Definitions

You want to know how I really feel about you?

Fine.

I’ll tell you.

I wonder how you are
if you are happy or lonely or bored or horny
I wonder what you think
before and during and after and later
I wonder what you feel
for him, for me, for others, for self
I want to know your dreams
to help, to encourage, to rival, to spite
I enjoy the charade
the posturing, the guard, the sliver, the performance
I enjoy the odd nights
the dance, the touch, the thrust, the sighs
I enjoy the secret
the defiance, the pride, the tawdriness, the ride
I enjoy the reflection
of him, of me, of others, of Us
I enjoy your beauty
because it reminds me of my own

I worry that you are spoiled
I worry that I am spoiled
I adore that we are soiled
tethered to this memory

I wish I could embrace this tenderness
without the fear of what it may mean

You can call it anything you like
But whatever you do
don’t call it love
don’t call it Love.

Everybody Sucks: Or Why I Want to Live in a Goddamn Cave with My Husband, My Dog, and a Bottle of Wine

There is so much foolishness afoot I don’t even know where to begin.

I guess we should start with all the brouhaha over Duck Dynasty. Phil Robertson, the old dude with the gray beard, was interviewed in GQ Magazine and said some really shitty things about gay people and got fired for it. Now Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, the WBC, and any other group that hates the “lamestream” media is up in arms over his constitutional right to say what he feels. There is even a Facebook page dedicated to getting him back on the air (with close to 500000 Likes). And while obviously I don’t agree with what he said, I’m also not surprised. An old, deeply religious Southerner who makes his living duck hunting equates homosexuality to sleeping with animals and makes our “sin” tantamount to terrorism? Boy I didn’t see that one coming! Why is A&E surprised? Why is ANYONE surprised? Clearly the message here is you are allowed to have your thoughts but not voice them. What always strikes me as false and dumb is that the only reason these people get fired or fined or “suspended” is not because the organizations behind them are standing on morality. They are worried about their advertisers pulling out, losing fans, and losing money. It’s all so ridiculous and sad. And if we are really going to fire people for anti-gay speech, a large chunk of Congress would be out of work. But they aren’t because Congress is elected and we don’t want to piss off voters. Plus, NBC isn’t losing any money when Tim Huelskamp runs off at the mouth.

I also don’t give two fucks what Phil Robertson thinks about me or my culture and the fact that he is using “God” as his reasoning gives his ramblings even less validity in my eyes. Part of me wishes that the entire Left would take the tone of The Daily Show and just laugh at people’s archaic beliefs or ignore them all together. If you are naive enough in 2013 to believe that gay people are still the enemy, firing Phil from his reality show – a reality show designed to exploit blue collar beliefs and culture – is not going to make some great statement. But then SOMETHING must be done to fight “injustice,” if that’s what we are calling it. It’s not like he is Putin. I don’t know. It’s all so exhausting.

Come to think of it, EVERYTHING is so exhausting. Everyone sucks. Everyone is boring. And our culture is one giant fucktwat adolescent that needs to grow up all ready. There is the constant aping of sex like it is still shocking. I don’t know what Gaga and Ag thought they were doing but it wasn’t shocking, musical, or even entertaining. They sounded like cats caught in a goddamn lawn mower. Family Feud‘s clues all have a sexual innuendo, which is cheap and lazy. “Ooo, we are getting MidWesterners to say ‘penis’ on TV. Look how edgy we are!” God. Miley Cyrus rides nude on her wrecking ball and we swear the apocalypse is happening. And she rides nude on her wrecking ball because she KNOWS that people will be up in arms and it will give her attention. But it’s blase and unartistic. Licking a sledgehammer? Really, Terry Richardson? REALLY! #zzzzz

I went to the store the other day to buy lube and found out that it is now locked up in the pharmacy, along with the condoms. Why? Initially, I thought it was due to our War on Sex. No. It was because they kept getting stolen. Now. I am not condoning theft here. But who steals condoms and lube? Teenagers and poor people. And why are they stealing condoms and lube? So when they have sex they don’t get pregnant or an STI. Shouldn’t this be encouraged? And yes, there are free clinics and blah blah blah. But come on, you are telling me CVS and Ralph’s aren’t billionaires? If teenagers are going to steal anyway (and they are going to steal anyway), don’t you want them being protected and not getting knocked up at 15? “Well, they shouldn’t be having sex anyway!” Maybe not. Or maybe they are ready. And maybe if sex still didn’t carry such a crazy stigma, they wouldn’t feel ashamed to throw down a box of Trojans with their pack of Orbit. And maybe, I don’t know, if sex education were taught in school (and not just Insert Penis Here, but the actually ramifications of sex, the emotions of sex, the joys of sex), maybe we wouldn’t have so many fucking pregnant teens.

Then there are all these damn awards. LA is a town chronically rewarding itself and always for the same things: deep, dark, “important” movies. Gurl, you need a fucking Valium just to make it through these Oscar bait movies. Does no one like to laugh anymore? And what does it all mean? Nothing. TMZ keeps us up to date on who is dating who. People shows us that Stars are Just Like Us (“Drew Barrymore caught buying Starbucks! Does she use Skim or Soy?!”). Cosmo telling women the Top Ten Ways to Know If Your Man is Cheating. Men’s Fitness showing us how to have 8 Pack Abs in 8 Weeks. Commercials telling us to buy this and need that because “You’re Worth It”. “Tune in tonight at 5 to find out how watermelons may give you cancer!” “Tune in tonight at 8 to find out why watermelons are the new wonder food!” Seacrest interviewing…well, anyone. These dumb Battle of the Sexes’ contests on the radio. Women still expecting men to open their car doors, pull out their chairs, and pay for their dinner, but God forbid he expect some sex at the end of the date. Baggage. Dr. Phil’s smug ass telling us how to live our lives. Britney Spears and Katy Perry and Robin Thicke and even Lady Gaga “show us their soul” by making millions. Madonna acting like a goddamn teenager with her fucking grillz. Rewarding stupidity on the regular. Albums and naked pics “leaked” to the press like it wasn’t on purpose. “Vin Diesel’s gay! No he’s bi!” James Franco does another queer project. “BREAKING NEWS: Tom Daley is gay with Dustin Lance Black. Where is the sex tape?” Politicians lying to get what they want and doing what is right for their party and not the country. Talentless people airing their dirty laundry in an array of reality garbage to get their 15 minutes of nothing. Co-workers throwing shade for no reason. Celebrities and their self-righteous panhandling for charities that conveniently have a tie in with their latest hit song. The overwhelming obligation to be present and care. Everyone so afraid to say what they really feel because we are so obsessed with being loved. Like my Fan Page. Read my Blog. Use my Coupon to redeem your 2 for 1 Special at the Sizzler! Buy Coca-Cola! It has a cute polar bear on the can! Racism is still a thing. Poverty is still a thing. Wal-Mart is still a thing. People are still murdered in the name of Christ or Allah or whoever. And the endless news feed scrolling on every channel tells us all what we already know: everybody sucks. And the world is going to hell.

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It’s not like we are at some major crossroads where all this bullshit is convening for the first time; our culture has always been sensationalist, always bickered, always wanted to tune out (Hell, we have thousands of channels and still nothing is ever on). And it’s not like I am above or separate from the problems I espouse (as much as I would like to think I am); I watch reality TV. I buy goods from corporate chains. I want to be famous like everyone else. And I (attempt to) shock to get attention. But I have reached this breaking point recently where all of it, even my own bullshit, is just eye-roll-inducing gross. I want to retire from the world, get really wasted, write, and have so much sex my body parts need to be replaced (not necessarily in that order).

But I can’t just give up on life, retreat to the shadows and leave society; I don’t have that type of constitution. So what the hell to do about it? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Because this feeling will pass. If we have learned nothing from our disposable culture, we know that with each passing revolution, each quotable sound bite, each poll, each new list of whatever, each new product we are told is absolutely crucial to own, we become more and more jaded. More and more apathetic. More and more ignorant because staying smart is just too much fucking work. Most days I wish I could be my dog, content to lick my feet for hours and just sleep, dreaming of nothing. I wish I could rise above, wish I actually were a god, but I’m not. I’m a slightly above average thinker who wants to be rich so he can quit the system but knows he never will. And that sucks.

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Bad Cinema: A Dirty Shame (Dir: John Waters, 2004)

It may seem odd to include John Waters in a column on Bad Cinema. For one, I worship him. He (along with Larry Kramer, James Franco, and Bette Midler) serves as the paragon for what I want my crazy Hollywood career to resemble. Pink Flamingos is the film that made me want to direct and his level of lovable anarchy has never been equaled. He inspires me to push the levels of taste and decorum, to reimagine the past for a cynical present, and to seek out the rare and forgotten, the vilified and the awful, and find their unconventional beauty; to dance around the perimeter of the mainstream while maintaining my subversive edge.

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It may also seem redundant to talk of John in a context of “bad.” Dubbed The Pope of Trash, Waters sees vomit and disgust from an audience as a standing ovation. He champions the work of awful filmmakers like Russ Meyers or Herschell Gordon Lewis, calling Faster Pussy Cat, Kill! Kill! the Greatest Film Ever Made. Anyone could dub his own films, particularly the early ones, “bad” because of their guerilla nature and their obvious homemade feel, even though ironically these are his greatest achievements; their low budget aesthetics are intentional, amplifying the trashiness of the characters’ lives and actions. The blasphemy of Multiple Maniacs’ “rosary scene” and Divine’s claims of murdering Sharon Tate; Pink Flamingos’ infamous shit eating scene (100% real); Female Trouble‘s pointed analysis and foreshadowing of reality stars; and Desperate Living‘s use of Yuppie meets Degenerate (a running theme in the rest of his ouevre) solidified Waters as one of the most audacious (and funniest) writers of satire; a master of the underground movement that brought the midnight appeal to the masses, creating America’s first Drag Superstar (sorry, Ru).

With Polyester, John Went Mainstream (seen in some circles as sacrilegious as Dylan Going Electric), trading his shoddy sets and thrift store fashions for the glamorous homes and designer threads of Douglas Sirk. Tamer films like Hairspray and Cry Baby were to follow, bringing the man who made his name through coprophagia a family audience (and eventual world wide fame with Tony winning adaptations).

Serial Mom, the best of his Hollywood films, continues his true crime obsession apparent in his earlier life and work (Waters drove cross country to attend the Manson trial, eventually befriending Leslie van Houten and publicly championing her release; PF and FT contain numerous references and homages to the Manson Family). Kathleen Turner fills the eponymous role, giving the greatest performance in a Waters’ film, allowing the camp to co-exist with the earnest. Pecker is his most heartfelt movie while Cecil B. Demented perhaps his most autobiographical; both films contain moments of interest and his signature knack for dialogue but, particularly the latter, is unable to sustain their strained premises.

There is something to be said for creating a universe, a collective body of work that proves without a shadow of a doubt that these are YOUR films and no one else’s; the auteur theory put in action. Woody Allen has told the same stories of infidelity and star-crossed lovers for roughly 40 years; Tim Burton puts art direction and aesthetics above plot and performance. And I have already made my thoughts about Sofia Coppola abundantly clear.

Waters’ universe consists of degenerates and delinquents, always trying to gain acceptance through bucking the system. All of his films are an Us vs. Them competition, usually taking the form of Adults vs. Youth; parents standing in as the snobbish bores of society, the kids rebels with a cause – namely the respect for their unorthodox behavior and ideas (this is most evident in Cecil B. Demented when a famous movie star is kidnapped by a bunch of teens, Patty Hearst style, to make their underground film). However, sometimes the tables are turned like in Desperate Living and Polyester, where mousy Republican housewives are seduced into a den of lesbianism and sexual abandon by other consenting adults; in Serial Mom, we are asked to sympathize and adore a Donna Reed type murderess while her kids shutter in fear at her antics. Waters’ MO is poking fun at provinciality, tempting the straight laced to the dark side by glorifying the values of the underbelly, the derelicts, and reassuring everyone that yes, it is OK to be different. In fact, it is preferable.

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A Dirty Shame, his “last” film (or at least his latest; John has tried to get a Christmas movie called Fruitcake mounted for about a decade) continues the theme of Us vs. Them when prudish suburbanite Sylvia (played to perfection by Tracey Ullman) is hit on the head with a lawn mower and becomes a sex addict. Her husband (Chris Isaak) couldn’t be happier, relishing in his duty to “yodel in the canyon” midday in their parked car. Nor could their daughter, the oversexed, busty Caprice (Selma Blair) known to her fans down at the local strip club as Ursula Udders who has been locked up in her bedroom for lewd acts against society. In fact, there is a whole underground cult (another Waters’ trope) of sex addicts with curious predilections that embrace Sylvia with open legs: a grown man who dresses up as a baby, a woman who rubs food all over her body, a guy who loves dirt, a family of “bears,” and their Messianic leader, Ray Ray the Cunnilingus King (Johnny Knoxville). They are on the search for a new sex act. And have put their faith in Sylvia to be the disciple who shows them the way. Of course there is opposition led by Sylvia’s frigid mother-in-law Big Ethel (Suzanne Shepherd) and Marge the Neuter (John’s favorite supporting actress, Mink Stole now on the other side of the chasm), rallying to bring decency back to their quiet little hamlet. The Sex Addicts unite to fight the Prudes. And being a John Waters’ movie, we know exactly who is going to win.

It’s nice to see his cavalcade of bit players: Mary Vivian Pearce, Patty Hearst, Channing Wilroy, etc. and his BTS crew of Pat Moran (whom we see naked…), Vincent Peranio, and on his last film, Van Smith. They make us feel like we are attending a reunion of old friends. But the problem is Waters himself, lost in his own kitsch; famous for his razor wit and clever turn of phrase, John has gotten didactic in his old age. He instructs his pupils, introducing us to a bevy of sexual obscurities: knismolagnia, AB/DL,  frotteurism, mysophilia, and sploshing. We hear about Upper Deckers, Rusty Trombones, The Stranger, and Helicoptering, childish acts relished by his band of merry skanks as if he is just trying to make himself giggle or remember what it was like to be 22. And this has always been part of Waters’ charm, the Peter Pan during puberty precociousness with a wink that his potty mouth is rooted in extreme intelligence. But what was once anarchic (“I wouldn’t suck your lousy dick if I was suffocating and there was oxygen in your balls!”) now seems desperate (“Do you know every man on this block has a penis?”), a plea to stay subversive and shocking in a world that ironically has seen it all in large part thanks to people like Waters (paging Madonna). The bushes are trimmed like breasts, the trees look like vaginas, and phallic symbols abound. #hotsnore

The irony is that the filmmaking is probably some of his “best” (i.e. most “cinematic”), using techniques from Godard and intercutting montages of various burlesque dancers, vintage pornography, and the infamous birth PSA from the ’50s to show the inner workings of Sylvia’s newly depraved mind. Too bad it was wasted on such a heavy handed snoozefest. A Dirty Shame. The title could not be more fitting.

Want to see John still at his best? Read his latest book, Role Models.

A Dirty Shame does not accurately fit into any of my current categories. So I must create a new one: Rip van Winkle, a film so boring it puts you to sleep.

The Odd Nights

The days begin like any other
A spoon
A pat
A peck
A puff

Dodging work like professionals
How to make this morning last?

An amorous farewell
Damning the sun
For impeding our embrace

There is always tonight
There is always tonight

Reading
Writing
at the beck and call of
Children who are the Boss
And Bosses who are Children

There is always tonight
There is always tonight

Then you send word that
Bushman awaits
The flirt and the skirt (and the seduction of Hurt)
Leave me dizzy;
Send me spinning other the edge.

Waiting for some validation
Wondering if our levels of anticipation
are the same
or more
Mr. Intentional
Or the Stank of Youth?

Tonight I don’t care
Or so I say

Crash into me
Crash into me

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The Odd Nights always begin the same
The left
The middle
The lean
The plunge

Doesn’t matter who’s first;
Jealousy is such a human emotion
This god feels Pride instead

Your beauty enhances
As if that is possible

I love you more
I love you more

Learning a new definition
Learning a few new positions
Thumbing a ride on the road to perdition
Sprawled out in the back seat

A witness
Testifying to our evidence
Bringing us
Closer still
Closer until
You enter

So much nicer than foreign faces
So much safer than foreign places
Look over there! A lovely oasis.
A drink from a five year old wine.

Basking in Lust’s afterglow
Wishing we could say what we already know
Begging that no one has to go
But they do

The bags are packed
The long goodbye
Afraid of showing my hand
I sit in silence
Returning to reality
And the duty of your command

No souvenirs necessary
Dorian Gray rots in my heart
Baduizm plays on a loop in my brain
I guess I’ll see you next life time…

Dodging logic like a teenager
How to make this evening last?

Yet when the pumpkin returns
Dismissing the carriage
Oh, how I love mice
And the comforts of marriage.

Mr. Intentional

Feeling bold
Looking old
Waiting for your return

Thought you were a treat
Maybe you’re just a trick
A lesson I had to learn

Feeling lonely
Looks like there is an Only
Hoped I was above the rest

Thought you would take me there
Maybe I’m just a spare
Guess I failed the test

Don’t do me any favors
Mr. Intentional

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Bad Cinema: The Sound of Music Live! (Dir: Rob Ashford and Beth McCarthy-Miller, 2013)

“Do let me know how it is.”
“Oh, I will write about it I’m sure.”
“Only two words are needed: dear God…”

I usually post my Bad Cinema reviews on Sundays. In the most romantic lobes of my brain, I imagine some type of glorious Folgers commercial, happy gay couples sitting on their lanais by the ocean, chuckling at my cynicism over a cup of hazelnut blend, relaxing together in love before the grind resumes. But when something is so terrible, so unconscionably awful, so laughably painful, and so immediate to the culture’s ever changing Twitter feed, timing is thrown out the window and all the stops must be pulled out to join the voices of a failure so epic that it may be the worst idea followed through by people in power since the goddamn Holocaust and the worse casualty to hit the airwaves since the Towers fell.

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But before we get to Carrie Underwood – and we will get to Carrie Underwood – let me be abundantly clear: I am not a Sound of Music purist so offended by the mere presence of this TV “remake”/what have you that there was never any hope for redemption. There was something exciting about a live musical being put on network TV, perhaps the first since Mary Martin, in all of her wired glory, took us to Neverland in 1960. And of course The Sound of Music would be the show chosen to attempt a mainstream boost of musical theatre. It is one of the most beloved of all musicals, a TV mainstay every winter, the old work horse of community theatres with an annual sing-a-long at the Hollywood Bowl. Andrew Lloyd Webber even “rebooted” the show, complete with a reality TV show to find the next Maria. The Sound of Music is so rooted in American culture that the idea of putting it on TV was simultaneously risky with the vigilant fear of not owning up to the original and a no-brainer with the culture already behind the beloved tale of a nun who changes a family through the power of Love.

Let’s start at the very beginning, a…well, you know.

The first of its many fatal flaws was the choice NOT to film it in front of an audience. As anyone who has ever done theatre knows, the audience is an absolutely crucial ingredient to the success of a show. You can feel their energy, their disappointment, their encouragement, their anger, their joy. The magic of live theatre is found somewhere in the cyclical relationship between audience and performer; you need one another. Usually in the rehearsal process, the worst run-thru is about the third day of Hell week because you know the lines, the emotions, the blocking, how to move in your costume, how to circumvent that creaky fourth stair in the third scene of Act II, and how to use the warmth of the blinding lights as an escape into the character instead of feeling caught in oncoming traffic. But the performance fails because the audience’s love – the entire reason actors do live theatre – is missing. The Sound of Music Live! (complete with the hilarious exclamation point) felt like this dreaded rehearsal.

Next up, blame must be thrown at the feet of the directors, Beth McCarthy-Miller and Rob Ashford. Tony Award winner Ashford took on the reins of directing the theatrical aspects of the show while McCarthy-Miller, the Emmy nominated director of 30 Rock and Modern Family, was tasked with its television aspects. Ashford’s staging is clunky, his choreography is third-rate (“Do-Re-Mi” particularly flatlines), and his work with the actors is so miserable it’s as if he was intentionally trying to channel Waiting for Guffman. McCarthy-Miller, however, was just as bad, if not worse. In live TV, the director is seated in a room with dozens of screens corresponding to dozens of cameras. The director watches them all at the same time and instinctively chooses which cameras to cut to. First off, there are really no establishing shots. We feel claustrophobic from the get. Even the forest seems to be swallowing poor Maria like Snow White running from the hunstmen when those hills are supposed to be making her feel alive. We get no sense of the awesomeness of the Von Trapp home, nor the haunting echoes of the abbey. No shot lasts more than five seconds, making it impossible to connect and leave you dizzy. At times it feels like you are watching a Baz Luhrman movie. There is actually a cut in “16 Going on 17” where Liesl is completely blocked by a tree. This whole song is about her coming of age. She is the one with whom we always need to relate – particularly when the actor cast to play Rolf looks like he could be her father. But maybe McCarthy-Miller’s rapid fire editing was necessary to cut around Ashford’s awful blocking and the cast’s painfully terrible acting. Mysteriously, neither of their names appear on the imdb page…

The acting. Holy shit. The acting. I will give them a slight – very slight – benefit of the doubt having been denied a live audience. Many of the actors, including five time Tony winner Audra McDonald and two time Tony winner Laura Benanti, despite having some film and TV credits, feel most at home in front of an audience and maybe given the idea that this was “theatre” couldn’t adjust their performances accordingly. It seems as if everyone is hyper aware of the cameras and pull back so much for fear of over acting that they are barely acting at all. No one is engaged. Emotions feel like the blocking: I am standing here because I was told to. I feel sad because I was told to. The two elements of the show that have endeared it to millions are severely lacking: heart and humor. We never feel love – or any other human connection – between the characters. Liesl and Rolf reads false. Reverend Mother and Maria reads false. Maria and the Captain reads false. The Baroness and the Captain reads false. Maria and the Children reads false. And especially Maria and God reads false. The crux of Act One relies on Maria’s devotion to God and the guilt she feels for “turning her back” on him. And the humor! Where is the humor? All of the humor, even the great comic relief of Max and the Baroness, has been eradicated. Without the humor, it almost cancels out the devastation of Act II. Stephen Moyer (the hot vampire on True Blood) as the Captain is an obvious ploy to attract viewers and like his most famous character is cold to the touch. And dead on arrival. Even the children, the heart of the show, are sleepwalking through the damn thing like they have been awoken from their naps with the promise of cake.

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But the most fatal of flaws was the casting of Carrie Underwood, so awful that she makes you clamor for Megan Fox reading Shakespeare if it meant you could forget that The Sound of Music Live! ever happened. She is almost unspeakably bad, not even worthy of drag queen camp.

The argument I have heard from her fans is that, “Well, she’s not an actress” immediately followed by, “but she sounded great!” But of course she did. It is what she does for a living. This is a given and cannot be used in her defense. The problem with casting musicals – and this is a blanket statement that also applies to Carrie Underwood  – is when directors/producers/whatever get caught up in the voice and ignore the truth that the most important part of a musical is the ACTING. If we are not engaged in the human struggle, the meaning behind the words, the REASON for breaking into song in the first place (a most unnatural conceit), we DO NOT CARE how good of a singer you are. You want to hear good singing? Buy the fucking album. Maria is a difficult role, balancing faith, motherhood, first love, and battling the Nazis; Julie Andrews received an Oscar nomination, for Christ’s sake. I feel bad for Carrie insofar that I’m sure her ego was stroked continuously by money men and those who wanted her to succeed that she probably had no idea how bad she really was. I’m sure she will know it now if she reads more than two reviews.

On the hyperactive Facebook pages of my musical theatre friends, I read one such comment that blew my mind. That we should actually be thanking NBC and Carrie Underwood for bringing musical theatre, a dying art, to the mainstream. That maybe with this exposure we will see a surge of theatrical projects hit the networks and a new love for the most American of art forms take root. I didn’t have the heart to shit on my friend’s optimism. Because if The Sound of Music Live! is the hope for our future, the first exposure some people may have to the beautiful world of musicals, chances are they will never want to see another musical as long as they live.

Bad Cinema: The Bling Ring (Dir: Sofia Coppola, 2013)

Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

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In 2003, Sofia Coppola made a unique, glorious, introspective, very personal film about the loneliness of privilege called Lost in Translation.  One of the best films of the decade – and one of the greatest of all American films – Translation captures a man’s midlife crisis (and the newly anointed quarter life crisis that plagues Gen Y like locust of a young girl) with humor and grace, style and sophistication, and somehow makes a movie star’s depression our own (no small feat). Bill Murray gives the performance of his career while Scarlett Johannson turns in her first of many great turns. It is a masterpiece of subtlety and wit.

And then she made the movie again and called it Marie Antoinette, a beautiful series of music videos capturing the notorious queen’s lonely angst within a spoiled existence.

Then again as the abominable Somewhere, the tale of a distant movie star father and his sullen, spunky teenage daughter living in the Chateau Marmount; a film so slow and painfully self-indulgent that watching Warhol’s Sleep would be more enjoyable.

Oh, and lest we forget her debut: The Virgin Suicides, a tale of spoiled, beautiful teenage girls who make a suicide pact because life is so hard for the spoiled, beautiful teenage girls of the world.

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In her latest film, The Bling Ring, she takes us into the world of, yep, you guessed it, spoiled, beautiful rich Hollywood teens who are so bored and entitled with their privilege that they decide to break into the homes of famous people, steal their property, and sell it on the sidewalk like lemonade. This is based on the real life crimes and subsequent Vanity Fair article, “The Suspect Wore Louboutins,” in where 3 million dollars of cash and belongings were stolen from the likes of Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, and Orlando Bloom. Sofia, never without her friends in high places, shot the film’s robberies in the real homes of the victims, even taking us into Paris Hilton’s private closet within a closet that houses all of the jewelry her grandfather’s money has afforded her. I wonder if all of the Paris Hilton memorabilia littered throughout, including her OWN PERFUME ON HER OWN NIGHT STAND, was actually there or set-decorated by Sofia and Co. to play up the “satirical” nature of the film. This film is a satire, you know, which makes all the glorification of stupid, pretty, entitled, awful, vapid, worthless teenagers one big joke. Or so Wikipedia tells us.

I couldn’t tell you any of the characters’ names because they all exist more as an archetypical collective than as individuals. Sofia has done nothing to develop them and since none of them are played by famous people (except Emma Watson, of course), one blond spoiled white girl is pretty interchangeable for any other. There is the sole guy, the new kid in town, who is indoctrinated into the foolishness of his new Beverly Hills pals (or are they from Orange County? Whatever…) one evening at a party when the ringleader, the Asian girl, randomly and nonchalantly steals a purse out of an unlocked parked car. From there, naturally the next step is to break into his friend’s house because his family is in Florida. It’ll be fun, she says! Presumably (and I say presumably because we know absolutely NOTHING about him or her or anyone else at any time), he agrees in order to seem “cool” to the “Plastic” girl and she wants to break in because…well, because she can. On the way out, they steal the car in the driveway. In broad daylight. There is no recourse. No consequence. Rich kids don’t get in trouble.

After getting away with grand larceny in the middle of the day, they decide to hit up Paris Hilton’s house because she is out of town at some dumb club where she is making some appearance like anyone cares about her fucking face. How do they know where she lives? Why, Google Maps! They show up at her house and steal her shoes, her cash, and a bracelet. Oh, and no one stops them because Paris Hilton – one of the wealthiest and most famous of the celebutantes – apparently doesn’t have a security system and doesn’t lock her doors.

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Cut to them breaking into another house. And another house. We should get out of here! Stop being paranoid. Giving each other fashion shows in their bedrooms. And another house. We should leave! Stop being a pussy. Getting into a car wreck with no recourse, no consequences. Staring vacantly at their vacant selves in the mirror wearing Paris Hilton’s perfume somehow thinking they can be like her. We are going to get caught. Oh my God, I totally look fetch in this Louis Vuitton. Bragging about their deeds. Bringing more people on the robberies. And another. And another. It seems that no one in Hollywood locks their doors when they go away for the weekend.

It takes until about the 45 minute mark for any kind of stakes to occur when the guy is finally spotted on one of their surveillance cameras.  But by this point, we couldn’t give two shits what happens to any of them because they are all completely obnoxious without any understanding on how the real world functions. Which only makes sense because they all live in some alternate universe called Rich and Fabulous. Even when they are caught, indicted, and sentenced they shake it off with adolescent apathy because A) they get out of jail early, B) they use their infamy to become famous, and C) they will undoubtedly go on unscathed, having their lives turned into a Lifetime TV movie and an acclaimed feature release by an Oscar winner. They have won.

"Oh my God, you guys. Who's going to play us in the movie? I hope someone really hot," said everyone ever.

“Oh my God, you guys. Who’s going to play us in the movie? I hope someone really hot,” said everyone ever.

The problem is not that these events are displayed in this way; after all, they really happened (which is ridiculous and frightening). The problem is that a filmmaker of Sofia’s talent and standing decided to make this film in the first place. Who but other rich, spoiled kids give a fuck about other rich, spoiled kids? And yes, Sofia can do whatever she wants. She is an artist. Blah-blah-blah. And yes, there is something to be said about an artist sticking to what they do best. But seriously, Sofia. You grew up rich and bored and didn’t have a great relationship with your dad as a child. We get it. You are 42. When are you going to get over this “troubled” youth phase? It’s getting really old.

OK. Enough moralizing. The Bling Ring fails miserably not because of what it says about our culture; Sofia didn’t create this world, she is merely reflecting it. Nor does it fail because of Coppola’s own arrested development. The Bling Ring fails at the most basic tenants of filmmaking: Storytelling. Character development. Stakes. And Entertainment. The plot is nothing but a series of robbery vignettes, the characters are half-dimensional (they are not even developed enough to have a dimension), the stakes are fairly non-existent (Wealthy Justice is not the same as And Justice for All), and the film is about as enjoyable as a colonoscopy (I bet you can guess to which category this film will belong…).

But where Coppola fails most is Point of View. At first, she seems to be aligning with the protagonists; then making fun of them. She keeps us at a distance from everyone, making it impossible to connect; then suddenly tries to get us invested in the mother/daughter relationship between Emma Watson and Leslie Mann. She seems to let us have cake and eat it too. But it tastes dry, overcooked and missing ingredients. She seems apprehensive to take any kind of stand. So she sits down. Even the beautiful cinematography by the late Harris Savides (Elephant, Birth, Milk), while rapturous, captures nothing. The constant use of slow-motion is meant to glorify their untouchable quality and make us see them as bad-asses, when all it really does is accentuate their vapidness. The music is great (it pays to be the wife of a musician), but Sofia really just needs to make music videos. That’s all her films are anyway. Like she employed in Somewhere, Sofia captures the ennui of Wealth by boring us to tears.