How Bill Cosby murdered Heathcliff Huxtable

How Bill Cosby murdered Heathcliff Huxtable
by Brittany Harvey

Screaming Inside of Myself: Last Weekend @Wimbledon

Screaming Inside of Myself: Last Weekend @Wimbledon
by B. Harvey

The Weight of that Southern Cross

The Weight of that Southern Cross
by B. Harvey

Waiting on an NBA draft's fruition

Waiting on an NBA draft's fruition
by B. Harvey

Rewriting all the geeks: a review of Alex Garland's Ex Machina

July 27, 2015

Two bros.
Alex Garland’s Ex Machina (2015) may be a near perfect film. If a problem exists, it may just be whether a film about artificial intelligence may in its knowledge of itself be too self-aware. Or, can a film think too much for its own good?

The Powerful Yawn of Andruw Jones

July 24, 2015

Other than the years where this blog has gone into complete hibernation because neither Langston nor I could keep up with it, this summer has seen the least amount of baseball discussion.

For me, this nadir is mostly due to the haphazard fire sale the Atlanta Braves conducted before the season even began. Every player I cared about, from Jason Heyward to Craig Kimbrel to even each Upton brother, was gone, and I was left to face the fact that their time together really had not added up to much other than discussions on met and unmet potential, mostly the latter.

Story & Plot in Love & Mercy: A trio of Brian Wilson, Ray Charles, & Johnny Cash

July 22, 2015

Biopics of any sort are always risky in that they are inevitably predictable. Such is the nature of a rather tame beast. After all, the life and events of the film’s subject matter tend to be already etched in the minds of the audience before ticket is even bought. Moreover, because the story is not only known but known to be real, the genre is often overly conservative in how predictable it is, relying on imitation over innovation.

Interview with Joe Samuel Starnes @TheClassical

July 16, 2015

After reading Joe Samuel Starnes' novel, Red Dirt (2015), I interviewed him about the book and the sport of tennis. Most of this interview can be read at The Classical, but a couple answers that did not make the final cut have been included below:

Bryan Harvey: What I found most striking about Jaxie Skinner (the protagonist in Red Dirt) is how he exists between two worlds. He really does come across as a subversive boundary crosser, which seems apt considering the tennis athlete’s relationship with line judges. The tennis elite see Jaxie as somewhat of a redneck, but the rural population of Georgia does not necessarily claim him as their own. Moreover, even his romantic interests are forbidden to him: he sleeps with the quintessential high school jock’s girlfriend, stows away in a Russian star’s hotel room, and steals time with a cop’s wife. Did you intend Jaxie as a thief or trickster in the crafting of the novel? Or is his life on the edge an element of Southern noir and the private detective novel?

Joe Samuel Starnes: I think all exceptional tennis players have at least a little bit of a thief or trickster in their character—every point you win is one you’ve stolen from your opponent. It’s an intensely individual game, and all players are loners when out on the court—how many other sports are there where a competitor is forbidden from talking with a coach or advisor during play? It’s isolating. And although it has a reputation as being elitist, pro tennis has seen great success by outsiders—the Williams sisters, who rose up from the rough public courts of Compton, California, are a prime example.

And yes, everything I write has some element of the “rough South” or “grit lit”—as some southern fiction has been called—inspired as I have been by my literary lodestars: Flannery O’Connor, Larry Brown, Harry Crews, Barry Hannah, and William Faulkner.

BH: Aside from being a tennis novel, Jaxie’s story also speaks to the Southern parable of the family farm’s decline and the abandonment of the Southern economy to and by the textile industry? One of my favorite sequences in the novel is Jaxie banging a tennis ball against the ruins of this hard economic history.

JSS: Until I was fifteen, my family lived out in the country, six miles from Cedartown, Georgia, and about a mile from the nearest house. When my dad drove me to elementary school in the seventies, every day we passed a small family farm where the farmer waved at us without fail. That farm is now long gone and its fields are the site of a subdivision with newly built homes. The Goodyear Mill where my grandfather worked the second shift for thirty-five years closed down in the eighties, and later the vacant building burned in a spectacular fire. So yes, even though I’ve lived in or near big cities for past two decades, including the past fifteen near New York or Philadelphia, rural southern landscapes and economies are part of me and have been the primary settings for my fiction.

Bryan Harvey can be followed @LawnChairBoys. The above photograph on lease from The New York Times.

Kill Your Heroes, or how Bill Cosby murdered Heathcliff Huxtable

July 15, 2015

Brittany Harvey has written for LCB in the past. Here are her thoughts on Bill Cosby as an entertainer and the unsealing of a 2005 deposition: 

Bill Cosby has not been tried. Nothing has been proven. He has not been charged with anything. The theatre of the courtroom has been reserved for television and the internet. As Whoopi Goldberg stated on The View, the man is innocent until proven guilty.

Still, this innocence must be reconciled with fact. And the fact is we know Billy Cosby admitted to not only purchasing quaaludes but purchasing them as a means for drugging women to have sex. Not many crimes are more predatory, preconceived, or disgusting. The intent here is absolute in its evil, for it denies others agency with ongoing repercussions. My heart goes out to all the women he violated in anyway. And, no matter how this ends, Cosby clearly did something awful, perhaps multiple times. It is horrific, and inexcusable.

Sharing a Funny Bone: Welcome to Me (2014) & Birdman (2014)

July 14, 2015

"Am I a Birdwoman?"
This is not so much a review of Shira Piven’s Welcome to Me (2014) as a glance at some of the questions it raises.
The film is a good one, if you enjoy dark comedy and a particular brand of Kristen Wiig quirkiness. If not, then this film probably is not meant for you. Part Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s Birdman (2014) and part Noah Baumbach’s Greenberg (2010), Welcome to Me is not quite as energetic and ambitious as the former while also not quite as dull in its vanity as the latter. Furthermore, the film probably has too much Saturday Night Live in its DNA--think Molly Shannon’s turn in Superstar (1999) and Steve Martin’s The Jerk (1979)--to move entirely beyond the veils of sketch comedy stretched like taffy over just under an hour and a half. 

Still, something about the film’s subtleties allows it to clarify some of the murk and shadow in Birdman’s attempted monolith, such as the relationship between mental illness, the production of media, and said media’s consumption. Both of these films contain messy, untidy areas, but they also reveal a brand of comedy that takes what we laugh at more seriously than the comedies most of us were raised on--the human brain is fraught with laughter. The stage is set. The joke is told. The punch line is Wiig’s Alice Klieg walking naked through a casino floor, her body covered in red welts and burn scars. Or, the punch line is Michael Keaton’s Riggan rushing down Broadway in nothing but his underwear, hoping the world will not see him for what he is. Despite one’s male focus and the other’s attention to the female, these two films both appear to be shaped from the same funny bone: Adam’s rib. 

While Welcome to Me makes obvious attempts to be at the forefront of feminist comedy, the similarities with male comedies and male protagonists raises if not questions about the world at large, then at least the stories we share about that world. 

The arrival of female protagonists in mainstream media outlets has been a triumph, having already arrived near or past the tipping point in what we as audience members expect from the bodies of our heroes. From Tina Fey to Amy Poehler to the sisters in Frozen and the rise of Amy Schumer (the list could be much longer), the gender of the story is shifting away from the male body and towards the female. This change is not something that will occur. This change is already occurring. And, in this shift, archetypes appear to be unraveling under the strains of both adaptation and appropriation. These female heroines, for better or worse, make their selves known to us through variations of the stories we already know. 

"I was totally on the cutting edge before that Frozen movie."

What Welcome to Me reveals is that perhaps our hopes for the female protagonist are somewhat utopian. This does not mean we should return to having more male heroes, but that perhaps we should reassess the constraints of patriarchal societies. It seems that as we build narratives out of the old tales we are still writing within those tales and that Piven’s Alice Klieg’s attempts to buy airtime in order to talk about herself are not entirely removed from what occurs in Riggan’s dressing room tirades. 

Of course, one conversation is an ascent and the other a descent, but even in those movements there is a similar shape and scope; a symmetry not that far removed from a planet’s orbit round the sun. Hence, these plots seem more durable than our gendered selves. 

Bryan Harvey can be followed @LawnChairBoys.

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