Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Lauren's Survival Guide to Broadway

Recently I've had several people come to me for advice on going to see shows and how I manage to cram so many in one weekend. I love sharing my tricks of the trade with everyone and I thought that making a little guide would be helpful since I really wouldn't be anywhere without my amazing friends who have taught me so much in the last few years. So, dear reader I give you my guide to theatre:

Currently, here is a list of shows that are on Broadway: http://theater.nytimes.com/venues/broadway.html

First and foremost:


I cannot stress that point enough, I see so many people paying up to $200 on a ticket when they could see up to four for that much. Now, granted most of these opportunities are for people under the age of 30 and college students; thanks to Playbill's wonderful list of Student rush policies, the avid theatregoer can discover just what shows offer such wonderful deals. All that is required is a valid student ID, and be sure to carry cash on you to the theatre because some of the rush tickets are cash only. Most of the shows don't tell you exactly where you'll be sitting, but I've never gotten a terrible seat; also the more popular the show, or if say someone famous is starring in it (i.e. Adam Pascal is currently the male lead in Memphis) you may want to get there at least two hours early. The general time for box office opening is 10am Mon-Sat and I believe they open at 11 on Sundays but don't quote me on that. If you are a student then I would also recommend signing up at StudentRush.org, they often have free ticket giveaways and they have a ton of information about rush policies that are currently going on and off Broadway.
Now if you are not currently a student or are kicking yourself for throwing away your student ID, then fret not dear reader! Most theatre companies understand that not everyone is going to be able to afford a ticket to a show but there are hundreds of people out there that would love to experience live theatre. Enter the wonderful programs that I like to call the "Under 30" programs. Roundabout Theatre Company, The Manhattan Theatre Club, and The Lincoln Center are just some of the notable theatre companies that offer discount tickets for patrons over 18 but under 30, RTC is 18-35. There are no fees, no jumping through hoops or pre-approval...all you do is sign up. The fine print: You MUST have proof that you are between the ages of 18-30 and in some cases whoever you're buying the tickets for must be in that age range as well; not a big deal, especially since you're getting a ticket to a show that probably would've cost you a hundred or more bucks.
Now what of the people who aren't in those age ranges or aren't students? Well my dear friends I have an answer for you as well: TKTS. That's T-K-T-S, not "ticketus" or "tickets," if you say it that way you will get laughed at or shunned by the New York theatregoing community. TKTS is a discount booth, they usually have good selection and have even better prices; I got to see Phantom for like $60, it normally would've cost me $175 for the seat I was in. The employees are super helpful and really nice, they'll answer any questions you may have...as long as its not too crazy there. The best times to go are usually weekdays and if you can't get there on weekdays then definitely get there early on the weekends because it can get pretty crazy very quickly. If you are one of those people that is all about apps for your smartphone, TKTS also has an official app for iPhone and Android; this comes in very handy when you want to know exactly what's currently being offered at the booth. Not every show on Broadway will be at the TKTS booth, but they usually have most of them.

As a final piece of advice, I would like to offer my list of recommendations. These are shows that are currently playing, and some of which are soon closing:
1.) Anything Goes
2.) Memphis
3.) Bonnie and Clyde (this show is closing on Dec 30th, go and see it if you can!)
4.) Follies (closing sometime in January)
5.) Mary Poppins
6.) The Lion King
7.) War Horse (I haven't seen this yet, but everyone is telling me that I must. I mean come on...the horses are life size puppets that people can ride)
8.) The Phantom of the Opera
9.) Wicked
10.) Billy Elliot (closing mid-January)

I also have an extensive list of shows that I want to see, but I won't bore you with those details. I hope that this list helps, and if you have any questions well that's what the comment box is for. Go see a Broadway show! They're much more accessible than you think.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Treasuring the quiet nights

I'll admit it: there are times when people just drive me absolutely crazy. People related to me, people I'm friends with, that asshole who cut you off on your way to work, and just people in general. I really wish that our local and federal government gave good, law abiding citizens a free pass to just go absolutely batshit crazy every once in a while; like full on that chick with a frying pan in the drug commercial.

But I digress.

I think that sometimes our society inflicts upon us the idea that we can't just admit what I just said. That we have to be a beacon of patience and love, to always enjoy the time with our loved ones and treasure them because they may not be here tomorrow. While that's all true, and yeah we should probably do all of those things....there is one tiny little problem with that:

We're human beings. Fallible, speaking, feeling and foolish creatures who sometimes don't use our brains for their intended purpose.

I used to think that my wanting to be alone was simply because of the fact that I was a moody teenager with a bad attitude and suitcase full of demons from my closet of skeletons. While part of that contributed to the fact that I wanted to be alone sometimes, it wasn't the real reason; the real reason is because I too am a human being. People are not dogs nor are we lions, we are not dependent upon our fellow comrades all the time for survival. We are not genetically programmed as pack animals; we are free-thinking creatures that can make our own decisions. Therefore I argue that it is essential to our sanity to be alone for a while, to meditate and reflect or to curl up with a good book; whatever your desire may be, you are free to fulfill it when you are alone without anyone to bother you or tell you what to do.

I discovered how much I loved to be alone when I started my first semester at Salisbury University. Up until that point, I had never really been challenged academically...lets face it: Wor-Wic Community College was cake. The only reason I spent so much time there was because I didn't apply myself, and I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. So I worked really hard my last two years there and when I finally decided and finally got out of Wor-Wic, I was so happy I could've skipped around campus throwing daisies.

I soon discovered that this was not going to be a walk in the park, I would actually have to work a lot harder than I did. I would like to think that I'm a good student, I tend to procrastinate yes but I really do want to succeed in my education....especially since I'm paying handsomely for it. I survived my first semester, but this past fall has been particularly difficult. I have no one to blame but myself for this, I did sign up for four 400 level English courses; I had to drop one of them after two weeks. I found myself constantly worrying about my schooling, in addition to my job and other obligations. I felt like I was being pulled in fifty different directions and I wanted so much to get all B's in my classes; I never hope for A's because I always seem to set myself up for failure if I do. There came a point when everyone wanted a piece of me and I was left with absolutely nothing for myself.

I tried really hard to not complain, I hate it when people complain about trivial things especially when they really aren't in a position to complain (i.e. when your parents/significant other/sugar daddy/whatever are paying for everything and all you basically have to do is show up to class or nothing is ever absolutely perfect and everything is a catastrophe. Seriously? GTFO.); I feel like a hypocrite when I do because I feel so strongly about that whole "Everything you do has a consequence and if you want anything you have to work hard for it" motto that I grew up on. I feel as though as long as you have been given the gift of waking up in the morning and seeing the faces of those you love, you just need to stop bitching.

But sometimes life can get overwhelming and everyone, including myself, has a breaking point. You reach a point where you've pent up so much frustration that the slightest thing ticks you off, another blog I follow calls this the Sneaky Hate Spiral. While that makes light of the situation, it can sometimes be so frustrating to the point where you're so stressed that you're literally sitting in the shower in the fetal position crying like a baby. Or you're sitting at a stoplight on your way to school and some song triggers something in you and you're a sobbing, swollen eyed wreck by the time you get to class.

These last few weeks of my fall semester have taken a lot out of me, there was a point where I became so upset that I truly thought that I was failing everything and all of the time, effort and money that I had spent on my education was all for naught. I thought of how much easier it would be if my Mom were here to tell me I would make it, to help me with my homework and to just sit and talk to me about my day. It is during these difficult periods that I really miss her, and I realize how wonderful it was to have her comforting smile and safe embrace when I felt lost.

I felt lost, I felt hopeless, I felt like a total failure. I was sick and tired of people wanting things of me, and not understanding or getting mad when I couldn't give it to them. Most of all I just really missed my mom.

It was then that I realized how important those quiet times alone really are to my sanity. I need a time where I am not bothered by anyone, where I can just sit and relax with a book, or put in one of my favourite movies that I've seen dozens of times. Its during those times that I am allowed to really meditate, to calm myself down and think. I reach levels of serenity and awareness that I wouldn't be able to reach if someone were talking to me. It's okay to admit that sometimes we just don't want to hear anyone else's opinion because we already know the answer to our own problem; its much easier to come to it ourselves sometimes.

So if I ignore your phone calls, don't answer your texts or lie and say I have things planned for the weekend when I don't; don't take offense, don't get mad and please just accept the lie or call me out and say "Lauren, just tell me you don't want to go, that you just want to be alone for God's sake." All I ask is to just allow me my quiet nights at home, I would do the same for you.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Pre-Code: Boobies, drugs, violence and more!

I love it when I read an article with a catchy title, and unless you're not a curious person you've most likely done exactly what I wanted you to do: Click on the link.

When most people think of Classic Hollywood films, they automatically name off the same ones; I've come to title these as "the basics:" The Wizard of Oz, Gone with the Wind, Breakfast at Tiffany's, The Sound of Music, Miracle on 34th Street and It's a Wonderful Life. Don't get me wrong, these are all fantastic films but they're a bit too...clean for me. The boy always gets the girl or there's always a happy ending...the heroine learns her lesson...blah blah blah. I mean that's good and all, but I really just want to see a little more than just your basic package.

You can take that last phrase any way you please.

I always thought that Classic Film was pretty conservative, life was all gay and nobody ever suffered; that's the life that some films of that era portrayed. At least from 1934 on. The films that most of us see from the classic era followed a very strict production code called The Motion Picture Production Code, or "Hays Code" after William Harrison Hays. So what about the films prior to 1934? That my dear friends is an era that has come to be known as Pre-Code Hollywood; an era where provocative filmaking was champion.

Pre-Code Hollywood refers to the era in the American film industry between the introduction of sound in the late 1920s to 1934. Although the Code was adopted in 1930, oversight was poor and it did not become rigorously enforced until July 1, 1934. Before that date, movie content was restricted more by local laws, negotiations between the Studio Relations Committee and the major studios, and popular opinion than strict adherence to the Hays Code, which was often ignored by Hollywood filmmakers. As a result, films in the late 1920s and early 1930s included sexual innuendo (it was far from subtle, in some cases it was down right blatant), references to homosexuality (which was just outrageous...we all know that gays didn't show up until that whole AIDS thing), miscegenation (inter-racial relationships and marriages were frowned upon and you could face jail time), illegal drug use, infidelity, abortion and intense violence. From this era came the infamous gangster films and strong women-dominated films; Along with featuring stronger female characters, films examined female subject matters that were not revisited until much later in Hollywood history. Nefarious characters were seen to profit from their deeds, in some cases without significant repercussions, and drug use was a topic of several films. The bad guys didn't always get what they deserved and often times the films were a testament to how people really behaved, felt, and what was really going on in America at the time. Beginning in late 1933, and escalating throughout the first half of 1934, American Catholics launched a campaign against what they deemed the immorality of American cinema. This, plus a potential government takeover of film censorship and social research seeming to indicate that so-called "bad" movies could promote bad behavior, was enough pressure to force the studios to capitulate to greater oversight.

Leave it to the Catholics to take away all our fun.

Anyway in 1929, lay Catholic Martin Quigley, editor of the Motion Picture Herald, a prominent trade paper, and Jesuit priest Father Daniel A. Lord, created a code of standards, and submitted it to the studios. Lord's concerns centered on the effects sound film had on children, whom he considered especially susceptible to their allure. Several studio heads, including Irving Thalberg of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM), met with Lord and Quigley in February 1930. After some revisions, they agreed to the stipulations of the Code. One of the main motivating factors in adopting the Code was to avoid direct government intervention. It was the responsibility of the SRC headed by Colonel Jason S. Joy to supervise film production and advise the studios when changes or cuts were required.
The Code was divided into two parts. The first was a set of "general principles" which mostly concerned morality. The second was a set of "particular applications" which was an exacting list of items that could not be depicted. Some restrictions, such as the ban on homosexuality or the use of specific curse words, were never directly mentioned but were assumed to be understood without clear demarcation. Miscegenation, better known as the mixing of the races, was forbidden. It also stated that the notion of an "adults-only policy" would be a dubious, ineffective strategy that would be difficult to enforce. However, it did allow that "maturer minds may easily understand and accept without harm subject matter in plots which does younger people positive harm." If children were supervised and the events implied elliptically, the code allowed "the possibility of a cinematically inspired thought crime."
The Code sought not only to determine what could be portrayed on screen, but also to promote traditional values. Sexual relations outside of marriage could not be portrayed as attractive and beautiful, presented in a way that might arouse passion, nor be made to seem right and permissible. All criminal action had to be punished, and neither the crime nor the criminal could elicit sympathy from the audience. Authority figures had to be treated respectfully, and the clergy could not be portrayed as comic characters or villains. Under some circumstances, politicians, police officers and judges could be villains, as long as it was clear they were the exception to the rule. The entire document contained Catholic undertones and stated that art must be handled carefully because it could be "morally evil in its effects" and because its "deep moral significance" was unquestionable. The Catholic influence on the Code was initially decided to be kept secret. A recurring theme was "throughout, the audience feels sure that evil is wrong and good is right." The Code also contained an addendum commonly referred to as the Advertising Code, which regulated advertising copy and imagery.

Can you see why they were lax in enforcing it for so long? I mean really..."art must be handled carefully because it could be "morally evil in its effects" and because its "deep moral significance" was unquestionable."

Screw that.

And they did. For almost fourteen years they just sort of forgot about it. On February 19, 1930, Variety published the entire contents of the Code and predicted that state film censorship boards would soon become obsolete. However, the men obligated to enforce the code, Jason Joy, who was the head of the Committee until 1932, and his successor, Dr. James Wingate, were generally ineffective. The very first film the office reviewed, The Blue Angel (Marlene Dietrich's claim to American stardom and the first German sound film), which was passed by Joy without revision, was considered indecent by a California censor. Although there were several instances where Joy negotiated cuts from films, and there were indeed definite — albeit loose — constraints, a significant amount of lurid material made it to the screen. Joy had to review 500 films a year using a small staff and little power. The Hays office did not have the authority to order studios to remove material from a film in 1930, but instead worked by reasoning and sometimes pleading with them. Complicating matters, the appeals process ultimately put the responsibility for making the final decision in the hands of the studios themselves. How effective.
One obvious factor in ignoring the Code was the fact that some found such censorship prudish, due to the libertine social attitudes of the 1920s and early 1930s. When the Code was announced The Nation, a liberal periodical, attacked it. The publication stated that if crime were never presented in a sympathetic light, then, taken literally, "law" and "justice" would become the same. Therefore, events such as the Boston Tea Party could not be portrayed. And if clergy were always to be presented positively, then hypocrisy could not be examined either. The Outlook agreed and unlike Variety, predicted from the beginning that the Code would be difficult to enforce. Additionally, the Great Depression of the 1930s led many studios to seek income by any way possible. As films containing racy and violent content resulted in high ticket sales, it seemed reasonable to continue producing such films. Soon, the flouting of the code became an open secret. In 1931, the Hollywood Reporter mocked the code, and Variety followed suit in 1933. In the same year as the Variety article, a noted screenwriter stated that "the Hays moral code is not even a joke any more; it's just a memory."

I'm sure the Catholics and supporters of the Code just loved that.

Although the liberalization of sexuality in American film had increased during the entire 1920s, the Pre-Code era is either dated to the start of the sound film era, or more generally to March 1930 when the Hays Code was first written. It seemed as though this era of provocative film and free spirits was safe after all. Not so much...
By 1932, there was an increasing movement for government control. By mid-1934 when Cardinal Dougherty of Philadelphia called for a Catholic boycott of all films, and Raymond Cannon was privately preparing a congressional bill supported by both Democrats and Republicans which would introduce Government oversight, the studios decided they had had enough. They re-organized the enforcement procedures giving Hays and the recently appointed Joseph I. Breen, a devout Roman Catholic, head of the new Production Code Administration, greater control over censorship. The studios agreed to disband their appeals committee and to impose a $25,000 fine for producing, distributing, or exhibiting any film without PCA approval. Hays had originally hired Breen, who had worked in public relations, in 1930 to handle Production Code publicity, and the latter was popular among Catholics. Joy began working solely for Fox Studios, and Wingate had been bypassed in favor of Breen in December 1933. Hays became a functionary, while Breen handled the business of censoring films. Breen was a rabid anti-Semite, who was quoted as stating that Jews "are, probably, the scum of the earth." When Breen died in 1965, the trade magazine Variety stated, "More than any single individual, he shaped the moral stature of the American motion picture."

Its such a comfort to know that upstanding Christian men were at the head of this Code. Unfortunately some Pre-Code movies suffered irreparable damage from censorship after 1934. When studios attempted to re-issue films from the 1920s and early 1930s, they were forced to make extensive cuts. Films such as Animal Crackers (1930), Mata Hari (1931), Arrowsmith (1931), and A Farewell to Arms (1932) exist only in their censored versions. Many other films survived intact because they were too controversial to be re-released, such as The Maltese Falcon (1931) (which was remade a decade later), and consequently never had their master negatives edited. Some films were even destroyed, or too damaged to restore as a result of these "upstanding moral values." Who knows how many great films we lost as a result of this crusade.

A lot of people who aren't into Film History have no idea that this era even existed, for them film starts with the Golden Years (1939 to about 1960) and ends with the most recent box-office hit. There's nothing wrong with that, but I feel that this era deserves a lot of credit; it shouldn't be tossed to the side. It contained stars like Ruth Chatterton (seriously, check out Female. It's awesome) , and Warren William (the so-called "king of Pre-Code") who excelled during this period but are mostly forgotten today which is a shame. Starlets like Barbara Stanwyck (see my previous post for all the wonderful deets about her), Jean Harlow (my FAVOURITE blonde bombshell; she basically set the standard for every blonde-haired, curvy beauty to follow her), Norma Shearer (the Queen of MGM), Joan Blondell, Mae West (C'mon up and see me sometime), and Marlene Dietrich all got their start and thrived in the Pre-Code era. Famous leading men such as Humphrey Bogart, Clark Gable, James Cagney, and Edward G. Robinson wouldn't be the icons they are today had they not starred in some of the most violent gangster films of the time.

There are way too many of these films for me to even start to talk about my favourites. I will however share with you a wonderful collection of these films that our friends at TCM have compiled together and preserved for future generations to treasure and watch; they have been dubbed the Forbidden Hollywood Collection.

Volume 1 contains Baby Face, Red Headed Woman, and Waterloo Bridge, which would be redone years later starring Vivien Leigh. I own this collection and I have to say that it's one of my favourites, it sits right next to Volume 2. The second volume contains a goody bag of five films that include The Divorcee, A Free Soul, Female, Three on a Match, and Night Nurse.

Now I can't offer any insight on Volume 3 because I don't have it...yet.

I'm open to charitable gifts though.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Barbara Stanwyck: The greatest actress of all time. Period.

Its clear to see that if you read my blog enough you'll notice that I drop a few names of my favourite classic Hollywood film stars. Grace Kelly, Audrey Hepburn, Ava Gardner, Rita Hayworth, and many others have come up quite frequently but not as many as Barbara Stanwyck. I should admit first and foremost that I haven't been a Stany fan for very long, probably about two years now but I seriously think that she may be my absolute favourite actress. Ever. In order to justify the rather bold (but true) statement that she is the Greatest Actress of all Time, I think that a little biography is in order:

Barbara Stanwyck was born Ruby Catherine Stevens in good ole' Brooklyn, she was the fifth and youngest child; When she was four, her mother was killed when a drunken stranger pushed her off a moving streetcar. Two weeks after the funeral, Byron Stevens joined a work crew digging the Panama canal and was never seen again. She and her brother Byron were raised by their elder sister Mildred, five years her senior.[4] When Mildred got a job as a John Cort showgirl, She and Byron were placed in a series of foster homes, as many as four in a year, from which she often ran away.
During the summers of 1916 and 1917, Ruby toured with Mildred, and practiced her sister's routines backstage. Another influence toward performing was watching the movies of Pearl White, whom Ruby idolized. At age 14, she dropped out of school to take a job wrapping packages at a Brooklyn department store. She never attended high school, I'm assuming that most of her education was self-taught or maybe she was taught by her sister, I'm really not sure. Soon after she took a job filing cards at the Brooklyn telephone office for a salary of $14 a week, a salary that allowed her to become financially independent. Gotta love those roaring twenties. She disliked both jobs; her real interest was to enter show business even as her sister Mildred discouraged the idea. She next took a job cutting dress patterns for Vogue but because customers complained about her work, she was fired. Her next job was as a typist for the Jerome H. Remick Music Company, a job she reportedly enjoyed. But her continuing ambition was to work in show business and her sister gave up trying to dissuade her.
In 1923, a few months short of her 16th birthday, she auditioned for a place in the chorus at the Strand Roof, a night club over the Strand Theatre in Times Square. A few months later she obtained a job as a dancer in the 1922 and 1923 seasons (I think) of the Ziegfeld Follies. For the next several years, she worked as a chorus girl, performing from midnight to seven a.m. at nightclubs. This experience in the nightclub would prove to be very useful once she finally got into movies.
In 1926, Ruby was introduced to Willard Mack by Billy LaHiff who owned a popular pub frequented by show people. Mack was casting his play The Noose and LaHiff suggested that the part of the chorus girl be played by a real chorus girl. Mack agreed and gave the part to Ruby after a successful audition. She co-starred with actors Rex Cherryman and Wilfred Lucas. The play was not a success. In an effort to improve it, Mack decided to expand Ruby's part to include more pathos. The Noose re-opened on October 20, 1926 and became one of the most successful plays of the season, running for nine months and 197 performances. At the suggestion of either Mack or David Belasco, Ruby changed her name to Barbara Stanwyck by combining her character's first name, Barbara Frietchie, and Stanwyck, after the name another actress in the play, Jane Stanwyck. Stanwyck received rave reviews for her performance in The Noose and was summoned by film producer Bob Kane to make a screen test for his upcoming 1927 silent film Broadway Nights. She lost the lead role because she could not cry in the screen test but got a minor part as a fan dancer. This marked her first film appearance; her first sound film was The Locked Door in 1929, followed by Mexicali Rose that same year. Neither film was successful; nonetheless, Frank Capra chose Stanwyck for his 1930 film Ladies of Leisure. Capra would later declare that Barbara Stanwyck was his favourite actress, and he used her in more of his films than any other actress at the time.

Whew. Okay, now that I've gone over the biography...lets talk about my favourite part: The films.

Out of all of the actresses I can name, and all that I've ever seen in movies, I can't think of one that has the range, presence or that elegant quality that Barbara Stanwyck had. I can think of a few that come pretty damn close, but they simply don't have the grit or the vulnerability that she did. Then again, most of the actresses today didn't have as rough a childhood as she did, nor did they have to deal with the issues that she did because it was the 20th century. I'll admit that, but I will never be swayed to believe that anyone is better than Missy. Missy was the pet name that Billy Wilder gave her, and its one that I've noticed her fans affectionately stick to even today.

But back to the films, there are so many that I've seen and so many I could name. She is one of the few actresses that I can say that I've never, ever disliked her performance (sadly, I can say that about my other ladies...sorry Grace I absolutely HATED Green Fire); I may have hated everything about the movie, or just not been interested in the plot but I would stick it out just to see her performance. I can see why The Locked Door didn't do very well: most of the other actors weren't very good, the movie was a little longer than it needed to be, and the plot was so-so. The only redeeming thing about that film was Barbara Stanwyck's performance; she was vulnerable and yet at the same time when she had finally had enough of this total asshat she let him have it.

I really want to talk about a few of my favourites though so lets move on to that. Yes, I realize this is long so now's the time to get up, stretch your legs and get a refreshment. Go ahead, I'll wait.

We good? Sweet, so lets talk about some Stany movies.

The first time I ever saw Barbara Stanwyck in a movie was The Lady Eve. I was very familiar with Henry Fonda because of his performance in Twelve Angry Men and The Wrong Man. I had heard about how awesome Barbara Stanwyck was from people on Tumblr and of course the incomparable Robert Osbourne on TCM, the movie sounded really good so I thought I would give it a shot. It turned out to be the best film decision I ever made.
I'm not going to go into the plot because you have it right there in the link, I do want to gush a bit about Stany though (duh). Not only was she absolutely hilarious, showing a talent for comedy that I had never seen before, but what really struck me was that even in a comedy she was still able to completely turn the table and break down. For instance, in the scene when Henry Fonda finds out that she's a con artist he completely shuts her off because he thought she was playing him the whole time. While it did start out as a con, she found herself growing very fond of this naive brewer's son and eventually fell for him. She's completely heartbroken, and you honestly believe it; its the way her eyes are, that sad longing that a woman gets when she's just had her heart crushed...its there. You can feel it, and your heart is breaking right along with her. I was so impressed by this that I vowed to watch every one of her movies that I could from that day on.

Leading me to my next, and possibly absolute favourite of the "pre-code" era: Baby Face. Any film that shows a woman using everything that God gave her and making fools out of men as she goes is a film worth watching in my book. I love everything about this film, I don't care if that makes me a bad person. Its awesome. There is a scene in that movie that I think epitomizes my point that I'm trying to make here. It is very clear from the beginning of the film that Lily can take care of herself, this scene shows that she doesn't have a problem telling a man to go and screw himself. However when you get to the end of the clip, you see a very different side of Lily; you see her vulnerability, and how damaged she is. You see that her father is a self-serving, perverse and cruel man that whored out his daughter at a young age so his speakeasy could stay open. The intensity, the anger that Stany brings to the character is just absolutely spellbinding. I have seen that film many times and each and every time I am taken aback by her performance.

The final film that I'm going to talk about, I know I can just hear the "Oh thank Christ she's almost done" coming from your mouth, is quite possibly one of her absolute best films: Double Indemnity.

YouTube didn't have the clip I was looking for, and I didn't really have time to sift through the thousands of clips to find it so I'll have to settle for this wonderful tribute by Jennifer Jason Leigh that aired on TCM as a filler in between movies. The clip I'm talking about is the scene where the Fred MacMurray character murder's the husband with Stany's character driving the car. Leigh describes the scene better than I ever could, and she is spot on with those eyes. I mean really look at them, pause the video and really get a good look. I'll wait. See what I mean? You can't quite place what that look is. You know that there's determination and repulsion, but what else is there? I have never been able to place it and I've seen this movie God knows how many times. This movie really showed me that she could play just about any role that she was offered. From a card shark, to a waitress who sleeps her way to the top, to a femme fatale that has her man by the short and curly's; she is the Queen.

I know that I really didn't solidify my point at all in this post, it was more of a gushy, fangirl rant on my favourite actress. However dear reader, I wanted to share with you why I adore her so much: Its because I can relate to her. I am know what it feels like to have a crack in this "tough broad from Brooklyn" facade; to always worry that someone is going to see right through you and see how vulnerable you really are. I admire her so much because she was a survivor, she didn't know what self-pitying was.

That, dear reader, is why I will always stand by my statement: Barbara Stanwyck is the greatest actress of all time.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Why I quit Smoking

I thought that since my last post was very touching and poignant, it may have even drawn a tear or two...

It would be appropriate for me to do a little light-hearted blog to follow it.

Some of you may know, and some of you may not know, that I used to smoke. Now when I say smoke I mean it was probably like a pack a month, nonetheless its still a bad habit; you would think with all of the knowledge out there, and all of the risk factors I have already for cancer I wouldn't have started at all.

I blame Rita Hayworth in Gilda. Pathetic? Probably but can you blame our grandparents for smoking like chimneys when that was on the big screen?

I started when I was 18 and it wasn't a frequent habit, only a cigarette or two when I was stressed or just needed a break; I barely went through a pack a month, sometimes the pack would last me almost three. Then when I hit 21 and could legally drink outside my house...well I don't have to elaborate. In a sense it was very calming to have a cigarette with my cosmo, Jameson and ginger, or gin and tonic; I won't lie: when I was in heels and a dress I felt like goddamn Barbara Stanwyck. I talk about her a lot because she is basically the greatest actress of all time and she, along with all of those other fabulous femme fatales, looked so desirable and seductive with that damn cigarette hanging delicately between their fingers as they traced the rim of their glasses; knowing that they got this joker hook, line and sinker.

In all seriousness, though those fabulous ladies didn't help, they weren't the real reason for my smoking. It was because I was just starting to come away from that darker period in my life. I was a good kid when I was in high school: I never snuck out, I never drank...at least until I was 18 and my dad knew about it, I never got into any sort of trouble with drugs, and I was pretty good at following my curfew. However I was angry and confused, I was searching for something and thank God I didn't go the wrong way that so many other kids did in my situation but I did turn to those vices when I became eligible to buy them. Like I said before, it wasn't a frequent thing...most of the time I didn't even inhale because I was a wuss. But it was something that I didn't allow anyone to know about, I would hide it from people that I knew would give me a hard time about it and because I knew everything and knew that I wasn't really doing anything harmful I was okay with that.

It was almost thrilling to have a secret vice, to know that not everyone knew that goody-goody Lauren wasn't really so goody-goody. To a kid like me who grew up pretty conservatively, and who had an adolescence where she shut herself away, it was exciting.

Wow, I can't believe I was that pathetic...anyway:

I acknowledged that I was addicted when I started to buy more than one pack a month. I also knew that I was smoking and drinking to self-medicate, not to an extreme degree and not all the time but any sort of self medication is not recommended. I acknowledged it, and then went on the road to fixing it; eventually I stopped the self-medicating, but not the smoking...I justified it by saying that I only socially smoked when I drank. All this time, I could imagine my mother getting royally pissed at me and occasionally things would happen: I would drop my cigarette on the ground, usually in a puddle or something, after only a drag or two, or my lighter/matches would disappear the moment I wanted to use them....

Then one night, my mother got so fed up with me that she decided to reach down from heaven and teach me a lesson.

I home by myself one night and I remember it had been a really bad day. So I bought a bottle of gin, a bottle of tonic water, some lemon juice and a pack of Camel whites. I put in a Stanwyck movie, opened the window, poured myself a strong drink and lit a cigarette; I was very happy with the way the night was going to turn out. Now I had never smoked in the house before out of respect for my father, and I don't know why I decided it would be a great idea to do it now and to this day he doesn't know that I did. Though, I suppose he will now since my Aunts and other members of my family read this and are on Facebook. Sorry dad....

After about the fourth drink, second Stanwyck movie and the sixth cigarette I was feeling.....content to say the least. That was when I'm sure my mother had just about had enough of not only my sheer disrespect of my father's house, but of my disgusting habit. What I am about to tell you is rather funny, so don't drink anything for the next few minutes.

I can remember exactly what movie it was I was watching, it was Barbara Stanwyck's lesser know "Lady of Burlesque." I had just freshened up my drink and lit another cigarette, I remember thinking how awesome the movie was. Now I am slightly ashamed to admit that I had quite a bit to drink and I know how pathetic this must sound...but anything to teach a lesson. I had only taken a drag or two on my cigarette and I was sipping on my drink, I was wearing a tank top that was pretty low cut, and my absolute favourite pink bra that I had just gotten from Victoria's Secret a few weeks ago. Now I don't know if I had just become really engrossed in the movie or what, but I failed to notice that my cigarette was burning rather quickly and the ash was accumulating on the end. For those of you who have no knowledge of smoking, you're supposed to flick the ash off in an ashtray so it doesn't just fall off....

In this case I failed to remember that.

The ash had accumulated at the end, and had gotten too heavy to sustain itself on its perch so physics took over and it fell off...

Right down my goddamn shirt.

Not only did it fall down my shirt, but it somehow had wedged itself in my bra and was burning me. I spilled my drink, and on top of having the hot ember in my shirt, I DROPPED THE CIGARETTE ON MY FOOT. So not only did I have a hot tits but hot feet as well.

The burn to my foot was fine, the cigarette rolled off...but my girls were not so lucky. I had a terrible burn on my chest where the ember had settled into my bra and just decided it would hang out there. Not only that but it almost burned a hole in my new bra.

After dressing my wounds I decided that it would be best to flush the rest of my cigarettes down the toilet. I somehow knew it was my mother warning me to stop smoking. I am happy to say that I have not touched a cigarette in almost six months and plan on never, ever, EVER touching one again.

That's why you don't smoke kids, you may get set on fire.