Category Archives: Arts & Entertainment

Women Can Be Funny, Too

A Feminist Sets It Straight

“I was a musical virgin until now,” quipped the eccentric, silver haired woman on stage.

“Have you ever heard the song ‘My Neck, My Back’?” she asked the audience. “I played it for a friend of mine, and her 16-year-old daughter yelled at me, ‘You can’t play that for my mother!’”

There was no silver bell tinkling laughter from the women in CCSU’s Alumni Hall; there were bold, thunderous shrieks and wails.

“Silver bell tinkling laughter happens when we’re around men,” Regina Barreca, author of “Babes In Boyland” and “I’m With Stupid” explained.

Acting out a man who had a terrible, absurd joke to tell, she then switched roles to the woman being forced to listen. Out of her mouth came a squeaky laugh that Disney princesses perfected.

Barreca, a professor of English and feminist theory at the University of Connecticut, is dedicated to focusing on women’s trials and tribulations, yet she fails in coming off too feminist. Barreca combines her wit and knowledge into a comedy routine that can make the most uptight woman or impossible man unravel.

“Real laughter from women has a slightly less feminine sound,” Barreca said. “Some definite signs are bust holding, mascara wiping, and the exclamation, ‘Don’t make me pee my pants!’”

Her topic of the afternoon was exploring women and comedy; how men find it difficult to believe that the opposite sex has a sense of humor. For 20 years, Barreca has investigated why men don’t find women humorous. Narrowing it down to three reasons, she showcased ridiculous pop culture references that, while men find them funny, women are turned off and reject them completely.

“Women don’t like the ‘Three Stooges’, the fart scene in Blazing Saddles, or Jackass: the Movie,” she said.

Mentioning the scene in Jackass when one of the men is walking over an alligator pit with a Perdue chicken in his pants, Barreca asked, “Can you imagine a woman putting chicken fingers in her brassiere? No, women don’t do it.”

While some women might contest to actually enjoying atypical male-driven antics, realistically it is because they want to be ‘one of the guys.’ There is nothing wrong in this, but women need to understand that enjoying it doesn’t automatically make them a hit at the water cooler.

“Men torture each other,” she said. “Women nurture. We don’t insult other women; we compliment each other. Then we explain why the other is wrong for complimenting us.”

Barreca explained how making things up is unnecessary in our everyday lives that are filled to the brim with hilarious anecdotes.

“Women make a story about everything,” she said nonchalantly. “We don’t tell jokes, we’re not genetically inclined. Women being forced to be funny is like cross-dressing.”

“We’re lying and being disingenuous to ourselves,” Barreca said, singling out her gender in the audience. “We try to minimize; we tend to think we’re too much.”

To be meek and modest is not in Barreca’s profession. When interviewed recently by BBC about the global economy, Barreca’s solution was simple: “Allow middle-aged women to spend money on clothes that fit them!” she said as a matter-offactly. “That will bring a flood of liquidity back into the market.”

A side note that sent the audience into a fit of gender seperation was the accusation that women can’t handle money.

“I googled ‘men can’t handle money’, but it just comes up with how women can’t,” Barreca said. “Haven’t we seen the former evident in the economy currently?”

Diverting her animated character into another story, Barreca spoke of an interesting moment in her life when she tried something just to have a comical story to tell. Living in London for two years when she was a young adult, Barreca was a freelancer, and had an attractive British boyfriend in tow. She was approached to be a contestant on a television show called “Mastermind”.

“’We’ve never had an American on before,’ they told me. ‘You’ll make a fool of yourself,’ my boyfriend contested. I accepted.” Barreca said. As they fired questions at a young Barreca, she realized she didn’t know the answers, and would utter ‘pass’ after each.

“They were watching this American girl setting herself on fire,” she told Alumni Hall. Sensing how uncomfortable it was, the show’s host switched subjects and asked, “What animal is a guppy?” “It’s a fish!” Barreca yelled at the top of her voice, and the crowd went wild; she said little old English ladies approached her in the supermarket the next day, fawning over her television appearance.

As embarrassing, awkward, or odd it may have been, Barreca wanted to reach out to the audience to urge them to do anything and everything; that life is just a series of hilarious anecdotes and situations. “It’s a story,” Barreca said. “Do it. Go out.”

-Karyn Danforth, Lifestyles Editor: ccsurecorder.lifestyles@gmail.com

The Recorder’s Oscar Picks

The dust has cleared and the curtain has dropped: it’s finally time to acknowledge the best of the big screen. 2008 was another exceptional year for films and on February 22 we’ll find out who takes home the big prizes for their hard effort.

After seeing every film on this list here I have consulted with my Magic 8-Ball and have chosen who I think should win and who will win each of the major awards along with a few quick picks for other notable awards. I’m leaving “Achievement in sound mixing” to the experts.

Best Picture Nominees:

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Frost/Nixon

Milk

The Reader

Slumdog Millionaire

Who should win: Slumdog Millionaire

Who will win: Slumdog Millionaire

If you read my gushing review a few weeks back of Slumdog Millionaire you’ll find this selection comes as no surprise. Slumdog seems to be leading the way with everyone. A potential upset can be had with Milk thanks for Sean Penn’s terrific performance. Frost/Nixon is a deserving dark horse candidate but it didn’t make an impact like Milk did. Benjamin Button and The Reader, both good films, don’t deserve to be on the list when exceptional films like The Wrestler and Doubt are nowhere to be found. Slumdog takes this.

Actor in a Leading Role Nominees:

Richard Jenkins, The Visitor

Frank Langella, Frost/Nixon

Sean Penn, Milk

Brad Pitt, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler

Who should win: Mickey Rourke

Who will win: Mickey Rourke

I know who should win, I just don’t know if the Academy does. Mickey Rourke’s performance as Randy “The Ram” Robinson in Darren Aronofsky’s The Wrestler was above and beyond most performances in 2008. Rourke took this brooding wrestler character and made it his own. On the other hand, Sean Penn practically channeled Harvey Milk and it might have hit soft political spots among voters who value sentimental films about human rights movements over wrestlers. Toss Brad Pitt’s name off this list, he doesn’t deserve to be there. Langella, once again, falls into the upset category with his intense portrayal of Richard Nixon. Jenkin’s film was too little seen and known to get the respect it deserves. In the end I think the Academy sympathizes with Rourke’s remarkable comeback. This is his shot.

Actress in a Leading Role Nominees:

Anne Hathaway, Rachel Getting Married

Angelina Jolie, Changeling

Melissa Leo, Frozen River

Meryl Streep, Doubt

Kate Winslet, The Reader

Who should win: Melissa Leo

Who will win: Kate Winslet

This was a tough one. Consider me a fan of the underdogs, but I would love to see Leo win this award. Her performance in Frozen River is what the film hinges on. She, like Rourke, also put herself into the character. When a film is over and you realize no other actor or actress would fit that role you just know something special was accomplished. That’s the way I felt about both Rourke and Leo. Unfortunately she has no chance with Streep and Winslet on the ballot. While both terrific performances, neither struck me the way Leo’s did. Streep would be winning for being one of the best cold-hearted nuns in film history and Winslet would win for taking off her clothes lots and lots of times and making love to an 18-year-old kid lots and lots of times. I think Winslet wins it by a hair. And yes she will cry if she wins.

Actor in a Supporting Role Nominees:

Josh Brolin, Milk

Robert Downey Jr., Tropic Thunder

Philip Seymour Hoffman, Doubt

Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight

Michael Shannon, Revolutionary Road

Who should win: Philip Seymour Hoffman

Who will win: Heath Ledger

This list is stacked. I have no doubts that Heath Ledger will pick up another well deserved posthumous award for his terrifying rendition of the Joker in The Dark Knight. Call it a matter of taste or credit it to my biased love for him, but I was amazed by Hoffman’s performance as a priest in question in Doubt. He’s one of the greatest actors of our time and definitely deserves to pick up his second Oscar this year. Both Brolin and Shannon excelled in their roles but will probably fall short which shows credit to the strength of this list. Ledger wins, don’t rip my head off for wishing Hoffman to get it instead.

Actress in a Supporting Role Nominees:

Amy Adams, Doubt

Penélope Cruz, Vicky Cristina Barcelona

Viola Davis, Doubt

Taraji P. Henson, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Marisa Tomei, The Wrestler

Who should win: Viola Davis

Who will win: Penélope Cruz

Deciding on best supporting actress is tough. All five women were good and deserving of the nomination they received, but none of them absolute stuck out as the clear winner. Viola Davis had the most powerful 12 minutes on film this year in Doubt, but will probably lose out for only being in the film for such a short time. In the end this award will probably come down to Tomei’s counterpart performance to Rourke’s wrestler and Cruz’s crazy ex-girlfriend portrayal in Woody Allen’s Vicky Cristina Barcelona. I suspect Cruz ends up taking the award home and I’m not really sure why. If I had my way Davis would walk away with this prize but I’m not feeling too sure about it. Call it a hunch.

Quick Picks:

Best animated feature film of the year: Wall-E

Best documentary feature: Man on Wire

Best foreign language film of the year: Waltz with Bashir

Achievement in cinematography: Slumdog Millionaire

Achievement in directing: Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original score): A.R. Rahman, Slumdog Millionaire

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original song): A.R. Rahman, “Jai Ho” Adapted screenplay: Simon Beaufoy for Slumdog Millionaire

Original screenplay: Dustin Lance Black for Milk

-Michael Walsh, Asst. Entertainment Editor

‘Frost/Nixon’ a Worthy Contender

One of the most significant historical events that I never learned enough about in high school was the Watergate scandal and the fallout left upon Richard Nixon.

Ron Howard’s Oscar-nominated film Frost/Nixon, a film adaptation of the stage play, delves into the now famous interviews between talk show host David Frost and the former president Richard Nixon. This dramatization of a series of interviews granted to British talk show host David Frost in 1977, three years after Nixon resigned from his presidency, plays like a back and forth cat and mouse thriller and a boxing match rich with suspense.

The bizarre thing is that with any knowledge of the subject beforehand, the outcome of this bout is already known. While this is true with all history-based films there’s something special about this one in particular.

This isn’t a retelling of a violent war. It is merely a series of interviews. What allows the viewer the ability to fall right into the film, whether they know the outcome or not, are the outstanding performances by the ensemble cast.

Frank Langella gives a seemingly uncanny portrayal of Richard Nixon. Langella does something unique with Nixon. He, much like the real Nixon, gave the audience a chance to feel sympathy for him during the interviews. In the end everyone, including himself, is able to see right through this facade of coverups. Langella’s performance is an award-deserving three dimensional take on Nixon. From the flawlessly replicated mannerisms to the sulking body posture to the profoundly deep and brooding voice, Langella’s portrayal of the former president will be considered come Oscar night.

To applaud only Langella would be to applaud only part of the team. Michael Sheen seamlessly loses himself within this out-of-place character of a talk show host. Frost was a man that at the time lived for the limelight. He was a man seen as more of an entertainer rather than as an investigative journalist. Sheen portrays both sides of this before and after transformation very well by effortlessly slipping into character.

Supporting performances such as Kevin Bacon’s stern performance as Jack Brennan, one of Nixon’s protective advisors, and Sam Rockwell as the determined James Reston Jr., one of Frost’s main researchers, complete a cast worthy of praise all around.

Frost/Nixon is a film that flew right past me. Once the film reached the second half, and more importantly the fourth interview, I was locked in my seated position and rarely looked away from the screen.

With the aforementioned brilliant and realistic performances, coupled with the stark reality of the dialogue, the film is as suspenseful as can be. Howard’s directing only adds to the mix as his up close and personal approach during the interviews locks the combatants down right in front of you never letting go until it’s all over. Every emotional portion of dialogue and facial gesture is perfectly captured.

For me to speak on the historical aspects of this riveting film would be for me to go over my head. I prefer to leave the history to those who know it best.

What I do know is that Frost/Nixon is one of the more compelling and entertaining films of its kind this year. The script plays like a stage play with its limited locations and focus on dialogue but none of that does harm to the film.

Frost/Nixon will undoubtedly get its shot when the Academy Awards are announced on February 22. Frank Langella, who led a strong overall group of actors, will no doubt be considered to win best actor with his powerful and moving performance that almost made me feel a drop of sympathy for the lonely Richard Nixon.

-Michael Walsh, Asst. Entertainment Editor

‘Frozen River’ Led by Leo

Some films need that extra jolt -that extra something that keeps everything together.

For the 2008 independent film Frozen River, Melissa Leo was just that. Frozen River details the struggles that two single moms face in northern New York State on a Mohawk reservation when the lure of fast money from smuggling illegal immigrants across borders is presented in front of them.

At the core of Frozen River, the directorial debut of Courtney Hunt, is a simple noir-inspired story about a single mom striving to provide for her two sons leading her to venture into the world of smuggling. It’s noir-inspired for its everyday person gets wrapped up in crime that’s far over their head for the lure of money and simple for its straightforward narrative and minimalistic feel.

In no way of denying Hunt for her tremendous debut in film, this film wouldn’t be what it was without the under-appreciated Leo. She makes the character of Ray Eddy her own the same way Mickey Rourke made Randy “The Ram” Robinson his own in 2008’s The Wrestler. Both actors took control of their respective characters and let the grief pour out of the screen.

What comes of Leo’s performance is the driving force of a thought-provoking character study centered on ethical decisions. Leo gives a certain life to Ray Eddy. So stricken with grief, it’s absolutely painful watching her strive so hard to provide a simple double-wide house for her two boys; something most of us might cringe at if told to live in.

With only one other performance sticking out (Misty Upham’s performance as the second single mom, Lila), Leo is absolutely essential to keep the emotion in the film alive. A lackluster performance in her role might have spelled disaster for a film of such nature. Again, with no discredit to Hunt, Frozen River hinges on Leo’s performance.

Frozen River is a beautifully heartbreaking film and there’s no other way for me to describe it.

While the film runs at less than two hours it is a rather slow moving film. It’s a stark character study of two single moms absolutely struggling to keep their lives afloat. Each has her problems and each is dealt with.

While Milk might be a frontrunner for best screenplay written directly for the screen at this year’s Oscars, Hunt certainly deserves all the consideration in the world for her gripping tale of despair, struggle and ethical decisions.

This film is a keeper if only for the performances of both Leo and Upham.

Leo is a dark horse candidate for best actress at the Oscars. Hunt’s minimalist cinematography is calming and keeps a close eye on the things that matter.

The story is simple but absolutely engaging and involving. Frozen River is one of the independent hits of 2008.

-Michael Walsh, Asst. Entertainment Editor