Soul to Squeeze


Look, I’m a snob.  I know.  I’ve tried to fight it, but what’s the use?  Luckily, because the universe has a sense of humor, I am also a gigantic spaz and clutz so it all works out.

Anyhoo, I’m sitting on a crowded train yesterday and can’t help but eavesdrop on an awkward conversation between two coworkers, guys probably in their late 20’s, early 30’s.  In short, similar in age to me.  One of them is sort of a quiet mysterious type who looks like he could have been a military recruit at some point, the other is gregarious and just about exactly like every upper middle class white college boy down to the J Crew button down, North face vest, khakis and Jack spade bag.  (See my snobbery appear).

So Gregarious guy says, “You into Matchbox 20?”

And Mysterious guy looks at him like, “You can’t possibly be talking to me, even though it is clear you are talking to me.”  But instead he says, “…uhhhhhhh….not really man.”

I’m stifling giggles.

Gregarious guy says, “Well they just came out with a new album today, it’s pretty good.”

Mysterious guy doesn’t say anything.

Gregarious guy continues, “Yeah, I’m into music.  I like Jason Mraz, Dave Matthews.  Pretty eclectic actually.  I like those bands from 97-99.”

Eclectic…I think.  I do not think it means what you think it means…

Mysterious guy says, “Ehhhhhh I like bands from a little earlier in the 90’s. ”

“As well you should,” I think.

Gregarious guy says, “The only band I really got into from then was Pearl Jam.”

“Shit,” I think.  “Don’t bring me into this.  Don’t make me talk right now.”
You know because it’s always about me.

Mysterious guy says, “I don’t know man.  I’m getting more into electronic stuff.  Less guitar.”

Gregarious guy says, “Like…..house music?”

Mysterious guy says, “…No.”

Long pause.

Gregarious guy, “You know what really bugs me about so and so and that issue at work…”  And they quickly morph the convo into something about work that they both feel strongly about.

Long pause.

Gregarious Guy: I really love the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Mysterious Guy: They were my first concert, man!

“Saw them at Riverbend in 2001,” I’m thinking.  “STP opened for them.  What a great night.” Visions of my Anthony Keidis poster flash into my head.

And for this moment, the three of us (even though they didn’t know I was listening) had a moment of shared Chili Peppers.  My snobbery faded because 1. How can you possibly be a snob when you are professing love for the Red Hot Chili Peppers? 2.  Sometimes all you need is music to connect.

Or dance:

Or books:

Or theatre:

Helene Weigel-Brecht in her Silent Scream as Mother Courage

Or movies:

Or art:

Art, in any form, from the highest of high in conceptual painting to the lowest of the low fart joke, has the ability to connect us with these little invisible threads of art we love.  Words we love.  Songs that touched us.  Movie cracks that make us laugh.

“We cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow men; and among those fibers, as sympathetic threads, our actions run as causes, and they come back to us as effects.”
Herman Melville

“Invisible threads are the strongest ties.”
Friedrich Nietzsche

I am consistently awed at art’s ability to connect us, and I am humbled and priveleged that I get to be an artist and work with other artists.

But most importantly, I had that little moment of enlightenment partially because of this guy:

Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers

But he agrees with me:

“What’s the difference between me and that guy with the grey suit on down there? NOTHING! What’s a difference between a mouse and Jupiter? …NOTHING!!!” – Flea

Maybe I’m not the snob I thought I was.

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Movie Hero of the Week – Myrna Loy*


(Haven’t done a Movie Hero of the Week in over a year.  But I love doing them.  Decided to jump back in.  Although “of the week” is decidedly a misnomer.)

I love Myrna Loy.  I love all the actors I put in my Movie Hero of the Week posts in one way or another, of course (a dash of tongue in cheek notwithstanding).

But Myrna.  Myrna Have I Loved.

She was the ultimate co-star. ” Never a stand alone pillar of female power onscreen, she excelled at sharing the frame and reacting, what Cary grant called tossing back the ball.  Here she differed from her dynamo friend Joan Crawford and from such dominating female screen icons of her generation…most at home in comedy, she achieved her best effects by underplaying, by suggesting meaning rather than hammering it home….Extremely modern in her minimalist technique, she remains our contemporary in her ability to grow, to stay in the game and continue evolving.”  (Quoted from Myrna Loy: The Only Good Girl in Hollywood)

She had a grasp of comedy and rhythm that was so subtle and filmic, and yet she could her hold her own with even the slap stickiest of Cary Grants.  She was smart and ferociously opinionated, often challenging the studio system, which was a dangerous thing to do.

What I admire about her most is her on screen partnership with William Powell, but I will get to that in a bit.

IMDB credits her with 138 movie and television titles.  She was around during the silent era and successfully transitioned to sound.  Not bad for a girl straight out of Montana.  It’s funny.  Her life had a span similar to my grandfather’s.  She was born in 1905 and died in 1993.  He was born in 1906 and died in 1995.  To look at her movies is to see the twentieth century, nearly in it’s entirety.  I feel like through her I am able to see the world he saw, in a way.

For a Chicago connection, she “was supposedly the favorite star of famed outlaw John Dillinger. He came out of hiding to see Manhattan Melodrama (1934), in which she starred, and was gunned down by police upon leaving the theater.” (source: IMDB)

In the summer of 2008 (I think) I trudged through the few remaining titles I had left to see on the AFI 100 list.  (I know there is a separate dimension in which I am still watching Shane.)  One of the joys of that project (the most dubious of New Year’s Resolutions) was The Best Years of Our Lives.  It is simply stunning.  Her performance of the supportive, understanding and solid-rock-strong Milly Stephenson left her with the nickname “The Perfect Wife.”  Veterans pined for Loy’s presence in their post-traumatic lives.  She said, “Some perfect wife I am. I’ve been married four times, divorced four times, have no children, and can’t boil an egg.”

She was principled and fought for what she believed in.  She was even blacklisted by Hitler himself.  She fought against discrimination in public housing and Hollywood alike, pressing studio execs to portray African American actors as briefcase holding executives not servants. According to the book Myrna Loy: The Only Good Girl in Hollywood, “Along the way, in her eighty-eight years, she found the time to…fight the House UnAmerican Activities Committee, become a UNESCO delegate, campaign for various Democratic Party Candidates, serve John F. Kennedy on the National Committee Against Discrimination in Housing, help found the American Place Theatre, and rack up credits in radio, television, and stage.”

Myrna and I share a belief about film and acting in general.  “I admire some of the people on the screen today, but most of them look like everybody else. In our day we had individuality…Most of the sex I’ve seen on the screen looks like an expression of hostility towards sex.”

One of my all time favorite movies is Mr Blandings Builds His Dream House starring one of Loy’s frequent co stars, Cary Grant.  It’s a hilarious comedy about how absolutely insane and yet alluring building your own home can be.

In this clip, Mrs. Blandings chooses her paint colors.  I don’t know that I’ve ever had a conversation with my Mom that didn’t allude to this clip:

But hold on, because I saved the best for last.

The Thin Man

One of the great joys of my movie loving life has been The Thin Man movies (I own the whole set), which Loy is most famous for. The plots are kind of hard to follow but it simply doesn’t matter.  The point is Nick and Nora.  William Powell is Nick.  Myrna Loy is Nora.  They are one of the grandest  pairs that ever was.  Rhett and Scarlet, MacB and Lady MacB, George and Martha, Beatrice and Benedict,  and Nick and Nora.  I would…hell, I don’t know what I WOULDN’T do to be able to take on any of those pairs.

This clip is Nick and Nora at their best.  Seriously.  Seriously.  Somebody let me take a crack a this.:

Including the Thin Man movies, Loy and Powell made 14 films together.  They were artistic partners and friends.  Powell was a practical joker and sent Loy a funeral wreath for her 35th birthday with a note that said, “Be brave, dear.”  Of Powell, Loy said, “I never enjoyed my work more than when I worked with William Powell. He was a brilliant actor, a delightful companion, a great friend and, above all, a true gentleman.”

If you’ve never come across a Myrna Loy film, give one a try.  She had many nicknames, but the most famous was The Queen of Hollywood.  Her star may have faded a bit since the golden age of movies, but her performances never will.

And also, I’m serious about doing a stage version of The Thin Man.

*What is a movie hero? An un or under-sung member of the film making community who deserves more of the spotlight. And yet lack of such a spotlight often adds to their charm.

Top Ten Greatest Living Film Actors. According to: Me.


In honor of this week’s Oscar nominations, I thought I would make a Top Ten (plus more).  I used to ravenously try to keep up with the year’s critical darlings, but I don’t have the time and I’d rather watch movies out of desire rather than obligation.  That said, YAY Melissa McCarthy!!!!  I’m also thrilled with the long overdue nod for Gary Oldman.  With Mr. Oldman in mind, I’d like to offer my

Top Ten Greatest Living Film Actors

These are actors who are able to totally transform themselves.  Some actors do what they do, and do it well, but these guys do basically everything. Note:  this is not my list of favorite actors, nor is it my list of Greatest of All Time. But I do believe that these are the greatest living film actors today.  Some are completely ignored by the Academy, others have rightly brought home an Oscar.  Rather than overload this post with video, I only include selections for my #1 and #2 choices (plus a select few).  However, I’ve included an “Essential Performance” that, for me, defines why I find these people to be so utterly brilliant, and whom I can learn from just by watching their work. Note: the “essential performance” is NOT necessarily their academy award winning film.

One final thing: I’ve never really understood why performance awards are set up along gender lines, so I said f*ck that and threw them all together.

10.  Kenneth Branagh.  Branagh gets it.  He’s a haughty classically trained Brit who can perform Shakespeare with the best of them.  He often does.  But his performance in Harry Potter tells us he’s also in on the joke.  That said, watching him do Shakespeare, nay…he nearly dances it, is a joy to behold.  Certainly, his Hamlet was a career topping acheivement.  I thought he was a little old for the role, myself, but still well done.  What really trips my Shakespearean trigger is his performance as Benedict in Much Ado About Nothing.  Very few comedies leave me laughing repeatedly like this film, and while all evidence is to the contrary, I am no film snob.  I love this movie very much BECAUSE it has a wonderful fart joke.  But Branaugh, alongside his then wife Emma Thompson, shines.  Yet there is something unsettling about Branaugh, and that undercurrent of darkness despite his shiny blonde hair, finds him cast as a high ranking member of the Gestapo more than once.  Branagh has a certain air of classic actor, but he is able to transcend that and ultimately comes off as not modern, but rather essential.

Academy Awards: 0
Essential Performance: Much Ado About Nothing

9.  Johnny Depp.  Remember that internet meme “Steal like an artist?” Depp does this.  He’ll tell you who inspired a certain performance.  But what he is becomes so much more than an imitation.  Depp gets tossed aside critically for relying on “weirdness” or for his longtime partnership with Tim Burton.  What is missed is his ability to take a risk and commit. His apparent need to hide behind these characters works for our benefit.  I believe very much that the idea of vulnerability in performance is abused and misused.  Using your life story isn’t vulnerable, working out personal issues onstage or onscreen isn’t vulnerable. Opening yourself up, being available and responding honestly to your fellow actors IS vulnerable.  Depp gets this.  Something he inherently understands is what he looks like on camera.  I don’t mean what he looks like esthetically.  He knows what angle will help him achieve a mood, an emotion, or even that characteristic weirdness.  Unlike a stage actor, Depp was built for film.  He knows that even the correctly timed milimeter of eye movement says something.  The small smile says something different than the big toothy one.  Depp is always working as hard as the camera.  And yet it looks effortless.

Academy Awards: 0
Essential Performance: Pirates of the Caribbean- The Curse of the Black Pearl OR Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

8.  Christopher Guest.  We all know his work in his own films, as Corky St. Clair, Nigel Tufnel, Alan Barrows and Harlan Pepper, but he’s also the Six-Fingered Man in The Princess Bride, a role where he nearly (and slyly) blends into the background.  That subtlety is exactly what gives you chills about his character.  He rightly let’s Chris Sarandon get the showy stuff.  It’s an unsung and wonderful performance.  It’s also an example of his ability to see his roles beyond the scope of himself.  Anne Bogart, one of my fave directors and theatrical thinkers, often asks “What is the most interesting/important thing happening right now and what can I do to add to it?”  Sometimes the answer is “Nothing…yet.”  And that seems to be where Christopher Guest works.  He creates characters who can stand alone with a film behind them.  There’s a reason we still occasionally catch Nigel Tufnel on a talk show, even though Spinal Tap was made in 1981.

Academy Awards: 0
Essential Performance – Waiting for Guffman

7. Frances McDormand. Occasionally, an Oscar goes to the right person.  Like most people, my first time noticing Frances McDormand was in Fargo.  Marge Gunderson is one of the greatest film characters ever created (another list I’d like to make). I love her performances in Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, Almost Famous, Raising Arizona, and Wonder Boys.  A lot of people talk about how “natural” or “believable” an actor is.  I don’t care.  Some of the most unnatural and bizzare performances are my favorites.  See Hank Azaria in The Birdcage.  What McDormand does is make the ridiculous honest.  When I watch her onscreen I think “THAT’S what I want to do when I grow up.”

Academy Awards: 1
Essential Performance: Fargo

6. Catherine O’Hara.  She’s brilliant, and it ain’t just her acting skills.  Thanks to her collaborations with Christopher Guest, she’s actually creating these roles from the ground up.  As a kid, she was of course, the Mom in Home Alone to me…but you know what?  She’s really good as the Mom in the Home Alone.  Her scene with John Candy is precious.  But it’s Christopher Guest’s films where she really got to show her stuff.  Each and every character is completely different and three dimensional.  She’s a slapstick as she is smart. She is also the hands down best stage drunk I’ve ever seen.

Academy Awards: 0
Essential Performance – Any Christopher Guest film in which she appears.

5. Gary Oldman.  I’ve posted about Oldman before.  He has been many things, and boring has never been one of them.  His intensity is often spoken about, but his tenderness is as profound.  I simply can’t think of anyone else who could play Sirius Black.  Or Sid Vicious.  Roles that may have been up for interpretation, once played by Oldman, are no longer anything but what he makes them.  His role in The Professional could have been easily botched by or more likely, rotely played by another actor.  It is, on the page, just a better-than-average action movie bad guy.  In Oldman’s hands, it’s evil incarnate.  Volatile, funny, and all the more terrifying because of it.  His Dracula is not a monster, but a wounded man.  A man corrupted by his own pain.

Academy Awards: 0 (Hopefully soon to change)
Essential Performance: Sid and Nancy OR The Professional

4. Ian McKellan. McKellan is a lesson for an actor to learn.  The lesson is this:  A strong sense of self is the key to survival in such a vicious business.  The man owns a tshirt that says, “I’m Gandalf AND Magneto, bitch.”  Oh, and also maybe the greatest King Lear.  His performance as James Whale in Gods and Monsters is smart and heartwrenching.  (As a side note, I think the Bride of Frankenstein is overshadowed by Frankenstein.  The Bride of Frankenstein is better, funnier, campier, and more self aware.  Check it out. Both pieces are James Whale, but The Bride has a sense of self it seems like he was almost afraid to let loose in the first film.) But back to Gandalf, he’s like a master class in acting in one character.  There are the most subtle and also the most huge theatrical moments and yet it all belongs, and never feels out of place in his portrayal of Gandalf.

Academy Awards: 0
Essential Performance: The Lord of the Rings Trilogy OR Gods and Monsters (Also google his King Lear…It’s phenomenal)

3.  Robert Downey, Jr. There are two categories of Robert Downey Jr films.  His entire career, and then Tropic Thunder.  Both are full to the brim with brilliance. In the first category we have Chaplin, Wonder Boys, Home for the Holidays, Iron Man…. and then there is Tropic Thunder.  One false move, and it could have been a disaster.  Certainly Stiller and the other creative minds behind the concept of Downey, Jr.’s character walked that line very effectively, but they needed someone to make it physical in form.  And they found the right guy for the job.  Robert Downey, Jr. has soulful eyes, but they absolutely radiate ego and mischeviousness in Tropic Thunder.  Certainly it’s well known that the guy has had some inner demons to fight, but it’s almost like Tropic Thunder gave him the venue he really needed.  People have misconstrued some of the charicatures in Tropic Thunder and read them as making fun of a particular race or a physical or mental disability.  What Tropic Thunder is really doing is ripping the ridiculousness of Hollywood and awards shows and the general self-congratulating that entertainment types like to do.  (I am not unaware I am an actor making a list of awesome actors, btw.)  Tropic Thunder succeeds because overwhelmingly, they trusted their audience to “get it” and we did.  Robert Downey, Jr is as comfortable in a drama as in a comedy, but one thing he always bring is a sense of fun and of the ridiculous.  He almost seems to step out of the screen and make us laugh at ourselves, including him.

Academy Awards: 0
Essential Performance: Tropic Thunder OR Chaplin

2. Emma Thompson.  She’s a phenomenon.  I’m sort of speechless about her talent and abilities.  She kind of sneaks into some movies and just tears into the role, no matter how small.  There is a moment in Love Actually when she finally realizes her husband is at the very least, contemplating an affair, and she’s just trying to get it together so her kids don’t see her lose it at Christmas.  We’ve all had this moment.  That “please stop crying” moment.  That in-your-bedroo0m-trying-to-get-your-shit-together moment.  I couldn’t find a good clip of it, but go to 1:26 of this video to at least see a hint. My favorite Emma Thompson performance is in Stranger Than Fiction.  Lest you think I only enjoy her when she’s being a bit bleak, check her out in the aforementioned Much Ado About Nothing throwing around some banter with her then husband Branagh

Academy Awards: 1
Essential Performance: Stranger Than Fiction

1.  Peter O’Toole.  I arrived late to the Peter O’Toole game.  Partially, that’s because I was born in 1981 and those missed years of film making couldn’t be helped.  Partially I was too busy watching his partners in crime like Richard Burton.  But better late than never.  He made a really bad movie in the 80’s that I adore called High Spirits.  Truly, it’s dreck.  But I love it, and not ironically.  And here’s the thing.  He knows it’s dreck, but he still performs as if it’s Shakespeare coming out of his mouth and better yet, he almost makes it sound like it is.  If Robert Downey Jr.’s performances are equivalent to a great backyard BBQ with your best friends and family, Peter O’Toole’s are the grandest most fun three day bender you’ve ever had.   I mean, of course, Beckett is great.  Lawrence of Arabia, a triumph.  Lion in Winter, astounding.  But I offer you my favorite O’Toole performance:  Man of La Mancha.  It’s flat out fantastic.  Unlike most movie musicals, La Mancha doesn’t give you much to look at (other than Sophia Loren, and I do, as wannabe bombshell, adore Sophia Loren).  The roads are dusty.  The costumes dirty.  The setting bleak.  It’s an actor’s musical.  That’s almost literally all there is.  O’Toole is perfection.  You want his Don Quixote to march his chivalrous way into your life and tell you to dream the Impossible Dream.  I daresay I wept in joy at this movie.  And it was all because of Peter O’Toole.  He is, in my mind, the greatest living actor.

Academy Awards: 1 (Honorary)
Essential Performance: Every single one.  He NEVER turns in a bad performance.  However, Lawrence of Arabia can’t be denied.

Runners Up:

Stephen Root – 0 Academy Awards.  He is the definition of a working actor.

Hank Azaria – 0 Academy Awards.  His vocal work alone speaks for itself.

Paul Gross – 0 Academy Awards.  This might be my favorite scene ever.  Watch him direct a bad actress on her performance as Ophelia:

Allison Janney – 0 Academy Awards. She pops up in weird places like Primary Colors, but she makes her mark.  Plus she’s from Ohio… She is big part of why I love Drop Dead Gorgeous so much. But truly where she gets to shine is on The West Wing.

Diane Weist – 2 Academy Awards.  Woody Allen gets a lot of shit sometimes, but his eye for Diane Weist is right on target.  I watch her performance in Bullets Over Broadway the night before I start rehearsal for a show.

Jeffery Wright – 0 Academy Awards. Basquiat.  Angels in America.  And then he plays Colin Powell.  An argument for the subtle.

Dustin Hoffman – 2 Academy Awards.  He should have won for Tootsie, but I won’t pick the fly shit out of the pepper.  Sure he was wound a little tight early in his career, but he relaxes as he ages, making his body of work always interesting to watch.

Hope Davis – 0 Academy Awards.  American Splendor.  About Schmidt.  And if you’re interested in the early careers of your acting heroes as I am, that’s her in Home Alone as the French airline associate.

Phillip Seymour Hoffman – 1 Academy Awards.  This guy has presence.  And a very unique one too.  Often the word “masculine” gets associated with Cary Grant types, but for me, Phillip Seymour Hoffman is the picture of a masculine presence on screen.  One of my favorite performances of his is actually in the movie Charlie Wilson’s War.  I could take or leave the flick, but this movie is actually the first time I really paid attention to him.

Angela Lansbury – 0 Academy Awards.  She can do anything.  She still fucking does.  I can’t handle it.  Oh, and she originated my absolute dream role: Mrs. Lovett.

Benicio Del Toro – 1 Academy Award.  I like weird with a purpose, and Benicio Del Toro is just that.  When you watch him, you are watching a story develop through someone’s eyes you don’t recognize and that is so very interesting.

David Morse – 0 Academy Awards.  I just know, I just know that George Washington must have sounded like that.

Cloris Leachman – 1 Academy Award.  She’s in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.  She’s Frau Blucher in Young Frankenstein.  She’s still swingin’ and she doesn’t give a shit.  I love this woman.

Anyhoo, I know there’s no Streep or Dench on my list (no reflection on them.  I love them both.) Nor is there Anthony Hopkins or any other typical list toppers.  Tell where I’m wrong!  I love a good debate on a top ten list.  Still, I stand by this.  These are the folks whose brains I want to pick.  Who’s talent I want to learn from, and whose work I ALWAYS want to watch.

Happy Rex Manning Day! – Fall Fashion Lookbook 2011


Part One of Fall Fashion 2011 (Tune in later this week for my 2011 Wishlist)

For past Fall Fashion posts:

Fashion 2010

Fashion 2009

Fashion is a huge ocean of which some waves I ride, and some I ride out.  The past couple years definitely had some trends I was into.  While I’m not a huge Mad Men viewer, I don’t mind the sweeping sixties vibe that followed in it’s wake, but with all the benefits of women’s lib already fought and somewhat won.  Still, while I love mid-twentieth century fashion all the way from the 20’s-70’s, the heart and soul of who I am (for better or worse) resides in the years 1991-1995.

I waited patiently for many years.  Sure, fashion hinted, or rather hiccuped in this general direction.  A ripped leg here, a doc marten there.  But now…now the 90’s that I know and love have returned to the fashion world.  Leggings, slouchy sweaters, tartans, doc martens, rugged mixed with classic.   Sure most of the mags are touting 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s fashion but if you look, that’s not exactly what you will see.  That combo, combined with the demands of 21st century lifestyle has ressurected the decade of my style influence, my artistic soul, the 1990’s.

If you’ve read my blog before, you’ll know that I am above most things, a movie fan.  This isn’t to imply that the 90’s were influenced by movie fashion.  90’s fashion was almost entirely influenced by the music scene.  What I love about 90’s movie fashion is that it is edited and it is usually not the point at all.  Lucky for me, that equals inherently wearable outfits.

Friends, do you know what I’m getting at here?  Do you know what I’m saying?  I’m saying Cher from Clueless represents everything about this season for me.   I’ve been waiting, dear God, 15 years for this.

Ignore the pouty face, this outfit is one of my favorites from the movie and the essence of what I'm looking for this season. Cropped sweater, button down, plaid skirt, and you can't see them, but she's wearing mary janes.

But let me not get ahead of myself.  Last year, while poodling around in my physical look book (a couple of very messy but inspired binders full of clippings) I sorted out the genres of fashion that I love and that work for me.

  • Classic
  • Dancewear and Dance inspired
  • Bombshell
  • Baroque
  • Bohemian
  • Romantic
  • Glamour

The 1990’s have a solid representation when it comes to Classic, Dance, Baroque, and Bohemian.  I love the Bombshell look and I LOVE Glamour but this year, I’m going back to my roots.

The following are examples of 90’s movie fashion that are serving as my inspiration this season.

"I really think Musictown is torn on the revealing garment issue. "

There is not an uncropped sweater to be found on those ladies.  Worry not, for I am not a midriff barer.  But I AM a cropped layerer.  And thus I shall continue to be.

"Okay, so you're probably going, "Is this like a Noxzema commercial or what?" But seriously, I actually have a way normal life for a teenage girl. "

"I have direction." "Yeah, towards the mall."

I love schoolgirl chic: button downs with sweater vests, little shift and wiggle dresses, tartans,  mary janes and wide headbands.  If viewed through a nineties lens, you really have created the ideal space for my style to work.  Thus Cher is one of my fashion icons.

So is Buffy.  The original Buffy.  See this post for a full run down on Buffy style, particularly her prom ensemble.

"Get out of my facial."

"Great. My secret weapon is PMS."

I am IN LOVE with this outfit, varsity jacket included.

Even the cheerleading outfits kick ass!  I mean, I WAS a cheerleader.  These things appeal to me.

How funky is your chicken?

The following picture is important to me, for you are seeing my high school style sitting next to my adult style.

"I totally paused!"

But the boys have much to offer.  The following examples ARE early nineties, but by way of the 50’s and early 60’s.  No fashion era is without influence.  Take for example, the regency era.  Think Jane Austin.  Those fashions while being their own look, have a distinct Grecian feel to them.  Just an example.

Anyway, I give you the boys of Dead Poet’s Society and School Ties.  The clothing is 50’s prep school, but the slouch, the attitude is pure 1990’s.

"I sound my barbaric yawp."

"The honor code is a living thing. It cannot exist in a vacuum. "

Here is a pic from My Own Private Idaho.  This is unisex fashion that looks sexy on anyone.  Honestly!  Picture Alicia Silverstone in that leather jacket.  It would rock!

"I'm afraid if I shared your wine, I might catch this awful disease you appear to have. My jacket would grow little zippers all over it and my toes would have jingle bells on them like those there. "

In a bit of a different take on 90’s fashion, here is the character Carrie (Michelle Forbes) from the movie Kalifornia.

"Too graphic. Too overt. Not suitable for mass consumption."

Her style is simple, severe, and awesome.  It’s grey tshirts, black tshirts, that incredible haircut, and one of the best leather jackets in movie history.  The cigarette is nearly it’s own character.

In that same vein, we have the ladies of The Craft.

Their skirts were either very short, or very long.

"Hail to the powers of the Watchtowers of the East."

Let us not pretend the maxi dress is something new.

This is my fave: prep school style combined with early 90’s attitude.

We are the weirdos, Mister.

The trap (that I consistently fell into as an adolescent) of 90’s fashion, for women, is that it can quickly become so masculine, it’s shapeless and sloppy.   So what I hope to be at 30 is what I wanted to be at 13.

If you combine Alicia Silverstone’s fashion in Clueless with her looks in the Aerosmith Amazing, Cryin’ and Crazy videos, you have now seen my Fall Fashion Inspiration for 2011. Ditto for Liv Tyler in Empire records and the videos.

Say what you will about Aerosmith.  I have mixed feelings myself, and they are all ignoring the past 15 years.  Those are three of the greatest music videos ever made.  It doesn’t hurt that I had a huuuuuge crush on Jason (NOt, I repeat, NOT Jeremy) London.  Have you seen Man in the MOon??? (Not Man ON the Moon…that’s the Jim Carrey pic).   Okay fine.  Amazin’ is the least amazing of the three videos.  The whole virtual reality thing sort of dates it.  Okay, fine, I love the song Amazing.  I totally do.

But look at her dress!!!

That dress with Doc Martens is perfection.  She hitches a PLANE with it.  Not a car.  A PLANE.

Moving on, with a slightly more beachy vibe, we’ve got Lori Petty in Point Break.

Add a touch of the West for the ladies of Gas Food Lodging.

Let us not forget Singles.  The single most 90’s movie ever created.  I defy you to find one MORE 90’s.

I know that, if you are a fan of the early nineties, you would expect to see Reality Bites here.  Howev, while I love Betty Page, the Betty Page bang doesn’t work for me, nor does the waify hipster look of the movie.  I’m as preppy as the nineties get, which isn’t very.  But it is enough.  And it is what ultimately leaves me just a bit cold towards the movie.  I respect it!  It just isn’t “me.” In me there is a conflict of yuppie, hippie and grungey that basically rivals that of the plot of PCU.

I’m in my element, people.  I’ll come up with a wishlist tomorrow, but I think you can see where I’m headed.  We are shaped by the styles of our coming of age.  I will now attempt to improve upon them.

Salute Your Shorts


Spaz from Meatballs

I recently read a blog post that made me smile with delight:  6 Things I Learned From Sleepaway Camp.  My days at camp were some of the most uproariously wonderful times of my youth.

In retrospect, I’m not quite sure why I loved camp so much.  On paper it makes very little sense.   If given a choice between playing outside or in, in always won.  Unfortunately for me, my Mom rarely gave that choice.  I was told to go “blow the stink off” which is a Midwesterner’s charming way of saying “go play outside and quit bothering me.”  I had asthma.  I hated and was appropriately terrible at sports.  I only liked swimming if the water wasn’t too cold, and when you go to camp in northern Michigan, the water is ALWAYS too cold.   I was allergic to grass, pollen, trees, and ragweed.  The only things I really had going for me was my love of boys and my ability to tan.

Turns out, that’s all I needed.  That and the fact that I come from a long line of Camp People.  My Mother and Father actually look like this:

70% chance my Dad is wearing this right now

They were even Camp Counselors together and every picture looks like something from Wet Hot American Summer.  They even had a Camp Toilet Paper Monster named “The Viper.”  Camp People are a mockumentary waiting to happen.

I loved camp with an intensity only matched by my early adolescent lust for the male counselors.  Not that long ago, I looked at a few pics of said counselors wondering if in fact they were actually “hot.”  Answer:  they were.  And I married a guy that looks like a combo of two of them.  I haven’t tested Will’s abilities in Burp Tennis, but we’ve only been married five years in June.  We have to save SOMETHING for retirement.

I still subscribe to the American Camp Association Job Update and occasionally consider chucking it all and heading off into the North Woods to be Mr. and Mrs. Charming Camp Director.  Will would do it in a hot second.  I am held back by the availability of MAC makeup and schmancy cocktail bars.  I also don’t really like children.

I think what appealed to me the most about camp was the immediate and intense drama that occurs when 13 years olds live in close and filthy proximity.  The only thing I’ve found to match it is Non-Equity theatre backstages and lo and behold I’m an actor.  The only thing missing is a 19 year old boy with a guitar.  I long to harmonize the works of Ani DiFranco and the Indigo Girls with him, and still being innocent enough NOT to wonder why he knows those songs in the first place.   Unless, of course, he went to Goshen College in Indiana, which pretty much explains everything. (If you actually understand my Goshen college reference I either 1. Already know you. or 2.  Probably should.  And no, I didn’t go there.)

I don’t have anything left over from Arts and Crafts.  Mainly because, now that I’m thinking about it, I don’t think we did anything in there but marvel at the Art girl’s cool name, I believe it was Yaneken,  and her armpit hair.   I was ambivalent about Waterfront.  Waterfront always had the hottest counselors, but if I had my period, it was a total bust.  So that week of the summer was ALWAYS hit or miss in those respects.  I LOVED music and so did all my friends.  Honestly, the top three things for me at camp were 1. Hanging out with friends, 2. staring at boy counselors, and 3. harmonizing.  We were children of Folk Music-listening ex-hippy Baby Boomer parents.  Harmonizing songs was just what we did.  “You Are My Sunshine” was our biggest hit.

I remember that “getting dressed up” involved a shower, jean shorts that were not cutoffs, and a Hard Rock tshirt, with actual underwear on, not a swimsuit.  And shoes.  We must have looked like a bunch of gangly, pimply hillbillies most of the time.  I remember once during the week, we would walk to Lake Michigan in a big long line, roadside, kind of like when all the campers follow Sharon and Susan to the Isolation Cabin in the Parent Trap.  I remember the cook in the Mess Hall was humming “Something in the Way” by Nirvana and I thought he was the coolest most aloof and mysterious man I had ever met.

The Gang from Salute Your Shorts

On Sunday afternoon, when we finally arrived after a sweltering many hour trip from the church parking lot in Archbold, Ohio, everything felt so new and fresh.  By the time Monday lunch rolled around, it was old hat, everything was routine and I was having the absolute time of my life.

The only thing I never liked about camp and still to this day don’t quite understand is why you have to get up so damn early.  Summer Camp seems to have some sort of vague connection to the military in that you get up to Revelle, orders are shouted at you, and you occasionally have to pass “inspections.”  One year, knowing our Camp Director Gail spent her off season working at the Gap in Toledo, we spread every Gap item we owned onto our beds as some sort of tribute to her when she arrived for inspection.  Having now worked several horrid Joe jobs, I can imagine the gutteral sigh she must have uttered.  She did have a really cute navy blue polka dot bikini that I loved and have looked for for years.  I assume it was Gap.

I would usually get a couple letters from my Mom during the week, sometimes my Aunt Hope (who would draw very cute animals roasting marshmallows or something), and my Grandma.  In that I would usually get my first letter from my Mother on Monday, I’m surprised it didn’t say, “Dear Betsy, You are still at home.  I am watching you fumbling around with the washing machine.  Why didn’t you unload the dishwasher? Wash your hands.  Dinner is ready.”  Instead they usually said wonderful Mom things like, “We miss you so much.  The cats are lonely.  I cleaned your room and found a dead mouse.  Finster [cat] must have left it for you.  Maybe weeks ago.  Dad says we can order pizza when you get home.  Love, Mom”  I would write one very pathetic and dirt-covered letter to my Grandma Kohart which I would forget to mail.  My Mom would then mail it the following week.  My Grandma would keep it forever, and then 15 years later it would be returned to me when my Mom was going through my Grandmother’s things, which is weird and surreal.  If I had known I would ultimately be writing that letter to myself, I think I would have said, “Dear Future Betsy,  Will I marry Joel the hot counselor?  I really hope so.  From what I am reading in Kari’s YM, this is what I am led to believe.  Will I ever have long hair?  It’s shoulder length now.  I plan on never cutting it.  If I don’t marry Joel the hot counselor, do I marry Keanu?  Love,  Betsy.   I sort of wish I could write myself a letter at camp from now.  I would say, “Dear Little Betsy,  You don’t marry Joel.  Just know it.  Feel the pain.  I think he knocks someone up later, anyway.  BUT you totally marry someone hot, so don’t even worry.  Put sunscreen on at Lake Michigan this year.  I know you didn’t burn last year, but you do this year.  Also, don’t make that dirt angel.  Everyone thinks you’re gross.  A Snack Shop Special is a kiss, so quit bothering Kristy your counselor about it, and also feel free to tell your cabin mates that Kristy is well-stocked with Snack Shop Specials due to her supplier, the Grounds guy.  Just FYI.  Have a good summer!  Also, chill out, you are kind of a spaz.  Love, Betsy.

Actually, my first two kisses occurred at camp.  One was during an ill-advised round of Suck and Blow.  The other was from the aforementioned Greg the Grounds Guy.  Before you freak, let me explain.  I mentioned above the mythic “Snack Shop Special.”  The girls that week were absolutely falling over themselves trying to find out what it was.  We begged and pleaded with the counselors, PLEASE TELL US WHAT A SNACK SHOP SPECIAL IS!!!!!  I was bothering Kristy and Greg one evening.  When Greg got up to leave us for the evening, he walked over to me and smooched me on the cheek and said, “That’s a snack shop special.”  Probably the only time I’ve ever been rendered speechless.  Certainly when the card fell during the game of suck and blow, I informed the poor 13 year old boy who was responsible how oddly cold and slimy his lips were, but only after a very dramatic EW!!! and much sleeve wiping of my lips.  I bet that kid thought I was a real asshole.  I’m also just now realizing that a  Snack Shop Special is so obviously sex and that the counselors merely tamed it for the ears of children.  Very sly.  Very sly.  Well done.

Sharon and Susan contemplating the Snack Shop Special

I remember when I would return home the following Saturday, everything at my house  smelled clean and fresh, and it felt like I had been gone for potentially years.  Until the next day, when I wouldn’t unload the dishwasher, my sisters and I swatted each other, my Mom shrieked and everything was back to normal.  Seeing any non-Camp friends after that week, I would inevitably inform them how drastically my life had changed.  How I had matured into a graceful swan, and I was really sorry they weren’t able to experience such womanly transformation.  I would inform them that I had met the man I would probably marry.  His name was Joel.  He played guitar as phenomenally as Burp Tennis.  He had obviously tried pot at some point.  And really loved Pearl Jam, which had to have been a sign from God that we were meant to be together as, I too, loved Pearl Jam.   Then one of us would become distracted by an overwhelming craving for a Popsicle and all would return to normal.

Kiss Me Kate (The Musical Project)


 

I was just recently in a production of Kiss Me Kate, so my proximity to this material will be much closer than most of the musicals I cover in The Musical Project.

That's me looking like my head is growing out Christine's arm.

Kiss Me Kate is so very fun to sing.  I’ll get to the score and the actual meat of the musical itself momentarily, but first…y’all I got to bitch about the movie.

If the only experience you have with Kiss Me Kate is the 1950-whatever movie version, then brother, you don’t know Kiss Me Kate.  The movie is sanitized and just a jumble of pieces that at one time comprised the actual work that is the stage musical Kiss Me Kate.

I really enjoy Howard Keil in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.  His vocals soar and he is perfect the role.  Academically he’s also perfect for Petruchio/Fred but he bombs.  Bigtime.  I get the feeling the director was of the Frank Sinatra “that take was good enough” school of directing because everything feels thrown together.  I get that musicals written for the stage don’t transition well to film, but you know who’s problem that is?  Not mine.  Unfortunately, as a viewer I still have to deal with it if the producers didn’t.  Oy.

Meanwhile, the Code.  Oh, the Code.  The old Production Code basically took all the fun out of Kiss Me Kate.You see, Cole Porter is dirty, downright raunchy if you play it right.  So when Ann Miller sings “According to the latest report…” you have to know that the actual lyric is according to the KINSEY report and that Ann Miller, bless her, isn’t even supposed to be singing it in the first place, and not in that getup. (I found myself saying “What is she doing with her body??” several times.)  A man needs to sing “Too Darn Hot” because why else would it matter if the singer “ain’t up” to their baby tonight?  Huh?  Hmmm????  So already we have a reference to the most comprehensive survey ever performed in reference to human sexuality AND a dick joke.  And that’s just one song.

What I also find fascinating about the sanitizing of Kiss Me Kate is that it doesn’t extend to Shakespeare.  Baptista says, “…thoroughly woo her, wed her and bed her” and that is no problem.  My guess?  It didn’t even occur to the censors to look at the Shakespearean language.  Certainly not our loss, I just like to point out the inconsistencies and the patent ridiculousness that is censorship.

Everything in Kiss Me Kate is punctuated by a metaphorical wink. In fact, in order for the show to pass muster for me, Lilli HAS to actually physically wink after “I am ashamed…”  SHe HAS to.  Or she loses all credibility.  And I think we’re dealing with an actual domestic violence situation.

I’m not a fan of Taming of the Shrew.  I think it’s a chestnut.  I suppose it has academic merits.  I’ve seen a production that employed nearly gymnastic commedia del arte between Katherine and Petruchio.  But it’s not my cup of Shakespearean tea.  I do enjoy the Taylor/Burton/Zefferelli version but that is a big ol’ Art Imitating Marriage situation.

Hilarious.

Unique.  Lovely.  Done.

So why do a musical that does a Taming of the Shrew light with the added pre-women’s lib eye twitches of 1940’s sexual politics?

Cole Porter.  That’s why.

I think this is the face he made when he saw the movie.

This score soars.  It is brilliant and very influential.  There’s no opening whistle in West Side Story without the opening to “Too Darn Hot.”  Tevye can’t ask Golda “Do You Love Me?” if Lois doesn’t ask Bill why he can’t “…Behave.”  In fact, I often found myself backstage singing, “…with our daughter getting married and this trouble in the town, you’re upset…you’re worn out…go inside… go lie down!” while “Why Can’t You Behave” is trickling through the monitor.

Kiss Me Kate is the ultimate transition piece.  You can hear the future of musical theatre (as seen from the 40’s) and yet, there, right at the end of show placed ever so conveniently for costume change purposes, is a perfect vaudevillian number preserved for posterity in “Brush Up Your Shakespeare.”

And that’s the thing.  It’s a show of numbers.  Big, classic musical theatre numbers that any theatre aficionado should know.  I happen to think that “Always True to You in My Fashion” is one of the most clever belt numbers ever to grace the stage.  Full of winks and puns.  Check out Blossom Dearie’s rendition if you want to hear my favorite.  I use it as an audition piece.

However, even though it’s a show of numbers, it’s not exactly a revue.  The plot is certainly more developed than some musicals.  It’s a play within a play structure.  Yet, there are moments I feel this structure fails.  This musical comes from an era where the pop music of the day came from Broadway stages.  Audiences didn’t demand as much depth from plots.  They wanted to hear the latest hit.

For me, Kiss Me Kate is about what Cole Porter could do, and he could do a lot.  Many of the songs in Kiss Me Kate are major high water marks in musical theatre as well as being textbook influential entries.

“So in Love” is both a perfect ballad AND torch number.  It’s also an actress’ dream.  In the right hands, “So in Love” makes Lilli Vanessi/Kate a fully 3-D woman.  It’s a mistake to label the character of Lilli Vanessi and/or Kate just a bitch.  And the right actress won’t.

But analysis aside, let’s look at this show from a performer’s standpoint.  It has everything.  You like to dance?  Here ya go.  You want to belt?  How about “Always True to You in My Fashion?”  You want legit?  Here’s “So In Love.”  How about a waltz?  Here’s “Wunderbar.”  How about Jazz?  Here’s “Too Darn Hot.”  Operetta?  “Cantiamo”.  Comedy?  You got it.

Sure there’s a bit of a light hand if you look at it from a domestic violence point of view.  This is not a particularly enlightened show.

Interestingly, the 11 o’clock number is “From This Moment On.”  It’s a duet.  And it’s a lie.  Lilli is lying to herself rather than finding some sort of resolve.  Is that a flaw?  I don’t know.  I don’t know if adherence to structure dictates perfection.  It would be a little scary if it does.  I mean, Kiss Me Kate isn’t perfect.  “Brush Up Your Shakespeare” basically shouts by virtue of existing that there is a massive costume change going on backstage.  Still….everybody wants to see those gosh-darn Gangsters again.  I also think Cole Porter was probably of the “who gives a shit?” school of thought.

It’s an old show, so there are many places to experience at least a recording of the score, if not a production.  The recent London revival has some great renditions.  This musical hails from a time when pop music came from musical theatre.  So while in our minds watching Bono and The Edge write Spiderman or Duncan Sheik pen Spring Awakening feels kinda dirty and gross, well, there’s history there.  Sure I think Cole Porter is a better musician, but it would be wrong to pretend precedent hadn’t been set years ago.  Although, and correct me if I’m wrong, I don’t think anyone was brutally maimed and disfigured during the original run of Kiss Me Kate.

Kiss Me Kate, for a musical theatre performer, is like learning your family tree.  It’s your roots.  It’s where this whole thing came from.  I like knowing who was influenced by what.  Sondheim, for example,  thinks the best of the best is Porgy and Bess.  I like knowing that type of thing.  Hearing the influences of today’s writers is humanizing.  We often thrust composers into demigod status.  There is this web meme going around called Steal Like an Artist.  It’s nice to know that even the big guys do too.

To Review:  the movie is a stonker (although potentially worth watching solely for Fosse and his uncredited choreography.  You also get to see the dude dance.)  But the stage version is a classic.

Movie Hero of the Week – Ray Liotta*


My friend Jay sent me THIS GQ article on the making of my favorite movie, Goodfellas.  (My second favorite movie is What a Way To Go which, I feel, in combination with Goodfellas reveals nothing about my personality whatsoever.  Except maybe a love for a dance number, the color pink, with an undercurrent of gritty violence.  And Italian men.)  Anyway, Jay and I have been roundly obsessing over this article and our love for Goodfellas over the past few days.

Meanwhile, for just absolutely no reason at all in the world whatsoever, I have become recently interested in actors who hit their stride post-30.

Meet Ray Liotta.

Ray Liotta

He lobbied hard and got the role of Henry Hill in 1990’s Goodfellas at the age of 30.  There is nobody else like him in the pictures.  Imagine playing a role like Henry Hill, for all accounts a not good guy.  Not the WORST guy, of course.  That’s Tommy.  But a bad guy nonetheless, and you root for the dude.  Of course, this isn’t unprecendented.  Movies can make you do that. But with the wrong actor in that role, it would be pretty difficult.

There is a 95% chance that any interview or article you read with Ray Liotta as the subject is going to use the word “intense.”  Not inaccurate, but I think over-simplified.  He’s not just punching walls and looking sulky. He is intense without angst. I think that might be passion, but you really don’t see truly passionate work very often and think we find it disconcerting, particularly as an American movie goer. What is presented to us as passion is often just masturbatory emoting.  Not this guy. This guy is focused.  He listens. He’s confident without being cocky.

I’ll tell you something else I like about the guy.  Honesty.  He says he did Operation Dumbo Drop for the money.  Damn right he did, and you would too. It takes a hell of lot to stay afloat in show biz.  I would be lying my face right off if I said I wouldn’t do something like Operation Dumbo Drop.  The only thing I won’t do is kid shows and working at amusement parks.  God bless the people who do, but I prefer my desk job to that.  I wish I didn’t.  I wish I was a purer soul.  I also wish I had a hundred million dollars and a bucket of rubies and garnets.  And a chauffeur.  I’ve always wanted a chauffer.

I digress.

In the following scene, you see something that I think defines Ray Liotta.  Focus.  I mentioned how he listens.  Check out how…ugh…I hate to say it, but I can’t think of another phrase- how “in the moment” he is.  Look at his focus and his eye contact and his power in the scene with Morrie.  He is so specific.  (This clip also shows one of my fave De Niro/Scorcese moments of all time, but that’s just a bonus.)  Also, the video is called “My Favourite Scene From Goodfellas,” noting the British spelling,  obviously, I didn’t title the video.  And it’s not my favorite scene (although it’s a good one.)  It’s just very illustrative of my point.

Just for the record, THIS is my favorite scene from Goodfellas.  Of course, the best scene is THE shot.  You know…the steady cam…the Copa.  You know, I always admired that shot purely for the timing, not just by Scorcese by the umpteen gazillion actors and extras that breeze their way through it.  Recently, however, I just made the connection (because I’m a fool) that it’s about Karen. We feel like we are on Henry’s arm in Henry’s world.  It does something incredibly important.  It answers the question “Why would you stay with this man?” before you even think to ask it.

God, I love movies.

Anyway.

Have you seen Narc?  Interesting flick.  Liotta produced it alongside his then wife, if I remember correctly.  He stars alongside Jason Patric (an upcoming MHOTW).  It’s brutal.  It’s violent.  It’s harsh.  It’s good.  Really good.  Whereas you might root for Henry Hill, you don’t for Henry Oak.

Have you ever seen Corrina, Corrina?  It’s good.  And Liotta is really good in it.  I’m not sure how he does that wounded soldier thing without doing what all the other guys do.  He’s tortured by not tormented.  He’s hurt but he’ll survive.  He loves but he doesn’t gush.  This clip is long, but worth it.

Have you seen The Rat Pack?  Do.  If I’m nerdily blabbing about the difference between imitation and portrayal of real-life characters, I often bring up Liotta as Frank Sinatra.  He doesn’t look like the dude (minus those baby blues) and he doesn’t sound all that much like him, yet he nails it.  Ditto for all the performances in that movie (minus the woman who plays Marilyn).  I get why it wasn’t a big-screen movie, but I wish more people have seen it.  If I were to teach an acting class, I might use it.  It establishes fine lines and never dances over them, and Liotta is the leader of the group.  Not just because he plays Frank.  He establishes a presence that guides the movie.  Now.   That said.  When you do watch it, expect the Kennedy campaign song to the tune of “High Hopes” to run through your head for weeks….”K-E-DOUBLE N-E-D-Y…he’s our favorite kind of a guy…Everyone wants to BACK. JACK. JACK is on the right track…cuz he’s got HIGH HOPES…he’s got HIGH HOPES…”  See.  There I go.  Anyway, here is a clip:

I’m not a big Blow fan.  heh.  But they cast Liotta as Depp’s dad.  The dude is all of like, ten years older than my boy Johnny.  I guess it works because of the flashbacks.  But Liotta is really great.  Sweet, even.  I’ve never read if Depp and Liotta got along particularly well on set or not but there is a genuine fatherly affection there.   While playing age happens all the time on stage, it’s actually fairly rare in movies, at least to this extent.  I often wonder why casting worked out this way.  Still, a weird production decision works in Ray Liotta’s favor because he gets to show a really awesome side of his talent, he probably wouldn’t have otherwise.  Graceful age.  Not rickety wheezing and overuse of the word “whippersnapper.”  On a dorky movie nerd note, allegedly Johnny Depp’s character in BLOW was responsible for 85% of the coke trafficked in the US between the 70’s and 80’s.  Therefore, there is an 85% chance that that character provided Henry Hill, Ray Liotta’s character in Goodfellas, with his coke.  Small world, man. I guess that’s more of a dorky stoner note, now that I think about it.

Hey look!  Ray Liotta on Martha Stewart:

That’s funny to me.  It amuses me.  I also love a man in an apron.

I’m not a huge Field of Dreams fan, either.  I’ve been told that’s because I’m a girl.  I think it’s because the movie is cheesy and Amy Madigan (love her in Uncle Buck) is irritating and an odd pairing for Costner.  (Also, I would never tell someone they don’t get a movie because they are a man.  Sure, that seems like something I would say, but I wouldn’t.  Because movies are universal experiences.  I played catch with my Dad, too.   We have tickets for Wrigley in May.  They are in my desk right now.)  But that’s not the point.  An article I read recently in so many words says Liotta is more intense, and better than he has to be as Shoeless Joe Jackson.  The phrase “better than it has to be” is very depressing, but often apt.  The world of the American movie is world that embraces, if not encourages mediocrity.  In fact, that’s sort of what my Movie Heroes are about.  They COULD have just phoned it in.  They didn’t.  And I look to them for inspiration and encouragement through their work which is conveniently available via DVD.

In all his films, something simmers beneath Liotta’s exterior.  In Henry Hill, it finds its way out.  In many other characters he plays, like Shoeless Joe, it never does.  It’s a deep sense of humanity.  Even loss.  It’s profound.  And it’s beautiful.  I’m also a Pisces and am incredibly susceptible to this state of being.  I married an intense simmerer.  I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again.  Aloofness is my kryptonite.  I want to hand it my phone number written on my panties.  I can’t help it.   Complicated emotion bubbling underneath a brooding exterior is the bucket of water to my Wicked Witch of the West.

What a worlllld.....what a worlllld...

Have you seen Observe and Report?  It’s, hmmm, I’ll say it’s disjointed.  But I love when dudes in movies wear those over the shoulder cop holster things.

I’ve always sort of thought of Cop Land as a nod toward the wish that you could see Goodfellas again for the first time.  You can’t.  Still, it’s decent cop movie.  Gritty.  Liotta and De Niro.  You could easily do worse on a Tuesday night.  Alright look, I’ll be honest.  I really don’t remember much about it.  I saw Copland when I was 16 and it was on the new release shelf and I was going through my De Niro phase.   Other than the fact that I am a straight woman, my movie-related coming of age was decidedly male adolescent.  If I had found a Scarface poster, it would have been on my wall.  Unfortunately (fortunately?) I lived on a farm in Northwestern Ohio and those posters weren’t easy to find.  I did manage to snag a Brad Pitt one from Legends of the Fall at the Kmart in Defiance, Ohio.  That and the Dirty Words one I got at the George Carlin concert I saw.  And the Wayne’s World one I got in my “Wayne’s World Extreme Closeup” book (I still own it.)  Jesus, I was weird.  This doesn’t include the glut of Eddie Vedder (see “intense simmering”)  pics I had collected, all pre-Internet mind you.  That took dedication.

Again, I digress.

Looking at his filmography, one thing is clear:  Liotta is a working actor and his work is refreshingly absent of ego.  Certainly I’ve never met the guy, but you get the distinct impression people like him.  They like to work with him.  Repeatedly.  That is something that benefits an acting career.  He also seems to have followed his nose and done what was right for him.  That is really really hard to do as an actor.  You often find yourself following other people’s paths, other people’s ambition.  There is so little guidance for artists (which is both a good and a bad thing) that you feel completely blind sometimes making the decision whether to do a project or not.  Which city should I move to?  Film or theatre?  Agent or no?  Union or no?  I’m too old.  I’m not old enough.  There is something confident, decisive and steady about Liotta’s resume and I admire that.  And what do you  know, he got to be in one of the greatest movies ever made along the way.  Plus, he’s really fun to watch.

*What is a movie hero? An un or under-sung member of the film making community who deserves more of the spotlight. And yet lack of such a spotlight often adds to their charm.