Friday, April 30, 2010

It could be witches! Some evil witches!

Keiko Mecheri Datura Blanche

I mentioned yesterday that I love mysteries. I tend toward the supernatural variety, and I love noir, but really any type of mystery will do. I owned all fifty-two of the original Nancy Drew novels in hardback. FN1 I watched Murder, She Wrote religiously each week with my grandmother. (I always felt that Angela Lansbury's character had the world's greatest job -- wealthy successful novelist/murder mystery bellweather/semi-professional sleuth.) One Halloween I actually went as Miss Marple from the Agatha Christie novels. (Yet another year of me explaining my costume door-to-door.) I sometimes think my love of the law, particularly criminal law, is less about the law itself and more about the mystery solving and the meting out of righteous justice. I never really wanted to be a lawyer (my love for old Perry Mason episodes notwithstanding). I just wanted to be a little old writer lady living in New England, bringing mysterious death and intrigue along every time I went on vacation.

Today's scent is pretty interesting in that respect. It's name derives from a plant often used as a poison. Datura belongs is a classic "witch weed," like deadly nightshade, henbane, and mandrake. Also, like the other witch weeds, it's known to possess hallucinogenic properties. While it might be more appropriate to be thinking witches in the fall, this is definitely more of a summer scent for me.

Keiko Mecheri's line is intend as "an inspired pallet of olfactory poems." Datura blanche is described by Keiko Mecheri as follows:
An unknown town, a tranquil closed garden of a riadh glowing under the moonlight. The perfect alchemy of a dream. A sumptuous composition almost narcotic gives Datura blanche its empowering presence.

Notes: White Datura, Indian Tuberrose, Heliotrope, Bitter Almond, Myrrh, Tonka Bean, Vanilla Madagascar
On application, I get a lot of coconut oil (apparently the Datura there)  and vanilla candy coating, but the sugar candiness melts quickly into a dry, warm scent that reminds me of skin and hot rubber on the road, only to pop back up later in the lingering end notes. The dryness reminds of of the scent of linen sheets freshly washed and dried on the line in the warm sun. To me, this screams total beach scent -- tanning oil, warm skin, car wheels baking on searing hot sand. There are other scents that scream summer beach trips to me: CB I Hate Perfume At the Beach 1966, L'Artisan La Haie Fleurie du Hameau, and Annick Goutal Songes all immediately spring to mind. And you know what they have in common? Jasmine. FN2 So it's interesting to me that I think of this one as equally sun, sand, and surf-inspired when I would never have guessed I'd find a tuberrose/heliotrope scent that didn't make me think of say, cherry pie filling and baking almond cookies. One of the best things about how well this is balanced, in fact, is that it doesn't smell at all baby-powdery or provoke visions of play-doh, like so many heliotropes do. It's just sweet and warm and lovely. A great beach evening alternative for those who hate the soapy jasmines, if this is a poem, then for me, that poem is a warm and reflective experience that would be happily appropriate for the wearer of any age.

You can buy Datura blanche in a 75ml spray for $110 direct from the perfumer, LuckyScent, or First-in-Fragrance. Luckyscent also has samples.

"Which is ridiculous,
'cause witches they were persecuted,
Wicca, Good! And love the Earth!
And woman power!
And I'll be over here."

- "I've Got a Theory," from BtVS: Once More, With Feeling
(You can listen to video featuring the song here)

Want more reviews? Try...
~ a review from I Smell Therefore I Am
~ a review from One Thousand Scents
~ a review from The Fragrant Foodie
~ a review from Fashion Tribes

FN1 I haven't read them in years, but my recollection of the Nancy Drew books (the original 52, anyway) is of a pretty self-possessed, independent and brave young woman. I think they make a wonderful gift for any young girl.
FN2 Okay, with At the Beach 1966, I'm guessing, but since Brosius never gives us a notes list anyway, I get to make one up as a non-professional, and my 1966 has, I think, some jasmine in it. Or I'm crack-addled. You decide.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Just like the sun above I'll keep on shinning through...

Domenico Caraceni Ivy League

It hailed today. Not once. Three FREAKING times. This did not please me given that I braved some rather excruciating pain to go out and run to the library to return some seriously overdue books and (of course) get more. In case you're wondering, I am currently reading: The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, Breach of Faith: Hurricane Katrina and the Near Death of a Great American City, and (embarrassing honesty now) The Vampire Diaries: The Awakening.

I just finished rereading all nine of the Sookie Stackhouse novels in anticipation of the release of book ten, Dead in the Family next week and the release of True Blood: Season 2 in three weeks. I'm so starved for new vampire-related content that I finished the books too early, and now I'm giving The Vampire Diaries series a go. (I already watch the Vampire Diaries tv show and I own all four of the Twilight books -- are you really surprised?) Yep. That's me. The girl who never met a 'wamp- ire' story she didn't like. Or a ghost story.  Or a witch story. Or a small-town-murder-mystery story. Speaking of which, anyone anyone else catch the pilot for Happy Town? My favorite quote: "This is not a well man. A well man doesn't put a hole in another man's head."  Understatement of the year, sheriff.  Clearly, you never watched Twin Peaks.

Yes, I enjoy really any kind of creepy story....except straight-up, human brutality/horror of the Saw variety. Or zombies. I am deeply real-life terrified of a zombie apocalypse.  I blame World War Z. Anytime it comes up I just start yelling "WILDERNESS SKILLS!" over and over at David to demonstrate my deeply held fear that my lack of love for the outdoors will one day be the death of me, but only in an undead-end-of-the-world sort of way.

But I'm actually here to talk about perfume. No, really. I swear.

I've had this sample of Domenico Caraceni Ivy League I've been working on for about a year now. I have no excuse for failing to review it, especially since I like it. It's a summer scent, though, so now seems as good a time as any to tell you about it.

First-in-Fragrance describes Ivy League as follows,
In 1954 the Ivy Group Agreement was signed, which would ensure fair play in sport. The IVY LEAGUE became extremely important in the Colleges of the North Eastern U.S and even went on to develop its own style of fashion.

The perfume IVY LEAGUE by Domenico Caraceni expresses this time in a youthful, fresh and sporty fragrance.

Domenico Caraceni is famous throughout the world for his tailoring and unique style which characterized Italian fashion for many years. As court tailor to many Royal houses Domenico Caraceni, in his 1913 established tailor shop in Rome, dressed such illustrious personages as the kings of Greece and Italy and later the Prince of Wales Edward VIII, who was also known for his sense of style. Not only the nobility sought their way to the studio of the incomparable Caraceni, but also many famous stars of film and show business such as Tyrone Power, Humphrey Bogart, Gary Cooper, Cary Grant and Sophia Loren.

The uniqueness and sophistication of the clothes that emerged from Caracenis workshop was admired by all. Even today, at the Palazzo Bernasconi in Milan, "bespoke suits" are still created in Domenico Caraceni’s immutable style.

Top notes are amalfi lemon, bergamot, mandarin orange and chamomile; middle notes are geranium, jasmine and ylang-ylang; base notes are sandalwood, amber, vetiver and musk.
I think, given the name, it's supposed to be preppy. It's definitely got a clean cut feel to it, like those shiny preppy young folks you see in GAP holiday ads. Like GAP clothing, it's a genderless scent, well worn by a man or a woman. It does feel youthful, but in a sophisticated way that makes it more accessible than scents clearly aimed at younger buyers.

On immediate application, I get a big wallop of citrus and soap. It's simultaneously the smell of freshly squeezed orange juice and pretty flowers and....hand soap. Okay, yeah, I admit it. It's soapy. It's the jasmine. Lots of people think jasmine smells soapy. I don't; I think it smells like jasmine. But jasmine was all over where I grew up, like it is in tropical climbs, and the warm spring and summer night air was always filled with it. In my life, that scent has wafted over happy nights, many spent near the ocean, and I can't help but feel a sense of delight when I run into a scent with a really good jasmine note.Also, it seems rarer and rarer that I manage to find an orange scent that doesn't smell like the fake orange found in cleaners or candy, so I'm quite happy with this one.

Between the realistic orange and the well-made jasmine, that makes Ivy League a rare gem even in the ever crowded "clean" and "citrus" categories. Truthfully, I think if you can set aside any anti-soap urges you might feel, you might find you like it, too. It's a gentle, lovely balance. The sillage is low to moderate, and I still get faint wafts of it several hours later. I noticed that the warmer it is, the longer it tends to last.

Ivy League has become one of my favorite warm weather scents, and it is long past the time when I should break down and buy a bottle. Unfortunately, Luckyscent used to carry Ivy League, but it appears they don't anymore. I could only find it at First-in-Fragrance, where you can get 100ml for 79,00€, plus (in my case) international shipping and handling. If you know of a place I can get it here in the U.S., please let me know.

"I've been drinkin' now
just a little too much.
And I don't know how
I can get in touch with you.
Now there's only one thing for me to do --
that's to keep on tryin' to get home to you..."

- "Keep On Tryin'," Poco (You can listen to the song here)

Other than a brief but positive mention by Kevin from Now Smell this!, I couldn't find a review anywhere. And that's a shame.

Question of the Day: What scent says, to you, "I love you"?

Because I didn't want to go an entire day without some sort of perfume talk, I'd like to pose a question raised for my by one of my favorite shows running on TV right now. I'm a big fan of Bones. FN1 I didn't like the pilot initially, but after David, who liked the show right away, convinced me to watch a few more episodes, I got hooked. Now it's one of "our shows" (to differentiate it from the enormous panoply of TV I watch every week, since I tend to be a multitasker who hates being home alone and must have a TV or music on for company all the time).

Anyway, in Season 2, Episode 9 (Aliens in A Spaceship), one of the male protagonists, Dr. Jack Hodgins, is secretly(ish) in love with one of the female protagonists, Angela Montenegro. FN2 In an effort to express this, he buy her perfume. Specifically a "crazy expensive" perfume, called "Deep Rhapsody." This perfume, shown in a small falcon, is purported to be $3,000 an ounce. In describing it, he says:
I'm nuts about Angela. Over the moon. Stupid in love with her. That's why I bought her that ... that crazy, expensive perfume. A man gives you a bottle of perfume like that, it says ... it says, "I love you". (Brennan nods) There. I said it out loud.
A bottle of perfume that says, "I love you." I know that, in this particular case, Hodgins is describing the obscene gesture, the amount of money spent to buy something rare and fine and intimate in order to tell a woman that he feels that way about her. FN3 But of course, my perfumey brain immediately went to work: what scent to me, if given to me, would say, "I love you"? Clearly. Unequivocally. I love you.

The first scent I thought of was S-Perfume 100% Love, but that might be a bit too....literal? Although I do love it, and it does make me feel comfortable and happy. Something Limited Edition or discontinued or vintage, like L'Artisan Iris Pallida or my beloved Ava Luxe Blackberry Musk or vintage Dior Diorissimo, which is rare and hard to find, just like real love? Something sensual, like Juliette Has a Gun Lady Vengeance (which, to me, is dangerous and provocative) or Tauer Perfumes L'Air du desert marocain (which, to me, is big and audacious and powerful and seductive)?

In the end, though, I guess like Hodgins I think the mere act of perfume giving is an act of loving. It's personal. It's difficult. It's intimate and familiar and it requires taking a risk by having something you find beauty and value in being under appreciated or misunderstood or just flat rejected. Like a handmade Valentine, or a carefully tracked mixed-tape, a gift of perfume says, "I thought about you, and how I feel about you, and I chose this as an expression of my love for you and I hope to hell you appreciate it because it will hurt me if you don't."

It reminds me of my wedding ring. When I first opened the box holding my engagement ring, I had two simultaneous thoughts: (1) Wow, that is not really in almost any way what I told him I wanted -- it's way to frail and thin and tiny and feminine and not at all what I would ever imagine for myself. (2) Wow. That is exactly what I never knew I wanted. It is so thin an delicate and beautiful. I have never seen myself that way. I never even knew I wanted to. I'm so...touched. In choosing this ring, which he had designed without my knowledge, my husband took a big risk in hoping a symbol he wanted me to wear for the rest of my life to represent our love and bond, David was telling me something about me and about his love for me. That is a very vulnerable, and therefore emotionally dangerous, thing to do. Choosing a perfume for someone is, to some degree, the same.

What about you, dear reader? What scents say "love" to you? Perhaps, for me, I was right on the money with 100% Love, after all.

2/12/12 Editors' note: Thanks to Anon for posting in to correct my bad math.  Hodgins bought perfume was $3K for 1/4 ounce. That's $12K an ounce! Hot damn.  That is really expensive perfume.

FN2 I'd have embedded a clip but I couldn't find one. Sad panda. :(
FN3 Please excuse the whole heterosexist and gender essentialist bent of this post. Basically anyone buying anyone else this kind of perfume would probably adequately express deep affection...or a willingness to pay for sex. Depending on how it was presented.

Sexual Assault, Campus Reporting, and College and University Alert Systems

Why the Use of Campus Alert Systems in Campus Sexual Assaults Won't Help, and May Actually Hurt, Survivors

So I'm going to do something I try to avoid doing, generally. I'm going to intentionally wade into an online brouhaha within the feminist blogging community when I know that it may result in some trolls eventually finding me and abusing me anonymously from afar. I could do this on a variety of topics every week, but I choose not to in an effort to maintain my own sanity. But I finally found a topic I feel I have to weigh in on, so here I go ladies and gentlemen. I’m going in. And I’m taking you along for the ride. You should know that (a) this is no way related to perfume, and (b) is about sexual assault, so I am giving you a TRIGGER WARNING right now.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

It's like a book elegantly bound but in a language that you can't read -- just yet.

Ormonde Jayne Ormonde Woman

Once you get into perfume, there seem to be some scents that are almost universally respected even if not everyone would wear them. Shalimar. No 5. Jicky. Joy. Often referred to as 'classics' or icons,' these scents don't even need house names attached. There will only every be one scent by that singular name that matters. Most of these scents will play hell with newbie perfumistas because they are almost uniformly difficult to discern...and also, if I'm honest, difficult to like. So frequently they smell like nothing else you've smelled before, and that makes them either instantly lovable or loathsome, sometimes in equal measure. Ormonde Jayne Ormonde Woman is one of those scents.

Every review I've seen has been in praise of it, even if the person reviewing it admits it's not a scent they could imagine wearing themselves. Tania describes it in Perfumes: The Guide as "the haunting, outdoors witchiness of tall pines leaning into the night -- a bitter oakmoss inkiness, a dry cedar crackle, and a low, delicious, leading sweet amber, like the call of a faraway candy house." Other reviewers describe it as follows a "modern chypre;" "ivy, cedar, pine;" "meaty earthy greenness - black hemlock;" "warm woodsy violet;" and "sandalwood, cedary, spicy, truffles." That's a lot of different thoughts about a single scent. It's also a lot to take in in preparation for smelling something that is supposed to be wonderful. As a newbie, part of you just prays you won't be repulsed by it, in the same way -- despite everything we say about loving the scents you love regardless of what other think of them -- that you don't discover that GAP So Pink! is your favorite scent EVVVVVAH.

Ormonde Woman was created in 2002 by Linda Pilkington. The Ormonde Jayne website describes Ormonde Woman as follows:
Beginning and ending with the unique scent of Black Hemlock absolute - rarely used in such luscious quality and quantity - this utterly hypnotic, unconventional and mysterious woody essence is combined with jasmine and violet absolute to create a dusky, seductive perfume.

Notes: Cardamom, Coriander, Grass Oil, Black hemlock, Violet and Jasmine Absolute, Vetiver, Cedar Wood, Amber and Sandalwood
Immediately it's very sweet, then a few minutes in it turns spicy. Lots of cardamom and coriander, which for me meant lots of weird sneezing. Despite me know that it was those to notes taking over the scent was very salt and pepper-y. I also get some amber in there. Over time it gets sweeter like powder but without getting powdery, which is a pretty wonderful smell.

And remember a few weeks ago when I went all gaga for Bvlgari BLV Pour Homme? Remember how I talked about how it was really unique and like nothing I'd smelled before? It's the male first cousin of Ormonde Woman. I'd be really interested in trying Ormonde Man next to the Bvlgari; I suspect the Bvlgari might be a knock-off. If it's not, though, then Bvlgari has made a pretty great tribute to Ormonde Woman in the form of a masculine. If anyone has tried Ormonde Man, I'd love to hear what you think.

It's nice to have tried this well-respected scent and make my own impressions. Personally, I don't get witch or violet; I do get meaty, earthy and woodsy. And I more or less enjoyed it, which is always nice when one takes on an iconic scent. After over two year writing this blog, I think I'm finally getting a broad enough scent palette to appreciate some of the more difficult scents. That pleases me so. It's nice to think that, like the language of love, I'm finally achieving some functional fluency in the language of scent.

Ormonde Woman is available in a parfum (50ml for £180.00) and an EdP (50ml for £68.00), as well as a hydrating bath shower creme, essential bathing oil, replenishing body lotion, and scented candle. You can also get gift sets of the scent in various forms, and it is included in a "Discovery Set" that contains One sample of each fragrance in a 2ml mini spray for only £35.00 (shipping included) and allows you to sample the entire line. If you're feeling EXTRA fancy, you can get a bottle of the parfum that comes with an engraved cap.

"You gotta spend some time, Love.
You gotta spend some time with me.
And I know that you'll find, Love,
I will possess your heart."
- "I Will Possess Your Heart," Death Cab for Cutie
(You can listen to the song here)

Want more reviews? Try...
~ a review from The Left Coast Nose
~ a review from Robin at Now Smell This!
~ a review from Perfume-Smellin' Things
~ a review from For the Love of Perfume
~ a review from Scents & Sensibility
~ a review from Bois de Jasmin
~ a review from Confessions of a Perfume Nerd
~ a review from Perfume Shrine
~ a review from Perfume Queen
~ a review from Pere de Pierre
~ a review from Signature Scent
~ a review from Octavian from 1000 Fragrances
~ a review from One Thousands Scents
~ a review from Eiderdown Press

Monday, April 26, 2010

And liberty she pirouette when I think that I am free...

Andy Tauer Perfumes Reverie au Jardin

It's freezing in Portland right now. Seriously. Our annually schizophrenic April weather is working itself into a tizzy down to the last moments, which means that the tulips have fallen flat to the ground and I can't figure when I can pack up my sweaters. Every time I start to, the heater kicks in again. Despite this, David's students persist in laying out on the lawn in the tiniest clothes, trying to enjoy the summer after months of grey. Here on the hill, we are definitely ready for Summer.

It's also time, once again, for me to sing the praises of one Andy Tauer, perfumer extraordinaire. Come one, come all, and hear the choir sing, for I am far from lonely when it comes to affection for his work. The perfume I'm reviewing today is a fantastic scent for Spring and Summer, and definitely worth giving a try.

Created in 2007, according to the perfumer Reverie au Jardin is
A classical fragrance, twinkling like a star,caresses your journey, through green lands.

Notes: Galbanum, fir balm, lavender, frankincense, ambrette seeds, tonka beans, vetiver.
It reminds me of the smell of trees blooming in spring. Specifically fir trees, which don't blossom but show a lot of new growth in spring, tiny needles of light green sprouting from the tips, making the trees look frosted on the edges, like the way my momma used to do her hair with a frosting cap. The tonka and lavender give it a sweetness that is delightful, and the vetiver adds a dryness I enjoy. It's almost peachy in a strange way like the scent one encounters when fruit, hanging too long on a tree, falls to the ground and begins to spoil. It's a scent that reminds me of how the pears from the pear tree outside our family beach house used to sit until they began to rot in the hot Texas sun because no one stayed there with enough consistency to pick the fruit while it was edible.

Rotting fruit? Sounds bad, right? I'm making it sound bad. That's not what I mean though. My opinion is that really ripe, almost spoiled fruit tends to be the most flavorful and pungent, and that makes that fruit truly delicious, like the way you wait until your bananas are basically overripe to use them for making banana bread. Without that deep ripeness, you'd never get a decent banana flavor in the bread.

Reverie au Jardin is a lovely scent. It's not overly fruity, not overly floral, and not too sweet, and yet is all those things. I think it would make an incredible summer scent. That said, this is my fourth Tauer scent review and the first one I am not giving a full five nods. Let me tell you why: this is a great scent. It's unique. It's lovely. I'd love owning a bottle.

At the same time, though, for me it just doesn't rise the totally mind-blowing artful insanity that I find in Lonestar Memories, L'Air du desert marocain, and Une rose chypree. In all three of those scents, I find myself wondering how any person ever came up with the idea for the scent in the first place. This scent, while a lovely creation and possibly the best at what it does, just isn't that singular to me. That said, it's a heck of a lot more accessible and incredibly wearable in an every day sort of way when compared to L'Air du desert marocain or Une rose chypree and for that reason might make the best of the Tauer Perfumes to gift to someone you aren't sure will enjoy it. It's a great scent; it's the sort of singular scent I've come to expect from Tauer, but I do think that there are very few people who can do scents as well Andy Tauer. To paraphrase Mike Myers in So I Married an Axe Murderer, "I think you're great, Andy Tauer. Everything you do is art."

And that's the truth.

You can buy direct from the perfumer or from Luckyscent in 50ml for $100, as well as a sample. It's worth every penny.

"I had to listen; I had no choice.
I did not believe the information.

I just had to trust imagination.
My heart going 'boom boom boom.'
'Son,' he said, 'Grab your things,
I've come to take you home.'
- "Solsbury Hill," Peter Gabriel (You can see a video of the song being performed here)

Want more reviews? Try...
~ a review from Perfume-Smellin' Things
~ a review from Perfume Shrine
~ a review from Legerdenez
~ a review from The Non-Blonde
~ a review from Savvy Thinker

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Feel the silky touch of my caresses...

Stella McCartney Stella Nude

So I've mentioned several times that my friend Star got me the a Sephora sampler set for Christmas. Along with 1-1.5 ml samples of several of their popular and best selling scents, it comes with a gift certificate for a 1oz bottle of your favorite of the sample set. After trying the sampler extensively, I finally settled on a scent to have a full bottle of. I'll be honest: I almost went with a bottle of Prada Infusion d'Iris, despite having a rather large decant already. While I may not enjoy their advertising, I do deeply enjoy the scent. I didn't only because you can basically buy gallons of the stuff on the discounter seller cheap. Instead, after much hemming and hawing, I finally settled on Stella Nude.

According to Stella McCartney's website,
To evoke the delicacy and femininity, STELLANUDE has remained with the same rose family of STELLA, reimagining the classic blossom to evoke a more carnal impression.

STELLANUDE opens with the sensual scent of Moroccan rose, infused with a fresh hint of grapefruit. As the fragrance reveals itself on the skin, the floral heart notes of tender white peony bloom forth. This striking feminine aroma is invigorated by a pick of pink pepper. Secrete powers of seduction lies in STELLANUDE's base notes, a precious combination of Ugandan vanilla with the intriguing grey amber.

Notes: Moroccan Rose, Grapefruit, White Peony, Pink Pepper, Precious Vanilla, Grey Amber, Musk.
This is scent, sadly, is most widely known for the fact that Stella McCartney got sued by Bono's wife over the name. That hubbub was going on months before the scent's release, and by the lack of reviews I could find, seemed to have gotten a lot more attention than the actual scent. FN1 To be fair to scent reviewers, it would probably help them get around to reviewing Stella McCartney's scents if she would stop releasing a new flanker every fifteen minutes.

That said, unlike most of the reviews below, I liked Stella Nude. The scent reminds me most strongly of rose water tea and rose incense of the quality I normally find at places like Saturday Market. It is a gentle, non-aggressive scent, and it does not fall into the 'realistic rose,' 'powdery rose,' or 'patchouli rose,' categories that seem very popular right now. After a little while on me, it gets a bit peppery, and it has decent lasting power. I tend to catch it wafting up toward me throughout the day in tiny bursts, which reminds me of the way steam rises off the hot concrete after an early afternoon storm during hot Houston summers.

Stella Nude isn't my favorite rose, not by a long shot. But it is light, it's not overpoweringly rosey, and makes for a nice scent particularly on cooler, rainy days. For the price, which for me of course was free, it's a decent buy. As always, I strongly recommend a 'try before you buy' on this one, but I will tell you that on THREE separate occasions my husband asked me what I was wearing and commented on how nice I smelled while I was wearing Stella Nude. That is the highest approval rating he's given anything I've worn in my two years of perfumey adventures. And that he likes it on me is more than enough reason for me to enjoy owning it.

You can buy Stella Nude from Sephora in a variety of sizes: 1oz for $45, 1.6oz for $65, 3.3oz for $85, as well as a linen scented mist, scented candles, and a number of other scented items. Stella Nude is also available from a number of online discounters.

Also, and this is totally off topic, but can I just say how happy tonight's Madonna-themed episode of Glee made me? I love Madonna, and have every since they first ran the "Borderline" video on MTV. I played the "True Blue" album over and over and over while playing Pitfall on my Atari 2600 (that's HOW MUCH of a child of the 80s I am) until the tape wore out. So if you missed the episode or don't even watch the show, but you love the woman in the cone bra, watch the episode. It has every iteration of Madge, down to her latex bondage outfit with tiny bondage dog, as well as great renditions of her choreography. It's a Madonna fan total bonanza, and if you love her, even if you don't love the show, this is a pretty great tribute.

"You've got style, that's what all the girls say -
Satin sheets and luxuries so fine,
All your suits are custom made in London,
but I've got something that you'll really like.
Gonna dress you up in my love,
all over, all over.
Gonna dress you up in my love
all over your body...," Madonna

- "Dress You Up," (You can listen to the song here)

Want more reviews? Try...
~ a review from Robin at Now Smell This!
~ a review from Octavian at 1000 Fragrances
~ a review from Fragrantica
~ a video review from Kara Elkins
~ a his & hers review from The Ampersand
FN1 And I will take this moment to use my legal education to briefly weigh in on the suit and tell you that Nathan Branch is right on in his critique here in the comments section of this The Non-Blonde post. It's ridiculous to think you can use intellectual property law to selectively enforce your sole right to use a word as commonly used in fragrance and cosmetics as 'nude,' and no matter how you try to gerrymander your 'industry' to narrow it enough in order to try to say that you got there first, Hewson did not (a) get there first or (b) even if she did, enforce the use enough to merit her case even being filed.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Perfume Marketing and Feminist Aesthetics, Pt. 3: The Exotic and how it relates to the Male Gaze and Majority View in Perfume Advertising

Wow. It’s been two weeks since I talked about the various categories Angela and I sorted mainstream perfume advertising into. I’ll try to be more on top of getting the series pieces out. For those of you just joining us, it might be useful to refer to the previous posts, which you can find listed at the bottom of this post.

As you may recall, dear reader, we’ve been talking here at Feminine Things about the male gaze in perfume advertising. The first category we explored was the ubiquitous erotica. These ads appeal purely to sex and tend to quantify women as objects to be used for male pleasure. There are other approaches, though. Today we will explore ads that could be described as appealing to the “exotic,” including those ads that cross the erotic and exotic in ways that not only objectify their subjects in order to appeal to the male gaze, but that also trade upon stereotypes in order to portray people and places in the context of a majority view, exploit differences related to race, culture, and national origin.

Let’s start with this Miss Dior Cherie ad. In general, not a terribly exploitive ad. Yes, the model is ridiculously skinny, her skirt is unnecessarily short, but generally not a terrible ad. The appeal of the ad is to be found in the whimsical foreignness of it all. A woman held aloft by balloon (because she weighs nothing, apparently), floating above the skyline of Paris in a lovely party dress. Again, we have an inactive woman, someone who is being acted upon (balloons), rather than being active. The ad implies travel to far away places, exploration of the unknown, youthful fun exuberant discovery of the world and of the self. While this ad does have some appeal to women like me, who like to think of all the wonderful places in the world they’ve never been but dream of going, it also appeals to the male gaze in so far as there has been a historical practice of exploiting women of minority cultures and using their ‘exotic’ appeal (i.e. different from what you get at home, buddy) in order to excuse the sexual and physical abuse and exploitation of women in general, and minority women in particular.

For example, let’s talk about this other Miss Dior Cherie ad. Here, you’ve got another troublingly skinny girl in a party dress, standing barefoot (implied by the shoe in hand) on the wide grassy lawn of a large palatial estate. There is a lot of overlap with another category in this one (fantasy – more on that later), but I look at this and what I see appealing is the depiction of another life, a life remote and foreign. How many of us have partied til the sun came up at a friend’s country estate and then, after running barefoot over the dew covered lawns, are driven home in a Rolls? The skimpy dress, the implication from the removed shoe that this woman is willing to (and already in the process of) undress, the come hither gaze – all imply this exotic woman is ready for sex. One of the things I find most fascinating, though, is the placement of her right arm. Not a lot of people stand around with their arm crooked like that, but many people place their hand behind their head in a similar position when they are lying down or sleeping. By posing the standing model in a position one normally would associate more with lying and passivity rather than standing or being active, one places the viewer (again) in the subconscious position of viewing, for consumption, an image of a partially dressed woman in a passive and ready-for-bedding position.

Another ad that plays into similar stereotypes in more obvious ways is this Euphoria ad. You’ve got a woman who once again is giving you the come hither gaze, and (thanks to photoshop) is simultaneously caressing her own lips with her eyelids closed while her ‘dress’/bed sheet flows around her. I tend to think of this face as “on the verge of fake orgasm” face. Now I love perfume. I love perfume more than most people I know. But never once in my life has a perfume enticed me to make that face, and I can only assume that this model was (a) probably not actually wearing Euphoria at the time of her photo shoot, and (b) would not have been driven to make that face in response to wearing Euphoria, even if she was wearing it. The woman is not of identifiable ethnic, racial, or national origin and she is superimposed over a lake and trees at sunset. The land is indistinguishable and covered in shadow, emphasizing its otherness. You cannot identify where it is that this beautiful, exotic woman is from, but she has apparently traveled a long way to have sex with the viewer in nothing but a mauve bed sheet. How brave of her! I definitely want to smell like that.

And now we get to two of the most ridiculous exotic/erotic ads. First up, Prada L’Eau Ambree. When my girlfriends come over to hang out in the afternoon, and I go to share my love of perfume with them, I tend to do this by spraying them on their neck and then just nuzzling the crap out of them. Yep. I just spray the perfume on and then stick my nose right in there to enjoy it…

What irritates me about this ad is that not only does it play into my least favorite exploitative male fantasy – girl on girl action – but it uses a series of almost identical women (Are they identical? Is it the same model?) so that they can leverage in the whole ‘look, lesbian quadruplets!’ thing. FN1 Plus, the model second from the left appears to be losing the top of her dress. Chic women basically falling all over each other blends the exotic and erotic in a way that is subtle because it uses a specific kind of exoticism – sexual exoticism. It plays on the idea that certain kinds of sexual ‘taboos’ (as mainstream culture deems them) are especially attractive to – you guessed it – men, and that playing on those makes you more attractive to men by playing to idea of sexual voyeurism, the male gaze, and female objectification. FN2

Lastly, I give you the perfume ad equivalent of a United of Benetton ad: the Dolce & Gabbana scent ads. A bevy of physically fit and naked men and women of multiple ethic/racial backgrounds all staring longingly at the viewer. They seem to be arraigned in such a way as to cover any number of possible sexual fantasies: the two women on the bottom left, the two men on the top left, the couple on the top right embracing, the solo male on the bottom left. Whatever you are attracted to, whatever gives you an exotic, erotic thrill, it’s implied in this ad. I’d give them more credit for their multi-ethnic approach if it weren’t so obviously done for sexual exploitation and the benefit of the viewer. FN3 But here, like the rainbow of bottles, D&G is offering up a rainbow of sexual partners, all of whom look so eager to get with you they should be advertising for a swingers' website instead of a line of scent.

One interesting thing, though, is that the male models are shown to be just as passive as the female models in this ad. It certainly raises some debatable points about whether this simply casts men in the same passive role in order to appeal to an expanded 'male gaze' that includes gay men's desires, or if it cuts against the norm by allowing -- though gay men -- women to access images of sexually appealing men, thus subverting traditional gendered voyeurism in advertising aesthetics. My personal preference is to see both men and women pictured as active and self-actualized rather than passive and objectified, but I also recognize that even my stated desire can be limiting to the ways in which men and women can be displayed. And I'm generally in favor of a multiplicity of expression for both male and female identified individuals, even if that means that both men and women retain the right to display themselves in passive roles as part of their own sexual exploration (i.e. as bottoms/subs).

Again, I will take this moment to lament the lack of ads that actually demonstrate anything about the scents they purport to sell. These ads, particularly the bottom three, are actually selling sex, not perfume. Perfume here is simply mentioned in conjunction with the heavy implication of sex, and the advertisers hope that, overwhelmed with a desire to either (a) have sex with the person pictured or (b) be desirable for sex like the person in the picture, you'll buy the scent hoping you'll be associated with the ad.

What I find interesting about this approach to selling scent is that it fails utterly. While depicting a sheet swaddled model in a seductive pose right next to a car or in a bed might help you associate the act of seeing that car or sitting on that bed with sex and therefore provide some of the aforementioned aspired connection, it's not like anyone carries the bottle of scent they wear around with them. You don't display it on a chain around your neck. If someone thinks you smell good, they aren't necessarily going to associate the imagery of the ad with the scent because the act of smelling the scent isn't associated with the images in the ad -- they're too removed.

This gap might be addressed by putting scent strips on the ads, but that only allows the buyer to associate the image with the scent, not others who might smell you (unless they really excellent olfactory and visual memories).  The only thing the advertiser can be hoping for is that you, the buyer, will hope to associate yourself with these images, and given that they tend to convey messages that people, particularly women, are passive objects waiting to be used, often for the sexual pleasure of the viewer, we all end up encoded with subtle messaging about the nature of women. When you add markers that indicate diversity of ethnicity, race, or national origin to these images, you imply some similar messaging about non-majority individuals.

For other posts in this series, see:
~ Gender, Language, and Scent
~ Perfume Marketing and Feminist Aesthetics, Pt. 1: Perfume, Advertising, And the Male Gaze
~ Some More Thoughts on "The Man Your Man Could Smell Like" and Advertising of Scents for 'Men'
~ Perfume Marketing and Feminist Aesthetics, Pt. 2: Sex/Erotica and the Male Gaze in Perfume Advertising
~ Advertising Critique: Prada Infusion d'Iris

FN1 I have never really understood the whole ‘twins/triplets/etc.’ thing, but I know it’s stereotypical enough that I found a fake demotivational poster about it. Seriously. If you’ve never heard of this, just google “male fantasy + twins.” DO NOT use the image search. Trust me.

FN2 Unless you live under a rock, you know that there’s been this whole trend in popular culture that describes straight girls making out with one another for the benefit of men/in order to manipulate men. From Gilmore Girls’ Rory and Paris having a terribly awkward kiss on Spring Break, to Winona Ryder trying to reignite her career post-shoplifting debacle by kissing Rachel on Friends, everyone has done this sad sack of a storyline. Just this past week’s episode of Glee (which I love, despite the running Santana/Brittany have sex but ARE NOT GAY!!! gag) had a scene wherein Brittany and Santana ask Finn out on a date with them and at the restaurant, Santana explains, “Let us give you an introduction into the way that we work. You buy us dinner and we make out in front of you. It’s like the best deal ever.”

As a woman who is attracted to and has dated both male-identified and female-identified individuals, this becomes an ongoing problem for women who might pass for straight but are intimate with women. It plays on the worst stereotypes of bi/omnisexuals: that they are ‘slutty’ or ‘easy’ or ‘oversexed’ or ‘indiscriminate’ and always ‘ready to go’ sexually. Worse, these straight women’s performances (and that’s what they are) confuse women who are genuinely trying to explore their sexuality and are not simply making out with girls for a thrill or the attention of men.

FN3 Seriously, has anyone noticed how incredible WHITE perfume ads are? I almost never see individuals of color unless (a) it’s a celebrity hawking a (usually name branded) scent or (b) a model of color is used in order to increase exotic sexual appeal. It’s appalling.  But that's a whole other post entirely...

Friday, April 16, 2010

You know, I've come too far to wind up right back where I started.

Ayala Moriel Parfums Immortelle L'Amour 

'You’ll find it hard to resist licking this perfume, but it will prove to be a true friend for a love-injured heart.' – says Ayala.

Dear reader! How I've missed you!  It's been a busy week here in Puddletown, and I have been flittering around out in the world.  Oh the things I've seen that I want to talk to you about!  The things I've heard!

Let's start with my wonderful mail package I got this week.  I recently won a 4ml bottle of Ayala Moriel Parfums Immortelle L'Amour from her incredibly lovely blog, Smellyblog. This was a truly awesome win, and receiving the package was the brightest spot in my week.

Created in 2007, according to Ayala Moriel Parfums site,
Love immortal encompassed in the unfolding petals of the immortal flower… A love etched deeply in a bleeding heart aching with pain. The lovers’ walk interrupted by the ghostly winds and misty sea spray. Hearts warming to the dancing flames in the fireplace, their longing for a kiss freezes on the snow like Tire sur la Neiges… The maple-like nuances of immortelle absolute are used here along with sweet orange, cinnamon, wheat and three different kinds of vanilla (co2, absolute and infusion of vanilla bean), creating a perfume that truly captures the aroma of cinnamon-pancakes and Tire d’Erable (“taffee on the snow”), an inseparable part of the Quebec heritage in the Maple Harvest Festivals. You’ll find it hard to resist licking this perfume, but it will prove to be a true friend for a love-injured heart. Immortelle l'Amour is also offered as a 100% certified organic Perfumed Tea.

Famlies: Gourmand

Notes: Benzoin Siamese, Broom (Genet), Cinnamon Immortelle, Rooibos (Red Tea), Sweet Orange Vanilla Absolute, Vanilla CO2, Vanilla Extract Wheat Absolute
 Immediately upon application, Immortelle l'Amour is a delicious gourmandy delight!  It reminds me of a chocolatini made with Grey Goose L'Orange, or a wonderful alcoholic chocolate sauce.  It's not just vanilla extract -- it's more than that.  It's a fancy cocktail smell, of the dessert variety.  My friend Jill works part time at a Willamette Valley vineyard, and her roommate and my BFF Kate, upon smelling Immortelle l'Amour, said is smelled the way the vineyard's Pinot Noir Chocolate Sauce tastes.   After about ten minutes I get a lot of the wheat and broom, so it gets a textured smell.  It's like a chocolate bar with dried herbs in it.

This alone would be fantastic.  It would be one of the more unique gourmands I've tried, and I tend to enjoy foodie scents so I've tried a bunch of them. But when I put it on to try it the other day and went out with some friends, I was half way through a movie and suddenly felt like my hands were sticky.  I thought, "Why are my hand's sticky?  Oh, must be those waffles I ate this morning."  Then I remembered it wasn't the weekend (I forgot without a job what day it is), and therefore there had not been weekend brunch waffles.  "Why am I thinking of waffles?  Because I smell like maple syrup.  Why do I smell like maple syrup if I didn't have waffles!?!"  Then I realized it was Immortelle l'Amour, hours later. It smelled like my Vermont honeymoon, so delightfully and deliciously maple syrupy I not only thought I'd eaten waffles and still had syrup on me, but I psychosomatically thought I had sticky syrup hands.  That's how seriously good this is. It's so And I do, in fact, find it hard not to lick this perfume, just as Ayala promised.

I was telling my friend Becca about the experience at lunch today, and she said, "Yeah but who wants to smell like waffles?"  I replied, "Who DOESN'T want to smell like waffles!?!"  In all seriousness though, the fragrances I tend to get the most compliments on are gourmands.  People like food.  They like dessert.  And when you smell like dessert, people tend to associate you with thoughts and feelings of indulgence, special treats, and deliciousness.  In my opinion, that is never a bad thing. (Though I wouldn't wear a gourmand to a 'just before lunch' job interview, as your interviewer make focus more on their rumbling tummy than the wonderful things coming out of your mouth.)

You can buy a 1ml sample is $10, as well as Immortelle l'Amour Tea, Mini Parfum, Parfum Extrait Travel Size Roll On, and an awesome tea and 9ml flacon of perfume set.

"And if I had the choice I'd take the voice I got 'cause it was hard to find.
You know I've come too far to wind up right back where I started.
And they tell me who I should be.
I'll never let the monkeys make a mess of me.
I give all I can and it's all I can do, but I'm true.
And then they talk you up and then they talk you down, 

and you begin to doubt.
Sometimes the reasons seem so very far away.
Ahh but I'll stop breathing that day,
'cause if I can't walk proud, I'd rather walk away.
I do all I am and it's all I can do.
Oh, I'm true."

- "True," Concrete Blonde (You can listen to the song here)

Want more reviews? Try...
~ a review from Notes From the Ledge
~ a mention from Perfume Shrine
~ a review from The Scented Salamander
~ a review from Savvy Thinker
~ a review from Of the Rain
~ a review from Fragrantica

Monday, April 12, 2010

And the world spins madly on...

Jo Malone Pomegranate Noir

I've started making a list of all the things I have to do/do every day in an effort to remind myself that I am actually getting a lot of stuff done. It's easy to feel, when you are unemployed, like you are just spinning in place all the time. This list is an attempt in my own tiny way to ensure that I, in the immortal words of General "Vinegar Joe" Stilwell, "don't let the Bastards grind [me] down." (FN1) Today that included consoling a friend and giving a girl from China a driving lesson. Tomorrow...taxes.

A big thank you, first off, to Ines at All I Am - A Redhead for the sample of Pomegranate Noir, the first of my Jo Malone scents. According to Jo Malone,
This sophisticated scent was inspired by a red silk dress and the intriguing character of pomegranate. Pomegranate Noir combines the sweet fruity notes of raspberry, plum, pink pepper and pomegranate with patchouli, frankincense and spicy woods to create a scent that’s sensual, totally sophisticated and utterly compelling.
"Utterly compelling." I could say a lot for Pomegranate Noir, because it's really beautiful, but "utterly compelling" really says it all. One of the most remarkable things about Pomegranate Noir is its tartness, which I find very appealing and equally rare in my perfume travels. It is delectable in a realistically juicy way, and the patchouli notes give it a green earthiness that make it seem like fresh fruit right off the tree. I've tried it several times now, and I just can't get enough of it. It's so good I'm sort of fixated. I suspect Spring 2010 will forever be imprinted in my mind with Pomegranate Noir.

In the world of pomegranates, this is probably pretty close to my ideal. This is one of those times where, now knowing that one scent exists, you can't, in good conscious, recommend a scent with similar notes. In a world where Jo Malone Pomegranate Noir exists, why would anyone wear CK Euphoria? Pomegranate Noir is fruitier and louder and less soft, powdery and pink, so I guess that could be a reason. And I can see how if you liked one and it wasn't quite right, you might try the other. That said, as pomegranate scents go, Jo Malone's is vastly superior. It has clarity and focus. It's clean and accessible. CK Euphoria becomes a muddle mash; Pomegranate Noir stays strong throughout. That said, if you like pomegranate but don't like tang or dirt, then you might prefer CK Euphoria. Euphoria certainly smells less girl next door, ironically, and more hip girl in a suede sweater dress. But then, I guess I'm more of an every-girl type.

You can buy Pomegranate Noir in 30ml for $55 or 100ml for $100 direct from the perfumer, Neiman Marcus, Bloomingdales (which also currently includes your choice of a sample of either Jo Malone Orange Blossom or Nectarine Blossom), and Bergdorf Goodman. Bergdorf also has a lovely Jo Malone sample box that includes 9ml of Pomegranate Noir and would make, I think, a lovely gift for anyone with an interest in perfume, from newb nose to expert fumehead. Pomegranate Noir is also available in a variety of forms, including bath oil, body creme, body lotion, shower gel, and various candle products.

"I let the day go by.
I always say goodbye.
I watch the stars from my window sill.
The whole world is moving and I'm standing still.
Woke up and wished that I was dead,
with an aching in my head.
I lay motionless in bed.
The night is here and the day is gone
and the world spins madly on..."

- "World Spins Madly On," The Weepies
(You can listen to the song here)

Want more reviews? Try...
~ a review from Robin at Now Smell This!
~ a review from Perfume-Smellin' Things
~ a review from the Scented Salamander
~ a review from Bois de Jasmin
~ a review from Indie Perfumes
~ a mention in Chandler Burr's essay, "The unbearable lightness of scent"
~ a review from Sweet Diva
~ a review from Heapnose
~ a bevy of user reviews from Fragrantica

FN1 Though I was originally familiar with the phrase from the chorus of one of my favorite U2 songs, "Acrobat." Bono cites the track as one of his favorite U2 songs, too. [Stokes, Niall (1996). Into The Heart: The Stories Behind Every U2 Song. Harper Collins Publishers. ISBN 0-7322-6036-1]

Sunday, April 11, 2010

On the Death of Dixie Carter, the Life of Julia Sugarbaker, and Feminist Role Models for Southern Women


I was going to post a perfume review tonight of Jo Malone Pomegranate Noir, but that's going to have to wait.

I just discovered that Dixie Carter died.

I think I am truly, deeply hurt by this.

You see, Dixie Carter, a real life woman of poise and grace and talent, is a woman I have always respected, talent-wise, though politically we never saw eye-to-eye. But if you want to trace back my feminist roots, if you want one solid, singular pop-culture icon to point to as one of the most influential figures in my young life, it would have to be Julia Sugarbaker of Designing Women.

Julia, whose verve and style were matched only by her fiery independence, oratory finesse, and incredible substance. Julia, who defended women, liberals, gays, and crazy people. Julia, who is possibly the best of all possible Southern icons, who makes me feel proud of the Southern left in me. I'm not sure I even would have thought of it unless prompted, but here's the honest truth: I didn't want to be a single woman I knew when I grew up. Not one of them was successful or independent or smart or out-spoken in the way I longed to be. But Julia Sugarbaker, that's a woman I could have written you a ten page "Who I Want to Be When I Grow Up" paper on in 5th grade. Business owner, single mother (after her husband died), social activist, feminist, charity and foundation board member, philanthropist, and dedicated friend -- my God, if I could be even a 10th of this woman, if I could be remembered half as brave or honest or truly fine as this woman, I could die happy.

As anyone who has ever looked at an electoral map will know, liberals are hard to find in the American South today. They have been hard to find basically my whole life. So as a young girl with a big brain and an even bigger mouth, it can be hard to look around and notice the incredible lack of feminist role models. The women I grew up with all seemed sad, frustrated, angry, and/or disappointed with their lot in life, like their expectations for themselves and who they could have been and what they could have accomplished in life fell far, far short of their dreams. Their lives were limited by, and revolved around, the men they were financially dependent on, and they seemed to accept this grim fate as the natural order of the world, one that could not be opposed, dissected, fought, or defeated. In the face of such a depressing norm, they seemed to simply embrace it, and lord help the woman who might be otherwise, for their jealousy might eat them up inside and spew out in the form of a kind of venom that would kill you with its backhanded kindness. (To be fair, this description really only fits my mother and some of the local teachers and other women figures in my world, and less the women of my paternal family, who just seem to accept it with a kind of glum resignation, or worse, a crazy-eyed embrace that drives them to radical right-wing insanity.)

But Designing Women, which started when I was eight and ran back-to-back with another amazing show centered on a strong female character, Murphy Brown, showed me an entirely different world. Four women, all working -- even if they were mothers -- who were professionally successfully, financially independent, and mostly happy, even though they were on their own for a variety of reasons. Suzanne and her rotating bevy of rich and (sometimes literally) short-lived romances/husbands. Mary Jo the divorcee and J.D., her steady but not life altering boyfriend/traveling sports writer. Charlene, the only one married in the entire series really, whose husband was mostly absentee due to his military service. And of course, Julia, who managed to be a devoted wife to her deceased husband and yet still demand the most interesting, charming, successful, and intelligent (sparing) partner is Reese (Dixie's IRL 3rd husband). These women had careers. These women had adventures. These women had lives of their own, and the men who came and went were just along for the ride. Designing Women was one of my first looks at a world people with, guided by, and focused on women, and NOT as they related to men.

While I enjoyed Annie Pott's sarcasm and Delta Burke's bluntness, it was Julia I truly worshiped. People in other parts of the country, in my experience, are too polite in general, and when they are honest, they tend to forget that other people take their verbal beatdowns a lot better if the proverbial switch is covered over in spun sugar. Julia embodied this to a tee. She was somehow both bossy and refined, classy and brash, hell-on-wheels and homemade cookies, all at the same time.

This was my real role model. This was a woman who was liberal and brave and righteous and God-loving and Southern, so Southern, and yet at the same time, sublime. And to this day, every time I start to get upset because people don't like me because I am ALWAYS the one UP ON MY SOAPBOX and I am ALWAYS the one getting 'RILED UP' and yelling, and I am always, always, always stepping on people's toes and getting in trouble for it and feeling like doors slam closed on me because of it, I remember Julia, and I try to tell myself -- even if she was only fictional -- if she could do it, then so can I. If she could be proud and hold her head up, then I can to, and to hell with anyone who doesn't like me for it.

I am who I am today, in part, thanks to Julia Sugarbaker, and I think we would all be better served to be a little more like her. It seems strange that the Designing Woman who shone the brightest has left us first, even before 'crazy' Aunt Bernice. Dixie Carter will always have my gratitude for giving life to a woman I could look up to and be proud of while still being myself. May she live on forever in our memory. God bless her and keep her in the hereafter. Amen.

More favorite Julia clips below

Defending her sister, and pageant women everywhere...

On How Southern People Feel About Their Relatives...

On Football in the South...

On HIV/AIDS and Respect -- Amazing in general, but especially for 1987. The video quality is crap, but the content is definitely WORTH HEARING.

No clip of this one, so here's the transcripts.

MAN: Allow me to introduce myself — Ray Don Simpson.
JULIA: There’s no need for introductions, Ray Don, we know who you are.
RAY DON: (smiling) You do?
JULIA: Of course. You’re the guy who is always wherever women gather or try to be alone. You want to eat with us when we’re dining in hotels, you want to know if the book we’re reading is any good, or if you can keep up company on the plane. And I want to thank you, Ray Don, on behalf of all the women in the world, for your unfailing attention and concern. But read my lips and remember, as hard as it is to believe, sometimes we like talking just to each other, and sometimes we like just being alone.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Great Movies You've Probably Never Seen: Murder by Death

Murder by Death

It's that time again. Time for me to try to convince you to watch movies I love but no one else has seen. I got googlereader shared a link to Leonard Maltin's 151 Best Movies You've Never Seen, and I was pleased to see that I had already seen quite a few of the films. (I checked out the table of content via Amazon's 'look inside this book' function.) I'm not saying I'm an expert, or a professional, but I am telling you that I spend an exorbitant amount of watching movies, so you can trust me as far as you can trust anyone who is an obsessive geek type about something they are into.

So! Murder By Death. First off, here's the IMDB synopsis (the wiki page gives the ENTIRE FILM PLOT, so spoiler alert):
Millionnaire Lionel Twain invites the five most brilliant private eyes to a dinner - and a murder. So, Sidney Wang from China, Dick Charleston from New York, Jessica Marbles from England, Milo Perrier from Belgium and Sam Diamond from San Francisco arrive at the remote castle. They are welcomed by Jamesir Bemsonmam, the blind butler. At nine, a dinner is supposed to be served. The five private eyes and their companionships are in the dining room, wondering what everything is about. Suddenly, Lionel Twain appears and lets the private eyes in on his plan: Exactly at midnight, a murder is going to take place. And he offers a million dollars to the one who can solve the murder. Then he disappears. Before long, a problem arises: The butler is found dead - and it's long before midnight! Will the five most brilliant minds of our time be able to see through the elaborate set-up staged by a criminal mastermind?
Written by Neil Simon, Murder by Death is a comedy masterpiece for mystery novel lovers. Sidney Wang (aka Charlie Chan),  Dick and Dora Charleston (aka Nick and Nora Charles of the Thin Man series), Milo Perrier (aka Hercule Poirot of the Agatha Christie novels), Sam Diamond (aka Sam Spade), and Jessica Marbles (aka Miss Marple of the Agatha Christie novels) are all send ups of famous literary mystery figures, and they are amazingly cast.  I'll watch almost anything with Peter Falk in it as a detective because I loved Columbo growing up, but there are so many good people in this: David Niven of Pink Panther fame; Maggie Smith, who you may remember from Gosford Park, but has been in just everything; Elsa Lanchester, who gained widespread recognition in the Bride of Frankenstein, but most will recognize as the head maid from Mary Poppin; Eileen Brennan, from The Last Picture Show, Texasville, and the '80s Goldie Hawn comedy vehicle Private Benjamin; Nancy Walker, who was a regular on Rhoda, but whose best work was on stage and as director for the Mary Tyler Moore Show.  The best, by far though, is Truman Capote as the devious and frustrated mystery fan Lionel Twain.  He's only in a few scenes, but he totally steals them. 

If you like mysteries and comedies, if you've ever had any appreciation for the board game or film version of Clue, then you're going to love this. Everyone I've ever shown it to both thought it was funny and couldn't believe they'd never seen it before.