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Beauty in the Movies: Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Stains

I am in love with this movie, but not too many people are familiar with it because it got a raw deal, and that’s a huge shame. There are so many reasons to appreciate this film, the iconic fashion, the kick-ass make-up, the power and angst of these girls, amazing punk music, and much more.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Stains stars a 15-year-old Diane Lane as Corinne Burns, a frustrated recently orphaned teenage girl who in an effort to get the hell out of her small town, enlists her cousin (Laura Dern) and younger sister (Marin Kanter) to start a punk band. The three join a tour run by “Lawn boy” (Reggae artist Barry Ford) a Rastafarian with a mission to make enough money to save a musician friend of his who was wrongly imprisoned. The tour consists of two other bands; aging rockers The Metal Corpses who wear Kiss-like stage makeup and rest on the laurels of their one hit, and The Looters, a group of young cockneys, three of which are played by legendary punk musicians—Paul Simonon bassist for The Clash, and ex-Sex Pistols Steve Jones and Paul Cook. The Stains are put on the tour to ease tensions between the two other bands, but Corinne has bigger plans. She shows up for their first gig in tights, boots, a see-through blouse, and awesome hair and makeup, despite her band-mates leaving the stage and the audience heckling her, she makes an impression when she reveals herself to the audience shouting “I’m perfect! But nobody in this shithole gets me, because I don’t put out!”.

After grabbing the attention of local newswoman Alicia Meeker with her message of “don’t put out” which Corinne describes as meaning “Don’t get screwed, don’t be a jerk, don’t get had”, The Stains start to gain a following. Their fans call themselves “skunks” and put white streaks in their hair like Corinne. They range from adolescent girls to their original fan Ms. Meeker, who trades her 80s power suits for bright colors and red eyeliner. The lead singer of the Looters, Billy (Ray Winstone), is also taken with Corinne, and after rejecting his advances, she finally gives in to him. The rest of the film features a lot of angst, revenge, teen girls, and of course more punk music, but you should really just see it for yourself, because despite the plot holes, this movie is iconic and damn awesome in so many ways. Unfortunately, the studio didn’t agree—it wasn’t commercial enough, so they held the release, re-titled it (the original title was “All Washed Up”), and tacked on an MTV music video ending in which the punk-rock Stains have turned peppy and look more like the Go-gos, bouncy, fluffy hair and all.

This film was made in 1980, that’s before Spinal Tap, before Cyndi Lauper or Joan Jett were mainstream, and before there were any all-female rock bands prevalent in the United States. This movie was ahead of its time. Lady Gaga and Corinne have virtually the same everyday attire—black tights, black underwear, heels and maybe a sweater. It’s still rare to see a character like Corinne in a movie, watching her gain and quickly lose—the upper hand with her love interest is pretty amazing. She can be a pouty brat, but she also has incredible ambition and knows how to take care of herself—even though she’s just a girl.

It’s obvious that the movie industry has changed. We attack Miley Cyrus for doing a sexy lap dance off-screen, meanwhile in 1980, at barely 15, Diane Lane has shower sex scenes, shows her boobs and ass, and plays a character who openly showcases her sex-appeal. Let’s look what happened to Diane Lane—she’s a successful, Oscar-nominated actress with an amazing career under her belt, and she seems pretty damn well-adjusted. Then there is Laura Dern who, despite towering over all the girls in the film, was just 12 (TWELVE!) when this movie started filming, she had to be emancipated from her mother, but she seems to have turned out pretty well too. This film showcases how different teenage girls are from their male peers. At 15, you’re a woman, you may be awkward and have no idea what you’re doing, but the world sees you as a woman and it makes you mature pretty fast. We like to pretend in this country that until you’re 18 you are a child, and that’s simply not true, teens and adolescents are equally engrossed in our world, love, hate, sex, drugs—they know all about it, whether some people want to believe it or not.

This film is about commercialism, gimmicks, and obviously the music industry too. Corinne has a good message, and it appeals to young, angry girls and grown women as well. Sadly, to the men around her who don’t understand the appeal, it just comes off as a shtick, and well that might be part of it, it’s not everything. Corinne is a pissed off 15-year-old girl, and she uses her body and her angst to rally other women who feel the same as her. The character of Corinne is a multi-faceted one, Diane Lane works perfectly, because if she weren’t vulnerable she would come off as too angry and bitter, it’s the moments where she seems like a scared girl that you really feel for her character. By the end of the film, Corinne has bought into her own image, and later she lets herself believe it was the only thing she had going for her, at 15 she’s already been eaten up and spit back out by the industry. But it wasn’t just the make-up, the hair, and the outfits, there was something else, something that appealed to women, something strong, maybe the men around her just couldn’t see it, or maybe they were threatened by it, either way, it was much, much more than just hair.

I feel kind of out of practice with my makeup artistry recently, but while I was watching this movie I decided I just had to try out the look. I used MAC blush in frankly scarlet with a MAC angled brush to do the points on the eyes. I used Maybelline Line Stylist Eyeliner in Black Sparkle eyeliner to get the fine under eye line, and I finished off the eyes with Covergirl Lash Blast Mascara in very black. On my lips is MAC lipstick in Russian Red. It’s not my best work, but it was fun and it was 1:00AM.  I also read that they used a stencil in the movie and I did this freehand—so HA!

I’m trying to look angsty here, it’s not working out too well.

I’m a skunk!

My Fiancé did this one, yes we’re PhotoShop nerds.

Try the look out for yourself, and then send me pictures! You know you want to!

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The Twilight Saga: Hate It, Love It, Deal With It

Let me start by saying that I love vampires. I started reading Anne Rice novels at age eleven (even though I didn’t understand half of them, especially the dirty parts) and I might be the biggest Buffy fan you’ll ever meet. I’ve always loved stories about vampires, fantasy, and supernatural stuff, so I had to read Twilight. I tore through those books in about a week, and I enjoyed them, they’re great escapist fantasy, and the real pull (as with a lot of good fiction) is finding out what happens next. They’re predictable, but if you’re like me, sometimes you can’t help but want to see if you’re right about your predictions.


On Friday my fiance and I were supposed to go see Inception, but he surprised me and bought tickets for Twilight Eclipse instead. I’ve made him sit through the last two movies with me, and I really wasn’t going to ask him to see the third because upon re-watching, the second film New Moon is incredibly slow-moving and at times painful in its awkwardness. Eclipse is better, and it has prompted me to write a Twilight post, because it just had to happen. I’m not going to say I think Twilight is brilliant, but I’m also not going to say it’s total crap, because I really don’t believe either of those things are true. It is however, no matter what you think of it, an undeniable phenomenon, and although I know it has been talked about, and talked about, I’m going to talk about it some more. There are spoilers below, but only if you haven’t seen the first two films, or if you care to see the films at all.

The Twilight Saga is a series of four books written by Stephenie Meyer, the novels are world-wide bestsellers with over 100 million copies sold. If you have managed to avoid the news stories, the tabloid coverage of the film’s stars, or the television in general, let me give you a brief summary of Twilight giving as little away as possible.

A boring, typical, teenage girl, Bella Swan, moves to Forks Washington (the rainiest town in America) to live with her father, Charlie, who is the sheriff.

Bella likes headbands and Romeo and Juliet, and I’m not sure what else because what she really likes, more than anything is Edward Cullen, a boy she meets on her first day at Forks High School. Edward is a vampire, he is beautiful, and brooding, and he can read people’s thoughts, everyone’s—except Bella’s. Oh, and he sparkles in the sunlight, making him not so much a scary vampire.

After lots of intense staring, some lip-biting, and heavy breathing, they fall deeply in love and he introduces her to his vampire family. They like to dress in color coordinating outfits, specifically in shades of blue and gray.

The Cullens love Bella, they don’t eat her (or anyone else) because they subsist on large animals, which makes them friendly vampires. There are vampires who kill humans though, the leaders of these vampires are called the Volturi, they also like to dress in matching outfits.

While Bella is dealing with loving a vampire, she finds out her best friend Jacob Black is a werewolf, as are some of his peers in the Quileute tribe of which he is a member. Jacob also loves Bella and can’t wear shirts because they make him itchy.

There is a love triangle, more intense staring, and loads of teenage yearning while Bella gets herself into trouble over and over, constantly needing to be rescued. Werewolves hate vampires, and Bella is caught between, and that’s pretty much what you need to know.

So, now that we’ve covered that, let me get down to it. Bella is often called an anti-feminist character, she shows little if no strength, she is constantly being saved by, or in need of saving by, a handsome dominating male. The only real thing we know about Bella is how much she loves Edward. Of all the characters in Twilight she is given the least dimension. Everything she does is motivated by her love for Edward, she is willing to give up anything for him, her body, her life, and her soul. In the process she is knocked around and fought over like, for lack of a better word, an object. It’s obvious why she isn’t a great role model for young girls. The story isn’t really about Bella anyway, it’s about the fantasy of being “special”.

I truly believe that Twilight is a teenage girl’s fantasy. The daydreams I had as a teenager, and I think were shared by many, of meeting someone who plucked you out of the masses, who was interesting themselves, and declared you different and interesting too. Really the whole idea of Bella is that she is somehow special, despite being completely ordinary and otherwise uninteresting. There is no other evidence or reason for Bella’s specialness aside from Edward’s interest in her.

We know that Edward plays piano, we know that Jacob is an amateur mechanic, but Bella doesn’t seem to have a hobby. She cooks for her dad and she does her homework. On the HBO series True Blood, which is based on the Sookie Stackhouse novels by Charlaine Harris, Sookie finds herself in a very similar situation to Bella—but she fights, she’s tough, and she learns how to take care of herself, in other words, she has a personality. She is driven by far more than her love of her suitors, and the love triangle she is stuck in is partially because she gets pissed that both men treat her like an object, so she’s conflicted about both of them. The character of Bella is like a void, she is a blank slate that any girl can project herself onto, and I think that is part of what has made Twilight the phenomenon it has become.

I don’t think it’s that Sookie is braver than Bella, or that she is saved any less than Bella, but she is fully flesh to us. It’s that Sookie talks about her life, all the little details of it, in a very personal and realistic way. Of course she is supposed to be about seven years older, but there are plenty of teenage characters who manage to feel real to us on paper. For a story that is told in a first person narrative, Bella’s decisions and inner dialogue seem to repeat a loop of “Edward, Edward, Edward“. Bella loves Edward so deeply that she is fully prepared to give up her life and family—fake her own death essentially, in order to be with him.

In the film Eclipse there is a scene where Bella, who at this point is expecting to be bestowed eternal life by Edward, says her last goodbye to her mother (although her mother has no idea). While watching the scene I was surprised by the ease of it, It touched me only because I was thinking how difficult it would be for myself in that situation. The scene isn’t an error in translation from book to film, the treatment of Bella’s determination to be made vampire is almost glossed over with just a few—”oh, I’ll miss my parents” thrown in there. I’ve read a lot of fantasy, and usually when a similar choice comes about (which it so often does) the protagonist chooses against it, because it’s just too painful and wrong somehow, or they have their hand forced and live to regret it, but Stephenie Meyer gives the teenage girl inside of us that forbidden choice, and barely even takes note of the hardship that truly comes with it.

It’s lovely to live in a fantasy where you can give yourself over completely to another world, forgetting those you leave behind, or better yet, managing to have it all at once without consequence, but there is something about it that just rings false. Life is painful, and the decisions we make when we’re young can sometimes be so damaging that we spend the rest of our lives regretting them. There is so little real threat in the Twilight saga, the werewolves and the vampires warm up to each other almost too quickly (too bad Capulet and Montague didn’t have to battle an army of vampires) and it’s nice that they work things out, but it’s just too easy.

Feminism is all about choice, so I can’t call Bella an anti-feminist character, I may not agree with the choices she makes, but she (and Stephenie Meyer) have the right to make them, and that right should be protected rather than condemned. I still couldn’t feature Twilight in my weekly Beauty in the Movies post, because although though the films can generally pass the Bedchel test, I can’t get behind Bella as a role model, I’m a child of the Buffy generation, and I think there is more to being a woman than just choosing who to love, even if it can be fun to read about it.

I tried for a long time to justify Twilight as a valid piece of literature with a real message, just because I wanted to believe that a story that resonates so deeply with so many people must be more than just a happy accident. But here’s the thing, I really think that’s all it is. I think Stephenie Meyer stumbled on something, and though she is obviously talented in that she could  sit down and write four novels (all her haters, where are your bestselling novels, huh?) I don’t think the real message of Twilight is useful for anyone. As much as I’ve heard fans of the series try to justify the message as meaningful—the vampires and werewolves show tolerance for each other, or Bella finds acceptance in a world where she feels like an outsider, the message that really, undeniably jumps off the page, is that when you love someone you sacrifice everything, even if it changes who you are—just because you love them, no matter the consequence. We all love happy endings, but the stories that resonate deeply are the ones where something was gained and lost, or at least learned. I can’t say that Twilight gives you any of those things, but that doesn’t make it crap.

Twilight taps into a part of our collective unconscious, or at least mine and loads of teenage girls. It seems to resonate in some way, it’s deeply escapist and obviously romantic. It’s a love triangle, a battle of fire and ice, vampire vs. werewolf, chastity vs. sin, and of course Edward vs. Jacob. More than anything it’s a good story, but it’s not Romeo and Juliet, or Harry Potter, or Buffy, all those stories involve complex sacrifices, growth, pain that can’t be mended, and choices that are so hard it’s almost unbearable—and that’s what makes them transcend the realm of fantasy, what makes them human, and what makes us feel a part of them.

Oh my gosh I could go on about this forever, but I’m not sure if people are interested. So let me know if you are—hate Twilight so much you’re pissed I even brought it up? Let me know! Love Twilight so much you hate me for saying anything bad about it? Let me know too!

Also, why is it that the werewolf has a waxed chest and the vampire who is supposedly made of stone, has very visible chest fuzz? Thoughts? Anyone?

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Beauty in the Movies: Chocolat

In Honor of Bastille day this past Wednesday July 14th, this week’s featured film for Beauty in the movies is Chocolat. It’s also very appropriate that this article in the New York Times came out yesterday about the beauty of french women and aging gracefully. Coincidentally the article featured two of the actresses in the film, Juliette Binoche and Leslie Caron who was made famous for playing the title role in the film Gigi. We Americans seem to have a particular obsession with the French Je ne sais quoi, with books like French Women Don’t Get Fat, and the multiple other french diet books, it seems we are constantly trying to capture that same easy elegance that radiates off certain french women. Bridgitte Bardot, Catherine Deneuve, Julie Delpy, Eva Green, they all seem to embody a certain standard, it makes me wonder if French women feel as pressured to meet that standard as we feel to meet the skinny, tan, all-American standard. That’s food for another post, this one is about a fabulous movie called Chocolat, haven’t seen it? You should, let’s check out why.

Even the must curmudgeonly, sarcastic, angry, person couldn’t sit down to watch 121 minutes of the enchanting Juliette Binoche changing the lives of residents in a small town with chocolate and not crack a smile or two. It’s one of those films that explores the extent of human emotion while spinning magic and keeping things lighthearted. In the movie I Love You Man, it’s a running joke that the male characters can’t help but love Chocolat. I think that serves as an example of how films like this get written off as being for women because they have a majority of strong female characters, but when given a chance they’re equally enjoyed by men, just ask my fiancé!

Chocolat is the story of Vianne, a woman whose Mayan ancestors followed where the north wind carried them from village to village for generations, dispensing the medicinal and magical properties of cocoa. Vianne was raised this way by her mother, and continues the tradition with her daughter, but she would never imagine that a sleepy little town in France may finally break the nomadic cycle of her people.

Vianne Rocher and her young daughter Anouk arrive in the french town of Lansquenet-sous-Tannes on a stormy night during the holy time of lent in 1959. Vianne rents a patisserie from the cranky, elderly Armande (Judi Dench) and sets about turning the small shop into something far better than anything the town has seen before—a chocolaterie. Vianne’s shop is conveniently located across the square from the large cathedral where nearly every resident attends church, except for Vianne and Anouk. The town is presided over by the deeply devout Comte de Reynaud (Alfred Molina), who instantly sees the threat Vianne poses to the tranquility of the small town, and sets out to prevent the chocolaterie from doing business. The Comte is in a prolonged fast in which he deprives himself even bread, the man views smelling a jar of jam as sinful. The Comte is the epitome of self-denial not just with food, but also in that he cannot admit his wife has left him when the entire town knows it to be true. While the Comte may try to suppress the desires of the townspeople, Vianne’s magical sweets are so intoxicating that slowly each of them is drawn into the shop, and once she has guessed their “favorite” as she has a knack for doing, they are sure to return again and again. I’ll save the rest for you to see yourself, but Johnny Depp is in it if that encourages any of you to check it out, and he and Juliette Binoche have lovely chemistry together.

Chocolat is really a story about deprivation, and how allowing yourself even the smallest pleasure can set you free and bring people together. The Comte, though loathsome in his efforts to defeat Vianne, is also a sympathetic character. He is a man of tradition, and as the modern world has begun to creep into his small town he tries harder and harder to stave off the corruption that he imagines it will bring. There is no doubt he believes what he is doing is the will of god, but he cannot see past the unconventional actions of Vianne and realize that she is a compassionate and generous woman despite her eccentricities. Both characters are bound by tradition, and they each find the will to break their bonds in the most unlikely of places.

There are some great performances in this film, both Binoche and Dench were nominated for Oscars, but it is truly an ensemble cast. The supporting characters are all played by fantastic actors who bring a real sense of depth to the film, including the ever gorgeous Leslie Caron as a widow still grieving her husband’s death in WWI, Lena Olin as an abused wife who is taken in by Vianne, and Johnny Depp as the Irish traveler Roux, in whom Vianne finally meets her match.

The sets, the costumes, and the art direction of this film are absolutely exceptional. I want everything that Vianne wears, and I want her to come decorate my house for me (and make me chocolate too). The set for this film could easily be reused for an Anthropologie photo-shoot if it hasn’t already. The rich colors and costumes reflect the sensuality and the delight of chocolate, and one of my favorite lines in the movie is when Anouk asks “Why can’t you wear black shoes like the other mothers?” since all of Vianne’s gorgeous outfits are accompanied by a vibrant pair of red or coral pumps.

This film brings to mind the idea of the magical female. Another Beauty in the Movies featured film The Butcher’s Wife, features a similar effect. A women comes into a new place and with her colorful and lively spirit changes the lives of all those around her. I’m also reminded of The Secret Garden (even though she is a girl rather than a woman) and Cold Comfort Farm (which is one of my favorites and will be featured on here soon!) or even The Sound of Music or Mary Poppins. I think there must be some collective unconsciousness that appeals to all of us in the stories that unfold in this way, the women act as generous mother figures who breeze in and fix what is wrong with the world around them through their love and clarity. What is nice about Chocolat is that the character of Vianne is fully developed, she is effected by the town, and in the end it has a profound effect on her too.

In his sermon to the congregation Pere Henri, the young rock n’ roll loving priest in the film, delivers a beautiful message, he says “I think that we can’t go around measuring our goodness by what we don’t do. By what we deny ourselves, what we resist, and who we exclude. I think we’ve got to measure goodness by what we embrace, what we create and who we include.” This film asks how exclusion can ever be a good thing, and how goodness can be something that’s won by denial and pain. Tolerance seems intuitive, yet humans forget over and over how exclusion breeds hatred, and how denial breeds resentment. Chocolat may be a small story about candy, celebration, and friends, but it’s in the small moments in life that we find the divine, that we see the beauty of humanity. With just a bit of kindness, a touch of generosity, and a piece of chocolate, we can all learn to understand each other better, or we can at least try.

And that’s that. Have a great weekend everyone, and please if you like this blog please pass it along to people who you think might enjoy it, and let me thank you in advance for it!

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Beauty in the Movies: Mamma Mia!

I’m keeping things light this week since it has been so hot out it’s hard for me to form actual thoughts, and also because the heat has been making me think of walking around in airy Grecian dresses. So, I bring you the classic ABBA masterpiece, Mamma Mia!, based on the wildly successful West End musical by ABBA members Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson.


People seem to either love or hate this movie. I get the hate, it’s overly fluffy and cute plus there is a lot of squealing and Pierce Brosnan sings which can be a little disturbing for some, but I think that if you just sit back, relax and not expect anything more than pure, silly, entertainment, you won’t be disappointed by this film.

On the beautiful Greek Island of Kalokairi, Donna (Meryl Streep) owns a small hotel where she lives with her daughter Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) who is about to marry her boyfriend Sky (Dominic Cooper), but before she does she needs to know who her father is. After finding her mother’s diary from the year she was born, she narrows down the possibilities to three men, Sam (Pierce Brosnan), Harry (Colin Firth), and Bill (Stellan Skarsgård, father of Alexander Skarsgård, Eric from True Blood). Without her mother knowing, she sends wedding invitations to her three prospective dads. When the three men turn up on the island Sophie finds herself confused that she can’t tell who her father is on sight. The men are also confused once they realize Donna wasn’t the one who sent the invitations and has no idea that they’re there. Craziness ensues, helped out by Donna’s two over the top friends and members of her former band Donna and The Dynamos, Tanya (Christine Baranski) and Rosie (Julie Walters). If you haven’t seen it, I’m sure you can imagine how it plays out—with a whole lot of singing and dancing and sparkly costumes too.

Alright, I’ll confess, I love musicals. I was a musical theater geek, I know all the words to Oliver!, Annie, South Pacific, Gypsy and dozens of others. Give me a few box steps and some killer harmonies and I am a happy girl. I know there are people who get all cringe-y when people break into song on film, so if you’re one of them, this movie is not for you—but I still suggest you see West Side Story and My Fair Lady, because those are both so much more than just musicals and you’re missing out, really. While I’m making confessions, I also have to admit that I love ABBA. I know they get written off as goofy disco pop, but those guys have written some great songs with some great arrangements, there is no shame in liking ABBA, just own it.

I also love Meryl Streep, I mean everyone loves her obviously, but she is just so good. She is great to watch in this movie because you can tell she is having a blast. Why shouldn’t she get to have some musical fun? The woman is not only an astounding dramatic actress, but she has great comedic timing and is just a joy to watch all the time. Actually everyone in this film seems to be having a great time, that’s what I like to see in my movie musicals, that is kind of the point isn’t it?

Poor Pierce Brosnan got slammed by critics for his singing, which I honestly don’t think was so bad. I’m not going to say he sounds Springsteen-ish, because I’m sure I’ll get slammed for that, but I think if he wasn’t James Bond people wouldn’t have been so hard on him—the dude was having fun OK? I mean really, it’s an ABBA musical, why the hell not?

The whole cast is good, Christine Baranski could do this in her sleep, and she probably does. Amanda Seyfried is wonderfully good at being starry-eyed and sweet, and though Julie Walters is pretty wacky and a bit crude as Rosie, she is also Mrs. Weasley, so she can do no wrong as far as I’m concerned.

There is nothing upsetting or deeply dramatic about this movie, yet it still manages to have a big heart. The relationship between mother and daughter, Sophie’s search for answers, and Donna’s struggle with accepting Sophie’s marriage are all very real issues that women deal with all the time, there’s just some ABBA music added in for kicks. The film showcases strong women, from when Tanya sings Does your Mother Know? to one of the young men on the island in a reversal of the original ABBA song, to Sophie realizing that she doesn’t need a father to walk her down the aisle, not when she has her mother there. It is a film made mostly for women and by women too (the director is fellow female Phyllida Lloyd), and it caught a lot of flack for it. It’s not just a romantic comedy, it deals with bigger issues and is more entertaining than most of the romantic comedies that have come out recently. Yes, the basis of the film is romance and love, but also self discovery, family, regret, and friendship.

Despite breaking the record for the highest grossing movie-musical of all time, bumping Grease out of the #1 spot, Mamma Mia! wasn’t so well received by critics. I’m not saying every woman loved this film, but I can’t help but find it interesting that with the success at the box office, it was still so slammed by critics. Check out this article published by the Alliance of Women Film Journalist and written by Dr. Martha M. Lauzen who is the Director of the Center for the Study of Women In Television and Film. Here is a fun statistic from the article, 77% of film critics for major publications are male, and many large news publications do not feature any female critics, that might explain why so many films written for, or by, or about women often fail to receive critical acclaim. There are men who are great film critics who I truly believe look at the film for its overall value (Roger Ebert I’m looking at you!) but with a percentage gap like that, it seems impossible that there isn’t some bias going on. If I were a film critic I can tell you right now that films with excessive violence, or hour-long chase scenes wouldn’t receive such great reviews from me, but I know I’m biased, and I’m not a film critic. I’m sure there are male critics that were squirming in their seats watching this, because it’s not a film made for them, so we can’t expect them all to enjoy it. The more you look at the statistics the more depressing the film industry seems, women go to see a lot of movies, but they don’t get to make them or write about them, and that stinks, food for thought.

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Beauty in the Movies: A League of Their Own

In honor of the birth of our great nation, this week for beauty in the movies I bring you A League of Their Own.

You’ve all seen this right? I mean it’s probably the most successful female-centered film of the 90’s (seriously, what is up with all the lady flicks from 1990-1993? It’s great—but did we progress and then regress?).

The quote “There’s no crying in baseball!” is in the top one hundred movie quotes of all time. This is one of those films that actually broke into the mainstream as a huge commercial success. Is it because Madonna is in it? Or because guys like baseball so more of them would see it? Maybe it’s because it can in no way be labeled a romantic comedy, or because while there are emotional moments in the movie it avoids being overly saccharine or serious. For whatever reason, this movie side-stepped the “chick flick” label, and has become an American classic.

Here’s a little back story; in 1943 Philip K. Wrigley founded the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League as a way to keep America’s interest in baseball alive (and make money) whist the men folk were away during WWII. Though the league was an eventual success, poor management and the introduction of televised major league games in the 1950s lead to the end of the league in 1954. The film A League of Their Own, is a fictionalized account of two sisters who play on the Rockford Peaches, an actual team that played in Rockford Illinois during the eleven years the league existed.

The movie starts in the 1990’s with Dottie (Geena Davis) as an older woman, packing up to go to what we later learn is a reunion held at The Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown New York where an exhibit on the AAGPBL is opening. In a flashback we get to see her story.

In 1943 Dottie Hinson is recruited after scout Ernie Capadino, (Jon Lovitz) sees her play on her local team in Oregon. Dottie’s husband is away at war, but otherwise she’s happy with her life, so she declines the invitation. Her sister Kit (Lori Petty) however is desperate to go, so Dottie agrees that as long as Kit can come along, she’ll go to the try-out in Chicago. The two sisters both make the league and end up on the Rockford Peaches together. Also on their team is Doris (Rosie O’Donnell), Mae (Madonna) and a bunch of other ladies including star-hitter Marla Hooch (Megan Cavanagh). Former pro-baseball player, and fall down drunk, Jimmy Dugan (Tom Hanks) is signed on to coach the team, but more specifically to come out and wave his hat for the crowd before each game. With the total lack of leadership from their coach, Dottie takes over control of the team. The League isn’t doing so well, and PR manager of the league Ira Lowenstein (David Strathairn) comes to Dottie and the girls to tell them they need to be spectacular for the press or the league will shut down due to lack of funds. The girls step up to the plate (come on, I had to pun!) and play the game with gusto, grace, and showmanship. Crowds fill the stands, the girls are featured in national newspapers, and the league owner, candy-bar magnate Walter Harvey (Garry Marshall), is delighted.

Unfortunately with the success of the team, the competition is ramped up, and the sibling rivalry between Kit and Dottie reaches its peak when Dottie sends in a relief pitcher to replace Kit during a game. Seeing the tension between the two sisters, Ira Lowenstein has Kit traded to the Racine Belles. Kit blames Dottie for the trade and the two separate bitterly. I’ll end there in case any of you haven’t seen it, which I highly suggest you do, it’s a great summer movie! And also it has a great female director, Penny Marshall, and it’s always good to support films made by other women, because there aren’t enough.

One of the most notable points of the film is the way the women are sexualized and feminized in order to promote the league. Firstly, they try to limit their recruits to attractive girls, then they are sent to charm school, groomed, and put in short-skirted uniforms, which makes everything you do in baseball (like squatting) look all kinds of dirty. Doing some research into the actual AAGPBL, the women had to wear lipstick at all times, could not have short hair, and were given beauty kits with a detailed list of instructions on how to use them. They were also not allowed to smoke or drink in public, breaking any of these rules could mean a $10 fine or suspension.

This movie has a lot of great moments, many of them between the women who come to act as a family. Probably one of the sweetest mini-story lines is that of Marla Hooch, a sheltered girl raised by her father who is almost passed over by the league because while she is an astounding talent (she’s a switch hitter!), she isn’t deemed attractive enough. On their way to the try-outs in Chicago Ernie Capadino stops in with Dottie and Kit to see if Marla is any good, and when he won’t take her, Dottie and Kit drop their suitcases and refuse to leave. When Marla’s father is talking to Ernie he tells him “A coach from the American legion team said if she was a boy he would’ve taken her to the state tournament, and I said, if she was a boy I’d be in New York talkin’ to the Yankees” I’ll add that if she was a boy nobody would be thinking twice about her appearance either.

I like Marla’s storyline because it also shows us what women can do for each other. Here is a girl raised without any other female influence, but once she finally gets to be around other girls she blossoms, comes out of her shell, falls in love, and finds happiness.

Hanging over the film is the constant threat of WWII, most specifically the death of the player’s husbands. It makes for a compelling backdrop to a story about female achievement and sisterhood, and draws fuller attention the the fact that these women are just replacements for men who should be there. Much like Rosie the Riveter, the AAGPBL showed that women could take on the same challenges as men and be successful at them. Unfortunately as soon as the war had ended, the same women were expected to revert back to their former selves. The 1950’s marked a progression backward for women, as men returned to their old positions and women were left in the kitchen to forget all they had achieved. It was a sad moment in feminist history, and an important one to remember.

It’s interesting that despite the success of the league, and the film as well, women’s baseball has never been brought back in any real way. It’s unfortunate, because if their were such amazing female players then, there must be some great ones out there now who never get the opportunity to play.

I don’t think the attractiveness of these women is what made the AAGPBL popular, I think people just love baseball, no matter who is playing it, which is why it would be great to see another all American woman’s baseball team turn up one day, I hope we’ll all be around to see it when it happens.

Have a great holiday weekend everybody! Eat some BBQ and pie, see some fireworks, hang out with family and friends, and celebrate being free and being American!

I’ll see you back here on Tuesday, I’m taking Monday off for the holiday. Go have some fun, and thanks for reading—tell your friends!

Oh, and here’s the shopping list if you want to get the look:

Prince Blazer
98 GBP – julesb.co.uk
More blazers »

Enchanted Compact Mirror in Sparrow-
$12 – modcloth.com


Converse 110738 Ct As Seasonal Hi
59 CAD – gravitypope.com


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Beauty in the Movies: The Butcher’s Wife

For Beauty in the Movies this week we find ourselves entwined in the lives of characters on a small block in Manhattan’s west village, unfortunately the west village is slowly turning into a roofless shopping mall, devoid of charm, which makes me want to alternately scream and cry, but I digress. The film The Butcher’s Wife takes place when the village still felt like a community and was filled with ma and pop stores, much like the butcher’s shop featured in the film. So for me, and other New Yorkers I’m sure, there is a nice bit of nostalgia attached to it. The film came out in 1991, (I don’t know why I keep choosing movies from this period, I guess movies from my childhood have a lasting effect!) it’s crazy how much New York has changed since then.

At first I wasn’t so sure about featuring this film, it is on the predictable side, I don’t think Demi Moore (who replaced Meg Ryan before filming) was perfect casting, and it is a sort of formulaic romantic comedy. All that being said, it passes the Bedchel test, it has an amazing supporting cast and when I saw how riled up some people on imdb got about the lesbian characters (who don’t even kiss, and barely touch), I realized that it was a little more controversial and feminist than I thought.

So, Demi Moore is Marina, a clairvoyant from a small island off the coast of North Carolina who is awaiting the signs that will lead her to her true love. Many have slammed Moore’s accent in this film including myself (she earned a Razzie for her performance), but a commenter pointed out that on the island of Ocracoke, where the character is from, residents have a mix of southern and English accents due to the island’s seclusion, so maybe Demi isn’t actually so bad. Anyway, Marina sees the man she is going to marry in her dreams, and when he washes up on shore, despite being a bit older and plumper than she had imagined, she immediately jumps in his boat and lets him whisk her off to his home (and butcher shop) in Manhattan. She then walks around barefoot, in her nightgown, and on rooftops, enchants everyone she encounters, and unknowingly sets up several love triangles as she goes.

This film is an example of magical realism which we don’t get to see too often in American movies, things are usually either very fantastical, or very realistic in American cinema. I like films that blend the two together, because I do believe there are little bits of magic in everyday life, whether it be mystical magic or a human sort of magic. I guess I just love magic, just not so much with rabbits.

What really makes this movie for me is the supporting cast, both Jeff Daniels and Demi Moore are alright, but Mary Steenburgen, Frances McDormand (before Fargo), Max Perlich, George Dzundza, Margaret Colin (Blair’s mom on Gossip Girl!), Miriam Margolyes (professor Sprout from Harry Potter!), and a bunch of other amazing actors are what really put the charm in this film.

It’s a great movie to watch with your mom on a rainy afternoon, I’m sure that I have. In fact this is one of my mom’s favorite movies as it involves witchy magic, the west village, an ocean-y theme, and pretty shoes. My mom has long coveted the Peter Fox shoes featured in this film, so much so that she splurged and bought them for my wedding in October:

She is going to have them DTM (that’s dyed to match) her dress, she is going to look good!

Anyway, this isn’t an epic film, it won’t make you cry (hopefully), or feel terribly deep emotions, but it will entertain you, and maybe make you laugh too, so check it out!

Don’t forget I’m always open to suggestions for films with strong female leads, so let me know!

Have a great weekend kids, and if you want to look like Demi Moore in a butcher shop, here are the fashions featured in the collage:

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Beauty in the Movies: Mermaids

Looking back at images of beauty that have made a great impression on me throughout my life, I’ve noticed that there are films which have left a permanent mark on what appeared as beautiful to me, both in ways that I could relate to, and also in admiration of the beauty of others. As Netflix likes to tell me, many of my favorite films feature “strong female leads”, which is true. Unfortunately, they make very few movies that fall in to that realm. In fact there is this thing called the-Bechdel-test which is a way of gauging the prevalence of female representation in movies. It was created by a very smart woman named Allison Bechdel. You can read all about it here, but the basis of the test involves asking these three questions about any movie:

1. Are there two or more women in it who have names?

2. Do the two women ever talk to each other?

3. Do they talk to each other about something other than a man?

When you first read these questions you think, “God that’s silly, of course tons of movies must answer all three of those questions positively” and then you stop and think for a minute and go “wait, oh my god, that sucks, why are there no movies for women that don’t revolve around men or shopping? AHHH” and then you get really upset until you go watch Mermaids and Cher sings and cheers you up, and you remember that there are some good movies for us females.

We should promote and encourage more films that explore all aspects of female existence to be made. Because really, as much as relationships are a part of life, there are so many more topics to cover, and women really seem to just get pigeonholed into these love-sick shopaholics, and we are all so much more than that aren’t we?

So anyway, my point is, every week (on Friday because it’s movie night, duh!) I am going to post about one of these great movies that actually show the diversity of women, and also gives us inspiring images of beauty both in and out. So send me your suggestions too! I’ll make fun collages, it will be great!


Now let me get to Mermaids, this movie had a profound effect on my life when I was 7, I wanted to be Cher, Winona Ryder and Christina Ricci all at once. I loved this movie so much, and still do, that I’d like to share a little anecdote.

Here is a picture of my sister and I in matching outfits (my mother claims this only happened a few times, but I think it happened more) you can see by my sister’s dress that the skirt is supposed to be loose and A-line. Well, I wanted to be just like Cher, so in this big family photo, I decided to knot my skirt in the back so it would be tight like Cher’s right before my dad snapped the photo. I was a pretty bad ass kid. Nobody even noticed, but I was happy, and I still get a kick out of looking at it.

Mermaids centers around the story of Rachel Flax, a single mom who moves to a small Massachusetts town with her two daughters (Ryder and Ricci) in 1963. She cuts sandwiches into fun shapes with cookie cutters, wears fabulous outfits, and actually has a realistic relationship with her kids. Winona Ryder’s character, Charlotte, falls for the hunky groundskeeper (Jake from Sixteen Candles) at the nearby convent, and struggles with questions of religion, sex, and abandonment by her father. The movie also covers Kennedy’s assassination, an adorable Christina Ricci as a swimming champion, Bob Hoskins making an amazing night-light, and so much more.  There is a great soundtrack too, my favorite camp counselor used to have us sing The Shoop Shoop Song (Does he love Me?) on the bus, it was the best summer.

So if you’ve never seen Mermaids (or even if you have) I highly recommend checking it out, and if you find yourself as inspired by Cher’s sexy, fun, 60’s looks in the film as I was, here is a little shopping guide to help you get the look:

Puckered Sleeve Dot Cardigan
$24 – canada.forever21.com
More cardigans »

Cornelli Cardi
30 GBP – missselfridge.com
More Miss Selfridge cardigans »

Top
$650 – marni.com
More Marni tops »

 

darla bracelet
25 GBP – coast-stores.com
More bracelets »

Black False Lashes
$6 – mydivascloset.com


Have a great weekend everyone!

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Filed under Beauty in the movies