Saturday, July 28, 2012

Movie of the Week #30: The Witches of Oz

This week's review is the family-friendly (though rather long-winded) TV movie, The Witches of Oz, originally reviewed for DVDsnapshot.

My Take:

I was never that comforted by Oz. It didn't seem so much a land of whimsy and magic as a place of capricious death and a “kill-or-be-killed” ethos, where you could be trapped forever if you didn't please the right people. In one book, “The Marvelous Land of Oz,” after using “The Power of Life” to animate imaginary friends, a boy learns he isn't real. Rather, he's simply the shell carrier for the more important Ozma, and must be erased because his usefulness is over. Needless to say, I never again picked up on Oz book after reading this at age seven. Perhaps it appeals to the childhood fantasy that we're secretly royalty or aliens, somehow greater and more special than our humdrum lives suggest, but that book would take weeks of Freudian analysis to unpack.

While the MGM Wizard of Oz has charmed for generations, no other crack at the books has been that successful. The Witches of Oz, like some adaptations, turns on the tempting idea of revisiting OZ with a grown-up Dorothy. Usually, she's offered as a sexed up version, a concept skewered here to nice effect. This SyFy miniseries prefers to ask “what's a nice girl like you doing in a place like this?”

Friday, July 20, 2012

Jay's Movie of the Week #29: Primitive London and London In The Raw (Double Feature)

An odd double-feature of documentaries reviewed for DVDsnapshot. When I republish those reviews here, I'll now be altering the format slightly, moving my review above the "Official Synopsis." 
...and, yes, it is a purely ego-driven choice. Thank you for noticing! (Heh, heh)

Our Take:

This double feature from the mid-sixties collects what must be the most polite Mondo-style “documentaries” ever made. London in the Raw and the more polished Primitive London are an unusual time capsule. Bound up by the manners, appearances, and class structure they hark from, the filmmakers still aspire to illustrate a “seedier” underside of London life... without offending. Some Mondo films featured shockers like sex-change surgeries and animal mutiliation These show a live birth, a hair transplant, and a chicken processing plant; but all with inoffensive jazz accompaniment.

Clearly filmed on the cheap, both films collect a rambling series of ponderously slow scenes bridged with prim, vaguely tut-tutting narration and bouncy music. One of the few scenes with live audio in Raw is a rather patronizing visit to a Jewish theater. Primitive features musical numbers, along with interviews and a series of odd sketches about a coffee commercial. (Most scenes in both films are obviously staged.)

The films “sensationalize” things like Baccarat, pinball “addiction,” belly dancers, and lots of bland Burlesque. But it turns out that even the management of drug addiction is handled in a polite, orderly manner. Odd moments of hat-blocking, middle-aged ladies at the gym, and a staged Key Party are so mundane they become surreal compliments to all the genteel attempts at salaciousness.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Zucchini Soup

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Garden flooded under area of gutter the cleaners didn't do. Been trying for month for them to fix it. While they finally came out this morning, the Zucchini and Cucumber plants haven't recovered...

Friday, July 13, 2012

Jay's Movie of the Week #28: Worried About The Boy

Traditionally, this is the weekend I go to the Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago, but the budget made that a no go. I'll still be having a great weekend, celebrating my anniversary. But in the spirit of a musical weekend, I found the perfect movie of the week. You never expect a TV movie to be as good as this one is. Reviewed for DVD Snapshot, and a real treat.

Official Synopsis:

George O'Dowd (Douglas Booth) leaves home to join the new fashion movement in London and has his world turned upside down when his dreams of music success become a reality. Now, with all the drugs, love, fashion, and glamour that accompany his celebrity lifestyle, can Boy George really find the happiness he so desperately craves?

Our Take:

I'm not a drug addict, I'm a drag addict.”

When Culture Club released their first album, mainstream England (much less America) wasn't ready
for its gender-bending lead singer, Boy George. Coyly unwilling to hide his sexuality behind his outrageous drag, he was one of the most transgressive celebrities of the Eighties. The songs weren't bad either.

Worried About the Boy tells the story of Boy George's youth up to the band's formation paired with his experience of its disintegration. Moving out of his parents house, he befriends the equally stylish Marilyn and they become part of the fabled 1980 nightclub scene. Success quickly followed once he caught the eye of Malcom McLaren, leading to both super-stardom and a drug habit that ultimately blew the the band apart at their height.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Friday, July 6, 2012

Jay's Movie of the Week #27: The Evictors

Cursed and haunted houses will always be a storytelling staple. Wanting to feel safe where you shelter is a primal instinct, so threatening that is a great way to get under the skin. This 1979 Swamp-saga is essentially part of a "Southern Gothic Documentary Trilogy" including The Legend of Boggy Creek and The Town that Dreaded Sundown by swamp-set B-movie legend Charles B. Pierce. The Evictors is also a little-seen classic that deserves attention.

Set in Northern Louisiana circa 1942, The Evictors focuses on a rural farmhouse with a tragic history. Young marrieds Ruth and Ben Watkins (Jessica Harper and Michael Parks) make an offer on it, ready to start life together in their first home. They're new to town, and the neighbors seem friendly enough, at least until Ruth finds a note in the mailbox that says "I want you to move." Soon enough, the junk man and an eccentric, wheelchair-bound neighbor (Sue Ann Langdon playing 20 years older in a bad wig) are filling her in with important plot exposition about the house's history. There are two sides to every story. On the one hand, unfortunate events happen. On the other, perhaps someone is chasing owners off in the most final way possible? In 1934, the lady of the manor was seemingly kicked in the head by a mule... or did someone make it look that way? When another couple met their fates there in 1939, was it a tragedy of bad wiring, or murder?

Monday, July 2, 2012


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"Psychodots on Fountain Square"

The Psychodots playing Fountain Square on 6/29 - we're starting to think they're making a comeback!