Tales of Hoffman
Dustin Hoffman, who gave an interview that is floating around the social network in which he describes his first makeup tests for Tootsie and was aghast to learn that there was no amount of cream base and eyeliner that was going to make him a beautiful woman (and let's face it, Mr. Hoffman was never exactly eye candy even when he is dressed as a man). This staggering news gave Mr. Hoffman empathy for the first time in his life for chicks who aren't hot and he's still getting teary-eyed over the experience 30 years later. Listen, I think Dustin Hoffman is an amazing actor who has given unforgettable work in Death of a Salesman (one of the greatest performances by an actor I have ever seen), Midnight Cowboy (a dated movie but he is incredible in it), Lenny, All the President's Men, Wag the Dog, Papillion and many others, and I think The Graduate should be included on the list of the dozen-or-so greatest films ever made. But I'm one of the handful people alive on the planet since 1982 who thinks Tootise is an alarmingly sexist movie. The schtick of the film is that actor Michael Dorsey (Hoffman's character) grows as a result of confronting the female side of his personality in Dorothy Michaels (the alter ego he assumes to get a female role on a TV soap opera) and its premise rests on the idea that a dude rises to national prominence by putting on pantyhose and a wig, providing the women of this land their first ever paragon of how a female can assert her personality without robbing a man of his. In other words, what women really need to get along in society is the role model of a man in a dress, because none of the countless anatomically correct women who tried to fill that void had the testicles to pull it off. This is certainly true in the world of Tootsie where the women all are neurotic nutjobs or frail and powerless victims (the hottest one Dorsey falls for and attempts to use his altruistically-achieved knowledge of the female psyche to try to talk her into going to bed with him when he bumps into her in his male guise at a party), all of whom glom onto the bewigged Dorsey (whose own life seems to be in shambles) as their guru of self-actualization.
Tootsie takes the age-old movie cop-out of pretending to tell the story of an oppressed group but doing it from the point of view of a white male. This was nothing new when it came out; Gentleman's Agreement won the 1947 Best Picture Oscar for confronting anti-Semitism in America by depicting über-WASP writer Gregory Peck posing as one of the Chosen People and outraging the audience when he couldn't get a room at a decent hotel (because if he had been an actual Jew played by, say, Everett Sloan, no one would have given a rat's ass). This gimmick has been deployed in cinematic highs like Dances with Wolves and lows like Soul Man, and includes Mr. Hoffman's Oscar-winning work in Kramer vs. Kramer (in which he is deified for dealing with challenges as a single Dad that countless single mothers confront on a daily basis). Tootsie is skillfully written and expertly acted (Bill Murray is an absolute stitch as Dorsey's roommate) so it sells its high gloss Hollywood snake oil with the maximum amount of professional expertise. What offends me about Tootsie is that Mr. Hoffman has always taken the sanctimonious view that far from being a cute little romantic comedy, the film explores the Big Idea of what separate the sexes (as if any insight can be gleaned about that by a man putting on a wig and a dress and then confronting Jon Voight in The Russian Tea Room, which Mr. Hoffman supposedly did when preparing for the film). It's not that I don't think Mr. Hoffman makes a valid point in the interview but I don't feel that it's a terribly profound one (especially considering there are men of all ages, shapes and sizes in Tootsie but the women are young and smokin' hot) and one that I don't think warrants getting weepy about. But if putting on a dress and a wig makes Mr. Hoffman feel like he has a unique insight into what it's like to be a woman, I guess no one suffers from it. But as one woman told me after seeing the interview, "I won't be impressed until he's waited tables for eight hours with cramps."
The Lone Ranger, which opened last week and subsequently crashed and burned at the box office. The characters of The Lone Ranger and Tonto were introduced in a 1933 radio series and immortalized on television by Clayton Moore and Jay Silverheels, which depicted stories of a mysterious lawman who lived by a strict moral code that its preteen audience looked up to and had at its heart a devoted friendship between two men of disparate backgrounds who willingly risked their lives for each other without a moment's hesitation. The Walt Disney Company decided it would be a good idea to reimagine this iconic figure as a doltish buffoon who could barely fend for himself and made its central relationship about two guys who had nothing but disdain for each other but who stuck together because otherwise there was no movie. Disney concluded that all it needed to make this scenario a Pirates of the Caribbean-type mega franchise was throw a two hundred and fifty million dollar budget at it for a lot of outlandish chase scenes and neato explosions, and for insurance cast superstar Johnny Depp in the secondary role of Tonto and up-and-coming movie name Armie Hammer as the title character. Never mind that this meant that the whole balance of the relationship needed to be placed off center so that Depp could be given plenty of leeway to display the same self indulgent shtick that he crapped out in cinematic atrocities like Dark Shadows and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, so that in the end the thing should have been renamed Tonto because it was much more about that character than it was about its titular hero. With Depp's (and Pirates of the Caribbean director Gregor Verbinski's) involvement, the producers knew they had just enough iconic material to evoke The Lone Ranger – The William Tell Overture, the Ranger's white horse (who is never referred to as Silver throughout the movie), the mask, the silver bullet (which the film only allots the Ranger one of despite its massive budget) and the nickname kimo sabe (which meant "trusted scout" or "faithful friend" in the TV show but which translates as an insult in the movie) – so they could exploit a marketable title to help out Disney's bottom line. What they didn't take into account was that the movie-going public was going to have to shell out four hundred million bucks for the picture to break even. And they're just not likely to do that when they're paying to spend two and a half hours looking at a couple of total assholes.
Andrew Garfield, who was quoted in Entertainment Weekly as posing the question of whether or not his signature role of Spider-Man could be gay. "I was kind of joking, but kind of not joking about MJ," admitted Mr. Garfield, referring to one of the character's love interests in the comic books named Mary Jane. "And I was like, 'What if MJ is a dude?' Why can't we discover that Peter is exploring his sexuality? It's hardly even groundbreaking! So why can't he be gay? Why can't he be into boys?" I thought it was a reasonable question (and a fairly innocuous one about a character who can shoot webbing out of his wrists and swing amongst skyscrapers as though they were a Jungle Gym) but the query drew hundreds of angry replies from apparently homophobic Marvel Comic fans who accused Mr. Garfield of being a pawn of the gay community and outraged that Peter Parker might be a peter porker. But the answer seems fairly obvious to me why Spider-Man couldn't be gay because he switches his romantic allegiance from MJ (in the films that starred Tobey Maguire) to Gwen Stacy (in the reboot starring Mr. Garfield). It's all over the news that today's gays are into being married which means that they're unlikely to do the bedroom-hopping that the webslinger favors. I hope that answers that question for all you concerned fans out there in cyberspace. Our next topic for discussion: Why are there so many morons cruising the Internet?
Speaking of sexually adventurous superheroes, Enemies List favorite Mara Marini. Ms. Marini made an appearance on a radio program called Dirty Pop with Lance Bass to discuss her Internet dating exploits and admitted that among the strangest was when she hooked up with one Giovanni Francesco, who disclosed at their first (and presumably last) date that he was an actor in porn films who had recently starred as Batman in The Dark Knight XXX. Like all of you will do immediately after reading this listing (if you haven't clicked on Google already), I looked up The Dark Knight XXX as soon as I finished listening to the radio interview and I have to admit that the trailer looks pretty impressive. But for Mr. Francesco to identify himself as Batman in a parody of The Dark Knight Rises is kind of like when Liam Neeson is referred to as the star of Schindler's List, conveniently overlooking that his career has been sustained on crap like Battleship, K-19: The Widowmaker and Taken 2. So it is with Mr. Francesco, who probably figured his chances with Ms. Marini would have diminished if he had listed his other credits like Naughty Office, My First Sex Teacher, My Friend's Hot Mom and the cinema classic Seduced by a Cougar 24 on their first date. Of course, Ms. Marini plays a porn star named Brandi Maxxxx in NBC's Parks & Recreation who has starred in such fictitious titles as Too Big to Nail, 21 Pump Street and Jack Reacharound; cute but lacking the authenticity and matter-of-fact directness of Mr. Francesco's Diamond Foxxx is a Horny MILF Who Seduces a Worker to Get Fucked. Perhaps Ms. Marini should use the date as research for her next appearance on Parks & Recreation to come up with more realistic titles for her character to have starred in. Brandi Maxxx is a Horny MILF Who Seduces a Worker to Get Fucked has a nice ring to it. Let's just hope it gets past the boys at NBC Standard & Practices.
My mentee Amy Ball, whose quest to finance her short film Belly Flop (which has been brilliantly chronicled on these page) on the fundraising website Kickstarter came to a successful conclusion this morning. How the website works is, a would-be artiste proposes the amount of money he or she needs to complete a project and then has the opportunity to collect it via Kickstarter within a pre-determined time frame. If you reach your goal (which only 44% of proposed projects do), you ride the sweet cha-ching of your donated funds – which are chipped in primarily by the artist's friends and family – all the way to artistic nirvana. If you fall short of your target by so much as a nickel, it's back to waiting tables at Applebee's. As today's list goes to press, Belly Flop had just reached its objective with a scant eleven hours left on the clock; which means that the irritating Miss Ball will shortly be in production with her dream project. The only problem with that is that it is the first rule of living in Hollywood that as soon as you achieve some success, everyone who knows you (most of whom are waiting tables at Applebee's) instantly despises you. This means that anyone who starts a Kickstarter fundraising campaign is asking their friends to pay a fee to not be their friends any more. When I think of it that way, I can understand why 56% of Kickstarter projects don't succeed. I mean, everyone I know already hates my guts for free.