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Weekly Mishmash: January 4-10

Jaws (1975). Back in the summer of ’75, I was too young to see Jaws. I distinctly remember my dad, older brother and uncle going to see it while my mom, aunt, younger brother and I had a fun filled dinner at the local Farrell’s ice cream parlour. I finally got to see it a few years later and was blown away. A recent re-viewing confirms that it’s an extremely well made suspense thriller that maybe has been tainted a bit by the “blockbuster” mentality it subsequently spawned in the industry. The movie actually boasts a flawless cast (even the nepotistic Lorraine Gary does a good job in the wifey role), and Spielberg perfectly evokes a ramshackle seaside town dependent on the summer tourist trade. It didn’t make us want to avoid swimming in the ocean, but we had a blast nonetheless.
The Last Mogul (2005). A blah documentary on a fascinating figure deeply entrenched in Hollywood history. Lew Wasserman was a powerful (and shady) agent turned mogul whose encyclopedic career peaked when he was appointed studio head at Universal in its ’70s and ’80s heyday (the film even touches on the making of Jaws). I suppose one could fashion an interesting documentary on this enigmatic fellow, a la Robert Evans with The Kid Stays In The Picture. If only it were half as slickly entertaining as Kid… Alas this one plays a bit like a static old A&E Biography episode, complete with stodgy narration and the same blurry photos used repeatedly. Although only produced four years ago, I noticed that most of the people who knew Wasserman best are now dead (coincidence?).
Looney Tunes New Years Day Marathon (Cartoon Network). With our Ti-Faux running overtime, we recorded 12 hours of this — and, as of yesterday, we’re only halfway through. Sure, these are the faded and “dubbed” mid-’90s prints, but I’ll take any Looney Tunes I can get. Why don’t they show this stuff more often? Better yet, wouldn’t it be cool if Warners, Disney and all the other studios got together and started an all retro cartoon network? I’d never leave the house if that happened.
The Love Bug (1968). This dated yet charming vehicle (there, I had to say it) closed out my Disney live action film viewing marathon. I saw this as a wee tyke and thought it was fun. Now it seems too talky and slow-going in the first half, but by the climactic race’s end I was won over by how the filmmakers endowed delightful personality on a mass of metal and rubber (the title VW, sillies). By this time I was so Disneyed out that the sequel, 1974’s Herbie Rides Again, went unwatched on the DVR.
Mommie Dearest (1981) and Disco Dancer (1983). Observations on re-watching Dearest: 1. In kabuki-ish makeup, Faye Dunaway doesn’t really look or act like Joan Crawford at all. She’s so over the top, in fact, I’m not surprised this was a career-crippling role for her. 2. Dunaway’s costumes by Irene Sharaff are absolutely stunning. 3. The many scenes with Dunaway abusing little Mara Hobel are admittedly difficult to watch. I know it’s acting, but they’re almost too effective. 4. Christina Crawford seems like a spoiled brat who deserved it all and more. This and Disco Dancer made for a very kitschy week. Both revolve around entertainers, and both are about as subtle as Paris Hilton in a thong. On the latter, I’ve already said what needs to be said — dorky to the extreme!
Paranoid Park (2007; added 1/12). After the greatness of Milk, director Gus Van Sant’s previous effort comes across as average and “been there, done that” to me. The thin plot follows a disaffected Portland teen in shifting time perspectives as he accidentally causes a death. Van Sant uses a lot of slow-mo or long takes of skating kids, or the back of someone’s head as they’re walking — but where those techniques were effectively used in 2003’s Elephant, here it just seems self-indulgent (and, given Van Sant’s fascination with high school boys, more than a bit pervy). The film does have its share of good scenes, but overall it suffered from too much padding and a familiar story not strong enough to hang a feature length film upon.

3 Thoughts on “Weekly Mishmash: January 4-10

  1. B Smith on January 12, 2009 at 1:40 am said:

    I saw the Love Bug on Sunday afternoon TV a few years back, having not seen it since its release, and one of the things that struck me the most was how everyone went out of their way to _not_ call it a Volkswagen, VW, Vee-Dub, or whatever…it was constantly referred to as “the little car.”

  2. I didn’t notice that, B. Maybe they had something going on with VW where they couldn’t refer to it by name, otherwise it would be product placement.

  3. “Herbie Rides Again” is worth watching for a over-the-top performance from Keenan Wynn (playing Alonzo Hawk from the “Flubber” films again.) Some nice effects and a great cast of veterans…but…it pales by comparison to “The Love Bug”.

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