Wednesday, May 27, 2015

She's Totally Me

So apparently this week Surrenders is a music blog. Who knew? Hey, remember Jenny Lewis? Of course you do, because that glorious “Just One of the Guys” gender-swap video is seared permanently into the pleasure center of your brain. Well she’s back again to bring joy and merriment to your occipital lobe. Her video for “She’s Not Me” is all over the interwebs this morning for good reason. It’s a fantastic poking fun at Jenny’s child actress (“Golden Girls!” “Troop Beverly Hills!” “The Wizard!”) past complete with some equally fantastic guest stars like Zosia Mamet, Vanessa Bayer and Feist (Feist!) as the priest. My only regret, she didn’t reenact the zucchini scene from “Foxfire.” Next time, Jenny, next time.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Back to Black

Damn. Damn, damn, damn, damn. Oh, Amy Winehouse. Damn. It still seems unfathomable that we lost her four years ago. Cruel even. Of course, that’s the selfish part of me talking. I’m mad we lost her music. But the greater loss, of course, is the human one. This woman, this all-too-human woman became lost in the blinding, relentless spotlight that is fame. And we saw it all happening, yet could do nothing to stop it.

Seeing the trailer for her new documentary, “Amy,” brings it all rushing back. Her meteoric rise. Her magnetic charisma. Her undeniable artistry. Her seemingly inevitable fall. The first time around it seemed to be happening in slow motion. This time around it’s happening at the speed of tragedy. The “if onlys” of Amy Winehouse’s life will forever be a part of her legacy. But her talent is still one that should shine through the ages. And that, that certainly deserve to be remembered.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Monday Music

And now, for your moment of Zen. I’ve been a fan of Tracy Chapman forever. And she was among the ladies I featured in the first year of doing My Weekend Crushes. So here she paying (inadvertent) tribute to the late Ben E. King (who passed away after this appearance) and the beautiful “Stand By Me.” Lovely doesn’t even cover it. Now that’s how you start off your week right.

Friday, May 22, 2015

My Weekend (Irish) Crush

By the time you read this (given time zones and such) Ireland may have – hopefully – voted for marriage equality. The country could soon become the very first on the entire planet to grant same-sex couples the right to marry via popular vote. And, as much as I think civil rights should not be selected via a court of popular opinion, I feel confident that we have progressed to a point that the hearts and ballots of the majority of people will do the right thing. So in honor of this auspicious moment in history, let us celebrate the best way possible. With 10 lovely Irish lasses. Happy weekend, all. Fingers crossed, Ireland.

Katie McGrath

I’ve kinda missed her. Where’d she go? Oh, she’s in “Jurassic World?” Cool, cool.

Caitriona Balfe

You’re watching “Outlander,” right? Good, as long as that’s sorted.

Nora-Jane Noone

Hey, I remember her from “The Magdalene Sisters.”

Charlie Murphy

I still haven’t watched “Happy Valley,” but now I feel extra bad about all my procrastinating.

Ruth Negga

Is she still on “Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D?” I stopped watching last season. Shush, I know it got better.

Maria Doyle Kennedy

Granted she gave up Helena. But I’d still want Mrs. S, and her shotgun, to have my back.

Saoirse Ronan

“Hanna” was pretty fucking nuts. Just an observation.

Kelly Gough

I sincerely hope PC Hagstrom will be back for “The Fall” season 3.

Fiona Shaw

Sure, she was Mrs. Dursley. But, damn, she also got Saffron Burrows. So, no shame in that game.

Evanna Lynch

Look, if The Internet can go insane about Neville Longbottom, we can at very least give our respectful appreciation to Luna Lovegood.

p.s. Well done, Ireland. Well done, indeed.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Sapphire is a Girl's Best Friend

To quote Keanu Reeves in every movie he’s ever been in, “Whoa.” Like, “Whoa, ‘Orphan Black.’ You’re, like, blowing my damn mind.” Now I know I – and many of you – went into this season with a certain amount of trepidation. Boy clones, really? How could adding a bunch of same-faced dudes to a show that has so stalwartly been about women – sisters, at that – and their fight to determine their owns lives possibly make things better?

Well, the answer is they couldn’t. But the good news is they haven’t had to. Because the boy clones – while present – have largely been just another obstacle for our seestras to overcome. And, the even better news, is the boy clones haven’t had nearly as much screen time as I had worried. (It helps that a couple of them got killed off pretty quickly, too.) This, again, is good because Ari Millen, you’re no Tatiana Maslany. Not by a long shot.

Anyway. This was not what made me go “Whoa.” What made me go “Whoa” – or, more accurately, “Whooooooa” – was Shay. Like, “Whoooooa. Hellooooo, Shay.” If you’re a fan of Ksenia Solo (and if you’re not, what’s wrong with you) you already love her because, duh, Kenzi. But now you’ll love, love her as Shay. Granted, the whole holistic healer thing is a little too moonbeam and crystals for me. But, hey, who doesn’t love a gal who is good with her hands? Amirite? I’m right.

Granted, I have no idea where this whole Shay/Cosima thing is going. (Also is Shaysima really their portmanteau? Because, meh.) She could turn out to be yet another terrifying twist in this crazy clonespiracy. But right now, I like it. I like it a lot. They’ve got chemistry, which for both a scientist and a TV couple is key. And, damn, these two gals have it. Their chemistry is like a Bunsen burner on full boil. How many times did you rewind that scene? Come on, don’t lie. This is for science.

Look, I love Delphine, obviously. But, first and foremost, I want Cosima to be happy. And right now, this Shay girl? Whoa, does she have lots of happy, happy potential.

Also, after watching Ksenia dance (like, literally in “Black Swan”) around roles in projects with other plenty of queer female characters, it’s nice to see her play one for a chance. Like really nice. Like, whoa.

p.s. How many lesbians desperately searched the app store for Sapphire so they could find their very own Shay after this episode? Come on, don’t lie. Again, for science.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Fast & Furiosa

That’s it. I’m shaving my head and painting the top third of my face black. Damn, “Mad Max: Fury Road,” dammmmmn. So that movie was crazy. Crazy, crazy, crazzzzzy. And in all the best ways.

Advance reviews of this film all hailed it as a feminist action film. So I was both excited and a little nervous. Like, could I hope against hope that this was actually a feminist film? Could the post-apocalyptic world of dust and destruction be more than just rampaging testosterone and shit going boom?

Yes. Yes it can.

But then, in a way, this also bummed me out. It’s not because of the film’s unabashed feminism. I love, love, love that. It bummed me out because it’s so unusual to find an action movie that has lot of women in it at all. It’s so shocking to find an action movie that treats women as people instead of things. It’s so weird to find an action movie that allows women to have agency, and own their anger about having that taken away.

And that’s the thing that dudebros who think feminism is anti-man just don’t get. It’s not about being anti-man. It’s about treating women equally. It’s about not making us just things to be objectified or rescued or destroyed. It’s about making our lives matter as much as the men’s. How terribly radical, right? Right.

It says something that this film so and so succinctly states, about its female characters, “We are not things.” We are not things. We are people who can kick ass and enjoy a kick-ass action movie with kick-ass characters – both male and female. And if you don’t agree with that, may I introduce you to my friend, Furiosa?



p.s. Also, this is practically perfect.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Lez Go to the Movies

They say when it rains it pours. Well, I don’t know if you can call two high-profile, high-expectations lesbian dramas a downpour, but it’s a start. This year both “Freeheld” and “Carol” could breakout to mainstream audiences. I mused last month about the powerful possibilities of “Freeheld” over at Women and Hollywood. And now, after its premiere in Cannes, critics have begun to lavish raves on “Carol” and posit it as “Hollywood's first breakthrough lesbian love story” (though, that’s coming from that Ramin guy again, so take that is you will).

From what we can tell from the first clips and reviews, it’s clearly director Todd Haynes’ lesbian counterpart to his 2002 film “Far From Heaven.” He certainly has an eye for the 1950s, and can expertly recreate the upscale ambiance and closed-off claustrophobia of the era. In short, it looks beautiful and I’m very anxious to watch, just like everyone else.



So if “Carol” becomes our big lesbian breakout, instead of “Freeheld,” it will be interesting indeed. (Though why fight, can’t both be breakthroughs?) The politics of “Freeheld” – given the current marriage equality momentum – are certainly more current. But there is a universal topicality to “Carol” as well, despite it being more of a classic period piece.

If you think about it from a cultural standpoint, it may well indeed be easier for mainstream straight audiences to connect with a story of past prejudice against the so-called “sins of homosexuality” in the 1950s than one that is less than a decade old. Dare I say it would be more comfortable to look back at that longer-ago era and say, “My haven’t we progressed,” than the uncomfortable closeness of the early 2000s and think, “My, we still have a long way to go.”

As a lesbian viewer, I’m just thrilled that 2015 is set to offer us what seems to be two strong and hopefully worthy films that tell our stories – regardless the time period. Two films isn’t exactly an embarrassment of riches. But it’s not chump change, either.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Well, Never Mind

So, turns out there was a reason Cate Blanchett was so nonchalant about her sexual otherness. It’s because she actually isn’t. Over the weekend, Cate said her Variety cover story comments about having “many times” had relationships with women were taken out of context. She clarified her quote during a press conference for “Carol” in Cannes over the weekend.
“From memory, the conversation ran: ‘Have you had relationships with women?’ And I said: ‘Yes, many times. Do you mean have I had sexual relationships with women? Then the answer is no.’ But that obviously didn’t make it.”
Well, dang. Dang, dang, dang and bummer.

Variety reporter Ramin Setoodeh has since stood by his original quote of her as accurate. Also it should be noted that Ramin Setoodeh seems to be behind every gay story controversy. But it is clear – whether she was being coy or he was being a bad reporter – that with the current back track we must now take her off the big list of “queer or other” female celebrities.

She followed up her clarification comments with this:
“In 2015, the point should be: who cares? Call me old fashioned but I thought one’s job as an actor was not to present one’s boring, small, microscopic universe but to make a psychological connection to another character’s experiences,” she said. “My own life is of no interest to anyone else. Or maybe it is. But I certainly have no interest in putting my own thoughts and opinions out there.”
Sigh. Well, here’s the problem with the whole “who cares”/whatever/no labels thing. As much as we want to live in the post-sexuality utopia where everyone accepts everyone’s everything, we simply don’t live there. Not yet, not by a long shot. Instead we live in a world that still very much classifies us, our worth, our rights and – all too often – our safety by our sexual orientation/gender identification. So when actors/actresses (and I’m not saying that’s what Cate did here, but just making a point) sidle up to us and say, “Hey, I’m like you, too” we want them to mean it. We want them to mean it because the more people who mean it, and the more people say it, the more we get closer to that idealized universe of acceptance and openness for everyone.

So, as I was saying, bummer. We want to believe Cate spent her summers partying it up at Jodie Foster’s clambake. But, alas, she did not. But hey, we’ve still got Ellen Page.

Friday, May 15, 2015

My Weekend Crush

Sometimes you get some news and you don’t know what to feel, but you know you feel it very intensely. Like earlier this week when news broke that they were going to remake “The Craft.” Yes, you read that right. A REMAKE OF THE CRAFT. At first I was very excited. And then I was very worried. And then I was excited/worried. And then worried/excited. And then most of my feelings rushed toward demanding that there be at the very least one gay witch.

Now, anyone who was old enough to see/sneak into an R-rated film in 1996 knows and loves “The Craft.” And those who were too young came to love it thanks to the wonders of basic cable. And us gay gals came to love it because Catholic schoolgirl uniforms and witchcraft.

They were basically the original “Mean Girls,” but with actual power instead of just sick burns. It was girl power with black lipstick, underdogs with unabashed attitude. Sure, there were also homicidal tendencies. But nobody is perfect. Plus, the lesbian undertones (overtones?) were kind of unmistakable. But then, I tend to think any movie about tight-knit female friendship is pretty gay. So there’s that.

Which brings me back to this remake news. So far at least it has a female writer and director (relative newcomer Leigh Janiak), which is more than the original had. But then remakes of cult films rarely are better – or even equal – to the originals. Think Gus Van Sant’s “Psycho” or Kimberly Peirce’s “Carrie.” (Though, man, do I have high hopes for “Mad Max: Fury Road.”)

But who knows, maybe “The Craft” in all its gothy glory, all its campy craziness could be the one. Maybe “The Craft” remake will actually be good. Maybe. Maybe not. But wouldn’t it be nice to believe in some magic, black or otherwise. Happy weekend, all.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

A Tale of Two Trailers

Consider this the tale of two trailers. While I would hesitate to call them the best of trailers and the worst of trailers about female-centered projects, there’s no denying both their similarities and differences. One if the new film reboot of “Jem and the Holograms.” The other is the new TV reboot of “Supergirl.”

I’m going to let you watch both of them and then let’s chat, m’kay?

First, “Jem and the Holograms”


Now, “Supergirl.”


Right, so we’ll begin with “Jem and the Holograms.” That was truly not outrageous. In fact it was truly, truly, truly boring. That was “Josie and the Pussycats” meets “Hannah Montana.” If you want a more interesting all-girl band origin story, might I suggest “The Runaways?”

But then that’s what you get when 1) the female creators of the original story aren’t consulted (or even notified) that a franchise was being rebooted, and 2) you use all-male creatives behind the camera to tell a story about an all-girl experiences.

Think I’m kidding about that all-male thing? Nope. The film is directed by Jon M. Chu (previous credit: “G.I. Joe: Retaliation”), written by Ryan Landels (previous credit: “The LXD: The Legion of Extraordinary Dancers” – whatever that is) and executive produced by Scoot Braun (previous credit: “Justin Bieber's Believe”) and Jason Blum (previous credit: a shitton of horror movies). So a guy who has directed a dudebro action franchise, a guy who has written some show about dancers and producers whose expertise are Justin Bieber and horror. Sure, makes sense. Totally works for a female-driven movie about the outrageous adventures about a group of young women.

So then the result is a very bland, very generic, very uninspiring “A Star Is Born”-ish rehash with your standard-issue girl empowerment backstory. Be yourself! Get discovered on YouTube! Lots of hot-pink eye makeup! Blerg. Now I watched “Jem and the Holograms” as a kid because it’s what you did in the 80s. While I don’t have overly strong feelings about the cartoon series I do remember it has something both campy and refreshingly weird going on that made it stand out. She was truly outrageous. THAT WAS THE WHOLE DAMN POINT.

Moving right along. Now let’s talk about “Supergirl.” I’ve always had a soft spot for D.C. Comics’ Supers – both Man and Girl. I know it’s not cool, but Superman was my favorite superhero and I made my parents take me to Helen Slater’s “Supergirl” movie way back in the day. And I remember on the way out I accidentally knocked over one of the armrests and my dad said, “Whoa, Supergirl. Watch out for your powers.” It’s one of those small, precious childhood memories I keep locked away.

So at first glance, like the first 2 minutes of the new trailer I was annoyed. Like, is this just “The Devil Wears Prada” with a red cape? This is almost as bad as the SNL “Black Widow: Age of Me” parody trailer. Supergirl as a frazzled working gal in the big city rom-com. Are you serious? ARE YOU SERIOUS?

But then, then it got better. Like it’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s kind of awesome better. It helps that the show comes from a pedigree of people who make sense. Its producers are “Arrow” and “The Flash” creator Greg Berlanti and “Chuck” and “Glee” writer/producer Ali Adler. Folks with a pedigree in writing superheroes and shows with strong female characters. Also, isn’t it nice to see sweet, forgotten Marley Rose from “Glee” plays the Supergirl herself? It also helps that the show appears to have a sense of humor, both about itself and its stories. I’ve stuck it out through “Gotham” this past season, but damn if that show isn’t joyless. So a female-centric superhero story that’s unafraid to kick ass and crack a couple of jokes? Yeah, I’m definitely into that.

So there you have it. Now, granted, these are both based on just trailers. First impressions are just that. But it’s another reminder that not all female-fronted projects are created equal. Not even close.