‘Airbrushed Nation’ reveals inner workings of beauty mags

By Anne Brennan

“Do not read beauty magazines. They will only make you feel ugly.”

That’s a line from Chicago Tribune columnist Mary Schmich.

Despite that warning, there’s something about beauty magazines that is irresistible. What is it about the glossy paper, the aspirational photos, the total escapism?

Thud.

That’s the sound these magazines made when they hit the wastepaper basket after I read “Airbrushed Nation: The Lure & Loathing of Women’s Magazines,” (Seal Press, $16) by Jennifer Nelson.

Nelson is a freelance journalist who has written for “practically every women’s magazines on the newsstands,” according to her About the Author bio.

Just like the pulling back of the curtain in “The Wizard of Oz,” Nelson reveals the inner workings of beauty magazines such as Glamour, Vogue, Self and Ladies Home Journal, also called the “pink ghetto.”

“Let’s get real, ladies, because the magazines sure aren’t!” Nelson writes.

Karlie Kloss

Everyone knows those pictures of Karlie Kloss and Coco Rocha are airbrushed, but that’s just touching the surface. Nelson explores an interesting range of topics within the women’s magazine industry: history, working environment, advertising, fear-mongering and politics, even if most stories focus on the weight and dress size of female politicians.

She finds some positive aspects about the industry, such as … wait, had to page through the book to find an example. Ah, yes, many of the magazines cover social issues and profile everyday women, Nelson says.

One little tidbit in the book stuck out to me. Even the makeup on the cover models, (you know, the “About the Shoot” notes that say Kate Moss is wearing Maybelline lipstick, blush and mascara, etc.) is fake. Editors try to match the shades used by the makeup artist to commercial cosmetic products. Then they say that’s what the model is wearing. No wonder I could never look like Kate, even if I did have the same Cherry in Snow lipstick!

Coco Rocha

As a writer, I was especially interested in the insider look at the editorial departments. Nelson confirmed what I’ve experienced and what other writers have told me. For example, editors only want beautiful “real people” profiled.

Also, I’ve often wondered: How many times can an editor write a version of “thin thighs in 30 days” or “burn belly fat” for a magazine cover? Twelve times a year, it appears.

That said, I was a little disappointed this book wasn’t juicier. I was expecting really outlandish anecdotes, à la “The Devil Wears Prada.”

The only question Nelson doesn’t seem to answer is why we (ok, I) continue to read these magazines. Long ago, when I traveled by T. Rex, we didn’t have the internet. The most beauty, fashion and sex advice I could find other than magazines was Judy Blume’s “Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret?”

Kate Moss

We can get our fix from a multitude of media now. But nothing replaces a magazine for me. Like Nelson says, there is some good writing out there, especially in mags such as O, The Oprah Magazine, More and Real Simple.

So, yes, of course, I’ll pull those glossies out of the trash. At least I can read them with new and informed eyes, which are always un-airbrushed.

Except for maybe my LinkedIn profile.

Gotta do something about that.

Anne Brennan is an Ohio-based writer. It’s always a delight to have her contribute to FNB.

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The Noir File: Marilyn, Jack and Tony: Still the best threesome in Billy Wilder’s classic ‘Some Like It Hot’

By Michael Wilmington & Film Noir Blonde

The Noir File is FNB’s guide to classic film noir, neo-noir, sort of noir and pre-noir on cable TV. All movies below are from the schedule of Turner Classic Movies (TCM), which broadcasts them uncut and uninterrupted. The times are Eastern Standard and (Pacific Standard).

PICK OF THE WEEK

Tony Curtis, Marilyn Monroe and Jack Lemmon star in this noir comedy.

Some Like It Hot” (1959, Billy Wilder). Saturday, March 2, 1:15 p.m. (10:15 a.m.)

The place: Chicago. The color: a film noirish black and white. The caliber: 45. The proof: 90. The time: 1929, the Capone Era and the Roaring Twenties, roaring their loudest. We’re watching “Some Like It Hot” and Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon are playing Joe and Jerry: two talented but threadbare Chicago jazz musicians working in a speak-easy fronted as a funeral parlor. Joe, who plays saxophone, is a smoothie and a champ ladies’ man. Jerry is your classic Jack Lemmon schnook, with a couple of kinks thrown in.

Curtis and Monroe on the beach, filmed at San Diego’s  Hotel del Coronado.

After getting tossed out of their speak-easy band jobs by a police raid and accidentally witnessing the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre (ordered by their ex-employer, George Raft as natty gangster Spats Colombo), they flee to Miami. They’re chased by the gangsters and the cops (Pat O’Brien as Detective Mulligan) but the guys are disguised as Josephine and Daphne, musicians in an all-female jazz orchestra.

The star of Sweet Sue and her Society Syncopators, songbird and ukulele player Sugar Kane, is the Marilyn Monroe of our dreams. Sugar has a weakness for saxophone players. Josephine and Daphne have a weakness, period. Director Billy Wilder, who made lots of gay jokes in his time, deliberately keeps his two cross-dressing stars straight.

Read the full review here.

Wednesday, Feb. 27

10 p.m. (7 p.m.): “The Third Man” (1949, Carol Reed). With Joseph Cotten and Orson Welles. [Read more...]

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Happy Oscar Sunday, everyone!

“Argo” seems a sure bet for Best Picture.

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FNF film noir fest sparkles in the Emerald City

The Noir City Film Festival and Film Noir Foundation President Eddie Muller will return to Seattle Feb. 22-28 at the Seattle International Film Festival. Eddie will present a selection of films culled from San Francisco’s Noir City 11 including 35mm prints of the FNF’s most recent restorations: “Try and Get Me!” (1950), “Repeat Performance” (1949) and “High Tide” (1948).

There is also a night of African-American noir, including a screening of Richard Wright’s “Native Son” (1951), starring the author. The week winds up with a night of 3-D noir, pairing two of the first 3-D movies of 1953, “Inferno” and “Man in the Dark,” both digital restorations.

Additionally, the FNF and the American Cinematheque will combine forces for Noir City: Hollywood, the 15th annual festival of film noir, which runs April 5-21 at the Egyptian Theatre. Organizers say the lineup includes the FNF’s most recent restorations and several titles never before screened at a Noir City festival.

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The Noir File: Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray star in the all-time great film noir: ‘Double Indemnity’

By Michael Wilmington & Film Noir Blonde

The Noir File is FNB’s guide to classic film noir, neo-noir, sort of noir and pre-noir on cable TV. All movies below are from the schedule of Turner Classic Movies (TCM), which broadcasts them uncut and uninterrupted. The times are Eastern Standard and (Pacific Standard).

PICK OF THE WEEK

Phyllis (Barbara Stanwyck) figures that having Walter (Fred MacMurray) get rid of her husband will be far more cost-effective than hiring a divorce lawyer.

Double Indemnity” (1944, Billy Wilder). Thursday, Feb. 21, 8 p.m. (5 p.m.).

She’s got a plan, she just needs a man. And that’s a welcome challenge for a femme fatale, especially one with an ankle bracelet.

In Billy Wilder’s film noir masterpiece, “Double Indemnity,” from 1944 Phyllis Dietrichson (Barbara Stanwyck) wants out of her marriage to rich, grumpy oldster, Mr. Dietrichson (Tom Powers). For Phyllis, seducing a new guy to help make hubs disappear is so much more cost-effective than hiring a divorce lawyer. A smart insurance man is even better. Along comes Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray) trying to sell a policy, just as Phyllis finishes a session of sunbathing, wearing an ankle bracelet and not much more. That’s about as much bait as Walter needs. Read the full FNB review here.

Thursday, Feb. 21

3:45 p.m. (12:45 pm): “The Long Voyage Home” (1940, John Ford). Superb film noir cinematography by the matchless Gregg Toland (“Citizen Kane”) graces this dark, moody John Ford-Dudley Nichols adaptation of four of Eugene O’Neill’s great, gloomy sea plays. The themes and mood are noir too. With Thomas Mitchell, Barry Fitzgerald, Ward Bond, Mildred Natwick and John Wayne – who always called “The Long Voyage Home” one of his favorite films.

5:45 p.m. (2:45 p.m.): “Foreign Correspondent” (1940, Alfred Hitchcock). After “Rebecca,” his Oscar-winning 1940 American debut, Alfred Hitchcock’s second Hollywood movie was more truly Hitchcockian. It’s an ingeniously crafted spy melodrama, scripted by Charles Bennett, Joan Harrison and (uncredited) Ben Hecht. Joel McCrea plays a foreign correspondent who gets enmeshed in pre-WW2 intrigue; co-starring Laraine Day, George Sanders, Edmund Gwenn and Robert Benchley. This very anti-Nazi picture was intended to encourage the U.S.’s entrance into the war, to help rescue Hitch’s British countrymen, and it probably did. It’s also a corking Hitchcock spy thriller in the “39 Steps”-”Lady Vanishes” tradition.

Saturday, Feb. 23

1:30 p.m. (10:30 a.m.): “Anatomy of a Murder” (1959, Otto Preminger). With James Stewart, Lee Remick and Ben Gazzara. Reviewed in FNB March 14, 2012

“On the Waterfront” won eight Oscars.

8 p.m. (5 p.m.): “On the Waterfront” (1954, Elia Kazan). One of the great ’50s American social dramas is also one of the great ’50s film noirs, with director Elia Kazan, screenwriter Budd Schulberg and cinematographer Boris Kaufman giving us a two-fisted, beautifully shot and acted drama of a corrupt labor union gang. The star is Marlon Brando, as the slightly punchy, fight-scarred ex-boxer and dockworker Terry Malloy (Brando’s greatest performance), whose brother Charley (Rod Steiger) is a mouthpiece for the crooked union run by mobster Johnny Friendly (Lee J. Cobb). Terry has to decide whether he’ll rat out all the rats to a government investigating committee – exposing the thugs who killed the dockworker father of Edie (Eva Marie Saint) with whom Terry has fallen in love.

All the actors above were nominated for Oscars. (Brando and Saint won, along with Kazan, Schulberg, composer Leonard Bernstein and the movie). Also a nominee was supporting actor Karl Malden as the fighting pro-worker priest, Father Barry. And, in addition to the film’s many prizes, several generations of actors all wanted passionately to be like Brando and to play a scene like the one in “On the Waterfront,” acted with Steiger in a taxicab, where Terry says, heart-rendingly: “Charley, Charley, you don’t understand, I coulda had class….I coulda been a contender.” They never matched that scene, and neither did Brando.

10 p.m. (7 p.m.): “The Harder They Fall” (1956, Mark Robson). Humphrey Bogart’s last movie, and a good one. He’s a respected sports reporter turned unrespectable publicist, hired by a crooked boxing promoter (Rod Steiger) to bilk the public and exploit a huge but naive and ill-skilled South American boxer, Toro Moreno (Mike Lane). Based on a book by boxing aficionado Budd Schulberg.

Jack Nicholson

4:30 a.m. (1:30 a.m.): “The Last Detail” (1973, Hal Ashby). Jack Nicholson gave one of his best performances as “Bad Ass” Buddusky, an astonishingly foul-mouthed and cynical Navy lifer who pulls guard duty and has to escort a hapless Navy thief named Meadows (Randy Quaid) to eight years of hard time at Leavenworth. Bad Ass decides (unwisely) to let the kid live a little along the way. One of director Hal Ashby’s best movies, and one of Robert (“Chinatown”) Towne’s greatest scripts, adapted from a novel by Navy man Darryl Ponicsan.

Sunday, Feb. 24

2:30 a.m. (11:30 p.m.): “Midnight Express” (1978, Alan Parker). Oliver Stone wrote the no-punches-pulled screenplay for this searing Alan Parker-directed biographical thriller about real-life American tourist/smuggler Billy Hayes (Brad Davis) and his hellish times in a Turkish prison. With John Hurt and frequent jailbird (in this column at least) Randy Quaid.

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Win tickets to ‘Sparks’ premiere at Cinequest Film Festival

“Sparks,” a superhero noir thriller set in the 1940s, is slated to make its world premiere on Friday, March 1, at the Cinequest Film Festival in San Jose, Calif. “Sparks” will debut as a feature-length film and graphic novel.

The story focuses on a masked vigilante named Ian Sparks, whose pursuit of a notorious criminal leaves Sparks’ life in ruins.

The film version pairs two of Hollywood’s rising stars, Chase Williamson (“John Dies at the End”) and Ashley Bell (“The Last Exorcism Part II”), with an award-winning supporting cast: Clancy Brown, Clint Howard, Jake Busey and William Katt.

Chase Williamson

As for the filmmakers, Christopher Folino and Todd Burrows directed “Sparks.” Producers are Folino, Tyler Endicott, Mike Anthony Smith and Eric D. Wilkinson.

“Sparks” will premiere at 7 p.m. Friday, March 1, at the California Theatre in San Jose. The cast and crew will be in attendance for a Q&A after the screening. There will be another screening and Q&A at 2 p.m. Saturday, March 2, at the San Jose Repertory Theatre. A third screening will take place at 4:45 p.m. Tuesday, March 5, at the San Jose Repertory Theatre. Folino will attend.

If you would like to be entered into a random draw to win tickets to the premiere on March 1, follow Film Noir Blonde on twitter and retweet a “Sparks” tweet. Two winners will be selected; each will win two tickets. Winners will be notified via twitter on Feb. 28 and tickets can be collected March 1 at the California Theatre’s will-call window.

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Susan Andrews to introduce ‘Laura’ at the Egyptian Theatre

The delightful, urbane and unapologetically posh film noir “Laura” (1944, Otto Preminger) screens at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 20, at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood.

Here’s a quick synopsis from the event organizers: Investigating a murder, chain-smoking Detective McPherson (Dana Andrews) falls in love with the dead woman, only to find out it wasn’t she who was murdered. The brilliant cast includes Gene Tierney as the gorgeous Laura, Clifton Webb as Waldo Lydecker and Vincent Price as Laura’s fiancé, Shelby Carpenter. The film is said to have been an inspiration for David Lynch’s “Twin Peaks.”

You can read my full review of “Laura” here.

Dana Andrews’ daughter, Susan Andrews, will introduce the movie. Author Carl Rollyson will sign copies of his book “Hollywood Enigma: Dana Andrews” at 6:30 p.m. in the lobby. (“Laura” was recently released on Blu-ray and is a great addition to your film library.)

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On Valentine’s Day, much noir love from FNB

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone! This sounds like a book to love: “The Noir Forties: America from Victory to Cold War” by Richard Lingeman.

From the LA Times review: “Films noir,” Lingeman declares at the outset, “are a key for unlocking the psychology, the national mood during those years.” But despite its title, The Noir Forties is not a book about the films – for that, readers should turn to J. Hoberman’s recent book An Army of Phantoms: American Movies and the Making of the Cold War, and to the classic More Than Night: Film Noir in its Contexts by James Naremore. Instead, Lingeman’s book provides a broader history of the brief but crucial period when the world of the New Deal died and the iron cage of Cold War politics and culture was forged. It would remain in place for the next 45 years.

Meanwhile, if you are in need of last-minute Valentine’s gift ideas for your guy(s), click here.

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Happy 80th birthday, Kim Novak!

Lovely Kim Novak in a still from “Vertigo,” one of her most famous movies.

One of our all-time favorite film noir blondes, Kim Novak, turns 80 today. She was born Marilyn Pauline Novak in Chicago, where as a young woman she found work as a model. She moved to Los Angeles to continue modeling but instead became an actress.

Among her many screen credits, she is perhaps best known for her work in “Picnic” (1955), “The Man with the Golden Arm” (1955), “Pal Joey” (1957), “Vertigo” (1958) and “Bell Book and Candle” (1958).

“For every answer,” Novak once said, “I like to bring up a question. Maybe I’m related to Alfred Hitchcock or maybe I got to know him too well, but I think life should be that way.”

TCM will honor Novak with a tribute night and screening of four films on March 6. The evening will open with the premiere of Kim Novak: Live from the TCM Classic Film Festival, a one-hour interview special hosted by TCM’s Robert Osborne and taped at last year’s festival in Hollywood.

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The Space airs short films exploring Hitchcock’s early work

In conjunction with the recent U.K. release of the film “Hitchcock” (starring Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren), The Space, an on-demand digital arts service developed by Arts Council England and the BBC, is offering a special treat for Hitch fans. The Space will air five short films that provide context to the master of suspense and his early work.

“The Pleasure Garden” (1925) was the first full film Hitchcock directed.

The set of short films, commissioned by the British Film Institute, includes:

Alfred Hitchcock from the archive

Hitchcock gives his insight into the workings of Hollywood, talking candidly about stars’ salaries and the difficulty of working with well-known actors.

Hitchcock at the picture palace

Historians Henry K. Miller and Matthew Sweet whisk viewers back to 1920s Britain – the era of the picture palace that saw the young Hitchcock learn his craft, refine his art and establish himself as an innovative, ambitious filmmaker.

Seeds of genius: “The Pleasure Garden”

Film historian Charles Barr and the BFI’s silent film curator Bryony Dixon explore Hitchcock’s distinctive style of visual storytelling, focusing on Hitchcock’s first full-length, finished film “The Pleasure Garden” (1925).

Restoring “The Pleasure Garden”

The unique story of how the BFI restored “The Pleasure Garden,” almost a century after it was made.

Scoring “The Pleasure Garden”

This short film follows composer Daniel Patrick Cohen’s journey to create a new score for this seminal Hitchcock work.

You can watch the films here.

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