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Tag Archives: George Benson

Weekly Mishmash: October 17-23

George Benson — Give Me The Night. Downloaded this album along with an array of Mr. Benson’s hits from 1981-84. The Quincy Jones production Give Me The Night was Benson’s full fledged leap out of jazz guitar and into R&B stardom; the title track is one of those tunes that’s so distinct I recall the first time I heard it (in my mom’s car, going somewhere at night). The album has feet in both pop/R&B and jazz, with some tracks bringing on the funk like a sequel to Michael Jackson’s Off The Wall and others in a less commercial vein (his duet with Patti Austin on “Moody’s Mood,” for example). Burdened with a few too many lover-man ballads to be truly excellent, it’s still a good showcase Benson’s smooth voice and smoother guitar riffing. All in all, I actually prefer Benson’s pop stuff, but instrumentals “Off Broadway” and “Dinorah, Dinorah” are surprising highlights.
dvd_bugsbunnyBugs Bunny: Hare Extraordinaire (Looney Tunes Super Stars). A birthday gift from Christopher. Bugs Bunny: Hare Extraordinaire (along with companion Daffy Duck volume, Frustrated Fowl) represents Warner Home Video’s dip back into the Looney Tunes DVD game after the company announced it was ceasing the acclaimed Looney Tunes Golden Collection box sets. Unlike the grand Golden Collections, these sets contain a mere 15 cartoons each — all new to DVD but dating from the less than inspired 1950-64 period. Although it contains a few gems (Chuck Jones’ Lumber-Jack Rabbit was a sentimental fave), the blandness of Hare Extraordinaire is pretty familiar to anyone who noticed the quality of the Bugs discs in the Golden Collections going down with each successive volume. The DVD contains no commentaries or extras of any kind. Adding insult to injury is the fact that two thirds of the cartoons are presented in fake anamorphic widescreen, with the tops and bottoms of the picture lopped off. I’d definitely rather buy a Warner Archive set of scratched up Bosko cartoons than this shoddy product. Minor plus: nice cover design.
Children of a Lesser God (1986). William Hurt as an idealistic teacher at a small New England school for the deaf meets willful ex-student Marlee Matlin; Hurt attempts to teach Matlin how to speak while the two gradually become lovers. This was an interesting film; very well acted and not nearly as soapy as originally suspected. This film was adapted by director Randa Haines from Mark Medoff’s successful Broadway play; instead of feeling stagey, however, it nicely captures the atmosphere of a small town/workplace and its residents. Even the young deaf actors playing students were natural. I suppose Matlin’s Oscar was something of a P.C. gesture, but she’s startlingly good (especially playing pissed off, which comes often) and has a lot of screen presence. I was amused to see Linda Bove, best known as Linda the deaf lady on Sesame Street, in the cast. This film explores issues of the deaf community assimilating while retaining their own sense of specialness, a theme that’s even more resonant today with developments in cochleal implants, etc. It would be cool to see how the characters and situations would be handled in a contemporary setting.
The Small Back Room (1949). A minor Powell and Pressburger film, somewhat moribund and talky in spots but compelling nonetheless. In 1943 England, an embittered bomb diffusion expert (David Farrar) deals with alcoholism and a concerned girlfriend (Kathleen Byron) before being assigned to defuse a cutting edge bomb left on a pebbly beach. This is a low-key drama, at times nicely acted by the two stars of Black Narcissus. The alcohol angle seemed like a Lost Weekend ripoff to me, however, and other elements of the story didn’t have enough bite to truly keep us interested. The climax was well paced, however.
Temple Grandin (2010). Excellent movie on a woman of whom I’ve previously known very little (basically snippets of an NPR interview). Temple Grandin is a scientist and animal rights activist who overcame autism to develop innovative ways of immunizing and slaughtering cattle. The film chronicles Grandin’s life from childhood through her difficult college years and eventually making her mark in the male-centric cattle industry. Claire Danes as Grandin is nothing short of wonderful, and if you’d seen the two at the Emmy awards you’d notice that Danes’ somewhat mannered performance is actually a perfect mimicry of the real Grandin (which makes it all the more extraordinary). The film covers a lot of territory in a concise way, skillfully using special effects and overlaid animation to convey Grandin’s obsessive, detail oriented viewpoint. It’s an incredibly moving story, beautifully told. Danes has been getting most of the acclaim, but Julia Ormond, Catherine O’Hara and David Strathairn also contribute great work to this movie that needs to be seen. I’d even think that Ms. Grandin is one of the unsung heroes of our time.