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Monthly Archives: March 2008

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Hulu Party

Hulu logoIt always happens — instead of doing something productive, I waste away the day on something silly. In today’s case, I visited Fox and NBC-Universal’s Hulu.com to find out if it lives up to the hype. Although I didn’t look into the movies (something about sitting on the computer for two solid hours makes my butt hurt), they do have a decent selection of old and new TV shows. The shows are presented with a nicely designed, iTunes-like interface, unedited and with a few brief sponsored ads where the commercial breaks should go. Image quality was pretty good but it ran jerkily (maybe that’s due to my weak web browser). I watched Bewitched‘s second season Halloween episode, with a little girl who looked awfully familiar until the credits revealed she was a pre-Brady Bunch Maureen McCormick. How fun. When they add some more cool older shows, I will have to waste yet another day there.

Weekly Mishmash: March 9-15

You know, it’s been four weeks since the Weekly Mishmash has started, and there hasn’t been a single comment on anything in them. Do you like these? Are they lame? I’m getting lonely!
An Affair to Remember (1957). A so-called romantic classic that has eluded me until now. Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr are great together, and the early shipboard scenes have an undeniable sparkle. Then it gets awfully treacly with a simpering old biddy, a multiracial kiddie choir and Kerr flaunting her “nobody could love a cripple so I’ll sit here and be a perfect lady” schtick. Barf.
Good Night, and Good Luck (2005). This, on the other hand, was excellent. I loved the cast from David Strathairn on down and the ’50s settings appeared nicely authentic considering the film’s low budget. George Clooney builds a sense of mounting tensions as it goes along, and it seemed somewhat obvious to me that he was drawing parallels between McCarthy-era hysteria and today’s political climate.
Michael Largo — Final Exits: The Illustrated Encyclopedia of How We Die. A compendium of bite-sized examples of how people died throughout history. Entertaining enough to forgive the book’s slapdash design (heavy on the clip art) and several mistakes. For example, it states that the woman with the famous “I Told You I Was Sick” tombstone was buried in Littleton, Colorado — when she’s really located in Key West, Florida. I know this because I saw it last October!
Mama Steps Out (1937). How happy am I that Turner Classic Movies is back in the groove? Last week I was excited to find a half-day of Guy Kibbee movies on the schedule (apparently I wasn’t the only one), and so this B-level comedy which pairs Kibbee with the wonderful Alice Brady got added to the TiVo playlist. This was produced by MGM, scripted by Anita Loos, and has a strangely gorgeous and young Dennis Morgan in the supporting cast, so how bad can it be? Well, as much as I dug Guy and Alice doing their thing, the director forgot to tell the cast to dial this stagey romp down for film. The plot (mostly about an “ugly American” family adjusting to European culture) is fun and very screwball, but it plays much too shrill for my comfort level. I’ll have to check out a good ‘n gritty old Warner Bros. feature for my next Guy fix.
Twilight Samurai (2002). A Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award nominee, this is less a typical samurai film than a probing family drama which deals with distinctively Japanese themes that might seem alienating to an English-speaking audience. The film unfolds slowly with a dialogue-heavy script at first, but eventually it wound up being a semi-rewarding experience. Well acted.

Book Review: Jackie Ormes

Jackie Ormes book coverI love it when a book exposes me to an event or person that I’d previously known nothing of. This happened recently when a friend sent along an email linking to an article on Jackie Ormes: The First African American Woman Cartoonist. This book grew out of author Nancy Goldstein’s interest in a doll modeled after one of Ormes’ comic characters. What emerged from that little pique is this multifaceted portrait of a vivacious lady who channeled the excitement of mid-20th century politics and social issues into her own jazzy drawings.

Actually, cartooning made up only part of Ormes’ life story — between 1937 and 1956, she had a hand in four different comic strips in between stints as a reporter, community volunteer and social hostess on the Chicago scene. Her best-remembered comic was Patty Jo ‘n’ Ginger, a single panel weekly which ran in the black-oriented Pittsburgh Courier in 1945-56. It starred Patty Jo, a smart-mouthed little girl whose beyond-her-years wisecracks often startled her mute yet smartly dressed older sister Ginger (the fashionable Ormes modeled Ginger after herself). Although the strip looked innocuous enough on the surface, Ormes used the Patty Jo character to caustically speak on current issues ranging from segregation to the HUAC Communist witch hunts to Dior’s “New Look” fashions. Around the same time, Ormes also drew a full color romantic saga titled Torchy In Heartbeats, a series notable for its independent Afro-American herioine and Orme’s lush drawing style (a distinct improvement over Patty Jo ‘n’ Ginger‘s cute but often stilted compositions). Goldstein also devotes a chapter to the highly collectible doll based on Patty Jo.

The book itself is a nice and thorough summary of Ormes’ life and career. My only complaint is that Goldstein’s text often detours into unnecessarily long passages giving context to the times she lived in. On the other hand, I did enjoy her paragraphs describing the often obscure topics covered in each Patty Jo ‘n’ Ginger panel. Ormes’ comics are presented in the best possible way, despite many of them only surviving on grungy microfilm reels. All in all, with this book I was left with the impression of getting to know a fascinating lady who lived in a fascinating era.

Jackie Ormes: The First African American Woman Cartoonist is published by The University of Michigan Press. Buy it at Amazon.com here.

Jackie Ormes Patty Jo ‘n Ginger Spread

Jackie Ormes Torchy In Heartbeats spread

Mmmm … Chromey

Awesome! The music video for Justice’s “DVNO” might as well be a love letter to ’80s motion graphics. With all the animated neon lights and chrome surfaces on display, one can see the influence of stuff like the widely beloved HBO Feature Presentation intro, the Cannon Films logo, and … all of this demo reel.

Weekly Mishmash: March 2-8

Cafe Apres Midi Meets DisneyA very Asian week at Chez Scrubbles:
Various – Cafe Apres-midi Meets Disney. A surprise midweek package from Amazon.com contained this — a gift from the fabulous Julie, who shares my interest in pricey import CDs compiled by Toru Hashimoto. Created for a Japanese chain of coffee houses, Hashimoto cherry picks a blend of the mellow and obscure from the back catalogs of a variety of major labels. For this one he mines the Disney soundtrack library for gems both classic (who cannot love the Main Street Electrical Parade theme?) and obscure (I haven’t heard the Rescuers and Pete’s Dragon stuff in, oh, 29 years). The CD also contains some exquisite newer covers of Disney classics by Brazilian and Jazz artists. Sweet stuff — thanks, Julie!
Chan Is Missing (1982). A pioneering Asian-American indie film shot on location in San Francisco’s Chinatown got some airplay on the IFC channel this week. The budget’s low and the acting’s a bit iffy, but this mystery (actually something of an afterthought) did keep our attention all the way through. At times it plays like a documentary with all the overlapping conversations, and the black and white photography lends a gritty feel.
Mazes and Monsters (1982). A cautionary “role playing games are bad” made-for-TV movie notable for having a young and hammy Tom Hanks in a supporting role. I vaguely remember watching this when it was new, so eventually the shoddily produced DVD became a halfhearted Netflix rental. Too slow-moving to be great camp, the movie just kind of plods along like a preachy After School Special. Actually, Mazes and Monsters‘s chief value today may lie in the several scenes shot at the World Trade Center for the story’s climax. Detailed shots of the towers’ lobby, elevators, observation deck and roof lend a poignancy the filmmakers never intended.
Project Runway season finale (Bravo). All I can say is — Jillian, baby, you wuz robbed!
Welcome Back, Mr. McDonald (1997). A fascinating Japanese comedy that takes a while to get into, but eventually scores. Christopher and I loved it. The film follows the making of a live radio drama penned by a mousy woman who won a scriptwriting contest. As the broadcast unfolds at a deserted station in the middle of the night (why it takes place in the middle of the night is never explained), the egotistical lead actors decide to make changes to the script and various complications ensue. Although the frenetic dialogue can be hard to follow at times, the movie really pays off with several hilarious situations.
You and Me and Everyone We Know (2005). Miranda July’s indie hit is the very definition of “quirky,” and you have to be in the right frame of mind to enjoy it — which I did. The characters are stylized but identifiable in a way that, say, the people in a Wes Anderson film could never be. They seemed like people in my own neighborhood (we have plenty of outwardly normal yet weird denizens in our ‘hood, I guess!).

Bunnies, Comic #3

A new Two Bunnies and a Duck installment has been published, and this time we see the appearance of a third character. Is it the duck? Check it out.