Struggling with Superstition

As anyone who has read my blog knows, I was raised by a christian mother and considered myself a christian until about 5 years ago. I’m now an atheist (I can even spell it correctly) and I’ve done my best to rid myself of all the baggage that comes along with being a christian.

Fred Astaire and Tommy Steele in Finnian's Rainbow
"Don't be superstitious, man. It's bad luck!"

One thing I’ve had trouble getting rid of, however, is my superstitious nature and my belief in the supernatural. One of my biggest problems in this area is ghosts. I still believe in them. I know it’s  irrational and illogical to believe in them and that all those ghost stories can most likely be explained in a scientific way, but I still believe.

And It’s not just that I believe in them – they scare me to death. I get so superstitious about them that I think I can attract them to me by just thinking too much about them – and I think way too much about ghosts for someone who’s never had any kind of ‘supernatural’ occurrence happen to them personally.

I used to actually be able to enjoy ghost story fiction. But now, they scare me so badly that no matter how bad the movie is, I’ll be jumpy for days after seeing a haunted house movie.

On the other hand, if the supernatural force is NOT a ghost, they can creep me out but they don’t keep me scared for long periods of time. For example, you know those horrid Paranormal Activity movies? They would probably scare me if they were about ghosts. The second it was revealed it was about a demon, I wasn’t scared in the least. (Side note: My husband and I actually like those movies, but only because they’re so ridiculous that we can laugh at them and make fun of them. It’s rather cathartic, actually.)

When I saw the American The Grudge remake it scared me so badly that for days I could barely move when it was dark if I thought about it too much. And have you ever tried to NOT think of something? Yeah, it doesn’t work.

One of my favorite horror movies is The Blair Witch Project. I can’t watch it anymore. Too many ghosts. I haven’t even tried to watch one of the best horror movies ever – The Haunting – in a very long time. (The original, not that laughable remake.)

Julie Harris in The Haunting
"Whose hand was I holding?"

So, how do I get over this? I was able to logically come to the conclusion that there is most likely not a god so why can’t I do the same for ghosts? Is it because people I trust have told me true ghost stories? Yes, I’m sure that all of those occurrences can probably be explained but the stories still scare me when I hear them or think about them.

Anyone out there have any good advice for overcoming an irrational superstition? I want to be able to watch “The Changeling” again someday.

 

Things That Make Me Smile

Things have been getting me down lately but there are a few things that will always make me feel at least slightly better, no matter what. (These are in no particular order).

  • Hugs from my husband
  • Watching Fred Astaire dance
  • Seeing growth in my gardens
  • The fact that my dog is excited to see me every single day when I get home
  • Messages from friends and family
  • Listening to popular standards (songs) from the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s
  • Watching escapist science-fiction and fantasy films/television

 

Dancing in the Dark

Dancing in the DarkSad news today. Cyd Charisse has passed away at the age of 87. Read the AFP article HERE.

Fred Astaire only made two films with Cyd but the impression these two films made on me were significant. The Bandwagon – arguably Fred Astaire’s best film – and Silk Stockings are filled with humor, great music and, of course, wonderful dancing. Cyd was one of Fred’s best partners and he was generous enough to let her show it. When she danced with Gene Kelly it always seemed that all Gene wanted to do was lift her and carry her around. Fred let her keep her feet on the ground and actually dance.

And, wow, could she dance. I have no problem understanding what Fred meant when he said, “When you dance with Cyd Charisse, you’ve been danced with.”

The Bandwagon

Gene who?

If you want to hear me go off on a rant, mention Fred Astaire’s widow. If you want to piss me off, tell me Fred Astaire was a no-talent hoofer. If you want to be my friend forever tell me Fred Astaire was the best dancer in musical films ever.

Strangely enough, however, I did not start watching Fred movies because of his dancing. I started watching his movies because he made me laugh.

Communication is the KeyBack in high school when my parents got divorced I got a bit depressed. Both my mother and I tended to watch  and listen to entertainment that made us laugh. (We both went through a big Ray Stevens kick, but that’s another story I may never tell.) So, I was home alone one day, flipping around the channels when I came upon an old black and white movie. There was this skinny man dressed to the nines sitting on a couch, not speaking and obviously thinking things over. The way he moved his eyes as he did this made me laugh out loud so I finished watching The Gay Divorcee even though I had no idea what was going on.

Over the next month I kept an eye out for that movie (it was on AMC, back when their name actually meant something) and I kept catching snippets of it here and there but those snippets confused me even more. Turns out I was catching bits of The Gay Divorcee and Top Hat. Both have the same cast, minus one, and the plots were so thin that it was understandable.

I finally caught both movies from the beginning and watched them in their entirety. I suppose I was lucky that those two films were my first Fred films – they’re considered two of the best of the Fred and Ginger (Rogers) series – because from then on, I was hooked.

Cyd Charisse and Fred AstaireI have always wanted to know how to dance. I don’t know if this actually happened because memory is such a tricky thing, but I remember this vividly: When I was very young my mother told me I could take tap dancing lessons as long as I also took ballet lessons. I told her I wouldn’t take ballet lessons so I didn’t get any lessons. I really wish she had made me take both because I now have a deep appreciation for both styles of dancing.

So, Fred got my attention with his comedic abilities and he held it with his wonderful dancing. Every new film brought new dances and even in the worst of them his performance brought those clunkers up to a higher level. Blue Skies has the amazing ‘Puttin’ on the Ritz‘ number where he dances with over a dozen mirror images of himself. The Belle of New York has the understated soft-shoe ‘I Wanna Be a Dancin’ Man.’ And Let’s Dance has ‘Oh Them Dudes‘ – a very guilty pleasure of mine.

I’m very close to my goal of having everything Fred ever appeared in, including his non-musical performances, but there are several things that aren’t available. I highly doubt we’ll ever see his television specials he made with Barrie Chase on DVD – the music rights issues would only be one of the major obstacles – but I can still keep hoping.

Here’s to you Fred – may there never be a time when the world is deprived of your talents.

Fred Astaire

A few of my favorite…performers

I thought I’d give a ‘theme week’ a try. Who knows – it might make me post on a more regular basis. But I doubt it. *lame grin*

So, I’ll start with the man who helped introduce me to the wonderful world of classic films for which I will be forever grateful. Without that introduction I would be devoid of my two of my three favorite actors, Fred Astaire and James Cagney.

Michael J. Fox on the SetSo, my thanks goes out to Michael J. Fox. Before I saw Back to the Future I had my favorites – Shaun Cassidy was the first actor I can remember singling out and then Tom Hanks when he was on Bosom Buddies – but my ‘fanship’ of those two can never compare to what happened after I saw Back to the Future.

If you don’t believe me, check this out. Yeah. That’s my website. I’m not ashamed of it – a little defensive, maybe – but never ashamed.

After becoming the uber-geek-fan of MJF back in 1985, I started trying out things those fan magazines said he liked. I even tried Linguini in Clam sauce, for cripes sake – and that was some of the nastiest stuff I ever tasted. Ugh!

He was often quoted as saying he was a big James Cagney fan. I had never even heard of James Cagney so I had no idea what he was all about. And so, one Friday night in Southeast Texas, the local t.v. station had a James Cagney film on their schedule – Something to Sing About. Fortunately, I wasn’t one of those kids that wouldn’t watch anything in black and white – I watched Mr. Ed every night on Nick at Nite – and I watched it. And loved it.

It snowballed after that and now I’m a huge fan of classic films and especially musicals. And despite the fact that Cagney is most famous for his gangster, tough guy roles, I will always think of him as a song and dance man.

I was an obsessive fan of MJF – I’ll be the first to admit it – and I’m sure I drove my parents insane with my never-ending quest to see absolutely everything he had ever appeared in. (I even have a copy of his appearance on ‘Here’s Boomer.’) I haven’t seen everything, but I’m still working on it. And while my fansite may make some doubt this, I’m not that obsessive uber-geek-fan anymore. My respect for MJF is now more about his acting ability than how cute he is. He’s only gotten better as he’s gotten older and I sincerely hope that someday, he’ll be back on the big or small screen entertaining all of us again.

Hmph

funnyface.jpgI know Audrey Hepburn is the star of the movie, but I am not happy with this cover for the new 50th Anniversary Edition DVD of Funny Face.

Audrey has not only a full body shot but a HUUUGE head shot, and there’s Fred Astaire, over in the corner, as if he’s just a minor plot point. Hell, he’s hardly recognizable.

….

I take it all back.

I just looked up the original poster art for this movie, from 1957. Fred didn’t fare any better in that artwork either. In fact, he did much worse.

funnyfacefred.jpg <– It’s not a particularly flattering picture, but Fred does appear in this poster.

He does not for the other two I found.funnyfacenofred1.jpgfunnyfacenofred2.jpg

Poor Kay Thompson, who is the second best thing in the movie, doesn’t appear in any of them. (I don’t think I have to tell you what I think is the best thing. 🙂 )
C’est la vie, I suppose. Audrey was ‘it’ in 1957. I still don’t get the appeal – she was a decent actress, but nothing all that special that I’ve seen. Maybe it was more about her personality than her acting prowess. I wasn’t around at the time and she’s one I’ve never taken time to research.

I guess it’s good that a DVD that’s getting this special treatment includes Astaire. I can’t be too angry with anything that ‘spreads Fred.’