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Entries in kate winslet (3)

Monday
Dec052011

In Which We Are Having Champagne With You Fine People

Dolls

by DURGA CHEW-BOSE

Titanic
dir. James Cameron
194 minutes

James Cameron’s Titanic immediately prompts a series of awkward poses and bulky pomp: Rose’s half-cupped hand resting shyly on her forehead as Jack draws her naked, or the flimsy way in which she touches the brim of her boarding hat, or their kiss on the boat’s bow — gawky and oddly angled — or Jack and Rose’s post-coital embrace, his boyishly sweaty head resting on her maternal bosom. The entire film plays out like puberty — self-conscious and smug, as if clocking in future nostalgia, now.

And yet, we all watched it and we all remember it well. And for those didn’t and still haven’t, that reluctance, by some means, has joined the spectacle too.

Made for 200 million dollars, the story is of course quite simple. Wandering artist, Jack, spots engaged society girl, Rose. He’s told he cannot have her. Their meet-cute, so to speak, transpires during her failed suicide attempt off of the boat’s stern. As the ship sinks a few days later, and the two clutch its railings, Rose reminds Jack, “This is where we first met.”

Their friendship soon turns to courtship and Rose’s mother forbids her daughter to see him, reminding Rose of their family’s dire financial troubles as she tightly laces her corset. Rose defies. The ship hits the iceberg. Jack and Rose go down with it, and as they wait for the lifeboats to return, Jack asks Rose to promise him that she’ll survive, that she "won’t give up."

Plot aside, nothing provokes our nostalgia quite like images of what Leo and Kate looked like then. Despite some bad roles, they’ve both continued to rise and work with great directors, but something about their pairing as Jack Dawson and Rose Dewitt Bukater remains crystallized. They are the Prom King and Queen of 90s disaster movies; Ben and Liv a distant second.

DiCaprio used to be much smaller. He didn’t fill out his shirts and his head was not yet square. His jaw line was sharp and flanked the contour of his heart-shaped face. As Jack, when he’d bite into a roll of bread or gulp a glass of beer, or smile breathlessly at Rose, one could see it most in his jaw. His eyebrows were devilish and no matter what he was thinking, there was always a chance it wasn’t good, though almost certainly fun. He threatened charm and mischief, both — that’s what 90s heartthrobs did. A fortune of personality! Funny props in photo shoots! Rare flashes of teeth!

Like Annie Hall, Jack hails from Chippewa Falls. And like Annie Hall, the way he pronounced his hometown endowed him with a preparedness that outdid anyone else on the boat. We trust him from the very start: “You jump, I jump.” For all we know Chippewa Falls is the land of boy scouts and tomboys. La-di-da, la-di-da...

At the time, Kate was a relative unknown. I have a distinct memory of reading a mini-piece in Seventeen where Winslet was asked questions about her co-star. We weren’t yet interested in her. Un-American, she was the opposite of Claire Danes. Kate didn’t appear dreamy and dopey, or stare longingly out of windows or stand willowy against door thresholds. She was neither long-winded nor wary. She wasn’t another Winona or a tongue-tied sweetheart like Gwyneth. Her hair was not flat. She was not a 90s waif. She didn’t seem to harvest much angst.

So who exactly was Kate Winslet? On a 1998 cover of Rolling Stone she’s wearing an unbuttoned peacoat, lace bra, and pleated skirt. The whole thing looks cheerless and uncoordinated. But inside, Winslet seems happier: one shot sultry, the other one goofy and grungy with coastal messy hair and a white Lifesaver (get it?!) cased in her cushiony lips.

As Rose, Winslet looked incredible; especially so in the second half of the film, post-berg, ice cold. Most actresses (and women) do. Think Julie Christie in Dr. Zhivago, Uma Thurman in Beautiful Girls, Joan Allen in The Ice Storm, and Kate, again, in Eternal Sunshine. Cheeks naturally narrow, lips darken, skin gets slightly severe with occasional blushes. Even in that first scene where she meets Jack on the stern, her hair appears extra red and ribbony. If you’ve never played with or petted cold hair, not wet just cold, I highly recommend it. The smell of morning shampoo and cold air is dreamy.

Her dresses, diaphanous with filmy layers of beaded constellations, with cinched waists and framed necklines, were somehow intended for lapping seawater, or to float up beside her as she wielded an axe, rudderless and storming through rising tides and flickering lights. Winslet’s great at expressing urgency and obligation. Her brow furrows, her eyes dart. I bet she’s great at charades.

Durga Chew-Bose is the senior editor of This Recording. She is a writer living in Brooklyn. She last wrote in these pages about the director Barbara Loden. You can find an archive of her writing on This Recording here. She tumbls here and twitters here.

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Emma Barrie on While You Were Sleeping

Jessica Ferri on The Devil's Advocate

Molly O'Brien on Pulp Fiction

Durga Chew-Bose on Titanic

Molly Lambert on Basic Instinct

Alex Carnevale on Singles

"Night Vision" - The Twelves (mp3)

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"All Apologies (Twelves remix)" - Nirvana (mp3


Friday
Apr012011

In Which Mildred Pierce Bids Goodbye To Sam Mendes

The Fallen

by ALEX CARNEVALE

Mildred Pierce

dir. Todd Haynes

Guy Pearce plays Monty Beragon in Todd Haynes’ HBO remake of Mildred Pierce, the first bit of extant culture that would have never existed if not for Matthew Weiner besides Elisabeth Moss’ first marriage. Pearce almost makes up for ruining The Time Machine; during his love-making with Kate Winslet’s titular character he displays a maddening smile, as if desperate to remind us of how enthused he is by the intercourse. During one intimate moment he flashes a thumbs up.

The 1930s were rife with people — mostly women — pretending to enjoy intercourse. Gloria Steinem once admitted to Katie Couric that she had faked over 10,000 orgasms, which seems low. Remember when Daniel Mendelsohn was insulted because Weiner’s show was too preachy about how racist and sexist America was in the past? (Chuck Lorre has that review taped to the back of his bathroom door.) If you thought the 1960s didn’t have black people in them, wait until you see Todd Haynes’ version of Los Angeles in the 1930s.

Haynes has always been one of the most distinctive American filmmakers — 1998's Velvet Goldmine remains a work of unadultered genius — and now Todd is even willing to appeal to an older generation desperate to relive the genre conventions of early Hollywood. Mildred Pierce is a Horatio Alger novel, rolled into a romance novel, with the rest copied from Theodore Dreiser. Haynes’ version of it is so much better than the original it is hard to believe the two are even related. The director's Mildred is sort of an olden day Elaine Benes; she means well but she ends up sleeping with the weirdest guys. I believe Elaine even did Newman in an episode that doesn't run in syndication anymore.

After Mildred tosses her husband for working over some other lucky lady, she starts waitressing. Winslet holds every scene together by basically doing the acting Olympics: sometimes other members of the cast find themselves watching her. Once, in a hospital, she pretended to wake up so marvelously I thought they should have just faded to black. You can try to understand the reason that Sam Mendes was more interested in Rebecca Hall, but it definitely was not because Kate was not as good at acting.

Haynes' twist on the dated story is to invest it with a quivering tendentiousness that implies other possibilities. Every pseudo-heterosexual move of Monty Beragon shivers the timbers of women and men, and even Mildred's simple making of French toast engenders an otherworldly satisfaction. As in his Douglas Sirk-tribute Far From Heaven, Mildred learns how to experience the world in a more satisfying way, and whatever is not useful to her lies faded and wilting, sure to die. Shame and humiliation can be dispensed with if properly forgotten.

When Pearce's Monty Beragon picks her up on her last day working as a server, he takes her to his beach house, where there is not a single bookshelf. When she asks him if he's just a loafer, he produces his penis. They dazzle one another with the spontaneity of their love-making; he applauds her for her unpredictability. She says, by explicit request of an HBO executive, "I guess I've sort of fallen for you, Monty." 

When MP asks for a ride back to her house, Monty wags his engorged phallus back and forth while humming the music that played while that retarded plastic bag floated around. Do you think Roger Ebert looks back on his absurd **** review of American Beauty and thinks about how he can blame it on Bill Kristol? He probably should have packed up his shit the minute he wrote its last sentence: "He may have lost everything by the end of the film, but he's no longer a loser." Oops.

It must be frustrating to be way more talented than your partner but not able to say it, except when you whisper it between takes to Leonardo DiCaprio. Can you even imagine how many times Mendes made Kate sit through Road to Perdition, a film with a working title of Journey to Boredom? Collaborating with Mr. Haynes, by any measure the man to Mendes' childish grasp of cinema, is a direct hit for the former Mrs. Douchebag, although this particular new man in her life can't offer a romantic entanglement. If anything can turn Todd Haynes straight, it's probably not the outfits Guy Pearce wears in Mildred Pierce. (He looks like he was chopped off a slab of granite.)

men were often never nudes in the 30s

The Daily Mail covered Winslet's divorce like London was being bombed again: She was seen weeping at Mexico City airport on Sunday, but tried to cover up her distress by putting on over-sized black sunglasses. Kate is now receiving regular sex from a model, while Sam Mendes still has to look at Away We Go when he re-checks his own IMDB entry just in case. For both Mildred Pierce and Ms. Winslet, feeling bad for her is about the silliest thing you can do.

The parallels between Mildred Pierce and Kate Winslet’s own personal story percolate the drama. She is forever undressing or being undressed, and she is never alone, never without someone to witness some instance of her ignominy. Forcing herself to consider a job as a housekeeper, she finds she cannot possibly accept a lot in life as a servant, which seems more about her vision of herself than sheer repugnance for what appears to be a difficult job.

something old, something newThere are rumors - only rumors - that after Winslet saw Away We Go, things were never the same. She kept asking her friends in private moments whether their husbands smiled during sex, and if they thought Vendela Vida's novels were any good. The Believer started to seem a little cloying and the ubiquitous presence of rose petals in the Mendes home began to trouble rather than comfort her. She found she had come to loathe the very sight of Rainn Wilson.

For some reason they did not have cell phones in the 1930s, probably because Japan was just a twinkle in the eye of Michael Crichton back then. After Mildred moves on to her new life, her youngest daughter falls ill and no one can reach her. The story of the woman whose personal life evaporates as her business interests soar usually ends in Christina Hendricks being forcibly raped by her husband in Don Draper's office. Mildred's punishment is less clear.

Whenever men imagine the emotional lives of women, it usually says more about the men themselves. The males in Mildred Pierce aren't puppets and they aren't decision-makers. It's like they're all taking lexapro or listening to the Barnhouse Effect. Mildred has just as much agency as Alger's Ragged Dick, but she's also more beneficent than Mother Teresa when it comes right down to it. She even spanks her older daughter (Evan Rachel Wood, starting this Sunday) adorably.

The men are just as harmless, even impotent, like a story incapable of frightening you because you know the ending. We already know what will happen to Mildred Pierce, but we must refresh websites continuously to find out what will become of Kate Winslet.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording. He last wrote in these pages about the love life of Warren Beatty. He tumbls here and twitters here.

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"No Widows (live)" - The Antlers (mp3)

"Every Night My Teeth Are Falling Out (live)" - The Antlers (mp3)

"Rolled Together (live)" - The Antlers (mp3)

Wednesday
Mar242010

In Which It's Awful Not To Be Able To Do What You Want To Do

If You Don't Try At Anything You Can't Fail

by MOLLY LAMBERT

You may recall that "moving to Paris" was the old "going to travel South America," the last resort of a desperate liberal in the face of the thought of a life spent behind a desk. You may also recall that "there's no geographical solution to an emotional problem," ©Mad Men's Matthew Weiner in the final season of The Sopranos, which is a timeless song that is always appropriate. Hey hey hey, it's Revolutionary Road!

As adaptations go this is pretty hamfisted and all the shots of "men in grey flannel suits" made me roll my eyes. "The suburbs are stifling" is the second most over-explored theme in film after "what do Jewish men want?" But I liked things about it.

learn what an unspeakable prick Warren Beatty was to Natalie Wood when they dated

Sex scenes from the 50s/early 60s still feel the most transgressive because of how purposely/overly chaste most media things from that time period are. Splendor In The Grass remains legitimately shocking (and featured the first French kiss in a film) and while set it's set in the 1920s and filmed in 1961 it always seemed like the 50s movie about sex. Also William Inge is a genius. The Last Picture Show wrings every drop of sweat out of its small town fifties Texas setting. Revolutionary Road benefits from this. Why didn't anyone tell me this movie involves Sex In The Kitchen?

Is Leonardo DiCaprio a good actor? he might be! It had been so long since I heard him without a bad fake accent that I had forgotten. Also I haven't seen Catch Me If You Can but I now understand that the secret to making grown ass square faced Leo (as opposed to teenage babyface Leo) attractive is period dress. He looks fucking great in casual clothes of the fifties. Markedly less so in casual clothes of right now. Kate Winslet is a great actress. I mean yeah duh since Heavenly Creatures, thought u knew!

I talked so much shit about this movie and Sam Mendes in general, which goes to show that the more shit I prematurely talk about something, the more inclined I am to totally change my mind when I actually do see/hear/whatever it. If you know me then you know that I do this all the time time time time. I'm not saying it's my best quality.

My expectations were just so low that I was surprised that it was any good. I think I just liked the performances even if it ended in "serious actors yelling" which I find more tolerable when it's anyone besides Sean Penn. It's also a horror movie about abortion policy (timely!), reminding us that without proper birth control you're fucked.

Calling a bitch irrational is the best way to keep her down. I could write a whole goddamn book on ways to keep the patriarchy going. Some more sample chapters: "High Fashion Photography," "Pitting Women Against Each Other," "The Oscar Curse."

Doing your husband's best friend in a car is a dope neg. Does Kate Winslet have a "get fucked in a car" clause in her contract or something? Now that I think about it she gets drilled in crazy places in a lot of movies. At least she escaped Na'vi fleshlight tail sex.

Actors love smoking. They LOVE it. There is no prop an actor loves more than a cigarette (unless you consider their own faces and bodies props).

Kathy Bates is a national treasure. In my alternate feminist universe they write vehicles around her instead of making her topless in About Schmidt for a laff.

it's hard to describe any of the themes of this movie without making it sound totally terrible: people in the mental asylum might be the only sane ones! men who have problems expressing their emotions like to yell a lot! I guess it's hard to discuss the themes of realist novels without sounding like a total douchebag.

One of the innumerable differences between fiction and real life is that in fiction screaming fights between former lovers are always really intense and sexually charged, and in real life those kind of fights are just miserable and nobody feels very sexy when they are BURSTING INTO ANGRY TEARS. Nevertheless the hot fight remains a founding trope of romantic fiction, and the whole basis of screwball comedy. 

Where are the kids? Could you really be this much of an absentee parent in the fifites because if so I want to go to there. I'm sure this is not the best set-up for the kids but from the POV of a leisurely drunk adult it sounds like a delight. 

Betty Draper's bad parenting comes straight out of the Richard Yates handbook, but April Wheeler is MUCH more sympathetic than Betty Draper because Kate Winslet is a MUCH better actress than January Jones. Although a MUCH less awesome men's magazine profile taking place at an airport Chili's (obviously).

I like how in the fifties they were just like "No, of course women can't have dreams! There aren't enough dreams to go around!" Wouldn't be kool if all the omega males just stepped down and were like "have at it, girlfronds, it's dreams reparations."

Kathy Bates's husband turning off his hearing aid at the end. WHAT A STUPID ENDING TAG. Women be jabbering! I hate this cliché even though (because?) I am the jabberiest. I mean come on, like, really Tina Fey? You think porn for women would be a fake guy who pretends to listen? That really is like a Cathy cartoon. Besides, they already make pornography for women, it's called amateur porn. 

Mahnola Dargis pretty much nailed this one, in one of her great take-downs that makes movie studios afraid of letting her reviewing their "prestige" pictures, because she always sees the emperor's new clothes when it comes to Oscar bait

Don't get me wrong, this movie is just okay and the last act is a mess. Was it worth somebody's marriage? I would say no movie is worth somebody's marriage but a genuine masterpiece like Reds is worth several marriages. That one killed Warren Beatty's relationship with Diane Keaton, but nobody was betting on that horse for the long race because Warren was still all Tiger Tiger Woods y'all at that point.

The real question is would Mendes and Winslet's relationship have survived if the movie had won some Oscars? I'm going to say yes. So maybe it was just watching the movie, mostly a pretty, shouty, tinny reproduction of Yates's work with the knowledge that it probably had something to do with the demise of the lead actress's relationship with her husband who directed it that made me find some genuine sadness and regret and feeling in it. Tabloids love when A-list actresses's relationships break up because it humanizes them. Also because it sells hella magazines.

It is equally possible that the Mendes-Winslet marriage broke up due to Away We Go

Molly Lambert is the managing editor of This Recording and co-author of Lyric Fail. She tumbls here and twitters here.

"If It's The Beaches" - The Avett Brothers (mp3)

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