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Category Archives: Kitsch

Happy 4th of July

Dear readers: be safe and try to resist having the oversized dolls from Disney’s America on Parade (1976) haunt your dreams.

Flick Clique: June 20-26

The American (2010). Meh. George Clooney as an American spy who is trying to elude a gang of Swedish interlopers in a small Italian villa. I rented this because I’ve been a long-time fan of the photography and music videos of Anton Corbijn, and was curious to see how he’d handle a feature-length film (this is his second, after 2007’s Ian Curtis biopic Control). The American doesn’t make any concessions to being a slam-jam action pic, and that’s a commendable idea, but Clooney’s character being so glum and one-dimensional makes it difficult to warm up to him or his situation. I also really couldn’t figure out why the local prostitute Clara (Violante Placido) was so attracted to him. The one positive thing I can say about this is that it has some beautiful photography, including a quietly compelling long shot of Clooney driving a car through a long tunnel under the opening credits.
The Celluloid Salesman: Classic Educational Shorts, Vol. 4 (DVD, 2011). Another campy collection of vintage industrial films from Kino and The A/V Geeks, an ephemeral films collection. I was delighted to find that this disc and another volume, Safe… Not Sorry got added to this series – unfortunately, Netflix didn’t have either for rental (Netflix is starting to suck, notice that?). Kino had a big sale recently, however, so I ended up getting the Salesman one for a good price. These 15 short films, mostly from the ’60s, attempted to sell everything from railroad cars to potato chips in films that were geared towards salespeople, classrooms, home ec groups, mens’ lodges or even a television audience (one short is even craftily disguised as a string of news segments). Many of them come across as a combo of a ’60s-style How It’s Made and the antique equivalent of an infomercial. Although their effectiveness as sales tools are decidedly hit-or-miss, you can find bits of atom-age beauty (like Hamilton Beach’s film extolling the wonders of their top-of-the-line blender) in the most lovingly crafted of these films.
The Net (1995). Sandra Bullock as a hacker in trouble! This was part of the little “early versions of the web” film fest I put on Netflix a few years back. Once you get past the clunky technology, it’s actually an effective thriller with a good performance from Bullock (the others in the cast, not so much). The Bullock character, Angela Bennett, plays a geeky computer analyst with no time for friends. The only family she has is her Alzheimers-afflicted mother (Diane Baker). When she comes across a floppy disc containing a portal into a top-secret government database, a cabal of spies comes after her, reassigning her identity as one Ruth Marx, attempting to kill her and the few people she has left (such as Dennis Miller’s psychotherapist) who could help her out. At first this was fun to watch for the dated technology (Castle Wolfenstein! After Dark’s Satori screen saver!), then I started getting into the story. It became ridiculous when Jeremy Northam’s love interest/secret killer showed up, however – Northam delivers an atrocious performance worthy of a cheesy stalker movie on the Lifetime channel. There’s also a lot of serious lapses in logic when Bullock breaks into the office where her doppelganger is working and takes back her original identity. And that’s before she runs into a computer convention and calmly plants a virus in the government database using a floppy disc and a common PC. At least Bullock makes her character’s plight believable and sympathetic.
Of Giants and Toys (1958). This was a film that I found out about through the book Japanese Cinema by my DVD Talk colleague Stuart Galbraith IV. In this wacked-out satire on commercialism and fame, a pair of office workers in a candy manufacturer’s advertising department transform a goofy young woman into the fabulous spokeswoman for their product. While Hitomi Nozoe as Kyoko enjoys her newfound fame and flirts shamelessly with her chaperone, Nishi (Hiroshi Kawaguchi). Nishi attempts to find info about his employer’s competition through his girlfriend and his ex-college buddy, who both work at rival companies. This was such an interesting film, if only to check out how the Japanese took on the space craze and other Western trends in the atomic ’50s. It also serves as a biting commentary on win-at-all-costs Japanese society at the time. Shot in widescreen color, the film is a bit unruly and all over the place. It also has enough wild, memorable scenes to recommend it – the desperation of the characters trying to maintain their dignity while working themselves sick (literally) comes through loud and clear.

Flickr Friday: Empire Savings Ad, 1957

As a reminder of a more benevolent age in banking, behold an ad that I scanned a few years back for Christopher’s Plastic Living website. It appears that Los Angeles-based bank Empire Savings had a peachy-keen incentive for new customers at the dawn of 1957 – a set of Lifetime plastic melamine dinnerware! The ’50s-era stuff was considered a nice deal, too, since the retail price was comparable to their ceramic cousins. The lady in the ad seems delighted by her new acquisition, despite having to fork over at least $250 for it. I’m liking the midcentury modern building rendering, too.

This was published in the January 7, 1957 “Midwinter” supplement in the Sunday Los Angeles Times.

Doing Time at the Piggly Wiggly

I was going to write about the first ten songs that came up when my iTunes shuffled, but instead let’s take a look at this mesmerizing short that envisions 1960s Judy Garland and Liza Minnelli shopping for groceries. And look, there’s 1970s Ann Miller working the check-out register! It’s clever how they matched the lip movements with the new words. Gay as all get out – and funny, too.

Iwant and Gimme

Vintage video dept… a helpful YouTube user has uploaded two commercial breaks from a 1976 episode of Bozo’s Circus, the long-running kiddie show on Chicago’s WGN. Although I never saw this particular program, the commercials are a hoot and total blast of nostalgia. I was eight years old at the time, the perfect age for Lucky Charms cereal and that super-cool hovering Star Trek thingie (we had something similar, although I think it was a normal helicopter and not the U.S. Enterprise). The popcorn with oil and salt in a separate pouch also looks intriguing.

In this second commercial break, what stands out for me is the nice animation on the Cap’n Crunch commercial – a step up from the usual Hanna-Barbera fare of the time (do you recognize June Foray’s voice, too?). Although I remember the Magician Mickey toy, the build-it-yourself plastic straw kit wound up getting lost in the sands of time, for good reason. What a weird toy!

P.S. The title for this post comes from the affectionate nicknames that my grandmother gave my mom and aunt when they were young tykes. Totally appropos, for sure.

Caroling, Caroling

Christopher and I want to wish everyone the merriest of Christmases, the happiest of New Years … usually I have a Flick Clique on a Sunday, but this photo of carolers in Disneyland will have to do. The pic comes from a 1957 issue of Disneyland Holiday magazine, one of C.’s gifts for me. I love it!

The cover of this Disneyland Holiday, featuring the marvy Monsanto House of the Future, can be seen further below.