“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!
In which my husband improves upon the work of John Legend, Bruno Mars, and One Direction:
The Fella: You’re beautiful.
me, around a mouthful of ham and bread: I’m full of ham sandwich is what I am.
The Fella: That’s what makes you beautiful.
Let’s hear the song about that.
I like big muscles and red corpuscles
I like a beautiful hunk o’ man
[Dorothy Shaw (Jane Russell) and nameless Olympian from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes number “Ain’t There Anyone Here For Love?”]
My unexpected assessment of The Maya Rudolph Show, last night on NBC: go small or go home.
Inspired by #supervillainpop:
I was weary of my Master
We’d been together too long
Like a reanimated monster
We’d let lay dead for too long
So while he dreamed in his ether mask
I browsed Craigslist in bed
In “miscellaneous romance”
There was this rant that I read
“If you like piña coladas
And making blood flow like rain,
If you’re not hung up on ethics,
Can procure half a brain.
If you’d like making love at midnight
With a dude in a cape
Then you’re the lackey I’ve looked for
Write to me and escape.”
I didn’t think about my Master
I know that sounds kind of mean
But me and my mad scientist
Had vented many a spleen
So I clicked on the button
And replied to his ad
And though I’m no evil genius
I thought it wasn’t half-mad
“Yes, I like piña coladas
And making blood flow like rain.
I hope that you’re into hunchbacks
And are crim’nally insane.
I’ve got to meet you by sundown
And cut through all this red-tape
At a lair on Skull Island
Where we’ll plan our escape.”
So I waited with high hopes
And he skulked in the place
I knew his scowl in an instant
I knew the scar on his face
It was my own ghastly Master
And he said, “Oh, it’s you.”
Then we laughed, “Mwahahaha,”
And he said, “I never knew
That you like piña coladas
And making blood flow like rain
And the glow of the lasers
As they dole out sweet pain.
If you’d like making love at midnight
With a dude in a cape,
You’re the lackey I’ve looked for
Come with me and escape.”
Elsa, apropos of nothing: I sang the Michigan J. Frog song at the bar tonight.
The Fella:That sounds like you.
The Fella and I sit watching “Community.” Vaughn breaks into his Annie’s Song*.
The Fella: Didn’t Barry Manilow actually have an “Annie’s Song”?
Elsa: Wasn’t it John Denver?
TF: Oh, sure!
E: But I don’t know how it goes.
TF: I think it’s the “you fill up…” [He trails off, obviously reluctant to give us both the earworm.]
E: Ah. “Like a thing in a thingee.”
E: Like a blank in a blanket.
E: Like a frog in a bucket.
*which is nowhere to be found online, so here’s Troy and Abed mimicking Jeff.
The Fella: [wrily] We should’ve played this at our wedding.
Elsa: I think we did. I added it to the playlist.
The Fella: … I’m insulted in retrospect!
After the smash success of Talking Heads’ legendary performance film Stop Making Sense, the studio gave David Byrne a huge measure of control over his next film project, True Stories. What an odd movie they got.
Written by Byrne, Beth Henley (Crimes of the Heart), and Stephen Tobolowsky (Now don’t tell me you don’t remember him because he sure as heckfire remembers you! Needle-nose Ned? Ned the Head? He dated your sister Mary Pat a coupla times until you told him not to? Bing!), True Stories takes us on a tour of a fictional town — Virgil, Texas — gearing up for its sesquicentennial celebration by staging “A Celebration of Specialness.”
It’s as gee-whiz as a 1960s picture postcard: bright, dated, and absolutely flat. The establishing shots are carefully square-on, keeping the focal point dead-center, never oblique or slanted. And the film’s attitude is just as surprisingly direct. Where we might cynically expect glancing sarcasm or viciousness, Byrne instead gives us refreshing sweetness.
This is a small-town character study — Our Town by way of Weekly World News. We meet a spinner of endless tall tales, a man who claims he can grab your nose and read your mind, a lady who never gets out of bed (our narrator enthuses: “She has enough money, she doesn’t need to. Wouldn’t you?”), a husband and wife who lead the community but haven’t spoken directly to each other in years, and a preacher who sermonizes about vast conspiracies controlling everything from our political structure to the rate at which we run out of toilet paper.
As the name implies, True Stories is more a collection of tales than a single story. The musical numbers help to tie the whole series together, but movie’s real heart is Louis Fyne (John Goodman, incredibly winning in his first major role), a big bear of a man unabashedly and doggedly looking for love. We first meet him at work (in the computer assembly’s clean room, where the world can’t touch him), then follow him on a series of unsuccessful dates and outings. In less kind hands, Louis could be a joke or a figure of fun, but Goodman’s earnestness and humor make him a remarkable character, a simple man with a complex soul.
The strength of the film comes from the same place. It doesn’t shy from the absurdities of everyday life, and in fact it exaggerates them to the point of hyperbole… but it never, ever diminishes them. Rather than jeering at the mundanities of Americana, True Stories amplifies them with equal parts affection and irony.
About half-way through the movie, our guide takes us on a driving tour through a new (and mostly uninhabited) suburban development, a banal expanse of tract housing against the barren backdrop of the Texas plains. And in this flat, blank landscape, he says — with startling sincerity — what might well be the film’s motto: “Look at this. Who can say it isn’t beautiful?”
[cross-posted to The Video RePort]