Pop Culture Blind Spot: Teen Witch

It’s October, and I am continuing to tackle my Halloween movie pop culture blind spots. As a person who loves Halloween but hates to be scared, it’s a chore. A neat trick I learned with Teen Wolf is that if a movie has the word “teen” in the title, it’s probably not that scary … and with that, I delve into Teen Witch.

What I Think It’s About: An ’80s teen learns that she’s a witch, like in Halloweentown or Twitches or Worst Witch or Harry Potter. She raps at a mean boy. That part, I HAVE seen.

Hulu short description: A high school student who is a descendant of bona fide Salem witches uses her magic to snag a football star as a boyfriend.

Okay, I’ve mentioned before how far down the Salem Witch documentary/podcast/google hole I’ve fallen, so this sounds pretty cool. Except for the second half, anyway – even a dopey teen has better uses for magic powers than “snagging a football star as a boyfriend.”

The movie opens with 80s sexy smooth jazz saxophone, which I hate. Two teens hang out in blue lighting on a rooftop. The first FOUR minutes look like any generic music video of 1989. It’s just a dream, we learn as Teen Witch wakes up in her Laura Ashley bedroom.

Also my bedroom style c. 1989 – 1999.

The family all sits around the breakfast table at the same time, being formal at each other.

Teen Witch’s best friend has dark hair and is 100% the person I thought was the Teen Witch based on the rap clip I’ve seen.

Anyway, Teen Witch (Louise) and Best Friend (Polly) wear those oversized, menswear, Annie Hall-type 80s clothes, which I find really underrepresented in the 80s-inspired fashion universe.

Cute look!

Teens just rap in the hallways. White boys. They’re dressed like the Uptown Funk video, or more accurately, the Uptown Funk video is dressed like them.

The cheerleaders sing and dance ‘I Like Boys’ in the locker room. THIS IS A MUSICAL?! This is a musical! I didn’t know.

I have so many things to say about the I Like Boys sequence, none of them probably search engine-friendly. You don’t strictly see anyone singing it, they just sort of prance in the locker room, having antics. As gals do, while telling you over and over that they like boys.

I probably don’t have to say this, but the ’80s teen hunk Louise is obsessed with is named Brad.

Louise goes to a creepy unpainted Victorian house to see someone named Madame Serena. The Victorian House trope is always interesting to me. By, say, the 1950s an 1890s Queen Ann Victorian was already known as a creepy witch/ ghost house. But in 2017, a house the same amount old (built in the 1950s) isn’t considered creepy. Our scary movies don’t involve a foreboding ranch house.

Madame Serena is a small psychic woman with a high voice, like in Poltergeist. She refers to Louise’s “cute little Punky Brewster face.” Ha.

Is Louise’s little brother going to turn into a rat ever? I feel like that happens in a lot of these kinds of movies.

Casting breakdown: Twerpy Younger Brother Who Gets Turned Into A Rat

An elderly health teacher has the kids chant ‘condom,’ which probably doesn’t happen in public schools? Or does it??

I think the only thing in the school’s soda machine is regular Coke.

Louise’s vest from her mom is “dorky” but with 28 years’ perspective, it doesn’t look any worse than anyone else’s outfits. Her dad has a big poinsettia sweater.

Wait but the nerd assuming Louise wears glasses, when she does not, is my whole life. Does this happen to everybody?

The nerd boy just looks like a hipster.

He’d be the hot friend on a CW series today.

“You think you’re hot stuff because you went to a dance. Nobody wants to date you because you’re a dog.. a dog… a dog!” That’s what kid brother says in that wavery scary voice before he TURNS INTO A DOG. I know I said rat before but I feel like I was close.

There’s a witch yearbook – “new faces of 1632” – and I choose to find it unrealistic that (1) they’re photographs and (2) not in 1600s-style clothing. The witch part is fine. Louise and Madame Serena are both in there. Does that mean all witches are reincarnated? Or they’re both 400 years old but went dormant and lost their memories for a while? I have questions.

Surely you all realized this already, but Madame Serena IS the actress from Poltergeist! I haven’t seen it since I was 7, but I was so certain it was her I had to IMDB it. What a very specific role to be typecast in.

It’s been almost an hour but I just realized that the character breakdown for Louise was absolutely “Molly Ringwald type.”

Louise has gone full witch, with love spells and a poppet.

Anyway, Louise voodoo poppets her awful English (?) teacher, a man whose classroom includes some weird stage with a desk and bookshelves on it, and who openly torments Louise every class. She makes him strip. ‘S funny.

Mean Teacher gets poppetted through a carwash on foot while the song “All Washed Up” plays, but the beginning of it sounds so much like Bad Romance. So much!

Ladies and gentlemen, the moment we’ve ALL been waiting for:

I thought there would be more context but, no. Also how I said it was a musical earlier? There was really just the locker room I Like Boys scene, then this. It’s like if I dreamed a kind-of musical about a Teen Witch, and an hour into the dream I realized I forgot to do songs.

Polly’s my favorite. It didn’t sound like the guy’s voice was coming from him?

Louise gets an ’80s perm, AKA she looks exactly like me if I air dry my hair, and a tapestry vest and a flouncy skirt. Hot stuff, indeed. She’s like Tiffany now. There’s a montage and all her outfits are super cute now.

It’s just Grease with witches, isn’t it?

The Sexy Sexy Saxophones are back, but this time Louise isn’t dreaming. She kisses Football Brad near a plaster-and-lathe wall.

Louise accidentally (?) magics the lead of the school play into breaking her leg, thus getting the lead role. I just thought witches had more control over their magic? Like with spells and wands. Louise is running this operation on poppets and hormones.

I’ve been checking how long there is left every 15 minutes or so.

Never have I ever seen a school dance scene that felt like it was the appropriate length. Like real school dances, it just goes on and on and on with very little happening.

In 1989, the bigger your hair was, the lovelier you were. Must have been nice to have such a clear formula.

I thought we’d get more clarification on the popularity-doesn’t-matter thing, but like Grease the messaging is not all that great.

To that end: the closing theme is “I’m gonna be the most popular girl. Gonna change my hair and makeup, soon you’re gonna see…”. There was nothing spooky in this whole movie – it was way too un-scary, actually – but this theme song would be PERFECT playing at the end of a dark, Black Mirror-y study of popularity at all costs.

Takeaway: I really like a lot of kiddie ‘scary’ movies, and I think witches are the coolest thing ever, but this didn’t 100% do it for me. Judging by my love for Hocus Pocus, I probably WOULD have liked this if I watched it first as a kid, though. It’s almost like it needed to be more witchy, or at least for the witch to have a more interesting objective than Football Brad.

 

EDIT: It’s been like 3/4 of a day since I watched Teen Witch and I find myself liking it more and more. Maybe it’s magic after all.

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Pop Culture Blind Spot: Teen Wolf (1985)

Welcome back to the spookiest month of pop culture blind spots! (October. The spookiest month is October). I started us off with The Shining, one of the most iconic horror movies of all time, so I don’t feel bad for dialing it way, way back this time and watching Teen Wolf.

What I think Teen Wolf is about: Michael J. Fox plays a teenage basketball player who discovers that he is a werewolf; he has to hide it from his friends and from the requisite 80s movie cute blonde girl; in the end she’s fine with it or maybe is a werewolf herself.

Hulu short description: A teenage boy’s incredible werewolf powers improve the quality of his life in dramatic and hilarious ways.

Look, if the grossest thing we see this whole movie is the sweaty teen face close-up we open on, it will be gross enough.

Michael J. Fox (Scott) goes into his coach’s office, mentions that he is “changing,” coach apologizes for not noticing but says he hasn’t been in the locker room much. A few things:

  1. APOLOGIZES FOR NOT NOTICING BUT HASN’T BEEN IN THE LOCKER ROOM MUCH
  2. I think it’s fine and actually v good if adults don’t notice teens’ puberty stuff
  3. In locker room situations, didn’t you always assume that nobody was really looking at you? Well you were wrong.

Everything is exactly as it should be in ’80s teen movie land: Scott has a Brunette Platonic Friend(TM) and a Blonde Crush. He works at a folksy, cluttered hardware store. The school’s theater director wears a turtleneck and a tweed blazer. Blonde Crush Pamela has a tough-guy boyfriend in double denim.

Honestly this is the whole thing in one photo.

Scott demands a keg at the liquor store, his eyes glowing red which is an early werewolf thing.

The one thing most 2010s depictions of the 80s are lacking: the intensely feathered and permed bangs that are all over the place in this teen party scene.

Peep the young Andy Samberg lookalike.

Does Scott have a mom? Single-parent households were the thing in 80s movies.

Importantly, Scott grows fangs and nasty thick nails before morphing into a full fur-face; more importantly, the green tiled bathroom was out of style for so long that it’s in again. I’d love that bathroom.

Scott is the only person, other than me, who says “jeez Louise” in moments of stress and panic.

There was a D.P. who was REALLY feeling this downward ceiling-shot in the bathroom.

Post-werewolf Dad (Dad’s also a werewolf BTW) looks so much like Jim-Bob Duggar.

Not sure if it’s the sound mix on Hulu or the sound cues in general, but the background music is so jerky and loud, bad and jarring. No shade to the music supervisor: it was the style of the time.

There is some very extra-casual use of f*g and I thank my lucky stars that it is 2017, not 1985. I only hope that 32 years from now, people are horrified by the things we say in movies today, too.

Everyone in the school is very cool about wolf-Scott. (SCOTT WOLF! Would have been a relevant thing to say 15 years ago.) Scott’s dad understands. There is basically zero conflict at this point in the film, except for a vice principal. Come to think of it, Scott’s friend Stiles was significantly nastier when he thought Scott was maybe-gay than when he thought he was definitely-wolf.

Platonic Brunette gives Blonde Crush a t-shirt, which is “too big for me.” Shade.

Season 1 Joey Potter-level sass.

The theater director is now in a cowl-neck with seemingly no shirt underneath, which is itchy and sweaty.

Pam & Scooter hang out backstage, where she is just in a bra and underwear, but it’s 1985 so like, white granny panties and a plain white bra. They hook up. She seems to really, really want him to turn into a wolf, which I mean, if that’s what you’re into it’s fine.

Scott calls his teammate “chubby” and “chubaroo,” and you’d think a wolf-teen would be more cool about other people’s body situations.

Scott thinks he’s hot stuff because he goes to a school dance in wolf mode.

I don’t know if I’m more confused as to why vice principal and Blonde Crush’s boyfriend hate werewolves so much, or why literally everybody else is so nonchalant about werewolves.

The only time I like a sports montage is when the movie description includes the phrase “rag-tag misfits.”

The twinkly, inspirational song that ends the basketball game! Oh my goodness. It’s like the same song that plays at the end of every 1980s to early ’90s teen movie. The entire ending sequence is all b-ball, no wolves, BTW.

That’s the end of it – they win a ball game.

One thing I forgot to mention is that Platonic Brunette’s name is Boof. I kept thinking it was a nickname for something that I missed (Lisa, per the internet), but the end credits confirm. Boof.

Pop Culture Blind Spot: The Shining

To begin with our standard Pop Culture Blind Spot apology/non-apology: yes, The Shining is a classic and no, I haven’t seen it. As a little kid I would challenge myself to watch scary movies, only to find myself haunted by them for months after. [Poltergeist, I’m looking at you.] At some point I questioned why I was doing that to myself and massively slashed back on my horror viewing. As a result, I’ve never seen some cult favorites: like The Shining, or Stephen King’s The Shining if you’re nasty. Between now and Halloween, I plan to dive into some of these spooky favorites – so watch this space.

What I think The Shining about: Jack Nicholson plays a writer who takes his family to a remote, haunted hotel until he snaps because of hotel-ghosts and tries to kill them all. Also, twins.

Netflix short description: A distant father roams an empty, maze-like hotel thick with dread. Something awful awaits in room 237.

First thing I notice: The Shining is shot, preserved, and/or remastered beautifully for a 1980 film. You know how a lot of movies from that era look sort of orange and grainy? In the scene with Jack’s son and wife (Shelly Duvall) it truly feels like I could walk into through the screen and into their apartment. As I said, Poltergeist did some things to my brain. But really, it’s like early 80s time travel, with all these nicely layered set details.

It’s so weird to hear the distinctive Jack Nicholson voice coming out of such a young face.

Jack agrees to the hotel deal and learns another guy who did the same thing went crazy and killed his family with an axe. Cool cool cool cool.

My first reason I don’t really trust Jack is that they have stack and stacks of paperbacks piled around their TV. Get another bookshelf.

Little Danny converses with himself in a mirror, which I hate. Then a flood of blood pours out of elevators, which I also hate. Then you see the scary twins, who I sort of thought would show up way later?

Backstory: Jack drank too much, got angry at Little Danny, and injured his arm 5 months ago. Since then he has stopped drinking… OR HAS HE?! OR WILL HE?! I don’t know, just trying to drum up some horror-appropriate suspense here.

Danny stands the eff up in the backseat of the car, and that is the most 1980 thing I have seen in the first 20 minutes of this film.

Oh, so those twins are just gonna keep showing up, huh.

There’s a hedge maze, but I’m going to stop them because nobody does hedge mazes better than My Dad Wrote A Porno.

Danny befriends Dick Hallorann, a chef who knows far too much and thus is surely a ghost or ghost-whisperer. Also Danny will not shut up about Tony, the ghost who live in his mouth.

The worst part of watching an iconic horror film is that your tension during dramatic moments starts way too early because you know too much. When Danny rides his trike around the hotel, I know from the first second that it’s definitely A Thing.

We watch part of a scene through a mirror, so Jack’s T-shirt writing is backwards. It’s so hard to tell what’s foreshadowing and what’s A Choice, because as a rule when I watch horror movies I assume everything’s foreshadowing.

Jack starts to act like a REAL DICK when Shelley Duvall stops in to say hey, so he’s already full of hotel ghosts.

Oh no, the twins.

To expand: the twins talk like a child Queen Elizabeth, or possibly like that old-time movie accent people used to have. Then Danny’s vision cuts to the girls dismembered.

Wait, shouldn’t Danny be going to school …? He spends 100% of his time riding a tricycle and getting haunted.

That damn mirror is back, along with Jack staring blankly into it before being creepy at his child for a while. Are we double-sure the overall problem isn’t actually that Jack’s a POS?

Oh, Danny has a great sweater:

And Wendy has a great overalls dress:

Danny has a bruised neck and Wendy deduces that a blank-faced Jack did it. Wait, is this whole thing an allegory for abuse?

A tuxedoed bartender shows up at the hotel bar just when Jack needs him most. Again, this dirtbag was supposed to quit drinking months ago. I still can’t decide if all the hotel people are ghost or if ghosts just live there alongside the people.

Shoutout to this film’s rug artist, and all the rug artists inspired by this film:

Jack gets chased by a decaying ghost-woman, which is honestly his comeuppance for being all “hehe, boobs” when he sees her in the bath instead of wondering what she was doing in the hotel.

Jack temporarily redeems himself by not being the person who choked Danny, then un-redeems himself by saying Danny did it himself. Also maybe I’m projecting, but it feels a lot like Danny has undiagnosed epilepsy that his parents should deal with.

There’s a ghost ’20s party going on in the house and Jack invites himself. You know what? Usually in horror movies I get annoyed with the people who go straight into clear peril, but I’d invite myself to a ghastly Gatsby party too.

[I do realize that Jack’s non-reaction to this scenario means his brain’s broke and we shouldn’t be holding him accountable for being a dirtbag, but isn’t it possible that Jack’s haunted/possessed AND a dirtbag?]

Anyone else find the blindingly red bathroom almost as creepy as the fact that Jack’s hanging out there with Mr. Grady, a deceased man who obliterated his family?

Danny starts using the funny creaky voice my littlest niece and I like to talk to each other in, and I can’t stop laughing. It’s supposed to be scary, I guess.

Dick Halloran hangs out in an airplane that, in true ’70s fashion, has seats that are about 3 feet wide.

There’s a lot of snow, and maybe this is just me being from a super-snowy city, but we’ve seen their stocked pantry and know the family doesn’t have anywhere to go (ahem, school). So I feel like it shouldn’t be a big deal?

I just googled Danny Lloyd (Danny) and found out they filmed the whole movie without him ever realizing it was a horror film. I love that so much! Stanley Kubric, ladies and gents. Legend for a reason.

We’ve now ticked off the following classic scenes: twins, redrum and All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. It’s been fun seeing them come up, but nothing has really shaken me yet because I knew more about this movie than I realized.

Shout-out to Jack Nicholson: the scene after Jack finds Wendy reading the manuscript is some of the best creepy-movie, sinister acting I’ve seen, ever. There’s no gore or jump scares or anything, yet it’s the most harrowing moment of the whole thing.

Danny says redrum (AKA murder backwards) near that mirror. Good work, Stephen King’s The Shining. I like your foreshadowing.

Mhmm, so everything from when Jack gets an ax through the end is edge-of-your-seat chilling. I love how the first maybe 2/3 of the movie are only slightly spooky, only to get full-scale terrifying at the end.

Did I or did I not see Mr. Grady doing it with a furry?? Why is this not a thing anyone has brought up when I’ve heard them talk about The Shining?

Dick Halloran, RIP, you were my favorite one of all these shit people.

When Wendy finds the ballroom full of spiderweb skeleton-people, I can’t help it – I start grinning. It’s not funny, I’m just so delighted by the Psycho/Miss Havisham-ness of it all. In this moment I understand how people who are braver than me get a kick out of horror movies.

I love frozen popsicle eyeroll Jack so much. More than I’ve loved Jack this whole movie.

The ending – where you see the photo of the ballroom from July 4th 1921 and Jack’s there in an old-school tuxedo? That right there has to be the best ending of a horror movie I’ve ever seen.

BTW, almost all pics in this post link to great related posts about people who are clearly a lot more savvy than I am re: this movie.

 

I made it! That wasn’t so bad, but I have a feeling horror movies where most of the scenes aren’t a part of our cultural shorthand already will spook me out way more.

 

Pop Culture Blind Spot: Practical Magic

I have never seen Practical Magic. This, despite my love for Sandra Bullock (a love so deep I call her Sandy), comfy 90s movies where people wear sweaters, and witchy things. Most of my knowledge about Practical Magic comes from surfing past it on HBO during my childhood, and commercials for Charmed, a TV show about sister witches that is a different thing entirely from Practical Magic. Anyway, it feels like fall here in upstate New York, which means it feels like time for a fall movie… which I assume Practical Magic is, based on the witches.

The Netflix blurb:

Thanks to their powers, things come easy to these sisters… except keeping a man. Alive, that is.

First of all, this is some of the Netflix copy writers’ best work. Second, hard same.

We learn that the women in the Owens family have been witches since puritan New England. Oh, I love this already. If you haven’t gone down a Salem Witch Trials documentary spiral yet, I suggest it. Your YouTube suggestions will get a bit weird for a while but it will be worth it.

There’s a Victorian house, too! [Profiled here on my fav, Hooked on Houses]

The girls move there with their aunts after their dad falls victim to a centuries-old curse. Everyone wears draped, lacy dresses and florals with scarfs and floppy hats and statement earrings, exactly how you’d want witches in a Victorian house to dress. [I already feel a Practical Magic Is My Aesthetic post coming on.]

 

Work those April Cornell catalog vibes, ladies.

Child Sandy Bullock (Sally) looks like adult Sandy Bullock. Child Nicole Kidman (Gillian) does not really look like adult Nicole Kidman, but even casting directors are victims of All Redheads Look Alike Syndrome.

Child Sally, by the way? None other than little Camilla Belle, who actually DOES resemble adult Sandra Bullock these days, now that you mention it.

Adult Camilla

We’ve circled back to the late ’90s, fashion wise, and I like Sally’s straight-leg jeans. She also has one of those sweaters with the big stripe across the middle. REAL thing 90s kids remember: those sweaters with one big stripe across the middle.

IMPORTANT: There’s a scene where This Kiss by Faith Hill plays as Sally falls in love with a handsome man and, over time, marries him and has two kids. Practical Magic and This Kiss have definitely lived in the same mental file folder in my brain for these two decades. Meanwhile, Gillian leaves New England and dances whitely by a pool. Just watch it, it’s the best of comfy ‘normcore’ 90s romcom montages:

Like all of us, Gillian sings the soprano parts of Case Of You while driving and feeling some feelings.

On one hand, Gillian and Sally have a horrible curse wherein every man they love is doomed (RIP Gillian’s husband, Minute 5 – Minute 7, roughly). On the other, they have gorgeous, full blowouts and a bedroom fireplace.

If you didn’t get enough Practical Magic interiors from Hooked on Houses, click on this pic. I’m obsessed.

Whoopsie! The sisters killed a man by accident. He was Jimmy, Gillian’s garbage love interest who she drugged and brought cross country, but don’t feel too bad because he was secretly a killer as well . The gals take a real ad-hoc, non-Hogwarts-approved method of resurrecting him, doing the spell on their ample kitchen island. It doesn’t go great, so now they have to cover up his death. It’s a drag.

It’s not a movie about ‘strong female characters’ (TM Netflix) without a scene where they dance around the kitchen. Just ask Hidden Figures (a movie I loved, for the record).

A longer stretch of this movie than I expected is centered on covering up an accidental death. It’s fine but not what I was expecting. Aidan Quinn arrives to investigate Jimmy’s disappearance but also to fall in love with Sally. He is unusually handsome for someone named Gary. He’s ALSO the dream man Sally described as a child.

The reanimated corpse of Jimmy confronts Hot Gary  in the beautiful attic. I don’t know if witches need money, but they could rent that thing out for some serious bucks.

This is not an attack on anybody named Kylie or who named their daughter Kylie, but man, Kylie is NOT something a witch would name a child. [:Your Kris Jenner joke goes here:] I guess she was born during Sally’s trying-not-to-be-witchy phase.

The witch sisters need to expel Jimmy’s spirit and to do that they need a coven, which is basically like a quorum. Sally does what any small-town single mom would do: activates the school phone tree.

PS guess who Kylie is? A baby Evan Rachel Wood. I had no idea, this whole time. Along with All Redheads Look Alike Syndrome is the related Red Hair Renders You Instantly Unrecognizable Syndrome (hers is dyed, to perpetuate the one brown haired kid/one ginger kid thing her family has going).

She looks exactly like she does now, just with red hair.

In case you were worried, there’s a great witches-with-brooms scene. They just sweep with them, but still. They sweep OUT an evil spirit. The family curse is broken and now Gillian and Sally can fall in love without casualties.

The witches dress up as witches (but stereotypical ones) and fly from their roof on Halloween. The neighbors EAT IT UP. Just as I did this movie. It was cute.

 

P.S.: Not all of the music was by Bonnie Raitt and Mary Chapin Carpenter but it was all LIKE that.

 

Pop Culture Blind Spot: Dirty Dancing

Warm up those hips and grab a watermelon because it’s time for another installment of Pop Culture Blind Spot!  And today we’re heading back to family summer camp and celebrating Dirty Dancing, which was released on this day exactly 30 years ago. Even after three decades, the movie still holds up. Let’s dive right in and revisit one of the greatest movies that defined a generation.

Statements of note from the trailer:

“The heat is in the music. The music sets you dancing. The dancing sets her free.”

“She thought it would be just another summer vacation, but it turns out to be the time of her life.”

“What they learn from each other feels too good to be wrong.”

My knowledge of this movie: Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey do a lot of dancing. Kenny Ortega of High School Musical fame choreographed it. Kelly Bishop aka Emily Gilmore is also in it, but I always manage to forget this fact.

The reason I had never seen Dirty Dancing is from a lack of not wanting to see it. By nature, it should be a movie I love – romance, impressive dance sequences, drama, comedy. I just never got around to watching it. Thank God for Netflix, amirite, ladies? So here we are, almost 28 years to the day it was released on August 21st, 1987, and I’m sharing my thoughts with you on it for the very first time. Here goes nothing.

2:20 This movie takes place in 1963? Definitely did not know that. I thought it was just another 80s movie.

2:44 I remember that Kelly Bishop is in this movie. I know, I know. She’s a Tony Award winning actress of stage and screen, but to me she will forever and always be Emily Gilmore. And to quote the Gilmore Guys podcast, Bishop is Queen.

2:57 I knew there was greenery and cabin-looking structures in this movie, but I was not aware it takes place at a sleepaway camp for families. Does anyone go to this kind of camp anymore? Do these even exist?

3:24 The cars lining up to Kellerman’s camp legit looks like moving in day for freshman at my college.

Photo Aug 18, 11 48 08 PM

3:54 Is Newman from Seinfeld in this? [the answer is yes]

5:00 MAMA KELLY BISHOP IS SERVING IN THIS DANCE SCENE, DESPITE THE FACT THEY’RE SMUSHED TOGETHER LIKE A BUNCH OF SARDINES.

Photo Aug 17, 11 00 20 PM

7:20 I get Patrick Swayze now.

Photo Aug 17, 11 03 13 PM

7:55 “You just put your pickle on everybody’s plate, college boy, and leave the hard stuff to me.” – Johnny Castle, an employee at a Jewish family camp, definitely NOT a porn star.

9:00 Baby is set up with some doofus who is the camp owner’s grandson, a dude named Neil who is going to Cornell for Hotel Management. Meanwhile, Baby’s got her eyes on going to Mount Holyoke to study the economics of underdeveloped countries and then enter the Peace Corps. Obviously well matched.

10:30 Johnny Castle and the blonde dance instructor Penny take center stage at this dance Baby and Neil are at, clearly auditioning for whatever the version of Dancing with the Stars was in 1963. However, they get cockblocked by the owner Max who wants them to dance with the guests instead.

Photo Aug 17, 11 10 40 PM

13:37 After being forced to appear in a magic show and awarded a chicken for participation, Baby wanders into the staff quarters, which is a big no no. What a rebel.

14:30 Baby runs into a guy holding three huge watermelons, but they really just look like three prop pickles. There is no way he could carry three of those on his own. Come on.

Photo Aug 17, 11 12 49 PM

15:00 Baby enters the secret staff dance party where the literal Dirty Dancing is going down. Basically this type of dancing is grinding on top of your partner with no room for the holy spirit at all. Which I guess doesn’t matter for the employees of this Jewish camp.

17:00 This soundtrack is amazing, by the way. I’m a sucker for 60s/Motown era music. Still blown away that this takes place in 1963.

20:00 Johnny teaching Baby how to roll her hips is the most awkward. It’s like she’s about to drop a deuce right on the dance floor. (GOD HELP ME I NEVER WANT TO SAY DROP A DEUCE AGAIN)

Photo Aug 17, 11 18 25 PM

21:00 For some reason, an activity for the women at this camp is to try on wigs. What else is available at this camp – How To Cook A Proper Roast For Your Man or Top Tips For Cleaning Your Curlers?

25:00 Penny is pregnant. I was not aware there was a pregnancy twist in this film. Despite attempting to help a devastated Penny, she tells her to GTFO. And apparently the father of this baby is the asshole misogynistic server in the restaurant.

30:00 To remedy this, Baby asks her doctor dad Jerry Orbach for $300 to do a “non illegal” activity – aka she’s going to pay for Penny’s abortion??? This is a lot of money for someone she just met a day ago. Is she trying to prove something or is she just a good person? Or trying to prove she’s a good person?

33:42 Baby agrees to take Penny’s place in a dance competition since she’ll be recovering from her aforementioned abortion – is there really no one else qualified to take Penny’s place? A sub dance instructor at the camp, perhaps? Baby can barely roll her hips around, as we learned earlier. She’s worse than Julia Stiles learning hip-hop in Save The Last Dance.

37:00 Jennifer Grey is incredibly skinny. Penny is even skinnier. And the two skinny waists have a weird threesome with Johnny as they teach her how to dance. Uncomfy moment #3 – it’s the same feeling I get while watching ballroom trios on So You Think You Can Dance or Dancing With The Stars.

Photo Aug 18, 12 42 09 AM

38:00 The closeups on the gyrating hips – not for me. Uncomfy moment #4.

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I know I keep on bringing up Dancing With the Stars, but this B plot about Baby learning how to learn competitive-level dance is totally a parallel to DWTS. The fact that you have to pick up a foreign skill quickly then perform it under the (hungry) eyes of judges is just like in this movie. Which probably explains how she won season 11 of DWTS.

40:00 Johnny accidentally locks the keys to his car inside said vehicle, so he just straight up takes a pole out of the ground to smash his car window. With ease, he does this. It’s also raining, but it’s the fakest rain ever and the sun is shining like it’s 90 degree day, and all I can think is the rain machine is blowing the water horizontally at Patrick Swayze’s face. That handsome mug must be insured, this shouldn’t be happening to him.

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41:00 This balancing on a log practice could be problematic. That is a ravine right there. Maybe don’t risk your life when you could easily do this on a dance floor? Also, I’m supposed to be shipping this right?


43:00 Johnny takes Baby to a field and subsequently the famous lake, which is much better than a log in the middle of the forest. But why isn’t Baby’s family concerned about her whereabouts? She just disappeared from camp. Isn’t her sister wondering why Baby didn’t show up to Wig Class?

47:00 Baby has somehow aged 10 years with her costume for the competition. She now looks like a New York Housewife competing in DWTS.

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51:00 Uh oh. Penny’s not looking too hot after her shotty abortion. Baby comes to the rescue again by secretly getting her M.D. Dad to help her. Jerry Orbach (RIP) is quite the Doctor Detective. And quite upset with Baby’s interaction with the Dirty Dancing sexual deviants.

56:00 Welp Baby basically just confessed her love to Johnny. He’s already got his shirt off, so she asks him to dance… But on the real tho –  this sex dance scene is still hot.

1:00 Penny clearly picks up the sex vibes that Johnny and Baby are putting down, and she warns him not to get serious with Baby. Which of course, in 80s movie terms, he obviously is.

This outfit is the reason I keep forgetting the movie takes place in 1963. This could either be 1987 or 2015, who the hell knows.

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“What is with all this rain? Remind me not to have my honeymoon in Niagara Falls.” Baby’s sister

“So, you go to Acapulco, it’ll be fine!” – Queen Bishop

1:04 Baby and Johnny can’t stop boning. She’s technically a teenager, right? Since she’s “planning” to go to Mount Holyoke? Johnny’s obviously the type to skip college in favor of living out his dreams of being a camp dance instructor, so is this forbidden love even more forbidden?

1:07 Oh hey, a scene I actually have scene before. This makes sense in context now. Before I thought it was just some weirdo lip syncing to a song.

1:09 Neil, the annoying grandson, is like the Patrice of this movie. He wants Johnny to dance the Pachanga for the final show, and Johnny’s response is one that made me legit LOL: “He wouldn’t know a good idea if it hit him in the Pachanga” 1:12 Johnny’s bad boy side comes out when asshole waiter sees him kissing Baby, and the scene is like a fight between the Jets and the Sharks.

1:13 Baby’s sister singing I cannot.

1:18 There’s some side plot about Johnny’s cougar dance client setting him up as a kid who stole her husband’s wallet, but Baby comes to his defense by providing an alibi that he was with her at the time of the alleged theft. Not really important.

1:19 Baby goes to confront her upset father about basically admitted she slept with Johnny, and the whole conversation looks like a scene from The Bachelor when one of the final girls meets the bachelor’s dad for the first time to talk about how in love they are with their son.

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1:22 Johnny’s heading out of town because of all the “trouble” he’s caused, and as he rides away, She’s Like the Wind plays in the background. Yes, the hit song by Patrick Swayze. TOO META. BTW, what exactly is Johnny’s accent? And does he not look like The Terminator in this scene?

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1:26 This camp has its own theme song. This is just such a foreign culture to me that I’m having a difficult time believing it’s real. This tune is a cross between a traditional hymn and one of those camp songs you hear in like Troop Beverly Hills.

1:29 Ah yes, the iconic “Nobody puts Baby in a corner” scene. In my head she was in a literal corner of a room, sitting in a chair as if she had been punished. In addition, Johnny was gone for like 2 hours they’re all acting like it’s been years. ALSO Queen Bishop looks so hot rn!

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1:30 So here’s my problem with Baby and Johnny dancing to Time of My Life – it’s a song that was made in the 1980s, but supposed to be set for a performance in 1963. This is why I’m confused. However, I will say that this song in context also makes so much more sense with the movie. Oh, and how did Johnny coordinate a flash mob so fast??

“I think she gets this from me.” KELLY FREAKING BISHOP

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There are some interesting characters in the crowd, including the guy who predicted wearing sunglasses at night long before Corey Hart, the band leader dancing with Penny, and the two larger women happily dancing with each other. The movie ends with a pan out on the dance floor, with a spotlight on Baby and Johnny DIRTY DANCING. Bless. Also, it’s very reminiscent of the High School Musical 3 finale, because as you remember, Kenny Oretga is a mastermind of both these epic films.

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(Previously posted in August, 2015)

Pop Culture Blind Spot: First Wives Club

“What does it say? ‘I beat Meryl!'”

Those were the words Jennifer Lawrence said when she got on stage to accept her Golden Globe for Silver Linings Playbook back in 2013, and for people like me who had a certain pop culture blind spot, the joke went over their heads. Apparently it’s a quote from First Wives Club by Bette Midler’s character, and J Law being J Law, just assumed everyone would get that and not think it was a dig at the world’s best actress.

Well I can safely say that now, I understand the reference because I finally watched First Wives Club for the first time. First Time First Wives Club Club? No? Ok Fair. Read on for more pop culture refs and early celeb cameos from one of the best comedies in movie history.

My knowledge of First Wives Club: Bette Midler, Diane Keaton and Goldie Hawn are are recently divorced from their husbands. Probably rich husbands. Now on their second, much younger wives. Comedy and sisterhood ensues.

Netflix description: Following a friend’s suicide after her husband dumps her for a younger model, three women plot payback against their two-timing exes. 

… The club was started because of suicide? And this is a comedy???

The pop art title credits are giving me vibes I wasn’t expecting.

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MAGGIE SMITH? VICTOR GARBER? ELIZABETH BERKLEY? BRONSON PINCHOT/BALKI?! Truly had no idea these fine folks were in this movie.

And then Stockard Channing shows up straight from There Are Worse Things I Could Do… Oh God is she going to kill herself?

She killed herself :\

Diane Keaton’s kitchen got the Nancy Meyers treatment.

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Archaic 1996 item watch: Bette Midler’s son’s cassette tape

Does Bronson Pinchot ever get to use his real accent when he acts?

Diane Keaton wins Most Supportive Mother Award:

Prediction: Diane Keaton’s inability to get truly angry will finally come to a head when it matters the most. Like Cameron Diaz crying in The Holiday.

1996 was a really big year for Dan Hedaya, right?

Cameo Alert: SJP! Rob Reiner! Timothy Olyphant! Rev Cam! What a star-studded cast.

Speaking of star studded, the British bartender Goldie Hawn is complaining to about playing a mother looked familiar to me, but I couldn’t place it. Naturally, he was in a singular episode of Gilmore Girls as the wedding planner hired by Emily to organize Lor and Christopher’s wedding. He had about 5 minutes of screen time (if that), but THIS IS HOW MY BRAIN WORKS.

Oh look, Diane Keaton’s anger is coming through at the perfect time – when she finds out her husband not only wants a divorce but is sleeping with her therapist. Good call, Trace.

Diane Keaton reading Stockard Channing’s final letter: “Perhaps Gil isn’t the problem. Perhaps loneliness is. Please take care of each other. Love, Cynthia.”

Diane Keaton’s mom: “And on such pretty stationery.”

I am the mom.

My new aesthetic is three ladies putting their wedding rings in the champagne glasses.

THEY’RE GOING TO A GAY BAR TO SUPPORT DIANE KEATON’S LESBIAN DAUGHTER. AND GOLDIE HAWN DANCING WITH THE GAYS IS EVERYTHING.

Cameo Alert: Lea Delaria as a *gasp* lesbian who hits on Goldie Hawn, who just loves attention, and Debra Monk is the drowning her sorrows at the bar because her girlfriend left her.

Bette Midler: He brought her (new wife). To my son’s Bar Mitzvah.

Diane Keaton: Is she a gift?

Cameo Alert: Elizabeth Berkley is Victor Garber’s new girl? And she’s an aspiring actress?! Her acting is horrible. Is this what she was like in Showgirls?

And here we have the famous “I beat Meryl!” scene:

Maggie Smith’s hair is the definition of “The higher the hair the closer to God”. Also this may be the first time I’ve ever seen Maggie Smith act without her British accent?

I just realized the magical reunion that is SJP’s boyfriend’s ex-wife is Bette Midler. Confession: I haven’t seen Hocus Pocus either.

One of my favorite things about movies from the ’90s is when people use computers, because it looks so extremely archaic compared to the handheld smartphones we have today. The ladies attempting to find Morty’s tax returns is like Julianne using Kimmy’s dad’s computer in My Best Friend’s Wedding.

I love the irony that these ladies almost died falling down the side of a building in scaffolding kind of like Stockard Channing.

This singing bit between the trio is adorable.

Cameo Alert: Kate Burton as the Goldie Hawn superfan who’s in bed when she and the girls are flying down the building.

THIS BLOW UP SCENE IS 100:

Cameo Alert: JK Simmons as the police officer/mobster(?) who handcuffs Morty

Also my new aesthetic: Bette Midler chastising/blackmailing Morty with hanging carcasses behind her.

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YASSS LADIES WORK THESE PANTSUITS. PANTSUIT NATION.

How is Morty signing a check to the “First Wives Club”? Are they a company LLC now? I feel like I missed something.

Cameo Alert: Kathie Lee Gifford as a local NY reporter. I miss Reege.

They started a crisis center in Cynthia’s name. I love this. What a great movie!

Cameo Alert: Gloria Steinem at their party! And Ivana Trump saying an iconic line. I CAN’T GET AWAY FROM ANY OF THE TRUMPS.

Ok the singing bit reprise is wonderful. And has me a little emo.

What a delightful film! I get why people love it so much. Yay ladies doing it for themselves! #NastyWomen! #WearWhite!

First Wives Club is now streaming on Amazon & Hulu

Pop Culture Blind Spot: The Babadook

When The Babadook took its rightful but confusing place as a gay icon after Netflix included it in its list of LGBT films, I had a real dilemma. I hate horror movies, but I love when everyone on the internet is joking about the same thing. As usual, my love for internet won out. It’s time for me to learn about the Babadook, a scary basement demon recently outed by Netflix.

The Babadook opens with a mom, Amelia,  dreaming about a car accident and waking up to her creepy Australian child wanting to read his favorite book. Australian children are less creepy than British children in horror movies, more than American. Fight me on it. If you were a British child, you wouldn’t have to. You’d just say something fairly innocuous like “I’m awake, mummy” and I’d run screaming.

The entire house is decorated in shades of gray and midnight, like they interior decorated for the comfort and preferences of the ghost. Demon, monster, whatever.

demon chic

Samuel (creepy-but-not-British-creepy child) tells a random supermarket lady that his “dad’s in the cemetery. He got killed driving mum to the hospital to have me.” Gay means happy and this is NOT.

Sam stands on the tip-top of a swingset while being a Babadook, I guess. Still not clear on what a Babadook is. A small white dog scratches at a locked door, which I gather is where the Babadook lives. Is it a closet??? Is the Babadook in the closet? I’m trying.

and dorothy. of you and me and dorothy.

Maybe everything is gray and colorless so it can become rainbow when the Babadook comes?? Kind of like The Wizard Of Oz… starring gay icon Judy Garland?? I’m reaching.

It turns out the Babadook is a terrifying pop-up book Sam has. For the record, they say Babadook to rhyme more with “look” than “Luke.” PLOT TWIST: the terrifying pop-up, which ends with the words “you’re going to wish you were dead,” ends up looking like a generic colorful children’s book when they pull back, and Amelia is reading a different story entirely. Amelia hides the book (rhymes with Babadook!) above her wardrobe.

Amelia watches black and white tv because that’s her aesthetic.

Sam throws firecrackers in anger.

Amelia: Where’d you get those firecrackers?

Sam: You got them for me on the internet.

Amelia: That’s the end of the internet.

Why did I love that exchange so much?

Samuel loves to play in a sequin cape,  a nod to Liberacci??

NOPE

Sam, or a Babadook, hung up an empty men’s suit on the wall and it’s very spooky. Also I KNOW that a hanging suit is, or should be, empty but that’s really the only way to describe it:

There’s glass in Amelia’s soup or thickened boiled milk that she’s eating. Sam said the Babadook did it. Maybe the real Babadook is SAM.

Sam watches an unsettling magic DVD. How does Sam keep getting these age-inappropriate forms of media? Don’t say the internet. Amelia swore off of Amazon.

Amelia goes upstairs to find the photo of her and Sam’s dad all scribbled out. Scribbled out like … bi erasure??? Guys I am so sorry but nothing’s gay yet.

At Sam’s friend Ruby’s birthday party, all of the moms wear black to look creepier for the Babadook.

In another feat of color coordination, the girl party guests wear pale pink with black accents. The party decorations are maroon, every child’s favorite color. There’s a clown because this is a horror movie, why not.

Amelia’s friend Claire doesn’t like going to Amelia’s house because it’s depressing, possibly because every surface from floor to ceiling, including the stairs and Sam’s bedroom, seems to be covered in black chalkboard paint. I really hope there’s a big reveal at the end at it was colorful all along.

Ruby taunts Sam for not having a dad. Maybe the real Babadook is CHILDREN’S CAPACITY FOR CRUELTY. Sam pushes Ruby out of a tree house which was still very unwarranted. Sam then appears to seize in the car, which makes me wonder why Sam hasn’t had a neurological and psych eval yet??

Amelia gets a new pop-up book… is something that should be a caption on a mommy blogger’s instagram, but which is actually a scene where Amelia gets a new gift from the Babadook about how the Babadook will take her over.

AHHHH. The Babadook calls Amelia on her land line and says “Babadook…dook…dook” in a croaky demon voice.

Let’s talk about acting. Essie Davis is fantastic as Amelia, who half thinks her child is losing it and half thinks she is. She’s extra fantastic in the scene where she goes to the police to report a children’s book. You can see her genuine belief that she’s correct right alongside her realization that what she’s saying sounds ridiculous. Noah Wisemen is also marvelous as Sam and he really does seem like an actual child, not a spooky horror movie child cliche. Also, this was Jennifer Kent’s directorial debut and it’s absolutely beautiful — not too scary, despite my protests against horror movies, but really thoughtful and nicely styled.

Amelia finds a hole in her kitchen wall. Beetles crawl out. She has made references to being poor but she has an expensive-looking vintage replica fridge so that doesn’t quite check out.

The Australian child Sam watches on TV sounds so much more Australian than Sam.

SHIIIIIT. The Babadook sneaks into Amelia’s bedroom by way of creaky door and croaks “Babadook…dook…dook” again. He kind of stop-motions around on the ceiling for a bit. Amelia has an outfit, complete with hat, on a mannequin in her bedroom. What is WITH this family? Anyway, it was a “dream” but surely it wasn’t really.

In keeping with her aesthetic, Amelia watches a black-and-white silent film that looks kind of like A Trip To The Moon, except with Babadooks all up in it.

this is why i don’t have cable

Amelia shouts at Sam to “eat shit,” but I’m certain that’s just the Babadook or the mean older brother in a John Hughes movie talking.

Amelia: 1. crashes a car because the Babadook was Babadook-dook-dooking her; 2. takes a bath fully clothed; 3. attempts to nap while cuddling a violin; 4. tromps around her house with a butcher knife; 5. forces Sam to take pills; 6. watches aesthetically-consistent black and white cartoons.

The dog won’t hang with Amelia, which is how we can be sure she’s harboring the Babadook.

SPOOOOKY. Amelia watches a news report about a woman who stabbed her 7-year-old to death; cut to Amelia in the news report looking out her window with an eerie frozen smile. NOPE NOPE NOPE. This is neither about the Babadook or the Gay Babadook, but when I was little my brother used to open my bedroom door and stare with an eerie frozen smile while singing that circus song, which was some clever sibling bullying. It’s a tattle-proof trick. “Mom, Matt’s smiling and singing!”

Amelia’s dead husband is in the basement. He’s surely a Babadook. He says “bring me the boy” in increasingly Babadookish tones.

Amelia kills the small white dog 😦  Then she Babadook-floats at Sam, who says she isn’t his mother and throws a firecracker and some darts at her.

The kind, elderly neighbor comes over and says that she knows this time of year is hard for Amelia. Maybe the real Babadook is HOW SAD SHE IS.

Sam brings a knife down on his mother with the most unsettling confused grimace/smile.

After some stuff, Amelia voms a black tar-like substance so who knows, maybe the real Babadook is an intestinal bleed and a bowel obstruction.

Amelia relives her husband’s gory death, and tells the Babadook that he’s nothing and not welcome in her house. The Babadook goes back to the basement. The real Babadook is grief and PTSD, just like I’ve been saying this entire time.

Almost right away, Amelia’s hair is MUCH fluffier, and a birthday banner is hung in the living room. They speak freely about Sam’s dad. Ruby was Sam’s… cousin? Which I did not realize. They feed the Babadook worms in the basement, because they somehow learned that he eats worms. The Babadook, which is grief, will always exist in their lives but that doesn’t mean it’s always invited to the party.

Sam does a worryingly good magic trick.

Fine.

Okay, so I still don’t know why the Babadook is gay but he doesn’t owe me an explanation. The Babadook is more than just gay, he’s also a basement grief-demon who eats worms and hangs suits up. I hope he has fun at all the parades and parties!

 

 

Pop Culture Blind Spot: The Shawshank Redemption

“But Traci, The Shawshank Redemption is SO GOOD. I can’t believe you haven’t seen it!”

I’m aware. Oh I’m very aware. I’m also very aware that Pulp Fiction and the Star Wars and the Godfathers are all critically acclaimed, but I haven’t seen those either. It’s basically the reason we have this pop culture blind spot series in the first place. We are aware we’re missing out on a huge part of the pop culture landscape. And we’re working on it.

In the process of “working on it”, I finally got around to watching Shawshank and 2 and a half hours later it was a blind spot no more. Read on to revisit this iconic cinematic masterpiece that I’m officially an expert on having just seen it for the first time.

Prior Knowledge of This film

Prison. Tim Robbins. Someone dies? Supposed to be real good.

Actual IMDb description

Two imprisoned men (Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman) bond over a number of years, finding solace and eventual redemption through acts of common decency.

Oh right Morgan Freeman. I swear I knew that.

Ohh this is a double death crime of passion? I’m already into this.

The cinematography is great in this! (Apparently so great it was nominated for an Oscar)

Legit question: it’s 1949 but there wasn’t segregation in this prison?

This is nothing like Orange is the New Black. Relatedly, I miss my GF Poussey.

Doctor Romano is one of these prison wardens?! Remember when his arm got cut off by a helicopter in ER?

TIM ROBBINS IS SO TINY AND CUTE. He was only 36 when he made this, which is adult age but he still looks like a little nugget.

Yes Andy making a deal with the officers to drink some beer. That is a true hustler.

Andy gets constantly gang raped by a group of men called the Sisters and it is not fun to watch. I also was not expecting a lot of rape in this film, tbh.

Wait the Captain, after befriending Andy, comes to his defense by beating up the prisoner who was raping Andy? This is oddly heartfelt and I feel weird about it?

I need to read more about prisoners getting Bibles on their way in. Does this always happen? Does it still happen?

This is amazing – now other prison guards are going to Andy for trust fund and financial advice!? He’s practically doing taxes for every employee. And he set up shop in his new office at the library, and he’s really the Taystee of Shawshank State Penitentiary.

Aw that actor guy is in jail! James Whitmore is his name. You know, the old guy from all the things! In Shawshank, his name is Brooks and he’s been in the prison for 50 years, spending most of his days as the joint’s librarian. He finally gets parole and he now works at a Halfway House and works as a bagger at a grocery store and oh my god this is so sad I’m cRYING. It doesn’t end well for Brooks 😦

“The world went and got itself in a big damn hurry.” Brooks

I guess when you’re have prison and got nothing but time, a long con is small peanuts. Andy wants to improve the prison library so he writes to the government asking for money in the prison budget. He doesn’t hear back. He continues to write a letter every single week for SIX YEARS until one day officials finally write back and give him a check for $200, along with a note appreciating his “persistence”. Never give up on your dreams, kids.

This Mozart scene tho.

BILLY THOMAS!!!!

If this is who Ally McBeal fell in love with in high school I GET IT.

Billy Thomas had an old cellmate who basically confessed to killing Andy’s wife and her lover?! And his name – the robber dude who killed them – is Elmo Blatch. Elmo. Blatch. He has a face that looks like this. What nightmares are made of.

Andy talks to the warden to tell him Billy Thomas’ story and the warden is a dumb prick about it and the frustration I get with Andy’s lack of support from the warden is the same frustration I felt when watching Making a Murderer.

WHAT THE FUCK THE WARDEN BASICALLY HAS BILLY THOMAS KILLED SO HE DOESN’T COME FORWARD WITH THE REAL STORY AND ANDY CAN’T LEAVE THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM HAS ALWAYS BEEN CORRUPT

They’ve mentioned farts like thrice is this symbolism

oh my god Andy was using the rock pickaxe thing to dig a hole through the wall to escape and used the posters of Hollywood stars to cover up the hole. Brilliant.

“Andy Dufresne, headed for the Pacific. Those of us who knew him best talk about him often. I swear, the stuff he pulled… Sometimes it makes me sad, though, Andy being gone. I have to remind myself that some birds aren’t meant to be caged. Their feathers are just too bright and when they fly away, the part of you that knows it was a sin to lock them up does rejoice, but still, the place you live in is that much more drab and empty now that they’re gone. I guess I just miss my friend.” I GUESS I JUST MISS MY FRIEND. RED! YOU’RE KILLING ME

Seriously Red/Morgan Freeman goes into his parole meeting and literally says “I don’t give a shit” then gets approved after years of being declined. Is this what I should do in job interviews?

When he gets let out he lives in the same room as Brooks, has the same job bagging groceries. It’s like late 1960s early 1970s now? Again, isn’t there segregation?? Like he’s being let out in a world where he can’t drink from the same water fountain as white people AND he’s an ex-con.

That’s probably why Red was like eff this, I’m gonna go follow this scavenger hunt Andy is leading me on. It takes him all the way to the oak tree in Ohio Andy talked about in prison. Red digs out a box with money and a letter from Andy, telling him to meet him in Zihuatanejo, Mexico, a place Andy told him about long ago. And so Red continues.

 

RED, 2 HOURS AGO: “Hope is a dangerous thing. Hope can drive a man insane.”

ANDY, IN HIS LETTER NOW: “Remember Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.”

RED, ON THE FINAL LEG OF MEETING UP WITH ANDY: “I find I’m so excited, I can barely sit still or hold a thought in my head. I think it’s the excitement only a free man can feel, a free man at the start of a long journey whose conclusion is uncertain. I hope I can make it across the border. I hope to see my friend and shake his hand. I hope the Pacific is as blue as it has been in my dreams. I hope.”

“Get busy living or get busy dying”, my new tattoo.

GUYS I’M CRYING THEY’RE REUNITED ON THE PACIFIC

A++++. HIGHLY RECOMMEND. IT’S AS GOOD AS THEY SAY.

Pop Culture Blind Spot: Hello Dolly

Welcome back to Pop Culture Blind Spot, where we examine beloved films and tv shows that we definitely should have seen by now. Up today: Hello Dolly, a movie musical totally missed by this person who loves movie musicals.

What I think I know about Hello Dolly: It’s from the 1950s but set in that time all mid-century musicals were – approximately 1908, or whenever Main Street Disney is supposed to be. It’s about Barbra Streisand… doing vaudeville, maybe. The only thing I know is the song Hello Dolly, and by that I mean the part of the song where they say Hello Dolly, well hello Dolly.

Let’s see how wrong I am!

Right out the gate, this was made in 1969, making me nearly twenty years off in release date. I guess I should have been tipped off by the fact that Babs would have been a child in the ’50s.

But it IS from the era I was thinking of-ish: New York City, 1890! I’m already into it by the Ken Burns-y fade-in they do from a still photo of a 1908 street scene to live motion.

The continued opening shots showing people’s feet as they skip, hopscotch and trip-trap about are fantastic. This leads me to look up who directed this… Gene Kelly?!? WOAH. I had no idea he directed, too. Talk about a quintuple threat.

Premise: Dolly Levi (Barba Streisand) is a matchmaker with great hats.

Ambrose (Tommy Tune), doing a nerd voice, wants to marry scroogey rich Horace Vandergelder’s niece Ermengarde. I assume Ermengarde was meant as a nerd name even in the 60s. Ermengarde has a great fuchsia hairbow and a nice complexion.

 

Horace: You are a seven-foot-tall nincompoop!

Ambrose: That’s an insult!

Horace: All the facts about you are insults!

Horace, re: his clerk Cornelius’s announcement that he’s 28 and 3/4 years old: “That’s a foolish age to be at. I thought you were 40.”

Horace (Walter Matthau!) ‘s plan is to get married.  He illustrates that through a cringey song about how it “takes a woman” to do thinks like dump ashes. He describes women as both “fragile” and “frail” but also capable of doing the garbage work he doesn’t want to do like “clean out the drain in the sink”,”washing and bluing and shoeing the mare” and “cleaning the stable.”

Okay, here’s what Horace is. He is to husbands as Marilla Cuthbert is to mothers: he’s more or less trying to buy another human for chores. It sounds like what Horace needs is a maid or a handyman. I assume that in 1969, as in 2017, this song read as a joke about how horrible Horace, the two male clerks and the chorus of singing men behind him are. Men in general I guess.

The scene with Barbra Streisand reading Horace’s palm turned me into a Barbra Streisand fan.

Apparently the frail sturdy chorewoman Horace has in mind is Irene in New York. Dolly sing-explains that SHE wants to be Horace’s wife-maid-stableboy.

Barnaby and Cornelius, the nerdy clerks, are going to New York and aren’t coming back until “they’ve each kissed a girl.” Barnaby is 19 and a half to Cornelius’s 28 and 3/4 so “for me it’s not so urgent.” I should probably mention that they’re in Yonkers, which I guess looked like the Old West in 1890, so it’s not much of a commute. Dolly sends them off to meet that hussy Irene and her shopgirl. I see what you’re doing, Doll.

About to close down the saloon early. Or feed shop. Grainery? General store.

Put On Your Sunday Clothes is the best number so far. “Put on your Sunday clothes when you feel down and out,” sing a bunch of Newsies from a time when ‘Sunday clothes’ meant anything. Ladies dance with parasols, a film industry requirement for all technicolor musicals made before 1970. A family in all white emerges from a Queen Anne-style house and for a second it’s like we’re in a Ragtime crossover. The ladies do a tiptoe move with their bustles that’s the late Victorian precursor to twerking. People talk-sing and you can show that to any old folks incredulous about modern rap musicals. Everyone departs on a train, another one of those midcentury musical requirements.

Parasols. Newsies. Bustles. Trains. Yep, all accounted for.

We meet Irene and her galpal Minnie mid-scene with some quality chuffa:

Minnie: A banana a day keeps the doctor away.

Irene: You mean an apple a day.

Minnie:Who ever heard of a doctor slipping on an apple peel?

Established: shopgirl Minnie is an idiot and Irene’s used to it.

 

Irene Molloy (Marianne McAndrew) would be played by Kristen Wiig if this was made now.

Irene is so much cooler and smoother and better-looking than Cornelius and Barnaby, who is so dense he introduces himself as a hat, plus her shop is unnecessarily large and decorated in sophisticated grays. Minnie Fay is right about on the guys’ level though.

Expensive.

“Forgive me for saying this, but you should see Yonkers.” NEVER.

Everybody is doing that annoying trick where they mention the other person’s significant other to see if they have one. I always secretly like when guys do that, though, because it saves me the trouble about lying about a boyfriend to get them to stop talking.

Horace shows up at the shop to mack on Irene. Dolly shows up in her flashiest purple dress in Old New York and tries to act unassuming. Sorry. Make that the flashiest purple dress in the world. It’s what Prince would have worn if he was a woman in 1890.

Horace is shocked that Cornelius comes into New York City. Again, from Yonkers. In 1890, when there were trains. Dolly talks Cornelius up,  and it’s funny (” Who took the horses out of Jenny Lind’s carriage and pulled her through the streets?”).

Does this take place in one day? Also is there a term for musicals that take place in one day, because it seems like there should be?

Horace is going to march in a parade with “the kind of people I can trust – 700 men.” I remain confused as to why he doesn’t just hire a chore boy.

Barnaby is the Niall Horan of this musical: affable, charming, boyish and underrated.

While searching for images of Danny Lockin I found this FASCINATING info about what happened to him after Hello Dolly – pic links to article. Woah.

Anyway, right?

Not to make too much of Irene’s giant hat shop but it’s so big you can swing a lady in a hoop skirt without hitting anything. Which they do. If I had that kind of hat shop money I’d never get married.

Dolly has so much purple, including a little purse and a feather boa and a giant hat, that she’s like a purple muppet. She has some LONG acrylics as well, just like the Victorians did. They are her “getting back in the dating game” nails. She’s widowed.

I thought Horace was talking about a metaphorical parade, but there’s actually a giant parade. Once again, it looks like Main Street Disney. Women are there too, including some suffragettes (another requirement of technicolor musicals) but Horace goes anyway. Babs sings about parades, which is one of her specialties.

Along with Niall Horan, Barnaby also has some Mark Hamill vibes.

Niall, Cornelius, Irene and Dumb Minnie sing about how elegant they are, a thing I think you’ll notice elegant people never do. Like how smart people don’t talk about being smart. They make a fun friend group and I would 100% watch a spinoff movie of Minnie, Mark Hamill and Cornelius bumbling about and Irene having to be the only adult in the situation.

Image links to cute Hello Dolly post.

Here’s what I appreciate about the costuming here: everyone is head-to-toe color coordinated like a 1980s bridesmaid. Dress, cape, hat, shoes all dyed to the exact same color. Babs changes into what I guess is the most uncomfy loungewear invented, a lacy tan corset top with a lacy tan jacket over it with some giant sleeves. It’s kinda Stevie Nicks-esque and I’m obsessed. Her hair is a smooth orange dome with a ponytail at the end. This is her casual hairstyle.

Best I could do

Don’t worry, there are dancing waiters in red tailcoats.

I wonder if Mock Turtle Soup struck people as funny in 1969 too, but I bet it did. Just the idea that turtle soup was so in demand but so rare that people had to fake it.

“If I tell you the truth, would you let me put my arm around your waist?” Weird bargain but OK.

“I’ve never touched a woman before.” YOU DON’T SAY, CORNELIUS.

Don’t Barnaby and Cornelius sound like what a hipster couple would name their sons?

Dolly is BACK wearing a very gold beaded dress and a feather headpiece, which is what prompts everyone to sing Hello Dolly.

LOUIS ARMSTRONG IS IN THIS. I know everyone else probably knows that but I didn’t. He’s absurdly charismatic.

I kind of feel like the first hour, hour fifteen were jam-packed and then we’ve been marking time in this restaurant ever since.

There is a whole turkey on Dolly and Horace’s two-top table. Is this how rich people eat?

Cornelius dances with a fan like an idiot. On one hand, Irene can do better. On the other, they’re both having fun and he doesn’t take himself too seriously like ol’ Horace.

Horace almost fires Cornelius and Barnaby for being in New York even though I’m fairly certain he doesn’t own them like he will the chore-wife he wants to buy.

Falling in love “only takes a moment” but the song about it lasts seven.

Back in Yonkers, Barnes and Cornes quit. Cornelius is becoming a new Horace, and Barnaby is becoming the new Cornelius. Dolly and Horace are getting married. ALL the people you thought would get married in the first ten minutes will get married, but my, wasn’t it a fun journey to get there?

I just wish these men would stop singing about how it takes a ‘fragile’ woman to do chores, is all.

Bottom line: I see what the fuss was about – not so much the songs themselves (not too many showstoppers) but the character of Dolly Levi and Barbra Streisand’s performance, plus the supporting cast and throwback sets and costumes. This was delightful and a break from real life, just like a musical should be.

 

 

 

Pop Culture Blind Spot: Darby O’Gill And The Little People

Three truths and a lie, St. Patrick’s Day Edition:

  • I grew up Irish dancing and thus I never went to school on St. Patrick’s Day because I had performances.
  • I mostly look like a leprechaun.
  • Every year, my family watched Darby O’Gill and the Little People sometime around St. Paddy’s day.
  • I despair every time someone calls it St. Patty’s Day. Who’s Patricia?

Answer: As you probably guessed from the post title, I’ve never seen Darby O’Gill and The Little People. The 1959 Disney movie is a cheesy, beloved Irish-American classic starring (according to Wikipedia)… Sean Connery?! Woah. In my defense, in the 90s if your family didn’t have the VHS tape of a movie or it didn’t air on a station you got, you just didn’t see it. I’m rectifying that now, so please don’t disinvite me from the next ceilidh or soda bread baking night.

Set design of Irish movies from the 1940s-1970s is the main reason for a lot of lingering Irish stereotypes. Namely, that it’s always vaguely the 1800s with thatch roofs and dirty stucco walls and like … spinning wheels and butter churns and shawls everywhere.

Is the old lady, The Widow Sugrue,  the same old lady from The Wedding Singer? I know it’s impossible but one has to wonder.

It’s not.

If you’re playing Irish Movie Bingo, fill in your square for Pretty Young Lass Needs A Husband

It takes me about 3 minutes to get into the mode where I understand what anybody is saying. It’s not because I’m not used to Irish accents. It’s because these aren’t Irish accents (Katie’s is often OK. Widow Sugrue’s reminds me of elementary school plays where you didn’t know how to do the accent you were supposed to do so you just talked weird).

It’s called Darby O’Gill and The Little People, and for whatever reason I assumed Darby would be a leprechaun too. Nope. Just a guy.

If you’re playing Irish Movie Bingo, fill in your square for Group Of Men Telling Legends In A Pub.

The special effects of Darby talking to leprechaun King Brian are surprisingly very good. Sometimes I think modern CGI makes things look more fake than old-school camera tricks.

The image links to an explanation of some of the *movie magic.* I’m duly impressed.

It also reminds me of the parts of Mr. Rogers when take the trolley to the Land of Puppetville or whatever that was.

If you’re playing Irish Movie Bingo, fill in your square for Village Priest Solving A Financial Problem.

Young Sean Connery could get it.

By the way, Sean Connery is one of those people who’s never been young. He’s 29 here and his face is care-worn and weathered.

Everyone’s sideburns are huge. Little House on the Prairie sideburns.

If you’re playing Irish Movie Bingo, fill in your square for Woman Leans Out A Half-Door.

If you’re playing Irish Movie Bingo, fill in your square for Old Man Plays The Fiddle.

These leprechauns have the best outfits. They’re total Keebler Elf getups.

I’d live inside this Leprechaun Ceilidh. It’s like the Trolls hideout without all the LSD, or Munchkinland without the specter of murder. Yet, anyway.

So many dorky Irish in-references: Brian Boru, the harp that once thro Tara’s halls, a tribe of people cowering away from direct sunlight (no? Just me?).

When Darby plays his fiddle really fast and the leprechauns start dancing crazy, you could forget what I said about “without all the LSD” before. This is trippy.

If you’re playing Irish Movie Bingo, fill in your square for Somebody Gets Someone Drunk In Order To Trick Them.

Always been a sucker for a cat vs leprechaun sequence. Another triumph for old-school special effects.

All these songs sound the same. Bless Janet Munro and Sean Connery. They’re trying so hard to have Irish accents in their scenes together. Sean Connery has natural 21st Century American Invisalign Teeth. Janet Munro, an English actress, definitely looks Irish.

Darby would be a cute name for a dog, right?

Darby, requesting whisky: The best in the house!

Barmaid: [look of shock and fear, because best in the house means things are SERIOUS. Also because Darby gives the drink to a man inside his rucksack.]

I start laughing out loud when Katie starts singing in a drippy voice while preening her weird short bangs and suddenly I can’t stop laughing.

Keep expecting this to turn into an SNL sketch where King Brian is really gross or filthy.

If you’re playing Irish Movie Bingo, fill in your square for Woman Gets Offended When Man Loves Her.

The banshee looks like you’re meant to be looking at it through special glasses.

“29. Sean Connery is TWENTY NINE” – me, out loud, trying to convince myself that Very Adult Man Sean Connery isn’t even 30 here.

The ghostly horse and carriage is actually spooky in a laser light show at the planetarium kind of way. If I saw this as a kid I’d be unnerved.

By the way, the headless horseman doesn’t really have an Irish accent, either.

I don’t know what’s wrong with me, but I laugh every time they sing that stupid song.

If you’re playing Irish Movie Bingo, fill in your square for Characters Drive Away In A Horse-Drawn Cart.

The bottom line: I enjoy old movies, and this was an enjoyable old movie. The underlying question with our Pop Culture Blind Spot posts is whether cult favorites are good of their own accord, or if you have to have some sort of earlier sentimental connection to them to really love them.  I could see being really into Darby O’Gill And The Little People if I had loved it as a kid, and seeing at is an adult I have a healthy appreciation for the old-school special effects and the imaginative story. It actually made me realize, in comparison, how much more I liked last year’s St. Patrick’s Day Pop Culture Blind Spot, The Quiet Man. In the battle between Rugged Men Who Aren’t Irish Playing Rugged Men Who Are, Sean Connery vs John Wayne, John Wayne takes this round.