Monday, June 13, 2005

Another Library Visit And Some Old-Fashioned IR Cinema...

We took a family trip to the library on Saturday. We've really enjoyed that this summer, going to the library as a family. Anyway, my boys turned in the books and videotapes they had previously checked out and then checked out some more. Likewise, I turned in Spectre and got another Shatner/Reeves-Stevens book titled Avenger.

The more I read these Shatner team-ups with the Reeves-Stevens', the more I like their work. I've read some other Star Trek books that, frankly, were either dry as burned toast or cheesy beyond reckoning. While Shatner's books have mild overkill on "Star Trek trivia infusement" along the lines of "Oh, wow! They remembered that from episode 'yada yada' in original series season 3 or episode 'yada yada' in TNG season 6," it's forgivably written and usually relevant to the story (even if only 1 in 200 readers actually knows what the reference means).

It's impressive to me that, the more I read 'backwards' in this ongoing series, the more I want to go back to the first writings of Shatner with the Reeves-Stevens and read forward in the series. That means I have two more books to read after this one. There have been more books by the trio since, but I'm not sure I'm ready to delve into them yet; they just seem to show "the continuing friendship/dependency of James T. Kirk and Jean-Luc Picard." Shatner has made it seem like the two are symbiotically joined, which is usually a fun read but it's almost like he's literally re-written "Star Trek: The Next Generation" to include himself in it. That's kind of funny...

Moving on, out of curiosity, I decided to check out the videotape of South Pacific. I had never seen this movie before but I had heard praise of it. I was vaguely aware of the IR aspect to it but I had no knowledge of the actual plot(s) of the movie/musical. After watching part of it on Saturday night and the rest last night (it's 157 minutes long!), my wife and I had mixed reactions about it. Considering that in 1958, it was still near-revolutionary to have a musical film about not one, but two IR-themed relationships. It was clearly very important for the musical to be made.

On the other hand, Angel and I both agreed that the the secondary story, the pairing of a White American officer (Lt. Joseph Cable, played by John Kerr) and a (at best) 18 year old Polynesisan young woman named Liat, played by France Nuyen (would also become a Star Trek veteran years later, as the "Dolman of Elaas") was almost completely mishandled. It didn't help that Liat had maybe two or three lines, only in French. The rest of the time, she smiled incessantly and performed the lyrics that her character's mother (Bloody Mary, played quasi-insanely by Juanita Hill) English...which was cute, but made no sense. I thought Liat didn't understand any English and only spoke French? Maybe Bloody Mary used her voodoo to help them understand each other, especially since the song insisted that these two lovers talk about so many things... It reminded me of Disney's Pocahontas where Pocahontas learns English by "listening to the wind." Makes about as much sense, but hey, this is entertainment -- it just has to entertain, right?

Liat was just the sex interest of "Lutella" Cable and everything was fine until "Bloody Mary" started talking about the fine babies Cable and Liat would make when he became Liat's husband. Nevermind the fact that Liat and Cable had already had sex twice by this point in the story and probably had one on the way anyway.

Cable just froze and looked like all the blood ran out of him when faced with the prospect of interracial marriage and children. Soon, after singing (quite expertly) about the injustices of racism and how wrong it is to judge someone on the basis of skin color or looks, does he run into the arms of his lover and soon-to-be wife? Of course not! Lt. Cable has to go on a dangerous mission to clear his head and figure things out... HUH??????

Of course, he gets killed on the dangerous mission and can never resolve his plot. I found this resoundingly disappointing, especially since Liat actually had the character (though she lacked the lines) to demand that she would marry noone except Lt. Cable.

Intriguingly enough, France Nuyen (Liat) is biracial. Her father is Vietnamese and her mother is French. Nuyen is still alive, acting (she played Ying-Ying St. Clair in The Joy Luck Club) and making the rounds at Star Trek conventions.

The primary storyline in South Pacific was much stronger and involved more acting (and singing). The concept (to those who haven't seen South Pacific) was essentially this: a White American World War 2 nurse from Little Rock, Arkansas (Mitzi Gaynor) falls in love with a French plantation owner (Rossano Brazzi), learns about his biracial children from a now-deceased Polynesian wife and has to accept the past interracial marriage which produced the present-day biracial children. The ultimate irony of this whole story was she could accept that the man she loves KILLED a man (in self-defense, he claimed) but she almost couldn't accept his IR family. When the Frenchman goes off on a dangerous mission and very well might not come back, that's when she decides what's important and goes to support the Frenchman's kids. Question: how did she get unbridled access to them on his plantation?

Overall, the acting varied, the Rogers and Hammerstein score was musically and vocally strong but lyrically weak (almost ditzy). The story was all over the place but got the points across in the end. It's definitely worth it to see the musical, understanding that, like many musicals, it gets hokey in parts. Cute and lovable with some odd spots.

As an added bonus, I recognized another Star Trek veteral among the cast. Ray Walston, who played the comedic sailor Luther. I could have done without seeing Walston in "island drag" (it was meant to be pathetic...and it was) but he was otherwise amusing at various times in South Pacific. He proved himself to be a sweet, caring guy under a tough exterior. I think he's a good actor. In Trek, he played the Academy groundskeeper, Boothby, in Star Trek:TNG, a role he revised for Star Trek: Voyager (with a big twist). Walston also has a long and distinguished career (with some less than distinguished cameos and roles, like most actors).

I hope you enjoyed my trip down memory lane, if you were already familiar with South Pacific, or that this raises interest for seeing the DVD, if you've never seen it. It's not everyday one gets to review a movie that's almost 50 years old. Ah, the beauty of blogs!

Best Wishes,

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