Saturday, August 18, 2012

Blogs Rising from the Dead, Liebster Awards, Mass Hysteria

If you hear the sound of creaking hinges, that's because my poor, dear blog hasn't been open for over a month. I feel a bit like Christopher Lee up there (except less stylish, naturally), rising up out of my coffin. I have a good excuse for my absence in that I was using my summer vacation to travel in Malaysia. Most of my computer access was through my smartphone which is wonderful but not exactly conducive to blogging. I have no regrets because it was an excellent trip, full of sun, sights, and good food. But still, it's a relief to get back to this blog and the world of cinema.

While I was away, however, two lovely, gifted, and brilliant bloggers, Natalie from In the Mood and Laura from Who Can Turn the World Off With Her Smile? generously bestowed a Liebster Award on Me. You guys. Your kindness makes me want to rend my garments and vow, Scarlett-O'Hara-style, to never let this blog go hungry again. Alright, that was hardly a great metaphor, but you know what I mean. And if anyone out there isn't following these two great ladies' blogs, well, what are you waiting for? Natalie is a great blogger, funny, original, and a Barbara Stanwyck fan to put all others to shame. Laura is one of the most engaging writers I know; she has the ability to leap on pretty much any topic and pull at least ten different insights out of it.

Now, the Liebster has apparently had a makeover since the last time I saw it. They've expanded the rules to the following:
1. Tell 11 things about yourself.
2. Answer 11 questions from the person who nominated you.
3. Tag 11 bloggers.
4. And ask them 11 questions thought up by you.

The problem for me is, since I've been away, most of the people I might tag have already been honored. And trying to track down who has and hasn't been tagged...if I do that, this post might get postponed to next week and I'd rather not do that. So I'm just going to treat this like a regular meme and respond to parts 1 and 2.

Thanks again, guys and it's great to be back!

11 Things About Me

1. I find it impossible to travel without packing at least two books. Possibly three. Doesn't matter if the trip is two days or two weeks, I need my reading material. There's an 80%  chance that even then I will find an excuse to visit a bookstore while I'm abroad, regardless of whether said bookstore has English-language books or not.

2. I was an obsessive Tetris player as a kid and I still pine for my old-school Nintendo.

3. I am twenty years younger than my brother. We're not half-siblings.

4. Every year I tell myself that I will enter the Bulwer-Lytton Contest and every year I forget to send in an entry on time.

5. My favorite color is green.

6. If someone asked me which Hollywood star I would most want to look like, it would be Maureen O'Hara, no question. I've been hankering after that gorgeous flaming hair since I was seven.

7. Sometimes my taste in fictional men can be a little...offbeat. Louis Renault may be a corrupt captain who blackmails women into sex and is hopelessly in love with Humphrey Bogart--but I still find him madly attractive. Same goes for alcoholic James Mason in A Star is Born, who had my heart from the moment he wiped off Judy Garland's makeup. Oh and Orson Welles for the brief stretch of Citizen Kane where he's lounging around in his chair and joking about how to run a newspaper. I would chalk it up to an attraction to gorgeous voices but then, Alan Rickman does nothing for me.

8. I can't whistle.

9. I'm an early riser by choice. Sleeping in makes me feel uneasy, like I've been missing out on all the fun.

10. My favorite season is winter. Favorite kind of weather is the day after a snowfall when all the ice is melting off the tree branches and the sun is shining but the air is cold. It's the kind of weather that makes me feel anything is possible.

11. I love watching old clips of What's My Line on Youtube. And damn do I love Arlene Francis.

11 Questions from Natalie

1. In film do you prefer black&white or color?

Rather than state my answer in words, I will let these images speak for themselves.

2. In photographs do you prefer black&white or color?

I cannot imagine seeing the Aurora Borealis in black and white or the photos of Dorothea Lange in color so yeah, my answer is the same as before.

3. Your favorite era in music?

‘Fraid I don’t have one. I pick a little from each one.

4. Do you have a tumblr?

Nope. Sometimes I wish I did, but then, tumblr isn’t great for comments and I love the back-and-forth discussions on sites like Blogger and Livejournal.

5. Your second favorite actress?

Wow. Barbara Stanwyck is so obviously my number one that my other favorites are clustered pretty closely together. So, erm, I’ll say Joan Bennett, to pick one at random.

6. Your favorite movie starring your second favorite actress?

The Reckless Moment.

7. Your second favorite actor?

Life’s full of tough choices…I’ll pick Humphrey Bogart.

8. Your favorite movie starring your second favorite actor?

The Maltese Falcon.

9. Favorite foreign film?

Currently it’s The Umbrellas of Cherbourg.

10. Ice cream or French fries?

Finally an easy question! Ice cream.

11. If you could see your favorite actress in any movie role [real or imagined] what would it be?

I’m going to combine two of my answers here and say that I would love to have seen how Barbara Stanwyck would have tackled the Brigid O’Shaughnessy role in The Maltese Falcon. Just as an alternate version since I would never want to lose Mary Astor’s superb performance.

Questions by Laura

1. Ever written about something you changed your mind about later?

Oh sure. I don't know if I've ever had a direct 180 on a movie or performer. More often, I'll make a flippant comment on somebody else's blog and then think later, "Man, I was way too hard on Stanley Kramer." I usually agonize so long over my blog posts that it gives me time to tear apart my opinions and see what they're made of. But of course I'm going to rewatch films and change my mind, that's what it's all about. I think I did mention in one post that I change my mind about Marnie every single time I watch it.

2. Favorite photograph of your favorite actor/actress?

3. Favorite film critic?

The Self-Styled Siren.

4. Least favorite film by favorite director?

I’ve actually managed to put off seeing a large number of Alfred Hitchcock’s misfires. And what’s the point really in picking on a minor little film like Jamaica Inn? Or a film I can barely remember like The Paradine Case? So I’ll say the one that actually manages to irritate me the most: Torn Curtain. I’d love to play contrarian on that one but here’s the thing. That movie managed to make Paul Newman dull. Some things should not be forgiven.

5. Do you prefer foreign films dubbed or subtitled?

Subtitled, of course.

6. What common feature in classic Hollywood films would you have changed? (Racism, sexism, all the smoking, etc.)

Well, if you’re giving me the option, naturally I’d want to dismantle the racism and sexism.  But then, doesn’t that imply that I think racism and sexism aren’t still running rampant in current Hollywood film? Which, no, I don’t. So I guess I’d go after the Production Code, one of the single greatest factors in ensuring that Hollywood stuck to those eye-rolling black servants, tragic mulattos, unhappy career women, and sloppy, forced endings.

7. Most misleading trailer/poster/overall marketing for a movie?

I'm sure there are much more egregious examples out there but posters like this and trailers like this, along with critics calling it "the feel-good movie of the year," had me telling my friends, "Oh let's go see Slumdog Millionaire, that'll be a nice one." And after two hours of poverty, cruelty, child abuse, mutilation, rape, and torture, my friends turned around and solemnly informed me that I would not get to pick the next movie.

8. Which actors around today (if any) do you think will be considered true immortals fifty years from now, in the tradition of Garbo or Bogart?

I think we do have some acting immortals although the ones that come to mind are mostly longtime legends like Meryl Streep and Michael Caine. But I find it hard to imagine the same kind of actor cults and glamor that follow someone like Garbo. I just think that kind of aloof, semi-divine celebrity has been replaced with a more casual yet even more invasive popularity.

9. Have you ever been put off by an actor, director, or producer's work by their obnoxious or offensive offscreen shenanigans, or do you think that's irrelevant to their body of work?

I'd like to say it's irrelevant, but no, I do think that real life can infect the work. Mel Gibson comes to mind as the most obvious example. But then, if I really loved, loved Gibson's work as an actor, would I feel differently? I can still enjoy Rex Harrison's acting even if the real man was egocentric, anti-Semitic, and a supremely obnoxious personality. Of course Harrison has the advantage over Gibson in that his screen personality never depended on being liked.

10. Marry, boff, or kill (men): Clark Gable, Cary Grant, Humphrey Bogart?

I guess I’d kill Clark Gable on the condition that this would immediately send him to a happy afterlife with Carole Lombard. I can’t wrap my head around the idea of marrying Bogart (there is only Lauren Bacall) so I guess I’d nip into my time machine and boff Bogie while he was still in his “Tennis, anyone?” stage. And then I’d tie the knot with Cary Grant, asking him to teach me the proper way to drink cocktails, lounge in chairs, and do backward somersaults. Then we’d amicably divorce.

( ladies): Audrey Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe, Louise Brooks?

I can’t imagine killing Hepburn or Monroe so sorry, Louise Brooks gets it. But then, she’s tough and smart, maybe she’ll find a way out of the situation. Then I guess I’d have to be friends with benefits with Marilyn for a short, happy interlude before I married Audrey.

11. Pet obscure actor/actress?

I have a wellspring of love in my heart for Theresa Harris, Helen Walker, Doris Dowling, and Florence Bates. And others, besides.

And on that note of love, this is Rachel (who really should have taken her own advice and carried a parasol in Malaysia).


  1. I was just about to say that I would have noooo problem whatsoever killing M. Monroe or A. Hepburn- but then I kinda paused because that would make me sound like a psychopath: the game is rigged. Anyway, those "cultural icons"... yeesh.

    By the way, that is a fantastic picture of Joan Bennett (from the early 30s?), and too bad she didn't look like that in Father of the Bride or There's Always Tomorrow. Just a year or so before making Reckless Moment, she appears in Renoir's weird Woman on the Beach (she's the woman, presumably, although this is by no means certain), where she has an indelible moment with Robert Ryan, where she spits- "Go ahead, say it, I'm a tramp..."

    But this quote is slightly altered for the film's poster.

  2. Even if I hadn't nominated you, you'd have sucked me in right away with that picture of Christopher. Devilish clever of you.

    I can't whistle either!

    Excellent answers to our bombarding questions! No. 4 under Natalie's is the exact reason why I hesitate to start a tumblr. I love going on there and looking up random interests of mine, but yeah, the give-and-take sucks.

  3. Shamus: For my money, Bennett was still pretty hot by the time of There's Always Tomorrow but of course, Hollywood started putting her in mother roles. I still haven't caught up with Woman on the Beach (for years I kept mixing it up with the Gregory Peck nuclear war film) but I so want to. I can just imagine Bennett saying that line in that wonderful husky voice of hers. Amazing.

    Laura: Ohmigod, is that Simone Simon in your new profile pic? Cheers!

    1. Yup, that's Simone! I saw it on Tumblr (ironically) and was like, NEED.