Blog Undergoing Maintenance

If by some happy accident you have stumbled upon this blog, or if you are looking for something previously posted, the site is undergoing some changes. I have left only a few posts.

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Matt Remillard’s Bat Fight

Professional boxer Matt Remillard is a quality gatekeeper in the featherweight division. Earlier this year, Remillard (23-1, 13 KOs) was knocked out by blue chip prospect Mikey Garcia. According to the AP, now this is happening:

HARTFORD, Conn. — Pro boxer Matt Remillard is facing a five-year prison sentence after pleading no contest to beating a man with a baseball bat in Connecticut last year.

The 25-year-old featherweight from Manchester entered the plea to first-degree assault Tuesday in Hartford Superior Court. He is set to be sentenced Nov. 29.

State police say Remillard pummeled Jordan Evans with a baseball bat in July 2010 in Marlborough in a fight over a woman both men had dated. Three other people were arrested.

The Hartford Courant reports that Evans suffered a fractured skull, eye socket and hand.

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The Brilliance of ‘Black Swan’ and Other Oscar Thoughts

From the moment I first saw the trailer for Black Swan, I was utterly compelled — I was certain I had to see it. This has only happened to me a few times in my life — Braveheart, No Country for Old Men, There Will Be Blood. (Note: That two of those occurrences came in one year will be the subject of further discussion below.) It’s hard to describe the feeling. It’s not merely, “Oh, that looks cool; I should see it,” or “Whoa, look at the innovative special effects,” or something like that. It’s sort of like the moment when you realize you’re looking at the person you’re going to marry. The joy of new horizons, the fear of destiny. It’s a commitment, and like all commitments, is often daunting. One’s heart swells with all the force of tens of thousands of these affections. And it is then that one knows.

I was especially taken aback by the force of this feeling hoisted upon me by Black Swan. While I knew it wasn’t simply going to be a ballet movie, it was so unlike the film’s which previously struck my heart that I questioned my intuition. I told my wife how I felt, and she too was surprised. It looked dark and bizarre and strongly acted, and it was directed by Darren Aronofsky. It had what I need.

This may explain my hesitation in seeing the film. I finally saw it last night, and let me say unequivocally, it was absolutely splendid. I’m not sure that I’ve seen many films which better capture the machinations of psychological degradation — maybe the best since Taxi Driver. Unexpectedly, almost superficially paradoxical, it reminds me most of Scorsese’s  1976 classic. In ballet flats. I hope that says a lot about this film. I won’t enter a full review here — this review captures my feelings very well. Instead, I’ll share a few brief thoughts:

  • If someone told you in 1999 that Queen Amidala and Jackie Burkhart from That 70’s Show would a decade later stage the greatest lesbian scene in history, you’d have said that individual was crazy.
  • I know David Fincher will probably win for his direction in The Social Network, but would love to see Darren Aronofsky win this award. Quite frankly, I think he deserves it. The movie is shot brilliantly, with the right pace, angles, lighting, etc. to create the effects of hysteria and obsession and fatigue — the good sort for the audience.

Since 9/11, cinema has been astounding, almost every year. American filmmakers were driven to a kind of realism or gloominess in search of the base of meaning and humanity — those things which were called into question by the events of that day. Many directors in the US and the world over were already doing this, but now, American audiences were ready to embrace this kind of storytelling. This broadly opened the scope of films capable of capturing the broader public’s mind and widened the pallet of movie makers and moviegoers alike. I am under the opinion that we are in a sort of golden era. The line of films nominated for Best Picture in 2010 is one of the best from top to bottom in recent memory. Where does it rank? Here’s my take.

Since 1990, there have been six Best Picture fields that stand out from the rest. 1993, 1994, 1999, 2005, 2007, 2010. Each year was almost unimaginably good — unimaginable because after each great Oscar year I feel like I’ve been through 12 rounds with Miguel Cotto and one-on-one drills with James Harrison. I place 2010 at the top of the list, and here’s the explanation:

  1. 2010 — 127 Hours, Black Swan, The Fighter, Inception, The Kids are All Right, The King’s Speech, The Social Network, Toy Story 3, True Grit, Winter’s Bone — Initially, I was not a big fan of the Academy’s decision to increase the number of nominees to 10. However, 2010 made me change my mind. From top to bottom, this is one of the strongest fields ever. There really is no particular weak entry — the fact that I would rank Inception 9th is testament to the year’s undeniable depth. The strongest members of the field made your chest thump with despair, desperation, excitement, joy, and fear (sometimes simultaneously), and most importantly, left the viewer with the sense that they had been a part of something profound.
  2. 1994 — Forrest Gump (winner), Pulp Fiction, The Shawshank Redemption, Quiz Show, Four Weddings and a Funeral — Check out the top of that list. Speaking of profundity. Each one of those top three were such epoch-makers in their own rights that it’s hard to believe they all came out in the same year. Quiz Show is something of the forgotten movie in the bunch. A shame really because the cinematography, costume, art direction, and acting are nearly flawless. That said, it, along with Four Weddings, are slightly weaker than 2010’s weakest — which, considering there are 10 films in 2010, is just significant enough for it to miss the top spot.
  3. 2007 — No Country for Old Men (winner), There Will Be Blood, Michael Clayton, Atonement, Juno — This just barely nipped 2005. The reason: the sheer strength of the top two movies in 2007. There Will Be Blood probably takes the prize any other year since 1990, except maybe in 1993 (Schindler’s List). No doubt, 2005 was more consistent and much stronger at the bottom (Good Night, and Good Luck vs. Juno), but it also lacked the sort of special masterpiece of which 2007 had two. Michael Clayton is a strong number 3, but not in the category with either of the two years above. And Atonement, for all its beauty and melodrama, turned out to be somehow … well, forgettable.

(Note: This [2007, I mean] is probably a heavily sentimental pick. Really, 2007 was most incredible when you consider the movies that weren’t nominated for best picture. If we had post-2009 rules, and 10 films received nominations, here’s what the other five could have been — La Vie en Rose, American GangsterGone Baby Gone, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, and Charlie Wilson’s War. That’s still leaving out one of my favorite movies ever, Eastern Promises. Also out that year, with little Oscar love, were The Bourne Ultimatum, The Kite Runner, Into The Wild, and 3:10 to Yuma. The list goes on, but I’ll stop there. Looking up and down the entire roster of Oscar movies that year, I think 2007 was a watershed moment. As time goes on, and No Country and There Will Be Blood mature into proper historical significance, that year will likely have a seat beside 1994, 1980, 1972, 1962, and 1939. My guess is that 2010 will someday as well. [Sub-note: Some will argue that 1967 and 1941 should be there. I don’t care. This is my list.])

The Oscar picks (the predictions and my personal choices) will be coming soon.

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Jerry Lawson and TOFT Gets Screwed

It was obvious that once Jerry Lawson and his crew made it passed the judges and on to “America’s Vote” on The Sing-Off that they’d be facing a serious demographic challenge. Sure, the judges appreciated the classic, smooth, soulful, and simple arrangements of TOFT. They did it old-school, the way we all remember it. All of us with exception of the people who watch the show. Young people, who like Katy Perry and Lady Gaga, watch The Sing-Off. They don’t give a damn about Jerry Lawson or his legacy or the perfection of TOFT’s simple elegance.

I’m not sure they should have won, but they deserved better than fourth. But this is how it goes once “America” gets involved. Bristol Palin beats Brandy and The Backbeats beat Jerry and TOFT.

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Pacquiao Does Not Use Steroids: An Argument from Logic

If you ask people who accuse Manny Pacquiao of using steroids, or some other performance-enhancing agent, to explain their why it is that they think so, you’ll notice a couple of commonalities in the content of the responses.

(1) No one can cite any actual evidence of his using steroids — no seedy connections, no failed tests, etc.

(2) They will tend to make general insights like: “Just look at his body,” or “He started at 106 pounds; there’s no way he could maintain speed and power at such a high weight [some specifically will mention the newly-minted 154 “title”]” or “Teddy Atlas said so,” and so on.

First of all, regarding (1), there is absolutely nothing connecting Pacquiao to performance-enhancing drugs. In fact, until the Mayweathers first made the baseless accusation, no one had any reason to think Pacquiao was using steroids. Indeed, no one did think he was using the juice before then. Next thing you know, Paulie Malignaggi is on board, saying he doesn’t respect Pacquiao and that something was “fishy” about the Cotto fight. Then, Teddy Atlas dropped the infamous anonymous email bombshell on an episode of Friday Night Fights during the negotiations with Mayweather. Of course, no one has since come forward with anymore information about these emails.

Atlas since has implicitly hinted that anyone with an “intellect” ought to be suspicious about Pacquiao due to his “balking at taking a blood test.” He continues to say this, as recently as after Pacquiao’s win over Antonio Margarito, despite the fact that Pacquiao and his team have agreed to testing on Mayweather’s terms. What Atlas and others using this line of thinking ignore is the possibility (even probability) that Team Pacquiao was not going to let Mayweather push them around in negotiations, getting whatever he wants as he is accustomed to doing. As the fight has come to more precarious ground, Pacquiao is gradually giving in to Mayweather’s demands and is now just trying to make the fight.

On to the empirical evidence, which most people cite most often, most vociferously, and find most convincing. It is the basis for the accusations by the Mayweathers, Atlas, Malignaggi, and the rest. Here’s the argument, roughly: Pacquiao started at 106 pounds, has been moving up in weight, fighting and beating better and better opponents, and hasn’t seemed to lose any power or speed. Something isn’t right about that. (Malignaggi also points out that he seems equally as capable of taking punches from the bigger guys. This is spurious for two reasons: [1] steroids don’t help your chin, Fernando Vargas proved that, and [2] Pacquiao has been more affected by punches of the bigger guys, admittedly so.)

Pacquiao, malnourished, 106 pounds at 16 -- Gerhard Joren/OnAsia

This “evidence” does not hold up to scrutiny, not even the least bit. Let’s take it apart, piece by piece.

Manny Pacquiao did start his career in January 1995 at 106 pounds, yes. But he was a malnourished boy, one month removed from his 16th birthday. When Floyd Mayweather Jr. was 16, in 1993, he won a National Golden Gloves championship. His weight-class: 106 pounds. Does anyone find it curious that Mayweather has been able to win world titles all the way up to 154 pounds? Pacquiao was barely eating and living in the streets since the age of 14. If Pacquiao had been a normal, healthy American amateur, he likely would have been bigger than Mayweather Jr. at that point in his career.

Secondly, Pacquaio was never anything close to a natural flyweight, where he was first crowned champion. After killing himself to make the weight cost him his title, he jumped up 10 pounds to 122. He settled there for three years, fought three or four fights at 126 (including his destruction of Marco Antonio Barrera), then settled in for the bulk of his peak years at 130 pounds. His starting weight probably should have been 122 pounds (super bantamweight), but even that didn’t work for long, as he basically skipped through featherweight to get to 130. Compare this to Mayweather Jr., who was 125 pounds at the 1996 Olympic Games, then spent the first five years of his career at 130. Huge difference, I think not.

Third, his move up in weight has not been as dramatic as some think. Pacquiao decided late in camp for the Margarito fight to stop pumping protein shakes into his stomach every few hours, and accordingly, weighed only 144 pounds for a “junior middleweight” title fight. He could make 140 without really trying. Is there any doubt that could still make 135 pounds if he wanted? On the other hand, it is unimaginable to think Mayweather Jr. could make 135 pounds. He can’t even make 145. Pacquiao is still the smaller man, and in reality, is a blown-up lightweight.

A related point, his body shape, including head size, has not changed in any significant way. With his large legs, broad shoulders, and robust chest and midsection, Pacquiao was better capable to grow into higher weight classes than Barrera, Marquez, or Morales, for example. Take a look at these pictures: against Jorge Solis, 130 pounds; David Diaz, 135; Hatton, 140; Clottey, “147;” and Margarito, “154.” You’ll notice that he’s filled his naturally pretty-big frame, but his body doesn’t look transformed as some claim. (Again, for the sake of comparison, here is Mayweather at the Jesus Chavez weigh-in, 130 pounds and against Mosley at 147. Bottom line: the body grows.)

Lastly, and most importantly for the accusers, the issue of his speed and power is poorly understood. To reiterate the above points, given that his weight increase has not been as dramatic as it seems, his retention of speed shouldn’t be surprising, especially when coupled with the fact that he and his trainers have focused specifically on preserving his speed. With regard to his power, it should be remembered that as Pacquiao has moved up in weight his technique and accuracy have improved — this change, in contrast to his body size, has been dramatic. Power in boxing comes from timing, speed, and technique. Pacquiao has learned to throw punches at the right times (e.g. catching guys coming in, off-balance) and has developed a knack for staying balanced no matter from where he throws a punch. Additionally, with the exception of the Hatton fight, Pacquiao isn’t obliterating guys within four rounds, with single punches, the way he occasionally did at lower weights. He’s doing it with unrelenting activity, overwhelming punch output, chopping foes up. When a guy with fast hands, good natural power, a strong and balanced base, great punching technique, sound timing, and the ability to throw punches by the dozen enters the ring, you’re looking at a frightening offensive fighting machine.

Once one wades through the rhetoric and just looks at the facts, especially that he started his pro career at 16 weighing the same as Mayweather Jr. did at 16, it’s obvious that the case for Pacquiao’s alleged steroid-use falls apart. Unfortunately, the (very) little work it takes to figure all this out just won’t be done by people like the Mayweathers, Malignaggi, or most damaging, Atlas, who could really do a lot to bring sanity to this debate. Sanity, however, is and will remain in short supply in this “debate.”

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Pen Squad’s Marly: “Serious Business” Mixtape Review

 

Serious Business Cover Art

Rating: 4 out of 5

 

Connellsville, Pa. is not the veritable hip hop hotbed. It’s an impoverished, semi-rural town in the Appalachian foothills south of Pittsburgh, just a bit above the West Virginia border. That is, it’s far removed from New York, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Atlanta, Philadelphia, and just about any other place where hip hop reigns supreme.

Yet, in the past year or so, two Connellsville-based MCs have done something almost unfathomable — they’ve fashioned an identity. It’s not quite a distinct regional identity, nor a hallmark “sound,” per se. No, it’s a certain human character. Honesty, idiosyncrasy, self-awareness, faith, willingness to risk and fail. These are the qualities which best describe Connellsville’s up-and-comers Money SL and, for the immediate purposes of this entry, Marly and his new mixtape Serious Business (download here).

Mixtapes are different than albums. What we ought to look for in a mixtape is not a narrative thread or a genre-bending/defining theme. We look for the groundwork, the building blocks. It may only take one or two tracks to spark the threads of the collective intuition. Intuition is the tool needed to unpack a mixtape as much as anything else. Whether we’re looking for “star quality” or artistry, the inchoate peripatetics of the mixtape usually appeal most saliently to the unspoken wisdom of our “guts,” our historically honed knack for picking out the patterns of unfinished genius.

With that disclaimer clearly stated, it should be noted that Serious Business is far from perfect. Marly drops the ball on a few tracks (“Grind All Day and Night,” “Player Like Me,” and “Brrr!!!,” for example) in which he slips into the uninspired recantations of all-too-ubiquitous radio “hip pop.” If Marly goes through the motions or gets bored on these tracks, we ought to forgive him. Again, mixtapes are by definition flawed. But, more to the point, Marly exceedingly redeems himself on a number of utterly inspired joints.

Marly, with his trademarked staccato delivery, may be his most focused on the intro, where he embodies those aforementioned human qualities, all barbed with Pen Squad’s patented punchlines such as: “Punchline rap, nah this is kung-fu/A bunch of young Machios/I’m Mr. Miyagi.” Also obvious right away is the 20-something’s ear for fruitful production — when he’s not grabbing beats from (overrated or overexposed) Pittsburgh producer Johnny Juliano, that is. Marly does hit the right tone on “Sitting on the Edge,” but other than that, it might be best if Marly relied less on Juliano in the future.

This isn’t necessarily an indictment of Juliano (well, actually, it kinda is), but an observation that “Lector” performs his best when he gets in touch with his inner-Wu-Tang. The abstract, nuanced, and gritty are Marly’s domain. Case in point: “Royal Flow.” Track 9 shines even against glimmering backdrop of the rest of the mixtape as Marly attacks each note and syllable in overtures vaguely reminiscent of GZA and Inspektah Deck. While the listener may be overwhelmed by Big Jerm’s haunting, ethereal production, Marly is completely lucid. Luckily for us, he has the ambition and courage to rip off some of his best written, most pointed, lines on this track: “Tramp whores sell their bodies for drugs/Liquor stores sell their poison to us/But we guzzle it up, not understanding the blame/Is the blond man who put them in concentration camps.” No hooks. No equivocation. This is “serious business” indeed.

“Royal Flow” is refreshingly raw and real. But Marly doesn’t leave us hanging. Near the end of the mixtape, he satisfies our nostalgic yearning once again on “Move On Up.” Keeping with the dominant mood of Serious Business, Marly is fearless as he draws on a Native Tongues vibe that is starkly different from anything going on in hip hop at the moment. Funky and cool, “Move On Up” dispels any reservations retained from some of the less successful (mostly Juliano) tracks. “Fly Away” and “Gone To L.A.” invoke the strangely blunt-heavy Pittsburgh rap scene, more or less defined by Wiz Khalifa. Marly pulls the trick convincingly and effortlessly.

The guitar-riffed “Ease Your Pain” is one part “Pimpa’s Paradise” (Damian Marley), one part “Me and My Girlfriend” (2Pac) as the MC plays the part of a young woman’s destructive cocaine habit. It’s the most poignant number on the mixtape. As he does elsewhere, Marly allows for some breathing room, letting the beat ride out for extended periods, inviting the listener to ruminate on what he or she has just heard.

Like the previous Pen Squad release, Serious Business is a triumphant debut. The soaring success of the best tracks flattens out the bumps and creates the most robust expectations for future efforts. Money SL’s C’Villain was cleaner, more refined, more immediately accessible, and more radio-friendly with more standout tracks. But Serious Business just feels more … well, serious. Raw. Human. Marly is perpetually in touch with his contextual reality, evidenced by his mixtape’s price (its available free, online here) and its subtitle (Smalltown Hustle). Formerly imprisoned, formerly a rootless wanderer from Newark to Atlanta, he gives us the impression that he will do whatever he can to ensure that he takes advantage of life’s second chances. It’s a journey I hope he continues to share with all of us.

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The Angulo-Margarito Paradox

Alfredo Angulo

Alfredo Angulo

It seems that emerging junior middleweight star Alfredo Angulo (19-1, 16 KOs) is facing deportation to Mexico. It’s been suspected in boxing circles for some time that he’s had legal issues regarding his immigration status, but BoxingScene.com released a report this morning that verifies this hunch.

First off, the article, quite sensationally entitled “Alfredo Angulo’s U.S. Career Crumbles, HBO Walks,” is written by Michael Marley. Anyone familiar with Mr. Marley’s work will immediately recognize his penchant for histrionics. His assertion that he will never again fight in the U.S., or on a major television outlet, is questionable, if not laughable. Angulo and his team are going to seek a visa for re-entry after the legal issues are settled (and, to the best of my knowledge, are allowed to do so), and are otherwise cooperating with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). And anyway, if Antonio Margarito can get back on television — in a headline, PPV fight, no less — then I would suspect Angulo will be able to do the same.

If HBO indeed refuses to work with Angulo, their rationale can be considered little better than a joke. The political climate around undocumented immigration is too polarized and “heated,” but it’s not too much to invite back a man who at least once, likely more often, entered the ring wearing loaded wraps? At least in terms of boxing legality, one of these offenses far outweighs the other. Since when did America’s political throes effect the viewing tendencies of boxing fans? If the experience of Mike Tyson is any indication, the boxing public will gladly welcome Angulo back into the limelight — if not on HBO, then certainly on Showtime or ESPN.

What’s more worrisome is Bob Arum’s reaction. His incredibly hostile reaction to the news, as reported in Marley’s article, indicates another ludicrous element of this story vis-a-vis Margarito. Arum is willing to stand behind a known cheater of the most nefarious ilk, but believes no one will touch an “illegal” immigrant. Granted, it’s apples and oranges — Top Rank doesn’t promote Angulo. This may still go south (no pun intended) promotionally for Angulo, given that Gary Shaw is already unhappy with him for his refusal to accept a $750,000 deal to fight middleweight champ Sergio Martinez. If it’s true that Shaw was left in the dark as to Angulo’s movements, and if the legal battle turns out to be unexpectedly difficult, this episode may provide an opportunity to dump him from his promotional lineup. I would bet against such a development.

I’m not naive. I know promoters lie and cheat and are hypocritical, but Arum’s unfailing commitment to a universally reprehensible character like Margarito and his conversely expressed concern for public sentiment in the case of a universally appreciated all-action fighter like Angulo is still unsettling, if not all-together sickening. Let’s hope Shaw doesn’t see things that way.

Considering the legal tussle Top Rank is now in with Golden Boy Promotions, maybe other promoters (such as Shaw) are wary about partaking in any protracted legal proceedings, and more so, about further undermining boxing’s suffering credibility. But regardless of Marley’s strong assertions, “El Perro” will be back, with or without HBO.

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10 Greatest Movie Trailers Ever

I love cinema of all genres and from all eras. I love the feel, the smell, the energy of the movie theater, even if I’m by myself (as I was when I saw No Country for Old Men, but that’s for another time). One of my favorite recurring moments in this world — the other being the jolt of excitement one gets before the opening bell of a major boxing match — is when the lights in the theater dim, and we see the familiar green glow. That’s right, the previews.

So deep is my love and reverence for movie trailers that I often think to myself, “That was a fine trailer, but not quite as good as,” such and such. I keep a running tab in my head of fantastic movie trailers, and I’ve decided, after years of cataloging, why not make a somewhat formal list.

Before I go on, let me make clear that I am not one for nostalgia. I don’t think Gone with the Wind or Citizen Kane get to lay claim to “best movie ever” without serious inspection. That’s a hell of a claim, and a lot of time has passed to accept it without strong deliberation. I apply that same standard to this list. For example, none of Hitchcock’s trailers (namely Psycho) will be found here, simply because I don’t find the payoff at the end to quite make up for the bumbling routine of the first five and a half minutes. So sue me.

Let’s begin.

10. Eyes Wide Shut (1999)

There has never been a trailer that has so exactly given moviegoers just what they wanted. Stanley Kubrick’s trailers are always fantastic (as we shall see again), and although he passed away before having the chance to put together this one, Nicole Kidman does his memory honor with what has to be the sexiest movie trailer performance ever.

9. District 9 (2009)

War refugee camp or … ? The buzz around District 9 was huge, and the trailer captured that buzz. More remarkable is that the trailer successfully managed to channel that buzz into the actual mood and broad arch of the film — more than just an alien flick, Neill Blomkamp’s masterpiece encapsulated the horror of apartheid.

8. Pulp Fiction (1994)

The trailer smacks you in the mouth almost as forcefully as Quentin Tarantino’s bombastic film. It does what a trailer is supposed to do, and your gut tells you right away that you must see the film.

7. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

I love this trailer if for no other reason than the fact that it breaks all the horror movie rules about trailers. It shows you the bad guys, it shows your the gore, and yet, you have the sense that it’s not giving away too much. Now that’s the sign of a good horror movie.

6. W. (2008)

Say what you will about the movie, but the trailer for Oliver Stone’s oddly-timed biopic is just undeniably good. The music, the way the shots are cut, the synchronization of elements — it’s technically compelling. More importantly, it defangs what might otherwise be politically sensitive by instilling in the viewer the sense that something iconic is going on here. That’s the trailer, at least.

5. The Blair Witch Project (1999)

People may have been sour about it after the fact, but there’s no doubt about the impact and effectiveness of The Blair Witch Project‘s marketing. It was so brilliant, the directors had us all duped into believing that this was the real deal — these young folks were actually missing. There were so many excellent trailers for this film that I’ve put two on here. The sparse details, minimal actual footage drives you into a frenzy, and it’s hard to get it out of your head — even if you know the legend is invented.

4. Schindler’s List (1993)

When a trailer needs hardly any dialogue to demonstrate the power of the film, it is a testament to its source material. That absolutely applies to the trailer for Steven Spielberg’s classic, Schindler’s List. If the stark, black-and-white images don’t give you chills, you’re probably a cyborg. Or a Nazi.

3. There Will Be Blood (2007)

Like the ingenious film itself, the trailer gradually and conspicuously builds in its foreboding and disquiet, carried along the whole way by the increasingly menacing portrayal by Daniel Day-Lewis. Again, as can be noted for each on the list, the trailer accurately recognizes the strengths of the film, in this case, the sheer force of the acting.

2. Alien (1979)

Ah! We want to see the alien so badly. You’re not sure what you’re looking at, actually, until the egg cracks. And after that, you’re not sure what you’re looking at. The short cuts and blazing lights and unidentifiable noises wreak havoc on the senses and instill the jolting sense of fear that you can’t handle what the smokescreen of effects is hiding.

1. The Shining (1980)

Undoubtedly, my favorite moment in movie trailer history is when the blood laps up onto the camera lens. It recedes just enough to give us a “rosy” look at the flood of think fluid rushing through the hallway. No Jack, no dialogue. Just a static, unsettling look at the doors and simple ascending title credits. Then, bam! The flood doesn’t make you jump, but as it comes nearer, one can’t help but recoil. It’s the sort of unease that haunts you throughout the film, and Kubrick recreates it here, in about 90 seconds.

(1979)
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What Is Genderfuck?

A friend and colleague was telling me about his numerous encounters with academia lunacy during his past year in doctoral studies when he used a term with which I had no familiarity.

“Genderfuck.”

Like any good student hailing from a liberal arts school, I understand the problems of adherence to the traditional gender binary. (For the record, I am a male.) However, this term, “genderfuck,” caught me completely off-guard. When I heard it, I burst into laughter.

“Genderfuck!” I exclaimed. “What the hell is that!? Is that serious!?”

Oh yes, he replied. One of the things I so love about the folks in the academic world is its utter disconnection with the rest of the universe. Once one’s mind is abreast to the universe of ideas, it’s hard if not impossible to go back. I get that — I’m a progressive myself. The issue here is that there is a tendency, almost an impulsion, for progressives to incessantly push the envelope. If not handled delicately, which few overzealous students and academics are capable of, the new ideas seem provocative only for provocative’s sake — i.e. wanton and stupid.

Unfortunately, it’s not only the naive progressive who falls victim to this trap. For example, it wasn’t enough for Frankfurt to talk about “bullshit,” so McGinn wrote a book about “mindfucking.”

Perhaps now we can see a pattern. “Genderqueer” wasn’t enough for some; thus “genderfuck.” Likewise, “LGBT” just didn’t cut it; we need “LGBTIQA” or better yet, “FABGLITTER.” This is not my attempt to demean the sensitivities of the gender-concerned community. I just think there is something to be said for clarity and brevity. “LGBT” works well as a proxy for the whole range of (a)sexual identifications.

That is the real point here. It’s tough to get folks on board when the nomenclature is in constant flux. Even more so when the rate of introduction for entirely new concepts is so rapid — which brings us back to “genderfuck.”

I was still getting used to “pansexuality” when “genderfuck” waltzed into my life. I remember an encounter with a pansexual friend of mine: “Pansexual — does that mean potentially attracted to anything? Just because I can stick a door knob up my ass doesn’t mean it has a sexual character.” “That’s not what it means, Aaron.” It turns out that pansexuality is bi-sexuality with a nod to gender-blindness. Obviously.

From what I can gather, “genderfuck” began life in the 1970s as a term to describe the outright rejection of gender as a sensible interpretation of identity. The genderfucker, as it were, might have done this by deliberately mocking and exaggerating gender roles to wrap them in ambiguity and expose gender as a bankrupt social construct (a favorite term of aspiring academics). One might genderfuck in written or verbal form (e.g. alternating pronoun forms) or in their own appearance to varying degrees. Genderfuck was meant to destroy the traditional gender binary. That’s what differentiates “genderfuck” from “genderqueer.” The latter is meant to be an identifier of people who consider themselves as both man and woman, neither man or woman, or as something outside our this sort of gender binary. On the other hand, “genderfuck” has a sort of active quality — it is “fucking with gender,” one might say. (That formulation, I might add, makes the term look markedly less creative.)

Somewhere along the line, people began to identify as genderfuck. This seems like a bizarre misinterpretation, or even perversion, of the term’s intended purpose. I suppose, “genderfuck” is more quaint than “genderfucker,” but I also make a distinction between the two. A “genderfucker” participates in genderfuck as described above. The trouble is that the genderfucker cannot also identify their gender. In other words, the genderfucker cannot be genderfuck for it would undermine the whole project. The genderfucker is out to purge the very notion of gender from our consciousness.

So, I claim that “genderfuck” is in itself a legitimate idea, but “genderfuck” the identifier is sheer nonsense. Those who use it in that improper sense are the naive progressives. They remind me a bit of the people who would show up to philosophy club meetings so they could talk about The Matrix. They were bombarded by new ideas, and they were excited to jump aboard. But their minds in the early formative stages were just too muddled and confused to analyze or interpret these new ideas. They’re the ones who try to “find their selves” by smoking pot, not bathing, and reading Satre whilst mangling their understanding of it. As a result, they say some really stupid things.

It’s clear that amidst their confusion, they feel some torment about their inability to etch out an identity, intellectually or otherwise, and so they cling to progressive academia’s next frontier. Then they blow the lid off the damn thing and distort it until the idea is a mockery and in eternal disrepair. I fear this may happen to genderfuck. In trying to find some kind of identity, the naive progressive is undermining the very essence of genderfuck. They are, if you’ll allow me to say so, fucking genderfuck.

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