Pop Culture Ephemera
- Robert Silverberg – A Time Of Changes (1971) (Berkley Book): “As he approaches the doing of it he will know fear, for perhaps to fulfill the obsession will bring him more pain than pleasure.” – Kinnall. In the distant future, on a planet colonized by Earth when pollution overtook our planet, Prince Kinnall Darival is writing his memoir. In this future, the group is venerated above the individual. The words “I”, “me” and “myself” are forbidden. Kinnall takes a drug (reminiscent of LSD) he receives from a visitor from Earth that allows him to understand the souls of others. This breaks down the rigid rules and his self discovery has him using the forbidden words and trying to spread his message to others. The book is just short of 200 pages and it spends much time world building and talking sociological issues. This won the Nebula Award in 1971 and is held as one of the best science fiction books of the era. I found it to be much more of a philosophy exercise than interesting story. I didn’t need all of the history and structure of the world when what really mattered was the interactions between the people. The idea of a drug uniting the people feels dated and just made me glad the book wasn’t too much longer.
- WandaVision – “Now in Color” (S.1 E.3) (DISNEY+) (2021): “I can’t wait… to be a proud papa-ya.” – The Vision. Director Matt Shakman is having fun using the visual language of old television shows to tell this MCU story. The first two episodes channeled Dick Van Dyke and Bewitched respectively. They just didn’t have any substance to go with the style. I was worried about that going into this Brady Bunch themed episode. Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) is pregnant and it turns out that her pregnancy isn’t like any other in television history. I was about to be done with this nine-episode series until neighbor Geraldine (Teyonah Parris) breaks the spell with a reference to Ultron. It’s not great pacing to be 1/3rd of the way into a series before the overall story starts to take form. They’ve bought another three episodes for me. The lesson is that this MCU can’t just throw out characters without an intriguing plot. There needs to be something at stake for the leads and I don’t see it yet. I can see why friends have reviewed this for me by just saying one word, “weird.”
- Gwen McCrae – “Rockin’ Chair” (1975) (from Gwen McCrae): “Let your arms shelter me from all hurt and pain / Light my heart with your everlasting flame” Gwen’s husband, George McRae, had a hit song “Rock Your Baby” in 1974. This answer song was a hit, but Gwen would be a true one-hit wonder. I love this era where funk and proto-disco are mixing together. Her voice is amazing, and it’s too bad that she didn’t pick up traction doing soundtracks like Curtis Mayfield. The percussion is the musical highlight that hints at the disco structure that will take over music in the future. The bassline operates behind the percussion and the vocals are sparse enough to allow for a longer remix. Hard not to bop your head to this beat.
- Cut Bank (2014) (Directed by Matt Shakman): “Hi! Welcome to Cut Bank, Montana, where the Rockies meet the plains.” – Cassandra. Of course, the movie set in Cut Bank, MT is filmed in Canada. This early film from WandaVision director, Matt Shakman comes off as a well-photographed tribute to the early films of the Coen Bros. The film starts with Dwayne McLaren (Liam Hemsworth) videotaping his girlfriend (Teresa Palmer) and catching a murder of the town postman (Bruce Dern) on tape. From that point forward, it’s a parade of great actors like Billy Bob Thornton, Oliver Platt, and John Malkovich as the town sheriff. None of the roles are that juicy and the plot of finding the “body” and solving the town’s first murder is fraught with script issues. The Coen Bros. are the Coen Bros. for a reason. Matt Shakman has a quirky plot in front of him but is unsure how to mix the dry humor with the shocking events. It’s hard not to feel disappointed given all of the talent involved in the production. You can see the director’s eye that would give you confidence in giving him a Marvel Universe assignment.
- The Kill Team (2019) (Directed by Dan Krauss): “You killed one of theirs, you saved ten of ours. Are you telling me that’s not right?” – Sgt. Deeks. Andrew Briggman (Nat Wolff) is an aspiring young soldier in Afghanistan who has a moral dilemma over the arrival of Sgt. Deeks (Alexander Skarsgard) who is ordering soldiers to kill innocent citizens. The film is directed and written by Dan Krauss who directed the documentary The Kill Team (2013) based upon the same real-life events. This type of story isn’t too different than a police drama where a cop doesn’t want to participate in the corruption of the department. It’s not the director’s fault that the events end up resembling Brian De Palma’s Casualties Of War (1989). In the end, a too familiar scenario happens for the soldier trying to do the right thing. I would like to have learned more about the Afghan people, but I do appreciate the adherence to the actual facts of the story.
Best of the Rest
- In 1988, a young Chubb Rock and Hitman Howie Tee sample Gwen McCrae to some moderate success. The production is simple compared to how the songs are chopped up today. I appreciate that the beat just rides below with a hint of Gwen’s voice.
- Once we pass Halloween, the best Christmas advertisements start arriving in bunches. As a fan of advertisements, Christmas is the best time of year. For me, it’s even better than the Super Bowl as far as story ads. Lidl uses a cute racoon to tell a heartwarming story.
- Barbour brings back Shaun the Sheep and the Mossy Bottom Farm for a cute Christmas ad. Nothing more to say than I smiled through the whole thing and that’s all I want from a Christmas commercial.
Sunday Morning Tuneage Flashback
- On the Sunday Morning Tuneage of 6/1/2008, I was just back from a work convention in Orlando. The Pistons just got knocked out by the Celtics, and the Red Wings were in the Finals. My #94 Favorite Film of All-Time was Reservoir Dogs (1992). I love the movie and I appreciate what it meant for Independent film at the time. I would have a hard time moving it much higher knowing what his output would be in the future. June brought shows like Million Dollar Password (CBS), The Mole (ABC), and Fear Itself (NBC). None of the shows from that week brings much interest, but the random list is in dire need of a revisit.
- BEST STEPHEN KING ADAPTATIONS TO FILM/TV (2008)
- 10. Salem’s Lot (1979): Until they really do it right, this Tobe Hooper directed adaptation is the one that is seared into my brain from when I was just eleven. There are important aspects that are left out but it’s still one of the best adaptations for how it captures the spirit of the book.
- 9. The Green Mile (1999): Director Frank Darabont gets much credit for not varying much from the original source material despite it making for a long film.
- 8. Needful Things (miniseries) (1993): Max von Sydow puts in a great performance that outshines the book in some ways by just being more compact of a story.
- 7. Misery (1990): Kathy Bates became a legend for her role of Annie Wilkes, so much so that they gave her an Academy Award.
- 6. The Dead Zone (1983): David Cronenberg had to ditch swaths of story to get it all into a single film. He hits right at the heart of the curse of having the power that Johnny Smith has.
- 5. Carrie (1976): Director Brian De Palma brings Italian Giallo and Hitchcock to a Stephen King story before anyone really knew the name Stephen King.
- 4. The Shining (1980): Director Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation divides King fans and it’s almost like you have to choose book or film. I choose both for different reasons. Kubrick composes the most complex story that happens behind the plot at the front of the screen. I can look at this film over and over and over.
- 3. The Stand (miniseries) (1994): Director Mick Garris established that King would work great within the TV miniseries format with this work. His pacing is wonderful and the cast aligns with how I envisioned it in the book.
- 2. Stand By Me (1986): I can point to a number of sources where King shows off his ear for the dialog of youth, but this one is probably the best. In the hands of director Rob Reiner it’s pure joy to watch.
- 1. The Shawshank Redemption (1994): Director Frank Darabont channels his inner Frank Capra and tells such an uplifting story of hope that people who don’t know still say “Stephen King wrote that?”
- BEST STEPHEN KING ADAPTATIONS TO FILM/TV (2023)
- 10. Doctor Sleep (2019): Mike Flanagan does yeoman’s work to make sure that the Kubrick version of The Shining is worked into the canon for people who only watch the films.
- 9. The Mist (2007): Director Frank Darabont’s King Trilogy ends with this depressing monster/end of the world story that layers in a bleak H.P. Lovecraft vibe.
- 8. IT: Chapter One (2017) / IT: Chapter Two (2019): I can’t separate these two since they tell the single story of the book. If it improves on anything from the TV miniseries, it’s the acting of the children and the way their story reflects the fears of adolescence.
- 7. The Dead Zone (1983): I have learned to appreciate how well Cronenberg and Christopher Walken work together on this adaptation. Things happen quickly in a way they don’t in the book but within the constraints of two hours, I can’t imagine it being any better.
- 6. Stand By Me (1986): This still ranks among the best male bonding films of all-time.
- 5. Carrie (1976): De Palma had good raw material but it’s not written in a way that it could be adapted as written. He laid the groundwork for telling King’s story with the emphasis on the experience of the youth. Sissy Spacek is absolutely perfect here.
- 4. The Shining (1980): The more I read King’s books and the more adaptations I watched, the more I’ve come to appreciate this film for taking the source material as merely a framework. The images that you take away from this film are more than you might in twenty others.
- 3. The Stand (miniseries) (1994): This took on more importance after 2020 for obvious reasons. The first part could use even more time to play out. It’s hard to find much fault in the changes they made to the +1000 page book. You’ll always remember “Baby, Can U Dig Your Man.”
- 2. The Shawshank Redemption (1994): I believe it still sits at or near the top of the IMDb’s fan-favorite films for good reason. It’s hard to find fault with the film other than a relentless message of positivity in the face of evil.
- 1. IT (miniseries) (1990): I’ve read the book since that first ranking, rewatched this twice, and watched the new films. This adaptation could work better in the execution of the themes in the first half. The acting of the adults saves the day and Tim Curry’s Pennywise is still how I judge all bad clowns.
- These lists leave of some wonderful TV shows like Mr. Mercedes (2017) (OVATION) and The Outsider (20200 (HBO). There have been miniseries worth a watch like Storm of the Century (1999) (ABC) and The Langoliers (1995) (ABC). The problem is that there are so many that fit in the “just out of the Top Ten” for me. They have some great moments for fans of the books but they leave things on the table based upon the limitations of their format.
- BEST STEPHEN KING ADAPTATIONS TO FILM/TV (2008)
1973 in Review
- November – The Amazing Spider-Man #126 (Marvel). The Kangaroo does something that rarely happens in any comic book. He dies. For good. Peter works with the Human Torch who wears a yellow and red costume. Peter is still sad over Gwen’s death.
- November 12 – Sitcom Last of the Summer Wine debuts on the BBC and would run until 2010.
- November 12 – Pistol Pete Maravich and his teammate, Sweet Lou Hudson have the Atlanta Hawks in first place in the Central Division. Pete would finish second in scoring in the league with 27.7 points per game and the Hawks would miss the playoffs. The next season Pistol Pete was traded to the expansion New Orleans Jazz.
What the Hell Did I Put in My Mouth?
The Zero Sugar version was acceptable at best. I can’t figure out what is going on with this Creations release. There’s a good dose of vanilla in the aftertaste. Generally it still tastes like a mix of 12 different sodas. I thought I’d get used to it, and after a few, it just isn’t happening. Very disappointing.
Red Bull: Winter Edition – Pear Cinnamon
I am an infrequent Red Bull buyer. I like to try their Summer Edition, but I typically skip the Winter Edition. I was intrigued by Pear Cinnamon. The pear flavor is prevalent to the point that I wondered if I got one without cinnamon. I got a hint of it in the aftertaste. I could become a fan of this flavor. It’s a great combination, and if you like the Energy, stock up on these before Winter is over.
Oreo: Hot Cocoa Flavor Creme
It has been five years since these were found on your grocery store shelves. My preference for the combination of marshmallow, hot cocoa, and Oreo is for Oreo flavored Hot Cocoa, but this is a fun holiday release. Oreo has an issue with marshmallow flavor in their creme but mixed with the hot cocoa flavor works here as just a hint of cream. It’s good for a twice a decade release.
“Rock me gently;
Make me feel like a cloud in the sky
Let my heart take wing and fly” – Gwen McCrae