Pop Culture Ephemera
- Richard Bachman (Stephen King) – The Running Man (1982) (Signet): “”Say your name over 200 times and discover you are no one.” Ben Richards is out of options. His young child is sick, his wife sometimes has to sell her body to make money, and he’s out of work. Ben turns to the Network that also serves as the ruling class for a chance to win more money than he will ever need on a game show that will make him a hunted man. And no one has ever won the game. I have liked the slightly darker versions of reality that King took up under the Bachman name. This and The Long Walk are good dystopian future titles that feel all too real in today’s society. Little did I expect that this book would be so heavily influenced by the Philip K. Dick stories. The world controlled by network television is almost too believable. Ben Richards isn’t a likable character but you can identify with the choices he feels he has to make. The ending caught me by surprise in the best of ways as it did in The Long Walk. This would be easily adaptable with some minor changes to the 2025 setting of the book. It feels like a natural for a good director.
- Doctor Who – “Web of Fear: Part 5” (S.5 E.27) (BBC) (1968): “Through time and space, I have observed you, Doctor. Your mind surpasses that of all other creatures.” – Travers “The Great Intelligence”. A sequel to the previous Yeti storyline from earlier this season; this is one that has escaped me in the past. The TARDIS is back on Earth in London as the city is being attacked by robot Yeti. This is a great combination of monsters and mystery as we try to solve the how the Yetis are being controlled and who might be possessed by the Great Intelligence. Troughton is at his peak as Sherlock Holmes meets technology wizard. Companions Jamie and Victoria play more important roles than just getting into trouble and needing to be rescued. This represents an important change in the series as continuity between previous series becomes important. We’ve seen the Daleks and Cybermen multiple times but this series makes the previous encounter a key to the current encounter. This particular episode is a standout as the paranoia grows among characters as to who is actually under control of the Great Intelligence.
- Beatles – “Got To Get You Into My Life” (1966) (from Revolver): “You didn’t run, you didn’t lie / You knew I wanted just to hold you.” – McCartney. This song has the weird distinction of being released as a single off a compilation in 1976 and becoming the last Top Ten hit for the group until “Free As A Bird” (1995). The horns give it a fun, Motown sound tribute. Musically, it shows more of George’s influences on the sound of the group. According to Paul, it’s all about his first experiences with pot and wanting to do more of it. It works well as a song of devotion too. Either way, I’m tapping my feet.
- Black Mama, White Mama (1972) (Directed by Eddie Romero): “Some jive-ass revolution don’t mean shit to me!” – Lee Daniels. The Black Mama is Lee Daniels (Pam Grier) and the White Mama is Karen Brent (Margaret Markov). This film is often pigeonholed to one genre or another. It stars two actresses who up to this point had made their names with roles in other Women In Prison films and this film starts in a prison. The title, funky score and subplot over a prostitute stealing money from a gangster with Pam Grier, who will soon switch to mostly Blaxploitation, puts it squarely in the genre for some. Or it’s just plain Exploitation with violence, torture, or nudity every four to five minutes. Jonathan Demme wrote the treatment and there’s much more going on here than those genre pieces only. It is a feminist piece in parts especially with Karen Brent as a revolutionary. It’s partially Black Power as Lee Daniels, in prison for prostitution, fights back against the male powers against her. I’m not saying this is worthy of awards or deeper study but there’s quite a bit going on here beyond the naked breasts. This represents a whole new movement where the message and the messenger don’t always have to be on the same level. It’s easy to picture a young Quentin Tarantino watching this and making copious notes for his future screenplays.
- Running Man (1987) (Directed by Paul Michael Glaser): “This is television, that’s all it is. It’s nothing to do with people, it’s to do with the ratings.” – Damon Killian. I think I liked this movie better before I read the book. I remember last seeing it in 1989 when I rented a VHS tape. Ben Richards (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is still the main character and Damon Killian (Richard Dawson) is still the host of the game show but the rest of the film departs from the source material from the very start. Ben Richards isn’t a down-on-his-luck guy trying to save his child. He’s a framed former policeman. The dystopian future isn’t much like that of Blade Runner or Total Recall (both Philip K. Dick source material). This future is closer to Robocop or Demolition Man. Focusing on the game show itself more than the Ben Richards character and turning it more into a sport than a chase makes it feel closer to a superhero meets wrestling film. The parody of our television society is a worthy target but not what the plot best lends itself. It’s fun but the action scenes just fall a little flat. The best reason to watch this film is for Richard Dawson’s sublime portrayal of the dark version of himself. All with a wink to the camera.
Best of the Rest
- Years ago, Fatboy Slim helped us take a different view of Christopher Walken as he danced through that video. Director Taika Waititi brings out a side of Daniel Craig that we’ve rarely seen as he grooves and dances his way through this vodka ad. The groove is really catchy and may or may not have had me couch hole dancing along too.
- Seeing an ad by an ad company that parodies the ad industry is interesting. In the end, it’s about making marketing decisions that entertain people like the beer ad with the horse that farts instead of the mango chutney in the jar for left-handed people. Mostly, I share this because it tickles me too.
- The start of the NBA season and the NFL season going into the Christmas season means a slew of new ads. Great collaboration of stars. I’d love to see an NFL and NHL version of this ad. Just a fair warning that I collected the non-Christmas ads for you for this week. But get ready . . .
Sunday Morning Tuneage Flashback
- On the Sunday Morning Tuneage of 6/24/2007, basketball season was ending and there was going to be a full 3-4 weeks until football season started for the boys. I started a new sub-project in the Tuneage of randomly ranking my Top 100 Films of All-Time. This week was #70 – Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid (1969). I’ll revisit some of these as we go along. I’m sure I would probably move this particular film to a better number today. Television was thin with shows like So You Think You Can Dance (FOX) and a new show, Men in Trees (ABC). There was a show debuting on BBC America that caught my attention.
- The Gil Mayo Mysteries – “Cast a Cold Eye” (S.1 E.1) (BBC) (2006). I initially compared this show to Monk before I had watched it. And then I didn’t watch it. Taking a look at it now, I should have watched it back then. Based upon a book series by Marjorie Eccles, the detective-comedy show has been around for decades but this more closely resembles Castle in the blend of family life and work. Detective Gil Mayo (Alistair McGowan) is joined by his former love interest Detective Alex Jones and two quirky assistants. At home, he’s a single father dealing with a cheeky teenage daughter. This episode had a good murder with enough twists to keep me guessing and the supporting characters add a good dose of humor. I think I’ll finish the rest of the series; it only lasted a season.
Flash From The Past
What the Hell Did I Put In My Mouth?
Doritos Minis: Cool Ranch
Do you like Doritos Cool Ranch? Most importantly, do you like Doritos Cool Ranch dust? You know those crumbs and dust at the bottom of the bag? This is like a fake-Pringles container full of that stuff. I’m not sure of the purpose of putting them in this sort of container other than to get sued (which appears to be happening). Pringles work because they are the size of the container. These small mini-Doritos just break into smaller pieces as they are transported shelf to cart to bag to trunk to pantry to bowl to couch hole. Familiar flavor in dust form.
The second entry in the 2022 World Cup flavors from Frito Lay’s is a good partner to the Street Tacos. The flavor comes from their Sabritas brand. It’s a mix of chili, tomato, and lime. The first thing you smell when opening the bag is that chili smell. The chips aren’t spicy and taste mostly like a good taco meat. I really like the smoky aftertaste and need another bag of these asap.
Tootsie Roll: Harvest Chews
Tootsie Roll has a long way to go to put out flavors worse than what Brach’s has done in 2022. Cinnamon, Caramel Apple, Candy Corn, and Pumpkin Spice flavors are not going out on a limb like Taco Truck or Tailgating. The flavors are what they say but just not outstanding. I like the cinnamon the best and you are welcome to all of the pumpkin spice. I’m excited to see it they bring out their Christmas flavors again this season. I’m a Tootsie fan, just not this mix.
“Ooh, then I suddenly see you,
Ooh, did I tell you I need you
Ev’ry single day of my life?” – McCartney