In a recently-posted piece called “Grainstorm, My Ass,” Some Came Running‘s Glenn Kenny says my 6.4 complaint about the extra-vivid grain in the new Dr. Strangelove Bluray is “all wet” and that I “need to recalibrate my monitor,” etc. His basic point is that director Stanley Kubrick was always a grain freak and that Strangelove is supposed to look as if a swarm of monochrome Egyptian mosquitoes are flying around the heads of Peter Sellers, George C. Scott Sterling Hayden, etc.
The problem is that he’s ignored a paragraph that precisely explains what I meant. I said it isn’t that the presence of Strangelove grain that bothers me per se but the way it seems much more pronounced than on any previous home video rendering.
“I understand and respect the fact that Dr. Strangelove (’64) was always intended to look somewhat grainy” I said. “I realize that the inside-the-B-52 scenes used source lighting and that the combat footage outside Burpleson Air Force base was supposed to resemble newsreel footage, and these conditions were meant to result in stark and unprettified images. Which is fine.
“But I’ve been watching this film for decades and the Bluray version is easily the grainiest rendering yet. The grain isn’t just noticable — it’s looks much more explicit.”
This DVD Beaver comparison of the various Strangelove versions make it clear the Bluray rendering is brighter and sharper and thus more grain-vivid. My point is therefore proved — just look at the differences. Glenn Kenny and other detractors have therefore been proved wrong. Case closed.
As I explained in my just-posted reasons to be pretty review, the plot of Neil LaBute‘s play is triggered by an overheard ill-chosen remark by factory-worker Greg (Thomas Sadoski) that the face of his live-in girlfriend Steph (Marin Ireland) is “normal,” which she finds so devastating that she leaves him. He tells her that he meant “normal” as a compliment but it it doesn’t fly.
To describe a woman you care for as “normal” obviously means you don’t see her as drop-dead attractive. It means that you see her face as fine, good enough, pleasant, half-there. Most of us think of “normal” as one step up from homely — obviously a hurtful thing to say about anyone. (I would never use the term”ugly” to describe anyone outside of sufferers of elephant-man disease, and even then I wouldn’t use it.) But if you substitute “normal” for a letter grade of B-plus, B, B-minus or C-plus, you could almost see “normal” as a kind of compliment.
Let’s consider two well-known quotes to start things off. Albert Brooks‘ character voiced the first in Broadcast News: “Always choose a woman who’s just hot enough to turn you on.” He could have continued by saying, “Reach a little bit higher than that and you’re flirting with trouble. Go much higher than that and you’re flat-out asking for it.” The other quote is from a famous early ’60s Jimmy Soul tune that goes “if you want to be happy for the rest of your life, don’t make a pretty woman your wife.”
Life has taught most of us that the best women to be with in a relationship are B-plusses, Bs, B-minuses and C-plusses. I’m not saying you can’t be perfectly happy with a triple-A or a double-A — I’m saying that happiness odds increase when you drop down into the B and high-C categories. Every now and then you’ll get lucky and meet a lovely, spiritually attractive, good-for-the-soul A-minus woman, but the odds don’t favor it.
That’s because A-category women — especially the model-pretty, drop-dead glammies (be they rail thin or breathtakingly curvy and buxom) whom I categorize as triple-As and double-As — are often trouble and not worth the long-run grief. Because they know it’s not that hard to find a replacement at a drop of a hat and are therefore a bit more adjusted to the idea of trading up if push comes to shove. They’ll almost never admit this (even to themselves), but this is often how things work.
This is why describing a woman as a B or a high-C is a compliment — because you’re saying in effect that she’s probably got good internal qualities as well as looks. You’re saying that she’s probably a good person inside, good all around the track, keeper material, etc.
Thank God for life’s exceptions (my last serious relationship was with a solid A and she was fine all around for the most part) but many A-category women (with the exception of A-minus types) are a handful — often with very pricey material expectations and wanting things to be as good as what they got from their well-to-do dads if not better, aware that they can trade up fairly easily if the mood strikes, often looking around for a better deal if there are any troublesome issues with their current beau (and what relationships don’t have issues?), or at least exhibiting a tendency to re-assess and renegotiate with much greater frequency than B or C-plus women.
This may sound overly pat but A types tend to be less solid due to the fact that men (starting with their fathers, grandfathers and uncles) have been making a big fuss over them all their lives — catering to them, paying their way, putting them on a pedestal, constantly flattering, quick to offer gifts and concessions and accommodations — and life has simply never encouraged them to develop that much internally. They’ve all been taught that all they need to do is look around and send certain signals and guys all around them will drop to their knees and start panting like dogs.
Life would be heavenly and rhapsodic if women had the personality and temperament of dogs — forever loyal, non-judgmental, constantly affectionate. But that’s a loser’s dream.
B- and C-level women have tasted a little rejection and have come to understand that love and relationships are a two-way street and that it’s not all about them and their whims or whatever. People only develop emotionally and spiritually when they’ve been forced to, and a certain working familiarity with rejection among women or men obviously tends to encourage this. Knowing that others are more attractive than yourself means you have to work harder and develop the internals in order to compete.
Obviously average- or funny-looking guys luck out now and then (as Marty Ingels did with Shirley Jones as well as that French horse-face guy who hooked up with Racquel Welch in the ’70s) but the only way I’d even consider trying to launch a relationship with a solid A, double-A or triple-A would be if they’re 45-plus. That’s because age tends to take everyone down a peg or two by meat-market standards — they suddenly realize they’re not the package they once were and that younger women are more tantalizing to the most stable providers and that encourages them to develop themselves within and reassess the game and be a tad more accommodating.
By this standard women who are Cs should be even better (sweeter, kinder, fairer-minded, more spiritually resourceful, more turn-the-other-cheek) than Bs, and that C-minuses and Ds would be better still and so on. My closest female friends tend to be from the C and D crowd. I’ve noticed however, that if women are too far down into C- and D-hood they sometimes develop scars and hang-ups and complications in the other direction. I don’t have much experience with Cs and Ds in a romantic vein so I shouldn’t say more than this. All my life I’ve been with (or have pursued) Bs and B-plusses and the occasional A-minus. I’ve avoided As like the plague and I don’t even try to talk to double-As or triple-As at parties.
I had a brief chat with Angelina Jolie not too long ago and I couldn’t really relax or be myself. She’s a nice person but those lips, those eyes…the whole thing. I was flustered, quietly stammering, trying too hard. I tried to calm down and play it cool and easy, but I’m so used to not even speaking to women of her calibre that I couldn’t escape a slight inner trembling.
I didn’t want to get this far into it. I’m just saying that calling a woman a B-type can be, in a manner of speaking, a kind of compliment. Let’s leave it at that.
“To me, David Carradine was the apogee of hipness: not my favorite actor, not even in the top 50, but my existential hero, and a man who looked like he got laid a lot — a sort of B-movie Jack Nicholson. His vaguely Asian physiognomy made him suited to kung-fu and Zen masters, and his acting had that same alert detachment. You rarely got the sense that his roles cost him emotionally: Unlike his brother, Keith, who has been known to take risks, David had an inviolable sphere of privacy. But he never condescended to his material, even when it was risible, and his amusement was contagious.” — from a eulogy piece by New York‘s David Edelstein, called “Ode to an Existential Hero.”
At the urging of Santa Barbara Film Festival Roger Durling, I went last night to Neil LaBute‘s reasons to be pretty. A fiercely written and brilliantly acted (especially by costars Marin Ireland and Thomas Sadoski) twentysomething relationship drama, it’s the most emotionally affecting and — curiously out-of-character as this sounds — compassionate LaBute work ever. It’s surely the most satisfying live experience I’ve had in this town since God of Carnage, and the wisest $111 I’ve spent in a long , long time.
But brush away descriptions of reasons to be pretty (the lower case is mandated the play’s marketers) as a blistering examination of why male-sourced affirmations of conventional attractiveness are seen as vital by their female partners. For this is a bracing dive into wrenching emotional waters and a full-on dunk into 21st Century relationships among GenX/GenY clock punchers.
The four-character play is primarily a growing-up saga as experienced by Sadoski’s Greg — a morally aware and likably literate guy working a dead-end factory job and living with Steph (Ireland), his girlfriend of four years. Greg’s coworker and confidante is Kent (Steven Pasquale), a bright but loutish stud-muscle type married to Carly (Piper Perabo), who works as a security guard at the factory.
The story is triggered by a remark Greg has made to Kent (overheard and reported to Steph by Carly) that he considers Steph’s face to be “normal,” which means, of course, well short of hot, pretty, fetching, foxy, etc. He tells Steph in the play’s opening argument — a corker — that he meant this as a compliment, which she rejects out of hand. To her (and to most women out there, I presume) “normal” is a primal and devastating slap to the soul, and she’s so enraged that she leaves him hours later. [More on this in a piece called “Just Hot Enough.”]
The meat of the play is about how this loss shocks Greg and causes him to start listening to himself and his friends more carefully, and where this process finally takes him.
Sadoski, Ireland, Perabo, Pasquale.
The final scene between Greg and Steph is one of the saddest and most moving what-might-have-been exchanges I’ve ever witnessed in any context. Not in a play or a film — in my life, I mean. Sadoski and Ireland are flat-out devastating. This is what world-class relationship dramas do, I told myself as I watched. It’s not that movies don’t deliver dialogue and acting of this calibre — they don’t even seem to try. Most of the time they don’t even step into the batter’s box.
I’d like to see reasons to be pretty again soon and take Jett with me, but I’d better move quickly, I gather. Durling and other sources are reporting that ticket sales have been slow all along, and that without a Tony win on Sunday night — it’s been nominated for best play and best lead male performance in a play (i.e., Sadoski) — it may close soon after. Unfortunately a 6.5 pulse-taking piece by N.Y. Times reporter Patrick Healy suggests that it won’t win on either count. Life is unfair and then some.