Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Sick on the couch review: Blue Hawaii

Another day sick on the couch. Another cranky day watching movies.  You may have to forgive my tone. It's been so long since the last time I saw Blue Hawaii (Taurog, 1961), I think I was younger then than Elvis is in the movie, maybe even younger than the school girl crushing on him. Now I'm older than Angela Lansbury who plays his mom at only 10 years his senior.

Older than naggy Angela Lansbury... I thought Hubs and I being the same ages as Dianne Wiest and John Lithgow in Footloose was bad. You can't rebel against the stuffy old farts anymore if you belong to the same club. Can you? Well I don't really belong to their club anyway. I'm not stuffy, I'm fabulous at 36. And furthermore, my kids can have a high school dance if they want, and even become tour guides instead of working in the family pineapple business! I'm a cool mom like that. But I think they should grow up first.  Preschool is kind of young for being a tour guide. 

I think I used to like Blue Hawaii. What a different movie it is to me now. A film degree, a family, a bunch of baggage and a chronic illness later and... It's ridiculous.

Remember how charming Elvis is in this movie? Well if you're like me, then your memory won't match reality so let me walk you through it anyway... When we first see him, he's kissing a stewardess (we're not in the age of flight attendants yet) and he's doing this in front of the girl he's returning home to after two years away in the army. He giggles about making her jealous. She only barely seems to mind. The girl I mean, the stewardess is naturally thrilled. No, his girl is fine, after he corrects her mild upset with one of his magical kisses, of course. I wish I had magical kisses. I would have to be careful though!  Just think of the evil that could result if that kind of power made it into the wrong... er... lips.

Anyway... They're on the way home from the airport, and she asks what he's been doing for two years while she's been pining and waiting for him. Perfect time for a song! Being Elvis Presley, he just so happens to have one ready for just this occasion. It's about being faithful *most* of the time he's been gone... Oh no, stop that thought right there! Just wait a minute... It's not subtly buried in the lyrics. I'm not twisting words around or doing in-depth analysis to find that meaning. Really. The chorus goes like this: "I was always, I was always, well... I was *almost* always true to you." Almost always? Oh you!

Damn catchy song though. I caught myself singing it as I made a sandwich in the kitchen just now. I think I'll sing it to the Hubs when he gets home. Babe, I've been *almost* always true to you in the years we've been married. Except those other times, but they're in the minority so they don't count. But most of the time I've been so true to you! I'm charming you right now, aren't I? Despite yourself, admit it! You love me. Wait, where are you going?

Then... is it just me or are most of the ethnic Hawaiians in Blue Hawaii actually Latin? Well, brown people are all interchangeable after all. Their music is too apparently. I won't even get into race in the movie in general. Well maybe a little bit.  There's just enough of a mixture here in the extras and bit parts to adorn the movie with the appropriate amount of Hawaiianness.  And as far as Latins portraying indigenous Hawaiians and playing Caribbean-style music on ukuleles and bongos goes, on a scale of Breakfast at Tiffany's to... I don't know, what's the perfect depiction of race in a white-centered movie? Well anyway we're definitely several notches up here from Mickey Rooney's ghastly Mr. Yunioshi. Not because their skin colors are similar, but because their race and culture are not being made a mockery of.  No, the only caricatures we see in Blue Hawaii are of an overbearing southern mother (Lansbury, ugh! That voice!) and the buffoonish Mr. Magoo type that Elvis goes to work for at a travel agency. Yep only white idiots here. And actually though there's a little exoticism going on, and a lack of diversity in roles that matter, the indigenous are the only people Elvis wants to hang out and have fun with aside from his girl friend, who is supposedly part Hawaiian too. All you need is dark hair and a flower in your hair to pull that off, right?


I wish I could speak with more certainty on the race issue but, you know, IMDB is woefully lacking in detailed information on the race, ethnicity and heritage of actors. I found this out when I was researching whether or not Dexter used *any* Cuban-American actors on the show. Dexter is one of my all-time favorite shows, but it's supposed to be set in Miami and Miami is full of Cuban culture. Cubans are not Mexicans are not Puerto Ricans. They're also not Hawaiians. So while I'd like to be able to report the ratio of Latin to truly indigenous Hawaiian, I can't. All I have is my gut and a couple of suspect names on the cast list. I'd love to hear from some Hawaiians on this if they're out there. You know, if anyone is reading this. 

Moving on... Elvis is starting his new job as a tour guide and now there's an "older" woman who may or may not have her eye on him. A school teacher. And by older I mean 18 months older than Elvis, because if you're a woman over 23, you're a marm.  Marms can have fun too though. And this marm is looking for love.

Elvis's girl: "of course if you'd prefer another guide I'm sure the office could arrange it for you, we like to keep our customers perfectly satisfied."
School marm looking at Elvis and apparently unaware of her own innuendo: "what do you think Mr. Gage? Do you think you can satisfy a school teacher and four teenage girls?"
Elvis, in his best dopey impersonation of Goofy: "Uh... I don't know! I'll sure try!"

Naturally everyone from the teenagers to the marm throws themselves at him. He's beating them off with a stick. Literally. Ok not with a stick, just with his hand because then it's ok.  He throws the 17 (20) year old over his lap and spanks her to tears. That's cool, he's 20-25... I don't know, how old is someone coming home from 2 years in the army?  Anyway he's totally the fatherly type in the movie obviously and beating kids (or barely legal hot chicks who are actually grown women in real life) is totally cool to keep them in line.  Also cool?  Forcing a woman to dance and generally believing you know what she wants better than she does. She's a sour puss anyway, you know how to set her right. You know how to set all women right. Except your mom. She's hopeless. Well she's a woman over 40 (30), so naturally she's unreasonable and obnoxious and controlling... And hopelessly out of touch with youth. Even her husband (who looks about twice her age) points that out to her.  Because he gets it. He's a man. Even as men get older they stay in touch with youth.  Apparently through their continued connection to underage girls. Did I mention the middle-aged man at the bar who hit on the 17 year old in front of his smiling wife? Is this a movie about swingers too? No? Blech. I'm going to put on some Doctor Who.

But before I go, how do we get our culture to ditch men's saggy big board shorts and wear these hot little swim trunks Elvis and his beach buddies wear? Come on! It's been eight years since Daniel Craig emerged from the ocean in those sexy James Bond trunks. What is taking so long?

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