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Monthly Archives: August 2012

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Connie Bennett Shares Her Beauty Regime with You

I remember seeing this short on TCM years ago — ’30s movie queen Constance Bennett demonstrating her morning beauty ritual to the women of America. In Cine-Color, no less.

Flick Clique: August 19-25

Hey, do you think I should continue with the Flick Clique? It’s starting to feel redundant to me, since I’m repeating a lot of the stuff here that get a more in-depth analysis on DVD Talk. I dunno, I’m just getting into one of those moods where I feel that in general has run its course (nobody’s linked here in ages) and I need to take time off, regroup and start anew with something else.
Child’s Play (1972). Disappointing, draggy drama set at a boy’s Catholic school that stars Robert Preston, James Mason and Beau Bridges. This was a new release from Olive Films that I reviewed for DVD Talk; full review here.
For Pete’s Sake (1974). Fluffy, halfway entertaining Barbra Streisand comedy with Babs as a cash-strapped housewife who resorts to ever-more-drastic measures to secure money for the pork belly enterprise that her husband (the very ’70s Michael Sarrazin) has invested in. Although saddled with a ridiculous climax (shot on the Warner Bros. backlot!), I was surprised at how cute and entertaining this film was. Barbra was quite appealing, and (on a shallow note) I loved the funky brown-and-white decor in the living room of the couple’s apartment (the horrific lavender-walled bedroom was a different story). The animated title sequence in this film sets the scene nicely, with a bouncy song from Barbra that unfortunately isn’t on any of her music collections:

Mimic (1997). I used to get this “insects gone horribly wrong” opus confused with the “revitalized ancient lizard god run amok” opus The Relic, since they both came out around the same time. We actually saw The Relic when it was originally released, but I didn’t get to catch Mimic until casually perusing the Netflix instant offerings last weekend. Mimic has director Guillermo del Toro’s atmospheric, slimy visual stamp all over, which makes it the clear winner of the two. When a virus carried by cockroaches ravages New York City, sexy etymologist Mira Sorvino and hunky fellow scientist boyfriend Jeremy Northam develop a mutated roach that was bred to kill the offending roaches then die off. A few years later, they are shocked to find that the new roaches adapted themselves into giant-sized roaches with a taste for human blood – and they’re breeding! Silly but a whole lot of fun, although I can see why del Toro has (sort of) disowned it. Some of the characters are too cut-‘n-dry and the ending smacks of studio interference, sure, but for an hour of so I was totally drawn into this world and its terrifying creatures.
The Music Room (1958). I picked this blu-ray out to buy at a local chain store which thankfully stocks the Criterion Collection discs. Since I’ve never seen a film from the acclaimed Indian director Satyajit Ray, this was a good place to dive in – the blu includes both the feature film and a long documentary about Ray’s life and career. The Music Room concerns a prideful landlord named Biswambhar Roy (played with poignancy by actor Chhabi Biswas) who flaunts his wealth and status via concerts in his beloved music room. He gets too complacent, however, and when a neighbor seizes the rights to the river that flows near Roy’s home, Roy is eventually forced to sell off jewelry and furniture to keep his lifestyle going. Despite tragedy and dwindling assets, he summons up his remaining staff to prepare one last gala concert. This was excellent, beautifully acted, and it has some unique musical segments which are notable in that they don’t look like stylized Bollywood numbers. I can’t wait to check out they Satyajit Ray documentary as well.
The Suffragette (1913) and The Eskimo Baby (1918). These two German silents were part of Four Films with Asta Nielsen, a DVD set that I’m currently reviewing for DVD Talk. They actually give a good indication of the versatility of this tall, intense looking but naturalistic actress who was one of the biggest film stars of her day. In The Suffragette, she plays a crusading feminist who has a crisis of conscience after placing a bomb in a despised politician’s home. After discovering that the politician is the man she once loved, can she stop the ticking bomb and save the man’s life in time? The Eskimo Baby is a complete turnaround with Nielsen as a simple native girl from Greenland who is brought to Germany as the “souvenir” of a scientist-explorer. The man’s family is rather perplexed by this new visitor, but what becomes truly upsetting to them is when she starts showing romantic feelings towards the guy. The story might be a little too condescending for modern viewers, but Nielsen is fascinating to watch. She approaches the character like a curious child, completely uninhibited with Western modes of behavior. It’s quite a remarkable and funny performance. Although her work in The Suffragette is more typical of melodramas from that era, I enjoyed her work in that film as well.

Flick Clique: August 12-18

Easy Virtue (2008). Strange, choppy period comedy about a 1920s race car driver named Larita (Jessica Biel), a freewheeling young lady who lives for the moment. Her arrival at a staid British family’s mansion is a shocker, since she impulsively married the rebellious son (Ben Barnes) and ruined plans for the estate to stay in the family through the young man marrying the daughter in the family at a neighboring property. While the couple uncomfortably stays at the estate for a few weeks, Larita’s mother-in-law (Kristin Scott Thomas) and two sisters-in-law (Kimberley Nixon and Katherine Parkinson from The I.T. Crowd) endeavor to make things as difficult as possible for the young couple. The estate’s patriarch (Colin Firth), a laid-back vet and ex-junkie, takes it all in stride. Overproduced and not terribly funny. Firth is great; Biel seems out of her depth; the rest of the cast is all right. The film was jazzed up with unnecessary CGI and terrible music, which tells me that it was originally meant to be something like a dark satire but ultimately ended up as a frothy, unmemorable comedy.
Exit Through The Gift Shop (2010). Finally got to watch this one, after sitting on our Netflix instant queue forever. It was pretty interesting to watch, spoiled by central conceit that its main subject, a hyper Frenchman who goes by the handle Mr. Brainwatch, ended up being a fraud set up by the filmmakers to expose the art scene as a bunch of fickle, trend-seeking poseurs. Disappointingly, the art of enigmatic Banksy isn’t explored very much at all. The film left me kinda nonplussed about street art in general. Banksy’s stuff is different – at least it’s provocative and has a cheeky point of view. The other artists profiled in the film range from too-slick (Shepard Fairey) to simple and vague (the French guy who secretly installs Space Invaders-inspired mosaics here and there). The work of Mr. Brainwatch, whose ambitiously scaled L.A. installation forms the bulk of the film, seemed totally derivative and dumb. Of course, it was a huge hit.
Heidi’s Song (1982). This sugary Hanna-Barbera animated feature film is one of the latest offerings from the Warner Archive; my full review at DVD Talk is here. Below, a screen shot which didn’t make it into the final piece:

My Son John (1952). Strange, hysterical anti-Communist film that got recently reissued on home video from Olive Films. This was the film with Robert Walker (in his final performance) as a Washington diplomat who returns to the small town he grew up in a changed man. His religious parents (Dean Jagger and Helen Hayes) are baffled by his strange behavior. Eventually, the truth comes out – he’s a red! This was, frankly, a wretched melodrama, but it’s a fascinating curio of another age. My DVD Talk review. Here’s a screen shot of Helen Hayes and Van Heflin that didn’t make it into the review:

Trinity and Beyond: The Atomic Bomb Movie (1995). Fascinating documentary which we stumbled upon on Netflix. William Shatner narrates this penetrating look into the world of post-WWII atomic bomb testing, using loads of recently (as of 1995) declassified footage showing various atomic testing projects in chronological order. The footage generally looks great, with some powerful imagery that astonishes to this day. The use of portentous music wasn’t so thrilling, but otherwise this was a concise and absorbing peek into the circa 1945-65 horrible things the government did for the cause of keeping up with the arms race. It’s still hard to believe they did all that.

Flickr Friday: Corning Creative Glass Ad, 1972

This advertisement for Corning’s Creative Glass product line appeared in the June 10, 1972 issue of The New Yorker. It certainly has that casual-chic look, like something that Mary Richards would have strewn about in her Minneapolis apartment, dontcha think? I spotted this ad a few years ago on my Complete New Yorker DVD-ROM set, foolishly not taking note of the issue it was in. Since then, I’ve tried to start a collection. The only object I’ve gotten, however, is the double-decker serving piece pictured at left in the ad. These were unmarked (except for a small clear sticker in some cases), and the design is just generic enough to pass for dozens of other glass objects cluttering up thrift store shelves. Apparently Corning made this throughout the ’70s and ’80s, even though it appears that the line was just promoted early on to a more upscale audience. The CG line also included individual glass mugs and those groovy candles that floated in oil or water.

So here it is, the result of spending a couple of hours combing through dozens of early ’70s New Yorkers: Corning Creative Glass!

Bon Appétit!

This PBS-endorsed music video of Julia Child is the most mesmerizing thing I’ve seen all week. The idea of Julia remixed into a techno-pop video mashup sounds gimmicky, I know, but John D. Boswell (a.k.a. Melodysheep) weaves voices and music in a beautiful, respectful way that celebrates her love of food and cooking. A good commemoration of the lady’s 100th birthday:

Flick Clique: August 5-11

Cry of the Heart (1974). A French obscurity about an upper-class family who becomes fractured when the teen son gets into a debilitating accident. The plot sounds like pure corn, but the film is actually darker and more kinky than one would normally expect. It’s not terribly good, however, with inconsistent direction and a campy lead performance by actor Eric Damian. I picked it out of the DVD Talk screener pool; the full review can be read here.
The In Crowd (1988). A special gift from Netflix! Okay, this isn’t the greatest movie ever, but I was grateful to be able to catch it and compare/contrast with the inferior Shag (review here). This one follows gawky Philadelphia teen Donovan Leitch as he sneaks backstage into the local dance show he idolizes, nabs a spot as a dancer on the show, and falls for Vicky (Jennifer Runyon), a dancer who is romantically attached to one of the other guys on the show. Kinda silly and dumb, with two leading actors who have zero chemistry (Leitch pings my gaydar and Runyon is too ’80s-generic to pull off this role). However, I enjoyed the movie a whole lot. The dance scenes are well done, and the soundtrack is full of lesser-known goodies that better convey a feeling of the mid-’60s than most flicks of this ilk do. A big part of the fun here is Joe Pantoliano as the teen dance show host, Perry Parker. He has a lot of infectious energy and gives the Perry role more depth than perhaps the script dictated (manic, older, somewhat unhip and desperate to please). Not as snappy or indelible as Hairspray, perhaps, but worth a peek for students of ’80s-on-’60s pop culture like myself.
Octopussy (1983). Big Lots has had many of the James Bond DVDs in stock lately at low prices; I picked this one up mostly because it was the expanded edition with making-of docs and commentary. It was also one of the Bonds that I’d never seen. Although this later Roger Moore entry has been trashed for its silly, flippant qualities, I actually found it quite fun and squarely in line with the previous film in the series (and the first Bond I ever saw), For Your Eyes Only. Sure, it has a few cringeworthy scenes (Bond swinging on a vine and emitting a Tarzan yell is a low point), but I loved the lush Indian settings, the smoothly executed chase/action scenes, the many beautiful women (including terrific turns by Maud Adams and Swede Kristina Wayborn), and the overall mood of international intrigue combined with popcorn thrills. What might have hurt Octopussy in its original release was that it came along shortly after Raiders of the Lost Ark, which raised the action-adventure bar to such an extent that it made Moore & co. seem tired and passé. There are a few scenes (the circus climax, for instance) that indicate this one is a turkey, but time has been surprisingly kind to the movie. It’s fun.
A Separation (2011). Very good, intense drama involving a pregnant woman, an old guy with Alzheimer’s, and a fall down a staircase – all of which happens to a middle-class Iranian family as the elder man’s son (Peyman Moadi) and daughter-in-law (Leila Hatami) are negotiating a divorce. This really wasn’t what I was expecting, in a good way. The acclaimed Iranian drama was the most recent recipient of the Best Foreign Language Oscar, which on the one hand brought it a lot more attention. On the other hand, the recipients of that award have always been inconsistent, trending towards safe, sanitized dramas. This one was excellent, however, beautifully performed with a cast full of finely etched characters. The fact that it has a canny mystery at its center is a terrific bonus. This is another disc received from DVD Talk, so a more complete review will be coming along soon.
White Material (2009). A film about a selfish, stubborn French woman (Isabelle Huppert) who refuses to leave her African coffee plantation while a civil war is erupting about her. Pretty decent, a little slow moving at times. Director Claire Denis did a good job of conveying the main character’s steadfastness as she dips into madness by the film’s climax. Huppert delivers a good performance, although both of us thought the film would be way more effective with Kristin Scott Thomas.