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Weekly Mishmash: June 7-13

The Blossoming Of Maximo Oliveros (2005). Sundance Channel recording. An endearing indie film from the Philippines that does wonders with a low budget. The film centers around twelve year-old Maxi, a swishy boy whose preferences for girlish clothes, romantic movies and Miss Universe pageant reenactments makes him a target for teasing in his ghetto neighborhood. Maxi cares for his widower dad and two brothers in a loving arrangement which becomes strained when he gets a crush on a local cop (y’see, he comes from a family of petty criminals). An unusual subject for an Asian movie, but it’s handled with sensitivity and good performances from the leading kid on down to the extras. This was shot on videotape and looks it, but the director does an excellent job of capturing the atmosphere of this shithole Philippino neighborhood. Worth looking out for.
The Hunger (1982). One of Christopher’s special favorites. I don’t think this vampire flick is very successful, but it’s strangely watchable for the über-’80s stylistic features director Tony Scott put in every scene. The casting isn’t perfect, but the blank attractiveness of Catherine Deneuve, David Bowie and Susan Sarandon actually works in Scott’s favor here. This film might have a deeper meaning, drawing parallels between the vapidity of ’80s culture and a vampire’s desire for eternal youth — but mostly what I remember are the Bauhaus song, a rapidly aging monkey and Sarandon’s hot lesbian scene.
The Life of Emile Zola (1937). Plush, old fashioned biopic became the latest in my quest to see every Best Picture Oscar winner. This was a good one, covering an ambitious story with a thankfully un-ponderous touch. The prestigious side of the Warner Bros. studio was at the top of its game here, and Paul Muni in the title role dials down his usual hammyness to good effect. As a wrongly imprisoned French army officer, Joseph Schildkraut handily deserved his Supporting Actor award.
Bette Midler - Broken BlossomBette Midler – Broken Blossom. Now I feel really gay, having downloaded a Bette Midler album. I suppose this was one of Bette’s lesser efforts, sporting only one semi-hit single (“Daybreak,” a fairly routine Adult Contemporary number) amongst a set that may have been too diverse for its own good. Actually, this album chiefly demonstrates that the lady has excellent taste. My favorites are the Ronettes’ “Paradise” and Billy Joel’s “Say Goodbye To Hollywood,” sizzling numbers produced (some may say overproduced) with girl group-y panache. The Tom Waits duet “I Never Talk To Strangers” is another highlight, more of a theatrical mood piece than anything else. I also enjoyed her sensitive versions of Eddy Arnold’s “You Don’t Know Me” and the Disney standard “A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes.” Only the hard-thumping “Red” fails. Sorry, Bette, you’re no rocker.
Prick Up Your Ears (1987). Flix recording. Another excellent film that for some reason I’d never seen before. Years from scenery chewing in whatever Hollywood blockbuster paid the bills, Gary Oldman shines as the ’60s British playwright Joe Orton. Oldman portrays him as an appealing rascal, campy and lighthearted but also casually cruel and destructive. Alfred Molina also delivers as Orton’s combustive lover, Kenneth Halliwell. The film’s theme is less about gayness and more about fame and the havoc it can cause. I loved it.
Saving Private Ryan (1998). This month, Turner Classic Movies is turning over their schedule to saluting great directors. Normally this kind of thing annoys me, but I’m using it to catch up on various upper-tier movies that for one reason or another passed me by. So, now I’ve seen Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan. One would be hard pressed to find another film that more accurately captures the WWII experience. That opening sequence aptly conveys the random horror of combat (although it wasn’t as uncomfortable to watch as I feared). Tell me, people, how did Shakespeare In Love win Best Picture over this?
Up (2009). The results of a theater and lunch excursion on Friday. This was every bit as inspiring as everyone’s been saying. Compared with other Pixar ventures, I’d rank it behind the first Toy Story and Wall•E and just ahead of The Incredibles on the greatness-o-meter. Initially I was weary about the premise; for some reason I thought the entire film would do little more than follow around an old man floating his house with balloons. Of course, this movie is about far more than that. It’s a lot of fun, even when the story drags into familiar territory towards the middle and end (at times it felt like I was watching more standard Disney fare, like Bolt). I love that the filmmakers resisted turning Carl and Russel into familiar types; even Kevin the bird doesn’t have the standard “cute animal” treatment. On another note, this is the first Pixar that I cried at. Several scenes brought a tear to my eye, but one part in particular had me practically bawling like a baby. Even telling C. about it later, I started crying again. Guess I’m becoming an old softie.

3 Thoughts on “Weekly Mishmash: June 7-13

  1. Quite an eclectic week of entertainment at the Hinrichs household. Looking forward to seeing Up, though I might show up a few minutes late as to miss the opening sequence that conveys the random horror of combat. I’ll bring a box of tissues.

  2. Yeah, it’s pretty intense. Especially when the blood and guts shoot out at you in 3D.

  3. I know. Why do you think I’m bringing the tissues? You didn’t expect me to cry, did you?

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