Monday, March 22, 2010

Gimme Some...Straight Talk, Straight Talk...

I just re-watched a movie that I haven't seen since I was a young tyke in the 90s and before I knew that some people were considered good actors and others were considered lousy.  All I wanted from a movie was a star I liked and a good laugh...and maybe some music.  Keep in mind though, that I was only 8 at the time and so my tastes were pretty much as you'd expect them to be.  I think the most challenging thing I had seen at this point was Who Framed Roger Rabbit? so its no surprise that I loved Straight Talk with Dolly Parton.  It was cute, had a pretty personality in it, and even had a fun soundtrack full of music Parton sang for the film.  However, I'd only seen it once in the theater (and maybe on video, I honestly can't remember) so I couldn't judge my memory of it last night when I saw it available on Netflix instant watch.  I didn't have anything better to do so I figured..."What the hell, I'll turn Dolly on."  I mean, I still love 9 to 5 and Steel Magnolias and The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas is one of the best underrated film musicals of the 80s, so why shouldn't this one be good?

For those who don't know (or can't remember), Straight Talk is the story of Shirlee Kenyon (Dolly Parton) who works as a dance instructor in a small hick town and who loses her job because she's a better talker than an instructor.  Her clients love her because she listens and tells them how it is, but it doesn't do much for the dance hall.  On top of that, her live-in boyfriend treats her like dirt and refuses to move to Chicago with her.  So, in a fit of defiance, she packs her belongings into his bowling bag and heads off to the Windy City.  When she arrives, he makes a wish on a bridge (losing a $20 in the process) and is 'rescued' by a reporter named Jack Russell (James Woods) who mistakes her mad grab for the rouge bill as an attempt to jump into the river.  She runs into the reporter again when she accidentally convinces his girlfriend (a young Teri Hatcher) to leave him.  Shirlee then goes job hunting and gets absolutely no luck until she goes to a local radio station to try her hand at being a receptionist.  However, an accident and an empty radio booth places her on the air as Dr. Shirlee, an advice giving psychologist.  It turns out that Shirlee is a natural and the public loves her.  So the radio invents a fake past for her and tries to keep everyone from suspecting that she's a fraud...which gets Jack's the urge to unearth her secrets for his paper.

It really is an adorable film, and I love hearing Dolly telling it like it is.  She gives a lot of great, common sense advice to those troubled callers and she never is judgmental or rude.  She has a wonderful sense of comic timing and surprisingly good chemistry with Woods, who is rather charming (compared to his usual smarmy bastards).  If you've never seen it, or its been a long time, pick this one up again and give it a whirl.  I had a great time revisiting it (something I can't say the same for Curly Sue, which I also re-watched last night) and it made me wonder why Dolly hasn't done more work.  She really is a natural.  Sure, she's doing a lot of playing herself...but lots of other actors do that and they don't get called out on it.  I think if we gave her a Meryl Streep-esque comeback, the public would love it.  I know I would.  Enjoy the clip below, and finish the whole thing sometime :)

Monday, March 15, 2010

Come with me....Myyyyyy Loooooveee... the sea....the sea of looooovee....Iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii want to tell you, hoooooooww much I love you....!

I was singing just then, the Phil Phillips hit "Sea of Love." Some of you might have heard this song featured in films like Juno and Look Who's Talking Too, but only one film used it as its focus, the 1989 Al Pacino thriller Sea of Love.  I used to really like this song, but now I don't think it will ever be the same, as the song was used in order to show when a particular serial killer had been in someone's apartment.  Never heard of this film?  Well let me illuminate it for you.

The film opens with a naked man humping a pillow, face down on his bed.  It sounds as though he is enjoying it, but then he pitifully mutters 'please' to an unseen person.  Then someone from off-screen shoots him in the back of the head, leaving Sea of Love playing in the background.  This then allows the writer to introduce our flawed, but clever hero...Detective Frank Keller (Al Pacino).  He is assigned to the case and ends up teaming with a Queens detective (John Goodman) in order to catch the killer, who appears to be choosing his victims from the personals ads of a magazine.  They place an ad and start interviewing the women who respond, and also take their fingerprints from wine glasses they drink from.  It seems to be harmless, and even fun for the men, until Helen (Ellen Barkin) enters the picture.  Frank immediately takes a liking to her, and yet she snubs him...not putting prints on anything.  Later they meet up and have a wild night of love making, but Frank isn't sure if she is a killer or not.  As the passion rises, so does the danger and he has to decide whether or not he trusts her.

Sound familiar?  Well that's because it kinda is.  Joe Eszterhas would rewrite the concept in San Francisco as Basic Instinct a few years later and people have noted similarities between the two stories.  However, both films are different and have their own distinct flavor.  Sea of Love is not the best of the erotic thrillers that came from the 80s and 90s, but it is memorable for both Pacino and Barkin's performances as well as the haunting use of Phillips' song.  It was diverting enough for a Sunday afternoon, anyway.  However, the next time I reach for a thriller of this type...I'm more likely to reach for Fatal Attraction or Basic Instinct than for this.  Also, I'd rather look at young Michael Douglas naked than middle aged Al Pacino naked (no offense were sexy in The Godfather...too bad smoking made you a leathery mess).

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Let's talk about Goldie Hawn

Ok, I'll admit it.  I love Goldie Hawn.  I always have, she's just so cute in some roles, so evil in others, and so funny always.  I don't usually watch her for high drama, mainly comedies for yesteryear, but she's versatile enough to play it straight if she needs to (the mediocre thriller Deceived is a good example).  Why all this focus on Hawn?  Well, because I discovered one of her best reviewed films on Netflix streaming the other night.  It is the story of a self-absorbed woman who has no identity of her own and who goes through a grueling physical experience in order to do some much needed soul searching.  It seems like I'm talking about a drama, but in reality its a comedy who's template we have seen before in other things...that film is Private Benjamin.

No doubt you have seen the familiar cover staring at you across the aisle as you look through the comedies in the local video store...(it features Goldie as Judy Benjamin, wearing an army helmet and looking like an angry drowned rat) I know I did.  I never picked it up though because, honestly, based on the cover I figured I had the whole movie figured out.  A woman who is unfulfilled goes into the army to prove something and comes out as her own independent person...roll credits, the end.  However, this Sunday I needed a good laugh and I decided to try it on for size.  HouseSitter perked me up two weeks prior, so why shouldn't another cute Goldie comedy?  Boy was I surprised.  Yes, Benjamin does follow the outline I laid out well...for a time, but it also veers off in completely unexpected ways.

First, Judy (Hawn) is not a single unfulfilled woman or even unhappy...she's actually in the process of getting married to a Jewish man named Yale (Albert Brooks) and is so overjoyed.  So what if her only function is picking out furniture, making sure the ottoman is 'mushroom', and that she can't achieve orgasm with Yale?  She's happy.  Well, that is until Yale drops dead on their wedding night.  Suddenly Judy finds herself with no man and no purpose, a situation she's never felt before.  In a moment of madness, she sneaks out of her house and spends the night in a dingy hotel just to be away from the world who wants to comfort her.  It is here that she goes on talk radio to vent her problems to the world and where Army Recruiter Jim Ballard (Harry Dean Stanton) hears her and invites her to join up.  He sells her some stories about private rooms and yachts and she's happy to go.  Of course, by now the viewer already knows that she's going to find the army hard and unforgiving and that she will have to change who she is to become the best soldier in the outfit.  It is her that the film diverges from the usual path.  A lesser writer would have ended the film at Judy's triumphant graduation, but no...they (Nancy Meyers, Charles Shyer, and Harvey Miller) go on to show Judy trying to find her identity in the macho 'thornbirds' and finally finding more happiness in a Paris base working in acquisitions.  She also meets Henri Tremont (Armand Assante), a suave European who not only is an excellent lover but also rich and itching to marry her.  We spend the third act wondering not "will she make it through basic training?" but rather "will she lose herself in a man again and thus, lose her newfound independence?"

This was a great little film that I wish I hadn't skipped for so long, mainly because of the way it diverged from the path so often traveled by other films.  It was refreshing to see a film where the question wasn't "will the poor woman survive the army?" or "will she settle down with the right guy?" but rather "will she have the balls to walk away from a guy in order to not compromise her independence?"  This was brave in 1980, and we see more of it nowadays...but its still not as prevalent.  We like stories where the man and woman find each other and stay together till the credits, because it means that there is hope for all of us out there who are single and alone.  We aren't encouraged to think "Am I ok just being me, by myself?"  It's much more about pairs.  Watching Judy walk off into the distance in her wedding dress, no married, and backed up by the rousing march score is uplifting and doesn't ever make you wonder what it would have been like had she stayed with Henri. Rather, it makes you wish you were that head off into the sunset alone.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

10 Reasons Why Blogging Doesn't Happen

1.You have your first full weeks of school since before Feburary started.

2.You find yourself accused of fixing the school musical's casting, even though auditions aren't for two more weeks.

3. You have to spend every waking moment planning out the senior class play.

4. You spend any free moments you have left at rehearsals for said play.

5. You spend any spare time you have after that in meetings planning for the musical and with parents.

6. You create a twenty-fifth hour of the day by sheer willpower in which to do your grading.

7. You ignore the fact that you haven't been held by a man in a long time.

8. You tell yourself that even if you had said fantasy man, you wouldn't have time for him to hold you anyway.

9. You try to think if there is any time for you to have a birthday party this year.

10. You get home and are so exhausted that the last thing you want to do is write.

Ok, so that wasn't all that clever but it was a slice of why I've been MIA these last few...days?  Weeks?  I can't even remember the last time I blogged.  But I figured that when my mother told me that she'd noticed I'd been gone a while that it was time to go back.  Life has been full, stressful, and busy as hell to be honest (just as I thought it would be when I took the job) but hey, at least it makes the time pass quickly.  I honestly can't believe that there are less than 3 full months left in the school year.  I mean before you know it, it will be April...and then May, and then that first Friday in June will get here.  Its been a fun and stressful year for sure, and has had its share of ups and downs.  But I don't regret a bit of it, I like my job and I love doing the dramatics.  Our play is going to be great (if we can just get these last few line problems ironed out) and hopefully everyone who comes to see it will enjoy it.  Mom will be here on Saturday to see it, and I hope she's impressed.  I have a lot of impressing to do if I plan to keep this job.  If I get to keep it, I'm thinking of making even more challenges for myself next year by doing "Noises Off" of the most technical plays in existence.  Am I a glutton for punishment?  Maybe.

I've not given up my movie watching habits though, that's one of the niceties that gets me through the hard times.  Here's a run down of titles I've watched recently that are worth a mention.

Ruthless People
Outrageous Fortune
My Blue Heaven
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas
Osmosis Jones

I'd put trailers on here for all of them, but I'm too damn lazy.  I'll go back to blogging about individual films soon.  Oh, and for anyone who's interested...Burton's Alice in Wonderland was very mediocre...just like a lot of the reviewers would suggest.  On one hand, I'm saddened by that because it means that it could have been so much better...but on the other hand I'm kinda glad because maybe everyone will stop kissing the ground Burton and Depp walk on just because they are who they are.  I remember when the movie was announced and everyone was like...."That's such a perfect idea." and I thought..."That's such a lame idea."  Oh well, I hope I like his next one.