My Netflix Instant Queue is getting stuffed, so I decided to watch all my movies this week off of there. It’ll be easy for you to see them this way–I provide you such conveniences! You’re welcome.
March 18: The Importance of Being Earnest
After the disastrous adaptation of one of my favorite novels, The Picture of Dorian Gray, I wasn’t looking forward tremendously to seeing this picture. I may be the only who calls that film tragic and disastrous, but I cannot get over it. So bad. The only redeeming quality was Angela Lansbury singing Little Yellow Bird. Since I firmly believe that I was Oscar Wilde in one of my previous lives, I have a bit of difficulty watching my own work. (It sounds ridiculous, I know, but I do think of Oscar’s work as my own.) What sadness I felt as I visited the place of my death in Paris last year. Seeing only a little placard that grotesquely and macabrely announced by passing–tragique. At least my grave in Père Lachaise is much more imposing, I’ve kissed it any number of times. Originally, this film was a wonderfully clever play, and this adaptation is as close to seeing it on stage as you can without going to the theater. It follows the play to the note and it is a delight for that. All the acting is superb and the costumes, though ridiculous are not vulgar. I enjoyed it very much. I won’t get too deep in the plot as I assume you have read or seen this before. I should expect you have at least skimmed it, though no doubt some of you will shame me by being ignorant. For those of you who are in the dark, it is about two friends who both have a faux friend they use to get out of social situations. Through an amusing course of events, both become engaged under the pretense that their names are Earnest. When it is revealed that they are actually Jack and Algernon, their new fiancées are overcome and refuse to marry them. For some reason, they believe the name Earnest is perfectly masculine and alluring. So, both fellows decide to be christened Earnest. Such fun! I shan’t tell you the ending because it’s silly but quite amusing. This is a great film and play and I’m so proud of myself for having written it. See it. [My Rating: 8/10]
March 19: Wigstock
To me, Wigstock seems the flip-side of Paris is Burning. Where Paris was often melancholy and longing for hope, Wigstock feels alive, vibrant, and joyous. This documentary centers on Wigstock, one of those festivals of yesteryear back in the happy 90s when there was no war, the economy was strong, people were open, and life seemed easy. Today, the world feels reserved and sad. I hope that it turns around soon, I don’t like this constant misery. I’m not miserable myself, but the world feels blue. I don’t much care for that. Wigstock was an annual festival where drag queens put on performances and celebrated themselves and their unique culture. Pretty basic, but it looks like it would be such fun. There is something really remarkable about the drag world that a lot of people don’t seem to understand or realize. Though predatory and bitchy to other queens that threaten them, the drag community is one of the most loving groups I know. They are supportive of individuality and uniqueness. They gather together and have a damn good time. If I weren’t so masculine looking and had a car and a drag bar near me, I’d moonlight as Robyn Banks, drag superstar. Someday, darlings…someday. Cameos by my love, RuPaul and the very funny (Dean of Drag) Lady Bunny are a joy. The music is great, the mood infectious, the dancing fun, and the interviews are delightfully candid. There is no plot to this, just see it. It’s wonderful. [My Rating: 8.5/10]
March 20: Baby Jane?
A parody of What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? with an all drag queen cast? Yes, please! And I don’t understand how I was unaware of this picture’s existence. I mean, can you imagine the delight that overwhelmed me when I discovered it? I nearly wept. It is just the kind of thing that I would do, except I’d probably do Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte, or Evita. I dream of playing the lead role and singing at the audience not to cry for me. I would turn it out. Just imagine me as Evita, I’m all aquiver at the thought. I would camp it up, I’d have such fun. Back to the film, though. It is actually a very faithful adaptation of the source material, one could almost say that the original feels like a parody compared to this. That’s not exactly a good thing, I felt that Baby Jane? took itself far too seriously. It’s a parody for God’s sake, have some fun! Were I to write a parody, I would delight in rephrasing things and going for an avalanche of laughs. But, this is not the route the filmmakers went with and I think that is regrettable. The drag queens portraying Joan and Bette do a remarkably good job. The actor playing Bette did marvelous work, for the most part, of emulating her very unique vocal patterns–if you weren’t paying close attention, she would pass as Bette. Joan’s actor was good, too, but more of a physical resemblance rather than in acting ability. The plot was similar and the jokes often fell flat, so it wasn’t particularly riveting. The only bits that stuck in my mind were when they went over the top. When Joan screams, “PARSLEY,” and laments Bette’s lack of culinary prowess. When the neighbor repeatedly tries to get into the house. When Joan’s character is watching a parody of Mommie Dearest. It really is a shame that it wasn’t more comedic, it could have been a classic. I also enjoyed the modern editing that showed an insight to Baby Jane’s mind. Other than that, it was stale. I enjoyed it, but it’s not worth recommending unless you are a fan of films like these. [My Rating: 5/10]
March 21: Pharaoh’s Curse
Ever since I decided to pursue my childhood ambition of becoming an Egyptologist/Archaeologist, I’ve been reading stories of ancient Egypt. I discovered the Amelia Peabody series, which I absolutely adore and suggest you should, too. I decided I should watch some more mummy movies and started with this one. What a snooze! Really dreadful. I don’t completely understand what it was about because it felt like three different stories stuffed into 80 minutes. At first it was about a rebel uprising near Cairo, then about an archaeological dig, then finally about a murdering mummy. This all could go together if told well, but it wasn’t. Vaguely, if I understood correctly, the plot was about a high priestess of somebody who was to protect the tomb of a Pharaoh. Why? I don’t know. Somehow they disturb the mummy and people start aging rapidly and turn into desiccated corpses. Then the lead archaeologist gets a divorce then he’s crushed, then it’s over, and I’m all…huh? Don’t bother. [My Rating: 1/10]
March 22: The Catman of Paris
You would think a film with such a title would be ridiculous and campy, but it was not! I suspected cheap prosthetics and lots of fake blood. Color me surprised when this turned out to be exceptionally entertaining with quality costumes, acting, and a story that was thorough and complete. Every second was intriguing and the ending was quite a shock to me. When I’m famous enough to have my own movie selections on TCM, I’m almost certain I’ll include this one. I originally put this one on the queue because it was the title of one of my old blog posts. When I lived in Paris in 2009, I was walking down Rue Saint-Sabin one night and out of a door I had never noticed before came a man about my age. I remember it all clearly because it was so bizarre. I had lived on that road for months and never had I seen much nightlife, but tonight the streets were alive with music and people, the hustle and bustle was extraordinary. Anyway, out of this nondescript door came a curly haired man–nothing odd about this, but when he saw me, he began to walk sideways with his hands outstretched like claws and hissed at me. I believe it was the strangest thing that a stranger has done to me…thus far, anyway. With wide eyes, he scuttled back into what I assume is some kind of opium den. Anyway, my catman was nothing like the Catman of Paris. This film is about an author, Charles Regnier, who has written a terribly popular book about a criminal trial. The government is up in arms about it because he knows details that nobody should know, so they are looking for ways to incriminate him. Oddly, Charles has memory lapses and blames it on diseases that he may have contracted in the far East. Bizarre murders start taking place and they are always connected with him in some way. One man had connections to the trial, another woman who was killed was his fiancé. An occultist police officer believes that the murderer is a catman who allegedly appears every so often to further some agenda. This part wasn’t made all that clear. Anyway, Charles begins to believe that he is the catman and is going to turn himself in, but then events occur at a château that were a complete surprise to me. I’m not going to give it away and do forgive the scant details I’ve given you because I want you to enjoy it. Put it on your Netflix queues immediately. Such a good picture! [My Rating: 9/10]
March 23: Jennifer
I had high expectations for this film, I have no idea why, but the description intrigued me. It’s about a woman named Agnes who takes up residence as caretaker in an old manor in the California countryside. Once she arrives, she learns that the previous caretaker, Jennifer, had suddenly disappeared from the premises leaving no clues to where she went or why she left. Agnes didn’t give half a crap at first because she seems to be some kind of self-isolated loser. I’m a willing hermit myself, but she was just annoying about it. She keeps dropping not-so-subtle hints such as, “Don’t worry about me, I’m used to being alone.” I believe we are supposed to feel sympathetic for her, but Agnes seems like such an unpleasant bitch that the viewer couldn’t really care less. Once Agnes has moved in, the mystery of Jennifer consumes her suddenly. There is no character development, so there’s no clear reason why this should happen and confuses us. She reads a tedious diary, looks at horribly decorated rooms, wanders about, does a whole lot of nothing. Jim, who is always popping up keeps trying to romanticize her for reasons I fail to understand. She’s so cold that she probably has her period in cubes. (Holla at the Absolutely Fabulous reference!) So, he keeps trying and trying and trying and trying and it is exhausting. Then, again I don’t know why, she falls for Jim. She’s drunk and then there’s the reflection of a corpse in water and then they’re running around. Then Jim says that Jennifer had died in a sanitarium. Why they made up the disappearance nonsense was never explained. The ending is supposed to leave you with questions, but I didn’t understand what the question was that I should ask. I’d give the film zero, but I’ll give it one because the actress who played Agnes, Ida Lupino, looked like Doris Day’s slightly less attractive twin. [My Rating: 1/10]
March 24: Mangus!
I needn’t tell you why I wanted to watch this one after you read this: “Will [Mangus] get to be their towns first crippled Jesus?” Good God, I was excited! Nothing pleases me more than good sacrilegious humor, especially since it is a John Waters film! I watched it and loved it–so wonderfully odd. The plot was so original, you’ve never seen anything quite like it. Vaguely, Mangus! reminded me of Napoleon Dynamite, both are low budget comedies about relative losers who are able to bring great joy to those around them. Mangus wants nothing more than to win the coveted role of Jesus in his school’s production of a low-budget version of Jesus Christ Superstar. His father, Mangus Sr., played the role when he was in high school and he believes it to be a family tradition. He’s been practicing for a decade and to his delight, wins the role. Unfortunately, he parties a bit too hard and is in a tragic car accident that leaves him crippled and in a wheelchair. Some nasties in the community feel that it is inappropriate for Jesus to be depicted as a cripple, so he is outed and replaced by another actor. Mangus is devastated. Then, to pile on his misery, his father is shipped off to war. The second he leaves, his stepmother sends him to his mother’s home in a trailerpark. It is never explained why he doesn’t want to be with her, but he is not enthusiastic about the move. Luckily for him, and us, Jennifer Coolridge plays his mother. I adore that woman! His mother, step sister, and step-father(?) are sad, but wonderful people who fully support him. He wants to scare his replacement, so he goes to his house and watches as he does his routine. Tragically, he falls through a glass coffee table and Mangus freaks out after seeing his motionless corpse. He and his sister, Jessica Simpson (seriously!) played by the very capable Heather Matarazzo take off for Hollywood. They weren’t specific enough and end up in Hollywood, Florida. The look on her face when they get there is great. Blissfully for Mangus, his competition wasn’t killed in the accident so he is not suspected of murder and is wanted back home to play Jesus! He is in seventh heaven! They hustle back to Texas and put on a great show. It’s bizarre–Jesus and Santa Clause, decent singing and an overabundance of Christmas decorations. It’s a happy movie with a happy ending, and I suggest that you see it. You’ll love it. [My Rating: 9.5/10]
MOVIE of the WEEK: Mangus! I just loved it! You might, too. You might not, but I bet it’ll amuse you.