Saturday, July 21, 2007

My afternoon with the Beckhams

Maybe it was the sun. I went to go find the new issue of Butt magazine, which has been alluding me. There's a place entirely too far from home that I go to, partially for the drive. I've made this pilgrimage each Saturday "morning" for the past three weeks, hoping to find the new, LA focused issue. No dice. This morning, however, as I entered the bookshop, I was met by a strikingly different magazine; one whose cover called out with a particular urgency.

The only other issue of W I can remember purchasing was the one with a newly brunette Cameron Diaz on the cover - but then I was at an airport. End of. And this morning, at my far off bookstore, I didn't feel the need to purchase the rag. Though I certainly leafed through it. And then I fell in love.

Cameron had maybe had 5 or so tasteful beach shots in one or two impeccable outfits. Posh + Becks, who graced the cover of this morning's mag, assault with a seemingly endless procession of near nudism. Sweaty crotches and sullied pant legs for pages and pages. 28 to be exact, all with a lurid stamina which is typically desired of our figureheads, but never actually obtained. (If this duo does poorly in America, it will be because they do actually deliver what we think we want.)

Though impressed, I still left empty handed.

On my way home I changed my mind. And this being Los Angeles, there were plenty of places to obtain this mag. I feel I should, at this point, stop to explain only a peripheral intrigue in the Beckhams. I, like many, oggled the Spice Girls paraphernalia when the took the world by storm. But who wouldn't when product labeling was a s diverse as theirs (I recall Lollipops and dolls, along side your more average CDs and Posters). And with the exception of savoring a few of those lolipops and perhaps seeing the film, Spice World, too many times (read, more than once), my mild interest ended with the rest of the globe's - with the departure of Ginger spice. I've never once picked up a tabloid that had anything to do with the Beckhams. Hell, I didn't know who David Beckham was until after Bend It Like Beckham. Yeah. I've always had a bit of a soft spot for posh, though. And I do recall breaking out into a wicked grin upon seeing her alarmingly severe gown at the Holmes/Cruise wedding.

Anyway, so I get back to my side of town and go to my neighborhood bookstore (the one I should have gone to for my Butt in the first place). I don't see the Becks on the shelves though my looking is not quite ardent. I leave and walk to the newsstand on the corner. "Sold out. That magazine was gone in a blink." The proprietor informs me. So I return to the little books store to look again, thoroughly this time. "Sorry, man. We're all out," says the younger, cuter worker when I finally ask. My feet hit the pavement. It's the heat, the chase, the photos and the dizzying intoxication of celebrity that I'm seldom privy too - save some particular, concentrated and analytically driven bursts (which typically surround Kylie Minogue).

I get in my car. I have to have that magazine. It's no longer a trashy rag; now it's a cultural phenomenon. A weighted symbol of achievement. "Oh, I have that issue." To own it is to be it. Or your act of participation in a cultural moment. Beckham fever. They're moving to Los Angeles, as everyone too well knows. That's why their now-blond heads grace this cover. This is like my mini-Woodstock cause I'm part of it. Only I can have it in my house. I head back to the initial, distant bookshop feverishly pumping the gas. I stop at another magazine shop along the way. "Oh that's long gone." My pulse rises. I think about calling ahead. Yeah, I know. My humility stops me there, thank god. I hit traffic so I take another route. One I've never been on before. It leads me to see similar sights that I've already seen but from a slightly different perspective. And ultimately I'm thrown back onto the same road. I drive past and see the stand which cradles the issue. It's still there. I pull into the back parking lot only to find it full. Full, save one handicapped parking space. Hungry, humid and wanting of that magazine, I slide into that handicapped zone and spring from my car.

It was only five dollars and easy enough. They both stare at me from the cover as I make the half-hour drive back to my air-conditioned apartment. Into a cooler, less harried terrain. I read the slight text, but it does nothing for me that the images - or more - the act of acquiring it did. I don't even really like these people, but I've got it. So what now?

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Back in Action...

I broke down. I saw it. Actually, I was made to see it. After having subjected a friend to cinematic gems like Blood and Chocolate and Pathfinder, he finally sought his revenge with Michael Bay's newest indulgence, Transformers. Perhaps y cinematic expectations are entirely off kilter when it comes to the contemporary blockbuster. I prefer the absolute indulgence of a more Eighties fare of summer whoppers. I mean, a Transformers movie sounds like fertile ground for indulgence. Indulgence connotes pleasure yet there's precious little of that to be had in this heap of money and steel. I wonder, even, if Bay enjoyed the process of making the film, so slight are the moments with any sort of proud, paternal glimmer. Instead, the film trudges forth at a bewildering pace with a must get from a-b never sense of purpose (as opposed to a devil-may-care which might have made it worth while) never quite lingering long enough on any given sequence to question, 'wait, what are they doing in this Iraq-esque landscape?' Shhh.... Cue explosions.

But these are not the fun explosions of a gleefully maniacal action extravaganza (read Live Free or Die Hard). They are as calculated and by the book as everything else the movie puts on offer. A shot locates our robot friends on the Griffith Park Observatory made famous in Ray's Rebel Without A Cause. The camera swirls back, drunken and patriotic, but the image it captures is just as leaden as the creatures that compose it. New Yorker critic, Anthony Lane, applauded Bay for his first depiction of honesty in film. To him, Bay finally found a, ahem, vehicle to celebrate his prevalent misanthropy. His own form of Neorealism, I suppose. But misanthropists can still evoke a sensational spectacle and the thing that this film most urgently lacks is thrills. Our robots are so generated and fast paced that we don't have the time to gasp with concern for their perrills - we're to busy trying to figure out what the hell is going on.

Sensation, too seems a moot point. The film knows its audience well and carts every expected moment in to placate, not once trying to fulfill. "The fans want this; we'll make it happen." not "We'll make them like it." Characterization seems to have been completely lost on Bay. At no point can you ever really tell which robot is good (Autobots) or bad (Decepticons). Their leaders being of no help. I can only figure that the main baddie, Megatron, is nasty because of his gnashy teeth. Optimus Prime is good because of his patriotic colors and calm cadence. Neither betrays any personal flair, but then, they're trucks. Or truck-like at least.

Which brings us to the humans. This was the first performance I have seen by it boy Shia LaBeouf. I can't say I'm impressed. With the physical grace of a bit-player, he seemed nourished on the same fruit which brought the emasculated neurotic of Die Hard, Justin Long, barely out of puberty. Here it is less endearing and more mean - ridiculing all boys who cherish the tap tap tap of the computer keyboard.

All of the women seem to have just gotten off of their shift at Hooters. The nicest casting touch was certainly the buxom Australian computer expert who looked like she would trip over anything containing more than three syllables (and not in the exciting way that Denise Richards embraced her turn as nuclear physicist in The World Is Not Enough).

But it's okay, cause she's got her fat, loud-mouthed, mama's boy, black sidekick with her. He, like Bernie Mac a few scenes prior, lumbers about barking unintelligible (read, black) utterances which are meant to make the audience laugh. At my screening, to my great dismay, it worked. The mean robots speak a a language translated in subtitles which resemble eastern characters; our good "guys" talk American. Call me mean, or call it racist, metal porn. There's a big elephant in this room, only it can't merely shift into a complacent little beemer and zip away. No, much like Bay, this one's here stay.