Monday, December 28, 2009

Special The Women Marathon

The Women (1939)
it's quite a pity
feminism can't be seen
for all the SHRIEKING

Mrs. Stephen Haines
you're a lovely gal
too bad you're stuck with a jerk
and seem to LOVE it

Mrs. Howard Fowler
you're a sweet ice pick
chipping away at the heart
relentless and SHRILL

Crystal Allen
the modern woman (?)
resourceful and ambitious
too bad you're a BITCH

The Men
we can safely say
though you're never on screen, you -
SUCK. COLLECTIVELY.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Don't judge a girl by her hair color.

We're all familiar with the stock descriptions cool blonde, sassy brunette, and fiery redhead – as if a person's hair color were a significant clue to their personality. We naturally make assumptions about people’s personalities according to their looks (or physiognomy, if you want to be fancy and technical) – sensual lips, soulful eyes, etc. – but nothing provides a result as effortlessly as hair color. Red hair, for instance, even if it’s not accompanied by an adjective such as “fiery,” projects a vibrant, independent personality. It's almost counter-intuitive to think of a redhead as icy, weak, or boring.

King David was supposedly a redhead, and though it doesn't say anywhere in the Bible that she was, Mary Magdalene frequently turns up in art with rosy tresses. Brigid O'Shaughnessy, The Maltese Falcon's delicious femme fatale, is another notable redhead. On the opposite end of the innocence spectrum, there's Anne (of Green Gables) Shirley with her carrot-colored curls. In the black and white film version of The Maltese Falcon, Miss O'Shaughnessy's hair color couldn't register, and neither could the locks of spoiled socialite, Tracy "Red" Lord, in The Philadelphia Story.

You need Technicolor for that kind of thing: Vicky Page, the doomed ballerina in The Red Shoes; Mary Kate Danaher, the tempestuous spinster (and then wife) in The Quiet Man; and Glinda, the Good Witch of the North in The Wizard of Oz. Speaking of redheaded witches, Buffy has Willow Rosenberg (though she and Glinda don't hail from the same coven). Bree van de Camp is the special red brand of soapy goodness on Desperate Housewives. And while we're on the subject of television, someone on the Mad Men crew simply adores redheads: Joan, Peggy, Helen Bishop, and Bobbie Barrett. Cartoon-wise, Ariel the Little Mermaid and Jessica Rabbit immediately come to mind.

Aside from the fact that all of these (with the exception of King David) are females, they also have an unconventional, feisty nature in common – whether they're witches, housewives, socialites, secretaries, or femme fatales. There is also the time-honored tradition of casting redheads as prostitutes with hearts of gold – Mary Magdalene, Belle Watling (Gone with the Wind), Vivian (Pretty Woman), and Satine (Moulin Rouge). You can do this sort of character-analysis-by-hair-color for blondes and brunettes and come up with some common denominator – which may seem either less or more arbitrary. Yes, blondes are sophisticated or dumb, and brunettes are adorable or bitchy, but if she has red hair, whether she's good or bad, nice or nasty, she will be extraordinary, rebellious.

On a somewhat off-topic note, I'm curious where "dumb blonde" comes from. I suspect it didn't originally imply "stupid", but silent – as the ideal (for women) was to be fair and quiet. Thus Brunettes, by default, wound up being known as smart, since "dark" is the opposite of fair. Red, though it can vary in shade, doesn't quite fall into either category. Hence, apart from the natural association of red with fire and all its connotations, the additional rebellious quality attributed to redheads. After all, you can have a rotten temper and still be a conformist. But I'm simplifying – hugely.

Any character functions on the basis of more than something as superficial as hair color. There are surely fictional redheads that don’t fit the rebellious model (though I can’t come up with any specific examples at the moment), just like there are hot-blooded blondes and dumb brunettes – and any character can be a misfit regardless of hair color. The crucial point, I think, is that when we pick a character’s hair color, we sometimes let it shape the character more than we realize. Or vice versa – we’ll pick the color according to the personality type.

So here’s to breaking the old molds and making new ones.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Les Diaboliques

had I been able
to believe the translation
this might have been good


I'm referring to my haiku, of course, and not the film (which was good). The following occurred when I tried to translate "What would happen if I gave away the ending?" into French via online translator:

Qu'arriverait-il si j'ai donné la fin?

Which I then translated back into English to see if it (mostly) made sense:

What if I gave the end?

So I tried "What if I revealed the ending?" instead:

Que faire si j'ai révélé la fin?

Which apparently means:

What if I showed up late?

For laughs I translated it back into French so I could then translate it again into English:

Que faire si je arrivé en retard? ---> What if I come late? ---> which translated back into French identically.

Which must mean that I'm really more concerned with being punctual than spoiling the end of the film. So everyone can relax.

Monday, December 14, 2009

SciFaiku

a poetic form
(google it!) science and art
in symbiosis

Friday, December 11, 2009

Monday, December 7, 2009

Up

I am not crying.
They... well-up... naturally.
All on their own. Yes.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Trying to Stay Awake and Manipulate Time While Lost in a Cheap Hollywood Paper Bag

If you want to do a study in human psychology, then read a comment thread on any random webpage. The amount of pointless bickering and bizarre nitpicking is enough to make your head spin. It's as if people lose their sanity when responding to a value judgment. Comments are informal – you're not supposed to sit there forever thinking of something to say – and that's not a bad thing in itself. The problem is when comment threads become the equivalent of a wall in a public bathroom and eventually turn into an all-out brawl in a public bathroom.

Nowhere is this more apparent than movie-related discussions. The threads are virtually interchangeable – switch the title of the film, the names of the actors, etc. The same criticizing phrases and sweeping generalizations are used to describe films which are as different as chocolate and vanilla. Whether the person is disparaging or lauding the film, you can be sure that any of the following happened:

1. The film was so boring that they fell asleep watching it.

2. They want however many hours of their life back.

3. Whoever was in it couldn’t act their way out of a paper bag.

4. Something is all Hollywood's fault.

5. They usually hate the actor/director's films but… (I’ve read this in so many reviews it’s a wonder any actor has any fans.)

6. The actor(s) need(s) acting lessons.

7. The director should go back to film school.

8. No one knows how to make movies anymore except for…

9. Whoever gave his/her usual bad performance. (Question: why do these people keep going to see this actor's movies if they’re always so bad? Methinks they doth protest too much.)

10. It's an instant classic. (I have complained about this elsewhere.)

11. Hyperbole involving willing self-infliction of pain rather than seeing this movie, etc.

12. This is the worst/best movie they have ever seen. (You’re entitled to feel that way about any movie you choose, but I’ve seen it said about so many movies that it makes me wish people would at least qualify the statement with “one of the worst I’ve ever seen.”)

13. The Nationality Argument: only the British understand comedy; only the French understand romance; only the Japanese understand aesthetics; etc. (Note: this is usually accompanied by the assertion that Americans know nothing.)

Aside from the assorted déjà vu of comments, the reviews also feature stock character critics:

The Drooler just wants to mention how HOT the actors are. They love them some good whoever it is. The Dreamer thinks everything was brilliant and often magical as well. The Ranter is easily spotted by use of words in all caps. This person is very ANGRY at all these DAMN movies, okay? ANGRY. The Gossip is more interested in the celebrities' personal lives than actually discussing the film. The Off-topic Rambler ends up talking about other films and other performances. The Narcissist talks about him or herself rather than the film. The Political Activist somehow manages to talk about the right or left side of the political spectrum and how the Republicans/Democrats are to blame/credit for the film. The Riddler tries to express something which may be profound (or at least intelligent), but which is inevitably lost in the incoherent sentence structure. The Extremist - no matter how mediocre or unremarkable the film may be, this person will declare it either the worst or best film of all time.

Not that the aforementioned aren't entitled to their opinions, you just wish they'd calm down before submitting their comments, or at least proofread more carefully.

Or maybe it's just me.

In any case, I've been trying to locate the origin of the phrase "couldn't act their way out of a paper bag" because I'm curious if it's at all possible to act your way into one. Is the bag a metaphor for the parameters of an actor's performance? Surely a director of kaleidoscopic brilliance would craft a vehicle fit for the multitudes. That might be impressive. So far I haven't turned up anything, though, which is probably Hollywood's fault since NO ONE and I mean NO BLOODY ONE makes good movies anymore. And I don't care how SMOKIN' HOT any of those cokehead media whores are. They absolutely DESERVE those paparazzi flashbulbs in their botoxed FACES. This has got to be the worst post ever. I want those 25 minutes of my life back.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009