Title: Bedknobs and Broomsticks
Release Date: 1971
Director: Robert Stevenson
Production Co: Walt Disney Productions
Country: United States
Genre: Adventure | Fantasy | Family | Musicals | Animation
Set in Second World War England, three children have been evacuated to the countryside (oddly to a town overlooking the Channel) to stay with Miss Price (Angela Lansbury), a witch-in-training. Along the way on their magical adventures they pick up the con-man Professor Browne played by David Tomlinson. The movie is more of a series of loosely-connected set pieces than a story. Some of them go on too long, like the dance number on Portobello Road, although it is interesting to see the many faces of the British Commonwealth represented in a cheerful wartime London. Better are the mixed live action and animation sequences with fish dancing in an undersea ballroom and a raucous soccer game among wild animals. The conclusion features some whimsical special effects that stand up well after forty years as military uniforms and armor are magically brought to life to defend Britain against a German incursion. It’s a fun, entertaining bagatelle of a movie. My kids enjoyed it for sure.
The London-based “post-industrial” duo makes electronic noise you can dance to on the track “Turn It Up” from their eponymous debut album. These instructions are easy to follow.
How are you getting your groove on this week?
The legendary DC indie/punk band The Dismemberment Plan have reunited after a 10-year separation and have a new album Uncanney Valley. The first track released “Daddy Was A Real Good Dancer” is an upbeat power pop song with sobering lyrics.
Beer: Field Mouse’s Farewell
Brewer: Pretty Things Beer and Ale Project
Source: Draft in a tulip glass
Rating: *** (7 of 10)
Comments: This feels like a fancy beer with a golden orange glow and a thin head. The aroma was sweet and spicy with some fruit, perhaps apricots? The taste is dominated by bitter hops with a clean citrus finish. It’s apparent from the complex flavors that this is a well-crafted beer, although I found it too bitter for my taste.
This week’s song “Don’t Wait,” is by Rhode Island-born Stockholm-raised sing Mapei (and who can resist a Rhode Island/Sweden connection). I learned of the song through NPR’s All Song’s Considered. Mapei describes her music as “21st-century gospel or doo-wop.”
Author: Claire Messud
Title: The Woman Upstairs
Publication Info: 2013: Books on Tape
Messud’s “Woman Upstairs” is her take on the character without an identity such as Ellison’s Invisible Man or The Mad Woman in the Attic, but in this case the nice woman who no one takes notice of. Nora is a school teacher who takes an obsession with the family of one of her pupils who are only in the country for a year. She ends up babysitting the boy, starting an art studio with his mother, and developing a romantic attraction for the father on long walks together. Messud makes her narrator Nora extremely unappealing in her self-absorption, and unreliable in her idealization of the Shahid family. There’s also a sense that the Shahid’s are taking advantage of Nora the whole time. There are some interesting internal narratives of a woman’s place in modern society and as the book is set in Cambridge, MA, some good local color. I’m not sure I’m convinced by the conclusion, which is somewhat predictable, but I don’t get the sense that it is as life changing as Nora claims it to be.
Rating: ** 1/2
Author: Geraldine Brooks
Title: Caleb’s Crossing
Publication Info: [Ashland, Or.] : Blackstone Audio, 2011.
This engaging novel set in 17th Massachusetts, primarily Martha’s Vineyard and Cambridge, is the recollections of a Puritan woman Bethia Mayfield regarding the life of a Wampanoag she befriends as a child who takes the name Caleb. The language of the narrative carries the flavor of language of a colonial American woman although at times a modern, feminist view appears in the narrative. The novel is full of heartbreak and loss, but still there’s a great amount of nobility in Caleb as he adapts to English and Christian ways. The culture and religion of the English and native are frequently compared with the later given a grudging respect. Both the woman and the Wampanoag are subservient in this society and this historical fiction is a great attempt at telling their hidden stories.
Recommended books: The Deerslayer by James Fenimore Cooper, Black Robe by Brian Moore, Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War by Nathaniel Philbrick, The Wordy Shipmates by Sarah Vowell, and A Mercy by Toni Morrison.
Author: Kurt Vonnegut
Title: Cat’s Cradle
Publication Info: New York : Dial Press, 2006, c1963.
I’ve not read much Vonnegut so I’m trying to make up for that. This Cold War novel is a dark satire of the atom bomb (and the scientists behind it), US government support of corrupt “Banana Republics,” and religious cults with a dose of science fiction. The short chapters are full of biting satire and cynicism. Vonnegut creates some memorable, over the top characters and an interesting parallel to our world.
Recommended books: In Watermelon Sugar by Richard Brautigan, Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein, and Catch-22 by Joseph Heller.
Once again Song of the Week is lost in the 80s with the synthpop sounds of LA’s electronic duo Soft Metals on “Tell Me.” The initial rhythm and melody remind me of Kraftwerk.
What are you listening to this week? Let me know in the comments.