Wednesday, September 01, 2004

DVD: Pennies From Heaven (1981)

Let me say up front that I refuse to compare this movie to Dennis Potter’s original 4½-hour miniseries, because I haven’t seen that version. Although now that it has also been released on DVD, I intend to. The film has only whetted my appetite for Potter’s work.

His pioneering use of song as way of illuminating narrative has been cribbed many times. (See John Turturro’s ROMANCE AND CIGARETTES, due later this year.) Steve Martin stars as a sheet music salesman in the 1930s Midwest. As he struggles to sort out his romantic life, the upbeat tunes of the era provide a sharp counterpoint. The cast lip-syncs to original recordings, although they do their own dancing. Martin proves to be a surprisingly able hoofer. Better than Richard Gere, anyway.

The drastic compression of the storyline makes the film more melodramatic, but also contributes to the intensity of the musical numbers. The characters need these songs, because they provide the only respite they have from the burdens of the Depression. The bombastic MOULIN ROUGE! attempted something similar with contemporary music, but in order to do that, you have to let at least one song play out in its entirety. And overblown originals do not count.

PENNIES doesn’t fully cohere into a whole, but it’s never less than gripping. It’s a powerful testament to music’s ability to articulate emotion in a way beyond the reach of most of us.

TV: The Daily Show

On the Republican National Convention: “Madison Square Garden hasn’t seen this many white people since the last Rangers home game.”

I am proud to say that Rosemarie made this very joke, word for word, the day before Jon Stewart did.

Miscellaneous: Celebrity Politics

Arnold Schwarzenegger Movies That He Has Yet To Invoke In A Political Speech:

Red Heat
Jingle All The Way
Batman & Robin
End of Days
Collateral Damage

Arnold Schwarzenegger Movie That He Should Have Invoked In His Speech To The RNC:

Hercules in New York

Miscellaneous: More Celebrity Politics

Actor Ron Silver, one of the founders of the Creative Coalition, has received a lot of press for his endorsement of President Bush. Here’s an excerpt from a New York Times article:

Running into Al Franken, the comedian and liberal talk show host, at the Four Seasons Party on Monday, Mr. Silver said, “I’m speaking tonight.”

Puzzled, Mr. Franken asked, “For Bush?”

Reinforcing the point, Mr. Silver replied, “I’m speaking.”

“For Bush?,” Mr. Franken said.

“I’m speaking,” Mr. Silver said again.

“For Bush?,” Mr. Franken said.