A Cool Contemporary Hispanic Market (& A Not So Fantastic Four)

Like La Lu said, 'twas a fully loaded weekend.

...Friday night brought Salsa Under the Stars where MrStinky shook his thang while StinkyLu was all shy.

...and Saturday morn swept the Stinkys off to FantaSe for the 19th Annual Contemporary Hispanic Market where the Stinkys really liked work by assemblage artist Kenny Chavez, papel picado auteur Catalina Delgado Trunk & digital visionary Alex Chavez.

And since Saturday evening promised a glorious repast at Chez de QueLinda, StinkyLulu elected to take the afternoon off & away in the air-conditioned shade of the googaplex, finally catching a screening of...
...The Fantastic Four. In a word? Feh. Now, it's been but a post since StinkyLu confessed a weakness for flicks where folks get to "discover their powers" but even that, a substantial helping of cute boys, & some nifty product tie-ins can't get StinkyLu on board this train. Too bad, really. Johnny Storm (the fire guy) was one of StinkyLulu's first comicboy crushes -- a weakness for flamers from way back, 'spose. But, while Chris Evans is hot (badumdum), the character's possibly the most assertively het superhero we've seen in some time. Then, the sheer idiocy of the casting of Jessica Alba as the blonde, blue-eyed Sue Storm/Invisible Girl? Just don't see it. Badumdum...dum. Even Julian McMahon's trademark scenery-chewing sexy sleazoid-ness lacks its usual magnetism. Badumdum...doh, never mind. Only Michael Chiklis' Thing is solid. (hee!) Consider yourself warned...


Super Sky High

Staring down at a busy weekend, MrStinky & Lulu were a bit overwhelmed by the depth of movie options. So many new movies, so many movies still not screened. But it proved somewhat amazingly clear which new release would gather the Stinky movie bucks on opening day: Sky High.

StinkyLulu just loves movies about kids "discovering their powers" -- it's a thrill & a fascination that extends from Harry Potter to X-Men to Carrie. So this flick about Sky High, a high school for emerging superheroes & their sidekicks, was right up StinkyLu's alley. Plus, it promised Lynda Carter in a cameo. What more could StinkyLulu wish?
Turns out the movie's quite good (Michael Angaramo -- who you might remember as Elliot from Will and Grace -- is really dear in the lead) & often very funny (Cloris Leachman in a cameo as the school nurse is hi-larious) & sometimes really clever (the bit with the cheerleader whose superpower is the ability to multiply into an overwhelmingly identical throng of scary popular girls -- pretty brilliant).
But you must remember that it's a kids' movie set in high school... It's quite a lot of silly surrounding a very very sweet center, which -- truth be told -- The Stinkys found quite agreeable.


Another reason to love Towleroad...

This morning, StinkyLulu happened to catch Diane Sawyer do a report on the controversy surrounding "Love In Action" -- an evangelical "ex-gay" ministry/intervention/indoctrination program (which, notably, uses a recovery model -- including moral inventories -- to overcome homosexuality). "Love In Action" gained notoriety recently when a teen known as "Zach" reported on his blog that his parents were sending him to "Love In Action" because, in a nut, they refused to accept Zach's homosexuality as legitimate -- ever. ("Zach" is scheduled for release tomorrow, hence the new national attention to this story which has flown just under the MSM radar.)

Having viewed Sawyer's interview, and having followed Zach's story on the blogosphere for the last coupla months, StinkyLulu just has to hand it to Towleroad for his succinct & precise handling of the whole hooha. Towleroad's account of the GMA Segment is spot on.

And is yet another reason why Towleroad is a daily (or several times daily) stop for StinkyLulu...


Racial Oompa-Loomplications

It's been an interesting coupla weeks to be contemplating the racial turns taken by Tim Burton's Oompa Loompas (in addition to the racial motifs -- Mudbloods, House Elves, Giants, Dark Lords -- in the Harry Potter saga) while hearing broadcasted homilies about Britain's culture of multicultural tolerance having been compromised subsequent the recent bombings. Truly, the multiraciality of British society creates a fascinating surround for both Dahl's and Rowling's work, both examples of British juvenile literature transmogrified into US-circulated entertainment empires. All of which, of course, serves to underscore the conundrum of the Post-Millenial Oompa Loompa.

The racial genealogy of Oompa Loompas has been fraught with controversy. First, OompaLoompas were mini-pygmies rescued by their savior/Wonkoverseer; then, they were leaf-hugging hippies transplanted into the delicately pure ecology of the Wonkavironment. Then when Hollywonka happened the first time, the OompaLoomperformers consisted of 10-15 "little people" (all male) wearing orange-faces, goofy green wigs, white-eyebrows & matching jodphurs. Now, in Hollywonka's second go at OompaLoomperformance, digital animation/imaging permitted one veteran actor to not only become each and every OompaLoompa but also do so in miniature. Noneless, in each incarnation, the OompaLoompas are visibly distinct laborers brought from another land by Wonkacorporated to replace untrustworthy native British workers. Docile, diligent, childlike -- occasionally good for a culture shock of a laugh -- the OompaLoompas exist across these variants as a fantastical yet racialized safety valve for the necessarily inhumane realities of the corporate production of tasty treats.

So it's no real surprise that people've always gotten pissed about OompaLoompas. Are they slaves? Scabs? Roald Dahl himself rebutted a scathing, if tut-tutting, proto-culture wars critique in the early 1970s. PETOL, or People for the Ethical Treament of Oompa Loompas [pop-ups ahead] formed in the 1990s, a not-entirely-ironic online federation of OompaLoompa Rights Activists (& itself possibly a precursor of Hermione's HELF -- House Elf Liberation Front). All of which suggests -- to StinkyLulu at least -- that Dahl probably scripted the OompaLoompas to carry a not-so-oblique reference to the racial & colonial history of the sugar/cocoa/marzipan industries & so underscoring the historical realities of racialized labor in the creation of confections.

All of which is to say: Oompa Loompas are fundamentally racial characters. And various productions have negotiated this in variously honest ways. Notably, the 1971 film version stylized the difference via makeup/costume & extended the vaudevillian/circus "amusing midget" schtick beyond Oz and to the 1970s. (StinkyLulu's surely not the only one to have spent late night adolescent musing sessions tracing the history of ominous/amusing "little char/actors" from the munchkins to the Oompas to the jawas/Yoda/ewoks to ET?) But, in the 2005 film, there's something provocative about Tim Burton's casting of Deep Roy -- a Kenya-born South Asian actor who has made a career in "little parts" -- to portray all the OompaLoompas: it's a knowing reference to all these histories. And while the digital replication of Roy does certainly suggest the "using one one to stand in for all" problematic haunting so much of US racial performance, the fact that Roy performs all the OompaLoompas underscores the fact of Roy's performance, the fact that Roy is an actor. It's an interesting -- and possibly not entirely effective -- strategy by Burton to accommodate the complex racial challenge of OompaLoomperformance.

So, StinkyLu'll stop here. Without even mentioning the songs. But having at least gestured to some Racial OompaLoomplications... (Thanks for the nudge, afrofuturist. PS: MrStinky & Lu screened Xanadu just last night...)


Johnny Depp as the Wonky Chocolatier: The Curious Implications of The Michael Jackson Effect

It's been an at once quite busy & somehow quiet since StinkyLu's last posting. Apologies -- the Lu's really trying to get at least one post a week on the board...

So, to the most important issue first: Tim Burton's Charlie & The Chocolate Factory was brilliant. You may have heard a whole batch of naysaying voices weigh in with their grudging praise or terrorized compliments or ambivalent dismissals. You may have contributed your own voice to that strange chorus. Fans of the book admit this flick's closer than the 1971 version, but wail about the invented backstory for Willy Wonka. Fans of the 1971 movie acknowledge that this one's good but (a) nowhere as magical or (b) far too weird. And if StinkyLulu hears one more "clever" riff on "too many sweets" or "sour candy" -- well, may Christopher Lee become your dentist too...

And then there's Johnny Depp...people just love him or hate him for his surrogation of the Wonky Chocolatier. Roger Ebert (among others) thought Depp's characterization evoked (& possibly found inspiration in) the spectre of Michael Jackson, assessing it as a misguided choice that subsequently came close to derailing the film. Obviously, the claim that Depp Jacksonified Wonka uses Michael Jackson, in a kind of cultural shorthand, to signal freak/monster with a hefty "taint" of perversity (especially where boychildren, like "Charlie" of the film's title, are concerned). More subtly, however, the argument that Depp Jacksonified Wonka alleges two crimes at once. On the one hand, it's an accusation that Depp's characterization perpetrated a kind of perverted violence upon a beloved childhood icon; on the other, it's an insinuation that Depp's characterization itself somehow transformed that beloved childhood icon into a perpetrator.

It's an interesting rebuke to Depp's work in this film. Notably, it arrives as Depp's riding his highest wave of critical appreciation & mere months since the actor's second career Oscar nomination for his portrayal of J.M. Barrie in Finding Neverland. As Barrie, Depp adopted one of his least idiosyncratic performance styles. The actor channelled his exceptional sweetness, playfulness & charisma through his extraordinary physical prettiness to create an embraceable portrait of a man seemingly "innocent" of adulthood, most especially adult sexuality. (For StinkyLulu, these connections between J.M. Barrie & Michael Jackson were much more vivid and much more creepy.)

Curiously, the criticism of Depp's idiosyncracy as Wonka almost inevitably references his work as Jack Sparrow in The Pirates of the Caribeean, where his idiosyncratically "swishy swashbuckler" seemed to singlehandedly revive the whole idea of a pirate movie. Depp's Sparrow was, for StinkyLulu, a thrilling example of a male actor toying with an excess of gender as he crafted his anti-hero as a gender outlaw as well. (Depp's work in that film became additionally impressive for its instigation of physical and audible reactions in the boychildren sitting to StinkyLu's left on opening day. The older kid who was about 12 was squirming, saying "ew" and "eyechh," nearly any time Depp's Sparrow appeared on the screen; in contrast, his younger brother -- maybe 10 years old? -- was enthralled, giggling and cheering and staring in slack-jawed amazement.)

There's something curious, then, in the revulsion throbbing in the idea that Depp Jacksonified Wonka. If you actually think about it, Depp's Wonka -- while undeniably and incredibly strange -- is nowhere near as perverse as his other recent, and more celebrated roles. Rather, it seems to StinkyLulu that Depp's Wonka is best appreciated as part of a particular Depp tradition, begun in some of the actor's earlier mysterious, titular roles (Cry-Baby, Edward Scissorhands, Ed Wood), each a delicately passionate creature misunderstood & maligned by the incriminating normalcy of the world surrounding him.

And placing Michael Jackson as an interpretive overlay on Depp's Wonka crucially misunderstands exteriorized difference as a signal of danger. This is a mistake StinkyLulu hears running all through the evocations of Gene Wilder's "charm" and "whimsy" in the 1971 film. People. Get real. Reflect honestly on your experience of Wilder's Wonka. Didn't Wilder's Wonka make you at least as nervous, as least as tense, as Depp's -- at least some of the time? StinkyLu suspects that much of Wilder's freaky weirdo manipulation as Wonka is forgiven (& forgotten) in the magical transformation (some would say revelation) of Wilder's Wonka in the "everlasting gobstopper" moment -- where Peter Ostrum's Charlie returns the secret candy & where Wilder's Wonka sheds his forbiddingly strange exterior to become an unabashedly kind man whose madness was (to a whim) methodical. For StinkyLulu, ever since the days of being a wee little Stinky, this revelation cheapened the character of Wonka, making him less trustworthy (not more) for his elaborate manipulations and partial truths. Depp's Wonka has no revelatory transformation & remains as defiantly irreal even as Charlie (here, the luminous Freddie Highmore) guides him toward fuller personhood through a reaffirmation of the importance of family ties.

So, while this more recent Chocolate Factory movie did at times make StinkyLulu long for the more familiar one, Depp's Wonka consistently reminded Lu of the often frightening but most excellent delight of finding a whole 'nother Chocolate Factory -- just as cool, just as scary, just as thrilling... And to be alert, lovely reader, to the curious implications of all the allegations that Depp Jacksonified Wonka...

P.S. Check back for more on the racial oompa-loomplications & thoughts on StinkyLulu's favorite character -- then and now -- Mike Teevee.


StinkyLulu's Summer Movies

Hello Lovelies...
It's been nearly two weeks & that's just wrong. So. Even though StinkyLu hasn't a blog-agenda today, post Lulu will...

The trip to NYC was great. Perfect, actually. Just time enough to do pretty much everything, but not so long that the traveling started to get too tiresome. The best part? Being with MrStinky, o'course. The real best part? Good eatin' all 'round. The other like totally best part? The movies. And the surprisingly good part? The shopping. (Who'da thunk't? See, MrStinky -- being the shopping-fiend that he is -- dragged the Lu all around SoHo a few different times. Actually sorta fun. StinkyLulu's totally the "weary husband holding the little lady's bags" but it was sorta neat. And StinkyLu wasn't even frightened at the sight of the pricetags. Generally mortified, horrified & appalled -- but not frightened. That scores progress.)

And despite the headlines about cinema attendance being down, The Stinkys have been doing more than their fair share to boost the movie economy -- both in NYC and since -- in the last 2 weeks. (All without seeing that soul sucking alien attempt world domination via the googaplex; the Stinkys haven't seen the movie starring his newly Scientologized fiancee either.)

StinkyLulu's movie notes -- in brief:
Me and You and Everyone We Know: Highly mannered, more than a touch precious, overrun with pretension...and yet, one of the most emotionally provocative films StinkyLulu's seen in eons. Filmmaker Miranda July disregards basic cinematic conventions of narrative & character development and creates a gorgeous story of regular people behaving in the banal (yet inscrutable) ways of everyday life. Really good acting from the kids, too.
Mysterious Skin: Y'all know how much StinkyLu's been looking forward to this flick. Well, no disappointment -- at all. Stellar acting on all sides -- scary, real, even more scary, even more real. Catch it if you can. You'll never think of alien abduction stories in quite the same way again. Even more, you might just think of pedophilia in a totally new way too... Wow. Just wow.
The Heights: Wanna fall in love with NYC all over again? See this flick. This is the kind of movie that -- had StinkyLulu seen it in high school or college -- would have fueled StinkyLu's already stoked passion to move to NYC & "experience life"; can be hard to remember that thrill now that StinkyLu is old & jaded. But this movie's a gorgeous soap opera for folks who consider themselves way too literate/smart/cultured for daytime tv. The kind of layered, not-ironic NYC relationship drama that no one makes anymore...
Howl's Moving Castle: It's Miyazaki, so it's wierd. But this one's possibly the least comprehensible of any Miyazaki movie StinkyLulu's ever seen. Nonetheless, Lulu's basic thrill with Miyazaki ("check your brain & your expectations at the door & just thrill with the ride") is totally there. Might be a highly encrusted metaphorical tale of the spiritual costs of grandiosity & emotional disconnection, but StinkyLulu's not sure. Fabulously strange & defiantly unsummarizable -- weird but Lulu loved it.
Saving Face: Sweet, confidently told story of Chinese Americans in NYC, alternately dealing and not dealing with how unexpected love changes the contours of family. The underrated & always impossibly gorgeous Joan Chen anchors this film with a simple, beautiful, intense sincerity that lets both the broad comedy & brazen sentiment glow. Watch it with your honey or your mom. (And try not to count how many queer romances end with the exact same scene.)
Bewitched: Goofy sloppy piffle. Fine, but. Think of it like tapas. Lots of tasty little bits (especially from the incredible supporting cast) with a generally agreeable vibe (thanks to the luminous charm of Nicole Kidman) but not altogether satisfying. Wanted a bit more Maclaine, maybe a bit less Ferrell -- not too much of any one thing to make me nauseous or cranky...but, all told, not enough to leave StinkyLulu satisfied.

So, a good coupla weeks at the movies.
And StinkyLulu hasn't even mentioned MrStinky's latest favorite tvd show: Entourage. (Watched the entire first season in the last two weeks. Now The Stinkys are looking to scam HBO from unsuspecting beloveds to catch season2.)