Tag Archives: birthday

Ready for her close-up

She’s the woman who gave one of my favorite performances of all time, in one of my favorite movies of all time. (I also liked her in DeMille’s Male and Female.) She is big. It’s the pictures that got small. She’s Gloria Swanson, and she was born 112 years ago today! Happy birthday!

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Keen on Keener

For a while last December, it felt like Catherine Keener was following me around. She popped up in lead and supporting roles, in one movie after another. I wish that would happen again! Ms. Keener turns 52 today, and her film career (thankfully) is going as strong as ever. She had four onscreen appearances in 2010, five if you count David O. Russell’s never-to-be-released-(probably) Nailed.

She may be best-remembered, in the years to come, as Maxine, the bitch ne plus ultra in Being John Malkovitch, but she’s also carved out a healthy little niche for herself playing sturdy, sensitive, sometimes downbeat wives and mothers. Above is a picture of her in Nicole Holofcener’s Please Give, which I proclaimed my love for a few months back. That love persists, largely thanks to Keener’s funny/sad performance as a guilt-stricken New Yorker. I love how the film encodes bitter truths in her awkward (and sardonically hilarious) interactions with those she sees as “less privileged,” like the innocuous black man above.

Kate (Keener): Excuse me, sir? Are you hungry? Would you like this?

Man: I’m waiting for a table.

In this image from Charlie Kaufman’s Synecdoche, New York (2008), Keener’s facial expression looks a lot like her embarrassment in Please Give, but it’s subtly different. That expression, I think, was a deadly cocktail of mortification and disappointment in her failed altruism; this looks more like pity with a dash of weariness and just a hint of ennui. In Synecdoche, she plays the estranged wife of Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s hypochondriac theater director, and does wonders with a small, somewhat tossed-aside role.

Damn, she’s good! And consider that both these characters are 180° from Maxine. Talk about range! Clearly I need more Catherine Keener in my life. Is Cyrus any good? Or maybe I should finally check out Where the Wild Things Are. Happy birthday, Ms. Keener!

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It’s my party…

Today marks the 21st anniversary of my birth, and what better way to celebrate than with the gift that keeps on giving, cinephilia? I could’ve used images of drinking in film (you know, 21), but that seemed a little too easy, so I went with cinematic birthday parties instead. By sheer coincidence, all of these birthdays involve encounters with serial killers or life-changing traumas. (Witness above, the garish cake baked for Helen [Anna Massey] in Peeping Tom, just before she introduces herself to the psychotic Mark Lewis.) Hopefully mine involves neither!

Andy’s mom wants to surprise him with the (ironically named) Good Guy doll he so sorely desires. Unfortunately, said doll is also possessed by the spirit of Evil Brad Dourif. So Andy’s the target of a unrepentant murderer’s voodoo curse, but he also gets an awesome, self-activated talking doll. Some good, some bad… let’s call this birthday a wash. (Besides, he could’ve been attacked by the doll in Chester Novell Turner’s Black Devil Doll from Hell, so in that respect he’s lucky.)

Bette Davis’s Margo Channing is having a rough night, as the festivities for her boyfriend’s birthday turn into an occasion for jealousy and betrayal. She knows Eve’s a sneaky little bitch who’s trying to steal her friends and lifestyle, but nobody believes her. Thankfully for Margo, though, she gets one of cinema’s all-time great lines as she exits the scene: “Fasten your seatbelts. It’s going to be a bumpy night.” One of this scene’s lessons is that you should never let your birthday party degenerate into a melee of brilliant, biting dialogue, back-stabbing, and suspicions. For that matter, just don’t invite Eve.

Finally, don’t vomit an oily black substance onto your cake. It’s just impolite to the guests. Wikus van de Merwe’s friends and family went to all the trouble of preparing this surprise party midway into District 9, and he just spoils it by getting all sick and starting to turn into a weird human/prawn hybrid. Look at this how lavish this party is, too! And he just spends the whole time wandering around, ears ringing, intermittently pausing to retch. Oh, poor Wikus. Your birthday may be ruined, but at least you’ll become the savior to a cat food-loving alien race stranded in South Africa! (Huh, District 9 sure was a weird movie, wasn’t it?)

There you have it: four birthdays that didn’t go so well. Let’s hope I can learn from their examples by 1) not befriending any serial killers, 2) not receiving any serial killers as gifts, 3) not engendering paranoia and tension in my significant other, and 4) not getting infected with an extraterrestrial disease. If I can manage that, this should be a very, very good day.


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