Category Archives: The Best Thing

Saturday Night Fever: The Best Thing I Watched This Week

I’ve been doing this CinemaShame thing for a couple years now. If you haven’t seen some of my past posts about CinemaShame, this will get you up to full speed. An even shorter explanation is that each year you pick 12 movies you feel some sort of shame for not having watched. Movies you’ve been told to see dozens of times, the classics that just sit on your shelf and mock your 13th viewing of Police Academy 3. Over the course of the next 12 months, you watch all 12 and write up some thoughts. Or not. It’s laid back like that. The write-ups tend to be half the fun because you’re forced to consider how expectation shaped your enjoyment of the film. But moving along… welcome to Volume 4 of TBTIWTW – Saturday Night Fever.

besthingIwatchedthisweek2 - Saturday Night Fever

I’d yet to start in on my Shame list for 2015, which can be viewed in all of its shameful glory here so I earmarked last Saturday for a viewing of Saturday Night Fever. Shameful, right? Never having seen John Travolta’s crowning, hip-shaking, disco-feverish achievement in all of cinema. Yet I have seen Disco Godfather, which is also a must-watch if you like hilariously earnest low-budget drug war/disco films… so that must count for something.


So Saturday Night Fever isn’t about disco fever. Not really.

Pretty much all I knew about Saturday Night Fever could be boiled down to the soundtrack (which, of course, I have on vinyl – doesn’t everybody?) and this one scene:

You know I work on my hair a long time and you hit it! He hits my hair!

How can you not love that scene? Top five dysfunctional family dinner table scene.

And then, of course, there’s all the groovy disco. To preface this scene, Travolta is cajoled into hitting the dance floor with the girl standing behind him in the clip and she turns out to be a total square (stiff?), so he ditches her and goes freelance disco demi-god on the expectant populace.


I wasn’t prepared, however, for the “turn” that Saturday Night Fever takes halfway through. My uninformed notions of the film considered Fever to be a movie of bell bottoms, sequins and fluff. Brooklyn flunkie makes good through dance with intermittent conversations about being poor and Italian to break up all the disco. Sure, that’s what makes Saturday Night Fever palatable and pure entertainment, but there’s a dark underbelly here that I didn’t expect.

Travolta’s character Tony never really makes good. He’s full of promise and all the potential in the world, but he realizes that he can’t actually make good with dance. He encounters an existential crisis. He’s not a child anymore. He’s working at a paint store (and being an exceptional employee), dancing on the weekends for fun and little golden trophies when his esteemed (worshipped?) brother quits his clergy position and falls from grace. And now Tony he realizes that he will never, ever get him out of Brooklyn and away from the emotional abuse of his home and family. He sees that those heroes and idols to which he looked up to were little more than false martyrs.

And then when Tony takes steps to change, to be better than his surroundings and those surrounding him, he fails. He slides back into his nurtured personality. Even if his “nature” is destined for bigger and better things, the person he’s become, the Tony Manero that’s been molded by Brooklyn through his eighteen years can’t escape the undertow that drags him down.

There’s a magnificent pair of scenes on the Brooklyn Bridge — the weekend destination for Tony and his friends. A place to screw around like delinquents and to dream of what lies beyond in the twinkling lights of the promised land, Manhattan. But that’s all it is to them — a dream. There’s nothing of reality mixed into their horseplay. The last of these scenes jump-starts Tony’s final realization of self. I won’t divulge the specifics because SPOILER ALERT! some serious shit goes down. The final, tragic event forces Tony to realize that maybe he and all his friends are just a Brooklyn fuckups. The difference between he and his friends, however, is that he’d still rather be a Brooklyn fuckup fucking up somewhere other than in the same old place, doing the same old shit…. he’d rather reach for that dream across the Brooklyn bridge.

Saturday Night Fever ends with a most conflicted and uncertain denouement. The viewer can choose optimism, if they choose. The viewer can also choose disappointment, and a return to the same troubles Tony wanted to escape. We know he’s a good person with good intentions, but director John Badham has left us with the sinking feeling that none of that will be enough to deliver this character fully from the past, the past that will forever drag him away from success… and back to Brooklyn… or even worse… a sequel.


#Bond_age_TV: The Best Thing I Watched This Week

Is this self-promotion? Kinda. Is it legit? Absolutely. So pipe down from the cheap seats — people down front pay good money for this kind of shit and they don’t want to have their experiences marred by assholes in the back.

This is Episode III of The Best Thing.


Some of you may know that I’ve been running a little James Bond project over at #Bond_age_ The James Bond Social Media Project. And by little, I mean it’s been going on for two years now and I’ve written 80,000 words about James Bond. I just ran the numbers today as I prepare the full-length blog-to-book manuscript and submission materials. One of the spin-off series that we’ve begun at #Bond_age_ is the #Bond_age_TV series. Two of our regular contributors (@GregMcCambley and @Krissy_Myers) have been selecting episodes from The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and The Prisoner. They host a live tweets on Wednesdays and write up ingenious little notes about the series and its place in TV history.

This last Wednesday, Krissy began her series for The Prisoner. I’d watched a couple of episodes in the past to get an idea what it was all about, but I’d never focused on the series.

Patrick McGoohan - The Prisoner

Despite the permanent “Patrick McGoohan is not amused” face, the series oozes humor and whimsy and is just deadpan hilarious. The Prisoner makes a perfect counterpoint to the less than deadpan spying done in Greg’s The Man from U.N.C.L.E. series — which is equally fun and brilliant live tweet material.

It was this live tweet on Wednesday and the great fun had by all that forced me to name #Bond_age_TV The Best Thing I Watched This Week. I’m grateful for Krissy and Greg for putting their own blood, sweat and tears into the project. And I’m grateful for everyone that contributed to #Bond_age_ over the last two years. I’ve put a lot of work into this shindig and it’s immensely rewarding when others respond with enthusiasm and support.

The #Bond_age_ Live Tweet schedule can be found on the front page of Stop by and see us and join the live twatter. It just might be the best thing you watch that week.The next #Bond_age_TV live tweet takes place on February 11th at 9pm EDT as Greg hosts another session of The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

Here’s the embed for the first episode of The Prisoner, if you’d like to start catching up on what you’ve missed.

Nicole Kidman on Jimmy Fallon: The Best Thing I Watched This Week

Episode #2 of The Best Thing I Watched This Week. Shocking news. The series didn’t get canceled after one week. Phew. Since I figure you’re still catching up on last week’s assignment of the entire 24 episodes of The IT Crowd, I’ll make this one brief. Not that I planned such benevolence. It just worked out that way.


How often do conversations on late night talk sound rehearsed? Like the parties involved had scripted the entire thing just before coming out on set. Despite the “live” nature of late night talk shows, the chatter remains stilted and guarded, managed by PR reps and risk-averse network hooligans. Unless we’re talking about Craig Ferguson. I honestly believe he planned nothing during his entire brilliant run of wee-hour madness. But that’s part of what made his show so thrilling and earnest and wildly entertaining.

Last week on Jimmy Fallon, there occurred a moment between Nicole Kidman and Jimmy Fallon that appeared – at face value – to be entirely spontaneous. I suggest this because both Ms. Kidman and Mr. Fallon go flush with embarrassment. If you’ve seen this clip already (it’s been a viral sensation, or so I’ve read) you’re an overachiever and can take this “Best Thing” off. But this conversation that documents Jimmy’s inability to comprehend that Nicole might have wanted to get in his pants back when they were both free agents stood out to me as one of those honest, unscripted moments that we rarely witness anymore. Also, it’s nice to see that Nicole’s face can smile again. For some time there I was concerned about it’s apparent rigidity.



The IT Crowd: The Best Thing I Watched This Week

This is the debut of a new series of posts here on the Rumble. I’ll pick the best thing I watched this week — be it from the television, Netflix, a movie, squirrel death match in the backyard with me doing a Mortal Kombat style voice-over — and tell you about it. It could be new. It could be old. I can’t make it any more simple than that. The trick is that you’ll have to watch it too… so you can then berate me for wasting precious time that could have been spent watching more House Hunters International. This is the unspoken deal you’ve made by continuing to read this post. Really, though, you have to watch it. No joke. This is like a blood pact.


Over the holidays, I traveled to my in-laws’ home in Santa Fe, NM. And before anyone says anything about “oh that must have been a nice escape from the chilly Pittsburgh…” let me stop you right there. Yes. Santa Fe would otherwise be in the desert IF IT WASN’T SITUATED AT ALMOST 8,000 FEET. Santa Fe is cold. And it is snowy. And the first rule about being in Santa Fe is that you do very little while staring distantly at snow-capped mountaintops. When it is night, and the snow-capped mountaintops are obscured by darkness, you then adjust your vision slightly lower and watch some stuff on the tele or read a book. Mostly you do very little.

Some time ago I sampled a Channel 4 British sitcom called The IT Crowd created by Graham Linehan. Linehan being the brains behind one of my all-time most favoritest things ever, Father Ted.

The IT Crowd

The gist of the show is that the CEO of the fictional Reynholm Industries hires Jen (Katherine Parkinson) because she’s hot, her resume says “she has a ton of experience with computers.” The CEO places her in charge of the IT department… even though she can’t actually turn on a computer. She adapts her job description into “Relationship Manager” and attempts to bridge the communication gap between IT and the rest of the company. The IT department, comprised only of Chris O’Dowd and Richard Ayoade, resides in a dank and dingy basement cut off from the rest of the shiny, happy, glass and chrome company by design.

The show’s brand of humor often reminds me of a cross between Red Dwarf and Father Ted. Which may be why it’s my new favorite thing. I encourage you to watch the whole series (it is available on Netflix Streaming after all… just a few button pushes away), but if you absolutely positively cannot be bothered the full 24-episode slate (4 series of 6 episodes each) watch the episode embedded below (Season 2, Episode 1), because this was easily the best thing I watched this week.

Also, rumor has it, that NBC has been trying to remake The IT Crowd for years. Once upon a time it was a potential vehicle for Joel McHale before he did Community. Watch it now before NBC finds a way to ruin it for everyone.

This particular episode concerns an impromptu “date” for Jen that may or may not be with a gay guy that turns into an office outing to the theatre to see a play called Gay!