I don’t know about you, but I’m totally wore out on a whole bunch of subjects. Seems like everyone I run into wants to talk politics with me, and it’s been that way for such a long time, and why me, really? Who cares what I have to say about politics? Whose vote am I gonna influence, really? Everybody makes up their own mind anyway, so let’s get on with it already. And I’m all the way burned out on sports, particularly baseball. What a depressing season, in all kinds of ways. And sports is nearly as inflammatory a topic as politics is, in my experience.
On top of all that, the volume feels a bit turned down on the cinema front. 2007 totally spoiled us for movies – there have been a couple gems this year, but nowhere near the bountiful harvest of last year. It’s getting hard to talk in a universal manner about anything these days.
However, there’s one subject that I think about at least half of every day, that I still never seem to be able to exhaust thought upon, one that I’m arguably getting too old to write about on the internet but hopefully will not be too old to think upon for several decades to come, if ever – and that subject is women. Girls. Ladies.
Anyway, from time to time the male-oriented print magazines have to print up an article along these lines, in order to assert their masculinity/ justify having hundreds of pages of fashion and cologne ads. Esquire Magazine does this thing once a year where they name The Sexiest Woman Alive, which speaking literally, is kind of strange. I mean, this year they nominate Halle Berry, and certainly there’s a significant argument to be made there. But what happened to The Sexiest Woman Alive from last year, or the year before, or the year before that? Are they not still alive? Did their sexiness depreciate that dramatically?
So simultaneously, GQ releases this list of the 25 Sexiest Women In Film Of All Time. They name the woman and then which movie supposedly best represents her. (
It also leaves out a couple perennial slam-dunks, such as Angie Dickinson (Rio Bravo, The Killers, Point Blank), Ann-Margret (Carnal Knowledge, The Cincinnati Kid, The Villain), and Monica Bellucci (for any movie). Still, the GQ article earns credit for being a little more arbitrary than one might expect.
I couldn’t even begin to raise my ire for a list that turns out to be so surprisingly tasteful. By which I mean “ frequently skewed to my tastes.” They shout out Raquel Welch’s jubilant booby-trap shower scene in the underseen Burt Reynolds/ Jim Brown Western 100 Rifles, Karen Allen in Animal House, Michelle Pfeiffer in Scarface, Jessica Alba in Sin City, and whatever your proclivities towards Scarlett Johansson (and Sofia Coppola), that opening shot of Lost In Translation is probably the single best opener in cinema history.
Now of course all of this stuff is subjective, can’t really be argued in any logical sense. Every notable movie star, male or female, got to be that way because, to put it bluntly, the sight of them gives someone a boner. Maybe not you, but someone, and probably someone in a hiring position. That’s just how it works. Also how it works is that these lists also tend to be confined to the headliners, the known names. I think it’d be interesting if they cast the line out further – since everybody’s got their eccentric favorites. Somebody whose life is so entrenched in movies, like me for example, would have a much more obscure list than GQ’s. Here’s my own personal top ten of all time, from where I sit today and looking back:
The JA List of Sexy Cinematic Hotness
Number One: Claudia Cardinale in Once Upon A Time In The West.
I know I proclaimed all this malarkey I’m commenting on to be a subjective matter, yet I don’t see how anybody’s “Of All Time” list could possibly exclude Claudia Cardinale. There’s a lot of evidence to support the theory, but I would start rookies with Once Upon A Time In The West. Sergio Leone followed up the Clint Eastwood “Dollars Trilogy” with his summary statement on the American Western, and it’s one of the greatest, yes, of all time. All four principal characters are for the history books: Charles Bronson just about out-Eastwoods Eastwood with near-mute badassery, legendary good guy icon Henry Fonda flips the script as the cruelest bastard imaginable, Jason Robards plays the sardonic outlaw outsider who is just one of my favorite portrayals ever. And then there’s Claudia Cardinale, who is pretty much the ultimate woman. Part of that is because she plays the role so cunning, crafty, so clearly smart with real humor, and the other part is that no human being has looked better on film ever. You can argue for “as good”, but you can’t argue “better”, not in my mind. To the point where Claudia Cardinale is still on my list, even at 70-something, with that husky longtime smoker’s voice.
Number Two: Nia Long in Love Jones.
Rarely has an actress been so weakly served by her filmography. I don’t get why this lady never got to be a bigger star than she is. I firmly believe that Nia Long has all of the beauty and intelligence, the aura, the on-screen presence, of any better-known movie star. Still she gets stuck playing the girlfriend, or the best friend of the lead girl, every time out. She must have crossed the casting director gods in a past life or something, because surely she deserves more than Big Momma’s House 2. She’s obviously great as window dressing, but I continue to hope for more complicated roles for her. Love Jones isn’t a major piece of cinema, but it’s one to check out if you want to see what I’m getting at concerning the promise of Nia Long.
Number Three: The Girl from Fletch in Fletch
When I was a kid, I had a real thing for this lovely lady, even with the Pomeranian hairdo. And as proof that these strong childhood impressions never entirely go away: Saw her at the Fox commissary a couple years back and I still got absolutely no problem with it.
Number Four: Sarah Shahi in The Sopranos
Some guys are Star Wars nerds, some are Lord Of The Rings nerds. I’m a Sopranos nerd. While The Sopranos is a television show and this is supposed to be a list from films, this right here was a performance of such killer hotness that she slugs her way onto my Top 10 any day – every guy I know was Googling for this girl like crazy after this episode hit. You know – the girl who Tony does mushrooms with in Vegas. Aaahhh yeahhh, that one…
Number Five: Naomie Harris in 28 Days Later
Okay, so you likely remember the movie, but let me set up the scene for you to pinpoint the exact moment where I fell in love:
Number Six: Betsy Russell in Private School.
At one point in their article, GQ name-checks Phoebe Cates for her memorable appearance in Fast Times At Ridgemont High. Look, at this point that’s kind of an obvious choice for guys of a certain age. I’d look to another early-‘80s movie she took top billing in, albeit one in which she was arguably outshone by another girl: A piece of crap called Private School, and a beam of sexual sunshine named Betsy Russell. I would guess that every guy can point to one scene that made them sure of where they stand on the question of liking girls. I’m not that proud to admit it, but this probably was a formative one for me: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vbOLvIG2cP4 (By the way, please don’t ask me why Matthew Modine is dressed like an ugly girl in this scene, because I don’t remember and I don’t care to try.)
Number Seven: Jennifer Lopez in Out Of Sight.
I probably do like her more than the average bear, but I’m really not such a rabid J-Lo fan as this placement might indicate. Truth be told, she’s not even my favorite of the Fly Girls. But here’s what a great director (Steven Soderbergh), a great writer (Scott Frank, after Elmore Leonard), and maybe most importantly, a great cinematographer (Elliot Davis) can do for an actress – for two hours, she can be terrifically appealing, your absolute dream girl. That’s movies at their best.
Number Eight: Shelly Duvall in Robert Altman’s Popeye.
Just messing with you.
Number Eight: Rita Hayworth in Gilda.
Better known to modern audiences as the pinup in Tim Robbins’ cell in The Shawshank Redemption. But click on that highlighted name to see how some things are timeless. See kids, there are plenty of great reasons to watch “old” black-and-white movies!
Number Nine: Kelly Preston in Twins; anything else between 1985 and 1999.
John Travolta is such a waste of Kelly Preston.
Number Ten: Stacey Dash in Clueless.
Stacey Dash is pretty incredible looking, but I included her here more than anything as emblematic of a certain kind of movie-going experience: Either as a date, or more often a platonic movie buddy, or a brother or son or general male relation without other plans, I’ve had to go in on a whole lot of movies in my life for which I might not have otherwise volunteered. In 1995, I was watching John Carpenter movies over and over – what the hell am I gonna do during Clueless? Look at Stacey Dash, that’s what. (Clueless actually holds up as a clever little movie in its own right, but you get my point I hope.)
Most Honorable Mention: Lea Thompson in Howard The Duck.
Because if an unfunny duck-faced man could get her, then just maybe…! That’s a ten-year-old’s budding idea of romance, anyway. A girl who can love a freak, or at least tolerate his company – now that’s a great girl. The same way seeing Leprechaun sent me on a ten-year-long Jennifer Aniston kick, or how it took Ratboy to make me see what Clint saw in Sandra Locke. (That reference is so far out in Malpaso territory that I don’t blame anybody for not getting it.)
So anyway, that’s my list. I only feel a little bit skeezy recounting it. Anybody care to volunteer their own off-kilter choices? I figure if this one don’t ignite a bonfire in my forum, ain’t nothing gonna…