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Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Saks and the City

Beleaguered mega-editor Sylvie Fowler (Annette Bening) takes refuge in Saks Fifth Avenue in The Women.

The Women
Directed and Written by Diane English
With Meg Ryan, Annette Bening, Debra Messing, Jada Pinkett Smith, Candice Bergen, Eva Mendes, Cloris Leachman, Bette Midler, and Debi Mazar
114 minutes

By Mary Lyn Maiscott

There was a moment when I thought The Women, a remake of the famous 1939 George Cukor movie, was going to lose me, philosophically anyway. A high-powered female (everyone in the movie is female, as in the original) New York magazine editor, up against the wall, considers making revenge the theme of her upcoming issue, a sort of how-to-get-yours for readers (also, presumably, all female). It’s always bothered me that revenge is usually viewed in film and TV as something very satisfying, something we should all vicariously exult in, instead of the negative, shallow, hurtful response it really is.

And indeed Sylvie (Annette Bening), the editor, is hardly ready to send roses to Crystal (Eva Mendes), the Saks perfume-spritzer who’s fooling around with the husband of Mary (Meg Ryan), a sweet homebody who is Sylvie’s best friend. Sylvie even advises Mary, though rather gently, to “kick her ass” when they come upon the curvaceous Crystal in the dressing rooms of a lingerie boutique. That Mary fails abysmally at this—while trying on an ill-fitting white bustier, garters dangling over her dowdy long skirt—is part of her charm.

Again and again the movie seems about to lapse into movie-chick clich├ęs but then rebounds, and often quite entertainingly. I wish that a scene in which Mary’s mother (Murphy Brown—I mean, Candice Bergen) is recovering from plastic surgery did not, despite her bruised face, seem like an endorsement of the procedure, which Mary takes as a given in her own future (a bit ironic, considering Meg Ryan’s obviously worked-on face—what’s with those lips?).

And Mary and Sylvie’s other friends—Alex (Jada Pinkett Smith), a steely lesbian writer, and Edie (Debra Messing), a hippie-esque earth mother—lack dimension, though Edie’s Upper West Side apartment doesn’t; it sprawls unendingly, and she mentions that her husband has just acquired his own space in the building as well. The other home we see—Mary’s Connecticut mansion—is also huge. As in so many Woody Allen movies, money doesn’t seem to be an issue. Indeed, The Women follows in the Manolo Blahnik footsteps of Sex and the City in touting high-end consumption, here mainly in Saks Fifth Avenue, depicted as a wonderland of sorts (though also the locale of Mary’s rude awakening). I was also a little disappointed that Mary gets chic-ified once she finds herself (with a little help from the always-welcome Bette Midler, prancing around as a Sue Mengers–type superagent) at a spa, even if she is a designer.

Still, as she did with the TV show Murphy Brown years ago, writer/director/producer Diane English, with this 14-year labor of love, brings women to the foreground—or in this case, the foreground, ground, and background—and then gives them plenty of clever things to say as they reach beyond mere revenge. These particular women ultimately reject clawing as a way to the top, or a way to hold on to a man, though they keep the Jungle Red polish. I think Norma Shearer would be proud, though I’m not sure about Joan Crawford.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Hypocrisy Now: 16 Questions for Every Voter Who’s Been Paying Attention

Barack Obama

John McCain

By Robert Rosen

1. Is there any chance that this election won’t be ugly, close, and marred by legal challenges?

2. How can anybody have any faith in the wisdom of an American public that twice elected George Bush, when even a corpse would have done less damage and should have beaten Dubya in a landslide?

3. Will Bush, like Augusto Pinochet and Henry Kissinger, be hounded like a war criminal for the rest of his unnatural life?

4. Can the broadcast media raise the level of their political discourse from sub-moronic to moronic?

5. Does Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! know how often she disintegrates into self-parody, or that her ace correspondent, the ever-indignant Jeremy Scahill, acts like a graduate of the Samantha Bee School of Journalism?

6. Has John McCain ever heard the Phil Ochs classic “I Ain’t Marching Anymore,” which The Jefferson Starship recently covered with our friend Cathy Richardson singing lead?

7. Does the lyric “It’s always the old who lead us to the war” (see above) remind McCain of anybody?

8. What will it take for people to understand that McCain’s a corrupt warmonger whose bad judgment dates back 25 years, to his first term in Congress, when he tried to influence bank regulators on behalf of his biggest campaign contributor, convicted racketeer Charles Keating, after the failure of Keating’s Lincoln Savings and Loan cost taxpayers $3.4 billion?

9. Why didn’t McCain apply to Keating—a Nixon ally, founder of Citizens for Decency, and producer of the anti-porn film Perversion for Profit—the most reliable litmus test for integrity? That is: The biggest crooks cry “Ban pornography!” the loudest.

10. Why does the media constantly bring up Obama’s mentor and fund-raiser, convicted felon Tony Rezko, but virtually never mention Keating?

11. What’s worse: Helping a man buy a house or defrauding taxpayers of $3.4 billion?

12. Why can’t the media admit that Barack Obama hasn’t lived long enough to learn to be as corrupt as John McCain?

13. What, exactly, is the problem with a presidential candidate who speaks good English and inspires rather than demoralizes every time he opens his mouth?

14. When Sarah Palin’s nudie pix finally surface—nobody becomes a beauty queen without flashing their tits for at least one photographer—will they help or hurt the Republican ticket?

15. Wait a minute. Wasn’t it the Republican Party that excoriated the fictional Murphy Brown for getting knocked up?

16. Why hasn’t the Democratic attack machine branded the Republican candidate “Malignant McCain” (as opposed to “Benign Barack”)?

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The person who provides the best answers to the above questions will win an autographed copy of Mary Lyn Maiscott’s debut CD, Blue Lights, and have his or her answers published on The Looseleaf Report. Deadline is midnight October 7, 2008. Send your answers to rrosen2727@nyc.rr.com. Decision of the judges is final.

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For the record: We at The Looseleaf Report would like to see Obama humiliate the honky motherfucker.