John Waters

review i am divine

Editor’s Note: This review original ran as part of our SXSW coverage. The film is now out in select theaters. Assimilation seems to be the order of the day. One of the arguments leveled against the “It Gets Better” campaign is that while it pushes for self-acceptance among queer kids, the “better” part actually seems to mean “normal.” That is, all the images it puts forth of a happy gay life after the misery of high school bullying are images of an assimilated life. If that’s true, it means the bullies haven’t been left behind at all — they’ve been internalized. But if we want to support the kids who can’t look forward to becoming “normal” somewhere down the line, we’d better start checking our archives. History is full of the stories of bullied outsiders who learned to love themselves and went on to become strong icons. While maybe not the most kid-friendly, Divine was one of the biggest, most outrageous, proudly outsider and dangerously different gay cultural icons we have. And just as the forces of assimilation seem to be taking control of our memory, too, documentary filmmaker Jeffry Schwartz comes to the rescue with the release of his definitive Divine biographical documentary, I Am Divine, richly evoking the world of vibrant outsiders that Divine came to define.

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Culture Warrior

A few weeks ago, as the indie group Here We Go Magic traveled through Ohio, they encountered a tall, skinny hitchhiker who they quickly recognized to be the inimitable filmmaker/public personality/pencil-thin mustache enthusiast John Waters. The band members took pictures of themselves with Waters and sent them out to the twittersphere. John Waters’s presence in their van did not transform into a difficult-to-believe apocryphal story between friends over drinks, nor did it grow into the stuff of urban legend, but instead became a certified true web event simultaneous to the band’s immediate experience of it. For any fan of the ever-captivating and unique Waters, this unlikely scenario which was still somehow consistent with Waters’s personality was truly bizarre, interesting, funny, and perhaps even enviable. But Mr. Waters’s is simply the most recent in a string of out-of-the-ordinary celebrity encounters. Celebrity has changed greatly over the past few decades. Whereas stars of film, television, and popular music formerly dominated the imaginations of their public through their creative output and carefully orchestrated public personae (through interviews, red carpet appearances, etc.), today’s celebrities are characterized more by their public personae than any output to warrant it. The Kardashians, the Hiltons, and the VH1 reality stars of the world are simply famous for being famous (or, more accurately, for being born into incredible wealth). There is no longer a sense that one earns fame through creating something or contributing to culture.

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What is Movie News After Dark? It’s a thing that happens nightly, bringing you news from the world of film, television and pop culture. Mostly film. Thus, the name. We begin tonight with a shot of Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling in Ruben Fleischer’s Gangster Squad? Quick show of hands: who among you is not excited about this movie? Those with their hands in the air can kindly leave the room, while the rest of us do more news.

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A few weeks ago I discussed the definition of raunch and touched on its evolution in film. The idea of raunch, generally considered anything vulgar or obscene, has gone from one of insult to one of achievement. Over the years directors have developed entire genres of innocent raunch comedy, while still retaining the ability to shock and offend. Meanwhile dramas and horror continue to “fancy” raunch for its ability to reach our darkest thoughts or turn our stomachs. Raunch isn’t something to shy away from, despite the dirty feeling you may get after viewing films like Pink Flamingos or Anatomy of Hell. If anything, it can be argued for that very reason you should watch crude films. Art should both stir discomfort and activate brain juices, and as much as some would like to dispute raunch as art, when done right it reflects current culture and the people watching.

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Every week, Landon Palmer and Cole Abaius log on to their favorite chat client of 1996 as MonkeyTailBeard38 and LifeFindzaWay394 in order to discuss some topical topic of interest. This week, the duo attempt to figure out word of mouth, movie advertising, critical response, and which one is to blame when a movie fails. Or, you know, it could just be the movie’s quality, but we hate simple answers around here. What separates the blockbusters from the flops? What makes people go see movies?

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published: 11.21.2014
D
published: 11.21.2014
B+
published: 11.19.2014
C+
published: 11.19.2014
B-, C


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