Pop Culture Ephemera
- Lars Kepler – The Hypnotist (Hypnotisoren) (2009) (FS&G): “The dead teach the living.” This mystery thriller is written by a Swedish couple who take their pen name from Swedish writer, Stieg Larsson and famous German astrologer, Johannes Kepler. The setting alone will lead to natural comparisons to The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. The authors tell a compelling story with multiple gruesome scenes and a mystery that has some “I didn’t see that coming” twists. I know this was made into a film but it really screams out for a mini-series adaptation like Fargo (FX) or True Detective (HBO). Police investigator Joona Linna works with hypnotist Erik Maria Bark to solve a murder and things go awry for the Bark family as a result of his work on the murder. I love this Nordic Noir style. It’s dark themes and characters that aren’t having the best times of their lives. Joona is an interesting detective and only gets half billing as the star here with much dedicated to Bark’s backstory. The book is hard to put down with short, impactful chapters that keep the plot moving along.
- The Walking Dead – “Trust” (S.11 E.15) (AMC) (2022): “You know we’re not getting back together, right? ” – Carol. This was the rare scripted show that for years was on my “watch on night it airs” list. Now I feel like I’m mostly playing out the string to see how it ends. I’m more concerned with the fate of the characters we have known for years and find little interest in the new ones. The show has ended as of last week and I’m trying to make a push to catch up. This is the penultimate episode of the previous half-season. One predictable trope of the show is the dark theme of episodes before the cliffhangers. The title is interesting because this show has always been about secrets. The tensions between the Commonwealth and Hilltop/Alexandria is coming to a head and this episode literally marches towards that conflict. Lance is an annoying bad guy, more than scary. And Daryl swears in this episode! Nothing is solved or accomplished but I’ll give it an extra star for adding some zombie gore that has been missing from much of this season. The sword sliced head being a nice touch.
- Lou Reed – “Perfect Day” (1972) (from Transformer): “You made me forget myself / I thought I was / Someone else, someone good.” It’s easy with the benefit of hindsight to view this as a dark tale of battling his addiction to heroin. But I choose to take what the song and artist has given us and see it as the melancholy celebration of a perfect day with a loved one. Those days where the weather is perfect and the company is the only person you would want to share the day with. And maybe you get a pizza and watch a movie. The memory of those days are filled with happiness and sadness that they can’t all be perfect. Lou’s voice captures the yearning for more days like that, “you just keep me hanging on.” Produced by David Bowie and Mark Ronson, the strings that Ronson uses are a great compliment to Reed’s voice.
- The Legend of Lobo (1962) (Directed by James Algar / Jack Couffer): “Across the lonely campfire when the wolves begin to call.” – Narrator. The story of Lobo the wolf from a cub to adult life is an important development in the Disney storytelling. It is co-directed by one of their star documentary directors and James Algar who knows how to tell a story. There’s no dialog and the story is told through narration and song. Rex Allen is a familiar voice as narrator and Song of Pioneers sing the songs. The beautiful setting around Sedona, Arizona adds to the impact of the film. The wolves are adorable and the story impactful in a way that Disney had perfected in the 1960s.
- After Yang (2021) (Directed by Kogonada): “What the caterpillar calls ‘the end,’ the rest of the world calls a ‘butterfly’.” – Yang quoting Lao Tzu. Continuing my recent Colin Farrell appreciation project, this little film is for thinkers. Jake (Colin Farrell) and Kyra (Jodi Turner-Smith) have a daughter, Mika (Malea Emma Tjandrawidjaja), adopted from China. Their android assistant, Yang (Justin Min), malfunctions. While trying to fix Yang, Jake discovers access to Yang’s inner thoughts. The existential journey of Yang dealing with his own existence and Jake discovering a new way to look at his family through the eyes of Yang is handled brilliantly. This is science fiction in our time. How do we train ourselves to actually view the world around us. The near future of this film doesn’t feel far away. The film isn’t preachy and the best moments happen slowly. Jake sells tea for a living and like steeping a perfect cup of tea, life is about patience for the cup to be just right.
Best of the Rest
- Barbour (U.K.) is one of the companies that you can count on to make a Christmas advert that is cute, touching, and doesn’t feel like it’s pandering to current trends. This Paddington short gets Paddington back to more traditional animation and has a timeless feel and message. Be kind.
- The leader for most “Best Holiday Ads of the Year” is probably John Lewis (U.K.). This year has a high bar so far with that Amazon ad from last week. But from the first notes of “All The Small Things” cover by Postmodern Jukebox to the reveal at the end, this is another example of how the best ads can be short movies.
- The Lou Reed song, “Perfect Day,” made a triumphant comeback into pop culture in the film Trainspotting (1996). Since then, it has shown up in multiple television shows whenever bad things are happening to a character, including a memorable scene in Gotham (FOX). The Duran Duran cover was interesting for the reliance of the percussion in that version. Probably the most interesting is the 1997 BBC version that was meant just to highlight the variety of musical acts they have promoted over the years but turned into one of the year’s biggest singles. Listening to Bowie’s contributions here make the whole song.
Sunday Morning Tuneage Flashback
- On the Sunday Morning Tuneage of 7/8/2007, a little less rain that week. But it’s remembered around here as the week when the lake reached 535 feet with our 534-foot-tall bridge. I ranked Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) as my #68 most favorite film and that seems like an insult to Spielberg. This has to be a Top Forty and maybe moving up the list with each viewing. Television was slim with Doctor Who just starting up Season Three and CBS repeating Jericho to drum up support for the fan favorite but ratings challenged show I never watched. There was something that caught my attention.
- POV: Revolution ’67 (S.20 E.5) (2007) (PBS) The story of the six days of riots against police brutality and impoverished living conditions in Newark, NJ in July of 1967. When the nonviolent movement transitioned to more of a violent force that would dominate 1968, the story has largely been forgotten. I like learning about important events like this. The episode examines the anatomy of a riot from the very beginning as the disconnect between city government and the citizens grew further apart. Wish I had watched this in 2007.
Flash From The Past
What the Hell Did I Put In My Mouth?
HEB Apple Pie Ridged Potato Chips
The holidays have been represented with numerous versions of stuffing potato chips. These are the first apple pie chips that I’ve sampled. Two things comes to mind (and one of them isn’t apple pie) and that’s “A is for Apple” and secondly “J is for Jacks.” I thought there might be more of the apple pie crust taste mixed in there but it comes across as a weak Apple Jacks flavor with a potato and apple aftertaste. Edible but not desirable.
Dove: Holiday Brownie Batter
To be clear, I’m a Dove fan. Even just their basic chocolate mix is tops in my book. The picture on the packaging is misleading, unfortunately. There is not a gooey center of “warm wishes” brownie batter. It’s a solid center and the flavor is definitely brownie. I get the experience of a good Lindt Truffle (also a big favorite of mine).
Doritos: Screamin’ Sriracha
Back in stores for the first time since 2019, back in the hey day of the Sriracha craze. The first best thing that Doritos did was to improve the very disappointing packaging from the original release. The word “screamin'” and the awfully fire red coating on the chips might scare you away if you don’t like heat. There is that garlic, onion, and peppers heat that I get from Sriracha but it’s not even close to the hottest chip that Doritos puts out today. Will your mouth feel the need for a cold beverage? Yes. Will you sweat through your clothes? Not totally. The craze for the sauce has waned and I don’t see these finding much traction anymore.
“Just a perfect day
Feed animals in the zoo
A movie, too, and then home” – Lou Reed