It might only be Monday, but I’m calling this race early. A) I’m too busy catching up on episodes of Bob’s Burgers to watch anything new on the tele and B) This is amazeballs. These two guys manage to rock as hard on cellos as Slash did on his guitar. Okay, almost rock as hard. But you can tell they’re rock stars. Just look at their cellos. I, of course, had to do a little bit of research on these Croatian fellows (Luka Sulic and Stjepan Hauser), known as 2Cellos, and it seems they’re quite popular and have records and tour and stuff. I’ve watched a handful of videos now and I have to say that this riff on GNf’R is easily their best stuff. It at least includes the most cello headbanging you’ll ever see in a two-minute video. And there’s something to be said for that.
2Cellos playing Welcome to the Jungle: The Best Thing I Watched This Week
Sidenote: Is it just me, or could these guys also be a pair of excellent Bond henchmen?
I don’t think I need to say too much more about this. I’ll just mention that they played this on the Ellen Degeneres show so there are a few million housewives that are more in the loop than I. (edit: apparently they also appeared on Glee at some point, but that begs the question if you appear on a television show after everyone stops watching it, do you actually appear at all?) Since I’m taking the rest of the week off from scouring the globe for “Best Things” I’ll just abandon ship without my usual assortment of hyperbole and rhetoric. As always, no need to thank me. You’re always welcome.
Bonus: “Smells Like Teen Spirit”
Sidesidenote: the image they’re currently cultivating is a half-step removed from John Corbett’s version of a Yanni character in Serendipity. He plays an oboe-like Indian/Pakistani/Bengali/Iranian instrument called the shehnai.
Every so often we happen across a movie or a television show that’s so far up our alley that we have to stop and question how we’d co-existed in the same world for so long without crossing paths. So that happened this week. I had been watching a movie last Sunday night. When the movie ended, I flipped back to my cable feed. On my television I found myself staring at a show I’d long heard about but never watched. Confession: I’d long since given up on animation offerings on major networks. “The networks” just don’t take the risks necessary to make animation truly essential. At this point in my life I don’t have time for anything that’s not essential. Five minutes of Bob’s Burgers had me hooked.
Bob’s Burgers: The Best Thing I Watched This Week
This was the particular episode in question:
Once the novelty of hearing the voice of Sterling Archer (H. Jon Benjamin) performing the doughy, middle-aged titular Bob wore off (not to mention the number of references/connections between Archer and Bob’s Burgers), I found myself enraptured, held in comedic bliss. The family owns/runs a greasy-spoon Burger joint but that setting only provides a backdrop for endless opportunity for riffing on the various personalities. The wiser-than-their-years children contribute most of the immediate laughs in juxtaposition with the languid, laid-back, even-tempered and thoroughly put-upon working-class Bob and his Jersey-ish wife Linda. The inimitable Kristen Schaal voices Louise, a perpetually bunny-eared pre-teen with isolated megalomaniac tendencies. Eugene Mirman (Flight of the Conchords, Archer) makes magic with Bob’s naturally dim son, Gene, who lives to provide the musical score to the family’s hijinx on a Casio DG-20. Set to electric mandolin. Okay, sorry… Flight of the Conchords reference. Gene’s keyboard is really good at sampling though. And then there’s the pubescent and sexually (perversely so) confused Tina (Dan Mintz) with a bizarre affection for horses. Bob’s Burgers is often perverse and a little bit crass, but a good-natured sincerity provides a baseline that grounds these characters as humans despite their crudely drawn animation and preposterous reactions to everyday events. There’s a bit of South Park, a touch of Archer’s banter and a heap of The Simpsons’ familial unit tucked into Bob’s DNA, but don’t let the similarities direct your judgment. Bob’s Burgers carves out its own unique slice of that animation pie.
Bob’s Burgers is available on Netflix Streaming and Hulu. Since I stumbled across this show on Sunday, not a day has gone by that I haven’t watched at least one episode. I can’t get enough. I’m off to see Mad Max: Fury Road tonight, but you can bet that I’m going to come home and queue up some more Bob’s Burgers to cleanse my palette. If I had to recommend a favorite episode from all of those that I’ve watched, I’m going to have to pick “Sheesh. Cab, Bob?” — the episode in which Bob starts driving a taxi and inadvertently becomes a pimp for a gaggle of transsexual prostitutes in order to pay for Tina’s 13th birthday party. Pure gold.
I haven’t ponied up for a BTIWTW post in a few weeks, but this week I was inspired to return to the typewriter by a treasure trove of “Best Things.” This collection will run the gamut of movies to talk shows to sports highlights to one specific movie trailer that I guarantee gave people of a certain age some serious feels. No more exposition. Let’s get on with the Things.
1. Rancho Deluxe
When you stumble across a little sleeper of a film that contends for a spot in your Top 100 movies of all time, it makes all the bad ones worthwhile. It’s why we keep going back to the well. It’s why we keep watching old movies that few people remember rather than falling back on old favorites. Old favorites are great. They’re the backbone of any movie collection, but they’re old and they’re favorites. When we watch them, expectations are met and cockles are warmed, but there’s nothing like the thrill of “discovering” a new love. That happened to me this week. I picked up Rancho Deluxe because the film stars a very young Jeff Bridges, Clifton James (Sheriff J.W. Pepper in Live and Let Die and The Man with the Golden Gun), Slim Pickens and Harry Dean Stanton along with a few other very recognizable faces.
Rancho Deluxe has all the makings of a cult film without any of the hyperbolic Internet ballyhoo. This is documented decadence of the traditional cinematic Western. Why doesn’t this film get its due hyperbolic praise? Maybe because the film lacks a specific genre. It’s part teen comedy, part satire, part Western dystopia viewed through nostalgia that still romanticizes the ideologies of the Old West.
Through the perspective of two young Montanta misfits (Jeff Bridges and Sam Waterston), Rancho Deluxe views the West as a comedy of overidentified ways and means. The cattle farmers and ranchers living high on the hog from merely “showing bulls” and reveling in their pre-existing wealth. So bored that they’re hunting cattle rustlers because they’ve got no other way to fill their days. The youth growing up in this modern frontier without education or potential employment and tormenting the cattle barons “for sport.” There’s a brothel scene, pot smoking, very un-PC bits of dialogue (“Mexican Overdrive” = “neutral”), the old steer in the motel room gag and conversations filmed only in the reflection on the glass of a Pong video game machine.
I should start by saying that Roger Ebert hated Rancho Deluxe. Reading his review, I can’t help but think he overlooked the entire point of the film. Likewise for many other critics of the film in 1975. It’s possible everyone was just too close to the glory days of the classic cinematic Western. Maybe Rancho Deluxe was a little jokey to see the dose of wickedness behind the gags. Whatever the reason, I f’ing loved this film, though it begs for some restoration and a Blu-ray treatment. The current DVD is terribly muddy and hardly does the brilliant Big Sky landscapes justice. Should you want to give Rancho Deluxe the shot at being your newest favorite, the movie is available on YouTube. I’ll toss the embed below:
2. This Catch by Nolan Arenado
Any baseball fan will immediately compare this catch to Derek Jeter’s 2004 catch. This catch tops it. Arenado made this catch over his shoulder and running straight back from his position at 3B. Jeter’s catch is made legendary by the theatricality of his Greg Louganis into the seats. The angle of approach makes Arenado’s far more impressive, plus he almost doubles up the runner trying to advance. Here’s a side-by-side comparison of the two. No contest. It’ll probably be the best catch you’ll see this year.
3. Ad-Rock on The Daily Show
The Mutual Admiration Society joined The Daily Show on Monday night when Beastie Boy Adam “Ad-Rock” Horowitz sat down for a chat with his fanboy Jon Stewart on Monday night. The two bromanced, talked vinyl, how Ad-Rock didn’t remember meeting Jon Stewart during his days at MTV (not sure he remembers much from those days at all) and then engaged in an admittedly cursory discussion of Horowitz’s movie appearance in While We’re Young. Stewart has always conveyed sincerity, but this talk with the equally sincere Ad-Rock reminds us that even stars are full-on stammering fanboys when confronted with their idols. They’re just more eloquent than the rest of us.
4. And then, yesterday, there was this f’ing thing.
Narration by Mark Hamill. The voice of Harrison Ford breaking through the fade to black just before the image of Han Solo and Chewbacca. More teases of the John Williams score. The goddamn teaser trailer made me teary eyed. A SUB-TWO-MINUTE TEASER TRAILER. Every time I watch the thing I run through all sorts of gooey feels. I never had any doubts that J.J. Abrams would be good for Star Wars, but he’s gone beyond expectations. J.J. Abrams has entered the dangerous territory of impossible expectations. These trailers and the quality of Star Wars: Rebels have awakened the obsessive 6-year-old boy who paused Return of the Jedi to count the Stormtroopers during the scene where Darth Vader arrives at the Death Star. I had to have all the Stormtroopers and Santa was going to bring them to me.
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.
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.
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.
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 www.thejamesbondsocialmediaproject.com. 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.
A bl-g about classic and not-so-classic movies, music and nostalgia by James David Patrick