Quick Hits: Beyond Thunderdome

Mine is among the households that still subscribe to the daily newspaper, in our case
The Philadelphia Inquirer, and every Sunday the Parade Magazine supplement lets me glimpse what is being sold to so-called middle America. Whenever I flip through its pages, I almost invariably come across mind-blowing ads from The Danbury Mint for stuff like this:

I've seen collections of porcelain cherubs displayed prominently at the home of a friend's grandmother, so I know that people actually buy them. And we surely belittle someone else's aesthetics or accumulative instincts at our own peril; George Carlin had it right when he pointed out everyone's double standard on stuff. But the disconnect at the nexus of source material, rendering, and cost when it comes to such bizarre bling as The Tweety Pendant is so great that I get whiplash twice, once just from the garishness of the damned thing and again upon reading that it can be had for a mere three monthly installments of $41.50 each.

The final installment of The 101 Most Watchable Movies of All Time at Forces of Geek has been posted by grand poobah Stefan Blitz, counting down the top vote-getters with commentary. I'm still astounded that Young Frankenstein didn't make the cut. Many of the movies that did make it failed to evoke pithy quotes from me, and quite a few of them I haven't seen even once, but they'd add up to one heck of a film festival. [Update: As the series link above doesn't seem to go anywhere anymore, I point you to the introduction, from which you should be able to navigate through the series via the "You might also like" links at post's end.] Here are my own contributions to the wherefores of watchability, as not-quite-promised earlier this month.

Airplane! — Mrs. Cleaver speaks jive.

Blazing Saddles — I can think of three moments in the history of filmed entertainment with culturally acceptable, gut-busting usages of "rhymes-with-trigger"; Cleavon Little has one here.

Citizen Kane — You can watch it for the acting, for the cinematography, for the astounding details pointed out in Roger Ebert's commentary (from which I might be stealing this remark), or just to remind yourself of how much movie history is traceable to this film. There's a reason why it's a metaphor: It's the Citizen Kane of movies.

Grease — I could sing the soundtrack in my sleep and wake up dancing.

King Kong (original) — I've seen the DVD extras dissecting the miniature work, and I still buy every damn frame of the movie. Up yours, CGI.

Muppet Movie — Plinky-plinky-plinky-plinky-plink.

Planet of The Apes (original) — Okay, "damn dirty apes," Statue of Liberty, blah blah blah... The coolest thing about this movie? I'm not afraid to admit that I have a little bit of a crush on Zira, and maybe even Cornelius.

The Princess Bride — A hundred bucks if you can come up with a line from this movie that isn't quotable.

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan — After we thrilled to the gang getting back together (and precious little else) in the first film, we finally got a new, big-screen episode of Star Trek in the second, capped by one of the most memorable scenes in Trek canon. Or, in a word, "Khaaaaaaaaaaan!!!!!!!"

Superman: The Movie — Not for the buffoonery of the Lex Luthor gang, but for the wisdom of Jonathan Kent; for young Clark in Smallville; for "You've got me? Who's got you?"; for that incredible John Williams score; and for Christopher Reeve, who takes off his glasses, stands up straight, and becomes Superman in Lois Lane's apartment without a hint of red and blue.

As noted the other day, I'm part of probably the last generation to have grown up with only a half-dozen or so TV channels. We did technically have cable, although I didn't know it at the time, because South Jersey was too far away to receive broadcast signals from Philadelphia; our television sets still had dials until I was about 7, though, and it wasn't until we got a push-button set in the living room that things opened up beyond the three networks, PBS, and the few independent stations on UHF.

My point is that if you wanted to veg out in front of the box, sometimes there was just nothing on remotely of interest and you settled for The Lawrence Welk Show on Channel 12. New or rerun, Welk had silver hair, a powder-blue suit, and that trademark Ukranian-German-Dakotan accent: "T'ank yu, boyyz, for dat luffly songgg." Fred Armisen does a fair enough impression of him on Saturday Night Live, but funny as it was the first time — and it was ridiculously funny — the bit with Kristen Wiig as the, shall we say, odd one in a singing-sisters group has worn thin. What's more, I don't recall anything on The Lawrence Welk Show being remotely as suggestive as the song in SNL's opening sketch a couple of weekends ago; if it was supposed to be innocuous and the performers were clueless to the suggestiveness, well, that would work, but I thought host James Franco was pitching woo far too strongly. Then I remembered a video link from Mark Evanier's blog featuring "a modern spiritual" popularized on the radio by Brewer & Shipley called "One Toke Over the Line"; either Welk's entire ensemble was so pure it had never heard of a common slang word for puffing on the wacky tobacky or someone in the chain of command from producer to performer was trying to pull one over on the old guy.

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