Pop Culture Ephemera
- Stephen King – The Institute (2019) (Scribner): “Don’t say things that invite sorrow.” Twelve-year-old genius, Luke Ellis is kidnapped in the middle of the night from his St. Paul area home, his parents are murdered, and he’s brought to The Institute in Maine to be experimented on along with other young children who have shown any latent ability in telepathy or telekinesis. The two things I can lean on with current King projects is he’s got a good ear for crime stories and he can still weave a great story about young teens. This book will probably never show up in a top ten of his career but it’s up there in terms of start to finish entertainment. A very engaging cast that seems almost destined for an HBO adaptation drives the majority of the story. If someone else wrote this, we’d be talking about how liberally it borrows from Firestarter, Carrie, and even Doctor Sleep. The secret government agency operating outside of public knowledge is fodder for many great thrillers. The plot doesn’t even really surprise you as much as it’s just a fun ride that only really falters in the initial introduction of a character, Tim, who doesn’t work back into the story until it’s almost two thirds done and his backstory wasn’t as important as we were led to believe. Now that I got my one complaint out of my system, I’ll also say that Tim might be a worthy subject of a longer crime novel in the future.
- The Walking Dead – “Promises Broken” (S.11 E.7) (AMC) (2021): “Did you see what he did to me? They got blood all over my girlfriend.” – Sebastian. I’ve been living over in the Fear the Walking Dead world for a few months. I need to peak back in on the O.G. series. We’re at a point where our main crew is split over three to four main stories. This episode does what they don’t normally do, splits time almost evenly across the different stories. It feels very “traditional television”. The “promises broken” of the title is technically about the Maggie and Negan relationship as they head towards Meridian and the Reapers. The episode bends over backwards in places to make sure that we are aware of how important it is to have close relationships and be able to trust someone in this world. I’m probably least interested in the Leah and Daryl story even though it provides the most drama of the episode. There’s a ton of acting going on which tells you that we are in setup mode for the midseason finale and the Negan vs. Maggie vs. Reapers battle.
- Edison Lighthouse – “Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes)” (1971) (from Already): “There’s something about her hand holding mine / It’s a feeling that’s fine.” This one-hit wonder is from a 1971 album but was a 1970 hit. In fact, it holds the distinction of being the first #1 hit of the 1970s in the U.K. The song was a Top Ten hit in the United States in March of 1970 and yet it has such a summer feel to it that I thought it fit best here in June. It’s happy and makes me smile as it shouts out the happiness of love. It’s pure Bubblegum Pop and should be consumed as such. Most famously for me, it is referenced in Reservoir Dogs during the K-BILLY Super Sounds of the ’70s radio show and I can guarantee any movie made since 1990 featuring a significant character named Rosemary has used this song with some form of irony.
- Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972) (Directed by Luis Bunuel): “Yes. Yes, that’s about it. The most important thing is the ice. It has to be of first-rate quality. Very cold and very hard. About 15 degrees centigrade below zero. Exactly like this one.” – M. Thevenot. This surreal comedy of the upper class has become a parody of Millenials who have made a culture of eating at trendy restaurants. What if we made a film where six people are always preparing to eat but never get to? That’s a movie that’s already been made. The parallels of unrequited sex and unrequited hunger run through the film in which increasingly surreal event after surreal event prevents the group from having their planned meal. It’s an embarrassment of riches of quality European actors including Fernando Rey, Jean-Pierre Cassel, and Stephane Audran. There are layer after layer of symbolic shots but I don’t feel that Bunuel ever means for all of them to have meaning. It might turn off viewers looking for a simple plot. As a series of more and more absurd events, it’s a fun romp that skewers any group that takes itself too seriously.
- Northman (2022) (Directed by Robert Eggers): “Hate is all I have ever known but I wish I could be free of it” – Amleth I think I have a second favorite film of the year and I am even more confident declaring that I have a current favorite director in Robert Eggers. The themes of The Witch and The Lighthouse are expanded upon and intertwined in this Norse mythology revenge picture. The familial honor and betrayal that played such an important part of The Witch take center stage here as Prince Amleth (Alexander Skarsgard) seeks to revenge the death of his father the King (Ethan Hawke) and kidnapping of his mother (Nicole Kidman) at the hands of his uncle (Claes Bang). Yes, there are more than a few Shakespearean references along the way since the Danes aren’t too far geographically. But the majority of the story is pulled from Norse mythology. The most telling scene of the film happens early on when the Prince and King go see Heimir the Fool (Willem Dafoe) who releases their inner wolves. The rest of the film is filled with the acts of men who act and react as animals. The camerawork is stellar. The score is a patchwork of interesting instruments. There are things Eggers might have tightened up with a different writer but it’s hard to take your eyes off what he has put on the screen.
Best of the Rest
- I knew that I had a legit story when I started to type “Velveeta” into a Google search and Velveeta Nail Polish was the first result. I can understand wanting the Velveeta color against the red, it is quite a unique and striking color. What is still throwing me for a loop is the “I want my nails to smell like cheese” angles. I would go broke doubting the gullibility of the American public.
- I can’t go back and see E.T. and Jaws for the first time. What I can do later this summer is see both of these films in IMAX for the first time. E.T. will be in theaters in August. What I’m looking forward to the most is seeing Jaws in IMAX just in time for the Labor Day weekend. It’s never too late to close the beaches.
- Last year, you weren’t treated to the best Father’s Day ad because I wasn’t doing FTCH yet. It was clearly, Ryan Reynolds’ advertisement for his Aviation Gin. As funny as that commercial was last year, they’ve outdone themselves this year with Nick Cannon, who has a much better sense of self deprecation than I gave him credit.
Sunday Morning Tuneage Flashback
- On the Sunday Morning Tuneage of 1/13/2007, it was a cold and icy morning in North Texas. I was promoting the second season of Extras even though I had caught some of it on the internets before it debuted here in the United States. I was happy with the Friday Night Lights move to Wednesday nights. I was curious to watch a History Channel documentary on one of the stories that fascinated me the most as a child.
- Jonestown: Paradise Lost (2007) (HIST): I have excluded many of these History Channel documentaries from my Documentary Movies project. I don’t have anything against the information provided. There’s just something that has seemed low rent about the odd combination of interviews, historical footage, and a reliance on recreations with an obtrusive narrator. It ends up feeling more like a Made-for-TV movie about the event. It feels dated. I have been meaning to watch the Hulu documentary from a few years ago that seemed pretty exhaustive on the subject. This certainly is a great primer for anyone unfamiliar with the tragedy. There’s just a lack of flow to the way it’s put together. It’s amazing how spoiled we’ve become in documentary production in the 15 years since this was released.
Flash From The Past
What the Hell Did I Put In My Mouth?
H.E.B. Almonds: Churro Cinnamon Sugar
There’s the picture. Is there any other conclusion that you are going to come to about cinnamon and sugar on a roasted almond? Yes, they are delicious and I should have gotten more bags. Not as car friendly a snack as you might want so keep a wet napkin handy. These need to be more widely available.
Pop Tarts: Frosted Grape
Two re-releases this week that are rather notable. This release is definitely aimed at children of the early Aughts when this flavor peaked and was discontinued about 20, years ago. The flavor is remembered as one of their best. While not Blueberry or Strawberry, this is next up in the fruit category, maybe supplanting the excellent Raspberry. Toasted only please, just until the grape jelly is melty.
Mountain Dew: Typhoon
The re-release of this fruit punch-flavored Dew is the first since the Summer of 2010 Dewmocracy competition. It’s another well thought of release. I don’t completely get it. It’s a mediocre fruit punch at best. But it is still a great mixer. Originally called “Cyclone” it became “Typhoon” and later “Cyclone” would be recycled for another flavor. And thankfully I’m not being asked to define the difference between those two words.
“‘… I’m a lucky fella
And I’ve just got to tell her
That I love her endlessly” – Edison Lighthouse