“Complicated” barely scratches the surface when attempting to describe women and how we relate to each other. Even the best of friendships are rife with competition, envy and resentment. Women can be each other’s greatest allies and support systems. We can also be our most destructive enemies when using intimate knowledge to go for the jugular. As Women’s History Month comes to a close, here are 10 of my favorite movie clips dramatizing the complexities in woman to woman relationships.
1. THE WOMEN (1939)
Mrs. Moorehead: We women are so much more sensible. When we tire of ourselves, we change the way we do our hair, or hire a new cook, or decorate the house. I suppose a man could do over his office, but he never thinks of anything so simple. No, dear, a man has only one escape from his old self – to see a different self in the mirror of some woman’s eyes.
Although released almost 80 years ago, The Women remains the standard-bearer for the ways of women. The female archetypes — including a mother offering her daughter wise counsel regarding her husband’s infidelity, wife/mistress confrontation, and envious “friends” with snide commentary — are well represented and still very relevant.
2. CABIN IN THE SKY (1943)
Petunia Jackson: Awww, save that sugar-coated talk for your girlfriend.
It’s fun to see Ethel Waters as Petunia Jackson being sassy and flirty for a change. Her onscreen characters were usually devout, long-suffering, matronly and devoid of sex appeal. Waters shows why she was called “Sweet Mama Stringbean” as she literally kicks up her heels and upstages Lena Horne.
3. OLD ACQUAINTANCE (1943)
Kit Marlowe: There comes a time in every woman’s life when the only thing that helps is a glass of champagne.
Lifelong frenemies Kit Marlowe (Bette Davis) and Millie Drake (Miriam Hopkins) have a strained relationship at best. Fed up after yet another misunderstanding, Kit does what many of us would like to do to those who refuse to hear reason. Knowing that Davis and Hopkins hated each other in real life makes this scene even more fun to watch.
4. ALL ABOUT EVE (1950)
Margo Channing: Funny business, a woman’s career – the things you drop on your way up the ladder so you can move faster. You forget you’ll need them again when you get back to being a woman.
Margo Channing (Bette Davis) battles insecurities regarding her age, lover and career. Ironically, Margo becomes most assured and insightful when she drops her guard, admits her fears, and timelessly breaks down what it is to be a woman.
5. FOXY BROWN (1974)
Foxy Brown: Death is too easy for you, bitch. I want you to SUFFER.
Seeking revenge for her boyfriend’s murder, Foxy Brown (Pam Grier) faces her nemesis Katherine Wall (Kathryn Loder) and destroys her as only another woman could.
6. ALIENS (1986)
Ripley: Get away from her, you bitch!
Ripley’s (Sigourney Weaver) maternal instincts make her even more formidable.
7. DANGEROUS LIAISONS (1988)
Marquise de Merteuil: When one woman strikes at the heart of another she seldom misses, and the wound is invariably fatal.
Marquise de Merteuil (Glenn Close) describes how she empowered herself by manipulating others.
8. BATMAN RETURNS (1992)
Catwoman: Life’s a bitch, now so am I.
After transforming into her fully realized self, Catwoman (Michelle Pfeiffer) has little tolerance for damsels in distress. I now understand why Catwoman refused to live happily ever after with Batman.
9. DOLORES CLAIBORNE (1995)
Dolores Claiborne: Sometimes being a bitch is all a woman has to hold onto.
Dolores Claiborne (Kathy Bates) finds an unexpected ally in her imperious employer.
10. BLACK OR WHITE (2014)
Rowena Jeffers: Well, there are certain things a man can do, certain things a woman can do.
Rowena (Octavia Spencer), in court seeking custody of her granddaughter, faces off with Judge Cummins (Paula Newsome). The two women size up each other without words while communicating clearly. Message received.
Olivia the slave, got distracted on her way to grandmother’s house
A wolf in lamb’s clothing came
Blew her mind and changed her ways and now she’s turned out
Lost and turned out, lost and turned out***
I am through with Olivia Pope, y’all. Not done. THROUGH!
I was done last season when Olivia offered herself for auction during black history month. I was done when Olivia tried to kill her father and had him imprisoned. Yes, Rowan/Eli Pope is unscrupulous, but so are the election-stealing, murderous, morally-challenged characters she surrounds herself with. Olivia’s image of herself as the good heroine in the proverbial “white hat” is as hypocritical as it is delusional. Like her parents, lovers and colleagues, Olivia has blood on her hands.
I was another kind of done when Olivia went to Fitz at the conclusion of last season and made herself at home in the White House. They celebrated their reunion as Etta James sang “At Last” — the undisputed anthem for love triumphant. Olivia is so enamored with political power that she refuses to acknowledge Fitz’s lack of character. He’s an adulterer, alcoholic, vindictive, shortsighted and a murderer.
Their doomed relationship is based on mutual co-dependency. Olivia’s “love” for Fitz is all about his political status and the influence it affords her, which is why Olivia will do anything to keep him in the seat of power. Fitz benefits from Olivia’s wise counsel and strategy. His neediness and sense of entitlement demand complete devotion. Any perception of betrayal or inattentiveness — whether real, misunderstood or imagined — is unforgivable to Fitz.
Nevertheless, I managed to hang in there with Olivia hoping she would regain her sense of self and let Fitz go. Instead, Olivia completely lost my empathy when she proudly identified herself as the president’s sidepiece. Olivia’s spontaneous admission — brought on by her desperate craving for attention and relevance — reignited a crisis that was on its way to being resolved without her. Also, like Fitz, Olivia’s neediness leads her to use others. She selfishly strings Jake along, expecting him to be at her beck and call emotionally and physically.
I am through with Olivia, but I am not finished with Scandal. While Olivia is frustrating, Shonda Rhimes’s characterization of her is brilliant. Her flaws and insecurities are realistic. Olivia is the girlfriend who usually has it all together, but loses her common sense in romance. She’s the friend who settles for unbelievable nonsense, ignoring warnings from genuinely concerned family and friends. I have known quite a few Olivias. Heck, I’ve been Olivia. Perhaps that’s why it’s so exasperating to watch Olivia play herself so cheaply.
What will your kin folks say, Olivia, the slave
It must be breaking their hearts in two
Listen close, they’re calling you (Olivia, Olivia, Olivia, Olivia)
Rhimes taps into generational conflicts through the Popes. Olivia represents the post-civil rights, post-racial age. Maya and Rowan Pope came of age during the civil rights movement. Battles fought by previous generations enable Olivia to live a more sheltered and privileged life. As a result, she doesn’t possess the same insights on race and power as her parents.
“I’d rather be a traitor than what you are, Livvie. Cleaning up those people’s messes. Fixing up their lives. You think you’re family, but you’re nothing but the help.” — Maya Pope
“You have to be twice as good as them to get half of what they have!” — Rowan Pope
I can’t wait to see where Rhimes takes Olivia’s character. Will Olivia pause for some long overdue introspection to figure out who and what are best for her? Or will she become a tragic cautionary tale? I hope for the former.
Olivia break the chains (Lost and turned out)
Stop using your body and use your brain (Lost and turned out)
Yes, I may be through with Olivia Pope, but I’m not finished with Scandal. Yet.
***“(Olivia) Lost and Turned Out” by The Whispers (1978)
Music & lyrics by Malcolm Anthony
Though I don’t celebrate like I used to, I still look forward to Halloween. Long gone are the days of dressing up in costumes, trick-or-treating, and gorging on candy. Those activities no longer appeal to me. Instead I enjoy watching scary movies — but not just any scary movies. I prefer movies with a plot, character development, suspense, and no gratuitous violence and gore. Based on these standards, here are my ten favorite films to watch for Halloween in chronological order.
1. Psycho (1960)
2. Night of the Living Dead (1968)
3. The Exorcist (1973)
4. The Omen (1976)
5. Halloween (1978)
6. The Dead Zone (1983)
7. Aliens (1986)
8. A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987)
9. The Stand (1994)
10. 28 Days Later (2002)
Valentine’s Day – synonymous with love and romance – is celebrated with hearts, chocolates and flowers. When it comes to love and romance in movies, what makes a scene noteworthy? Is it the steamy physical connection, or is it the emotional baring of one’s soul? Is it fighting for love, or is it letting go? Is it being in the moment, or is it revisiting the past? Is it the promise of what’s to come, or is it mourning the one who got away? These memorable scenes represent all the above and more. Enjoy!
1. It Happened One Night (1934)
2. Carmen Jones (1954)
3. North by Northwest (1959)
4. The Way We Were (1973)
5. Coming to America (1988)
6. Mi Familia (1995)
7. Love & Basketball (2000)
8. Before Sunset (2004)
9. Silver Linings Playbook (2012)
10. The Best Man Holiday (2013)
“She gave him sex and he gave her class.” – Katharine Hepburn
Ironically, many of my favorite movies were produced during the 1930s, 1940s and early 1950s when moral restrictions were strongly regulated and enforced by the Motion Picture Production Code of 1930 (“Hays Code”). Its guidelines addressed violence, nudity, profanity and sex. By the late 1950s, the Hays Code’s influence on the film industry was greatly reduced due to anti-trust rulings and competition from television and foreign films. The Hays Code was eventually replaced by the current MPAA film rating system in 1968.
Sometimes I miss the Hays Code and the inventiveness it inspired. Top Hat exemplifies the creative and subtle qualities that are often lacking in today’s more explicit films. Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers effectively convey romance and passion in “Cheek to Cheek” – the film’s classic centerpiece – without removing any clothes or sharing a kiss. Watch Fred and Ginger elegantly dance through the stages of seduction from courtship to afterglow. Cigarette, anyone?
During these final days of the 2012 election campaign season, I am revisiting some of my favorite politically themed movies. They span over six decades and explore political issues that continue to resonate, such as moral character and special interests. These films offer both entertainment and food for thought regarding America’s governmental process.
1. All the King’s Men (1949)
The story of Willie Stark’s (Broderick Crawford) gubernatorial rise and fall raises the following questions: Can an honest, principled person succeed in politics? Or does the political system attract those who are corruptible?
2. The Manchurian Candidate (1962)
During the Korean War, Bennett Marco (Frank Sinatra), Raymond Shaw (Laurence Harvey) and their captured platoon were brainwashed by Communists seeking to take over the United States. The tendencies to fear and demonize the other continue today. What distinguishes justified concerns from paranoia? The distinction becomes even blurrier when those making the most forceful accusations are the very ones to be wary of.
3. The Best Man (1964)
As William Russell (Henry Fonda) and Joe Cantwell (Cliff Robertson) vie for their party’s presidential nomination, charges of infidelity, mental illness and homosexuality emerge. Though this film is outdated in its portrayal of how nominees are selected at conventions, the manipulation of public image and perception is still very relevant. Does the current electoral process make it more or less likely that the best man or woman is chosen?
4. Seven Days in May (1964)
Air Force General James Mattoon Scott (Burt Lancaster) plots a coup d’état after U.S. President Jordan Lyman (Frederic March) signs a nuclear disarmament treaty with the Soviet Union. Should there ever be an appropriate occasion to suspend constitutional rights for the good of the country, or does the desire to do so reveal a perverted sense of patriotism?
5. The Candidate (1972)
Bill McKay (Robert Redford) runs for what appears to be an unwinnable seat in the U.S. Senate. McKay’s ideals are manipulated as he adjusts his message to win more votes. How honest are candidates with the public and themselves when campaigning? How far should they be willing to go in order to win?
6. The Man (1972)
Through a series of unforeseen events, Douglass Dilman (James Earl Jones) becomes America’s first black president and encounters unprecedented resistance. Forty years later fantasy meets reality as President Obama faces similar challenges regarding his citizenship, qualifications and legitimacy.
7. Being There (1979)
Chance (Peter Sellers), a simple-minded gardener, rises to national prominence based on misperceptions. His good fortune is reminiscent of reality television “stars” who achieve undeserved celebrity status through the exploitation of their dysfunctional behavior.
8. The Dead Zone (1983)
The Dead Zone is the best film adaptation of a Stephen King novel, and it may seem out of place on this list at first glance. Johnny (Christopher Walken) awakens from a coma with psychic powers. He meets Greg Stillson (Martin Sheen), a charismatic candidate for the U.S. Senate, and foresees an ominous future. How much do we really know regarding the true motives of political candidates?
9. JFK (1991)
Jim Garrison (Kevin Costner) loses his political innocence while searching for the truth behind President Kennedy’s assassination. How many of us have similarly transitioned from blind trust to healthy skepticism regarding our government and other matters?
10. Primary Colors (1998)
Henry Burton’s (Adrian Lester) political idealism is thoroughly tested when he joins the presidential campaign of Jack Stanton (John Travolta). Should past and/or present indiscretions be held against political candidates? Can a morally flawed person be an effective office-bearer?
What are your favorite political films?