by James Killough
I didn’t want to spoil my Bridesmaids experience by going to see Bad Teacher, but there is little to see in the dry summer months before the fall deluge of quality films, so you can’t be as choosy as usual. As you may know by now, both movies are post-feminist broad comedies (again, forgive the pun) about chicks behaving like gross-infused dudes, and being utterly believable. Both films are pleasing cultural milestones to be a part of; this is genuine equality given freely and willingly, not demanded just because it is deserved and therefore stilted, forced, maybe sententious.
Bad Teacher is the lesser film, no question. It is School of Rock next to There’s Something About Mary, which first showed us Cameron Diaz’s extraordinary comedy chops, and which still remains quite possibly the funniest movie I’ve ever seen.
Diaz is our generation’s Lucille Ball. There is nothing quite so seductively subversive as a beautiful woman (or man) whose looks are secondary to her raunchy sense of humor. Conversely, there is nothing less appealing than gorgeous people, male and female, who are so up in their physicality that they become dull and wooden, which is why most models can’t act.
This is definitely part of Ashton Kutcher’s appeal for me. The playfulness combined with the Apollonian definitely gets my Dionysian going.
If Bad Teacher doesn’t live up to its full potential, it’s because of the execution of the film, not the script or the performances. I have long stopped wondering why comedies are always shot in such a flat, uncreative way, although I do make a note of it within the first few scenes of a movie like this. It might be an interesting experiment to see the camera loosened up a bit in a broad comedy, get a bit more emotional. Why is a self-serious, “lyrical” film like Tree of Life allowed beauty, but comedy seems to have stayed in the same Plain-Jane place with the same unimaginative lighting since Chaplin?
I’d almost say that it’s because comedy requires so many wide-angle master shots to deliver the kick, which are hard to make artistic, but then I remember that entire Peter Greenway films are just master shot, and they’re not comedies, or at most they’re highly oblique comedies from someone with a chiaroscuro sense of humor.
Teacher co-star Justin Timberlake sets my gaydar off like BOING crazy, despite the fact that not only is he Diaz’s ex, he’s dated most of the talented blondes in Hollywood. I just have such a hard time imagining him not gay when he’s acting. He’s almost too queeny for me, too fem, although deeply accomplished and clearly a nice guy.
Despite a great premise and a strong start — that a washed-up, pill-popping, stoner drunk will go to any lengths to pay for the breast enhancement surgery that will pull her out of the crap hole that she’s in; fake tits/any plastic surgery is fertile ground for laughs — Teacher sags at the beginning of the second act, and never elicits the same belly laughs as Bridesmaids. Without knowing anything about the production, I’m going to hazard a guess and say that studio-exec tinkering may have stopped Teachers from going the places it needed to go to achieve the same remarkable fluidity and comedic tautness as its better. While Teacher earns brownie points for never apologizing for the heroine’s actions — and that immorality might be what’s killing it for extra-urban audiences —the coda at the end, while necessary, was sort of limp, “too pat,” as my scripts have often been called. It’s the kind of studio-pleasing “save” that, if I’d directed this, would make me twitch in the middle of the night, sit upright in bed and smack myself around.
The product placement of certain luxury goods in Teacher, namely Jaeger-LeCoultre watches and Christian Louboutain shoes, as well as Boston Market, gets special mention for being used in such a motivated way as to warrant credit for a supporting role. It also speaks volumes about how tough times are for closing financing deals even on a purported twenty-million dollar budget.
Speaking of clowns in frocks, we’ve sort of lost sight of Mama Gaddafi from the House of Gaddafi, haven’t we? She’s deep underground, sashaying from bomb shelter to bomb shelter in breezy summer muumuus, coconut cocktail in hand, no doubt practicing her runway moves for next season’s audition of RuPaul’s Drag Race. Mama G teetered briefly back into the news today because that great bastion of effective global jurisdiction, the International Criminal Court, has issued an arrest warrant for her. She must be trembling so hard in her bunker someone has to help her apply the false eyelashes. “Not The Hague!” she’s screaming, hands at temples. “I’ll take on NATO warplanes, swat away American drones with my camelhair fly whisk, but, Allah have mercy on us all, not The Hague! The sound of their gavels gives me such a migraine.” No doubt there’s a bounty on her head as well. It’s like the Wild Middle-East out there, the new badlands, except with a circus-music soundtrack, not harmonicas.
While we shall never completely lose our passion for Bad Mama G. and Her Boys, now that Michele Bachmann has declared her candidacy, we cannot ignore her girly husband, Marcia. Marcia is old-school fagelah, honey. I mean, just look at this spectacular wrist action:
I am just waiting for the hustlers to step forward and out Marcia with tales of meth-induced marathon sex in sleazy motels rooms off the highway of some flyover state. Between the Bachmann Bacchanalia and the Miss Moosehead Alaska Show, there is going to be some fine comedy flying in the upcoming year. I doubt even Obama will be able to keep a straight face.
But, James, you ask, astonished, you’re over a thousand words into your first post after the New York gay marriage victory and no pronouncement? No rainbow flag waving? No gay wolf howling at the moon in glee?
Settle down. First off, the gay marriage issue is a worthy but foregone conclusion; it must happen because it is right. We are unequal under the law, period. Also, I’m ambivalent about marriage in general. I think the institution should be abolished, or relegated to some quaint tradition that has no legal weight, no effect on immigration status, inheritance, and so forth. However, as long as it is in place and carries so much importance in this country and most others, then we should have access to, and be protected by that institution on a parity with all citizens. When it comes to marriage rights issues, I’m far more interested in polygamist rights, as I’ve said before. That is a fascinating conundrum.
Likewise, I’ve always been ambivalent about the Amanda Knox case, the young American woman in Italy who was convicted of murder based on dodgy forensic evidence and hearsay. She just seemed so guilty, but this is turning out to be a bit of a Lindy Chamberlain, dingo-took-my-baby story: a woman is convicted on the basis of her sangfroid, her emotional aloofness, and some crappy police work. I’d say something snarky about the chaotic Italian judicial system, but then a flood of American judicial misfires just unleashed itself in my mind, so I won’t go there.
What gave me pause during Knox’s first trial was not the flimsiness of the evidence; the way it was presented in the press made it seem pretty solid that she and her boyfriend at the time were guilty as fuck. What threw me on a personal level was the fact she was represented by a childhood friend, Carlo Dalla Vedova. I just couldn’t imagine Carlo taking on a guilty woman’s case. That would be exposing not just him, but the entire Righteous Dalla Vedova Family of Lawyers. I know these people like my own family, because, well, they were almost like family when I was growing up in Rome.
Carlo’s father, Ricardo, was both my father’s attorney in Italy and one of his best friends. His mother, Lolly, a great wit and fabulous cook, was very close to my mother. When I say that Carlo was a childhood friend, I mean that he’s more like a cousin I’ve never been very close to because we’ve never had anything in common. Like all of the Dalla Vedova Boys (there are four of them), Carlo was exceedingly good-looking, smart, and the most serious of the quartet. Carlo and I are exactly the same age, but I was much better friends with his older brother, Marco, who had aspirations of becoming a photographer at one point, so we had the Creative Thing going on. I note from the law firm’s website that Marco has also joined the family practice.
So it was hard for me to reconcile Knox’s appearance of guilt with the fact no Dalla Vedova would have touched this with a bargepole if it weren’t a righteous cause. When the guilty verdict came in, first I commented on how Carlo must have gotten it wrong, then on how badly he’s aging, compared to what he looked like as a youth.
“Well, he has a lot on his plate, James,” my sister admonished tersely, with echoes of a girlhood crush for Carlo, which surprised me because I must have missed it way back when. “He’s obviously very stressed out by this whole thing.”
He’s also not a Ghey like me who frets excessively about his appearance. But my schadenfreude is completely forgiven: it was stressful in itself growing up not just in the shadow of the Dalla Vedova brothers, but having a not inconsiderable boyhood crush on them as well.
Reviewing the recent news, it’s good to know that in all likelihood Knox is innocent, and might be acquitted on appeal.
Finally, I leave you with this ad for Str8cam Lube, which I stumbled on in my forays into the nether regions of online Homolandia. This really puts the gross back in grotesque: