Archive for Ella Fitzsimmons

Ella at Howard Zinn

Posted in Book, ella, People of Color, politics, queer, reading with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 21, 2009 by thebrooklynsocialite

I will just preface this by saying that as someone with a degree in History, yes not your typical socialite trade, nonetheless true…Howard Zinn is my idol. Take that American Idol, last week, while I was paying my dues in the country, Ella went to hear him speak along with a few other visionaries at the 92 street Y. Here’s her report back. R

Entering the 92nd Street Y last Wednesday, I may have been guilty of bringing more than a healthy dose of cynicism. Don’t get me wrong – I cried as much as the next liberal during Obama’s acceptance speech. But, well… I struggle with a lot of the liberal left’s self-righteousness and lack of self-criticism. Especially when confronted with it in its Park Slope post-hippie incarnation. And let’s be honest – if I struggle to stay polite to Park Slope liberals, Upper East Side liberals should entice me to set off fire alarms by smoking Marlboro Reds,  and to loudly proclaim my affection for clubbing baby seals.

Also, taking the subway from Crown Heights to 86th street is such a bizarre exercise in people watching.  Not a situation geared to inspiring faith in the existence of a post-racial America. Even in oh-so-liberal New York.

The high schoolers carrying AP-study guides and the people handing out fliers for every cause and demonstration under the sun did nothing to raise my spirits. I haven’t been grumpier since my mother forced me to take part in a Swedish outdoor Hannukah celebration.

Imagine my surprise when A Young People’s History of the United States
turned out to be the most inspiring and intellectually challenging event I’ve been to in a long time.

Howard Zinn, I shouldn’t have doubted you. Surprisingly tall and gangly, Zinn’s introduction to the evening showed not only that he’s still sharp and funny but also that he can command an audience without bogarting the stage. Despite the fact that the evening tied in with the publication of A Young People’s History of the United States, the self-evidently titled young reader’s version of Zinn’s non-fiction bestseller, it didn’t feel like an excuse to hawk books.

Instead, the evening introduced me to several historical speeches I’m going to have to revisit, and several performers I’m keen to check out again. Tim Robbins has been a long-term favorite of mine, but Avery Brooks is definitely someone I’d love to see act again. And I want to hear Shontina Vernon sing again and Staceyann Chin perform poetry.

For me, one of the very genuine effects of the evening was a return to the feeling that dissent and questioning of the ruling order can be intellectually satisfying. And that this doesn’t have to be done mockingly. The Martin Luther King Jr speech, Where Do We Go from Here?, performed by Brian Jones, was a picture of sincerity, while at the same time addressing the troubling link between race and class which was true in the 60s and has not yet been overcome.

Emphasizing the role of young people in shaping the world, Evann Orleck-Jetter, the twelve year old girl whose testimony helped sway the Vermont state legislature to allow equal marriage rights, read the piece she’d delivered early this year, as well as a document against child labor from 1913. I was worried for a while that this would be gimmicky and embarrassing. Instead, her calm performance was a restrained tear-jerker –- impressive in anyone and incredibly dignified for someone that young –- which highlighted Zinn’s argument that the study of history should inspire people to participate in the struggles of their own age.

The evening inspired me to email one of the poems performed to an old teacher of mine, from back when I was a super idealistic teenager. She wrote back, thanking me, saying she’d needed it that day. I guess the evening brought back those feelings of I matter-ness that otherwise tend to get trapped beneath my everyday life. Maybe, sometimes, the enthusiastic young person in me needs to be given space to push the post-ironic jaded city dweller aside.

By Ella Fitzsimmons

Ella Dreams of Finding Bliss-Gen Art Closing

Posted in ella, film, Party with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 10, 2009 by thebrooklynsocialite

By Ella Fitsimmons

The final evening of the Gen Art Film festival confirmed something I’d always suspected, but never been certain of: despite my unashamed affection for celebrity gossip, I fail to spot these rare creatures when they are straight in front of me. During the awards ceremony, I realized that the short, bald dude with black-rimmed glasses I’d been chatting to before the screening of breast-fetischizing short Boob was none other than electro-pop phenom Moby, who was presenting the award for best film music. Had I known, I would have asked all sorts of clever questions about his views on the use of music in film. Instead, I hit him up for some free beer (they’d run out at the reception – a tragedy worthy of Aeschylus), and then suggested that if his need to take a wee become desperate during the pseudo-porn feature Finding Bliss, he could relieve himself in the seat empty seat in front of us. He said he’d have to hide from photographers. Not getting the “I’m famous, young lady” hint, I replied that it’d be dark, as we were in a cinema.

Sigh. Sometimes, I’m clearly less perceptive than I give myself credit for.

Luckily, the films put on a stronger showing than I did, so the evening wasn’t a complete write off. Pretty much laughing off questions about the classic film references contained in Boob, director team “Honest” showed a charmingly geeky appreciation for trashy splatter films. Call me juvenile, but I hardly even had to see the film to giggle – just the premise of a murderous breast implant running amok, killing people and pseudo-lesbianly (is a silicone-breast male or female? If there are any gender studies types out there, please feel free to let me know) slithering up to a hot young nurse before ending up being chopped to bits, is my idea of funny. Even though bits of it made me gag. And no, Moby left to respond to the call of nature, so he wasn’t to blame.

The feature, Finding Bliss, also pretty much had my vote from the get go. A romantic comedy set in the porn industries (which the characters insist should be called “adult entertainment”), where a young uptight film school graduate, played by LeeLee Sobieski discovers her sexuality and falls for a porn director (Matt Davis, who it turns out looked familiar because he played the self-obsessed rich boy in Legally Blonde. Yes, I recognized him. And not Moby. I will never be cool), writer-director Julie Davis based the film on her early experiences as an editor at the Playboy Channel. Eaves-dropping shamelessly on people heading to the after party, I heard a Frenchman saying “yes, it vas good, but zey vill nevah show zis film in America – zere iz too much zex”. I hope he’s wrong. FOR ONCE, there’s an Anglophone film about sex being fun, and which mocks the cultural trope that “true love waits”, while allowing for well-formed female characters. I salute Julie Davis for the ironic casting of Sobieski, who became famous when her parents, in my mother’s phraseology, “took leave of their senses” and allowed her to be fondled by an old man in Kubrick’s Lolita, as a frigid, judgmental good girl. Matt Davis, as the love interest, is attractive in the “you know he’s probably not good news, but you’d probably go there anyway”- way, and wins the evening’s “non-asshole award” for failing to cut the line at the after party, despite his friend egging him on to do so. Jamie Kennedy does a good job of seeming like a well-meaning moron porn star and Denise Richards is her ridiculous self – but with better lines than she spouts in her reality TV show.

The after-party and award’s show at BLVD was a landslide victory for My Suicide and star Gabriel Sunday. We are choosing to be charitable and are therefore attributing his behavior to elation in the face of victory, rather than the less legal nasal powder inhalations first suspected. At least he was having fun.

Walking home from the subway, I was happily pondering how Finding Bliss made me hope for a new dawn of sexual equality in the Anglo-Saxon world. A world in which men and women can enjoy sex in a non-guilt-ridden way. A world where Julie Davis’ could movie could go public, if only her film could find a distributor who wasn’t put off by there being “too much sex” in her film. At which point a large man on the street grabbed his crotch and yelled “Suck my D*ck, B*tch” after me. Welcome to the real world, Ella!

Joseph O’Neill and James Wood at the Yale Club by Ella Fitzsimmons

Posted in Book with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 2, 2009 by thebrooklynsocialite

Here is a warm welcome to another wonderful Citizen of the World, Ella Fitzsimmons

Held at the comically WASPy Yale Club, Cambridge University in New York’s “A conversation with James Wood and Joseph O’Neill” narrowly escaped being a love-fest between the critic and the PEN/Faulkner award winner.

No stranger to controversy, famed critic Wood spoke appreciatively of O’Neill’s novel, while pleasantly but firmly defending his views on literature, notably under fire from the likes of Zadie Smith and literary magazine (n +1).

Wood’s approach to literary criticism has been described as ‘aesthetic’ and ‘unideological’ , a classification appreciatively re-iterated by O’Neill. (Though surely not having an ideology is an ideology??).  Agreeing, Wood seemed bewildered by the fact that he’s seen as the standard bearer for Realism in contemporary fiction.
Netherland has been caught in the crossfire between Wood and Smith. O’Neill was surprised by the appearance of Smith’s piece about Netherland in The New York Review of Books in November, as the magazine had already reviewed the book. “Then someone told me ‘You know she’s only getting at James Wood, right?” O’Neill smiled.

Nevertheless, O’Neill, a former lawyer, claimed to be pleased by the ‘multiple entrances to the book’. (A small part of my cynical heart suspected that he was pleased by the controversy. But he seems like a nice guy, so I’m trying to be good about it.)

Emphasizing that he did not try to re-write The Great Gatsby, O’Neill admitted that halfway through the seven year slog that went in to Netherland, he recognized parallels between it and Fitzgerald’s masterpiece.  A tacit agreement with Wood’s reading of the book as a work of post-colonial fiction, rather than a “post- 9/11” novel, perhaps?

Toward the end of the evening, O’Neill touched on how the internet-created, direct relationships with readers could become potentially problematic for writers, resulting in crippling self-consciousness.  This would have been an interesting point to discuss with Wood – as one of the underlying issues in the conflict between Wood and Smith et al is where the authority to criticize and appreciate literature stems from . Is the “Academy” still in charge, or literary criticism being democratized by the internet?  Sadly, the assorted guests were more interested in asking O’Neill about his inclusion of graphic sex scenes, and whether or not he liked the Costner film “Field of Dreams” – and when I discovered that I was much nerdier than a bunch of septuagenarians, I grabbed my last free drink and ran off.