Champagne in a Can

Sofia Coppola “canned champagne.” Yes, it really is the best thing in a can. Go buy it at your nearest alcoholic beverages depot now. It’s a tiny pink can filled with bubbly sparkling wine and even has a tiny pink straw attached, picnic-ready. So obviously, I drank all 4 of my 4-pack while watching the Oscars this year. Someone online said to me, “I hope it’s better than her movies.” And if you could hear a guffaw over the internet, I swore I heard one.

Susanne Bier got up there later and accepted the award for Best Foreign Film, awarded to her work, In a Better World. An intense lover of modern Danish film (it’s a specific type of love, I guess), I was shocked (thought Biutiful would win, honestly) but excited. I love all of Bier’s films and felt them all under-appreciated, so this was big. While she gave her speech, I cheered for her, alone on my couch, as everyone in the Kodak Theatre resounded in a unanimous, stiff and silent, “Who the fuck is this?”

Sometimes, I vote for someone in a petty or serious poll just because she’s one female choice out of a handful of male choices (Please note: Sarah Palin is exempt from this juvenile logic of mine). The “girl power” in me says this is not wrong at all, that it is actually 150% right, the most right I could ever be. The other part of me isn’t sure what’s so moral about blindly becoming the cheerleader for anyone with a vagina. But, sometimes, I do it anyway.

In the Barry Jenkins film Medicine for Melancholy, the main female character asks the main male character if he’s ever wondered what her t-shirt means. It reads, simply, “loden.” He shakes his head “no.” She explains to him that she does this for a living – she prints t-shirts with the last names of female directors on them. Hers in particular is a tribute to Barbara Loden, film actress and director of Wanda (1970). Mostly, this scene inspires me – women recognizing and honoring other women’s achievements, out in the open for all to see. It’s kind of cheeky, in a way. But then there’s the tail end of this whole sentiment, where I picture this young woman walking around in these t-shirts lauding lowercase last names that no passersby recognize or care about.

Jo (Tracey Heggins) and Micah (Wyatt Cenac) in Medicine for Melancholy

When Tina Fey accepted her more-than-deserved Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, she said poignantly: “I do hope that women are achieving at a rate these days that we can stop counting what number they are at things.”

Which leads me to wonder: If women’s achievements in predominantly male-dominated roles – especially in the world of entertainment – inspire and encourage a certain group of women, then does it matter if these achievements are whittled down to mere numbers or vaguely cool t-shirts to the rest?

Oh hell, let the men figure it out. Bring me some more champagne.

Trailer for Sofia Coppola’s New Film, ‘Somewhere’

The trailer for Sofia Coppola’s upcoming movie Somewhere made its way around the internet today, and the overall response seems to be positive. Even from people who claim they are not fans of Sofia Coppola. I am incredibly biased, I guess, because I’ve always been a big fan of Coppola. (Don’t even get me started on what I view as the undeserved general hatred of Marie Antoinette.) So of course, I think this new trailer looks darling – in that fluff-meets-profound-meets-utterly-cool sort of way that only Coppola herself can pull off with ease.

Wikipedia’s synopsis:

Stephen Dorff plays Johnny Marco, a Hollywood bad-boy stumbling through a life of excess at the Chateau Marmont when he receives an unexpected visit from his 11-year-old daughter, played by Elle Fanning. Their meeting challenges his lifestyle and forces him to make necessary changes.

Following her trend of casting blonde female main characters, I think it will be very interesting to see how Coppola directs the adult-child interaction in this story. Also, how sweet that her husband’s band, Phoenix, provides the movie’s soundtrack.

The film’s release date is set for December 22. And I don’t care what the non-fans say – which apparently is something like, “This one actually looks good” – I’m looking forward to Somewhere not only because it looks good, but because Sofia Coppola is a damn good storyteller who knows what she’s doing. Maybe this film will set the record straight.

Sunday Brief: On Sweets, ‘Marie Antoinette’

Is Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette partially responsible for the recent “cupcake backlash” and the macaron trend storming in?

Regardless, finding pictures of Marie Antoinette-clad Kirsten Dunst surrounded by expensive French sweets has been a casual fascination of mine for quite a few years now…Is that strange?

Favorites Revisited #2: Revamped Camp (or, Why You Hate ‘Marie Antoinette’)

Here’s why there are more people who hate Sofia Coppola’s “Marie Antoinette” than those who love it – You don’t know what it is.

I’m not trying to be condescending here, but it’s the truth. Whenever I hear someone go on about why they didn’t like the film, it’s along the lines of: “What is this movie, with no story and bare minimum dialogue and 80s post-punk music over an 18th century setting and cakes and macrons everywhere? It must just be a movie aching for a Costume Design Oscar.”

I’m writing this post to tell you that the movie is none of those things. Well, I mean, those things are definitely big parts in the movie, but that’s not what it is. I’ll tell you what “Marie Antoinette” is – Camp. It might be obvious to some, but more often than not, I think people are confused about what the film is trying to do or be. But trust me, it’s easier to like it when you look at it for what it is: aesthetic-centered, revamped Camp set in 18th century Versailles.

Don’t believe me? To keep things brief and avoid long-winded-ness, I’ll list some points from the Encyclopedia of Camp – Susan Sontag’s “Notes on Camp”:

1. To start very generally: Camp is a certain mode of aestheticism. It is one way of seeing the world as an aesthetic phenomenon. That way, the way of Camp, is not in terms of beauty, but in terms of the degree of artifice, of stylization.

5. Camp taste has an affinity for certain arts rather than others. Clothes, furniture, all the elements of visual décor, for instance, make up a large part of Camp. For Camp art is often decorative art, emphasizing texture, sensuous surface, and style at the expense of content. Concert music, though, because it is contentless, is rarely Camp. It offers no opportunity, say, for a contrast between silly or extravagant content and rich form. . .

38. Camp is the consistently aesthetic experience of the world. It incarnates a victory of “style” over “content,” “aesthetics” over “morality,” of irony over tragedy.

And finally…

13. The dividing line seems to fall in the 18th century; there the origins of Camp taste are to be found (Gothic novels, Chinoiserie, caricature, artificial ruins, and so forth.) But the relation to nature was quite different then. In the 18th century, people of taste either patronized nature (Strawberry Hill) or attempted to remake it into something artificial (Versailles). They also indefatigably patronized the past. Today’s Camp taste effaces nature, or else contradicts it outright. And the relation of Camp taste to the past is extremely sentimental.

I would like to let these definitions speak for themselves and draw their own connections. I believe Coppola’s portrayal of Marie Antoinette as a 1980s post-punk rock Material Girl is the essence of modern Campiness drawing on the past – as Camp tends to do (see #13). And the past of Versailles was almost too perfect to serve as the Camp backdrop.

That’s not to say that Coppola’s film is cinematically irrelevant. (And for me, this is where it gets touchy.) Of course one of the main purposes of the film is to be pretty. That’s Coppola’s whole film outlook – prettiness, shots through blades of grass, and Kirsten Dunsts lying outdoors in rustic white nightgowns. That’s what Coppola does. She cares about the beauty aesthetic. She chose film over the practical digital camera for Lost in Translation because digital wasn’t “romantic” enough. She wants to portray beauty and pretty things. Sorry, not to generalize here, but the men I’ve talked to don’t necessarily love this because they’re not used to it. Because 98% of the films we see are and have been made by men, not “girly” women like Sofia Coppola. Hell, who are we kidding? They’re hardly made by women period. But this aesthetic outlook should not be undermined in terms of art. Coppola said it best herself in her own defense: “You’re considered superficial and silly if you are interested in fashion, but I think you can be substantial and still be interested in frivolity.”

But back to Camp in particular – I think this whole explanation of what the film’s going to do is laid out right in front of us from the very opening shot. A French maid puts on Marie Antoinette’s shoes while the Queen sits amongst tables of cakes. The last we see of this shot is Kirsten Dunst licking cake off her finger and looking straight into the camera – breaking the fourth wall – with a devilish schoolgirl smirk. There it is. Right there. The whole film’s purpose revealed to us in one moment, and we missed it or forgot about it.  “The joke’s on you,” Sofia Coppola seems to say. The joke’s on you.