Black Swan

Post Revisited: Reflections of Black Swan

Black Swan

Photo Credit: YouTube | FoxSearchlight

The PieceIt Just Wants to be Perfect
Original Publication: Awkward is What We Aim For
Date of Publication: December 10, 2010

Background: From 2008 til 2011, I operated my own blog, Awkward is What We Aim For. While there are some things I really liked about it, ultimately it tread too much of the same ground as I eventually tread in my “It’s K-OK!” column for the Loyolan, so I let it fall into disuse after a while. Going back and reading it, I’m struck by how immature some of the writing is – if I ever go insane enough that I decide I want kids, AIWWAF is not going to be what I let them read first. Or ever.

However, there were a couple pieces I consider ‘important’ in my development as a writer, and I still hold them near and dear to my heart. So while these stories won’t be uploaded to KevinPatrickOKeeffe.com, I still want to revisit them.

Conception: I saw Black Swan on its official opening night: December 3, 2010. I had been dying to see it since the first trailer was released months before. You remember the one.


Still creepy.

I was blown away by the film, entranced by its tragic beauty. Even in the face of those who didn’t love it, I couldn’t help but rhapsodize about it on and on. Friends were getting overwhelmed when I’d talk to them about it, so I figured I should try and put my thoughts into writing. Thus “It Just Wants to be Perfect” was born.

Execution: What bugs me the most about this piece is its title! I make the very point that Black Swan doesn’t have to be technically perfect to achieve impact in the article, but in the title, I sacrificed accuracy for an allusion. See what I mean about the writing being immature?

Still, what I really appreciate about this piece is how in depth it is. I’ve attempted to follow up on these ideas since, but what’s in this piece are real, raw, unfiltered feelings mixed with analysis. I can’t quite get this deep into this particular movie again, which is a shame, because there’s so much to write about, talk about, digest.

Revisiting: Still, maybe that’s the best part about Black Swan: You can talk all day about it, but ultimately, the movie is such a work of art that it can stand on its own without much discussion. Black Swan still remains among my favorite movies, up there with Sunset Boulevard and The Devil Wears Prada, but while those works have a finite amount of facets to praise, I’ve yet to find a limit of all the different, wonderful things Black Swan does so well.

Ryan Gosling

Post Revisited: My Letter to Ryan Gosling

Ryan Gosling

Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons

The Piece: A letter to Ryan Gosling, national treasure
Original Publication: The Los Angeles Loyolan
Date of Publication: February 2, 2012

Background: I took over as the Loyolan’s Arts & Entertainment Editor in late September, with my first solo issue coming that October. From that first issue on, I wrote a column for the section called “It’s K-OK!” Generally, the theme of the column was ‘pop culture as lifestyle,’ but I deviated from that well once or twice, to say the least. This was one of those deviations.

Conception: At the end of January, Ryan Gosling was riding a wave of good publicity. Though he had missed earning an Oscar nomination for either Drive or The Ides of March, he was gaining a reputation as the hottest young actor working today. My actorcrush on him started with Half Nelson and bloomed into full-on actorlove with Fracture and Blue Valentine. The last year was a triple play of charm (Crazy, Stupid, Love.), savvy (The Ides of March) and undeniable appeal (Drive). Ryan had sealed his place in my heart.

I was about to transition into my new position as Managing Editor and, as a result, would be writing my column much less frequently. I decided to do something different for one of my last editions, and the result was my letter to Ryan.

Letter to Ryan

Design Credit: The Los Angeles Loyolan

Execution: Part of what I loved so much about putting this together was the design. Originally meant to just run like a regular column, a co-worker and I brainstormed to come up with a presentation where the letter would appear to have been printed on parchment — including my signature at the end. I was thrilled with how it looked, and it was the first hint of something the current Arts & Entertainment Editor at the Loyolan would really run with: engaging, thoughtful page design that used appealing graphics instead of static templates.

Revisiting: Admittedly, if I had to rewrite this piece, I would have put it out in October, in the heat of Ryan’s success. With the delay of his movie Gangster Squad to 2013, this year will go without a major Gosling release, and the spotlight has been shifted to fellow Emma Stone co-star Andrew Garfield for his work in The Amazing Spider-Man. Still, I’m firmly in Ryan’s corner — he’ll be back soon enough, and in a big way. I’m just glad I got to declare my love in such a creative, fun fashion.

Weird Kid

Quick Read: Weird Isn’t Okay, According to Oprah.com

Weird Kid

Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons

The past few years in America have caused the media to become a chanting chorus of anti-bullying messages. “I’m beautiful in my way, ’cause God makes no mistakes,” Lady Gaga sang in the (rejected?) gay anthem “Born This Way.” “Don’t you ever, ever feel like you’re nothing; you are perfect to me,” P!nk implored in “Fuckin’ Perfect.” “Do you ever feel like a plastic bag, drifting through the wind, wanting to start again?” Katy Perry queried in “Firework.” (Admittedly, some songs were more effective than others.)

With the It Gets Better campaign infecting all parts of the media, and especially shows like Glee, it’s very rare to see any arm of the press fall out of step with the vehement “Bullying isn’t okay; embrace who you are” message.

On the CNN.com homepage today is an article from Oprah.com entitled “How to deal with your kid’s weird friends.” Author Corrie Pikul describes the six different types of ‘weird’ kids your child might make friends with in school, and how to best deal with them. The piece itself isn’t the issue – though Pikul isn’t exactly setting the journalistic world on fire with this one – but in how she handwaves being able to call these kids weird.

“Your child is hilarious, interesting, clever—frankly, he’s all-around delightful,” she starts. “But his friends are …well, we’re all adults here, so let’s just come out with it: Some of them are weird.”

I’m not quite sure what being adults has to do with it. Is name-calling okay at a certain age? Are we as adults allowed to call kids weird, but not each other? Can kids call us weird? It’s a very strange qualifier, and while I’m sure Pikul meant nothing by it, I have to wonder why maven of good feelings Oprah Winfrey’s website endorses something like this.

Not only that, but the position is kind of imperious and condescending. ‘My child is perfect, but look at all these other weirdos he has to put up with!’ If your child is hanging out with weird kids, chances are he’s a little weird, too. In fact, most kids are weird. Hence why I don’t want to have any of them. Maybe this piece would have been more useful if it was about dealing with your own child’s weirdnesses as well.

I’ve made my position on It Gets Better known, and let me just clarify that I personally have no problem with this. There are such things as weird kids. Like I said, I personally think most kids are weird. But this is such a strange piece simply because it’s so out of step with the rest of media’s pro-uniqueness message. Perhaps the anti-bullying wave is coming to a close once again?

Brenda Leigh Johnson

Brenda Leigh Johnson, Feminist Icon

Brenda Leigh Johnson

Photo Credit: TNT

In 2005, TNT launched a new police procedural, their first major effort to create original programming on the network. That procedural was The Closer, starring film actress Kyra Sedgwick as tough-as-nails Deputy Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson, a transfer into the LAPD’s Priority Murder Squad (or Priority Homicide Division, as it was quickly changed to be called when Brenda wasn’t pleased with the ‘PMS’ stationery).

From the pilot onwards, it was evident that this wasn’t your typical procedural. Sure, there was an investigation every episode of a new case, a cast of diverse cops, dramatic confessions, etc. But Brenda was a character in every sense of the word. Her background was explored and she was given a colorful identity, something that can’t be said for the leads on most cop shows. We got to see Brenda at her weakest (eating chocolate) and her strongest (interviewing suspects) equally, and we got to see her fall in love with and eventually marry Special Agent Fritz Howard of the FBI (Jon Tenney) while fighting old feelings for Assistant Chief Will Pope (J.K. Simmons). All of this wouldn’t have worked, of course, if Sedgwick hadn’t brought such life and wonder to the role.

Not only was Brenda wonderful, but her supporting cast became more and more fleshed out with each episode as well. Starting in season two, light-hearted episodes showcasing the antics of Lieutenants Andy Flynn (Tony Denison) and Louie Provenza (G.W. Bailey) became a seasonal treat, and later season plots about Detective Julio Sanchez (Raymond Cruz) watching his brother die and Sergeant David Gabriel (Corey Reynolds) physically attacking a child molester added dramatic gravitas.

The Closer wasn’t always a great show — it especially started to sag in season four, when the premise became tired and Brenda’s relationship with Fritz became more about bickering and less about loving moments. The show revitalized itself in season five, however, when it introduced Captain Sharon Raydor of the Force Investigation Division (Mary McDonnell), a worthy adversary for Brenda. What was originally supposed to be a three-episode gig became a regular role by the show’s final season for McDonnell as fans relished in the two women’s stubborn rivalry.

Last night, The Closer signed off and Major Crimes signed in with mixed results. While The Closer‘s finale was certainly emotional with Brenda and Sedgwick departing for good, it was anticlimactic, as Major Crimes involves almost the exact same team, simply with Raydor at the helm. While she makes a brilliant antihero, Raydor is hardly a sympathetic protagonist, and the chemistry of the show is a little off. Time will tell if it can recalibrate itself and become popular, but Major Crimes feels like nothing but an attempt to extend the brand without Sedgwick.

The problem is that the brand is Sedgwick. Without her, The Closer would have ended early on as a forgettable TNT procedural. Instead, it thrived, and inspired scores more female protagonists who weren’t syrupy sweet and weak all the time. Glenn Close on Damages. Julianna Marguiles on The Good Wife. Holly Hunter on Saving Grace. Claire Danes on Homeland. None of these portrayals would have been fathomable in a world where The Closer and Sedgwick didn’t break the glass ceiling first. For that, television and women across the country owe much to the Southern drawl and steely tenacity of Brenda Leigh Johnson.

Perhaps Brenda and Sedgwick will show up on an episode of Major Crimes at some point – and what a thrill that would be to hear that Southern-sweet “Oh, for heaven’s sake!” again – but frankly, I’m happy with where we’ve left Brenda. She left the department to focus on her family after capturing her toughest suspect ever. She was fulfilled. And thanks to her, so are millions of women who enjoy quality female protagonists every week.

I salute you, Brenda Leigh Johnson. As you would exclaim every episode, “Thank you so much!”

Anderson Cooper

Anderson Cooper’s Man Has Another Man

Anderson Cooper

Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons

Who would cheat on Anderson Cooper? If photographs published by the Daily Mail yesterday evening are to be believed, his boyfriend would.

The photos show a rather well-lit Ben Maisani, the boyfriend in question, kissing another man in a New York park. Maisani, owner of Manhattan bar Eastern Bloc, has purportedly been with the silver fox of journalism for three years. Their relationship was brought into the limelight after the newsman’s announcement of his sexuality in an interview with The Daily Beast earlier this summer. According to the Mail, a wedding date was set for this fall.

The whole thing has shades of another celebrity affair that erupted earlier this summer: Kristen Stewart’s affair with married Snow White and the Huntsman director Rupert Sanders, including rather revealing photos and a relationship that’s never been publicly confirmed. Unlike Stewart and ex-beau Robert Pattinson’s split, however, it’s unlikely that either man will be making any public statements about the photos. Additionally, I wouldn’t be surprised if they don’t even split up.

The modern portrait of a relationship is changing, especially in queer and metropolitan circles. Open relationships are seemingly becoming more and more popular, and frankly, no one knows exactly how Cooper and Maisani’s relationship works except for Cooper and Maisani. Perhaps their relationship is open; perhaps the photos aren’t from when the Mail is reporting; perhaps Maisani actually was cheating. There are plenty of possibilities.

It’ll be interesting to watch how this news develops, especially because it’s one of the first instances in recent memory of a gay celebrity relationship coming under major media scrutiny because of a perceived indiscretion. If theirs turns out to be an open relationship, how will the media process this? Even among straight folks, open relationships are pretty harshly judged — think about Mo’Nique and her husband’s marriage. If the photos are old, then the question becomes ‘how old?’ And if Cooper and Masani’s relationship is headed towards a breakup, then he’s about to become the gay community’s most eligible bachelor. Whichever way it breaks down, Cooper’s in for a bumpy ride. Let’s just hope he doesn’t leave the house looking like Stewart did.