Doodad Kind of Town


Saturday You Tube Finds, Part Two
November 10, 2007, 9:42 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

I read a fascinating article in the November issue of Vanity Fair about the late French singer/songwriter Serge Gainsbourg. He was married for years to Jane Birkin (who inspired the famed Hermes bag, among other things) and was the father of actress Charlotte Gainsbourg. After reading about his music, I was curious to actually hear some of it, so, of course, I went straight to YouTube. Among other videos, I found this terrifc duet with Brigitte Bardot, “Bonnie and Clyde.”

You can also find on YouTube the following songs and incidents which are mentioned in the Vanity Fair article: “Je T’aime Mon Non Plus,” his duet with Jane Birkin; “Lemon Incest,” his duet with daughter Charlotte; and a French TV interview in which he expresses a desire to, ahem “do it” with fellow guest Whitney Houston.

Happy Saturday! Enjoy!

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Saturday YouTube Finds, Part 1
November 10, 2007, 9:39 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Just a short and sweet little post today. Like everyone else, I like to go digging around on YouTube now and then just to see what I can find.

I thought I was the goofiest Victor Garber fan in existence, but then I found this.

I love Victor, too, but I couldn’t even watch this whole thing – I was too embarassed for the person who posted it. “GroovyGranny” must have a lot time of her hands.



Reelin’ in the Years: "Annie Hall"
November 10, 2007, 3:46 am
Filed under: 70s Films Revisited, Woody Allen

There are movie geeks of a certain age who will always remember the summer of 1977 as the summer of “Star Wars.”

I’m not one of them.

For me, the seminal film event of that summer was “Annie Hall.”

I say that even though I didn’t actually get to see it until January of 1978. In the summer of ’77, I had just graduated from high school and was anxiously awaiting my escape from small town life to Indiana University. “Annie Hall” didn’t play anywhere within 50 miles of my hometown, let alone at the local theater. Only as a college freshman did I finally get to glimpse Woody Allen’s masterpiece. I remember it well. My friend, Jill, and I saw it at the student union building, and then we returned to the dorm to watch Chevy Chase host “Saturday Night Live.” The song “Seems Like Old Times,” sung by Diane Keaton in one of Annie’s nightclub scenes, lingered in my head the whole weekend. I know I’d seen an important film that night. I couldn’t wait to see it again.

Unlike other films I’ve written about this week, I’ve seen “Annie Hall” many times since 1978. I own it on DVD; before that, I owned the VHS tape. But sometimes a movie comes back into your life at a certain time and it takes on a whole new resonance.

This past summer, I was nursing a broken heart, and sometimes I would be doing that alone in front of my TV. As it happened, “Annie Hall” was in heavy rotation on cable at the time. I could find it at least once a week on one or the other of the Encore movie channels, and I’d be embarrassed to tell you how many times I watched it in the course of just a few weeks. (And yes, I know I could have watched my DVD at anytime, but somehow, just happening upon a movie that I had always loved made the watching a bit more special.)

At this particular juncture in my life, I found I could appreciate the film on three levels.

On the simplest level, it was just plain fun to re-experience classic moments that had always made me laugh: Alvy sneezing away about a thousand bucks worth of cocaine. His first grade classmates telling us where they end up as adults, culminating with the badly bespectacled little girl who solemnly intones “I’m into leather.” (I remember reading somewhere that Brooke Shields is one of the kids in that classroom, but I’ve never been able to spot her.) Alvy pulling Marshall McLuhan out of nowhere to reprimand the blowhard in the movie line for knowing “nothing about my work.” Annie’s crazy brother, Duane, confessing to Alvy his desire to drive head on into oncoming traffic “because I think, as an artist, you’ll understand.” (Not to mention Alvy’s memorable look of terror as Duane drives them back to the airport.) Jeff Goldblum in the Hollywood party scene making a phone call because “I forgot my mantra.”

These scenes have another layer of meaning for me when I watch them now – they’re funny in their own right, but re-experiencing them also gives me the chance to re-experience who I was when I first saw them. It’s a pure nostalgia thing – every time I watch “Annie Hall,” I have the experience of enjoying the movie, plus the parallel experience of remembering what it was like to be in college in the late 1970s, at a time and a place when Woody Allen was like a God to us. (To my college roommate and I, anyway.) A time when my favorite outfits in my closet were combinations of vest, shirt and suspendered trousers that I referred to as my “Annie Hall” clothes. A time when I actually believed that I was going to go out to a world populated with the kinds of smart, sophisticated witty people that populated Allen’s films. Was I naive? Sure! But I was young.

But now in 2007, I was also contending with my broken heart. Like Alvy, I had loved and recently lost someone. I loved him still, and wanted him back, even as I acknowledged that we drove each other crazy. A line as simple as “Annie and I broke up, and I still can’t get my mind around it.” resonated strongly with me. The scene on the airplane back from LA – where Alvy and Annie muse separately about how their relationship isn’t working – and then Alvy observes that “A relationship is like a shark. It has to keep moving forward. And I think what we’ve got here is a dead shark.” – well, that scene cut way too close to home. I had been trying to resurrect a dead shark for months. It was time to let it go. This time, seeing “Annie” was cathartic for me.

“Annie Hall” to me is classic, and yet very much of its time. There’s a level of appreciation for this film that I don’t think can be fully reached by anyone under the age of, say, 45 or so, because otherwise you can’t comprehend how fresh and revolutionary this film felt in 1977. Its non-linear structure, startling at the time, is commonplace today; its cultural references more dated and obscure. Along with “Manhattan” and (for me, anyway) “Love and Death” it represents a certain apex in Woody Allen’s career that I don’t think he ever reached – or will reach – again. But I keep going back to see his films, even though I’m often bitterly disappointed. Why? Well, to paraphrase Alvy Singer, it’s totally irrational and crazy and absurd, but I guess I keep going through it because I need the eggs.
(photo from wikipedia)


Reelin’ in the Years: "Seven Beauties"
November 7, 2007, 11:16 pm
Filed under: 70s Films Revisited

Sometimes, going back to take another look at a movie you loved in your youth tells you more about how you have changed than whether the film is any good. Or maybe, it’s just the times that have changed.

In the fall of 1977, I was a new college freshman, anxious for exposure to all things intellectual. Italian film director Lina Wertmuller made an appearance on campus for a screening of her new film, “Seven Beauties,” a dark comedy, set partly in a German concentration camp, starring Giancarlo Gianinni.

I attended the screening, of course, and listened to Wertmuller answer questions from the audience through an interpreter. I do not remember anything she said, but I do remember loving her movie. I thought “Seven Beauties” was profound and heartbreaking, and was shattered by Gianinni’s performance. The movie lived on in my memory for 30 years before I would see it again. Of course, memory can be tricky. The details of the film fell away from my consciousness, but the emotional impact stayed with me.

Understandably, I was very excited to get a copy of “Seven Beauties” from Netflix last month, eager to relive my experience of falling in love with a great movie.

I was in for a huge disappointment.
In 2007, I found “Seven Beauties” grotesque and tasteless. Gianinni’s performance moved me not at all.

There is an infamous scene in this film where Gianinni, as a concentration camp inmate, seduces the female camp commandant in order to save his own hide. She is hugely fat, aggressively ugly, cold-eyed, and sadistic. Gianinni – weak from near-starvation, hardly able to move, but gamely flirting and playing the lothario – finally manages to consummate the act, though it nearly kills him.

In 1997, I thought this scene was brutal, but brilliant. I thought it was a really brave depiction of the lengths humans go to in order to survive – and funny, too, but in a very dark way.
In 2007, I wasn’t able to see it that way. What I kept thinking was “Aren’t the actual facts of the Holocaust horrible enough? Why make shit up? What are you trying to prove?” And I couldn’t stop thinking about the actress playing the commandant, an American woman named Shirley Stoler. What a soul-killing part this must have been. How did she feel about this character? What did it feel like to be directed – by another woman, for that matter – to be so hideous? To be not just grossly unfeminine, but completely inhumane?
But, then, all the women in “Seven Beauties” are grotesque. Gianinni has seven sisters back in Italy – we see a lot of them in early scenes. They’re all screaming harpies with way too much makeup, and every last one of them is a prostitute. I swear I’ve read that Wertmuller is a feminist, but there’s not a shred of feminist sensibility to be found here. Or humanity either. Not only are the female characters are all stupid, loud and unappealing (save for one wide-eyed innocent, but she ends up a whore in the end, too), Gianinni’s character is a foolish and despicable lout whose opportunistic wooing of the commandant leads to his complete moral disintegration.
What seemed profound to me at 17 seems more like puerile showing off now. Throughout “Seven Beauties,” I felt sickened by what I perceived as Wertmuller’s glee in debasing and humiliating her characters. “Look how ugly and awful people are!” I could almost hear her saying. “How foolish. How morally corrupt.” Well, OK. People are stupid sometimes; people are evil sometimes, too. I get that. I’m sure living through World War II in Europe was worse than I can ever imagine. But what is gained by shocking an audience just for the sake of shocking them? Wertmuller’s world view as expressed in “Seven Beauties” is bleak, nihilistic and utterly without compassion. Worse, it never -not for one blessed frame – feels real or true, but rather like an exaggerated and amplified version of the very worst the real world has to offer. Thirty years ago, I thought this outrageousness was a sign of brilliance.

So what ‘s changed since 1977? My worldview, for starters. I’ve developed faith and optimism that I didn’t have at 17; I respond to works of art that offer some thread of hope, however slender, amid the bleakness and despair. There isn’t one crumb of hope in “Seven Beauties.” Watching it now it the post -“Schindler’s List” era, I know a film can be made about the Holocaust that depicts both the evil and the generosity of which human beings are capable, and that’s the film I’d rather see. The world is no more “all bad” than it is “all good.”
(A surreal final note – I Googled Shirely Stoler just to see what else she’d done. The actress, who died in 1999, had a varied resume, with film credits ranging from “The Deer Hunter” to cheap exploitation flicks with titles like “Frankenhooker.” But the most bizarre credit of all: she went on to play Mrs. Steve on “Pee Wee’s Playhouse.”)


Reelin’ in the Years: "Carrie" Revisited
November 7, 2007, 12:34 am
Filed under: 70s Films Revisited

In the seventies, I was a movie-crazy teenager who dreamed of growing up and becoming Pauline Kael. Lately, I’ve found it interesting to go back and watch some of the movies I loved as teen – many of which I haven’t seen since then – and see whether they’ve held up to my fond memories.

As mentioned in my post on Saturday, I spent Halloween night watching “Carrie” for the first time since seeing it at the theatre in the fall of 1976 when I was a high school senior. At that time, I had only recently read the Stephen King novel on which it was based. (I spent a lot of my teen years reading thrillers about demonic possession, reincarnation, and various occult phenomena, so “Carrie” was right up my alley.) I was just about dying for the movie version of “Carrie” to be released, and when I finally saw it, I thought it was the perfect realization of King’s novel, maybe even better.

Well, that’s what I thought at 16.

At 47, of course, the movie looks a bit different. From my infinitely more jaded, middle-aged perspective, I can see that director Brian De Palma created some movie magic out of King’s middling popular fiction, but the magic isn’t universally distributed throughout the film. Some scenes are just clunky or silly. And some surprised me for reasons having more to do with the changes in popular culture over the last 30 years than with the film itself. To wit:

* That locker room shower sequence that plays over the opening credits? Ewwwwwww!!! It’s just creepy! In what twisted male fantasy world does a shy, socially awkward teenager stand in a communal gym shower, soaping herself up like a porn star? In slow motion yet? A girl like Carrie would be profoundly uncomfortable being naked anywhere in the vicinity of other people. I’m pretty sure that DePalma deliberately created this initial, soft-core feeling so we’d be completely caught off guard when Carrie discovers she’s menstruating, and the infamous “Plug it up!” scene follows. But to a grown woman like me, that transition plays like a sick, snarky adolescent joke.

* I got quite a jolt a couple of scenes later when Betty Buckley, the kindly gym teacher, was shown in the principal’s office smoking a cigarette. And the principal even had an ashtray on his desk. Sometimes it takes a 30-year-old movie to remind me how pervasive and accepted smoking used to be.

* All the stuff with Carrie’s religious fanatic mother is so campy and over-the-top. I think we could get that Carrie’s mom is abusive and crazy without quite so much crucifixion-themed set dressing, but I guess that’d take some of the fun out of it. Piper Laurie, all angel-faced and frizzy-maned, seems to be in her own little, twisted world. I appreciate the logic of playing Carrie’s mom as if you were listening to voices inside your head rather than listening to your daughter, but Laurie simply isn’t a strong enough actress to pull off the effect. She got an Oscar nomination, though, so someone must have been impressed.

* I had completely forgotten that John Travolta was in this movie. This was all before “Saturday Night Fever,” of course, so he basically has about five minutes of screen time playing a variation on Vinnie Barbarino. Quite a shock, too, when, in the scene where he and Nancy Allen slaughter the pig, he starts growling “Git ‘er done! Git ‘er done!” And we thought Larry the Cable Guy made that up all by himself.

*”Carrie” only really becomes a good movie when Carrie gets to the prom. That’s where DePalma’s style and technique become most assured. Spacek’s first slow dance with William Katt is still every bit as dizzying and romantic as I remembered it, with the camera whirling around the couple in every more ecstatic spirals, mirroring Carrie being swept away by Katt’s attention and affection. The slow motion build-up to the dumping of the pig blood is an almost unbearable masterpiece of mounting tension. And – oh boy! – De Palma’s famous split-screen technique still works like gangbusters when Carrie unleashes her wrath. You get Spacek’s wide-eyed, haunted, blood drenched face on one side of the screen, and horrific endings for the other characters on the other side. Given the “torture porn” mentality of 21st century horror flicks, it’s a real testament to “Carrie’s” durability that the relatively very mild violence in these scenes seems just as brutal and shocking now as it did 31 years ago.

* Then there’s that final “surprise” scene with Amy Irving bringing flowers to Carrie’s grave. In 1976, I screamed and jumped out of my seat (and so did everyone else.) This time, I only shuddered a little and smiled to myself. A scene like that only works once.

Tomorrow, I’ll look back at a foreign classic I first saw in my freshman year of college.
(photo from allmoviephoto.com)


Beauty Product Challenge Final Day: Olay Regenerist Wet Cleansing Cloths
November 4, 2007, 1:09 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

I’m blogging extra early on this bright Sunday morning, ’cause I forgot to set my clocks back last night!

Today is the final day of the Beauty Product Challenge. I want to thank Jen at Monkey Posh for kicking this off. I’ve had a ball writing about my favorite beauty finds.

Jen and I had a great get-together on Friday night, having dinner and seeing a play in downtown Chicago. (The only hitch was that, due to traffic, we made it to Mon Ami Gabi a bit late, and they did not hold our reservation. The hostesses at the door politely but firmly turned us away, assuring us they were completely booked. So instead of enjoying vin rouge, poulet roti and frites in a cozy French bistro, we chowed on cheap Chimichangas in a Mexican diner. Oh, well, the play was superb, and I hope to post about it later.)

By the time I got home on Friday night, it was pretty late, and I was so bone tired, I really didn’t feel like taking my makeup off before crawling in bed. Know that feeling? Fortunately, I had yet another of my favorite beauty products on hand, and I want to close out the week by telling you about it.

Olay Regenerist Micro-Exfoliating Wet Cleansing Cloths are a wonderful thing to keep stocked up on for those late, late nights when a girl is just too tired to wash her face. You can be totally lazy – you don’t even to turn on the tap – because they are already moistened and ready to go. Being part of the Olay Regenerist line, they are also infused with Anti-aging complex (a little extra that a 40-something like me especially appreciates.)

I keep a package of these in my bathroom cabinet at all times, and use them at least a couple of times a week. They get all my makeup off quite easily, and they feel really good, leaving my skin refreshed and soft. I don’t even mess with a moisturizer after using one – I just go straight to bed – and my face doesn’t feel tight or dry at all. Personally, I don’t use these to take off my eye makeup, though I’m sure you could. (I use an Almay moisturizing eye makeup remover pad to do that job, since I suspect it is gentler on my sensitive eye area.)

Olay has a good thing going on; I’ve never used one of their products that I wasn’t more than satisfied with. And I use several of them regularly, including: Quench body lotion, Complete Defense Daily UV Moisturizer (with SPF30), and Age Defying Intensive Nourishing Night Cream. I highly recommend them all!



Beauty Challenge Day 6: Maybelline Express Finish (plus Saturday Movie Talk!)
November 3, 2007, 6:29 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Today’s beauty product represents yet another happy discovery for this beauty klutz, and, like Wednesday’s selection, it comes from Maybelline.

I love nail polish, but when comes to actually polishing my nails, I’m a little lazy and a little klutzy and very impatient.

I tend to keep my fingernails short, rounded and polished clear, since I am so hard on them. Also, I’m a bad, mistake-prone typist in the best circumstances, and with long nails, I’m even more likely to hit the wrong keys on the keyboard.

I do like having polished toes, and I do indulge in a salon pedicure now and then. But I get bored when I have my nails done, especially when waiting for them to dry. I give myself a lot of pedicures at home, but I’m just as impatient there. The whole business of putting on base coat, letting it set, applying a few thin coats of polish -one at a time, and then putting on a top coat just wears me out. Put all that together with my stunning lack of dexterity when handling a polish brush, and you’ll understand why many of my home pedicures end up being an unholy mess.

Fortunately, on that same trip to Ulta when I first picked up the Expert Eyes set, I was looking for a new nail polish. For some crazy reason, I was obsessed with finding a bright, geranium pink shade, and I was sure the OPI line would contain just the thing. I never made it to the OPI shelf, though, because I found what I was looking for in the Maybelline Express Finish Timely Rose shade.

The color was great, but here’s the beauty part: the polish went on smoothly and easily, looked great after just one coat, and dried really fast. They don’t call it “60 second nail color” for nothing. I did do a base coat and top coat, but I wasn’t nearly as grumpy about it as I usually am.

Since then I’ve become a devotee of Maybelline Express Finish. Their color range is not nearly as extensive as OPI’s, nor are their polish names as witty, but they save me so much in time and aggravation that I just can’t live without them.

OK -now for some movie talk.

I get an enormous kick of spotting now-famous stars in old TV shows or movies, made before they got famous and usually featuring them in some role which is totally atypical of the way they are now perceived. (Ever catch Jack Nicholson’s guest role on the “Andy Griffith Show”?)

So it was real hoot for me when, on Halloween, I watched the 1976 horror classic “Carrie” for the first time since high school, and spotted among Carrie’s teenage taunters – Edie McClurg!

Yup, that familiar character actress – who, ten years later, would go on to play the chubby, chirpy school secretary in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” – is one of the mean girls tossing maxi pads at Sissy Spacek in the opening locker room sequence. In “Carrie,” she’s young and fairly slender and rocking one of those center-part, winged hairdos that we 70s high schoolers loved so much, plus a pair of huge, heavy black spectacles that make her look oddly like Velma from the “Scooby Doo” cartoons. Guess she was already pegged as the character actress, and they had to add the nerdy glasses to “ugly” her up a little.

Have you ever seen “The Wild One” – that 1950’s flick with Marlon Brando as the leader of a motorcycle gang?. The one where someone asks Brando what he’s rebelling against, and he comes back with the classic answer, “What have you got?”

You’re going to be a lot less impressed with Brando’s gang of tough young thugs when you realize that one of his members is:


Hank Kimball!!! The dopey county agent from “Green Acres” ! (The actor’s real name is Alvy Moore.)

Also riding a chopper with Brando – Jerry Helper, Rob Petrie’s next door neighbor from “The Dick Van Dyke Show” (actor Jerry Paris, shown here with wife Milly Helper, aka Ann Morgan Guilbert) Does this guy look like a mean motorcyle dude to you?

I know “The Wild One” was a classic in its day, but I SO can’t take it seriously. I mean, c’mon, if you saw Hank Kimball and Jerry Helper roaring their choppers into your town, how threatened could you possibly feel? This casting makes the movie unintentionally hilarious to me.

My apologies for how small some of these photos are. (they’re from walgreens.com, google images, maggiore.net/greenacres, imdb.com)