An open letter to Seth MacFarlane

Dear Seth MacFarlane,

I’m sure you get lots of mail: some from dudes who love Family Guy, some from people who hated Ted 2, some from ladies who thought your boob song at the Oscars was in poor taste (for the record: I’m neutral…even as a feminist), some from ladies who are only interested in your immense wealth.  Maybe some from dudes hoping you’ll put them in touch both literally (gross) and telephonically with Mila Kunis, Amanda Seyfried, and/or Charlize Theron.

seth-macfarlane-tuxI’m writing to you about exactly none of the above things (although I wouldn’t mind talking to Charlize about being a 5’11” kickass woman who manages to look good with any hairstyle), because what I care about is your voice.  No, not the Stewie or Peter one from which you have made millions.  I mean that velvety, unabashedly old-fashioned crooner voice of yours singing along with Joel McNeely’s amazing orchestrations.  The one that conjures up images of velvet suit jackets, smoky lounges, and stiff drinks.  The one that has graced the BBC Proms at Royal Albert Hall.  The one that recorded three albums.  I realize you probably get mail about this too, but because I’ve watched Sleepless in Seattle too many times, I have developed this idea that like Meg Ryan’s character, my letter to you will somehow be more important than all the other letters you and your adorable-if-precocious son have received from women all over the country.

Wait.  Sorry.  You don’t have a son.  At least, that is what my current Google Search results tell me.  They also tell me that prolonged cell phone use may cause an increase in back and neck pain and brought up the Wikipedia page for Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan.  So I have a very exciting life as you can probably tell.

Anyway, I think you should know that one night I stayed up until the wee small hours of the morning (Haha get it?  Because you idolize Frank Sinatra and he recorded an album with this title and this joke is so funny you should hire me immediately to write for one of your shows hahaha) watching you sing “Joey Joey Joey” from Most Happy Fella at the BBC Proms on YouTube.  I’m kind of a sucker for that song anyway, because I happen to think Loesser is one of our most underappreciated musical theatre composers (did I mention I have a degree in musical theatre and an old-fashioned belt like Judy Garland?), but something about the way you sang it in your beautifully spun vibrato just knocked me out.  And despite years of watching Family Guy in living rooms around the Midwest (Where I grew up; I’m dropping these details just in case you want to keep falling in love with me.), this is when I fell in love with you: at 2 am in a tiny NYC bedroom with just the glow of my Macbook screen slicing through the dark and your voice ringing from the speakers.

I’m pretty certain I’m not the first woman (or even the second or third) to tell you she’s in love with you, because you are, after all, a good-looking, successful adult male who is well-rounded and charming and has had his fair share of romantic relationships (and probable imagined relationships in the brains of too-enthusiastic, moony-eyed fans of both sexes).  And I’m pretty certain I’m not the first woman to tell you she likes your singing voice, because you have a mother, and mothers will always tell you they like your singing voice even if it is terrible (unless your mother is Rose from Gypsy, because she will definitely ruthlessly tell you you’re not cut out to be in the biz if you’re terrible).  But I might be the only natural blonde woman (Are you in love with me yet?  I’m 27, so I’m definitely within your suitable dating age range) to tell you both of these things and also say that I think it’s time for you to change careers.

I know, right?!  Who the hell am I to give you career advice?  I’m not Oprah or one of those super attractive “career consultant” type ladies in Manolos The Today Show brings on for a segment that Matt Lauer has to pretend to care about when he’d rather be talking about ISIS, but because I’m a fellow Scorpio like you (See? We are perfect for each other), who has killer intuition and x-ray vision for bullshit, I have always sort of felt like Family Guy was a way of giving you the so-called freedom to do what you REALLY wanted to do: make pseudo-Sinatra albums and give into your more Capra-esque cinematic leanings.  Basically, all that long-windedness above summed up: please just go make Technicolor movie musicals or a Frank Capra-style screwball comedy or earnest drama.  Ted 2 was basically a Capra courtroom drama masquerading as a frat boy comedy.  A Million Ways to Die in the West wanted to be a musical.  Your albums are oozing with charisma and sentimentality.  140529100659-05-seth-macfarlane-0529-horizontal-large-galleryThis is not to say that Family Guy doesn’t have its merits as a consistently funny show and that your voice and animation work are not also important facets of your multifaceted talents; I merely am saying that I feel you are sometimes afraid of being earnest, sentimental, and—dare I say—sweet outside of your recordings and concert appearances, and frankly, those qualities are more attractive to me as an artist and woman than someone who always goes straight for the joke every time (and I would know as someone who regularly is afraid of being honest and sentimental and covers everything up with a well-timed witticism or joke).

As a nerd, I can instantly recognize other nerds, and you are a big one.  I’ve heard you give interviews, talking, in detail, about Nelson Riddle or Gordon Jenkins (who is totally underappreciated) or film scores with an enthusiasm normal people reserve for like, Beyoncé or the latest episode of Game of Thrones.  I once wrote a 25-page paper in college comparing John Williams’ scores for Star Wars, Jaws, and Close Encounters of the Third Kind to Wagner’s use of leitmotif in his operas.  This is not what normal people do, Seth, and you and I are not normal no matter how hard we both try.  I have made peace with this as I have aged and realized the right people will think I am cool, and I think you’re still working on that, which is totally fine.  Being comfortable with your nerdiness actually makes you cooler, I think (I’m still waiting for the popular girls from my high school to confirm this on Facebook, so I’ll get back to you).  I’m not saying you aren’t comfortable with your nerdiness, but because most people know you for being the cool guy of Family Guy or making dirty jokes at the Oscars, it’s almost like your nerdy jazz career is a super-secret alter-ego you only reveal to those you can trust, which is apparently mostly musical theatre/jazz aficionados, the BBC, and old people who miss the Big Band era, which are three very trustworthy, awesome, reliable groups, honestly.  Kudos.  But no great thing ever came from not taking risks, and I think you’re on the precipice (I am always looking for an opportunity to use that word, which I learned from Old Rose in Titanic back in 1997) of something great if you have the courage to just go for it.

I’m sorry for sounding like one of those motivational posters teachers hang in their classrooms that have trippy photos of nature, but I really think it’s time for you to boldly go where you’ve never gone before (Star Trek is still on the brain, clearly).  It’s your earnestness that I responded to when I watched “Joey Joey Joey” at 2am on Youtube, because you didn’t do anything for a laugh or to coast by on charm: you just sang the damn song from your heart.  I think there’s a big ole warm, gooey heart inside of you, MacFarlane, and I want to see it, because it’s way more interesting than everything else.  It’s real…you know what I mean?  And unlike Blanche DuBois from Streetcar Named Desire, I want real, not magic.

Okay, I sometimes want magic too (and especially during the holidays), but real is the substance of life, and I want that.  I think you want that too.  I need to take my own advice, as per usual, but this isn’t really about me.  Actually, I guess it IS sort of also about me too since I’m the one being all righteous and trying to tell you what to do with your life while ignoring my own.  So for the record, I get scared too.  Being funny always feels better because people don’t have time to judge the real parts of you when they’re laughing at something you say instead.  But being funny isn’t all that I am, and I could do a better job of letting myself be honest too.  I guess we both have homework to do, Seth, and if you’re anything like me, you probably enjoyed doing most of your homework (except math because you don’t need that to sing Sinatra or Garland songs).

I’m gonna wrap this shit up here, because I’m worried you’ve already stopped reading and/or are considering getting a restraining order against me, and I really only wanted to write to tell you I’m your fan and really rooting for you in whatever the next phase of your multiple careers is.  I think you’re probably the coolest nerdy dude in Hollywood, and I’m hoping NBC casts you as Harold Hill whenever they decide to do Music Man Live.  You’d crush it during “You’ve Got Trouble.”  I know that because I also watched you do it at the BBC Proms on Youtube in my bedroom (I should probably get a social life).

And if you feel like meeting me at the top of the Empire State Building on Valentine’s Day, I will be the blithely-cool, semi-neurotic, blonde Meg Ryan type (but taller) waiting for you.

Think about what I said.  And think about my Valentine’s Day offer.

Live long and prosper,

Emmy

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Nerd Stuff: 3 Behind-the-Scenes Documentaries To Check Out

Most of my friends know I am a sucker for a good behind-the-scenes or making-of story.  I have been known to spend hours going down the Youtube rabbit hole that IS Inside the Actors Studio interviews (James Lipton is both delightful and strange, and I wish someone would interview him about his apparently “colorful past.”).  I love hearing actors talk about their “process” or filmmakers talking about how certain films got made.  So many people only care about the finished, magical result, but I love seeing the mechanics of it.  For me, that doesn’t take away from the finished project, it enhances it.

So, without further ado, here are 3 behind-the-scenes docs I’m currently obsessed with:

  1. Ballet 422 (Netflix, DVD/Blu-ray, Amazon) gives viewers a peek into the world of the New York City Ballet as then-25 year old corps dancer, Justin Peck, has two months to choreograph and stage the company’s 422nd new ballet.

    Fans of ballet will appreciate the access NYCB granted filmmaker Jody Lee Lipes into their rehearsals, costume fittings, and performances.  I think I especially loved seeing the collaborations between Peck, the costumers, and the lighting designers as they worked to visualize all the concepts of Peck’s ballet. 

    Finale from Peck’s “Paz de la Jolla” image: Paul Kolnik

    Peck is one of the most exciting new choreographers working today (check out his collaboration with indie musician/singer Sufjan Stevens on Year of the Rabbit) and is only the second ever Resident Choreographer for the New York City Ballet in its long, storied history.

  2. Listen to Me Marlon (now playing in NY & L.A., nation-wide release TBA) is a fantastic, intimate look at Marlon Brando’s life through his own words. The late actor recorded over 200 hours of himself talking about his life and his work on tapes that were recently discovered. 

    Director Stevan Riley weaves these recordings throughout his film along with TV and radio interviews Brando did throughout his life to great effect. For the first time, viewers get a real sense of Brando’s approach to acting, his influence on the art form, his thoughts on some of his greatest films, and his own troubled life.  It is a thrilling, engaging documentary chock full of wisdom for aspiring artists but also a cautionary tale about fame, alcoholism, etc.  Marlon Brando will always be remembered as one of the greatest actors of all time, but Listen to Me Marlon proves the man is actually just as, if not more, interesting than the myth.

  3. You Must Remember This podcast (iTunes, youmustrememberthispodcast.com) is the brainchild of film critic and historian, Karina Longworth who writes, edits, and narrates each episode about lost and/or forgotten history from Hollywood’s first century. She has covered the loves of Howard Hughes, various sex symbols (Isabella Rossellini, Theda Bara, etc), star contributions to the war effort, etc. 

    Charles Manson during his trial in an undated photo. (AP Photo)

    Charles Manson during his trial in an undated photo. (AP Photo)

    However, her current summer season is focused exclusively on Charles Manson’s Hollywood, which is a wholly engrossing, meticulously researched history of Charles Manson, his family, Sharon Tate, Roman Polanski, and all of Manson’s Hollywood connections.  It’s incredibly addictive and full of surprises (like the fact Manson knew both Dennis Wilson and Candice Bergen and ran around for a bit with Angela Lansbury’s daughter, Didi).  The way Longworth is able to make connections between seemingly unrelated persons and events is incredible, and I love how she uses all of it to illustrate both the cultural climate of the late 60s and the murders themselves as well as showing how some of the greatest films of the 1970s (like Polanski’s Chinatown) were deeply influenced by the paranoia and fear of the Manson Murders, the murders at Altamont Speedway, and several other copycat murders that popped up following the events of August 8, 1969.  Parts of the podcast are quite gruesome and unsettling, but the most unsettling part is when you remember that Manson and many of his “family” are still alive and well in prisons around the United States.

Enjoy!

My Favorite Fierce Film Heroines Part II: Rose

Welcome to part II of my series on fierce film heroines.  If you missed part I, which probably happened since I wrote it more than two years ago (oops!), just hop over to HERE.  At some point, I’ll probably add more ladies to this list like Ripley from Alien and Dr. Ellie Sattler from Jurassic Park, but today, we’re talking about the gal who defied her uppity mom and horrible fiancé to run around “the ship of dreams” with a gorgeously hot third-class passenger named Leonardo DiCaprio, erm, Jack Dawson.  It’s Titanic time and Rose’s turn.

Rose DeWitt Bukater

  • Our first glimpse of Rose is actually of her amazing violet hat and her getting out of what I assume is probably a Ford circa 1912. 
    "They called her the Ship of Dreams..." Because it is everyone's dream to look THIS good and have Leo as their boyfriend.

    “They called her the Ship of Dreams…” Because it is everyone’s dream to look THIS good and have Leo as their boyfriend.

    We see her raise her head and then BAM!  Kate Winslet’s gorgeous face appears beneath the hat.  Then she acts all unimpressed with the Titanic like it’s not about to be the ship where she has the greatest sex of her life following the greatest nude portrait session of her life with a dreamboat steerage passenger.  “It doesn’t LOOK any bigger than the Moritania.”  Obviously, Rose has already learned the importance of Say Something Hat Day and how a good chapeau can influence your entire outlook on life. 

    Miss Vida Boheme: drag queen, life guru, and creator of the all-important Say Something Hat Day

    Either way, her nonchalance and sass is not something I can replicate with any authenticity.

  • Rose meets Jack during a suicide attempt.  Like, GREAT STORY to tell your grandkids, Rose.  “I met the love of my life before I was about to throw myself into the ship propellers.” #dramaqueen much?
    No, girl, YOU'RE crazy for not immediately climbing back over the rail into Leo's arms.

    No, girl, YOU’RE crazy for not immediately climbing back over the rail into Leo’s arms.

    But actually, if she hadn’t had a moment during dinner and then almost jumped off, Jack might never have walked over to her and been all “you jump, I jump” which is basically the best pickup line no man has ever said to me and probably never will (but I can dream, right?).  I’m not condoning Rose’s original death wish of a plan, but I AM saying that what I got from this situation is that if I do something bold and possibly crazy, Leonardo DiCaprio might start up a casual conversation with me. Or the more likely scenario, which is that he files a restraining order.

  • This: “Do you know of Dr. Freud, Mr. Ismay?  His ideas about the male preoccupation with size might be of particular interest to you.” 

GREATEST. DINNER PUTDOWN. EVER.  Ladies, THIS is the way you classily attack a man’s unmentionables during an elegant dinner (possibly held on a luxury ocean liner).  Rose could probably go toe-to-toe with Lady Mary in terms of brilliant snide remarks.

  • Jack teaches Rose how to “spit like a man.”  This is about the only thing we mere mortals could possibly do reasonably as well as Rose.
    Is there anything more romantic than spitting off the deck of a fancy-ass ship at sunset? Can you do THAT on a Viking River Cruise, PBS?

    Is there anything more romantic than spitting off the deck of a fancy-ass ship at sunset? Can you do THAT on a Viking River Cruise, PBS?

    Sure, it’s a little disgusting and undignified, but in comparison with how you probably spent your Saturday nights (alllllllll the struggles), this is pretty tame stuff.  And according to Jack/Leo, it’s just all about technique anyway (I feel like there’s a reaaaaaally dirty joke in there somewhere, but I’ll let this one be for now).

  • Rose gets drunk and then does pointe in just her stocking feet in third class (which is OBVIOUSLY where the REAL party is; I mean, arm wrestling in that time period is like beer pong now).  Rose, all cocky and confident, asks, “You think you’re big, tough men?”

    DO NOT ATTEMPT WHILE DRUNK (or sober for that matter)

    Having studied pointe for six years, I can tell you that this would hurt more than any situation in the Final Destination films (none of which I’ve seen, because I’m not interested in ridiculous death wishes or really inane “horror” movies with thin plotlines).  My toes bled even WITH padding, lamb’s wool, and the occasional paper towel stuffed into the toe box.

    True story: I have quoted this film and this line whilst drunk.

    At my drunkest, I have attempted many feats to impress boys at parties, but none of them have involved doing pointework without pointe shoes (though I might have once attempted doing “Thriller”).  Bravo, Rose.  You have feet of steel.

  • Rose only has to pay 10 cents for a nude portrait drawn by Leonardo DiCaprio, erm Jack, “wearing this…wearing ONLY this.”  Um, seriously impressive seduction technique for a friggin 17 year old not to mention she seems confident and content with her body.
    The kind of body confidence that can't be taught. You go girrrrl.

    The kind of body confidence that can’t be taught. You go girrrrl.

    When I was 17, I was pretty much the opposite of smooth unless you count me playing saxophone for jazz band (among also being in marching band and playing oboe as my regular instrument).  If you know me at all, you know I have been harboring an intense crush on Mr. DiCaprio since I was seven years old and have thought out many seduction tactics, but I’m 98% sure if I approached him only wearing a bathrobe and a fancy necklace and then dropped trou in front of him, I’d be slapped with a restraining order (I’m sensing a theme).

  • Rose wields an axe after nearly being electrocuted from swimming through the flooded, dark third class hallways and successfully frees Jack from his handcuffs.

    Heeeeeeere’s Rose!!!

    Her “practice swings” are, I think we can all agree, pretty disheartening, but because she is Rose FREAKING DeWitt Bukater and destined to be with Jack (at least for the next twenty-ish minutes until he dies), she obviously frees him without scarily chopping off his hands on her FIRST TRY. I have never used an axe, but I DO have pretty boss table saw skills from taking stagecraft lab in college, so I guess that’s something.  However, I’ll leave the brawniness to Rose and the handsome guy in flannel on the paper towel logos (and in selected neighborhoods of Brooklyn/Portland) and just stick to the brains part.

The Importance of Choosing the Right Man

Ladies and gays, I think the most important thing we can learn from our dear, fiery Rose, is the importance of choosing the correct life partner.  At the beginning of the film, she’s engaged to handsome Cal Hockley,

My favorite ever GIF of Billy Zane. Not sorry.

who makes his money in steel and has gobs and gobs of it (enough to buy a bunch of really famous pieces of art AND a diamond that is more ostentatious and obnoxious than the Kimye wedding). 

Hey boo, I bought you this huge diamond so you're supposed to love me now.

Hey boo, I bought you this huge diamond so you’re supposed to love me now.

As we come to find out, this is going to be a marriage of convenience rather than love since Rose and her mother are basically bankrupt.

Ah the passive aggressive corset-lacing move is fun, isn’t it? The angrier you are, the tighter it gets. Scarlett O’Hara knows a thing or two about this.

  But it’s pretty obvious Rose doesn’t love the guy (even though Billy Zane’s hair has literally NEVER looked better) not to mention he’s got a temper worse than Alec Baldwin and the table-flipping skills of a Real Housewife of New Jersey.  He’s also majorly controlling and has questionable ethics (pretending to have a child to get in a lifeboat…”I HAVE A CHILD!” much?).

Teresa Giudice has NOTHING on Cal Hockley when it comes to table flipping, y’all. What a nightmare.

  If she stayed with him, Rose would likely find herself in a verbally and physically abusive relationship especially since he full out slapped her in the face aka NOT OKAY.

PREACH

So it’s pretty awesome when she spits in Cal’s face and picks Jack Dawson for a lifetime of love rather than money…ESPECIALLY in 1912.

UGH THE WORST

 

Again, PREACH

Jack is willing to risk his life for her, he challenges her in good ways, he doesn’t want to squash her independent spirit, and he loves her for exactly who she is.  Ladies and gays, THIS is the kind of man you should seek out.  Now I’m not saying you should take up with the first guy who teaches you to “spit like a man” and has sweaty car sex with you in the boiler room of a luxurious ship, but be on the lookout for a guy who cherishes you rather than seeks to buy your affections so he can control you. 

Baby, are you an Oscar?  Because I want you so baaaad.

Now, if he happens to cherish you AND have the money to buy you a blue diamond worth a gazillion dollars, then you really have hit the jackpot of life-mates, and I envy you and your accessories collection.

So where were we?

  • Rose loses Jack to the icy depths of the ocean, swims in the freezing ass water to blow a dead man’s whistle to get a lifeboat to come back
    Try not to think about the fact that whistle was in a dead man's mouth.  Ew.

    Try not to think about the fact that whistle was in a dead man’s mouth. Ew.

    and FINALLY makes it back to America where she tells customs her name is actually “Dawson, Rose Dawson”

    LIVE YOUR BEST LIFE, ROSE! YOU LIVE YOUR BEST LIFE AS ROSE DAWSON!

    BECAUSE SHE’LL NEVER LET GO (even though, okay, technically she DID let go of Jack’s hand to save herself but whatever) and TRUE LOVE.  And if you aren’t crying by this point, you are probably a robot named Caledon Hockley.  Anyway, Rose is a fighter, and I’d like to think at some point after all her rollercoaster riding and plane flying (Kate Winslet, you better WERK that aviatrix costume), she went to North Carolina and founded a town called Dawson’s Creek, because she was full of feelings and so are all the people in that town (specifically young adults) according to the WB in the late 1990s.

  • AND THEN WE FIND OUT THAT SOMEHOW, MIRACULOUSLY, SHE STILL HAS THE HEART OF THE OCEAN.  And by “miraculously,” I mean “movie-magic” because it’s a necessary and emotional plot point that needs tying up.  And now that Rose has essentially told Bill Paxton and his merry band of sea treasure hunters her entire secret life and sex history,

    “It BELONGS in a museum!” – Indiana Jones

    she must die a poetic death after throwing her “heart” back into the ocean (eh?  See what I did there?).  And thus, she goes to “heaven,” which for her is the prettier parts of the Titanic where Leo is waiting to make out with her,

    Just add pizza to this and pretend Kate is actually me, and you've got my idea of heaven.

    Just add pizza to this and pretend Kate is actually me, and you’ve got my idea of heaven.

    and clearly, Rose has been reading my thoughts, because oddly enough, that is exactly what heaven looks like to me too.  But also with pizza and burritos that don’t make you fat.

So, in conclusion, I think we can all agree that Rose DeWitt Bukater Dawson is a lady worth our admiration and respect.  She blazed those trails one giant iceberg at a time and lived life on her own terms.  Everything’s coming up roses…this time, for her!

The Wintry Mix: Movies to Watch During the Not-so-great Blizzard of 2015 (Part II)

NYC’s Great Blizzard of 2015 was decidedly a Great Big BUST instead, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still indulge in a few more wintry movies while you wait for mass transit to start back up again and roads to get cleared.  I posted the Wintry Mix Part I yesterday, so without further ado:

PART TWO

Die Another Day (2002)

The only frostier reception Pierce Brosnan has received was for his singing in “Mamma Mia”

So it’s probably not the best of the James Bond movies by any stretch, but Pierce Brosnan’s last outing as the eponymous MI-6 agent is pretty fun.  The plot gets a little complicated, but there’s a lot of business with North Korea (timely!) and a mysterious millionaire named Gustav Graves who has (wait for it) an ice hotel in addition to a super cool satellite that will obviously put the world in danger.  Come for Halle Berry as Jinx, stay for Rosamund Pike (in one of her first big roles before Gone Girl fame) as Miranda Frost, who also happens to have been trained in fencing by a character played by…Madonna.  Because why not?

The Shining (1980)

“I’d like red…rum. Get it?” (maniacal laughter)

Redrum redrum redrum.  Director Stanley Kubrick paces this horror classic perfectly, giving viewers and its star, a terrific and terrifying Jack Nicholson, an overwhelming sense of dread throughout.  It’s the rare horror film that also doubles as high, intellectual art.  Though novelist Stephen King hated what they did to it, everyone else seems to agree it’s a masterpiece.  Not recommended viewing for those who are caretakers at humongous hotels built on old Native American burial grounds.

Encounters at the End of the World (2007)

Brrrrrr

This intriguing documentary from Werner Herzog explores what it’s like living and studying at McMurdo Station in Antarctica.  Interviews with scientists, breathtaking views of the coldest continent, and cute penguins all await you in addition to a lot of life-affirming tales.  The documentary may have a chilly subject, but it will surely warm your heart (sorry, I know that one was really cheesy).

Little Women (1994)

My favorite ladies

Full disclosure: this is one of my top three favorite movies of all-time, so I’m a little biased.  In my opinion, this is the best and most loving film adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel about four very different sisters’ coming of age.  The score is gorgeous, the cinematography warm, and the acting from the all-star cast is superb.  Winona Ryder scored an Oscar nomination for her layered, heartfelt portrayal of Jo, and after you wipe away your tears, you’ll see why.  And if you don’t swoon over Christian Bale’s Laurie (or at least his hair), there’s something wrong with you.

Fargo (1996)

Badass

Nothing says “happy snow day” quite like a triple homicide and a botched kidnapping in snowy Minnesota.  The Academy Award winning film from the Coen Brothers was turned into a fine TV series this past year, but start with the sometimes funny but increasingly violent film.  Frances McDormand is great as pregnant policewoman Marge Gunderson as are Steve Buscemi and William H. Macy.  Entertaining? Yah, sure, you betcha.

The Wintry Mix: Movies to Watch During the Great Blizzard of 2015 (Part I)

New York City is about to get pummeled by what may be a historic blizzard the likes of which hasn’t been seen since 1947 (or possibly ever).  Everybody is in storm-preparation mode getting all their groceries and batteries and whatnot, but what about entertainment?  Sure, you can binge-watch all those TV shows you’ve been meaning to start OR you can check out the movies on my Wintry Mix Movie List!  Grab a blanket, some munchies, and a mug of hot chocolate and get ready to let it snow with these films (Sorry, y’all, we can do much better than Frozen).

PART ONE

Snowpiercer (2014)

Even dirty with a beard, Chris Evans is ridiculously handsome.

One of the best and most underrated movies of 2014, the film stars a bearded Chris Evans, Tilda Swinton (in an awesomely gonzo performance), and John Hurt and places them on a high-speed train that circumnavigates the globe after a global warming experiment goes wrong and kills most of Earth’s population, plunging the planet into a deep freeze. Naturally, something goes wrong on board the train, and a revolution begins.  It’s a visually-stunning movie with a timely plot and quite a twist towards the end.  I found it fresh and incredibly entertaining.  See the trailer here.

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, & the Wardrobe (2005)  

If this took place in 2015 instead of the 1940s, PETA would be throwing ink all over that fur.

You know the story: four siblings are sent to live with an eccentric professor in the English countryside to escape the London Air Raids during WWII and wind up stumbling into a magical world known as Narnia through a wardrobe.  Christian allegories galore plus Liam Neeson as a majestic lion.  But the real draw is Tilda Swinton (because who doesn’t need MORE Tilda in their lives?) as Queen Jadis, the White Witch, all icy bitchiness and glee.

Edward Scissorhands (1990)  

Ice ice baby…

“You see, before he came down here, it never snowed. And afterwards, it did. If he weren’t up there now… I don’t think it would be snowing.”  This is the film that first introduced me to Tim Burton and Johnny Depp and certainly one of their best collaborations.  Edward, a shy loner who happens to have scissors for hands, is brought to live with the suburban Boggs family and winds up falling in love with their beautiful daughter, Kim, played by Winona Ryder (Winona Forever!).  This being a Burton movie, it’s visually stylish and endearingly odd but remains one of my favorites of his cannon.

The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

“C’mon…kiss me!” Okay, Han.

You can’t make a list of wintry movies without including Hoth! If you don’t know the plot of this movie aka haven’t seen it, I probably am suspect of your movie tastes.  Obviously, ESB is the best Star Wars film because who doesn’t love daddy issues, spaceships being swallowed by asteroid-dwelling creatures, a green alien who speaks like Confucius, a princess and smuggler making out, and BILLY FREAKING DEE WILLIAMS IN A CAPE?!  Yeah, you know you love it or your heart has been put into carbon freeze.

The Ice Storm (1997)

Apparently, everyone had beautiful peacoats in 1973.

Ang Lee’s engrossing drama centers around a suburban Connecticut community in 1973 during a terrible ice storm where several interconnected families find their lives spinning out of control.  It’s an all-star cast, literally: Kevin Kline, Joan Allen, Tobey Maguire, Christina Ricci, Sigourney Weaver, Katie Holmes, Elijah Wood, Allison Janney.  It’s serious and sad, and an excellent portrait of the existential crisis felt by so many in the years after the swinging sixties.

Stay tuned for part II of the Wintry Mix featuring Bond, penguins, “Heeeere’s Johnny,” and more!

First Crush

Spring is in the air here in the City and with it comes the inevitable coupling up of animals and humans (though I myself am politely declining any and all close encounters of the male romantic kind until such time as my heart has fully recovered from the last).  So that got me thinking back…way, WAY back to the 90s…to when my heart felt its first flutters of love, or at least, deep like.  Enjoy…

My first crush was named Paul.  We were in the same kindergarten class, and I thought he was adorable.  Of course, at the time, I didn’t really understand what a boyfriend or love was beyond what I saw depicted in the Disney movies I so frequently watched.  Paul was gentle and sweet, sometimes shy, but always friendly and polite.  And the best part was that he had a crush on me back.

Crushes come and go, naturally, and my crush on Paul was no different. For a while in third grade, there was Robbie, who was blonde and played soccer and had just moved from Kansas City.  He had that new kid in town mysterious quality, a mischievous grin, and never was without a little twinkle in his eye.  I was smitten.

McIntire Elementary School: where many an early crush was had

McIntire Elementary School: where many an early crush was had

But it turns out I wasn’t the only girl at McIntire Elementary who felt that way; apparently every other girl in the third grade had taken note of Robbie and was secretly plotting ways of winning him over.  Realizing he was more into my friend Joanna, I quietly withdrew my heart from the competition and turned my attention back to multiplication tables and my Book-It booklist (which I think we can all agree was one of the best reading incentives ever: read books, get free pizza), and not long after that, Paul too.

Read books, get pizza. I wish the adult world was like that.

Read books, get pizza. I wish the adult world was like that.

Sure, he was a little too into Pokemon by that point for my taste, but we both loved music class and I had never forgotten the heated discussion we’d had over which Power Ranger was the best.  It seemed like a good match (if only it was THAT easy now).

In fourth grade, we started switching classrooms for science, history, and math, so even though Paul and I were in different classes, we could still communicate via notes we left in each other’s desks.  He left me a carefully folded note one day after science class, asking if I’d be his girlfriend, and naturally, I left one back accepting.  I marked the occasion by making note of it in my Lisa Frank polar bear diary

My actual Lisa Frank polar bear diary from 1997. Please note my favorite color was "cerulean." #pretentious

My actual Lisa Frank polar bear diary from 1997. Please note my favorite color was “cerulean.” #pretentious

that I kept under lock and key, saying we had “a complicated relationship.”  As if I had any idea what that actually meant, but it sounded good and adult at the time.  For Valentine’s Day, he got me a TY Beanie Baby keychain, which I still have somewhere in my closet at home in Missouri.  For a girl in the 90s, getting a beanie baby on Valentine’s Day was even better than flowers or candy, and I knew I had picked my boyfriend correctly.  I think I got him a pack of Pokemon cards, probably as a peace offering to say “I don’t understand this obsession, but I accept that it’s important to you.”  This would prove an important lesson for later relationships: you don’t always understand your significant other’s interests, but you must support them anyway.

Frosted tips, unlike Frosted Flakes, are NOT "grrrreat!"

Frosted tips, unlike Frosted Flakes, are NOT “grrrreat!”

Things changed in middle school because suddenly, we joined with all the kids from the other two elementary schools, and frosted tips and lots of hair gel became a thing.  An UNFORTUNATE thing, but a thing, no less.  Not only was there more homework, but now I had to worry about bras and school dances and figuring out how to do my own makeup (which in middle school in my day meant lots of eye shadow, Dr. Pepper Lipsmackers, and maybe a hint of mascara; SO natural…NOT).  And there were more boys.  So many more boys I had seen around town but didn’t really know.  I joined band and was in choir, and Paul was too, so we saw each other still in our music classes, but became friends instead.

I definitely believe in the whole When Harry Met Sally scenario that men and women can only be friends after they’ve gotten physical contact and/or those pesky romantic attractions out of the way (at least, most of the time).  That’s what happened to Paul and me.  After our brief 4th grade romance (with NO physical contact, mind you), we settled comfortably into a good friendship, which we have maintained up until now.  In high school, I used to go over to his house a lot after school with some of the other guys from band, and we’d play video games for a while and drink Route 44 drinks from Sonic.

The one thing I really miss about the Midwest: easy access to Sonic Happy Hour

The one thing I really miss about the Midwest: easy access to Sonic Happy Hour

A few times, I’d catch Paul looking at me, and I’d wonder if perhaps he had rekindled some of those old feelings for me.  If he did, he never acted on them again, and we graduated with our friendship intact.

I ran into him two summers ago at a friend’s wedding, and it felt weird but also like old times.  He introduced me to his girlfriend (who’s cute as a button and who he’s still with now).  We shared some laughs.  Once in awhile we send something to each other over Facebook, but we’ve gone in different directions in our lives, and have fewer things in common.  He works with computers in St. Louis, and I’m here creating stuff, living a semi-bohemian life.  I catch myself thinking about those strange childhood years sometimes, and Paul always enters my mind when I do.  He represents a time gone by, a different version of myself, and, in a way, the men who would follow him; the ones I gravitated (and perhaps still DO gravitate) towards.

I think we all are trying to recapture the magic of our first crush in our later relationships in many ways; the youthfulness and innocence, the butterflies in the stomach, the longing.  You only get one first crush; only one person gets to be the first to awaken those feelings in you for better or worse.  I don’t mean to sound all starry-eyed and nostalgic, but  it’s one of those moments you really DO carry with you for the rest of your life.  We always hope that the next person we fall for will stir up all of that, make us feel like we’re back in the throws of young, exuberant 4th grade love.  Sometimes they do, and sometimes they don’t.

I’ll always think fondly of Paul no matter how much life separates us, because that relationship has become oddly preserved just as it was, untainted by whatever else has happened to us in our individual romantic lives.  It is just as sweet now as it was then, and for that, I’m grateful.  I could use more sweetness in my life.

And for the record, I still know nothing about Pokemon (but THIS is pretty adorable).  Sorry, Paul.

My Favorite Fierce Film Heroines Part I: Scarlett O’Hara

As you may or may not know, I am beyond obsessed with Gone With the Wind and Titanic.  Both feature spunky leading ladies who are played by amazing British actresses with studied American accents.  There are also insanely gorgeous leading men in both films aka Clark I-don’t-give-a-damn Gable and Leonardo Dreamboat DiCaprio each with impressively amazing hair.  Both Scarlett and Rose challenge society’s notions on womanhood.  Also they both have terrible boyfriends before they realize the heinous error of their ways and ultimately choose Rhett and Jack (although, I gotta say that Billy Zane had a pretty handsome head of hair himself).  Not to mention each has to survive some pretty crazy stuff like a giant boat sinking and the burning of Atlanta before they come out on the other end stronger, fiercer ladies.  In short, Rose and Scarlett are two of my biggest heroines.  Like, I wanna be just like them when I grow up with a dash of the Dowager Countess from Downton Abbey added when I’m an old lady.

BUT I’m 95% sure I won’t be anything like them.  In this two-part blog, I’ll break down why Rose and Scarlett (both named after shades of the color red…coincidence?  I THINK NOT!) are way more awesome than any woman alive and why I’ll never live up to them.

SCARLETT O’HARA

  • A 17-inch waist even Kate Moss would clamor for.  As unattainable as a unicorn.

    A 17-inch waist even Kate Moss would clamor for. As unattainable as a unicorn.

    First and foremost, Scarlett has a 17-inch waist.  I do not have the discipline (or probably the frame) to support that kind of petite waif-ery.  I’m from the Midwest and was raised on a diet of carbs and potatoes, so…ain’t nobody got time for that, ya know?  Even in a corset after the Master Cleanse AND P90x, I wouldn’t be able to hit that number.  After having a baby, her waist is like, what, 19 inches?  Then she COMPLAINS about it.  I MEAN, COME ON!  Can you even TRY to make us feel less inferior, Scarlett?!

  • Vivien Leigh.  I adore her, she was the most beautiful woman in the world, her acting is unreal, and she was married to Laurence Olivier, the greatest actor in the world.  Can you guys imagine anyone else playing Scarlett?  NO.  Because Vivien is perfect.  And no one else is.

    The only time I'm ever surrounded by this many good looking men is when I'm at a gay bar with friends.  YEP I'M SINGLE!

    The only time I’m ever surrounded by this many good looking men is when I’m at a gay bar with friends. This might explain why I’m still single.

  • Scarlett goes to the Twelve Oaks barbeque mostly to see Ashley Wilkes (ugh) and winds up surrounded by a bevy of hot Southern gentlemen who all want to feed her ribs and probably okra, but really they all just want to politely get into her pantaloons.  I’m going to be honest when I say I would mostly be going to Twelve Oaks for the barbeque, not the men, because I really love barbeque.  And unlike Scarlett surrounded by men, I would be surrounded by empty plates.  This is why I’ll never have a 17-inch waist and probably be single forever.  See?  No discipline.
  • Scarlett possesses an undying devotion to her family’s plantation, Tara.  When she finds herself in times of trouble, she always goes back to Tara.  After the war, she takes it upon herself to revive her land by working it with *gasp* HER OWN HANDS.
    "As God is my witness, I'll never go hungry again! " - Scarlett...and also me when my bank account is zilch

    “As God is my witness, I’ll never go hungry again! ” – Scarlett…and also me when my bank account is zilch

    Keep in mind this is 1865, and proper young ladies only use their hands for delicate needlework or raising cups of tea to their mouths.  I’m so impressed Scarlett actually knew how to plant and pick crops even though she was raised to take afternoon naps and be admired.  I may have grown up in the Midwest, but I don’t know the first thing about real farming.  I can barely keep floral bouquets alive for more than a few days, so…saving a plantation?  Forgeddaboutit.

COMMON GROUND: the Ashley Wilkes problem

Here is where EVERY woman can identify with Scarlett: we all have or once had an Ashley Wilkes in our lives at some point or another.  You know, that one guy you just feel all the feelings for, and they’re kind of unrequited but also kind of requited which makes everything extremely confusing?  That’s Ashley Wilkes.  Scarlett throws herself at Ashley every chance she gets despite him being in love with his cousin Melanie (Was incest like, seriously a thing back in those days?  I mean gotta keep those bloodlines going, I get it, but…ick).  However, Ashley perpetuates the situation by constantly giving in to Scarlett’s advances.

"Scarlett, I'm just not that into you.  But I kind of am so let's makeout."  ASHLEY IS THE WORST.

“Scarlett, I’m just not that into you. But I kind of am so let’s makeout.” ASHLEY IS THE WORST.

After the war, he even makes out with her a little bit at Tara.  This is clearly not okay now or pretty much EVER.   Ashley is the kind of guy who likes all the attention he can get, even though he’s just not that into you.  I’ve totally been there; probably 75% of all the guys I’ve seriously liked were Ashley types, and it’s just not fun.

YOWZA.  Am I right, ladies?!

YOWZA. Am I right, ladies?!

Thank god Scarlett FINALLY realizes Rhett Butler is way hotter than Ashley, not to mention treats her like gold and truly loves her.  Also, let’s be honest: who would rather kiss Leslie Howard over Clark Gable?  No one, children.  NO ONE.

No offense to Leslie Howard, but Gable is sheer sex with a fab mustache.  I like tall, dark, and handsome, not blonde and wishy-washy.  And don’t forget Rhett paid an exorbitant amount of money to purchase a dance with an in-mourning Scarlett because he knew how much she wanted to dance.  Back in those days, if a lady was in mourning, she wasn’t allowed to have fun, so Rhett and Scarlett basically committed social suicide just by waltzing around.  If that’s not a sign of devotion and ballsy-ness, I don’t know what is.  Ladies, hold out for a Rhett.  Ashleys are just not worth it.

Rhett's the best, y'all.  Hold out for a man who'll dance with you even if you're in full 1860s mourning.

Rhett’s the best, y’all. Hold out for a man who’ll dance with you even if you’re in full 1860s mourning.

  • Scarlett pulls a Lady Sibyl from Downton Abbey and works as a nurse in a Civil War hospital.  Okay, so we all know that Melanie really is the Lady Sibyl of Gone With the Wind because she’s super nice and selfless and quietly volunteers herself to help with everything whereas Scarlett begrudgingly helps so she LOOKS as selfless as Melanie. But Scarlett does start to suck it up and get the hang of it (even though watching an amputation makes her sick…but who wouldn’t want to vom after seeing someone’s leg cut off?).  She sweats and gets blood on her and still looks amazing and beautiful.  Like, her hair looks even better than all those beauty queen doctors on Greys Anatomy (does no one EVER look frazzled on that show?).  While initially I would be gung-ho about helping with the “War Effort,” the minute I saw someone cutting off a limb or scarred worse than Freddy Kruger, I’d probably faint and then hightail it back to Aunt Pitty-Pat’s where we’d discuss her getting a new nickname because Pitty-Pat suggests spinsterhood, cats, and too many hours spent crocheting things.
  • BIRTHING BABIES.  Since Prissy is an idiot (and with a name like Prissy, how could she NOT be an idiot?  My apologies to any Prissys out there because you probably would at least be able to dial 911 in case of a birthing emergency), Scarlett is forced to birth Melanie’s baby while Atlanta is literally burning down around them.  I mean has there ever been a bigger drop-the-mic moment?!
    I don't know nothing about birthin' no babies...or HAVE ANY COMMON SENSE WHATSOEVER.  Basically, I'm worthless.

    I don’t know nothing about birthin’ no babies…or HAVE ANY COMMON SENSE WHATSOEVER. Basically, I’m worthless.

    Like, Scarlett births that baby then flags down Rhett in a carriage and gets Melanie and the baby inside before hauling ass back to Tara.  Hi, my name is Scarlett O’Hara and I birth babies, save people from mass fires, and drive a carriage by myself back to my home plantation.  [drops mic]  Even Jay-Z couldn’t do that…but I bet Beyoncé probably could because she’s a fierce diva like Scarlett.

  • Taking down a Civil War burglar.  Technically, Melanie is the one who shoots him, but Scarlett gives him a whole lotta shade and sass.  Ladies, THIS is how you deal with would-be rapists and plunderers: grab your shy BFF and make her shoot him for real while you just shoot daggers with your eyes and yell things like GET OUT OF MY HOUSE YOU VARMIT!  (Side note: let’s all make a pact to bring back the word “varmit”)  That’s what I’d do…and also call the police, because God knows Prissy sure wouldn’t know how to do THAT either.
  • The curtain dress.  Only two ladies in history have ever gotten away with this drapery couture: Scarlett O’Hara and Maria from the Sound of Music (okay and those VonTrapp kiddos).
    The best in curtain couture

    The best in curtain couture

    It’s a tricky business wearing your own household decorative items, but Scarlett makes it look like literally the best thing in the world.  If Vogue had existed in 1865, Scarlett would have been on the cover in that thing.  I can barely get away with wearing bedsheets at a Toga party, so there’s pretty much no hope for me wearing window drapes.  Also I don’t have any luxurious, long curtains anyway, so I’d wind up in my window blinds, which would probably come off more Lady Gaga and less Lady Cora Crawley.

  • Face it, ladies: none of us will ever find a man as dashing as Rhett Butler.
    You can kiss me ANY time, Captain Butler.  ANY TIME.

    You can kiss me ANY time, Captain Butler. ANY TIME.

    That whole “you should be kissed and often and by someone who knows how” thing makes me weak in the knees.  Men, you have your work cut out for you.  Always be a Rhett, never be an Ashley.

Basically, Scarlett is the bee’s knees.  Also Mammy because she always gives Scarlett the lowdown when she’s acting like a major beyotch.  Anyway, I’m sure there are a million other reasons I’ll never be as cool as Scarlett, but I’ll think about it tomorrow.  After all, tomorrow is another day…

STAY TUNED FOR PART TWO: Rose’s Turn!

Rose