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And God Created a Movie Critic

I was staying up late one night, as so often happens, and watched a movie that I first saw years ago (and no, not when it first came out).  It was And God Created Woman, filmed in 1956, starring the French sex symbol, Brigitte Bardot.

First off, if you surf the web at all, you may have seen photos of an elderly Bardot (she’s 82 by the way) with the headline “Stars who have aged badly.” These so-called headlines bring you to a site that just wants to sell you something, but the principle of it is what really irks me.  The woman is 82 and these types of sites implicitly criticize her, and other former sex symbols, for not looking exactly the same at 82 as they looked at 20!  How dare they not get a facelift and a tummy tuck so they can age “gracefully.” Yet if they do get a facelift or tummy tuck, then the criticism is, “Oh, how dare they try plastic surgery to stay young, they should just get old like everybody else.”

It’s hell to be a former sex goddess, I can tell you. (Well, not from personal experience, but hey, it’s just common sense!)

Anyway, that brings me to And God Created Woman. It wasn’t my cup of tea when I first watched it and this next time around sort of cemented my disdain.

You’ve got to understand that European films have always been distinctively different from American films. American films had a film code that limited what could and could not be shown on-screen, whereas European movies were much more permissive. So a European movie made in 1956 would be exploring themes that were explored very differently in American films – if they were explored here at all. But even for all that, And God Created Woman was quite scandalous for the time period.

god-created-woman-pic

I haven’t researched it enough to know if others think like me but I do know in the official descriptions of the film and in media content about the film, no one mentions anything about what I’m about to say.  There was just one critic, Dennis Schwartz, who sort of seemed to support my opinion:

“The public loved it and it became a big box-office smash, and paved the way for a spate of sexy films to follow. What was more disturbing than its dullish dialogue and flaunting of Bardot as a sex object, was that underneath its call for liberation was a reactionary and sexist view of sex.”

Bear with me as I explain the plot to make my point.

The film follows an orphan, Juliette, who was taken in by a family in a small fishing village. She’s gorgeous and on the surface of things, appears to have a very high sex drive with exhibitionist tendencies, and a desperate need for men.

However, in the character that I saw on the screen, I saw depression (she has severe mood swings), anxiety, a severe and deep-seated desire to be loved and accepted by men that could stem from depression, childhood trauma, or some other issue left undeveloped on-screen.

Every man around her uses her. The older brother, Antoine, despises her, yet sought her out to sleep with her, used her, then left her. Of course it was her fault he wanted to have sex with her. So he carries the torch of contempt while continuing to toy with her emotions. The mega-rich, and much older, businessman, Éric, acts in the same manner – he sees in her something he wants, much like his proposed casino, and is determined to manipulate her to his own needs and desires.  While these men are chasing her, they are at the same time criticizing, mocking, and talking bad about her…how her looks are meant to destroy men, her high sex drive makes her a slut/whore, and they vilify her – while at the same time, wanting her. To me that sounds like rationalization, manipulation, and misogyny at its finest.

At one point, the older brother knows his younger brother, Michel, is in love with Juliette, yet during a boat trip with her, after Antoine and she get stranded…what does he do?  Has sex with her. But in the end, he blames her for his transgression (because obviously he has no control over his own impulses) and accuses her of manipulating him when it was clearly the other way around (to me) and he took advantage of what is obviously a vulnerable woman. Not to mention betraying his brother’s trust. But no, that was all on her. Couldn’t blame himself for not keeping it in his pants. I mean, come on.

No one, with the exception of Michel, truly cared for her. Michel. He saw past her mood swings, her so-called sex drive (which to me always seemed “put on” in an effort to be accepted and loved by men rather than a true sex drive), her obvious manic episodes…he saw the real her and loved her. At the end, he is the only one who stood by her, albeit a bit roughly.  However, his attitude and actions convince Juliette, finally, that he’s not leaving her side despite her frenzied behavior. And this in spite of the others trying to convince him she was a bad person. Michel was the only male character to rise above and do his gender justice. Quite frankly, I felt this was the movie’s only saving grace — the ending — when Juliette finally discovered the “one” who truly loved the real person she was inside.  We should all be so lucky.

But even as the credits rolled, my thoughts remained snagged on the general theme, rather than the final scene.

While not her first movie, this particular film made Brigitte Bardot a global “sex symbol.” Or a “sex kitten.” And what did those words mean to men at the time – or even now?

Not a beautiful woman, self-confident, who had the respect and admiration of men, but rather someone whom they lusted after – whom they would possess if they could and whom they would equally despise if she allowed them to possess her. Much like the character in the movie.

I didn’t see an erotic drama in this movie, nor did I see it as a film reveling in the “sexual revolution” or celebrating sexual liberation.  I saw a sad testament of a woman desperately seeking love and acceptance and only finding men who wanted to use her and throw her away.

That’s Entertainment

The following gives you an inside view on Sarah and I deciding whether to watch a movie or not.  Cause I know you guys are eaten up with curiosity over just how we manage to come to such an important decision.

Sarah: That movie looks sooo weird!  Even for us.

Me (*gleefully*): I know, right!?

Together: Let’s watch it!

Her Name was Lola

As all my readers know, I’m a Looney Tunes freak. Key word: freak.  I know this about myself. And of course, I’m old school Looney Tunes.

There is a new Looney Tunes Show with new animation techniques that I don’t like and voices that try to sound like Mel Blanc but don’t, so I just shunned it altogether.

Now, I thought it’d be okay for today’s generation of kids. If you’ve never heard the “real” voices of these characters – as brought to life by Mel Blanc – could you really tell the difference?

So, one day I walked into the living room to find my daughter watching the show, and I decided what the heck, I’d give it a try.

I admit, I got hooked on the characters.  This modern-day Looney Tunes is more of a soap opera than what us “old folks” are used to, but still, it was okay. Not as bad as I thought and certainly more enjoyable than I thought possible once you got used to the animation and the voices.

But then, Lola Bunny came on the scene and my jaw just dropped with shock. Admittedly, I was forewarned by my daughter about Lola’s character, but I was still surprised by how awful her character was. Awful. Let me explain.

Lola Bunny was first introduced as a love interest for Bugs Bunny in the 1996 movie Space Jam (you know the one, where Michael Jordan is transported into the animated world of the Looney Tunes, and has to help the “Tune Squad” play basketball against the “villainous monstars”).

Let me quote Wikipedia about Lola’s character: “She is a tough talking, no-nonsense woman who is extremely independent and self-reliant. She is highly athletic while also incredibly seductive in her behavior.” Okay, so we can do without the seductive part, but the rest was a pretty good role model for kids watching the movie.

Next was a show called Baby Looney Tunes. In this cartoon Lola – like all the other characters, portrayed as a baby – is still intelligent and somewhat of a tomboy.

Now, contrast that with her characterization in the new Looney Tunes Show.

All of a sudden, she has become this complete and utter airhead who exemplifies the “blonde” jokes that are so often bandied about…and then some.

Let me quote Wikipedia again (because, you know, you may think it’s just me over-analyzing these cartoons, but it’s not! Anyone who watches the new Looney Tunes Show can see the complete destruction of her character):  “As opposed to her personality in Space Jam, she is portrayed as a scatterbrained, indecisive, gabby young woman who tends to obsess over Bugs, whom she refers to as “Bun-Bun.” She is very dedicated to achieving goals but oftentimes tends to forget what she was doing. She’s unable to settle on a decision, even for something as simple as what she wants to drink.  …she is overly talkative to the point of irritation.

WTFWhat happened?

All of a sudden Lola has been reduced from a strong female character to the “comic relief,” and not even good comic relief. At least being demoted for the purpose of decent comic relief would be somewhat acceptable. Yes, I get it, it’s the Looney Tunes Show, but she’s not LOONEY. She doesn’t have Bugs’ obnoxious charm or Daffy’s egotistical flair. She doesn’t even have Taz’s glorious rage. Instead, she’s just a stereotypical dimwitted, airhead female character (cause that’s just what we need more of on t.v.) – and just what is she telling the young boys and girls that are watching this show?

She’s telling girls that it’s okay, even expected, to be dim and uninformed about the world around you and to natter on, chattering about absolutely nothing of importance, because you’re a girl, and if boys like you they’ll put up with it. And they’re teaching boys that girls have nothing whatsoever important to say, so just kind of humor them because, after all, they’re just girls and what more should you expect?

And why is this funny?  Someone, tell me – why is this funny?

 

FROM THIS

FROM THIS

 

TO THIS

TO THIS

T.V. Fails

Every time, and I mean every time (because it seems I don’t learn), I’m running through the t.v. guide a bit too quickly and I happen to catch a glimpse of “Keeping up…,” my nerdy, British-t.v. loving brain races with joy for the briefest little moment until, with utter and complete disappointment, I finish reading “…with the Kardashians.”

 

click photo for link to show bloopers -- sooo worth it

click photo for link to Keeping up Appearances bloopers — sooo worth it

Guess that Song

If you read my blog regularly, then you know that I’ve written before about my love for different types of music. You may also know that I am not in the least bit ashamed to admit (okay, well, a little bit maybe) that I like my daughter’s music. Although, I do try to keep my dancing in the car to only a slightly embarrassing level. I’ve also written about the great use of soundtracks these days, and how they are instilling in my children (in I hope all children), a love of some of the best music ever released…even if it is creating some confusion in my own music loving head.

I feel like I must revisit this subject because I’ve come to the realization that while I can apparently remember the lyrics to pretty much every song ever written, I can’t remember the titles to those same songs! What I CAN remember is which soundtrack each song comes from because, as you know, all the best songs are found on soundtracks these days. I would feel bad about not being able to remember the titles, but in my own defense, neither can my daughter, and since she is younger, my memory should be worse than hers, right?

So, as we head down the road, running errands or simply on a road trip to wherever, and we’re looking for music that suits the mood, we (okay, it’s more often I as in me) play the game of “guess the song I want to listen to.”

For instance, I’ll say, “hey, play that song from that scene in Guardians of the Galaxy where Peter Quill is zooming back to join them as they make their getaway…you know the one. No, no, no! Play the song from the opening, I LOVE that one! The one where Peter Quill gyrates his hips! And uses the poor little lizard thingy as a microphone. That’s a good one!”

Or “put in that audition song from Pitch Perfect, the one I can’t sing right…you know the one.”

Or “how about that song from the commercial with the actress that used to be in Life with Damien Lewis, love his red hair!, but then she was a lawyer in her own show called Fairly Legal, which is a shame it didn’t last that long, it was a decent show, and the song was on the radio like all the time only I can never remember the name of it…” This is the part where my oh-so-patient daughter always sighs and reminds me that it’s Stronger by Kelly Clarkson because she hears that whole spiel from me so often.

 Or, “I know! Play that song that’s in Delivery Man. NOT the one by Imagine Dragons that starts out like the song in Delivery Man and fools us into thinking it’s the right one, but the actual song from Delivery Man.”

It’s like a game of charades, but it’s guess the soundtrack instead. Maybe we could call it sound-rades? Or maybe track-rades…? I think I like song-rades.

Michael Scott Ruins Everything

Can we all agree that Steve Carell is a national treasure? I mean, come on. As Gru (Despicable Me, Despicable Me 2) he showed us how lovable a tried and true villain can be. Sure, it was just his voice layered with a heavy accent, but the way he puts warmth into such a callous character was something only he could do. I adored him as Hammy, the hyperactive, cookie-addicted squirrel in Over the Hedge. Have you seen that one? If not, don’t feel bad. Not many people did. But – you should. If only for Hammy’s energy drink fueled antics.

Another movie of his that maybe didn’t get the biggest audience was Bewitched, in which he played the Uncle Arthur character. I remember the Paul Lynde performance from back in the day and trust me; Carell filled his shoes to perfection. Then there’s his turn as the naïve celibate with a heart of gold in The 40 Year Old Virgin. I won’t lie. There were a couple of gut-wrenching moments in that raunchy comedy that really made me feel his pain…both physically and emotionally. The scene where he has the heart-to-heart with his girlfriend’s daughter about being a virgin. The fact that he would put himself on the line like that for her. How devastatingly heartwarming. And Carell pulled it off without being sappy. We won’t even talk about his…umm…waxing.

But then everything changed.

My daughter, bless her heart, introduced me to The Office. She introduced me to. . . Michael Scott. Yes, I now know this was the role that allowed all those other roles to happen, but there’s no rule saying I need to watch anyone’s career arc in chronological order. Sheesh.

So I was pretty late in the game getting to know Michael Scott. He came post-Gru, post-Hammy, post-Uncle Arthur. The point being that I already had a sound yet varied base for my pre-conceived notions on what Steve Carell could do as an actor. He could transition from one role to another keeping his distinct signature, but also inhabiting the character enough where I could lose myself in the plot.

Then Michael Freakin’ Scott, Regional Manager of Dunder-Mifflin’s Scranton Sales Branch on NBC’s The Office appeared and quickly obliterated everything I thought I knew about Mr. Carell. It’s a testament to his acting ability to say that I am now totally disillusioned by that character for the rest of my life. He did such a good job with portraying the self-centered, insecure, incompetent, big-hearted, crybaby Michael Scott that I just can’t look at him the same way anymore.

Hell, as it stands I can barely get through an episode of The Office for reasons that have everything and nothing to do with Steve Carell’s magnificent acting. I feel the embarrassment and awkwardness of the employees so keenly. Yes, they’re fictitious characters and it’s all just actors reading a script they memorized; a script that was designed specifically for the purpose of making me feel uncomfortable. But even knowing all that, it makes me cringe. Now, on top of that general unease, now I see Michael Scott in everything Steve Carell does.

It’s both a blessing and a curse that an actor knocks a role so far out of the park that there’s no coming back. But congratulations Mr. Carell on what you accomplished with Michael Scott. It’s not often that someone does too good of a job.

 

MichaelScott