Monthly Archives: March 2008

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Weekly Mishmash: March 23-29

Cadbury Orange Creme Eggs. Amid a marked down candy buying spree at Walgreen’s, I spotted this variant on my favorite Easter treat for only a quarter each. Man, where have these babies been all my life? P.S. I miss the classic bunny commercials.
The Last of Mrs. Cheyney (1937). On the 24th, TCM ran a 24-hour Joan Crawford tribute. Two films never seen before, including this jewel robbery comedy, ended up getting recorded. Slogging through this labored and overly-scripted affair, “What were they thinking?” was the only thing that came to my mind. As much as I love and admire Miss Crawford, she never was a very effective light comedienne (The Women was the great exception). The movie is actually well-cast and beautifully mounted with all the gloss that MGM could buy, but what came out of all that effort was a snail-paced antique that gets way too bogged down in its frou-frou fake Britishness. Joanie, ya let me down again.
Spring Fever posterSpring Fever (1927). My other Crawford viewing was this little-seen silent starring the gay and not hiding it well William Haines. Looking like a completely different person a decade earlier, the fresh and appealing Crawford made the best of a nondescript “girlfriend” role here. Silents are always interesting in a way because they’re a window on their time with a unique point of view not seen in sound films. This one is no exception — even though it also drags a bit, switching from fluffy golfing comedy to heavy relationship drama to whiplash-inducing effect. On the plus side, Crawford and Haines play wonderfully off each other. And isn’t this a lovely poster?
The Tom & Jerry Spotlight Collection, Vol. 3. Tom & Jerry fan Christopher bought this for his DVD collection and we were enjoying it all week. Well, “enjoying” is a strong word. How about “watching”, instead? Volume one was packed with classic, award-winning T&J cartoons, while the second volume benefited from having most of the earlier (and therefore better) shorts co-starring the controversial Mammy character. The third and concluding volume of this series was meant to cover all the remaining classic-era MGM cartoons not covered in the first two sets, but Warner Home Video left off two cartoons with “objectionable” scenes in a bit of spineless corporate p.c. behavior. Most of the cartoons here aren’t even true Tom & Jerry vehicles anyway, with Spike and Tyke and that annoying little duckling taking up much of the screen time. The only mitigating thing on this set is a making-of documentary that includes several nightmare-inducing clips of the weird, weird Gene Deitch-directed Tom & Jerry shorts from the early ’60s.

Wall Art at Home

Due to not having a car (fuel pump gave out), I was housebound for much of this week. Yesterday I took my camera and photographed various pieces of wall art around the house. The pics were assembled in a flickr set creatively titled Wall Art at Home. Most pieces have a little background info on where we got it. Enjoy, amigos!

Wall Art Set

He-Man Adventure Club

In a strange bit of synergy, two recent articles have appeared dealing with established cable channels changing their content to be more “edgy” — one on The History Channel and another on Animal Planet. It’s telling that both channels are going after the elusive Young Male demographic by diluting the very images they were founded on. Animal Planet’s upcoming whaling industry exposé doesn’t seem so bad, but why is The History Channel doing all these “dangerous tough-guy jobs” documentaries — and what pray tell does that have to do with history?

Uneasy as those stories are, they really do reflect what’s happening in the bigger picture. Browse through a cable/satellite lineup and you’ll find ’80s-’90s movies on TV Land, wrestling on the Sci-Fi channel, and white-trashy candid reality on A&E. HGTV and The Food Network, once valuable sources of information across a wide spectrum, are now filled with competition shows and filler aimed at dumbasses whose points of reference don’t extend beyond what can be gotten at the closest Wal-Mart Supercenter. I guess having a niche and doing it really well (hello, Turner Classic Movies) doesn’t count for much these days.

Weekly Mishmash: March 16-22

Ace of Base – Singles of the 90s. When this imported Best-Of collection appeared a few months back as a surprise offering on the defiantly indie eMusic.com, I saw the sign and gave it a guilt-free download. Listening to it gives me a serious yen for good ’90s Europop — and makes me wonder why so much of this stuff never made it to the U.S. market. Their luscious Motown tribute “Always Have, Always Will” or the wonderfully retro “C’est La Vie Always 21″ are both fantastically constructed pieces of pure pop, but they never got a chance on our soils. “The Sign” and “All That She Wants” are here, of course, along with the underrated goodness of “Beautiful Life” and “Lucky Love” (the superior original version, not the acoustic remix made for U.S. radio). Yes, after reading everything about Ace of Base on Wikipedia, I’m almost embarrassed about how much knowledge I’ve accrued!
Patrick Cleandenim – Baby Comes Home. My other eMusic download. I’d never heard of this guy before, but his debut album has an appealingly scrappy “retro” vibe which takes in swing, ’60s soft pop and Broadway as influences. It’s nice and all, but the only song that truly stuck was the moody “Days Without Rain” — sort of a lost Mamas & Papas song. Cleandenim has ambition to spare, but his melodies aren’t too memorable and the production came off as too sloppy (especially compared with Ace of Base!). But then again he’s only 22, so whatever he comes up with later on down the line should be worth the wait.
Into the Wild (2007). Beautiful performances and great cinematography add up to a film that resonated long after we saw it. If Sean Penn intended for us to see the main guy as a hero, I don’t know if he entirely succeeded. But I definitely understand the need to break free of the constraints society puts upon us.
Maybe It’s Love (1935) A b-level comedy from the ’30s that plays like a Busby Berkeley musical without the music. Gloria Stuart, 62 years before she went on the Titanic, is the center of attention here — but the main interest in this film lies with leading man Ross Alexander. Alexander had a short-lived career at Warner Bros., making due in various happy-go-lucky “best friend” roles before taking his own life at 29. Like Ramon Novarro, he came across as very likable and very gay onscreen — and watching him in this silly fluff makes me wonder what would have become of him had he lived in a more forgiving time.
13 Going On 30 (2004) Another piece of fluff, but Jennifer Garner was so appealing that I almost didn’t care about the movie’s numerous period inaccuracies (a twelve year-old girl in 1987 loving Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”? C’mon!). Many are still waiting for the vehicle that will make Garner an A-list star.

Two Bunnies #4

A new edition of Two Bunnies and a Duck has been posted. Kinda gross, but a lot of humor is based on grossness, doncha think?

By the way, we just completed almost a full day of planting and removing different vegetation from our yard. I have just one gardening observation: Ruellia sucks. Don’t plant unless you like things that spread like weeds and leave dozens of densely packed stalks in the ground when you try removing them.

Nothing Like a Dane

A sampling of songs from the lovely, ethereal-sounding Danish singer Birgit Lystager, recently linked on Martin Klasch. Though I first read about Ms. Lystager years ago on the Musical Taste site, I haven’t actually heard much of her singing (accurately described as a mix of Astrud Gilberto and Karen Carpenter) until today. Her Scandinavian version of “Pretty World” from 1970 is pretty fantastic.