Grey Gardens, Fire, and Flames

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(Images above: upper left Edith lounging, lower Edith & Edie arguing from Amazon.com, right Little Edie looking lovely from TimeCapsules.com)

Watch This: Grey Gardens, 1975

Many of you might already be familiar with the dynamic Beale women from Grey Gardens, but if you’re not, I’m urging you now to rent/buy/Netflix Grey Gardens immediately. This is one of the most haunting, disturbing, endearing, and bizarre documentaries I have ever seen, and I can’t stop wondering how it happened. How did the cousin of Jackie Onassis and her mother end up living in squalor – a squalor, we learn, which is totally self-imposed? After watching the film, I understand. It’s easy to let the world slip out of focus when you’ve got what you need right on the grounds of your crumbling mansion.

Keep reading for more of our reviews this week!

Filmmakers Albert and David Maysles, while researching a proposed documentary on Jackie O’s family, decided that the most intriguing members of the prestigious Bouvier clan were Edith Bouvier Beale, 82, and her daughter Edie, 56. The two women have spent years together at Grey Gardens, their once stately, East Hampton seaside home, and they basically cut themselves off from the outside world. They spend their days entertaining themselves by singing songs (Edith was a professional singer in her day), dancing, dressing in amazing frocks and outlandish costumes (Edie wore upside down skirts, turbans with vintage broaches, and lace curtains – a look that is now iconic in the fashion world), feeding the host of cats that roam the house, and lying in the sun. What they do not do is clean, cut back the overgrown gardens, fix the decaying walls, or pay any attention to the world around them. The Maysles’ found this to be documentary gold, and lived with the pair for 2 months filming their daily activities.

The result is a movie that made me completely transfixed. I sat on the edge of my couch, my mouth hanging wide open and a concerned look on my face through the entire thing. It’s a non-stop train wreck, and I couldn’t turn away. From Edie’s oddball, yet truly inspired fashion sense, to Edith’s constant harping, I had to see what they would do or say next. I know this film has a very reverent cult following, but I didn’t expect to be as shocked – or touched – as I was. You could dismiss the Beale ladies as eccentrics–nutters who lost their grip on reality, but that would be a gross miscalculation. They are two women who used to let the world define them, but now, have the courage to live the way they want to live.

Big Edith, a very bitter, judgmental, and harsh woman, was shamed and abandoned by her husband years ago. By leaving her, he confined her to a life of solitary confinement, because she cannot, as a Catholic, ever recognize his termination of the marriage. She is a caged bird, literally singing away in her room at Grey Gardens. Little Edie is much easier to empathize with, as she does exactly what she wants when she wants to do it. She lives virtually obligation-free, save caring for her mother. She constantly reminds us of just how big a commitment that is, and what she had to give up for Big Edith – the men, the career, the travel abroad. “My whole life, I’ve been ground down and insulted every minute,” Little Edie confides to the camera, and she never lets her mother forget it. The two bicker the entire film, making the soundscape of the documentary similar to caterwauling monkeys. But, after a few minutes, it becomes oddly comforting.

Whether you find this kind of terminal dysfunction charming or not, there is an undeniable mystery and a somber sense of regret embedded in this film that keeps audiences enthralled. Plus, Edie’s outfits rock.

Moments I can’t stop thinking about: Little Edie feeding Wonder Bread to the raccoons living in the attic, Edith calmly stating that a cat is pooing on her portrait on the floor, Edie standing on the bathroom scales and reading them with binoculars, Edie reading the horoscopes to find out about her perfect man, Edith making corn on the cob in her bed, the two of them at night, alone, listening to records on the old phonograph while the house rots around them.

Grey Gardens has been adapted for a Broadway musical, and soon, there will be a movie about the Beales staring Drew Barrymore.

(Molly)

[Giving our best shot at the Full Locust pose: photo courtesy of Bikram Yoga in Pittsburgh]

Do this: Bikram Yoga

“Your only challenge today is to not leave the room. You may feel like you’re going to throw up or pass out, but only leave if you are actually beginning to throw up. Just lay down on your mat if you need to.” This was the advice of the Bikram instructor for first-time practitioners and I was terrified.  Bikram yoga (or hot yoga or fire yoga) is a 90-minute session of 26 asanas, or poses, held for sixty seconds and then again for thirty seconds, in a 105 degree room. A crew of us at ModCloth tried it out at the Bikram Yoga Studio in our neighborhood a few weeks ago.

Bikram yoga, one of the fastest growing practices in the country, was founded by Bikram Choudhury. He’s been dubbed “yoga’s bad boy” due to safety violations in his L.A. studio and allegations that he’s also violated many of the yamas, or ethical restraints, with his vulgar teaching style and extravagant lifestyle. But Bikram yoga is now practiced by over 500 studios across the United States and I care less about the founder of the practice than how it makes me feel. So about that…

I’ll be honest. It was hard. When the website warns you to bring a few towels, that you will sweat puddles, they mean that you will find yourself sliding off of your mat and watching as beads of sweat drip from your arms like a leaky faucet. Your face will redden. You’ll feel lightheaded. The postures themselves are not the difficult part. If you’ve practiced any kind of yoga before, you’ll find them familiar and easily adaptable to any skill level. The worst part (surprise, surprise) is the heat.

But…all of us made it to the end. And afterward, we felt great! The next day, my sinuses felt clearer and my joints (sore from running) felt so much better. I felt energized and astoundingly, not even sore.  Many have raved about the practice’s supposed health effects; it’s been said that it’s detoxifying, that it improves the skin and sleep patterns, and that it boosts the immune system. It’s also said to improve mental health by increasing focus and improving mood. Also, if you’re trying to lose a pound or two, one session burns over 1,000 calories!

I’ve gone back since then and I totally plan to do so again. I may not have been the most flexible girl in the room, but in yoga, as in life, there is no standard of comparison except yourself.

(Alicia)

[Image Above: David Sedaris from W Magazine]

Read/See This: David Sedaris

I had the pleasure of seeing beloved David Sedaris read last night at Pittsburgh’s Benedum Center. I had the extra pleasure of seeing him with my mom, a huge fan, and also in the company of a sold-out theater of 2, 883 other people. It was filled with the young, the old, the literature nerds and the people who were probably attending their first reading.  His universal appeal is one of the things that is so wonderful about David Sedaris. No matter who you are, it seems like he’s saying something you would say, if you were just a little bit funnier. The mark of a truly great writer, he makes it all seem so easy. Sedaris writes as witty as we all think or hope we are.

Here’s the skinny on Sedaris if you’ve never read any of his work.  After dropping out of several colleges and holding down jobs as a painter, apple picker, and Santaland elf, he was discovered reading his diary entries in a Chicago nightclub by Ira Glass, NPR correspondent and host of This American Life.   He soon became a regular commentator on NPR and has since published six collections of essays. The latest, When You are Engulfed in Flames , was a New York Times Bestseller. I can say that Sedaris’ stories are one of the only things I read that make me laugh out loud and his work is equally as funny and resonant hearing him read it as reading it yourself.

His first story last night was about living in France through the election and how people treated him–both when they didn’t think the Americans were capable of electing Obama to the presidency and then after we did. He also read from his diary and told a hilarious story about the secret code language of flight attendants. Sedaris said he recommends a book at each of his readings, and this time he played us a bit from Talking Heads (not the band), a miniseries of six monologues written by British writer, Alan Bennet, and performed by Bennet himself and five actresses.

It was really nice to pour out onto the street afterward with the crowd, mostly everyone smiling after a good hour and a half of laughing. And I definitely still had his slightly nasal voice orate my inner monologue for a few hours, and I like to think I saw the world with a bit more wit than usual.

(A)

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5 Responses to Grey Gardens, Fire, and Flames

  1. Cousin Katie 04/02/2009 at 8:51 pm #

    Nice post. You effectively make me want to simultaneously turn up the heat/stretch, spy on some old biddies, and pick up a D.S. book (I haven’t read any of them!). Good work, Prosser.

  2. Annie 04/04/2009 at 10:31 am #

    I’m so glad you reviewed Grey Gardens! I can’t say enough great things about that movie.

  3. Lauren 04/04/2009 at 1:24 pm #

    I love Grey Gardens! i you want to see more about the Edies both big and small, rent/buy/Netflix The Beales of Grey Gardens. It’s not quite as good as the first one, but there’s a whole piece on Little Edie’s eccentric fashion choices. It’s truly worth a watch as well.

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