For Sunday: Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers dance “The Continental” (1935)


The Continental” was the first song to win an Oscar for Best Original Song, in the movie “The Gay Divorcee,” back in 1935.



This is a video of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers dancing to the tune in the movie. They are wonderful together.








For Sunday: Maria’s dance from “Metropolis” (1927)

marias dance metropolis

Metropolis” is one of my favorite movies. It’s a wild science-fiction romp from 1927; it’s silent, but you can now see it with its original musical score, which is very expressive.

Here’s the plot: the city of Metropolis is divided between the lofty towers of the rich and powerful and the dark underground cities of the workers. A woman named Maria (played luminously by Brigitte Helm) is preaching to the workers and telling them to expect a “mediator.” The dictator of Metropolis, in an attempt to stop Maria, asks crazy Doctor Rotwang to create a evil robot replica of Maria; the robot proceeds a) to stir up all kinds of discord in the underground cities, and b) to dance at Yoshiwara, the hippest nightclub in the tower city, and drive all the upscale men insane with lust.

This is the false Maria’s dance. It’s beyond amazing. (Just so you know: the young man in bed is the true Maria’s boyfriend (who also happens  to be the dictator’s son), having visions of the Apocalypse.)



For Sunday: Pink wants you to “Try”

Partner brought my attention to Pink’s performance of her song “Try” on the American Music Awards last week. I wish I could show you a video of that performance, done live in front of an audience, but none was available for embedding.

This, however, is Pink’s music video of the same song, which reproduces the onstage dance almost move by move.

Tough girls: represent!

Black Swan


Partner and I saw “Black Swan” on Sunday.





First of all, Natalie Portman is just about perfect. Why does it always amaze me when a movie star actually turns in a good performance? Well, hers is better than good, it’s terrific. She goes from fragile to terrifying and back again. And there’s a great supporting cast: Mila Kunis, Barbara Hershey, and especially Winona Ryder as a washed-up ballerina who, ahem, isn’t taking retirement very well at all, and who just about spontaneously combusts in her three or four little scenes.


It made me think of that other really excellent ballet movie, “The Red Shoes.” In “Red Shoes,” an innocent young ballerina becomes a star by portraying a role in which she dances herself to death. She falls in love with the young ballet composer, she leaves the ballet, she finds she can’t live without it, she’s torn, she goes back . . . Well, I won’t tell you the ending. But it ain’t very cheerful.


Same in “Black Swan,” but with a difference. The heroine is told, over and over again, that she can’t dance meaningfully unless she understands the emotions underlying her role. The story of the innocent white swan and the wicked black swan starts to invade her everyday life. Creepy things start to happen. Or do they? Doesn’t matter, because she dances better and better. It’s the old Romantic fable of the suffering / struggling / crazy artist, except that it feels mighty real, even when people start sprouting feathers and such.


It doesn’t matter if you like ballet or not. Just jete your little Early American butt down to the local cineplex and see it.


If you don’t come out doing a plie and a cabriole and a grand arabesque, you’re just not a human being.




Fame and fortune



I am descended from many generations of unwealthy and unfamous people.  No surprise there.  (I had a great-great-grandmother who fell for the Anneke Jans Bogardus hoax of the mid-1800s, which entailed proving your descent from Dutch royalty, but she died insane, so there you go.)  I marvel, though, at how money and fame and position go rippling through the generations.  There must be something Darwinian at work.  Once you’ve got any of those three things, you will pass it/them along to your kids.

And all three of those things buy access.

Access to a good education.  Access to other influential people who may be helpful in life.  Access to leisure time, and good food, and a nice house.  All of these leading to net positives for one’s own offspring, and so on.

They also buy recognition, and the appearance of worth.  The children of wealthy/prominent people seem better and worthier than our own children.  (Well, my children are stuffed animals, so it goes without saying in my case.)

Every time I find out that someone is somebody else’s brother / sister / uncle / grandmother, I become just a little more cynical about this.  I like A. O. Scott’s movie reviews in the Times, for example – and now I find out he’s the nephew of Eli Wallach and Anne Jackson.  Hmph!  Anderson Cooper I knew about.  I don’t begrudge him anything, he’s smart and cute and seems nice.  Chris Cuomo on ABC is a big harmless goofball of a journalist, but he’d be stuck behind a desk in Waukegan if he didn’t have that Cuomo name.

And now, hey ho, Bristol Palin is hoofing her way to heaven on “Dancing with the Stars.”

Bristol’s family’s fame is of recent vintage, to be sure.   Until very recently, the whole brood was stuck in an icebox up north.

Then lightning struck, and now all the Palins are celebrities.

I don’t care so much about Bristol Palin myself; I wouldn’t know her in a crowd if I tripped over her.  But she appears to be doing okay on “Dancing with the Stars,” although her dancing is mediocre at best.  Are people voting for her because they like her style, or because they feel good about the Palin dynasty?

Oh, hell, who cares?  Ultimately we stand or stumble on our own, whether or not Mom’s storm troopers vote for us.

And dynasties don’t last forever.

Usually no more than three or four hundred years, anyway.






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