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Monthly Archives: April 2008

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Out April 15-19

I Am Here

Weekly Mishmash: April 6-12

Bush’s War (Frontline, PBS). We finally finished watching this five-hour extravaganza last Sunday. Favorite moment: when a commentator notes Condi Rice’s “overjoyed” reaction to the toppling of Saddam Hussein’s statue in Baghdad, the producers show a photo of Ms. Rice in a characteristic sour-faced look.
Junebug (2005). I have so many movies on Netflix that they’re sending DVDs I first selected two or three years ago — including this one. I was expecting typical indie fare, but the movie’s slightly better and deeper than that. The Southern family gets a refreshingly non-cliché portrayal in a film that deals with how people perceive one another versus how they really are. Amy Adams was excellent, as was the entire cast.
Mrs. Harris (2005). A rental which grew out of a vague interest in Jean Harris and the Scarsdale Diet murder. I remember reading some of the mixed reviews which came after Mrs. Harris premiered on HBO, but I enjoyed it a lot. Set among ’70s New York’s country club set, the story is told in a kitschy and semi-farcical way that at times reminded me of the Bette Midler bomb Isn’t She Great? (though it’s not nearly as awful as that monstrosity). To be honest, the story is a bit ridiculous, but what keeps the film on terra firma is Annette Bening’s performance. She blew me away. Bening portrays Harris as a thoroughly selfish and unlikable person, but she still manages to give her a measure of sympathy for her motives — cool.
Sweeney Todd (2007). Having never seen Sweeney Todd onstage (or anywhere), I wasn’t sure how I’d react this this one — but I was utterly wowed. Tim Burton has made the musical over in his quintessentially gothic style, yet the material remains so faithful to Sondheim’s vision that I’d characterize it as more of a filmed Sondheim work than a Burton piece. I’d even go as far as ranking it the best of the Burton/Johnny Depp collaborations. Despite the imperfect singing voices of Depp and Helena Bonham Carter, they really inhabit their roles. The musical arrangements, costumes, and art direction are all top notch. See it, people!

Company Picnic

While viewing one of Shout! Factory’s Best of the Electric Company DVDs yesterday, a couple of clips stood out in a) unearthing tingly deja-vu feelings, and b) showcasing the often daring visual and musical cues the show took. These are both from episode #453, which first aired on January 15, 1975. The kinetic and colorful animated clip below, illustrating the word “house”, must have made a huge impression on my tiny mind. What strikes me most from an adult standpoint is the Mary Blairish look of the geometric shapes piling on top of each other — oh, and the soundtrack is quite groovy.

Our second clip visualizes the very ’70s concept of “right on”. I definitely remember singing along with this tune as a kid — and it does have a funky vibe and visual panache more in line with the Schoolhouse Rock shorts than The Electric Company. YouTube member NantoVision has assembled a lot of other excellent EC clips with informed commentary.

My Muxtape Is Chullin’

I have been so busy lately, getting some extra work in before taking the dream trip next week — but I did have time to do a little fun thing last night. I went to Muxtape.com and set up a little playlist at scrubbles.muxtape.com (thanks to Jonny). This playlist is the result of an early ’90s female R&B fixation I was on earlier this week, and it’ll keep me briefly hopping for the inevitable more work later on. It’s phat, it’s da bomb, Bill Bellamy digs, peace out.

Weekly Mishmash: March 30-April 5

Atonement (2007). This one seemed a bit too predictable from the previews, but I found it really absorbing once the momentum of what will happen to Keira Knightley and James MacAvoy started building. Direction was good if a little show-offy (the six-minute tracking shot on the beach, and a scene with Knightley primping in front of a mirror looking like a TV commercial), and I loved the ending. Also, the ’30s-’40s period settings were spot-on.
From Rags to Bitches: An Autobiography by Mr. Blackwell with Vernon Patterson. An out of print tell-all from 1995 that I found at a used book sale (autographed, even!). Blackwell had an interesting life story that took him from poverty-stricken Brooklyn childhood to Hollywood also-ran to chichi California fashion designer. Not a lot of bitchiness here, unless you want some serious dirt on the forgotten singers Lily Pons and Connie Haines. It’s hard to take the author seriously as he describes his youthful self as “Hollywood’s most in-demand boy toy” — when the photos have him looking like a young Adam Goldberg. But that’s part of the fun of breezy books like this.
Nine Lives (2005). Nine short films, all centered around women of various walks of life, with most of the characters interconnected in some way. I enjoyed it, even though at times it played like an arty Lifetime movie. At times it reminded me of Crash (and, unlike many others, I liked Crash). The final sequence with Glenn Close and Dakota Fanning made me appreciate the treat that a well-crafted short film can be.
The Notebook (2004). A goopy romance recommended by one of Christopher’s co-workers. Not as bad as it could’ve been, but the ’40s period sloppiness makes Atonement look like a documentary by comparison. The cast is very good — except toothy Rachel McAdams, who seems like a distinct step below costars Ryan Gosling, Gena Rowlands and James Garner talent-wise. I need a he-man action movie now.

That ‘Screen Saver’ Look

A new Two Bunnies and a Duck hatched today … and now for something completely different. I was rearranging shelves in my bedroom yesterday and came across a few stowed-away items that have been saved since my first computer came into my life in 1992. First is the sheet of Apple Computer decals which came packaged with my Mac IIci machine. Very rainbowy. Second are a pair of items from Berkeley Systems, makers of the popular-in-the-day After Dark screen saver. An ad for More After Dark carries all the hallmarks of clunky early desktop publishing — including a garish color gradation. Finally there’s a brochure where one could purchase a variety of After Dark attire, modeled by the fashionistas pictured below. Flying toasters away!

After Dark Collection