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08/10/2013

Weekend Movies: A Ticket To 'Elysium'

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Matt Damon has a gym membership but no healthcare in "Elysium"

BY NATHANIEL ROGERS 

In the future everyone has trouble finding good healthcare, there is no middle class, and Los Angeles is a cesspool. So far, so believable. By the future you mean next week, right? Dystopian fantasies work best when they prey on current fears and exaggerate like a mofo. ELYSIUM knows just where we hurt, aiming squarely for our have-not wounds. Though there is no direct talk of politics in Neil Blomkamp's action flick / sci-fi allegory, this 22nd century Earth is a place where the Right Wing have obviously long since won the political wars. The Koch Brothers and Friends, the "Corporations are People!" set, have vacated the filthy planet altogether to rule from afar and horde their wealth. They orbit the earth in mouthwatering luxury aboard the titular space station Elysium which spins like a pricey slo-mo hamster wheel (think 2001: A Space Odyssey. Add bling, swimming pools and golf courses), though it's undoubtedly the 99% who are powering it with their sweaty manual labor.

One such laborer is Max DaCosta (Matt Damon) who is foolishly hoping to 'work his way up' and buy a ticket to Elysium. He's an ex-con, though, and delusional about his future prospects. Even his childhood love Frey (Alice Braga), a stand-up citizen and steadily employed nurse can't afford to move there. In the future good health care is only available to the 1% despite technology so advanced that anything this side of death is instantaneously curable (think magic not medicine) and Max and Frey are out of luck. Socioeconomic mobility is as extinct as the weird animals that Max and Frey look at in picture books as children in flashbacks -- what the hell is a giraffe?

And also: why is Jodie Foster so pissed off??? MORE AFTER THE JUMP...

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Despite the obvious nature of Elysium's class divide allegory, which is cleverly fused to the equally hot button topic of immigration reform, the movie trusts that we'll keep up without the dead weight of political arguments. The movie never says so but there's also no such thing as Unions or Workmen's Comp or any other worker's protections in this awful future. All of which is very bad news for Max and Frey, who have rather pressing needs on Elysium and every intention of getting there. Jodie Foster as Secretary of Homeland Defense is NOT having it. She's so pissed at everyone that you'd think they violated her privacy as a celebrity and not just the airspace of her gated community. 

Elysium-copleycyborgThe 33 year old South African Writer/Director Neill Blomkamp made a rather seismic debut a few years ago with the Apartheid allegory DISTRICT 9, a DIY scifi blockbuster that looked far pricier than it could possibly have been and made money hand over fist alien claw in release on its way to four Oscar nominations. That's an unusual amount for a foreign indie OR a genre flick. For his second feature, he hasn't strayed far. The similarities in look and feel and sci-fi fury at human rights violation are omnipresent. The plots even share a sick protagonist who is losing his literal humanity though this time Sharlto Copley, who was so remarkable as the desperate hero in District 9, is in league with the baddies as a cyborg mercenary named Kruger. 

Unfortunately the battle over basic human rights versus privileged corruption is less than dynamically conveyed by the actors. The problem may be that both the "haves" and "have nots"  have not when it comes to personality. Damon and Braga are competent performers playing The Hero and The Girl but not much else within this context. Copley and Foster, on the other hand, seemed locked into an actorly contest of who can exude the most evil. Copley's inhumanity is wildly scuzzy, temperamental and over the top. Foster, though, plays EVIL in robotic all caps as if human nuance and shadings couldn't possibly penetrate her waxy synthetic heartlessness. But, oops, she's not the one playing the cyborg. On the whole Elysium isn't a match for District 9 and not just due to these characters. The fetishistic love of guns and weapons of mass destruction, which was admittedly even more pronounced in the earlier film, is a weirdly uncomfortable companion to this story's bleeding liberal heart.

Still, there's no denying Blomkamp's visual imagination and facility with high concept stories and big action scenes. His filmmaking team all do strong work and the film never looks less than great.  Elysium's MVP is the production designer Philip Ivey who brings real world-building allure from the shantytowns of Earth to the luxury of that coveted space station. The best touch is that Medusa-like insignia on the health care machines in every Elysium home; these machines cure everything but their hearts of stone.  

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Nathaniel Rogers would live in the movie theater but for the poor internet reception. He blogs daily at the Film Experience. Follow him on Twitter @nathanielr.

Posted Aug. 10,2013 at 5:23 PM EST by in Film, Jodie Foster, Matt Damon, Nathaniel Rogers | Permalink | Comments (16)


Norwegian Coast Guard Officers Show Off Their Bods and Boat: VIDEO

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Writes Jon Lind Omstad on YouTube:

"Once upon a time, on a vessel far far north, there were four brave souls who decided to make a short film about the daily events of their service in the Royal Norwegian Coast Guard. Viewer discretion is advised."

Watch, AFTER THE JUMP...

Boat

Posted Aug. 10,2013 at 3:47 PM EST by in Lip Dub, Military, News, Norway | Permalink | Comments (83)


American Fashion Guru André Leon Talley: I'm Not Gay

Despite making number 45 in Out magazine's 2007 list of the "50 Most Powerful Gay Men and Women in America," former Vogue editor-at-large and fashion guru André Leon Talley told Vanity Fair this week that he's not gay. He did admit however to having "some very gay experiences":

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When (Vogue contributing editor Vanessa) Grigoriadis asks Talley if he thought he was gay, even in high school, he responds, “No, no, no. I was just into my magazines and the drawings. I had a very strict upbringing, almost puritanical. I lived there all the way through college. I was in my grandmother’s house, and I respected that!”

Talley tells Grigoriadis that he rejects the “label” and says that, while he has “had very gay experiences, yes, I swear on my grandmother’s grave that I never slept with a single designer in my life. Never, ever desired, never was asked, never was approached, never, ever bought, in my entire career. Never. Not one. Skinny or fat. Never.”

Talley also tells Grigoriadis that he has never been in love with a man—only two women: one a fellow student in Providence, the other a society woman with whom he fell in love after a night of dancing in Manhattan and whose name he declines to share because she later married and had children.

On being single, Talley says, “I just said to a friend, ‘I can create this magic, so why don’t I have a lover?’” But, he tells Grigoriadis, “if I was a couple, I wouldn’t like to stay in the same bedroom. It is very un-chic in Europe to sleep in the same bedroom.”

In the same interview, Talley discusses his weight — “I do not weigh myself… I only know what I weigh from the way my clothes fit."

He also opines on whether his race explains why he's never been the editor of a major fashion magazine — “People stereotype you… What person of color do you know who’s in a position like that, be it a man or a woman, unless it’s Essence magazine?”

Posted Aug. 10,2013 at 2:52 PM EST by in Andre Leon Talley, Fashion Men, I'm Not Gay, News | Permalink | Comments (77)


New Musical ‘First Date’ Opens on Broadway: REVIEW

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BY NAVEEN KUMAR

An amiable yet thin new musical about the awkward trial in its title, First Date, with book by Austin Winsberg and music and lyrics by Alan Zachary and Michael Weiner opened on Broadway Thursday night at the Longacre Theatre.

Arriving on Broadway after its world premiere at the 5th Avenue Theatre in Seattle, the musical follows an unlikely pair through conventional first date milestones—including appropriate cocktail banter (keep it light), when it’s OK to mention your ex (never), and the precautionary bestie bailout call (always have an exit strategy). Spoiler alert: the check makes a cameo near evening’s end.

First date06Zachary Levi (Chuck) plays Aaron, a nice buttoned up Jewish Wall Street type on his very first blind date—kind-hearted, self-deprecating and anxious to please. In comes Casey, played by Krysta Rodriguez (Smash, The Addams Family), a prickly and gleefully jaded downtown girl with a taste for bad boys and a history of serial dating.

As Aaron and Casey navigate the occasion’s many landmines, their on-paper personas gain some dimension from musical asides performed mostly in their imaginations. Their fellow diners double as family members, best friends, exes—even clerical advisors—filling out their backstories while helping them belt out their judgments and insecurities.

The show is by turns amusing, relatable, remarkably cliché, and surprisingly whitewashed (Aaron’s deceased granny makes much musical fuss over Casey being a shiksa).

First date07Though clever at times, Winsberg’s story rarely surpasses its simple concept. Direction by 5th Avenue Theatre’s Bill Berry and musical staging by Josh Rhodes is likewise uncomplicated, moving characters seamlessly between musical asides, without particularly elevating the limp material. Songs by Zachary and Weiner are fairly catchy if not terribly original with a standout or two, including a number in which Casey takes down her tough girl exterior.

Levi is endearing and charming as Aaron, making his Broadway debut with a pleasant voice and natural comic timing. Rodriguez also delivers an assured performance, despite her character being the more slightly drawn of the two.

The supporting cast admirably fills out its cookie cutter characters—gay best friend, Stepford wife sister, frigid ex, etc.—though scribes leave little to no wiggle room for nuance.

Anyone who’s been single in New York (or anywhere, really) isn’t likely to learn anything new here—and (hopefully) most have been on more unpredictable and stimulating first dates than this one. 

Recent theatre features...
‘Harbor’ with Randy Harrison Opens Off Broadway: REVIEW
‘A Kid Like Jake’ Opens Off Broadway at LCT3: REVIEW
2013 Tony Awards Round-Up: Drag Queens, Pioneer Women, and Mike Tyson
'Far From Heaven' Opens Off Broadway: REVIEW
Place Your Bets: 2013 Tony Awards Predictions

Follow Naveen Kumar on Twitter: @Mr_NaveenKumar (photos:joan marcus)

Posted Aug. 10,2013 at 1:50 PM EST by in Naveen Kumar, New York, News, Review, Theatre | Permalink | Comments (0)


Hundreds Protest Russian Anti-Gay Laws in London, as PM David Cameron Speaks Against Boycott: VIDEO

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Hundreds took part in a protest against Russia's anti-gay laws in London today, Reuters reports:

Gathering in the British capital near the residence of Prime Minister David Cameron and the foreign ministry, demonstrators called for the government to push Russia to repeal the laws.

"Putin is the 'Czar of Homophobia'," veteran gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell wrote on his website ahead of the protests. "His regime has outlawed the public expression of LGBT (Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual) identity and affection - and prohibited the advocacy of LGBT human rights - in circumstances where a person under 18 might see it."

Clutching banners bearing slogans such as "Love Russia. Hate Homophobia" and rainbow flags, protesters called for a change in the policy that has attracted criticism from world leaders including U.S. President Barack Obama.

Watch a Sky News report on the protests and the UK's response to Russia, AFTER THE JUMP...

PM David Cameron responded to actor Stephen Fry's call for a boycott of the Olympics via Twitter:

Today Mr Cameron tweeted: "I share your deep concern about the abuse of gay people in Russia. However, I believe we can better challenge prejudice as we attend, rather than boycotting the Winter Olympics."

Posted Aug. 10,2013 at 12:47 PM EST by | Permalink | Comments (37)


Katy Perry's New Single 'Roar': AUDIO

Roar

Katy Perry's new single "Roar" has leaked to the web.

Listen, AFTER THE JUMP...

If the file is down, try HERE.

Posted Aug. 10,2013 at 11:47 AM EST by in Katy Perry, Music, News | Permalink | Comments (23)



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