Pop Culture Ephemera
- Lars Kepler – The Fire Witness (2011) (Vintage Crime / Black Lizard): The third entry in the Joona Linna series takes the series in some different directions. Some of those are completely unexpected. The first two books set up Joona as a quirky but effective detective who is hard headed and “needs to be right” all the time. There was a short hint at the end of the last book that there was something about Joona’s past that was haunting him. The mystery itself, this time, is much more straight forward. The previous stories were very complicated and spent much of the book linking what seemed like unconnected murders. This is as simple as it gets. There’s a double murder at a young girl’s home and one of the girls, who becomes the main suspect, is on the run. Joona is piecing together the clues as the police move to quickly close the case and Joona thinks they are wrong. The mystery is run of the mill and I give it more of a three out of five. The last 25 to 30 pages change the tone of the series completely by adding a much more serious and tragic element to Joona’s backstory. I wish this had been at the start of the first book because this should affect Joona’s character even more than they’ve hinted at. I think I’ll read the next entry to see where this is going but I have my concerns. I do recommend this for people who are the fans of short chapters because there were almost 200 chapters in a book just over 500 pages. I also don’t get why HBO hasn’t hopped on this series, even if they reorder some of the personal details.
- Doctor Who – “Inferno, Part Three” (S.7 E.21) (BBC) (1970): “But I don’t exist in your world.” – The Doctor. This is the fourth and final story of the first season of the Third Doctor (Jon Pertwee). Years ago, I reviewed the previous story, “The Ambassadors of Death”. My thoughts on that series were very accurate to how I felt having just watched it. This is my first time watching the “Inferno” story. The season has had a five-part story and this is the third seven-part story. The season is quite a departure from the previous years because the Doctor is stuck on current Earth and the series has not relied upon monsters. The series will find that it works best as four-part stories. These longer stories become unnecessarily convoluted to remain interesting. This story centers around what the government is releasing as they deep drill into the Earth’s core. This middle episode is the best of the season so far as the Doctor is thrown into a parallel world where his friends are part of a fascist London future. This is his companion, Liz Shaw (Caroline John), at her best as an evil version of herself in the parallel universe. While this might not appeal to the same children who like Dalek episodes, this is a more grown-up and interesting Doctor.
- Madness – “It Must Be Love” (1981) (from 7): “How can it be that we can / Say so much without words?” Madness covers a Labi Siffre song from 1971 that has more of an early reggae and soul sound that fits what Madness was doing as they consistently covered the ska and reggae borders. They hadn’t done many covers and certainly not more traditional love songs. It’s funny how it doesn’t just work but is one of their most identifiable songs outside of “Our House”. You can spot Labi on violin in this fun video. The song is about that over the moon feeling of being in love and the positive vibes of this band make it one of my favorites of the early decade.
- Taste The Blood of Dracula (1970) (Directed by Peter Sasdy) : “They have destroyed my servant. They will be destroyed…” – Dracula. The fifth entry into the Hammer Film Dracula series has Christopher Lee’s name above the title but he’s little more than an onlooker, mostly using his powers from afar to control his minions. As with most films in this series, it begins with the ending of the really good previous entry, Dracula Has Risen From The Grave (1968), just seen from a different angle. Three distinguished businessmen of Victorian London buy the powdered blood and accoutrements of Dracula and perform a ritual that goes awry. What happens afterwards is a nice transition for the Dracula films that I didn’t catch when I first watched this decades ago. The downfall of the older generation is brought upon by the younger generation of these men. There are many predictable set pieces that you expect in a Dracula film. The female victim, Alice Hargood, is played by the compelling Linda Hayden (a favorite of mine from The Blood On Satan’s Claw (1971), and she hints at the free spirit of the 1970 youth. I have previously considered this one of the weaker entries. I may go as far as to call it one of the best for the way it plays against some of our expectations of what a Dracula film should be about. I’m glad this crossed my path again.
- Beau Is Afraid (2023) (Directed by Ari Aster): “I really thought I was gonna die, my whole life.” – Beau. I don’t often find myself at a loss of words to comment on a film. A simple explanation is that Beau is trying to go home after the sudden death of his mother. From the start of his journey home, his life turns into a Kafka story. It’s weird. That will be the word that shows up the most in reviews of the film. But not weird even like his other films, Hereditary and Midsommar. The thing that looms over this film like the previous ones is how it plays out like chapters in a book. Each chapter here presents different times in Beau’s life, forwards and backwards, and the looming presence is his Mother (as a capital “M” character). I was most entertained by his role as a son to Nathan Lane and Amy Ryan in the generic suburbs. Their daughter, Toni (Kylie Rogers), is the character most likely to have appeared in Aster’s previous two films and it’s hard to ignore her when she’s onscreen. The flashback to the cruise ship helps explain the “what” of the plot but not the “why”. I’m not sure that ever makes sense to me no matter how I parse the metaphor. It’s definitely a film that will pay off more on future viewings but it’s so weird that I’m not sure many of us will have the patience to experience it again.
Best of the Rest
- It took 13 years for the Madness cover to be given a strings treatment and the lyrics to be completely hijacked from “It must be love” to “Is that too much?” for the services we expected from a bank in 1994 like an ATM card.
- I feel like La Dolce Vita (1960) is more of a placeholder for a style of filmmaking and a certain look than the actual film represented. Seeing it referenced in the new Velveeta campaign proved that it’s a feeling and not an actual homage for the fake fromage. That said, it’s a well designed ad but doesn’t make me want to have Velveeta.
- There’s a “breezy” version that looks good with only a slightly odd payoff. There’s a man riding a mechanical bull standing up in a deserted bar eating shells and cheese. Then there’s this woman eating shells and cheese in a crowd to Chantal Claret’s “Conquistadora” (2016) which, while relatively new, has a 1960s European movie feel to it. I love her hair and crocheted top too.
Sunday Morning Tuneage Flashback
- On the Sunday Morning Tuneage of 11/18/2007, it was the Sunday before Thanksgiving but it was also the day after another Wolverines loss to Ohio State. My #97 Favorite Film of All-Time was You Only Live Twice (1967). This Bond film might not make my Top 200 anymore despite it having a pretty good script from Roald Dahl. It just hasn’t aged as well as ones like Goldfinger (1964). I was still making excuses for not watching Pushing Daisies and making promises to catch up on Battlestar Galactica (which I’ve yet to do) and I was confidentially proclaiming a short career for this new artist, Taylor Swift. The Writer’s Strike was limiting the new shows for the week but one new film (obviously made in the summer made it to the screen).
- A Grandpa For Christmas (Hallmark) (2007): Bert O’Riley (Ernest Borgnine) is a former “heavy” in the classic Hollywood films. His estranged daughter ends up in a coma and he is asked to take custody of his nine-year-old granddaughter, Becca (Juliette Goglia). The “instant grandfather” trope is as common as the “instant parent” one. Ernest pulls off the role in a way that I’m not used to seeing him. I was probably watching more Hallmark films in this era than I’d care to admit. This one is a stand out and while not in their traditional holiday mode, it’s a lovely little television film.
1973 in Review
- May – The Flash #221, written by Cary Bates. Backup Green Lantern story by Denny O’Neil and art by Dick Giordano
- May 10 – ABC airs the last game of the Knicks vs. Lakers NBA Finals. CBS will take over the rights next season.
- May – Harvest Home by Thomas Tryon sets the table for the folk horror of Stephen King’s short story and film, Children of the Corn, and the Ari Aster film Midsommar.
What the Hell Did I Put in My Mouth?
Fritos: Flavor Twists – Queso
It took me a few months to catch up with these but found some on a back shelf. The corkscrew shape of the “twist” doesn’t appear to provide much in the way of assistance to the flavor. In fact, it almost gives less surface for the dusting of queso flavoring. In the end, these are pretty addicting, with a good spicy cheese flavor even if you have to wash up afterwards.
This was the last of my hydration drink comparisons. Orange is a legacy flavor like lemon lime and grape by which you should judge all hydration drinks. This was the best of the Prime flavors that I tested. And it was probably the only one that I would consider buying again. The coconut water doesn’t overwhelm the orange flavor as it does in some of the other options. A very good entry from Prime.
Ruffles: Honey Habanero
My favorite time of year – the summer potato chip season is officially underway with these Ruffles Honey Habanero hitting shelves. They Kettle cooked this flavor a couple summers ago and I enjoyed it but didn’t miss it. I think it’s going to be the same with these. Ruffles are a good chip to put a heat flavor but they do run larger than most chips so have a beverage handy. The spice is more mellow than you might expect and they would go best with a good summer BLT.
“I never thought I’d miss you
Half as much as I do
And I never thought I’d feel this way
The way I feel
About you” – Labi Siffre