“Always.”

I think my first exposure to Alan Rickman was the superb 1995 film adaptation of Jane Austen’s Sense & Sensibility penned by and starring his best friend (and one of my biggest heroes), Emma Thompson.  His character, Colonel Brandon, is meant to be this aging, semi-severe bachelor who suffers from unrequited love for the blossoming, beautiful Marianne Dashwood played to youthful perfection by Kate Winslet.  rickman 1Naturally, she sets her sights on the young, dashing, too-charming-to-be-real cad Willoughby and rebuffs Brandon’s advances, thinking him incapable of feeling love or inspiring it in another. And even though Brandon knows what Willoughby is capable of, that he has less-than-honorable intentions, he doesn’t interfere.  Instead, he quietly, humbly goes on loving and supporting Marianne through all her worst moments even when it aches him to do so.  He is unfailingly kind and chivalrous to the last.  And when Willoughby has left Marianne inconsolable with a broken heart as Brandon knew he would, Brandon does not revel in being proven right.  He does not gloat or chastise Marianne for having chosen such an undeserving man to receive her love over himself.  Instead, he goes on loving her and caring for her without hope or expectations until one day, she realizes she has fallen in love with him and they marry.rickman 4

At one point, Willoughby says, “Brandon is just the kind of man whom everybody speaks well of, and nobody cares about; whom all are delighted to see, and nobody remembers to talk to.”  But for me, Brandon is the best part of Sense & Sensibility.  Beyond our heroine, Elinor, he is the one whose quiet, lovelorn suffering stings most true.  Brandon is the emotional and moral center of the story for me; he’s the one who does what is right above all things, sometimes at the expense of his own heart.  Brandon shows us that love often doesn’t come in the form of charm and sizzling passion, but that it often looks far more like tenderness and compassion.  rickman 2Marianne’s assertion that love must be “inspiring” and loud is met by Brandon’s subtler acts of love, and she realizes he is far worthier of her heart than a man like Willoughby could ever be.  While Austen illuminates this quite well in her book, it didn’t really sink in fully until I saw Alan Rickman’s portrayal of Brandon.  I saw the pain in his gaze, the love in his every action.  He made us all fall in love with Brandon, but I also fell in love with Rickman himself.  And I learned a lot about how to love as a direct result of his performance in the film.

When they announced the cast for the first Harry Potter film, my heart leapt with joy at hearing Rickman’s name announced as another long-suffering lovelorn character: potions-master Severus Snape.  Most people today are going to be talking about how great Rickman was at playing the villain (and in all fairness, Hans Gruber and the Sherriff of Nottingham are both thrilling and sexy performances and steal the show of their respective films), but I’d argue that Rickman was actually better at romance, and more specifically, showing us the trickier, more painful aspects of love.  Colonel Brandon in Sense & Sensibility.  Snape, who is villainous at times, but has carried the pain of love for so long, it has eaten away at him.  Harry in Love Actually, who doesn’t realize his foolishness is wrecking his wife.

rickman 5

With the brilliant Juliet Stevenson in Truly, Madly, Deeply (1990)

And especially Jamie in Truly Madly Deeply, who must try to let his former love go while helping her learn to let him go.  These roles aren’t quite as showy as the villains, but they pack more of an emotional wallop.

It is only in mourning Alan Rickman’s death today I realized I have treated him a bit like Marianne Dashwood: accepting he would always be there for emotional support but never fully giving him the attention he truly deserves.  I was blind sighted by the news of his passing, because I had come to love him far more deeply than I ever realized; his presence was always a welcome one onscreen or onstage.  And don’t get me started on that marvelous, iconic speaking-voice.  He gave us everything selflessly with the deepest of love and greatest care for his craft, collaborators, and those of us who sat in darkened rooms watching him.  He deserved far more, but he made the absolute most of what he got.

All I can offer in return is my deepest affection and gratitude for the many gifts he gave me as I’ve grown up watching his films.  Rickman IS Brandon: the kind of man everyone speaks well of and whom all are delighted to see, but damned if he’s not also somebody we ALL deeply care about.

Thank you, Alan.

rickman 6

1946-2016.

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!

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