Me Me Me

October 26, 2021

If I ever took a dance class again, I’d want the prompts to be similar to what Spike Jonze told Margaret Qualley to do when she auditioned for that Kenzo video:

“The only note I got from my agent was that they wanted me to dance like a tree,” said Leftovers actress Margaret Qualley, star of the original, viral Jonze-directed Kenzo World perfume ad, which featured her dancing and contorting her limbs with a back-bending frenzy…

“I get to Spike’s apartment and he’s there. I’m terribly nervous because I’m such a massive fan. We sit down and talk, I filibuster while I try to calm myself and tell him bizarre anecdotes about my father that have nothing to do with why I’m there. He gives me a vague idea of the story and concept. He plays the song [the same one heard in the ad] and is like, ‘Okay, want to improvise?’ He records it on his iPhone. I dance like a psychopath for about an hour, literally until his phone dies.

“During it, he was saying things like, ‘Now you’re a vampire, now your arm is trying to attack you, and you’re eating your pinky.’ I’m crawling on his floor, jumping on his chairs, it’s winter and I’ve got a turtleneck and stockings on and by the end, I’m drenched in sweat and out of breath. Then I get up and he’s like, ‘Nice to meet you.’ I’m like, ‘You too,’” says Qualley.

Fun!

Evangelical Bots

October 8, 2021
Ben looks really unlike most hip Christians I’ve seen on Instagram

The Real Star

August 25, 2021

Back when I was a wee sophomore in college, I developed this cherished ritual: maybe once a month or so, when my group of friends was going out or studying or something, I’d smoke *something or other* and head over our local outpost of the legendary (and much missed!) Kim’s Video.  There, I’d browse aimlessly through the selection and just pick a DVD or two, bring it back to my dorm room, and escape into another world.  Sometimes my selections were because I knew I was supposed to like those directors––like L’Avventura, or Hannah and Her Sisters––and sometimes it was based solely on the Criterion imprimatur.  More often than not, it was entirely at random.

I had surprisingly good success with this (“surprising,” because I wasn’t taking film classes and clearly had no idea what I was doing).  Even the notoriously judgmental Kim’s staff occasionally nodded in begrudging approval of my choices.  I still own a lot of DVDs I purchased then, and to this day, I count some of my filmic discoveries of that time among my favorite movies ever, including the terrifying Dutch-French thriller The Vanishing (which I’ve actually never quite had the stomach to re-watch) and Robert Altman’s atmospheric, hazy Three Women.  

But I had actually forgotten about one of the best finds of this era, Nicholas Roeg’s 1980 erotic thriller (kinda?) Bad Timing, until I fell down a mini-wormhole watching Criterion Closet Picks on YouTube (Ben Sinclair and Isabelle Huppert selected it)!  Bad Timing is the story of the beautiful, enigmatic Milena Flaherty, portrayed by Theresa Russell (who would later go on to marry Roeg) who seduces the clinical, controlling Dr. Alex Linden, an appropriately cerebral Art Garfunkel.  The two meet at a party and embark on an obsessive love affair, which eventually reaches a devastating, violent climax.  The film is set in Cold War Vienna, kind of the fifth main character here, which is depicted as equal parts decadence and paranoia, as evoked by alternating shots of paintings by Klimt and Schiele.

I could have sworn I had the Criterion DVD of Bad Timing, but I guess I lost it somewhere in the ensuing decade-plus because I don’t see it on my shelves.  Bummer, as it isn’t, even now, easy to find: the film’s distributor released it only briefly in 1980, calling it “a sick film made by sick people for sick people,” and it remained largely unavailable until Criterion released in the early aughts, which is around when I would have nabbed it.  (It’s now sold out on that site but there are some slightly-too-expensive copies on Ebay.)  But luckily for me, you can rent it on iTunes, so the other night I charged my card and settled in for an evening of nostalgia.

It was fascinating revisiting something that I remembered not only for itself, but for the particular reaction I had to it at that point in my life.  For example, I very much wanted to be glamorous and mysterious in exactly the way Theresa Russell was, so encountering her character was like locating a new icon.  And yet while watching it, I remember feeling like I had to consciously overlook one aspect of her character I found truly ridiculous: her HAIR!  Throughout the movie, Russell dons a truly baffling array of hairstyles, from the futuristic to the schoolmarmish.  Herewith, a compilation (incomplete):

This look is from the scene where Alex and Milena first meet, at a party.  It’s hard to tell from this picture, but her hair is in a bun towards the front right side of her head, and obviously curled throughout.  (Not clear if her hair is naturally curly or straight, based on other hairstyles.)  This is the first of a few times she opts for this front-of-the-head bun thing, to which I say: why?  Just, why?


Another angle.  You kind of have to see her in motion to get a sense of how hideous this is.

Final shot.  Sorry for the poor photo quality.


This is from the scene when she’s separating from her husband, played by Denholm Elliot, at the border of (then) Czechoslovakia.  This is one of my favorite of her styles: a kind of corporate hausfrau situation?  I’m sure there is a thesis written by an FIT student out there somewhere that explores the origin of this style.

Back view.

A similar look, from a scene where Alex Linden gives her a personality test.  (This photo is of Roeg directing Russell.)

Here is Russell in some classic Von Trapp braids, which were a specialty of mine in my early and mid-twenties.  (I could do my hair this way without looking in the mirror!)

Okay here is where it gets even weirder: after Alex asks Milena to move in with him, she goes back to Bratislava to have farewell sex with Elliott, and then does herself up nicely in this fancy rabbit fur situation and… some kind of space age hair wave?  This is truly confusing both on an aesthetic and practical level (meaning, how would one even accomplish this? Some kind of claw clasp)?

Really, why?!

And my absolute least favorite of the bunch: hair severely straightened and then put into a side-front bun, with a few loose baby wisps for added ugliness.  Mystifying! 

Aside from the styles I liked on this list, there are some scenes where she looks truly spectacular, mostly when her hair is wild and down or the little strands at the side are pulled back neatly with small clips., kind of like this, or in the bar scene where she makes out with a rando and is rocking an eagle t-shirt.  You’ll have to watch the movie to see those looks.


So in the end, I thoroughly enjoyed the re-watch, despite feeling occasionally distracted by the odd coifs.  On a more serious note, it was interesting to watch it now, knowing how sordid people thought it was upon its release––not that the denouement isn’t a terrible violation, but in the decades since, we’ve been subject to so much depraved behavior on screen––just to pick one example, anyone seen Antichrist? That was not a good day, for me––that it weirdly registers as anticlimactic, or maybe just not something that would induce a moral panic?  Or perhaps I felt that way this time just because I knew what was coming?  (Don’t cancel me, this is a purely academic consideration, obviously rape is terrible!) Oh and one last thing: anyone care to weigh in on whether Harvey Keitel is supposed to be like, an actual Austrian or an American expat who somehow got a job in the Austrian police? Anyway, the real moral of this story is a) buy me this DVD and/or b) figure out how to get me invited to do a Criterion Closets Pick.

DYING

August 13, 2021

Jennifer Coolidge, in an interview with The Guardian:

Is it true you used to pose as Ernest Hemingway’s granddaughter to get into nightclubs?

Yeah, Muffin – the Hemingway daughter who wasn’t as well known as Mariel and Margaux. I had these thick black eyebrows and shoulder-length blond hair, so I looked the part. I’d turn up to New York clubs in high heels and a short dress and tell them I was Muffin Hemingway. You wouldn’t believe how well it worked. I got a lot of mileage out of that. Until I got kicked out of a few clubs, then it wasn’t so flattering for poor Muffin.

Mother as Sisyphus

July 28, 2021

My husband pointed out to me the other day that I “don’t blog anymore,” which I knew already because I’ve been slowly eaten away by guilt about it over the past few months. Life is really hectic when you have prestige television to consume and a dead animal rotting in your basement! (Speaking of being eaten away.)

Anyway, to tide you all over until my longer post materializes, here is an amazing (to me) comic I drew at the beginning of the pandemic. The truth is I’m just ok at drawing, but I was like, I got this! And then I did it and it never came out *exactly* right. And then my friend who IS amazing at drawing was like, I can do it for you! But I had already submitted to The New Yorker on a whim (rejected!) and I thought I’d better see that through before she took over, and now I feel awkward raising the conversation again. This is the most possibly pointless mental wormhole of all time.

Nicknames I Will Appropriate

May 23, 2021

“Hamblin enjoyed a reputation of unimpeachable integrity among the Saints of southern Utah, who called him ‘Honest Jake. The historical record plainly shows, however, that Hamblin had no compunction about ‘lying for the Lord’ when he thought it would advance the goals of the Kingdom of God. Indeed, the record also shows that Hamblin was quite willing to lie through his teeth simply to enrich himself. It’s worth noting that John D. Lee had his own nicknames for Hamblin: ‘Dirty Fingered Jake’ and ‘the fiend of Hell.'”

~Jon Krakauer, Under the Banner of Heaven

The Most Incredible Shoes Ever

April 16, 2021

Butterscotch yellow quilted satin mini-pumps with a buckle and fur. Amazing! From the 1995 movie A Little Princess. Yes, I re-watched it recently; yes, I thought about the plot through the lens of contemporary issues (“Just because you’re nice to the slave at boarding school doesn’t mean you get off the hook for being a colonizer in India, Sarah!”); yes, I am fine with being a capitalist POS if it means I can have these shoes.

gah amazing

The Perfect Pandemic Book

March 16, 2021

Earlier in the pandemic I wanted to write a poem that would sort of mimic the structure of Patricia Lockwood’s “Rape Joke,” except it would be called “The Perfect Pandemic Book” and then would subsequently replace “book” with “TV show” or “movie” or whatever and involve a lot of evocative (but humorous!) imagery about loneliness, fear, germs, escapism, nightmares, and so forth, but then I realized I’m not a great poet so someone please take this off my hands, thanks so much.

Schools of Therapy

March 1, 2021

One of these days I promise I will get around to writing my essay titled “Against Therapy,” but until then, here are two satirical (but possibly very effective!) modalities of therapy I’ve invented. Feel free to practice them on yourselves!

1. Radical Death Therapy

This therapy involves a patient speaking continuously for forty-five minutes in a manner typical to normal psychoanalysis/therapy. At the end of the session, the therapist smacks the patient with a rolled up newspaper and yells, “Don’t you realize you’re going to die some day?!”

2. Internal Rock Therapy

This is a kind of mindfulness-based therapy that involves the therapist encouraging the patient at every turn to imagine a large, immovable rock inside of them, that cannot be hurt by any external force. Problems in your love life? Think about the rock. Boss treating you poorly? His taunts can’t hurt the rock. Feeling like a piece of driftwood at the mercy of the forceful river of life? You are the rock. You see where I’m going with this.

A Tweet

February 9, 2021

How many critics called Ottessa Moshfegh’s My Year of Rest and Relaxation A Rebours for the 21st century? Probably a lot, right?