apocalypse chelsea: day seven

we have arrived at the final day of our little experiment. bloodied but unbowed.

day seven:

without a doubt, the most heinous thing i saw all week was the first thing in the chute today - gentlemen prefer blondes (1953).

the opening is an awkward leap directly into a musical number, as if they can't establish the twin pillars this thing is built on - sexual objectification and abject moneygrubbing - fast enough. i am a big fan of howard hawks, typically, but i hate this movie. it's a musical, yes, so it's intentionally broad but any satire that could have brought me over to their side is lost amid the sparkle of a million sequins. since they miss the mark with that so badly, all that's left is a bunch of people ironically and glibly reinforcing the worst gender stereotypes of the fifties leaving me no one to root for. i think about what preston sturges could do with these themes, for instance, and am left profoundly disappointed. the plot is barely enough to bother recounting - two showgirls in search of love and money end up on a cruise to france, betrothed's father sends private investigator - with good reason - to see what hijinks they're up to, men chase women, women chase men, women chase money, wacky mix-ups abound, they get straightened out, everyone gets married. the end. somewhere in between, marilyn monroe does her iconic "diamonds are a girl's best friend" number.

this number is the film in a nutshell. marilyn essaying the twin roles of innocent and whore simultaneously, the men as playthings and objectifiers simultaneously. sex as power, used to manipulate. never once in this film is sex portrayed as something partners do for each other. it is always leverage, something you do to someone, usually for gain. at least in sweet home alabama (2002), from earlier this week, reese witherspoon, after being knocked for a loop by tiffany & co., came to the realization that she actually wanted her husband to be her best friend, not a diamond. fancy that. our young lovers in this gem never have that epiphany. the showgirl snares the millionaire. the lure of pure sex in a pink satin gown landed a man that is dull-witted and easily manipulated. for his trouble, he now has a beautiful wife who is vapid and mercenary. congratulations. you all lose.

next, we leave this mess for a more advanced and enlightened era, the prehistory of the land before time (1988).

i was long past the target age for this thing upon its release, but i imagine if you were five years old in 1988, or any year since, it fairly made your head explode. dinosaurs! and they talk! and they're like me and my friends! seriously, these things are freaking adorable. while it doesn't quite have the art and depth to make it into the pantheon where disney reigns, it does pretty much everything right. a band of li'l orphaned dinosaurs go off after a cataclysmic event in search of the great valley. they learn to trust each other. they learn that even though they're each a different type - longneck, three horn, et cetera - those differences are no reason they can't love and look out for one another. they persevere through a number of adventures and run-ins with a sharptooth and are reunited with loved ones in the land of milk and honey and abundant leaf growth as a result. it looks decent and teaches kids to be decent. as modern kids classics go, i can see why it is so endearing and enduring. plus, i repeat, dinosaurs! that just punches you right in your five year old heart.

the last thing i took in for the week was r.j. cutler's documentary, the september issue (2009).

ostensibly a behind the scenes look at how vogue's iconic september issue, the 2007 issue in particular, is assembled, it actually plays more like a propaganda piece. it is neither incisive nor particularly insightful when it comes to the nuts and bolts of assembling a magazine. it seems chiefly designed to humanize vogue's editor-in chief, and red queen, anna wintour in the wake of the devil wears prada (2006). it doesn't help matters much that she seems to be surrounded by nothing but sycophants and cowering toadies. to those of us (read: almost everyone) who operate outside the world of high fashion it just seems farcical that she inspires such terror. it's a house of cards, the fashion world. it's a mirage. and nothing she says about it to justify it to us, and seemingly, more importantly, herself, can make me believe in it. i can't be made to believe that anyone should be afraid of someone based on the fact that she doesn't like your frock. tug on that thread and it all comes unraveled. you know who could make me care, though? grace coddington.

grace is the creative director at vogue and she steals this whole show. she is the only person in the film that i would like to have a conversation with. actually, make that love to have a conversation with. everywhere her boss is cold, calculating and aloof, grace is warm, witty and earthy. make no mistake, she is a canny veteran of the fashion trenches and she has a few tricks up her sleeve but her motivation sets her apart from the endless stream of bootlickers and the icy automaton at the head of the parade. every other single person onscreen is trying to sell something. grace, it would seem, is trying to make something. she genuinely seems to care about the art and history of fashion in a way that celebrates the creative force, not just commerce. more importantly, it's just as obvious that she cares about art and history beyond fashion. fashion is her lifelong career but you can see in her demeanor that she understands the folly of it. she loves it and is devoted to it, but in the way that people are devoted to a craft, not to the almighty dollar. i was very taken by her. fortunately, she hijacks the proceedings fairly completely, a wise decision on the part of the editors of the film. it's worth the time just to get to know her.

well, there it is. hope you guys enjoyed it. i am off to watch something of my own choosing for the first time in a week.

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