Star Crossed: Morrissey + Charlie Brown


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“Ohhh sweetness, sweetness. I was only joking when I said I’d like to smash every tooth in your head. . .”

A graphic artist in San Francisco has come up with the most delicious and disconcertingly perfect pairing since peanut butter and sriracha sauce–Charlie Brown and Morissey.  Oh, had they only met! What late night door-banging sulks, lexapro-vivid dreams, and brooding breakfasts the two of these could’ve savored, Charlie B. yearning to please and Morrissey determined to be disappointed. But it was not to be. One was just a caricature of melancholy, and the other drawn by Charles Schulz.  These are just a few samples from Loren LoPrete’s Tumblr, This Charming Charlie.  Enjoy.

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Clothing of the Future. . .or is it the Past?


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Clothing Of The Future

In case you were wondering, at the link above are the fashions of the year 2000.  No one, I assume, in the 1930s could have dreamed of idiocies like the “It” bag (there’s nothing more reeking of a mindless herd instinct than waiting lists for handbags), super low rise jeans that make you look both short and fat (now there’s a score!), or of the pervasive influence of porn on the fashion industry (Schiaparelli will wreak vengeance one day).  Instead, here in the future/past we have climate control belts, glass wedding dresses, and rather prescient cantilevered heels.  Also, got to dig an updo that looks something like a knotted babka.

A Star is Born Part II: Backstory (& Foreshadowing)


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sib poster

Well, whether you accepted last week’s challenge or not, it’s time to lay down a few little riffs on how this film brilliantly–and in at least one case, unintentionally– mirrors Hollywood history:

1. Norman Maine’s descent has been described as what happened to Johns Barrymore and Gilbert (below left and right), neither of whom were exactly amateurs at bending their elbows. 


john gilbertBut I choose to believe another story that’s been mooted; that the inspiration for this was the Frank Fay/Barbara Stanwyck marriage (below right).  Fay was a huge star on Broadway and came to Hollywood with fanfare and a fat contract.  His thin-skinned orphan of a wife accompanied him, and got little work–until Fay talked Capra into auditioning her, and one of the great collaborations of 30s film began with Ladies of Leisure in 1930.  faystanwyckCapra fell in love with Stanwyck’s naturalness and her ease, and filmed the young actress so her skin glows like wet paint, lush in its tactility.  She became one of the greatest actresses of the era, and was the highest paid woman in America by 1944.  Fay meanwhile, leaned hard on the bottle, lost work, began to knock his wife around and basically bought himself a one-way ticket out of town. 

2. The sanitarium scene is said to be based on the a visit George Cukor (a frequent Selznick collaborator) made to a facility where Barrymore had been sent to dry up.  Cukor was there to talk about a potential role in “Camille”, and was touched by Barrymore’s gentle awkwardness on this rare sober occasion.  

3. The scene where Vicky’s veil is snatched off is modeled on Continue reading

A Star is Born, Again and Again


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ScreenHunter_02 Feb. 10 18.13

Oh, winter.  Ah, howling wind and careful stepping through yesterday’s detritus as the snow, once so gleaming, turns into dirt-sullied slush.  And after dark, when things get bitter and the stars have lost their glitter, it becomes treacherous beneath unsteady feet.  We’ve had a storm here in New York and I’m cozying inside in that half-melancholic February nostalgia one can savor when forced into quietude. 

I’m as pure as the driven slush, Tallulah Bankhead once said, and having watched the original Selznick-produced A Star is Born (1937), one gets the feeling that it was only family money that allowed her such honesty–which otherwise was and is rare in a business built on selling dreams.  A Star is Born, which is showing on TCM this week in an orgy of Selznick produced gems, is all about Hollywood, and about the sweet poison of success.  Continue reading

Eat Your Greens, Clint Baby



Moody, yet Macho.

Moody, yet Macho.

      There was an article in London’s Evening Standard in which a journalist took England’s most famous female boxer, Cathy Brown, to see Clint Eastwood’s film Million Dollar Baby. Thirty-four year-old Brown had recently knocked out Hungarian Viktoria Varga after just two rounds– exactly the type of fight Hilary Swank’s character, Maggie, excels at in the film. I’ve seen the film again myself recently and it’s just fabulous (and rather weirdly satisfying) to watch Swank swing out a meaty arm and knock someone senseless.

What is it with boxing and films? Why does boxing transfer so well to cinema when, for example, movies about hockey or football frequently suck? Say what you like about Sylvester Stallone, but Rocky is an extremely well-constructed, enjoyable film– plus, I can’t help but remember my pre-adolescent stirrings at the sight of his armpits. (If you think you’re disturbed by that, imagine how I feel.) Scorsese got more from one shot of blood dripping from rope in Raging Bull than he was able to muster in 3 hours of the crap Hughes bio-pic, The Aviator. Would On The Waterfront have been quite so moving if Brando had been, say, a failed golfer? There’s something evocative about the strength, sadness, and end-of-the-line desperation of people who get beat up for a living.

I suppose some of the appeal of boxing films is obvious: Women like watching well-built men sweat with very little clothing on. Men like sports. The drama of boxing has a simple conflict– two people face to face with only fists and their minds as both weapons and defense. Boxing has a structure that is inherently cinematic: The rounds of only a few minutes a piece, interspersed with terse instructions, loads of blood as eyelids get sliced open and noses re-arranged while pretty girls in hot-pants stroll around holding up placards. Plus boxing films have the climactic potential of the old KO. Add two condoms and a pizza and you’ve got quite a pleasant Saturday night. Continue reading

“Whatever Happened to Baby Jane”? Another Unncecessary Remake, That’s What!


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Is a Remake Sacriligious? Even if it gives us more Crazy to Love?

So it’s official, and has been for a month or so.  Whatever Happened to “Baby Jane”?  It’s Getting a Remake.  Which seemed to me to be one of the silliest decisions I’ve encountered since Hollywood tried to remake The Women and ended up pouring bong water over the embers of Meg Ryan’s career.

But naturally they’re at it again.  It’s clear they’ll never learn, because here’s a little sample of Hollywood logic for you:  “The idea is to make a modern film without modernizing the period.  It needs to resonate the golden age of Hollywood.”  These words were uttered by Walter Hill, who was chosen to be the director of this remake.  The man is doubtless an artist, whose upcoming Stallone film, Bullet to the Head, will rival Grand Illusion for delicacy and depth.  How the hell could anything resonate the golden age of Hollywood more thoroughly than Bette Davis impaling herself on Joan Crawford’s falsies, before kicking her to the head? 

Continue reading

NYC Films on the Green, Summer 2012: OSS 117, Cairo Nest of Spies


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Cairo, Nest of SpiesI never understood the allure of James Bond films–or rather, I never understood why the hell anyone would admit to being a fan of  such pendulously dull male adolescent fantasies.  I’d get it if these films had been screened like nudie films used to be, in select ares of Times Square, where those burdened with a shameful yen for cartoonish dialogue + farm hand’s ideas of fancy living could go see ol’ Jimmy drive his purty car and spar with follically challenged villains.  But who’d have thought such heavyhanded silliness would become so culturally entrenched?

But as usual, my sense of what will be admired and duplicated is wrong wrong wrong.  And (she points out with a girlishly raised index finger) I was born too late to get all jazzed up by cold war hi-jinks in the cinema.  The early 60s were a fermentative and frightening era, and Jimmy B’s smug suavity calmed WWII victors’ fears of just what the fuck the Communists were percolating behind their Iron Curtain, while here in capitalistic society men were wrapping their minds around the honestly world-changing fact that women could now actually have sex without getting pregnant, and quite frequently chose to do so with people other than their husbands. . .but still.  “Plenty O’Toole?” “Pussy Galore”? 

Yawn.   Continue reading

The Great and Powerful Roz


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Hey, Brother–Can You tell ’em I’m no Lady?

Just now, while flicking Jungle Red fingernails through the spammed questions I receive for this blog, I noticed the kind of query I usually relish (since it would lead us straight to Kenneth Anger territory– I know the turf worryingly well).   The question was: “Could you tell me more about transmitted diseases?” 

Why yes, friend, I could.  I could be a tour guide though Hollywood Babylon, leading you by the hand as we stroll by the “Hollywood” sign, where Peg Entwhistle jumped from the “H” to her death in 1932.  Then we’d wander near the house David Niven and Errol Flynn rented, which some wag* nicknamed “Cirrhosis by-the Sea.”  I could talk about Jean Harlow’s Hubby’s death dildo and Jeff Chandler’s yen to wear polka-dot dresses.  Or about how Bogart liked to hide under tables while his wife Mayo got into bar fights.  I could talk about all kinds of salacious useless crap, and quite often do.

But, dear reader, not today.  Today my nails are sharp but my heart contains the softness of spring.  Today I choose not to focus on the weary negativities of life, the injustices, imbalances, and the itchy thrush-inducing mornings-after the night before.  So I won’t do a tour of syphilitic Hollywood, and not only because that’d be one lo-ong essay to write of a lovely May day.

Today I want to talk about lighter and rarer things than a rollicking dose of the clap.  Instead I want to discuss a truly great comic performance:  A great Female comic performance that is more balls-to-the wall than any other piece of acting in that annus mirabilis of 1939, and which should’ve put all that sexist nonsense about “Are Women Funny” to rest ages ago.  As if Mabel Normand herself didn’t do it decades before. . . Continue reading

The Wilde World of “Nothing Sacred”


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Stephen Fry as Wilde

I like any chance I get to think about Oscar Wilde, and there are surprisingly frequent opportunities in life to do so:  Whenever one gives in to temptation, sees ghastly wallpaper, or greets a widow with newly blonded hair.  Anytime you encounter someone so improbably youthful that you assume they have a ghoulish self-portrait in their attic.  Whenever you write in a diary, or stay in a cheap hotel room in Paris, or leave your family to run across town to spend time with a pretty, mean-spirited young lover whose daddy is a Marquess and an inventor of boxing rules.  Whenever someone in this world cannot find it in their hearts to believe that small-minded people are out to destroy them, and ends up doomed by their optimism. 

But most often, and increasingly, one thinks of Wilde whenever brackened, unformed life lurches from the primordial mire and shapes itself. . .into an imitation of art.  As happened in New York recently.  (Ah!  New York–the place where Wilde, upon his first visit, informed customs officials that the only thing he had to declare was his genius.  See?  Dude’s everywhere.) Continue reading

“Another City, Another Life. . .”


Wherever you're going, lady, you're gonna have to put your shirt all the way on.

Since reading the Economist’s new report on the competitiveness of global cities, I’ve been thinking about just what makes a city livable, and how one thinks of cities at all.  As a born romantic, I have lived in many cities and never once asked myself the Economist’s question–how does this town compete in terms of physical and human capital?  Or, say–what’s up with this burg’s institutional competitiveness? 

Or I think I haven’t.  Once I actually read this chart and took in the rather contradictory concept of livability being equated with competitiveness, I began to think about the cities in which I’ve lived–and I realized  something surprising.  Continue reading