American photographer Annie Leibovitz has been a prolific artist since the 1970s, where she first came into public consciousness with her iconic photography for Rolling Stone magazine. Her use of bold colours and unposed subjects have made her one of our generation’s best portrait photographers – best exampled by her most famous photo, that of John Lennon and Yoko Ono taken just days before his death. She has photographed everyone from the Queen of England to victims of domestic abuse to Hillary Clinton to countless actors, artists, musicians and political figures. These are a selection of some of my favorites of her photographs.
There’s three important points that need to be recognized here. The first is how underrated of a film Sleepy Hollow is. I saw it in the theater when it initially came out back in 1999 and loved it. In fact, it’s one of my favorite Tim Burton films. Back then, the internet was more about fandom than criticism and I thought that because everyone was so obsessed with Christina Ricci and Johnny Depp and thusly sharing pictures from this movie that everyone loved it as much as I did. It wasn’t until social networking made everyone think their opinion mattered that I found out that most people thought every Tim Burton movie after Edward Scissorhands was a fail. This sweeping dismissal has always annoyed me, especially when it comes to Sleepy Hollow. Stylistically, it’s his most beautiful film. It’s funny, spooky and visually stunning.
These pictures are by Tim Burton’s long time still photographer Mary Ellen Mark. An amazingly gifted documentary photographer, she always frames Burton’s movies like they’re plays, capturing the art of movie making more than the suspended disbelief that the characters are being photographed within their world. This unique style gives his characters a gravitas that is sorely missing from a lot of film still photography.
The final thing we must recognize is the costumes, designed by another of Tim Burton’s long time collaborators, Oscar winning costume designer Colleen Atwood. All of the dresses in this movie are beautiful, but the final dress that Christina Ricci wears is an iconic moment in Tim Burton’s films. West uses Burton’s signature black and white stripes and molds them through a basque, bustle, ruffled edges and full skirt. In terms of goth-dom, it’s like the Shroud of Turin.
Mark Ryden is considered the god father of the pop surrealist movement, an art movement which began in the 1970′s in Southern California, marked by its elevation of pop cultural figures. Ryden did book covers for Stephen King’s The Regulators and Desperation, as well as the cover images for Michael Jackson’s Dangerous, RHCP’s One Hot Minute and Aerosmith’s Love in an Elevator. His later gallery shows would explore the cultural disconnect to nature, including the meat industry. These are some of my favorite of his works, including portraits of Christina Ricci, Bjork and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
I was 13 the first time I saw Mermaids. I rented it from the video store, very excited to watch the new Winona Ryder movie that I had missed seeing in the theatre. I was already madly in love with her after seeing Beetlejuice, Heathers, Great Balls of Fire, and Edward Scissorhands. I loved Winona through her Christian Slater relationship, and loved her even harder into her Johnny Depp love story. I collected photos of Winona and sealed them between the sticky pages of albums meant for family photos. I meticulously unpeeled photos of my brothers and me opening Christmas gifts, posed together in matching outfits, and dressed up in costumes, then replaced them with carefully torn photos of Winona at events, photo shoots, and in film stills. I would smooth the glossy magazine page onto the sticky album cardboard, then carefully fold its glossy cover over the page. The family photos would go into a box, I think they’re still in the same box. I know my Winona albums remain tucked carefully away in a tupperware bin, alongside all my other teenage fandom collages, and trinkets from my childhood.
Watching Mermaids sent my Noni devotion sky-high. I related so intimately to the lust riddled, devout, odd Charlotte Flax that I remember crying during scenes in the movie that weren’t even heartbreaking, I just felt so known, and seeing myself in a fictional character was tremendously comforting. The line that best sums up me as a teenager is from Mermaids: Please God, don’t let me fall in love and want to do disgusting things. I spent most of my teen years simultaneously longing for sex and punishing myself for my urges. I thought a pious devotion to a higher power would strike the lust from my blackened soul. I would do rituals to rid me of the evil masturbation devil that lived inside me: pray to be struck dead for my cravings; burn a piece of paper listing my sins at the kitchen stove at 3 in the morning; cry and beg the Lord to both take away my need and give me someone to fulfil it. Like Charlotte, I blamed a parent for the sickness I believed existed inside me, though I chose to revere my mother and curse my father. It was my hippy Scandinavian father who enjoyed nudity and sex, and wasn’t ashamed of his unabashed appreciation of women who made me sick and ugly inside. It was his fault I could think of nothing but flesh on flesh. So unconventional! So free-spirited! Like Charlotte, I eventually gave up on my devotion to a higher power, realizing that it was obsessions I needed, not shame, and that my physical cravings weren’t wrong, and that there was nothing wrong with my modest mother, or with my immodest father, or most importantly, with me.
Now that I’m older, when I watch Mermaids, I’m most drawn to Cher’s character. I love how youthful she remains, even as she grows older and raises children, I love how she’s able to change and accept blame and evolve while remaining true to her own needs. I love her style so god-damned much and want to look exactly like Mrs. Flax, so full of confidence and sex that it becomes a delicious camp that frightens people who don’t understand and entices those who do. Bob Hoskins played the unassuming man who interested and caught Mrs Flax’s discerning eye with perfect lust and delight. She’s a magnificent woman, and his reactions to her magnificence are still my favourite portrayal of a confident man’s reaction to an equally sure woman.
Christina Ricci is painfully adorable in her first film appearance, right before she brought Wednesday Addams to life, and nearly a decade before she bewitched us all as a busty naughty little minx in movies and editorials. Christina Ricci is only 2 years younger than me, but I still remember being disturbed by her overt sexuality when The Opposite of Sex came out in 1998. She went from the doll faced little girl to the wide eyed sex bomb overnight and it was startling. And wonderful! She also went on to star alongside Johnny Depp in Sleepy Hollow and The Man Who Cried. She would talk in interviews about Johnny visiting the Mermaids set and him being this sweet man who would play with her while visiting with Winona, then a few years later he and Christina were kissing and having sex scenes in movies together. Fantastic!
Mermaids is based on a book by the same title by Patty Dann. I read it about 10 years ago, and I don’t remember much about it, other than that I enjoyed it, even though it’s a lot different than the movie. It’s worth a read though. The movie is an exceptional delight though, definitely my favourite Winona Ryder movie, and a movie that I loved as a child and continue to adore now.