Weekly Mishmash: August 3-9
Marvin Gaye — Let’s Get It On. A horndog classic. Amazon had the no-frills download edition of this album recently for $1.99, so of course I had to get it. I can remember having this on an ’80s CD, paired up with What’s Going On. Compared with that one, Let’s Get It On is a brief and rather slight affair — but on its own it holds up pretty well. I like how over the course of the LP Gaye goes from sounding horny as hell (title track) to being desperate and somewhat creepy (“Just to Keep You Satisfied”).
Min and Bill (1930). The fact that TCM had a Marie Dressler day during its Summer Under the Stars was ample reason enough to TiVo the box office hit which propelled her into unlikely stardom and a Best Actress Oscar. It’s an odd and short little tale of seaside tawdriness, one that lurches from slapstick comedy to heavy drama. Dressler is good at both — as are supporting players Dorothy Jordan, Wallace Beery, and Marjorie Rambeau — but it sure is a strange and creaky little movie in which the sums of its parts come off better than the whole.
The Mist (2007). At first, this had all the elements of a fun tribute to glorious ’50s monster movies, complete with b-movie style acting (and in Marcia Gay Harden’s case, overacting) and a building sense of dread. It’s tense where it should be and the special effects were effectively creepy. Eventually, however, it gets derailed with weighty metaphors. And the ending … sucked.
Olympics Opening Ceremonies (NBC). I approached this baby with trepidation, having fresh memories of Athens 2004 and the way NBC royally screwed the broadcast up by having Bob Costas and Katie Couric inanely babble on at every opportunity. I wanted to slash my wrists after that. Luckily, the Beijing ceremonies surpassed my expectations in every possible way — gargantuan, thrilling, beautiful, at times weird. Seeing hundreds of Chinese men in green light-up suits isn’t something I’ll likely forget anytime soon. Thankfully, NBC handled the broadcast appreciably better this time around. Costas, Matt Lauer and a needed Chinese cultural expert kept the color commentary to non-obnoxious levels and actually had a few interesting things to say. Check out the SFGate.com photo gallery of the events.
The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio (2006). Using the words “heart warming” and “old fashioned” to describe a movie doesn’t sound like much of an endorsement, but this uplifting Julianne Moore film fits that description to a tee. Moore (playing a ’50s housewife for the third time) excels as Evelyn Ryan, a real lower-middle class woman who supported her husband and ten kids by entering dozens of contests and sweepstakes. I also enjoyed Woody Harrelson as the jerky, selfish hubby Kelly. At times this movie is directed in a self-conscious method imitating kitschy old commercials and industrial films, when a more straightforward handling would have been more appropriate. Aside from that, I enjoyed this wholesome tribute to the pluckiness of the American spirit.