Sunday, August 23, 2015


I am rarely frightened by films depicting things that “go bump in the night”.  Unearthly creatures and zombies and such don’t have the impact on me as does true suspense.  Particularly psychological suspense. It’s what I read.  It’s what I write. And it’s what I enjoy seeing on the big screen.  This is why Alfred Hitchcock has always been one of my favorite directors.  He not only created suspense from the outer workings of a plot, but also delved into the twisted psyche of a person’s mind, juxtaposing the two.
                When I entered the theatre to see The Gift I had no preconceived notions.  (I am referring now to the 2015 release, written and directed by Joel Edgerton, and not the supernatural film that came out in 2000, which was, incidentally, another favorite of mine.) I intentionally avoided reading reviews on it and heard little about it other than that it was a good film.
                The story is that of a young, upscale, married couple, Simon (Jason Bateman) and Robyn (Rebecca Hall) Callen.  They have recently moved from Chicago to Los Angeles , the city from which Simon originally hails, because Simon has just gotten an excellent new job.  While out buying things for their new home, the couple run into an old high school classmate of Simon’s, Gordon “Gordo” Moseley (Joel Edgerton.)
 Though Simon tells Robyn he barely remembers the guy, Gordo is apparently intent on renewing a friendship.  He drops by frequently, bringing little gifts for Simon and Robyn, and since he usually does this while Robyn is home alone, Simon becomes increasingly uncomfortable, especially since, as he relates to his wife, Gordo’s nickname in high school was “Gordo the Weirdo”.  When Gordo invites the Callens to his house for dinner, Simon seeks to put an end to Gordo’s attempts to insert himself into their company at every opportunity.
                Rather than go further in relaying the entire story or offering up “spoiler alerts” I’ll stop here and just say that The Gift has a fair share of twists and turns and detours that the audience does not see coming.  Made on a relatively low budget, the film was the directorial debut of Joel Edgerton and a brilliant one it is.  In fact, one can see the influence of Hitchcock in Edgerton’s directing.  The movie was not only well directed, it was extremely well written as well.  But it was the acting that I was particularly impressed by.
In fact, so natural was the acting that it was almost as though the “4th wall” had evaporated and we, the viewers, were witness to actual conversations.  Particularly noteworthy was the performance of Jason Bateman.  At Oscar time, most nominees for best actor are drawn from “meaningful, true-based” films (movies made by the Weinstein Brothers that either tug at the heart or are significant in other,…well, “meaningful” ways.)  Often ignored are performances by those actors who may have appeared in what I refer to as popcorn movies.  Movies thoroughly enjoyed by movie-goers who simply want to enjoy their popcorn and be entertained – amused, thrilled, frightened.   Hitchcock made those movies and audiences loved them as well as the actors who starred in them.
If Jason Bateman’s acting were to be considered on its own merits, I would say that he most definitely deserves an Oscar nomination for his performance in The Gift.
I highly recommend this film (and that you see it before anyone reveals too much about it.)

Hope everyone had a terrific weekend and thanks for following me on,

Rhodes Less Traveled

Sunday, August 9, 2015


As I mentioned previously, I will occasionally be reprinting previous articles posted on my blog over the years.  The following article had received a good response so here it comes again:

Sex appeal is an extremely subjective matter.  What makes a woman sexy?  In Japan it may be a small foot.  In India, the perfect belly.
A dazzling smile. A great pair of legs. Seductive eyes. Thick, lustrous hair. A sultry voice.
To many American men it’s as simple as a great rack.
Tastes have changed over the years, to be sure.  In the early part of the twentieth century, women were shorter and rounder and, in fact, the “ideal” figure was that of an hourglass. The “flapper” ushered in a nearly non-existent  bosom which blossomed again during the depression, a time when appearing gaunt was possibly considered less than fashionable.
During WWII, woman may have been patriotic enough to give up their hose, but not enough to forfeit the sensual appeal of a seamed stocking. With a ruler, eyebrow pencil, and some ingenuity, they managed to suggest the illusion of a seam. (After all, isn’t sex appeal often only about illusion)?
In the fifties there were a sufficient number of “blonde bombshells” to combat the “June Cleaver” type but it was the sixties that left an indelible mark. Model Twiggy’s “little boy” look had a major effect upon how women would view their sexual appeal for years to come. For the first time, they did not desire the sophisticated look of French knots and ample cleavage. Instead, they aspired to look young and “waifish” even if it took anorexia and/or bulimia to achieve those goals. There’s a scene on the beach in the movie, Gidget where Gidget’s well endowed friends scoff at Gidget’s petite, boyish figure. Nowadays it’s likely that Gidget would be laughing at her friends, viewing them as “fat”.
I’ve compiled a list of  20 actresses who might be considered to be the sexiest for the times in which they lived. (I say “might” because, as mentioned, tastes are subjective).
These women stand out for having maintained their sexuality, either by creating their own styles or by bucking the trends of the times.
I intentionally omitted beauties such as: Carole Lombard, Claudette Colbert, Lauren Becall, Grace Kelly, Audrey Hepburn, Natalie Wood, Goldie Hawn, Demi Moore, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Jennifer Aniston, who, while they might be elegant, cute, or “girl-next-doorish” don’t necessarily exude sex. (Not to say that many men wouldn’t find them sexy or that women wouldn’t want to look like them. Audrey Hepburn is my personal favorite).

1.   1930’s - JEAN HARLOW (34-25-36) Star of Hell’s Angels; original “Blonde Bombshell”.

2.   1940’s - RITA HAYWORTH (32-25-34) Glamorous star of “Gilda”; Married to Orson Welles and also to Prince Aly Khan.

3.   1940’s - BETTY GRABLE (34-24-36) Known for her “great gams”; #1 pinup girl of WW II, married to trumpet player, Harry James.

.4.  1950’s - MARILYN MONROE (37-23-36) Sexy and vulnerable; famous (amongst other things) for the dress that flew up around her waist in “The Seven Year Itch”.

5.   1950’s - JANE MANSFIELD (42-21-35) Very intelligent, despite her “poor man’s Marilyn Monroe” image. Mother of actress Mariska Harigtay, another beauty.

6.   1950’s - AVA GARDNER (36-23-37) Star of “The Barefoot Contessa”; had an earthy femininity; steamy marriage to Frank Sinatra.

7.   1960’s - ELIZABETH TAYLOR (36-21-36) Violet eyes set off her exquisite beauty; stormy relationship with Richard Burton; apparently not a fan of casual dating, she was married eight times.

8.   1960’s - ANN MARGRET (35-23-35) Ended up being considered the star of “Bye Bye Birdie” (an honor intended for veteran actress and co-star, Janet Leigh); Swedish “sex kitten” with a wholesome appeal; acted and had an affair with Elvis.

9.   1960’s - RAQUEL WELCH (37-22-35) Star of “One Million Years B.C.”, which popularized the “fur bikini”.

10.  1960’s - SOPHIA LOREN (38-24-38) Smoldering Italian actress; starred in “Two Women”; turned down Cary Grant to marry director, Carlo Ponti, still sizzling in her seventies.

11.  1960’s - BRIDGET BARDOT (35-19-35) French, exotic, sexy.  American men adored her. (Check out that waistline…did these women wear corsets?)

12.  1970’s - FARRAH FAWCETT (35-24-35) Star of “Charlie’s Angels”) How many girls came of age with “Farrah haircuts”?  How many boys came of age with that famed
“Farrah poster?”

13.  1980’s - MADONNA (CICCONE) (34-23-33) Pop singer with a talent for re-inventing herself often, each persona sexier than the next; popularized “trashy lingerie”.

14.  1990’s - SHARON STONE (36-25-35) Interrogation scene from “Basic Instinct” – enough said.

15.  1990’s - PAM ANDERSON (36-22-34) Star of “Bay Watch”; hot relationship with rocker, Tommy Lee; epitomized the California “beach babe look” (or at least what men living outside California fantasize them to look like).

16.  2000’s - BEYONCE KNOWLES (34-26-40) Hip Hop star. The moves, the body, the voice.

17.  2000’s - SCARLETT JOHANSSON (37-26-37) Starred in numerous Woody Allen films. Voluptuous in a surprisingly old fashioned way.

18.  2000’s - HALLE BERRY (36-22-37) Starred as Catwoman in “Batman” and the costume fit to perfection, emphasizing her great body and terrific features.

19.  2000’s - SALMA HAYAK (36-25-37) Gorgeous Mexican born actress; star of
Frida”.  Recognized for having a spectacular, non-enhanced “rack”.

20.  2000’s – ANGELINA JOLIE (36-27-36) Known for her altruism, large family, and husband, Brad Pitt; considered to be one of the sexiest woman of her time; her bee-stung lips (emulated unsuccessfully by many women who don’t own mirrors) alone would qualify her for this distinction.

I apologize to anyone who might feel this posting to have been a touch politically incorrect but then I’m often a touch politically incorrect myself.

Have a great week and thank you for joining me on this week’s journey along,



Saturday, August 1, 2015


When my son and daughter were young I had the perfect excuse to go to the movies and watch animated features produced by studios like Disney, Pixar, and DreamWorks.  As my kids got older, however, and their tastes changed, I didn’t have many occasions to see the multitude of animated films coming out each year (although I still managed to see a few with my daughter who, like me, still enjoyed them into adulthood.)
            Though animated films from Pinocchio on have always given sly winks to adult audiences, this became particularly widespread in the mid-nineties.  By the time Shrek was released in 2001 audiences of all ages were gravitating to what was essentially an adult film containing many allusions kids couldn’t begin to fathom.
            Striking a balance between a film that will draw kids and one that will also appeal to the adults accompanying them is not an easy task but Inside Out, produced by Pixar Studios and released by Disney Pictures succeeds in doing just that.
            When I was informed that my neighborhood would be without power from 8 AM to 3 PM, I decided to go to a matinee and wait it out in an air-conditioned theater.  I purveyed the title of films I’d already seen and those I had no desire to ever see before purchasing a ticket for Inside Out.
            At midday the theater was nearly empty except for a sprinkling of elderly women and a young mother with her daughter.  The premise of the film is fairly straightforward.  We are taken into the inner workings of the brain of an adorable eleven-year old girl named Riley.  Her actions are dictated by various emotions: Joy, Sadness, Fear, Anger, and Disgust (Characters voiced respectively by Amy Poehler, Phyllis Smith, Bill Hader, Lewis Black, and Mindy Kaling.  Actor Richard Kind also voices a significant character that is introduced half-way into the story.)
            Riley and her parents relocate to another city, something with which Riley has difficulty coping, especially when the emotional mechanisms in her brain undergo a glitch causing a huge change in her behavior. All of the actors voicing the emotions are comics who add just the right flavor to the excellent script written by Peter Docter and Ronnie Del Carmen.  There is a particularly funny scene in which the audience is privy to the inner workings of the brains of Riley’s mom and dad.
            The visuals are exciting so the film moves quickly and succeeds in engaging viewers under the age of twelve as well as their parents and grandparents. And the message one takes away from the film is as valid for adults as for children.  The goal at first is to keep Riley happy, a goal orchestrated by Joy. Her Sadness emotion is sulky and pretty much dismissed by the others until it is discovered that without the occasional presence of sadness we cannot fully appreciate joy.
            My emotional state was definitely a positive one when I left the theater and I would highly recommend this film to adults and children alike.

Thanks for reading.  Have a great weekend.  Please become a follower on Rhodes Less Traveled and follow me on Twitter @VivianWrites.