This weekend, immediately after a matinee of “Brokeback Mountain,” three friends and I pushed through the crowds at Urban Outfitters and checked out the new merchandise. Well, some of us did; my pal Robb surveyed the men’s T-shirts with a pronounced scowl and I swatted listlessly at skirts and tried, ineffectively, to stop weeping. (Damn you, Heath Ledger!) Robb and I, we are not the American Dream.
So, aside from Karl Marx, I may be the first person to actually sob in a retail store. I blame it on the overcapitalization of the alternative image, which is easier than admitting I’m just a blue-state bleeding heart with overactive tear ducts. “Brokeback” lingers still, and not because of the completely ridiculous/ubiquitous media blitz about the main characters’ homosexuality, which actively misses the point of the movie.
Maybe this is an obvious reaction, but I’m caught on just the unfairness of their situation – the stigma against them, their lives forced apart. Christ, it’s hard enough to find love, and untwist your own complex feelings – who can possibly stomp in and demand authority over that?
But the real obstacle for Jack and Ennis wasn’t society so much as their own hesitations, and that’s the truly tragic part. Poor guys – and poor everyone who misses out on adventure because of their fear. And if you have endless paths and options, as most people do, aren’t we all a little doomed to that fate? Love is frickin’ unfair.
This was my attitude on Saturday, which was generally insufferable for all involved. (Try going to the bars with that chip on your shoulder.) By Sunday afternoon, though, my head pulled out from the sand; I’d received the best remittance imaginable, and the world was rosy again.
So now, as a special Valentine’s Day public service announcement from the Art Beat (unless you want some homemade meth, then we’ll talk further), I’ll tell you the only Cupid you’ll need this year: Woody Allen.
Forget the Shins – Woody Allen will totally change your life. Or rather, he will explain what’s already stewing and bubbling in that microcosm. As someone who’d never seen the neurotic New Yorker’s flicks before, I’d always assumed them to be dry, overly analytical and generally equivalent to all those popular, prickly Allen impressions. And that theory may still stand, but sitting down to watch “Annie Hall” (released 1977) was a profound experience. It was like hearing Revolver for the first, virginal time; something so amazing becomes your own giddy secret, to be spread immediately. Do people know about this Woody guy?
What he was saying in the ’70s still rings today, probably because his influence can be seen in much of our resulting entertainment. The “Sex and the City” heroines seem now to be just Woody Allen with menstrual cycles; his funny and bittersweet glances into metropolitan dating go beyond the glamour and expose the insanity of trying to find romance when you’re slightly scared of yourself. And like lovers, the perspective changes; “Manhattan” (1979) which admits to loving a city “romanticized all out of proportion,” has a dryly offbeat look at that dilemma, plus a supporting cast of freakish high-society conversations (sample line: “I finally had an orgasm, and my doctor told me it was the wrong kind”). Conversely, “Annie Hall” spills over with rapid, witty one-liners and double entendres – plus cartoons, sexual subtitles and a schizo Christopher Walken to boot.
Allen has laced his career in many directions since those flicks – he’s done mockumentaries (“Zelig,” 1983) to surreal fantasy (“The Purple Rose of Cairo,” 1985). But from my limited viewing experience of his most popular films, the best thing about his creative voice is the hope it shares – and not just to nebbish unattractive men, though he is strong proof for the overwhelming aphrodisiac of personality. The man doesn’t have all the answers, or apparently many of them, but his enduring analysis gives promise to the idea that we’ll solve our own equations someday.
To our generation, Woody has become akin to Michael Jackson, a man now outside his heyday, more famous for tabloid debacles than artistic offerings. (Though if Allen digs Asian girls in their 20s, maybe I should jump on that.) Those tawdry stories always prevented me from watching his movies, but that, too, misses the point; his sincerity is rare, unnerving, wonderful.
This Hallmark holiday, I’ve finally found lasting love. I hope you will, too – pick up a Woody Allen movie and enjoy the bright lights, big heart of a not-so-hidden treasure. Because, lover, we’ll always have Manhattan.
Stacey Anderson is a journalism and music senior, KCPR DJ and East Village acolyte. Catch her Sundays 7 to 8 p.m. and Thursday 3 to 5 p.m. on 91.3 FM or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.