Weekly Mishmash: October 12-18
Anne of Green Gables (1934). A wholesomely entertaining Cliff Notes version of L.M. Montgomery’s classic books. I see it as a very ’30s RKO literary adaptation, and a less satisfying companion to George Cukor’s Little Women from the previous year. Anne Shirley (she named herself after this role) plays the character a tad too obnoxiously, but she has an ingratiating charm that fits the curious Anne well.
The Devil’s Sword (1984). This one took me on a flashback to 1983: my dad, my two brothers and I were trying to decided what film to see. Most of us were leaning toward Airplane 2, but my older brother was absolutely hellbent on seeing a 3-D action adventure opus called Treasure of the Four Crowns. Majority ruled that day, but eventually we also saw Four Crowns as well — and it suuuucked. The Devil’s Sword, a cheesy Indonesian sword ‘n scorcery fest, is cut from the same mold. There’s a good guy and a bad guy, both trying to obtain a magical sword from the crocodile queen and her harem of Solid Gold dancers, along with several kung-fu fights, a badass old witch, and a boulder used as transportation device. In its defense, I was sufficiently intrigued by the wackiness to stay tuned to the film’s predictable conclusion. This would have been ten times better given a MST3K treatment, however.
Fallen Angel (1945). Good, not great, noir from many of the same personnel who worked on Laura. Dana Andrews is admirably sleazy as a chiseler who simultaneously pursues Alice Faye’s rich yet dim church organist and Linda Darnell’s hotsy-totsy waitress. The film is beautifully directed by Otto Preminger and filled with many sharp exchanges; I’d rate it higher if Dana wasn’t such a cad and the story wasn’t so familiar.
Hugo Montenegro — Moog Power. One of those kitschy ’60s albums that I’ve always been curious about. This week, I came across a RapidShare download of the album (get it while it’s hot!) and finally got to hear why this was considered a crate digging gem for a time. About as ’60s as Sammy Davis Jr. in gold chains and a paisley nehru jacket, and just as inappropriately groovy. I love the white-bread male chorus on “More Today Than Yesterday” and “Traces,” and the dynamic “MacArthur Park” is tagged for definite inclusion on my next mix — which should be posted here next week. Keep yer ears peeled.
Targets (1968). Fascinating and intense film about a retiring horror film star (Boris Karloff, excellent) who decides to make one last public appearance — at a drive-in with a gun-toting maniac on the loose! Peter Bogdonavich directs and has a supporting role as actor. This movie has a distinctly modern take on violence in society, very detached and cool, and it results in a film that stays with you long after you viewed it. Scenes with the deceptively boyish looking killer on top of a water tower, dispatching highway motorists with chilling accuracy, have an uncomfortable resemblance to the Zapruder film (and this was only five years after the Kennedy assassination!). On a superficial note, I love the tacky blue-on-blue interior decoration on the sniper’s family home. My hat’s off to the set dresser who achieved that perfect Lawrence Welk Minimalist look.
Taxi to the Dark Side (2007). Compelling documentary from Alex Gibney, director of the equally hard-hitting Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room. This time Gibney turns his lens on an innocent Afghan taxi driver who was interrogated and tortured to death in 2002. This man’s story serves as a springboard toward discussions about Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay, and the Bush administration’s underhanded attempts to redefine “torture” for its own means. While some methods might be more humane than others (forced Devil’s Sword viewings, perhaps?), torture is torture. The most refreshing aspect of this film is that it’s told in a straightforward manner with no obvious agenda. Having the people who were there speaking on what happened is its most effective narrative device. Oh, and Bush still sucks, pass it on.
Your Money Or Your Life: Transforming Your Relationship With Money And Achieving Financial Independence by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin. This was recommended to me by J.D. Roth of Get Rich Slowly fame a few years back; it didn’t enter my mind again until recently when I spied it on a thrift store shelf and purchased it for, like, a dollar (something the authors would approve of, I’m sure). Although published in the early ’90s, much of the sensible advice proffered carries even more relevance in today’s credit-strapped economic climate. I’m surprised at how much of the authors’ regime Christopher and I already follow. Get out of debt. Pay off your entire credit card every month. Cut out anything that uses excessive energy (you’d be amazed at how easy it is to live without a dishwasher or clothes dryer). Buy only stuff you need. Prioritize your life and weed out expensive hobbies and/or cash-sucking activities (buying new work clothes, for instance). I’d agree with J.D. that this book’s tone gets a bit New-Agey at times, but reading it inspired me to take steps further and track all of my income/expenses. I really need to know if my paltry income as a freelance designer is covering more than half of our household expenses. This book frequently gets republished; the next paperback edition comes out in December.