Monday, March 21, 2011

Two From One Time: 1973 ('The Paper Chase', 'American Graffiti')

'The Paper Chase' is a very well made film featuring bright characters, which makes it enjoyable to watch. The story centers around one brilliant first year Harvard Law School student's relationships with his intimidating contract law professor and his new girlfriend (who inconveniently - or conveniently -  turns out to be his professor's daughter)... as well as the challenges he faces during that pivotal and transitional year.  The film questions whether it should be of such importance to always chase paper at different levels in life - from a birth certificate to school diplomas to marriage certificates to a will - particularly for those who study and practice law for a living. It has a quiet but strong philosophy. It is magnetic as a whole, with solid writing and performances. I imagine that when the film was released in 1973, it had an impact on law students everywhere and become an instant classic or go-to-film for that particular experience. And it probably remains the one to watch for them, still. It is altogether a very pleasing film and worth checking out. 


Who doesn't love 'American Graffiti'? There is probably little to say about this movie that hasn't been said. but for me, this one will always be special because I watched it several years ago at The Bryant Park Film Festival in New York (the city's annual summer outdoor film screening, which was probably my favorite thing about NY summers) on a date with my then boyfriend, now husband. For us, it was the perfect date, watching the 1950's style confection on a big screen outdoors in the park. It inspired the feeling of being at a drive-in and took the nostalgia of George Lucas' teenage vision to yet another dimension. For a feel good movie experience, it doesn't get a whole lot better than that.

Friday, March 18, 2011

For Japan With Love

There is only so much one can do to ease the devastation in Japan, but my heart and mind have both been over there ceaselessly since last Friday. I'm happy to take part in Bloggers Day Of Silence today, organized by Ever Ours and Utterly Engaged. Please donate and get involved if you can. Sending lots of love to Japan and beyond...

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Retro-Themed Videos: Klara's Tops - Video Playlist

Since most videos I've made tend to be retro in theme, I'm including them here on my blog. Below, you'll find a playlist of my most viewed and most beloved ones - and feel free to check out my YouTube channel. The playlist will also be located at the upper right of this blog from now on. The videos I make are often for songs that are dear to me that don't have an official 'video' (like this one that is only found on Vimeo) or a film I love that doesn't have an official trailer

Hope you enjoy them, as so many of my YouTube viewers have - I've received such lovely and enthusiastic responses from complete strangers who stumble upon them (even by the musicians or songwriters themselves) and I occasionally find myself feeling inclined to get the word out a little. I certainly enjoy making people smile and it's nice to know that these have done just that.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

One Season Wonderful: Richard Benjamin & Paula Prentiss in 'He & She'

Opening balloons
There is something so sweet but sophisticated about 'He & She' starring Richard Benjamin and Paula Prentiss. The show only lasted one season. But as an avid watcher of 'The Mary Tyler Moore Show', and while currently watching my grainy, poor-quality episodes of this rare show, I've noticed striking similarities between them. 

'He & She' is the direct predecessor of 'The MTM Show'. Mary Richards, Rhoda Morgenstern and every one of the WJM News crew in Minneapolis (especially Ted Baxter) might not have existed if it weren't for Dick and Paula Hollister. Or Oscar North a.k.a. Jetman. 
Dick and Paula at home tolerating the antics of Oscar/Jetman
As I'd mentioned in a previous post, even the interior of the New York City apartment where Dick and Paula live resembles the Minnesota lair of Mary Richards. At first, it's disarming to see the same windows, the front door in just the same place, the little platform and stairs leading to the door –– and Dick or Paula (especially Paula) frequently bounding toward the door in much the same way that many of us have become accustomed to seeing Mary Richards doing in nearly every episode. 

Even Paula Hollister's physicality and style is a reflection of what was to come with Mary. Long-limbed, she is usually wearing above-the-knee skirts or shift dresses with various levels of opaqueness in her hosiery; shoes with a slight heel. Her hair has that soon-to-be-exceedingly-famous flip. At a peripheral glance, as Paula rushes to the door in 'He & She', one can't help but think of Mary. 

Mary's apartment is nearly identical to Dick and Paula's
Paula's style and hair flip, similar to Mary's in Season 1
I also can't help but think it's a shame that 'He & She', despite being critically acclaimed and endearing to those who watched it when it aired, receiving five Emmy nominations in 1968 (it won for best comedy writing, while Richard Benjamin, Paula Prentiss and Jack Cassidy were all nominated for their acting) –– and for just being all around great –– never had the chance to become a lengthier series we can now freely reference in our culture, as well. 

'He & She' aired on CBS following the popular 'Green Acres'. It's been said that Richard Benjamin, for one, (and rightfully so) believes that having had the opposing energy of the city-life sophistication of 'He & She' following a show so completely different in comedic tone was detrimental to their ratings. (On a side note, it seems like CBS has had quite a history of this sort of problematic decision making. So you'd think they'd have learned by now.)
TV Guide cover with 'He & She'
The show is a bubbly confection. But it is also very well written and acted. I have found myself getting somewhat choked up by numerous supporting performances, whilst Dick and Paula stand aside, soaking in the moment with great empathy. The acting couple had been married in real life almost twice as long by 1968 as the fictional couple in the show. Their characters are presumably in their late twenties and have been married for five years. They live in New York. Paula is from the south, as she is in real life –– and Dick is a born and bred New Yorker, just as he is in real life. 
A still from the show's adorable closing credits
Their onscreen chemistry –– and individual comedic timing –– are terrific, but having some of the backstory of where their life together had led them until that point in time makes watching the show all the more intriguing. 

In some ways, art doesn't imitate life, since in the show Dick plays a cartoonist who's created the comic strip 'Jetman'. His 'Jetman' comic is now a TV show that stars the bombastic Oscar North, who directly inspires the Ted Baxter personality in 'The Mary Tyler Moore Show' (Jack Cassidy, who plays Oscar North, even appeared on 'MTM' as Ted Baxter's brother.)
If it weren't for 'He & She', which was a little too sophisticated and ahead of its time, would 'The Mary Tyler Moore Show' have existed? Or later in the 90's, 'Mad About You'?  Of course, a major revolutionary element of the 'MTM' show was that they built the show solely around the female character who had never married and was making her way in the world without a male counterpart. Instead, she interacted with her friends, neighbors and coworkers. So The MTM Show did up the ante, in that regard, forever changing TV in its own way in 1970 when the first season aired. 

In any case, 'He & She' brought a fabulous precedent to TV and set the bar high enough for similar shows that followed to become as great as they were.
A still from the equally adorable opening credit
I will follow this with some clips of the show from the DVD's, recorded from TV reruns, that I painstakingly sought (and happily found.) But apologies in advance for the poor quality. Yet another result of this show having gone unrecognized is there hasn't been enough demand for it to have ever made it to DVD. Or even videocassette! I'll do my best to upload as much of it as possible so that more people can watch and enjoy it! :) Meanwhile, here is a CBS promo for the series.

Friday, March 4, 2011

80's Obscure - 'I Can't Hold Back' Video (Survivor) Rips Off 'American Gigolo' & 'Risky Business'

She likes bad boys... Was she inspired by Lauren Hutton 
in 'American Gigolo' to stalk him in the record store? 
Citrus-colored sweater and all. 
Lauren Hutton followed hers (Richard Gere) 
into a record store, wearing a canary yellow 
cable knit crew neck sweater.
Back to this one. Sure, he says, I may be interested. 
Depends which record you're holding.
Don't worry, it's an Elvis-themed magazine.
That hot blonde is digging our front man! 
We have to stop this.
She's really about the movies, this one. 
Now working the 'Risky Business' tactic in the subway.
(Her subway inspiration, 'Risky Business'.)
But... it was just a fantasy, after all! And he misses 
that train. Lesson: be quick if a beautiful blonde 
tries to pick you up in a record store.

John and Mary (1969)

The controversial characters appearing in LIFE magazine
Peter Yates was masterful at entertaining us with films such as 'Bullitt and 'Breaking Away', but he also made a stark relationship film called 'John and Mary'. It is interesting to watch, if only because you get the sense that back when this film was released, a subject as trite as young people having one-night stands had only recently become commonplace in reality and had yet to be addressed in depth on the big screen.

They still don't know one another's names
The film was somewhat controversial, despite its minimal story. But today, it manages to work as a time capsule. It had probably been less than a decade by 1969 that people were able to admit intimacy could even occur out of wedlock. This was the same year when the wonderful 'Bob and Carole and Ted and Alice' questioned monogamy in the suburbs, for the middle aged folks trying to be swingers. Stories like these would certainly have no place as contemporary film subjects, since we've moved far beyond those topics. And there is an element that can at times be captivating about watching an of-the-moment classic film, like this one: the fact that it is not timeless. There is also something unique about Dustin Hoffman and Mia Farrow, as John and Mary, dancing around one another in an awkward singles match of sorts. 
Hoffman and Farrow were the hip stars of their time
The two backstories for John and Mary are told in flashbacks, which is a good thing since they are mostly coy with one another and have a hard time getting to know each other, as we see them throughout the-day-after their one night (after meeting at a singles bar) –– which is essentially all this story is about. They are trying to navigate their way through their next day together. If it weren't for flashbacks to their previous relationships, we'd have no indication why they are behaving the way they do with one another. 
Beautiful Mia Farrow as Mary
I find myself wishing they could stop speaking in code and be more straightforward with each other, as I highly doubt people generally spoke this way in 1969. I expect at least one of them to be a little less uptight about the whole thing. They do their best to avoid getting close, while they can't resist wanting to. In the end, they decide to move in together, so it wasn't exactly a one night stand. And I guess not much has changed after all, since from what I've noticed, single people are still playing those games (little coded masquerades) today.

And to take us out, here is a video I made for 'This Masquerade' –– a beautiful tune in which Karen Carpenter sounds her most sophisticated. It is one of my earlier video montages (you can find many more on my YouTube channel) and it includes a few lovely moments from 'John and Mary'.