by James Killough
Alan Cumming has a new site up dedicated to obsessions, itsasickness.com. I would say it celebrates passions more than obsessions in the truest sense of the word, and I am hanging on the truest sense because the site does have “sickness” in its title. And sick obsession reminds of the time I went truly mentally ill and stalked a former lover.
Knowing Alan as I do, he probably means sickness as in the recent colloquialism “That is so sick,” like it’s a really good thing. In the video up on the site right now, Zoe Kravitz is obsessed with a green dragon plushie costume, with how it makes her feel empowered. This isn’t my particular experience of people obsessed with plushie. The plushophiles I’ve met are rather lovable, extreme introverts who like to dress up as cartoon characters and have kinky sex.
I had a brush with plushophilia and diaper fetishists back in the early Noughties through a friend, Gene, who also had extreme social anxiety disorder (SAD). Gene was one of a trio of people who would trigger the mnemonic that gave rise to my play Hatter, the film version of which Alan Cumming has been attached to, just so you follow my meandering train of thought. Gene had some hilarious stories about “furries”
THE KILLOUGH CHRONICLES | REVIEWS
by James Killough
It was Fat Bitch Sunday yesterday at Tuttle’s. I made my slow-cooked Bolognese sauce and we downed cranberry margaritas while we settled in to watch The Borgias followed by the infamous The Kennedys, the production that was dumped by The History Channel, apparently under pressure from the Kennedys themselves, or from “friends of the Kennedys,” of which there are many because they themselves are multitude.
For those of you more interested in what a Fat Bitch Sunday is than in a review of shows that turned out to be less interesting than the margaritas, a Fat Bitch Day of any kind — Mon, Tues, Fri, or Sun — is the one day in any exercising Ghey’s week when he can eat what he wants, and take in twice the amount of his allocated daily fat, if not more. This means cheesy things like quesadillas de carnitas from Baja Fresh, carrot cake with ice cream, and tankards of high caloric cocktails. To give you an idea of how serious a Fat Bitch Day is, Tuttle had two full shakers of margaritas in the fridge at any given time all night long.
First up was The Borgias. I was really looking forward to this. Not only does it star Jeremy Irons, whose industrial-accident voice, strafed by years of chain smoking, I aspire to, but it’s also directed by Neil Jordan, whose work I have been a huge fan of up until recently. He lost me with Ondine, the Irish selkie movie starring Colin Farrell and his ex Alicja, which was beautifully shot, but brought to mind a one-sentence review Mira Nair spiked at me personally on the opening night of a film I wrote: “The characters were believable, and that’s a lot coming from me, but I just ask myself, Why make this film?”
by James Killough
Never one to be terribly quick on the uptake, I needed time to think about Tom Ford’s “five easy lessons in how to be a modern gentleman” from Another Magazine, which went surprising viral, namely because of the silliness of the fifth lesson about flip-flops and shorts in the city. Ford is described in Another as a “fashion powerhouse, film mogul and old school romantic.” I have decided that the second descriptor, “film mogul,” is tongue-in-cheek, although knowing the fashion press as well as I do, whoever wrote that is either sucking up to Ford or actually believes that because Ford’s one and only film was so well styled and shot it has somehow propelled the designer to the top of the film business.
I was pleasantly surprised by A Single Man. No, pleasantly is too mild and a cliché. I was staggered by how good it was. Everyone in the Biz had been following Ford’s misadventures trying to get it made with not a small amount of schadenfreude. How dareth the designing fagelah wander into our rarified climes?
I know both the film business and the fashion world intimately, and there is no question as to which is the more difficult to succeed in. Fashion people are continuously astounded at how long it takes to make a feature film: nine years on average, no matter who you are. Even the humblest designer working in some storefront in Williamsburg would have churned out at least eighteen collections by then. What needs to be taken into account is production on one entire collection costs less than a single day’s shoot on an indie feature film.
BLOGIRADE | THE INDIA FILES
by James Killough
It turns out I spoke too soon about Lady Mary Crawley from Downton Abbey. By the season finale, she’s had more comeuppance than she deserved, and she’s managed to move from super bitch to sympathetic heroine. I have to hand it to show creator and writer Julian Fellowes: superb job on the old character arc, there, dear chap.
Regardless of what happens outside the house, what is at the center of Downton Abbey is the dynamic between servants and their masters, which is always the basis for shows like this, that intricate Upstairs, Downstairs relationship drama, a perverse master-slave relationship that can be seen as a microculture of the whole employer/employee, ruler/subject dynamic of the world at large.
I grew up with live-in “staff” or “help,” or whatever euphemism works best to chase away the sour taste of having to use the word “servant.” And it’s correct to use a euphemism in our case because they weren’t servants as the term denotes in a Downton Abbey way. They really were there to just to help the family, and were treated in as egalitarian a fashion as possible, except for the fact they slept in the servant’s quarters near the kitchen where the laundry was drying, they never ate with us, they called my parents “sir” and “madam,” served us dinner from the left, cleared the plates from the right…. Well, I suppose we did our best not to have servants despite evidence to the contrary.
That’s the longest phrase I’ve ever been able to make with those triple-letter acronyms. I never use them in real life. I’ve never given in to emoticons, either, which has caused a number of misunderstandings over the years when I’ve sent sarcastic texts that weren’t backed up with a wink or a smile. Fuck it, I’d rather take the flack. I just can’t do them. They are too twee, too saccharine, too Disney. I don’t mind a few Xs after a message to my female friends, but no smiles or winks. The only emoticon I would conceivably use is the one for ‘fuck you,’ which according to the humoristic Encyclopedia Drammatica is something I don’t even know how to make with symbols from my keyboard, much less with my Blackberry. Either it’s not too popular, or the sugar plum fairies who invented emoticons just don’t want you to send such filthy symbols.
The phone call is dying, according to a piece in the Times over the weekend. Awwww. As you can no doubt tell from this blog, I like to talk. I am loquacious to the point of logorrhea. I shall miss the phone, but I realize I already do. Gone are the days when I could spend literally hours gassing about anything on the phone with a friend, watching TV on the phone with a friend, nodding off on the phone with a friend. And I don’t just mean when I was a neurotic teenager trying to work out this terror-ific thing called life. Well into my twenties I could churn out some seriously meaningless verbiage down the horn.
I miss the Victorian Era. It’s not just that I miss the high-waisted trousers and the frock coats, and the prospect of reading Dickens serialized in the paper every week. I am probably one of the few men in the modern era who can say he had two frock coats hanging in his closet at one point, made for me by my tailor in Delhi to my amateur designer’s specifications, based on yet another Yohji Yamamoto frock coat I brought in for him to copy. It’s not that thinking about the Victorian Era makes me miss when I had hair, either, which I usually wore long and curly on top and shortish on the sides, with my sideburns always down to my jawline. No, the real reason I miss the Victorian Era most is because had I lived then I would have been straight.
As every gay man knows, while inwardly guffawing at those misguided conservative poodles who incessantly yip that ours is a “lifestyle choice,” only an extreme masochist with a major reactionary streak would ever choose to be gay over being straight. Most of us believe we would make great straight men. We’d be wonderful fathers, we would seriously pay attention to our woman’s appearance, we’d never even tire of clothes shopping with her.
The reason a Ghey like me would have been straight back then is I would likely have gotten married, had kids, and nobody would have been the wiser. My wife would have been so repressed and confined by the rigid corset of social mores that she wouldn’t have admitted even to herself that I wasn’t banging her, much less to anyone else. She would have ignored the stable full of handsome young stable hands, who would have walked funny after I’d spent an afternoon “grooming my horse.” In the unlikely event of a complaint from her, I would have just yanked a lace in the back of her dress like a yo-yo string and she would have passed right out on the parlor floor like a rag doll, after being cut off from what little air she was getting to begin with.
The Victorian Era was basically when Western culture turned Japanese for a hundred years. It was graceful, fraught with fascinating social intricacies and niceties, but was, all kidding aside, clearly a real pain in the ass.
I take movies way too seriously. I don’t mean the business of filmmaking, that’s too much of a surreal farce, like a performance of Ubu Roi in a never-ending loop with Harvey Weinstein, Scott Rudin and Steven Spielberg alternating in the role of Père Ubu. I mean the movies themselves. I’m constantly relating real life to cinematic reality, a sure sign of not-so-latent mental illness. For instance, I might be in an animated conversation about my landlady, the Wicked Blais, gesticulating like a Roman trying to wiggle out of blame for a traffic accident, and I’ll say something like, “I’m just like Burt Reynolds in that scene in Deliverance when he’s down, his leg is broken, bone jutting out, and the rabid hillbillies are coming after him and he picks up his crossbow and …” All of this is to say that while I know Matt Damon is only engaged in an extended game of adult Let’s Pretend when he makes a movie, I’m a bit concerned about two of his recent choices, The Adjustment Bureau and Hereafter.
I really loved the first twenty minutes of TAB. And I mean that: I more than enjoyed it, I loved it. I was smiling. I thought, Hmmm, this might shape up to be the intellectual challenge that Inception wasn’t. Then they brought God into it, and I started fiddling with my Blackberry, itching for a game of poker. (I am way down right now, over a million dollars at the World Series tables, but that’s nothing compared to the fiasco a month ago when the damned thing reset and I lost thirty-one million in a nanosecond.)
Let me jump off the rails a second to talk about Inception. I was expecting too much from a major summer release, I think. My expectations were raised even more when I had a brief scene with a showcase Cali couple just outside the Arclight Cinerama Dome in Hollywood.
“Are you going to chain your bike right there?” the She of the couple asked.
“Uh, yes, that’s right,” I replied, resisting a retort like, No, I’m just practicing public displays of light bondage with my buddy Schwinn, here. You know these Germans, so kinky.
Praise the Lord. I have seen Johnny Depp’s apotheosis and it is named Rango. It’s like he’s pulled together all of his work since Edward Scissorhands into one masterpiece symphony in the form of an animated feature. It all makes sense now. Rango tips its mottled cowboy hat to Ed Wood, to Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, but most of all, intentionally or not, to Jim Jarmusch’s Dead Man, the last Jarmusch film I truly enjoyed, as opposed to feeling flattened by enervation.
If you haven’t heard by now, Rango is truly trippy, brilliantly written, gorgeously animated, superbly voiced, and I have serious doubts it will ever make its real cost back. If the studio reported a budget of $135 million, it’s bound to be much more than that. Rango is basically an art film with a big Hollywood finish, which you really don’t mind because the whole journey is so jaw-droppingly audacious and bizarre. It’s certainly the first time I’ve ever been sexually attracted to a rattlesnake.
I have to admit, I briefly joined my nieces, Savannah (7) and Uma (5.5), as a fan of Lady Gaga after Bad Romance was released last year. I thought it was stompin’ good fun, not to mention that it kept me company whenever I thought about my love life. But she has lost me with this:
In a nutshell, it’s a very expensive sophomore art school project. She is trying too hard and the results of her efforts fall short of her earlier video work. And, yes, that last sentence was rewritten several times; Galliano has homos worldwide stopping themselves before they go too far with what they really think.
Even though my nieces are Episcopalian Hindus — also known in the more rarified circles of Tribeca as ‘Piscadoos’ — at the risk of sounding like an avuncular prig, I’m not sure I want them to see filmed reenactments of the Black Goddess Kali giving birth to the cosmos as might be interpreted by H.R. Giger. I can just imagine explaining this video to them.
“Uncle James, what is Lady Gaga doing with her cooch-cooch?”
“She’s letting her vagina enjoy a David Cronenberg moment, darling. And stop calling it cooch-cooch, you’re making it sound like a region in West Bengal.”
“What do you mean what you just said she’s doing with her vagina, then?”
“We’ll talk about it when you’re old enough to watch twisted R-rated psycho-dramas funded by the Canadian government. How about we watch something appropriate, like The Tudors?”
They love The Tudors.