Perspectives on Pop Culture and the Arts

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Lindsay Lohan + Tennessee Williams = Redundant?

Affectionately named 'Li-Lo' by the tabloid press, Lindsay Lohan would be wise to heed such advice as every time she moves she takes it in the neck from the media. Sure, we tire of hearing of yet another silly thing that she has done, but the last thing we really need is the exploitative tabloid harlots encouraging further (self?) destruction.

Cintra Wilson at The Oxford American discusses the sympathetic struggle of Lindsay Lohan and why her new role in an upcoming Tennessee Williams adaptation is so fitting and familiar:

While Lohan never seemed to have the dazzling prepubescent wonder, poise, and innocence that made Liz Taylor so sympathetically girlish and childlike (New York Times film critic Janet Maslin found Lohan’s double-performance in the remake of The Parent Trap so audacious, “that she seems to have been taking shy violet lessons from Sharon Stone”), there is something endearingly lame about both actresses—a pleasantly obvious lack of the kind of cool, preternatural grace possessed by Audrey Hepburn or Grace Kelly. They get a little shrill, raspy, and nasal when they’re nervous or overexcited. There is, at times, a perilous, half-crazy, overbrightness in both sets of big blue eyes. Something roundly superfeminine about their cushy, youthful bodies best reflects the more ravenous, low, cannibalistic desires of their decades. Unlike the indestructible Ava Gardner, both Lohan and Taylor have suffered from chronic broken hearts and serial attractions to men who guarantee them. Liz and Lohan are wounded little tigers—always collapsing and being released from hospitals, sprained, skinned, whimpering. But tigers are perceived as tigers, and get no pity from cows.

Tennessee would have felt their pain. “I have a funny heart,” he wrote of himself. “Sometimes it seems to thrive on punishment.” He was admitted to the Barnes Medical Center in St. Louis by his brother for what was deemed “violent, destructive and possibly suicidal” behavior brought on by willful and sustained drug abuse. Artists blessed and cursed with the job of channeling the emotions of their generation are invariably crushed under the bright pain of unrelenting scrutiny. Stars are supposed to portray human life, and its joys and tortures, perfectly—but we don’t allow them to feel excessive misery in their personal lives, without a note from the doctor or a dead parent. Depression is forbidden, as is self-loathing…how dare she be so unhappy when she has everything?

Update: Apparently, Lindsay Lohan has been replaced by Bryce Dallas Howard for The Loss of a Teardrop Diamond... which might be less ironic and generally better for the poor girl.

[Link] to the full article.

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Monday, April 02, 2007

Serenity Tops 'Best Sci-Fi' List

It comes as no real surprise (to me) that Joss Whedon's Serenity ousts Star Wars for the 'Best of Sci-Fi' as listed by SFX Magazine. In fact, I’m going to be pretentious enough to briefly tell you why I think the folks at SFX got it right.

Both films present a technologically varied universe that remains politically and socially stratified by oppressive governments (cynicism is an essential Sci-Fi trope). These films also apply many of the standard conventions of the Science Fiction genre as well as obvious characteristics from the Western.

Star Wars: A New Hope idealizes the ‘American Dream’ as the rural everyman aspires to something bigger and better – heroic adventure, romanticism, stickin’ it to The Man, and (aside from ignorant incestuousness) getting the Girl. This is cool. This is fun. This is Greek Tragedy minus the Tragedy. This is opera. It appeals to our ‘everyday’ commonalities and fulfills our most ridiculous fantasies (swinging across a treacherous chasm in the arms of a lovely maiden? Oh yeah). It doesn’t insult us (except, sometimes, for the Girl – which is nothing new, so apparently it’s OK).

Serenity, on the other hand, challenges, alienates, disillusions, blames, and questions. There are evil monsters out there but we made them. They are us. Reflections of who we are and can become. Not bent on being set in an escapist ‘galaxy far, far away’, Serenity adds it’s bleak slant on realism by referring to ‘Earth that was’, suggesting humanity’s responsibility for the past tense title. The crux of science fiction has always been the controversy of humankind’s ability to negotiate the morals of natural law – a contest that we nearly always fail. Whedon’s film confronts this in true Sci-fi fashion by making it political as we discover that the government (who effectively suppressed the rebellion) is decidedly monstrous. And the Girl? River's single-handed slaughter of a room full of Reavers firmly splatters mysogeny with such post-fem swank that it makes Mal's bloody eye seem like a limp-wristed plea for sympathy. (although the eye thing was pretty cool, wasn't it?)

In a political climate where the critical teeth of Sci-fi should find the biggest appetite, we can applaud films that challenge, stir, and reflect. This is what the great science fiction writers (Wells, Verne, Bradbury, Dick, Huxley, Orwell, et al.) have all done. And, as dreary and low as our world often gets, we can rest assured that Serenity rises to the top.

Top List from SFX Magazine.

More on Serenity [Link]

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