Category Archives: commentary

Second episode of ‘Feud: Bette and Joan’ raises stakes

The Other Woman thumbnailLast week’s pilot of Feud: Bette and Joan had our two Hollywood divas, Joan Crawford (Jessica Lange) and Bette Davis (Susan Sarandon), compete in pissing contests to see who is the biggest queen of them all. While Crawford has the cunning and the calculation, Davis has the talent and the skill (plus the commitment to the craft), which means that by the end of the first episode, when Davis triumphantly marches onto the set of Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? in full Baby Jane Hudson drag, she won the first round.

The second episode works to balance that out, by having Davis be more vulnerable. In “The Other Woman” things start off strangely: Bette Davis and Joan Crawford are on the same side. They form an alliance, understanding that they both are integral to the making of the film. It’s strength in numbers. Together they get a hot starlet fired, and show director  Robert Aldrich (Alfred Molina), that even though he’s the director, the stars are in charge. So, in an effort to undermine their united front, Aldrich plants an unflattering blind item in the press that cattily zeroes in on Crawford’s insecurity: namely, her aging beauty. Hedda Hopper (Judy Davis, still flouncing and crazed) is the author of the piece, but it’s Aldrich who creates it: allowing Hopper to write that it may have been Davis who bitchily sniped that Crawford wears falsies.

There is a great scene in the film in which Crawford’s car screeches to a halt, in her parking space, right in front of the sign that reads “Joan Crawford.” I thought she’d knock the sign over. Lange is great in the scenes that show Crawford’s fear and vulnerability, but she’s especially effective in the scenes in which she channels the legend’s rage. She approaches Lear-esque delusion, paranoia, and self-aggrandizement, in these moments, and she’s a terror to watch. She’s careful to temper any operatic moments, so as not to plunge into camp – there are no shades of Faye Dunaway in any of Lange’s choices. But Lange also gets to play Crawford’s more cunning side in “The Other Woman.” Stung by Hopper’s piece, she deftly manipulates the gossip columnist into siding with her, by crying poverty – and Hopper’s just dumb enough to believe it.

And because Lange is so great, Sarandon’s Davis feels like a bit of a struggle. Sarandon has yet to hit her stride in the same way her costar has; she hasn’t shaken of her Susan Sarandon-ness. It’s possible that she is worried about appearing too much like a drag impression of Bette Davis, but she rarely hits the fantastic highs that Lange does. Still, it’s a solid job, and in this episode, Davis is the one that’s losing. Not only is she starting to feel some of the insecurities that Crawford is feeling, but she’s also contending with her difficult relationship with daughter B.D. Merrill (Kiernan Shipka). B.D. is beautiful and young and is a constant reminder of the passage of time. Davis seethes when she sees B.D. be the belle of the ball at the studio, and quickly ships her off to main. Sarandon and Shipka have a great duel on a stairwell, in which the latter rips into the former: Sarandon’s great in the scene, but it’s Shipka that’s mesmerizing, proving that her time stealing every scene she’s ever filmed in Mad Men wasn’t a mere fluke.

Catherine Zeta-Jones is also back with her bizarre impression of Olivia de Havilland, along with Kathy Bates fun – if inconsequential – Joan Blondell. The two start blathering on about women’s lib and feminism, and though de Havilland believes that in the 1970s things are much better for women in the film business, Blondell quickly tamps her optimism down, gravely noting that things aren’t all that different.

But that’s what Feud is really about. Sure, on the surface, it’s about two Hollywood icons duking it out to see who will prevail, but the show is also about how Hollywood is a mean business to women “of a certain age.” Their work is judged alongside their looks, and if they are losing their looks, the perception is that they are also losing their talent. Aldrich exploits this sexism by playing on the vanity and insecurities of his stars, in hopes of gaining control of his picture. Initially, he’s won – but it’s clear that he cannot underestimate his opponents, nor can he celebrate too soon. He may have gained some footing by playing Davis and Crawford against one another, but he’ll have to be careful if he wants to maintain his authority.

If “The Other Woman” feels a bit like a step down from the fantastic pilot, that’s only because the pilot was so good and it managed to do so much in about an hour. Still, “The Other Woman” is stellar TV watching because Ryan Murphy knows how to put on a good show. And he’s wise to knock Davis down a few pegs: it makes the rivalry between she and Crawford more interesting, and it allows for Sarandon to delve into the complicated woman she’s portraying. Davis is the seeming epitome of no bullshit strength: so it’s a fascinating wonder to see her falter when she’s going through a musical number with Aldrich, unsure of her talent and worried about looking foolish. Again, nothing in this scene feels like Bette Davis, but Sarandon does great work here showing a less strident side of her character.

The next episode is entitled “Mommie Dearest” – wonderful because so far, Feud has managed to escape the looming, kitschy shadow of Mommie Dearest or its dubious legacy. And even though B.D. Merrill and Bette Davis had a strained relationship, Crawford’s relationship with her daughter Christina was downright catastrophic. When Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? was filmed, Christina was in her early 20s, already a traumatized survivor of her childhood at the hands of the gorgon-esque Crawford. It’ll be interesting to see how much Murphy and his screenwriters Jaffe Cohen and Michael Zam pay homage to the loopy Mommie Dearest.

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FX and Ryan Murphy create riveting drama with ‘Feud: Bette and Joan’ – a recap

Pilot thumbnail

Bette Davis (Susan Sarandon) and Joan Crawford (Jessica Lange). Photo from FX

Ryan Murphy is one of the busiest men in entertainment, creating anthology shows that roll out fascinating stories of crime, intrigue, or horror. His latest project is Feud, which centers on famous rivalries. In the premier season, Murphy zeroes in on Bette Davis and Joan Crawford and their infamous collaboration in the 1962 film What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?. Murphy’s muse Jessica Lange stars as Joan Crawford and she trades barbs with Susan Sarandon’s Bette Davis. The 8-episode season starts with “Pilot” in which we’re introduced to the start of it all. Murphy is a camp aficionado and a camp manufacturer, so it’s not surprising that he aims his talents toward icons like Davis and Crawford, both of whom achieved immortality because of camp. What is surprising is how invested the film is in the characters, and how interested the script is in making Davis and Crawford real people instead of outlandish cartoons.

Working with a script with Jaffe Cohen and Michael Zam, Murphy veers away from easy cliches about Joan Crawford and Bette Davis. Yes, the bitchery and the sniping is still there, but he leavens it with desperation and fear. In 1962, both Crawford and Davis were experience mighty ebbs in their careers: Crawford was struggling to pay her gardeners, while Davis was slumming it, in the theater, hamming away at a small part. The film industry – a notoriously sexist and ageist business – had little use of the two women, and this was played out in an early scene at the Golden Globes, where Crawford had to watch the then-It Girl, Marilyn Monroe collect a Golden Globe (“I’ve got great tits,” Crawford sneers, “but I don’t throw them in everyone’s face”).

In the face of such opposition, Crawford seeks out a role for herself. She and her trusty housekeeper Mamacita (a funny Jackie Hoffman) comb the libraries for stories about women. Crawford wisely sums up women’s roles in three categories: ingenues, mothers, or gorgons.” For some reason Henry Farrell’s 1960 novel Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? stands out – mainly for its title – though, if Crawford had read it up to that point, she’d realize that both Blanche and Jane are monstrous gorgons. But she’s hooked and wants to make the film.

And then Robert Aldrich (played by Alfred Molina) enters the picture. A b-movie director in very much a similar situation to Crawford and Davis, he hopes that Baby Jane will enliven his career, sputtering in a morass of tawdry flops. After convincing a very-profane Jack Warner (Stanley Tucci, playing bitchy very well) to distribute the picture, Crawford needs only one more element in her project: a costar.

Unlike Crawford, Bette Davis doesn’t tear through her life crippled by insecurities. Where Crawford is portrayed as paranoid and despondent, Davis is efficient and cold. While Crawford was a great star, she was a so-so actress who could pull off a good performance if coaxed by a strong director; Davis, meanwhile, was a brilliant actress – a skilled technician who often outclassed the material she was given.

But it isn’t just talent that sets these two women apart: it’s also class. Crawford has severe complexes because she believes people see her as jumped-up white trash who made good. Her slightly-vulgar Hollywood mansion has plastic on the furniture, while Davis’ East Coast residence is tasteful. These markers of taste and class weigh heavily on Crawford as she repeatedly laments throughout the film. Her goal isn’t just to merely stage a successful comeback. She wants something far more elusive: industry respect.

The film is presented as a flashback and is introduced by Catherine Zeta-Jones playing Olivia de Havilland (Davis’ costar in the Baby Jane quasi-sequel Hush, Hush…Sweet Charlotte). Zeta-Jones barely performs – though, she does get a great line, when a reporter asks her to comment on the hatred shared between Davis and Crawford. “Feuds are never about hate,” she corrects him. “Feuds are about pain.”

With that in mind, Murphy, Cohen, and Zam work to create a story that is not only about ambition but about hurt. Crawford is hurt that the film industry is tossing her aside. Crawford is hurt that her peers don’t respect her. Lange does a tremendous job in showing that pain, which never really is successfully hidden by her hollow bravado. Lange could’ve looked to Faye Dunaway’s operatic turn as Crawford in Mommie Dearest, but instead chose to create her own Crawford.

In fact, that is what makes Feud so successful. Both Sarandon and Lange look and sound nothing like the women they’re playing. But instead of working at imitating them – and the two could’ve just YouTubed draq queens doing Crawford and Davis – the actresses set aside accuracy, and instead chose to create characters from the script. Sure, there are stabs at creating physical similarities: Lange sports the Kabuki-like makeup of Crawford, but the actresses are far more interested in developing interesting performances than just to simply sound and look like their subjects.

And that is what saves Feud from being merely an empty camp bitch-fest. The expected one liners are still there – mostly served with relish and venom by Sarandon’s Davis. Also some of the supporting characters pop in with flamboyant turns (I’m thinking specifically of Judy Davis’ broad turn as Hedda Hopper).

As a piece of film history, Feud also works because there is great attention paid to all kinds of details. The sets are wonderful and beautifully-made. And when the filming of Baby Jane starts, viewers get a glimpse of what it looks like behind-the-scenes.

The plot of pilot has Crawford and Davis agreeing to star in the picture together. Even though it would be in their best interest to set aside any petty differences, they begin to snap at each other almost immediately: at a photo-op in which the two divas sign their contracts, they both go for the left chair (to get top-billing in the photo caption), with Davis prevailing (though Crawford looms over Davis’ left shoulder).

When filming finally begins, Davis has a meeting with Crawford and is seemingly supportive, telling her costar that she has the goods to put in a great performance – this disarms Crawford, before Davis spits back “But lose the shoulder pads and cut back on the lipstick. You’re playing a recluse who hasn’t seen the sun for 20 years.”

And though Crawford tries to ingratiate herself with the crew of Baby Jane with presents and a Pepsi vending machine (she’s the soda giant’s “brand ambassador”), Davis manages to upstage her with skill and commitment to her craft. Crawford is vain, worried about how she looks. Davis is all too happy to make herself out to a grotesque. In this script’s version of the events, Davis is the one who creates Baby Jane Hudson’s monstrous look: the tatty white dress, pitiful blond curls, and bone-white pancake makeup. Smearing the white greasepaint on her face, she gleefully turns herself into a horror, and her perturbed daughter B.D. (Kiernan Shipka) is aghast, asking “Do  you really want to look like that.”

But Davis is a pro. Crawford’s a neurotic mess who wants to recapture her glamorous youth when she was a screen goddess, but Davis – never a sex symbol – is more interested in doing the work itself. Though Davis is being a beast about it, she’s right. When the two sit in a screening room, looking at what they filmed, Crawford is immediately thrown into despair at how badly she looks and how much she’s aged; Davis, meanwhile is moved to a single tear (before she quickly wipes it away) because of her strong performance.

Legend has it that Davis and Crawford were horrible to each other, sometimes even resorting to physical violence. That these two over-sized egos are crammed into a single film set is fascinating to watch. Right now, the film seems to lead its viewers to feel sympathy for Crawford who is riddled with self-doubt. As the filming of Baby Jane continues, it’ll be interesting to see how the two will continue to work side-by-side, given that neither trusts the other.

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My favorite episode – ‘The Brady Bunch’ – “Will the Real Jan Brady Please Stand Up?”

My favorite episode is a feature for this blog in which I look at my favorite episode of a TV show I like. Some of the shows will be classics – Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, I Love Lucy, etc., and others may be shows that I personally loved, even if they haven’t endured or stood the test of time, like Ugly Betty, for example. I won’t go into the history of the show too much, but will give some context if needed – and I’ll also go into the show’s historical significance and if the episode is a much-beloved classic, I’ll also discuss that.

Image result for the real jan brady

Picture from CBS/cbs.com

Nostalgia does a weird thing to memories – it can make something awful seem lovely and interesting: case in point, The Brady Bunch. The campy “classic” TV show that ran from 1969 to 1974, it has become legendary in its cheesy badness. It’s difficult to pinpoint its enduring hold on pop culture. Some of it may be explained by nostalgia, but most of the show’s fans were born decades after the show went off the air. So what is it? One explanation is that it was a hermetically-sealed environment that seemed impervious to the turmoils of the outside world. During the run of the show, the country saw Vietnam, race rebellions, the surge of the women’s movement, Watergate. These were troubled times, and yet in the sunny, Day-Glo world of the Bradys, none of this managed to get through. It was really an aggressively-innocent show in which people loved each other, and were able to get past their differences in about twenty minutes.

For detractors, The Brady Bunch was saccharine dreck. That’s why I chose “Will the Real Jan Brady Please Stand Up?” as my favorite episode because it touched upon one of the show’s more complex and interesting characters:  Jan Brady. Unlike supermodel-hot Marcia (Maureen McCormick) or adorable Cindy (Susan Olsen), Jan – played by Eve Plumb – was caught in the middle, forever identified by her relationships with her sisters: she was always “Marcia’s younger sister” or “Cindy’s older sister.” This must’ve fucked up Jan’s head bad because a good source of the show’s actual tension and angst comes from Jan’s search for identity and self-confidence. When Jan fumes “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia” in one of the show’s classic lines, it’s a great peek into the frustrated pent-up outrage that resides in Jan Brady.

“Will the Real Jan Brady Please Stand Up?” is great viewing because for once, the show manages to shake off some of its Formica-stiff camp and actually function as a bit of story telling. Now, it’s not great story telling, but it’s solid, mainly because of the performance of Eve Plumb. Though Florence Henderson and Robert Reed did solid work as parents Carol and Mike Brady (and Ann B. Davis was a hoot as Alice), the six kids – the main draw of the show – were a mixed bag when it came to acting. There were some cringey moments throughout the show when the banal scripts pushed the children do to more than just stand there, looking groovy. But Plumb was a dark horse among the Brady bunch, because she actually could act.

The episode made good use of Plumb’s abilities, but it also told her story with surprising sensitivity, despite the central gag being Jan wearing a crazy black wig. Ah, the wig. In the theme song, the kids warble the premise to the show and introduce the girls and their mother as “A lovely lady who was bringing three very lovely girls/All of them had hair of gold.” So immediately, we get that these characters are partly-defined by their looks, mainly their blonde hair. So when Jan feels a crisis of self-identity, it’s natural that she works to destroy the main thing that makes her blend into the background: her hair of gold.

So inspired by a magazine ad, Jan skips over to a wig shop – staffed by future Edna Krabapple/Carol Kester, Marcia Wallace. Wigs are fun for a lot of people because they can put them on, and assume new personas. That’s why it makes sense that Jan turns to wigs to giver her personality a new twist. After looking through various pieces, she settles an on unflattering tight crown of black curls. In the priceless 1995 parody film, the wig is changed from a dowdy short cut to an impressively gargantuan afro.

Once her family catches her wearing the wig, she gets the standard “be yourself” lesson. And I gotta say, all of that is garbage, because being yourself includes altering parts of yourself that you feel need changing. The show was filmed in the early 1970s, so it makes sense that such pat, conservative bromides are spoon fed to its viewers. Folks weren’t encouraged to experiment with identity and appearance – doing so would seem like deception or lie. That’s why “Will the Real Jan Brady Please Stand Up?” feels like such a resolutely queer episode: we want the “real” Jan Brady to stand up, but we’re not quite sure who that is – and more importantly, Jan doesn’t either.

In a telling exchange, when confronted with the ugly wig, Jan insists that she wants to wear her wig all the time. When asked why she fumes, “I wanna be me. I’m tired of looking like everyone else. I wanna be Jan Brady.”

“But Honey,” Carol says in that plaintive, soothing way that she does. “Jan Brady has blonde hair.”

“Nobody notices that Jan Brady,” is Jan’s poignant response.

Mike pipes in by saying, “A person doesn’t make himself different by just putting on a wig.”

“It’s what’s inside that counts,” Carol practically coos.

It’s here where I think the show really peaks in its queerness. Jan wanting to be different and insisting that changing her outside will make her different, and her conformist parents telling her that her inside and her outside should match.

Look, I know it’s a stretch to say that this show can work as an allegory for drag, trans, gay, or any other queer/non-hetero identities – after all, this is The Brady Bunch, after all. But there are all kinds of queer pings throughout the show’s history and its legacy. Queer people – especially gay men – love schlock, and we embrace it. But there’s subtext, too. Knowing what we know about Robert Reed, it feels weird having him be the mouthpiece of this kind of mainstream, square kind of thinking.

The plot comes to a head in the last third, when Jan debuts her new look at a birthday party. Instead of being wowed by the new Jan Brady, her friends assume it’s a joke, and they laugh. The teasing is the kind of low-level, milquetoast roasting that would pass as bullying in a world as corny as the one depicted in The Brady Bunch. But it stings and Jan leaves (again, Plumb does some great subtle work here, letting her look of pride dissolve into confusion, and then hurt as she runs away).

At home, she tells her parents what happens, and she’s full of self-recrimination. It’s here that the show’s message of conformity really hit home, despite the nudge towards self-expression heralded earlier. Jan admits that she looks like “some kind of freak” in her wig, and blames herself for her friends’ boorish behavior – never mind that it was the kids who were laughing at her and acting like assholes. The narrative constructed is that Jan’s to blame because she was trying to be somebody she’s not.

As if this “lesson” wasn’t enough to bare, we get even further into gendered concerns, when Jan’s friends come to the door, hoping to apologize. Instead of apologizing for acting like jackasses, the girls appeal to Jan’s vanity, admitting that they’re envious of her long blonde hair. And just like that, all’s well in the world, because Jan’s identity as a blonde is affirmed (and is proven to be a source of envy among her clique).

It’s too bad that an episode that starts off so daringly ends up cliff diving into conformity so quickly. It’s too much to ask of The Brady Bunch to question notions of identity, I know. But still, this episode remains the strongest of its run because its problems present a darker, more complex side of the toothy family than what we’re normally shown. In fact, any episode that centers on Jan tends to be a stronger episode. A lot of that is due to Plumb’s distinct qualities as an actress, but a lot of it is also due to the writers seeming free to explore these weirder feelings in that character, instead of trying them in the Barbie-doll pretty Marcia or the Kewpie-doll pretty Cindy.

 

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Lifetime’s remake of ‘Beaches’ is an unfunny joke

Nia Long and Idina Menzel star in ‘Beaches’

Lifetime original movies are really a trip now, aren’t they. Once a haven for out-of-work TV actresses who flexed their acting muscles playing all kinds of abused/victimized women, Lifetime has since branched out, churning out tabloid trash biopics/docudramas and is now also working on remaking campy, soapy melodramas from the 1980s. First we saw a reasonably successful take on Robert Harling’s Steel Magnolias, and this past season saw Lifetime’s post-millennial take on Beaches.

The intended audience for this remake will probably have already seen the movie a million times, own the DVD, and the CD, and have memorized every line of “Wind Beneath My Wings,” so I’m still a little unclear as to why there was a need to remake Beaches. Also, the Gary Marshall original – released in 1988 – is an exceedingly mediocre film, and in no way was an update needed, as the original did what it set out to do: make women viewers and gay male viewers cry.

And as absurd, tawdry, and overblown as the original was, it had a major selling point: Bette Midler, in a tailor-made vehicle. She didn’t so much chew the scenery as chop down on it, like Ms. Pacman. The C.C. Bloom character – a raucous, campy, torch singer with a bawdy sense of humor – was a perfect fit for Midler, and really it was just an extension of her concert persona. The movie gave Midler a chance to sing, vamp, crack jokes, and just be a terrifying whirlwind of emotion.

In the new version, Midler is replaced by Idina Menzel, Tony-Award winning singer-actress, known for her turn as Elphaba in Wicked. And though she has the singing chops, her C.C. is distressingly boring and blah. She lacks Midler’s queer/camp persona and screenwriters Bart Barker and Nikole Beckwith aren’t sure how to figure out their version of C.C. There are visual cues that she’s a misft – her hair is wild and crazy, and her apartment is messy. But otherwise, Menzel’s performance lacks the charisma and star power of Midler’s.

And then there’s the best friend role, Hillary. In the original, poor Barbara Hershey was hired to be beautiful and to bravely brace herself at the onset of Hurricane Midler, before dying to the bathetic strands of “Wind Beneath My Wings.” In the new version, Nia Long gets saddled with the thankless job of being C.C.’s wind beneath her wings, and though the actress tries to inject some life into the role, she’s constantly thwarted by a script that wants to force her into rote cliches.

Besides the blah casting, there’s also the weird fidelity to the original. Very little is done differently in the new version of Beaches, except some shuffling of events from the original. There are even echoes of some of the lines (none of the funny ones, though). The new film does nothing to update the film, save dress its heroines in contemporary clothing and have Minzel belt some already-dated AC/pop tunes (the less said about her reaching cover of “Wind Beneath My Wings” the better)

The theme of the story is about friendship – long-lasting friendship between two women that begins in childhood. The friendship begins on a Venice Beach boardwalk, with a 10 year-old C.C. busking for coins, and an awestruck Hillary watching. In the original, we have Mayim Bialik – who seemed born just to play Bette Midler as a child. Bialik was able to mimic Midler’s Borscht Belt/Catskills schtick perfectly. In the new version, we have the pretty Gabriella Pizzolo, who kinda-sorta looks like Menzel. Pizzolo does what she can but she’s not given much – the writers rush through the childhood scenes, so that we get Menzel and Long right away. In half an hour, so much happens! Childhood, marriage, divorce, and then we finally settle into the meat of the film, in which C.C. and Hillary profess their undying love for each other.

Throughout the film, I wondered just how the producers convinced such classy actresses like Nia Long and Indina Menzel to star in such schlock (I’m hoping each got such a huge payout for this thing that they can now buy private islands). The writing is superficial, glossing over any real examination of the friendship, and there isn’t a trope that the writers can’t resist: even if you haven’t seen the original, the minute Nia Long stops for a second to catch her breath, you know not to get too closely attached to her.

Of course the ending of the movie is supposed to be this huge emotional crescendo – the one where you reach for your Kleenix. But the film as a whole is so manipulative and cheaply-made, that instead of sadness or catharsis, there’s relief – finally, the movie’s over. There’s so little to recommend in this nonredeemable exercise in mediocrity. The actresses – so much better in other projects – flounder and looked confused because of the subpar material. The writing is paper thin and the recycled bits from the original just remind viewers of how much better the older movie was (and that’s not saying a whole lot). The only thing this film has got going for it, is the sets are sometimes pretty (the beach house C.C. and Hillary share is very pretty – the Hollywood mansion C.C. enjoys as a big time pop star is a tacky monstrosity, complete with an even tackier white piano).

The original Beaches is camp – it’s hokum, but camp. The new version – strangely amateurish, and feeling like a cheapo rush job, fails as camp and merely settles into crap.

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Renée Zellweger is incandescent in third installment of ‘Bridget Jones’ franchise

Bridget Jones's BabyIn my opinion, there’s nothing sexier than a beautiful, confident woman basking in middle-age glory. In the third installment of the Bridget Jones series, Bridget Jones’ Baby, Renée Zellweger is a glorious goddess. Beautiful, smart, and witty, this Bridget is far more self-assured than the hapless heroine of Bridget Jones’ Diary (2001) or Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason (2004). And Zellweger plays her with dignity and maturity, even in the more slapstick moments (such as falling face first into a mud puddle, or being carried awkwardly by two men while in labor). While the third film is not the classic the first one was, it’s light years ahead of the mediocre stumble of the second film.

Bridget Jones fans will realize that unlike the first two films, the third isn’t based on a novel. Helen Fielding’s third Bridget Jones novel, Mad About the Boy has a different tone and plot surprises that may alienate some fans. Instead, Fielding teams up with comedic writer Dan Mazer and Renaissance woman Emma Thompson (who has a hilarious cameo as Bridget’s dry ob/gyn) for a wholly new story that has Bridget dealing with pregnancy and romance.

Colin Firth returns as the taciturn and terse Mark Darcy, the man that seems so right for Bridget, yet so wrong. As in the first two films, Mark is often frustratingly stiff and uptight. Like Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice (the inspiration for Fielding’s works), Mark hides his feelings beneath a hard shell, constructed for self-preservation.

After a chance meeting at a funeral, Bridget learns that Mark is engaged to be married. We learn that in the ensuing decade after Edge of Reason, Bridget and Mark had an on again/off again relationship which has ended sadly. Instead of wallowing in self-pity, as she would’ve done in the first film, Bridget moves on with her life, partying with her work chum, TV host Miranda (Sarah Solemani), at a music festival. It’s here that we get most of Zellweger’s flair for physical comedy, as she stomps through sodden fields of mud in inappropriate white pumps, before face planting in a field of mud, only to be rescued by handsome American Jack Qwant (Patrick Demspey, charming). The two have a one-night stand, and Bridget leaves happy.

The rom-com gods have Bridget reunite again with Mark at a christening, in which she discovers that he’s leaving his wife. The two share a magical night and make love, and it’s lovely.

That is until she finds out she’s pregnant. The big mystery of the film is who is Bridget’s baby daddy, Mark or Jack? Both men are dreamy candidates and for Bridget it’s an embarrassment of riches.

Fielding, Mazer, and Thompson put together a funny film that manages to be appealing and light, despite its potentially-appalling premise. Though the summary sounds like a British take on Maury, it’s all handled with grace and dignity. And the movie’s funny. Funny as hell. There are great one-liners and even the most absurd situations (Bridget going into labor) are written with humor that we can overlook some of the implausibility.

At the center of it all is Renée Zellweger, who is gifted with a fantastic role, and matches it with a beautiful performance. Her Bridget is slightly bruised and her maturity gives her a hard-earned gravitas. There’s also a lovely poignancy to the performance – Bridget is going through a lot, being pregnant and single (and going through a “geriatric” pregnancy as she’s reminded repeatedly throughout the film), and there’s a slight feeling of melancholy to a middle-aged Bridget. She’s lived a lot and seen a lot and is better for it.

Being a thoroughly British comedy set in contemporary times, there are gentle nods toward the current climate in the UK – most notably in the characterization of Bridget’s mum, Pamela (Gemma Jones). Running for local office as a conservative, she quickly shifts to the left when learning of her daughter’s situation, embracing diversity and becoming a liberal candidate instead. This feels a bit like wishful thinking, but it’s a good way to remind viewers that Bridget Jones is a symbol and heroine for the underdogs: for the single girls, for the heavy girls, for the queer boys, for anyone who feels a bit left out.

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Christmas in New York 2016

Image may contain: one or more people, night and outdoorAh, Christmas in New York. I always dreamed of going to New York for the holidays. Whenever I watched the Christmas episode of Saturday Night Live, I’d pretend that I was one of the skaters doing triple luxes on the skating rink at Rockefeller Center. Or I’d imagine seeing the windows at Macy’s, chomping away on a pretzel or a bag of chestnuts. Christmas in New York always seemed magical to me. I loved watching the Christmas episode of Sesame Street, and as a kid, I’d pretend that I would also be spending the holiday in Gotham.

This past Christmas – thanks to my mother – I was able to spend Christmas in New York. For the past few years, my mother has been working with a large corporation to open a number of hotels throughout the United States, mainly in Los Angeles, Miami, and New York (one year, during Hurricane Sandy, my mom was working on a property, and had to drag in the patio furniture by herself). Because she was an employee, she was able to get us discounted rates for New York City, and my partner, my mom, my cat, and I flew out to New York City on the 23rd of December for five days.

December 23, 2016

The day of our departure, I had to indulge in my ritual before flying. I have a severe fear of flying. It’s not bad enough to where I avoid flying airplanes, but it’s bad enough that I have a lot of prep work before I go. I even wrote about it. Because our flight was at 10:00 am, we had to leave the house at 7, which meant getting up at 6, which is something I’m averse to doing if it can be helped. I’m not sure what I was unhappier about, getting up at the crack of dawn or having to fly.

For our trip, we decided to take Bingley, our two year-old cat with us. This decision wasn’t easy and we hemmed and hawed quite a bit. Initially, I suggested we simply board him, but my mother and partner both looked at me as if I suggested we throw him in the garbage. After doing some research we learned that traveling with a cat is pretty easy. You call ahead and pay about a hundred bucks and you can stick your furry feline friend underneath your seat (in a carrier, of course).

Bingley is both an asshole and a Siamese cat, which means he screams a lot, tears into things, knocks shit over, and is basically a big piece of crap. We took him to the vet who gave us some tranquilizers, advising us to only give Bingley half a pill. It’s funny because like Bingley, I too was drugged up for the flight, so that I wouldn’t panic and go nuts on the plane, either. Similarities!

Because it was the holidays, the airport was fairly crowded, but the folks there are on top of everything, and we didn’t have to wait too long before an employee spotted our carrier and directed us toward a super-fast line, for folks with wheelchairs, kids, animals, etc. The only thing was I had to take Bingley out of his carrier to pass through the metal detectors, and he clung to me like Velcro out of sheer terror of being in a strange and unfamiliar place. Despite being drugged, he was quaking and practically climbed over my shoulders in panic. I was able to quickly pass through the detectors and shove him back into his carrier.

Our flight was very smooth. For our in-flight entertainment, we watched How Murray Saved Christmas, an animated Christmas special boasting the vocal talents of Jason Alexander and Sean Hayes. I couldn’t hear said vocal talents because I packed up my headphones (something tells me I wasn’t missing much). Instead, I just sort of, passed out from the pills, and slept through the hour and half before we landed with a big thud (so big, the coke I was drinking became airborne) in LaGuardia.

A quick side story about LaGuarida. Some ten, fifteen years ago, I took a trip to New York with my best friend for Thanksgiving. Budget and still-fresh 9/11 jitters prompted us to take a Greyhound to New York City. We were able to secure a cheap hotel room in New York City – but not in Manhattan, but the LaGuardia Wyndham in Queens. The bus ride was almost 20 hours long, and we knew we were facing another 20-hour trip back home, and staying next to an airport, it felt like the airplanes were mocking us with their hour and a half travel time to Chicago.

Anyways, so we get to New York exhausted and a touch stinky because, let’s face it, airplanes stink. The hotel was across the street from Madison Square Garden in the heart of Manhattan. I loved the area. It was loud, crazy, and insane. Every street corner had some guy hawking Middle Eastern food, and the lights from the jumbo screens on MSG made the area seem like daytime 24/7. The hotel was lovely, but there was a bit of a snafoo when we brought Bingley, because the folks there weren’t prepared for a cat. Even though we called ahead, we were welcomed with open arms but furrowed brows. Before we made our way to the room, the front desk clerk assured us that we’d get some supplies for Bingley – all we needed were two bowls and a litter tray.

As we were settling into our room – which was really cute. It had a large queen bed, a small seating area, and a tiny alcove with a writing desk. Our view was a partial view of the entrance to MSG and Penn Station, as well as the side of the neighboring building. The bathroom was really an upright coffin with indoor plumbing. As we were getting comfortable and unpacking, I noticed that we still weren’t getting any litter boxes or anything, so I phoned housekeeping, and a nice lady heard my request and said somebody would be there in about ten minutes. Bingley was still imprisoned in his carrier, barely making any noise, traumatized by the whole move (I don’t blame him), so I was eager to get the litter box so that we could let him roam the room.

After ten, fifteen, then twenty minutes, I called again, and another nice voice, this time apologetic told me they had nothing for cats. She suggested bringing up a cardboard box, which would be disgusting, so I thanked her and announced to my partner that we would have to make other arrangements. Thankfully, across the street, Penn State had a Duane Reade (Walgreens for you Midwesterners), so we were able to stock up on food and litter for Bingley. The problem was we couldn’t find a litter tray. My mom pulled out a Pyrex baking dish and suggested we use that. I thought she was kidding, but after looking for other less-weird options, we were stuck with buying a Pyrex casserole to put our cat in.

We laid out a tarp of Duane Reade bags all over the bathroom floor, at the foot of the shower, and put down the dish, filled with litter. We opened the carrier and Bingley was smushed in one corner, half-dazed, half-terrified. We pulled him out, and he clung to the sides of the wall, crawling, like the the chick from “The Yellow Wallpaper.” He found a plastic bag and burrowed underneath it. We pulled him out and took him to the bathroom and left him in there. There was s sense of deja vu because that was what it was like when we first brought him home. We put him in the bathroom, left the door ajar, and hoped he’d walk out on his own.

Since it was late afternoon by the time we showered and rested, we decided to go to dinner and then MoMA, which was open late that Friday. We ate at Ruby Tuesdays – a place I never patronized before. Because this was Bloomberg’s New York, all of the menu items had their calorie counts. The food that was high in sodium had a tiny icon of a salt shaker, and practically everything on the menu had a tiny salt shaker, except for a chicken dish with mushrooms and cheese (I’m glad there was no icon of a cholesterol-ridden vein).

Even though I was tired, I loved MoMA, and wished we had more time. It was open until 8:00 pm, so we had about an hour and some change to explore. I got to see Van Gogh’s The Starry Night and Rousseau’s The Sleeping Gypsy. It’s strange seeing work that’s been reproduced ad nauseum, because even though the images are very familiar, it still feels off to see the actual work. The Van Gogh piece was surrounded by tourists, all armed with their phones, snapping away. We also got to see Basquiat’s Glenn – Jean-Michel Basquiat is probably my favorite visual artist, and I’ve seen reproductions of his work (and own t-shirts and posters of his works), but still it was a thrill to see the work in person. I took lots of pictures (but I’m not sure how copyright works, so I won’t post them online). We also got to see Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup Cans (which I think I saw at the MCA in Chicago during a Warhol exhbition – but I could be wrong).

Once we got back to the hotel, we chilled on the couch for a bit, reading, and Bingley started to peak his little head out of the bathroom, and carefully and daintily walked into the room, sniffing around. He looked at the different, unfamiliar corners and jumped on the new furniture, before settling cautiously on the couch with us. He was purring loudly, though he wasn’t vocalizing as much. Still, he was out of the bathroom and looked settled.

That night we also learned about Carrie Fisher’s heart attack. The initial reports were that the heart attack was massive, but that she was stabilized. I hoped she’d be okay. I still YouTube her crazy interviews.

December 24, 2016

Christmas Eve in New York. I woke up excited because it was really Christmas in New York. It was also, like, 60 degrees, so we wouldn’t have a white Christmas, which was fine with me, because the bulk of our trip was spent walking around the streets of Manhattan, so the warmer weather suited us.

Because my mom is a periodic New Yorker, she knew the ins and outs of Manhattan, and so we found ourselves plunged into the thick crowds. Sometimes I wished we had those little pennants like the tourist groups had, because there were times when we got separated from each other.

For lunch we supped at a deli and had paninis – my mom and my partner and Cuban sandwiches, while I had a chicken cutlet panini. We then forged ahead walking to One World Trade Center. The last time I was there was just a couple years after 9/11 and it was just a large, gaping hole in the ground, with construction crew. Hawkers were selling cheap photo albums taken of the attacks. I hadn’t been back to New York since, so to see it as built up as it was, it was very impressive.

We also went into St. Paul’s Chapel, which is the oldest surviving church in Manhattan. We couldn’t go through the church yard, but we were able to stop in, and we were just in time to see a small congregation, with children getting ready for a Christmas pageant. I remember when we did Christmas pageants as a kid – our costumes were charming – if homemade. When I played a shepherd, I wore an old witch costume with a tea towel on my head. The kids who were sheep had pillow stuffing taped to them. The kids at St. Paul’s were turned out – their costumes looked Broadway-level professional. We didn’t get to sit for very long, because my mother wanted to see the Statue of Liberty and the War Memorial, so we dashed around Battery Park in the dusk, before hopping in a cab and making our way to the East Village to eat at Velselka.

The line at the restaurant was almost out-the-door, and as we tried to get in, we heard two hardened old ladies grouse about the place. “You don’t want to go in there,” one of the ladies sniffed dismissively. “That place is too cramped, the tables are too close, and they rush you in and out.”

We waited for twenty minutes before being shown to our table. Velselka is a popular spot in the area, not just for Eastern Europeans, but for East Village hipsters, too. Lots of handle bar mustaches chomping down on pierogies. We didn’t order the Christmas dinner, and instead broke with tradition and had meat – gasp – for Christmas Eve (a big no no in the Polish Catholic community). I had hunters stew, which can be best described as Polish kimchi. Fermented cabbage served with Polish kielbasa. My partner and my mother both had goulash. We even had apple pie for dessert. Stuffed like crazy, we hopped into a cab and went home for the night.

December 25, 2016

Christmas day in New York and it’s still crazy and busy. I thought it’d be a little quieter and I thought the shops would be closed, but for the most part everything was still open and people were still walking around. We went to Times Square again. In the day time, Times Square looks different –  less manic. I know hip New Yorkers hate Times Square, and I know that it’s the epitome of our culture’s devotion to consumerism, but I love it. The bright LED and neon is beautiful to me. It’s like stepping inside of a kaleidoscope. Times Square reminds me of Oxford Circus with its lighted signs for Coke and McDonald’s. It’s trashy and ridiculous, but there’s something beautiful about it, too.

We went to Central Park for most of the day and strolled through the park. We passed by the Central Park Zoo. We didn’t go inside, but from the gate, we saw the seals in their enclosure, jumping out of the water and entertaining the guests. It made me think of the seals at Lincoln Park Zoo, who just sit on the rocks like big, blubbery lumps. We moved passing by the Alice in Wonderland statues and sitting by a lagoon. There we saw a lady with two greyhounds (each dressed in fancy coats). One greyhound was blind (its eyes were milky white), but it knew how to get around. A couple passed by with a tiny Yorkie that had a leg cast. She was very friendly and ambled over to us. The guys told us they named her Ladybird after Ladybird Johnson. Ah, family….

We moved on to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, but it was closed. As we waiting for the light to change, we saw a guy in a cool roadster. We started to get hungry and walked to Heidelberg Restaurant – my mom’s favorite German restaurant in New York. The place was insanely crowded, but we managed to get seats – except, we were warned that they had upcoming reservations, and we were only allowed to stay for a couple hours. I ordered a sausage plate, while my mom and my partner both ordered Wiener Schnitzel. The waitress had to wear a dirndl and my glass had lipstick on it, but otherwise, the food was fantastic. I ate so much, that I thought I’d pop like an overfed tic. We staggered out of the place, and my mom thought she knew of a deli, but it was closed, so we did some more walking, looking at the elegant hotels. We wandered over to the Carlyle Hotel. I loved the Carlyle Hotel mainly because Elaine Stritch was a resident artiste there, performing in its piano lounge. In the Elaine Stritch documentary, Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me, we got to see Stritch performing and living in the Carlyle (her room was tiny and not very pretty).

As per usual, we did a lot more walking, a lot more pining for the beautiful lives that people led in New York.

In the evening, we ordered in Chinese food and relaxed.

We also found out that evening that George Michael died. I was gutted. I loved his music and was looking forward to the re-releases of his Faith and Listen without Prejudice albums. 2016 was being very 2016.

December 26, 2016

Boxing Day – at least in Canada and in the UK. This was our day of shopping. We went to the Strand, we went to UNIQLO, we went to Bolton’s. We ate Polish food – which was very exciting for me, because I don’t get to eat a lot of Polish food at home in Chicago. I know, a shocker, given that there are billions of us Poles roaming the streets of Chicago, but all of the good Polish restaurants are hella far in the West or South side, so unless I’m visiting my dad, I don’t get to eat much Polish food.

First, I’ll write about the Strand. What can I say about 18 miles of books. I’m an atheist, but I had a tiny peak of heaven being in the strand. It was gorgeous. Three floors of books. Even though it was stacked with people (it was a bit nuts), I still had fun, strolling the aisles and picking up books. A nice employee armed with tote bags saw me and handed me a tote bag so that I could unburden myself of my choices. It was great, and if I wasn’t with people, I could’ve stayed there all day. I didn’t even get a chance to look at the food literature because a bunch of store workers were having an impromptu meeting at the bookcase, and I didn’t want to linger. So, I bought:

  • You’re Better Than Me: A Memoir by Bonnie McFarlane
  • Kissing Bill O’Reilly, Roasting Miss Piggy: 100 Things to Love and Hate About TV by Ken Tucker
  • Cinema Nation: The Best Writing on Film from The Nation: 1913-2000, ed. by Carl Bromley
  • This Is a Book About The Kids In The Hall by John Semley

At the time I was reading Stella Gibbons’ Cold Comfort Farm (probably the funniest book on the planet), so I couldn’t tuck into my new books until I got back from the trip (I already finished McFarlane and Tucker  since we got back). At UNIQLO, I got a bunch of pop art shirts – a year ago, the UNIQLO in Chicago had a great line of t-shirts with the works of Keith Haring, Andy Warhol, and Basquiat. I bought a few (at criminally low prices) but when I went back for more, they were done and moved on to a Lego theme, which yuck…But in New York, they had whole pop shops in the UNIQLOs that had these great shirts, so I stocked up on quite a few.

We had lunch at Little Poland in the East Village. It was really good. I had zapiekanki, which is Polish street food: it’s basically a French bread pizza. I also had the best matzo ball soup. My partner had pierogies and mushroom barley soup and my mom had latkes and cucumber dill soup. The waitress was Polish, so I got to speak to her in Polish – which is always fun – I love being bilingual. It was rainy and cold that day, so it felt very cozy, sitting next to the window, looking out of the window and relaxing.

We hung around the East Village for a bit longer, and went to the Organic Cafe for mulled wine. It was there that we got bad news: some very good friends of ours suffered a building fire that left them homeless. My partner and I were devastated as these are beautiful people. I celebrated Thanksgiving in their lovely apartment, and my heart ached for them. We learned about this while at the cafe. The news, plus George Michael music playing in the background made for a melancholy afternoon.

Because it was so cold and rainy, we decided to make it an early-ish evening and we headed home. We stopped at Europa Cafe for some pasta and called it a night.

December 27, 2016

I was sick, so I stayed in bed for the day.

Carrie Fisher died. I was devastated. She, Wendy Wasserstein, and Nora Ephron were my Holy Trinity of humor writing (now, all three are gone). I looked at all the tributes, and I was a bit annoyed that everything was either about her work in Star Wars and Princess Leia or about her being Hollywood royalty . I know that the film is iconic and it will forever overshadow everything she did, but I wish more attention was paid to her writing. She was an incredible comedienne and a razor-sharp wit. (I’m re-reading Postcards from the Edge at the moment – and in a weird coincidence, I gifted The Princess Diarist to my partner a couple weeks ago).

In the evening, I summoned up my strength to go to the Lincoln Center to see Verdi’s Nabucco. The Met is gorgeous and makes me think that Chicago’s Lyric looks like an outhouse in comparison. The starburst chandeliers, the sumptuous red carpeting, it all was dizzying in its beauty. I wanted to live in the Met. While waiting in line, I got a little sentimental because a good friend of mine died this year, and he was an opera fanatic, and he loved the Met and would’ve loved to attend.

Nabucco is good, but like a lot of operas, I feel that the story has some serious holes in the plots. From what I could follow, it’s about a King who is threatening the Israelites, who have one of his daughters hostage. She in turn is in love with an Israelite hero, as is her evil sister, who usurps her commanding father and takes over the Kingdom, only to kill herself in grief and suicide. I don’t know. The music was gorgeous and I swooned at some of the beauty of the singing.

December 28, 2016

It was time to go. I loved New York and didn’t want to go. I wanted to live there forever. Like on the 23rd, we drugged poor Bingley an hour before we left. He already started staggering around the room like a drunken sailor. We were wondering what to do with the Pyrex. We didn’t have space to pack it, but I was worried that if we left it, some poor maid would take it home, clean it (but not well enough), get some microscopic particle of Bingley’s feces, and then die of some horrible stomach bug. So we wrapped it in layers of plastic and threw it out in a trash can in the street. I spent part of the morning, scrubbing the bathroom floor clean of any errant kitty litter. I also wanted to shave, but the can of shaving gel was so weird and shut tight that when I finally got the top off, I accidentally sprayed electric blue shaving gel all over the bathroom mirror and wall. So then I spent part of the morning cleaning the mirror, too.

We cleaned up the rest of the room and gathered our things and left for the airport. The flight was smooth, save for a crying baby that wouldn’t shut up, plus my head cold, which coupled with the sleeping pills made for a very fuzzy trip. The air pressure also wreaked some serious havoc on my sinuses and it felt like someone was slowly driving in a needle in my eye. As with the flight to New York, the flight back ended with a huge thump as the plane basically drop landed.

When we landed, I also found out that Debbie Reynolds died. Fuck you, 2016.

We got home, and Bingley got out, and surprisingly, was really cool about everything and wandered around the house without issue. I went to bed to nurse my cold.

* * * *

The rest of the week was spent in and out of bed (I had a small fever at one point). New Years was uneventful because my partner caught my cold, so we spent it watching Kathy Griffin and Anderson Cooper on CNN, before turning the TV to the New Years celebration in Zakopane, Poland. I made lamp chops with black eyed peas for dinner.

My partner is a New Years baby, so we celebrated his birthday at Bistro Zinc in Old Town. He had the skate with brown butter, I had a zucchini quiche.

All in all, my New York Christmas was fabulous and I can’t wait to go back.

Some random thoughts

  • I fell in love with the delis in New York – especially the hot bars
  • Speaking of delis, I love how the delis also have flowers
  • I got to eat a pretzel on the street like a real New Yorker!
  • We tried passing Trump Tower, but I broke out in a rash. Just kidding.
  • I took pictures around 30 Rock, because of 3o Rock. It was there that I was schooled by my partner that the statue in front is not Prometheus but Atlas.
  • Our hotel was close to a Korean Franciscan church.
  • We walked so much, I bore holes into two pairs of socks.
  • I kept my eyes peeled but couldn’t spot any celebrities.
  • In the Walgreens in Times Square, just as we walked in, security guards were roughing up a shoplifter.
  • The exhaust fumes from the food trucks made the streets smell like a gas station. But the food from the food trucks smelled ahmazing.
  • In Penn Station when the train to New Jersey was announced, a drove of people – like an exodus, moved forward en mass toward their track. I just jumped out of the way.
  • The Strand has a cute tote bag with Michelle Obama’s picture on it.
  • The Pepsi cans in New York have “New York City” written on them.
  • One day at Starbucks, I was standing in line behind a family of six. No one in the family had ever seen a menu, and therefore I waited for twenty minutes to finally get up to the cashier. The guy behind me whined and whimpered like a puppy tied to a tree.
  • Times Square got so crazy crowded, that we just walked on the street.

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Why Mariah Carey’s New Year’s Eve performance was not a disaster

Mariah Carey getting much-needed support

Mariah Carey getting much-needed support

So Mariah Carey is supposedly having a bad 2017 so far because of her “disastrous” performance at Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve. When “trying” to “perform” her big 1991 hit “Emotions” it was clear that she was either planning on lip syncing or at the very least, sing along with a backing tape. Either way, something went wrong because instead of miming gamely to the canned music, Carey – with a beautiful mix of bemusement and annoyance – wandered around the stage, drifting in and out of the choreography, while grousing about the sound issues.

Quickly fingers began to point. Carey’s people charged the show’s producers with sabotage and the producers of the show insisted that it was all on Carey.

Social media popped up with memes – one popular one has Jennifer Lopez gleefully gloating – a clap back at Carey’s infamous “I don’t know her” – and some suggested that Carey’s nonperformance was the perfect capper for 2016 – a pretty shiteous year.

But here’s the thing – the performance was not a disaster. It was sheer genius.

First of all, let’s agree on one thing before I go further: Mariah Carey is no longer a radio/hit artist. She’s amassed an impressive resume of hit records, multiplatinum albums, sold out shows, etc.  But the days when kids would want to hear the latest Mariah Carey song are gone.

But that’s okay, because in place of the top 40 artist is the new Carey: eccentric and volatile diva.

The word diva is thrown around so much, that it no longer means much. It seems like every female artist is called a diva. But Mariah Carey is the epitome of diva.

Since 2001, her one unassailable feature: her fantastic voice, had come into question. There were pitchy moments during concerts, and her whole 2002 post-Glitter album Charmbracelet is a sad testament to Carey’s degrading voice. So because of these moments, Carey’s concerts suddenly became high-stakes events, where fans waited with abated breath to hear if she’ll be able to hit those crazy high notes. Her performances now are similar to the late-in-life performances of divas of yore like Maria Callas, Judy Garland, Edith Piaf.

What’s even better about Carey’s performance was her “I couldn’t give enough fucks” attitude. Instead of playing the kind-hearted trouper (‘cuz that would be boring), she immediately starting throwing all kinds of shade.

That’s what I love about post-Glitter Mariah Carey. Let’s face it: she hasn’t really made any good music in about ten, fifteen years, but she’s never been more entertaining. The too-tight dresses, the young boyfriends, the crazy, rambling speeches. It’s all part of this fabulous package – she out drags drag queens.

When she started out in 1990, she was a fresh-faced ingenue with a gigantic voice and model good looks. She was chaste and pretty – she was going to be the poor man’s Whitney. She was also kinda boring. But we can blame that on her label and its executive, Tommy Mottola, who was Carey’s Svengali. He micromanaged her career and image, offering up Carey as a shiny, perfect pop princess.

But once she ditched Mottola, the real Carey came out. And thank goodness. Even though the record sales slipped (as did the quality of her music), she emerged as this supremely ridiculous pop queen, who looks and acts like a cartoon rich lady.

The latest fracas is just another notch in her ridiculous belt. Something that she’ll simply shrug off, as she counts her gagillion dollars in her Manhattan penthouse, surrounded by her gold and diamonds.

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