I don't think Shortbus is really all that great a movie, but I liked it a lot just the same. The fact that it was so heavily improv-based made it feel, as many of the reviews have noted, formless and repetitive, but, to its credit, John Cameron Mitchell has a way of bringing out the swoony sappiness without making you feel guilty about it. I was moved to tears right along with the random extra during that final marching-band-
orgy-by-candlelight scene. It was ridiculously over the top, yet ridiculously life-affirming, which might be another way to defend the inclusion of all that un-simulated sex. A lot of it's funny, some of it's hot, but none of it's dirty. As Stephanie Zacharek was right to point out in her Salon review, "I've felt sleazier looking at ads for Captain Morgan's rum." Plus, it just goes to show ya how much we need more gay male filmmakers (who are actually dealing with gay themes and not just trying to pass) because, egad, I can't remember the last time I saw so much wang! It was completely refreshing to see the male form joyfully eroticized on film instead of the passing glances at Ralph Fiennes's artfully soapy d or some twinked-out doe-eyed CW star trying to do "edgy" in a microbudget indie like we usually get. Bring on the autofellatio! Bring on the national anthem being sung into that cute young guy's ass!
Say what you will about Sophia Coppola's cinematic pedigree, she does have some really good taste. After all the hullabaloo about the non-period specific music in Marie Antoinette, I was expecting the tone of the thing to be very Moulin Rouge-ish and zingy (not that that would have been a bad thing, of course, ardent Moulin Rouge defender as I am). But, I was shocked by how quiet so much of the movie was (which may have been an inadvertent side effect of the theater I saw it in; I don't think the sound system was cranked very high anyway). The minimal dialogue, the long stretches of unblinking behavioral observation, the deliberate, heart-on-sleeve bites from Barry Lyndon--this does not a "giddily postmodern" take on the Marie Antoinette mythology make. It's one of the better things I've seen Kirsten Dunst do, Schwartzman continues to impress with his on-screen warmth and comic timing (his delivery of the word "obviously" in the first half hour or so is motherfucking plated in gold), and I don't think you can really ever go wrong getting Shirley Henderson to run around the place, making catty remarks under her breath. Enjoyable, if not exactly life-changing.
This essay/interview with Zach Condon of Beirut is a leeetle wanky, but mostly right on the money. I'm glad to see someone taking him down a few notches, as I, personally, got tired of Gulag Orkestar real fast and think a lot of it was fatigue with the disingenuousness of Condon's cultural appropriation. Not to keep hammering away at the tired (and, let's be honest, slightly unfair) Gogol Bordello comparisons, but Eugene Hutz just has so much more integrity in the way he's bringing gypsy music to the forefront of indie kids' consciousness. He knows what it means, politically, to harness the raw power of that playing style ("IF WE ARE HERE NOT TO DO WHAT YOU AND I WANNA DO, AND GO FOREVER CRAZY WITH IT, WHY THE HELL ARE WE EVEN HERE?") and uses that power for good, not just for good feelings (even though, obvy, the good feelings flow like the finest vodka when Hutz is rocking the mic or the decks). Sure, Condon's got a nice knack for pleasant melodies and the album has some good songs on it, but how much more apparent can his tourism be when he's already anticipating copping from Portuguese folk and Fado on his next album?
We're all enjoying Ys, yes? I'm still thinking about what I think about it, but it's wondrous, heady stuff. And, oddly, it puts me in the mood to listen to Rufus Wainwright. I think a lot of it is due to the Van Dyke Parks connection (he did some arrangements for Rufus's debut), but there's also their similar vocal quality shift from reedy-shrieky on the first album to stronger and mellower on the second.
Ooh, speaking of Rufus, Pitchfork gifted us with a whole passel of news today, including the fact that he's working on an opera commissioned by the New York Met. I've had a hunch that his career would eventually wend that way since around the time I first heard that duet with Antony on Want Two, but I just didn't think that time would come so soon. Kudos to him, and I can't wait to hear the Judy Garland concert CD.
Wang, twinks, autofellatio, Rufus, Antony, and Judy Garland--this is officially the gayest blog post I have ever written.
And, a big happy birthday shout-out (one day early) to my best girl Mary.