I like Scandal (2012-present) because I can’t think of a better way than giving my brain a luscious sugary treat than sitting down to watch Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington) do anything whatsoever. My only complaint: I just don’t find President Grant (Tony Goldwyn) attractive. And after two years of mulling over the problem, I’ve decided that it’s because his eyebrows aren’t thick enough.


That’s right. Of all the inane, random things to write about, I’m writing about men’s eyebrows. (And it’s not just Fitz. The whole show is littered with men with light eyebrows!)

So, at the risk of embarrassing myself further, let me offer a visual history of thick brows that have titillated me throughout my personal life (in rough chronological order as I discovered them):





Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch

Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch

Alan Bates, in case you don't recognize him

Alan Bates, in case you don’t recognize him


George Clooney from the ER days



Ahh. That feels better. Back to more serious feminist work soon, I promise.


I’m pretty sure this was taken on the set of Whatever Happened to Baby Jane (1962) — portraying two veteran actors often described as bitter rivals. Maybe that’s true. Maybe it’s just a cliché that two successful women, fading stars in their 50s, must be prone to catfights.

You know what? I don’t care about that rivalry stuff. There’s something so perfect about this image, crystallizing as it does a moment between two women with long careers as revered actors — professional women laughing together over drinks, cigarettes, and some forgotten joke. This is the laughing of two independent women (Bette had divorced husband #4 a couple of years earlier, while Joan’s husband #4 had died just a little earlier than that). This is the laughing of women who are in on the same joke. Don’t you wish you knew what it was?

Oh, if only I had a director’s chair with my name on it, written in just this font. Perched right next to another broad’s matching chair for drinking and laughing.

Don’t you wish this was your best friend? That slight smirk, which revealed maybe a little self-deprecation in with its pragmatism. I can’t see this face without seeing the woman in Rosemary’s Baby and Harold and Maude — because, you know, sometimes a face is perfect all the way from youth to seniority. Ruth, R.I.P.

Maybe you remember this song from West Side Story (1961) as being dated, and perhaps a fantasy of primitivism: Anita (Rita Moreno) fantasizing about Cadillacs in America while reminding her boyfriend/ dance partner Bernardo (George Chakiris) that the “natives” back home in Puerto Rico were perpetually unemployed and pregnant.

But watch it again and tell me if it isn’t an improvement on our own debate 50 years later. This song remains a slap in the face to the American dream, and also a paean to it. More important, watch the dynamism between the dancing, the camerawork, and the ultimate seriousness of the debate amongst these young Latinos. This sequence fundamentally subverts the occasional ick of the lyrics, pushing Latino voices to the forefront and allowing them to debate amongst themselves the pros and cons of being brown in America.

And holy crap, the dancing. It’s exhilarating.

Charlotte Rampling was breathtakingly beautiful as a young woman. She is now 66, still gorgeous, and vexingly still wears same dress size, still appears in bathing suits on screen. Angelina Maccarone’s documentary explores a woman who has let us look at her onscreen for nearly 50 years.

She has never made it easy, specializing in difficult, hard characters with complicated motives. The bitch in Georgy Girl (1966), the wife who falls in love with a chimpanzee in Max (1986), or — most infamously — the concentration camp survivor who carries on a strange relationship with a Nazi guard in The Night Porter (1974); all these parts made her inscrutable, kept us from liking her. Famously, her co-star Dirk Bogarde called it “The Look”: those distinctive, hooded eyes that achieve so much without giving much away. As she’s grown older and her face acquired more character, she has acquired a capacity to convey not just disdain but a degree of self-loathing so all-encompassing that it chills.

What we see of Rampling onscreen is a mystery of minimalist emotion that nevertheless somehow smacks you in the face. About her role in the new film, The Eye of the Storm (2012), David Denby writes, “Speaking in not much more than a whisper, [Rampling] is magnetically evil, with occasional flashes of a complex sensibility and poetic invention — often just a flutter of her eyes or a strategic turn of her head.” How does she do that?


In Charlotte Rampling: The Look she explains that early on she learned she was exceptionally photogenic; yet she had to learn how to survive the constant appearance of the camera before her. “Exposure is huge,” she explains. “You have to find a way not to feel invaded all the time, by lenses, by people looking all the time. If you are to give anything worthwhile of yourself, you have to feel completely exposed.”

Perversely, Maccarone’s documentary begs you to read in between the lines. It does not seek exposure but something more allusive, abstract — the passing of time, the inevitability of change. She shows Rampling in conversation with old friends and collaborators, conversations that allow Maccarone to trace those earlier appearances on screen and in photographs. At times, Rampling even revisits old sets like a staircase she rambled down in Georgy Girl or a room where she danced, bare breasted, to a Marlene Dietrich tune in The Night Porter.


Maccarone never asks how Rampling feels about her sister’s suicide back in the 60s, nor about her relationships with men, nor whether she is close to her children. In avoiding those gossipy realms so stereotypical of “women’s lives” as produced by Hollywood, the director clearly wants to make a point about respecting the actor’s craft, her career. This is a film about Rampling’s achievements, one of which is the flowering of her ability to play ambivalent, morally questionable, and occasionally impossible characters like Sarah Morton, above, in François Ozon’s terrific Swimming Pool (2003).

And yet I completed the documentary still feeling that the director hadn’t done justice to Rampling’s skills; I think I wanted a more explicit directorial hand in showing us, as Denby did in that great quote above, what Rampling can do with her face. But Maccarone stays out of it, allowing us to arrive at our own conclusions. Perhaps rather than see this documentary one ought to see Under the Sand (2000) or even her small, despicable part in Melancholia (2011) instead. And yet for the unadulterated pleasure of seeing La Rampling, well, it’s streaming on Netflix.

Alert reader and fellow Space Bitch JE is keeping me on track with my Mini-Marathon of Cult Horror Films about Female Monsters — at least insofar as she sends me the best YouTube snippets ever. Witness this classic Mexican film from the prolific El Santo franchise. In this one, a professor recruits the heroic wrestler El Santo (“The Saint”) to protect the professor’s daughter from being kidnapped by evil female vampires who intend to marry the innocent girl to the Devil.

But why am I telling you the plot? If we’ve learned anything from these Cult Films About Female Monsters, it’s that the storylines are the flimsy bits that get us ricocheting between sexy wackiness and scary titillation. To wit, this scene in which las mujeres vampiro demonstrate how to take a nasty, crackle-skinned vampiro and transform her into a 1960s sexpot:

And if that’s not enough to get you leapfrogging through the full-length film (available in chapters on YouTube), here’s a handmade trailer for it made by a diehard fan:

Some might say, “I watch this and feel brain cells dying in my head.” But I say, this film is extra-appealing because of the sequel, Santo en la venganza de las mujeres vampiro (1970; no translation necessary, right?). And did I mention Santo en la casa de las brujas (1964, or El Santo in the Witches’ House)? That’s what I’m talking about.

I saw this brief, remarkable art piece — Christian Marclay’s short film Telephones — in a museum exhibit not long after its creation in 1995. It stuck in my head for years afterward, making me all the more excited to find it again on YouTube.

No one has ever made it so clear how the technology of telephones — and the spaces of telephones — work to forward the drama of films. And how different (disappointing/ difficult) everything became when computers became the technology that might advance the story. Oh, telephones.

Just think what Marclay will do with his new film, The Clock (2010), a 24-hour long art piece/computer program calibrated to coincide with the actual time at which the viewer watches it. There’s a terrific article about this in a recent issue of The New Yorker. I can hardly wait.

Space Bitchez talk back

20 April 2012

“I keep wondering what she’s thinking,” says Paul (Dennis Hopper), one of the astronauts who has discovered the strange green-skinned being from another planet in Queen of Blood (1966). Paul gazes into her green face, which is transfixed with an otherworldly, sphinxlike smile. Needless to say, Paul will not last much longer.

Paul (Dennis Hopper) is riveted by the silent, smiling Queen of Blood ... for a while

Oh, you foolish human mortals. In offering you this letter, we break our most sacred vow, which is to prevent you from learning of our existence. Whenever we watch one of your Hollywood films and someone says, “The universe is so vast that there must be more intelligent life out there,” everyone on our planet laughs hilariously. In fact, this line is a part of many movie-oriented drinking games on our planet. We find it delightful that you people are always congratulating yourselves on your “intelligence” yet can’t figure out that so many of us are hiding from you.

Despite our eagerness to remain hidden from you, we have recently caught up on one of your more bizarre film sub-genres and find ourselves unusually eager to set the record straight. Although these cheesy horror films about female monsters have spawned new and riotous drinking games, we would like to hope that our news might spur new advances in thinking among your kind.

The Queen of Blood gazes hungrily on the human males who may or may not become her next victims

Here’s the thing: films like Queen of Blood (1966), Devil Girl from Mars (1954), Queen of Outer Space (1958), and Cat-Women of the Moon (1953) each seem to believe that all us fine interstellar women are solely interested in rounding up some human men to eat and/or use as breeding stock. Let us offer a few comments.

First there are the plot elements that transform us into Space Bitchez to titillate human men. Honestly. As you read these, tell me whether you can actually begin to hear yourselves when you write this horseshit.

  • Space Bitchez come from a planet where gender relations have gone terribly wrong when the women took over.
  • Space Bitchez always have strange hypnotic powers over human males.
  • Sometimes Space Bitchez also have hypnotic powers over human females, whom they manipulate to get at the human males.
  • Space Bitchez always wear tight cat suits/ leather/ sexy flowing gowns. In Queen of Outer Space, Zsa Zsa Gabor insists on wearing slits up the side of every single one of her dresses, which makes us want to hurt someone.

There is no relationship whatsoever between Zsa Zsa's dresses and her half-witted decision to fall in love with one of these idiotic human males in Queen of Outer Space.

  • Space Bitchez utilize a sexy, compelling dance number to seduce the males.
  • Space Bitchez have all manner of advanced technology – space ships, Death Rays, lasers to shoot other people’s ships out of the sky – but can apparently come up with no substitute for human males.
  • At least a few of the Space Bitchez are susceptible to falling in love with one or two of the human males. (The rules of our planet’s drinking game demand that you drink twice upon witnessing this plot element.)
  • Despite the superiority of the Space Bitchez, the majority of human males always manage to escape unharmed in the end in their tar-paper rocket ships.

Ugh. It’s exhausting. Where does one even begin? It makes me want to fondle my Death Ray Laser Gun, which has a hair-trigger mechanism….

Human males overcome these badass Space Bitchez who serve the Queen of Outer Space in yet another highly unrealistic human male fantasy of superiority and desirability.

Let’s start with the fantasy that awesome women from space need or even want human males. Aside from the question of whether you could be any more obvious in your fantasy life, let’s just note that human men are almost as pathetic as lovers as they are as scientists. Possessing our superior intelligences means never having to say the words, “If only I had a human male to impregnate me/ find me attractive.” I can’t tell you the number of jokes we have about how many men it takes to stimulate a Space Bitch’s erogenous zone – needless to say, these jokes are hilarious.

Zsa Zsa leads the human males and then, inexplicably, pretends to let THEM save HER

Just remember this scene from Queen of Blood, in which astronauts Alan and Laura discuss the mysterious deaths of two of their colleagues:

Allan:  He didn’t fall asleep — I’m convinced of that now! And I don’t think Paul did either. She does something — hypnosis — some strange mental power that we don’t have. I’ve sensed it from the beginning — it’s deadly.

Laura:  I’m really afraid now, for the first time.

Space Bitchez do a facepalm. Are you people serious?

The Cat Women of the Moon wear unitards, which in our opinion is a strange choice among Space Bitchez

You may wonder how we know so much about human males’ sex skills. Surprising numbers of them find ways of offering themselves up to us as willing slaves; they occasionally show up on our planets, stow away on our ships, or fake emergency distress calls to find us. No matter how badly we treat them, they won’t go away.

The Cat Women engage in their regularly-scheduled Sexy Dance for the benefit of their human male invaders

Can I be any more clear? We don’t need hypnosis, sexy outfits, a sexy Dance Of Death to win you over. Not only do we have terrific sex lives on our own, but we procreate effortlessly without you. Our political economies don’t require men to function smoothly. Dialogue like this from Devil Girl From Mars is so wrong on so many levels that all we can do is drink. Here, the evil, leather-clad Nyah has come to Earth to round up some men as breeding stock:

Oh Nyah, how do you sleep at night after appearing in Devil Girl From Mars? Was it the leather outfit?

Nyah: Many years ago, our women were similar to your today. Our emancipation took several hundred years and ended in a bitter, devastating war between the sexes. The last war we ever had. …After the war of the sexes women became the rulers of Mars, and now the male has fallen into a decline. The birthrate is falling tremendously. For despite our advanced science, we have still found no way of creating life.

Ellen: So you’ve come here for new blood.

Nyah: In a way.

Okay, okay – we get it. We know these films help make you human males feel better about your pathetic space skills and low levels of desirability by imagining that there are Space Sexpots out there who want your loins. We know these films helped to undergird the gender inequalities in your culture by demonizing powerful women as Space Bitchez.

Would a real Cat Woman of the Moon really allow herself to fall in love with some human dork named Kip or Laird? I think not.

But we can also see there are chinks in your argument – that a few of your human males and females are starting to take off your blinders. And so we conclude with one of your own poets, Billy Collins, who frames it all quite nicely – perhaps even better than we could have done ourselves. (Collins, you are always welcome to visit space.)

All you have to do is listen to the way a man
sometimes talks to his wife at a table of people
and notice how intent he is on making his point
even though her lower lip is beginning to quiver,
and you will know why the women in science
fiction movies who inhabit a planet of their own
are not pictured making a salad or reading a magazine
when the men from earth arrive in their rocket,

why they are always standing in a semicircle
with their arms folded, their bare legs set apart,
their breasts protected by hard metal disks.

–Billy Collins, “Man in Space,” 1995

This piece was jointly written with fellow Space Bitch JE, who watched a lot of movies with me and knew about Billy Collins (by heart).

Marathon announcement! Join me in watching some cult horror movies featuring female monsters!

If there’s one thing you might say about me, it’s that I enjoy cracking myself up. To me, I’m hilarious. Which is one of the reasons I had such a very good time last year hosting my own little mini-marathon of cult movies about female rockers — meaning I rented a bunch of cheesy movies, popped myself some popcorn, laughed my butt off, and then wrote posts discussing the relative feminism in each. Some of those films (not all) were just terrible (feminist or not), and I enjoyed every minute.

Naturally, I’ve been scouring BlogLand looking for fresh ideas for a second marathon, when JB’s terrific blog The Fantom Country suggested a vision quest in the form of this amazing title: Gill-Women of Venus, aka Voyage to the Planet of the Prehistoric Women (1968), which has possibly the lowest imdb.com rating I’ve ever seen (2.4/10). Here’s the capsule of the plot:

Astronauts landing on Venus encounter dangerous exotic creatures and almost meet some sexy Venusian women who like to sunbathe in hip-hugging skin-tight pants and seashell bras.

And yet it’s directed by Peter Bogdanovich, just a few years before The Last Picture Show!

Isn’t it interesting that most of the monsters out there in horror films are male? Now that’s a great opener for a conversation, if you ask me. Just imagine the possibilities, once I’ve set aside the need to find quality filmmaking. Plus, with a marathon focus like this one, I doubt seriously I’m going to uncover much feminism … yet just imagine what such storylines might say about male fears about women. I suspect we’re going to get very deep into the male psyche here — and we might well be laughing our butts off while we do so.

Plus, I’ve always wanted a good reason to see the 1950s classic, Attack of the 50-Foot Woman, which also looks terrible. I can hardly wait.

Sorry, the Alien franchise is out — those are objectively good films, and plus we’ve all seen them before. But I’m looking for recommendations.

A few rules: I’m really not interested in evil women; I want actual female monsters. Also, I do like a good vampire, but not for this marathon. I want Wasp Women, 50-Foot Women, Gill and/or Prehistoric Women, and so on. And I do love the idea of other people out there, watching terrible cult films with me while they eat their popcorn — so once I’ve finalized a few titles I’ll let you all know.

from Holiday Inn (1942)

My Facebook feed is full of people speaking optimistically about the new year, so I am driven to be perverse about it (it’s an election year, after all).

Which puts me in mind of a nice line from the BBC series Luther, spoken by the best character in the show: Alice (Ruth Wilson), the psychopathic serial killer. “People lie to themselves about three things: they view themselves in implausibly positive ways; they think they have far more control over their lives than they actually do; and they believe the future will be better than the evidence of the present can possibly justify.”

I do love a sardonic, serial-killing buzzkill. But don’t worry, friends: there’s a Masked Avenger here, too.

from The Gold Rush (1925)

New Year’s is so overdetermined. We’re trained to believe that we’ll kiss that special person at midnight (just like in When Harry Met Sally!); that singing Auld Lang Syne can only bring a sweet melancholy (what IS that song about, anyway?); that we don’t look stupid when we dance; that we’ll look gorgeous in our sequined gowns and black ties; that we’ll remember that night forever. That it will be a turning point toward happily ever after. If Wilson’s Alice were here to scour us with her cruel eyes, we’d feel much more acutely the folly of that wishful thinking.

from After the Thin Man (1936)

So instead I’m going to show you a few other images from Hollywood’s New Year’s Eve Past. For example, the party thrown by Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson) in her grand Sunset Boulevard (1950) mansion, intended to be a romantic event just for William Holden and herself. At least she had a great time, at least for a while.

A sweeter memory: Fran Kubelik (Shirley MacLaine) recovers from her suicide attempt and returns to C. C. Baxter’s (Jack Lemmon) miserable little place on New Year’s Eve in The Apartment (1960). “I love you, Miss Kubelik. Did you hear what I said? I absolutely adore you,” he says earnestly. “Shut up and deal,” she replies.

And finally, the sweetly anticlimactic conclusion of Radio Days (1987), when the Masked Avenger (Wallace Shawn), Sally White (Mia Farrow), and other radio stars file off the roof as the snow begins to fall. “Beware, evil doers, wherever you are!” the diminutive, funny-looking Avenger says to the world out there, as he shuffles downstairs.

That’s how I want to start this New Year: Beware, evil doers, wherever you are. (And that means you, GOP candidates.)