Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Homebody Film Series: The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas

Today is Dolly Parton's 64th birthday, so it seems only fitting that I just finished watching The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (1982) (completely unplanned). Based on a play, BLWIT is the story of the Chicken Ranch, a historic brothel in a tiny Texas town that Melvin P. Thorpe, a prissy whackjob TV "announcer", is hell-bent on shutting down. Dolly Parton plays Mona, the owner and Burt Reynolds plays Ed Earl Dodd, the sheriff who's fighting to keep the Chicken Ranch open. [spoiler alert]

"Little Whorehouse" is of course a musical, chock full of campy goodness. Dolly and her working girls really are whores with hearts of gold (whores with real problems and reservations about their jobs don't always do that well in movies). You don't even really get to feel sorry that they're prostitutes until the end, when you realize they have no other marketable skills. Parton's first number goes through her rules as madame: no tattoos, no drinkin', no cussin'; in short, her girls must always conduct themselves like ladies. The first Dolly number outlines it all:

How great are her costumes? Dolly Parton delivers a great performance, even in a movie that's campy enough not to put too much pressure on its actors. But what really steals the show in her singing. Her performance of "I Will Always Love You" really is touching, probably the most poignant moment of the movie.

Burt Reynolds is great as well, though he doesn't always sound Southern enough to be the sheriff of a "little bitty pissant country place". He looks great (I'm biased, I kind of have a thing for Mr. Reynolds). His character really cares for Mona even though at first it seems like they're only messing around. There's no mention of money when we first see them together, so there's no reason to think it's strictly business.

The Mona-Ed Earl relationship is the main plot after the battle over the Chicken Ranch, but the movie still takes the chance to do a little bit of social commentary--with a song and dance, no less. The governor also does a great number called "Dance a Little Sidestep" that is essentially about how politicians can hardly give a straight answer to even the simplest questions. Charles Durning was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his role as the governor.Beyond that, when a reporter asks the governor what he thinks about the crisis in the Middle East, he says, "I think the Jews and the A-rabs should sit down and solve their problems in a Christian fashion." Even the fact that Mona insists there's nothing dirty happening in her brothel could be read as her making the statement that sex itself not isn't dirty.

Dolly Parton, Burt Reynolds, and Charles Durning were all great, but Dom DeLuise, who plays Melvin P. Thorpe, definitely deserves recognition for his work. He is absolutely hilarious. He gets all dressed up in ridiculous costumes, a man-corset and a wig to get on his soapbox about the evils of the Chicken Ranch. He's a laughable villain, possibly because we all know a Melvin P. Thorpe in real life.

And where is Dolly now? Here's a really great interview with her on BBC from about 2 years ago. All these years later she's still hilarious and sweet:

I hope wherever she is, she's having a wonderful birthday.
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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Repeat (1): Take Me Home by Cher

Repeat (1) is a semi-regular feature here at Pop-o-matic Deluxe about the retro songs that are worth every penny of the 99 cents (or $1.29--screw you, iTunes) you shell out.

A couple days ago I was watching Moonstruck as part of the Homebody Film Series (stay tuned, more on that later), and it got me thinking about how much I love Cher. I read all about her on Wikipedia and was actually kind of surprised not to find any drug addiction in her past--is that weird that I was surprised? Anyway, she's great, and I have the disco classic "Take Me Home" stuck in my head and playing while I dance in my underwear. God, I should've been a disco diva.

I apologize for the crappy quality of the following video. This isn't the official music video like it says. This is a clip from the variety show Cher and Other Fantasies from 1979. Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Baby-Sitters Club, Coming to a Bookstore Near You!

If you're like me, you were a big fan of the Baby Sitters Club back in the day. Have no fear; the girls are coming back in March! Say hello to your friends!

The New York Times reported that the original author, Ann M. Martin, is going to write a prequel to the books and reissue the original books with updated the original themes for modern readers. You know, talking about computers, and text messages and taking out references to perms (ha!). Still, they'll be wholesome books for the 7-12 set. What's your favorite BSC memory? I'd have to say getting the special edition book and necklace issued with the movie and then wearing said necklace to the movie.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Retrofit: Fabulous Family Photos from The Sartorialist

I don't usually read The Sartorialist, but last night, I had a gander and I came across some great vintage photos:

What are we thinking...early 60s? Either way, she looks great. Just last night, I was trying to get my hair to do that. See the rest of them here (scroll down).
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Friday, January 8, 2010

Inventor of Pez Dispenser Dies

December 15, the world lost Curtis Allina, the man behind the hugely popular Pez dispenser. His Austrian peppermints were originally designed in the 1920s to help people stop smoking but he wanted the kiddies to enjoy them too. Flavorwire has a great article on him and the dispensers, plus photos of really weird dispensers (including a Chuck Norris one).
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Thursday, January 7, 2010

Thursday Thirteen: Soft Rock Songs that Rock

Last night in the wee hours, Becca of b. vikki vintage and I were all a-twitter about VH1's 40 Soft-sational Soft Rock Songs. I did a Thursday 13 list a while back and I think it's time again. VH1's really inspired me. Soft rock reminds me of my godmother's house in Queens, an odd contrast to the calypso always playing in my grandparent's house across town. Oh, what fond, fuzzy memories! I heart cheese:

1. Total Eclipse of the Heart, Bonnie Tyler: I wish they'd played this song at my prom. But why such a creepy video?

2. Summer Breeze, Seals and Croft: Great song. What exactly does it mean? Who cares?

3. A Horse with No Name: This was pretty high up on VH1's list and it's at the top of mine now. Very earthy, and hippy-ish. Love it.

4. Cruisin', Huey Newton & The News ft. Gwenyth Paltrow: I don't know if this counts, but I'm counting it.

5. Open Arms, Journey: I usually cringe when I hear the name Journey because all I can think of is drunk people falling over themselves screaming the lyrics to 'Don't Stop Believing'. But then VH1 listed this song and my heart sang. I usually think of this song as being by Mariah Carey but Journey's version is quite good.

6. What A Fool Believes, The Doobie Brothers: Oh, Michael McDonald: thanks for the link, Becca

7. Kiss from a Rose, Seal: One song that actually sounds really good when a capella groups do it.

8. Superstar, The Carpenters: A nice foundation for Luther Vandross to build on later. Heartbreaking lyrics.

9. Kokomo, The Beach Boys: Such wordplay! A karaoke gem.

10. Time After Time, Cyndi Lauper: Even rebels have a soft spot, right Cyndi? Listen to this song, and you can cut the number of 80s teen movies you watch in half.

11. If I Could Turn Back Time, Cher: The immortal, the unstoppable, the scarily Botox-ed Cher. God, I love her.

12. Angel of the Morning, Juice Newton: Juice? Her name is Juice? But that aside, it does sort of rock you to sleep, doesn't it?

13. I Just Wanna Stop, Gino Vannelli: I'm in love.

Honorable Mentions: Say You, Say Me, Lionel Ritchie; As I Lay Me Down, Sophie Hawkins

Here's VH1's list. What are your favorites?
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Monday, January 4, 2010

Homebody Film Series: School Daze

Being a student on the semester system, rather than that quarter system crap, means I have the luxury of a nice, long winter break. This year it's a bit shorter than usual, but I'm still making time to watch a lot of old movies. I'm calling it the Homebody Film Series.

The first movie up is School Daze (1988). A classic Spike Lee sort-of-musical about a group of students at a historically black college. It used some people that went on to be some big stars later: Laurence Fishburne, Tisha Campbell, Jasmine Guy and Ossie Davis plays the college president. The movie was shot at Morehouse in Atlanta, but once the president of the college found out more about the content of the movie, he almost stopped the filming. In a way, he was right to be worried because the movie's kind of unsettling. Spoiler alert

I wanted to love School Daze. I know it's an important movie; they make every freshman class at Howard watch it. I liked the stuff about the fraternities and sororities. It's spot on, from what I understand. Spike Lee's character Half-Pint is desperate to join the Gamma Phi Gamma fraternity, and, as is expected in fraternities, gets crapped on by the brothers.

As his polar opposite is his cousin Dap, a student with radical political views that's pushing the university to divest from South Africa and who hates everything the Greeks stand for. This is where the movie starts, but it gets into the thorny areas of skin color and class. Here's the big musical number from the movie, featuring the Wannabes, the girls who have straightened hair and blue contacts, and the Jiggaboos, the darker-skinned women with natural hair:

And that was the thing with this movie: it raised all these really knotty issues in a way that makes us uncomfortable because we know they're true and then what? Nobody learns anything! We end with this weird scene that is not all in keeping with the rest of the film, with Dap calling the whole campus out and telling them to 'wake up', but wake up to what? Because Dap, with his radical politics, is almost as hung up as the rest of the characters.

That being said, Laurence Fishburne is beautiful and we get to see a lot of him in one scene. Dap, unlike his university, is well-endowed.

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Happy New Year + Grease Lightning, Parker Style

Happy New Year, kids! Hope everyone enjoyed safe, fun, gin-soaked celebrations, because I certainly did. Now back to business.

Eva Longoria and her husband Tony Parker love Grease, and they're turning their love into a great contest for fans. On his website, Parker is holding a contest for fans to lipsync scenes from their favorite movie musicals. The couple with the best video gets to fly out to see the Spurs play for free. The best part? Eva and Tony started off with their own video [after the jump]:

Adorable and hilarious. Do you and your sweetheart have what it takes to enter? The contest ends January 31. Read more about the contest on The Daily Mail. Catch Grease on VH1 on Wednesday at 7:30 and 11:30.
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