Confessions Of A Shopaholic: Parable For Our Time?

Bruck-smile-kinsella-talk2This may seem like an unfortunate moment to release a film called Confessions of a Shopaholic, opening February 13.

But speaking to fans at the Westwood Borders, Sophie Kinsella, author of the best-selling books on which the movie is based, declared the international economic crisis the perfect context for the movie--and not just because we could use some escapism. Her credit-crazed protagonist Becky Bloomwood, said Kinsella, "is not only Everygirl, she's every country, every institution." Becky's struggle to overcome her shopping compulsion and the unpaid bills it brings, Kinsella said, is a "parable for our time."

It's also Jerry Bruckheimer's first venture into chick flickery--more shopping, less shooting. (That's him looking admiringly at Kinsella in the photo.) He claims the movie is "empowering for women." Maybe.

At the very least, it provides some work for actresses, including Krysten Ritter, who plays Becky's best friend Suze. Ritter, who joined Kinsella, Bruckheimer, and fellow cast member Hugh Dancy (Becky's love interest) at the Borders event, had the best line of the night. Describing her favorite scene, she said it made her "want to go home and drink tequila and open bills." Fun times.

After their panel discussion, the four signed books and special shopping bags--including a set for DG.

Share your favorite shopping experiences--good, bad, or dangerous--in the comments below. We'll send the autographed copy of Confessions of a Shopaholic to the person whose story we like best and the signed shopping bag to the runner up. (Not interested in these prizes? We'll send you a signed copy of The Substance of Style instead.)

Need inspiration to get the memories flowing? Check out the DG Q&A with Debbie Millman.

Ritter-signingKinsella-signingDancy-signingBruckheimer-signing 

[Permission is granted to reproduce photos with a link back to DeepGlamour. Permission is not granted to reproduce photos without such a link.]

Domino Mag Asks: Jackie Or Nancy?

Yellowroomjackie       Yellowroomnancy

On the left, we have the White House's Yellow Room as envisioned by Jackie Kennedy. On the right, the Yellow Room under the direction of Nancy Regan. (Photos by Architectural Digest)

Domino Magazine wants your vote on who decorated better. Oh, it is so on!

Too close to call?? Maybe this will help-- the two ladies' takes on the public Red Room. Jackie on left, Nancy on right (photos by John F. Kennedy Library and by White House Historical Assoc.)

Kennedy_red_room_3 Reagan_red_room_3

Perhaps your winner is starting to emerge, but the next picture will surely help you seal the deal. I give you, via Domino of course, the First Ladies' dressing rooms.

Jackie's is the powder blue and Nancy's is the peach:

Jfk_dressing_room_ad    Regan_dressing_room_ad

I know my winner. Do you have yours?

Who did I pick? Well, there are certain color combos I can do without, and one of them happens to be red and yellow, plus there's my intense loathing of peach, so you can take a big, wild guess and you'll probably be right.

But don't be silent, fellow Americans! Tell us or Domino how you really feel.

Editor's Note

Several readers have asked about links in the comments. To add a link to a comment, just put in the URL, no special coding necessary. For an example, see the test comment here.

And here's another reminder to check the Quick Links in the middle column to the right and to check out--and join--the Deep Glamour Flickr group.

Anti-Glamour At The New York Times Magazine

6a00d83451be1b69e2010536e0f642970c-500wi Clive Crook notes the hideousness of the NYT Mag's "Obama's People" portraits: "They look like cadavers worked over by someone fired for incompetence by Madame Tussaud's. Many of them also appear to have been dipped from the waist down in a solution of some kind....Somebody please tell me what Larry Summers ever did to deserve this. Peter Orszag, Ken Salazar and Jim Messina, I advise you to sue. Ellen Moran is going to need counselling."

This feature isn't an isolated example. The Times Magazine seems to believe that, except for fashion spreads, an interesting photo is an ugly one and that people are "themselves" when they look awkward or uncomfortable or as dorky as possible. It's the portrait as mug shot.

Yet, as I wrote here, "except for professional models, photo subjects generally expect the wedding album standard to apply: Photos should look realistic, but as attractive as possible. Anything else, whatever artistic justification the photographer or editor may put forward, feels like an ambush. Nobody voluntarily agrees to an unappealing portrait."

Given the magazine's record, no one should ever agree to a New York Times Magazine photo shoot without veto power over the resulting portraits. (Just look how unsympathetic they made their own writer look.) Yet people do agree, all the time, even people with the clout to say no.

So how did all these powerful people end up looking so bad? And how did the ones who managed to look good control their images? Did Joe Biden demand photo approval? Did Hillary Clinton? (The feature wouldn't have worked without them.) Or are they just  practiced at having their photos taken?

When he was still a senator, John F. Kennedy got photographer Howell Conant to take his picture from every conceivable angle so he'd know which ones were most flattering and could pose accordingly (my source). Good advice for the aspiring politician, or even the aspiring mid-level staffer.

Glam Or Spam? Special Inaugural Edition

MichelleObama-thumb-200x300-32330
What do you think of Michelle Obama's inauguration outfit, by Isabel Toledo? Kate Betts at Time calls it "glamorous," while LAT blogger Elizabeth Snead explains its practicalities.

But a harsh Groomzilla weighs in by email: "Heinous! The dead sunflower color with the ridiculous rhinestone collar was a huge miss. Was she wearing a glittering poncho over a ballgown?  Was it a halter dress clasped at the neck with a brooch, covered by a sequined capulet with shoulder pads? What on earth was she thinking? Her daughters looked elegant and glowing. Mom looked like she stumbled into the Laura Bush Collection for Kohl's."

"Heinous" seems rather strong to me, but the Laura Bush comparison rings true: She does seem to be playing "First Lady." Groomzilla notwithstanding, the outfit struck me as safe, though the olive gloves were a creative touch. Olive isn't my favorite, but I do love leather gloves in interesting colors.

What do you think?

UPDATE: Cathy Horyn narrates a slideshow of Michelle Obama's inaugural week fashions, with good photos I hadn't seen elsewhere. I'd never thought about what a large wardrobe of coats she has.

It Began With Barney

Gregmorris In Sunday's NYT, Manohla Dargis and A.O. Scott offered up a seemingly comprehensive dissection of the ways in which Hollywood has, since the days of Sidney Poitier, given us archetypes of the black male hero: the Black Everyman, the Black Outlaw, the Black Provocateur, the Black Father, the Black Yoda, and the Black Messiah.

But they forgot one important recurring role: the Black Techie or, if you prefer, the Black Geek. These guys are everywhere in TV shows and movies, programming computers and setting explosives. (I'm not even counting the many doctors.)

Here's a small selection: Samuel L. Jackson in Jurassic Park, LaVar Burton in Star Trek: The Next Generation, Joe Morton in Terminator 2, Don Cheadle in the Ocean's movies, and Ving Rhames in the Mission Impossible movies. Even the German bad guys in Die Hard used a black guy (Clarence Gilyard Jr.) as their tech expert (though the character's reviews aren't good). And Sidney Poitier made it into Sneakers.

With all due respect to Geordi, the greatest black techie was, in my estimation, Dr. Miles Hawkins, the Reed Richards-meets-Tom Sowell protagonist of the short-lived superhero series M.A.N.T.I. S., who played by Carl Lumbly.  (Now that the surprisingly glamorous white ubernerd Gil Grissom has left CSI, maybe Laurence Fishburne has a shot at at creating a new prototype of the black supergeek. Given his character's medical training, however, it will be hard to beat Omar Epps on House. And I did say I wasn't counting the doctors.)

Now black nerds are hardly a cultural stereotype. What gives?

One explanation is simply imitation. The Ur-black techie was, of course, the original Mission Impossible's immortal Barney Collier, played by Greg Morris, who reprised the role in three episodes of the remade 1988 series (which featured his son Phil Morris, who, like Lumbly has also played Martian Manhunter J'onn J'onzz). Maybe Barney was so memorable that he imprinted Hollywood with a new casting stereotype, à la Louis Gossett Jr.'s Gunnery Sergeant Emil Foley in An Officer and a Gentleman.

Dyson

But where did Barney come from? Why, in 1966, would a TV series feature a black man as its team's technical expert?

I suspect Barney came from the same impulse that in 1977 led my high school's senior class play to cast a black student as the boss in Meet Me in St. Louis. That selection wasn't an attempt at verisimilitude--not many white professionals had black bosses in 1903 St. Louis--nor was my South Carolina drama department devoted to color-blind casting (though the student in question did a fine job). No, the reason was that the boss had no visible family: no wife, no kids, no romantic entanglements. He was non-threatening because sexually neutral.
And who could be more non-threatening and sexually neutral than a techie?

That makes Joe Morton's Dr. Miles Bennett Dyson a breakthrough role. Not only does he create (and destroy) Skynet. He actually has a wife and son.

Now if only they hadn't made that horrible Terminator 3.

(In The Sarah Connor Chronicles, the TV spinoff of the Terminator movies, Miles Dyson appears only in a photo, where he is portrayed by Phil Morris. So he, too, is a son of Barney.)

Giving Aviator Glamour A Black Face

11759vWith the Tuskegee Airmen headed to the inauguration, let's take a moment to remember what they looked like when they were young and glamorous--and, of course, just how subversive that glamour was. The airmen were not just warriors but aviators, the epitome of masculine modernity: brave and daring, yes, but also masters of complex machines, with all the discipline and intelligence that implied. Their very existence refuted the ideology of white supremacy.

In April 1945, the Airmen were photographed by Toni Frissell, a noted fashion and society photographer (she did the photos at Jack and Jackie's wedding). Frissell knew glamour and, unlike many of her contemporaries, she didn't need a studio or heavy retouching to create it. Her photos of couples cuddling in the park are as appealing as her shots of models on the steps of the Jefferson Memorial. And she loved natural light.

Frissell was the ideal photographer to capture the Tuskegee Airmen for posterity. As this DG slideshow illustrates, she captured the glamour--and dignity--of these young men, whether posed looking skyward, working on engines, listening to briefings, playing cards, or receiving "escape kits" of cyanide. And, presumably for hometown newspapers, she noted their names and hometowns, which are included in the slideshow captions.

Not all the aviators will make it to the inauguration, of course. Many, indeed, never made it home from the war--something I was reminded of when Googling Ronald Reeves, the Blair Underwood lookalike in a few of the photos.

"Darling, You Get Lovelier Every Day"

DinnertableMargaret Ferrand Thorp's 1939 book America at the Movies includes one of earliest (perhaps the earliest) examinations of Hollywood glamour. What did predominately female Depression-era audience find at the movies? Why did they keep coming back? Movie glamour wasn't just about luxury and sex appeal, suggests Thorp. There was another attraction as well.

What the typical adult American female chiefly asks of the movies is the opportunity to escape by reverie from an existence which she finds insufficiently interesting. Better ways of enriching her life, society has not yet taught her. She sees the quickest release from a drab, monotonous, unsatisfying environment in dreaming of an existence which is rich, romantic, glamorous. But dreaming, though a pleasant occupation, is not altogether easy. The making of a really good reverie demands considerable effort both of energy and of imagination. How can the American woman who buys her bread sliced and her peas shelled be expected to concoct her own reveries? At the movies she gets them ready-made, put up in neat two-hour cans.

One of the things she wants most is to be appreciated, not just by implication but right out loud. There is social and psychological significance in the fact that 70 per cent of Gary Cooper’s fan mail comes from women who write that their husbands do not appreciate them. Their ideal is still the ideal husband of the Victorian era who told his wife at breakfast every morning how much she meant to him, but that husband is not a type which the postwar American man has any interest in emulating. He prefers to conceal his deeper emotions at breakfast, and during the rest of the day as well. His wife, consequently, has to spend her afternoons at the movies.

In the movies a wife finds it quite worth while to get into a new evening frock for a tête-à-tête dinner at home because her husband is sure, by dessert time at least, to take her hand across the intimately small and inconvenient table and say, “Darling, you get lovelier every day.”

This account is interesting for two reasons. The scene Thorp describes is, first of all, a composite. It doesn't advance a plot point about specific characters in a specific film. Rather, it's an emotion-laden but generic snapshot, a scene whose meaning lingers in the memory to be enhanced by each new version of the scene. We experience glamour not as a narrative but as a moment.

Second, Thorp is describing something that today's moviegoers would find unremarkable. This scene doesn't depict penthouse living or satin and furs. It seems like a stylized version of pretty ordinary life.  The language is old-fashioned, of course, but the idea of a vocally affectionate husband is hardly exotic. It's been the norm since "the postwar American man" of the 1920s and 1930s was superseded by the "postwar American man" of the 1950s. 

But, I have to wonder, Where are the movies that include these portrayals of expressive, married love? Maybe I have too many Garbo DVDs, but married love doesn't seem that central to pre-1939 movies. Yet I can't imagine that Thorp simply made up this resonant scene. Was it a trope of forgettable films that kept housewives happy but never made it to Turner Classic Movies, let alone DVDs? Film students, please help me out. What movies is Thorp talking about? Or is she wrong?

[Still courtesy of Getty Images, which cannot identify the movie from which it was taken. The actor is Neil Hamilton, who decades later played Commissioner Gordon on Batman.]