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Tag Archives: Everything But The Girl

Weekly Mishmash: October 10-16

Esquire magazine iPad app. Needing something to read for the long plane trip back home from Hawaii, I decided to spring for Esquire‘s grab at the burgeoning magazine app field. This was the October issue, opening with a subtle title card and footage of cover subject Javier Bardem fading into an image of that issue’s cover. Color me impressed: instead of magazine pages merely transferred to digital, each article is designed to fit with the iPad. The app is organized around a interface that brings the issue’s contents to the fore with one tap. The editors include just enough interactive content to be snazzy yet not obnoxious. I ended up reading the entire issue (save the long, long Philip Roth profile) on that plane trip.
album_ebtgworldwideEverything But The Girl — Worldwide. Everything But The Girl is one of my fave groups. Part of the appeal of Ben Watt and Tracey Thorn’s back catalog is that it’s so eclectic, ranging from quasi-Smiths jangle to mellow jazz-pop to techno. 1991’s Worldwide dates from the duo’s maligned Adult Contemporary period, and since it spawned zero hit singles it remains the only EBTG album not currently available for download. Despite the sometimes dated production styles, it’s actually a nifty little album which generally sticks with the pensive acoustic pop of classic EBGT. As usual Watt and Thorn contribute songs both as a duo and separately, with Watt’s material tending towards the sentimental and Thorn’s writing being diamonds in the rough (her two tracks, “You Lift Me Up” and “One Place” are highlights). Opener “Old Friends” is awash in mawkish synths reminiscent of something like the Force M.D.’s “Tender Love,” but the song itself is a lovely paean to the power of friendship. Typical of an album that grows on you with each successive listen.
Last Tango in Paris (1972). Controversial in its time, this is the film that inspired Pauline Kael to write a rapturous New Yorker review proclaiming it a cinematic game changer. After finally seeing it this week, I have to wonder what the fuss was about. It does boast a powerful, uninhibited performance by Marlon Brando as an American expatriate who is grieving his Parisian wife’s suicide. While squatting in an empty apartment, he meets a pretty college-aged girl (Maria Schneider) and the two have a torrid affair which over time turns into an unpleasant power struggle. This was directed and scripted by Bernado Bertolucci, coming out two years after his superior WWII drama The Conformist. Although the film does have a few interesting scenes (particularly those between Schneider and her filmmaker boyfriend, played by Jean-Pierre Léaud), mostly it seemed like some random skeevy straight guy’s fantasy put to film. It’s awfully disjointed and not very sexy (to be fair, it wasn’t meant to be), and I kept feeling sorry for Schneider, who was the ultimate victim of this chauvinistic enterprise. I actually looked up Kael’s review after viewing this, and although I can see her point about it being revelatory for the era the film generally doesn’t hold up. Forty years on, the main reasons for viewing would be the luminous cinematography and Brando’s still surprising acting chops.
1959: The Year Everything Changed by Peter Kaplan. A brisk, fascinating read about the varied achievements of a single year — 1959. Grandiose subtitle notwithstanding, this book proves its point with easily digestible chapters covering advances in civil rights, Cuba/Communism, jazz, Vietnam, the Beats, envelope pushing comedy and literature, Motown, the space race and much more. Although the chapters are on the shortish side, they contain a lot of detail. Some of the areas covered illuminated subjects completely new to me — the making of John Howard Griffin’s race study Black Like Me and Margaret Sanger’s tireless campaign for female reproductive rights, for instance. I suppose Kaplan could have written a book like this on any given year, but 1959 served as a catalyst for the complex ’60s and the book is as good an argument for that as anything else available.
poster_unholypartnersUnholy Partners (1941). One of the nice byproducts of our Maui trip is that our hotel room television had Turner Classic Movies. Good old TCM, how I missed you so! We had a few extra hours one morning, so I stuck it on TCM’s birthday tribute to actress Laraine Day. Unholy Partners is a routine MGM drama in which Day has one of her usual lovesick lady roles, this time opposite the dynamic Edward G. Robinson. In this overheated yarn, returning WWI vet/newspaper editor Robinson is itching to try something new and exciting, so he hooks up with the well-connected and powerful Edward Arnold to start up a juicy, sensational tabloid, a move that introduces him to New York’s shady underworld while alienating his loyal cronies. I enjoyed the interplay between Robinson and Arnold, but mostly this was a standard drama filled with anachronistic touches and bland supporting players. The film climaxes with Day’s earnest and wildly inaccurate speech declaring that “the tabloid age is over.” I suppose this gal never watched the Fox News channel.