“You’re going to go into that final trial date in drag,” the famed Stormé DeLarverie tells Alice Anderson late in her memoir, Some Bright Morning, I’ll Fly Away. “You gonna go as the most upright, pretty, perfectly Southern Republican mama they ever fuckin’ seen. And you gonna to play that part like you know how to play it, the best you’ve ever played it.”
It’s the first time in the book that dressing up and playing a part has been called what it is, but drag is all Anderson has been doing since its first pages. She buries the trauma she suffered at her father’s hands under the façade of a good daughter. She clothes herself as a model in Paris. She masks herself as a perfect wife to her terror of a husband. All of these identities are drag, and they serve as a wire that runs through the book, tensing until it snaps. Continue reading
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Fritz Lang’s 1931 proto-thriller M still feels fresh, eighty-plus years after its original release. It’s not exactly a lighthearted romp—one of its major contributions was to introduce the world to the concept of the serial killer, something that we had never seen on film and didn’t even have a name yet. (In fact, the German word for serial killer was coined in an article written about M some thirty years after its release.) Films about serial killers are old hat now, but Lang’s take on them is still uniquely humane and empathetic, rather than lurid and lascivious.
In an interview with a European journalist at the height of Nirvana’s fame, Kurt Cobain, in response to a question about his generation’s mythic indifference, offered instead an assured defense of punk rock and the vagaries of taste. “Punk rock should mean freedom, liking and accepting anything that you like, and playing anything you want, as sloppy as you want. As long as it’s good and it has passion.” This has always been my approach to reading. So I didn’t hesitate to put down Moby Dick (you could say I preferred not to finish it) and pick up the latest offering from Brontez Purnell, the Bay Area’s hardest working underground artist.
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Fish Tank is a real punch in the gut, in a good way. I went into the film looking for answers to two questions. First, what did director Andrea Arnold accomplish by casting Katie Jarvis, a teenager with no prior acting experience, as her lead? Second, what’s the significance of the title? I think I found answers to both, but like all great works of art, Fish Tank leaves room for interpretation. It’s not an easy sit, but it’s riveting in the moment and tough to shake afterward.
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The Agatha Christie novel And Then There Were None was simultaneously one of my best and worst reading experiences of all time. I was thirteen and it was my first murder mystery—I had purchased it through my school’s book order, if I remember right. I settled in to read it before bed and ended up staying awake until 2 a.m. so I could finish it, completely out of my mind with terror. It was such an unnerving experience that I didn’t go near a murder mystery again for a couple of years. The premise is uniquely effective: ten people arrive at a mysterious house on a deserted island, and one by one they begin dying off. Now that it’s been twenty-plus years and I have somewhat recovered my wits since that night in seventh grade, I couldn’t wait to see how René Clair’s adaptation of this pivotal (for me) novel capitalizes on the book’s structure. Continue reading
“Mord destroyed and reimagined our broken city for reasons known only to him, yet he also replenished it in his thoughtless way.” So thinks Rachel, the protagonist of Borne, as she climbs the side of Mord, a giant bear, braving his “ropy, dirt-bathed fur, foul with carrion and chemicals” in search of food or biotech treasure that’s stuck to him. Those are the thoughtless replenishments he provides. Instead, she finds a fist-sized organism that resembles a sea anemone. She takes it back to the crumbling apartment building where she lives, deciding on the way home that it’s a he and its name is Borne. Her partner and lover, Wick, is unhappy about Borne’s presence—an outcast biotech scientist, Wick recognizes a threat when he sees one—but he grudgingly allows what he’s powerless to stop. Borne already has a hold on Rachel’s heart. Continue reading