Highlights of Love with the Proper Stranger (1963)

When a one-night stand results in pregnancy, a musician and a young girl try to resolve the issue together. (via)

This isn't a spectacular movie, but when the leading roles are so attractive and the film makes an effort to explore a complicated relationship, I enjoy myself.

Main highlights:

1. Steve McQueen in a romantic leading role. Not needing to show much range besides frustration, anger, and occasionally resigned kindness, this role works for him.

2. Natalie Wood's hair. It almost makes me want bangs again, even though I never really like having bangs, but they look adorable on her. Does any one else have this problem every time they see a good pair of bangs?

It also makes me want to curl my hair, but then I remember how lazy I am in the morning, so I should probably stop obsessing about her hair.

3. Aren't we all glad abortions aren't given in sketchy apartments and done by sketchy non-doctors anymore?

4. Both Steve McQueen and Natalie Wood are playing Italians with ridiculously stereotypical parents. I guess once you've played a Puerto Rican, you can play anything vaguely ethnic. But Steve McQueen? McQueen?

5. The ending scene made me giggle profusely, because I am actually a really girly romantic if you give me enough realism to go on. And someone might do this...maybe:

That's a banjo he's playing there, if you can't tell.
(Huge smile on my face.)


Medley of the Day: Spoon edition

Via The Phrase Finder:

"Born with a silver spoon in one's mouth."

Meaning: Born into a wealthy family.

Origin: This is commonly thought to be an English phrase and to refer to the British aristocracy. That may well be the case, but the earliest citation in print is from the USA.

Deb. U.S. Congress, 1801:

"It was a common proverb that few lawyers were born with silver spoons in their mouths."

Mediaeval spoons were usually made of wood. Spoon was also the name of a chip or splinter of wood and it is likely that is how the table utensils derived their name. It has been a tradition in many countries for wealthy godparents to give a silver spoon to their godchildren at christening ceremonies. That may be the source of the phrase, or it may simply be derived from the fact that wealthy people ate from silver while others didn't.

1. "Gold" by Interference. Classical usage: "I was born with a silver spoon."

2. "Substitute" by the Who. Reworked usage: "I was born with a plastic spoon in my mouth."

3. "Gold Dust Woman" by Fleetwood Mac. Virulent usage: "Take your silver spoon and dig your grave."


Romance and Wisdom in the 1860s

In case you live in a box, this is slightly spoilery. Kind of.

I've long been fascinated by Civil War-era American history, initially drawn to it by American Girl articles about the underground railroad and the Addy* series of books. I suppose it was the same macabre attraction that other girls my age had for Lurlene McDaniel books or the Holocaust. But the real clincher that solidified this bizarre time in American history into my heart was Gone With the Wind (1936). I first read the book at the end of 9th grade when we were asked to read a novel set during the Civil War. Never before had I seen the Southern slaveholder perspective put on the page or in the movies. Never had I heard about Reconstruction and the ruins it left behind. But most of all, I had never read about such flawed but engaging characters to the tune of a thousand pages before. Having just finished the novel for the third time after a five year hiatus, I was struck again why I'm compelled to call it one of my all-time favorite books.

For those unfamiliar, the novel follows Georgian Southern belle Scarlett O'Hara through the Civil War and Reconstruction. The mainstays in her life are her childhood love Ashely Wilkes, Ashley's genuinely good wife Melanie, and her decade-long suitor Rhett Butler. There are many other characters--the mother Scarlett worships, the father she takes after, her Mammy, a couple of husbands, her children, slaves (or ex-slaves) from the Tara plantation, and her neighbors--but the main story, besides just trying to survive, is between Scarlett and Rhett and their strong personalities clashing into some semblance of a romance.

For an epic novel, it's incredibly well paced. Forays into historical context never feel like work to get through, but give just enough information about the state of the battlefield or society to let us understand how the main characters fit in. In fact, the first section of the book, about 140 pages, take place over two days, giving us so much background on Scarlett's parents, her personality, and the daily routine of the plantation she lives on, that it's a sufficient building block to base Scarlett's motivations for the rest of the novel. The context also helps me understand such a foreign world where slave labor is tacitly accepted, where even prostitutes and freed slaves uphold social norms, and where the Ku Klux Klan is seen as a necessity. Margaret Mitchell gives enough honest perspective (much of it jeering) that you feel okay to go along with the character's assumptions while realizing many are wildly erroneous.

The character Mitchell gives the most perspective on, obviously, is Scarlett O'Hara, one of the most fascinating characters I've ever read. She's money smart, but terrible with abstract ideas. She understands how to get men to do things for her, but doesn't understand why it works. She worships her saintly mother, but she's too selfish to be like her. She hates being polite to society, but doesn't see the protection it gives her. She pines after a childhood fantasy in Ashley, but doesn't see her perfect match in Rhett. Scarlett is all contradiction, but we're inside her head so much, we go along with her naive justifications of her damaging actions as she becomes more desperate to find some comfort. When Scarlett marries her sister's beau in order to get money to pay taxes on the family's plantation, we are privy to the reasons why and excuse her for it, despite it being a terrible thing to do. And maybe she's not a perfect role model for anybody, but you have to admire her tenacity to dig her family out of poverty.

But her inability to understand and analyze complex situations are her downfall, and this is most evident in her interactions with Rhett Butler. An educated man with little regard for society's rules and penchant for black humor, he takes advantage of situations for his gain. When he meets with Scarlett, he finds a kindred spirit of sorts, although one that is somewhat unaware of the bigger picture. He takes a liking to her, and his fascination soon turns to love, although he'd be loathe to admit it, being the sarcastic blackguard he is. Both Scarlett and Rhett's characters are so well written, that the inevitable end feels absolutely right. Both of their stubborn natures and fear of rejection kept them from really showing their love for each other.

But what I find even more fascinating than their fiery interactions (mostly involving Rhett making Scarlett look like an idiot), is how far apart they occur. This novel isn't afraid of letting time pass between their meetings. It's not until the the last section of Gone With the Wind that Rhett even becomes a regular character in the novel. It keeps Rhett as mysterious to the reader as he is to Scarlett, but also proves that Rhett really is the shining light in this story, bringing humor and honesty to bleak situations. You first realize this at the bazaar when Scarlett is recently widowed and in mourning, but wants to danceand Rhett gets her onto the dance floor--how scandalous! But he saves her from a doldrum existence of widowhood that was swallowing her happiness. But the brightest spots of all are the great conversations where Rhett gives very pragmatic advice.

Rereading the novel, I realized that I may have been more influenced by it than I realized, seeing Rhett's world view had somehow seeped into mine. (Is it weird that I subconsciously want the approval of a fictional character?) Look at some of these Rhett Butler gems:

On the importance of reputation:
"Until you've lost your reputation, you never realize what a burden it was or what freedom really is." pg. 193
On why we fight:
"All wars are sacred...To those who have to fight them. If the people who started wars didn't make them sacred, who would be foolish enough to fight? But, no matter what rallying cries the orators give the idiots who fight, no matter what noble purposes they assign to wars, there is never but one reason for a war. And that is money. All wars are in reality money squabbles. But so few people ever realize it. Their ears are too full of bugles and drums and the fine words from stay-at-home orators. Sometimes the rallying cry is 'Save the Tomb of Christ from the Heathen!' Sometimes it's 'Down with Popery!' and sometimes 'Liberty!' and sometimes 'Cotton, Slavery and States' Rights!'" pg. 229
On how to make money:
"I told you once before that there were two times for making big money, one in the upbuilding of a country and the other in its destruction. Slow money on the upbuilding, fast money in the crack-up. Remember my words. Perhaps they may be of use to you some day." pg. 239
On being the black sheep of the family:
"If you are different, you are isolated, not only from people of your own age but from those of your parents' generation and from your children's generation too. They'll never understand you and they'll be shocked no matter what you do. But your grandparents would probably be proud of you and say: 'There's a chip off the old block,' and your grandchildren will sigh enviously and say: 'What an old rip Grandma must have been!' and they'll try to be like you." pg. 672
On charity:
"It's entertaining, helping people who help themselves." pg. 764
On the social Darwinism:
"Whenever the world up-ends, his kind [Ashley] is the first to perish. And why not? They don't deserve to survive because they won't fight--don't know how to fight. This isn't the first time the world's been upside down and it won't be the last. It's happened before and it'll happen again. And when it does happen, everyone loses everything and everyone is equal. And then they all start again at taw, with nothing at all. That is, nothing except the cunning of their brains and strength of their hands. But some people, like Ashley, have neither cunning nor strength or, having them, scruple to use them. And so they go under and they should go under. It's a natural law and the world is better off without them. But there always a hardy few who come through and give time, they are right back where they were before the word turned over." pg. 765
On love:
"Yes, I'm sorry for you--sorry to see you throwing away happiness with both hands and reaching out for something that would never make you happy. I'm sorry because you are such a fool you don't know there can't ever be happiness except when like mates like." pg. 928

Right? But what makes his beliefs even more interesting is that his competition for Scarlett's heart, Ashley Wilkes, says almost exactly the same things, but with a melancholy sorrow that clashes with Rhett's pragmatism. They possess the same sentiments, but are such opposite men, they foil each other perfectly.

Much the same can be said about Melanie and Scarlett. They're both pillars of strength, able to see and do what needs to be done. But Melanie sees how to take care of people emotionally, while Scarlett sees how to take care of people temporally. They'd be a wonderful team if Scarlett could ever see the use in really helping people instead of throwing money at them.

There's a lot more I could say about Gone With the Wind. It's a romance without being sappy, because it's far too cynical for that, it's historical to the extent that you could fit these characters into any social upheaval. But most of all, it's an engaging look at a fascinating character, Scarlett O'Hara. In some ways, the novel is a coming-of-age tale about a young woman hardened by war who finally finds out what could make her happy again. But even when things don't work out for her, you know she'll rally. She's tough enough to make the best out of even the worst situations.

*Also known as the more awesome American girl because she actually had to do something--run away from her slave holder to the North--instead of just sitting pretty and picking up poor people to entertain her like Samantha. Stupid snob deserved to be archived.


Wuthering Heights (1939)

I've not read the Emily Bronte classic Wuthering Heights, but after watching this film, I don't have any desire to. In fact, if it were any other actor than Laurence Olivier playing Heathcliff, I'm not sure I would have made it through this movie.

This is more personal preference than a jibe at the film's quality. It's shot beautifully with long takes that weave through ballrooms and peak in windows. It's also moodily shot, with characters hiding in the corners of the frame and lightning revealing all the hidden parts of the composition.

And I have the propensity to love the story line: a lonely boy, Heathcliff, is gladly taken into a home, but is later scorned and made a stable boy by the prejudiced son of the man that took him in, all whilst the daughter, Cathy, grows to love him. There are even frequent insults that include some variation of "gypsy blood" in reference to the somewhat uncouth Heathcliff.

What's not to love?

People just talking, and then talking some more, about the passion.

Cathy and Heathcliff's initial interactions as children are sweet, and so are their young adult days when they vow to love each other forever. But once things start getting complicated with the introduction of upper class money and society, the film just starts talking about their great love and all their feelings while not doing much. Yeah, Cathy gets married and Heathcliff runs off and mysteriously gets rich, but we never get the details, so we're left to fill in the blanks while the movie goes back to Cathy and Heathcliff talking about not being together.

This frustration is only compounded by knowing that Wuthering Heights was the basis for the book 3 of the Twilight series, Eclipse, which was all talk and about 50 pages of action, with Jacob (one of the few characters with personality--especially compared to Edward) being slighted in the end after a steamy make-out sesh with Bella that almost made up for absolutely nothing happening otherwise, but not quite because that book was hundreds upon hundreds of pages long.


Anyway, as much as I'm griping about Wuthering Heights, there were things to love about it in a ridiculous old movie sort of a way. The swelling, melancholy strings that serve as the overwhelming score. The supernatural connection between the lovers even after death (what else but an old movie could pull off that Gothic cheese?). The epiphanies during a thunder storm:

And of course Laurence Olivier as Heathcliff giving a believable performance as both a maligned stable boy and a vengeful gentlemen. He may soon make it to my top 20 list if I keep seeing him transform his body language and demeanor so effectively in other films.

But even Mr. Olivier couldn't save the film from becoming a soupy mess at the end. They spent so much time talking about their feelings that I never actually got to experience it, so I didn't even care by the end. A similar film experience would be Cold Mountain, in which the lovers somehow build up so many expectations that we're so supposed to care about their relationship even though they don't see each other for a large portion of the film. I'm sorry, that's just a depressing--not to mention boring--relationship which is better suited to the pages of a novel where psychological states of mind can better be explored. Although even then it's frustrating to me.

So watch Wuthering Heights if you love corny old movie romances. This fits the bill and is guaranteed to make you giggle if you adore sudden declarations of love and hatred. However, this may also be how you feel about the film itself.


20 Favorite Actors

In response to the Film Experience Blog, my top 20 actors. This is a pretty arbitrary list, with some ridiculous picture choices:

Hugh Jackman

Clark Gable

Cary Grant

Tom Hanks

Harrison Ford

Robert Downey Jr.

Daniel Day-Lewis

Gene Kelly

Yul Brynner

Edward Norton

Steve McQueen

Anthony Hopkins

Takeshi Kaneshiro

Gregory Peck

Kenneth Branagh

Denzel Washington

Colin Firth

Joaquin Phoenix

Mark Ruffalo

Steve Zahn

The Audacity of Rock: Part 24

Vanilla flavored rock.

You know the bands. They get a lot of air play, have a lot of fans, but you have no idea why. They don't rock hard, they have bland melodies, and absolutely none of the band members are good looking, but somehow they become huge. This is one part of our past we haven't learned from yet.

"Even the Nights are Better" Air Supply (1982)

Suffering from a disco hangover, this duo managed to reach the top of the US charts in 1982 with this song. The bridge is pretty good, but I'm a bridge junkie, so I don't know what that means. Anyway, this is soft rock at its finest and milquetoastiest, complete with the cheesiest lyrics possible.

"Never Say Never" The Fray (2009)

Once again proving that they're the least creative lyricist in popular music today, each phrase is uttered at least twice in a row. Alhtough I can understand about half of what Isaac Slade sings in this #44 peaking song, unlike most of their singles. But honestly, there is nothing interesting about this song, except that it would do well accompanying the ending montage of a broadcast channel drama.

Questions to ponder:

1. How do bands like this make it huge?
2. How do you deal with their ubiquity?
3. Most importantly, how did Air Supply get those cute girls in their video?


Hairspray (1988)

While I’m haunted by John Waters’ pencil thin mustache, I must admit Hairspray (1988) is pretty entertaining. There’s an element of trashy camp that the new, sleek, musical version misses out on, and as a result the cultural statements are cheesily glossed over in song instead of creating thought-provoking moments.

Having the overprotective mother not just humorously overprotective, but hysterically afraid of black people makes more of a statement about how ridiculous prejudice is. Having a psychiatrist with a hypnotically spinning circle and cattle prod makes light of ineffective behavioral adjustment therapy. And as punishment for her big hair, having Tracy sent to special ed with all the retards* and black kids being purposely held back is so ridiculous and surreal, that it says a lot more about maligning groups of people than monologuing or singing about it. It’s a great example making light of a situation to make a statement.

But I think the biggest change from the screen to the musical is having Tracy as the lead character. Yes, she’s the main character the story, but the original film is much more of an ensemble piece. It’s not just about self-esteem and body image or a woman trying to relive her glory years through her daughter, but about how everyone in the town is dealing with racial issues, raising kids, and surviving high school.

What I’m trying to say is I like the original version of Hairspray better than the musical version. It has fun with social issues instead of preaching, it’s campy instead of family entertainment (although the two aren’t really exclusive), and it’s just plain ridiculous.

Also, there isn’t a Zac Efron.

*I’m always struck at how retard is thrown around in older (but not really that old) films, having the term PC-ed out of me years ago.


The Audacity of Rock: Part 23

Saturday night!

Rock music has long held that Saturday night is the night that things happen and is really fun. In reality, it's a night that you probably should find something to do because nothing's on TV anyway.

"Saturday Night" by the Bay City Rollers (1976)

When I worked at Burgerville I usually punched in the code on the Jukebox for "Let's Get it On" or "Heaven is a Place on Earth," but every once in a while, I chose this song for its energy boost and pure singalongability. Also, because listening to it might get it out of my head.

Bonus points if you can explain to me the short pants and the weird phallic background.

"Saturday Waits" by Loney, Dear (2007)

I'm not really sure what this song means, but it's pleasant and the music video has dressed up dogs...so awesome. Anyway, Saturday night seems to be held as significant.

Questions to ponder:

1. What do you do on Saturday night?
2. I found a song about/named after every day of the week except Wednesday. What's up with that?


Medley of the Day: The Righteous Brothers edition

In case you were in need of some blue-eyed soul from the 60s.

1. I can't stop watching the R. Bros perform "Little Latin Lupe Lu" (referred from this):

2. Here they are on Shindig actually singing a medley and kind of acting or something.

3. Doing their rendition of Sam Cooke's awesome "Bring It On Home to Me"


Roger vs. Robert, Bare Chests vs. Shirts


Roger Daltrey, looking ripped

Robert Plant, looking flamboyant

Winner: Mr. Plant. You really can't beat a shirt that probably used to belong to someone's spinster aunt.


Roger Daltrey, looking normal (oh, hey, Pete.)

Robert Plant, causing my focus to go to his glorious hair

Winner: Mr. Daltrey. He looks secure even in a clothed state.


While emo-ing out tonight...

...I realized My Chemical Romance's "Disenchanted" (2006) sounds like a cross between Pink Floyd's "Goodbye Blue Sky" (1979) and Jann Arden's "Insensitive" (1994).

That's all.


Question while watching Test Pilot (1938):

Why was Spencer Tracey always hanging around with the married couple?

No wonder he started drinking.

The Remains of the Day (1993)

If I had to describe The Remains of the Day to you in a gesture, it would be with my hand clutched to my heart with a little accompanying sigh. Based on the 1989 novel by Kazuo Ishiguro, the film follows Mr. Stevens, the head butler at Darlington Hall. The initial action is as follows:
In 1950s England, Mr. Stevens (Anthony Hopkins), the emotionally-repressed butler of Darlington Hall, receives a letter from Miss Kenton (Emma Thompson), who worked with him as housekeeper during the years prior to the Second World War. Twenty years later, Lord Darlington (James Fox) has died, and his stately country manor has been sold to a retired American Congressman, Mr. Lewis (Christopher Reeve). Kenton reveals that her marriage has failed and that she is nostalgic for the days when she worked at the house. Stevens (who is now one of the few servants from Darlington's era left) goes to visit Miss Kenton, ostensibly to persuade her to return to service.

The film flashes back to Kenton's arrival as housekeeper. (wiki)
From there we see how Mr. Stevens and Miss Kenton interact. Mr. Stevens is always a professional, never letting personal problems or opinions of his own disrupt his service to his employer. This occasionally clashes with Miss Kenton's more outspoken personality. But this isn't exactly a "fire and ice" sort of relationship; it's not that obvious. But there's an obvious connection between the two of them that never gets explored because of Mr. Stevens' dedication to his work. On the few occasions Miss Kenton tries to get him to open up, he always clams up or is interrupted by his duty as a butler.

One scene when his inhibitions are painfully evident is when Miss Kenton comes to his private office with some flowers to decorate the place. Seeing that Mr. Stevens is reading, Miss Kenton asks him what he's reading. He refuses to tell her and somehow ends up out his chair and against a wall with no escape from Miss Kenton. She keeps lightly, almost flirtatiously, asking. She ends up prying his fingers off the book to look at it; meanwhile, Stevens just looks at her face as she works to get the book out of his hands, acutely aware of their proximity. When it's discovered that's a sentimental love story, Mr. Stevens makes a quick excuse about how it helps him further his education, and Miss Kenton leaves. Rarely have I ever seen a scene with so much tension, and it's all because of Mr. Stevens' inability to respond to this younger woman. We don't know exactly what's going on in his head, but he's undoubtedly awkward. We get the impression he's never been in a situation like this.

However, most of the film is spent on the mundane tasks of service givers at Darlington Hall and listening to the discussions from the important politician that visit the house. In fact, an entire subplot deals with Lord Darlington's involvement with appeasement toward Nazi Germany. This serves to demonstrate Mr. Stevens' lack of emotion as much as anything else. When Lord Darlington's Grandson Reginald (Hugh Grant) sits Stevens down to voice his disapproval of appeasement, Stevens doesn't give any approval or disapproval at all. He doesn't find his opinion important to his role in life, even for something as heinous as genocide and antisemitism.

None of this is ever said though, which is why I find this film so lovely. It actually uses the medium of cinema to create a story. We see what happens, and are never told explicitly. The music never gives us easy answers either. Whether the scene is showing a speech supporting intervention in Germany, silverware is being set up precisely, or Mr. Stevens and Miss Kenton are disagreeing, the music is fast paced, tense music. Nothing is sentimentalized or given special treatment so we read into these scenes what we want.

I can see this film being boring to some, except I find Anthony Hopkins' portrayal as Mr. Stevens endlessly fascinating and subtle. Everything from his posture to his tone of voice lets us know how dedicated Stevens is to his job. In fact, it's his whole life, and it ruins his chance at real friendship, let alone a romantic relationship. And Emma Thompson does a wonderful job of playing off of Mr. Stevens nonresponsive personality, being persistent and sometimes playful, but always respectful who Mr. Stevens is. But Hopkins really makes this movie worth watching. Just waiting for a little change in his facial expression to see if anything affects the unflappable Mr. Stevens. Will he ever crack?


The Audacity of Rock: Part 22

The not-live live video.

It's time for another video analysis comparison. While most music videos show a band playing "live," some strive for a more authentic feel. This can either turn out kind of cool or kind of douchey.

"Wanted Dead of Alive" by Bon Jovi (1987)

I'm going to go ahead and admit I find this video kind of cool despite myself. The sweat, the shots of lone band members, the black and white all just work for me. Although there is an edge of self-indulgent in featuring the fan signage and claiming that they've "seen a million faces and rocked them all." I guess you might as well go big in stating your awesomeness if you're going to try at all.

"Weightless" by All Time Low (2009)

I find this music video disturbing, not just because people are fawning over 12-year-olds I've never heard of, but because it has the audacity to presume to know what every one is thinking in a meta-attempt at humor. Unfortunately, it's not funny, it's douchey. And this isn't even real concert footage. Also, this song is boring. Nothing personal--haha.

Questions to ponder:

1. How much cooler would these videos be if they were actually performed live?
2. Could these songs be more cliche-ridden?


A Little Romance (1979)

Being home means watching random movies my mom finds through Netflix. In this case, A Little Romance turned out to be entirely delightful. It's one of those movies where an American girl goes on a European adventure of sorts that I confess I love (ie, Chasing Liberty (2004)--Matthew Goode is irresistible when he wants to be). Lauren (Diane Lane in her debut film) is a 13-year-old who lives in Paris with her kind of slutty mother and actually good step-father. While reading a book at a movie set her mother drags her to, Lauren meets Daniel (Thelonious Bernard), a local French boy who snuck in.

The two soon start the kind of romance that 13-year-olds have. Well, brainy ones. They talk about Heidegger, which is boring except I'm delighted to think that there are 13-year-olds read and understand Heidegger. Although I can't really relate to that since I was still reading Sweet Valley Twins at 13. Anyway, Lauren meets Daniel on the sly, making her awkward/spastic friend Natalie (Ashby Semple) cover for her. Eventually they decide to run away to Venice to kiss under the Bridge of Sighs at sunset so that they'll love each other forever like the legend says because Lauren has to move back to America in two weeks. They enlist the help of a charming old man Julius (Laurence Olivier) to help get the money to go (by placing bets at the horse races) and get the two minors across the border to Italy. Crazy hijinks ensue.

It's a pretty typical sort of pre-teen movie that you'd expect Hayley Mills to be in if it were the 60s, except that A Little Romance is replete with classic film references. In fact, it's very French New Wave in that we're always aware of film throughout. Daniel himself is obsessed with Hollywood films, and when he first meets Lauren, he requests she call him Bogie since Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall belong together. There's another scene when Daniel and Lauren go on a surreptitious date, and Daniel takes her to some sketchy looking movie theatre that his sketchy friend sneaks them into, and the film ends up being Japanese porn of some kind. Let's hear it for Taxi Driver. And when they're in Italy, they escape from the police on bicycles. Bicycle Thieves much?

But the most obvious film reference is to The 400 Blows (1959). Daniel is very much like Antoine. He comes home and puts food on the stove. He wanders the streets of Paris. He finds refuge in the movie theatre. Some of the outdoor locations look familiar as well. But what really solidified the reference was the freeze frame/zoom in ending. I have no idea why the director, George Roy Hill, put so many film references in a kids movie, but it makes me happy.

In fact, it's more of a smart kids kid movie. The main characters are gifted children who are bilingual and like philosophy and math. Daniel has a large working knowledge of film (in one of the great moments of the film, he punches a terrible director that's been flirting with Lauren's mom in the stomach). And even if you don't get a lot of the homages (there were some I was sure I was supposed to know but couldn't place), you can enjoy the fun characters. They got Laurence Olivier to be in this movie, for heaven's sake. What else could you ask for? Nothing.


Medley of the Day: Moving away from Utah edition

I have a love/hate relationship with Utah. I came down here for school, and I don't regret it at all, but it's such a weird culture. A little too Mormon for my taste (I consider myself a moderate-liberal Mormon, if you can work with that). Anyway, I'm moving up to Seattle for grad school, and I'll be traveling back the Washington (my home state) this weekend. So, in honor of my journey, here's an extended playlist. Read into the song choices whatever you want.

1. "Place in this World" by Michael W. Smith. Oh yes, I went there. I can't not sing along to this song.

2. "Gonna Move" by Susan Tedeschi. This is a good story set to some bluesy awesomeness.

3. "Don't Stop Me Now" by Queen. Always appropriate.

4. "Funky Town" by Lipps, Inc. It's about movin'. To Funky Town.

5. "Don't Stop Believin'" by Journey. Because every mix deserves a power ballad.

6. "Journey to the Past" from Anastasia. So cheesy, so perfect.

7. "500 Miles" by the Proclaimers. I'm just sad Ted and Marshall won't be in my car singing and playing Zitch Dog with me. It's going to be a long trip.

8. "Never Going Back Again" by Fleetwood Mac. I've been on a Rumours kick lately.

9. "I Feel Bad" by Rascal Flatts. Country power ballad. Just embrace it and listen to the end of the chorus.

10. "I'm Free" by the Who. I like to think of Roger Daltrey running along the beach a la the film adaptation of Tommy.

11. "Handbags and Gladrags" by Stereophonics. This song (no matter what the version) will always remind me that it's the end of a painful/bizarre day.


The Audacity of Rock: Part 21

Amount of hair proportionate to the rocking.

Rock 'n' roll has had a long history of long/huge hair that somehow got lost in the 90s, but if you look hard enough, you can still find some fantastic locks. For this part, I'm ignoring the butt rock/hair band era because the hair was bigger than the rocking. Here are some legit examples.

"Black Dog" by Led Zeppelin (1973 performance)

The whole band is rocking some great hair in this kind of relaxed version of the song. While Robert's head of hair is always magnificent, I think the important thing to note is John Paul's grown out page boy. I should also note that costuming doesn't hinder the rocking, so rest easy when you check out Jimmy's get up.

"Bad Boys Running Wild" by Scorpions (1985 performance)

Dude. Scorpions were good at what they did, and they did it with some good locks on their head. This time, their locks are blowing in the wind (the winds of change?). Not even those striped pants can get in their way.

"Molly's Chamber" by Kings of Leon (2006 performance)

While Kings of Leon are now rocking significantly less hair, at one point they realized the potential that long hair could bring to their music. I don't think I have anything else to say except that I wish they'd kept the bangs.

Questions to ponder:

1. Will long hair ever come back unironically?
2. What rocker dons the most glorious head of hair?


Far From the Madd(en)ing Crowd (1967)

I don't know why I keep thinking a three-hour movies from the 60s will be good/hold my interest, but they never do (see: Oliver!, 2001: Space Odyssey). Far From the Madding Crowd, based on the novel by Thomas Hardy, is even worse because it doesn't actually use the time to explore ideas, characterization, or actually explain what's going on. It all seems to be implied. And while that usually means the filmmaker was trying to do something deeper, in this case, I was utterly confused and quite frankly bored.

Anyway, the IMDb descriptions says
Bathsheba Everdine, a willful, flirtatious, young woman, unexpectedly inherits a large farm and becomes romantically involved with three widely divergent men.
Why these men don't see that getting involved with a woman named Bathsheba would be a terrible idea, I don't know. At least one of the men, Gabriel Oak, manages to turn out okay and is decent human being. He's like an angel, get it? 'Cuz his name is Gabriel? And dependable, like an oak! Sigh.

To be fair, they were probably being very true to the source material, complete with obviously symbolic names. I've never read it, but I can only assume because it was originally a monthly serial, it had lots of description with bouts of drama thrown in at the end of each section. Plus, athe cinematography is gorgeous, despite how boring the characters are (good work Nicolas Roeg). There were many lovely shots and interesting uses of focus.

But let's get to the best part: Terence Stamp. Slightly fascinated by an article by Dan Callahan about Terence Stamp, I rented Far from the Madding Crowd. While Mr. Stamp did prove to bring a weird sort of sexuality to the screen in his portrayal of Frank Troy, he was unfortunately not in every scene of this glacially paced epic. I mean, he was the only character who managed to bring any drama, which made me excited mostly because I was all, "Frank seems kind of creepy, this could only end badly. Please can something bad happen so something happens?"

So, in honor of his being even remotely interesting, here's a photo gallery of Frank's greatest hits with captions. Also spoiler alert:

Did I mention he's a strapping young soldier?

With his first love Fanny after he gets dressed. Can you see where we're going with this?

Fanny shows up at the wrong church and accidentally stands up Frank on their wedding day. Frank is pissed and basically dumps her.

Franks meets Bathsheba one night by accidentally getting one of his boot spurs stuck in her petticoat. He Rhett Butlers his way through the encounter.

Frank declares his love for Bathshe-wolf through an unfocused frame of flowers.

In this scene, Frank shows off his swording prowess to Bathsheba. It's both a weirdly long scene and rather phallic, and I'm confused as to whether or not this is symbolic of them having sex. They spend so long on this scene I'm convinced it's more than Frank just being masculine and creepily flirtatious, but I have no idea.

One of Bath's spurned lovers, Mr. Boldwood, offering Frank money to marry Bathsheba like he should. Does this mean they did have sex? Is that why he should marry her? I know he totally slept with first-love Fanny, so is that why you mention Fanny? Because Bathseba's situation is similar? Implied plot points aren't helping.

In other news, Frank's nonchalance in this scene is kind of hot.

Newlyweds. Frank being sweet.

Frank is a surprisingly enthusiastic singer at church. And lovely shot composition, no?

Dance party!

Now using a cane as a phallic symbol. You can't heal everything with sex, Frank.

Cock fight!

Things finally get exciting, over two hours in when Fanny shows up again. Here's Frank kissing her when she and her child end up dead. This doesn't go over well with 'sheba.

Frank being emo in the rain.

Frank taking an emo swim in the ocean.

Frank as an emo carny after he fakes his death to get out of his loveless marriage.

And Frank comes back and ruins a perfectly awkward party. In case you want to drudge your way through this long (but pretty) movie, I'll just tell you that immediately after this, the most exciting part of the movie takes place. Also known as the last 10 minutes of the film.