Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Natalie Could

TCM is running a Natalie Wood film festival this month. Back
in my sane and sober youth I loved me some Natalie Wood. For
little boys of color she was the ethnic "it" girl. Russian descended
Natasha Zacharenko played white-girl-turned-Native-American
(The Searchers), Hispanic (West Side Story), Jewish (Marjorie
Morningstar) and Italian (Love With the Proper Stranger).

Wood had this ineluctable quality of being able to play both the
tomboy (Gyspy and Inside Daisy Clover) and the vixen (Gypsy
and Bob&Carol&Ted&Alice); the ingenue (West Side Story) and
the full-fledged woman (Cat on a Hot Tin Roof). She was Annette
Funicello and Marilyn Monroe rolled into one. And, for this child
of the sixties and seventies, that was a heady combination.

I felt as if I had suffered a personal loss when Wood accidentally
drowned while filming Brainstorm in 1983.


Slanty-eyed White People Playing Asians Marathon

There is a slany-eyed white people playing Asians marathon on TCM today.

Thus far this morning I have seen that great Asian actress Katharine Hepburn starring as Jade Tan in the great Chinese resistance movie Dragon Seed (1944). This movie also stars notable "Asian" actors John Huston (as patriarch Ling Tan) and Agnes Moorehead (as third cousin's wife). There is a scene where Hepburn is holding an actual asian infant that looks eerily like Kim Hunter holding a real chimpanzee in Escape from the Planet of the Apes.

Dragon Seed was followed by that great Asian actor Anthony Quinn playing Chen Ta in "China Sky" (1945).

I am currently watching those great Asian actors Paul Muni (Wang Lung) and Luise Rainer (O-lan) in The Good Earth (1937). Is Luis Rainer the only Asian to win an Academy Award for Best Actress?

The Good Earth will be followed by:

The Bitter Tea of General Yen, (1933) starring that great "Asian" actor Nils Asther."

7 Women, (1966) starring Ann Bancroft (which I may skip because all the Asians are played by Asians)

55 Days at Peking (1963)starring that great "Asian" actress Flora Robson as Empress Tzu-Hsi and notable "Asian" actor Leo Genn as Gen. Jung-Lu.


Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Not-So-Great Unknown

I watched the premiere episode of Persons Unknown. It achieved what I would have thought would be an impossible combination: it is giddily ridiculous and maddeningly engaging.

Instead of an island, this Lost-esque knockoff takes place in a hotel that is straight out of The Shining. You half expect Jack Nicholson to hack through a wall - "Heeere's Johnny!" - at any moment - or, at the very least to be found typing "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy" ad nauseum on a manual typewriter.

Like a malevolent trickster, Persons Unknown baits and tricks you. The opening scene plays like scores of others we have seen before on countless episodes and incarnations of L&O, a single mother is distracted at a playground while her daughter wanders off and disappears. The mother lurches and screeches her daughter's name in a frantic and futile effort to find her when the authors insert a cruel twist - it is mommy who is about to show up on a milk carton. Which doesn't ratchet down your fear for the missing girl; it only acerbates it.

Then there is the bland band of abductees. These people have obviously been assembled for their particular skill sets - like the matronly white woman who conveniently knows all about biometric implants and slow-release tranquilizers - but stereotypes still abound. For instance, the black character, a trained soldier, should be the one in change but it is the generic "mysterious" white guy who consistently steps up to the mantle.

The black guy is, instead, used as sort of a mine canary. When a band of cliche-R-us refugees from a Chinese restaurant arrive to cook and serve copious amounts of Chinese food and everyone looks at it like little Mikey's siblings looked askance when first served Life cereal - "I'm NOT going to eat it!" And they don't eat it until "Little Mikey," the black guy, digs in and chows down.

"How is it?" a middle-aged white woman asks tentatively.

"Best damn Chinese food I ever had. I could eat it every day!" the black guy says as he shovels food into his mouth.

Later, when everybody reads their fortune cookies, the black guy says, "Mine is in Chinese."

Oh, yeah, the key that will unlock each of the hotel rooms where each member of the "lost" group initially and mysteriously finds him or herself is found inside each room's hotel bible.

I never would have found mine.

~rave? (I dunno. I will watch again, though)