Lolita (B). This past Tuesday evening I took in Stanley Kubrick’s Lolita at the Magnolia Theater. I’ve never read the book, so I didn’t quite know what to expect, but of course I knew the gist of the story, so I was prepared for a squirm-inducing experience. A snooty, middle-aged British academic named Humbert Humbert (James Mason, A Star Is Born) moves to a small American town for a summer, and he immediately falls into a lusty obsession with his landlady’s under-aged daughter, who is named Dolores but nicknamed Lolita (Sue Lyon, The Night of the Iguana). I read on the internet that she’s 12 in the book, but Lyon was 15 when the movie was filmed and looked older to me. Skeezy things ensue, and Humbert and Lolita wind up traveling across country together. Shelley Winters (The Diary of Anne Frank) is memorable as Lolita’s pathetic, desperate, and widowed mother. Peter Sellers (Dr. Strangelove) turns in a scene-stealing performance as a bizarre character named Clare Quilty. I hardly know what grade to give this odd movie about an untouchable subject, but I will say I was never bored and didn’t squirm all that often.
The Movie Snob takes in another Fathomevents event.
Rifftrax Live: The Giant Spider Invasion (A-). This is the last Rifftrax Live event of the year, and it’s a good one. The opening short clip is fairly meh; it’s a bizarre explanation of how the nation’s telephone system worked back in the days of party lines and rotary phones. Did I mention it involves lots and lots of creepy marionettes? But the main event more than makes up for the lackluster appetizer. The Giant Spider Invasion is a uniquely terrible 1975 monster movie starring Alan Hale (Skipper on TV’s Gilligan’s Island) as the sheriff of a small town that’s getting invaded by some extraterrestrial tarantulas and one truly giant spider that will eat you if you cooperate by climbing up into its mouth. They riffed this movie on Mystery Science Theater 3000, and it was one of the all-time great MST3K episodes. This all-new riffing experience from the Rifftrax guys was just as funny. If you can’t catch it at the theater (there’s an encore performance tomorrow night), it’ll be worth downloading from the Rifftrax website. Warmly recommended . . . unless you have arachnophobia.
David Crosby: Remember My Name (B). I caught this new documentary and learned a few things about music legend David Crosby, who is somehow still alive and making music at 76 despite doing an astonishing amount of drugs up into at least the 1980s. For example, his father was Floyd Crosby, a photographer who won a Golden Globe for cinematography for High Noon. He was a founding member of The Byrds, which I should have known but don’t think I did. He didn’t like The Doors because Jim Morrison was rude to him once. And none of the other members of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young are on speaking terms with him. The film does a good job of conveying the trippy music scene of the 60s and 70s. But it left me wanting to know more about Crosby’s personal life. Like, what happened to his brother, who is mentioned as also being into music when they were kids? And I think he mentioned in passing that he’s not on speaking terms with his daughter. What’s the story there? But it wasn’t bad, and I appreciated the efficient 95-minute run time.
The Muppet Movie (C). I’m continuing my romp through the classics with this recent offering from fathomevents.com. Although I enjoyed the muppets TV show in my youth, I never saw this, their first theatrical release, which came out in 1979. Turns out I didn’t miss all that much. It’s the story of how Kermit the Frog (voice of Jim Henson) decided to follow his dream of being an entertainer, left his swamp, and hit the road for Hollywood. It’s a road-trip movie, with Kermit picking up a band of oddballs (Fozzie Bear (voice of Frank Oz), Miss Piggy (Oz), Gonzo (Dave Goelz), etc.) along the way while simultaneously being pursued by a fast-food-frog-legs entrepreneur (Charles Durning, O Brother, Where Art Thou?) who wants Kermit to be his front man, er, frog. The jokes and sight gags really aren’t all that funny, but the frequent musical numbers tend to be better (especially Kermit’s wistful “The Rainbow Connection”). There are loads of celebrity cameos, including Edgar Bergin, Bob Hope, Milton Berle, Mel Brooks, Big Bird, and even Orson Welles, but only Steve Martin’s rude waiter is very funny. I’m glad I saw it, but I doubt I’ll ever watch it again. (I might look for “The Rainbow Connection” on iTunes, though.)