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Weekly Mishmash II: May 17-23

Sarah Silverman: Jesus Is Magic (2005) and John Waters: This Filthy World (2006). Showtime recordings of live performances. I’ve occasionally enjoyed Sarah Silverman on talk shows and such; Jesus Is Magic reveals that the woman is best digested in very small doses. There were a few good jokes here, but her “cute chick with a filthy mouth” shtick doesn’t hold up on a feature that is mercilessly padded out with stupid musical numbers and backstage banter. John Waters fares much better with this filmed lecture (I hasten to call it a stand-up act), talking about every single film he’s done with engaging honesty. Despite already hearing much of this stuff, I enjoyed it. Waters may look like a pencil-mustached cadaver, but he has the most elegant sounding voice. Even when discussing bizarre sexual fetishes, the man sounds like buttah.
Boz Scaggs - Silk DegreesBoz Scaggs — Silk Degrees. As I was compiling my 40 Years, 40 Albums post last year, I noticed the severe lack of mid- to late-’70s albums in my collection. This was remedied a bit with a download of this smasheroonie from 1976. I can see why this was a huge seller, since it captures a peculiar merging of pop, rock, soul, disco, blues, and even a bit of reggae (“Love Me Tomorrow”) — all smoothly produced enough not to alienate anyone. A good vehicle for Scaggs’ smooth and charismatic voice, which buoys the album’s weaker first half well. I always dug “Lowdown” and “Lido Shuffle,” but the two lesser-known hits “It’s Over” and “What Can I Say” are nice surprises. Especially the latter tune, which encapsulates that super-slick L.A. summery pop sound as well as anything from that particular Qiana-and-margaritas era. p.s. Since my sweetie gifted me with 50 free iTunes downloads, I will be doing five different albums over the next five weeks. Something else to look forward to, kiddies.
Star Trek (2009). Could it be — we actually saw a movie in the theater? Last Friday, we made a fun day of seeing this along with a trip on our light rail system to lunch and dessert downtown. This was a good one. As far as movies go, J.J. Abrams never disappoints. That is possibly because he prizes compelling storytelling over all else. This one wasn’t as much of a radical reboot of the Trek universe as I feared; it fleshes out the characters’ backstories nicely with cool special effects and great action sequences. The only scenes I felt weren’t necessary were those of Kirk and Spock’s childhoods. The casting and direction seemed spot-on to me, with Uhura being the only character that didn’t have as much continuity with the TV show and previous films (without spoiling, there’s something going on with her here that seemed out of left field). Most importantly, this was a fun, fun movie — something that’s been lacking in every Trek venture from Next Generation onward. Is Abrams working on a sequel? I hope so.
tallulah! by joel lobenthalTallulah! The Life and Times of a Leading Lady by Joel Lobenthal. Tallulah Bankhead was one of the most lively, outsized personalities of the 20th century. Although one sees a bit of the real Tallulah in Joel Lobenthal’s impeccably researched bio, the book was a huge slog to get through. If there was ever a book that can’t see the forest for the trees, this is it. Every single project in Bankhead’s voluminous stage career gets a comprehensive going-through here. A good idea in concept, maybe, but one must read through long and detailed descriptions of forgotten drawing room comedies and melodramas before getting into any insights on what made the woman tick. I was looking forward to a well-rounded portrait within these pages, something that counters her campy image — but this project feels like a magnificent opportunity squandered. One also gets the sense that, although he has an admirable passion for the stage, Lobenthal is mortified by Bankhead’s promiscuity and ribald outspokenness. Interesting, but not successful.

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