hanks care enough to get there...well, you know the rest.

The most embarrasing moment (Groban's aside) was Tina Fey's extended plug for 30 Rock during her Best Comedy Series acceptance speech. As much as I adore Alec Baldwin and his flawless comedic timing, I don't really get the rest of the show. And to deem Tina Fey, whom I like, a better comedic actress than Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Christina Applegate (who should have won, and not just out of sympathy for her recent breast cancer ordeal--the girl rocks as the titular amnesiac in Samantha Who?), is beyond misguided. But considering that Helen Hunt once got four prizes in a row for Mad About You, it's nice to see Emmy spreading the wealth (Jeremy Piven's predictable, though probably deserved, third straight win notwithstanding) and finally getting it (mostly) right.


Today my friend Cara, a fellow expatriate New Yorker asked me a very valid question: "Why don't Argentines leave phone messages?" Her Spanish instructor had been trying to reach her, and rather than leaving one detailed voice mail and going about his day, he called three times before finally sending her a text message saying, "I can't get a hold with you." Well, Cara thought to herself, then leave a freakin' message!

You can say--or think?--that again! My phone has been ringing off the hook today with nary a message to show for it. But I've come to the conclusion that this fear of voice mail is a worldwide--not merely an Argentine--phenomenon (though it does seem to be exponentially worse here). Back when I lived in the U.S., my life was occasionally haunted by callers who refused to leave messages--and not just ones of the telemarketing persuasion. The obvious reason is that, unlike with text messages, there is no editing of voice mails. I'm reminded of the episode of Friends that Monica spent obssessing over a voice mail she left on Richard's answering machine. Been there, done that, been just as horrified.

I think another reason for this is our instant-gratification culture. The higher the need for instant-gratification, the greater the number of phone calls without messages. And as yours truly has well documented right here, there's an extremely high need for instant-gratification among porteños. And I'm not just talking about between the sheets.

That's probably why they are so obsessed with IM. If a person is listed as being online, you know there is a good chance that you can have your conversation with them right then and there. Never mind that many people don't bother to log in and out of MSN Messenger, so their being listed as "online" doesn't necessarily mean there's anyone home.

But I think something else is at play here. I'm thinking of the guy who used to send me regular IM's asking me out for coffee, empanadas, booty calls or whatever people in this city like to do for casual afternoon get-togethers. I explained to him that I'm not into spur-of-the-moment meet-and-greets (actually, I am, but only with good friends, for whom I do not have to look my best), and he'd have better luck with me if he'd give me at least a few hours notice, but preferably 24, just in case I have a life. He responded that he is afraid of making plans in advance, because when the time comes around, he often doesn't feel like being social anymore.

I get it. Really, I do. I spend much of my spare time looking for ways to get out of plans. And I've said it before (right on this blog), and I'll say it again: I hate talking on the phone. With the exception of a few very good friends, I'd rather chew glass than while away hours on the telephone. For me, the phone should be reserved for making plans to meet up and have face-to-face conversations--unless, of course, we're talking about potential new boyfriends. I don't do it as much now, but in New York, I'd often dread returning phone calls so much that I'd call at a time when I knew the person wouldn't be available. Or I'd respond to a voice mail with a text message or an email. Which in technological communication protocol is probably ruder than responding to a text message with a phone call, right?

Oh, stop giving your computer dirty looks. You know you've done it, too. And that brings me back to people who don't leave phone messages. In Argentina, part of it has to do with the pay-as-you-go mobile phone system. Leaving a message costs money, something porteños have in short supply. So it's best to save those pesos for when you actually get someone on the other line. But also, I think, like the last-minute invitation guy, just because they want to talk to you right now, doesn't mean they'll want to talk to you in an hour, two hours, two weeks--or whenever you might finally decide to return the phone call. If you do.

Which brings me to my next reason: Insecurity. Unanswered emails, text messages or Facebook invitations are one thing. But an unreturned voice mail is the ultimate diss. The problem with letting this thinking drive your actions is that a person who leaves one simple, unrambling message looks a lot less crazy and pathetic than someone who calls every 10 minutes for an hour without leaving one. In fact, the person who leaves the message, whether or not I return the call, actually comes across to me as being respectable. And they're more likely to hear back from me. In less than two weeks.

Recently, this guy named Javier took the road less traveled and left two or three messages on my home voice mail in the space of two weeks. Unfortunately, he never left his number and my land line doesn't have caller ID. Now I'm not even 100% sure who Javier is (I meet so many guys with the same 10 names here that it's hard to narrow it down sometimes), but the fact that A) he wasn't afraid to call, and B) he wasn't afraid to leave messages, impressed me. If he'd left his number, I would have used it.

Javier, if you're reading this, keep up the good work. But next time, leave your number.

Monday, September 22, 2008


If men are from Mars, and women are from Venus, then I must be from Jupiter, because I'm having trouble understanding either of them.

Alright, let me explain. I went to a 50/50 straight-gay club called Amerika on Friday night. It was the first time I'd gone to a disco with a significant number of women since, well, since the last time I'd gone to Amerika a couple of months ago. I'd forgotten how aggressive straight Argentine women can be--much more so than their distaff counterparts in every other country I've visited, but pretty much even with their male compatriots.

Throughout the course of the night, a number of women approached me and asked--naturally!--my age (I've already begun to say 40, much to everyone's disbelief, although I don't turn until next May) and--not so naturally!--if I were straight. When I replied that I am not, I actually felt slight pangs of guilt over my sexuality for the first time since I came out to my mother 16 years ago. It was like coming out of the closet all over again. One girl actually sent over her male friend, with whom I ended up hitting it off, because her inquiring mind wanted to know. He and I ended up hanging out the following night, which is a story for a different post. Or not.

Now I realize that I don't necessarily emit powerful queen signals on first impression, but I'm a bit surprised by the lack of functioning gaydar among Argentines. And I can't imagine a beautiful woman anywhere else in the world--and believe me, a few of these Amerikan girls (one was a Katie Holmes dead ringer) made me wish for a second or two that I were bisexual--so boldly coming on to a guy with whom she thought she might actually have a shot. Aren't ladies supposed to play it coy and wait to be approached? Don't they realize that straight guys (and, I'm beginning to believe, gay ones, too!) love the chase almost as much as they love sex?

Apparently, no. If only one of the Katie Holmes lookalike's cute wingmen had been so bold. But I assumed he was straight. I did have some male suitors that night. Unfortunately, the one in whom I was most interested, kept shooting hopeful, suggestive glances my way without saying a word and finally approached me at the community urinal in the men's room just as I was about to go home. I thought that either he's watched too much bad porn, or he's crazy. He would have had better luck with me if he had just walked up to be me outside of the john and planted a big one right on my kisser.

Hey, I'm not griping. Ego boosts are good for the ego. No matter who's doing the boosting. And if you can get a fun date out of it (which I did), why complain? My second one this month. I can't imagine that things with either guy will go anywhere, but stranger things have happened--some of them right here in Buenos Aires.

DOWNLOAD Bodyrox Ft. Luciana: "What Planet Are You From?"

Sunday, September 21, 2008


"This is a woman who is pregnant every second week. What was that all about?"
--Amber on Marie Osmond, who refused to say the full title of Amber's single "Sexual (Li Da Di)" when the singer performed on Donny And Marie in 1999

There are few pleasures in life more digable than an excellent meow moment. And boy, did Amber make a good point. One can only hope that loopy Marie has gotten more comfortable publicly uttering big words like "sexual" in the nine years since. At least she was with it enough to have Amber on the show.

I don't know why, but I've been listening to "Sexual (Li Da Di)"--or as Marie would simply say, "Li Da Di"--on my iPod a lot this week. It's a shame that Amber never really caught on in the mainstream--with the exception of 1996's incredibly tacky Top 40 hit "This Is Your Night." Any artist who has the gall to quote James Joyce's Ulysses on the chorus of a pop track, which Amber did on her 2002 single "Yes!," is alright with me. (No word on why the author's estate granted Amber permission to use the final words of Molly Bloom's soliloquy but denied Kate Bush's request 10 years earlier, forcing her to write lyrics "inspired" by Ulysses for her 1989 single "The Sensual World.")

"I put my arms around him, yes/And drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts/And his heart was going like mad/And yes, I said, yes, I will, yes."

Waiter! Bring me water!

DOWNLOAD Amber: "Sexual (Li Da Di)"

Thursday, September 18, 2008


"What makes you grow old is replacing hope with regret."
--Patty Loveless, "Too Many Memories"

How do I love country singer Patty Loveless? Let me count the ways. She was never as high-profile as her chart contemporaries Reba McEntire and Trisha Yearwood, but no female country singer of the '90s cut to the core of my soul like she did. The lyric above is from a song on one of her best albums, 1997's Long Stretch Of Lonesome.

It reminds me of scenes from two of my favorite movies of the '00s. (Or maybe it's the other way around: The scenes remind me of the song.) One, is in 2004's Sideways when Virginia Madsen compares the trajectory of human life to the life span of a bottle of wine: "And then, begins the inevitable decline." Goose bumps! For this sublime movie moment alone, she should have taken home the Oscar for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role. (My apologies to the great Cate Blanchett, who won for mocking Katharine Hepburn in The Aviator.)

The second, in the 2002 film The Hours, is a dialogue between Meryl Streep and Claire Danes, who plays her daughter. Meryl talks about her current disappointed self vs. her younger more optimistic self. In her youth, she explains, she'd wake up every morning and wonder, "Is today the beginning of happiness?" Much later, she continues, she realized that peaceful easy feeling, that hopefulness she once felt every day upon waking, was happiness.

This is a concept that I think most people miss. But it was never lost on me. Life--and people--are disappointing for sure. In my own optimistic youth, I never dreamed that my life would turn out the way it has, that pushing 40, I'd have no traditional nuclear family, that I'd feel so ambivalent about the journalism career in which I'd always aspired to excel, that I'd wake up every morning alone. Today, I was talking to a 21-year-old about life, and he asked me, "¿Pasa rápido la vida?" Yes, it does go by so quickly. (Diane Keaton said it first, to Jack Nicholson, in Something's Gotta Give.) Thankfully, moving to another country has helped me to recapture the feeling that Meryl talked about in The Hours and avoid the gloomy fate that Patty Loveless sang about.

Regrets, I have more than a few. But you've gotta have hope, too.

DOWNLOAD Patty Loveless: "Too Many Memories"

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


Yesterday was an important day. It was the two-year anniversary of my arrival in Buenos Aires. I'd visited the city four times before moving here (the photo above is from the last day of my second visit in late December, 2005), but in a lot of ways, when I stepped off the plane on that Saturday morning of September 16, 2006, it was almost like I was seeing the city for the first time.

Visiting a city is so much different than living there. As a visitor, we spend most of our time around people who are paid to be nice to us. But when you live in a city, you see it--and its citizens--for better and for worse. I'm thankful for everything that's happened to me, good and bad, since I moved here. It's all helped me evolve into the person I am now, someone far different than I was two years ago, someone whom I like and respect.

Not that I didn't dig myself while I was living in New York. But my last few years there, I lived life in automatic mode. I was going through the motions. It's called getting stuck in a rut. It happens to everyone who lives for too long without forward motion, without taking risks. Sometimes I miss the regular paychecks (not so much getting up for work, spending forever there, dealing with colleagues whom, for the most part, I didn't really care for), but leaving career and ambition behind is something I had to do.

At the time, I thought it was to preserve my sanity. But the end benefit has been so much more. I feel as if I've discovered a simpler form of living where status and the accumulation of stuff is less important. I rarely step foot into retail stores anymore, unless it's to get something I need and don't merely want. And yesterday as I was jogging, I realized that for the first time since college, the people in my life are there because they like me. They really like me. (BTW, that is a play on what is actually a misquote of Sally Field's second Oscar acceptance speech.) What tangibles do they have to gain from being around me? Before I moved to BA, so many people associated with me because they wanted something, whether it was monetary (sad, but true), a career boost or publicity for their latest project or artist. Now that I no longer come with those fringe benefits, the people in my life can basically be narrowed down to two types: those who are looking for sex (annoying, but it's nice to be able to turn heads, still) and those who, in the immortal words of the Rolling Stones, are waiting on a friend.

Sometimes I find myself walking through the city, trying to recapture that sense of discovery that I had in the beginning. But I like this time so much better. A lot of my so-called friends from those early days have left the building (in the aftermath of being attacked and robbed in my apartment by burglars six months after my arrival, I discovered which friends were true and which ones were fairweather), and now I have an inner sanctum of locals and expatriates who, while not as familiar as those I left behind in the U.S., are no less loyal.

I'm excited about the future. Sometimes I suddenly panic because it's so uncertain, something I never imagined it would be. (After all, you are reading the words of a guy who was once described by his brother as "a man of the firm.") But at the same time, I love that aspect. I feel that I can be anything and anyone I want to be. And I have a feeling I will eventually wind up in some totally unexpected yet completely desirable place. As they say, the best is yet to come.

Now pardon me while I get the door. I think the cliché police have come to take me away.

Monday, September 15, 2008


In a week that found me battling iTunes, a malfunctioning laptop, a non-working heater and a TV on the blink (all resolved, with the exception of iTunes), there was one bright spot. Saturday I went on a great date. It wasn't the kind of nighttime dinner-and-drinks thing that I remember so fondly from my New York era (in Buenos Aires, gay men don't go on planned dates; they have impromptu last-minute meet-and-greets). It was a picnic in the park in the middle of the afternoon. Way back in January, I went on a date with this guy named Martín to the Buenos Aires Zoo. It was a refreshing change of pace that I hadn't expected to experience again, given how sex-obsessed porteño boys have been behaving lately.

At first, when Alejandro (not the one who is opening the club) suggested that we meet up at 3 p.m., I panicked. Did I really want him to see me in the middle of the afternoon, warts and all? We'd already met once before, but it was at 7 p.m., so he saw me in the most flattering lighting, otherwise known as dusk. He'd first connected with me through Facebook. We have a friend, Hollie, in common. We'd both gone to her birthday party several weeks earlier, and while I'm sure I saw him from afar, somehow our paths never crossed. Too bad: I was so in the zone that night.

I thought of the episode of Sex & The City in which Carrie was planning an elaborate first date with Berger (Big aside, she had such awful taste in men!) only to wind up calling him from the street and inviting him to an afternoon matinee. Maybe, I considered, casual is the way to go.

It was. The picnic in Parque Las Heras (above) ended up being the highlight of my week. Ale and I ate, talked, laughed, and afterwards, as we strolled around the city, he listened intently as I detailed my relationship with my family and how it contributed to my moving to Buenos Aires. His spot-on assessment of the situation both impressed me and turned me on. It was nice to interact with a guy without booze flowing and clothes being ripped off. It made our goodbye kiss that much more special. Ale also gets bonus points for being one of the few guys I've met since I moved to Buenos Aires who doesn't depend solely on the computer and text messages for communication. He actually calls me. Imagine that!

There'll be a date No. 3. There's been talk of a trip to the zoo, and this weekend, he wants to take me to his hometown, La Plata, the capital of the Buenos Aires province, which, he pointed out, also has a zoo. Should I stay or should I go? I've been dying to visit La Plata. But I wonder if it's too soon. Then again, maybe I should continue thinking outside of the box. Living by the book is so last month.


Something about iTunes has me seeing red. My disgust with the ridiculously and inexplicably successful digital media player and retailer began one week ago when Alejandro, a friend of my friend Marcelo, expressed interest in having me DJ at a club that he's about to open. His goal is to attract an exclusive foreign crowd and create a cosmopolitan international flavor with the kind of cutting edge music you hear in the discos of New York, London and Milan (which, by the way, is my favorite city to go clubbing). Here in Buenos Aires, the DJs are pretty lazy, playing the same songs night after night (that hideous remix of Alanis Morrissette's "Uninvited" AGAIN?!) and rarely seeking out jams that you'll want to track down the next day after you've slept off your hangover. Maybe it's because porteños have lousy taste and aren't particularly discriminating when it comes to music. You see them bobbing up and down to generic electronica in clubs like Amerika as if it's the best damn thing they've ever heard.

But boy do I digress! After our meeting, I went home to create a DJ mix CD to give Alejandro and his partners a taste of my musical taste. As I started to add music to the playlist in the DJ mix program that I was using, I discovered that some of my favorite dance songs--e.g., "Deep Sleepless Night (Dino Lenny's Old Skool Mix)" by Mad8 Vs. Shawn Christopher--were not among the options in the search field when I clicked on "open files." The reason: I purchased them from iTunes, and therefore, there is a lock on the m4p files (which is the format of music downloaded from iTunes), so they can be played only on an iPod or on iTunes itself.

I rolled my eyes and sighed. Controls against piracy and file sharing are one thing, but if I purchase music, shouldn't I be able to play it anywhere I want to? Shouldn't I be able to burn it onto a CD (remember those?) and listen to it on an actual CD player? Yes, some of us still have those antiquated pieces of machinery--not everyone wants to listen to music via headphones or on a computer all of the time. And I have yet to experience great sound from one of those speaker contraptions in which you can dock your iPod and listen to the music sans headphones.

When did it come to this? I can remember buying entire albums on iTunes in the past (The Pixies Bossanova, Blink-182's Blink-182 and Morrissey's You Are The Quarry, among them) and later burning them to CD. So this must be a somewhat recent development. I suppose the goal is to prevent people from buying music and then sharing it. But how much is enough? When does the protection of recording artists become tyranny over consumers? And are we not supposed to be able to make mix CDs for our friends--and lovers--anymore?

God bless Kid Rock (above) for not caving in to iTunes' near stranglehold on the music retail industry and refusing to license his music to them. He says that if people love your music, they will find a way to get it, even if it's not on iTunes. He's right: His 2007 CD, Rock N Roll Jesus, has been one of the hottest sellers for months now, and you won't find it in an iTunes store near you.

I've thought about boycotting iTunes, but I figure I'll just be patient. I'll hang on to it for now, but my trips to the online music store are history. Eventually, a program will come along that will be able to unblock all my iTunes purchases from the last few years. And hey, I'm already holding out for butterflies; I can hold out for this, too.

Friday, September 12, 2008


My friend Marie (name changed to protect the not-that-innocent) recently got herself entangled with a real piece of work. She's the one I wrote about weeks ago who went out with the guy who picked her up at her apartment for their first date, although the restaurant they were going to was right across the street from his house, and "quickly and quietly" paid for dinner. The next day, she thought that she might be "falling for him." Well, something happened on her way down.

It's the same old tired story: Boy meets girl. Boy chases girl. Boy catches girl. Boy is lousy in bed. Girl tolerates bad sex. Boy loses interest. But here's the twist. After weeks of acting like a jerk, he came crawling back, tail between his legs, and told her that he is ready for a real relationship. The reason he had begun playing the fool was because he's only living in Buenos Aires for three months (he's from New York), and he was afraid of getting involved with someone and then having to leave her.

Snooze, lose. As you may recall, Marie was already seeing two other guys at the time of the aforementioned first date, which she finally revealed to the wishy-washy unromantic, adding that she wasn't interested in exiting the playing field. You go, girl!

My friend Helen (again, name changed; again, involved with a fickle American, this one from L.A.), who dates like a gay man, also has got game. One persistent sap, who seems to be either addicted to sex or to rejection, recently struck out after less than one week. But Helen thought that maybe she had met her match with another guy, the dreamboat from L.A. with the porn star name. She said he comes from a wealthy family but doesn't talk about it (so, I wondered, how did she find out?), and she said he characterized himself as being very religious with a strong moral backbone.

I chuckled when she told me all of this and advised her to hang on to her heart. This guy was so obviously playing her, and the other night he pulled a real foul. He asked her out, and when she suggested meeting up at 10 p.m., he suddenly remembered a previous engagement: a football game! (¡Qué extranjero! Guys here in Buenos Aires always use the birthday party excuse.) What heterosexual male chooses playing soccer at 10 p.m. over a booty call (excuse my French), unless he's a Boca Junior?

My take: Either he was stacking dates, or he was feeling her out to see if she was available. And guys always want the ones they can't have, don't they? And once they soothe the savage beast that is their ego, it's time to move on. I was beginning to think this was an Argentine malady (they even have a term for it: histérico), but clearly I'd forgotten about my years of experience with boys in the U.S.A.

As for me, they still come and go. And go. And...gone. I'm weeding out losers like the world's fastest gardener. Different guys, same old names. (I beware of Federicos and Martíns, in particular--they're never up to any good.) The other night at Glam, this guy came up to me and spoke in very broken English.

"Are you nice guy?"

"Sure, I am."

"Do you have big dick?"

I walked away without saying a word.

"I thought you said you were nice guy."

The most frustrating thing is that guys in BA don't seem to realize how wrong that question is--and I don't know if that makes it better or worse. But it's nice to know that I'm not the only one juggling jerks, that I don't have to give up on the boys from BA, because the ones from elsewhere aren't any better.

So I stretch out and wait...for butterflies?

Thursday, September 11, 2008


Stars say the darndest things!

A few weeks ago, John Mayer confirmed something many had suspected all along: He's a total pig when it comes to romantic relationships. And the way he did it! Ghastly, indeed! On camera for TMZ, the tabloid TV show with all those impossibly comely reporters, he implied--suggested? nah, pretty much damn near insisted!--that he was the dumper, not the dumpee, in his split with Jennifer Aniston. Then he twisted the knife by proclaiming her possibly the best person he's ever known. You know, it's not Jennifer, it's him.

Something tells me my beloved Sarah McLachlan can relate--to Jennifer, not to John. Yesterday, I read an interview with the singer on about the two new songs on her upcoming greatest hits collection, which, she said, were inspired by her separation from her drummer and husband of 11 years, Ashwin Sood. (To have been a fly on the wall during what must have been some pretty awkward recording sessions.) "I wasn't planning on saying anything," she said, "but it's gonna come out at some point. I haven't said anything about it because I've been terrified to, but I figure...there's no good time to say it, so I just said it."

So far, so vague.

She then, however, went on to call the situation "pretty gross." Hmm... Strong words. So what exactly did Ashwin do? Sarah has definitely left us wanting more--music (as usual) and details about this not-so-secret separation. Oh, and by the way, Closer: The Best Of Sarah McLachlan, featuring "U Want Me 2" and "Don't Give Up," is out October 2.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


The other day I was taking a siesta with the television on, and I heard the most interesting thing (if not the most, then certainly right up there). It was something I'd thought about and talked about in the past during my waking hours. At first, I figured it was a character in my dream (of which I have no recollection), but then I realized that it was someone on The O.C. (probably Seth Cohen). He was talking about how someone should make a movie version of The Golden Girls but with a not-so-slight twist: The ladies would be "young and hot" (his words!), not middle-aged as they were on the sitcom.

I agree and disagree. Golden Girls: The Movie is long overdue. But why go digging up their pasts (weren't the flashbacks among the most boring scenes on the show?) when their senior years are so ripe for comedy? Furthermore, a large part of the appeal of the original show was having these elderly women all under one roof. We figure that if it could happen for them, maybe when we get to be that age, if we are unattached, we, too, will have healthy sex lives and a full house to call home.

So the movie should be in the here and now. But who will star as Dorothy and our three merry widows? Here's my dream cast:

Glenn Close as Dorothy Zbornak: Is there any actress of a certain age who suffers fools less gladly onscreen? Consider her heyday roles: Fatal Attraction, Dangerous Liaisons, Reversal of Fortune, 101 Dalmatians. The other day, I caught part of an episode of her F/X series Damages and realized that the withering glance (see Beatrice Arthur's Dorothy in the original Golden Girls photo above) is alive and well: Glenn's got looks that kill. Second choice: The Queen herself, Dame Helen Mirren. Third: Angelica Huston

Meryl Streep as Rose Nylund: She may not have been the standout comedian of the bunch, but Betty White was certainly the best actress. So who better to cover for her? One might imagine Meryl in the role of Blanche Devereaux, but that's a little too obvious. (She Devil. Death Becomes Her. Been there, done that.) And I'd much rather see her put her Meryl spin on a St. Olaf story than massacre the ABBA songbook. Second choice: Diane Keaton

Michelle Pfeiffer as Blanche Devereaux: She's Hollywood's hottest (as in va-va-voom!) actress over 50. Blanche thinks she's the cat's meow, so why not cast an actress who actually is? Oh, wait. She played Catwoman, too! (Apologies to Rue McLanahan, but the idea of her being a maneater was nearly as funny as what she actually did with the character.) Second choice: Sharon Stone

Cloris Leachman as Sophia Petrillo: Twenty years ago, she could have been Dorothy (I'm convinced that if Bea Arthur and Elaine Stritch had both turned down the role, Cloris would have been next in line), so why not invite her to play Pussycat's Ma? Come to think of it, the only other octogenarian I can think of who would have the guts to compete on Dancing With the Stars is--you guessed it!--Sophia Petrillo. Second choice: Lauren Bacall

Monday, September 8, 2008


Last Wednesday afternoon, I did something I never thought I would do. I went to my first Botox appointment. Before you start wondering how I could destroy my acting career before it even begins (facial expression, after all, might be an actor's most useful tool), let me clarify: I went with my 35-year-old friend, who had decided that it was time to take her plunge.

There's so much I didn't know about Botox. It has a pretty bad reputation in the United States, where actresses are vilified for leaning on it a bit too enthusiastically. But here in South America, the world capital of plastic surgery, one gets a little nip here and a little tuck there as casually as one goes to the dentist, which is strange because South Americans are far less obsessed with youth than people in the U.S. Perhaps it's the low cost: U.S. $6 per unit. My friend decided to focus on the area between her eyes (20 to 25 units) and her still-invisible (to me) crow's feet (25 units, 12.5 on each side). Price tag: a whopping U.S. $300!

I tried to talk her out if it. Her wrinkles were only visible (to me) when Dr. Federico Zapata asked her to contort her face into the most unnatural positions. Dr. Zapata certainly seemed to know what he was doing, but when he showed us before and after pictures of satisfied customers, I was alarmed at how good the before pictures were. (Unfortunately, he couldn't allow me to take photos of my friend having the procedure done--something about a secret code among Buenos Aires' plastic surgeons.) Even the women in the waiting room--and it was like a scene out of Richard Gere's in Dr. T and the Women--were young, attractive and needed a shot of Botox as much as I do (and trust me, I don't).

But my friend was determined. So I sat back and tried to enjoy the ride. Now I've always been pretty brave when it comes to needles and doctors' tools. Several years ago, when my eye doctor in New York put a drill to my eyelid to drain a stye in my right eye, I hardly flinched. Thankfully, my friend also has a high threshold for pain because the sight of those needles going in nearly sent me running from the room. She teared up and squeezed the balls in her hand tighter. No pain, no gain, she seemed to be thinking. Minutes later, it was all over. Despite a few smalls welts that went down in a few minutes, there didn't seem to be any side effects. The doctor told her that the results would be noticeable in seven to 10 days. After he gave her some instructions--exercise your facial muscles every 15 minutes for the next hour, don't bend over or lie down for the next few hours--we were on our way.

A few nights later, on Saturday, I met up with my friend at a party. I'd forgotten all about the Botox incident. But as we talked, I kept thinking to myself how great she looked--happier, younger. Then she reminded me. Oh my God, that's right! I told her what I'd been thinking, and she was overjoyed. Maybe the Botox was already kicking in. If not, I can only imagine how amazing she's look when it finally does.

But I think Dr. Zapata may have created a monster--and a future loyal customer. Not only did she spend much of the party talking about her Botox experience and extolling its benefits (I've always been surprised by how open non-celebrities are about such things), but now she's talking about getting her boobs done. Someone told her she can get implants for $1,000 (plus $1,000 more for the hospital stay), a fraction of what they'd cost in the U.S. A week ago, I would have told her she's crazy. But now I'm not so sure. As long as she doesn't go for the Pamela Anderson look (my friend is, after all, a tiny girl), it just might be the best $1,000 she'll ever spend. 

The boys in Buenos Aires won't be able to take their eyes off her--or them.

Sunday, September 7, 2008


It must be a gay thing, this obsession I have with actresses, female singers, charts, the Oscars, The Golden Girls and lists. And here I go again. This time, I'm counting down (in chronological order) my 10 favorite Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role Oscar winners. Drumroll? Envelope? Whatever. Just read on...

  1. Olivia de Havilland The Heiress (1949) Not only does she utter one of my all-time favorite movie lines ("I can be very cruel. I've been taught by masters"), but the closing scene of de Havilland ascending the stairs as Montgomery Clift's gold-digging scoundrel pounds on the door outside in the pouring rain is priceless. Payback's a bitch indeed.
  2. Judy Holliday Born Yesterday (1950) She has her detractors who say All About Eve's Bette Davis and Anne Baxter as well as Sunset Boulevard's Gloria Swanson were more worthy. (I suspect that in the end, they all cancelled each other out.) To them I say, revisit the film. Judy does an admirable, unmatched balancing act of comedienne and drama queen, victim and victor.
  3. Simone Signoret Room at the Top (1959) Another woman done wrong, this time by Laurence Harvey's gold-digging scoundrel. Has anyone ever done resigned and world-weary better than the late great French star? This is a film for the ages, an exacting commentary on the sweet smell of success and its sour side effects.
  4. Elizabeth Taylor Who's Afraid of the Virginia Woolf (1966) It's not her best performance (that would be Cat on a Hot Tin Roof), and the story itself is dated as hell, but what a force of nature! One could say she--if not Grace Kelly in The Country Girl (see below)--invented the ongoing trend of actresses deglamming to turn Oscar's head.
  5. Maggie Smith The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie (1969) Nobody, not even Helen Mirren as The Queen, does British repression better than Maggie. When she finally comes undone and screams, "Assassin! ASSASSIN!!!" over the staircase at the student who has done her in, it's all the more chilling because of the remarkable display of restraint that's preceded it.
  6. Glenda Jackson A Touch of Class (1973) Now I'm not condoning adultery, but Jackson manages to make her homewrecker sympathetic. A rare comedic triumph in the Oscar category made more impressive because Ms. Jackson already had taken the prize a few years earlier forWomen in Love. As for the film itself, it's the perfect example of why it never pays to be the other woman.
  7. Diane Keaton Annie Hall (1977) Here's the thing about Miss Keaton and why no actress does comedy better: She makes you laugh without even trying. Cameron, Sandra and Jennifer (Aniston), take note. There is not a moment in this film where her intention seems to be to elicit guffaws, but I swear I'm laughing right now just thinking about one of her awkward encounters with Woody Allen on the streets of New York City.
  8. Meryl Streep Sophie's Choice (1982) What can I say that hasn't been said? So I won't bother. Instead I'd like to address the Academy: Go ahead and give the woman another Best Actress Oscar, will you? You've had several perfect opportunities (A Cry in the Dark, One True Thing). Sure it's an honor just to be nominated, but don't think for one second that Meryl isn't itching to take home a third statue (she won best supporting in 1979 for Kramer Vs. Kramer), this one for Best Actress. Hillary Swank has two. Sally Field has two. Glenda Jackson has two. Jodie Foster has two. Are you trying to tell me that Meryl Streep isn't in their league?
  9. Julia Roberts Erin Brokovich (2000) Go ahead and laugh. I know you want to. But I'm standing my ground. A guy I used to know went to a screening of the movie several weeks before its release. Afterwards, he said to me, "She earned every penny of that $20 million." I still agree.
  10. Nicole Kidman The Hours (2002) Yeah, yeah, I've heard it all before: Technically, it was a supporting performance. But with or without the nose, Nicole deserved her props for so completely disappearing into the role and making me forget I was watching one of Hollywood's biggest stars.

Five more goodies...

Ingrid Bergman in Gaslight (1944) The scariest movie ever! Ingrid trembles gorgeously.
Shirley Booth Come Back, Little Sheba (1952) (left) Crime of the century (the 20th)? That for Shirley, it was so far downhill (to TV's Hazel) from here.
Joanne Woodward The Three Faces of Eve (1957) No doubt Eve Black, the wild and crazy man-eating alter, sealed the deal.
Susan Hayward I Want To Live! (1958) More devastating than Charlize Theron in Monster because Susan's executed character was only guilty of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Kathy Bates Misery (1990) One of celluloid's greatest wig outs.

And five head-scratchers...

Grace Kelly The Country Girl (1954) (left) In a year in which she starred in Rear Window and Dial M for Murder, I find it unfathomable that the Academy would reward her for one of the few non-classics of her short acting career.
Cher Moonstruck (1987) And the Oscar should have gone to... Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction? People are still talking about that rabbit.
Frances McDormand Fargo (1996) Sorry. Way overrated. And no less supporting than William H. Macy. Secrets & Lies Brenda Blethyn and Breaking the Waves' Emily Watson should have demanded a recount.
Helen Hunt As Good As It Gets (1997) Better than Helena Bonham Carter in The Wings of the Dove? Judi Dench in Mrs. Brown? Julie Christie in Afterglow? Kate Winslet in Titanic? The second of Oscar's trio of mid-to-late-'90s blunders.
Gwyneth Paltrow Shakespeare in Love (1998) I never got the film. I never got Gwyneth. As was probably the case with Helen Hunt, the mostly foreign competition must have cancelled each other out. Oscar should have chosen Central Station's Fernanda Montenegro, but he's not the first guy to go home with the wrong woman.

Saturday, September 6, 2008


Today I had the strangest dream. I went out with my friend Jeffrey, the most solid guy I know, which is a fact I never tire of telling him. We had wine, vodka, whiskey, Speed (BA's answer to Red Bull) and danced like there was no tomorrow with boys half our age.

Wait wait wait wait wait! That was no dream. That was real life. Nights out with Jeffrey, who is also from the U.S. and lives here in Buenos Aires part-time, are always a treat because we both are people who can go to the lamest places--which we often do--and still have a killer great time. One of our favorite pastimes is sizing up all the boys we see and categorizing them. My favorite: boys with bodies that look like Alanis Morrissette's in the "Thank You" video. It was inspired by a guy I dated briefly, to whom we now refer simply as "Alanis." I won't go into any more details (hint: one involves totem poles), lest you think we're a couple of bitchy old queens, but what a great way to pass that initial hour before the spirits kick in and we enter mingling mode.

Last night, we went to Angel's, site of so many of my recent misadventures. There was no sign of Hernan or his red pants, thank God, but there was enough eye candy to hold our attention. Angel's is an interesting place because most of the guys who go there don't speak much English, but they love to try it on you anyway. (That Hernan didn't did not go unnoticed.) And since Jeffrey is tall and blond, and I'm tall and black (much-in-demand physical attributes here), few guys leave without doing that. The first question to come out of their mouths, haltingly, loudly, invariably: "" 

It's a completely overused opening line that they should consider discarding off the nearest cliff (and last night I distinctly recall responding Denmark at one point), but it's always refreshing to meet people who try to make you feel more welcome in the country by speaking to you in your own language. If I'm interested, I usually let them off the hook and we continue in Spanish. If not, I let them do all the heavy lifting.

For once, I left before Jeffrey did. Today, he told me that he ended up staying out until 11 in the morning. After leaving Angel's, he went to the hostel where one of the three guys he was hanging out with was staying, joining them for the continental breakfast (complimentary hotel breakfasts in South America, by the way, are so much better than they are in the U.S.) that was being served and sipping beer on the side. That's so me (beer optional) that I'm surprised I wasn't there. That's why I love Jeffrey. He's the only person I know in BA who lives on the same edge on which I'm teetering. But as much as I love the nightlife, I adore my couch too, and I like to think I live a productive life (I even went running today, which I generally don't do after a late night). Jeffrey is the same way (although he skipped the gym today), so aside from occasionally nudging each other in the direction of the wrong guy, we aren't bad influences on each other.

In a few hours we'll do it all over again. I'll let you know how it goes tomorrow.