Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Mary's Non-Zombie Movie Review Korner

I apologize for being a negligent blogger lately. Here is a post about documentaries I've watched recently, which you should also watch!

Pie in the Sky: The Brigid Berlin Story, 2000
This documentary is about Brigid Berlin, AKA Brigid Polk, who tends to fall under the umbrella term of "Warhol superstar" though they were in fact peers and he stole ideas from her. Unlike many documentaries about women with connections to famous men, Pie in the Sky is truly about its subject, not her relationship with Andy Warhol. She has had a fascinating life, from her rebellion from the wealthy WASP society she was born into, to her self portraits, Polaroids, and other artwork, to her relationship to food and her body and her family. She is definitely one of the last holdouts of the old, truly artsy weirdo New York. Though she came from a monied background like Edie Sedgewick, Brigid was the anti-Edie in so many ways, and she will never be played by Sienna Miller or be canonized by fashion magazines because she was no muse- which I mean in the best way possible.

Brigid is still an artist: look at these fucking needlepoint pillows! I have come to the conclusion that I hate 99% of art, but these pillows are something I would want to own myself. Also, her apartment is mind-blowing.

Paris is Burning, 1990
Many liberal-artsy types have seen this film, but for those who haven't, you should really see it. It's another New York story (living in New York has made me nerdily obsessed with all aspects of NYC history), depicting balls, which encompass a wide range of drag performances, as well as the origin of voguing, participated in by mostly poor, gay and minority youth. Like Pie in the Sky, I think this movie subverts the idea of what art and artists are, as well as what drag is, and plenty of other stuff: the people in this movie are nothing if not artists, constantly creating and making something out of nothing.

I've read plenty of criticism of Paris is Burning (by bell hooks, among others) which asserts that the touch is too lighthearted and trivializes these people's lives. I disagree; the first time I saw this movie, it seemed more depressing than anything else; it was upon second watching that I was so impressed with what the people in the film were accomplishing. Also, this movie features kids hanging out on the legendary Christopher Street piers, which for a long time were a hangout for gay kids who often had no other place to go. I don't really know what they are like now, except that Simone and I saw a documentary about them being "cleaned up" that played the Madonna song "This Used to be My Playground" and we laughed in a theater filled with self-righteous types.

(This is a dude, man.)

Decline of Western Civilization, Part 2, 1988
When this movie started, I was like, "Oh no, another movie glorifying rapey dudes", since glorifying rapey dudes is a big part of many movies. Hair metal, after all, (though rife with the contradiction of men essentially dressed as women, who also hate women) shares a lot with modern gangster rap, in that money, hos, and flashy lifestyles reign supreme. But as it progressed, director Penelope Spheeris (Wayne's World, man) probed more deeply and the results are amazing.

While male vulnerability is constantly avoided in most films, Spheeris spends much of her time getting these macho braggarts to admit they are alcoholics with no discernible skills who make music even they know is second-rate and whose whole life is predicated on being a huge star. When Paul Stanley of Kiss (depicted above surrounded by soft core-looking ladies) is asked whether he could fall in love with a groupie she pans over the faces of the groupies themselves to see their reactions. Many of the men admit that they not only dress like stereotypical prostitutes (see assless chaps photo above), they also basically prostitute themselves to women for food and a place to stay, despite being huge misogynists. The interview with some guy from W.A.S.P., who starts out bragging, eventually confesses he hates himself as he chugs vodka in his parents pool as his mother looks on.

Also, it's obviously worth watching for stylistic reasons. By the end, you don't even notice the hair. Speaking of which, maybe my hair should look more like this. What the hell happened to doing your hair? You literally cannot tell what gender people are half the time. Also there is one guy whose hair is half blond and half brown and the most amazing hair I've ever seen but I don't have a photo.

Heavy Metal Parking Lot, 1986
I don't know, this might be, like, one of my favorite all-time movies, I've mentioned it here before, but it's truly amazing. Just watch it. It also fits in with my assertion about guys being foxier in the 70's. Even though this is from 1986, it has a 70's vibe. I'm too tired to write any more, except that the girl who says "Hell yeah," repeatedly and has the personality of Wooderson in Dazed and Confused is my hero.


Leni said...

I'm happy to report that the Christopher Street pier is still a hangout for gay minority youth. They wear pretty fabulous things too.

Mary said...

That's good to know- it's actually kind of hard to believe, considering how New York has changed.