Monthly Archives: October 2009

Day 53: MST3K: Boggy Creek II (1999)

This is unfortunately not one of the many episodes of MST3K you can watch uninterrupted on Google Video.  You can, however, watch it in ten-minute segments, if you’re into that sort of thing (this is the first one), and I recommend that you do, especially if  you like making fun of bad monster movies and/or Southerners (this movie was shot on location in backwoods Arkansas, and well may you ask why).

Day 52: The Paleface (1945)

Remember those corn-pone Westerns I talked about?  This is one of them.

Which is not to say I didn’t like it.  Jane Russell is sassy and hot-hot-hot, and Bob Hope does his Bob Hope thing, which is pretty entertaining if you’re in the mood for it (I grew up on those “Road to” movies with him and Bing Crosby and Dorothy Lamour, so my Bob Hope tolerance is pretty high).  Jane Russell plays Calamity Jane, who’s on an undercover mission to steal guns from the Indians or something (and yes, the Indians are depressingly stereotypical).  So she pretends to be the demure wife of wussy Bob Hope and lets him take all the credit for her sharpshooting exploits.  The plot’s nothing revolutionary, but Jane Russell’s surliness is a nice foil for the slapsticky glad-hander Bob Hope always seems to play.  I also appreciate it that the movie’s writers didn’t feel it necessary to take all the piss out of Calamity Jane in order to let her hook it up with Bob Hope.  Lots of movies with sassy female protagonists, especially ones from this time period, only let their heroines wed after their sassiness has been neutralized somehow, and that’s what I was expecting from this one all the way through; but I was pleasantly surprised.

Days 50-51: Dexter: Season 3, Discs 3-4 (2008)

More thoughts on the greatness that is Dexter: it’s also a fantastic example of how to maintain dramatic tension over the course of several seasons’ worth of TV while still giving some degree of resolution with the end of each episode and each season.  I feel like dramatic TV presents a unique plotting challenge that you wouldn’t really encounter when writing a feature film or a sitcom.  In the former, you have a big problem that gets resolved after two hours and usually changes everything for the protagonist; and in the latter, you have a humorous or unique situation that results in lots of little conflicts that always get resolved after half an hour but never really change the situation materially.  Dramatic TV is weird because the situation has to constantly evolve in order to stay interesting, but it still has to be recognizable as the show it started out as.  And Dexter is especially weird as a dramatic protagonist since life is basically working for him when the show starts out.  When you’re a trained serial killer whose biggest problem is not getting caught, there aren’t too many problems you can’t solve by doing what you do best.  So I’m really impressed at the way the show’s writers have been able to move the story along and introduce new conflicts whose resolution isn’t totally obvious from the outset.  Well played.

Day 49: Space Ghost Coast to Coast: Season 1, Disc 1 (1994)

OK, OK, so I got a little nostalgic for my teenage years.

Y’all remember this little bit of mid-90s weirdness, right? (I’m going to assume you all said “yes”)  If so, you’ll remember that it tended to run the whole gamut from dumb to convulsion-inducing hilarity, depending mostly on the guest.  Surprisingly (or not), the funnier guests tended to make for the lamest interview subjects, especially the B-list mid-90s comedians who went on to fame and fortune total anonymity.  The Ramones were hilarious.  Schoolly D was hilarious.  Weird Al was surprisingly self-effacing.  But the crown jewel of this disc, such as it is, is the episode in which Space Ghost interviews two former Catwomen and a Batman, and Zorak transforms into Batmantis.  As a whole, it’s hit or miss, but good for some mindless reminiscing, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Days 47-48: Dexter: Season 3, Discs 1-2 (2008)

Some thoughts on Dexter, in no particular order:

  • I’m a big fan of the current trend of adapting a single book into an entire season’s worth of TV shows.  Adapting a novel into a two-hour movie sometimes works and just as often doesn’t, but it’s always fraught with the same problem: what to cut out.  When you have thirteen hours of TV to fill up, the problem becomes where to add more; and if your source material is as awesome as Darkly Dreaming Dexter, that’s a great problem to have.
  • I will never get tired of looking at Michael C. Hall.  You know, because he’s such a good actor.
  • Julie Benz, on the other hand, gets on my nerves so much that I was actually surprised her character (Dexter’s breathy homebody girlfriend Rita) even made it to Season Two.

That’s all for now — gotta save some for my post about discs 3-4.  I don’t have cable, so please keep your thoughts about Season 4 to yourselves.

Day 46: SNL: Best of Chris Kattan (2004)

In case you’re wondering, I’ve been attempting to remedy my near-total ignorance of SNL at the encouragement of msnowe, who’s a lifelong fan.  This is the third of the “Best of” series I’ve watched and I’ve enjoyed all of them, but I’ve heard complaints from other hardcore fans about which sketches they chose to include and which ones they left out.  So I’ve concluded that they’re good for educating or re-educating yourself about the SNL canon, but they’ll probably leave out your favorite bits if you’re enough of a fan to have favorite SNL bits.

Um, and the Mango/Garth Brooks sketch?  Genius.

Day 45: The Magnificent Seven (1960)

You have to admire anyone who takes on the task of updating Kurosawa for the 1960s American moviegoing audience, or at least I do.

To be honest, it’s been several years since I (rather sleepily) watched Seven Samurai, so I can’t speak to the faithfulness or lack thereof of this adaptation.  But it’s worth keeping in mind that this is a remake of a movie that comes from a totally different cultural climate, if for no other reason than that it goes some way towards explaining the dark undertones in what would otherwise be a standard corn-pone American Western.

High points:

  • Steve McQueen in chaps
  • Yul Brynner being a “badass,” according to the Netflix sleeve
  • awesome dialogue, some of which came straight from Seven Samurai (in translation, of course)
  • Eli Wallach as the hilariously evil villain

Low points:

  • Most of the Anglo-Saxon actors playing Mexican or mixed-ethnicity characters are OK by me, but Horst Buchholz as the renegade son of a campesino is super annoying.  I’ll give him a pass on his unplaceable accent since he was German in real life, but his Broadway-chorus-esque scenery chewing gets old fast.
  • Even making allowances for early Sixties political incorrectness, it’s still hard to get past the portrayal of the Mexican townspeople as uniformly kindhearted and simple-minded.  It’s not even so much offensive as boring.  Why bother to put them in the movie if they’re just going to do what everyone assumes generic Latin American peasants would do in a similar situation?

In short, I had some minor gripes but otherwise enjoyed this one thoroughly.