Beau’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer exit interview

You may have heard that Beau recently completed the Herculean task of watching every episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer with me. It was kind of an agreed-upon prerequisite for living with me. I’m very proud of him for not only sticking it out, but also finding much to love about the show.

Beau and I sat down last night to talk Buffy, just one night after he watched “Chosen,” the show’s final episode, in our bedroom. Here’s what he remembers about Buffy:

Ten Favorite Episodes (in no order)
“Once More, with Feeling” (Season 6)
“Hush” (Season 4)
“Two to Go” (Season 6)
“Doppelgangland” (Season 3)
“Killed by Death” (Season 2)
“Help” (Season 7)
“Halloween” (Season 2)
“Witch” (Season 1)
“Life Serial” (Season 6)
“Storyteller” (Season 7)

Favorite Season Overall
Season 7

Favorite Character
Anya, the 1100-year old ex-vengeance demon

Least Favorite Character
Faith

Favorite Big Bad
Glorificus the Hell God

Favorite Little Bad
The Gentlemen from Hush

Best Buffy Hair
Season 7

Worst Buffy Hair
The bob in Season 6

Character He Most Aspires to Emulate
Willow

Character He Would Make Out With the Longest
Angel

Saddest Moment
When Xander leaves Anya at the altar in “Hells Bells”

Marry, Boff, Kill: Angel, Riley, Spike
Marry: Angel, Boff: Riley, Kill: Spike

Favorite song from “Once More, With Feeling”
“I’m Under Your Spell”

Will he read the season 8 comic books?
He’s thinking about it, even though it’s supergeeky.

Other Comments
Beau says he really started liking the show once they went to college in season 4, and that it kept getting better after that.

He also says, “I will be watching the whole series again.”

And he also says, “And I love you, Angel.”

“And Tara. And Anya.”

Like Tiger Woods, I Too Had an Affair

and it was with David Leavitt, and it only recently ended.

But unlike Tiger Woods, I am not sorry.

I spent the last several months reading Leavitt’s Collected Stories from cover to cover. I loved it. I hope it’s no secret that I love a short story. I do. If I cheat on poetry, it’s always with a short story. I love their brevity, like single windows in a hallway, each with a private and discrete view. And now, I love David Leavitt.

I heard him read once, at a conference, and he is foxy. His prose is also foxy. And, sometimes pretty ballsy.

Stories that stand out to me:

“Alien,” in which a mother comes to terms with the fact that her young daughter is convinced she is an alien waiting to be reunited with her people.

“Dedicated,” in which Celia and Nathan first appear (more later), exploring the complicated dynamic of the queer peer/gay guy relationship.

“The Infection Scene,” in which the story of a modern-day bug chaser is compared to a historically fictional account of Oscar Wilde’s traitorious lover Lord Douglas.

“The Marble Quilt,” in which a linguist is interviewed by Italian police about the murder of his ex-lover, a marble thief.

“My Marriage to Vengeance,” in which a woman attends the wedding of her ex-lesbian ex-lover.

“Houses,” in which a married man emerges from the wreckage of his marriage to a woman and his affair with a man.

“Black Box,” in which a man comes to terms with his lover’s death in an airplane crash in a very unusual way.

I could definitely feel the stories come together as stronger and more forceful works in each subsequent collection (there are three collections in this volume). The third collection I read in a weekend and could not stop, the stories were so beautifully written and so compelling.

What I truly loved about this, though, were Nathan, Celia, and Andrew.

Nathan and Celia, really. The three characters are introduced in “Dedicated” and come back again in subsequent stories and collections. Mostly we see the world through Celia’s eyes, checking in with her as she slowly but surely becomes her own person, stepping out from behind Nathan’s obscuring shadow. It is a joy to spend time with her, to see the world as she sees it. She is level-headed, a little insecure, but good-hearted, warm-hearted, and astute.

It was surprising to me as I first encountered the two of them in “The Wooden Anniversary,” a novella from Arkansas, and read first how they ended up in life, then went back and got the back story.

This is a book I’ll want to read again.

Glee is Joy

Last night’s “preview” episode of the fall TV series Glee was awesome.

It was fun, was well-written, had some compelling characters, and was–yes–a little moving.

It’s created by Ryan Murphy, who also brought us Nip/Tuck and Popular. Glee builds on a lot of the genius that was Popular, is savvy about high school power dynamics, both faculty and student.

If you never saw Popular, it was the show that developed Sara Rue, Tammy Lynn Michaels, Christopher Gorham, Leslie Bibb, and Wentworth Miller. It took place in a smallish high school where the rift between the haves and have-nots seemed irreperable until…the most popular girl’s dad marries the most “non-conformist” girl’s mom and the two mortal enemies are forced to share a house, a life, and worst of all–a bathroom.

Who didn’t love Tammy Lynn Michaels’s dastardly evil Glamazon cheerleader Nicole Julian, whose persecution of the less fortunate was as inspired as it was horrifying? Or Texan pageant queen Mary Cherry, whose slow murder of the English idiom was rivaled only by her enormous bee-stung lips and hypnotic eyes? And Lily Esposito (recently appeared in a “your butt called me” Blackberry commercial), whose impassioned activism for liberal causes encouraged her to briefly flirt with the liberal cause of lesbianism?

Popular was brilliant for its fearlessness and its willingness to upset the entire reality of its universe again and again. It was sincere and campy above all else. The mighty fell over and over, the meek inherited the earth (and had it taken from them a few episodes later). Bridges were burned and tentatively reconstructed, then burned again. It never failed to be enjoyable.

I have these same high hopes for Glee when it returns full-time in the fall.

Shameful Pleasures

I’m ready to talk about it finally. One of my biggest and most shameful addictions? It’s not Hilary Duff. It’s not Gossip Girl–not even the Gossip Girl novels I devour while riding the Metro. It’s this: dating & relationship advice for women.

I have to admit I’m both horrified and fascinated by it. Take Dating Tip #1 in this article:

“If you know how to date, and you’re meeting losers, get off the market and go into dating detox. Clean your energy up so those people don’t ask you out anymore.”

This is ridiculous. I might be an Arizonan at heart, but even “clean up your energy” is too New Agey for me! If you’re dating losers, why not start asking some men out? The ones who aren’t losers? She goes on to say:

“The problem is we women are very impatient. We want it now. Instant gratification! Sometimes the best single men are worth waiting for.”

Actually, I think the problem is women like her, who put rigid rules into place. I have a very hard time believing that the heterosexual world is really built on distinctions like this. But even within this article, she claims women both “want it now” and “women are Crockpots. Women heat up very slowly. They take in information; they decipher it and download it into their computer.” And then on the converse: “Men are microwaves…Men know in one second, yes or no.”

Girl, please. I can’t even tell you how wrong that is. I have known and dated so many indecisive men it’s not even funny. And although I do tend to make snap decisions or “want instant gratification” and/or “want it now,” I’m pretty sure it doesn’t create a vagina. Beau, for example, cannot order off a menu because he can’t make up his mind. When he finally decides, he wishes he’d ordered that other thing.

It scares me that women out there might be reading this and acting on the advice. It’s worse when the male columnist writes about dating. All these articles are like, “What are people of the opposite sex really thinking?”

And my question is, “Why not just ask them?”

Volverá a Volver

I’ve been meaning to write about Volver, the latest film from one of my most favorite filmmakers, for a little over a week. I bought the DVD recently, knowing I would not be disappointed, and I wasn’t.

Volver takes for its occasion the brief snippet of the “novela negro” written by the lead character in Almodóvar’s earlier film The Flower of My Secret. Working-class Raimunda (a pneumatic Penelope Cruz) must deal with her family’s old dark secrets as she tries to cover up an entirely new one while putting food on the table for her daughter. The film is more than that: while family is the focus here, Daniel Mendelsohn rightly pointed out in his review in the New York Review of Books that this film is more about the solidarity of women than anything else.

This is familiar territory for Almodóvar, who explored this theme in earlier films like the magnificent All About My Mother and Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown. But here, the tone is a bit different—wistful, probing, tender. The rich emotional lives of these characters is brought to the forefront much as it was in Mother, but the noir undertones of the film paint it in textured strokes.

I have never loved Penelope Cruz as much as I did in this film. In fact, I used to hate her (in the Tom Cruise era) and had an unflattering nickname for her. But her work with Almodóvar is unparalleled. In fact, I would be hard pressed to think of one of his stars who didn’t turn in a career-making performance under his direction.

As always, Almodóvar’s other strength is in set design and framing. The way he works with eye-popping color and pattern in his mise-en-scene is really something to behold and I feel like I learn so much about filmmaking just from watching his films. In much the same way All About My Mother was a love letter to the architectural innovation of the city of Barcelona, Volver captures a drab and dull world in Technicolor, making it seem as though these hard-knock lives are maybe not as hopeless as they may first appear.

Almodóvar’s narratives resist quick and clear categorization or synopsizing. Volver begins first as a family melodrama, turns to Postman Always Rings Twice-level noir, and then lands softly somewhere in between. Every time you think you know what the spine of the story is going to be, Almodóvar turns in a new, unexpected direction that prevents him from working too deeply in trope.

His three previous films (All About My Mother, Talk to Her, Bad Education) seem to all work together—not as a trilogy or sequence, but clearly as related work. Those three films are all deeply internal, personal, wrought with emotion, exploring ideas of personal connection. Volver samples from each of them, acting as a true “return” not only his earlier film upon which this is partially based, but on his body of work as a whole. Carmen Maura and Penelope Cruz return from previous films in these new roles and it’s gratifying to watch them embody wholly new characters and remain wholly believable.

If you don’t know Almodóvar’s work, you must immediately stand up, run to your nearest video store, and rent some. My recommendations, in order:

All About My Mother
Volver
Bad Education
Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown
Talk to Her
Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!