a new long-term love

major spoilers for Albert Nobbs

I have a handful of lifetime loves: celebrities who seem to have entered my consciousness just as early as the sun and the moon, and with no less brilliance. Sonia Manzano (Maria on Sesame Street) was mi primer amor; Carol Burnett, Julie Andrews, and Barbra Streisand were close at her heels. It took me a little longer to become aware of Meryl Streep, but because I’m certain we were together in a past life (let me have my fantasy, please), I count her among the early lights. These five are my pantheon, my pentateuch. They remind me where I come from and what I value: warmth, humor, talent, smarts, integrity. And hotness.

Recently I realized that a much younger woman (she’s only 50!) has taken her place among these luminaries.

Janet McTeer has those admirable qualities in spades. And she’s supremely sexy, with a voice that’s silky yet husky; lips that curve readily into a smile and just as fluidly into a smirk; eyes that shimmer with that incisive, playful, unswerving lust for life that inhabits Oscar winners (and she really should have won this year — sorry, Octavia).

And then there are her curves. Have you seen Albert Nobbs yet? If you have, or you haven’t and you don’t mind being spoiled, please enjoy:

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NSFW alert

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NSFW alert

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spoiler space

you should also get a glass of cold water

or maybe a cigarette


I first embraced (OK, only mentally) those curves more than 20 years ago, in the form of Portrait of a Marriage. She lightly trips the boundaries of gender in that miniseries much as she does in Nobbs, swaggering and swaying as it suits her, donning angular uniforms and billowy skirts as comfortably as she stretches in her birthday suit (and I’m so, so glad she’s comfortable with that). And seducing a woman with the kind of dashing confidence that reduces me to an empty-headed heap of gratitude.

That dashing quality — not exclusively English, but often found hitching a ride on the tweedier parts of the gene pool — permeates her performance in Albert Nobbs. She’ll make you forget Glenn Close even exists (and this is a very serious statement coming from me, because my appreciation for Ms. Close borders on unhealthy). In the film, McTeer’s character represents truth, self-knowledge, courage, freedom, and love. And handsomeness.

Even in her smaller, less obviously dashing roles, McTeer is unforgettable. Today I saw The Woman in Black, which is a little snoozy when she’s not on screen — but mesmerizing when she is. That’s how I felt about her performances in Mary Stuart and God of Carnage on Broadway: when she was offstage, it was just another day, but when she showed up, it was suddenly Christmas.

And Glenn Close seems to be just as enchanted as I am: she’s given McTeer a part in the upcoming season of Damages, as well as the part of Very Good Real-Life Friend. (I interpret this photo slightly differently.)

Given McTeer’s stunning performance in the UK crime drama Five Days, I think we can expect her to set off similar fireworks in a legal drama — especially if she plays someone in charge. Maybe she’ll battle Patty Hewes for dominance. Yow!

So now that I’ve realized I’ve been in love with her for more than 20 years, I’m more than happy to give Janet McTeer a primo spot in my personal cinema firmament. Actually, I don’t have to give it to her: she’s already taken it, with that dazzling aplomb that I can’t quite capture in words. So I’ll end this with a brief video clip (from Portrait) and an amen.

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her quiet eye

The Observer

Completely protected on all sides
by volcanoes
a woman, darkhaired, in stained jeans
sleeps in central Africa.
In her dreams, her notebooks, still
private as maiden diaries,
the mountain gorillas move through their life term;
their gentleness survives
observation. Six bands of them
inhabit, with her, the wooded highland.
When I lay me down to sleep
unsheltered by any natural guardians
from the panicky life-cycle of my tribe
I wake in the old cellblock
observing the daily executions,
rehearsing the laws
I cannot subscribe to,
envying the pale gorilla-scented dawn
she wakes into, the stream where she washes her hair,
the camera-flash of her quiet

— Adrienne Rich, 1968

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no mourning

A Valediction Forbidding Mourning

My swirling wants. Your frozen lips.
The grammar turned and attacked me.
Themes, written under duress.
Emptiness of the notations.

They gave me a drug that slowed the healing of wounds.

I want you to see this before I leave:
the experience of repetition as death
the failure of criticism to locate the pain
the poster in the bus that said:
my bleeding is under control.

A red plant in a cemetery of plastic wreaths.

A last attempt: the language is a dialect called metaphor.
These images go unglossed: hair, glacier, flashlight.
When I think of a landscape I am thinking of a time.
When I talk of taking a trip I mean forever.
I could say: those mountains have a meaning
but further than that I could not say.

To do something very common, in my own way.

— Adrienne Rich, 1970

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