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Screedblog up. Mood down. Joe back tomorrow. How I wish I was a golden happy person in a pool in 1972, enjoying the glee that comes from alcohol consumption and cheerful refusal to make eye contact. But we soldier on.

Watched "Underworld," a vampire movie. I hate vampires. They’re just mosquitoes with backstories. Oh, but they’re so romantic, being damned and all! Feh. Women like the Eastern European accents and brooding looks; if most vampires were pale gangly nerds who spoke in falsettos, “Interview With a Vampire” would be one page long, and consist of two questions: have you ever operated a deep fryer before, and can you start Monday? I can’t stand their annoying superiority – oh, you mere mortal, behold me, who is stronger and will live forever, barring any accidents involving photons or stakes. Superior? Well, if it’s a one-on-one match, I suppose, but have you guys ever accomplished anything besides striking poses in red velvet smoking jackets? You’re the worst sort of European: our most compelling advantage appears to be our ready access to antique furniture, over which we may artlessly sprawl in dank mansions. Hey, Fangboy: Ever invented anything? Tell you what: fifty of us against fifty of you. We’ll bring stuff humans have invented. You bring your teeth. Meet you at high noon at the semi-conductor factory, Euroskeeter. Oh, what’s that? You can’t come out and play in the day because you crisp up like bacon left in the toaster oven? Where should we meet, then? No – let me guess! Midnight! At the graveyard!

Anyway. “Underworld” is a big goopy kiss for all those miserable Goths who think it would be cool to be undead because you could hang around a castle and look either amused and bored and undead, or undead and angsty AND, in either case, you’d have a great excuse for a deathly unappealing pallor. Win-win. Kate Beckinsdale, who was under a court order not to smile for the entire film, plays a “Death Dealer,” which really doesn’t quite narrow her down in the vampire job world, does it? She fights the Werewolves, who have been in a Hatfield-McCoy situation with the corpuscle leeches for six hundred years, killing each other for the usual pointless reasons. Many reviews noted that she was quite a good action heroine, by which they must mean she can jump around in platform boots, fire guns the size of Escalade mufflers without noticeable recoil, and look convincingly grim and whoa-there sexy in a latex outfit. I suppose. It kept my interest despite the bad Matrixious fight scenes and interminable conclusion, which took place in some sort of vast sewer system the municipal authorities never ever visit, except to change the lightbulbs that cast convenient illumination wherever needed. Like the cheekbones.

Also watched “Beyond the Sea,” which is Kevin Spacey’s love letter to the memory and career of Bobby Darin. Two artists whose work I’ve enjoyed, and have zero personal attachment to. It’s odd, but some actors are like that. Hey, Kevin Spacey’s in this movie. Great! Or Hey, Kevin Spacey announced he will never act agin. Bummer! My emotions in each example would be dead even. Same with Darin; Splish-Splash is a silly stupid song, fun enough for the time, but please. Just because we have B&W archival footage of 15 year old screaming and soaking thier knickers as the singer lip-syncs the number doesn’t mean it’s a highwater moment of the 20th century. When Darin got off the teenybop stuff he was more interesting, of course. Down in the Valli pub there was a 45 of “Mack the Knife” on the jukebox; I came to hate it, because it played three times a night, and it was a swingin’ finger-poppin’ version of something creepy and corrupt, and because the insufferable bastard in me wanted to shout at the sorority girls YOU DON’T EVEN KNOW WHO LOTTE LENYA WAS!

The flip side was “Beyond the Sea,” and I never got tired of that one. Never. You can’t.

Anyway. Darin was a good singer, although I never got the sense of a particular mind or personality. Spacey sings well enough (although I am convinced that the last sequence, a dream-sequence number so All-That-Jazzy you expect to see Ben Vereen and Cybill Shepherd in the wings unpacking a body bag) was sung by Darin himself, because it’s just better in an indefinable way. I could be wrong and I probably am wrong, but there was just something different about the voice – the difference that makes people make movies about Bobby Darin’s singing instead of, say, Kevin Spacey’s.

Bio pics of this period always have a certain aesthetic arc, from the pre-WW2 look of the artist’s childhood (cluttered, messy, comfy) to the 50s and 60s appearance of his rise (clean, sharp, monochromatic; shaved necks and thin ties) and the ghastly look of the latter 60s and 70s, when the artist is either drugged out or on the comeback trail. Darin had the misfortune to get Serious in the late 60s and the added misfortune to have a biographer who found this impressive. Hence we have the sight of Darin in Vegas doing one of those blowing-in-the-hammer type protest songs while the uptight audience titters and grumbles – but then he introduces that All-purpose Infuser of Instant Moral Authority, the Robed Black Gospel Choir, and soon the audience is standing and clapping along! Because by gum that’s a Gospel Choir up there! In robes! Their moral position on the war must be unassailable! Of course they’re singing “Freedom” over and over as the Darin sings about Not Wanting Any War. Well, freedom for some, but not the little yellow friends, I guess. Into the camps with you, and don’t be criticizing Mr. Darin; he’s so committed to this cause he’s appearing in public without his toupee.

I’m being too hard on the film, which is otherwise enjoyable if you like that sort of thing. It contains the requisite scene of the folks sitting at home whooping it up when Their Boy appears on the TV for the first time, in case you’re keeping track of these things. And you can read in the dark by Kate Hudson’s teeth, which make the cliffs of Dover look like a slagheap in Allegheny.

Also watched “The Smallest Show on Earth,” a gentle (read: dull) little English comedy about a young couple that inherits a broken-down movie theater. Notable for Peter Sellers, who disappears into a nice little performance as an old projectionist, and for the look of the world at that time & place. In 1957 small-town England, 1907 was right around the corner, heavy and dusty, dingy and peeling.

(Actually, it’s not that dull, and has some amusing moments. Not the first 50s British film I’d recommend, but once you come to love the genre, it has its treats.)

Otherwise, a normal weekend. Sort of. Chopped off a tree limb, bought and set up a gas grill, attended a party for Mrs. Giant Swede downtown in a loft with a great view of downtown, smoked cigars in the twilight with my friends, considered the future. It’s one thing to decide to do something new and different; it’s another to wonder if you can do it. I mean, if you have the skill. Not the skill to make it great, but the skill to make it good enough. Great don’t always sell big. Good enough can sell large.

Stay tuned.


perm link, if you want to. God knows why. Screedblog up and running, where the bitchy mood continues. Oh! And the Matchbook Museum's back.