Weekly Mishmash: May 4-10

The Complete Peanuts 1959-1960 by Charles M. Schulz. Fantagraphics’ two volume a year, two years in each volume Complete Peanuts series is still in full swing with the 1967-68 volume having just been released, but I’m still playing catch-up with this earlier volume. The strips from 1959-60 find Schulz at the peak of his talents, a huge asset for the book making up for Whoopi Goldberg’s lousy introduction (in reality it’s just an interview, and a pointless one at that). This was the period that saw the debuts of Lucy’s psychiatry booth, “happiness is a warm puppy,” and Charlie Brown’s baby sister Sally (interestingly, the other characters talk about her for at least a month before she’s actually seen). It also contains one of my very favorite strips, one that was also singled out in Jonathan Franzen’s New Yorker Schulz appreciation from 2004. It’s the total Peanuts philosophy summed up in four panels:

Peanuts Strip

Grave of the Fireflies (1988). I saw a good chunk of this anime classic when it showed up on the IFC channel a few years back, but didn’t get to see the whole thing until Christopher just rented it. The story of two children orphaned in WWII Japan is beautifully told, powerful and at times too bleak. The gorgeous animation and powerful story are things to admire; too bad I wasn’t affected all that much by it at the end of the day.
Network (1976). I haven’t seen this in years, decades maybe, and was a bit taken aback at how prescient it was. What originally played as a farce on the TV industry in ’76 looks pretty realistic today. A script as smart as Paddy Chayefsky’s doesn’t come along very often. I was also struck by how the part of Diana is one of those “once in a lifetime” roles, and Faye Dunaway really grabs hold of it and makes it entirely hers. William Holden and Robert Duvall were also excellent.
Various — Atlantic Unearthed: Soul Sisters. Picked up this compilation in the same record shopping trip that netted the B-52′s disc from last week. In a selection very similar to the 1992 comp Atlantic Sisters of Soul (the two discs even share a track, Laura Lee’s “What a Man”), these sixteen female-led soul nuggets were either previously unreleased or languished on single b-sides. Although padded with some nicely performed but nondescript R&B, I enjoyed this one a lot. It opens with Aretha Franklin’s stunning cover of “My Way,” recorded in 1970 during the Spirit in the Dark LP sessions. Other highlights include Patti LaBelle & The Bluebelles’ “(1-2-3-4-5-6-7) Count the Days” (kinda old-fashioned sounding for 1969 but lovely nonetheless) and Bettye Swann’s seductive, proto-disco “I Ain’t That Easy to Lose” from 1973.
A Very Brady Sequel (1996). Tivo’d this, a rare sequel that’s better than the movie it spawned from. The Brady Bunch Movie was mildly amusing but it milked the “Bradys stranded in the ’90s” theme too much; this one just plays it for laughs and lays on the in-jokes at a fast pace. Not all of it works, and the ending was lame, but I liked it — especially Christine Taylor as Marcia and Jennifer Elise Cox as Jan. Those two are the grooviest!

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