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virtual virago: classic movies

A little more than a week ago, I came across a blog by Jennifer Garlen, Virtual Virago, subtitled “Classic movies, literature, and popular culture - welcome to my world!” I couldn’t help seeing a large number of similarities between Garlen and myself. She writes a blog about film, she has a PhD in English, she taught college English and literature for fourteen years at the University of Alabama, Huntsville, and she continues to teach while homeschooling her kid (I haven’t asked her about all of this, I’m just taking the info from her G+ page).

A sampling of her recent blog posts gives a sense of what interests her: Two Smart People with Lucille Ball, Key Largo with Bogart and Bacall, Wee Willie Winkie with Shirley Temple, Love Me or Leave Me with Doris Day and James Cagney, and the Warner Brothers’ all-star extravaganza, Hollywood Canteen.

Another recent post rang some familiar chimes for many of us who write blogs about movies. In “Confessions of a Classic Movie Blogger”, she lets us in on a few secrets. “I start every movie hoping I'll really like it.” “I love genre films, even cheesy ones.” “In my other life, I was an English professor.” And perhaps my favorite, “I love what I do!”

It turns out Garlen has also written a book, Beyond Casablanca: 100 Classic Movies Worth Watching. In a G+ exchange about the book, I told her, “the first entry that I looked up was Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein. Second was The Passion of Joan of Arc.” And I added, “What I found impressive was that you had something interesting to say about A&C Meet Frankenstein…. you made a couple of connections I hadn't thought of ... that Scooby-Doo comes from the same place, and that Lon Chaney, Jr. doesn't seem to be in on the joke.” One of her “confessions” in the above blog post was, ”I keep David Thomson's Have You Seen...? A Personal Introduction to 1,000 Films next to my bed at all times.” Beyond Casablanca includes only 10% as many films, but it’s another one to keep by your bedside. (Among the movies she discusses are personal faves like The Girl Can’t Help It, Rio Bravo, Night of the Hunter, and Top Hat.) She also includes with each film a list of other movies you might like in the same vein.

The seventh item on her list of confessions reads, “I wish I knew how to promote my classic movie guide and blog without being a pain about it.” I don’t mind being a pain. I recommend both book and blog, and look forward to a lot of reading.

music friday: the beatles

I’ve already forgotten why, but a few days ago, I started listening to every Beatles song, in order of its final recording date (I have about a dozen to go). That gave me the idea for this week’s Music Friday: one song from each of the twelve albums, plus one from Magical Mystery Tour and one from Past Masters. These are my favorites of those albums (at least as of the time I wrote this).

There’s a Place” (Please Please Me). “Twist and Shout” would be the obvious choice, and a great one. But the thing I love best about the early Beatles is the harmonies, and they are lovely here.

Money (That’s What I Want)” (With the Beatles). Not sure what I like more, John’s wrenching vocal, or the demented backup singing by Paul and George.

Tell Me Why” (A Hard Day’s Night). A happier version of the above … John’s lead vocal and the backup harmonies win the day again. This is my favorite Beatles album.

I’m a Loser” (Beatles for Sale). A pattern is developing here: John sings lead, backup harmonies are great. (Yes, John is my favorite Beatle.)

Help!” (Help!). Yep, another John song. These last two songs in particular show how John’s lyrics were often more emotionally distressed than the music that accompanied them.

I’m Down” (Past Masters). The flip-side of the “Help!” single, and only available in that format for many years. I owned that 45, because “I’m Down” is my favorite Paul song. In my mind, this roughly marks the end of the rock and roll Beatles, as opposed to the more arty Beatles. The split is largely bogus, of course, but it has always bothered me that so many people assume the best Beatles are later Beatles.

In My Life” (Rubber Soul). This is why it’s silly to say one Beatles period was better than another. This is more “adult” than “I’m Down”, and it’s certainly more introspective. It’s also beautiful.

And Your Bird Can Sing” (Revolver). I’ve always thought Revolver was overrated, but there’s no quibbling with this one, and the dual guitars of George and Paul. I have no idea what the lyrics are about.

A Day in the Life” (Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band). Again, why piss and moan about how this doesn’t “rock” the way “There’s a Place” does. It’s a remarkable recording.

It’s All Too Much” (Yellow Submarine). Yes, George gets a song here, too. I wish I’d managed to work a Ringo song in, as well.

I Am the Walrus” (Magical Mystery Tour). I’ve always thought John sounded angry for such nonsensical lyrics.

Yer Blues” (The Beatles). I never understood why people would think this was a parody. John doesn’t sound like he’s joking.

I’ve Got a Feeling” (Let It Be). Great Paul vocals, and even though it’s a bunch of songs squished into one, it sounds right. They sound like they could play together forever.

Side Two medley (Abbey Road). What a way to go out.