June 1948: Easter Parade













I can see! In colour!

Based on the name I thought this was going to be a cheap B movie, but instead it’s an Irving Berlin extravaganza! With Fred Astaire and Judy Garland!

But like I guessed by the “parade” name, this is basically a bunch of songs and dances and skits with some nonsensical plot to tie it all loosely together.

Which is fine by me!

It’s odd watching Astaire in colour and in 2K. He looks so… highly resoluted. (That’s a word.) For the first five minutes I was going “is that really Fred? Is it really? Is it?”

But then he started dancing.

:

It was the most financially successful picture for both Garland and Astaire as well as the highest-grossing musical of the year.

But I can see why. This is effortlessly funny. It’s a kind of Eliza Doolittle thing, really, and Judy Garland is hilarious here. And she hoofs it impressively.

The Ann Miller tap scene tops everything, though. Amazeballs.

Easter Parade. Charles Walters. 1948.

Popular movies in June 1948 according to IMDB:

Poster Votes Rating Movie
8962 7.8 Oliver Twist
6681 7.5 Easter Parade
4995 7.4 A Foreign Affair
1968 7.1 The Street with No Name
1284 7.0 Romance on the High Seas
272 6.7 Canon City
243 6.3 Green Grass of Wyoming

This blog post is part of the Decade series.

May 1948: Hamlet
























Directed by Laurence Olivier, this is pretty spiffy. Lots of weird little touches.

It’s not filmed theatre at all — it’s all movie.

I didn’t recognise Olivier at all. Perhaps I’ve just seen him in much later movies? Or is it just the blond(e)ness? He’s fabulous here, anyway.

We’ve all seen Hamlet way too many times, right? But this version seems so fresh. Despite my expectations, I found myself riveted. I think this may well be the best version I’ve seen?

Yes.

Even if it doesn’t include Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. It feels very compact, even if it’s two and a half hours. And that means that it’s all psychodrama and doesn’t have all the funny and or political bits.

Oh, huh. It won all the Oscars that year, which I didn’t expect, either.

But even so, it’s great. The only major misstep is the casting of Horatio. He’s just an oafish non-entity here. And it’s a bit weird that Hamlet’s mother is obviously much younger than Hamlet is, but they make it work.

Did Olivier want to play Hamlet as he was really a lunatic instead of playing at being one? This version seems to be open to that interpretation… Especially when you mix the incestuous bits with his mother in.

Hamlet. Laurence Olivier. 1948.

Popular movies in May 1948 according to IMDB:

Poster Votes Rating Movie
12250 7.8 Hamlet
2758 7.4 Raw Deal
406 7.1 The Fuller Brush Man
3410 7.1 The Pirate
662 6.9 Miranda
2180 6.8 Berlin Express
874 6.6 The Woman in White
783 6.6 Silver River
851 6.5 The Time of Your Life
3366 6.5 Melody Time

This blog post is part of the Decade series.

April 1948: Letter from an Unknown Woman












Oh, directed by Max Ophüls. I haven’t seen a lot of movies by him… I remember seeing The Earrings of Madame De… the other year. I think? Yes.

I was apparently befuddled then.

This looks great. The cinematography is relentlessly intriguing.

Joan Fontaine is marvellous. Her acting style is so different from what you usually get in Hollywood movies of this era. Not that there’s anything wrong with the norm, but it’s refreshing to see a different take.

This is a very strange film: I had no idea where it was going (on a macro plane) while most of the individual scenes were quite predictable.

The most disturbing thing about the movie is watching Louis Jourdan pretending he knows his way around a piano.

Letter from an Unknown Woman. Max Ophüls. 1948.

Popular movies in April 1948 according to IMDB:

Poster Votes Rating Movie
8524 8.0 Letter from an Unknown Woman
201 7.4 Krakatit
2623 7.4 State of the Union
839 7.1 The Noose Hangs High
702 7.1 Winter Meeting
763 6.9 Ruthless
224 6.8 Fury at Furnace Creek
486 6.7 Homecoming
284 6.3 Casbah
1087 6.2 The Emperor Waltz

This blog post is part of the Decade series.

CCCB: Miracle of the Rose

When I went to the kitchen equipment store and asked for the stuff I needed to bake these things, the shop assistant asked me “you’re making smultringer (literally “lard rings”) after Christmas?” incredulously.

Which was slightly weird. These are things one makes in Scandinavia at Xmas, but they’re eaten all year long, because these are the Scandinavian version of donuts.

That is, it’s dough that you deep fry, but there’s an important difference: These aren’t made from yeast dough, but uses baking powder and horn salt (ammonium bicarbonate). This page explains the origins more in depth.

It’s basically just a pretty normal (but moist) dough (look at me, I’m an expert after making like a handful of things), but it has the aforementioned horn salt (which smells very er invigorating) and lots of eggs and cream and butter.

WHERE DID THAT BEER COME FROM.

Oops.

Whisk whisk whisk.

Add the dry bits.

Mix. Done. And then you let it rest in the fridge until the next day.

That’s it! The dough is the easiest I’ve made, I think?

But then comes drama! Deep frying! I’ve never deep fried anything in my life, so this is the exciting part (for me).

The fat comes in half kilo blocks. You traditionally use lard, as the name implies, but these days everybody uses some kind of plant-based fat (this is coconut, shea and palm, I believe).

Then catastrophe! The dough is very sticky. I mean… stickier than an HSTS policy! I nervously tried to get some more flour into the dough while everything was sticking to everything else, and I finally wrestled it into some kind of submission.

But since it’s so sticky, getting any kind of ringy rings out of the dough was a challenge. Which I failed as. As you can see.

Oops! I had started the deep fryer with the cubes of fat in the basket, which meant that they didn’t touch the heating element, which meant that the heating element gave off a not-very-pleasing smell of overheated electronics. Gaaah!

Did I mention that I’ve never used one of these before?

I quickly pulled the plug and then dumped the blocks of fat right onto the heating elements.

And got the powder fire extinguisher out of the closet.

But look! I didn’t burn the house down! (If ever my neighbours happen onto my blog they must be so reassured.)

Mmmm… Crispy on the outside and sweet and fluffy on the inside…

Masses of lardy … shapes!

Ok, time to choose a book that I’ve avoided reading for like 25 years…

Eenie… meenie…

I choose Miracle of the Rose by Jean Genet, and I know exactly when and where and why I bought this, and why I’ve avoided reading it: I bought it in London in 1993 at the big Foyle’s (I was in London for the 4AD festival called Thirteen Year Itch (it was 4AD’s 13th anniversary)), and I bought it because it was an author whose name was familiar to me, and I had to buy something, and I didn’t read it because I’d read some Genet while in high school (not as an assignment) and I didn’t like his books.

See? It all… makes… sense…?

The other reason I’ve avoided reading this is that this is a translated work: If I want to read something badly translated, it might as well be badly translated into Norwegian and not badly translated into English. In my experience, English language translations are often of high quality, but sometimes tend to go more for authenticity (i.e., preserving the other language’s cadence and grammar) than legibility.

But let’s read the first two pages in the book.

Hm!

There was a hole in the seat, and when my gripes got too
violent because of the jolting, I had only to unbutton.

Hm? Gripes? Complaining? Unbutton? The opposite of buttoning up? No… er…

Oh!

gripe (grīp)
v. griped, griping, gripes
v.intr.
To have sharp pains in the bowels.

(If you didn’t get hit, he shat down the hole in the seat.)

Is that related to “having the grippe”?

This book was written in 1951 and translated into English in 1965 by one Bernard Frechtman. Looks like he’s done a bunch of Genet books.

And my reservations seem to be warranted: The text has a very Frenchie flow to it, and I’m guessing that he’s using quaint English words to emulate other quaint French words.

The book purports to be about Genet himself in prison, and that may very well be true, for all I know. He did spend a lot of time behind bars, didn’t he? I’ve done no research.

The translator is footnote happy. (It’s like gun crazy, but with footnotes instead of guns.) Genet writes a lot about language in this book, and expounds, say, on the differences between “Les Bijou” and “bijoux” which of course makes the translator chime in. As much as I hate footnotes, the translator doesn’t really go overboard with the explanations, even if he sprinkles them generously throughout the book.

There’s a lot of little bits in this book that I absolutely adore.

I wanted to become rich in order to be kind, so as to feel the gentleness, the restfulness that kindness accords (rich and kind, not in order to give, but so that my nature, being kind, would be pacified). I stole in order to be kind.

Or what about this one:

He is indeed vulgar, but with a vulgarity that is haughty, hard, maintained by constant labour. His vulgarity is erect.

I mean, you can’t quibble with that.

But these glimmers of brilliance are mostly submerged in a swamp of semi-opaque, meandering recollections. Genet doesn’t have much of a structure going on here… or perhaps vaguely shifting back and forth between various people and times and situations is a structure as good as anything. You can’t really say that there’s much sense of progress in the book, because we return to the same things so many times; sometimes we learn a bit more than last time and sometimes not. Genet glides around as if writing by nothing more than free association. Still there’s a sometimes satisfying connectedness to these pages.

But… I agree with my teenage self. I don’t really like Genet’s books. Getting through this one was mostly a chore, but with some real points of interest. I can see why he fascinates.

So how does the lard not-quite-ring pair with the book?

Well, they’re delicious, and, of course, makes the book a lot sweeter.

Nom nom nom.

4AD 1991

Listen to 4AD 1991 on Spotify.

The most striking thing about 1991 is that a lot of the sleeves aren’t very good. Vaughan Oliver/Chris Bigg might have been going through a period of burn-out, and there’s some external designers used, too. Counting Backwards, Time, the Spirea X releases, Flesh Balloon are all pretty bad. And Mama Told Me Not To Come is just disgusting.

Musically, things are moving in a distinctly more stream-lined and commercial direction. With Trompe le Monde, Pixies are finally nothing more than just another boring rock band; all the weirdness and fun has been discarded. Throwing Muses loses Leslie Langston’s glorious bass lines. The Wolfgang Press decide to stop being such contrarians and go dancing instead. (Which I quite like.) And Spirea X… what the fuck is that even? The first band on 4AD since 1982 that I just don’t like even a tiny bit.

But it’s not all bad. His Name Is Alive return with a magnificent second album, and Heidi Berry’s Love is glorious and fresh. And, of course, This Mortal Coil release their third and final album, and it’s quite good. Not as good a Filigree & Shadow, but then very few things are.

There’s a whopping 17 “official” things released this year (and more than a few promo releases), but only a handful are vital, which makes this the worst year in 4AD history.

SO FAR!

(I haven’t included the promo stuff in the Spotify playlist because they’re not very interesting, and, well, they’re not on Spotify.)

1991

 BAD1001
Throwing Muses — Counting Backwards

Counting Backwards, Same Sun, Amazing Grace, Cottonmouth

 CAD1002
Throwing Muses — The Real Ramona

Counting Backwards, Him Dancing, Red Shoes, Graffiti, Golden Thing, Ellen West, Dylan, Hook In Her Head, Not Too Soon, Honeychain, Say Goodbye, Two Step

 BAD1003
The Wolfgang Press — Time

Time (single), Time Less, Dark Time

 BAD1004
Spirea X — Chlorine Dream

Chlorine Dream, Spirea Rising, Risk

 DAD1005
This Mortal Coil — Blood

The Lacemaker, Mr. Somewhere, Andialu, With Tomorrow, Loose Joints, You And Your Sister, Nature’s Way, I Come And Stand At Every Door, Bitter (), Baby Ray Baby, Several Times (Several Times I), The Lacemaker II, Late Night, Ruddy And Wretched, Help Me Lift You Up, Carolyn’s Song, D. D. And E., ‘Til I Gain Control Again, Dreams Are Like Water, I Am The Cosmos, (Nothing But) Blood

 BAD1006
Spirea X — Speed Reaction

Speed Reaction, What Kind Of Love, Jet Pilot, Re: Action

 BAD1007
The Wolfgang Press — Mama Told Me Not To Come

Mama Told Me Not To Come, Mama Told Me Not To Come (inside out mix), Summer Time

 BAD1008
Pixies — Planet Of Sound

Planet Of Sound, Theme From Narc, Build High, Evil Hearted You

 BAD1009
Pale Saints — Flesh Balloon

Hunted, Porpoise, Kinky Love, Hair Shoes (demo version)

 CAD C1010
Dead Can Dance — A Passage In Time

Saltarello, Song Of Sophia, Ulysses, Cantara, The Garden Of Zephirus, Enigma Of The Absolute, Wilderness, The Host Of Seraphim, Anywhere Out Of The World, The Writing Of My Father’s Hand, Severance, The Song Of The Sybil, Fortune Presents Gifts Not According To The Book, In The Kingdom Of The Blind The One-Eyed Are Kings, Bird, Spirit

 CAD1011
The Wolfgang Press — Queer

Birmingham, Mama Told Me Not To Come, Heaven’s Gate, Riders On The Heart, Questions Of Time, Louis XIV, Fakes & Liars, Honey Tree, Birdie Song, Dreams & Light, Sucker, Mother Valentine

 CAD1012
Heidi Berry — Love

Washington Square, Up In The Air, Gloria, Great Big Silver Key, Wake, Cradle, Hand Over Head, Silver Buttons, Lonely Heart, Bright As Day, Lily

 CAD1013
His Name Is Alive — Home Is In Your Head

Are You Coming Down This Weekend?, Her Eyes Were Huge Things, The Charmer, Hope Called In Sick, My Feathers Needed Cleaning, The Well, There’s Something Between Us And He’s Changing My Words, The Phoenix, A Pool Of Ice, Are We Still Married?, Put Your Finger In Your Eye, Home Is In Your Head, Why People Disappear, Her Eyes Are Huge, Save the Birds, Chances Are We Are Mad, Mescalina, Sitting Still Moving Still Staring Outlooking, Very Bad A Bitter Hand, Beautiful And Pointless, Tempe, Spirit And Body, Love’s A Fish Eye, Dreams Are Of The Body, The Other Body

 CAD1014
Pixies — Trompe Le Monde

Trompe Le Monde, Planet Of Sound, Alec Eiffel, The Sad Punk, Head On, U-Mass, Palace Of The Brine, Letter To Memphis, Bird Dream Of The Olympus Mons, Space (I Believe In), Subbacultcha, Distance Equals Rate Times Time, Lovely Day, Motorway To Roswell, The Navajo Know

 BAD1015
Throwing Muses — Not Too Soon

Not Too Soon, Cry Baby Cry, Him Dancing (remix), Dizzy (remix)

 BAD1016
Lush — Black Spring

Nothing Natural, God’s Gift, Fallin’ In Love, Monochrome

 CAD1017
Spirea X — Fireblade Skies

Smile, Nothing Happened Yesterday, Rollercoaster (spirea), Chlorine Dream (remix), Fire And Light, Spirea 9, Speed Reaction, Confusion In My Soul, Signed D. C., Sisters And Brothers, Sunset Dawn

This post is part of the chronological look at all 4AD releases, year by year.

*) Missing from Spotify.

March 1948: Fort Apache



















Johns Ford and Wayne! Is this the first John Wayne movie I’ve seen in this blog series? Hm…

Oh, Shirley Temple and Henry Fonda, too…

This is sweet. I thought this was going to be one of those serious and relevant westerns (not that there’s anything wrong with that), but instead it’s pretty funny.

Not that there isn’t some drama, but this is mostly very light-hearted and amusing. Until it suddenly turns quite serious.

The mix of slapstick humour and more earnest action doesn’t always work: The horse-riding skit seemed to last forever while we were perhaps more interested in what was going on with the Cochise situation.

But it’s an interesting movie. It’s somewhere half-way between the older western movies where the Native Americans are the enemy and the later revisionist westerns where the US Army are unambiguous villains.

The final scene with the journalists, creating the myth of The Great General and the Savage (Befeathered) Indians, is a very thoughtful touch.

Fort Apache. John Ford. 1948.

Popular movies in March 1948 according to IMDB:

Poster Votes Rating Movie
4038 8.3 I Remember Mama
2961 7.9 The Search
9067 7.7 The Naked City
5888 7.7 The Big Clock
1486 7.6 Sitting Pretty
13044 7.6 Fort Apache
1186 7.4 All My Sons
8284 7.3 Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House
333 7.2 The Mating of Millie
319 6.9 So Evil My Love

This blog post is part of the Decade series.

February 1948: Sleep, My Love














Noir! Sirk! Colbert!

*gets popcorn*

This is brilliantly paranoid; a vortex of (possible) gaslighting, (possible) insanity and (possible) conspiracies.

They give away the game a bit too early, I think, and from then on it all seems a bit too predictable.

But it’s fun and it’s funny and gripping and it’s quite Douglas Sirk. Sirk is, of course, one of my favourite directors, and I’m going to see all his movies.

Sleep, My Love. Douglas Sirk. 1948.

Popular movies in February 1948 according to IMDB:

Poster Votes Rating Movie
6290 7.4 Call Northside 777
397 7.2 To the Ends of the Earth
1117 6.9 Sleep, My Love
559 6.8 Blanche Fury
391 6.7 Albuquerque
413 6.6 Tenth Avenue Angel
1079 6.4 Arch of Triumph
368 6.3 Three Daring Daughters
473 6.0 On Our Merry Way
389 5.9 Summer Holiday

This blog post is part of the Decade series.