Saturday, December 17, 2005

A Few Odds and Ends

So, I'm trying to stay on top of this blog thing. I keep thinking that I need to have something "big" to write about in order to post a new entry, but then I realize, "It's YOUR blog, dude. You can post whenever the spirit moves you."

I've been doing a few interesting interviews the last couple of days. Last night, I interviewed playwright/screenwriter/director Del Close (Daddy's Dyin'! Who's Got the Will?, Sordid Lives) at his very nice house over in the Caynon. Then, this morning, I spoke with the one and only ... Sheena Easton. Yeah, you heard that right. Ms. Sheena will be playing a New Year's Eve gig over in San Diego, and so I did a short interview with her to help promote the show. She was actually quite fun to talk with. Very relaxed and laid-back and very, very gracious. I liked her sense of humor, too. She's a single mom living in Vegas with two kids these days. When the story gets published, I'll make sure to post a link so's you'ns can read it. (That was my attempt at a Pittsburghian accent. Haha)

Elsewhere, my boss at AVN Online asked me if I would be interested in writing a new column for the magazine. I've been doing a fun interview-type column for the Web site called "The School of Hard Knox," but Tony asked me if I'd like to do something different with it for the print edition. I'm pretty excited about having my own column in the mag. Now I just have to figure out something to write about for my first entry! LOL! :)

I even decided to have a brand new cartoon pic done up for the column, so I spoke to the folks over at, a site I've written about a few times (and whose in-house artist did my first cartoon shot) and asked if they would help me out with some new artwork. Their artist, Brian, is absolutely amazing. This sketch he did of me will not be the one that we run in the magazine (the POV is a little too high up above me for what we want), but it is still an awesome stab at what I was looking for, so I thought I would share it here with you folks. I'll post the final version once I get it back. Should be sometime next week. It's pretty cool to be a cartoon! :)

I guess I don't really have a whole lot more to say this time around, so I will leave you with a few quick reviews of movies I've seen this week. I took in three flicks in two days, and was really happy with my three choices. If you're looking to check out some of the upcoming holiday flicks, then check out my reviews below!


Brilliant! Simply f**king brilliant! Peter Jackson has filmed the definitive version of this timeless story, delivering not only a beautiful film steeped in the hues and moods of the 1930s (the art direction is flawless), but an epic love story of grand proportions. Kong is so real and life-like, it's impossible not to fall in love with him, and Naomi Watts is radiantly luminous as the damsel in distress. Some are bulking that, at 3 hours, the film is too long, but frankly, I could have sat there for another hour of Jackson's genius for making "big Hollywood pictures" that deliver thrills and chills for the popcorn crowd and true emotion and complexity for the more intellectually-minded. He is, quite frankly, a master of filmmaking. Grade: A


Simply hilarious and endlessly enchanting. Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick reprise their Broadways roles as theater producers scheming to make away with the big bucks by producing a sure-fire flop. The musical numbers are flawless, and the performances (particularly Lane, Gary Beach and Roger Bart) are briliantly over-the-top and jaw-droppingly hilarious. Uma Thurman is a riot as Ula. Seriously, we laughed so hard in this one that I was crying almost as much as I was during the final 10 mins of Kong. Grade: A-


One of my favorite books comes to life is an enchanting and lyrical film adaptation that takes quite a bit of time to fully get off the ground (the book was always a bit episodic in the beginning as well), but, once it does, it just soars. You'd have to be a ignoramous not to pick up on the Christian allegories, but they are very subtle and not at all intrusive. Besides, they are great life lessons to begin with. Tilda Swinton makes an excellent White Witch, and the four kids are all very talented. I was especially enchanged by Scottish actor James McAvoy, who plays Mr. Thomas the faun. What a cutie! Fauns, talking beavers, messianistic lions and mean old white witches... good versus evil never looked so good, or felt so damned comforting. Grade: B+

OK, folks, that's it for me this time around. Hope to catch up with you soon!

Hollywood Ken

Saturday, December 10, 2005

'Brokeback' Backlash: What Gives???

Well, folks, I suppose it was inevitable. Eventually, somebody with a self-righteous sense of self-importance just had to rain on my parade. What am I talking about, you ask? Well, the rather swift backlash directed toward the wondrous film Brokeback Mountain.

If you've been reading along in my blog, you know that I found this movie to be quite revelatory. Of course, I knew that not everybody was going to fall in love with the movie as I have, but I surely didn't expect a large portion of the caterwauling to come from the gay community itself. But yet, here is David Ehrenstein, erstwhile "critic" whose biggest claim to fame is, well, being given a special thank you in the credits of Rob Epstein and Jeffery Friedman's The Celluloid Closet, ranting and raving in the Dec. 8 entry of his blog about how Brokeback Mountain is nothing more than a "chick flick" that panders to heterosexual notions of the gay lifestyle and encouraging people to skip it completely.

Now, I normally pride myself on being a mature adult who is perfectly capable of accepting the fact that not everybody thinks the same way that I do, and it's perfectly acceptable for somebody not to share all of my opinions. But I do have to take issue with Ehreinstein's rather arrogant dismissal of such an important film. Furthermore, it bothers me that someone of Ehrenstein's stature would actually encourage people not to see the movie. We all know that the reason Hollywood chooses not to make "gay films" is because they are, quite frankly, not marketable to the mainstream. So you would think that, even if one were to not like the movie, he or she would at least encourage people to go see it if for nothing else than to help the film be a success so as to pave the way for other, (perhaps) better movies to come along.

I've gotten into a few arguments with people about the movie as well. And so far, the criticism seems to be focused on the film's so-called "tragic" depiction of gay relationships. I don't want to spoil the movie for anyone, so I won't give any specifics, but well, it doesn't end happily. Already, some are lambasting the film for not fulfilling their rather delusional fantasies of "happily ever after." What most of these (so-called) critics fail to address, however, is that the film is set in 1963, in the unforgiving countryside of Montana, where masculinity is defined by how many steer you rope, how many beers you drink and how many cherries you pop. The film captures a time and place in which, for two men in love with each other, living an openly gay lifestyle was simply not an option. Yet, instead of encouraging gays to stay in closet (as most of the film's detractors seem to be implying), the film does the exact opposite in its depiction of the reality of the film's era. Indeed, the movie is nothing if not a call for all people--gay or straight--to break free of the restrictive nature of society's shackles and seize the day. Its true message (for anyone intelligent enough to see it) is that we should all live for ourselves, not in the eyes of others.

Were the film set in contemporary times, then yes, I could see how some of these people might have a point, but really, isn't this a little bit like walking up to an effeminate gay guy and accusing him of perpetuating negative stereotypes? Can you really be a stereotype if you're simply being who you are? Likewise, Brokeback Mountain is nothing if not an honest depiction of the period the film encapsulates. Nothing it presents is outside of the realm of possibility.

So the movie doesn't have a big sappy happy ending in which the cowboys (actually, ranch hands) ride off into the sunset together holding hands. Big frickin' deal. I don't recall Romeo and Juliet celebrating wedding nuptials, or Bogart and Bergman running off together in Casablanca. For that matter, Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet didn't exactly have the happiest of endings in Titanic. Where is it written that, simply because a film features gay characters, it is required for the film to end happily? I don't go to the movies to be spoon-fed some trite Hollywood finale in which everyone gets what they want and all is just fine and dandy. In whose world does that happen? Brokeback reminds us that love is nothing if not fragile and rare. It reminds us that we are not alone.

I'm also hearing gripes about how in the film's press, Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger keep talking about being straight actors portaying gay roles (by that token, let's demonize Renee Zelwegger--an American--for talking about her difficulties playing Londoner Bridget Jones, or Nicole Kidman's frustrations in perfecting an American accent), and how wrong it is that straight actors should play the roles in the first place when there are so many capable openly gay actors out there. As far as the latter criticism is concerned, I pose this question: Just who, besides gay people, would go see that movie? Isn't the whole point of Brokeback Mountain--a film with the Hollywood pedigree and talent to potentially lure residents of Smallville, USA to a "gay film"--to get Middle America into the seats in the first place? (And, for that matter, hey, let's not let gay actors portray straight characters anymore. Guess that means that Ian McKellan and Rupert Everett will soon be out of work.)

In my opinion, Ehrenstein and many of the film's gay detractors seem to be suffering from a self-imposed victim complex in which to present any image of a gay person in which that person is not a well-adjusted, openly gay individual becomes an affront to the entire gay community. Is it not OK for anyone to tell stories of gay characters that (gasp!) don't live idyllic lives of bliss and perfection? Have we forced ourselves so deep into the gay ghetto of victimization that we can't see past our own paranoia? If Ang Lee (or, for that matter, Annie Proulx, who wrote the brilliant short story upon which the movie is based) represents an affront to gay people, well, then, hell, Steven Spielburg must be one helluva racist for making The Color Purple. And, hey, while I'm at it: I'm Jesus Christ.

Guess it's time for the second coming after all. I sure do hope there are some gay cowboys there.

Hollywood Ken

Friday, December 02, 2005

Rain, Fiona Apple and no more Madonna!

Today is just nasty. It's one of those overcast, gray California days that makes you want to curl up in bed with the cat and never get out. I had the hardest time waking up this morning. Of course, that could also have something to do with the fact that I didn't get to bed until 3:30 a.m. in the morning, having stayed out far past my bedtime watching a wet underwear contest at the Gauntlet II, but still... rain just makes me sleepy.

I haven't had a whole lot of anything to say since my Thanksgiving post. I looked back through older posts and realized that my blog was slowly becoming about nothing but Madonna. LOL! This happens every time she puts a new CD out. I immerse myself in all things Madge, seeking out magazines and checking my TiVo for interviews she might be giving on TV, posting on her fan club message board, etc. etc. It ain't pretty, folks. And I'm sure that most of my friends read this stuff and go, "He's so far gone." Ha. (Actually, if you think I'm bad, you should read what some of the obsessive fans in her fan club say on her boards. I'm a-scared of them!)

At any rate, I'll try and keep references to Her Royal Highness down to a minimum from here on out. I've actually been playig the f#ck out of the new Fiona Apple CD lately. There's a great cover story on her in this month's Paste magazine. (I so want to write for them. Too bad the editor won't return my frickin' emails! Sheesh!) I don't know how many of you have heard Fiona's new record, Extraordinary Machine, but it really does live up to its title. Anyone who knows me knows that I was a huge fan of When the Pawn..., and I wasn't sure anything Fiona did after that would live up, but this new one does. It's quite good. Mike Elizondo does a great job producing, and the two songs remaining from her sessions with Jon Brion are probably my favorite on the disc.

Incidentally, I once sold vibrators to Fiona when she visited Drake's on Melrose a few years back. I was working the graveyard shift, and this was about 12:30 a.m., and she was in there looking through vibrators. My co-worker was busy washing the windows, so I kinda slid on in there and took the sale and helped her pick a few nice ones out. The store policy was that anything battery-operated had to be tested before leaving the store (you know, in case it didn't work, since bringing back a "used" vibrator is largely unacceptable), and as I was testing these products, Fiona's face turned beet red, and she was so adorably embarrassed. Finally, she settled on one (a rather extravagant one with beads and a rabbit and all kinds of bells and whistles). Now, during this entire time (probably about 20-30 mins in all), I never let on that I knew who she was. I just treated her like any other cusomter. And just as I'm putting her choice into a bag for her, I leaned in and said, "Now I better not hear about this in any of your songs." Well, the poor girl just about lost it. Her face, already red from before, turned purple, and she doubled over in hysterics, with tears streaming down her face.

On her way out the door, she was STILL laughing, and she turned around and looked at me and was like, "You rock, man!" Then she walked away into the Los Angeles night with a bag full of adult goodies. That was my biggest brush with fame--apart from interviews, of course. But I digress. Anyway, Fiona's new record is brill (short for "brilliant" here in L.A.), so do pick it up if you get a chance.

Oh well. Nothing much else to say today. I haven't been writing a whole lot of cool stories lately. Things get kind of slow around the holidays in the entertainment business, but I also need to make sure that I'm getting on all the right lists, which I don't think I am right now. So, I have to see who I can schmooze with in the near future to gain invites to some of this stuff.

By the way, the magazine that I work for, AVN Online, is up for a Cybersocket award for Best Industry Publication. The Cybersocket Awards are held every year in Vegas, honoring the best in gay adult online entertainment. You can vote for us here:

OK, well, that's about it for me right now. I'm tired of typing, and I need to get back to work (um, more typing). Gonna run along, but hope everyone is well!

Hollywood Ken

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