Pop Culture Ephemera
- 8 1/2 (1963) (Directed by Federico Fellini): “Accept me as I am. Only then can we discover each other.” – Guido. I’ve been a self-proclaimed Fellini fan for decades and shamefully, his most acclaimed film has eluded my viewing. I’ve started it two or three times in the past but until now never watched it all the way through. It hits me that you need to be of a certain age and experience to connect with the genius of it. Both this film and La Dolce Vita (1959) are accused of being style over substance. Fellini embraced the ideas of Surreal Symbolism so much that to this day asynchronous images are called Felliniesque. This story is simple on one level as Guido (Marcello Mastroianni) is trying to make a science fiction film that he is increasingly losing interest over. The film starts with Guido committing suicide but being dragged back to Earth. It’s a film about making a film, so Guido as Fellini is the obvious symbol. But viewed on a more macro level it is about a man losing interest in his life because he can’t live it perfectly. Is a non-perfect life worth living? That theme is explored in the context of religion, relationships, and career. I am so happy to have finally given this film a chance. It will pay off more with repeated viewings. It’s a symphony where different instruments take their turn telling the story. It’s a philosophical reflection not on hopelessness of growing older but the overabundance of creative ideas and the desire to find a focus. Don’t wait too long for your first viewing.
- On Location: George Carlin at USC (HBO) (1977): This HBO show had debuted just two years previous (coincidentally not long after Saturday Night Live debuted with George Carlin as their first guest host). Two years in and the show featured the likes of Robert Klein, David Brenner, and Redd Foxx. This is the year that Carlin has started guest hosting for Carson on The Tonight Show and also the year he was arrested for his language at Summerfest in Milwaukee. This episode has a serious warning about language ahead of time and is paused before his seven words routine to once again give the viewer time to back out (ironic laughter aside about people not getting the point of his seven words diatribe). Because of the arrest, this first special is mostly just his observational humor like some fun spots on Monopoly, dogs, and airplanes (“A non-stop flight? I want to stop, preferably at the end.”). This still feels transitional in a way that he will find his political voice in the Reagan years. As a starting point in your Carlin journey, this is a great place to get to know his voice.
- Thompson Twins – “Hold Me Now” (1983) (from Into the Gap): “You say I’m a dreamer, we’re two of a kind.” Last week’s Human League put me down a path that led me to this incredible Thompson Twins album from 1983. The single crossed my MTV life in 1983 but took until early 1984 to become a big hit in the United States. That marimba sound mixed with the driving beat of the synth makes for an unique vibe. It played well as their biggest single and the extended mix emphasized the synth groove to be a masterful club song. With success came challenge to duplicate the way that this tune just clicked. They continued to release good songs for years after this but couldn’t find the groove of this “getting back together after a hard time” tune. It’s not unfair to compare this to Spandau Ballet’s “True” as a song that hit it big that didn’t represent the style that the band had employed on their other songs. It’s aged well and still had me couch dancing this week.
- The Night Flier (1997) (Directed by Mark Pavia): “Your appetite for blood intrigues me… we have a lot in common, you and I.” – Renfield. Stephen King returning to the Dracula mythology after already writing the ultimate love letter to it with Salem’s Lot is always going to come up a bit short. Two reporters chasing the story of a vampire flying from small airport to small airport along the East Coast to claim victims is not a terrible setup. The film feels much less theatrical than made for television. It’s very close to a dry run for the 2006 Nightmares and Dreamscapes series that would air on TNT. Miguel Ferrer plays his Twin Peaks persona, just now as an asshole news reporter. The comparison of tabloid reporters as “vampires” is unique and almost makes more to the film than is really there. They are both “bloodthirtsty”. It’s not a terrible film. It escaped my attention in 1997 and while I won’t tell you to go out of your way to track it down, there’s definitely something here. And good gore effects for what feels like a low budget effort.
- Dolores Claiborne (1995) (Directed by Taylor Hackford): “Sometimes, being a bitch, is all a woman has to hang onto.” – Vera. I’ve read the Stephen King novel twice that this film adapts. Hackford did a great job directing An Officer and a Gentleman and does a great job channeling his inner Hitchcock with this film. The casting of Kathy Bates as the lead Dolores and Leigh as her daughter, Selena,, both fit the tenor of the book (although there isn’t the sense of the adult Selena that we get in the film). The book plays out as Dolores tells her story to the police after the death of Vera Donovan (Judy Parfitt). The flashback sequences that tell a complicated series of events in Dolores’ life are a bit convoluted. There are three main sequences: the current time, the days leading up to the eclipse, and the time in the intervening years after her husband’s death. King’s books are big on flashbacks within flashbacks within flashbacks. The film tries to cut some of the middle man and just flip between the stories to keep a balance. The Maine setting is dark and rainy except for the day of the eclipse that centers the film. That day is shockingly sunny until it starts to darken (along with Dolores’ character). The film doesn’t have the monsters or supernatural elements of other King stories, but much like Shawshank and Stand By Me, the characters drive this story. I didn’t need the New York stuff with Leigh, it’s extraneous to the important themes of the story. This doesn’t get mentioned nearly enough as one of the best film adaptations of his works. Start with the book, as I usually recommend. But this isn’t disappointing at all.
Best of the Rest
- I entered this week not even realizing that I wanted a cookie and cracker combination. And yet here we are on Sunday and I’m sad that this product is already sold out online. You like sweet and salty? Well, they just smashed together two of the best on the market. Cracker, peanut butter, creme, cookie biscuit. Boom! I have very little doubt that by Christmas these will be on retail shelves near me but for now I say “Bravo, Mondelez Corporation. Bravo.”
- I’m slightly disappointed with my Couch Crew this week. When I see the headline “Snake Bites Man on Butt as He Sat on Toilet Playing Video Game” come across my news feed and none of you had sent it to me for three days, that’s surprising. A couple interesting details included Tazali was so shaken that he used the toilet down the street at the mosque for two weeks and the tantalizing visual detail that the python was still “attached” when Tazali stood up and rushed out, breaking the bathroom door. You will be relieved to know that as required in any snake story, the snake was “taken away” and we can guess, released in a nearby park.
- Foods come and foods go. As much as I love routine, I’m loyal to brands but I try not to get emotional at the loss of a food. I assume they get canceled because no one is buying the product. The notice of the cancellation of Honest Tea this week was more of a hit than I imagined. It was my favorite of the bottled iced teas. Snapple got me into the bottled teas but Honest Tea kept me coming back. Gold Peak and Peace just don’t provide me with the same “honest” taste. R.I.P. bottled teas for road trips.
Sunday Morning Tuneage Flashback
- On the Sunday Morning Tuneage of 1/1/2007, it was a Monday Tuneage because of delayed holiday celebrations that week. I had rung in the new year with all three children and Dick Clark. I find it funny that I had just started Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season One that week and wasn’t too into it after the first five episodes. Little did I know that would become such a huge fan not many episodes after that. Not much on television at the start of the year. I was looking forward to the Cowboys / Seahawks playoff game. I would later regret that too after Romo muffs the extra point. There was a new show that I had little faith in succeeding.
- In Case of Emergency – “Pilot” (S.1 E.1) (ABC) (2007): What did I have against Jonathan Silverman? I predicted failure on this before ever watching it. I said there would be no more than four episodes and it lasted a whole thirteen. Did I have that much hatred against the Weekend At Bernies franchise? This show is about a handful of thirtysomethings who went to the same high school that connect again at the Emergency Room at a Los Angeles hospital. A cast of Jonathan Silverman, David Arquette, Greg Germann, Kelly Hu, and Lori Loughlin do a solid job. Jon Favreau directs the “Pilot” and it should be better than it ends up. It’s early 2007 and you can see that competitors are trying to figure out how to compete with The Office and this fast paced editing just falls a bit short.
Flash From The Past
What the Hell Did I Put In My Mouth?
Sour Skittles Gummies
I liked the initial release of the Wild Berry Gummies last year and I knew that there was only a waiting period until the popular Sour Skittles got into the gummy game. The Skittle flavor is great in the Sour element. I like these but unlike the regular flavors, these are better as a candy to suck on than to chew. The sour dust does sticky up your fingers. The sour pucker isn’t as strong as other sour candies but it’s still a tasty snack.
Baya Energy: Mango Guava and Pineapple Passionfruit
Starbuck’s entry into the Energy Drink market is interesting. These two fruity flavors are high in sugar and caffeine. The caffeine comes from the coffee fruit but there is no coffee flavor. Years ago, there were Starbucks Refreshers that had more fruit flavor and I thought accomplished the same as these desire. The flavor of these two flavors is frustrating. They smell like they should have a smooth fruity taste. But neither of the combinations work well together. I won’t go as far as to say they are terrible but they don’t offer much compared to the superior product they are replacing.
Cheetos Flamin’ Hot: Sweet Carolina Reaper
They undersold the “sweet” in the Sweet Carolina Reaper. These aren’t even close to the heat levels of other “Flamin’ Hot” releases from the Frito Lays company. I’m reluctant to even call them hot. These have a satisfying crunch and a very pleasant amount of heat. Don’t fear the reaper name on the package. These are much easier to snack on for a long time than other similar releases. I’m buying another bag.
“Hold me now, whoa
(Hold me in your loving arms)
Warm my heart
(Warm my cold and tired heart)
Stay with me
(Stay with me)
Let loving start” – Thompson Twins