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“Smile! You’re at Mr. Smiley’s!” June 14, 2012

Posted by Samuel Snoek-Brown in Movies, Public art, signs, & graffiti, Smiley.
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Lester Burnham (Kevin Spacey) in American Beauty.

Oh, Lester Burnham. What do we do with you?

Okay, I know, American Beauty gets a lot of flack these days as overrated, as too tied to a particular moment in the zeitgeist — too tied to the last of the Clinton years, when everything was going fairly well but no one was exactly happy and we didn’t yet have any overt reasons for feeling that way, and how all of us just wanted to cut loose, regress into adolescence, and be free, man! — and so not really the timeless classic we all thought it was going to be. And yeah, there are probably a couple of halfway good reasons for the backlash. But you know what? I don’t care. I still love the movie, and I still love Lester Burnham.

And I really, really love this scene in the movie, when Lester’s wife Carolyn and her lover pull into the drive-thru at Lester’s “least possible amount of responsibilty” job: Mr. Smiley’s. Sure, I love it for the name and all the smiley faces everywhere — the bags, the window, Lester’s nametag, Lester’s face. But I love it even more for the result: busted and desperate, Carolyn begins a sloppy apology, but Lester interrupts her and — sincerely — tells her, “Honey, it’s okay. I just want you to be happy.”

It’s a wonderful prefiguring of Lester’s final words, when he asks his daughter’s friend, “Is Jane happy?” The friend assures him that Jane is happy, and Lester smiles and simply says, “Good.”

So what do we do with you today, Lester Burnham? The same thing we’ve been doing since we met you in 1999: we smile, because you just want us to be happy.

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OSS 117: Lost in Rio April 23, 2012

Posted by Samuel Snoek-Brown in Movies, Smiley, Video.
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Title screen from the DVD of OSS 117: Lost in Rio.

A week or so ago, my wife brought home two French movies on DVD, OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies and its sequel, OSS 117: Lost in Rio. They’re spy spoofs, a kind of French Austin Powers series, starring the delightful Jean Dujardin (he won this year’s Best Actor Oscar for The Artist) as the hopelessly out of touch, (almost) hilariously bigoted French spy OSS 117.

The original film is set in the 1950s, but the sequel — which is slightly less funny but is better paced, less manic, and so probably a better film overall — is set firmly in the mid-1960s. The ridiculously old-fashioned OSS 117 must now have to deal with women’s lib, the sexual revolution, and hippies. Yes, hippies. Which is why, if you look closely on the DVD’s title screen above, you can see — almost dead center on the screen — that indispensable icon of `60s hippie culture: the smiley face!

Et, voila! Il est la!

And if that’s not enough to get you grinning, go ahead and watch the movies, because they truly are hilarious.

Here’s a trailer for the second movie:

BONUS: My Christmas present December 26, 2010

Posted by Samuel Snoek-Brown in Holidays, Movies, Smiley, Video.
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DVD release of Smiley Face (2007). The newest addition to my personal collection.

When I first heard about this film, I knew I had to own it.  No idea if it’s any good, though if the “official selection” designations from various film festivals is any indication it must at least be indie-chic.  But with a title and a cover like this, I’m sure I’ll enjoy it regardless!  (Maybe I’ll post a review here after I’ve watched it.)

Merry Christmas, happy readers.