Friday, August 31, 2007

Reasons To Be Cheerful: week of 08/31/07

Another year older, and likely none the wiser, here's a few things that have shown up on my radar this week...

1. Feeling well-celebrated by friends and family gives a great warm & fuzzy feeling.
Duh! Of course it does!
It's good to get the occasional reminders of the practical and emotional benefits of staying in touch with those people...

2. So - - Do you Bean?

I've been surprised at the number of negative reviews I've encountered for the new film, 'Mr. Bean's Holiday'.
I liked it very much.

That my local paper's main critique seemed to be that the story was 'implausible' indicates to me that some people may be missing the point.

Granted, I'm a sucker for Rowan Atkinson, going back to the various Black Adders and 'Not The Nine O'Clock News'.

I love the way he's equally adept at both highly verbal and exclusively visual comedy, and will often turn in performances that almost completely divorce one from the other, or blend them artfully.

Did you see him in 2005's charming 'Keeping Mum', with Maggie Smith? You should...

The original Mr. Bean TV series is an absolute treasure, even if later episodes are not as good as earlier ones.

I personally can't go anywhere near the Bean animated series. For me, it's unwatchable.

That first feature film, 'Bean: The Movie' from 1997 was a horrendous train wreck in my opinion, despite having a couple of superb Bean moments.

After experiencing diminishing returns,
Bean-wise, I had understandably low expectations for the new film.
I was SO pleased to discover that there's still room in the world for a grand new Bean movie.

Many of the pitfalls of the first movie are deftly avoided, as there's relatively sparse dialogue for much of the new film.

The supporting cast works well, especially a perfectly awful character role for Willem Dafoe, and a great cameo for French film star
Jean Rochefort.

I found the biggest surprise of 'Mr. Bean's Holiday' to be that the film is a visually stunning and very loving travel brochure for France. From Bean's arrival in Paris, all through his derailments through the French countryside en route to Cannes, my reaction was 'Yes, please' while wondering about getting my passport in order.

So, if by chance you haven't yet Beaned, check out the DVDs of the original TV series or this film.
If you have prior Bean experience, it's now safe to Bean again.

(click on image to ENLARGE)

3. I've already lost track where I just recently first saw a notice of increased Milt Gross ⬆ activity happening at the ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archive, (click for link) but it's exciting news.

Marc Deckter of Duck Walk has generously lent them a couple of hundred vintage Milt Gross Sunday and daily comics pages that they are in the process of digitizing.

There's many of these classic 'screwball' comics already posted there. It's quite a trove.

Again, not unlike the above-mentioned Rowan Atkinson, I marvel at Gross' vesatility. His comics are true humor - - not just the rhythms, the situations, the punchlines, he just drew *funny*. A pleasure to take in.

He could convey much wordlessly, as evidenced in his 1930 'He Done Her Wrong' (reprinted as 'Hearts Of Gold') a 'silent' parody of 'The Great American Novel'.

But he was equally adept at verbal wit, as evidenced in his diabolically mesmerizing 'Yinglish' dialect books from 1926 and '27, 'Hiawatta witt no odder poems', 'De Night in De Front From Chreesmas', 'Nize Baby' and 'Dunt Esk'.

Here's a small and typically perplexing excerpt from 'Nize Baby'... ⬇ (click on image to ENLARGE)

Great fun, but how so ever, you must to be watchful if you are reading at length, yet.

Wit a gosshen, wit care det you mite should beguine to spikkings in zotch ha menner, nu?

See also an illustrated Milt Gross bio page at the Bud Plant website.
(click to link)

4. Have you yet run across Australian 'Unusualist' Raymond Crowe?

Have you perhaps already seen the video clip of his hand-shadow performance set to Louis Armstrong's 'What A Wonderful World'?

Follow the above links if you haven't.

Now if we can just get him to do hand shadows to 'Anarchy in the U.K.' or 'Pay To Cum'...

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