The tabs are all aslobber over Prince Harry having a new girlfriend, Cressida Bonas. And even with the admission from “a source” that it’s nothing serious yet, she could certainly learn a thing or two from how Kate Middleton has long handled her very public relationship with Harry’s princely brother:
1. Wear pretty clothes. Oh, you thought the Duchess just liked fashion? Well, maybe she does — who knows? Do we really know these people at all, despite the gobs of ink spilled about them? We don’t. But we do know a heck of a lot about what Kate wears, and that distracts us, because we like pretty, shiny things. (See how obsessed we are with Kate’s maternity wardrobe, and for good reason?) Give the crowds a fantastic outfit, a photo op, and they’re happy. Given that Bonas is gorgeous, this should be easy.
2. Make sure your extensive wardrobe is the most controversial thing about you. Vivienne Westwood, for instance, recently criticized Middleton for not recycling her ensembles enough. Hey, it’s better than pics of you sans wardrobe taking up column inches, as both Kate and Harry can attest.
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3. Know you kinda can’t win. Novelist Hilary Mantel gave a controversial speech a few weeks ago calling Middleton “a jointed doll on which certain rags are hung” and “a shop-window mannequin with no personality of her own.” Though many columnists and even public officials rushed to Middleton’s defense against Mantel, the novelist was actually expressing sympathy for the women who join the royal fold, saying they don’t get much autonomy. Proof that people are going to be haggling over your every quality — and lack thereof — as soon as you take up with a prince, no matter what you do or don’t do.
4. Get a great hat. When great clothes aren’t enough, a crazy hat will always do.
5. Prepare your family for instant stardom. Just ask Pippa.
Hollywood.comcorrespondent Jennifer Keishin Armstrong is the author of two forthcoming books, Sexy Feminism (due out in March) and Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted, a history of The Mary Tyler Moore Show (due out in May). For more information visit JenniferKArmstrong.com.
Follow Jennifer on Twitter @jmkarmstrong
[PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images; Wenn]
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When you watch as much television as the kind of person who spends his or her time perusing entertainment websites ordinarily does, you're bound to find yourself saying the following phrase every once in a while: "It's been done." It's unreasonable to expect that any new series won't borrow an element or two from programs past. In fact, every show does it — comedies, dramas, mysteries, science-fictions. Each category has its share of tropes that it lends to a variety of series. Usually, these common facets are subtle, vague, intangible... not the sort of things that jump out and identify themselves as genre staples. But lately, the members of television's fantasy community seem to have banded together to uphold the maintenance of an extremely specific, vividly absurd element that even a casual friend of network TV will immediately recognize as a veteran of the mighty Lost. I'm talking, of course, about the smoke monster.
For all you heretics out there who never watched Lost, the smoke monster (which is literally just that) was introduced early on as a force of evil patrolling the island setting, making victims of the Flight 815 passengers, and evoking mating calls reminiscent of taxicab receipt-printers. When we first caught a glimpse of the mysterious beast at the beginning of the series, we (and our island friends) were shocked and frightened. The few instances of nefarious non-solid matter offered by small-screen installations in the past — Star Trek: The Next Generation's mud creature Armus, The X-Files' black oil — had not prepared us for the gaseous supervillain introduced on Lost. Not even Tim Curry's Fern Gully antagonist could appropriately prime the world for the Man in Black's vapor form.
And now, the smoke monster is making some very impressive rounds in the contemporary small screen community. The second season of HBO's Game of Thrones introduced a dark, mist-like shadow beast springing from the loins of the nightmarish Melisandre. Another HBO series, True Blood, has gone to the well with the Ifrit, a fire-and-smoke creature of Arabic lore that visited the vampirous heroes throughout the fifth season. On the ABC program Once Upon a Time, fairy tale menace Rumpelstiltskin unleashed the magic of his supernatural homeland unto mortal Earth in the form of a looming purple haze (not that kind). Over on The CW, Supernatural's Winchester brothers have faced off against more than their share of smog-like demons. And newly introduced into the brazen reality of ABC's 666 Park Avenue (which stars Terry O'Quinn, the very man who once took smoke monster form on his island alma mater) is a sea of ominous black fumes, conjured by the opening of a hell-sent parcel.
It's getting to be a problem. Sure, there is something particularly haunting about the ability to take the shape of your container. Yes. the connoted threats of lung disease and rising global temperatures adds to the certain horror surrounding the victimized characters in question. But smoke monsters can't be all we have left to fear. FDR was wrong, people — there are plenty of other things to be scared of, and fantasy television needs to stop latching onto the go-to terrors of the miasmatic ne'er-do-well.
But while Game of Thrones, True Blood, Once Upon a Time, and 666 Park Avenue are the only victims of this epidemic so far, there are plenty of other fantasy series ripe for the picking. What could be next? Might The Vampire Diaries attack Mystic Falls with a heap of devilish smog that feasts on age-old bloodsuckers? Could the Portland detectives of NBC's Grimm find themselves facing off with a hazy demon from the depths of wherever the demons on that show come from? Could the titular antihero on Beauty and the Beast find himself undertaking yet another transformation into a regretful cataclysm of toxic effluvium? And will Leslie Knope form a petition to take down the smoke monster formed by the Sweetums Corporation's incessant pollution on Parks and Recreation?
So to all those who haven't jumped on the bandwagon yet, we thank you. And we beg you to abstain. Smoke monsters might provide an ample threat, but what's even scarier than a smoke monster is the smoke monster trend. Why can't television let go of this treacherous beast? As much as we all loved Lost, it is time to cork the bottle and find new things to fear. And there are plenty! Bats, clowns, mummies, Sasquatch, Zambonis, triangles, scarves, Cincinnati, dreidels, Hugh Laurie... anything else, really. Just open your minds, TV shows. And say no to smoke monsters.
[Photo Credit: ABC]
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It seems that Homeland is able to reboot at the end of every episode in this second season. My feeling is that shows often end with a giant finale cliffhanger (example: Dexter) to inject some new juice when things start to feel a little stale; Claire Danes & Co., however, put everything on the line every single week. That’s really outrageously impressive. I know a lot of people say that “The Weekend” is the biggest and baddest episode of Homeland (not that there are a ton of episodes to pick from, yes) but “New Car Smell” was… MASSIVE. That’s really the only word to describe where we’ve traveled by the end of the episode. Note: Meredith Stiehm wrote both “The Weekend” and “New Car Smell” – give the woman a raise!
Saul stops by Estes’ home, but Kenny, Estes’ son, greets him; Kenny is wearing a fantastic Darth Vader costume, and while I’m not really sure of the implications (Saul is everyone’s father?), it’s a cute gag to start the episode. We swiftly move on to Saul showing THE TAPE, and Estes just sort of having a major brainmelt moment. So, what’s the plan, with this tape in play? Nothing changes – leave Brody right where he is, watch the scoundrel, follow him to Nazir and therefore the next attack. The greatest point of this conversation is that Estes has to admit that he was very wrong; while such an admission will probably never happen for Carrie directly, the look on Saul’s face is more than enough. The power in this situation is slowly shifting into Carrie’s hands, as she has always been the one that should be in control.
I made something of a mistake in my recap for last week’s episode – I spoke of how much I dislike Jessica this season, but I forgot give Morena Baccarin the appropriate props in actually accomplishing such a thing; sure, the woman isn’t my favorite character, but the actress is providing some real power to combat Damian Lewis’ Emmy-winning performance. Anyway, Brody tries to apologize to Jess for last week’s insanity, but Jessica is really not in the mood; I have a feeling that it takes a lot more than an espresso to ease back from the edge of divorce. Ultimately, Brody moves out because he can’t say something true to Jessica. The fundamental rift in this relationship has been a long time coming, but the crumbling of Brody’s support system still stings because it became so real so soon. In a minor-key reflection, Dana is growing up and out of her relationship with quasi-boyfriend Xander; Dana realizes that there’s a lot more to being a teenager than enjoying pot, which might just equal enjoying Finn, but still. Dana also knows that her father is lying about everything in the universe, and Brody’s car does not smell like Brody’s car. Better clean out that dead bomb builder guilt stench! Pay attention to the way things smell.
I was concerned that we’ve already watched more than three minutes of a Homeland episode without actually spotting Carrie, but clearly that was quickly resolved. Carrie shows up at the new CIA secret Brody compound with her two techie friends; the main member of this duo is named Virgil, but I like to call these men Jasper and Horace, after the 101 Dalmatians characters that must hunt down the pups for Cruella. I’m weird, I know. We all remember Jasper and Horace as the men that helped Carrie install 3,073 secret cameras in Brody’s home when she suspected him of being evil. Carrie meets Peter Quinn, an extremely cute CIA wunderkind that’s running the operation. Carrie has to swallow any attitude and play along; the plan is for Carrie to “accidentally” cross paths with Brody outside of Langley, causing Brody is freak out and run to his handler for instructions.
Brody tries to get his car cleaned after the comment from Dana, and the man running the carwash recommends key lime car freshener. We can 100% assume that anyone recommending a key lime scented car needs immediate medical attention, and therefore all of this car washing business is extremely suspect. Carrie is waiting for Brody to arrive at Langley, but this whole smelly car key lime thing is taking too much time, and we’re treated to more moments of Carrie waiting around and almost crying. I need to pull out all of my hair when I have to watch Carrie wait, it is really that painfully scary. When Brody finally does arrive, the entire episode suddenly explodes – the physical reunion of Carrie and Brody is understandably quiet on the surface, but seeing Claire and Damien do this quiet clash is so rewarding; layer upon layer exists between the two, where Carrie reveals that she’s back at Langley but can’t talk about her work, drawing the line between Brody her “new life.” Could these two be more complicated? It’s like they’re about to jump in bed together, enjoy the sex, and then wait for the other to fall asleep first so they can successful suffocate their real fake lover to death.
Carrie is given big applause on her return to the secret bunker, but this is a tiny victory in the grand scene of things. Brody secretly meets with Roya in the middle of a crowded hallway, but her status as a member of the press is so well established that she isn’t immediately see as part of Nazir’s secret army; while the CIA can afford many eyes, ears are far too difficult, so the conversation goes unheard. Brody calls Carrie “stubborn as sh*t” (true), and Roya wants Brody to renew the relationship. Brody and Carrie are awful together! I can’t wait! Confusing sex in the parking lot after group therapy!
We’re still dealing with Brody’s military brethren feeling suspicious about the whole Walker connection/conspiracy, but that plotline is moving terribly slow compared to everything else, so we’ll just see where that goes in the future. A more interesting, seemingly unimportant plotline deals with Dana falling for Finn, the Vice President’s son; in a nutshell, Dana is going to sleep with Finn after bitchslapping the actual Vice President with her hilariously intelligent insults. Like, Dana insulted the Vice President of the United States to his face and could literally care less. I would love to see her Instagram account. More importantly, what’s at stake here? What is the VP dealing with behind the scenes? Dana’s appearance concludes with a nighttime visit to the good ol’ Washington Monument (or the Big White Pencil, as used to call it) for some Secret Service chaperoned shenanigans. There is a lot of baby kissing and baby cheating, as Dana kisses Finn and then remembers that Xander is her boyfriend. Oops. Two points for Finn!
Back in the bunker, we discover that Brody met with 43 individuals after his thoroughly planned random run-in with Carrie; Brody wants Virgil/Jasper to look into all the Arabs he met with first, because Saul believes that there are times when “racial profiling” should really just be called “profiling.” Saul’s a big fan of controversial real talk and/or controversial maybe mole talk. Is that mole suspicion still in play? Should I be worried about Saul, and therefore everything that has ever happened in the history of television? Carrie has her first night duty with Peter, and the two have a bonding moment over food (“I like olives,” says Peter) and will probably have sex before the end of the season.
Carrie is still waiting around with Peter, trading details about their lives and maybe trying to kiss a lot if we weren’t watching. Why do I want that relationship to happen? Why do I need elements of My So-Called Life in all Claire Danes television experiments? Brody checks into his nice hotel sans Jessica, while the night agents wait for Brody to contact his handler; this all sort of feels like The Wire with all the listening to phone taps in secret bunkers, only now we are dealing with the lives of the leaders of the U.S. government instead of mentally insane Baltimore drug dealers. Homeland likes to raise the stakes as high as possible, naturally. Brody decides not to call his handler, but instead give Carrie a ring. She’ll meet him at the hotel bar for a drink. This is scary. Carrie is scared.
Peter can tell that Carrie had a sexual history with Brody, and before Carrie heads out, he asks – “was it work or love?” Carrie obviously can’t answer that question, and if she could, we’d be free of a lot of the tension that sits at the heart of this show. Duh… I cannot go through the hotel bar conversation blow-by-blow, because I think I would pass out. But yes. Brody informed Carrie that the hotel bar meeting is “not a booty call,” and Carrie goes on to call Brody has his wife the new JFK and Jackie O. Carrie is flipping her hair and dropping hints about Abu Nazir, but she becomes noticeably flustered when Brody “apologizes” for turning her over to Estes and causing her to undergo severe treatment; Carrie actually thanks Brody for his help in finding control, but it suddenly becomes clear that this meeting is horrifying – is Brody trying to break her down? Is Carrie really better than before her crazy breakdown? Where would Carrie be if she hadn’t been told so fervently that she was wrong about Brody? I have so many questions because Carrie’s emotions are too important to me; I hate to see her played by the men in her life.
Brody charges the bar tap to his room, 416, and heads up for the night. Carrie checks in with Peter and Saul, thinking she blew the entire exchange when she became so visibly exasperated; she thinks that Brody knows about her work, and that he’s about to slip through their fingers. Is it possible that Carrie just wants to have sex? Everyone thought that, right? Carrie ignores orders to return to the bunker and heads for the elevator.
Brody enters his hotel room, sipping Fiji water (I now must switch fancy bottled water because I cannot drink the things that a scary ginger terrorist would drink). There is a knock at the door. Brody opens the door. Carrie insinuates that since Brody mentioned his room number while paying for the drinks, she should… come up. But then. BUT THEN.
Carrie: “It reeks, you know.”
Brody: “My confusion?”
Carrie: “Your bulls**t.”
Carrie begins letting it all unravel. Carrie begins explaining – “Do I want to be friends with a demented ex-solider who hates America, who decided that strapping on a bomb was the answer to what ailed him…? Who in the end didn’t have the stones to go through with it but had no problem sending me to the nuthouse? Yeah… no thanks. I don’t think I need a friend like that.” HOLY HELL, CARRIE. Carrie asks Brody if he’ll kill her now, and just blame it on rough sex. Moments before Brody is officially arrested, he spits out that he used to like her. Carries screams back, “I loved you.” The CIA team swarms the room, taking Brody down.
Whoa. Brody is led out of the hotel with a black bag over his head – Carrie has taken the entire mission into her own hands, and Claire Danes nailed the edge between the professional and achingly personal need for swift vengence. I can barely make any jokes about this episode because it was really just kept slapping me across the face. I believe that Homeland (and, honestly, American Horror Story) is teaching us a different way to watch television, where we deal with critical plot developments in a single episode that certain shows might wait full twelve episodes to unleash. Homeland is, now, a brand new show. I’m glad we moved past some of the zany, slightly distracting asides in the first couple of episodes. We’ve rebooted hard since that Season 1 finale dilemma. Amen.
[Image Credit: Kent Smith/SHOWTIME (2)]
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Gillian Anderson is Lily Bart a woman of shaky means for who parties are business and the pursuit of marriage has become a constant vocation. She falls in love with Lawrence Seldon (Eric Stoltz) but quickly realizes she can't seriously consider him since he actually works for a living. Still her efforts to marry for money instead of love are so half-hearted that she sabotages her chances with a wealthy prig and continues her flirting gambling cigarette-smoking ways. This in turn puts her out of favor with her rich aunt and a tragic demise waits in the wings. Bribery extortion and character assassination rear their scandalous heads as the wrong men make improper plays for the desirable Lily. Intriguing as it may sound revealing letters that have been tossed into a fire are all that smolders in this film.
Leaving the realm of supernatural phenomenon ("X-Files") for the spookier world of Victorian society Gillian Anderson plays the ever so wronged but resolutely brave Lily. Anderson's self-righteousness and wretched desperation fail to endear her leaving her tragic long-suffering Lily somewhat remote. But it's Stoltz's opaque inert Lawrence who truly irritates. A once-likeable actor he has begun to play all his roles with a tad too much smugness. Sincere but utterly passive the character is annoyingly subdued. Laura Linney is refreshingly vital as the dangerous Bertha. Dan Aykroyd fails to impress as a villain in sheep's clothes and Eleanor Bron is a caricature of a stern sour aunt.
After seeing one too many Merchant Ivory films one might tire of the convention in which a woman of meager means falls for a poor working man while searching for a rich husband. And for those who haven't seen any you just might tire of it midway through Terence Davies' languid dour drama. Davies ("The Neon Bible " "Distant Voices Still Lives") doesn't do for Wharton what Martin Scorsese did in "Age of Innocence " namely bring her words to lively engaging life.