Weekly Mishmash: June 14-20
Before we begin the mishmash, let me direct you to the new look at Web-Goddess.org. I designed the banner and drew the cartoon portrait of Kris a few months back. It was a fun challenge and she nicely integrated the banner design with the rest of her site. Cool beans.
A Cast of Friends by Bill Hanna with Tom Ito. Used book sale purchase. Along with longtime partner Joe Barbera, William Hanna created The Flintstones, Yogi Bear and about a million interchangeable cartoons (remember Captain Caveman and the Teen Angels?) that sucked many a Saturday morning for the kiddie me. This book was a short, sometimes interesting look into the animation biz as he and Barbera adapted it to the TV age. Hanna was more of a businessman than a true creative, however, and it shows in the way he approaches this memoir. At times, his bland affirmations come across like a CEO addressing a stockholder meeting. The best segments are his early memories of working at Warner Bros. and MGM in the ’30s, developing a scruffy cat and mouse who would evolve into Tom & Jerry. By the time he gets to his time as a TV titan forty years on, he seems more content to rhapsodise about his boat or offer banal observations on family and aging. I wonder if Chuck Jones ever got this doddery in his twilight years?
From Here To Eternity (1953) and High Noon (1952). Strangely enough, I’ve never seen either of these until they popped up as part of the Fred Zinneman director salute on Turner Classic Movies. I loved From Here To Eternity. The film might look hokey and overacted by today’s standards, but in 1953 this was potent stuff delivered by a surprisingly diverse cast. Montgomery Clift, Burt Lancaster and Frank Sinatra head a cast that actually comes across as refreshingly low-key and realistic for a vintage melodrama. Deborah Kerr attempting to stifle her British accent probably fares the worst, but she’s okay enough. Given its pedigree, High Noon was something of a disappointment. I wouldn’t rank it as one of the best ever, but I enjoyed the mounting sense of dread as Gary Cooper faces the most trying hour of his life. Westerns aren’t a genre that I normally gravitate towards (I live in a desert; deserts are boring), but this one had a strong enough story to keep me intrigued. Like Eternity, it has an excellent supporting cast of pros who give it their all.
Ghandi (1982). Is this epic as ponderous and boring as they say? Yes. Did it steal the Best Picture Oscar away from E.T.? I’d say no. Though overlong by at least a half hour, Ben Kingsley created a magnificent Mahatma Ghandi, and the film’s pacifist message holds up better over the years than Spielberg’s “find your inner child” granola. This film is very meditative in spirit, and I dug it.
Painters On Painting (1973). Dull documentary explores the New York art scene as it was moving past Abstract Expressionism and Pop into Minimalism and Conceptual art. Contrasting gritty black and white interview footage with color shots of various paintings, the film really ought to be titled Painters Talking. They talk and talk, revealing mostly that they only know how to express themselves through their art. Robert Rauchenberg and Andy Warhol are the most entertaining simply because of their quirky personalities. It is interesting to see many painters at this midpoint juncture in their careers. Many, such as Frank Stella, would go on to make better stuff later on than when this was filmed.
Various – The Casablanca Records Story. Out of print box set from 1994, nabbed off eBay for a song. Primarily known as a disco label, Casablanca actually had a diverse lineup that fully embodied the hedonistic “do it till you’re satisfied” ethos of the ’70s. Opening with the seductive 14 minute album-length version of Donna Summer’s “Love To Love You Baby,” this set captures the full spectrum of its 1976-83 heyday. The label’s flagship rock act KISS is M.I.A., but lots of disco in rare and unusual 12″ mixes kept me hypnotically entertained with their repetitive beats. A few overlooked gems stand out, such as Teri DeSario’s terrific Barry Gibb production “Ain’t Nothin’ Gonna Keep Me From You.” There’s also lots of tasty funk jams from Parliament and Cameo, and… the Captain & Tennille? A personal fave would be the 7-1/2 minute album version of Meco’s immortal “Star Wars Theme/Cantina Band,” which includes bits of Princess Leia’s musical motif. Geek heaven, I tell ya.