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 Gemini, Cinephile, Actressexual. Also loves cats. All material herein is written and copyrighted by him, unless otherwise noted. twitter | facebook | pinterest | tumblr | letterboxd


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Christina vs. Joan

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Entries in Faye Dunaway (13)


Beauty vs Beast: Mommie Knows Best

Jason from MNPP here with this week's "Beauty vs Beast," which could be considered a preview of coming attractions (random aside: I can only hear that phrase in Grace Kelly's voice) -- this week's episode of TFE's "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" series on Wednesday is devoted to the camp masterpiece Mommie Dearest, and so are we. I can't help myself. It's perfect for this series too, and somehow we've never asked the question. In one corner you've got Christina Crawford (played by Mara Hobel as a little girl and Diana Scarwid as a not-so-little girl), adopted daughter and axe-bringer. In the other corner you've got legendary movie star and crazy person Joan Crawford, played by legendary movie star (and perhaps also a crazy person - I have heard stories!) Faye Dunaway, giving a great, dedicated performance - I won't hear a word about her being "bad" in this movie. Not a word of it! On the one hand I'll grant you that it's awfully hard not to side with an abused child... but on the other hand, come on! Who are you watching this movie for???

Whose team are you on?
Team Christina0%
Team Joan0%

PREVIOUSLY Last week we climbed inside the brains of Charlie Kaufman & Spike Jonze and oh yeah Catherine Keener for her birthday with a Being John Malkovich round, pitting Keener's caustic Maxine against Cameron Diaz's desperate Lotte - ultimately it was Cathy's brilliantly sleek sarcasm that won the day with just over 60% of the vote. Said Mr. Goodbar:

"Team Maxine. She is cut of the same cloth as Linda Fiorentino's from The Last Seduction: a misanthrope with irresistible charm and wit, except she finds love and changes whereas Fiorentino just stays on course to become a psychopath."


Callas, Streep, and "Master Class"

Tyne Daly played the role on BroadwayYou've undoubtedly heard the news by now that Meryl Streep will be playing opera diva Maria Callas in the film adaptation of the play Master Class, about Callas teaching a voice class at Juilliard. Well, telefilm adaptation I guess... so ink Streep down for the Emmy whenever that arrives since Hollywood is all about over-rewarding the winners. On stage the role has been played by Fanny Ardant, Zoe Caldwell, Faye Dunaway and Tyne Daly. Master Class is, in a way, a distant cousin to The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie as each involve an imperious older woman teaching students while also basically monologuing about her own glory days.

Terence McNally's play has been around since 1995 and as recently as last Winter Faye Dunaway, who played the role in a Los Angeles production, was still being interviewed about her struggle to get it on film. If Dunaway was that invested in it I'm confused about the rights issues because wouldn't she have already acquired them? 

As much as I love Streep, her dominance continues to haunt me. I'm an actressexual but I am in no way monogamous about it. (I assure you, 1000% percent that if my beloved Pfeiffer returned to the movies and got every part for a 50something woman, I'd complain, too.) And while I despair for the other supremes Streep's age who can't get around her to get their shot at golden roles (both because Hollywood always wants Streep and because Streep is more prolific now than she has been since her late twenties!), this could be truly great. Mike Nichols is Streep's best collaborator and truly gifted at guiding her. Streep has rarely been better than she was in Silkwood, Postcards from the Edge, and Angels in America. I'd list only two of her other performances as equal to that realm of pure transcendence.

Maria Callas

That said it'd be more tantalizing, at least from afar, to have a lesser lauded less ubiquitous performer and it'd definitely be fascinating to have a "has been" goddess  in the role. Consider that on Broadway one of the raves for Daly's performance said:

one of the most haunting portraits I’ve seen of life after stardom

Not that Streep doesn't have prodigious gifts of imagination but "life after stardom" is not something the three time Oscar winner has or ever will experience, despite it being a universal journey for 98% of movie actresses. 


Monologue: "Lousy Lay"

I was married for four years and pretended to be happy and had six years of analysis and pretended to be sane. My husband ran off with his boyfriend and I had an affair with my analyst who told me I was the worst lay he'd ever had. I can't tell you how many men have told me what a lousy lay I am. 

Click to read more ...


Hit Me With Your Best Shot: "Bonnie & Clyde"

This week's episode of 'Best Shot' features one of my all time favorite films Bonnie & Clyde (1967). Even if you just want to look at one scene and stop you're pulled in, right into the cramped cars and you're along for the whole ride. It never stops until it's so bullet-riddled it can't get back up again. Few films have ever felt as alive as this classic. The most impressive thing about Bonnie & Clyde nearly a half century later is that it still feels electric. Is it the way it fuses 30s and 60s and in so doing transcends anything to do with "dates" of production? Is it how completely adult it is in tone despite the youthful abandon?

Bonnie (Faye Dunaway) meets Clyde (Warren Beatty) in the first scene and by the eight minute mark she's lept in his car for good. Because the movie moves so quickly we're doing the same. My choice for best shot comes right before this crucial decision. The couple have been flirting for roughly eight minutes of real time, and Bonnie is so hot for the beautiful thief that she's practically felating her coke bottle while staring at him. Bonnie expresses doubt that Clyde's a real criminal, essentially daring him to prove it, and he pulls out his gun.

But you wouldn't have the gumption to use it."

Naturally she, uh, strokes it. Such a perfect image for a movie about a love affair that's consummated through crime.

Their horny paired reaction shots to the gun stroking...

This movie is dirty.

Rather shockingly, they do not immediately tear each other's clothes off. It's not for lack of trying on Bonnie's part but Clyde is quicker to whip out his gun than his cock so a substitute it'll have to be.

In the casting alone the movie achieves greatness. It's hard to believe that the infamous loverboy Warren Beatty is an impotent charmer and Bonnie (Faye Dunaway, utterly brilliant) can't believe it either. She's angry and devastated. Bonnie and Clyde's unfulfilling sexual life paired with Faye & Warren's undeniable chemistry eroticizes the entire movie even when "sex" is not the subject.

The early gun stroking shot finds a brilliant counterpoint later in the film when Clyde can't get it up in a love scene and Bonnie roll over, away from him. Clyde isn't even in frame but his "gun" is.

The French call an orgasm "the little death" and this 1967 masterpiece channeling the French New Wave for America makes the same connections. From the minute Bonnie leaps in Clyde's stolen car, desperate to sex him up, she's a goner. In one terrific seemingly incongruous scene, the Barrow gang pick up a married couple and tease and taunt them until the man reveals that he's an undertaker. Bonnie clouds over, instantly demanding their rejection from the car. She knows that death is imminent. For her it's right there in the car.

The Best Shot Gang.
(Wanted in five states)

Antagony and Ecstasy has a smart post on the film's synthesizing of '60s pop culture.
Serious Film has a wonderful post that's more than just Bonnie & Clyde. It's that moment when you know it's coming.
The Film's The Thing looks at the people in the pictures, Depression era style.
Film Actually  Bonnie seeks solace in the oddest places
Pussy Goes Grrrr  "lust blossoming from small town tedium."

Next on "Hit Me..."
04/04 Easter Parade (1948)
04/11 Snow White and the Seven Dwarves (1937) 


The Morning After

We always need a bit of time to recuperate. We'll be wrapping this year's Oscars up tonight through Wednesday. But for now... chilling. It's the morning after.

We've all seen this stone cold classic photo of Faye Dunaway the morning after her Oscar win for Network but Framework was kind enough to share more photos (and other Oscar types) in a slideshow gallery  and I did a little more searching too.

More "Morning After" after you click including Best Scene Steal and 2 Greedy Gretchens.

Click to read more ...


Curio: Tinker Tailor Condor Spy

Alexa here. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy was one on my favorite movies this year, so I was a bit disappointed this morning at its lack of notice by the Academy for Best Picture. But I wasn't surprised, what with most of the predictions not mentioning it (including Nathaniel's).  Perhaps it was too professorial, too quiet, too stodgy for most. Thankfully Gary Oldman got his nomination for managing to seep George Smiley from every pore, and its le Carré-adapted screenplay got notice.

Thinking about it while listening to the nominations I was reminded of another one of my favorite spy-intrique films with a 70s setting, Three Days of the Condor, similarly ignored by the Academy in its time (save for an editing nomination), despite its timely post-Watergate release. Sydney Pollock's film is certainly the sexier of the two, with Redford and Dunaway in their heyday, but one glance at Max Von Sydow's glasses and you know you're in a similar landscape to Tinker Tailor.  Here is a cheesy Rona Barrett's Hollywood magazine I bought simply for it's coverage of the film, and its entertaining barely-there tidbits about the filming of this classic, 35+ years ago.  Add it to your queue if you haven't seen it.

[Filming of] Condor took place entirely on location in and around New York City...During one exterior scene that called for a winter rain, the co-eds of the nearby Finch College cut classes to gawk at the publicity shy REDFORD and scramble for his discarded paper cups! But ROBERT's presence was felt [also] by the appreciative crew, which got careful instruction from the superstar-ecologist on how to defoliate the plant life used in the scene without harming them.

Co-star MAX VON SYDOW gingerly commuted between Denmark and Manhattan while finishing up [on a] Scandinavian film. FAYE DUNAWAY seemed not only to enjoy doing the film but loved having the chance to love a few weeks in her beloved New York City. She and her husband, PETER WOLF, maintain a Central Park West apartment where married life definitely agrees with them.


Theadora Van Runkle (1929-2011)

Take off those berets and fedoras and pay your respects. The great costume designer Theadora Van Runkle, a three time Oscar nominee, passed away this past Friday of lung cancer at 83 years of age [src]. For those who don't immediately connect her name to her movies, know that her work was seismic. 

Her most famous creations were actually those done on her very first feature Bonnie & Clyde (1967). She was able to do the picture only after Warren Beatty and the costume designers guild president screamed at each other for half an hour (she was not a guild member then) according to Mark Harris's invaluable tome Pictures at a Revolution: Five Movies and The Birth of New Hollywood.  She had never done a film and at one tense point admitted to Warren Beatty that she had no idea what she was doing. 

After Beatty vetoed her first period-specific ideas, she came up with the now legendary out of time ensembles that nodded to both the 1930s (when the story takes place) and contemporary 60s French New Wave that the project had always hoped to emulate (Beatty had originally wanted François Truffaut himself to direct).

You see people who are great beauties and never get anywhere. This was style."
-Theadora Van Runkle on Dunaway as Bonnie. 

Van Runkle even claims that she was the one who brought the unknown Faye Dunaway to Beatty & director Arthur Penn's attention. "There's the girl you should cast!" though there are competing legends as to how Dunaway first came up in the long search for the girl.

Because of the tight budget, many of the costumes worn by other characters weren't actually Van Runkle's designs but costuming the titular pair was enough to win her a permanent place in movie history and her first Oscar nomination. She was later nominated for both The Godfather Part Two (1974) and Peggy Sue Got Married (1986).

Those Oscar nominated movies were hardly the only memorable gigs. Other showy movies included the infamously delirious transgendered farce Myra Breckenridge (1970), the ill-fated Mame (1974), the post-war romantic drama New York New York (1977) and the bawdy gaudy musical The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (1982).

I'll always have a special place in my heart for her work on Peggy Sue Got Married. I love that too-shiny / too-tight gown that Peggy Sue is proud she can still fit into at her 25th reunion. Like Bonnie, Peggy Sue is straddling two eras, this time literally; a lovely mirage of the past clinging to a totally contemporary soul.

Good night and thank you, Theadora.