Redemption: "Harlow" (1965)

Redemption: "Harlow" (1965)

A movie review in which I hold nothing back

Just one look at Tura Satana's bustier-than-life go-go dancer Varla relegates the 1965 film Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! to the lowly status of a sexploitation movie; from the start, it is unable to regard the entire package as anything but a novelty. In spite of, or perhaps because of its notorious critical failure, it has often been reexamined by critics and, over time, has garnered high praise from feminists and film critics alike.

Life's funny like that sometimes.

Like the works of Edgar Allan Poe or Vincent Van Gogh, a movie is sometimes unfairly labeled as "bad," and shunted aside for the next week's new release. It gets filed away as a dud and for every Faster, Pussycat!, there are dozens of rhinestones-in-the-rough which are forgotten about. It is my hope to dust off these cinematic-crapfests and try to salvage them in my own fledgling series I've so cleverly named "Redemption".

Last week, I reviewed a film which, in its own misguided way, attempted to shed light on the corrupting influence of Hollywood. Continuing in that oddly specific vein of 1960s Hollywood movies about Hollywood, this week's offender is Harlow, a highly-fictionalized and unflattering recounting of the life of Jean Harlow.

That is Jean Harlow, the original "blonde bombshell," one of the biggest movie stars of the 1930s, and, before her tragic death in 1937 at the age of 26, one of the world's most iconic sex symbols. Her story, while short, is rife with possibility, possibility which the film squanders scene after scene.

The opening of the film is stunningly raw while managing to somehow simultaneously be opulent. It offers insight into the fictional "Majestic Studios," as hundreds upon hundreds of extras file in reporting for another day of decidedly unglamorous work. The cinematography, without a word, manages to demystifying those "halcyon" days of Old Hollywood and is replete with an almost overwhelmingly Baz Luhrmann-esque quality, setting the stage for what is sure to be a engrossingly sordid story. Harlow (played by the exceptionally talented Carroll Baker, who once again plays a woman with "the body of a woman but the emotions of a child" [and did it far better in 1956's Baby Doll]) is picked out of a lineup and, after failing to submit to the casting couch, is unceremoniously dropped from the film, returning home to her milquetoast mother (Angela Lansbury) and her unemployed lothario stepfather (Raf Vallone). What follows, as with any biopic, is a meteoric rise to fame wrought with devious hangers-on, handsy executives, and a surprisingly, unrealistically supportive (and non-lascivious) agent, played to perfection by Red Buttons.

The film is a largely self-contradictory mess which spins in circles until it finally collapses in a stinking heap and is, quite honestly, an insult to the legacy of Jean Harlow. It is reductive in the extreme, and the fact that the names of films, major figures, and studios are all fictionalized gives the impression of a half-baked film; acquiring the life rights must have been a struggle. And while there are a number of truly riveting scenes (the opening, a tense family meeting regarding her signing her first contract, Red Buttons explaining what he sees in his new client to his suspicious wife), the movie is dragged down by a nonstop parade of tawdry sex, discussions of sex, yearning for sex, thinking of sex; it's as if the producers and writers knew nothing of her life other than the fact that she was a sex symbol who died far too young. Jean Harlow may be a hallowed name in the pantheon of cinematic sexpots, but according to this film, every moment of her life, onscreen and off, was centered entirely around it. Sex is a part of life but, much like this paragraph, it quickly becomes exhausting and any stirrings of lust on the part of the audience turn quickly to anger and annoyance.

In addition to the one-track mind of the scriptwriters, there is a distinct lack of emotional complexity which makes it nearly impossible for the viewer to empathize with Baker's characterization. Her toughness and cynicism in the face of the monolithic, omnipotent Hollywood machine, while rife with possibility, is betrayed by her overt codependence on the men in her life and eventually surpasses self-assuredness and becomes grating. Baker seemed to excel in these roles of infantilized, hypersexualized woman, but the toughness which the role necessitates does not mesh well with her cloying, wide-eyed innocence. Because of the seemingly-irreconcilable aspects of her personality, and the palpable lack of depth to the tragically-fated movie queen, it is never made clear how or why Harlow created a legacy for herself. Her acting ability is constantly called into question (though the American Film Institute ranked her the 22nd greatest American actress of all time) and, because none of the titles of her films are used, this movie exists in a kind of cultural vacuum, isolated from her works and her impact.

The dialogue vacillates between coarse and schmaltzy ("Imitation is the sincerest form of failure. You be you, an original Jean Harlow." - gag) and takes on melodramatic proportions that surpass drama and become full-fledged, kabuki-style, unintentional comedy. The writers apparently attempted to atone for what they knew must have been a lackluster effort because there are numerous instances of Harlow's comparing heated arguments and hackneyed rejoinders to a Hollywood film, registering as some kind of admission of defeat by the writers. After one excruciatingly long argument regarding her new husband's impotence, his suicide strikes one as a laughably extreme (and unrealistic) reaction. One almost feels compelled to step through the screen and offer Paul Bern (Harlow's husband, a nonfictional name for a change) a handful of Cialis and a pat on the shoulder to get the ball rolling again.

The editing is exceptionally bad, with jarring transitions robbing potentially poignant scenes of an opportunity to land and have a real kind of impact upon the audience. Because I must give credit where credit is due, however, there are a handful of juxtapositions of scenes that work well, most exceptionally the scene in which her agent exclaims that her's is a face America must see, immediately followed by her getting a pie in the face.

Final Verdict: Her sexual magnetism and comic ability were what made Jean Harlow one of the biggest film stars of her day and a lasting cultural figure. Unfortunately, this film, while beautifully capturing the sinfully excessive grandeur of pre-Code Hollywood, squashes whatever warmth and empathy the real Harlow relayed on the screen. This laughably simplistic film is the cinematic equivalent of a third grader giving an impromptu book report (or, for those of you as slavishly devoted to pop culture as I am, Jenna Maroney's ill-fated Janis Joplin biopic ["Jackie Jormp-Jomp] on "30 Rock"). It is a shallow, spiteful film which takes the compelling story of a young woman who died in the prime of her life and presents her, untruthfully and unconvincingly, as the shrill, selfish physical embodiment of sex, empathy and likability be damned. It is a vapid waste of potential and a cruel, unnecessary jab at the life and legacy of Jean Harlow made in the worst of taste. And while there is no greater fan of a lurid, showbiz-centered film than I, Harlow is moreso an act of malice than a fun exercise in tastelessness. Redemption Denied.

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30 Things I'd Rather Be Than 'Pretty'

Because "pretty" is so overrated.

Nowadays, we put so much emphasis on our looks. We focus so much on the outside that we forget to really focus on what matters. I was inspired by a list that I found online of "Things I Would Rather Be Called Instead Of Pretty," so I made my own version. Here is a list of things that I would rather be than "pretty."

1. Captivating

I want one glance at me to completely steal your breath away.

2. Magnetic

I want people to feel drawn to me. I want something to be different about me that people recognize at first glance.

3. Raw

I want to be real. Vulnerable. Completely, genuinely myself.

4. Intoxicating

..and I want you addicted.

5. Humble

I want to recognize my abilities, but not be boastful or proud.

6. Exemplary

I want to stand out.

7. Loyal

I want to pride myself on sticking out the storm.

8. Fascinating

I want you to be hanging on every word I say.

9. Empathetic

I want to be able to feel your pain, so that I can help you heal.

10. Vivacious

I want to be the life of the party.

11. Reckless

I want to be crazy. Thrilling. Unpredictable. I want to keep you guessing, keep your heart pounding, and your blood rushing.

12. Philanthropic

I want to give.

13. Philosophical

I want to ask the tough questions that get you thinking about the purpose of our beating hearts.

14. Loving

When my name is spoken, I want my tenderness to come to mind.

15. Quaintrelle

I want my passion to ooze out of me.

16. Belesprit

I want to be quick. Witty. Always on my toes.

17. Conscientious

I want to always be thinking of others.

18. Passionate

...and I want people to know what my passions are.

19. Alluring

I want to be a woman who draws people in.

20. Kind

Simply put, I want to be pleasant and kind.

21. Selcouth

Even if you've known me your whole life, I want strange, yet marvelous. Rare and wondrous.

22. Pierian

From the way I move to the way I speak, I want to be poetic.

23. Esoteric

Do not mistake this. I do not want to be misunderstood. But rather I'd like to keep my circle small and close. I don't want to be an average, everyday person.

24. Authentic

I don't want anyone to ever question whether I am being genuine or telling the truth.

25. Novaturient

..about my own life. I never want to settle for good enough. Instead I always want to seek to make a positive change.

26. Observant

I want to take all of life in.

27. Peart

I want to be honestly in good spirits at all times.

28. Romantic

Sure, I want to be a little old school in this sense.

29. Elysian

I want to give you the same feeling that you get in paradise.

30. Curious

And I never want to stop searching for answers.
Cover Image Credit: Favim

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10 Places From Movies And TV You Can Visit In Real Life

It's like stepping into Hollywood!


I am constantly so enamored by the world of Hollywood and by going to visit places I have seen on screen. It's always such an unreal feeling to see where my favorite pieces of entertainment were shot. Here are 10 places from some of our favorite movies to see and visit in the real world!

The High School from "10 Things I Hate About You"

If you have ever wanted to dance on the same stairs as Heath Ledger or just stand in the same courtyard as Julia Stiles then you're in luck! Along the water in Tacoma, Washington, Stadium High School is located which was used both inside and out as the high school from one of the greatest teen movies of all time. This school is massive and so beautiful it's almost Hogwarts level stunning.

Pacific Coast Academy from  "Zoey 101"

Growing up I always dreamed about going to Pacific Coast Academy and being best friends with Jamie Lynn Spears and one of those things can (kinda) become a reality! Located in Malibu is a beautiful campus called Pepperdine University and it is the school they used to shoot scenes of Zoey and the gang at PCA. It is a christian based college and is prestigious in it's own right so if unlike me you are smart enough you can live out my dreams.

Central City Police Department from "The Flash"

Have you ever wanted to show up to Detective Joe West's place of work? Well head to the Vancouver City Hall in Vancouver, Canada and you will recognize your surroundings as the Central City Police Department! If you are lucky enough to show up on a filming day, you might even seen the man himself — Barry Allen.

Forks High School from The Twilight Saga

Personally, I am more invested in Bella and Jacob but for all my Team Edward ladies (and gentleman) you can visit the real-life school where Bella and Edward first met and their love blossomed into whatever obsessive weird thing it was. They also used the parking lot at this school to film the infamous scene where Edward saves Bella from getting crushed by a car. The school is called Kalama High School and is located in Kalama, Washington

Max And Dani's House from "Hocus Pocus"

Anyone with taste loves the movie Hocus Pocus — that's just facts! And I have some good news for fans of the can visit the infamous Denison house! Located in none other than Salem, Massachusetts you will find this beautiful home where my favorite siblings once lived.

Silent Hill from "Silent Hill"

I will say before talking about this place that visiting it is EXTREMELY dangerous as just like in the movie the town as been burning from below for years and years. This small town is called Centralia and is located Pennsylvania and has a roaring population of about four people.

Hobbiton from "Lord Of The Rings"

I am personally not a fan of Lord of the Rings but I know a lot of people are so I wanted to include this super cool place on the list. If you ever find yourself in New Zealand you can visit Hobbinton from the movies and spend a day living like your favorite characters.

Platform 9 3/4 from the Harry Potter Series

Now this place will unfortunately be packed with muggles of course but you can find it at King's Cross Station in London! If you are anything like me and are obsessed with these magical movies this is a dream destination just don't run too hard at the wall if you're a muggle it will probably end in a concussion.

East High from the High School Musical Saga

Located in Salt Lake City Utah is the real life East High that was used in the filming of all three High School Musical movies. It is my absolute dream to attend this high school and walk the halls of the greatest high school of all time. They used both the outside and inside and the school so every inch of the school will remind you of these great teen movies.

Gus and Hazel's Bench from "The Fault in Our Stars" 

If you ever wanted to visit the site of this kiss between star crossed lovers you're in luck! Located along a canal in Amsterdam is a bench that is clearly marked by all the fault in our stars graffiti. Recreate this cute picture with your significant other and use a quote from the movie — then you'll just win in life.

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