Stories

I felt judged by JLo’s body and I liked it

Feb. 13, 2020

Feb. 13, 2020

After delivering a breathtaking spectacle at the Super Bowl LIV Halftime show, Jennifer Lopez and Shakira did this remarkable thing. I can’t shake it off my mind. The two women, the perfect power couple to take on the Super Bowl gig, stand side-by-side and each tosses an arm around the other.

They exhale. It’s all over, in the books forever.

Shakira looks simply elated with a “Yeah, I did it!” look on her face. Lopez is less smiley, more like, “Yeah, bring on the haters. Oh, and top that, bitches.”

And at this moment, they own the airwaves. And they know it. They bask in triumph after completing the flurry of dance numbers, the lower body close-ups, the stripper pole moves and the ass-shaking and the reminders that they’re both Latina.

But then the real spectacle had only begun. It was time for the onslaught of angry people to take to their keyboards or phones. Was it sexist or empowering? Was it too dirty for the Super Bowl? Was it dirty at all? And if you didn’t like it, aren’t you just a prude this side of the Amish or, better yet, a total racist? If you did like it, aren’t you forgetting about that whole #metoo movement?

I shrugged through a lot of Facebook posts. I was conflicted. I’m a woman who loves women, so I had mixed feelings. I loved it, but I knew that in some ways I shouldn’t have. America nearly lost its dang mind trying to sort it all out.

“Hola, Miami!” Shakira greeted the crowd at the start. I cheered. Lopez draped herself in a reversible boa-type jacket that was one side American flag and the other side the flag from her parents’ birthplace, Puerto Rico. I cheered some more.

Those moments were perfect. So was the choreography and the costume changes and the … well, the women. I may have pulled some brain cells myself. Hey, I don’t tell lies. But then there’s that uncomfortable feeling I get.

There was the moment when JLo bends over to basically show you every inch of her fanny, complete with sequins beneath that leather number. Shakira crawled on the stage as a rapper emerged. And frankly, I don’t know if I want to be her or sleep with someone just like her. But my immediate reaction is that I was thrilled by the show — the spectacle, the insanely over-the-top crush of beats and butts.

But then came the guilt. Did I just enjoy the objectification of women or co-sign treating all women like they’re only a collection of body parts or am I a progressive comfortable with a muscular, positive display of sexuality? I didn’t need to hear anyone asking me in a knowing voice, “So, you liked that, right?”

The guys on one of my favorite podcasts talked about the halftime show sights in trash language that left me disappointed and stung. I felt like they were talking about my sisters. The meme I hate the most, so far, is the one comparing Rue McClanahan, of the classic sitcom The Golden Girls, to JLo. Mean. Totally mean, people. And dumb. It illustrated this specious argument that if you felt Lopez and Shakira went too far, it’s only because your ass doesn’t begin to compare.

Of course, when you get paid like that, it’s a little easier to have chiseled abs than if you’re holding down two underpaid jobs and have kids to raise. Not a lot of time for spin class and zucchini-noodling among the working class. One national newspaper published an op-ed about how watching JLo made the author harshly judge her own body. Nice try, lady. Don’t blame JLo for the luxury problem that is American women always feeling fat — and advertising repeatedly pouring salt in the insecurities — and don’t go to the bad place over 14 minutes of glamorous booty-shaking revelry.

Also, let’s not bury the real story: Shakira and JLo were packaged together, but something happened that was unscripted. Shakira upstaged her elder. She was like a gleeful honor student finally getting to drive the car and show off her ridiculous riches of talent. Look, I can play drums! I can play guitar! I can get leered at by rapper Bad Bunny.

Lopez was all diva — and why not? She’s earned it with prepackaged sexuality wrapped up tightly in Versace. I’m not disrespecting Jenny from the Bronx. If I ever met Jennifer Lopez in person, I’d just start crying. Or I’d flee. She’s intoxicating in her performances, and from “Out of Sight” to last year’s good as hell “Hustlers,” you know she’s got more than a perfect body.

The big takeaway from the year’s biggest halftime?

Latinas ruled for 14 minutes at America’s beloved Super Bowl and that was something to behold. When Lopez’s daughter sang the title line from Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A,” as her mom donned the dual-flag cape, my heart grew a couple sizes bigger. The children in “cages” made my jaw drop. How’d that get by FOX producers?

So I decided it was a transactional experience: For every T and A shot, we got a super awesome Latin dance party to which we didn’t deserve an invite.

For every bend-over pose, we got JLo draped in Puerto Rican flag colors and Shakira doing a tongue thing that we all got scolded at on the Internet later by know-it-alls for not knowing it’s a “zaghrouta” — a traditional Arabic expression of joy often seen at weddings.

But when it was all over, as two remarkably talented women exhaled, I knew something had been changed. For good. They can’t take away those 14 minutes when Latinas owned the top shelf of network real estate.They can’t take away Lopez and Shakira reveling in their heritage and unabashedly showing off, all at the same time. 

Joker: When you can get a gun, but not your meds

If Travis Bickle had a son, he’d look a lot like Arthur Fleck.

Bickle, a psychotic taxi driver in Martin Scorsese’s near-perfect 1976 film, is an ultra-outsider who comes to despise his city, so he becomes a vigilante. Fleck, a psychotic clown who ends up destroying a city, is an outsider dying to fit in somewhere in Gotham City — where it’s always overcast with a chance of disaster.

Fleck is the very imaginable, downtrodden failure in Todd Phillips’ masterful “Joker.” Phillips gave us “The Hangover” trilogy. And “Road Trip,” so he owed us this one.

“No one with mental issues should see this movie,” a friend said before I packed up my clinical depression and headed over to the New Town cineplex.

For two hours, I watched mental illness nearly kill a fictional character who doesn’t seem so fictional these days. It also doesn’t spare those around him.

Fleck, who suffers from psychosis — and probably other stuff — knows he’s unstable. He’s severely troubled, but not stupid. “I’ve never been happy one minute of my life,” he says at one point.

Believe him.

All skin and bones and chain-smoking with bouts of purportedly uncontrollable laughter, he’s deemed a loser by those with whom he interacts.

Arthur can’t win, until he blows away three obnoxious yuppies — those deemed winners — on a subway train. Chaos ensues. Class warfare ensues, of course all during a garbage collection strike.

Or is it all in his head, a grandiose delusion in which he is a hero after all?

It’s impossible to joke about “Joker.” It’s creepy and sad and disturbing and mirrors a country that cares less about treating mental illness than it does about its firepower.

“Joker” has been called an excuse for violent white male angst and it can feel that way. I’m not the first to compare it to “Taxi Driver.” That’s because “Taxi Driver” is smeared all over “Joker”: Untenable loneliness. A politician who’s a dick. Cybill Shepherd’s character is changed to a single mother who unfortunately lives next door to the Flecks. And, like in Bickle’s world, a gun in the hand equals power.

Oh, and Robert DeNiro, the man behind Travis Bickle, plays a TV host all condescending and eager to belittle a troubled man for a cheap-shot laugh. If you thought of Scorsese’s “King of Comedy,” you get extra points.

“Joker” is shot in faded colors and streets filled with endless piles of garbage. It’s incredibly well-made and the screenplay is on point. Audience members have cheered the violence, enjoying the lethal payback for bullying. That’s understandable, mirroring a population that can’t deal with a Facebook rant, much less having French fries pelted at them on a subway train.

Does this movie even need to exist? I had mixed feelings about whether I even needed to see it. As Joe Bob Briggs determined, a movie’s scorecard is described as “fu.”

Visible spine fu. Headbutt fu. Scissor fu. Sad social worker fu. Anarchy fu. “Oops, I dropped my gun in front of children” fu. Stand-up comedy bombing fu. “Oops, I fired my gun by accident” fu. “Oops, I flipped out on national TV” fu. Stalking fu. Imaginary girlfriend fu. Grease paint on the tongue fu. Uncomfortable bathtub scene fu.

“Joker”: Not as good as “Taxi Driver,” but better than “American Psycho.” High praise. ¦

Parasite: When your toilet explodes all over your plans

Bong Joon Ho’s ‘Parasite’ is set in a world where the rich can smell your poverty-stricken subway-riding hide from here. And when the levee breaks on a family’s scheme it rains raw sewage on them.
But let’s back up.
The Kims are living in squalor with stink bugs while the Parks have enough money to hire their bratty son an art therapist and have a driver for their Benz.
An undercover take-over places the Kims working for the Parks after they manage to get everyone unfairly fired. But the real plot only starts after the ex-maid shows up with a swollen, beat up face begging to be let inside because she left something in the basement.
And it’s alive. I thought this was a horror film. And it is, if you’ve ever had a freeloader land at your doorstep.
Hijinks ensue and the blood begins to flow. Lots of commentary on the rich versus the poor, all starting with the rich Mr. Park noting his driver, the elder Mr. Kim, just simply stinks like an old radish. That remark will cost him dearly.
Even the bratty son can smell the Kims’ out-of-place class rung.
Gratuitous cake-stabbing. Gratuitous drunken family quality time. Gratuitous toilet-exploding in a depressing sequence in which the only silver lining is finding your hidden pack of cigarettes dry while you hold down the toilet lid as it belches excrement.
‘Parasite’ is awesome. Better than The Deer Hunter. Not as good as ‘Oldboy.’
My friend Susie was in for a shock. “I thought it was called ‘Paradise,’ she said as the credits rolled.
Boy, was she unprepared for the raw sewage and revenge-at-a-garden-party part. The comedy is darker than the exploding toilet gunk.And we learn that the rich are “nice,” simply because they don’t have to worry about paying the rent.
Catch it at the Tropic before it leaves!

Hustlers: A movie review

Okay, my review of Hustlers, a film about what happens when your industry topples along with the 2008 economy, yet you still got rent to pay:
You improvise.
The film is a solid, charming two-hour mind eraser. The use of music reminded me of Goodfellas. Lizzo and Cardi B.were super good.
Hustlers reminds us that 2007 was a fine, fine year, even if you were liquor-store-robbing drunk like some of us.
The movie also reminds you that Usher was at one time very relevant.
Champagne room fu. Roofie fu. Suspect parenting fu. Stripper shoes fu. Lopez fu. Bronx fu. Wall Street scumbag fu. Plea bargain fu.
Overly materialistic grandma fu.
It would have been Oscar bait had the script been able to keep up with the lead actors.
Problems:
For starters, not enough Jennifer Lopez. This is her vehicle and we know it. I wanted to see less Constance Wu crying – so much girl crying in this film – and more Lopez being all Jennifer Lopez. She should have been in every scene.
She at least gets all the great lines – “Motherhood is a mental illness,” and “This whole country is a strip club.” And she gets the last word.
Wu gets the protagonist role, yet Lopez is the instigator in almost every weighty scene. It’s like when Rain Man came out and Dustin Hoffman got all the accolades but Tom Cruise had to do the heavy lifting.
Overall, not as good as The Deer Hunter, but better than Boiler Room.

*Fu is an homage to legendary movie reviewer Joe Bob Briggs, who created it as a film criticism term.