Thursday, November 14, 2013

Going Beyond Burlesque with Beth B’s “Exposed”

“How do you cover up cellulite? With glitter and a spotlight.” These words of wisdom from the legendary NYC, splendidly zaftig, female drag queen World Famous *BOB* pretty much sum up the ethos of legendary NYC, underground filmmaker Beth B’s latest doc-extravaganza “Exposed,” a behind-the-scenes peep at today’s proudly subversive burlesque movement. Its performers include folks like Rose Wood, a biologically male strip-teaser brought into the scene by biologically female drag queen Dirty Martini, and Mat Fraser, perhaps the sexiest Seal Boy – also the name of his critically-hailed one-man show – on the planet. (Sorry boys and girls, this disabled hottie is married to burlesque queen, and former Miss Exotic World, Julie Atlas Muz.)

And while the film itself is rather tame in format – clips from performances cut with straightforward interviews with those artists as well as with Tigger!, Bunny Love, Bambi the Mermaid and James Habacker – its presentation is not. Unsurprisingly, the punk godmother of No Wave cinema is adamant that “Exposed” not be “seen” but “experienced” – in the form of an event that includes actual live performances from one or more of the doc’s subjects. To that end, Beth B might have a thing or two to teach younger filmmakers about getting butts in seats. And, even more importantly as a result, the gender-bending, body-image-shattering pioneers she presents onscreen might just be able to school the world at large. “Filmmaker” spoke with Beth B prior to the U.S. premiere of “Exposed” on Friday, November 15th at DOC NYC.

To read my interview visit Filmmaker magazine.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Eliot Spitzer's Dirtiest Secret

I guess it should be expected that the Anthony Weiner and Eliot Spitzer scandals would be lumped together in the same way that prostitution and sex trafficking all too often are. And it certainly works to Spitzer’s advantage. While Weiner’s sexting addiction has embarrassed his family – including his very high-profile wife – that’s also pretty much the extent of the damage that his frat boy behavior has wrought. (One can only imagine what the public reaction would have been were Anthony Weiner a woman. Would potential voters be more or less forgiving if the candidate were flashing tits? Something tells me the feigned outrage would be more muted, the target less a sitting duck.) Weiner may be unsavory but he did nothing illegal. No one went to jail because of his online exhibitionism. And while Spitzer’s outing as a regular john at a high-end escort service likewise mortified friends, family and anti-Wall Street fans alike, his behavior resulted in fallout far beyond suffering wife Silda’s emotional distress. For the crucial difference between Weiner and Spitzer is that Weiner’s recklessness never resulted in the felony conviction and 6-month sentence of a 24-year-old woman (and a year’s probation for two others) and two-and-a-half years for her boyfriend. And though Spitzer claims to be remorseful, he’s never expressed a hint of remorse towards those in the sex industry whose lives he’s ripped apart, that he seems to view as expendable, second-class citizens (and who, nevertheless were his constituents when he served as governor as well). Spitzer may have “taken responsibility” for his behavior, something he claims ad nauseam, but he’s been seeking forgiveness in all the wrong places. That, perhaps, is the dirtiest secret of all.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Single White Female on Questlove and Race

If nothing else the Trayvon Martin trial has served as both a mirror and a canvas, a place on which to project one’s own personal experience. The Roots drummer and “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon” bandleader Questlove recently did just that, in a heartfelt post I stumbled upon at the “New York” magazine website. In it the musician detailed what it’s like for him to be a big – six-foot-two, 300 pound – black man in America, and how he perceives society to perceive him. He brought up an incident that happened one night in the elevator of his high-security building, in which a beautiful woman (I assume to not be of color, though her race is never mentioned) gave him the cold shoulder, rudely refusing to acknowledge his presence as he tried helpfully to get her to her floor. To Questlove the rebuff seemed just one more example of an African-American male being judged as a threatening presence regardless of his actual harmless behavior.

But is this what it really was? As a petite white female I might have treated Questlove the same way, even if the musician was a five-foot-two, 100 pound white guy. Probably would have (and not because the only time I can recall racially profiling anyone was in Arkansas, where I found myself crossing one too many a street to avoid the numerous, sketchy-looking, hoodie-wearing white dudes in downtown Little Rock). Especially if it’d been one of those long stressful days that put me in no mood to make small talk with yet another random guy I wasn’t interested in who thought I was hot. In his piece Questlove referred to the elevator stranger as “bangin’,” followed by “so inside I was like, "Dayuuuuuuuuuuum, she lives on my floor? *bow chicka wowow*!" Instantly I was on some "What dessert am I welcome-committee-ing her with?” The fact that he didn’t make any moves on the woman, or explicitly let her know that he viewed her as a sex object, makes little difference. Like African-American men, pretty women of every race are highly attuned to how they’re perceived. And, like Questlove, oftentimes overreact defensively.

Yet when all is said and done, the sole absolute truth is that the bigger one’s world the less fearful one is. And so, ultimately, I’m grateful to Questlove for sharing his point of view, for refracting light from his honest mirror in order to expand our understanding of one another. I can only humbly hope that I’m able to do the same.

Friday, July 12, 2013

The Emperor Has No Clothes: 5 Reasons Eliot Spitzer Cannot Be Forgiven

Cecil Suwal: Six-months prison time and a felony conviction (at the age of 24)

Mark Brener: 30 months prison time

Tanya Robin Hollander: One-year probation

Temeka Lewis: One-year probation

Eliot Spitzer: Talk show

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Director Maxim Pozdorovkin Discusses “Pussy Riot – A Punk Prayer”

Suffice to say that by now – thanks to Amnesty International and/or Madonna – you’ve probably heard of Pussy Riot, the feminist punk rock collective that burst onto the international scene after a guerrilla performance at Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior led to the arrest and conviction of three of its balaclava-sporting members. Mike Lerner and Maxim Pozdorovkin’s HBO documentary “Pussy Riot – A Punk Prayer” furthers the trio’s tale, taking the viewer behind the scenes of the well publicized story and right into the Russian courtroom where Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina and Yekaterina Samutsevich made their show trial literal. I spoke with co-director Maxim Pozdorovkin prior to the film’s NYC festival premiere at the 2013 Human Rights Watch Film Festival.

To read my interview visit Global Comment.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Talking with Michael Di Jiacomo and John Turturro about "1-900-Tonight"

One of the most frustrating things about covering film festivals is making discoveries that few movie lovers will ever see. Filmmaking is an industry after all, and as such, artistry will always play second fiddle to marketability. Even so, I was quite surprised to learn that one of my favorite films from the 2011 edition of the prestigious Karlovy Vary International Film Festival never found U.S. theatrical distribution. Surely someone could have figured a way to sell a John Turturro-starring, NYC-set story about two lost souls on opposite ends of an adult chat line? (Especially considering Turturro last year appeared at the Toronto International Film Festival to pitch what sounded like another brilliantly offbeat, sex-themed project, “Fading Gigolo,” in which he’d play a hooker to Woody Allen’s pimp.)

Fortunately, one of the most exciting things about covering film festivals is that nagging questions like these can be taken straight to the creators themselves. “Filmmaker” spoke with both the writer/director and lead actor of “1-900-Tonight” (formerly “Somewhere Tonight”), Michael Di Jiacomo and John Turturro, respectively, about the indie film life, the death of Theo Van Gogh, and ending up where they least expected – on demand on Starz.

To read my interview visit Filmmaker magazine.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

All in the Family: Shawney Cohen on Hot Docs Opener “The Manor”

The titular subject referred to in Shawney Cohen’s debut feature has nothing to do with ladies and lords, but with the Cohen family business – a combo strip club/motel in a small Canadian town. And “The Manor” has nothing to do with in the ins and outs of the sex industry, so to speak, but with the inner workings of the Cohen family, which includes Shawney’s 400-pound father (who bought the place when the director was only six) and 85-pound anorexic mother. Ultimately, the doc’s not so much north-of-the-border, reality TV than a nuanced portrait of a loving yet dysfunctional family, more in the vein of “Capturing the Friedmans” and “Crazy Love.”

“Filmmaker” spoke with the director/son/strip club manager prior to the film’s world premiere today as the opening night feature of this year’s Hot Docs.

To read my interview visit Filmmaker magazine.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Five Questions with "Remedy" Writer/Director Cheyenne Picardo

Opening the 10th anniversary edition of CineKink NYC tonight is writer/director (and “habitual submissive”) Cheyenne Picardo’s “Remedy,” a look at the business side of BDSM through the eyes of a character crafted from Picardo’s personal experience. “Filmmaker” spoke with the accidental director – who originally set out to be a critic – about converting a barn into a NYC dungeon, casting non-kinksters, and why Steve Martin’s “The Jerk” is more influential than Godard.

To read my interview visit Filmmaker magazine.