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Weekly Mishmash: December 6-12

Black Book (2006). Super slick and engrossing German Dutch WWII drama directed by Paul Verhoeven. It concerns a woman (Carice Van Houten, great), living in the Nazi-occupied Netherlands, who decides to join the Dutch resistance. Eventually she infiltrates a Nazi office posing as a secretary and kept woman for a high ranking official (Sebastian Koch, who was also in The Lives Of Others). This was a speedily paced and well-mounted flick, occasionally sexy and violent in ways that European films rarely are (obviously the years working in Hollywood were a big plus for Verhoeven with this one). Mostly it reminded me of an updated version of classic wartime melodramas from that period. In that sense, this accomplishes what Steven Soderbergh’s The Good German tried and failed to do. If you like stirring wartime entertainment, definitely seek this one out.
One Fatal Hour (1936). This melodrama came on during TCM‘s month-long Humphrey Bogart salute; I recorded it simply because it’s one of the few Bogie films that I’d never heard of before. As I was watching, it looked vaguely familiar. As it turned out, One Fatal Hour is a remake of 1931’s Five Star Final with a setting switch from newsroom to radio station. Despite Bogart’s solid presence in the role previously played by Edward G. Robinson, however, this one falls way short of the original. The film manages to turn an interesting plot (about a matronly ex-con desparately trying to prevent an exploitative broadcaster from revealing her past) into an overbearing and preachy bore.
album_dollyDolly Parton — Dolly. Four disc, encyclopedic compilation proves once and for all that Miss Parton talents encompass more than just a big smile and a bigger chest. This set isn’t quite career-spanning, but it does start with her earliest single (1959’s “Puppy Love” on the tiny Gold Band label) and goes comprehensively through the years all the way up to her 1993 hit “Romeo.” At first I thought this might be too much Dolly for me, but I found myself really enjoying every facet of this set. Unlike many smaller hits collections that focus on the #1s (many of which she didn’t write), this box really does a good job of showing her development as one of the best songwriters in Country music — not to mention her savvy way of embracing passing trends while retaining her own distinctly rural point of view. One example is the fantastic Shangri-Las inspired teen drama of 1966’s “Don’t Drop Out,” which is joined here by “I’ve Known You All My Life” a previously unreleased Goffin-King gem that proves she had pop instincts several years before “9 to 5” topped the charts. The set also contains many of the duets with Porter Wagoner which cemented her early fame. These songs are quaint and old fashioned compared to her own simultaneous output like “Just Because I’m a Woman,” but they do provide a framework for what would come later and they’re entertaining in their own cheesy way. Dolly standards like “Jolene” sound even better surrounded by worthy album cuts, and even the material coming out of her pop crossover period beginning with 1977’s perky “Here You Come Again” sounds fresh. I even enjoyed totally ’80s synthesized productions like “Think About Love” (I do wish there was at least one cut from her notorious 1987 pop-oriented flop Rainbow, however). Nowadays the lady is starting to look more and more like a drag queen version of herself, but with this set my admiration for the woman has hit a new high.

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