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Weekly Mishmash: October 5-11

The Dark Knight (2008). For my birthday weekend, I wanted to see a movie the old fashioned way, sitting in the theater. Despite being months old, this was the movie I chose. For a summer blockbuster, it was pretty good. I liked the concept of a “realistic” superhero movie where the principals are essentially normal people who are capable of doing extraordinary things. Christopher Nolan’s direction was daring, violent and dark, with several impressive set pieces and neat storyline twists. That said, the movie was also punishingly overlong and too ambitious for its own good. The script’s several competing plots would be better suited to two (or more) films, Christian Bale was kind of boring, and Heath Ledger’s Joker didn’t quite live up to the hype (at least he wasn’t all hammy like Nicholson).
It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown! (1966). “I got a rock.” In a strange coincidence, much of the birthday haul this year had a “vintage Peanuts” theme. One brother got me The Complete Peanuts 1965-1966, another got me a DVD set containing the classic Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas specials, and my pal Ion gave me some cool magnets and sticky notes. Guess some people know me well! On this remastered DVD, the Great Pumpkin stands up well with a nifty new making-of featurette. I love the watercolor-style backgrounds and Vince Guaraldi’s mellow jazz piano. Still classic, very evocative, but not as much of a downer as the Christmas special.
Performance (1970). I’ve always been curious about this cult movie, but once seen it’s a bit disjointed and frustratingly split into two distinct halves. The first half is a dazzling Brit mob movie, with kinetic directoral touches that are far ahead of their time. For the second half, however, the filmmakers decided to ignore the script and do a lot of long, draggy scenes with Mick Jagger and his two groupies in their dingy flat. How very 1970. Disorientation rules throughout, but James Fox has a commanding presence as the badass mobster. The movie essentially belongs to him, despite the Jagger-heavy marketing.
Shree 420 (1955). One of the better Bollywood musicals I’ve seen, with a beautiful b&w production that’s on par with Hollywood efforts from the same era. It’s as overlong and campy as other films of its ilk — but once you get past star Raj Kapoor’s schmaltzy and overbearing Chaplin imitation (it fades as the film proceeds), this is a sweet and uplifting movie with several terrific musical numbers. One such scene, with leading lady Nargis instructing her students on the finer points of vegetables, is the very definition of adorable:

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