Wednesday, July 26, 2006

On Actresses

Ellie Parker
(the movie)

Constant readers might recall that I swore off little indie films about the little earthquakes in boring people's lives, but Ellie Parker was about an actress, so you see how it doesn't count. Ahem.

Anyway, it's kinda dull (surprise!), and it's very amateurish.

We get to see Ellie Parker pee, screw, puke, and emote, all in the first half hour. I'm not sure if the writer/director is just aping the worse elements of French films - or American indie films - or both! Seems like indie American directors feel that by showing those little excretory moments in life they are somehow showing us reality. Well, like the children's book tells us, "Everyone Poops," but we kinda know that going in, so you don't need to show it. Unless, of course, you're going to trot out that joke that's always funny, where someone emerges from the biffy with a dire warning to the next occupant; that one routinely kills.

I once read somewhere (probably the 2Blowhards) that actresses being reluctant about doing nudity in movies wasn't actually that much of an issue, but in fact the true problem is trying to get them to keep their clothes on, most of them being exhibitionists at heart. This movie would tend to prove that out since Naomi Watts produced and starred in it, and there she is, nekkid and pounding away on some guy in the tub. Had she compunctions about that stuff, she could've had changes made. Consider the "actresses like to get nekkid" myth deemed plausible.

From a larger perspective, if you've never been around theatre people or actors, this movie might contain some insights and be enjoyable, as it trots out many of the, uh, delightful tropes of what actors go through for their art. However, for those of use who've been around the creatures live and in person, we are all too aware of the struggle to be a realistic tree or the juiciest tomato (assuming one was a method actor, and not Brechtian, of course).

There is one bright shining moment, though. Chevy Chase has a cameo where, as her agent, he gives Ellie a great speech about confidence. It's one of the truer things I've ever heard. It begins at the 1 hour, 6 minute mark for the whole cameo, or if you wanna skip straight to the speech, its 1 hour and 7 minutes in.

So, if this little corner of the world interests you (actors and their plight), or if you'd like to see Chevy's great speech, check it out of you can get it for free at the library or have Netflix. Don't bother if it comes on broadcast TV though, as 33% of the content will be edited out.

Ava Gardner
(the biography)

This bio covers the beautiful Ava Gardner down to pretty minute details.

I think we even are told when her pubic hair grew in.

A lot of it is standard hick-from-the-sticks is discovered by someone with industry connections, gets signed by a studio, who then grooms them into a star, forcing them to speak in a Midwestern accent (save for the odd New Yorker who gets to keep his/her local flavor), go to the right parties, pretend they're not married if they are, do dah do dah and so on.

Luckily, author Lee Server has a breezy style and things pop along quite nicely. I always enjoy a good stylist.

For those of you interested in the trash content of this bio, all your twisted little needs will be met. Grocery lists of who slept with whom. Detail on genital size and quality; for instance, re Ava (according to Mickey Rooney):

"[T]here had never been anyone like Ava 'down there' - it seemed to have a life of its own, as supple and expressive as 'a little warm mouth.'"

Or re Frank Sinatra:
"[T]that first night Ava had gone to bed with Sinatra, she had been unavoidably reminded of the earlier affair and Lana's [Turner] giddy rants about Frank's priapic endowment; she found out that Lana had not exaggerated those dimensions in the slightest (Sinatra naked, said pal Jackie Gleason, looked like a tuning fork)."

One grand theme I've picked up from the bios of bands and stars that I've read is, among the many things that come with stardom, one of the most common is apparently you are provided the opportunity to boff every other current celebrity, and most take advantage of it.

And that must be something else, y'know? Imagine spending a year or two bumping uglies with all these stars you've been seeing from afar until your star rose. The mind (and other organs) must reel.

And it appears that everyone gets around to everyone eventually. Every big deal male star or power broker had their go at Ava (or she at them, being as much of a huntress as hunted) with the exception of Howard Huges because she didn't like the way he smelled. Consider how many guys in recent times have gone on about the talents and/or shortcomings of Britney Spears (bushy), Lindsay Lohan (stanky), or Agelina Jolie (scary).

Besides a few stints in rehab and a place near the top of the liver transplant list, one thing most stars must take into their golden years (assuming they make it) is the memories of everyone who was someone and what they looked like naked and how they were in bed.

"Ava" is also full of interesting factoids not related to the horizontal bop. For instance, about Sinatra's birth:
"He was born, as the story goes, too big for this world: nearly fourteen pounds, a traumatic breech birth, forceps tearing open the baby's face and neck, left for dead by the distracted doctor. His grandmother refused the physician's pronouncement and rushed the boy to the kitchen sink, a torrent of cold December water shocking him back to life."

Wow, huh? You can almost hear the lighting striking in the background and ominous basso chorus.

One rather big detail left out of Howard Hughes' recent biopic was that he had a bigger and probably more efficient private spy operation than rivaled anything by the FBI or CIA. He bugged the phones and bedrooms of anyone who interested him (particularly the women), and he had a staff of investigators who regularly filed reports on the behaviors of everyone on his interest list. Imagine having a look through those file boxes. (Perhaps those were the boxes that the Arc of the Covenant was stored amongst in Raiders of the Lost Arc. I mean really, where are all those records now? Sounds like a job for Jon Krakauer.

So, anyway, if you like this kind of star-fucker backroom gossip, Ava Gardner is a hell of a ride by all accounts. (Hardee har har.)

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