Sunday, October 30, 2011

Felicity Porter: Style Icon?

Does Felicity Porter's wardrobe of baggy sweaters, mom jeans and Converse sneakers qualify her for Style Icons status? "1998 Laura" says: of course! It is a testament to how dramatically fashion changes that when Felicity aired I thought she was the epitome of college cool. She dressed like everyone my age did then - preppy and cozy with a few remnants of grunge and a sprinkling of plaid:

75% of Vancouver hipsters have since adopted her messy topknot hairdo.

Even now, watching Felicity hoist her leather backpack to her shoulders makes me want to go to the library and think about shit.

Stalking in the Pre-Social Media Era

If we are to learn anything from the first season of Felicity, it is that our title character is a total creep. Instead of spending her first few months in New York consuming bad coffee and egg sandwiches at the local bodega or buying turtlenecks at the Gap, Felicity searches for new and more embarrassing ways to intensify her obsession with Ben. These days it is pretty easy to be a nondescript creep, what with all these social networking sites at our disposal. I imagine if Felicity was stalking Ben today she would visit his Facebook profile multiple times every hour, refreshing for new status updates and Google-mapping his whereabouts. She would learn that he liked basketball, Jack Kerouac, and The Wire, and would study up on all these subjects before approaching him. She would see what events he was attending and promptly say she was attending them as well, just to play it cool when they ran into each other at said event. She would post coy comments on his wall and he would likely respond in a friendly manner and she would misinterpret this as a reciprocation of feelings. This dance would go on for several weeks until Ben was tagged in a photo with Felicity's new big city best friend, Julie.

Unfortunately for Felicity she was chasing Ben in 1998 and based upon her bad pants and her continuous use of a tape recorder, I suspect Felicity wasn't that adept at using the internet. As a result, she has to stalk Ben the old fashioned way, which means: following her unrequited crush to New York; taking a job at the school admissions office to break into her crush's confidential file to read his college application essay; finding out someone has requested access to her college admissions essay (which, in typical creeper fashion, is written about Ben), and so wrongfully assumes her crush is as creepy as she is and sends him a copy of her essay in the mail only to try and commit a federal crime by stealing the mail back when she realizes her mistake; and "helping" her crush by rewriting one of his essays without telling him and then acting surprised when he is accused of cheating because he is ridiculously good-looking and his professor does not believe he is capable of intellectual ideas. Nice work, Porter.

Girl has no boundaries!

Saturday, October 29, 2011


I had been looking forward to seeing the Vancouver Opera do West Side Story for weeks now, thinking how incredible it would be to watch the musical unfold live on stage. And while last night's performance was entertaining - the colour, the famed choreography, Leonard Bernstein's wonderful score - I found my mind often wandering to the original film, a movie which I admittedly watched with religious fervour as a kid.

Perhaps something about this live show seemed too operatic, too stiff, too performed? One of the greatest strengths of the 1961 film, in my opinion, is how visceral it feels, even fifty years later.

The performances are incredible (seriously, how can anyone compete with Rita Moreno?)

Time to watch it again.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Tough Love: Felicity Porter vs. Meghan Rotundi

Some might say that Meghan was a too hard on Felicity at what was, admittedly, a confusing time for our young heroine: she was far away from home and her helicopter parents, aimless, directionless, mopey, and sexually deprived.

Living in a small UNY dorm room with a total stranger is difficult at the best of times, even more so if you have a penchant for making confessional tapes of your emotional trials for your friend "Sally." Felicity even begs Meghan to take her out as a diversion from obsessing about Ben.

But what if Meghan's hostility and disdain was exactly what Felicity needed? Meghan was the goth Oscar to her preppy Felix. Through Meghan, Felicity learned to accept people with piercings, to deliver semi-witty rebuttals to personal insult, and to break it down on the techno dance floor. She learned, most importantly what it means to be entrusted with a secret box, even when the contents of said box are disappointingly existential.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Ben vs Noel, otherwise known as idolizing your father or dating your brother.

What is a coming of age drama without a love triangle? For those of you unfamiliar, young Felicity Porter moves to New York to be with follow Ben Covington, a dreamy swimmer that she was in love with in high school. In a dramatic moment at the end of her high school graduation, Felicity reads some charming sentiments in her yearbook from the resident hot guy and breathlessly asks him where he will be going to college. He is attending the fictional University of New York and in her desperate and stalker-esque state (more on that in a future post) she promptly abandons her plans to attend Stanford and packs her corduroys and Dep gel and heads to the big city.

Here's the thing. She doesn't even know Ben, nor does he really know her. He's kind of distant and brooding and Felicity interprets that in the classic 18 year old girl way: A) This guy needs me to save him; B) A beautiful mystery must lie behind those sorrowful eyes; and C) How can I use my talents of overachieving to somehow garner the love of this man? This is where Ben falls under the category of "Daddy Issues." Throughout the series Felicity's relationship with her parents is strained, both from her mother's desire to be an independent woman and her overbearing father's wishes that she gain some sense of direction that is not "bad student painter that has inappropriate sex in the school art studio." Papa Porter is a doctor himself, and Felicity was on that career path until she chased Ben into a life of youthful indecision. Ben is as equally confused about what he wants to do with his life but inevitably chooses to become a doctor, creating a massive emotional collision of family, futures, and love for Felicity. In one fell swoop, Felicity goes from trying desperately to be her father to being in love with the man that is becoming her dad. Devastating, right?

Then there is Noel. Big friendly graphic designer with moppy hair Noel Crane. He is the resident advisor in Felicity's dormitory, whose nice guy face is constantly providing advice while secretly pining for her. A relationship eventually begins between the two, and Noel proves to be sensitive and steadfast, a trustworthy and caring partner destined for marriage and crossword puzzles. He is also, sorry to say, painfully boring. But boring is stable and dependable, and this absence of sparks does not prevent he and Felicity from having a few steamy moments together. Even though there is a peculiar and awkward drunken hookup between the two later in the series, the Noel/Felicity dynamic is predominantly about Noel being Felicity's sounding board, providing sensible advice when the giant curls on her head cause her to do neurotic and outlandish things. This reliable relationship is one comparable to siblings, with Noel playing the role of a big brother who is responsible for looking out for his little sister, offering guidance but not forcing directions upon her. If anything, the distinct lack of sexual tension between the two solidifies this analysis.

So who does she choose? In the end (here is a spoiler, nine years later), she picks Ben, the borderline alcoholic pre-med student who has fathered an illegitimate child. And what happens of Noel? Well, he dies. But don't worry, this gets reversed in a totally random series of time travel episodes. We'll get into that later.

A New Version of You

Kim and I have talked for a long time about how to fully capture the epic social/cultural/political/historical significance of Felicity on this blog. We agreed, of course, that the full spectrum of Felicity-ness can't be distilled to a single post. For today, I'm going to start with the basics: the epic significance of a single word within the Felicity lexicon of repressed emotions. And that word is: "Hey."

"Hey" is the means by which Felicity characters express the full spectrum of their 20-something angst. "Hey" is used not only as an alterative to "Hi" or "Hello" but as a universal signifier for everything from "I'm hungry" to "I love you." It stands in for all the pent-up feelings that college kids don't yet know how to express.

In this classic scene, observe how "Hey" breaks the ice between remorseful Felicity and Ben the cuckold as he furiously dribbles his basketball:

Couple this loaded word with Felicity's tendencies toward stalking and confessional honesty (See Season 1, Episode 1: "Don't do it Felicity! Don't tell Ben you followed him to New York!") and you have a perfect foundation for four years of TV gold. Hey.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Breathe it in

We are currently enjoying a wonderful autumn here on the West Coast, one that makes up for our lackluster summer. Beyond the apple picking and the pumpkin patches, there is so much to look forward to this season!
  • Molasses - The colder air always makes me think of molasses and the warm spicy treats it creates. This season is the perfect excuse to begin a healthy gingerbread diet that lasts at least until the spring. 
  • Knits, in particular bulky scarves and wooly socks.
  • Laurie Colwin's Homecooking and Joan Didion's Blue Nights.
  • Buttermilk - Oatmeal pancakes, biscuits, scones, cake! That sour smell of buttermilk is perhaps one of the most intoxicating aromas around.
  • Leaves, leaves, leaves!
  • Boots, with everything.
  • Mittens, in particular my new green leather pair. I don't care what all you glove lovers say, mittens just make sense.
  • Homemade apple maple butter.
  • Nature walks that include family dogs but do not require hiking shoes.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Speaking of the 90s

Before we get all dreamy about the return of the nineties, perhaps we should take a moment to acknowledge some of its more embarrassing and disheartening moments, in particular the period known as The Late Nineties. There has been much brouhaha about the reappearance of delicate plaids, neon, and leather booties, but have we already forgotten about the strange infantilization of teens (baby blues and pinks, tiny tees, pacifiers?), pleather pants, metallic makeup, twisted hairstyles, butterfly clips, The Rachel, and blond streaks? Rave pants? Ranch dressing, California Cuisine, and wraps? B4-4 and Darude's Sandstorm (and the one dude that dances to it at the club)?

Aren't they just adorable? Full-denim ensembles were just the dreamiest.

Fergie! Pre-Humps!

Fatboy who?

No really, this was a hit show!

Then there's this gem that sneaked in in the last year of the nineties:

Now, don't get me wrong, you can still find a few winners from the latter half of the decade that are always worth revisiting, but I'm not quite ready to embrace a complete nineties revival just yet. Perhaps the six seasons of Beverly Hills 90210 that just came on Netflix will help make this transition a bit easier.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

See It: Lost Bohemia

A few posts ago, I raved about Bill Cunningham New York. While reviewing my options for the upcoming Vancouver International Film Festival, I couldn't have been more thrilled to discover Lost Bohemia, a tragic yet inspiring documentary about the residents of Carnegie Hall (Cunningham among them) who were evicted from their homes a few years ago. Directed by one of its own, Josef Birdman Astor, the film chronicles the last days of the Carnegie's residents, whose photography, painting, music and dance studios were gutted and replaced by office cubicles. The fact that most of those evicted were in their eighties and nineties and had resided at Carnegie Hall for thirty years or more, takes this atrocity to a level far beyond historical, cultural or architectural injustice. Get yourselves to a theatre to see this film.