Tuesday, September 7, 2010

In Which I Ramble on About Nothing in Particular

A few days ago, a friend of mine changed her MSN display picture to a photo of Grace Kelly. That was a good day. So I'm off on a little Grace Kelly kick, which has some how turned into a Catherine Deneuve kick, which has in turn convinced me they both have very similar noses. I don't know what to say about this fascinating discovery. Have a few pictures:

Putting aside the self-esteem aspects of the issue, I like it when people in the entertainment industry look perfect. Yes, I know that model's been airbrushed and she doesn't look that way in real life, I know they all have hairdressers and makeup artists working on them, I know a lot of it is unattainable for the average person...but that's why it's nice. "I don't want realism! I want magic!" I agree with that. Escapism is fascinating and alluring. That is one of the reasons old Hollywood has such appeal, because it certainly isn't real to us now, and it was perhaps even less real to people growing up in the Great Depression.

SPEAKING of escapism, it is part of Lady Gaga's philosophy to be escapist in the sense that she is always a star and would die before letting her fans see her without high heels. Actually, I'm a pretty big Lady Gaga fan, but the contrast between this form of escapism and classic film escapism is too striking not to be noted. The main difference is that Lady Gaga's world is not really one I'd like to escape to. From, maybe. As I've said, I really like her and all, but would you want to take up residence in one of her music videos? Alejandro, for example? Or no, Bad Romance, then we can burn people! And not wear clothes! Just the same, I admire her studio system-esque devotion to image. And her ability to totter around in six inch heels.
"Live your eyeliner, breathe your lipstick, and kill for each other."
"We are nothing without our image."
What do you think?

Movies, I think, have changed a lot. They have this peculiar brand of realism that is completely unrealistic, but not in a fun, "Oh please who wears an evening dress to do the gardening" way. I saw Inception recently. I liked it, but...things have changed a lot.

  • Action scenes these days are very fast and full of shots of people's feet. Yes, it feels action-packed, but it is also impossible to make out what is going on. This is an example of un-fun realism.

  • Movies these days are a lot less boring than they once were. Yes, I admit to being bored by second-rate classic films. Second-rate modern films are more "God this is so stupid" affairs. At least with today's movies, even if you have no clue what is happening and have to watch a film three times to get it (Inception! I didn't watch it three times, but I never said I got it either), you probably won't be bored.

  • The jokes. A lot of times I watch an old film billed as a comedy and think, "It was cute but it sure wasn't funny." Today I see comedies that are funnier...but the plots! This is unrealistic Hollywood at its best, or worst, or whatever.
Blogging friends, I really have no idea how to title this post. My mind has not been in order recently, because my sleep schedule...well, if you switched AM and PM, I might be doing okay. It's Ramadhan right now, and in the Arab world, that means "let's stay up all night and eat!" You think it's difficult to go from sunrise to sunset without food or water? Not if you're asleep it isn't. And night has turned into and MSN/Facebook fest full of jokes about devil worship and this persistent friend of mine who's trying to warp my taste in music. I am now a Britney Spears fan. He hasn't been so lucky with Madonna though.

Finish off with a few pictures:
(Anyone think Jean looks like a blonde Lucille Ball here?)

(We may be married, but yes, you have my permission to fall in love with that.)

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Gospel According to Coco Chanel

I picked up this fabulous little book at a used bookstore after having kept my eye on it online for...a year, maybe? I'm cheap. I gave in and bought it because I finally found a place where it was less than ten dollars. However, I do not recommend you do the same thing, because it's an awesome book and anyone interested in Chanel or female-oriented self-improvement books would like it. There are a lot of similar books I've read...and it's beyond me how or why I bothered finishing How to be a Hepburn in a Hilton World, or why the author felt the need to inflict it on the planet. The nice thing about The Gospel is that it's detailed. It has depth. There are entertaining examples and it isn't glorified commonsense. It also doesn't attempt to paint Chanel as a goddess who should always be emulated. At least, I certainly hope it hasn't had that effect on other people. While reading it, my reactions to the "Chanellore" went something like this: How smart! How creative! How funny! After I finished, I thought of acting like Chanel in my own life, and a new reaction hit me: How manipulative. How utterly, utterly manipulative. And it's fascinating! Of course, you could act like Chanel, erm, honestly, and not be manipulating anyone, but most of the time I would not include "honest" in the same sentence with her. That is part of her charm. I admire people who have the self confidence to be bad. I do something bad, I think the world would consider me a substandard human being if it only knew, and dear God, it'd better not find out! I'm a wimp and Chanel certainly was not.

Now for the criticism. Maybe it's because I rushed through the book, but I thought the organization was odd. And the author (Karen Karbo) includes a lengthy personal narrative about her quest for a Chanel jacket and her eventual compromise. It isn't interesting. In the end, it's a nice example of incorporating Chanel's spirit into your life, but until then, it seems pointless and self-absorbed. More examples would have been good as well. Relatively, The Gospel has depth, but it's only so-so; it's just that there are so many other books that verge on God-awful in the depth department that it seems unique that the author should show evidence of having thought about the subject of her book. Also, there are some chapters that do nothing more than convince me not to act like Chanel. Not that these chapters do not contain insights, I just feel they belong more to the author than Chanel. In the end, I wouldn't want to be much like Chanel, but there are some things that can be learned from her life.

It's commendable that the author is not afraid of expressing her opinion as well. I hate political correctness, and it is refreshingly absent here. I didn't appreciate her jab about Victoria Beckham, but the nice thing about The Gospel is you don't feel you must agree with it.

Rating: 8.5/10

Thursday, July 1, 2010

A Bathing Suit

I would wear that. Okay, I would wear that if other people were wearing that, which is not quite the same thing. But hey, these days it would make a cute dress.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

It's Summer

Yeah, it's summertime. That means a lot of things...like boredom. Boredom means making a list of things summer means.
  1. 127 degree heat where I live. I am now prepared to face hell.
  2. Getting addicted to Facebook. (Well, honestly I was addicted long before summer...I've just gotten worse.)
  3. Wearing a hat and feeling awesome.
  4. Wearing a bathing suit and feeling embarrassed.
  5. Wishful and usually unfulfilled dreams of going back to school ten pounds lighter and ten times prettier.
  6. Staying up till two in the morning and justifying it by saying it will keep you from being jet-lagged when you travel.
  7. Being so unused to getting up before noon you become convinced your alarm clock is not playing music but is in fact yelling insults at you when it rings at eight AM.
  8. Missing special people. :(
What does summer mean to YOU?

P.S. About the future of the blog...I'm still not sure. I'm taking you guys' suggestions to heart, but I'm thinking I want to change the subject of the blog because my own interests have changed. Of course I still love old movies, but it's just not the same. The problem is, said interests haven't changed to anything else yet that is blog-able or related to the title. I think I can promise you I'm not going to abandon Bygone Brilliance, but I can offer no guarantees as to what it will turn into. I would ask your advice again, but I can't. I mean, I could ask you, "Tell me, what am I interested in?" but I would be seriously creeped out if you could answer.

Sunday, June 20, 2010


I am afraid this blog has a bad case of Refocus or Die. I don't really want to stop blogging, but if I do not come up with some way to freshen up Bygone Brilliance, I will. I don't see the point in keeping a blog if I'm going to write one sad little post every two months when the guilt gets to me. I guess I'm the type of person who likes change, so I'm asking you people out there for some suggestions. Do you have any ideas for how I can slightly change the topic of Bygone Brilliance or the format or just something? I'll be very appreciative of anything you have to say. If I didn't have any followers, I would stop blogging without giving it a second thought. <3 Thank you for just existing.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

East of Eden: Movie, Book, and Legends of the Fall

A couple years ago, I saw East of Eden on the airplane and fell madly in love with both it and James Dean. It is possible that I fell in love with the movie because James Dean was in it. I'm not sure. Anyway, I was convinced it was the most perfect movie I had ever seen, absolutely faultless, and oh, why couldn't I give Cal Trask a hug, the poor unloved thing? I guess it is difficult for a movie to live up to a first impression like that. It is true that with each subsequent viewing, I like it less. It has many good points: the acting is brilliant, the cinematography is beautiful, the soundtrack lends a lot of atmosphere to the film, and it is wonderfully dramatic. The last thirty minutes have me glued to my seat and on the verge of tears.

However, it also has some faults, faults I was blind to as a thirteen year old. First of all, everything except the last thirty minutes is kind of dull once you know what happens. Second of all, Julie Harris and James Dean don't have such good chemistry. Third, the plot is completely messed up, especially after you read the book.

*Spoilers Ahead*

The whole point of the movie is that Cal Trask is really not such a bad guy and his brother Aron is just as bad in his own way, or at least, not much better. By the end, you are supposed to realize that Aron is a jealous boy who wants to believe his brother is a bad person, regardless of whether he is or not. The problem is, Aron's jealousy begins to surface once he has every reason to be jealous. Cal Trask steals Aron's girlfriend, Aron knows something is going on, and he's not supposed to be jealous?? Aron doesn't start acting particularly jealous until after Cal and Abra kiss on the ferris wheel. At their father's birthday party, Aron is sulking in the background, watching Abra pay far more attention to Cal than the boy she claims to be in love with. Really, there is nothing abnormal or mean-spirited about that. Most of us would act far worse.

Of course, that does not change the fact that when we watch this movie, we sympathize with Cal and dislike Aron. Poor Cal, in love with his brother's girl, nasty Aron, who gets everything he doesn't deserve. And then that horrible Aron has the nerve to call Cal "mean" and "vicious" right after the birthday party! Well, if you were in Aron's shoes, Cal would seem mean and vicious. And wartime profiteering is not exactly a morally upright thing to do. I feel that the point of this movie is not so much that you "can't always tell who's good and who's bad" but that different people seem good and bad from different points of view. Cal isn't any better than Aron and Aron isn't really any better than Cal. We just react to this movie the way we do because it is told from Cal's point of view and, well, James Dean is kinda sorta adorable. Now, in that light, think about the ending. It isn't exactly fair, now is it? The ending is my favorite part, I love it beyond words, I wouldn't change it for anything...but no, it isn't fair.

If you read the book, you will discover that the movie doesn't do justice to it. However, I felt that the part of the book the movie did cover was done better than it was in the book. In the book, it feels anti-climactic. In the movie, several events happen right after each other that take place over the duration of maybe a year in the book. But, the book has no Cal-Abra romance, the motivations are more understandable, it is far more interesting, and the moral ideas are less black and white. Faaaar less black and white. It's kind of disillusioning, how sleazy some of the best characters are. There are a few things they changed for the movie that perhaps didn't work so well. First of all, Abra is a whole lot prettier in the book. Since she's just an average, okay-looking girl in the movie, it suggests that Cal might have fallen in love with anybody that belonged to his brother. (So suggested my sister, the cynic.) Second of all, Kate is completely evil in the book. I don't think she has one redeeming quality, and boy, is it better that way! The movie Kate is just a bit too "whore with a heart of gold," and that is a pretty shallow stereotype in comparison to the psychopath the book's Kate is.

One of the first things my sister noticed when I showed her this movie is how similar it is to Legends of the Fall. I saw LOTF recently myself and the similarities are astonishing. I don't understand how it could be just coincidental, but the messages of each film are so different I don't see why LOTF would need to borrow from EOE. Some examples:

  1. Both stories involve rivalries between brothers, particulary between two brothers, one of which is "wild" and the other is rule-abiding.
  2. These brothers compete for the fiancee of one of the brothers.
  3. The mother is out of the picture, having left the ranch long ago.
  4. The time periods are roughly the same.
  5. The brother engaged to the girl everybody wants dies in WWI.
  6.  The father has a stroke and loses a lot of money.
  7. The wild brother says he will earn back the money his father lost.
  8. There is a man working with each family of a different race. (This is only in the book.)
  9. The naughty brothers both move their eyebrows the same way. :)
  10. Both movies have awesome soundtracks

Perhaps not the most shocking list, but watch the two movies in days of each other and see what you think.

East of Eden (Film): 9/10
Book: 9.8/10 :)
LOTF: Maybe 8/10