Archive for the 'Politics' Category

Hey, look, I finished something

I am off to vote, 1 and I will have a special double-issue of Weekly Movies up in the next day or two, but I just wanted to point you to my contribution to This Recording’s best films of the 1980s series, which ran a few days ago. I considered some other stuff, but I kept coming back to Law of Desire, so that’s what I wrote on.

The rest of the series is here. The other pieces are pretty great, as well.

  1. Yay for advance voting days! I’m actually pretty excited to be voting for Michael Byers


I have officially decided to stop having opinions about the American Presidential Election until either the Democratic candidate is decided or October of this year, whenever it stops being annoying.

I obviously care who wins but: Obama and Clinton both have flaws as well as good points. John Edwards was the funniest of the three on Colbert Report the other night, which makes sense because he’s not actually running anymore.

Every two weeks or so the press finds some other total non-issue to push, meanwhile the whole thing is rife with actual sexism and racism as well as overwrought trumped-up accusations of sexism and racism (not to deny the reality of actual sexism and racism, but there are both in this thing). Honestly, I’m not an American voter, so while I do care about the actual election, I am so exhausted with the minutiae; I think Obama and Hillary are both pretty good people to have as president options, given that they are professional mainstream politicians, but that that is a big given in a system where these people will have basically been campaigning for two years to be president and also you pretty much have to be a millionaire to be elected to the Senate in the first place. Seriously, there’s a war on, who cares about bowling?

Watching Obama on The Daily Show last night, it was like he was saying words, but all of his responses were so carefully polished and rote and calculated to be inoffensive that the whole thing just kind washed over me. What really drove it home was when Jon Stewart asked Obama to “hope up” things like “I’m calling to find out if you’re happy with your cell phone service?” It was a funny bit and it was nice to see Obama have a little fun, but honestly, isn’t it all kind of starting to sound like they’re selling cell phone service anyway? Continue Reading »

Weekly Movies, February 25-March 2

Sorry it’s late this week, I was kind of drowning in work.

  1. Le Confessional (Robert Lepage, 1995): This one was pretty interesting. It’s set in Quebec City in 1989 (during the Tiananmen Square massacre and the aftermath), with flashbacks to the late 1950s, when Alfred Hitchcock was in town shooting I Confess (which is about a priest who’s accused of a murder but he can’t clear himself because the guy who did it confessed the crime to him). There are tons of cinematic references to Hitchcock (blood circling in drains and so forth), but I really loved the great masculine melodrama. The hero? He spends most of the movie trying to paint over the shadows left on the wall in his childhood home. It’s great.
  2. Once (John Carney, 2007): Aw, this movie’s so sweet. I was surprised by how affecting it was, given that it’s basically a low-budget gloss on the traditional musical rom-com. They meet cute, they bond over their mutual talents, and then they make beautiful music together. Of course, it’s all low-key acting and shot in real city streets, with a charming indifference to things like lighting quality, like in this scene. I thought I was more cynical than that, but I guess not.
  3. The Butcher Boy (Neil Jordan, 1997): I really enjoyed this movie. butcherboy.gif It’s told from the very unreliable but fabulous perspective of a crazy Irish boy around the Cuban missile crisis; the actor who plays the boy, Eamonn Owens, is fantastic. There were so many awesome things in this movie, starting with the fact that it makes you laugh at the most horrible things, colouring all this misery in bright reds and having glowing Sinead O’Connor be the Holy Virgin, and ending with the people all walking around with pigs’ heads after a nuclear attack.

    And then I spent some time getting to know gay Marxist Spanish director Eloy de la Iglesia, who really embraces the penis in his films.
  4. Los placeres ocultos (“Hidden Pleasures”, 1977): Okay, so this movie is all about how gay guys really aren’t that threatening and it’s just their nature and it’s so sad that society won’t accept them. I’d make fun of it except that this was two years after Franco died, when being gay was still totally illegal in Spain. I really like the way de la Iglesia links sexual power to financial power by implying that the hero Eduardo’s influence as a bank manager allowed him to “corrupt” boys. There is also the greatly Marxist sentiment when the straight boy Eduardo’s in love with (who eventually learns to accept him) tells someone that he won’t let anyone take advantage of him, and the activist responds that he basically has more things to worry about than the gays, in that case: “Maybe you’ve been selling more important things and don’t even know it.” I didn’t quite know what to do with the “first season finale of Veronica Mars” ending though.
  5. El Diputado (“Confessions of a Congressman”, 1978): This covers a lot of the same ground as Los placeres ocultos, but is much more explicitly political. The hero is a closeted socialist politician who is being set up for exposure by his fascist rivals (this is transition-era Spain, remember).eldiputado.jpg
    The only thing that strains credibility is the fact that a Marxist in the ’70s would never have smoked (or even seen) a joint before. It’s really great though, with the gay love scene intercut with paintings of Marx and Lenin, linking the marginality of Leftists under Franco to the continued marginality of the gays. It ends with a single tear rolling down his face as he prepares to face the judgement of his supposedly liberal peers.
  6. Navajeros (I’m not sure of the actual translation — the direct is “knife users,” but I think it’s more like “petty criminals who employ pocketknives,” 1980): Apparently after doing the melodramas about how gay is okay, de la Iglesia moved on to sweet-ass crime stories. Set in Madrid’s depressing housing projects, this is about the greatest most famous juvenile delinquent evar. But that makes it sound lame, when it’s actually awesome. An imdb commenter (usually pretty dumb) compares it to blaxploitation, which is pretty accurate. There’s not a racial element, but it’s a very similar vibe: set in a gritty criminal underworld, high on brutality and political sentiment, made with great skill but not a lot of polish. The last sequence crosscuts between a baby being born (in ridiculously graphic detail) and the hero being gunned down in a senseless and preventable crime. Really impressive.
  7. Bulgarian Lovers (2003): This was de la Iglesia’s last movie — it marked his return to movies after a long hiatus precipitated by a heroin addiction — before he died of cancer. It returned to the somewhat homosexual man-man-woman love triangle “family” that we saw in Placeres ocultos and El diputado, but with a much more cynical edge, I guess because he didn’t need to push the gay rights agenda so hard now. I read a bunch of reviews for research and I was surprised that no one really made the film noir connection — Kyril, the hot but poor Bulgarian immigrant is clearly a femme fatale, and he gets the hero Daniel embroiled in this whole dirty nuclear business, and the scene where he realizes what’s up is a total Kiss Me Deadly reference with the whole glowing suitcase. They even dress Daniel up as a 40s film heroine for a short fantasy sequence. Come on, people. (It obviously retains the Marxist concerns of de la Iglesia’s earlier work with its emphasis on the fact that Daniel is totally paying for Kyril’s love.)
  8. El Sacerdote (“The priest,” 1978): You can imagine how easy it was to find information in Spanish on a movie called “the priest” directed by a guy whose last name means “of the church,” but this movie was amazing. It directly takes on the repressive nature of the Catholic Church — it’s set in 1960s Spain, when culture was changing but the Church still retained its links to the fascist Franco government — and it’s about a priest who’s driven so crazy by his forbidden desires that he actually castrates himself. It kind of combines all my favourite movie things: melodrama as moral and emotional exploration, weird sex stuff, pretty graphic violence, and penises. (I’m sorry I keep talking about penises, but it’s so rare to see penis in American movies and so common in Spanish movies, it’s hard not to focus on.)

In other news, have my Canadian friends heard about Bill C-10? I was talking to a prof at school who knows Canadian film policy pretty well about what it would mean. Basically, because filmmakers currently assume tax credits when they’re making their movies, the proposed amendment could get money taken away from productions after it’s been spent. The quote in the article is all like “We wouldn’t take tax credit money from something like Eastern Promises, just to really inappropriate movies.” (Note: it’s already illegal to get tax credits for pornography, so that’s not what’s going here.) But if this had happened in the 1970s, I bet they wouldn’t have funded Shivers (whose funding was pretty controversial at the time, what with the sex parasites) or Scanners, and who knows if Cronenberg would be an internationally beloved auteur today. Apparently the real danger isn’t so much the government actively censoring movies, but more that it would put a chill on investment, especially in risky productions, because then investors could get screwed over if the Ministry of Heritage conservative bureaucrats decides a movie’s content isn’t worthwhile. Facebook Group is here, it has more information.

Princess politics

Last week, Barbara Ehrenreich posts a feminist polemic about Disney princesses. It’s picked up in a couple of places and linked a lot in the “feminist blogosphere.”

This week, this dad named Trey Ellis writes a response. He’s a good feminist dad and his daughter still likes princesses.

Like Ms. Ehrenreich and all good PC parents at first I was terrified. Where had I gone wrong? Why is my little angel (princess?) so obsessed with cuddling her dolly, tea parties and wiping off the dining room table? I knew it was best to let her make her own toy choices but it was hard. It was as if she had been possessed by the Beaver’s mom or Donna Reed. Or maybe she was in long-term training to grow up to become a scullery maid.

Three years later her little brother came along and for a while he delighted in playing dolls with her. Now, however, he is six and has dedicated himself to becoming a ninja.

The more you watch your kids the more you realize that some key gender specifics are as hardwired as hunger and thirst. Most, but not all little girls go through a pink, princessy phase. Most, but not all little boys go through a phase where everything needs to be whacked and/or destroyed.

(Emphasis mine.) How do you know these gender things are hard-wired? Does his daughter have no female peers who like princesses? Watch no TV? Have no contact with women who are traditionally feminine from whom she modeled this behaviour? I find it exceedingly hard to believe that a three year old is actually genetically predisposed to care about painting her nails. I’m not sure what part of the chromosome that’s on.

I honestly don’t think a little girl liking Disney shit is anything to worry about, necessarily; most people aren’t defined by one cultural influence. For example, I loved The Little Mermaid when I was a kid and my parents are fiscal conservatives, but they raised me to think for myself and they valued my intelligence, so I turned out a feminist and somewhat of a commie.

But, like Jezebel points out, grown women are buying tiaras for their weddings. I think the existence of the wedding industry is a pretty good rebuttal to anyone who thinks that the whole princess narrative is something every girl “grows out of.”

I think Ellis really missed the point; he was like “my individual daughter likes princess shit, that doesn’t make me a bad dad.” But Ehrenreich wasn’t talking about him as a dad, she was talking about the princess thing as a cultural and commercial entity, which is some scary shit.


Today it got cold. Well, cold for Vancouver means we had frost overnight, and that there was still frost in shadow. Tonight when Alex and I were coming home from the pub, we could see our breath and it was kind of nice to feel really cold, not just that in between cold where you get bundled up and then are really hot and usually it’s also damp. It was like winter cold, that you feel in your eyeballs.

My plans for the rest of the night involve hot chocolate (homemade, with a bit of cinnamon) and reading the rest of “Promise Breaker” by Chris Adrian.

I have a ton of writing to do, but tomorrow.

Except for this: You have got to to be kidding me, Peter McKay. What a douche.

Pomo NaBloPoMo

Today is the first day of blogging-every-day month. I hope I can make it! Here is a random assemblage of links and the like, a bunch of which people have already seen. I am a blogger.

Exciting: New Joss Whedon show. Joss Whedon also directed tonight’s Office. I’m really glad they’re not having more hour-long episodes. Is it sad that I want to join the Finer Things club?

Pretty: Maggie Cheung on Sartorialist. I covet her shoes.

Here she is shooting scratches on film out of her eyes in Irma Vep:

Sad: :South Carolina Democrats deny Stephen Colbert. I’m not American, but I did join his Facebook group. I was totally hoping it would like that Robin Williams movie or when Bob Rae won the Ontario elections, only it would work out well. (Colbert Days!) Because he is like apple pie with a hot dog in it. Sexy!


Oh man. So in case you guys aren’t up on Vancouver news, the city workers are on strike right now. This means that parks aren’t getting maintained, the libraries are closed, and that garbage isn’t getting picked up. This has been going on for weeks now; I have no idea why the city isn’t proposing anything. Actually, I do: the City awesomely started talking about how they were going to spend all the money they were saving from not paying their workers within days of the actual strike starting. This, as you can imagine, sucks.

There is a big pile of garbage outside my house. There are more bugs around. The pool at Stanley Park has turned a horrible shade of green.

But it sucks for some people more than others. If you, say, live in a condo, your garbage is picked up by a private company. You can probably just buy books and you have internet access in your house. If you live in the Downtown Eastside, not so much:

There are also the back alleys around town where household waste is piling up, and the plight of the Downtown Eastside, where people live in alleys and there are questionable conditions on a good day. In that part of the city, the concern is that you get human waste tossed out with the trash.

This makes me really sad; in Planet of Slums Mike Davis has a whole section about how many people literally live in shit, and how unsavoury the whole thing is for the priveleged. In other words: slums! Not just in the “Third World” anymore! Thanks Vancouver. Or as another writer puts it:

But what doesn’t ever get brought up is that there is only one portion of society that is truly suffering from this excess poop. Most of the rich folk in the West side all have private garbage collectors and life is continuing without a hitch of stench. But the po’ folks on the East side are the ones that depend on city workers to pick up their trash and are now the ones swimming in their neighbours’ semen. So why is one half of the city paying for labour bullshit while the other half gets off? [...] With a prolonged strike the city saves millions, which it is already planning to pass onto homeowners by cutting their property taxes (which side of Vancouver owns expensive property?), and our mayor gets to finally look firm on something.

I do technically live on the “West Side,” in that my address does have a West in it, but I live a block and a half from the boundary, and I am still poor. Also, beside the point. What actually prompted me to write this was this whiny editorial. “Boo hoo! The Anti-Poverty Committee dumped garbage at the mayor’s condo! It is totally unfair that he should have to step over deal with garbage in his home!” (This was basically my mom’s reaction when it was on the news last week too.) Uh, yeah, except, some people have to do this all the time.

My mom was all “Other people live here. They should keep the protests to City Hall.” But… City Hall is in a residential neighbourhood (incidentally, my residential neighbourhood). People have to live there too. Anyway: maybe the reason the APC is “devoting themselves to helping the well-fed, freshly laundered picketers outside city hall” is that those picketers, when they are actually working, are all that is keeping Vancouver from turning into Victorian London.

This city, it has turned me into such a commie. You can’t say we live in a classless society: everything comes down to class here.

(Links culled from various posts on Beyond Robson.)

Weekly Movies, June 4-10 (+ Paris Hilton)

I saw five movies this week, which shall forever be known as “the week Paris Hilton went to jail.”*

  1. Waitress (Adrienne Shelly, 2007): How much did I love this movie? So much! There are very few movies that I watch that are about pregnancy and/or babies that I genuinely enjoy without wishing that movies didn’t get so weird about motherhood, but Waitress I really didn’t have those issues. I knew I was in love when Keri Russell looked at her baby’s hearbeat in the ultrasound and proclaimed that “it didn’t look like much yet, just kind of a blob.” Also, it’s pretty funny and it made me cry. It’s so nice to have people act like real people and do things that might be wrong but not totally run around feeling guilty and being punished for things. Continue Reading »

Three things, kind of jogging-related

Thing One: Spending all this time outside might give a normal person a healthy tan, but I am not a normal person. I am pasty, and don’t tan. As such, I slather on sunscreen, which is only marginally effective because it always comes off when I sweat. The result isn’t so much being tan as “being vaguely pink in colour and covered in freckles.”


You can kind of tell from this picture — note how portions of my face are just patchworks of freckles. How am I not a redhead?

Thing Two: I think this whole jogging thing is actually resulting in weight loss. What? I know. I’m not sure, I don’t own a scale, but I appear to be somewhat more muscular and maybe slightly less large-assed than I was a while ago. For instance, when I flex my arm, you can see the vague outline of a muscle. But THEN I get all weird about body image — like basically every woman ever — I started wanting to lose weight because I am probably a bit heavier than is healthy and my film studies student lifestyle is ridiculously sedentary, but a big part of me also just wants to be thin because I think I would be prettier with a smaller ass. I know this is totally irrational, that our cultural beauty standards are so unrealistic that even the people who are setting them aren’t good enough, I know that there is actually nothing wrong with me, but at the very same time as I think those thoughts, I wish that my stomach was flatter, that my hips were smaller, that I was better-proportioned. That is fucked up. Like, I look at the array of entertainment and “women’s” magazines that are touting various diet secrets of various celebrities — including two separate but nearly identical covers for Tyra Banks — and I’m all “and you know next month they are going to be ‘Nicole Ritchie still looks anorexic’ — they sure want women to feel insecure and guilty and buy things to fix those feelings,” but a part of me still also wants to look more like those women. I don’t understand how I can both not buy in and buy into something at the same time. Culture is weird.

Thing Three: My mom sent me this fancy running watch so you can set your times, so you can set it for how long you want to run before you take a walk break. It is amazing, and a much better task master than me saying, “okay, I will run for all of this song and for two minutes into the next song,” and constantly having to check the song times on my iPod.

“Let me hear you depoliticize my rhyme”

Dudes, I’m done all my essays! And I’m on summer break! So now I should probably get a job? Summer semester marking is NOT going to pay the the rent.

Ideally I will get a reception job where I can keep a book at my desk and they will pay me $20 an hour. Realistically I will get a reception job where I have tasks to be completed all the time and they will pay me $13 an hour. This isn’t a bad deal, it will put food on the table and rent movies for me. (Did you guys know Alex hasn’t seen Bring It On? This must be rectified.)

I have kind of had a rough couple of weeks, what with the being really stressed about school, having writer’s block or something, and reading the most depressing book ever. The world, it is not a good place. I am pretty sure I hate everything. Like, I may have thought I hated everything before, but I feel so negative about what is going on with the human race and the total lack of possible solutions and my total powerlessness in this regard that now I am pretty positive that this is the REAL DEAL of world-hating. Is this what growing up is? I mean, I am a functional world-hater, I make my fish tacos and watch my TV shows and do my work and find shopping oddly comforting, even if I don’t actually buy anything; but ultimately, my reaction to everything is run through a filter of world-hating cynicism. And I don’t think I could change that even if I wanted to. See above re: the world.

Things are dire: the entire world is going to hell in a handbasket, the only person who is upset about it is SIMON COWELL, it looks like Canadian forces have been handing prisoners over to the torture-happy local authorities (sigh), and Le Tigre licensed Deceptacon to a fucking Nivea commercial.

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