The first time I saw this particularly melodramatic moment from Mark Robson’s 1957 adaptation of Grace Metalious’s notorious novel Peyton Place, I found myself marveling at how much emotional anguish she projects through her hands. She grasps at the railing as if it its physicality were the only thing allowing her to hold down her emotions; however, since this is a melodrama we’re talking about, of course Lana has to sink to the stairs and sob as she clutches to the posts, which is the sort of thing that reduces me to a haphazard assortment of gay male stereotypes. That’s just how these things how these things work, and you can’t brush them off as cheap cliche when they play out so exquisitely.
I’m well aware that Alfred Newman’s booming score ads a certain melodramatic je ne sais quoi that a single frame can’t do justice; nevertheless, there’s something to be said for the unsettlingly austere gaze with which Gene Tierney’s Ellen Berent spreads her father’s ashes (back and forth, back and forth!) on horseback in John M. Stahl 1945 adaptation of Ben Ames Williams’s Leave Her to Heaven. That, and those lips. Seriously, either I’ve got an asexual fetish for crazy ladies in red lipstick, or dazzlingly red lips are Technicolor color coding for “psycho bitch.” Either way, I love it.
And as usual, don’t hesitate to click to enlarge and appreciate the fabulousness of it all.
In Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s 1948 Technicolor masterpiece The Red Shoes, Moira Shearer plays talented ballet protégé Victoria Page, a woman torn between the composer she loves (Marius Craster) and the (possibly gay–it’s a diva worship thing) impressario who has shone a light on her talent and brought it to fruition and fame (Anton Walbrook). *SPOILER ALERT*: Things do not end well, as they are so wont to do in melodramas.
Because you can’t appreciate the Humoresque sweet without having to taste Humoresque sour, and because I can never get enough Joan Crawford (particularly until I’ve finished reading David Bret’s epically salacious Joan Crawford: Hollywood Martyr) here’s Joan Crawford’s Helen Wright shedding a single tear of profoundly agonized longing for her violinist lover, Paul Boray (John Garfield). He’s playing the Liebestod from Richard Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde, she’s drowning her sorrows as she listens to him on the radio, and my head’s exploding from having a moment appeal to the Crawford queen AND the opera queen in me.
Because Jean Negulesco’s Humoresque–aka, the one with Joan in glasses!–is as much an unheralded masterpiece as it is my favorite Joan Crawford movie, so why wouldn’t I give this gem a little more blog time? Besides, if John Garfield’s Paul Boray can bring Joan Crawford’s Helen Wright to a state of transcendental sexual ecstasy just by playing Symphonie Espagnole on his violin (as is happening in the above image, if you couldn’t tell from the perfect visual metaphor of Joan’s glistening, parted lips), just imagine what his virtuosic playing will do to you. (*SPOILER ALERT!*: It’ll blow your damn mind.)
Oh, and don’t hesitate to click to enlarge and appreciate the fabulousness of it all.
Because this single shot of Sister Ruth putting on her red lipstick in Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s 1947 masterpiece, Black Narcissus, is simultaneously the single greatest moment of high-camp pleasure and psychological horror. She’s undeniably fabulous, for sure, but this bitch has also lost her damn mind.
Oh, and don’t hesitate to click to enlarge and appreciate the fabulousness of it all.
Beyond the singular pleasure that comes from watching a pitch perfect, classic Hollywood melodrama or the preternatural pleasure that is all but inevitable when witnessing Bette Davis’s deeply moving turn as Charlotte Vale, there are plenty of smaller pleasures to be gleaned from Now, Voyager. Pleasures like Bette Davis wearing the most fabulous movie hat to end all movie hats:
Seriously, Bette Davis’s hat gives all other movie hats hat envy. Particularly Kate Winslet’s hat from the beginning of Titanic. It’s a movies-with-narratives-that-prominently-feature-cruise-ships thing.
And here’s Bette Davis knitting while wearing the sort of sunglasses that make me long for a time when sunglass–and the rest of the world–stood for things that really mattered. Namely glamour:
Some people might say that it’s those sunglasses cover up those Bette Davis eyes. Everyone will say I should get off the stage for writing such an embarrassing pun.
Oh! And I’d be remiss to not mention the greatest Now, Voyager gift of all:
Responsible Mad Men recapping blogs probably try and follow the narrative arch of the episode, and they’d probably delve a little more into the fact that Sterling Cooper is once again up for sale, which makes Lane Pryce sad and his wife very happy. I am not that blog. Now let’s do this thing irresponsible style!
So Paul Kinsey was intimidated by Peggy and her keen improvisational skills, and then he got too drunk while working on his Western Union account. This taught us all the important lesson that you should always write down the brilliant ideas that you have when you’re drunk so you don’t forget them. If he had written it down, we’d have instead learned the equally important lesson that the brilliant ideas that you have when you’re drunk are never as brilliant in the sober light of day, but that’s neither here nor there. Anyways, Peggy fortunately used his screw up to save him, and I was I left baffled that telegrams were something people still actually used in 1963. Also, maybe it’s just me and my love of all things of questionable taste, but Aquanet is doing wonders to Peggy’s hair.
In other plot lines, Don’s relationship with Suzanne Farrell unfortunately continues to happen:
I find this plot to be like the narrative version of Ipecaca, and I blame this largely on the fact that Ms. Farrell hasn’t once seemed interesting enough to warrant such of devotion. A scene with a Maypole, a drunk dial, and a few lines of straight up crazy is all it takes to have Don Draper all up in your lady business in a serious sort of way? I’m deeply unimpressed with the both of them. And the fact that the writers continue this charade.
The lone silver lining to their bumping uglies, though, came in the form of Suzanne’s epileptic brother, Danny, who was helped by Don to do what else? Pull a Don Draper. That’s just him being philanthropic by sharing his secret to happiness and success: it comes from running away from the unpleasant parts of your identity. Or, in Don’s case, all of it. You may be constantly haunted by your past and incapable of genuine human intimacy, but at least you’ll get signing bonuses and shiny awards at the fortieth anniversary Sterling Cooper parties. Fair trade, I’d say.
And speaking of fortieth anniversary Sterling Cooper parties, Trudy Campbell’s party ensemble was some kind of wonderful:
The Video For Carolina Liar’s “Show Me What I’m Looking For” Is Terrible, So I Naturally Can’t Stop Watching It
July 25, 2009
File this blathering under Benjamin at his timeliestness, but let’s talk about the video for “Show Me What I’m Looking For”:
Obviously fake guitar playing that services nothing whatsoever? Check. Scruffy rocker in desperate need of a haircut definitely and bath quite possibly? Check and double check. Unnecessary aerial shots meant to convey the “drama” of the song? Checkity check check check. Congratulations! You’ve graduated from the Academy of Embarassingly Cliched Music Videos. With honors!
I’m not trying to rag on Carolina Liar or anything, in part because I have that song on my iPod because I enjoy the sound of melodrama, and also because ragging on Carolina Liar is Shmathan’s job, but why is this sort of uninspired garbage being passed off as a music video?
I’m not saying every video needs to be a “Strawberry Swing” to rank, but “Show Me What I’m Looking For” is at least overblown enough as a song to demand something less meh. I’m disappointed in you, band capable of making me want to see movies starring Alexis Bledel. Your music video most certainly did not show me what I’m looking for, aka, utter ridiculousness.
If you’re going to milk melodramatic cliches, you gotta know what works. Next time, let your video tell the story a middle-aged woman whose glamorous youth has long faded. And be sure perform in a windy rain storm. In slow motion, natch. And also be sure to actually include the choir, damnit!
Oh, and one more thing: No more aerial shots. They remind people of Creed, and that is never acceptable.
It’s no secret that I’ve a penchant for movies that movies that are curious and over the top. I’m an ardent obsessive of camp, and I revel in movies that flaunt their mad visions and embrace their craziest whims. I love the movies that have never said “no” to a bad idea or considered that they might be crossing a line. Hell, I’ve practically made it my quest to mine the coal of film’s expansive history in order to find the most glittering diamonds of batshit insanity. Well, ladies and gentleman, I’ve already found what may the Hope Diamond of this journey. I give you The Day of the Locust, a movie somehow far stranger than this surreal, French poster for the film:
Oh, and it’s infinitely more garish than the America poster would imply:
Still unconvinced? Let me just give you a taste of the craze. Let’s go watch aspiring starlet Faye Greener (Karen Black) get in a fight with her sickly father (Burgess Meredith):
I don’t know whether to laugh at the garish campiness of the performances or have nightmares for the rest of my life, but it’s captivatingly bizarre no matter your reaction, and believe me when I say that this scene is merely the tip of iceberge that is John Schlessinger’s epic, gonzo vision of Hollywood as the festering epicenter of failed dreams and a society in rapid decline. There’s also (for example, yet impressively enough not limited to) the sublimely grotesque yet perversely compelling pleasures of Burgess Meredith’s heart attack at Donald Sutherland’s house, the church scene, Karen Black doing tequila shots (itself one of the profoundly ridiculous moments in cinema), and the cock fighting scene. Seriously, I don’t know why you’d even bother finishing this reviews before putting it at the top of your Netflix queue. Trust me.