kill is kiss

Pontypool screenshot

A year ago on The Toast, I discussed Pontypool, Picnic at Hanging Rock, and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind:

St. Valentine’s Day is an excuse to express our most intense or obscure passions. But words can be a frail tool to capture the complications and complexities of this thing we call love: the sweet blush of infatuation, the kinship and kindness of true companions, the frenzy of unfettered lust, the torments of jealousy, betrayal, or heartbreak. So perhaps it’s no coincidence that three films set on Valentine’s Day hinge on the fragility and feebleness of words, creating worlds where meaning and reason fall apart.

pleasure party

Kane picnic

Irony alert:

Orson Welles’ iconic “Citizen Kane” has been set for its first-ever showing at Hearst Castle on March 13 as part of the San Luis Obispo International Film Festival.

The movie will be screened at the private theater at the massive hilltop estate — the inspiration for Xanadu in “Citizen Kane” — for about 50 people. Tickets will cost $1,000 each and proceeds will benefit the festival and The Friends of Hearst Castle preservation group.

No, wait, there’s more. It’s not just that the Hearst Castle is hosting an elaborate, expensive screening of Citizen Kane, the film William Randolph Hearst famously tried to suppress, using every threat and contrivance at his considerable command.

The event will also include live auctions of a pair of Hearst Castle party packages — a movie night for 10 and a pool party for 10 at the indoor Roman Pool — with bidding starting at $7,000.

Because if there’s one message to take from Citizen Kane, it’s that extravagant outings and ostentatious gestures lead to happiness.

“Sure, ya gimme things! But that don’t mean nothing to you!”

Other suggested auction items for the Hearst/Kane pleasure parties:

Starting at $50: One good cigar, wrapped up to look like toothpaste or somethin’, delivered to your door.

Starting at $5,000: Enjoy a week of private lessons from Signore Matiste, vocal coach to the stars. His motto: Some people can sing, some can’t. 10 packages available, schedule inflexible.

Starting at $20,000: Spend one thrilling night as the star of your very own opera house! Only one package available! Bid early, bid often!

Flat $1 donation: An anonymous account will tweet @ you, then delete, an image of a girl in a white dress holding a white parasol. You will see it only for a moment, but you may revisit the image as often as you like for a lifetime.

Benched for the season

Benched - Season 1

I could have mentioned this back when the season started: I’ve been covering Benched, a legal sitcom created by Michaela Watkins and Damon Jones and starring Eliza Coupe and Jay Harrington, for The A.V. Club. USA wraps up the first season with back-to-back episodes tonight, and you can catch up with my reviews for the full season here.

It started out as a whip-fast workplace comedy that leaned heavily on Coupe’s facility with physical comedy and open-ended rambling and a plausible but predictable will-they/won’t-they romantic angle between the leads to the detriment of the excellent supporting cast. As sitcoms went, it was entertaining and zippy, but nothing special.

But as the season went on, Benched evolved from a show I enjoyed into a show I loved. The characters developed and deepened (including great roles for Maria Bamford and Oscar Nuñez), the tentative flirtation broadened into a friendship, and the show set its sights audaciously on the legal system, portraying a world where there are no villains, no antagonists, no bad guys or good guys, just an overburdened institution and overworked, underpaid lawyers working within it. I began the season happy to review a new show; I’m ending it hoping — hoping — to see it return for season 2.

Stars Hollow

[MASSIVE SPOILERS AHEAD OH BOY PRETTY MASSIVE] Here’s the dark secret in Gilmore Girls that no one ever talks about: Stars Hollow lies in the grip of a shadowy fertility cabal that rules the lives of its denizens — and even their folk elsewhere — with terrible certainty.

Think about it: Christopher Hayden accidentally impregnated Lorelai, then a generation later he accidentally impregnates his new partner. Luke has a daughter with his high school girlfriend. Luke’s sister Liz has two unplanned pregnancies ~18 years apart. Lane gets pregnant with twins the very first time she has sex. Sookie is so overwhelmed by pregnancy and parenthood that she and Jackson decide he should have a vasectomy to avoid any further disruption to their lives, but something persuades him not only to skip the agreed-upon procedure but to keep his continued fertility secret from his wife so she can be surprised by yet another OOPS pregnancy.

The only reasonable conclusion: Gilmore Girls takes place in a dystopian alternative universe where all social and sexual mores are controlled by forces beyond the control of the individual, outside the scope of sex-ed classes, and unfettered from the many forms of reliable and widely available birth control. In the AU of Gilmore Girls, all heterosexual couplings serve the larger master of society’s need for babies, babies, more babies, always more babies. You have plans? Too bad. Stars Hollow needs babies. You have hopes and dreams? I hope and dream that they’re about babies, because that’s what you’ll be having.

Make Gilmore Girls a double-feature with The Handmaid’s Tale! Also, I am pretty worried about April Nardini.

[cross-posted to The VideoReport]

in the night… in the dark…

An evil old house, the kind some people call ‘haunted,’ is like an undiscovered country waiting to be explored.

Robert Wise’s 1963 The Haunting (adapted from Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House) is a masterpiece of measured suspense, a truly haunting portrait of repression and anxiety mounting from dread to outright terror. It’s also the bittersweet tale of a young woman struggling to overcome a lifetime of isolation and alienation, determined to see a slice of the world and find adventure, love, and somewhere she belongs.

On Saturday, October 25th, starting at 8:00 p.m. EDT, I’m hosting a live-tweet of “The Haunting” (1963) at @emilyorelse for The Toast. Join in on #ToastieTwitter and #TheHaunting!

Then during Halloween week, visit The Toast for my analysis of late-bloomers, love, and friendship The Haunting and Lucky McKee’s 2002 May, a genre-straddling horror-romance story of a lonely woman seeking company and comfort. (And join the May live-tweet on Monday, October 27th!)

The Haunting will play on Turner Classic Movies at 8:00 Eastern on Saturday, October 25th. You can check out the Facebook event for live-tweet, where I’ve posted plenty streaming options, or look for The Haunting in independent video stores everywhere. We’ll be live-tweeting the 1963 original, not the 1999 remake.

Girls’ Best Friend

GPB cafe

“Gentlemen Prefer Blondes is a romping example of female agency in limited circumstances. These women work and play together, wresting their power and pleasures from the hands of men with relish.” Gentlemen Prefer Blondes upends tired sexist tropes, indulges the female gaze, and showcases fierce female friendship. My new essay, today at The Toast!