.i. a festivus for the rest of us
Happy Festivus, one and all! Time for the airing of grievances and feats of strength. I wish you all the best of luck in wrestling the host/hostess of whatever Festivus gathering you attend (for, as you know, the holiday only ends when the host/hostess is pinned by a guest).
.ii. adorable stories
Yesterday I had my weekly tutoring session with R., the guy I tutor through Literacy Volunteers. I wanted to get him something for Christmas but I didn't know what would suit him (and since he was just diagnosed with diabetes, my usual fallback of nice chocolates wouldn't work), and so I picked out this nice messenger bag for him to carry his stuff to our tutoring sessions. I know, HOW EXCITING.
Anyway, I had it all picked out, and it wasn't that expensive (less than thirty bucks), but I worried because I wasn't sure if R. was going to give me anything at all, and I didn't want him to feel awkward, etc etc. And so I downgraded to a smaller nice fabric-covered portfolio thingy, which was around fifteen bucks. And then I went and met with R., who handed me two (2) presents which so outclassed mine for him that I think I have to go back and get the messenger bag.
First, he gave me a super-cute Santa ornament with my name on it, which I love and was the first thing I put on the tree when we decorated it yesterday (yes, we were horribly late and lazy and procrastinatey this year). That would have been nice in and of itself.
And then! AND THEN! He gave me this box which I thought was just a nice small jewelry box, cute and small and very nice. But then I opened it and there was a watch and bracelet set inside! And it wasn't anything super-expensive or anything, but pretty and more than I expected, and then he said, "I remembered how you said your watch broke a while ago and so you have to use your cell phone to check the time when we meet, and so I thought this would be good."
!!!! R! SO THOUGHTFUL! I have often talked of how you resemble Santa Claus and then yesterday you WERE Santa Claus, giving me the most thoughtful present! R!
So that was very nice. Near the end of the session we read How the Grinch Stole Christmas
and I had another attack of OMG This is Awesome-itis, encountering something as an adult that I loved as a child and realizing it is just as great if not better (other example: Charlotte's Web
, Sesame Street). I put on the watch and bracelet as soon as I got home (they were stuck in the box with those anti-theft plastic rings so I couldn't get them out when we were at the library) and wore them all day and talked about them so much that my family is ready to kill me.
The other adorable story is that when I went to hide my brother's birthday present in my mother's closet just before leaving to pick him up at the airport at eleven last night, I discovered my mother in her bathroom with rollers in her hair. Getting all dolled up to pick up her little boy at the airport! For some reason, I found that sweet.
.iii. do you love me
I continue on my Astaire/Rogers kick, and one of the games I like to play while watching Astaire/Rogers movies is called: Quantify Ginger's Greatness. It's fun and challenging and there is no real end, and I recommend it to one and all! Because it's clear to me, and to cinematic history, that Fred and Ginger were the best on-screen dance pair there was or is. With Astaire, it's easy to see and also to quantify why he's so incredible - he's a great dancer, a wonderful singer, and he had a lot of technical influence behind the scenes through choreography and cinematography.
Ginger is harder to pin down because while she's clearly a talented singer and dancer, Fred Astaire had more technically gifted dance partners. And yet she's clearly the most fun to watch with him (and, for me, the movies she made with him are the only ones I really like). The more I watch the movies, the more I realize that as much as I love Fred Astaire, I think I love Ginger Rogers a little bit more - most of my favorite small moments in their routines belong to her.
I think Katharine Hepburn said of them that Astaire gave her class and she gave him sex appeal - I don't really see it that way. What I think Ginger Rogers brings to the table is a certain groundedness, a sense that she exists in reality (at least more so than Fred Astaire does, who, while charming and fun and funny, always feels like a movie character). And as her characters meet Fred Astaire and are charmed by him, so are we; it's like we get to fall under his spell with her. And Ginger Rogers was so good at conveying that. Most of the dances in their movies were shot from a distance so that the audience could see the dancers' bodies (which was Fred Astaire's wish, and a good choice). Her face was so expressive, though, and she was so good at using her body to act even while dancing, that she always sold that transition from, "Who is annoying nut?" at the beginning to "THIS IS GREAT!" at the end, so that by the end of the dance not only do we believe that Ginger's character is a little in love with Fred already, so are we.
Exhibit A, a dance scene from Shall We Dance
, my second-favorite Astaire/Rogers movie, and the one that earns the Most Coherent Plot Award. In this movie, Ginger plays Linda Keene, a famous musical comedy star who's just announced her retirement because she's sick of being pawed by her costars, and has chosen to marry a dorky banker (you'll see him grinning idiotically in a reaction shot). Fred is an internationally known ballet star, Petrov, who is actually Peter P. Peters from Pennsylvania. He's smitten with Ginger from the start, and is attempting to charm her into both liking him and returning to the stage. I always loved this movie because, like His Girl Friday
, it's a love story where the male love interest is dedicated to keeping the woman in the profession she loves (instead of lots of the post-WWII movies, where women are supposed to return to the home, etc.). In this specific scene, Ginger sings and then dances with Fred, and it's a nice opportunity to hear Ginger in a solo - I think she's got a nice, expressive voice and a lovely conversational way of singing (which Fred Astaire had, too), and also to see that transition through dance I babbled about up there - the move from uncertainty to joy. There is an awkward cut between the song and the dance made by the YouTube uploader, which I understand but which gets rid of an exchange I always found cute.
Ginger: What am I supposed to do?
Fred: (in ridiculous Russian accent) Twist.They All Laughed
And finally, this is a wonderful compilation someone made using clips from a number of Astaire/Rogers movies - whenever I saw these on YouTube, I was always all snooty, like, "Pshaw! Why would one do that? The routines as they exist are PERFECTION!" And then I saw this and it was so hilarious and great and captured the energy and fun of their routines across the movies, and I had to include it. It also includes a lovely non-dancing moment at the beginning from the movie Swing Time
, which shows Ginger's lovely natural screen presence, and another reason why she was such a great partner for Fred: she always seemed strong enough to stand up to him, not to be overwhelmed by his charms. Do You Love Me?
And I think that's all for now!