Monday, December 2, 2013

Why Didn't I Know That?: 5 Things I Learned Really Really Late

1. Spoiler alert for people as clueless as I am: Gatsby dies at the end! Years ago, I tried reading F. Scott Fitzgerald's iconic 1925 novel The Great Gatsby, and I couldn't get past the first few pages. (It remains one of the few classic novels -- along with Vanity Fair, though incredibly enough, not The Thief's Journal, Death in Venice and A Portrait of an Artist As a Young Man -- that I started and didn't finish.) About a month ago, I began watching the recent Baz Luhrmann adaptation, and quit about a half hour in because I just couldn't get into Leonardo DiCaprio in the title role -- or Tobey Maguire, period. (Has there ever been a big star with less charisma than Maguire?)

Last night, for the first time, I watched the 1974 film starring Robert Redford as Gatsby on TCM, and I was completely blindsided by the title character's fate. It was an unexpected twist that had I been a moviegoer in 1974 would have surprised me as much as the Academy's snubbing of Karen Black, who deserved her second Oscar nomination for her wild-eyed Gatsby performance as doomed Myrtle Wilson. (P.S. I didn't care for the movie, or for Redford, who was totally upstaged by Bruce Dern, though he looked fantastic in the Roaring Twenties swimsuit that he died in. Wouldn't it be something if both 77-year-old 1974 costars, Redford and Dern, are 2014 Best Actor Oscar nominees for All Is Lost and Nebraska, respectively?)

2. A hot washcloth placed over the face for a minute or so will leave it feeling soft and supple. Who knew? Apparently, everyone. But I didn't realize it until yesterday when I was washing my face after shaving, and I couldn't pull it away from the warm washcloth that felt so good pressed up against it. I had no idea that my skin would feel so amazing when I finally came up for air. So that explains why the guy who used to shave my head in New York City used to always cover it with a warm towel afterwards. (Soft skin tip #2, from my friend Marco, on Facebook: "An egg-white mask... Leave on for one hour and be amazed.")

3. Britney Jean is already out. Maybe it's the fact that I'm a little bit removed from U.S. pop culture in Cape Town. Or that "Work Bitch," the first single from Britney Spears' eighth studio album, didn't really do anything on Billboard's Hot 100. But last night when one of the girls I was hanging out with started shrieking gleefully to the opening strains of "Bitch," a song I'd never heard anyone bother to comment on, I was even more astonished to discover that the full album had been officially downloadable since Friday. Where was all the fanfare? Did I miss it hanging out on the slopes of Signal Hill in Cape Town? There was a time, at the turn of the century when I was a Teen People editor, that my life revolved around new albums by Spears (and teen idols like Paul Walker, may he rest in peace). Today I feel like those days are truly done.

4. Glee star Amber Riley was on the latest season of Dancing with the Stars. Apparently. In fact, she was declared the winner in the 17th finale on November 26! Isn't that reality TV competition generally reserved for has-beens, also-rans and former reality stars seeking an extension on their 15 minutes? In loosely related news, while watching The Queen Latifah Show the other day, I learned that Riley's Glee costar, Naya Rivera, released a single in September (Where's Riley's album, or is its existence one more thing that I don't know about?), and she's dating rapper Big Sean, who, for all I don't know, might very well be her fiance by now.

5. Sandra Bullock is pretty smart. "When people are like, 'Life is good,' I go, 'No, life is a series of disastrous moments, painful moments, unexpected moments, and things that will break your heart. And in between those moments, that's when you savor, savor, savor,'" she said in the December 6 "Entertainers of the Year" issue of Entertainment Weekly, one of my other professional alma maters. That's one thing that I've actually known for years, but it's nice to hear a soon-to-be two-time Oscar nominee put it so eloquently.

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