Pop Culture Ephemera
- Stephen King – Danse Macbre (1981) (Everest House): “We fall from womb to tomb, from one blackness and towards another, remembering little of the one and knowing nothing of the other . . . except through faith.” – Stephen King. Done with the novels, I’m ticking off some of the side projects and this was one of the first. In 1981, Stephen wrote about the horror genre from roughly 1950-1980. It’s hard imagining this would hold much interest to current horror fans except the most completist. He covers movies and television but most of his material is on books of the era. He spends considerable time on Ray Bradbury, Peter Straub, and Harlan Ellison. It’s interesting how much attention he pays to both Invasion of the Body Snatchers and The Incredible Shrinking Man, both shorter pieces that don’t carry the same influences today. It’s definitely like spending a term inside a college classroom on the subject by the Professor Steve and you can imagine most of these notes are taken from classes he taught. You might see some of my future reads be influenced by what I read here but I can only recommend it to the most nerdy of the fandom.
- Poker Face – “Dead Man’s Hand” (S.1 E.1) (PEACOCK) (2023): Charlie Cale (Natasha Lyonne) is a cocktail waitress in what I can best guess is Laughlin, Nevada. Her origin story is glossed over very quickly in this debut episode. She was an amateur poker player who has the ability to know when someone is lying (“bullshit” being her favorite word) and when discovered by a powerful casino owner, she stopped her card playing to work in the casino under his thumb. Created by Rian Johnson (Knives Out), the rumors of this being a Columbo-influenced show are mostly true. From the style of the opening credits to the murder-of-the-week scenarios, this show is more of a reimagining of the NBC Mystery Movie of the early 1970s with a current-day sensibility. The Columbo influence on the story is more structural. We see the murder at the first part of the episode and then we see how someone mostly just using observational powers (in this case, Lyonne) solves the murder. Natasha is perfect for this role with her deep, scruffy voice and she channels the off-kilter speaking style of Peter Falk. This casino-based first episode might be hard to judge the ten-episode season. It’s mostly casino and gambler based and gives out some serious Chinatown vibes that I don’t think will be there when the show hits the road. My Columbo love is well known but this might also bring out a bit of my Rockford Files love too. I’m in for this season. Well played again, Mr. Johnson.
- Berlin – “Take My Breath Away” (1986) (from Top Gun Soundtrack): “On this endless ocean / Finally lovers know no shame.” Written by Giorgio Moroder and Tom Whitlock for the Top Gun soundtrack. It’s one of two songs used thematically for the film to lean on. Kenny Loggin’s “Danger Zone” is the action theme and “Take My Breath Away” is the romantic theme. There is no confusion. This Oscar winner turned out to be one of the most memorable songs of the decade. The vocals are amazing and Moroder’s influence to have it synth based instead of overly done with strings was a good choice. The song starts with that instantly recognizable synth bass that I normally don’t like but I’m in love with it here. It’s really hard not to be in love with this song, even without knowing the placement in the film.
- Top Gun (1986) (Directed by Tony Scott): “You don’t have time to think up there. If you think, you’re dead.” – Maverick. While being familiar with all the important quotes and memes generated by this film, I admit that I had not seen the movie in full until this week. I already knew that Tony Scott could make a fine action film (see True Romance). This is a quality film for 1986 action films. The plot is mostly filler for the times between aerial encounters. The flight scenes are beautiful and they cover for the shoehorn feel of the romance with Kelly McGillis and the forced rivalry between Cruise and Val Kilmer. Maverick has more chemistry with Goose than he does any other character in the film. The soundtrack relies heavily on two songs and a score that anchors it in the mid-’80s. It’s a fun film but try not to pay too much attention when the film isn’t in the air.
- Top Gun: Maverick (2022) (Directed by Joseph Kosinski): “You think up there, you’re dead, believe me.” – Maverick. Thirty six years after the original, Paramount turned to Joseph Kosinski to pick up the baton much like he did when he revived another franchise with Tron: Legacy (2010). People had told me that I didn’t have to watch the first film in order to watch this one. I don’t completely agree. This film exists in a weird realm of being both a sequel and a remake. Is there a thing called a “requel”? It’s definitely an action-fueled nod to the past. Tom Cruise posits himself as the “last action hero” here as the credits and initial use of “Danger Zone” tell us that this is going to be a throwback film. The “new music” in the film is even in the classic rock genre during the action scenes. Miles Teller is wonderful as “Rooster” (the new “Goose”) as is the rest of the young cast. It is the older cast of Jon Hamm and Jennifer Connelly that feel out of place and stilted in a way that Cruise is more at home in this genre. Connelly isn’t at fault as she’s given zero character to hold onto in her performance. The action is top notch and there’s still a place for old fashioned action films that don’t just involve car crashes. I enjoyed the film but it’s not one of the Top Ten films of the year.
Best of the Rest
- As I’ve been working my way through my Punk Project, I’ve become more convinced that Television’s Marquee Moon (1977) is one of the most important albums to straddle the punk and new wave genres. The death of Tom Verlaine has shown how influential he has been to even the current generation of guitarists. Start with the title track off Marquee Moon to see how Verlaine’s ethereal guitar and lyrics set a mood.
- I’m easy click-bait for any story called “4 Stephen King Stories That Are Dying to Be Adapted“. None of the four would make a good film. And I venture to say that only “The House on Maple Street” has enough meat to make a good hour-long episode of a show. “The House on Maple Street” is a tribute to King’s influence by Ray Bradbury, especially Something Wicked This Way Comes. I’m holding my breath for quality adaptations of Later (as a movie) and Revival (as a mini-series).
- This Eastern European ad isn’t as clever as the name would suggest. I appreciate the advertising campaign because we all act so “cool” but have these cravings and love for the simple things of childhood like a McDonald’s Big Mac and fries. Admit it. You want one.
Sunday Morning Tuneage Flashback
- On the Sunday Morning Tuneage of 8/26/2007, I was prepping for a 10-hour day on Sunday and a 14-hour day on Monday for the start of classes. There wasn’t much happening in the television world. It’s a slow week when the Little League World Series was the best thing on for a few days. The Godfather (1972) was ranked as my #5 favorite film of all-time. That’s probably still an accurate rating. Even if it had Leone as the director and Redford in the Pacino role, I can’t imagine it would have changed much in my eyes. There was one new show that I had read good reviews that was probably worth checking out.
- Mad Men – “Marriage of Figaro” (S.1 E.3) (2007): “Draper? Who knows anything about that guy, no one’s ever lifted that rock. He could be Batman for all we know.” – Harry Crane. Revisiting the show is odd. I watched just over two seasons and then just quit for no reason. That was a long time ago. Starting from the beginning, it was this episode where I started to see the depth of the stories, especially at the Draper’s neighborhood birthday party. The show centers around the loneliness and isolation of suburban life and urban careers in the early 1960s as they reflect life in 2007. The dichotomy is more apparent about the home/work life when we hear Don referred to as Richard Whitman by an Army pal. Getting to know a little about the supporting cast is what gives this show life. The show is about letting people through that shell, letting them know the inside you and how scary that can be.
1973 in Review
- February 4. The 1976 Winter Olympics are awarded to Denver. They actually turn it down and the Olympics go to second place candidate, Innsbruck, Austria.
- February 6. The construction of the CN Tower in Toronto has started. It will be finished in 1975.
- Dean R. Koontz releases a book that hints at the future cyberpunk genre as an artificially intelligent computer imprisons and impregnates a woman. In 1977, it will be a film starring Julie Christie.
What the Hell Did I Put in My Mouth?
Cap’n Crunch’s Birthday Crunch
The old Cap’n turns 60 years old this year. This brand releases new flavors a couple times a year but nothing compares to the original. Turns out that Birthday Cake is pretty much just sugary vanilla cake from what I can tell. The colored pillows aren’t fruity flavored as you might deduce but all just a sweet vanilla. It’s not a huge stretch for the Cap’n, and I might have expected something more elaborate for such an important birthday. Not a terrible release, just a pretty boring one.
Cheetos Flamin’ Hot: Tangy Chili Fusion
This flavor sounded good on paper. There’s definitely some ginger and peppers for heat but the overwhelming aftertaste I got was garlic. This flavor combination works great with the corn chips in Doritos. It doesn’t do much for me in the Cheetos family. Tangy might be the keyword of the year at the rate we are going. I’m on the lookout for Tangy Cap’n Crunch.
Chicken in a Biskit: Ranch
I enjoyed the original Chicken in a Biskit crackers, like 30 years ago. As much as snack crackers were a frequent part of my diet in my youth, I really don’t purchase them often anymore. A new Ranch-flavored Chicken in a Biskit caught my eye. Usually, I prefer my Ranch in the Cool Ranch mode but I was willing to give it a go. The crackers are softer than I remembered. I don’t mind the sweet ranch flavor but I have trouble with the texture of a soft cracker. With a bit more of a crunch, this could have been a nice addition to the cracker snack family.
“Watching, I keep waiting
Still anticipating love
Never hesitating to become the fated ones” – Giorgio Moroder