…and the quest to see everything

Posts tagged “bitchery

Seminal Television: Women of SNL


ph. NBC


Go back to China, Bitch.


ph. Pandora

‘Go back to China, bitch?’ No, chut the fuck up.

English teacher Karen Pomeroy (Drew Barrymore) shakes hands with, as my judgmental friend says, a kiddie fiddler (Patrick Swayze). Guess which one gets fired in the school first. Tears for Fears plays.


The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie


Catholic education, in my experience, gave me the most intelligent and well-read adults who unfortunately aren’t good teachers.

ph. 20th Century Fox

Smith in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, the movie where she won her first Oscar, gave me high expectations. I want to dismiss her performance. Her Jean Brodie is intentionally a caricature and I’ve seen deluded done better. Sometimes she slows down and lowers the pitch of her voice thinking that she’s fooling both the other character and the audience that she’s being profound. The character’s interesting, as she ‘educates’ nine year olds about her lovers is an education. But hey, she talks about Flanders field and quotes Robert Burns – THAT’s an education, right? This talk about ‘intruders’ and ‘do as I say’ eventually leads to more vulgar discussions and at one point I was wondering when should one girl stand up and put an and to her.

Sandy (Pamela Franklin) comes to our rescue, and is this movie’s best in show. Jean calls Sandy dependable, faint praise for calling someone boring, and Sandy does seem boring since other girls are assigned by Miss Brodie to be more interesting. But she takes of her glasses – a cliché yet an effective one thanks to her – and does the best reverse striptease, showing how much a girl of the 1930’s has to put on. And young Sandy owning a 43-year old Mr. Lloyd. ‘You could go on painting. You don’t need a model,’ indeed. She does the simplest but most effective things. Again, Brodie is right in saying that any girl she teaches is hers for life, as Sandy can change one thing around her, and can do it again in her future.

I almost forgot that Celia Johnson gives a deceptive performance as Miss Mackay. While talking to the girls about how artistic and musical Miss Brodie is, I wonder if she’s jealous of Brodie or letting the girls think that she’s ‘cool,’ warming up to them so they can tell the truth.

After this movie, TVO showed Elephant, obviously.

Nonetheless, They Shoot Horses, Don’t They and California Suite better be awesome.


If I was Gena Rowlands


ph. Orion

“I guess you don’t read the theatre section of the paper.”

Hit her, Marion (Gena Rowlands), hit her! There’s only the three of you in this block. However, unlike this classical period in his career, Woody Allen films have only been violent in the past six years and only twice within that time. Anyway, I’m criminally new to Gena Rowlands’ word. Someone give me a movie where she literally kicks ass. Gloria?

Also, I’d hesitate to do any physical harm to Claire. I love the actress playing her, Sandy Dennis, specifically because she can steal a scene from Natalie Wood. And Dennis actually looks better in 1988 than she did decades before that. I’m so bad in not knowing that Dennis did major work after Woolf.

I’m also reminding myself while watching bits of Another Woman that this is Woody Allen evoking American Ingmar Bergman. I’ll give Bergman’s right hand man Sven Nyqvist, this film’s cinematographer, in how empty New York looks, and I’ve never viewed that with suspicion until now. This won’t be the last time we’ll see New York so empty. And is that light bulb on top of that post or behind that window? Anyway, Bergman also influences Allen’s work here to the direction of subtlety and, well, passive-aggressive dialogue, secret emotions, distorted memory, women being unfair towards each other.

Let’s fast forward by four or five minutes, where we find out that adulthood is a series of broken friendships. Marion takes Claire and her husband to drinks in a dank pub with etched walls, Claire sulks and then tells her she’s an unconscious home-wrecker. Now we know why Claire utters that quote above. Imagine how hurt Marion feels by learning this. The way Claire gets destroyed makes it a dirty victory for Marion, but classy and newly introspective as she is, she does not take the trophy home. I can’t imagine anyone questioning her actions by this time.


The big leap.


ph. MGM

No one can do blasphemy like Woody Allen. Thing is I’ve been looking for this scene while skimming Hannah and Her Sisters and couldn’t find it, and I was gonna post a still of Barbara Hershey permanently coming out of the shower or the atrocious fashion. Oh, you want me to do that too?

When April (Carrie Fisher) makes Holly (Dianne Wiest) feel guilty about something the former did. Well, Holly didn’t have dibs on David (Sam Waterston), so finders keepers.

And when Holly and Mickey (Woody Allen) have a second chance. What kind of Jewish parent names their kid Mickey?

Also, Lewis Black, Julia-Louis Dreyfus, John Turturro and Richard Jenkins are in this movie? I need to rewatch this in entirety!


But Melanie Wilkes is a ‘Badass’ too


Sure, Scarlet O ‘Hara (Vivien Leigh), the (anti)heroine of “Gone With The Wind,” is the one getting the ‘bitch’ label and Mamie (Hattie McDaniel) has her share of berating Scarlett and trying to tell her what to do, but Melanie Hamilton Wilkes (Olivia de Haviland) had the best zingers. I would love to have known this character and the kind of bitchy stuff she would have said in confidence.

Olivia De Haviland is a star on her own right. It’s somehow baffling that she’d play second fiddle to Vivien Leigh and sometimes, Bette Davis. She portrays Melanie with such placidity that some in the audience might not notice the frankness in rebellion in her words. Like “Phil Meade, you hush your mouth. Do you think it will help your mother to have you off getting shot too? I never heard of anything so silly.”

ph. MGM

One of her character traits is her persistence in protecting and defending Scarlet. Scarlet did save her life after all, something that the other characters around her has forgotten. When Scarlet shoots a Yankee, she drags her husband’s sword, if she’d be called to help. She tells Scarlet that she’s glad the latter killed him. Glad? Anyway, to hide this murder, she assures the others at Tara – “Don’t be scared, chickens. Your big sister was trying to clean a revolver and it went of and nearly scared her to death!”

I think Melanie’s held more deadly weapons than any other character in the movie, male or female. Again, she tries to defend Scarlet, who might be blamed for causing the males’ drunken behaviour and for her second husband’s death. Mellie finds her husband, Ashley (Leslie Howard) under arrest for drunkenness. I can’t believe that I missed her telling off the Yankee captain that ‘If you arrest all the men who get intoxicated in Atlanta, you must have a good many Yankees in jail, Captain.’ With rapid fire impatience from her this time. Her character’s a great observer, being a woman and a Southern wife of a former plantation owner in occupied Georgia. She knows how to behave in any circumstance.

People know Mellie for her kindness especially in her last days. Her last command to Scarlet, to ‘take care of Ashley,’ if we can indulge on some overreading, inadvertently sets off a series of events that somehow made sure that we’d never see Scarlet and Ashley together, nor Scarlet with her third husband Rhett Butler (Clark Gable). Mellie and Scarlet might be best friends, but she keeps her husband, perhaps after her death.


Away From Her


ph. Warner

In one the first scenes of “Away From Her,” Fiona Anderson (Julie Christie) puts a pan on a freezer. There’s no music to put this action in context. Fiona’s obliviousness and her husband Grant’s (Gordon Pinsent, voice of God) confusion add to the mix of what I felt as an audience. Do I react in shock? Burst in inappropriate laughter?

After that scene in the kitchen and other after that she is aware of being hit by Alzheimer’s and its consequences and warns Grant about the latter. At times she walks within a room like a ghost, mourning lost memory without crying over it. There is a repeated shot of her looking lost in her vast snowy backyard. The minimal use of the film score, the lack of overwrought crying scenes. Mostly, this movie’s approach is about what’s not being given nor shown nor heard, letting the audience react in their personal way.

I’m thinking of other actresses that might be able to pull of the character, Canadian ones. Mary Walsh would rock the skiing scene. But Julie Christie is a solid statue as Fiona and doesn’t let go, as they say. No one can do elegance like the kind she puts into her character.

That sounds a little dreary to many of you, but there’s some verbally aggressive yet sometimes comic anger from the characters, especially the women. Fiona gives Grant the worst goodbye ever. Miss Montpellier (Wendy Crewson) condescends to him. Kristy gives him a torrential speech about the obliviousness of men, out of character for archetypal customer service characters. Marian’s (Olympia Dukakis) is just rough yet likable. The men get in on the action too. Grant comments on seeing his wife in the aged home, and Fiona’s new boyfriend Aubrey (Michael Murphy) can do so much with a look.

You can look at the film as Grant’s world crumbling just as much as its implied gender dynamics. He’s learning about women and female anger and unwritten institutions of womanhood that he’s been oblivious to. Through Fiona’s degenerative condition, Fiona, Grant and the supporting characters in their lives are feeling the end, and therefore things must be said and revealed.

It’s also a ‘Canadian story for Americans’ narrative, which shows especially in Marion’s words like ‘Kamloops, BC’ ‘Canadian Tire.’ The whole room knew where Kamloops is. There’s also the retired hockey commentator who gives some of the best moments of the film.

The only flaw of this movie is when Grant uses a metaphor to describe Alzheimer’s, like light switches in the house turning off one at a time. Then the film shows their house and the lights turn off the way Grant has described. I believe in showing or telling by not both. The rest of it is a story about loss with comic relief, surprising for director Sarah Polley’s reputation.