Pop Culture Ephemera
- Mark Twain & Lee Nelson – Huck Finn & Tom Sawyer Among the Indians (1884/2003) (Council Pr): This book has to set a record for the length of time between start and finish, 119 years. Mark Twain wrote the first 62 pages or so and stopped in mid-sentence until Lee Nelson picked up the gauntlet and wrote the remaining 288 pages. The story goes that Lee first got the idea to finish this story while watching the Ken Burns’ Mark Twain (2001) documentary. The story is much more serious than previous Twain stories with these characters. Nelson captures the dialog accurately but the tone of the story can’t help but feel like he’s not of that era. This is mostly a Huck Finn story as he falls in love with a girl who survives after her family is killed by Indians and his track Westward through Mormon territory. Even as big a fan as I am of Twain, this was more like a cover band than reading the original.
- The Bear – “Brigade” (S.1 E.3) (HULU) (2022): “Fuck brunch” – Sydney and Carmen. I’m going to spoil a little something about this episode right now if you care. Molly Ringwald makes an uncredited guest appearance and it’s important and powerful. She talks at an Al-Anon meeting about how you learn to love someone who is an addict. It is short but it informs what has come before and what is likely ahead for this series. A few things are really working for me. First, any show about a Chicago Italian Beef place is tops for me after having recently had my first legit Italian Beef in Chicago. I love the Shameless influence with Jeremy Allen White as Carmen and Ebon Moss-Bachrach as Richie. Ayo Edebiri as Sydney leads an interesting supporting cast. This is the first episode where the cast has gelled as real characters and turned a corner as a complex show that I care about.
- Johnny Cash – “Further on up the Road” (2006) (from American V: A Hundred Highways): “If there’s a light up ahead, well brother, I don’t know / But I got this fever burnin’ in my soul” – Bruce Springsteen. First written and released by Bruce on his The Rising (2002) album, this song has an old time gospel blues feel that found perfection in the elderly faltering voice of Johnny Cash in 2003 (released in 2006). The song is about that place in our future that we can’t see just yet but that we know is ahead of us. Do we believe in our dreams? Cash makes us believe that we’ll someday soon we’ll rise up and meet them.
- All Quiet on the Western Front (1979) (Directed by Delbert Mann): “If we threw away the guns, the grenades – we could have been brothers, but they never want us to know that.” – Paul Baumer. The first thing you notice about this highly acclaimed version of the Erich Maria Remarque book is that the Czech countryside isn’t France and it’s better lit (not sunny, the days are still gray) than the most recent version (see below) or the recent, 1917. I saw this film before reading the book and this was my first rewatch. Any anti-war film, no matter the setting, is going to be influenced by the events of the times it is made. This film operates in the shadows of the Vietnam War, ended seven years previous. Richard Thomas makes a great Paul Baumer and much of it is because he has an incredible voice as narrator of his story. The supporting cast of Ernest Borgnine, Ian Holm, and Donald Pleasence lend a theatrical quality to this made-for-television production. The American and British cast makes the German experience of the war less powerful in some ways. The film is well structured but the reliance on flashbacks and scenes of the times back home feels more like padding to the loss of innocence story. It doesn’t replace reading the book but it’s a quality companion piece.
- All Quiet on the Western Front (2022) (Directed by Edward Berger): “When you’re starving, you’ll do anything” – Paul Baumer. I have been consistent for over 30 years in my statement that All Quiet on the Western Front (1919) by Erich Maria Remarque is one of my favorite books of all-time. I have read the book four times that I can recall and I’m not usually more than a single-time re-reader. This new version mostly ignores the previous film versions in favor of using the book as reference to tell one of best anti-war films of the decade so far. Most importantly, this is a German production giving it greater depth to the messages. The young actor, Felix Kammerer, as Paul Baumer, has just the right combination of innocence and haunted eyes to get across the futility and horrors of the war. When the film does deviate from the novel, it stays true thematically to it. Choosing to spend very little time in the classroom at the start and get right to the trip to the Western Front works better than I thought it would. The war is always there in this film. It’s relentless and takes away a young man’s will. A powerful film and one of the best of last year.
Best of the Rest
- This year will be bringing the end to some long running series. I’m not going to be too sad to see The Flash but I will be sad to see the end of the Fear of the Walking Dead. The series went through a lull in the mid-seasons but ever since the arrival of Morgan, this has been my favorite of the two long-term series the past few years. The return of Kim Dickens is a welcome return because I love the actress but it’s certainly going to end up in the same Walking Dead file as “How did Glenn survive under that dumpster?”
- To be fair, here at FTCH, I am willing to hear dissenting opinions. While I find that some of the ridiculous plot developments in recent seasons of Fear The Walking Dead have been a strength of the show turning it into one worthy of comic book stories, I can see where this writer from Forbes wants more “realism” in his apocalyptic zombie stories. His dissent is here for those who want to see the other side.
- I didn’t get the chance to revisit the original adaptation of All Quiet on the Western Front. Trust me, it’s good. I have gone a decade or two since I spent time with it but it is one of the best films of the early ’30s. It’s definitely as much a blueprint for the past two films as the book has been. If you don’t have the time, the trailer nails the important highlights.
Sunday Morning Tuneage Flashback
- On the Sunday Morning Tuneage of 8/12/2007, I was coming off working a 13-hour day for Graduation. It was a Level Red pollution alert so we were staying inside and going to see The Simpsons Movie at the theater. I ranked Aliens (1986) as my #44 favorite film. Yes, that was higher than Alien (1979) and I still stand behind that, judging the first one against other horror films and the sequel against other science fiction films. On television, So You Think You Can Dance was headed to the finale night, On the Lot was ending prematurely, and I was excited about the start of a new series.
- Californication – “Pilot” (S.1 E.1) (SHO) (2007): “That’s me, I’m all about the family values.” – Hank Moody. Although he would later revisit the Fox Mulder character, David Duchovny would spend seven seasons creating an Alternate World doppelganger of that character in Hank Moody. I was excited for this show and I seem to recall losing track of it after about three seasons. The pilot episode sets the tone for the show. We meet the dysfunctional author, Hank Moody, and what becomes the unconventional extended family of supporting characters. The ex-girlfriend Karen (Natascha McElhone) and his agent (Evan Handler) and wife (Pamela Adlon) are great. This era of Showtime shows felt the need to throw in nudity and swear words at least three times per thirty minutes and that’s a bit distracting. But my love for Duchovny overcomes all of that and the continual refrain of “Rocket Man” tells you all you need to know about the man.
1973 In Review
- January 22. George Foreman defeats Joe Frazier to become the Heavyweight Champion.
- Yearly inflation in the U.S. was 6.16%
- Average weekly earnings $136 per week.
What the Hell Did I Put In My Mouth?
Lay’s Jalapeno Popper
Lay’s has gone back to the well for the 2022 World Cup releases. They’ve had various forms of the Jalapeno Popper release since 2017 for limited duration. The flavor works best in a Wavy Lay but these are still tasty. The best popper hits you with cheese first and then the bacon and heat next. This version of the popper is overly baconed. I’m not complaining per se but it’s bacon first, cheese second, and only a very very soft hit of heat at the end. This will have to tide me over until their clever summer releases in June.
Swiss Miss Cinnamon Toast Crunch: Cinnamilk
Even though it’s for sale in the hot chocolate section of the grocery store, it’s important to notice that it’s “cinnamilk” and not hot chocolate. Once I grasped that it wasn’t going to be cinnamon hot chocolate, I appreciated that this was actually a great mixer for Bailey’s Irish Cream. Cinnamon Toast Crunch leaves the best milk taste at the bottom of the bowl next to Count Chocula and that’s what this is essentially. If you plan to just drink it without Bailey’s, you would do best to use milk instead of water.
Kellogg’s Pandora Flakes w/Blue Moons
Not having watched any of the Avatar films, I don’t know what the tie-in is of blue moons. It’s interesting that as a movie property that this cereal keeps Tony the Tiger as mostly himself with a serious look and a blue nose. Kellogg’s is good with blueberry flavors so I was interested in this cereal. The choice to make the flavor all in the blue moons makes for an inconsistency. Each bite might have a bunch of moons, only one or possibly just a regular Frosted Flakes spoonful. Maybe the tie-in wouldn’t have worked to make the flakes blueberry flavored but the flavor would have been better.
“Further on up the road, further on up the road
Where the way is dark and the night is cold
One sunny mornin’ we’ll rise I know
And I’ll meet you further on up the road” – Bruce Springsteen