Monday, June 14, 2010

On Leo DiCaprio And The Real Housewives

I'm sorry, this dude is just not tough.

Happy Monday, ya'll. It's rainy and gray over here. I just woke up, it's about 5:45 a.m., and am not entirely sure what I'm going to write about, but here we go.


Saw "Shutter Island" last night. Randi had rented it the night before and since it was a 48 hour rental I was able to see it too. A very, very cool movie. Lots of twists and turns, and it is impeccably directed by Martin Scorsese. Plus, as an added feature it is the second movie in a row from Marty that featured Leonardo DiCaprio struggling through a Boston accent.

I have to say, I am having a hard time buying into the era of DiCaprio as a tough guy. In "Shutter Island" he plays a detective (don't worry, no spoilers) who goes around the island snooping into various things that desperately need snooping into, kicking ass and taking names. You see, his character is a former combat vet from WW2, so he's got his old school Army moves to fall back on should the heat get too hot. He's dangerous, you know?

But, I don't know, I just don't believe this guy could really kick anyone's ass, anywhere, at any time. He just does not, to me, project a vibe that says "Bad Motherfucker." Maybe it's the voice, so high pitched. Maybe it's the fact that he always seems to be playing a guy who is a hard case, and it seems like he's playing one. Maybe it's because he's kind of thin in real life, except for when he becomes doughy and soft, and his childish features eternally make him look about 12.

It was the same deal with "The Departed," which I loved by the way. I even loved Leo in it, but he is supposed to play this cop who opens a thorough can of whup-ass on Matt Damon at the end. This I could almost kind of believe, because I also don't buy that Matt Damon is all that tough in real life either. (About eight years ago I saw him coming out of the Silver Spurs restaurant downtown. He is my height, 5' 6".) So it was like a face off of two Hollywood fancy boys with thicker than plausible Baaaahstin accents, on a rooftop. Despite this I still loved Leo's portrayal, partly because he's playing a guy who is trying to overcome being miscast.

The fact is, Leo is a fabulous actor. In "What's Eating Gilbert Grape" he gave what seems, to me, what is still his definitive screen performance, as a young boy with bad mental disabilities. I think I heard a story that his portrayal was so convincing that one Hollywood suit felt it was odd of the director to cast an actual person with mental retardation for a major Hollywood movie. Regardless, it remains, to me, one of the great performances of the past 20 years.

That's a great movie, by the way, if you haven't seen it. Johnny Depp is in it, and is also excellent, playing the older brother -- the titular Gilbert -- who is trying to keep his way screwed-up family together. The mother is morbidly obese and can't get around much, so the burden has mostly fallen on Johnny's slim shoulders.

Now, there are some movie tough guys whom I totally buy. Clint Eastwood? No doubt. John Wayne? Of course. Ahnold? Sure. Charles Bronson? Why not. Leo? Not so much.

I am sure he will be very upset when he hears I feel this way, as he naps on a mattress full of $100 bills, with his harem of models somewhere on the French Riviera. Leo, I've got your number!


Ah, it's a rainy day, and I've talked about a lot of heavy shit on this blog, time and again. Let's have some fun today and stick with the important stuff, pop culture.

Like most of you I have watched more than my fair share of the "Real Housewives" series on Bravo.

In most of these series the women start out normal enough, I guess. They're kind of rich, kind of spoiled, buy $2000 Gucci bags without thinking about it too much, you know that kind of thing.

But, and this has become a pattern across the various iterations of the "Housewives" series, by season two they become fire-breathing, anorexic-looking, back-stabbing mega-bitches! And the "New York" series is the worst offender of all.

Look, I admit it, I watched the show. I thought they were interesting/deluded enough to keep me more or less hooked on what was going on in their ridiculous lives, but by season three they had become so mean to one another, constantly ripping each other new assholes both in person and behind the scenes, that even I, after a while, could no longer stomach it. They were always, always rude to one another, always conniving against one another, forming these silly alliances that seemed about as well-grounded as a house of wet napkins, and so on and so on.

Friends, I have to say, it was hard to watch. My real life is stressful enough. I would watch the show and feel like I needed to watch TV to wash the memory of the TV I had just seen from my brain. And there are some outright psychos on this show, who seem like they need to be locked up, like now.

Kelly in NYC is thoroughly crazy. She started off the show as a still pretty-enough I guess but obviously faded one-time model, about as dense as anti-matter, who never-the-less still loved to pick fights with people who were much smarter and cleverer than she could ever be. Her season two bar fight with Bethany ranks as one of the all-time classic instances of what it looks like to watch an argument between a smart person and a stupid person. Hint: the stupid person lost. But in classic stupid person fashion she didn't even realize she lost, possibly ever.

Jill Zarin, the "fabric expert," started off the show as a honk-voiced Jewish American Princess, who, despite this, still seemed like a decent enough woman, and a good friend. In fact I liked her, she reminded me of various girls and women I knew growing up, especially those I would meet during my summers upstate, who were either from Queens, Brooklyn or Lawn Guyland. I didn't always get along with these people, but, still, Jill was like a blast from the past every time I watched the show. If nothing else it was a relief to know that despite the smoothing trends of mass media almost offensively potent New Yawk accents still had a home in the vocal chords of various spoiled women through The City. It reassured me.

But screw that, Jill has become a scheming, mean-spirited, clumsily back-stabbing harridan in season three. She can't ever seem to keep her almost cave-like mouth shut, for any reason, at any time. Everything that happens anywhere seems to personally hurt and offend her. All she does is bear grudges, and undercut people who she used to claim as friends.

God, there are so many more women on these various shows who seem ripe not for syndication, but a padded cell. The various insanities of Danielle from the New Jersey series have been well-documented. (Apparently now she has a sex tape on the market that she almost certainly leaked herself. Ugh, and double ugh. Who, other than the morbidly curious/really drunk, could ever want to watch this?)

But, again, by the second season of the "NJ" series even Danielle found a way to get one circle closer to true crazy, pushing herself into her daughter's already creepy modeling career, all the while finding ways to make it entirely about her. As I have said before, she is so obsessed, and lives so much through her daughter's career and future she almost seems like one of those crazy women from "The Mists of Avalon."

Still, the shows are not without some redeeming merit. For one thing the recession has finally caught up with the various players on screen, making them a bit more "real" than perhaps the stars ever hoped they might be. Theresa from the New Jersey series is, apparently, $11 million in debt. Folks, according to various documents I've seen, her family's entire annual income is in the neighborhood of $200 grand a year. Only $80,000 of that, or so, comes from actual work, the rest comes from contributions from her "family" whatever that means.

Now she's trying to sell her lavish, in fact cartoonish, mansion for something like $3 million. One question: how in god's green earth does anyone get a mortgage for a $3 million house (it was surely higher than this during the housing bubble) when they make less than a quarter of a million bucks a year?

In fact, their monthly costs include something like $1250 per month for a Cadillac Escale, which, by itself, would total around 15% of their annual salaried income.

This is insane.

So it is with some satisfaction that now we see that she has to pay the piper, in a big way. To me Theresa has larger symbolic value. I see in her a micro vision of our larger economy; built on mountains of bullshit, all for the illusion of prosperity. And now that the debt collectors have come calling she/we have to go scrounging around our couch for some change to throw in the pot. Because we sure as hell can't actually pay off what we owe.

It's the same thing with the flagship series for the entire "Real Housewives" empire: the Orange County version. On this series you have a housewife, Lynne, who was so dumb that on one episode it was shown that she didn't actually know whether or not her tacky, tasteless McMansion had an air conditioner. She also didn't know, yes, whether vegetarians could eat horseradish.

And now her family has been kicked out of their home by creditors, since they are flat-ass broke. But not so broke that she didn't have tens of thousands of dollars to spend on a boob job for her, and a nose job for her daughter. Her husband seemed like an okay enough guy, but obviously he was also living in Da Nile.

And now all the women on the California show are going broke, except that entrepreneurial crypt keeper Vicky, because their hubbies all made their quick millions in "construction" and now they are all "unemployed."

Will the construction boom ever come back? I am betting no way Jose. Bubbles don't reinflate. But these shows will never die, because bubble heads are immortal.

Randi sees a deeper issue with all the show. Typically between seasons one and two all the women lose craploads of weight. She believes their edgy, twitchy, anxious behavior is in keeping with people who are constantly on diet pills. This makes all too much sense. As they say you can never be too thin or too rich. Hmm, wait a second, something seems wrong with that.

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