The Best And (Very) Worst Of Liz Taylor

The Best And (Very) Worst Of Liz Taylor

A retrospective in honor of the late icon's 84th birthday

To dismiss Dame Elizabeth Rosemond Hilton Wilding Todd Fisher Burton (Burton, again) Warner Fortensky Taylor as an actress would be a glaring understatement. She was a phenomenon, and with good reason. Her life was more drama-filled than any of her movies, including a history of critical health problems (like the emergency tracheotomy which left a scar that could only be covered by the infamous 68 carat Burton-Taylor Diamond), eight marriages, two to the same man, her Academy Awards, and the drastic weight gains and losses. For decades, Taylor's name was a staple of headlines across the world.

Elizabeth Taylor is, above all else, beyond description, and Feb. 27 marks what would have been her 84th birthday. In her honor, I'll be watching either one of her amazing films, or any one of her notorious bombs, because a movie with Liz Taylor is like sex or pizza; even when it's bad, it's still good.

The good

"Cat On a Hot Tin Roof" (1958).

Tennessee Williams' play adheres to his tried-and-true style of revealing the seamy underbelly of southern aristocracy, but it's Taylor who brings the character of Maggie "The Cat" Pollitt to life with a crackling sensuality and a raw yearning for her husband's affection. As the titular Cat, Liz swaggers and struts across the backdrop of a fine ol' Mississippi plantation, bringing together the best of both her on-and-off screen sex appeal and Tennessee Williams' penchant for damn fine southern gothic literature.

"BUtterfield 8" (1960).

"Butterfield 8" earned Liz her first Oscar, even though many claim she got it out of pity after a near-fatal bout of pneumonia. After being publicly deemed a homewrecker (she stole America's sweetheart's husband, knocking Sputnik off the front pages and making him number four in her constellation of failed marriages), MGM offered (forced) her this role as her last for the studio, and while she hated it, she played Gloria Wandrous to the hilt. Gloria is a jaded woman who often confuses sex with love, ultimately leading to her demise. While the film's message is a little puritanical, Taylor gives a phenomenal performance (arguably the second best of her career), most evident in her "I was the slut of all time!" speech she gives her mother.

"Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" (1966).

Liz's best, hands down, bar none. In "Virginia Woolf," her magnum opus for which she gained 30 pounds, she plays Martha, wife of an associate professor (played by her real-life husband, the classically trained Shakespearean actor Richard Burton). You would think that Liz, while a capable actress, would be buried under Burton's bravura, yet she manages to hold her own, blow for blow, insult for insult, drink for drink (for drink for drink for drink). The result is a brutally frank two-hour domestic quarrel which takes place over the course of one booze-soaked night, making a Maury rerun seem like The Waltons by comparison. Taylor, expertly playing a cruel, nagging harpy trapped in a loveless marriage, snagged her second Oscar for this, and no one can say she didn't deserve this one.

The bad

"Cleopatra" (1963).

The mother of all historical epics, "Cleopatra" is a four-hour long meandering mess from start to finish. Weighted by unending dialogue, devoid of any dynamicism, "Cleopatra" only plays such a large role in the pantheon of Taylor's filmography because of its historical context: its budget of $31 million made it the most expensive film ever made, nearly driving 20th Century Fox into bankruptcy, and Elizabeth Taylor was paid a record-shattering $1 million to play the role of the tragically-fated Queen.

"Boom!" (1968).

How can something so right be so wrong? You would think that since Tennessee Williams and Liz worked so well together, and Richard Burton and Liz worked so well together, the three of them pulling in the same direction would make an unprecedented cinematic masterpiece.

Instead they gave us "Boom!"

Liz is Sissy Goforth, the richest woman in the world, who lives alone on her own private island. When Chris Flanders (Burton) shows up on her doorstep (coastline?), they engage in a nonstop tête-à-tête, with Liz trying to seduce him every third minute. Every single line is fraught with some pitiful attempt at meaning and the entire thing is one pseudo-artistic bomb (no pun intended), the cinematic equivalent of Squidward playing the clarinet. But you can't look away. It's just such an odd, painfully inexplicable film, a gloriously beautiful, hideously mangled attempt at substantial cinema.

"The Flintstones" (1994).

I will go to my grave denying that she co-starred in this movie.

Elizabeth Taylor was the first true movie star, the first major celebrity to proudly embody and flaunt excess and luxury. Coincidentally, as the jet set and their style of fast-paced, high-cost living fell out of favor and fashion, so too did Liz and her films. And while her last few movies were questionable at best, baffling at worst, her legacy, her beauty, and her talent (along with the annual revenue her estate brings in) are eternal. Happy birthday, Liz.

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8 Reasons Why My Dad Is the Most Important Man In My Life

Forever my number one guy.

Growing up, there's been one consistent man I can always count on, my father. In any aspect of my life, my dad has always been there, showing me unconditional love and respect every day. No matter what, I know that my dad will always be the most important man in my life for many reasons.

1. He has always been there.

Literally. From the day I was born until today, I have never not been able to count on my dad to be there for me, uplift me and be the best dad he can be.

2. He learned to adapt and suffer through girly trends to make me happy.

I'm sure when my dad was younger and pictured his future, he didn't think about the Barbie pretend pageants, dressing up as a princess, perfecting my pigtails and enduring other countless girly events. My dad never turned me down when I wanted to play a game, no matter what and was always willing to help me pick out cute outfits and do my hair before preschool.

3. He sends the cutest texts.

Random text messages since I have gotten my own cell phone have always come my way from my dad. Those randoms "I love you so much" and "I am so proud of you" never fail to make me smile, and I can always count on my dad for an adorable text message when I'm feeling down.

4. He taught me how to be brave.

When I needed to learn how to swim, he threw me in the pool. When I needed to learn how to ride a bike, he went alongside me and made sure I didn't fall too badly. When I needed to learn how to drive, he was there next to me, making sure I didn't crash.

5. He encourages me to best the best I can be.

My dad sees the best in me, no matter how much I fail. He's always there to support me and turn my failures into successes. He can sit on the phone with me for hours, talking future career stuff and listening to me lay out my future plans and goals. He wants the absolute best for me, and no is never an option, he is always willing to do whatever it takes to get me where I need to be.

6. He gets sentimental way too often, but it's cute.

Whether you're sitting down at the kitchen table, reminiscing about your childhood, or that one song comes on that your dad insists you will dance to together on your wedding day, your dad's emotions often come out in the cutest possible way, forever reminding you how loved you are.

7. He supports you, emotionally and financially.

Need to vent about a guy in your life that isn't treating you well? My dad is there. Need some extra cash to help fund spring break? He's there for that, too.

8. He shows me how I should be treated.

Yes, my dad treats me like a princess, and I don't expect every guy I meet to wait on me hand and foot, but I do expect respect, and that's exactly what my dad showed I deserve. From the way he loves, admires, and respects me, he shows me that there are guys out there who will one day come along and treat me like that. My dad always advises me to not put up with less than I deserve and assures me that the right guy will come along one day.

For these reasons and more, my dad will forever be my No. 1 man. I love you!

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From One Nerd To Another

My contemplation of the complexities between different forms of art.


Aside from reading Guy Harrison's guide to eliminating scientific ignorance called, "At Least Know This: Essential Science to Enhance Your Life" and, "The Breakthrough: Immunotherapy and the Race to Cure Cancer" by Charles Graeber, an informative and emotional historical account explaining the potential use of our own immune systems to cure cancer, I read articles and worked on my own writing in order to keep learning while enjoying my winter break back in December. I also took a trip to the Guggenheim Museum.

I wish I was artistic. Generally, I walk through museums in awe of what artists can do. The colors and dainty details simultaneously inspire me and remind me of what little talent I posses holding a paintbrush. Walking through the Guggenheim was no exception. Most of the pieces are done by Hilma af Klint, a 20th-century Swedish artist expressing her beliefs and curiosity about the universe through her abstract painting. I was mostly at the exhibit to appease my mom (a K - 8th-grade art teacher), but as we continued to look at each piece and read their descriptions, I slowly began to appreciate them and their underlying meanings.

I like writing that integrates symbols, double meanings, and metaphors into its message because I think that the best works of art are the ones that have to be sought after. If the writer simply tells you exactly what they were thinking and how their words should be interpreted, there's no room for imagination. An unpopular opinion in high school was that reading "The Scarlet Letter" by Nathaniel Hawthorne was fun. Well, I thought it was. At the beginning of the book, there's a scene where Hawthorne describes a wild rosebush that sits just outside of the community prison. As you read, you are free to decide whether it's an image of morality, the last taste of freedom and natural beauty for criminals walking toward their doom, or a symbol of the relationship between the Puritans with their prison-like expectations and Hester, the main character, who blossoms into herself throughout the novel. Whichever one you think it is doesn't matter, the point is that the rosebush can symbolize whatever you want it to. It's the same with paintings - they can be interpreted however you want them to be.

As we walked through the building, its spiral design leading us further and further upwards, we were able to catch glimpses of af Klint's life through the strokes of her brush. My favorite of her collections was one titled, "Evolution." As a science nerd myself, the idea that the story of our existence was being incorporated into art intrigued me. One piece represented the eras of geological time through her use of spirals and snails colored abstractly. She clued you into the story she was telling by using different colors and tones to represent different periods. It felt like reading "The Scarlet Letter" and my biology textbook at the same time. Maybe that sounds like the worst thing ever, but to me it was heaven. Art isn't just art and science isn't just science. Aspects of different studies coexist and join together to form something amazing that will speak to even the most untalented patron walking through the museum halls.

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