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Weekly Mishmash: November 9-15

The Bigamist (1953). I had modest expectations for this melodrama, among the earliest of Ida Lupino’s directorial efforts. Ida also stars, alongside Joan Fontaine and a solid Edmund O’Brien as the title character. The bigamy situation is actually handled with a lot of sensitivity, with good and sympathetic performances all around. If only O’Brien’s bigamy wasn’t revealed so early (and the movie had a different title), the film would have had much more effective dramatic thrust. I wonder how the Production Code handled this — adultery is a no-no, but apparently bigamy is okay? Hmmm.
Blow-Up (1966). I think this is the second or third viewing for me; the first for Christopher. One of my favorite movies from the ’60s. Antonioni’s exuberant stylishness makes up for the fact that the film doesn’t really go anywhere for long stretches at a time. Furthermore, every scene involving mimes is so embarrassing that it makes me wince just writing about them (I don’t know if they’re true mimes, since true mimes don’t talk. Discuss this important topic at your own leisure.). Despite that, this is a quintessentially sixties experience that everyone should have at least once. Let’s give it up for the scene where David Hemmings bullies around a bunch of fashion models:

Cagney by John McCabe. A book that I’ve had for a good ten years or so, but never got around to reading until now. Why? This is a definitive bio of one of my faves. McCabe does a good job of both illuminating Cagney’s onscreen performances and explaining all the complexities of his personality (if only he didn’t rely so much on long, long quotes). Cagney was a street kid who aspired to be a song and dance man like Fred Astaire, a faithful and loving husband who sequestered his two children in their own separate living quarters, and a famous actor who found his deepest fulfillment in farming. A very interesting man, I’d say.
The End of Suburbia (2004). Although scattershot and cheaply produced, this was a pretty good documentary on how American’s addiction to fossil fuels and the outdated concept of suburban living is slowly destroying our society. Although I enjoyed it, at times the film verged into territory of stereotypically liberal hysteria — which damaged its credibility. Even so, I couldn’t shake the central message that Americans will have to make some hard lifestyle sacrifices to even survive another 50 or 100 years. Uplifting, eh?
Janet Jackson — Control. Like Thriller, another classic goodie that I snagged on Amazon for a song (sorry, couldn’t resist). This album sits right where R&B music sounded appealingly ’80s without getting too obnoxious and New Jack Swingy. To be honest, I’m more interested in further exploring Miss Jackson’s obscure first two albums (1982’s Janet Jackson and 1984’s Dream Street) than any of the slick and mega successful stuff that followed.
The Visitor (2008). Absorbing film about an economics professor (Richard Jenkins) whose dull life is turned around by a young couple who are unknowingly squatting in his NYC apartment. I wasn’t surprised to find that Thomas McCartney wrote the screenplay and directed, since it shares a lyrical quality with his previous film, The Station Agent. What drives this film is a fantastically compelling story (we watched it in one sitting, rare for us) in which even the smallest characters resonate vividly. Richard Jenkins deserves an Oscar nomination, and I loved the attractive Haaz Sleiman as the Syrian musician who teaches Jenkins to loosen up.

3 Thoughts on “Weekly Mishmash: November 9-15

  1. My favorite bit in The Bigamist is when Fontaine remarks how Edmund Gwenn’s character “looks like Santa Claus.” (“It’s silly, but I believe…”)

  2. Yeah, and they also take a Hollywood tour bus past Gwenn’s home! Very “meta.”

  3. Good for you for watching End of Suburbia, excellent video. I completely agree about the stereotypically liberal hysteria- the war in Iraq really didn’t need to be part of the film, it detracts from the central point.

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