Queer Cinema: D.E.B.S.

D.E.B.S. (2004) by Angela Robinson

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Before it was a movie it was a comic and then a short film. I haven’t read the comic (there are glimpses of it on the dvd, though) but I vaguely remember having watched the short (after the feature) – so, if you’re so inclined there’s stuff to dive into after or before watching this gem. I’m calling it a gem because no matter how often I come back to this movie – and I have done so often over the years – it’s always a ride, it is always fun.

d.e.b.s.3There is a secret test in the S.A.T.s to establish a student’s ability to lie. If you’re good at it you’re invited to Jameson Academy for an education in the art of spying – that is if you’re a girl. Amy Bradshaw (Sara Foster) is one of the chosen few who studies at this institution and she is not just one of the lot, she is the perfect score, the one person who has hit all the marks in the S.A.T.s – the perfect liar. But Amy is not really happy with her life of spy-in-training which becomes perfectly clear when she falls for supervillain Lucy Diamond (Jordana Brewster). Lucy pulls her out of her every day life and shows her that there is something beyond everybody lying and people going through your personal files and a boyfriend who works for Homeland Security – there are dreams yet to be fulfilled. And when Amy is brought back, she finds out just how suffocating the path she had been chosen for really is. But there’s still time to change her mind.

If this sounds altogether too serious, too mundane then that’s my fault d.e.b.s.5because D.E.B.S. is everything but these things. It’s trashy, it’s colorful, it’s fun. Is it deep? No, not really. But do we really always need the tearful lesbian drama? No. A lesbian comedy is a rare thing and it needs to be cherished, at least if it’s as good as this one.

Robinson assembled a talented cast to shoot this persiflage of espionage movies: Jordana Brewster is well-known now for her role as Vin Diesel’s sister in the Fast and Furious-movies. Then there are Devon Aoki, Holland Taylor, Michael Clarke Duncan, and Jimmi Simpson in supporting roles. And they’re all wonderfully quirky and fun to watch.

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When I say the movie’s trashy, I want understood that I do believe that’s a good thing. It’s a rare occasion when a big studio produces a movie that centers around a lesbian love story but to make something that looks so good and at the same time cheap and cheesy… it takes some really talented people to do that. From the evil lair over Holland Taylor’s fabulous impersonation of vain Ms. Petrie to those short plaid shirts, the jokes hit the nerve. The music accompanying some scenes fits just as well.

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Is it all good? No, but as I said – it’s fun and sometimes that’s the best thing you can get. Will it be your new favorite movie? Probably not. It will probably not even be among your favorite movies but there will be those days you look through your dvds and come across it and be glad it’s there.

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Pitch Perfect

Pitch Perfect (2012) by Jason Moore

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(Okay, I decided to do this new thing – snapping pics of my tix and posting them with the review [these are only this year’s Pitch Perfect-tickets; I have another one from last year]; just for fun, y’know. And yeah, I’m aware that’s an ugly background, it’s my carpet; I will try to find a new one.)

As you can see, I haven’t been to the movies lately – money is hard to come by these days. But I didn’t want the world to end without having watched Pitch Perfect, so, this was the first movie since July I indulged in (I’m not especially sad to have missed most of summer’s blockbusters). As so many others I watched the trailer and just knew it was good – and for once, I am able to say that I was not disappointed by the product that was put out.

Is the story innovative – hell no! But who cares:

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Beca (Anna Kendrick) is pressured by her father (John Benjamin Hickey) to attend college although she would much rather move to L.A. to become a DJ. Her roommate Kimmy Jin (Jinhee Joung) hates her, and the only person paying any attention to her is this guy Jesse (Skylar Astin) who obviously just wants to get into her pants. Campus has four a cappella groups, among them the all-boys Treblemakers and the all-girls Barden Bellas. They are declared enemies but as life – or Shakespeare (Romeo and Juliet much?) – has it, Beca ends up with the Bellas, while Jesse joins the Treblemakers. Hilarious ensues, the girls get their shit together and finally win the nationals, everybody wins – and Jesse gets into Beca’s pants (it is indicated, fortunately, we only see them kiss).

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As I said, the story isn’t really innovative, the love story’s kinda boring but it’s not the center of attention which is good. The main attraction is young people singing a capella and trying to be cool doing it. Yes, it leans heavily on Glee but it also makes fun of the show (the shower scene with Beca and Chloe wasn’t only hilarious, it was professedly gay – and a female rip-off of all the times the gleeks sang in the shower).

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Anna Kendrick is a wonderful lead, she is talented, she is captivating, she rocks this movie – and so does her cleavage (and if you tell me you weren’t as distracted by it as I was you’re lying). And then there’s Rebel Wilson playing Fat Amy. How do I explain Rebel Wilson – she is flawless… if you haven’t seen her in anything yet make sure you watch her in Pitch Perfect – she rules this movie, she is badass, and I am saying this with the utmost respect for her and all her abilities. She’s funny.

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With so many women packed into one group, gay ensues. I wasn’t entirely happy with the obviously gay character Cynthia Rose (Ester Dean) (and it wasn’t a surprise that with all the white girls in the Bellas, she was one of the few women of color) but then there was the chemistry between Anna Kendrick and Brittany Snow. And it’s not just about the shower scene, the first time these two meet, Snow is eye-sexing Kendrick so obviously that even I saw it. And it wasn’t the only time either. With all the things being said between these two during the movie, I actually scratched my head at the end of it when Beca kissed Jesse – I had quite comfortably leaned back into my head-canon and assumed that the two girls would end up together. Well, Hollywood says no and all the fans start writing BeChloe fanfiction.

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Update: I have now watched it four times and that’s only at the movies – and it still rocks. I’m actually rather obsessed with it and count myself as one of those fans who write BeChloe fanfic… what can I say: I love those awesome nerds.

Snow White and the Evil Queen

Snow White and the Huntsman (2012) by Rupert Sanders

I am not sure what Hollywood’s current fascination with fairy tales is all about. Two Snow White-movies and Little Red Riding Hood, not to mention other mythical creatures that haunt us since Bram Stoker… I would like to blame it all on Stephenie Meyer but I guess that would be too easy.

And the premise (or the trailer) of this one was quite good: Snow White as independent amazon-like figure who will fight the evil queen with a sword – and looks awesome in chain mail. Who didn’t want to see it after the first glimpse of the trailer. And then, of course, tumblr was all aglow with bits and pieces of interviews with the female leads – who flirted shamelessly (with each other). After that the rest of the world (or was it only the lesbian world?) was enchanted and rushed to the movie theaters.

So did I. And as mostly everybody else I was disappointed. It actually has me believe that Hollywood should just produce trailers and leave the actual story to our imaginations. Then we can use platforms like these to talk about our various versions of a movie and not complain about an actual production – because let’s face it: that happens more and more often.

I don’t want to go into the details of why I think Hollywood produces so many bad movies right now, let’s discuss instead why Snow White and the Huntsman is one of them.

Fairy tales do not easily adept to feminism, that is a basic truth, as mostly these stories were there to scare women off. Not just off seeking a different aim in life than marriage (because marriage obviously makes a princess out of any girl) but off seeking an independent sexuality. And I am not talking only lesbianism here as you might think, I am also talking about women wanting to experience an orgasm… women were there to fulfil male sexuality not establish an own sexuality. Women who tried that were deemed witches (not just in fairy tales but in medieval Europe as well). This is what the beginning of Snow White and the Huntsman tells us as well. Ravenna (Charlize Theron), the evil queen, gets married to Snow White’s dad (Noah Huntley) and poisons him in their wedding night. But the poison does not kill him, Ravenna does as she plunges a knife into the man.

Let’s talk about the obvious symbolism of this act. Wedding night constitutes the first time man penetrates woman. Ravenna turns it around (literally as she flips her new husband over and straddles him) and penetrates him instead – with a knife to his chest. She explains this to be her feminist manifesto against the injustice of women having to be beautiful while man only having to have a penis.

Of course, there is some truth behind her reasoning. But it is so obviously done as if to say: look, we make women in fairy tales feminist and strong women now, we are not sexist, men do understand woman’s need for independence (the makers and shakers of the film are mostly male). Yeah, well, and no! Especially since they make the evil queen not just a feminist, they make her a lesbian – and quite deliberately so. You think I am delusional?

So, during the wedding night, Ravenna penetrates her husband – put in here one of the early sexolgists, and you have the typical penis envy scenario. She keeps a beautiful young girl (Kristen Stewart) prisoner in a tower, not killing her (and if you wondered what her brother [Sam Spruell] has to do with the story at all, why not see him as her male alter ego so that she can watch Snow White…), she sucks the life out of young women with a kiss (yes, I know, they finally refrained from executing the kiss but what do you think it stands for? CPR?) – this takes us back to 19th century “lesbian” literature that protrays lesbians as sucking the life out of young (and straight) women using a higher social standing (hello, queen) to seduce them (the vampire myth is linked to this, as well). The queen wants the heart of the fairest of them all – do I really have to point to the symbolism of the heart? Ravenna coaxes Snow White into sharing her first kiss with her – in the guise of a man but still… why not just plunge a knife into her (also note that Ravenna never actually kisses the king but she kisses his daughter – what does that tell us?)? And finally: Snow White’s last words to the evil queen – ‘I can’t give you my heart’ – in a movie that is so forceful with it’s many symbols… I guess, this last line seals the deal.

So, here we have another dead lesbian, a witch, an evil woman. Sure, they try to build a little story around her vanity and her strangely symbiotic relationship with her brother but that is more confusing than anything else. Just because your mother tells you that your beauty is your only worth, does not make it right to suck the life out of female citenzry and land.

But let’s come to our damsel in distress who is also more of a fake feminist and more of a virginal (and Christian) standard. The girl has been in a tower for a decade, no one knows she’s alive and no one (especially not the audience) knows why she’s still alive. Maybe so that the queen’s brother has someone to peep at other than his sister (that guy creeped me out). Her beauty does not just stem from her lovely red lips, the black hair and the white skin, it is mostly an inner beauty (here they went all out with the beauty-comes-from-within-message that Hollywood sells so well…). Albeit the fact that she has spent the last ten year in a prison cell, she is in pretty good shape when it comes to escaping the castle (I especially like the sliding into the… medieval canalization thingy). Make no mistake, she’s a feisty one but she is also not quite the amazon princess the trailer makes her out to be. ‘Cause her main fighting skill is a move the Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) shows her early in the film and, of course, it is the way she finally kills the queen (this is foreshadowing waving at you).

Don’t get me wrong, Kristen Stewart sells this girl well and, I guess, compared to Bella Swan every girl is a feminist but still, the message does not sail. Why? Snow White is a virgin, stays a virgin to her death, is awakened by true love’s kiss (from the Huntsman), and, as far as we know, stays a virgin until she is crowned (I must say, though, that this crowning scene had me a little confused – and not just because of the head-nodding at the very end – but she is wearing red and she and her huntsman have a little bit of an eye-shagging accross the entire room… this could mean that they have been intimate, but the fact that she is crowned and not married at the end of the movie could also mean that she will be one of those “virgin queens” history has invented as another means to suppress woman’s sexuality).

On the whole the movie overdoes it’s showy feminism when it is about beauty but forgets about setting female sexuality free. It also mixes too many mythical tropes. I mean, we knew there would be dwarfs (because, hello! it’s Snow White!), but then there were fairys, and then there was a shiny white stag (if it had started speaking at one point, I would have left the theater), there was witchcraft and then there was Snow White, reciting a Holy Father in front of her fire place while holding voodoo dolls (or something). And this already freaked me out after half an hour. It was just overdone.

And don’t get me wrong, the movie was visully stunning, it looked gooooood. But other than that… and this is especially sad when you look at the acting. I mean, KStew was great, she really was, but even Charlize Theron, who I consider a very good actress, overacted. At some point in the movie I stopped thinking of her as evil queen and thought of her as the drama queen…

There are still so many thoughts in my head about this movie: what they did well, they overdid (like slowmo… why did they need it 1.5 hours into the film to tell us that, yes, Snow White is the heroine?!), what they screwed up, they really screwed up (that whole brother figure was a disaster!), and then they put a quasi-amazon village into the film and neither did these women help Snow White hone her fighting skills nor did they show much resistance against a handful of guys raiding their village in search for Snow White… the only good thing about that was Rachel Stirling as the amazon queen (or whatever you want to call her) – I actually sat in the the theater and said: is that Rachel? (the guy next to me probably wondered if I was talking to him, who Rachel was and why he always had to sit next to crazy folk at the movies…).

So, there you have it. Another movie which could have been great but wasn’t…

This Kiss, this Kiss

So, over at Afterellen.com people are a-voting the best lesbian kiss in entertainment. Flipping through all the pix and amazingly wonderful characters that have also formed some of my most memorable tv and movie moments (I am not that much of a comic-fan), I not only voted my favorites I also thought about the kisses that I missed there, or the kisses that were especially important to me.

Yeah, I know, not really lesbian that one. But it actually was the thing that made me watch the show because it was the first thing I saw and I didn’t know that it was not a lesbian kiss. It ran hot and cold up and down my spine, and I mainly watched the next episode because I hoped it would be explained to me – both my reaction to a seemingly lesbian kiss and the kiss itself and whether it really was between two women… well, what can I say, I was 18 and a babe in the woods. But this kiss changed my life. It did not make me a lesbian, I also did not discover that I was one but it made me watch Xena: Warrior Princess. If nothing else, it made a fan-grrrl out of me. And I am eternally grateful for that.

I would say that the first lesbian kiss I remember seeing – it could be the first I saw but with all the stuff I saw on tv it’s rather unlikely that it really was – was the one between Kate Winslet and Melanie Lynskey in Heavenly Creatures. The film fascinated me on an obsessive level (not because I saw girls kissing, more because I saw girls killing), I became a heavenly creature (I did not kill anyone but to this day I am convinced there is a fourth dimension… I hope it’s where I go when I die – to spent eternity with Kate Winslet, mostly). The lesbianism in it is disturbing on more than one level (one of these levels is Freudian), it is distructive and clichéed and if you tell me you hate the movie because of it – that’s your prerogative. Still, it was important to me – these two girls made sense to me, their love, their friendship, yes, their madness, too. Let’s face it, sometimes it is maddening to be different, and I certainly knew how that felt.

Tara and Willow. It is strange because I must have actually missed their first kiss. I do know that I did not see every episode of season 5 – because it bored me to pieces. Since I have just watched the whole show (including season 7 which I have not watched before, so now at least I can rightfully jump onto the I-hate-Kennedy-bandwagon), I actually discovered that most of the things I thought happened in season 5 actually happened in season 4 – I must have completely zoned out when 5 was on. I remembered Tara getting brain-slurped by Glory and Buffy jumping to her death, that’s it. But it also held that marvellously disturbing kissing scene when Willow prepares for Joyce’s funeral. Very sensual if your girlfriend sobs into your face, snot and tears running everywhere, very classy. Okay, this was not one of the important kisses – as I said, I didn’t even remember it – but rewatching it, it makes sense: OMG, Willow and Tara-shippers want them to kiss! What are we gonna do?! I know… let them make out during a marvellously traumatic storyline… when someone died or something. We can sell it as a comfort scene, nobody will be the wiser – and thus it was done… RMB when creators of shows had to come up with rediculous storylines like that just to put in a lesbian kiss – crazypants.

But, of course, then there was that massive making-out/having sex scene just before they killed Tara off… putting it like this is not really giving this scene enough credit. But it was wonderfully acted out by both actresses (Alyson Hannigan and Amber Benson). It was important – and they kinda killed the importance along with Tara, implicating that evil lesbians must die and all that crap.

But let’s face it, if it wasn’t for these two and Xena and Gabrielle, Emily and Maya (and Emily and Paige and Emily and Somara) would probably not have happened – not in the way we can see them nowadays.

And kissing is so important, too. I mean, who doesn’t remember last Xmas when twitter was all aglow with lesbian rage when some writer of Glee actually insisted that Brittana had kissed… oh yeah, that kiss! What?! No, they never did. And they didn’t and now they have. I guess, you could say that the Glee-powers handled this badly. They told us these two had sex, these two were casual and then they gave them a lesbian story line and it all ended up being about THE KISS… The ultimate scene was well-handled, refusing to give THE KISS a big, dramatic moment with violins playing in the background. It made fun of the whole discussion surrounding it and then gave us the little peck that was the introduction to the Valentine’s kissing concert that was mostly well-acted by Naya Rivera and Heather Morris.

A kiss is still a kiss – but this one blew every other kiss right out of the water. And I guess it will win since Glee seems to take all the awards these days. Is it my winner? No. I am way beyond my teenage years and it would probably have rocked my world if I had seen it when I was a teenager. I liked it but my favorites are these:

Because these days, it’s all about them… and even months after All My Children ended I am still rewatching Minx-vids.

This movie always depresses me – I cannot fathom how real it feels to me and how lonely I feel when it is over… but I keep rewatching it because it also makes me incredibly, stupidly happy. Just believing there is love like that – yeah, and that kiss.

And, of course, this (yeah, yeah, I know, not an actual kiss, just life-saving measures… but ROC sure got into it pretty good):

Back to tv: AMC and Santa Barbara

[For those who do not know this, AMC is the abbreviation for All My Children, a daily soap that has been on American tv for more than forty years – so, why don’t you know that?!]

So, thanks to afterellen.com, I have a new obsession: Minx. Minx is the portmonteau for two characters on AMC, Bianca Montgomery (who is called Binx by her sister Kendell) and Marissa Tasker – played by the equally beautiful and charming actresses Christina Bennett Lind and Sarah Glendening respectively. Just look at them:

ADORABLE!

It is a lesbian storyline on a daily show (unfortunately after 41 years, AMC has been cancelled and will end by the end of this week) which is a big thing. I don’t know if you have ever followed an American “story” but it is usually a heteronormative – and often a homogenous – space in tv and there are not many exceptions. Of course, Binx has been out for some time (she came out back in the days when Eden Riegel still played her) and has had some relationships with women but most of those seems to have played out off-screen and in Paris. This time, it’s on and it’s on tv and it’s lovely and heartfelt and adorable and actually well written.

Soaps are not always praised for having realistic portrayals of anything or anyone, let alone lesbians, but this one is actually really good. And so is the acting. I was surprised myself when I first watched a clip.

The concept of soap operas is not a new one in my life and I was so obsessed with one when I was a teen that I never got over the recasting of one of my favorite characters. Watching the Minx storyline on AMC, made me realize that I actully missed having that connection to a “ship.” So, I got into a youtubing mania and dug up some old footage of Julia & Mason from Santa Barbara.

Coming out as a lesbian, one is always looking for clues that may have told us that we were homos before we came out. And I naturally assumed that Nancy Lee Grahn was the real – the only – reason I shipped Julia and Mason. It is so easy to forget that there were actually two people in this that I adored, two characters that fascinated me. Watching those old Santa Barbara clips made me realize why I fell for Lane Davies just as hard as I fell for Nancy Lee Grahn: he was witty, charming, had the most soulfoul brown eyes, and he was tall and lanky and I really dug him with a beard… yeh, I had a crush on that man and today I am not ashamed to admit it…

I am being nostalgic again, very sentimental. So, I spent my time watching youtube videos (I have been watching about 14 hourse of Minx vids in one night, so, obsession is the right word for it) but I am aware that this is not as it used to be. Comparing those feelings I had when I was 14 to what I am feeling now, now falls short. No more sweaty palms in anticipation, no more tears, no more heartbreak when I miss an episode… still, Minx makes me squeel in delight and make snarky comments at Marissa’s ex-hubby JR (Jacob Young).

Being part of a fandom today is certainly different from being a fan before the invention of the internet. I know that, I am a Xenite still and always. But it is a little overwhelming to be able to watch Minx make out in HD and then going to watch Julia and Mason’s (awesomely silly) wedding vows that’s been copied from a video tape that’s more than 20 years old. Ah, the wonders of modern technology never cease to amaze me.

Since AMC is picked up by an internet broadcasting company, there is still hope that we may watch them for a little longer. But knowing what is sometimes done to soap supercouples, I am not even sure  I want to stick around and see them get broken up again – loving a soap couple is not for the faint at heart, and I feel that I may be one of those.

And here’s a great idea for a t-shirt…

[It reads (front): TEAM MINX, (back) #lesbianbatsignal It’s okay to put it up…]

Update: The first episodes of Prospect Park’s All My Children will be broadcasted this spring – and Eden Riegel will return as Bianca Montgomery. Since the storyline picks up five years from when it ended, there’s no word of whether Minx will return… and if who will play Marissa.

On ‘The Hours’

The Hours (2002) by Stephen Daldry

Another class, another movie review. Actually it is the same class the second time around, and another movie review because I blogged the first one, so that I could not use it again (the one about The Women, 2008). Here goes (minus mistakes, hopefully):

The Hours was the working title Virginia Woolf gave the novel that was going to be published as Mrs Dalloway in 1925. In 1998 a novel of this same title was published; the author was Michael Cunningham, and the plot concerned itself with three women: the writer Virginia Woolf, a fictional reader, Mrs. Brown, and an equally fictional character of the same first name and character as Mrs. Dalloway, Clarissa Vaughn. This novel was made into a movie in 2002, and – just like the novel before it – won awards and critics’ appreciation.
I had read both novels before I even heard that there was going to be a movie featuring Meryl Streep and Nicole Kidman. And, even though I am naturally suspicious of novels being made into film – if The Scarlet Letter (1995) taught me anything, it’s that it’s not necessarily a good idea to make adaptations – I was looking forward to it just because Meryl Streep was going to be in it.


I think the importance of being Meryl Streep cannot be underestimated. Casting her for a movie, producers and directors are aware that it might not be what people call a blockbuster, it might not even be a good movie, but you have cast somebody who knows her craft – and let’s face it, that is so often not the case that it sometimes hurts the eyes, yes, I am talking about you, Mr. Orlando Bloom. In a world (the movies) where things can go so terribly wrong as to cast Keira Knightley as Elizabeth Bennett (another bad idea for an adaptation that came later), Meryl Streep is a constant pleasure to watch – even if she stars in a bad movie (not that I remember a really bad movie starring Meryl Streep). She is already a movie icon – and she’s not even dead. So, hearing she was going to play Clarissa Vaughn in the The Hours-adaptation got me hooked from the start.
And I was not disappointed, and am still not. Watching the movie again after several years, I was again sucked into the lives of the three women who are portrayed, I was again fascinated by the incredible performances Nicole Kidman, Meryl Streep, and Julianne Moore gave.
But let’s run down a little bit of the plot, so we know what happens. The movie starts with Virginia Woolf’s suicide in 1941 (I do not remember if the novel starts there as well, though I think it does). Everything that comes after pretty much explains why it had to come to this tragic end of so talented and tortured a writer. But we also meet her when she was just beginning to write her famous novel, and how her daily life poses a burden she does not easily handle.


The audience is introduced to Laura Brown, who is unhappily married with a second child on the way. In 1949, she is reading Mrs. Dalloway as a way out of her own life and finds a kindred spirit in the character. Laura is the heroine that does not die (as Clarissa Dalloway in Virginia Woolf’s novel).
We meet Clarissa Vaughn, who lives in New York during the 1990s, and she is organizing a party (like Mrs. Dalloway) for her friend, and ex-lover, Richard, who is dying of AIDS (he is the poet that has to die so that the heroine can live).
The similarities with “Mrs. Dalloway” are obvious. The movie describes a day in the life of Virginia, Laura, and Clarissa – as Virginia Woolf’s novel described a day in the life of Clarissa Dalloway. Their stories are begun with the same sentence the famous novel does: “Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself,” Virginia writing it, Laura reading it, Clarissa saying it. For somebody who is a declared fan of Virginia Woolf and especially of Mrs. Dalloway (as I am) it is like revisiting the novel without actually reading it (or even watching the excellent 1997 film adaptation). There are moments to rediscover and maybe even to reevaluate.
The details that Michael Cunningham conveyed in his own novel are taken up by director Stephen Daldry and are translated beautifully onto the screen. It is a pleasure to watch the movie. It is visually challenging (as times and places change often), the actresses (and actors) show a raw vulnerability that makes the stories believable and hard to watch at the same time. Nicole Kidman (who was awarded the Academy Award for her performance as Virginia Woolf) is portrayed without her beauty and charms, she is awkward and intense, and shows an ability few people would have granted her.
Julianne Moore shows a truly stunning performance as Laura Brown, the woman who leaves her children and husband to start a life of her own. Of all the truly great performances, hers moved me the most. And it wasn’t even her only outstanding performance of the year as she was nominated as both Best Actress in a Supporting Role (for The Hours) and Best Actress in a Leading Role (for Far From Heaven) – and surprisingly enough went home empty handed.


Since the performances were all fantastic and the movie was overall pleasing to eye, ear (it has a wonderful instrumental soundtrack as well, not that I hear a lot of the music that is being played in the background), and intellect, one might assume that everybody was happy and that there’s nothing to critique. Well, one could have gone home happy and not find anything amiss, had one (that is me) not read Michael Cunningham’s book. And really, maybe it is just my overcritical self that finds fault with one aspect of Stephen Daldry’s directing. In Mrs. Dalloway, Sally kisses Clarissa. The Hours (the novel) takes up this kiss in each of the three segments: Virginia kisses her sister Vanessa at the tea table behind the back of the maid, secretly, sweetly; Laura kisses her friend Kitty in her kitchen, longingly, passionately; Clarissa kisses her partner Sally in passing at the foot of the stairs of her townhouse in New York, habitually, passionless, pointlessly. Daldry takes these kisses up, and unfortunately twists them into something it should not have been. While he is true to the place and circumstances of the kiss between Laura and Kitty, he gives it an innocence the book was not aiming at. While Laura in the book seemed to have her passion awakened by that one kiss with a woman, Laura’s concern with Kitty in the film seems almost too consoling (Kitty is about to go to the hospital and it is indicated that she might have cancer). Virginia almost violently places a desperate kiss on her sister (the indication is clear, as without that kiss the audience might not have known that Virginia was involved with women throughout her life and possibly also with her sister in younger years), giving the scene a sensationalist element. But the most misleading kissing scene is the one between Sally and Clarissa, as the one in the book indicates the ending of their relationship. The film turns it around into an inevitable happy ending as we see Clarissa and Sally sitting on their bed. Clarissa finally turns toward Sally and her efforts to save their relationship and places a good and wet one on her. It is a little disconcerting to see the characters and situations of the novel turned into Hollywood standards. The need for a happy ending, a resolution in at least one of the stories, the rehabilitation of a female character who has been unhappy without even knowing why, these are narratives you will find more likely in a movie than in a book where situations are allowed to remain unsolved.

Book vs. Film – The Wives of Bath vs. Lost and Delirious

The Wives of Bath (1993) by Susan Swan

Lost and Delirious (2001) by Léa Pool

I love films but, incidentally, literature has always been my more cherished first love. If there is a way to combine these two passions of mine, I am always already hooked to the idea. I am not sure when I first saw Lost and Delirious. Have I read about it somewhere and ordered the dvd hoping it was good? Have I accidently come across it on tv? Was it something somebody told me to watch? I don’t remember but I certainly do remember that the first time I watched it I read that it was based on the book The Wives of Bath – and yes, I am one of those weird people that read the credits, opening and closing. And I am saying “based on” here because the film says it is “based on” not “inspired by,” which would probably have been the better description. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves here.

(that is the German dvd-cover, by the way, I like it)

I love the movie. Yes, I know it is not so easy to work through like a good lesbian comedy, but I still think it is worth our while. It tells the story of a shakespearean love, passionate love, a love lost becomes delirious. Strangely enought the narrator of the story is not one of the two lovers. It is Mouse Bedford (Mischa Barton), who has been shipped off to boarding school by her evil step-mother and rooms with Paulie (Piper Parabo) and Tori (Jessica Paré). Paulie and Tori are in love (they are not lesbians, they just love each other).

When some younger students, among them Tori’s little sister, surprise Tori and Paulie in bed with each other, Tori tells her sister that Paulie slipped into bed with her without her knowing and that Paulie has a crush on her but that she herself is totally into guys. She breaks up with Paulie and Paulie snaps. In the end we have another dead lesbian and the dignity of outrageous rightousness on our side, a bitter sweet ending that once again confirms that life is not fair.

(there is actually a different book by the same title out there, so make sure you get a copy of the book by Susan Swan)

The book is another matter. Mouse Bradford (yes, the movie makers changed the last names of the three main characters, although the German dvd-cover actually says Mary Bradford, not Bedford – probably just to say that we also know the book and not just the movie, we are snobbish that way) is shipped off to boarding school by her step-mother, but she is not evil, nor is her father quite the touchy kind that he is in the movie. And it is mostly her relationship to her father – or lack thereof – we are told of (the movie puts more emphasize on the mother-daughter relationship of both Mouse and Paulie). Morley is a doctor who works too much and Mouse worries about him but not enough as it turns out that Morley later dies of a heart attack.

Although Paulie and Tori do have a relationship, Paulie disguizes herself as Paulie’s brother Lewis to be with her beloved and it is not quite clear if Tori knows that Paulie and Lewis are the same person (I would argue that she knew but that it really did not matter to her much). The case of Paulie is more complicated as Paulie sees herself as a boy – and the fact that Lewis is working on the school’s premises as a caretaker proves that she is very good at passing. Tori’s brother Rick raises suspicion that Lewis might not be a boy and in order to prove that he is, Paulie kills the caretaker Sergeant to get his genitals. She is declared insane in court.

Although the names of the characters are quite consistent, the book and the film tell two completely different stories. The characters themselves are very different. Mary “Mouse,” for example, has a hump in the book, while Mary “Mouse” in the film is merely a little younger and very shy. The imagery is also completely different. While movie maker Léa Pool works with images of Shakespearean gallantry and nativism, which finally reasolves in Paulie’s rebirth as animal/bird, the book’s central image is the mighty “King Kong” and Tori substitutes for the white woman. Susan Swan paints the picture of a transgendered FTM, and in Mouse’s flashbacks to the trial she defies Freudian theory of penis envy and declares that one does not have to have a penis to make a woman happy, that only man think one has to have one. Swan does not merely draw a picture of a lesbian love that cannot survive heteronormative conventions but a picture of plurality within “lesbian” experience – or maybe “queer” would be the better word here.

The times the stories play out in are also completely different. The book takes place around the event of John F. Kennedy’s assassination, while the film seems to be located cosily in the 1990s. The disparity is great. But both book and movie are worth reading and re-reading, watching and re-watching.

Back to tv: South of Nowhere

You may not know this but I loved South of Nowhere – or as little of it as I was able to download from the net. I have only watched the first season but it was a great show that unfortunately only made it through three seasons.

This was a show that never made it to the German tv screens and it really is a shame because as far as drama goes, and teenage struggles, and sexuality among teenagers, it was really good. The good news is, they want to make a movie out of the show and they (cast and crew) want you to watch these two videos – that is, 100.000 of you until April 27 (thank you to afterellen.com).

So, here you go, watch:

and:

Well, I hope the movie will come, this all looks really good (I can’t fathom how much I missed those characters – except for Glenn, of course).

Looking Backwards: Xena… again.

You may have noticed by now that a) I am a sentimental fool and b) I don’t care who knows it. Well, the mood struck me again and I am now watching Xena’s third season which is also – despite season six – my favorite. And I am once again finding out why that is…

And yes, The Debt is still my favorite two-parter. Strangely enough, I cannot feel quite as warmly towards the The DelivererGabrielle’s Hope-desaster. I mean, and I didn’t know before: these two episodes simply suck. It is no wonder I could not remember much of these while reminiscing – I do that quite a lot, sentimental fools do.

And next I watched The Debt and I was so enthralled and  so happy… This is excellent tv, people. Actually, it is the best. They don’t do that anymore, they are not that daring, that brutal, that chokingly honest. And I could be wrong but I think, The Debt is the first time Gabrielle drops the three magic words into Xena’s lap… ohhhh, that is so cute!

I think The Debt filled a certain gap even in the story of Xena and Gabrielle where Xena told a story to her friend, where Gabrielle felt she had to safe her friend. It was role-reversal and then there were the flashbacks of Xena being seduced by ultimate goodness (does anyone else read the flying scene as sex scene between Xena and Lao Ma?). The story moved me back then, it still does…

There were other highlights following The Debt but they seem to be in the same realm of sexy, and mischievious, and xenite pleasure. I mean, Gina Torres abs in The King of Assassins (whatever else you might think of the episode, having two Joxers and all… and tooooooo little Xena and Gabby once again delivered as hapless little blond – and she’s actually getting blonder as the season progresses, isn’t she?), for example. Man!

Okay, the picture has not the best resolution but I guess you still get my point. And then there was the chemistry between Cleo and Xena… oh, please ladies, get a room already (the flirting between Cleo and Auto was not quite as pleasant, you can be straight and subtle, folks…). Then came Warrior… Priestess… Tramp and having Lucy act her full scope of comedic talent was a sight, but, hell, I think Gabby had it for Leah. I mean, think about it: as gorgeous as Xena but, for a change, Gab can take care of her… well, she had her hands all over her in any case.

Okay, I think, I’ll stop now… it’s just, looking back, even with all the fanfiction I have read… these two are still there in the middle of my creativity, teasing, flashing smiles, gorgeous… yeah, I definitely stop now! And watch The Quill Is Mightier, so I might be back later and tell you about it.

Nice weekend, all!

A Marine Story

A Marine Story (2010) by Ned Farr

Once a month (except for the summer months) L-Mag (the German magazine for lesbians, I think there really is only one, correct me if I am wrong), Edition Salzgeber (a German film company that produces gay and lesbian documentaries, and also publishes international films on the German market, if I understand it correctly, again correct me if I am wrong), and Cinemaxx (a company of movie houses in Germany, and elsewhere? I am not sure) presents the “L-Night” by showing a lesbian movie (or lesbian short films) that otherwise would not have been shown on the big screen in Germany in several German cities. I once again attended Friday night’s screening and they showed A Marine Story.

Chief editor of L-Mag, Manuela Kay, introduced the movie as “overly patriotic” and I guess that did not go down too well with the audience, it certainly did not with me. But the movie itself showed itself a little different, or maybe this is just my imagination but, I think the movie used patriotic images to drive its message home. The message is (or rather was since it has been received): stop “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

Manuela Kay also cleverly asked how many of the women attended because of Dreya Weber’s abs and I among others raised my arm. I mean, how can you resists these:

Okay, this was not supposed to become a post about the night I watched A Marine Story but about A Marine Story. The story is simple enough:

Marine Alexandra Everett comes from a family of people who serves for the U.S. Marine Corps. The story starts with her coming home from (was it?) Iraq, she has been honorably discharged. She was accused of being gay and as far as I understood it the discharge was only honorable because her father was a big honcho (he’s now retired in Florida with all his buds) in the corps.

While at home now she is asked to train a young woman for the military because that girl faces prison if she does not enlist. Alex gives this girl, Saffron, new purpose in life. But Alex’ private life (her closeted lesbanism) catches up with her even in smalltown, California and word (and pictures) get around that she and Saffron are in a lesbian relationship (which, unfortunately for the audience, is not true).

Saffron gets into more trouble but is “safed” by Alex in an heroic finale and the girl can still join the forces, so all good. Well, I wish it was…

The patriotism within the film is warranted by the setting in smalltown, USA and the fact that the main character is part of a family tradition in the military. I don’t think it is too whack to show someone hoist an American flag in an American context (even though German’s are not into that kind of patriotism). So, patriotism is not my problem here.

My problem is with the near raping scene nearing the end of the movie. I make a bold statement here when I say: it would not have been in there if the movie had been directed by a woman, instead of Ned Farr, instead of a man. We have this insanely capable woman, Alex, who can bust heads with the best of them in a bar fight but gets nearly raped by crack heads? I don’t dispute that even a woman like her can be beaten unconscious by a couple of guys, I just dispute that in a situation like the one they were all in rape would be on the guys’ minds. I mean, they have an ex-military in their house which is a big meth-lab. It is likely the cops are going to show up or any of her muscle-packed, righteous friends and Saffron’s self-acclaimed boyfriend would want to rape her because… I don’t know, because it’s what men do when they have a woman bound. Any woman, in any given situation.

Well, I guess, even with me being a sexist and all my picture of men is not quite as severe as the director’s (or maybe the fault lies with the script writer? which is coincidentally the same person!). Well, she is not raped after all but things do not get better until they got a lot worse and the main characters almost die…

If my criticism is harsh it is because I have a problem with rape as plot device. It makes me sick and I do not think that it is necessary. The scene had enough violent potential as it was, the implication of rape as ultimate violation of the female is such a typical male device that one can only go with Freud and ask how much men have to fear female sexuality to always have to remind us what they can do to us (all of us, even women like Alex Everett).

The movie was not all that bad. It has likable characters and it has some unlikable characters. It presents well what happens when “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is continually enforced and this is what the movie is really about. The actors do a good job, especially newcomer Paris P. Pickard who plays Saffron. So, on the whole, it is alright (though one should see it in its American context, and not make comparisons with the e.g. German context which is a completely different one).

And because you sat through the whole blog post without complaining, here they are again: Weber’s abs!

Have a good weekend all.