Sunday, September 28, 2008

What Would A Real Director Do?: Choke

“Choke” – Clark Gregg’s film adaptation of the book by literary darling Chuck Palahniuk—is, according to the press notes, “the subversively comedic tale of Victor Mancini, con artist, sex addict, Colonial village re-enactor, angst-filled son, serial restaurant choker … and unsuspecting romantic antihero for our unsettling times.” This jam-packed one-liner should give some indication as to what Gregg was up against in attempting to translate Palahniuk’s prose to the screen. David Fincher had an equally difficult challenge with the author’s “Fight Club,” but unlike Fincher, Gregg is an actor and first-time filmmaker hailing from the theater world (a founding member and former artistic director of the Atlantic Theater Company) whose only qualifications to script-write and direct the cult novel seem to be friends with money, a love of the book, and Palahniuk’s blessing. Well, sometimes love and money and a pat on the head just ain’t enough.

To read the rest of my smackdown visit The House Next Door. (And, yes, I do feel guilty about panning the film after interviewing my fellow Random Houser Chuck Palahniuk, but hey, he didn’t direct!)

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

My Interview with “Fight Club” author Chuck Palahniuk

Chuck Palahniuk, the author behind David Fincher’s “Fight Club” and Clark Gregg’s “Choke,” opening in theaters this Friday 9/26, pens intelligent, well-written junk food. I enjoy reading all his books, and even have a friend I nicknamed Brandy Alexander after the transgender lead character in “Invisible Monsters,” yet whenever someone asks me the plot of a particular novel that isn’t “Invisible Monsters,” I draw a blank. I mean, I’m certain I’ve read his books, just like I’m certain I ate dinner last Thursday, I just can’t tell you exactly what it was.

To read my interview with the author himself visit Spout .

Monday, September 22, 2008

Ultimate Burlesque

Hot off the press release:

The rise of the burlesque movement has brought glamour back into women’s lives and now a new anthology looks set to use that glamour to help people with cancer gain practical, medical, emotional and financial support. Created as part of the Burlesque Against Breast Cancer campaign, Ultimate Burlesque is an anthology of 30 erotic stories with a burlesque theme from best-selling authors including Katie Fforde, Jo Rees, Kristina Lloyd, Maxim Jakubowski and Olivia Darling. Contributions range from sweet stories of couples revitalising their relationship with a hint of glitter and flash of feathers to torrid tales of group sex, domination, bondage and more.

The anthology is co-edited by Scarlet founding editor, Emily Dubberley, Scarlet Cliterature editor, Alyson Fixter, and introduced by best-selling author, Chris Manby. All writers donated their stories free of charge and a minimum of 15% of the book's cover price goes to Macmillan.

My short story “Just Another Night In Paradise” is featured so pre-order now!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Sex Industry Stonewall II

It’s ironic that a recent “NY Times” article ‘White Flight’ Has Reversed, Census Finds, detailing the largest return of whites to Manhattan since the 1940’s, in which a demographer states that “a lot of the non-Hispanic whites are plainly associated with the financial community,” would appear around the same time a Financial District dungeon gets raided, that NY Post article accompanied by the requisite quotes from neighbors attesting to the “freaks” coming in and out of the building.

Yes, Rapture is the latest NYC house of domination to go down for the prostitution ring count this year, after Rebecca’s Hidden Chamber and Nutcracker Suite. Time to revisit my essay Sex Industry Stonewall.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Sex Workers In Hollywood

I’ll never forget the thrill I felt reading Werner Herzog’s advice on how to become a film director, which boils down to skipping film school, taking up boxing, walking everywhere and working in a sex club. So where’s my Oscar, damn it?

Yet when “Juno” was delivered to theaters around the country I remember feeling nothing but outrage over the stripper-turned-screenwriter Diablo Cody hype. I found the film incredibly tedious (though in retrospect I was probably a bit hard on Cody’s writing in my review – after reading excerpts from the script I think I had a much bigger problem with Reitman’s directing), but I had an even bigger problem with the condescension surrounding Cody herself: Look, a stripper who can put together more than three sentences!

For the scoop on four more talented folks who’ve made the transition from sex industry to mainstream screen visit Spout.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

From The Top: The Movie-Going Public, Take 2, On The Role of The Film Critic

Reading the comments thread of my essay “The Movie-Going Public” gave me the same feeling I had riding Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride at Disney World as a kid. This is so bizarre yet exciting, with all these surprising twists and turns. I can’t figure out where I’m being taken and I can’t stop laughing. It would resemble a classic Monty Python sketch if it weren’t so sad.

Because when a deeper discussion I hope to spark fizzles into surreal insanity I take that way more personally than any personal attack. The entire point of my penning the piece was to use myself as a jumping off point, to prompt readers into thinking about their own individual lives in order to foster a meaningful discussion about what it means to be an audience member. Instead, that conversation ended when the focus shifted exclusively to me. And the tragedy is that my particular life isn’t minutely as interesting as the larger picture. It’s disappointing that seven dirty little words referencing sex—in my estimation the least interesting thing about me—out of an entire heartfelt essay could derail the whole critical thinking process.

Catch the entire controversy at The House Next Door.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Eddie Izzard Awards: Films That Transcend Taboo

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again loud and proud: Eddie Izzard is my heroine! I get all happy-go-lucky girly inside just thinking about him. And not only because I spent a good hour and a half doubled over in a folding chair gasping for air like an oxygen-tank-deprived emphysema patient when I saw the John Cleese anointed “lost Python” at a small west side venue years ago, but because of who Izzard is offstage as well: an unashamed cross-dresser with fabulous taste in makeup and heels.

To find out the winners of the Golden Stiletto visit Spout.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Taking The Bite Out of Sex

When I first met critic Matt Zoller Seitz he disclosed that the initial thing he does when having a strong reaction to a film is to look in the mirror and ask, “Is the movie affecting me this way because I’m a white guy with a blue collar background?” It was a “Eureka!” moment for me, a summation of all the reasons I’d been a fan of his film criticism for so long, and why I’d always felt a kinship with his style. For questioning my own POV first and foremost has been my modus operandi for as long as I’ve been writing. And then I realized it’s also what elevates Matt above the rest.

Recently, I had another “Eureka!” moment when what I thought of as a “fairly innocuous comment” about the collective mindset of the movie-going public posted to my “Traitor” review at The House Next Door infuriated me. Instead of degrading the commenter I did what I normally do, took a good hard look in the mirror and asked, “What is it about me and my life experience that’s causing me to react this way?” Then I tried my best to candidly answer that question not as a “film critic,” but as a movie-goer in a personal essay titled The Movie-Going Public. And that’s where I got into a heap-load of trouble.

For any exploration of myself, my personal POV, inevitably includes a discussion of sexuality. For my gay male identity, my sexuality, inside my biological female form is a part of who I am, which isn’t all that interesting in-and-of itself. But that same gay male sexuality also guides my point of view, which is crucially important, since people like me on the margins of society don’t always have our viewpoints acknowledged. Tossing off what I thought was my own innocuous comment, a campy-toned reference to casual sex that didn’t make any of my gay friends bat an eye, I was chastened by the realization that not everyone in my audience understood homo code, taking the bite out of sex with flamboyant words (and perhaps simultaneously exploding the ridiculous myth about the “beautiful, dumbbell muscle boy” incapable of a conversation beyond protein bars and free weights. You know, just in case the governor of California hadn’t done so already).

The truth is I never even would have become an “erotica author” (a term as meaningless as “film critic” in this day and age), had it not been for my hustler/porn star lover who held a mirror up to my face, challenged everything I thought was “true” for six long years, sharpening my critical thinking skills, until he exhausted me – not with sex but with all his philosophizing. People like us are cut from the same cloth as Juan Antonio in Woody Allen’s “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” who Javier Bardem, when asked about the in-your-face sexuality of his character, explained simply views sex as a starting point on a journey, not a goal. For me if the journey takes off great, if not it’s a fantastic daytrip, just another sport like the Thai boxing I’ve been doing for the past dozen years. And it never even occurs to me that someone might think I’d “brag” about an afternoon workout at the gym. But then I often forget my life experiences are not that of my audience, that my words are often lost in translation. Which is why I knew it was time for me to take another cold look in the mirror.

In all honesty, I often err on the side of candor because I packed up and left the world of the mainstream a long, long time ago. I’ve always been acutely aware that, straight guys especially, I make extremely uncomfortable so I’ve usually just avoided becoming close with anyone not on the margins, rather than sucking it up and having to censor myself. Subsequently, I haven’t learned much in the way of mainstream social mores, haven’t been exposed to as many hetero POVs as I should be. I don’t speak the language. (And it took me over a decade to figure out that as a genderqueer person, theoretically, I’m a straight guy’s worst nightmare, as bad as any horror flick body snatcher – a 100% biological female with an inner faggot out to suck their dick. The only difference between me and any other gay guy is I “pass” for a straight chick, foxily making my way into hetero beds without a hitch.)

And interestingly, I’ve discovered that a lot of the people I tend to offend with my bluntness are uncomfortable not necessarily with “strong women,” nor “female sexuality,” per se, but with flamboyant homos like me expressing sexuality if it’s not strictly within the confines of a pride parade, with our social code which very much includes talking flippantly about sex – i.e., with our POV – whether they realize it or not. But for me, not talking frankly about sex harkens back to the societal neutering of gays and lesbians in the fifties, when a seat at the table was dependent upon speaking a language that suppressed our sexuality. And like all those gay men who had to pretend they didn’t actually “do” anything with each other save for listening to Judy Garland tunes together, lest they offend the heterosexual majority by conjuring up horrific images of cock-sucking and anal sex (which, tellingly, are equally heterosexual practices), I instinctively respond with a rebel yell of “I’m here, I’m queer, I screw. Get over it!”

And rarely do I get flack from the margin, not so much because these people are my brothers and sisters, but because collectively we’ve known all our lives that our viewpoints are different from the majority. We try – and sometimes fail like all other human beings – not to blindly assume (like so much of the center does) that just because we think a certain way everyone does. In other words, we’ve been conditioned to be constantly checking ourselves in the mirror, the benefit being that it allows us to be open to self-doubt. So I have to say, the most humbling aspect of interacting with my readers online is I’m being taught to get over my own inexcusably innate, knee-jerk prejudice of straight people. For all those heteros who always seem to be rushing to my aid whenever I get attacked for causing offense aren’t defending a chick – they’re crying “not in my name!” Which is all the more humbling.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The Rock + Klaus Kinski = Lust: Jerking Off To Genre

Documentaries and socially-relevant foreign films are sexy, too! To find out my picks for five international hotties who, no matter the plot, create a private porn of their own visit Spout.