Anne Heche Is a Convincing Alien (or: What I Learned My Summer Vacation)

I apologize for my inexcusably long break. All I can say is that I am one of those irresponsible New Yorkers who not only has a car, but loves her car. It’s a pain in the ass to park, to pay for, and to protect, but — aaaaah. Come summer and its clammy, dirty hot-towel slap, ain’t nothing better than climbing into my Hyundai Sadie’s four walls and speeding right up the BQE ramp and out, out, out of NYC environs.

I’ve been to: the Catskills; Onset Bay, Massachusetts; the tony Hamptoni; Long Beach, LI; and, of course, la Coney Island. And I am here to report that even better auto-entertainment (if you catch my meaning) than mypod is la book on tape. The cheesier the better, it seems. I tried listening to Middlemarch and Crime and Punishment and, though I admired those books much when I read them a decade ago, lordy, were they lousy in traffic. Nay, it’s been less lofty fare: domestic fiction from Alice McDermott; you-go-girl faction from Terry McMillan (NYTimes phrasing, not my own); Frank Abagnale’s swinging-con memoir Catch Me If You Can, Aretha Franklin’s autoautoautobiography (compelling on oh-so-many levels!); and, by far the best, Call Me Crazy by Anne Heche, read by the authoress herself in her patented Stonewall-era-gay-male-meets-Ethel Merman voice. I will say this for Heche: She obviously wrote it herself. She grounds out her church-ladylikeness with down-and-dirty swearing. “I’d rather be crazy than fucking God!” she exclaims after describing waking up with, oh, stigmata in her palms. And then there’s the poetry she occasionally uses to jazz up her prose. Couplets rhyming “herpes-scaby” with “My sister Abby.” Or, “I was mad/a loon/a crazy cartoon.” Plus the exact pronunciation of her alien-identity Celestia’s special language.

Crazy!

All right, I’ve broken my August-posting cherry, so more later today or tomorrow.

What Made Me Grin This Temperate Morning

The heavily tattooed guy with the powerful, and I mean POWERFUL, body odor waiting for the drugstore to open at 9 am. The doors swung open, I grabbed my gallons of water (they were having a sale, when can I say?) and brotherman jostled ahead of me to buy three tubes of KY jelly and an economy-sized bottle of Astroglide. The clerk and I could barely look at each other without smirking. Sexy sex sex.

My next-door neighbor, an Italian woman in her sixties, planting five pots of gorgeous purple morning glories in her tiny front yard. She was wearing a dress festooned with purple morning glories and, when she was done planting, swept her share of the sidewalk with a gorgeous purple broom. I think I love her.

You Got Served playing HBO on a seemingly nonstop reel. It’s the perfect cable movie — a dull teen drama punctuated by awesome awesome awesome dance sequences. Click on, click off. Imitate the moves in the sanctity of your living room.

My apartment boasting not one but two air conditioners. Read it and weep. Or just read my electricity bill and weep.

Ah, summer soothes this savage beast.

Singleton Talks (and Money Walks)

John Singleton lays it down in today’s Times. The director of the groundbreaking Boys in the Hood and a long line of what-was-he-thinking ventures (Poetic Justice, 2 Fast 2 Furious are but a few) has produced — and largely bankrolled himself — first-time director’s Craig Brewer’s Hustle & Flow, that which has set all kinds of tongues a-flapping. Basically, I like Hustle; it is formulaic but also large-hearted. But what’s most compelling about the story is that Singleton bothered to get behind it with such force — and a financial force at that.

In the interview today, he responds to interviewer Lola Gogunnaik’s implication that “he’s back” with a bit of bristle:

“My last film made $240 million,” he quickly pointed out in a recent interview. He was referring to ‘2 Fast 2 Furious,’ the critically lambasted blockbuster he directed in 2003. “Hello, I’ve been here.”

On one level, you’ve got to laugh. An imdb search reveals just the kind of no-goodnick Nick he’s been. But, then again, according to Hollywood standards, Singleton’s been up to a lot. Just: financially. And why the “just,” anyway?

With all respect to my Marxist friends, you could almost argue that financial success should matter more for a filmmaker of color (or a woman) right now than artistic merit. What most people of color don’t do is run things. (Oprah is a powerful exception.) They still rarely own sports teams though those teams are mostly comprised of brown-skinned men. They still, more to the point, don’t run studios. They still don’t have a say as to how things run and what gets made. Singleton having money means Singleton can bankroll the movie he thinks deserves bankrolling, practically Singletonhandedly (sorry). It’s the same reason that Jay-Z jumped ship on his recording career to be president and CEO of Def Jam Recordings.

As Singleton himself goes on to say in the interview:

“Very few studios have people of color deciding what films get made,” Mr. Lee said. “There’s not one African-American at a studio in a position to greenlight a film. When that happens that will be landmark. That will have far more impact than two black people winning Academy Awards in one year.”

It’s a complicated issue. The trick, of course, is not to make movies so problematic that your means don’t justify the ends. But I think Singleton is right. Even just spending the little time in LA that I have over the last year, I believe that all the nefarious agendas that we leftists and conservativos alike assign to the Hollywood powers-that-be are off-base. The only color or party that matters to them is green. So Singleton is hitting where it counts when he makes a high-grossing (if crap) movie and then turns around and uses the cash he earned to bankroll a film that couldn’t get a green light if green were the only color in the world. Obviously it would be preferable if all successful movies also boasted great integrity. And that’s where we come in as audiences. We should remember that it is our dollar which speaks the loudest when it comes to expressing our political outrage in a daily way. And not only in terms of which movies we see.

*Also check out Can’t Stop Won’t Stop author Jeff Chang’s two cents on the verysame topic over at the estimable alternet.

"All, everything I understand, I understand only because I love."
― Leo Tolstoy