Can Michael Fassbender be the next James Bond? Please?

I’ve been a little obsessed with this lately:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3NJBoRMG9W8

Okay, so by “a little” I mean “watching it whenever I need a pick me up” but can you blame me?  The boy makes a bangin’ Bond.  To quote a very wise woman, he “would totally be the deadliest, manliest gay Bond agent ever.”  I say that having never seen an actual Bond movie from start to finish, but really, who needs to?  Everyone knows what it means to be Bond, James Bond.  When the aliens arrive, assuming they haven’t already, they’re going to want to meet him.  Seriously though, he’s not the only reason this vid is so awesome.  It must have taken an incredible amount of patience and concentration to make it; it would’ve been impressive even without the lip-syncing, but with it! It’s even got a subversive element, what with James McAvoy “cast” as the most debonair of Bond Boys.  So kudos to the creator, and to everyone else, enjoy!

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Bobby Untitled

There are, unsurprisingly, a lot of songs written about Bobby Sands, with varying degrees of specificity and hero-worship.  With Hunger on my mind I went looking for them, and of the ones I found, this is my favorite:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QX1zCIqWn9c

I think I like it because it’s so personal; it seems to be talking about a person, not just a symbol.  Soft and sweet.

The Living End

That was fun, or something like it.  A boy-version of Thelma and Louise, but with HIV and actual (as opposed to implied) sex.  This was the third movie I’ve seen directed by Gregg Araki and it feels like a link between the other two, The Doom Generation and Mysterious Skin.  I saw the later first and when I saw the former I could hardly believe they were spearheaded (not just directed, but produced, filmed and written/adapted) by the same person.  Mysterious Skin is tender, ethereal and heartbreaking; The Doom Generation over-the-top, in-your-face and decadently raw.  This one though, it’s got elements of both.  The camp, apocalyptic nihilism of The Doom Generation and the ruined, desecrated beauty of Mysterious Skin.  Part of the that beauty, though not nearly all of it, is in the two leads, who’re almost too picture-perfect at times.  It’s easy enough to see that Araki started off making porn, even though this movie’s actually fairly cautious, despite all its jagged edges, about actually showing skin.  What it does show glows; at times the sex scenes seem like they’re part of a different film altogether.  They don’t seem to belong in the story of a love triangle between a film critic who learns early on that he’s HIV positive, a mad drifter first seen spray-painting “fuck the world” across a parking lot and who is positve as well, and a gun; or, if you prefer, between a lost boy, a mad man, and death.  It’s not exactly subtle, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

It felt strange to me, watching this movie from nearly 20 years after-the-fact (it came out in 1993).  In some ways the world it inhabits is utterly foreign, in the way it always is in old movies (who was it who said the past is a different country?).  The markings of culture are all so topical and transient: the bands, the fashion, the conspiracy theories, the chest hair. Chest hair, and on a gay guy! When was the last time you saw that onscreen?  Yet in some ways this particular past-world is distinct, a bizarre and unlikely time, unique in its contours, limits and boundaries: it was after the discovery of HIV and the invention of the first antibody tests but before any treatment existed.  A time when deciding whether to get tested was a more complex, multi-faceted and personal choice, and coming up positive meant existing in a kind of limbo, not knowing if death was just around the next corner or years away.  That kind of uncertainty could (and will) drive a person to the edge of madness, and that’s where this film takes place.  That edge undergirds the entire story in the form of sheer energy, a ragged rage and raw fury that pulses and throbs with increasing urgency beneath every scene.  It starts when the film critic’s doctor tells him he’s tested positive, and his best medical advice is basically “good luck,” and it builds from there until the film climaxes in what might be the most epic threesome in cinematic history.

It’s hard to put a word like “good” or “bad” to a movie like this.  Honestly it seems beside the point, and almost insulting besides to try and fit it into that kind of paradigm.  It’s a movie to see more than once, to dwell on, and to let stew in the back of your mind and the pit of your stomach.  It’s dense and tightly-packed as a seed in early spring, near-bursting with life, and I think its worth it to plant it in your gut and see what grows.  Or explodes.

Wild Flag

Lately they’re all I’ve been listening to.  I’ve had the tracks “Electric Band”, “Romance”, and “Future Crimes” pretty much on constant repeat.  The best way I can think to describe them is a combination of Patti Smith, The Clash, and Green Day, which is also, incidentally, how I would probably describe my dream band.  Strong, catchy melodies, smart lyrics,  dance-able but with an intimate knowledge of rocking out.  The fact that they’re all female is just icing.  So yeah, they’re amazing. Check ’em out.

Girlfriends to the Front

A friend and I were recently discussing dedicating a day to the celebration of female friendships.  Kind of like mother’s and father’s days.  Nothing political (overtly anyway – because how can celebrating the ways women relate and connect and support each other not be political in this world of catfights and Mean Girls?), just a day for girlfriends in the non-lesbian sense to spend time together, spoil each other, and say the things that might normally go unspoken: I love you, you’re important to me, I couldn’t do this without you.  I don’t know who I’d be without you.  It just seems wrong that romance gets all the ritual and put on this pedestal above friendship even though friends can be just as valuable as partners and shape you just as much.  The women in our lives, they put so much time and energy into building and maintaining these friendships, sometimes across years and continents, and it feels like that should be acknowledged.  That kind of devotion deserves to be named and celebrated.  Honored, really.

Hunger

Who decides that 1am is a good time to start a movie about imprisoned IRA members embarking on a fatal hunger strike? That would be me.  Up until a few days ago, I’d never heard of Hunger (the story of Bobby Sands, the first of ten men to die during a 1981 hunger strike protesting the treatment of IRA members in the Maze prison and demanding they be classified as political prisoners) but once I had I was deeply intrigued, hence my decision to sacrifice a night’s sleep.  It wasn’t just watching the film that prevented me from getting a reasonable eight hours though; there was no way I was going right to bed afterward.  It felt as though images from it had been seared into my frontal lobes.  In fact, it still feels that way.  Every shot is so beautiful, so artfully composed, each one poetry, and yet their content is stomach-turning, brutally harsh and raw.  I don’t think I’ve seen anything that’s affected me this way, on this level, since I first saw Mysterious Skin.  That has a similarly explicit, unflinching take on violence, or at least one scene does.  In Hunger however, its the whole film that’s like that.  ‘Seen’ is definitely the right word too: except for one scene, it has hardly any dialogue, which is just as well since it was a real struggle for me to decipher the heavier Irish accents.  Moreover, it’s the right artistic choice.  This isn’t a movie about words; its about when words fail; when people are so ground down and silenced for so long that the only way they can express themselves is through their very flesh.  When everything else is gone, has been taken, when even the most sacred words are only so much smoke and ash (literally: the prisoners roll cigarettes using torn out pages of the Bible).

The film begins in the first months of 1981.  The first scenes are of the morning routine of a guard: he is shown shaving and washing his hands, laying out and dressing in perfectly folded clothing, eating with near fanatical neatness and delicacy, an unstained white napkin on his lap.  The only part of him that is not perfectly civilized and gentile are his knuckles: bloodied, scabbed and bruised, they give lie to his careful routine.  In contrast, the imprisoned IRA members (only men are shown, but women were participating as well) have been on a four and a half year “blanket and no wash” protest, meaning they not only refuse to clean themselves but also to wear the prison-issued clothes (political prisoners were allowed to wear their own clothes), to cut their hair and beards, or to use toilets.  We enter their story through the eyes of a new arrival at Maze.  It’s clear from the start that he knows what he is in for: his first words are a refusal to wear the prison uniform.  An administrator marks him down as non-compliant, then, without further ado, the new prisoner strips, removing not only his clothes but his markings of civilization.  Naked save for a blanket around his waist, he’s led to the cell he’ll be sharing with another IRA member.  Every surface in it is coated with smeared excrement.  Masticated food is piled in a corner.  His cellmate is huddled on the floor, wrapped in a blanket, his face almost completely obscured by hair and beard.  In the past I’ve been puzzled by the “no wash” protest; it didn’t seem like a very good way to induce sympathy and support, more likely, I thought, to alienate and disgust outsiders.  It was only upon actually seeing these images that I began to understand their implicit accusation. Look what you have done to us, they say. You have treated us like animals, taken from us the most basic elements of our humanity. Look what you have created.

It is when the two stories converge, the guard and the new prisoner, in an explosion of violent brutality, that this question truly becomes apparent: who here has really lost their humanity? Who is the animal and who is the civilized one? The guard, in his pressed uniform, shined shoes and neatly trimmed hair, dragging prisoners by the hair and bringing his baton down over and over on naked skin? Or the prisoner, naked and hairy, covered in his own bodily excretions, kicking and screaming wordlessly in fury over the treatment of his fellows and his homeland as he is beaten and violated?  Is it the trappings of modern life that make a man civilized, or is it his beliefs and commitment to his values that make him human?  In the end Bobby Sands and his compatriots manage to subjugate the basic need for sustenance, the hunger shared by humans and animals alike, to their beliefs.  Does that make them the most human of all?  Is the issue complicated by the violence these men committed, sanctioned or condoned, the ostensible reason they were  incarcerated in the first place?

These questions are played out on the bodies of the film’s subjects.  Indeed, I don’t know that I’ve seen another film where the body is so central, certainly not the male body.  I know I’ve never seen so much bare skin without the slightest, subtlest whiff of sexuality present.  Even things that initially appear sexual – an imprisoned man and his girlfriend kissing in the visiting room, a visiting wife with her hand buried beneath her skirt – turn out to be deceptive.  In reality, the man is passing a note, folded to the size of a tooth, to his girlfriend via his tongue and the wife is retrieving a smuggled-in radio to give to her husband.  Hunger for food isn’t the only bodily appetite being subjugated to the cause.  These are men and women who have devoted their physical selves to their ideals, who have come to literally embody their beliefs.  Bobby Sands, it could be argued, was literally sustained by his (he lives for 66 days without food, much longer than I’d believed was possible).  It was both enthralling and terrifying to watch, almost impossible at times, but I made myself.  If these men could live it, I thought, the least I could do was bear witness to their story.  They deserve to be known and seen and remembered.  The questions the film poses deserve to be asked and considered, must be, no matter how difficult and grueling.  The beauty of the cinematography makes what it depicts that much more difficult to watch.  The carefully composed shots invite a cold objectivity, for the viewer to step back and admire the contrast of black and tan and red without acknowledging the forms they take, a guards baton and bare flesh and spilled blood.  It’s a tempting invitation, especially toward the end when the camera lingers closely and clinically on Bobby Sands’ deteriorating body.  The contrast of the gorgeous shots and the sheer ugliness of their content is shocking and unrelenting.  I can’t say I was surprised to see them in my dreams.

“I’m clear of the reasons…I’m clear of all the repercussions.  But I will act, and I will not stand by and do nothing.  Putting my life on the line, it’s not just the only thing I can do.  It’s the right thing.” – Bobby Sands as written by Steve McQueen

My Pet Peeves

  • Little girls dressed up as brides for Halloween (this has annoyed me since I was in pre-school and it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere)
  • Bad stair & escalator etiquette (is it so hard to stay to the right?)
  • White people who complain about “reverse racism”
  • Confusing correlation with causality
  • Using the subtext to excuse the text (just because a piece of art has a potentially pro-gay, anti-racist, and/or feminist subtext does not excuse oppressive elements of the actual surface text)
  • So-called equal opportunity offenders (“It’s okay for me to make fun of gay people because I also make fun of straight ones.” Sorry, but no, that’s not how it works.)
  • Professors who somehow believe they are the only ones giving out work over vacations
  • Change machines that spit out dollar coins in exchange for dollar bills (someone out there is really missing the point!)
  • Being told that if I’m offended by something, I should just not watch/read/listen/etc. to it
  • Shirts with patterns on the front that don’t go all the way around the back
  • Sitting in an aisle seat on the bus next to an empty window seat when there are people standing
  • Describing a given form of bigotry as “the last socially acceptable prejudice” (I’ve heard this about sexism, homophobia, sizeism, ableism and prejudice based on religion or politics so, erm, apparently not)
  • Being told by strangers to smile
  • Stealing from nonprofits
  • Professors who think they can single-handedly stop grade inflation by giving low grades
  • Fake pockets
Hopefully posting these will help me stop being so annoyed by them, or at least take the edge off.