What else could I possibly do on Hallowe’en but this 1962 classic by Bobby “Boris” Pickett……..
It’s the first Avengers movie, the next Iron Man movie, the next Hulk movie, the next Thor movie, the next Captain America movie, and the first S.H.I.E.L.D. movie, all at the same time. It’s the jewel in the crown of the MCU, tying together lots of threads and also being brilliant on its own. The great superhero movie rewatch gushes over Avengers.
And in fact, this movie is full of great lines. One of Whedon’s hallmarks has been his snappy dialogue, and this movie is crackling with it. I could use up my entire allotted word count on this rewatch just quoting lines from it, which I won’t do, but I will in particular sing the praises of all the callbacks, whether it’s the ant-boot conversations between Fury and Loki, the payoff of Fury’s “ten bucks says you’re wrong” line to Rogers when the latter says nothing can surprise him anymore, the constant exhortations of Rogers to Stark to “put on the suit,” going from macho posturing to an instruction to help save the helicarrier, or my favorite: early on, Pepper Potts refers to Coulson as Phil, and Stark jokes, “‘Phil’? His first name is ‘Agent’”; then, later in the movie, when as Iron Man he confronts Loki, he mentions the final person Loki has pissed off: “His name is Phil.”
Spending yesterday at the New York Botanical Gardens at the “Georgia O’Keeffe: Visions of Hawai`i” exhibit put me in a Hawai`i mood, and so I present this song that Arlo Guthrie wrote after spending the better part of a year as an actor on a TV show that filmed in that Pacific Paradise called Byrds of Paradise. It only lasted a season, and after it was cancelled, Arlo wrote this wordless tune as a tribute to his time there.
It’s been a crazy week-and-a-bit, as we just finished a huge black-belt promotion, which included five people from our Italian branch, the head of our Chilean branch, and seven people from our dojo, including a new fifth-degree and four new fourth-degrees, plus the Italians included a new sixth-degree and two new fourth-degrees.
On top of that, I’ve been working on Mermaid Precinct, doing my stuff for Tor.com, and proofreading a book of essays. But today, Wrenn and I are going to the New York Botanical Gardens for a date day of looking at flowers and plants and outdoor sculpture thingies and also their Georgia O’Keeffe exhibit.
We need this, partly because I’ve been away from home a lot on dojo business, partly because I’m exhausted from all the work I’ve been doing, partly because Wrenn is also brain fried from all the work she’s been doing, and we need a mental health day and to just spend time together. Hence, the Botanical Gardens!
Here’s another Italian classic from Hetty and the Jazzato Band: “Tintarella Di Luna.”
Having taken on Doctor Who, Star Trek, and Star Trek: The Next Generation, the latest in ATB Publishing’s “Outside In” series — in which writers take a unique look at each episode of a favorite TV show — looks at Buffy the Vampire Slayer in Outside In Takes a Stab: 139 New Perspectives on 139 Buffy Stories by 139 Writers. Put together by the mighty Robert Smith?, this book includes my own piece on “Fool for Love,” the episode that flashed back to Spike’s two times killing a Slayer, in China in 1900 and in New York in 1977.
It’s available for preorder from ATB at this link, and will be out on 2 November (just after Hallowe’en, appropriately).
Other contributors include Robert Greenberger, William Leisner, Jill Sherwin, Susanne Lambdin, Rosanne Welch, Rich Handley, David A. McIntee, and 130 more!
Another gem from Hetty and the Jazzato Band, this the classic “Mambo Italiano,” written by Bob Merrill for Rosemary Clooney, and covered by half the world, from Dean Martin to Carla Boni to Lady Gaga. As with the other Hetty/Jazzato songs, the highlight is the superlative clarinet work by Charly on the clarinet.
After a dreadful movie serial in the 1940s, two awful TV movies in the 1970s, and an embarrassingly bad feature film in the 1990s, we finally get a good version of Captain America on screen as Chris Evans nails it. He’s supported by a nifty script, great visuals, superb performances by Tommy Lee Jones, Hugo Weaving, Stanley Tucci, and Neal McDonough, plus we get arguably the finest character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe in Hayley Atwell’s magnificent Peggy Carter. The great superhero movie rewatch kvells over Captain America: The First Avenger.
Evans is surrounded by a superlative cast, who all support Cap, but provide excellent characterizations beyond that. Stanley Tucci’s Erskine is a delight, full of so many nice touches—responding to Rogers’s query asking where his German-accented self is from with “Queens,” ruefully saying there’s less Schnapps left than there should be the morning of the test, and so on—but also a subdued passion that matches that of Rogers. Tommy Lee Jones is his usual amazing self, bringing an acid cynicism and snottiness that contrasts nicely with Rogers’s earnestness. (He also gets many of the film’s best lines, delivered with Jones’s expected perfection.) Hugo Weaving, for the second time in this rewatch, has portrayed an iconic comics character with far better talent than I’ve seen him evince in other genre roles (he was one of many reasons why I hated The Matrix, and his Elrond was dreadful). His Shmidt has a calm intelligence and a ruthless practicality that makes him incredibly scary. Sebastian Stan’s Barnes is a solid friend and comrade, his easy camaraderie with Evans’s Rogers showing a deep abiding friendship, a bond that will continue through several more movies. Dominic Cooper’s Stark is his son’s father, as the hints of the elder Stark’s seamier side that we saw in the “gag reel” Tony Stark watched in Iron Man 2 are in full force in the younger version. (Hilariously, Cooper’s Howard Stark is much closer to the 1960s version of Tony Stark than Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony was in his two movies.) Neal McDonough’s Dugan is perfect, and I deeply regret that we didn’t get a TV miniseries or a movie or something that was just Dugan, Carter, and the howling commandos continuing to fight the good fight in WWII after Cap stopped Hydra. (As it happens, my favorite episode of the great, underappreciated Agent Carter series is the one McDonough guest stars in as Dugan.) The rest of the Howling Commandos don’t get much to do, but create interesting characters in a very short amount of screen time. (My favorite is Kenneth Choi’s Jim Morita, who whips out his dogtags with practiced frustration when Dugan questions his being freed with the others with a cranky, “I’m from Fresno, ace.”)
- for $1/month and up: a review of First Man
- for $2/month and up: 18 new cat pictures
- for $5/month and up: reviews of Magnum P.I., the ninth season of M*A*S*H, Claws, Jodie Whittaker’s premiere episode of Doctor Who, Better Call Saul, and The Good Place
- for $7/month and up: weekly excerpts from Mermaid Precinct and “The Midwinter of Our Discontent”
- for $10/month and up: a vignette featuring Bram Gold
- for $20/month and up: first drafts of each chapter of Mermaid Precinct as they’ve been finished, as well as the first draft of “Midwinter”
Coming soon are more TV reviews — I want to review Animal Kingdom, seasons 10 and 11 of M*A*S*H, the final three seasons of New Tricks, a look back at The Adventures of Brisco County Jr., more retro Doctor Who reviews, Lodge 49, Preacher, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and more — a review of the movie Animal Kingdom (which the TV show is based on), as well as a look back at the Mission: Impossible movies starring Tom Cruise, and this month’s vignette, which I haven’t figured out what it is yet.
“Tu Vuò Fà l’Americano” is a delightful Neopolitan song by Renato Carosone that came out in 1956. It’s a fun little song which basically translates to “You Want to be American,” singing the virtues of the U.S. If you saw the movie adaptation of The Talented Mr. Ripley, there’s a delightful bit with Matt Damon and Jude Law singing the song.
This version is by a contemporary Anglo-Italian jazz quintet called Hetty & the Jazzato Band, and it’s also a delight. I’ve had this song in my head for a few days now, between the members of our Italian dojo coming to visit and Wrenn and I planning our forthcoming trip to Italy.