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Monthly Archives: December 2009

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Weekly Mishmash: November 29-December 5

The Days Of Wine and Roses (1962). Jack Lemmon introduces his best pal, Hootch, to a pretty young miss (Lee Remick) and the pair descend into alcoholism. This is a beautifully made film, sensitively directed by Blake Edwards with powerful performances by the two leads. The film trods a path similar to The Lost Weekend and I’ll Cry Tomorrow, but the fact that it involves an attractive young couple living in a swanky San Francisco apartment dilutes the message a bit. Still, an affecting film.
The Dolly Sisters (1945). Escapist fun with Betty Grable and June Haver as a real-life sister act that took Paris by storm in the teens and ’20s, with a pancake-covered John Payne on hand as Grable’s songwriter beau. It surprised me a bit how enjoyable this movie was. Apparently Grable was jealous of her younger co-star and didn’t enjoy doing this, but her unease certainly doesn’t show onscreen. Typically, the story is whitewashed and glammed up beyond belief (dig Orry-Kelly’s costumes, more midcentury Vogue than anything else). By and large, the songs are unmemorable but presented with a campy, eye-popping panache. The oddball salute to the cosmetic industry below is a good example. Max Factor would be proud:

Frank Lloyd Wright (1998). Did you ever rent something, then after watching a few minutes realize that you’ve already seen it? This happened with us on this PBS documentary. The second helping reveals a few things that have since become clichés for these Ken Burns biodocs (“important” narration, slow panning across b&w photos with ambient sounds on the soundtrack), but it was still good.
Gomorrah (2008). Ambitious film chronicles how the mob affects people of varied social status in a dingy Italian slum. Some were put off by the film’s meandering pace and documentary-style approach; I found it riveting (if a bit overlong). Seemingly random violence and natural performances from an unknown cast upped the realism factor for me.
book_schulzSchulz and Peanuts: A Biography by David Michaelis. I was a bit leery about this book, hearing how the Schulz family felt betrayed when Michaelis decided to paint Charles M. Schulz as a depressed, unfulfilled soul with a Charlie Brown complex. Most biographers have an agenda, however, and I went into it with an open mind. That said, it is a penetrating, interesting book. Michaelis has such an evocative way of describing I found myself caught up with empathy for Schulz’s early years of being confident in his own abilities, yet feeling alienated from everyone around him. One can fault Michaelis for emphasizing certain things over others (his extramarital affair gets an entire paragraph, while the last 25 years of Schulz’s life gets relatively glossed over), but overall you get a well-rounded and sympathetic portrait of the man within these pages. My favorite sections deal with how his life directly influenced Peanuts, with strips included amongst the text. I never realized how much his first wife Joyce was mirrored in Lucy Van Pelt, for example. This book has been out long enough to hit the remainder bins and can be gotten cheaply — even for casual Snoopy fans I’d recommend it.
Snoopy Come Home (1972). Speaking of Peanuts — I haven’t seen this, the second animated feature film with Charlie Brown and co., since the ’70s and was delighted to find it recently shown on the Family Channel. As a child I remember it being morose and depressing, and feeling upset that Snoopy would uncharacteristically run away like he did. The movie still seems overwhelmingly sad, a slight story padded out to feature length with lots of unnecessary scenes and a shrill score by Richard and Robert Sherman (sorry guys, you’re no Vince Guaraldi). It was an entertaining watch, however, with the same feel as the classic TV specials.

Deliver de Letter

A set of Vintage Christmas Seals got added to the Scrubbles flickr photostream this morning. I vaguely remember our family getting these from the Red Cross American Lung Association every year in the ’70s and ’80s — are they still making them?

Update — they are still being made.
xmas44

Scraping By

America without a Middle Class, a Huffington Post editorial by Elizabeth Warren. President Obama should hire Ms. Warren as some kind of Lending Industry Czar to curb the banking industry’s greedy ways. I’ve seen her on Frontline and a few other things and she presents herself as nothing less than a paragon of common sense.

A Funky Space Reincarnation

A viral video cleverer than most: the Star Trek opening credits reimagined in the style of the Space: 1999 opening credits. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Best. Theme. Ever. (via TV Squad and Lileks)

Seasons Greetings from CBS

An elegant animated holiday message from CBS, designed by famed illustrator R.O. Blechman. This is from 1966, folks. Can you imagine today’s “grab ’em by the eyeballs” TV network marketers doing something this simple and unassuming? Neither can I.