Thursday, April 07, 2016

Film Week

A review of the films I've seen this past week.

SAWDUST AND TINSEL (1953)
Ingmar Bergman film about a circus ringmaster who brings the circus back to his home town. As he's visiting his estranged wife, feeling the pull home, his mistress (the circus horse rider) has an affair with an actor. Gripping and masochistic, beautifully shot, turning a small drama between a few characters into the human drama on canvas. ****

PEE-WEE'S BIG HOLIDAY (2016)
Gosh, it's nice to see something new from Pee-wee. Here, happy with the same routine every day, Pee-wee Herman develops a thirst for adventure after befriending a passing Joe Manganiello (playing an endearingly over-the-top version of himself). The two instantly become best friends, and Pee-wee goes on the road in an attempt to find himself and get to Joe's birthday party. It's funny as hell, but even better, it's charming and sincere, and funny without being mean-spirited. If you ever loved Pee-wee Herman, this movie will remind you why his silliness was in your heart in the first place. ***1/2

V/H/S 2 (2013)
I thought the first V/H/S worked because each of the short films in the anthology had a cheap, grungy realism that made its found footage gimmick work. This one is a little too slick for its own good. Too much narrative shaping, terrible attempts to seriously act, and the special effects are a little too good to blend into its GoPro aesthetic. The one about the cult mostly works, and a lot of that is on the strength of Epy Kusnandar's hypnotic performance as their leader, but it's the lone gem in a sea of not very thought out student films. **1/2

TRAINWRECK (2015)
Well, it's the most watchable movie Judd Apatow's directed since The 40 Year-Old Virgin, although it's still too long, just not interminably so. And unlike This Is 40, it gets to a point eventually. Mostly it's just a different take on the romcom formula, but with crude language and the traditional gender roles reversed. Here, Amy (Amy Schumer, who wrote the script) is the hard-drinking fuck-up scared of commitment and unable to get her shit together, while Aaron (Bill Hader) is responsible and sweet, has a great career and wants to have a real relationship. It's a sweet movie, even if a little sappy in its overlong third act (that intervention scene could have been dropped with no damage done), and I think Amy Schumer is hilarious in general. Great cast. I thought LeBron James was cute as himself. ***

AND GOD CREATED WOMAN (1956)
Brigitte Bardot (gorgeous, of course) is a free-spirited "wild child" who only wants to have fun. Everyone in her small Riviera town wants her, but she wants to go away with handsome Christian Marquand, but he doesn't take her seriously. She has other men who want to take her away (including an older industrialist), but she marries Marquand's younger brother, played by Jean-Louis Trintignant, even though his family--and everyone else--disapproves. Interesting picture to see 60 years later... Bardot's behavior isn't really slutty, just suggestive, and what everyone keeps chalking up to being wanton seems to really just be a sort of laziness. Surprising final act, when all of the passions building up spill out in calypso music, a sexy dance, a gun, and... well, we could debate whether that final shot means forgiveness, acceptance, or the defeat of Bardot, but I like how it ended. Beautifully shot. ****

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Yup

Monday, April 04, 2016

Muppet Monday

Here are three classic Muppet appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show. First, "Rock 'n' Roll Monster," from Jim Henson's first appearance on the show on September 18, 1966 (Ed accidentally introduces him as "Jim Newsom," which is dubbed over here). Next, "I Feel Pretty," a poignant piece from April 30, 1967, and narrated by Jerry Juhl. Then, last but not least, "Mahna Mahna," from November 30, 1969. Jim had originally done the song--from an Italian mondo film--on the 14th episode of Sesame Street which aired just three days before the Sullivan appearance. That version featured some Anything Muppets, but this version is the more iconic (and better) one that Jim would later repeat on the first episode of The Muppet Show in 1976.


Here's that original version of "Mahna Mahna." The lead singer here looks like he stepped out of a French New Wave movie. He's the first evolutionary stage of Bip Bippadotta.

Sunday, April 03, 2016

Song of the Week: "Tarzan and Jane"

Back in 1998/1999, this used to come on the radio a fair bit while I was driving for a living. And this song just makes me all kinds of happy. European bubblegum dance pop sounds pretty good for a moody day. Not the kind of thing everyone likes, but I dig this one hard. It's just so innocent, dumb and fun. Toy-Box, from their album Fantastic.