Stripper Author Hits the Big Screen

January 10th, 2008 at 6:21 pm

I told you reading was sexy.

With the movie Juno performing respectably at the box office and acquiring award nominations, its stripper-screenwriter is making some news of her own. In addition to writing Juno, Brook Busey-Hunt/Diablo Cody is also the author of a memoir about her time working in the sex industry. I haven’t seen the movie yet, but her book “Candy Girl” is quite good. I recently read it along with another stripper memoir because I like reading similar books together, it’s like a nice food and wine pairing. (Try reading Dry and Junky together sometime. Two gay American men with the same last name write memoirs about their drug addiction?)

US billionaire investor Kirk Kerkorian was making news recently when he sold 28 million of his shares in General Motors. Around the same time, he offered to buy 15 million shares of MGM Mirage, increasing his stake in the gaming and hotel giant from 56.3% to 61.7%. With reports indicating the inevitability of strip clubs moving inside the casinos (the Las Vegas Gaming Commission has thus far denied the request), Kerkorian and other’s investment in this industry will grow considerably more adult.

Lily Burana’s “Strip City: A Stripper’s Farewell Journey Across America” and Diablo Cody’s “Candy Girl” are both revealing, personal tales from this burgeoning, multi-billion dollar business. In “Strip City,” Burana travels to strip clubs across America, attends stripper school, and even spearheads a legal battle for dancer’s rights, sufficiently providing a wealth of information with unrelenting detail. In “Candy Girl,” Cody works as a stripper, peep show performer, and phone sex operator, masterfully bringing her observations of the sex trade to life with deep, telling imagery. While Burana is inclined to describe the weather outside a club, the ambience inside a club, and the cracked, peeling fingernails of a dancer hustling that club, Cody is more likely to just tell you about the deaf guy at a table near the stage with a sign that reads “TAKE OFF YR PANTY.”

Burana with “Strip City” is the better writer, but Cody with “Candy Girl” is the better storyteller. When you pick up a stripper’s memoir, you are expecting certain things much like the reader of a mystery will demand certain conventions like a detective, a crime, and clues. The better storyteller, Cody’s delivers the goods for the genre. Burana’s prose is exacting and formal; she is journalistic in her deliberate inclusion of statistics and description. But more glaringly obvious, on top of its failings as a road novel, Burana’s “Strip City” feels outright contrived. Whereas Cody’s experience rings of desperation, sincerity, and struggle and clearly mirrors the experience of girls like her all over the world, Burana’s journey smacked of a writer forcing a story out of her past life (Hey, I know! I’ll strip for a year and write a book about all the crazy shit I see!).

Cody writes like a stripper performs. Her prose is informal and lively. Her snappy words dance and twirl into entertaining tales of the industry slang, codes, and norms. Reading her memoir feels like having a close friend tell you a great story. Dear reader, come along with Diablo Cody, let her sling an arm around your shoulders as she takes you on a journey into the undulating land of stripping. She makes a fantastic tour guide, explaining nomenclature and sharing insight into tip rails, house moms, torture chairs, Wednesday “Wet ‘n’ Wild” nights sponsored by O’Douls, the “teeter-totter” move, jack shacks, and panty auctions. Cody’s prose is so inviting and unassuming that I even forgive her for referring late in her memoir to having “spread like Hellmann’s.” And through both women’s memoirs, only one of Cody’s stories succeeded in making me gag.

In the end, Burana and Cody’s memoirs are both very, very good and achieve brilliant moments of poignancy in illuminating an unconventional livelihood and industry that is increasingly mainstream. Cody smartly observes: “…exercise DVDs offer women the opportunity to strip themselves into thinner bodies, teenagers wear Hustler logos and visit tanning beds, feminists, braniacs and alternative types peel for websites like Suicide Girls and Nekkid Nerds, and coeds lift their shirts for spring-break sexploitation pictorials making sexual exhibitionism the norm, not the deviation.”

I can’t help but imagine the 90-year-old Kirk Kerkorian nodding in agreement as he stuffs his 9 billion dollars of net worth in the thong of a dancer.



Iran vs. The Whores

November 16th, 2007 at 4:19 pm

With the film adaptation of his magnificent “Love in the Time of Cholera” now in theatres, Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s most recent book, “Memories of My Melancholy Whores,” is making news in Iran with that backwards country pursuing censorship and a puritanical ignorance of art.

“Memories” was initially published in Iran with the title “Memories of My Melancholy Sweethearts” and sold out 5,000 copies in three weeks before angered religious conservatives demanded the book be banned. The ministry of culture and Islamic guidance then refused to issue a permit for the book’s reprinting.

Ohhhhhhhhh! Ministry of culture and Islamic guidance?…….creepy……..You think “1984″ is banned in Iran too?

The first sentence of “Memories of My Melancholy Whores” reveals the book’s primary plot: “The year I turned ninety, I wanted to give myself the gift of a night of wild love with an adolescent virgin.”

Despite such a rather lurid premise, the slender book is touching and warm. In the hands of a Master such as Marquez, the crude plot device becomes not so and the book becomes about so much more than some creepy old guy trying to bone a 14-year-old. The book is worldly and knowing, as would be expected from an aging, accomplished writer such as Marquez. I’ve read it. I wish Iran could too.

I feel sincerely bad for Iran’s readers that they must live under this and far worse oppression. In America, we live under the oppression of capitalism, slaves to the whims of the market and therefore miss many, many great and wonderful books (ideas, thoughts) simply because they do not sell or are deemed unsellable. But somehow I do feel that Iran has it worse, that some stodgy man sees a book with the word “whore” in the title, reads the premise, and excises the book from an entire country’s library.

Don’t you get the feeling that irony is lost on a major portion of this world?



The Golden Compass Hates God

November 13th, 2007 at 4:53 am

THE greatest email I’ve received EVER, next to all those great deals on Viagra, was from a friend recently with this link:

snopes.com/politics/religion/compass.asp

Seriously, check it out. It’s pretty entertaining reading.

Phillip Pullman has written a trilogy of young reader’s books called His Dark Materials, the first of which, The Golden Compass, is being released as a movie starring Nicole Kidman. Evidently, Pullman is a “proud” athiest, “hates” C.S. Lewis and Chronicles of Narnia, belongs to secular humanist societies, and has been quoted from an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald as saying, “My books are about killing god.”

I really don’t know where to begin. Or how to start. And how I could possibly finish.

Aren’t The Chronicles of Narnia and His Dark Materials the same thing?

Furthermore, haven’t we already been through all this BS with Harry Potter?

When will you people grow up?

Enough with the silliness! Go to your room!



Kite Runner Adaptation Delayed

October 5th, 2007 at 5:00 pm

Paramount Vantage, distributors of the silver screen adaptation of the bestselling book “The Kite Runner,” are delaying the film’s release due to a fear that a handful of the Afghan child actors appearing in it will suffer retribution because of their portrayal of rape and other unsavory behaviors in the movie.

Warnings have come from American officials and aid workers that the movie could aggravate simmering enmities between the politically dominant Pashtun and the long-oppressed Hazara. And evidently, although Khaled Hosseini’s book is admired in Afghanistan by many in the elite, its
narrative remains unfamiliar to the broader population, for whom oral
storytelling and rumor communication carry far greater weight.

So what I see happening here is that despite our current administration’s attempt at nation building and the spread of democracy to oppressed peoples, what is actually going to be more successful is the cultural liberation through the arts, importing change through books and movies (What the Middle East needs is Manga!)

It is our grand American mechanism of communication, our apparatus of entertainment that will rule the world over. We don’t win with wars Mr. Bush, we win by opening McDonald’s. And if we can close a few McDonald’s and open a few bookstores and movie theaters, then all the better.

Let’s not import our diabetes and heart disease.



Adaptation

September 20th, 2007 at 5:31 pm

Because news of Sean Penn playing Harvey Milk in a Gus Van Sant-directed adaptation is simply not enough Sean Penn, this Friday will see the release of Sean Penn’s adaptation of Jon Krakauer’s “Into The Wild.”

And watch out for the upcoming silver screen adaptations of the uber-popular The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini and Ian McEwan’s Atonement.

And following his performance in the very good A History of Violence, which was an adaptation of the graphic novel, Viggo Mortensen is set to appear in the silver screen interpretation of Cormac McCarthy’s outrageously successful “The Road.”

The talentless Hollywood leaches are hard at work suckling from the brilliance and craftsmanship that is the book world. Too bad “we” can’t make any money off it.



Director Zwigoff and Author Clowes Reunite

September 18th, 2007 at 4:18 pm

Terry Zwigoff will direct and write with Daniel Clowes the movie “The $40,000 Man.” It’s currently slated to be released in 2010.

It’s a promising venture. They both earned oscar nominations for best adapted screenplay for 2001′s Ghost World.

Clowes has churned out the stellar Ghost World and the decent David Boring graphic novels and seems to be still hard at work.

Zwigoff (who is evidently competing with Tim Burton for creepiest-looking Hollywood director) directed the fourth best Christmas movie of all time, Bad Santa, and the disappointing Art School Confidential.

The best Christmas movie of all time is Christmas Vacation.
The second best is Christmas Story.
The third best is Home Alone.

There I said it.



Penn to be Milk’s Maiden For The Silver Screen

September 12th, 2007 at 5:48 am

Resident Hollywood loony and occasional decent actor Sean Penn has been attached to play Harvey Milk in the film adaptation of Randy Shilts’ book The Mayor of Castro Street.

If you’re not an Amazon person, and more of a Netflix person, definitely add the documentary The Times of Harvey Milk to your queue.

Harvey Milk was a San Francisco Supervisor and the third openly gay public official in the entire country. Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone were shot and killed by Supervisor Dan White at city hall. White (to be played by Matt Damon?) avoided a deserving sentence by the now-famous “Twinkie defense.”

Milk and Moscone are gone but not forgotten. In San Francisco, Milk has a plaza named after him and Moscone has the entire convention center!

The flick is going to be directed by Gus Van Sant who is uber-gay and a pretty good filmmaker.

So. Harvey Milk. The Castro in San Francisco of the 1970s. Sean Penn. Gus Van Sant. This could all be quite nice. And Sean Penn has never played an openly gay character on screen? Whaaaaaat???

Oh, Gus! Do your worst!!!



Youth in Revolt Goes Out to the Movies

August 20th, 2007 at 8:54 pm

Youth in Revolt looks to be finally inching towards cinematic production.

I’m a fan of C.D. Payne’s silly, absurdist novel and look forward to its silver screen interpretation. I hope it happens. I really hope it happens.

Because we still haven’t even gotten to see Confederacy of Dunces.

So let’s not get too excited yet. Hit cult novels may be cursed for film adaptation. At least C.D. Payne hasn’t killed himself. Nor has his mother accosted Walker Percy to get him to read the dead son’s manuscript.

Happy shooting Hollywood!