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?

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Mini reviews from my iPhone?

I've been watching more movies again recently. And I keep thinking about picking up this blog again and writing about the movies I see, but it is so hard to find the time and mental clarity to do anything when you're a full-time mom. I think J.K. Rowling must have had a secret nanny or something. Anyway... I'm probably going to be giving up tech for a while soon, but until then, I thought, maybe I could write a few mini reviews from my iPhone.

We'll see!

I was about to write a couple now but I suddenly can't keep my eyes open. Baby steps I guess. Watch this spot for some possible mini reviews in the near future.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Book review: Alex & Me

It's difficult these days to make it through an entire movie, so although I made these great proclamations about restarting this blog, I realized that would be near impossible since my littluns don't allow me to sit for 1.5 hours undisturbed until they go to bed.  By then I'm so completely wiped out I have trouble making it through a TV episode without falling asleep, let alone a feature-length film.  But it's easier to get through a book in bits and pieces, as long as I can read it on my iPhone, because it's difficult to hold a book and a baby at the same time, and three year olds love to pull bookmarks out of real books.  So I thought, in the absence of movie reviews, I'd post this book review that I just put up on Goodreads.  Enjoy!

Alex & Me: How a Scientist and a Parrot Discovered a Hidden World of Animal Intelligence--and Formed a Deep Bond in the Process Alex & Me: How a Scientist and a Parrot Discovered a Hidden World of Animal Intelligence--and Formed a Deep Bond in the Process by Irene M. Pepperberg

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I came to this book after hearing Pepperberg's account of the story on The Moth podcast. She had me laughing with her fascinating story of this quirky and remarkable bird. At the end of the story, I was so caught up in it, I was moved to tears. I had to learn more. I heard about the book and immediately bought it on Kindle for iPhone.

This book is a quick and easy read. The anecdotes she tells about this bird will amaze you. But that's really what this book is: a collection of anecdotes. You could almost begin every other page with "This one time, Alex... ." I had hoped for more depth, and more science. Apparently she has another book which talks about the science of it all. But there's a disctinct absense of it here and this book could have benefitted from the inclusions of what exactly they did in those labs for all those years and how they learned what they learned from Alex, in layman's terms of course. It's almost as if, frustrated that she couldn't include these anecdotes in her scientific writings, she wrote a memoir so that she could finally tell the world about what Alex was really like. I just didn't feel like, by the end of it, I understood what he was really like. Or her for that matter. With the exception of how she came to be interested in birds, and how she felt after Alex's death, I didn't get a good sense of who she was.

Alex & Me also suffers from Pepperberg's decision to begin the book with Alex's death and the world's reaction to it. The reader doesn't have a connection to Alex yet, so it doesn't impact us the way she hopes. Besides, backtracking from the end doesn't make sense here. The reason to begin a story with its end is either so that we can hold this ending in our head throughout and it will somehow give us greater understanding through the rest of the book, or to intrigue us with some great mystery that will draw us into and carry us through the revelation of that mystery. Knowing about the loss people felt over Alex before we understand anything about Alex doesn't inform us more about his life. Instead it annoys us. I was saying in my head as I read, "Okay, okay lady. Get to the bird! Tell us what he did that was so special! Tell us how you taught him!" I found myself so impatient by the end of that section that when the next section began with Pepperberg's early life and how she developed her interest for birds, despite its relevance to the story, I was practically yelling at the book, "Oh! Come on!! The bird!!!"

In her version on The Moth, Pepperberg's telling was chronological and I think it truly benefitted from that. By the end of it, I understood why his loss would be felt so greatly, and then condolences she received became truly moving.

Also, Pepperberg has a tendency to repeat phrases like "bird brain" a few too many times. I really felt it was drilled into my head over and over (and over and OVER) that the world has it so wrong when we use the term "bird brain" as an insult. Not only does it make me feel like she doesn't think I'm smart enough to make the connection myself, but it makes the book feel frustratingly repetitive.

Having said all that, I still enjoyed the read. Yes, I didn't enjoy it as much as I could have, but the content is so astounding that it should hold the interest of almost anyone, despite by its unfortunate telling. Even if I don't think Pepperberg is a gifted writer, I do think she is a scientific genius for instinctively knowing how to teach true language to birds, bold to do it despite the scientific world's bias against the idea, and strong to have kept at it for all these years even when funding and support wasn't there.

View all my reviews >>

Thursday, January 21, 2010

You're Karate Kidding Me!

When I first read about the Karate Kid remake, my only thought was, "Say it ain't so!"  I don't think I will EVER understand Hollywood's need to remake everything.  And seriously?  Jackie Chan as Miyagi and Will Smith's kid as Daniel, I mean, excuse me... Dre.  Come on!  What's he, like 10?  Isn't he a bit young to come of age?

Then I saw the trailer.

Oh brother.  Why must Hollywood take itself so seriously these days?  And when you take yourself seriously you better avoid some cliches, but this has cliches all over it.  The pouty kid from the ghetto who gets a tough teacher that inspires him?  The fish out of water?  Training on the Great Wall of China?

And speaking of China, what the heck are we doing there?  Karate & Miyagi are both from Japan.  And from what I'm reading, they're not even doing Karate, they're doing Kung Fu!  Huh?  The title is pretty specific about which martial art it is that this kid practices.

Hollywood, stop recycling!  We still have the original and, cheesy though it may be, many of us still enjoy it.  Get some original material!  And by original material, I don't mean checking out the foreign language section of Netflix for ideas either.  It's on film, it's been done, and doesn't need redoing!

Cheesiest Movie Quotes

I don't agree with them all.  But there are a few good ones in here.
Warning!  The language is uncensored!


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