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Monthly Archives: July 2009

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Weekly Mishmash: July 12-18

Note: out of a lack of good images to use with this week’s Mishmash, I’m going with this poodle playing card from my flickr photo stream. For no good reason, actually, except that it’s colorful and cute.
Doggie CardThe Good Bad Girl (1931). My second Mae Clarke pre-Coder from TCM was a disappointment. This was a standard melodrama all the way, with Mae as a former gangster’s moll attempting to go straight with a high society guy. Watching it, I couldn’t help but think this “good girl trying to prove herself” script must have been offered to Barbara Stanwyck first (both Clarke and Stanwyck were Columbia studios contractees at this time, I believe). Unlike last week’s Final Edition, which benefited from snappy Pat O’Brien and the newsroom setting, this one plodded in a manner typical of early talkies. Come to think of it, the only thing I truly enjoyed here was the plump ‘n sassy Marie Prevost as Clarke’s best pal.
The Haunted Strangler (1958). It’s strange that this routine British potboiler was released on a spiffy Criterion DVD, but it is a competently done thriller that generates whatever steam it has from Boris Karloff. As a scientist investigating a long-ago string of murders in not-so merrie olde England, he delivers a subtle and good performance. Karloff seems like one of those workhorse actors whose intelligence elevated whatever tripe came his way, and this was no exception. What we’re dealing with here is strict Jekyll and Hyde territory, but the plotline does pick up nicely in the film’s closing scenes. Amongst a remaining cast of Brit nobodies, I personally enjoyed seeing ’30s MGM contractee Elizabeth Allan making an appearance as Karloff’s wife.
Ma and Pa Kettle Back on the Farm (1951). Over the weekend, Christopher and I stayed at my parents’ secluded cabin in Northern Arizona. Luckily they get TCM at the cabin, otherwise our entertainment options would have been limited. We settled in to watch this entry in the channel’s night-long salute to Ma & Pa Kettle, purely by chance (it happened to come on when we were ready to watch). I’ve never experienced the Kettle comedies before. Although I don’t have any great desire to see another one (rural humor is not my cup of moonshine), I can see why these were some of the most popular movies of their time. This particular entry was jam-packed with gags; smoothly directed to the point of being a bit flat and sitcommy in spots. Although the acting was decent enough all around, the film was dominated by the marvelous Marjorie Main as Ma Kettle. What a gal!
[Rec] (2007). Otherwise known as the Spanish thriller that was given an American shot-for-shot remake as 2008’s Quarantine. Comparing the two is a moot point, but I’ll do it anyway. Quarantine was slicker, better shot, more competently played by a better looking cast (at times, [Rec]‘s histrionic actors feel like telenova outcasts), and somewhat less scary. On the other hand, the actions in [Rec] unspool in a more immediate fashion, the setting (urban apartment building with a textile factory on the ground floor) is more authentically Spanish than American, and the unpolished camera work made the film’s last half appreciatively more terrifying than expected. Overall, I give [Rec] the slight upper hand.
The Wire: Season Five. This it it. We finished watching The Wire. I’ve heard fans call the fifth season slightly less satisfying than the others, but both of us thought it was among the best in an unforgettable series. Since each season vaguely focuses on another aspect of Baltimore’s war on drugs, this particular year brought the news media into the mix. The way this show introduced more and more characters every year without losing focus was a source of wonder for me. And, having worked at a newspaper for a time, I can tell you that the newsroom depicted here was just as desperate and bizarre as it was when I was part of it (albeit 8-12 years ago, in Phoenix). Most news people are arrogant and insecure at the same time, behaving exactly like the Baltimore Sun reporters in this show. Another unrelated thing I admired about The Wire is that they had a lot of gay and lesbian characters whose sexuality wasn’t that big a deal in the great scheme of things. With even the smallest parts heavy with character, I feel like I got to know all these people pretty well. Unfortunately, it’s now all over and I’m feeling the void.

Joyce in Print

Finally, I have an excuse to update the semi-dormant Joyce Compton Shrine. Twelve years after leaving us, Miss Compton is coming out with an autobiography. The Real Joyce Compton: Behind the Dumb Blonde Movie Image is being released this Fall. Author Michael Ankerich used several images from my tribute site in the book. I’m jazzed. Starting now, I’ve also relaunched the J.C. News & Notes page as a blogspot blog. I’ll be using this forum to post new photos of Joyce (much easier than dealing with pesky html code).

The Real Joyce Compton

Another World

A promo for CBS’s 1968 daytime soap opera lineup (thanks to Dan for the heads up!). This is fascinating for many reasons. No hard bodies or ultra pretty faces, for one. They made a big deal out of shows getting expanding to a half hour from 15 minutes (imagine that, a 15-minute soap). There’s also a peek at The Guiding Light, which will be ending its historic 72-year radio and TV run in September.

In a Panic

I had a panic attack last night. What an ordeal. This was the second time I’ve had one. The first time was in 1995, when I had a lot of emotional issues to deal with. This one from last night was comparatively mild, but I still wouldn’t wish it on anyone. What frightened me the most is that, as of recently, I haven’t been going through that much stress. It was just the thought of having a million little things that were left undone or unfinished that made me temporarily unglued.

It started early in the evening. I was going through a vague feeling of tension as the night went on. Christopher decided to put on a National Geographic special on Africa that he recorded. The show was hosted by Lisa Ling. I know it sounds funny, but I started thinking to myself, “Lisa Ling shouldn’t be hosting this piddly little show about Africa, she needs to try and free her sister in North Korea.” Then I was thinking about what Lisa Ling must be thinking about, what Christopher must be thinking about, then about the millions of little things in my life that were going on. I was quickly becoming overstimulated, and that sent me into a spiral of fright. I told Christopher that I needed to take a break, and that I might be having a panic episode (luckily I had enough sense and experience to at least somewhat know what was happening).

Christopher suggested taking a walk. Not knowing what to do, I agreed. It was actually a good thing. C. kept pointing out little things along our street, which kept me distracted. I was still feeling weird, however. When C. wanted to know if we should continue, I thought “If I can make it to the next corner and back, everything will be all right.” When we did make it to the corner, I felt some relief.

After returning home, I was still feeling anxious, so I went into my bedroom and lied down in the dark. The worst of the panic attack came on. I was sweating, my heart was pounding, and my limbs felt numb and heavy. Suicidal thoughts, thoughts of “am I going crazy?” came to me. Anybody who has gone through this can tell you that it’s the worst possible experience anyone can imagine. It was an oppressive feeling of hopelessness, but in the back of my mind I knew that if I stayed still and waited it out, those feelings would subside. After an hour or so, they did subside. I was still feeling groggy and disoriented, but at least we could enjoy Kathy Griffin together later that evening.

I’m feeling a lot better today, and even accomplished a few of those little things that previously worried me. One just has to take it one day at a time. Having a supportive sweetie helps. Also, I have to lay off having cereal for dinner!

Weekly Mishmash: July 5-11

Mae Clarke Cinlandia Cover 1932Final Edition (1932). One of the thousand reasons to cherish Turner Classic Movies: they quietly played a trio of pre-Code Mae Clarke vehicles last Friday. Mae who? The lady best known for being at the receiving end of James Cagney’s breakfast in The Public Enemy, that’s who. With her sharp nose and inky dark eyes, she wasn’t a great beauty (strangely, she looks a lot like current actress Laura Dern). As evidenced by the snappy newspaper yarn Final Edition, however, she was an interesting enough presence in her own right. At first this feels like a Front Page ripoff, with Pat O’Brien repeating his amazing motor mouth skills as Clarke’s editor. Then the story detours into crime drama territory with Clarke’s perky reporter getting in over her head with the pencil-mustachioed crime syndicate bigwig she’s trailing. Although there’s nothing particularly outstanding about this spartan little thing, it’s a brisk and fun way to spend slightly more than an hour.
The French Lieutenant’s Woman (1981). Jeremy Irons and Meryl Streep as actors whose illicit affair mirrors the star-crossed 19th century couple they are playing in a film-within-a-film. This movie was like a luxurious, exquisitely wrapped package with nothing inside. The cross-generational back and forth only points out the weaknesses in both the boring contemporary scenes and the airless period scenes (which play like Merchant Ivory without the social commentary). Jeremy Irons’ excellent performance is the best reason to see this. Meryl Steep, although looking sensational, seemed disoriented in a role that was beyond her abilities at this stage in her career. A big “blah” for me.
Knowing (2009). Oh dear. Nicolas Cage figures out the end of the world with the help of a few telepathic kiddies. Christopher enjoyed this one, I didn’t. I don’t know if it was Cage’s laconic line recitations (the guy seems like he just learned his lines the night before filming) or plot holes big enough to drive through, but I gave up on this long before the hokey, Left Behind-style Christian parable at windup. The only parts I liked were the spectacular plane and subway crashes seen in the film’s trailer. Advanced CGI and mass destruction are an unbeatable combination, but two good scenes do not a decent movie make.
Mahogany (1975). “Do you know where you’re going to?” Somebody should have asked Diana Ross and Berry Gordy that very question before they decided to undertake this massive ego-fest cum romance movie. I always heard this was a camp classic, but mostly it’s trash — badly directed (what gave Gordy the idea that he could direct?) and with no redeeming characters whatsoever. As a fashion designer turned world famous model, Diana Ross does nada as an actress to give her role any humanity or balance. The woman starts off the film as a selfish brat and winds up a selfish brat at the end. And she delivers her climactic scene covered in candle wax. In the middle, we’re treated to Billy Dee Williams as her earnest, grounded suitor and a typecast Anthony Perkins as the smarmy photographer who makes her a star. Adding to the stench is the fact that the Oriental-meets-Glam-Rock fashions (designed by Ross herself!) are hideous creations that must have taken the applauding extras all their esophageal muscle control not to vomit over. There’s only one scene that I absolutely loved (and it’s not on YouTube, drat) — that’s the montage with Perkins photographing Ross in various exotic looks while Michael Masser’s wonderfully drippy score plays in the background. Oozing with fabulousness, it is the scene that must’ve launched a thousand drag queens.

Birthday Greetings

NineA milestone is coming our way, and for once I can make note of it before it arrives. As of tomorrow, Scrubbles the weblog will have been on the www for nine years (the Scrubbles.net domain was registered later that Fall). It’s hard to believe that I’m still scribbling away at this thing for that long. A kid born the same day as this weblog will now be nine years old. Huh.

Well, what can I say? Thanks to everyone who has stuck with me throughout the years. I’m a veteran enough to remember when the community was a loose free-for-all of ideas. I read a lot of different blogs, noted and linked to what I liked, and others linked to me in return. It was fun. Then a movement arose to make weblogs be “about” something (remember warblogging?), and I stubbornly stuck to just writing about whatever old crap took my fancy. Now we have insular segments of bloggers who stick to one subject and only link to other bloggers sharing the same m.o. I salute anyone who can do one thing and do it brilliantly and with passion — but having never gained a foothold in that world, I miss the old community.

Sorry to be a bummer, and I apologize if this weblog isn’t quite the exciting hive of activity it once was. There is a bright side. As long as there are quirky old cookbook illustrations or forgotten movies to write about, I vow to keep plugging away here.