Archive for November, 2009

Weekly Mishmash: November 22-28

Sunday, November 29th, 2009

Due to Thanksgiving and having our household plumbing completely redone this week, a shorter than usual Mishmash:
Book Of Love — Candy Carol. A quasi-psychedelic synthpop suite, Book Of Love’s 1991 album Candy Carol netted the Alternative Radio hit “Alice Everyday” but was otherwise snowed over in a marketplace that increasingly preferred the morose likes of Pearl Jam to anything with a nursery rhyme melody. This group knows how to rock the chimes, Casio keyboards and clever Tommy James samples. One glance at the song titles — “Sunny Day,” “Flower Parade,” “Butterfly” — ought to tell you their m.o. here. Quite a cute and uplifting little album, well worth the buck I spent on it.
poster_bostonblackieBoston Blackie Goes Hollywood (1941). The fact that Turner Classic Movies recently did a day full of Boston Blackie, Columbia’s low budget detective series from the ’40s, made me pretty excited. I’d never seen one before, so I gave Boston Blackie Goes Hollywood a try on the TiFaux. The spouse and I love old movies set in Hollywood, even fake backlot versions of Hollywood, but viewer beware. Despite the title, Boston Blackie Goes Hollywood rarely leaves Columbia’s backlot version of New York. As a film, it’s cheesy, dull and stupid, with a sense of humor hovering around the level of a Bowery Boys flick. Disappointing to the extreme, despite my admiration for Chester Morris in the title role. The short and stocky Morris might be one of the oddest looking men ever to attain movie star status (his face looks handsome straight ahead, but bizarrely squished in profile), but he was a commanding lead here as an ex-jewel thief who must compete against an incompetent group of police detectives to help out an old friend. In an odd coincidence, the night after viewing this film supporting actor Lloyd Corrigan turned up again in a Lucy Show episode we saw — from 20 years later!
Mala Noche (1985). Gus Van Sant’s first feature deals with unrequited love between a gay convenience store clerk and a Mexican vagrant on the grubby streets of Portland. Although a few complications develop, it’s a simple, basic story (too simple, actually) efficiently told within a mico-sized budget. Aspects of this film seem like a glorified student project, however, and the lead actors aren’t very good despite their apparent naturalness on camera. I enjoyed the high contrast black and white camerawork, and the film’s take-it-like-it-is approach to the characters’ queerness must have been a breath of fresh air in 1985.
Robinson Crusoe on Mars (1964). Slow paced sci-fi film that has gained some admiration over the years due to its introspectiveness, markedly different from the kiddie-oriented fare of its time. Mostly we were bored, but the film’s multiple lapses in logic (a helmetless astronaut can breathe on Mars?) piqued my interest. Also notable is the scene where hunky lead actor Paul Mantee skinny dips in a Martian pool. Now that I think of it, Mantee’s tight black zippered outfit looked like what an average gay clubgoer would have worn circa 1999. In that respect, the film was way ahead of its time.

From Beautiful Burbank

Wednesday, November 25th, 2009

Christopher writes on our adventures attending a taping of The Big Bang Theory last night.

One thing he didn’t mention: after the taping, we were allowed to walk through the empty nighttime Warner Bros. studio lot by ourselves. Since we walked to the studio and the normal audience exit was at a parking structure on the opposite side of the lot from our hotel, they allowed us to take a shortcut (as long as we didn’t “dilly dally,” according to the studio page who helped us). The Warner lot has such a history, and being amongst the cavernous buildings where Bette Davis and Humprey Bogart once walked was such a thrill.

Weekly Mishmash: November 15-21

Sunday, November 22nd, 2009

Fifteen years ago tonight, Christopher and I first met at a theatrical performance of the Gershwin musical Crazy for You. He was there to review the show for our local afternoon paper, and I was the stray person who took his extra comp ticket. I can’t say that we totally clicked that night, but we were friendly enough to arrange a date later that week — and we’ve been talking every day since then. The newspaper he worked for in 1994 is long gone, but the two of us are still together. You could even say that “Our Love is Here to Stay.” Happy 15th, and here’s hoping we’re together for several more anniversaries!
The American President (1994). You know this one: Michael Douglas as the president of the United States, and Annette Bening as the lobbyist who captures his heart. I was attracted to this for Aaron Sorkin’s script, since it came out in between A Few Good Men (which I haven’t seen) and the TV cult favorite Sports Night. Sorkin’s stylized dialogue isn’t in any way realistic to the way people really talk, but it never fails to be spot-on and funny. This was no exception, but the film itself tends toward the formulaic and Bening’s overacting is insufferable (akin to the more recent film where she played a stage actress and inexplicably got an Oscar nomination). Minor quibbles aside, I enjoyed it. Many of the points that Sorkin brings up here were remarkably prescient in light of the Clinton/Lewinsky fracas and the relentless stupidity of the Bush II era.
Old Man Rhythm (1935). A silly RKO musical broadcast during Turner Class Movies’ salute to songwriter Johnny Mercer. This college-set fluff served as a vehicle for long in the tooth silent star Charles “Buddy” Rogers, but it’s now better known for having Mercer in a rare acting role and a young (and incredibly cute) Betty Grable in support. The film’s many songs are actually quite clever, if deficient in the memory retention department. Mostly I recall the fat guy doing an athletic dance during one number. This film is also notable for having not one but two of the great “sissy” character actors in Eric Blore and Donald Meek. People like those two make even the worst time-waster bearable.
Tim Tam chocolate biscuits. A package of these delectable Australian cookies came as a special surprise from Kris, along with the scarf she knitted for me. Chocolate covered wafers of bliss, they are.
album_lovetrainVarious – Love Train: The Sound of Philadelphia. I originally didn’t intend to have this four disc, 71-track monument to the ’70s peak of Philly Soul. But… emusic.com lured me back with 75 bonus songs and this box set seemed to murmur “download me, baby” in Barry White-esque tones. It’s an excellent and classy set, mostly dealing with the unprecedented string of hits legendary songwriting/production team Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff shepherded with Philadelphia International Records. A few side trips with producer Thom Bell and The Spinners epitomize the breezy and upbeat sound that characterized the genre (really, I dare you to hear “I’ll Be Around” or “Then Came You” and not smile). It’s interesting to hear the first pulses of disco in the swinging rhythm of “The Love I Lost” by Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes, then having it culminate in the joyful noise of M.F.S.B.’s Soul Train anthem “T.S.O.P.” Along the way are plenty of dazzling numbers from both lesser lights and the likes of Teddy Pendergrass and The O’Jays. Although the set has its share of draggy ballads and overlong album cuts, it’s amazing the way it documents the rise and fall of a style of music. From the ’67 golden oldie “Expressway to Your Heart” to Patti LaBelle’s polished R&B hit “If Only You Knew” — Gamble and Huff’s last hurrah from 1983 — one can only be wowed.

Project Yawnway

Friday, November 20th, 2009

Salon.com on the disappointment of Project Runway‘s season finale. Can’t say I disagree. I was expecting Irena to win, and her final collection was the best of the three. But the top three designers were just so bland. I have a sneaky suspicion that Lifetime pulled strings to make winners out of the designers that specialize in pleasing, ready-to-wear stuff that their female audience could picture themselves wearing. There were a lot of conservative looking dresses and gowns this season, and not enough challenges that truly tested the designers’ creativity.

Getting through this past season makes me wax nostalgic for the quirky personality and style of people like Jay McCarroll, Austin Scarlett, Laura Bennett, Chris March or even the dreaded Santino. Step it up next time, Lifetime.

Feels So Good

Wednesday, November 18th, 2009

Today we have “You Make Me Feel So Good,” a vintage video from Philadelphia’s greatest boy-girl alternapop group, Book Of Love. I casually enjoyed Book Of Love during their ’80s heyday, but never really got into them until their Best-Of collection came out in 2001. They pretty much epitomize how fun and effortless intelligent ’80s pop can be, and continue to be one of the more underrated artists from that period. I also ordered a copy of their 1991 opus Candy Carol today, so you’ll have that writeup to look forward to. In the meantime, let’s bop. Holy Hooters, is that a melodica solo in the middle of this tune?

Scarf It Up

Monday, November 16th, 2009

Earlier this year, I made a deal with crafty Kris of web-goddess fame: in exchange for designing a spiffy new weblog banner for her, she got to use her superfly knitting skillz to make me a striped multicolored scarf. The banner was finished last Spring, but it’s only tonight that the scarf has arrived from Kris’ homestead in Australia. Neat! I always wanted a scarf, and this one’s a beauty. Here’s a picture of me rockin’ it with my usual nighttime t-shirt and pajama bottom ensemble:

mattscarf