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a blog by Ann Althouse

"With a libretto written by... first-time opera makers, the show has Rousselle largely mumbling, rather than singing. Her mumbles are then translated..."

"... for the audience using supertitles.... Despite the opera’s central character being named Blake, 'the only reason people are going to see this is because of Kurt Cobain’s celebrity,' [said a Cobain biographer].... The idea for making 'Last Days' also had little to do with Cobain as a person, said [Oliver] Leith, the Royal Opera House’s composer-in-residence.... [Agathe Rousselle, who plays the Cobain character] best known for starring in the horror movie 'Titane' as a woman sexually attracted to cars, said... [s]he was bullied at school and one day one of the school’s popular girls threw a CD of Nirvana’s 'Nevermind' at her, sneering, 'That’s the kind of thing you weirdo would listen to,' Rousselle recalled. When she got home, she immediately played it. 'I lost my mind to it,' she said.... [Rousselle] said the opera was not about Cobain, but bigger issues like how 'becoming a myth will kill you' and 'the absurdity of being famous and wanting to disappear when you’re recognizable to pretty much everyone.' The opera could have been made about Amy Winehouse or Janis Joplin and still made the same points, she added."

From "A Kurt Cobain Opera Examines the Myth, Not the Man/The creators of 'Last Days,' an eagerly anticipated opera about a grunge star’s final days, insist it’s really about how society treats its icons" (NYT).

The opera is "based on Gus Van Sant’s largely wordless and plot-free 2005 movie 'Last Days,' in which a Cobain-like character roams around a country house falling asleep, listening to music and trying to avoid his housemates, manager, a Yellow Pages salesman and two members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints."

This is making me think about that Netflix movie "Blonde," which is about Marilyn Monroe (as envisioned by the novelist Joyce Carol Oates). I actually watched that movie. I've blogged about it a couple times, but not since actually seeing it. The words "could have been made about Amy Winehouse or Janis Joplin and still made the same points" resonated. When a work isn't trying to give a factual account of a famous person's life but to adopt the famous persona and present evocative scenes, you can either focus on the facts about the famous person or accept the work of art on its own terms. I thought "Blonde" was quite good at doing what it tried to do, but it's an immense pain to anybody obsessing over factual accuracy. It's like "Citizen Kane." Either get into that spirit or don't subject yourself to it.

"I am the person meant to 'see myself' in 'Bros,' to be 'represented' by it, to celebrate the 'milestone' it marks."

Writes Matt Brennan, in "The real lesson of ‘Bros’: It’s OK to let gay art bomb" (L.A. Times).

I am of Eichner’s generation, or close to it; of his race, his gender, his sexuality, his industry, his city....

The freedom “Bros” extols, or tries to, is not just sexual freedom. It is the freedom to fight over, criticize, even ignore the artworks that claim to represent us — and, on the flip side, the freedom to keep making and consuming gay art whether straight people show up for it or not....

“Bros,” a film expressly about the refusal to butch up one’s voice for a straight audience, isn’t for everyone, and it doesn’t need to be. It can be for us, to argue about on Twitter or at the bar before “Drag Race,” outside the circuit party, during our own dates (or orgies). And it can be for us to decide it’s not worth our time or our money, that we would rather watch some other queer film or TV series out of love, instead of watching this one out of obligation. ...

May the next quarter century bring still bigger swings, still more revolutionary incursions into the mainstream, still more films and TV series “too gay, too niche” for straight audiences and not gay enough — never gay enough — for us. That’s progress.

Bombs away.

Half Human.

I love that poster. It's for a 1955 Japanese film about the Abominable Snowman.

I ran across that just now researching the phrase "half human" as I was writing the previous post

Interesting things about the poster: woman in shorts in a snowy mountain environment, man more suitably dressed in a Tyrolean hat, vaguely indicated male genitalia on the Snowman.

ADDED: Joe Dante explains "Half Human":


What the whole thing if you dare: here.

"Gay sex was more fun when straight people were uncomfortable with it."

The kicker laugh line in the trailer for "Bros":


Well, good news: Apparently, straight people are still uncomfortable with gay sex, because just about nobody wants to see this film. Has there ever been a more highly praised movie that's been this big of a flop? 

Look it's got a 90% "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes and a 91% audience score. Critics said stuff like: "Funny and warm, the gay love story lives up to the swooning standard of When Harry Met Sally and Notting Hill" and "Step aside, Hugh Grant and Diane Keaton, the pantheon of great, neurotic rom-com leads has found a new king in Billy Eichner."

It opened in 3,350 locations and only made $4.8 million over the weekend.

Now, there's a lot of discussion about whether the non-success of the movie should be attributed to "homophobia." 

I'm  going to read this at Variety: "Why Did Billy Eichner’s ‘Bros’ Bomb at the Box Office? Straight People Aren’t Entirely to Blame." 

But first, I'll just say that I think the problem is that the reviews are selling it as a rom-com, which invites you to see it because you'll identify with a character and feel closer to a person you're with or will feel nourished in your dream of love. You could say this isn't for me simply because you're not a gay man. That's not hating gay men. It's just not feeling like one.

From the trailer, it seems more like a satire of various kinds of people in the LGBTQ community. Who's up for that? It's not homophobic to decide not to seek entertainment in the form of making fun of LGBTQ people. 

So who is the audience supposed to be — other than gay men and those who want to laugh at the LGBTQ community? Are people supposed to see movies because they get excellent reviews? But the reviews aren't saying this is a great work of cinematic art that cultured people must see. They're just saying it's effective as a rom-com. But you choose your rom-com — don't you? — based on whether it resonates with your own personal romantic feelings.

Now, I'm reading the Variety piece. It says with rom-coms, what matters is "star power." Variety says a movie like Julia Roberts and George Clooney's “Ticket to Paradise” can open big in theaters, but "Bros" should have gone right to streaming. Build interest from there.

The studio spent a lot of money pushing "Bros" as "historic." "Historic" — such an overused word. Supposedly it's "the first major LGBTQ studio comedy." Is it? Who really cares? It's supposed to be great fun but this makes it "feel like homework." 

Notice how you can get to "historic" just by adding elements. Here, it's not just LGBTQ. It's also "studio." But the movie was made for $10 million. It's very hard to see what's special.

And now they're insulting us for being "homophobic" if we don't feel like going. That's not much fun.

“I failed, failed and absolutely failed to understand just how exhausted by and disgusted with the perpetual representation of Muslim men and women as terrorists or former terrorists or potential terrorists the Muslim people are."

Said Abigail Disney — grandniece of Walt Disney, "a titan in the documentary world" — who was the executive director of “Jihad Rehab,” called it “freaking brilliant” in an email to the director, then disavowed it.

She is quoted in "Sundance Liked Her Documentary on Terrorism, Until Muslim Critics Didn’t/The film festival gave Meg Smaker’s 'Jihad Rehab' a coveted spot in its 2022 lineup, but apologized after an outcry over her race and her approach" (NYT).

Advised by a PR firm to apologize, the director Meg Smaker said "What was I apologizing for? For trusting my audience to make up their own mind?"

Smaker spent 16 months inside a Saudi rehabilitation facility interviewing former Guantánamo detainees.

The attacks came from what  the NYT characterizes as "the left":

Arab and Muslim filmmakers and their white supporters accused Ms. Smaker of Islamophobia and American propaganda. Some suggested her race was disqualifying, a white woman who presumed to tell the story of Arab men.

The filmmaker Assia Boundaoui, said: "To see my language and the homelands of folks in my community used as backdrops for white savior tendencies is nauseating. The talk is all empathy, but the energy is Indiana Jones."

"Has anyone ever won an Oscar for showing so little expression?"

"[Nurse Ratched as played by Louise Fletcher ] was not — as Nurse Ratched was in the book — an embodiment of matriarchy and women's repression of men. She was horrible, cold, and controlling, but she also had some humanity. She was in a predicament trying to deal professionally with some very trying individuals. She made all the wrong decisions, but she was recognizably human. The actors who played those patients did a fine job portraying seriously ill men and making them dramatically effective and immensely entertaining. We felt free to laugh at them a lot without getting the nagging guilty feeling that we weren't showing enough respect for the mentally ill. There's bonus entertainment in the fact that two of them are actors we came to love in bigger roles: Danny Devito and Christopher Lloyd. 'If they made this movie today, they'd ruin it with music,' I said halfway through. There was scene after scene with no music, other than the occasional record that a character in the movie played.... There was never any of that sort of movie music that instructs us on how to think and feels our emotions before we get a chance to feel them for ourselves. When Nurse Ratched puts a syrupy, soporific version of 'Charmaine' on the record player for the ritual of dispensing the psychotropic drugs, what we feel is in counterpoint to the music...."

I wrote that on Christmas Day in 2006, the morning after the last time I watched "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest." 

I'm reading that old post this morning because I see the news that Louise Fletcher has died. She was 88.

Here's the scene where Nurse Ratched keeps the men from watching the World Series game (and McMurphy is an election denier):

"A writer friend shared with me the bound galley of his latest book-to-be, and I pointed out to him that his passing reference to barbecued chicken ribs at a picnic..."

"... was surely meant to be barbecued chicken wings. Not (entirely) displeased with my catch, he introduced me to his production editor — the person in a publishing house in charge of hiring copy editors and proofreaders.... In my early days, I would sulk in my office with the door closed if I found out that one of my books included a typo. A sentence referring to 'geneology' once sent me into a blue funk for hours.... I’m occasionally asked whether I can make my way through the world without shivering under the constant bombardment of typos.... [O]nce, watching the movie 'My Week With Marilyn,' I elbowed my husband sharply in the ribs over a prescription bottle, visible on a night table for approximately a second and a half, whose label read 'Tunial' instead of 'Tuinal.' 'I think it must hurt sometimes to live in your brain,' my husband has said on occasion, not unkindly. But, as he also notes, in a kind of nursery rhyme mantra, 'Your strengths are your weaknesses, your weaknesses are your strengths.'"

From "My Life in Error/A copy editor recounts his obsession with perfection" by Benjamin Dreyer, the copy chief of Random House (NYT).

I don't want to send Dreyer into a blue funk, but if I were writing an essay that had the line "passing reference to barbecued chicken ribs," I would not also have "elbowed my husband sharply in the ribs." It's a repetition of a distinctive image — ribs — for no recognizable reason. That's a language mistake. Make it your husband's arm. You're in a movie theater. It was more likely his arm that you elbowed anyway, wasn't it? You just liked "ribs," but your feeling of liking it came, I'll bet, from having seen it so recently.

And here's the Wikipedia entry for Tuinal, a Eli Lilly sleeping pill introduced in the late 1940s and now discontinued:
Tuinal saw widespread abuse as a recreational drug from the 1960s through the 1980s. The pill was known colloquially under the street names "tuies", "tumies", "double trouble", "blue tips", " F-66's" (which were the markings on Lilly's capsule), "rainbows", "beans", "nawls" and "jeebs".... 
Oscar Levant wrote in his book The Unimportance of Being Oscar, "If I had the choice between the most beautiful girl in the world and three grams of Tuonol [sic], I would take the latter."

Arthur Koestler and his wife Cynthia jointly committed suicide on March 1, 1983, by swallowing lethal quantities of Tuinal capsules at their London home....

In Ian Fleming's short story "The Living Daylights" (published in Octopussy and The Living Daylights, 1966) Commander Bond takes the drug before an assault on a KGB sniper: "He selected the Tuinal, chased down two of the ruby and blue depth-charges with a glass of water, and went back to bed. Then, poleaxed, he slept."... 
In The Ramones song "Psycho Therapy", Joey Ramone sings in the second verse "I like taking Tuinal / It keeps me edgy and mean / I'm a teenage schizoid / I'm a teenage dope fiend." 
In the book Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk (1996), Eliot Kidd refers to Sid Vicious taking "about thirty Tuinals" (a lethal dose for someone that doesn't have a huge tolerance to barbiturates) at the Chelsea Hotel in New York, the night Nancy Spungen was found stabbed to death and for which Sid was charged with her murder.... 
In the Lou Reed song "New Sensations", he sings: "It's easy enough to tell what is wrong, but that's not what I want to hear all night long, some people are like human Tuinals."....
American writer/poet/singer Jim Carroll is reputed to be the voice heard asking Brigid Polk about the availability of Tuinals between songs on The Velvet Underground's Live at Max's Kansas City album....
In the 2011 movie My Week With Marilyn, during a scene in Marilyn Monroe's bedroom, a bottle of Tuinal (misspelled "Tunial") can be seen on the bedside table, in reference to her dependency on barbiturates. 

Many more cultural references to Tuinal at that Wikipedia link. 

In the aftermath of Biden's speech, I wanted to watch "The Architecture of Doom" once again.

This is an endlessly interesting documentary about Nazi aesthetics, free in entirety, at least for now, on YouTube: here.

Sorry, I can't embed it. Here's what Wikipedia has to say about the critical reception:
Although Caryn James found the period photos and film footage valuable, she thought that The Architecture of Doom was "simplistic" and "dangerously facile."[1] Washington Post reviewer Benjamin Forgey wrote that the film-maker "marshals his arguments and his evidence masterfully,"[3] and in a separate review Desson Howe said that the film was a "dryly effective documentary."[7] Austin Chronicle reviewer Steve Davis declared that the "impeccably researched documentary The Architecture of Doom formulates a convincing thesis about Hitler and his legacy."[6] Ed Simmons wrote in Crisis magazine that Cohen had made a "remarkably insightful film which shows the Führer not as a psychotic, an anti-Christ, or even Aryan Angel."[9] In a 1999 Village Voice article, Michael Giacalone noted that "The Architecture Of Doom shows us that the control of ideals is at the very root of fascism's appeal."[10]

I've curated 8 TikToks for your pleasure tonight. Let me know which one (or ones) you like best.

1. That fish!

2. The dog's delicate care for a plant.

3. Sounds you don't hear anymore.

4. Do you pronounce these words correctly?

5. A designer food experience.

6. How to dress for a work meeting.

7. Her not understanding any critically acclaimed film.

8. The jazz they play in stores in Tokyo. (And here's his "In-Store (Tokyo Jazz)" playlist.)

Half Human."Gay sex was more fun when straight people were uncomfortable with it.""Has anyone ever won an Oscar for showing so little expression?"

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