Tuesday, November 29, 2011

TV Guide Fall Preview - September 14, 1985

While going through some boxes at my dad's house, I found this copy of TV Guide from September 14, 1985. It's the special fall preview issue, and it's in pretty good shape for a 26 year old magazine. I doubt if my mother meant to save this, it probably just fell into the box by mistake. Whatever the reason, it was fun thumbing through it and I thought I'd share a few pages with you. Click on any of the pics to enlarge:

Amid the beer and cigarette ads, the issue featured a splash page for every new show:

Some would be big hits:

Some, not so much...plus, here's a Lucky Strike ad Don Draper would never have approved

"The Insiders"...can you say Miami Vice rip-off?


Behold! Another failed post-Baretta Robert Blake vehicle...and another failed TV series based on a movie

Here's some of the listing pages...was Hulk Hogan really a role model?

As you can see, at 5:30 we had our choice of three different Andy Griffith episodes. On the right is an ad for a 1980s version of Netflix. Available in VHS or Betamax! And what a selection!

Some amazing viewing choices on this Saturday night. There's a Spielberg directed TV movie, a Laurence Harvey film I've still never seen, an episode of the great Route 66 TV series and several segments of USA's Night Flight, which was always an edgy and interesting program. There's even a rerun of the A&M/Alabama game in case you missed it.

I guess when folks weren't smoking cigarettes and watching TV, they were listening to music. Here's an ad for RCA music service, which was sort of a second rate Columbia House. Tears for Fears, anyone?

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Briefly Noted - Leftover Stuffing Edition

And God Created Woman (1956)***

Roger Vadim’s coy strumpet of a film features the beautiful scenery of St. Tropez, and equally splendid vistas of young, barely legal, Brigitte Bardot. There’s not much else to it. Oh there’s a silly subplot about an evil businessman (Curd Jergens, love that name) who’s trying to steal the family land of Jean-Louis Trintignant, but the exact methodology of the swindle is so vague no one seems terribly concerned. It’s Bardot who focuses the mind here, and whether she’s riding her bike or dancing a steamy version of the mambo, she manages to drive all the male leads to distraction. And frankly, who could blame them?

Lovely, Still (2008)***

A promising look at senior citizen romance that gets a little too clever for its own good in the final reel. Credit young Nebraska writer-director Nicolas Fackler with extreme fortitude in marshalling the forces required to bring his vision to life, with generally competent and effective realization. Veterans Martin Landau and Ellen Burstyn approach their roles with the effortless grace of masters, while Adam Scott gets to play a good guy for once. The story is dependent on a humongous twist, one the will seem like either a shock or a cheat depending on one’s proclivities. But if you’ve ever wondered what downtown Omaha looks like decked out for the holidays, here's your chance.

Angel’s Fall (2005)****

Those seeking escapist fare will want to look elsewhere, as Semih Kaplanoglu’s minimalist drama is about as bleak and depressing as they come. Tulin Ozen stars as the title character; an Istanbul chambermaid of such grim prospects you’ll probably wonder why she hasn’t shot herself already. The story revolves around a slow and ultimately surprising scheme for revenge, although the execution of that scheme offers little in the way of solace. The narrative has a few time shifts, so you’ll have to be on your toes and resist the film’s hypnotic torpor. While this reviewer found it satisfying, please be advised Angel’s Fall is a film of such austerity it makes the work of Kaplanoglu’s countryman Nuri Bilge Ceylan seem like musical comedy.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A Thanksgiving Memory: Charlie and Eppie

My father passionately loved his family and his community, and he performed many kind and selfless acts during his long and happy life. One that speaks to the heart of his character happened about 15 years ago.

When I was a child in the 1960s, we had a sharecropper on our farm named James Traynham, who went by the nickname “Eppie”. He was a gentle soul and a very hard worker and some of my most cherished memories are of Eppie and my father, working side by side in the fields, laughing and joking as we went about our labors.

But Eppie was afflicted by alcoholism and that often got him into trouble. My father had to bail him out of jail a few times and intervene in Eppie’s abusive and sometimes violent family disputes. After a 14 hour day in the tobacco fields, I’m sure having to deal with Eppie’s problems wasn’t a lot of fun.

Other farmers used to ask my dad why he put up with Eppie and all his troubles. My dad would say, “Well, when he’s sober, he’s a real good man. If I don’t put up with him, who will?” In the early 1970s Eppie and my father parted ways, but the two men still shared a special bond of respect and my father often spoke of him with pity and affection.

Eppie passed away in 1994. Penniless, he was buried in an unmarked grave, in a makeshift roadside cemetery just a couple miles from our house.

My father remembered that Eppie was a veteran and therefore entitled to a proper gravestone. Working with the staff of a local  funeral home, my father did the research, made the phone calls, and did all the paperwork required to get Eppie a headstone and a few months later one was placed on his humble resting site.

My father’s research revealed that Eppie had served in WWII as a truck driver in Burma. Located between India and China, in 1942 Burma was a mountainous country that had no roads, was covered in dense jungle and for much of the year received constant torrential rain. Military historians agree that duty in Burma was some of the most difficult and harrowing of the war. Yet, Eppie served his country and at the end of the war received an honorable discharge.

A few years after securing Eppie’s memorial, my father’s health began to fail and he was unable to do many of the things he enjoyed. But he always had the satisfaction of knowing he had done right by his old friend, even if no one else cared about him.

All his life, my father tried very hard to live by biblical principles and he put those principles into practice. As Matthew 25:40 plainly states: The King will answer, "Whenever you did it for any of my people, no matter how unimportant they seemed, you did it for me."

Fittingly, after a lifetime of service to others, my father went to his reward this past Veteran’s Day. Perhaps it was God’s way of thanking him for a job well done.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Home for the Holidays: Antonioni's Identification of a Woman from Criterion (1982)***1/2

Winner of a special 35th Anniversary Prize at Cannes, Michelangelo Antonioni’s Identification of a Woman from 1982 represented a homecoming of sorts. After 15 years of globetrotting international productions, the esteemed director returned to his Roman roots to film this relatively simple tale of desire and discontent in the professional class. Spartan and straightforward, Identification of a Woman contains none of the political symbolism or glacially paced metaphors of the early 1960s films that made Antonioni an art house darling. His script seeks to paint a clear portrait of disaffection without losing his viewers in oblique angles or thickly applied textures. Despite offering no compelling resolutions or lofty observations on the plight of its characters, the presentation feels complete and satisfying.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Afternoon Delight: Godard's Une Femme Mariée (1964)***

Une Femme Mariée is an early Godard essay on the institution of marriage in a pre-feminist age. Lively and surprisingly entertaining, the film examines the distorting effects of bourgeois priorities on young women’s brains, burdens and boobs – mostly boobs. The film clearly spells out the differences between marital companionship and sexual fulfillment, and makes an interesting case that female infidelity in 1964 stemmed more from a thirst for power than physical yearning.

Macha Meril stars as Charlotte, a peppy young bride from the shiny new Parisian suburbs. Married to Pierre (Phillipe Leroy), a chiseled airline pilot several years her senior, Charlotte’s life is a middle class ideal, filled with luncheons and shopping trips to fashionable boutiques, while her saucy retainer Madame Celine (Ruth Maiden) handles the household drudgery. But Charlotte’s daytrips into Paris have a secret side, and a few afternoons a week she goes to the apartment of an actor named Robert (Bernard Noel) for a furtive roll in the hay.

But don’t get the idea that Une Femme Mariée is simply a reforging of Madame Bovary with kicky 60s fashions. This is a Godard film, and part of its pleasure is the directors’ total disregard for the conventions of bodice-ripping narrative. The film begins with a series of tight shots of body parts; stark compositions that walk the fine edge between high art and pretension. As the film settles into a conversational flow, we see how smitten Robert is with his married consort, as he constantly seeks reassurance that Charlotte does indeed plan to leave her husband.

Charlotte eventually returns to her suburban digs, where she puts her pre-school son (Christophe Boursellier) to bed, and prepares a dinner party for her husband and a guest (filmmaker Roger Leenhardt). Godard does some interesting things with this sequence, as Pierre and his guest – both WWII veterans – discuss some of the horrors they’ve witnessed in hushed, reverential tones. Charlotte attempts to follow and contribute to the conversation, but it’s clear the men are discussing a darkly vile and savage world, completely beyond her experience.

Charlotte’s vision of life is shaped by fashion magazines and her larky fling with Robert, and the dinner party set piece establishes her lack of empathy and perception of any reality beyond her own eyeballs. Godard finds subtle and clever methods of drawing contrasts between Charlotte’s lovers. Robert breathlessly clings to Charlotte’s every word, while Pierre treats his wife with gentleness and respect, but isn’t particularly interested in anything she has to say. Pierre has the quiet demeanor of one who calmly bears solemn responsibilities, while Robert is all irritable passion.

Amid the low key melodrama, Godard finds the time to skewer some of his favorite targets. His fiercest rancor is directed at advertising, and the film features an amusing subplot concerning Charlotte’s obsession with her chest. And one really can’t blame her, for as Godard makes plain, the Paris of 1964 was crammed with billboards for brassieres. France’s boob-mania crept into magazines and newspapers as well, and a very funny scene features a nearly nude Charlotte brandishing a tape measure to see how she compares to the ideal bust as described by an article in le Monde. But all good things must come to an end, and Charlotte’s visit to her doctor (Georges Liron) brings some unwelcome news that will severely test Robert’s adoration and sincerity.

In the Godard pantheon, Une Femme Mariée is a minor work, completed while the legendary director was still quite damp behind the ears. But we see the origins of ideas, techniques and stylistics he would develop and exploit to great effect in later films. Still is exploiting them, in fact. But Une Femme Mariée remains an accessible and affable work; rich with its own visual pleasures and meaty wit. The dynamics of marriage have changed quite a bit in the nearly 50 intervening years, but the capacity of humans to delude themselves remains unabated. Truth be told, it’s probably gotten stronger.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Briefly Noted: Verse and Vomit Edition

Poetry (2010)****

Lovely film about a 65-ish woman (Jeong–hie Yun) who finds herself becoming alarmingly forgetful, and enrolls in a creative writing class as a way of expressing herself and holding on to her memories. Director Chang-dong Lee approaches his subject with quiet reverence and, to his credit, creates a film that’s not nearly as precious as it sounds. It also includes one of the most interesting, and perfectly motivated, sex scenes ever. Fans of tranquil, deliberate character portraits will find Poetry an excellent way to spend an evening.

Shall We Kiss? (2007)***

I’m sure this French comedy was ok – anything with Virginie Ledoyen and Julie Gayet usually is – but I’ll be darned if I can remember a thing about it. Maybe I should take a poetry class....

Donnant donnant (2010)***1/2

A piffley Auteuil vehicle, made for domestic French release, that produces a few light hearted chuckles along the way. The iconic star plays an escaped convict – wrongly convicted, of course – who barters a hiding place on an abandoned river boat by agreeing to the schemes of a perky heiress (Madeea Marinescu). Sabine Azema is terrific as a madcap dowager who goes from deep depression to flighty vivaciousness over the course of the proceedings, while Marinescu possesses real star quality – a sort of later day Holly Hunter. We’re asked to buy some unconvincing romantic turns before all is said and done, but somehow Auteuil pulls it off.

Bridesmaids (2011)***

A cool breeze entertainment that’s surprisingly enjoyable; all about the evolving relationship between a couple BFFs (Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph), when wedding preparations create complications. Often described as a gross-out comedy for the distaff set, the movie has its share of flatulence and projectile vomiting, and you’ll think twice about trying that new Brazilian barbeque joint on the outskirts of town. But Wiig is fun to watch, and she and Rudolph have the vague staccato line readings of former sorority sisters down pat. Jon Hamm takes a break from narrating Mercedes commercials for a brief appearance as a sleazebag.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Lost in the 70s: Going Places (1974)***

"One could describe the film as an amalgam of Godard’s Weekend with Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Except Blier has none of Godard’s wit and his characters have none of the charm of George Roy Hill’s good-natured desperados"