Wednesday, July 25, 2018

LESS is more

Gina Lollobrigida in “Buona Sera,  Mrs. Campbell.”
"Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again" — It's not Great Moviemaking, But it's the Most Fun I've Had in 2018.  Enough Said!  Also Adam Ant ... The Pier 17 RoofTop Concerts ... the History of the Pineapple, and Farewell to a "Third Rock" star.
by Denis Ferrara

“LESS is more.”

Everybody says it. Everybody has a different interpretation; their own idea or ideal of what we should have less — or more — of.

The phrase is most commonly attributed to the architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, commenting on the beauties and functionality of Mimimalism. Others cite Robert Browning’s poem “Andrea del Sarto.”  But it is a poem; I’m not going to track down what Browning might have meant.  Iambic pentameter is lost on me.

I’m not a big “Less is more” man myself.  I’m inclined toward Oscar Wilde’s “Nothing succeeds like excess.”

This is why I actually enjoyed “Mamma Mia: “Here We Go Again.”  The “less is more” is ... less Meryl Streep.  The “excess” is — everything else! 

I loathed the first “Mamma Mia” film, despite my deep fondness for the music of ABBA. And I never attempted to watch it again.  Once was enough. 

So in approaching this sequel/flashback I’d forgotten much of my initial displeasure.  To me, “Mamma Mia” on stage or on film is just a hyped up version of the adorable 1968 Gina Lollobrigida movie, “Buona Sera, Mrs. Campbell.” (I always expect the luscious La Lollo to appear, with her russet bouffant hair and a fetchingly low-cut sundress.)
“Here we Go Again” is a lot of fun.  Is it as much fun as we need these days?  Of course not.  But it will have to do.  One of the film’s pleasures is its look of unreality — the super-saturated color that one finds only occasionally in real life, even in Greece, in the summertime (or in Croatia where both “Mamma” movies were actually filmed.)  The colors bring me back to the good old days of the MGM and 20th Century Fox musicals, whose bright palettes bore very little resemblance to the often drab world we inhabit.  So, just by sitting in the theater and watching the damn thing, my mood was amped up.  I’m very simple — show me something shiny or colorful and I’m a happy camper.  Pun intended.

I’ve been told, by people who think it’s something I need to know, that “Here We Go Again” makes no sense, in terms of timelines, character’s supposed ages, the plot, etc.  Who cares?  It’s a movie
All the original characters are back, and all appear to have taken a few vocal lessons since 2008.  Lily James is super-charming as throwback Donna (Meryl Streep) and the three younger versions of Sam, Bill and Harry (Pierce Brosnan, Stellan Skarsgard, Colin Firth), played by Jeremy Irvine, Josh Dylan and Hugh Skinner are worth the price of admission all on their own. (You know the story — which one of them is really the father of Sophie, Donna’s daughter, played by Amanda Seyfried?)

Dominic Cooper is still looking good, as Sky, as are Julie Walters and Christine Baranski as Donna’s old friends, Rosie and Tanya. (Is Christine Baranski really some sort of non-lethal Countess Elizabeth Bathory, bathing in the blood of virgins to preserve her youth — discuss amongst yourselves. And by the way — we needed more Baranski here!)
Photo: Jonathan Prime/Universal Pictures
Cher is, well, Cher — she appears as Meryl Streep’s mother, sings “Fernando” — to Andy Garcia, of all people — in that seemingly unchanged, distinctive husky register, spoofs her image, her immobile agelessness, her sassy non-conformity.  It would have been nice if in the spoofing she’d actually been given something clever to say, but we must be satisfied with her iconic presence.

I was told that Cher shouldn’t have been in the movie at all, because in the first film — the one I have so little memory of — Meryl Streep had indicated that her mother was dead.  Oh, come on — again it’s a movie, and one could concoct a one-night-of-the-living dead backstory to Cher’s character, given the star’s hypnotic slow-mo delivery of her lines. Are these the first words she’s spoken in centuries?  (Or, are she and Christine Baranski in on the Elizabeth Bathory thing?  Again — amongst yourselves.)
Is it truly “good” movie making?  The script is sloppy and jumpy and not especially witty, and I gave up trying to really understand the “plot.”  But because of its sheer infectious ridiculousness, a robust “talent to amuse” to quote Noel Coward, I threw aside nit-picky critical assessments. I’m not a fussy movie-goer, just as I am not a fussy eater. (Toss a cold Double Whopper with cheese at me, and I’m satisfied.)

Just about the only things I can recall from the film now are some of the abs on the boys, the blessed brevity of Miss Streep and Cher’s wig. 

In this year of our Dear Leader 2018, there’s not much more to ask for out of a Saturday afternoon.

... IF you are of a certain age, you surely recall British pop star Adam Ant.  I know I do!  And I was actually too old to be that “certain age” — I was simply obsessed with MTV and, among others, Mr. Ant’s “Goody Two Shoes” video, which played in relentless rotation. I kind of lost track of Adam and his taut midsection somewhere around 1984 — it was Madonna and Prince time.  But Adam stayed pretty busy — along with enduring a few personal issues, as who hasn’t?  Right now he’s in the American midst of a big global tour, titled “Anthems.” (All the No.1 hits, the B sides, which are often better than the hits, rare singles and some of his personal favorites.)   He just played New Jersey and Connecticut, and he’s on to Las Vegas, Los Angeles, San Diego, Seattle, Portland, and Reno. 

I was pleased to hear that Adam is still rocking and rolling, and of course, I went straight to YouTube to once again watch “Goody Two Shoes”—that kid really knew how to do a “smoky eye.”   For tix info visit
... ON JULY 28th a new concert series begins, The Pier 17 Rooftop Concert Series, at NYC’s Seaport District.  The kickoff performers will be Jon Baptiste with the Dap-Kings.  The concerts continue through October 12th.  Among the scheduled: Diana Ross, Gladys Knight, The Kings of Leon, Amy Schumer, Paul Anka, Trevor Noah, Bebe Rexha, and many more.  For more information on the Seaport District and the Pier 17 Rooftop Concert Series, visit Pier 17 and follow @Pier17ny across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Or call 1-800-745-3000.
... A GOOD, brief summery read:  Pages 36-37 of The Week magazine, “How the Pineapple Became So Popular.” A sweet and juicy history. (We can’t quite credit Christopher Columbus for “discovering” America anymore, but he did manage to bring a surviving pineapple back to Spain after his second voyage to “The Americas.”  The fruit very much impressed King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, although the monarchs were more often heard to mutter, “So, where’s all the gold?”)
RIP — Recently in my manic channel surfing I came across a few episodes of NBC’s “Third Rock From the Sun” sitcom, which starred John Lithgow, Jane Curtin, Kristen Johnson, French Stewart, Simbi Kali, great big future star/hottie, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Elmarie Wendel.  Ms. Wendel played the wacky and somewhat libidinous landlady to the family of aliens.  I’d forgotten how witty and charming this show was, and how perfectly each character interacted with the others.

Elmarie Wendel died several days ago at age 89. She probably passed just as I was laughing over her expert way with a cocked eyebrow and a salacious double entendre. Thank you, my dear — I know for sure I needed that laugh.
Contact Denis here.