BOOK REVIEW: "THE IMPERFECTIONISTS"
Posted on Jul 09 2010 by Greg
I don't recall reading such a meticulous, honest and riveting fiction novel in a long time. You can tell by the earnest avoidance of cliché, the sharp turns in narrative and the natural dialogue that the author (and likely the editor as well) doted lovingly over every word and phrase. In a sea of dumbing down, this is a very intelligent, perceptive look into the collective psyche of a group of disparate colleagues thrust together not by choice but by career and geographical circumstance.
Apparently the majority of media reviews have been so glowing that some might have approached The Imperfectionists
with unrealistic expectations. Or perhaps judged Tom Rachman
by his age rather than his skill. Yes, it's a dark look into some very messed up people, but there's hardly a note that seems false. The Ruby Zaga section is probably the most heartrending, yet like American Graffiti
, we catch a parting glimpse of her in the epilogue that...well, I won't spoil it.
The most outrageous section concerns the greenhorn being buffaloed by the veteran grandstanding headline-grabber. It veers the furthest from realism in its absurdly comedic sitautions, yet it probably the most true to life, ironically, and perhaps most directly drawn from Rachman's life observations.
It is no coincidence that both Rachman's parents are psycholigists because he has a razor sharp focus on personalities, conceits and foibles. The section about the lady who reads compulsively is practically an OCD case study, and very real at that. Strong powers of observation, indeed.
According to Entertainment Weekly
, this book has been optioned by Brad Pitt
's company. I can see him playing the fired editor on the plane, but I really think this would make a better long format TV series than a one-shot movie. And any film adaptation is going to lose the characters' thoughts so generously shared by Rachman.
The setting is Rome in a newsgathering industry, but it's a story about people. Rome is a character, a place each character sees (or uses) differently. And the newspaper is almost a metaphor for unescapable change in a city that is thought to be enternal. An unforgettable read.
(The Imperfectionists contains mature subject matter and language, but far less, surprisingly, than many current novels and films.
LIT-TLE TINY POINTS ABOUT "THE MOTHERS-IN-LAW"
Posted on Jul 07 2010 by Greg
One of our favorite TV sitcoms when I was a kid was The Mothers in Law
starring the wondrous Eve Arden
(Our Miss Brooks, The Strongest Man in the World, Grease
) and the wondrous Kaye Ballard
(Freaky Friday, The Muppet Show, Alice in Wonderland
). The entire two-year run in finally on DVD and it's now on amazon
, probably for a limited time.
produced the series, which was very much an I Love Lucy
with kids and grandkids just as Laverne & Shirley
was an I Love Lucy
with single ladies. It's broad and brassy comedy in front of a live audience, served up to perfection by the skilled cast, whicj includes Herbert Rudley, Roger C. "Harry Mudd" Carmel
(replaced by Richard "Mel Cooley" Deacon
and Deborah Walley (Summer Magic, Beach Blanket Bingo
I have a particular soft spot for the legendary Ms. Ballard, having grown up and fully memorized Columbia Records' "Good Grief, Charlie Brown! Peanuts
album she recorded with longtime creative partner Arthur Siegel
. (If you've heard this album, you might chuckle at the reference above to "LIT-tle tiny points.") It was the very first time the Peanuts characters were performed (directly from comic strips) and it inspired the musical, You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown
, five years later.
The music on this 1962 album, which has not yet been released on CD, was created by Fred Karlin
(sadly, Mr. Siegel's songs were not used by renowned jazz producer John Hammond
). Karlin, an Oscar winner, put together a very odd orchestra of real toys, a concept much imitated afterward. The tune on the first cut was used for a cat food commercial in 1972.
Kaye Ballard talks at length about this album, The Mothers in Law
and her amazing career in one of the most entertaining audio versions of an autobiography I have ever heard, My Life in My Own Words, with My Own Mouth.
It can only be purchased here on her website
and is well worth having. This is one very resilient and highly talented lady.
"CAPTAIN EO" -- DOES IT HOLD UP AFTER ALL THESE YEARS?
Posted on Jun 30 2010 by Greg
Went to the first return showing of Captain EO
this morning amid much excitement at Epcot
with veeps and press there. The crowd was exuberant throughout the 17-minute film, laughing and cheering in all the right places, especially during the moonwalk and at the entrance in the film of of Michael Jackson
, which is reminiscent of the entrance of Tim Curry
in The Rocky Horror Picture Show
, which was produced by George Lucas
and directed by Francis Ford Coppola
(his only musical beside Finian's Rainbow
, unless you count One from the Heart
), is a blend of Thriller
, Star Wars
and Far Out Space Nuts
(in a good way), with lots of action, fun characters and lots of "So You Think You Can" Dancing. And it still works, knowingly camp when it wants to be (the doofy guy with the mullet used to get an audience chuckle back in 1986 too) and pop music that is now considered classic to the contemporary public.
Seeing it now, I realize how few instances there were in which the world got to see Michael Jackson as an actor. Though Captain EO
is the ultimate action playset, he's nonetheless playing a role and, had things been different, it would have been interesting to see how he might have directed his talent more in that direction.
MUSICALS FOR PEOPLE WHO DON'T HAVE TIME FOR MUSICALS
Posted on Jun 23 2010 by Greg
BBC Radio is running a comedy called 15 Minute Musical
, actual full-scale musical satires with original music and lyrics. It was made a few years ago, so the targets are dated but the humor and scale still hold up.
This week, "Brothers in Arms"
tells the peppy rock opera story of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown's rise to power in the British government, in a medieval style.
There are six episodes in this series. Next up, it's "Jeffrey! The Musical," about convicted criminal Jeffrey Archer. I don't even get all the references because I have a hard enough time with American politics, but this is fun stuff.
BEDKNOB (SINGULAR) & BROOMSTICK (NON-PLURAL)
Posted on Jun 21 2010 by Greg
When Walt Disney
was having trouble negotiating with Mary Poppins
author P.L. Travers
(you can hear what the Sherman Brothers
experienced with her on the most recent Poppins soundtrack CD), he had the movie rights to Mary Norton
's Bed-knob and Broomstick
as a back up. Poppins
was released in 1964, of course, and Bedknobs and Broomsticks
(with plurals added to the title) premiered in 1971. The latter film was produced post-Walt and won an Academy Award for Visual Effects (from five nominations including Best Song, "The Age of Not Believing").
This week and next, in ten 15-minute episodes, you can hear Patricia Hodge
read an adaptation of dramatization of the original book on BBC Radio 7
(actually, it was two books, The Magic Bedknob
and Bonfires and Broomsticks
, combined in one volume).
The first episode is here
and each will be available for 7 days after their initial airing. There are quite a few differences between the Norton and Disney versions. Enjoy!
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