One of the joys of having longtime pal Miss Rheba out in our part of the world over these holidays - aside from her delightfully skewed take on much that we take for granted in this eccentric little Sultanate - has been resuming the marathon movie watching that has marked much of our friendship over the past thirty years.
In one stretch these past couple of days, for instance, we managed to take in the remarkably diverse buffet of Love Actually, Eight-Legged Freaks, The Unsinkable Molly Brown, and Inglourious Basterds. Of them all, I'd only (shamefully enough, Debbie Reynolds fans) ever seen the first. The combo left me a little dazed, I have to admit.
Love Actually is a guilty pleasure, old-style Hollywood treacle repackaged en style Cool Britannia, a Grand Hotel of varied stars and all-over-the-map acting, from another of Emma Thompson's exquisitely observed portraits of discreet anguish to Bill Nighy's scenery-chomping glee as a faded rockstar. We laughed, we cried, we wished we had some of those apartments.
I really rather thought, believe it not, that Eight-Legged Freaks and Molly Brown have a couple of things in common, principally the over-the-top dedication that their stars throw into making implausible vehicles as entertaining as possible. Both sets of performers clearly know that they're not in Strindberg, but decide to ride it out by giving it their all.
Miss Rheba once worked lights for an East Coast stage production of Molly Brown and regaled us with tales of what agony the cast had in trying to replicate even a fraction of the enthusiasm that Miss Reynolds and company brought to what is, at the end of the day, pretty eighth-rate stuff. She calls the show The Unsinkable Molly Reprise, pointing out that it has just about exactly three numbers, all of which are mercilessly recycled until the audience begs for release. On the other hand, Harve Presnell is pretty easy on the eyes and gets to stride about in some truly astonishing pants.
It strikes me that the tagline from the one-sheet above - "Get out of the way... Or get hit in the heart!" is way more Tarantino than MGM, and could just as easily work for Basterds. About which I don't have a great deal to say, other than that it was in parts very effective, in others extremely silly, and overall more a perverse valentine to cinema than, in itself, a film of any distinction.
But I do kind of wish that Tarantino would team up with Debbie Reynolds. David Lynch gave Ann Miller her last role, and just think what madness Jackie Brown's creator and Molly Brown herself could bring to the the screen...