Monthly Archives: April 2008

cleanliness, pt. 2

The other mystery, one that isn’t solved for quite a while, is the sudden appearance of water all over the place in the toilet trailers. Suddenly the floors are always wet, and sometimes the toilet seats are, too. Theories are put forward, from the idea that there hasn’t really been a change and the place was always a wreck, to the notion that perhaps these foreign men have mistaken the toilets for some kind of foot bath. Some of us, weak-kneed liberal types, suggest that maybe KBR needs to give some kind of class to its employees on how to use the local facilities. But the soldiers on pad 4, where the closest toilet trailer is located, decided on a more Pat Buchananesque approach. They put up razor wire and sandbags along the border.

I’m sleeping one morning, when I’m awakened by the ping! ping! ping! of a hammer hitting metal. I stumble outside and discover that someone has just hammered a STOP sign on a picket into the top of the HESCO barrier. Further, all the gaps allowing passage onto pad 4 have been blocked up with sandbags and plywood barriers. I about throw an ape fit right there, since this weird act of racist isolationism screws us soldiers as well as the skinny brown strangers, only there’s no one to throw the fit to — the fact’s been accomplished swiftly and anonymously.

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COTMC, pt. 4

It takes a peculiar kind of audience to be interested in both strands of this story — the dumpy, pathetic theatre family of the the strip club, and Cosmo’s personal night odyssey as he first carries out the assassination and then deals with the aftermath. The nightclub side of the story is sad, heart-breaking. Cosmo arranges all the numbers — and what dreary, painful numbers they are! His singer and MC, “Mr. Sophistication” (Meade Roberts), is a balding sad sack with sweat-streaked make-up, and while his girls are large-breasted and without question beautiful (Cassavetes used real strippers and models in the roles), there’s something odd about them, too: one girl has a squeaky voice, while another is only 5’2″, which she notes is a couple of inches “under the limit” for dancers at other clubs. This theatre is a last stop for all kinds of failures, and their shows, which weirdly blend titillation with desperate stabs at art, are almost certainly Cassavetes’ funhouse mirror view of his own not-quite-good-enough but completely personal showmanship. If you can watch the “Paris” show and not want to turn off your DVD player, you’re a better man than I. (The hipster look of the crowd, too, suggests that the patrons come here more for irony and amusement than sexual excitement.) But Cosmo’s passionate devotion to the nightclub family drives the whole film, in the way that a man’s love for his nuclear family would drive the action in a more conventional man-against-the-mob thriller. He’s always protecting them (at one point he sends the doorman inside when the mobsters show up on the sidewalk in front of the club), and it’s unlikely that, without that motivation, he would have found the strength to finally meet the gangsters on their own ground.

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girl power on the fringes of legality

The undermining of “hotness,” and the reclaiming of the gross-out aesthetic for women, goes on throughout the film. Throughout the film, McCarthy interrogates the process by which she and her girlfriends achieve hotness, spending inordinate amounts of time on things like waxing, facial masks, hair, etc. She goes to some phenomenal lengths to neutralize her own sexual allure — my personal favorite is an extended bit in which her date, a Woody Allen doppelganger, vomits into her cleavage at a fashion show. She runs out of the club and has a complete shit-fit on the sidewalk outside, during which her breast falls out of her dress. When she notices (the Carmen Electra character helpfully points out, “Girl, your big ole titty’s hangin’ out!”), she just gives in to the situation, takes out her other vomit-covered breast, and shakes them furiously in the faces of all the looky-loos, shrieking at them in contempt and irritation, “They’re just fucking gobs of FAT!” This is not, trust me, sexy. And it’s the only time you see those famous boobs, or any boobs, which is quite an accomplishment in this kind of film.

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