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September 7, 2012

Just watched a few black and white Mack Sennet-Mabel Normand silent shorts on TCM. Girl, railroad track, moustache, train, twirling, falling, etc…only surprising thing was that they chained her and then hammered the chains to the tracks.  I always assumed the standard was rope. Chain’s sturdier, I suppose.  I prefer the Buster Keaton shorts I’ve seen — and The General, which was an amazing feat of athletic + comic virtuosity.  Chaplin always leaves me cold.

So tonight’s viewing choice was a huge contrast to yesterday, when a friend came over in a movie mood, when presented with the standard action, comedy, classic, modern choices said “something with color.”  So Monkey Business was out (Marilyn Monroe’s comic talents were a topic of discussion).  And I had to think.  Actually, all I had to do was look at the shelf, see Baz Luhrman’s Strictly Ballroom and click, we were on.  It was love all over again.  Used to watch it seasonally, I believe, and then stopped because we used it for dance inspiration for the second Midsummer.  You can only watch a rhumba so many times in a row.  But right from the beginning, it grabbed me again, there was the laughter at the perfect blackly comic tone, at the gravity of the actors, at the earnestness and/or cheesiness of the dances.  It’s amazing and perfect and full of wonderful moments when they ratchet up and then break the tension in the most glaringly obvious way.  And colors:  from the sweep of red curtains to a neon Coca Cola billboard backdrop at night to the costumes that get right up in your eye — wow.  

That brought me to thinking about other movies that I could have used to answer the call for color.  Hero is a beautiful martial arts fairy tale starring Jet Li, that uses different color schemes as each of the key characters relates part of a story.  The fight between characters Moon and Falling Snow is a gorgeous ballet battle.  The falling leaves are obstacle, weapon and wind.

The Shadow is a period wonder with bold color splashes:  the Cobalt Club, The Shadow’s hideout, Chinatown, the art decoration of the villain’s hideaway, our hero’s red scarf, Shiwan Khan’s robes and the textures of everything around him.  It’s a sharp movie, entertaining, funny and all the things Dick Tracy missed.  Not a popular movie, but one of my favorites.

For a different kind of colorful, there’s the bright practically glowing and leaping off the screen language wizardry of Chris Tucker.  Listening to and watching him in his Rush Hour collaborations with Jackie Chan is a trip to a verbal wonderland. Whenever the Fifth Element scrolls by on the cable guide, I have to change over to watch it.  The only other film that really has this effect on me is the Karate Kid.  More fun Elisabeth Shue movies would have worked for me. Soapdish and Adventures in Babysitting is a double feature I suggest trying some night.  With popcorn.  And room for singing along to The Babysitting Blues.

Did I mention the blues + The Tempest thought ; )*

 *Shakespeare segue for the cognoscenti ; ) No, I didn’t actually mean to shoehorn a Shakespeare reference in.  These things do actually happen.  I was listening to The Babysitting Blues + remembering the are there separate types of blues questions I’ve already asked my in house musical consultant.  Someone’s started the Tempest music pool already, right?  Get your bets in now. Odds are better.

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