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« Technical Day | Main | La Ligne Maginot »

March 13, 2006

Actress Notes

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

Over the weekend I spent some time trying to pull together a deep, indeed definitive, posting about the economist John Maynard Keynes. In this epic, I'd have linked to this Paul Krugman intro to a new book about Keynes. I'd also have linked to Tyler Cowen's musings about Krugman and Keynes, and to a commentsfest at Brad DeLong's blog. I'd have recalled the JFK-era Keynesianism that poisoned economic thinking and policymaking (as well as economic teaching) in the 1970s -- "fine-tuning the economy," anyone? And I'd have mentioned how much I've learned recently from looking into the group known as the Post-Keynesians. (Thanks to Jimbo for pointing them out to me).

But the posting ground to a sad halt as I ran up against a sad fact: I simply don't have much of anything besides links to add to the conversation. Still, may the conversation roar on! Me, I wound up watching DVDs and surfing showbiz websites instead.

The results:

  • I caught up with "A Mighty Wind," Christopher Guest's satirical mockumentary about a folk singers' reunion. As usual with Guest's movies, I wanted the film to be better: Would it have been so hard to come up with a couple of witty plot turns? But, as is also usual with Guest's movies, I had a good time anyway. The film is brimful with tonal touches and behavioral observations, and it features enough creative performing for ten movies.

    What especially caught my interest was one of the film's actresses, a comic knockout named Jane Lynch. Tall and blonde, and equipped with a killer mouthful of forthright and wholesome teeth, Lynch plays a squeaky-clean folksinger with a background in pornography. Lynch makes her character so over-vibrant that her righteousness becomes hilariously lewd. Watching Lynch's performance, I remembered that she played one of the lesbian lovers/dog-handlers in Guest's "Best in Show," and that her performance in that film k.o.'d me too.

    Here's an After Ellen interview with Lynch. A nice passage:

    I think if you can do comedy, you can do anything, because you can pick up the ironies in life better. It takes a little more investigation into your own heart with comedy; I think you can get away with a lot more in drama. I think you’ll find that a good actor usually does comedy really well.

    Here's an interesting PlanetOut interview with Lynch. (Hmm, I guess Lynch won't be dating me any time soon.) Reading it, I learned that Christopher Guest directs a lot of TV commercials.

  • Asia Argento is currently promoting "The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things," a movie she has directed based on a book by J.T. Leroy. She tells Daniel Robert Epstein that she had no idea that J.T. Leroy was a fraud/ put-on/ performance-art-piece/ whatever until, along with the rest of us, she read about the hoax in the NYTimes:

    I had to ask myself a lot of questions why I wanted to believe this so much. I don’t need to believe works are autobiographies even if they are. Why do people need to believe that my first film, [Scarlet Diva] is autobiographical, when it’s not? Nothing is true in anything we read, even newspapers.

    Asia also reports that that she has just finished acting in a Catherine Breillat film:

    She’s a woman director that I look up to a lot. Without her movie, Romance, Scarlet Diva never would have never existed. She opened the door for me. She’s somebody who freed a lot of women sexually through her movies.

    I'm a Breillat fan too, especially of her movies "Romance," "Fat Girl," and "Brief Crossing." Fair warning: These aren't films for the faint of heart. They're pretentious and arty to the max, as well as harsh, austere, and pinpoint-painful. Yeah, baby!

    Here's a posting in which I wrote about Argento's wonderfully nutty "Scarlet Diva"; I suppose I should be ashamed for calling the film "semi-autobiographical." Here's an enthusiastic Salon essay about Breillat's "Romance." Here's a Salon visit with Catherine Breillat.

  • I just got around to watching "Caddyshack" for the very first time -- downright un-American of me to have taken so long to catch up with the movie, which some fans can never get enough of. I'd have been a happier viewer had more of the movie focused more on the caddies, and on the class differences between the club's employees and its members. But I was pretty amused anyway. Though the big stars walked off with the movie, they were in loose and funny form.

    I was also amused by how true-to-life the film was. I spent a few summers in the 1970s working at country clubs and -- allowances made for comic exaggeration -- "Caddyshack"'s picture of the scene struck me as awfully accurate. And what a pleasure to watch a relaxed and casual movie, a piece of comic entertainment that isn't pushy, and that doesn't try too hard.

    Though: Did anyone else find Bill Murray as bizarrely unfunny as I did? And one question that takes a word or two to set up. The "Caddyshack" shoot was one long drugs-and-booze party, legendary even by '70s-Hollywood standards. Is anyone else as struck by the disparity between the wee little comedy that "Caddyshack" is and the amount of tipsy bellowing and chemistry-fueled carrying-on that accompanied the making of it?

    Being who and what I am, I was most struck by the actress who plays Lacey Underall, the film's WASPy, sexually-confident troublemaker. What a sweetheart of a performance the young actress Cindy Morgan turned in. In her very first movie appearance, Cindy whacked back the best the coked-out funnyboys threw her way, and put her own distinctive spin on her scenes.

    It's funny to think of Cindy's performance and of her physical type as being of-their-era things, but there you are. (I'm beginning to suspect that the '70s will always be "the present" to me.) Cindy Morgan was one elegant, rambunctious, and healthy beauty, but she was very much of the 1970s. Interesting to register the diffs in standards between then and now. Cindy's figure was slim and lithe, but not superhero-toned; though her boobs were small, they weren't seen as lacking, but were presented lustily/respectfully; her cheekbones were high but not Photoshop-mannerist; she had spirit and daring to spare, but "attitude" per se is completely absent from her manner ... Cindy Morgan was like Cheryl Tiegs, only with tons of outgoing, rip-it-up mischief in her eyes and her bearing. Interesting to learn that hyper-WASPy Lacey was played by an actress with a Polish-German, Catholic working-class background.

    After "Caddyshack," Cindy appeared in "Tron," and then wound up doing a lot of unremarkable TV. Why did Cindy never became a big star, or at least a standard public fixture along the lines of Tea Leoni, whom she resembles in her likableness, her wicked wholesomeness, and her game-for-anythingness? After all, many "Caddyshack" fans are still fond of Lacey, as well as still hot for her. I did some web-surfing and never did figure out a satisfying answer. According to Cindy, she was blackballed by "Caddyshack"'s producer Jon Peters, and her career was never able to recover. I wonder how true that explanation is.

    In an interview with this all-things-"Caddyshack" website, Cindy talks about why the role was such a dream for her to play:

    Lacey Underall was a carnivorous female who went trolling for men like a great white shark on land at a golf course. Talk about the ultimate fantasy role for me after 12 years in Catholic school, shy (no kidding), and a little repressed.

    Here's a RetroCrush interview with Cindy. Some words of wisdom:

    Drugs make you think you’re more brilliant than you are.

    Once you accept the fact that everyone is crazy things get a lot easier.

As long as actresses give inspired performances and insightful (if scattershot) interviews, who needs economists?

Best,

Michael

posted by Michael at March 13, 2006




Comments

I caught Caddyshack on T.V. one night a few years ago when I was having trouble sleeping (my wife was out of town) and literally fell out of bed laughing at various bits. And immediately after Caddyshack was over, I changed channels and got "A Fistful of Dollars." Obviously, sometimes sleep is overrated.

Like you, however, I loved the class-based humor in Caddyshack. My favorite line, if middle-aging memory serves, is the super-rich Jewish "intruder" Rodney Dangerfield walking up to a green, seeing club president and ur-Wasp Ted Knight bent over a shot, and saying loudly: "I'll bet you $500 you miss that putt."

If I could only be that casually obnoxious to the powers that be on the golf course, I'd die a happy man.

Posted by: Friedrich von Blowhard on March 13, 2006 12:25 PM



Jane Lynch's upcoming movie has what must be one of the better titles I've heard: "Itty Bitty Titty Committee."

Posted by: Peter on March 13, 2006 01:47 PM



Leave it to me to go to the economics. After reading the commentfest about Keynes over at DeLong's, I went to Wikipedia and spent a full hour staring at the entry for "Say's Law". Without really getting it. Now I am not stupid, can state Newton's Laws and even do some math with them, so at least part of the problem must lie elsewhere. Maybe a lack of agreement as to even what the terms mean, or a just a little caveat (possible pockets of oversupply?) that renders the whole discussion nonsense. I'll keep trying.

Never seen "Caddyshack".

Posted by: bob mcmanus on March 13, 2006 03:02 PM



(I'm beginning to suspect that the '70s will always be "the present" to me.)

Uh, Michael? The seventies are the present. We've got Nixon and Vietnam, bell-bottoms and mop-tops, gay marriage and transsexuals, terrorists and guerillas, disco and John Travolta. You tell me what's missing!

Posted by: Brian on March 13, 2006 05:44 PM



A profound thing about 70s culture that comes out in its movies (and *not* in contemporary 70s retro stuff) is how democratic it was (small-d democratic). Modern pop culture has been infected by the hypercompetitiveness and concern with status that are characteristic of the larger culture, so we are constantly being signalled that anyone we are supposed to identify with either is or will become a "Winner". Impossibly beautiful, lucky, successful, virtuous, strong, etc., take your pick of one or more. 70s movies, comedies and tragedies both, have a much more relaxed and open quality. This is most obvious in the physical looks (or lack of them) permitted to actors playing important roles, which were probably more diverse and "ordinary" than any movie period before or since. But you can also see it in the fashion, the characterization choices, the script, etc. I remember Cindy Morgan and Caddyshack in general as very 70s in that sense of relaxed openness.

Of course, in some products of the decade that sense collapsed into lethargy and depression.

Posted by: MQ on March 13, 2006 06:45 PM



(I'm beginning to suspect that the '70s will always be "the present" to me.)

Uh, Michael? The Seventies is the present. We've got Nixon and Vietnam 2.0, bell-bottoms and mop-tops, gay marriage and transsexualism, guerillas and terrorists and campus radicals, high oil prices and gas-guzzlers, porn, disco, and John Travolta. You tell me what's missing!

Posted by: Brian on March 13, 2006 09:50 PM



I once told Jane Lynch that she was the only woman I'd consider crossing over for. I meant it, and still do, but have always been married or attached when fate has thrown us together. She is perfection, understated.

Reading that you've just seen Caddyshack, one of the few things I actually own on DVD (alongside of the Honeymooners original 39 and a goodly chunk of Eric Rohmer'post right now..s oeuvre), my mental wheels are a-whir trying to come up with other odd and/or lowbrow nuggets you may have missed.

I've been in Austin at SXSW watching a steady stream of docus (and the Bettie Page biopic, which was disappointing), so I can't think of any of my other plebe faves, but you can bet your keister another list-o-rama post is in the works on communicatrix...

Posted by: Colleen on March 13, 2006 11:43 PM



(I'm beginning to suspect that the '70s will always be "the present" to me.)

Uh, Michael? The Seventies is the present. We've got Nixon and Vietnam 2.0, bell-bottoms and mop-tops, gay marriage and transsexualism, guerillas and terrorists and campus radicals, high oil prices and gas-guzzlers, porn, disco, and John Travolta. You tell me what's missing!

Posted by: Brian on March 14, 2006 02:35 AM



I once told Jane Lynch that she was the only woman I'd consider crossing over for—and I meant it. She is perfection, understated, which is probably why she isn't more rich and famous than she already is (which is way more than most of us actors).

Reading that you've just seen Caddyshack, one of the few things I actually own on DVD (alongside of the Honeymooners original 39 and a goodly chunk of Eric Rohmer's oeuvre), my mental wheels are a-whir trying to come up with other odd and/or lowbrow nuggets you may have missed.

I'm in Austin at SXSW being washed over by a steady stream of docus (and the Bettie Page biopic, which was disappointing) and geek how-to panels, so I can't think of any of my other plebe faves, but you can bet your keister another list-o-rama post is in the works on communicatrix...

Posted by: communicatrix on March 14, 2006 10:29 AM



"Interesting to learn that hyper-WASPy Lacey was played by an actress with a Polish-German, Catholic working-class background."

This reminds me of Martha Stewart who's considered the ultimate WASP but is the daughter of Polish immigrants iirc.

Posted by: lindenen on March 14, 2006 06:28 PM



I think Caddyshack came out in the eighties, didn't it? Was it a seventies movie? Geez, an alzheimer's moment. I have to agree that I never thought it was Bill Murray's funniest hour---I thought "Stripes" or even "Ghostbusters" were much better (and I KNOW those were the eighties)---but I think there are people who worship his performance in this. Wasn't Chevy Chase in this movie, too? Probably the only time we had Chase and Murray---the two news anchors from SNL--in the same place at the same time!

Posted by: annette on March 15, 2006 08:42 AM



Interesting how movies up till this day have continued to mine the "sticking it to the WASPs" vein, even as we WASPs have virtually disappeared as a cultural force. I guess we left a long shadow.

I'm white Episcopalian from Connecticut, and name ends with the roman numeral "III" - if I was a character in a movie, you would know when I was introduced in the first act that I would get my comeuppance in the end...

Posted by: jimbo on March 15, 2006 12:59 PM



I sure do repeat myself, don't I. Delete away, Michael.

Posted by: Brian on March 15, 2006 02:05 PM






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