THE ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN MARVEL and Why Everything New is Old

THE ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN MARVEL (1941; directors: William Witney and John English)

Believe it or not, but there was a time when superheroes were considered strictly B-movie fare. No big star would’ve been caught dead in a cape and mask. No major screenwriters or directors would have considered it. The most popular characters from the comics page only made it to the screen in weekly fifteen-minute serial chapters spread across 3-4 months.

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“Heroin, Peppermint-Flavored Heroin”

CHARADE (1963; director Stanley Donen)

A romantic comedy that happens to also have brutal, violent murders in it. Sounds like perfect holiday season comfort food viewing to me.

With these amazing players and director Stanley Donen, there needs to be a major fuck-up somewhere for this to turn out bad—and there is no major fuck-up. I’m not sure if every puzzle piece in the plot fits together, but I can say that I don’t care. There’s too much sparkling dialogue here for one dwell on silly things like that.

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The Only Christmas Album That Matters

Tiny Tim
Tiny Tim’s Christmas Album
1995, Rounder Records

Lesser singers, such as Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Barbra Streisand and Michael Bubbles (or whatever his name is), have tried.

They’ve tried to conjure up a joyous holiday spirit while they wrap their pristine voices around some of the worst songs ever written. They’ve tried to make us feel good. They’ve tried to make us hold our loved ones a little closer. They’ve tried to make us think about Jesus while we’re on our fifth eggnog.

They’ve tried and failed. At least for dirtbags like me who only like Christmas because it’s a day off from work—and shouldn’t us assholes be the REAL judge of what makes great Christmas music?

I think so. And you can trust me. I’ve only had three martinis tonight.

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Quick Takes: PRIDE OF THE BIMBOS

John Sayles
Pride of the Bimbos
Little, Brown, 1975

I’m not a fan of baseball so if I’m going to read a book about it, it helps if the main character is a dwarf who used to be a private detective and is now in hiding from someone who wants to kill him so he joins a baseball team who play in drag as a novelty act on the small town carnival circuit. That spices things up a bit. This is a novel about hating life though, not loving a game. Its characters are all grotesques worthy of Flannery O’Connor and whose alcoholic, dysfunctional presences could wilt flowers from ten feet away. It’s a tall glass of bleakness, but John Sayles knows humor when he sees it. He just usually finds it on the gallows. Sayles makes a comedy act (the drag baseball team) depressing and makes a humorless beast (the killer out to put a bullet in our dwarf’s head) funny as he has his own misadventures with bizarre characters and a car with serious radiator problems as he speeds through the rural American south on a murder mission. What makes it great is that Sayles loves all of these people, even the bad guy. He inhabits each of their psyches and spends time in the dark corners. He tells us things about these characters that they probably don’t tell anybody. If he doesn’t excuse them, he at least explains them. When you close the book, you’ve got their germs all over you.

The Internet’s Very First Review of THE LAST JEDI

STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI (2017; director Rian Johnson)

Here’s the kind of Star Wars fan I am: A few short months ago, I was talking with a co-worker about our mutual enjoyment of the series, up to and including the latest movies, and then this person asks me “So, what do you think is really going on with Snoke?”

I had no idea what he was talking about.

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I LIKE THE STAR WARS PREQUELS #1: The Fandom Menaced

STAR WARS EPISODE I: THE PHANTOM MENACE (1999; director: George Lucas)

Under George Lucas, Star Wars is not for the geeks, no matter how fiercely they claim it. When this film was released in 1999, series creator Lucas was 55 years old and did NOT relate to grown men with sealed action figure collections and beer bellies packed into Darth Vader T-shirts. He doesn’t know why they’re here. He can’t explain them. He’s too rich to need them. He doesn’t seem to like them (and I can’t say that I blame him).

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WONDER WHEEL

WONDER WHEEL (2017; director: Woody Allen)

Woody Allen’s sense of tragedy is relentless, traditional, bears a powerful whiff of the theater stage and is as unfashionable as could be expected from an 82-year-old writer/director who’s been criticized for his hermetic approach for decades—and it’s only gotten more extreme as he’s aged.

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A Laurel & Hardy Party #1: “Unaccustomed as We Are”

My Christmas gift to myself in 2016 was the Laurel & Hardy Essential Collection 10-DVD box set.

Christmas 2017, I’m finally watching it because that’s how I roll: Slowly, forgetfully and focused on things that no one cares about it.  I intend to write about EVERYTHING on this monster, even if one of the special features turns out to be a ninety-minute interview with Stan Laurel’s dentist. I will be here to report.

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Twin Peaks Season 3 Soundtrack Albums Part II: Screaming on Your Knees at the Roadhouse

One of many refreshing left turns in the Twin Peaks revival is its disinterest in traditional television cliffhangers. Episodes end with dangling questions galore and turning points left up in the air, but David Lynch never gives us a hard cut to credits after a gunshot in the night. Instead he often goes out on a song, a “live” performance on stage in the long-standing Roadhouse. Like Mr. Rogers changing his shoes and jacket, the moment the neon bar sign hits the screen, you know the show is almost over. What young band in Lynch’s iTunes is playing this week?

Far from superfluous though, these scenes have two powerful effects on the series:

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Twin Peaks Season 3 Soundtrack Albums Part I: Angelo & Friends

Composer Angelo Badalamenti was the Great Missing Man For the first few hours of Twin Peaks season 3.

It began almost eerily quiet. There was the typically meticulous David Lynch sound design, but there was nothing like the nearly wall-to-wall jazzy snap and shuffle of the old series. Still, it made sense. This was a world slipping back into its skin and feeling its way through the dark. Characters we hadn’t seen in twenty-six years were in no rush to open up to us about where they’d been all this time (except for Lucy and Andy). It was mystery on top of mystery on top of mystery, right from the first scene.

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