Pop Culture Ephemera
- Lars Kepler – Stalker (2019) (Knopf): “God lost me somewhere along the way … and didn’t come back to look for me.” If you’ve come to the fifth entry in the Joona Linna series looking for another 200 chapters in a 560-page book, you might be disappointed to not even get to 150 chapters. The book blurbs and descriptions never make the Joona Linna books seem like they should be read in any order, but you’d be missing out on the backstory of Erik Maria Bark from The Hypnotist (2009). We add a new voice to the story from the police department, Margot, who was a welcome addition. Someone better warn her that it isn’t always safe to be a team member with Joona. The duo that form the Lars Kepler nom de plume fall back on either graphic violence or graphic sexual situations (or both in this case) in order to shock towards the beginning of almost every book. It’s no different here with a pretty grisly murder even for this series. Two more books left in this series and I’m interested where it can go with most of the open threads tied up. This is possibly the best “mystery” of the series since the first title. If you figured out the stalker identity before the last 50 pages, you are a better Columbo than me.
- Roald Dahl’s The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar (NETFLIX) (2023): “Audiences loved it, but no one ever ever believed it to be genuine. Still don’t.” – Imdad. Director Wes Anderson’s adaptation of Roald Dahl’s Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009) showed a compatibility with the written works of Dahl. The styles of storytelling and the film style of Anderson are a great fit. I’m excited to see the four adaptations hitting Netflix but this is the first release and source material that I’m most familiar with from the grouping. It’s hard to imagine a more literal adaptation of a story. We are read the story with the actors trying to keep up with acting it out the way you might block a high school play. I’m predisposed to like this because of my Wes Anderson obsession, but this is just a delightful short film. Ralph Fiennes is our Roald Dahl telling us the story that we will watch with a great supporting cast that always takes their parts seriously even with all the dry humor lines. Benedict Cumberbatch and Richard Ayoade in particular feel right at home with the Anderson Players. I love the short film format much like I love the novella format in print. I hope this is a new movement for the genre and for those not yet converts, this might be the best way to experience Wes Anderson’s talent.
- Frank Sinatra – “Send in the Clowns” (1973) (from Ol’ Blue Eyes Is Back): “Losing my timing this late / In my career” – Sondheim. This song from the Broadway show A Little Night Music by Stephen Sondheim [based upon an Ingmar Bergman film Smiles Of A Summer Night (1955)] was new in 1973 when Sinatra was recapturing his lush Big Band sound. The song instantly became a Standard. Most people point towards the Judy Collins version (1975) as being the definitive but I’m torn between this Sinatra version and the later Streisand version (1986). The lyrics of regret and frustration are well constructed and come across when the vocals are allowed to breathe. The theatrical nod in the title to “send in the clowns” is to sending in the comedy when the drama isn’t working, adds another layer to the anger that things aren’t working out as planned later in life. The definition of tragedy.
- Smiles of a Summer Night (1955) (Directed by Ingmar Bergman): “And then the summer night smiled for the third time.” – Petra. This romantic farce is about as lighthearted as you’ll ever get from Bergman and a real breakthrough for him at the time. Middle-aged lawyer Frederick Egerman has a 19-year-old bride, Anne, with whom he hasn’t consummated their marriage. She finds herself in love with his adult son from his previous marriage who is home from seminary college. His son has a thing for the maid, Petra, who is attracted to Frederick. As if that doesn’t sound like the introduction to an episode of Soap, there’s Frederick’s girlfriend, Desiree, from between his two marriages. She is still attracted to Frederick despite having an affair with Count Carl-Magnus Malcolm who has a wife, The Countess, who is friends with Anne. Now let’s put them all at a weekend getaway at the home of Desiree’s mother. There are some very wonderfully delicious moments of dialogue and situations. There are some screwball comedy moments but this is a comedy of language and lots of adultery. Beautifully filmed, this is a great place to start with Ingmar Bergman although you will get into much more drama by the time he does The Seventh Seal (1957). Send in the clowns.
- Joker (2019) (Directed by Todd Phillips): ” The worst part of having a mental illness is people expect you to behave as if you don’t.” Arthur Fleck. Warner Bros and DC Comics went out on a limb to tell a standalone origin story of a villain that doesn’t even tie-in to their main DC Universe. Joaquin Phoenix plays Arthur Fleck who will journey from running down the streets after children who end up beating him to dancing down the same stairs triumphant at having brought violent chaos to Gotham. Todd Phillips doesn’t hide his influences. Arthur is a comedian in the Andy Kaufman vein. He’s also Travis Bickle from Taxi Driver (1976) as he starts to dissociate from reality. De Niro’s appearance here as a talk show host isn’t just for that recall but mostly for the nod to The King of Comedy (1982) where De Niro played the mentally ill Rupert Pupkin. Sinatra’s version of “Send in the Clowns” serves to start the transition to violence and ultimate villainy as he is taunted by the song on the subway sung by the drunk Yuppies. The song plays again over the credits in full orchestral mode to show how far this clown has come in this tragedy. I can sympathize with both sides of the reviews for this film. There are times that it seems like little more than a compilation of tributes to films that the director enjoys (here’s the exact lighting and angle of the tunnel shot in A Clockwork Orange). Then you see the leaps that his brain makes as he’s watching the men on the subway or when he’s talking to Thomas Wayne in the theater bathroom. I like the depth this film gives to the comic book genre where things aren’t always simple solutions. Sometimes they send in the clowns.
Best of the Rest
- I’m floored that this Barbara Streisand version of “Send in the Clowns” is from 1985. I was convinced up until this week that this version must have come out in 1975 or 1976. In a short period of time, it was as associated with her as much as any other artist, and there’s been hundreds of cover versions. I would put this as the #1A version of the song. Lyrically, it has more of a male voice to me, but few people have the emotional depth to their voice as Streisand.
- Of the “superhero” films of the ’80s that would be remade in 2023, I would have gone far down the list before guessing The Toxic Avenger (1984). Elijah Wood will star as the titular avenger in what sounds like a pretty radical reimagining, especially when they start talking about Peter Sellers as an influence. It makes some sense that the generation who would have had the most exposure to the Troma Universe on VHS and DVD is going to start to want to remake these classics. Also starring Peter Dinklage and Kevin Bacon.
- Looking for a new scent and want to let your fingers do the walking? There’s a Eau de Yellow Pages available now for those that remember the cedar cabinet and musky paper smell of the book. It’s been gone for about five years now but stopped being a staple in households by about 2010. I’m not sure who this is aimed at but I’m not saying I wouldn’t buy it if it were a candle.
Sunday Morning Tuneage Flashback
- On the Sunday Morning Tuneage of 4/20/2008, it was already summer temps with an 85 degree weekend of baseball on both weekend days. My #18 Favorite Movie of All-Time was The Graduate (1967) by Mike Nichols. I had recently reviewed the film for the fondly remembered MaskedMovieSnobs.com, and it moved up my list with every viewing. I’d probably put it in my Top 15 today. I mentioned it then but the film means more to me as an older adult than it ever did when I watched it as a teen. I was curious about a new option called “Watch Instantly” on Netflix and I hoped it would catch on. The television landscape was bleak for the week with Lost (ABC), The Office (NBC) and the introduction of Catherine Tate on Doctor Who (SCI-FI). I made a list at the time that I wanted to revisit this week.
- TOP 10 HARRISON FORD MOVIES OF ALL-TIME (2008)
- 10. Indiana Jones & The Temple of Doom (1984). It’s been written off as a weak entry but having seen it recently, it’s not as bad as the reputation.
- 9. Witness (1985). Beautifully filmed by Peter Weir. A very different role for Ford.
- 8. Force 10 From Navarone (1978). I have fallen out of love with this film.
- 7. The Conversation (1974). Director Francis Ford Coppola makes Ford a bit of an edgy actor.
- 6. Apocalypse Now (1979). I let myself include a great movie in which Ford has a small role that would not have affected the film’s greatness either way if he wasn’t in it. I have disqualified it from my 2023 ratings.
- 5. American Graffiti (1973). George Lucas gave him his start and showed Hollywood how to cast him.
- 4. Star Wars IV: A New Hope (1977). He would feel like a supporting character if I just told you the story and yet he almost steals it from the hero.
- 3. Blade Runner (1982). Is he the best casting for Rick Deckard? I could argue for any of a dozen other actors in 1982. In the end, I can’t think of anyone else doing the role now.
- 2. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981). What a run he was in the middle of by 1981.
- 1. Star Wars V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980). Han’s story is allowed to have equal weight to Luke’s.
- TOP 10 HARRISON FORD MOVIES OF ALL-TIME (2023)
- 10. Regarding Henry (1991). I should probably rewatch this but it has risen in my estimation over the years probably because of Mike Nichols direction.
- 9. Frantic (1988). Another of his films that I forget about until I run through the VHS covers in my head. An underrated thriller.
- 8. The Fugitive (1993). What a whiff on that original list to leave this great action film off.
- 7. The Conversation (1974). Ford proves he can hang with the great Gene Hackman in a film.
- 6. Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens (2015). I know that it’s probably just nostalgia. I loved having closure on a character like that in my lifetime.
- 5. American Graffiti (1973). “That can’t be your car. That must be your mama’s car.”
- 4. Star Wars IV: A New Hope (1977). It’s his best known role worldwide and he’s introduced as what feels like a villain. He is still figuring out the character but it’s still so good.
- 3. Blade Runner (1982). Han Solo and Indiana Jones don’t ever do as much brooding as Rick Deckard. A brilliant future noir by Ridley Scott.
- 2. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981). Spielberg gets to have fun and picks the perfect lead actor to be old fashioned and current at the same time.
- 1. Star Wars V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980). One of the best films of all-time, period. Ford has the Han Solo character figured out and it’s a very believable character arc.
- TOP 10 HARRISON FORD MOVIES OF ALL-TIME (2008)
1973 in Review
- October – Fantastic Four #139 (Marvel). Written by Gerry Conway. Art by John Buscema and Joe Sinnott. Reed and Sue are having marital issues. The current Fantastic Four lineup are battling the Miracle Man in Oklahoma.
- September 29 – Hank Aaron (Atlanta Braves) hit his 713th home run, one less than Babe Ruth, on the next to last game of the season. He would have to wait until 1974 to break the record.
- October – The Sahara is replacing Frank Gorshin’s show with Nancy Sinatra.
What the Hell Did I Put in My Mouth?
Pringles: Street Taco
We had the Street Corn Pringles back in the spring but had to wait until the fall for the natural progression to the Street Taco. These don’t have the complex flavor of the Doritos Street Tacos. It’s a very simple taco flavor that goes a bit too light on the taco meat and a bit heavier on the onion and lime. I’m not complaining but it’s just not the full experience of the Doritos. You could do worse. I’d love to combine these with a slightly spicier Pringle.
Scoops Ahoy: Chocolate Pudding
Last week we tasted The Void. This week is the oddly straight forward named Chocolate Pudding. It’s a chocolate base that infuses chocolate pudding and vanilla wafers. The title is a throwback reference to Dustin and Lucas figuring out that the lunch lady is hoarding chocolate pudding in Season One. This is a pretty good chocolate lovers ice cream. I don’t love the chocolate base as much as other brands but it’s light years ahead of The Void.
Halloween Fruity Pebbles
I have a weakness for these cute Pebbles and Bam Bam. Last year was Fred in a Count Dracula costume. This version of Bam Bam appears to have him as a vampire too. The flavor is no different than your run of the mill Fruity Pebbles. The colors are Fall-ish and makes me long for not-90s weather here in Texas.
“Just when I stopped
Finally knowing the one that I wanted was yours
Making my entrance again with my usual flair
Sure of my lines
No one is there” – Stephen Sondheim