Trash Bumpers

First up — a Christmas limerick on the subject of James Whale’s FRANKENSTEIN, over at Limerwrecks.

Second up — a very late entry in the Late Films Blogathon, on the subject of Jean Renoir’s swan song, from Brandon over at Brandon’s Movie Memory.

Third up — guest Shadowplayer David Wingrove, writing as David Melville (long story), went to see BURLESQUE with Fiona, as part of a tradition which sees them seek out movies of particularly embarrassing awfulness — and he brings this report –

“I Am SO Gonna Regret This!”

Given that Cher is the last of the Great Camp Musical Divas – and has, nominally, been a movie star for three decades – it is supremely odd that no film has ever cast her in a musical role. I mean, think of Bette Midler without The Rose (1979) or Liza Minnelli without Cabaret (1972), Barbra Streisand without Funny Girl (1968) or Judy Garland without A Star Is Born (1954). Those are grim prospects, indeed. To film buffs of a certain persuasion, Burlesque might look like a chance to correct this ridiculous oversight.

All-singing, all-dancing and all-camp, Burlesque gives Cher the role of an ageing patronne in a seedy bump-and-grind club on Hollywood’s Sunset Strip. She doesn’t have to do much, exactly. Sing a couple of numbers, strut around a little and model a series of ever more outlandish wigs. It might all just about pass – if only Cher, at the cosmetically remodelled age of 65, could still manage to look like Cher. Alas, she now looks like a wizened, elderly drag queen impersonating Cher. Badly. A fatal flaw from which Burlesque never recovers.

But wait! Hope is at hand in the perky peroxide form of Christina Aguilera. An ambitious small-town cutie bent on stardom, this insufferably chipper little scamp wanders about the mean streets of LA while practising her dance moves – something that would surely get her mugged, arrested or sectioned in any sane universe. She has the ability to make drive-by shootings seem like a good idea. But this being a film made by (and for) hardened masochists, she becomes the main attraction at the club. If only because she’s the one person who belts out a song louder than Cher?

There are a few ‘real’ actors in Burlesque. Indeed, there’s fun to be had in working out why they agreed to appear – or if they even told their agent what they were up to. Cast as Cher’s drunken no-good ex-husband, Peter Gallagher has that unmistakably furtive air that says: “I’ll pop out and do my bit now, while they’re all busy buying more popcorn!” Stanley Tucci does the same Wise Old Fairy Godfather routine we got sick of watching in The Devil Wears Prada (2006). Alan Cumming (looking miffed at not being the campiest person on screen) exempts himself from criticism by having nothing to do. The sight of him knowingly peeling a banana gives Burlesque its one truly sexy moment.

An ordeal akin to being whacked over the head repeatedly with a glitter-ball, Burlesque should still be required viewing – if only as proof that Paul Verhoeven’s infamous Showgirls (1995) really wasn’t such a bad movie after all. Early on, the ghastly Aguilera bullies Cher into hiring her. “I just know I’m gonna regret this!” Cher honks out to her adoring public. Sorry, love, but we’ve already got a head start.

David Melville

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29 Responses to “Trash Bumpers”

  1. Oh bravo for sitting through it … and for giving me a laugh!

  2. I almost want to see this but I’ve already seen this year’s Showgirls and its name is Black Swan, and two films that bad in one month is something I doubt I could survive.

  3. I’m pretty sure I’ll see Black Swan — and in good faith, as there’s a chance I’ll like it. Haven’t really liked any Aronofsky so far, but he has a certain kind of ambition, which is rare enough in itself, and might one day pay off.

  4. Arthur S. Says:

    http://www.ina.fr/video/CPF06007061/le-petit-theatre-de-jean-renoir-quand-l-amour-meurt.fr.html

    Here’s a french link to the Jeanne Moreau segment in the Renoir film. The quality is immeasurably higher. Pedro Costa cited this clip as an influence for his ”Ne change rien”. Renoir initially planned it to be an omnibus with him and others titled “It’s a Revolution!” dedicated to May’68. The final form is more personal. The second episode, “La cirieuse electrique” has one of the most shocking death scenes I have ever seen.

  5. I’d be very surprised if you liked The Black Swan. Natalie Portman may be able to actually dance but you can’t tell cause Aronofsky has no clue how to shoot dance. Basically it’s Repulsion in a tutu with Mila Kunis popping in to supply a modicrum of fun as an ABT version of Gina Gershon in Showgirls.

  6. Nice take on the trainwreck that is Burlesque Mr. Wingrove — though a tad ungallant to Cher.

    Just as in the case of Heaven’s Gate the far more interesting story takes place off-screen. Get ahold of a copy of “The Operator: David Geffen Builds Buys and Sells The New Holywood” by Tom King (Random House 2000) and turn to page 356. There you’ll find my favorite “New Hollywood” photo of all time, taken at “Arena” back in 1983. It’s Geffen, Cher and Steve Antin. Cher’s staring off somewhere to her left. Geffen’s looking at Steve through sleepy eyes as he nuzzles his neck.

    Steve looks right into the camera. In the book proper the whole story of their story affair is laid out in exhaustive detail. Think of a gay Jake and Vickie LaMotta and you’ve got it. (Though the damage is to Geffen’s house rather than his bod.)

    Steve has been working at having several professions for a number of years now (besides the oldest one) — as an actor, a screenwriter and now a director. He was Jodie Foster’s chief rapist in The Accused — winning her her first Oscar, while showing off his lusciously appointed derriere. He can be seen most entertainingly in the film version of Sandra Bernhard’s one-woman show Without You I’m Nothing where he pops in periodically to throw shade on Geffen.

    He wrote and starred in but did not direct two indies: Drive and Inside Monkey Zetterland The cast and crew screening fo the latter was one of the most entertaining evenings I’ve ever had in Hollywood (I’ll save that for another time) The film itself not so much. Steve’s co-stars were Martha Plimpton and the Bitterest Has-Been in The History of Show Business, Rupert Everett.

    Then Steve wrote the screenplay for the barely-seen remake of Gloria starring Sharon Stone and directed by Sidney Lumet (!)

    Returning to his more successful occupation he landed the head of Screen Gems, who gave him the “green light” to helm Burlesque. They had huge, now-quasi-legendary fights during the shoot. When it was all over someone asked Steve how they were doing to which he replied “It’s complicated.”

    The box office returns on Burlesque un-complicated it.

    What’s next for Steve?

    I can hardly wait to find out.

  7. Former New York Mayor Ed Koch liked Burlesque .

    Being that he’s an elderly closeted gay man he was Steve’s target viewer.

  8. David, just a suggestion. Next time please could you choose a lighter shade of purple? With the text against the black it’s a little bit of a struggle to read.

  9. Oh, I’m not sure I’ll ever have cause to use purple again! But in fairness to David W I’m changing it now.

  10. Hard to be gallant about Cher, since it’s all self-inflicted. Great piece about Simone Signoret by the Self-Styled Siren recently, defending her right to grow old and “lose” her looks. I’m all for that. And I respect Cher’s right to do crazy stuff to her face, but it does tend to cause comment (and alarm).

    Steve Antin sounds like quite a character.

  11. I quite like both Showgirls and The Black Swan and yet nothing could get me into the theatres to see Burlesque (which I’d class as 2010’s Nine, if Nine hadn’t already been a 2010 film)

    Mila Kunis in The Black Swan is another example of an Aronofsky film being a boon for comedians in serious supporting roles following Marlon Wayans in Requiem For A Dream (whose excellent acting in that harrowing piece of work made the likes of later roles in the Scary Movies series, the Ladykillers remake, Dungeons & Dragons and Norbit even more a waste of his talent).

  12. And if Alan Cumming peeling a banana is the only notable thing about Burlesque, it would seem preferable to stick to that innuendo laden advert he was in:

    And then follow that up with the documentary he presented on Christopher Isherwood:

  13. Thanks for “The Real Cabaret.”

    Above is a clip from “Sandra After Dark” where you’ll find Steve.

  14. Steve’s sister runs an act called “The Pussycat Dolls.” It’s from them Burlesque is actually derived.

  15. Thank you David. The newest shade of purple is positively incandescent by comparison. Of course it doesn’t hurt that the sun’s gone down.

  16. Had to put this out there:

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/theatre/8237647/Pete-Postlethwaite-was-a-classically-British-actor.html

    Certainly not the prettiest of actors, but one with an undeniable presence. Had it not been for the quality of his acting, he might have been forgotten. Because of the quality of his performances, he will no doubt be remembered.

  17. He was utterly unforgettable in Distant Voices Still Lives

  18. Judy Dean Says:

    Ummm……. is that the same David Melville that told his students not to engage in knocking copy?

  19. Heh! I was surprised the review was such a slam… but read carefully, it’s sympathetic to what the film COULD have been.

    I’d heard Postlethwaite was ill YEARS ago. I mean, around the time of Romeo + Juliet = MTV. And he kept looking iller and iller, but it went on so long I figured that was just what he looked like. If he was suffering, it never affected his amazing talent: he’s terrifying and effective in The Town.

    As for The Pussycat Dolls: the fact that they debuted with a single called “Don’t You Wish Your Girlfriend Was Hot Like Me?” and this provoked basically no discussion in the media strongly suggests that feminism is virtually a forgotten concept. Which is distressing: I mean, what a vile, ugly sentiment to put in a lyric.

    Now THAT’S knocking copy.

  20. “Don’t You Wish Your Girlfriend Was Hot Like Me?” sounds like something Steve would say.

  21. david wingrove Says:

    Judy, sometimes you just have to tear up the rule book and write from the gut. I dare you to sit through BURLESQUE…you will understand!

  22. Judy Dean Says:

    David W., I do understand. I’m the person who watched Steaming, remember?

    And David C., I’m here to tell you that feminism is alive and well. You’re just reading (or listening to) the wrong stuff, that’s all.

  23. Well HERE’S the right stuff!

  24. Judy Dean Says:

    Well, that’s not QUITE what I had in mind, but it’ll do!

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