“More Different, Less Different”

More-Different-Less-Different

In the run-up to our July 17th premiere podcast, “Extreme Cinema: Action and Exploitation Movies with Andrew La Ganke & David Lawler”, we present this oldie-but-goodie; analysis of Jon Schnepp’s intriguing documentary, “The Death of Superman Lives: What Happened?”.  “Extreme Cinema” will explore the work of lesser known celluloid heroes like David A. Prior, Larry Cohen, Albert Pyun, William Lustig, Jim Wynorski, and many more!

Advertisements

NEW PODCAST: “More Different, Less Different”

More-Different-Less-Different

 

This is BlissVille, Misadventures in BlissVille, and tonight we’re going to be discussing Jon Schnepp’s 2015 documentary, “The Death of Superman Lives: What Happened?”.

Narrator: Faster than a speeding bullet. More powerful than a locomotive. Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.
Man 1: Look! Up in the sky! It’s a bird.
Woman: It’s a plane
Man 2: It’s Superman!
Narrator: Yes, it’s Superman, strange visitor from another planet who came to earth with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men. Superman, who can change the course of mighty rivers, bend steel in his bare hands. And who, disguised as Clark Kent, mild-mannered reporter for a great metropolitan newspaper, fights a never ending battle for truth, justice and the American way. And now another exciting episode in the adventures of Superman.

I love Superman. He is a true super-hero, because he has super powers. He’s from another planet. He’s incredibly strong. He can fly. As much as I love Batman, he’s not a true super-hero. He bought his powers. He’s a billionaire. Batman is the capitalist super-hero, whereas Superman is more of a socialist. There’s a great line in “Kill Bill 2”; David Carradine’s monologue toward the end, he tells Uma Thurman that the visage of Clark Kent is the disguise, and that Superman, or Kal-El is the reality.

I watched a couple of the old Superman tv show episodes with George Reeves last weekend, to prime alongside the documentary. They’re pretty silly by today’s standards, but they were enough to entertain people back then, and still nowhere near as silly as Burton’s conception of the character. The show ran from 1952 to 1958, 104 episodes, killed George Reeves’ career, and then 20 years later, we have Christopher Reeve, whom is still the standard for the character.

 

 

 

 

VINTAGE CABLE BOX: “The Big Chill”, 1983

New VCB Logo

“Amazing tradition. They throw a great party for you on the one day they know you can’t come.”

1983-the-big-chill-poster1

The Big Chill , 1983 (Kevin Kline), Columbia Pictures

It’s bizarre and more than a little morose when I think about the fact that I am older than the central characters in Lawrence Kasdan’s classic coming-to-terms-with-things epic, The Big Chill. All in their mid-thirties, more than a few of them established and respected pillars of their respective communities (except rebel-boy Nick), they reunite for the weekend in South Carolina after the suicide of their friend, Alex (Kevin Costner, not appearing in this film). Kasdan made a name for himself, penning screenplays like The Empire Strikes Back and Raiders of the Lost Ark. His first film as director was the brilliant film-noir spoof, Body Heat starring William Hurt and Kathleen Turner.

The Big Chill is a movie that resonates with a different age group – that of our parents, the “Baby-Boomers”, children of the war and the “Greatest Generation”; those who turned their backs on what they perceived was a mindless emphasis on patriotism, imperialism, and consumerism (lots of -isms). As they grew into adulthood, they chose an uncomplicated path to self-destruction through drugs and the concept of free-love because they saw those same failings in themselves. A good portion of The Big Chill fixates on this idea. This is where my conflict comes in. I’m the product of a lost generation: the children of the “boomers” who don’t relate to these internalized conflicts, because we’ve nurtured apathy and despair and saw the hypocrisy in our parents long before they did. I’m sorry, this is getting preachy.

The cast of this movie is exceptional. Kevin Kline is Harold, a successful businessman. Glenn Close is his long-suffering wife, Sarah (who once had an affair with Alex). Handsome Tom Berenger is Sam, a television star. JoBeth Williams is bored housewife, Karen. William Hurt is the aforementioned rebel-boy, Nick. Jeff Goldblum is Michael, a writer for People magazine (who once published a hatchet-job on Sam), obviously a stand-in for Kasdan. Mary Kay Place is a successful attorney, unlucky in love. Meg Tilly is Alex’s much-younger girlfriend, Chloe. Shot in a real house in Beaufort, the cast lived together for several weeks before shooting commenced, which explains their unbelievably easy chemistry and mutual affection.

William-Hurt-in-The-Big-Chill-william-hurt-29451689-1200-867

Kline and Hurt’s characters are disillusioned in their adulthood. Berenger is clingy after his recent divorce. Goldblum is looking to scam his friends out of money so he can open a nightclub. Mary Kay Place wants to have a baby. JoBeth secretly loves Berenger and wants out of her dead-end marriage to boring, dependable Richard. Glenn Close is the emotional center of the group, weeping for Alex. Meg Tilly’s Chloe is the innocent; blissfully ignorant of the group’s woe.

Because these characters tend to run together with their fears and motivations, Chloe is the one truly unique person under this roof. She is sensitive and idealistic, but also lazy and giggly. Chloe is a part of her own lost generation, not quite old enough and not quite young enough. It’s only logical she connects the most with Hurt’s disaffected Nick, because he seems to be closest analog to the mysterious Alex. Alex is another matter entirely. Completely missing (even in spirit) from the film, he appears to be the glue that held this little community together, and without his gentle sway, everything falls apart.

It’s interesting in that I was eleven years old watching this movie (this is a movie explicitly not made for me) for the first time with my mother, who laughed at every joke, and cried at every somber moment, instantly identifying with these characters. The reason I enjoyed the movie had more to do with the very witty dialogue and what’s more, I appreciated the friendships, the connections, and the warmth of the performances. When I watch the movie now, I still think I’m a kid and couldn’t possibly understand the dilemmas of The Big Chill even though I’m much older than I’m younger than that now.

Our first cable box was a non-descript metal contraption with a rotary dial and unlimited potential (with no brand name – weird). We flipped it on, and the first thing we noticed was that the reception was crystal-clear; no ghosting, no snow, no fuzzy images. We had the premium package: HBO, Cinemax, The Movie Channel, MTV, Nickelodeon, CNN, The Disney Channel, and the local network affiliates. About $25-$30 a month.  Each week (and sometimes twice a week!), “Vintage Cable Box” explores the wonderful world of premium Cable TV of the early eighties.