It’s been awhile since I’ve written about classical and Romantic music, both of which hold a special place in my heart. Part of the reason is that I am not currently teaching the Pre-AP Music Appreciation course that guaranteed a near-daily baptism in the greatest works of these periods.
So in casting about for a good TBT installment, I came across this little post about one of my favorite bits of programmatic work, Bedřich Smetana’s “The Moldau.” It’s a beautiful work that transports listeners on a magical journey down the titular river.
I love programmatic music because of its accessibility to average listeners (and because there’s something intriguing to me about a text accompanying purely instrumental music)—anyone can listen to this piece and hear the different scenes on the cruise down the river. It’s also such a beautiful expression of Smetana’s love for his homeland.
The 1990s were the golden age of comedy films, churning out one classic, genre-defining masterpiece after another. It was also the moment of Jim Carrey’s rise to comedy superstardom.
For a kid in the 1990s, Jim Carrey was a demigod. His films were hilarious, cartoonish, madcap, irreverent, ribald, raunchy—and all must-sees. Jim Carrey could do no wrong.
Then, in 1996—when yours portly was at the ripe old age of eleven—Jim Carrey made his first career misstep with The Cable Guy. It still had all the great Carrey-esque antics we’d come to love, but the film’s dark comedy threw audiences and critics alike a curveball, and they weren’t quite sure what to make of it. The flick was panned at the time, and the consensus is that it was a potential career-killer for Carrey. Even The Simpsons decried the film as the one that “nearly ruined Jim Carrey’s career”:
But as is often the case—like with wearing masks in elementary schools and forcing toddlers to take experimental gene therapy injections—the general consensus was deadly wrong. The Cable Guy (1996) was the best film of Jim Carrey’s 1990s output, and it’s my pick for my #4 best film.
It’s the end of the first workweek of the year, which really ended up being something like three-and-a-half days for yours portly. While I enjoyed Christmas Break—and even my sick day—I’ll begrudgingly admit that it’s good to get back into a routine.
But today is significant for other reasons. Most importantly, it’s Epiphany, the traditional last day of the Christmas season, commemorating the Wise Men’s visit to the Christ Child. The “epiphany” celebrated is Christ Revealed to the Gentiles for the first time.
Besides celebrating The Birthday—the most important birthday!—of Christ, we here at TPP are also celebrating Audre Myers‘s birthday! Audre is a regular reader, commenter, and contributor here, and her writing is feature on a number of other sites. She’s also a Bigfoot enthusiast, and TPP‘s source for all the latest updates on the big fellow. Audre is a rare, beautiful gem of a person, and her spirit and energy liven up the blog considerably.
My sincerest apologies again to readers: I am extremely delayed with this review (as readers will note, this Monday review is going up on a Thursday—d’oh!). Like a good little port, I re-watched 1946’s It’s a Wonderful Lifetwo or three weeks ago, when Audre, Ponty, and I agreed to review it and the 1951 Alistair Sim version of A Christmas Carol earlier in December. I was writing and editing like the wind to get most everything done before departing for a pre-Christmas trip to Arizona (more on that in a separate post), but didn’t quite manage to get it all done.
As I’ll detail in another post, I spent the first quarter of Christmas Day driving from western Kentucky down through Nashville, Chattanooga, Atlanta, and Augusta, before finally reaching my parents’ home in western South Carolina. I’d managed to get posts done through Christmas, thanks to a delayed connecting flight in Minneapolis, but was unable to get much more writing done beyond that. Christmas Eve saw me convoying to Kentucky from my older brother’s home in Indianapolis; I spent a frosty Christmas Eve with his in-laws on their farm, before setting out early Christmas morn along the route delineated above.
That’s all to say that, despite my chubbiest efforts, I was not able to get everything done. Facing the prospect of writing this review late on Christmas night, I put it off, hoping I’d knock it out Monday evening—to no avail.
But I digress—enough excuses. What about the film?
Now it’s yours portly’s turn to step up to the plate and take a swing at review a timeless Christmas classic, the 1951 adaptation of A Christmas Carol. Ponty did the film a great service, and I must confess I read his review before viewing the film, which somehow—shamefully!—had slipped through my viewing until this point in my life.
Such is the peril of editing guest contributions: I have to read them in order to write a pithy introduction and to get them scheduled. As such, I’ve read Ponty’s review, which has already been published, and Audre‘s review, which will pop this Wednesday, 21 December 2022. I’ve tried my best to stick to my own thoughts on the film, but Ponty’s review in particular really enhanced my viewing of the film. He doesn’t spoil anything, but his analysis of some of the scenes is quite insightful.
A Christmas Carol has been on my mind a good bit lately. Over Thanksgiving I reconnected with a college classmate from a Fiction Workshop class I took my senior year, herself a self-published author. She has been brainstorming ideas with me about an alternate telling of A Christmas Carol involving Scrooge and restorative, romantic relationship—a God-centered romance that turns the acquisitive, miserly Scrooge into the generous, giddy soul we see at the end of the film. I won’t reveal more, but it’s a fun project, and in line with her approach to writing.
All digressions aside, I must echo the sentiments of my contributors: the 1951 version starring Alistair Sim as the sinister Scrooge is one of the most arresting bits of storytelling I’ve ever seen set to film.
One of my shameful holiday pleasures is the cloying, condescending, tone-deaf “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” by British New Wave super group Band Aid. At least, that’s how the tune would be described if it were written today.
At the time, it was a progressive project: the Ethiopian Civil War and related famine inspired the songwriters, Bob Geldof and Midge Ure, to write a song to raise funds for the people there. That’s actually quite noble, and it’s an enjoyable and fun song.
It also spawned millions of pounds in sells and royalties to help Africans, and sparked the United States to respond with “We Are the World” in 1985 (and, later, a heavy metal variant).
I’m not sure how it was received upon its release in 1984, but many of the lyrics are unintentionally hilarious. Today the very same progressives who can’t wait to sign on to the latest cringe, woke charity project would call these lyrics Eurocentric or anti-African
My favorite line is “And there won’t be snow in Africa this Christmastime.” Never mind Mount Kilimanjaro, which stays capped in snow year-round.
While I imagine we’ll all have quite positive things to say about these time-honored Christmas classics, our hope is that we’ll each see and take something different from the films, and our shades of perspective will reveal to readers previously unseen hues and details.
Or we’ll end up with three remarkably similar reviews and it will make for dull, repetitive reading. Such are the risks of blogging, eh? But knowing these two characters, I doubt that will be the case. All I know is I’ve got to get crackin’ on my homework—It’s a Wonderful Life is over two hours long!
But I digress. Ponty is kicking us off this Christmas season, and, boy, what a great way to start! I think you’ll find his review as insightful and engaging as I did.
What happens when you consume the same piece of pop culture so many times, you peel back the layers of rotted flesh to discover hidden depths that, on first glance, you missed?
This piece by our dear Audre Myers is a beautiful illustration of that phenomenon. That said, the series she’s reviewing—yes, as entire, decade-plus-long series—is arguably something more than mere pop culture. It may represent a work of television art.
The late aughts and early teens of this century saw a golden age of television as an art form. Outside the confines of a film’s ninety-or-so-minute runtime, television series have the luxury of developing characters across hundreds of hours of screen time and multiple seasons. Narratives can explore deeper complexity. Themes can be examined in all their glorious nuance.
I don’t want to give away Audre’s key insight about this show, but I’ll note that I think she is correct. Let me know what you think in the comments.