If we can just make it to March without any more snow or me being sick, I’ll be a happy monster.
This week, Renay and I continued our adventures in Xena with “Callisto.” Also at Lady Business, I shared my favorite media from January, which were Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Late Night Tales: Jon Hopkins. (I listen to more than eighties music! Sometimes I have to calm down.)
2009 • 94 minutes • Magnolia Pictures
Humpday centers on two college buddies a decade after their youthful exploits. Ben (Mark Duplass) is a married man with a stable job and a nice house getting ready to conceive his first child with his beloved wife Anna (Alycia Delmore). Andrew (Joshua Leonard) is a vagabond artist who shows up at their doorstep in the middle of the night, in town to secure some funding for his latest art project. Despite Anna’s best efforts to be a good hostess, Ben and Andrew end up at a party in a queer artists’ colony one night. When a couple excitedly explains to them their plan to submit a film to Seattle’s Humpfest, an “amateur dirty film festival,” Ben and Andrew drunkenly decide to submit a film of their own to the festival—filming themselves having sex, which will be “beyond gay” since they’re both straight. The next morning, they find themselves making excuses not to back down from the project.
Unmoored in time, Humpday feels very slight, but it’s important to remember that in 2009 (oh, those ancient times a mere seven years ago), bromances were trending in pop culture—Apatow movies had gained cultural ascendency, “Guy Love” was a cheeky ditty capitalizing homoerotic overtones, I Love You, Man was in theaters, and even sexy new hit British show Sherlock had fun with letting Sherlock and John be mistaken for a gay couple. (This was back before we knew that the fun Sherlock was having was at our expense.) But it was nearly all of the “no homo” variety, with physical affection and therefore queer romantic or sexual behavior being played for laughs.
Forty Million Dollar Slaves
William C. Rhoden
2006 • Crown • 304 pages
It may not come as a shock to you that I am not a sporting woman. I may enjoy sunshine and long walks nowadays (having come to terms with the fact that, in many respects, I am a glorified dog), but, in childhood, I aligned myself against organized sports after a coach mocked me for sulking behind my long hair instead of participating in fourth grade. I deeply suspect that sports is a bit like religion: it really helps if you were in the thick of it as a kid, although it’s obviously not necessary.
So, despite being a pop culture junkie who gnashed her teeth at the demise of Grantland, sports has never been a part of my life. I only understand sports through the lens of fandom (we are not so different, you and I, Cheeseheads), but even that’s through a lens dark with my culture’s toxic narratives about masculinity, violence, and race. But I had no idea how far that rabbit hole went until I came across Adrienne Elyse’s post on Feministing wondering how to square feminism and just plain ethics with sports fandom. What utility does sport serve us as a cultural practice, and why is that utility served with exploitative practices such as looking the other way when it comes to violence against women? In that post, she specifically names Forty Million Dollar Slaves as a good resource into understanding how modern American sports exploits young black athletes.
Dear White People
2014 • 108 minutes • Lionsgate
Dear White People opens in the aftermath of an “African-American-themed” party at Winchester University, a very tony Ivy League school somewhere in the United States. As national news covers the story, several characters stare, shellshocked, directly into the camera. It’s only Tessa Thompson’s Sam White who watches back, a camera glued to her left eye and an appraising look in her right one.
And that’s when I screamed in delight, because there are few things I love more than the fourth wall being coolly, elegant broken to make a point about who is seen and who is being seen. (If you would like to enjoy a pop music version of this, I direct you to Madonna’s performance of “Vogue” at the 1990 MTV Awards.)
The Empress Game
by Rhonda Mason
2015 • 352 pages • Titan Books
As concepts go, The Empress Game seems pretty clearly suited to my taste: a galactic empire elects its empress not through political process, but through the Empress Game, a tournament of ritualized combat where any woman with a title can compete for the seat. The mysterious but brutal pit fighter Shadow Panthe is hired as the illegal double for Princess Isonde, the emperor-elect’s politically powerful beloved, but participating in the game will bring her uncomfortably close to her past.
Ooh! Action, awesome ladies, and mysterious pasts? Sold! (And also sold on the strength of that cover, which insinuates both female empowerment and pulpy delights. I am a simple woman of simple tastes.) When I saw that Thea recommended this at the Book Smugglers, I immediately added it to my list.
I desperately need this tin to store my hardcore sewing supplies.
It’s snowing like a monster here in New York, so I’ve been spending my weekend wearing the same pair of thick socks, making oatmeal cookies, and crafting. (Painting a tin and cutting some postcards out of a Star Wars-themed cereal box is crafting, right?)
At Lady Business, Renay and I continue our Adventures in Xena with “The Greater Good.”
The Princess Diaries
based on the novel by Meg Cabot
2001 • 115 minutes • Buena Vista Pictures
If, by some strange and vengeful act of God, every Disney Channel Original Movie was wiped from the face of this earth, we could probably reconstruct them using The Princess Diaries. Despite its theatrical release, its Whitney Houston production credit, and the good name of Gary Marshall back when that meant something other than another American rendition of Love Actually (Mother’s Day, coming to theaters April 26th, I am literally not joking), The Princess Diaries is nothing if not the platonic ideal of the DCOM: glossy, sweet, and fun, complete with the optional side order of a big star (Julie Andrews) gracing a smaller production with her presence.
It’s so sweet, in fact, that I remember being very disturbed as a preteen by the discovery that the Grandmere found in Meg Cabot’s novel (upon which the film is based, obviously) bares little resemblance to Julie Andrews’ kindly Queen Clarisse. I mean, she’s amazing—tough as nails, glamorous, and a fan of permanent makeup—but she’s, you know, different.
How Star Wars Conquered the Universe
2014 • 450 pages • Basic Books
Sometimes, I feel for George Lucas.
As a fan, watcher of cinema, and eighties freak, I am, of course, absolutely infuriated by Lucas’ long history of “improving” his films and refusing to release the original theatrical cuts on DVD. (I know, I know, they’re available as “special features” in one of the Special Edition’s DVD releases. But let’s be real, that feels like a slap in the face.) But I do feel for the guy. I’ve always gotten the feeling that Lucas’ career got railroaded by Star Wars in a spectacular way, a feeling that How Star Wars Conquered the Universe confirms.
It’s easy to forget that the story of Star Wars is not just a story of a film franchise and its fandom, but also the story of Lucas’ career up until the sale of Lucasfilm to Disney in 2012. But Chris Taylor’s well-balanced How Star Wars Conquered the Universe makes sure to tell all three in remarkably readable fashion. And by readable, I mean that I started tearing up a little when Taylor concludes the book by describing the only things we could know about Star Wars: The Force Awakens: the iconic introduction. Damn you, John Williams! You can get me even when I’m reading something in perfect silence!
If there was ever a week to light this candle, this was it.