Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Star Machine

Doogie and I have worked out a deal. He gets to watch Family Guy each night if he reads two chapters of the Bible as well. It might not be a perfect solution, but he's not watching it behind my back, and I'm trying to give him the chance to read something meaningful as well. He reads at the end of the bed while I read my Bible, so I'm available for questions and discussion (and mom time). Molly's reading two chapters a night as well; she takes her turn at the end of the bed when Doogie finishes. He started in the New Testament (expecting any teenager to make it through Leviticus is asking too much!) and Monday night read the story in Matthew 21 of Jesus and the fig tree. He couldn't understand why Jesus would curse the fig tree. To him it seemed mean and merciless. I tried to talk about people who don't use the gifts God gives them (don't bear fruit), but he wasn't buying any of it. It felt a little bit like Pharaoh hardening his heart against God. Doogie just couldn't see beyond Jesus' act of cursing the tree being cruel. Mia's faith is so easy. She just believes that God is and loves her and that's all she needs to know. Doogie's reached the age where he needs more and things need to make sense for him to give acceptance. I found this explanation of Jesus cursing the figs by Ron Rhodes. I'll share it with him and pray that he can accept it.

The Star Machine by Jeanine Basinger tells the story of how Hollywood movie studios produced stars from the 1930s through the 1950s by running them through a machine of sorts. Stars were assigned a type: star, character, or supporting, and then placed in movies that fit their type. Names were changed, teeth capped, hair cut, bodies shaped, biographies written, articles planted in the papers, and stars were born. I cannot gush enough about this book. Basinger fills it with over 200 photos of the stars that capture the era with their soft lighting and fabulous fashions. She picks specific stars and follows their journey through the star machine to show how it succeeded and how it just as often failed. She also uses stories of stars who broke the mold and made the machine unnecessary. The book feels decadent, like a box of good chocolate or fluffy slippers. But the way Basinger talks about movies is anything but fluffy. She's the chair of film studies at Wesleyan University, and reading the way she describes films, I would absolutely pay money to hear her teach a class on the subject. She gives even the flimsy, frothy comedies of the 1930s depth by discussing how a character is developed before they even walk onscreen. This is a book that demands a class or TV special filled with clips. I discovered stars I'd never heard of and fell back in love with long time favorites. My too see list has expanded exponentially.Two small notes: Johnny Depp's singing was dubbed in CryBaby, but he's proven he can sing since in Sweeney Todd. And, why the hatred toward Abbot and Costello? They are two of my family's favorites! Those points aside, if you are a fan of old movies, this is a must read. Charmingly written with insight and witty asides, Basinger's love for film shines on every page.

It's official, I'm sick of winter. We got almost 6 inches of snow last night, and then the wind picked up. The temp outside is 9 below without the windchill! On Saturday, if the groundhog sees his shadow, I'm going to drag him back out of his hole and threaten him with bodily harm until he changes his mind.

Remember you have until midnight tomorrow to sign up for the contest to win a copy of Jill Elizabeth's Nelson Relucant Smuggler. Just drop me an email at