Thursday, April 17, 2008

Side Orders #1

Side Orders is going to be a regular column devoted to three or four little scenes from various movies, with the occasional video, short, commercial, and trailer popping up. Unlike my reviews, which can be long, I will brief in these pieces. They're designed for me to write quickly so you can read 'em quickly. Anyway, here we go:

I first wanted to feature a series of trailers that I liked, but I couldn't think of one, really, that ever made want to see a movie more than than the preview for Francis Coppola's 1983 film of S.E. Hinton's Rumblefish. I was convinced that this was going to be one of the greatest things to hit the screen in a long time--and it so was not. This piece is a perfect example of trailer alchemy--when a trailer producer gets a so-so movie to promote and makes it look like a masterpiece. This one is exceedingly well-edited and benefits greatly from the movie's clattering Stewart Copeland score. Truth is, since it's completely reliant on sound and imagery alone (and is, of course, much shorter), the preview's quite a bit snappier than the often overbaked film.

This next item is instantly famous to anyone who grew up during the 1970s. In fact, I'd say that this is in the competition for most well-known TV commercial of all time, and certainly one of the most economically powerful. Its lead is Iron Eyes Cody, the Native American film and TV performer who was, in reality, of Italian decent. Cody adapted two Indian children with his wife and worked tirelessly for the rights of Native Americans before his 1999 death. The asshole in me sort of thinks it's funny that he's in this famous bit of "Indy" pop culture...

Ken Shapiro was the co-writer, director and star of 1974's pioneering skit film The Groove Tube. Without this spoof of television, complete with fake commericals and new shows, would there have been an SCTV or even a Saturday Night Live? Probably not for a while longer, at least. Anyway, this is the picture's final segment, and I just think Shapiro's impassioned and seemingly off-the-cuff performance makes it a guaranteed smile (especially that bit with the surprised cop).

And, finally, I was going to write about the movie Hair, but I think I just wanna put up, for right now, my most treasured moment from the movie. You don't need to know anything about the plot to enjoy this stand-alone scene commandeered by decisive performances from Dorsey Wright (as hippie "Lafeyette") and Cheryl Barnes as his abandoned wife who confronts him in Washington Square Park with their young son in tow. I saw this 1978 movie first on cable in 1979/80, and I remember even then breaking down crying at this part of the film. Barne's performance of the song, and her compelling acting, coupled with the extremely smart, restrained direction by Milos Forman, and the clean backing track production all still really get to me. I recently saw Hair play again under the Brooklyn Bridge here in NYC, and when "Easy to Be Hard" washed acoss the screen, I was again reduced to tears (so much so that a nearby kid voiced concern about me). It rightfully recieved a long ovation from the crowd, because it is subliminty in four minutes flat.


Jane said...

Hi Dean. Your blog is so layered, I hope I am commenting in the right place. Would like to register my shock that Iron Eyes Cody was, in fact, played by an Italian American. I guess I knew this, but as a life long supporter of Native Americans, must have blocked it out. Still think the commercial was powerful and it certainly contributed to me becoming an ecologist. Happy Earth Day! What a great post!

Hepcat B said...

Great clips and comments. Yeah that Rumble Fish trailer is really great, with the soundtrack and stunning black and white with color splashes, it looks like a fully live action Sin City. Dean you'll remember my college roommate John Busch, he was fascinated with this film despite its flaws, he made me watch it. Part of that was probably because he was such a huge Police fan, the Steward Copeland connection.

That Lover's Knot clip is a pure joy. Is that really what Gary Weis' SNL films SHOULD have been like? I wouldn't have minded seeing the guy hit by a car, music dead stop, then the guy bounds right back up again. But the fountain ending does something similar. Great fun.