Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Memorial Day catch up

An evening of eh.

Call Me Madam (Walter Lang, 1953) bears all the markings of 1950s Hollywood bloat. Too long and too expensive, it helped render the musical an increasingly untenable proposition despite containing perhaps the quintessential Ethel Merman film performance. A pop-friendly editor could easily chop 25 minutes from the running time. At the very least, the moments when George Sanders sings (!) have got to go. Still, even the non-Ethel numbers roar, especially a drunk Donald O'Connor in "What Chance Have I With Love?" singing the type of clever/corny lyrics that made Sondheim roll his eyes. Try "Look at what it did to Romeo/It dealt poor Romey an awful blow" or "If an apple could finish Adam/They could knock me off with a grape."

The Affairs of Dobie Gillis (Don Weis, 1953) - That pop-friendly editor would leave just two Youtube clips - Bob Fosse, Debbie Reynolds, Barbara Ruick, and Bobby Van hoofing it up at a college juke joint and Van alone in "I'm Thru With Love." Otherwise, Slog Central even at 72 minutes.

Frozen (Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee, 2013) - The last shot shows Anna and Elsa skating together rather than Anna locking lips with Kristoff (and Elsa remains partnerless). A mildly radical payoff for sitting through a slate of crummy, dead-bottomed songs. Best part - Olaf confessing he has no bones.

The Wolf of Wall Street (Martin Scorsese, 2013) - I'll admit that every time Leo started to explain IPOs or whatever, I wanted to ask him to slow down. But that's no excuse for Scorsese allowing him to abandon the explanations. So, slow down! As Todd Haynes proved with his even longer Mildred Pierce, there's enormous drama in laying out processes. In any event, we need to update Richard Dyer's dictum in "Entertainment and Utopia" to demonstrate that Hollywood films show us not how to organize dystopia but what it feels like (for those who organize dystopia). Sequel: The Schmucks of Any Street - a glimpse into the lives destroyed by Jordan Belfort et al. and an investigation into Belfort's current life of exorbitant speaker fees and pokey paybacks.

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