Weekly Wire
Memphis Flyer Movie Stars

By Susan Ellis

DECEMBER 7, 1998:  There are plenty of video guides. You’ve got your Leonard Maltins, your Roger Eberts, and your Video Hounds. And, if you’ve got a film fetish, there’s probably a book designed around your particular predilection. Videographies exist for guy’s guys and Japanese animation and James Bond fans. There are guides for family films, and on the other end of the spectrum, X-rated works, and one entirely devoted to the exact cinematic moments when actresses and actors appear nude.

Now there’s something for those who let the stars make their decisions for them. Star Gazing: Movies and Astrology, written by Eleanor Ringel, a film critic for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for the past 20 years, offers movie picks that complement each astrological sign’s particular traits. In addition, the book includes lists of stars’ birthdays and chooses six famous moviemakers – actors and directors – born under each sign and suggests one movie that demonstrates the Virgo or Cancer or what-have-you revealed from that person in the movie, along with behind-the-scenes moments that peg them as that sign.

So why astrology? “People are always asking me, What should I go see?” Ringel explains. “Then one day, this one phrase went through my head, and it was, If I’m a Virgo, should I rent Platoon?

“I’m of the Age of Aquarius. … I grew up when everybody was interested. There was a kind of openness, and it wasn’t just a nasty single’s bar pick-up line. So with that ongoing interest that I’ve always had, and the fact that people were indeed always asking [for advice on movies], I thought, Well, I wonder if this could be kind of stretched around?”

Ringel says she started the book about a year ago and took about six months to complete it. Approaching the task sign by sign, she relied on her two decades of moviegoing for her selections, along with piles of clippings she’s collected over the years to get into the personal side of the actors (she says she’s too “technologically stupid” to use the Internet). For the astrology aspect, she took what she calls a “crash course, poring over all the books she could find on the subject.

And once she got going, Ringel says the work came easy enough. “I sort of boxed myself in,” she says. “I got so excited when I learned that [MGM’s] Leo the Lion was born as a Leo. I thought, This is so cool; it does work. When I started picking people to focus on, I picked Lucille Ball early, and I picked Du Barry Was a Lady for her film. I was studying up on it, and that was the movie where a hairdresser made her hair that famous Lucy red, that fiery Leo kind of color.”

Ringel, who is a Scorpio, describes Star Gazing as a stocking-stuffer and a cheat sheet for trips to video store. Her style is breezy and her humor is on the corny side (“I’m not an astrologer, and I don’t play one on TV,” she writes in the book and repeats in the interview). Reading her choices, you get the idea that she might be onto something. Invariably, the movies she selects for each sign do suit that person. Better yet, you get ideas – be it from the sign under which you’re born or from one of the others.

Ringel says that professional astrologers have approached her at signings to commend the book, and that she hasn’t heard any complaints from readers. She does wonder, however, if such good vibes simply come with the astrological territory: “If you’ve ever been to a reading, you find yourself really listening and hearing the stuff that you know to be true. Stuff that you don’t necessarily agree with, you don’t hear that that much.”

So far, Ringel has kept her combined interest in the movies and astrology confined to Star Gazing. She is, as it turns out, open to applying what she’s learned to other, albeit related, purposes. The Oscars, perhaps?

“That’s an idea,” she says. “Maybe I can plug my book when I do predictions.”

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