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Open Letter to the Horror Movie Industry

POSTER - HELL NIGHTHappy Halloween. My favorite holiday. And since I'm on a rant-roll, I thought I'd make a few complaints about the state of the American Horror Movie Industry.

I love horror movies. My favorites tend to be really creative ghost stories. But I have plenty of sci-fi horror flicks on the list, even some classic slashers. I even appreciate many things about Italian and Japanese horror.

Like the "American Western" or closed poetry forms (ex: metric verse, sonnets), there's an architecture of rules made to be followed or, for the more gifted artist, rules made to be broken.

Ever since the mid 1990s, I feel like I've been avoiding more horror movies than I’ve been watching: the formulaic slasher has evolved into the "apocalyptic masochistic slasher." I see this as the result of a decade of Gen-X irony. But as iconic writer David Foster Wallace said when I saw him at a reading in Los Angeles (a year or so before he killed himself), haven't we taken irony as far as we can? Essentially irony implies we don't really care. And how long can we not really care? Isn't it time to return to a little sincerity?

As much as I love the mose recent Japanese films, which are artful and scary, they are ultimately dissatisfying. Sure, it may be a cultural thing: American like happy endings. Europeans and Asians find those to be drippy and unsatisfying. Why should our hero always survive?

Due to irony and Japanese influence, no one has survived a horror movie in about 20 years. The movie Insidious was highly recommended to me recently as a very creepy ghost story. My last straw broke in the final scene where the whole cast will likely die at the hands of our hero, suddenly possessed…after all that freakin work to persevere.

Rob Zombie awesome looking, but again with the message that all the work one might do to survive is for naught. It this any more realistic than the hero always succeeding?

I’m depressed by these movies.
I’m bored by these movies.

I'm bored with the storyline of a parent who has lost a child and can’t go on (and doesn’t have the will or energy to fight the monster). Of course losing a child is THE worst storyline. But people did used to be able to survive it. Give them some hope of survival for chrissake.

I’m bored by the storyline of the ingenue who is smart and brave but will be undone by evil forces much larger than she is…just because. Just because what? Just because she's a girl?

This era of our lives: a bleak economy, hateful crowds, rampant narcissism, real lunacy, horror and abuse in people’s real lives: I want to see that horror can be overcome. I don’t want to be shown over and over characters who can never overcome in situations that cannot be overcome. 

Why would I keep watching this over and over again?

Snap out of it.

How thrilling was it back in the day? Back when Linda Blair made it over that fence (finally) in Hell Night? If she can do it...hell, we can do it.



Oh my God...three (THREE!) Cher books are on their way!!!

Now I love books. And I'm a Cher fan. So Cher books make me crazy!!!

Book1Available now: You Haven't Seen the Last of Me by Daryl Easlea and Eddi Fiegel. Found out about this book on the Yahoo list. It's only found at Barnes and Noble for some reason, not Amazon:

Daryl has also done books on Madonna and Beyonce. This looks mostly like a photo book. I just ordered it yesterday.







Female forceThe comic book Female Force Cher by Mark Shapiro is out December 27 on Amazon and at Barnes and Noble.

Cher News blog commented astutely that Cher's 90s hair and 80s costume on the cover don't match. I totally agree. I am chalking this up to the artistic privilege of the comic-book artist but there's a nerdy part of me that looks forward to finding these anomalies throughout the comic.

This is what Cher scholars do.





It looks like a new biography is coming May 15, 2012, Cher: Strong Enough by Josiah Howard.

This is a mystery book and it promises to be somewhat slim at 240 pages but is promising some "exclusive interviews with Cher and those she has worked with on- and off-stage."

Get reading!


Chaz's Last Dance

80sdanceFor admittedly personal reasons, I'm so glad Chaz's stint on Dancing with the Stars is over.

Because happily I've been having guests visit Santa Fe (my mother-in-law and sister-in-law just came for five days and my parents are due to arrive for ten days) and it's been hard to keep up although my mother-in-law is a fan of the show and we watched it after a trip to Camel Rock Casino...but I couldn't blog about it or vote last week.

Because these competition shoes are emotionally fatiguing...listening to the judges gripe, the dancers gripe, Hope and Nancy Grace gripe, watching Chaz dance with injuries due to the extra weight. I'm sure it must be hard for BOTH Nancy Grace and Chaz (even Ricki Lake says it's hard) to dance with extra therefore as a viewer you know this weight will set them back. The uncomfortable laws of physics. And the world of dance hates body fat (on men and women).  From my point of view as a woman who is sensitive about her wieight (and was anorexic myself at age 13), making jokes about a man's fat and not a woman's fat is a double edged sword. It's all fun and well for men to be heavy (implicitely acceptable and jolly) but it's a "serious issue" for women and one not to be joked about. This is why I think Ricki and Nancy were encouraged to lose pounds and Chaz was not. Is it really better for women? Is that why ballerinas are anorexic half the time? The issue is worhty of further debate.

Because that last show was rough to watch. Bruno Tonioli called Chas in his tux a "fuzzy penguin" and Chaz got pissed off: his face full of sweat and upset during the rest of the judging session (like he couldn't even hear the other judge's comments) and he was practically speechless during the vote tally, finally expressing his anger at the final sit-down, commenting on the double standard in judging weight between men and women. Which was all irrelevant drama sadly, because Chaz had done what he set out to do by making it into the top six, where arguably David, Ricki, JR and Rob are better dancers. Even Jimmy Kimmel got Chaz admit he didn't expect to win. I love Jimmy Kimmel, btw. So it was time to go, give or take a Nancy Grace.

I've also become addicted to Oprah's Lifeclass over the past two weeks and I wasn't going to mention this here (because everyone has their own opinion about Oprah and I'm new to the Oprah-craze) but Chaz himself tweeted that he'd been watching some of the classes too. And the lessons learned there surely pertain to Chaz's final experience on DWTS, which were unfortunately negative. The dance of 80s week was a triumph of fun and relatively good scores but Broadway week faltered when Chaz took on the character of Phantom of the Opera. The mask only obscured his charisma and his footwork wasn't to the level of the other contestants. Dancer Max was mean about it but he did speak the truth when he alluded to Chaz as he complained that Hope had been over-judged on technique and footwork when other contestants had been basically walking around the floor and getting a A for effort. Now I've been asking the voting-Gods to send Hope home for weeks now because of her inability to deal with not being number one, but that doesn't get Chaz off the hook for his sub-par dancing.

Oprah Lifelessons come to play here. Let's consider dancing itself. Chaz, do you really want to be a dancer? Seriously? Is this who you are? I thought the point of coming on this show was not only, as you said in your farewell, to show the world a different kind of man BUT to show the world that America's DWTS-voters would not reject a transexual man in week week week week week five. What a f*#king accomplishment! I so wished it could have been celebrated as such last night. Authentically you did above and beyond what you needed to do to that bum knee. Did the ego take over?

Chaz-bono-dwts-cherRemember Oprah's ego lesson. What are hurt feelings? You letting the ego take over. Why go on a competition show when you're feeling more confident than you ever have in your life? Why go on a show whose judges will eventually shred you for your looks, your weight or your dancing? Why put yourself out there for that inevitability? What was your true intention? I believed it was that your soul had a purpose that went beyond weight and dancing ability. The judges will say what they will say. It's their show (and Max's). But it's not their life to judge. And their comments are worthless at the feet of it. The first Oprah Lifeclass (and all of them, quite frankly) was transforming to me because I get my feelings hurt all the time. Was it Iyanla Vansant who said people's comments are just observations? Only you give them meaning.

By the way, the judges never said (or implied to my understanding of their comments) that you are a fat troll. Your own ego spoke those words. And that's the important judge.

Do judges comments affect votes? Maybe so. They gave very positive comments to Chaz for many weeks in spite of some okay-to-bad dancing and maybe that too affected voting. But unfortunatley it isn't about America's votes in the end (which is tragic because they kept a trans man in the show for six weeks) but about feelings and ego and weight loss.

John and I talked a lot about this last night. I wondered if the judges where confused about how to treat a trans man. John feels that Chaz getting angry over Bruno's comment did not make Chaz look good on national TV (it made him look like a sore loser) BUT it was a natural healthy male response.  John loved seeing a confident Chaz on the show but felt it was time for him to essentially "man-up" and admit he had gone as far in the competition as he was meant to go.

FinaldanceWhat's going on here has so much more to do with weight, dancing, gender and charisma. It's all mashed up together. Chaz is going through learning to live as a man and wanting to be treated as a man. And this is harsh but none of that is a dance-judge's problem. I don't care if the judges are assholes. This is Chaz's singular journey not theirs. And "feeling good about yourself" for any reason should never have been the goal of competing on a TV dance show.

John also commented that this show is harder for men because they must look like they are leading the dance. A good male dancer can make any woman look good because he can lead her around. It's harder for a talented woman dancer to make a man look good. John also said we all need to rewatch Oprah's show on the ego.

Bottom line: Chaz outlasted most of the show's hotties and I wish I wasn't so sad about the final week's drama. Carson Kressley left with ego-affirming grace last week. And he was a gawky, bad dancer. There's absolutly no shame in that.


Proud Mama Cher

10133920-smallI threw a small dinner party last week and could never find the time to blog. But last week was a good one on Dancing with the Stars. Chaz did a tribute to his dad by dancing to the 60s song "Laugh at Me" written by Sonny. Chaz even wore the fur vest. The cover version was odd in that it replicated Sonny's phrasing exactly...and included his spoken-word intro to Cher ("I never thought I'd cut a record by myself but I got somethin' I wanna say, I want to say it for Cher and I hope I say it for a lot of people").

Unfortunately, rumbas are boring. And although the judges always love Chaz's courage and find him inspiring, they said this dance was not his best performance. They said he seemed distracted. And yet they gave him his best scores of the season. Huh? In any case, he retained his spot as the lowest on board.

John and I just hope he lasts longer than Nancy Grace. I still don't fully know her story but she does not connect with the audience at all. She's in her own dance bubble. Last week Kristin Cavallari was booted off. My friend Julie surmised this was because she had that bad reputation from the show The Hills. I also thought she might be hurting by being confused with Chynna Phillips, who is good but John and I find her too perfect to root for. JR did the most moving dance last week and I was glad David Arquette didn't get kicked off because he seems so fragile, I worry he would cry. I've grown tired of Hope Solo but Ricki Lake continues to float like a dream.

Last week Cher tweeted that she would come sit in the audience to cheer Chaz and this week she did. It was movie theme night...full of songs that don't lend themselves to good dancing...especially the mission impossible song Ricki Lake was given, the Psycho theme. She pulled it off though. It was amazing. JR, Hope, Carson and David all did well but Chynna choked for some reason. I felt bad for her and thought she would be spared since she's one of the top-four best dancers on the show. Alas, she was booted off anyway. I hope she keeps on dancin' because she's a natural. John remarked that all the hotties have been voted off already. Is this an anti-hotti-conspiracy?

Cher's first few shots from the crowd looked stern (she tweeted she was nervous) but by the time Chaz finished dancing she was crying  and seemed to almost hesitate with the urge to stand up, which she finally did. The pictures tell the story. It was an amazing moment of pop culture. Cher in proud mama mode. So sweet and touching. Not a side of herself she gives us much (for reasons understood) but it pulls me heartstrings it does.

Apparently grandma Georgia, brother Elijah and step-mum Mary Bono also came. They got zero airtime. Cher sat next to ex-Mrs-David-Arquette Courteney Cox. To her credit, Courteney has been at every show. Every time they come on camera I think David, Courteney and baby Cox-Arquette made a very adorable albeit shaky family unit.

Chaz ended up moving up on the board when Carson earned the lowest score.

Cher's appearance became a media blitz in papers and websites all over the country. Even early-morning radio shows. It seems Cher sneezes these days and it makes headlines. It wasn't always this way.

Here's a typical story from US Magazine: Mom is moonstruck by her dancing baby!

As anticipated, Cher was in the audience at Monday's Dancing with the Stars to cheer on her son Chaz Bono.

Flanked by other family members (her mother Georgia, her younger son Elijah Allman and Mary Bono, Chaz's stepmom and the widow of the late Sonny Bono), the Oscar and Grammy-winning star, 63, chatted up the famous family of another DWTS contestant: Courteney Cox and daughter Coco plus Rosanna and Patricia Arquette (all cheering on David Arquette, whom Cher called "darling").

Beaming and watching intently throughout the night, the "If I Could Turn Back Time" singer got emotional after her 41-year-old son (the show's first transgendered contestant) performed with Lacey Schwimmer -- along with her mom and Mary Bono. "She looked so proud!!" a witness says. 

After the show, she lingered on set chatting with her family and other DWTS castmembers, and posed for pics with Chaz, Schwimmer and other family members.

So besides Cher, there were many other stars in the audience: Donny Osmond (who was on Cher's 1975 TV show with his brothers and on a Sonny & Cher Show with Marie), Dr. Phil (Cher's been on his show), Pee Wee Herman (Cher's was on his show too), Bruce Jenner and Mama Kardashian, Courtney Cox, Chynna's own Baldwin Billy, and Patricia and Rosanna Arquette (Cher and Rosanna both have a connection having both dated members of the band Toto).

The judges remarked that Chaz had improved and had fighter qualities (he danced to the Rocky theme). Judge Carrie Ann was crying too, saying she roots for Chaz because he's gotten under her skin.

On the results show, Susan Boyle sang "Unchained Melody" which reminded me of Cher singing that song as her first solo in 1965 as Sonny & Cher. That performance also showed Cher showing vulnerability. Like in her movies, Cher cries and we cry. Sure there's some art to showing us her tough chick side. But Cher seemed so authentic and moving rooting for Chaz.

Maybe there's a strategy in keeping that side of her rare like a pink panther diamond.

I'm just waiting for my friends to ask me why Cher is wearing an early-period-Madonna amount of bracelets, dread locks and an Indian blanket.

Cher Dancing With The Stars Cher







Cher...showing the gamut of emotions.

Cher's tweets after the show:


Last nite was GLORIOUS 4 me ! When Chaz 1st.decided 2 make the Transition I had fear,confusion & yes a little sadness,BUT LAST NITE I

I looked up at him brave! Giving 1001% & I thought ! U R BRAVE STRONG FEARLESS & LOVING PERSON BUT WHAT MOST IMPORTANT.. U R HAPPY !



That would be sweet!

Bric a Brac


Cher's new single, "The Greatest Thing" has turned into a duet with Lady Gaga. And the world is agaga waiting for it. It's being tweaked even as we speak. The new album is set for Christmastime but that sounds like a hard deadline to meet when they might still be recording tracks.

The movie Zookeeper came out on DVD and Blu-ray yesterday.

And Cher-scholar Rob sent me a great copy of Cher and Gregg Allman singing "Love Me" -- see screen shot above.


Chaz on Celebrity Fit Club

ChazcelebfitBefore there was this blog, I used to post Reality TV commentary on Ape Culture. We called it Celebrity Zoo. This is where we did the week-by-week commentary of Chaz when he was Chastity on Celebrity Fit Club season 3:
Check it out if you want a ride down memory lane. That was almost nine years ago!!
Look at those sconces. Did they film this show in Cher's house?