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Monthly Archives: August 2008

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Bees, Bees, Millions of Bees!

Memories of a former movie extra who played a girl getting stung to death by bees in The Swarm (via Something Old, Nothing New). Getting scared shitless by Irwin Allen sounds like a blast.

Weekly Mishmash: August 10-16

Yasujiro Ozu’s Good Morning (1959). Interesting and subtle film about the goings-on with several families in a Westernized ’50s version of a Japanese suburb. Adults gossip and fret over their impending retirements; children goof off, learn English lessons and throw tantrums over not having a TV set. It’s a movie about nothing, and yet Ozu is so finely attuned to every nuance of the people onscreen so that a gesture speaks volumes. Lovely use of color and composition, too.
Kylie Minogue — Hits +. Got this really cheap and only because I was curious about Ms. Minogue’s “wannabe indie rock chick” period from 1994-97. For a hits compilation, this is awfully skimpy — six singles and a bunch of previously unreleased stuff which deserved to stay in the vaults. Those six singles are pretty good, however, so I don’t feel like the two bucks spent was a waste. Highlights: “Some Kind of Bliss,” “Breathe.”
Nightfall (1957). A late-period film noir from Jacques Tournier got a rare screening on Anne Bancroft’s Summer Under the Stars day. This was Bancroft’s film debut, but the movie really belongs to the brooding Aldo Ray as an ordinary guy who is accidentally drawn into the world of two sick criminals (Brian Keith and Rudy Bond). This had an excellent screenplay with several suspenseful scenes, several swell location shoots in and around ’50s L.A., and Bancroft gets to wear a few swanky Jean Louis gowns. I haven’t seen too many Aldo Ray films, but boy he was a hottie and this underrated gem was a good showcase for him.
Please Don’t Eat the Daisies (1960). Funny that I saw this Doris Day vehicle in the same week as Good Morning, both domestic comedies from the same era but as different as night and, er, day. Where the Ozu was small and pleasurable, this one is overblown and artificial. Day and David Niven strain credibility as a married couple coping with a home renovation, a brood of bratty boys, and his job as a New York theatre critic. I never once bought Day and Niven as marrieds, and their stories are so separated from each other that it renders the whole film into a vaguely dull mess. The only part I wholeheartedly loved came when Doris sings “Any Way the Wind Blows” in the manner of Elvis Presley musicals of the time. There’s no reason why her character would perform an impeccably arranged pop tune in the middle of a small town theatre rehearsal — with dumpy looking extras clapping and singing along — but that’s why the number is so bizarre and good.
Quiz Show (1994). Haven’t seen this one since it came out in the theatres. Still good.
The Youngest Profession (1943). A forgettable bit of b-movie fluff in which a star-struck teen (Virginia Weidler) and her daffy friend (Jean Porter) track down visiting Hollywood celebrities while keeping a hyperactive family and snoopy housekeeper at bay. The movie star cameos are amusing, but the rest of the movie was ultra-contrived and boring as all get out. One can tell that MGM was trying to launch a female version of the Andy Hardy series here, with the family having the stock wise dad (nicely played by Edward Arnold), patient mom and bratty little brother. Only it doesn’t work, and the giddy enthusiasm of Weidler and Porter is the sole element which keeps the film afloat.

Weird-O-Vision

It looks like artist Bob Hogan shares my fascination with vintage 3-D cartoon ViewMaster reels. Honestly as a child I found these things kind of eerie and cool at the same time, but now as an adult I can appreciate the care and artistry that went into them. And that makes them even cooler. (via Randomized Subjects)

ViewMaster Yogi Reel

Childhood Box of Curiosities on Flickr

Childhood Box - ExteriorRecently my parents brought me something from my early years which I hadn’t seen in a long while — a metal handled box with the Berenstain Bears printed on top. The box itself is pretty unassuming, but what was collected inside the box was part of something that occupied a good chunk of my leisure time in the ’80s.

As a kid, I was a collector. Tiny things fascinated me. An elementary school carnival would be a delight, because I could go there the morning after and pick up all the miniature plastic toys that people dropped on the ground. One time, the family went up north to visit a plot of high desert land which my parents owned for a time. Part of the land was littered with hundreds of broken fragments of old china dinnerware from the 1800s, which I excitedly collected and kept. My two brothers sneered at me (they sneered at most everything I did), but it was their loss that they couldn’t see the beauty in these amazing little fragments from the past. A few years later, I incorporated many of the pieces into a cool art piece.

After accumulate these objects, they often got randomly put away in bags or boxes. This particular box is an example of stuff acquired in my young teen years. There are some objects that are definitely of their time — Smurfs, a Yoda sticker, a mini Rubiks Cube. Other, much older objects were taken from my grandmother’s estate after she died in the early ’80s (guess grandma was a packrat like me). I took photos of everything in this box of curiosities and assembled them once again in Flickr — enjoy!

Childhood Box - Gallery

Baddie Hayes

R.I.P. to Isaac Hayes. Most know him from South Park or even the theme from Shaft, but personally I think his greatest legacy is in the string of hits and non-hits he wrote and produced with David Porter while at the mighty soul label Stax. Their work with Sam and Dave, Carla Thomas, and her dad Rufus is justifiably famous, but they could even spin gold with lesser-known 45s like Jeanne & The Darlings’ “How Can You Mistreat The One You Love” from 1967. Just listen below and see if this hot little number doesn’t make ya wanna boogaloo. You’ll be missed, Isaac.

Weekly Mishmash: August 3-9

Marvin Gaye - Let’s Get It OnMarvin 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.