That Championship Season: Justified, Season Two

justified

By now, there are enough smart, fitting adaptations of Elmore Leonard’s work to the screen — big and small — that it obscures the long, problematic history the prolific writer had when turning his work over to Hollywood. And it wasn’t from lack of trying. According to some sources, there have been over two dozen whacks at transforming Leonard’s fiction, which is lean enough to sometimes read as if it’s a script treatment, into film or television. Even though it seemed the curse was broken with 1995’s Get Shorty, a story fittingly inspired by Leonard’s dismal encounters with Hollywood studios, there were still plenty of dire and doomed adaptations to come, interspersed with only the occasional winner. So there was plenty of cause to be skeptical about Justified. Officially based on the Leonard short story “Fire in the Hole,” the television series was the handiwork of Graham Yost, who’d previously left his fingerprints on some pretty terrible screenplays and dubiously received solo credit for one great one that he’s the first to acknowledge owes an enormous debt to the doctoring work of Joss Whedon. And yet, Justified, at its very best, might represent the pinnacle of Leonard adaptations. The second season of the show is clearly Justified at its very best.

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Leonard was famously impatient with flowery language and elliptical routes to the point, so I’ll get straight to it: the second season of Justified is the best stretch the series ever had mostly because of the strength of the storyline centered on mountain matriarch Mags Bennett, played masterfully by Margo Martindale, duly rewarded with an Emmy for her efforts. Justified usually had a surprising amount of plot in play, but it prospered with the tried and true approach of gently easing through a season-long story, usually dominated by (in the parlance of Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer) one “Big Bad,” while giving individual episodes their own spine with a case of the week, or at least some dilemma that could be solved before the allotted hour (with commercials) was up. One of the gratifying pleasures of Season Two is the way those week-to-week stories fed into the larger whole, like tributaries building a creek into a torrential river.

Even as the series is striking the perfect balance between big picture vision and incremental storytelling, it is simultaneously settling into proper place, figuring out the best methods to build some longevity into the work. At times in the first season, it seemed that Yost and company operated under the assumption that their efforts would be as short-lived as other adaptations of Leonard’s work for television. They didn’t exactly write themselves into corners, but there was less world-building than tracking through the first couple acts without all that much of a sense as to how long the third act would then have to last. Justified, then, spends time getting cars on the proper tracks to keep the show going: providing Deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) motivation to stay in the Kentucky office he was transferred to against his preferences, better defining the relationships between the various supporting characters, and, maybe most importantly, positioning Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins), a character that wasn’t exactly supposed to have longevity, to be an enduring antagonist. Eventually, the need to keep escalating Boyd’s menace while keeping him in play would strain the credibility of the series. At this point, though, his position as a dangerous, unapprehended criminal presence in Harlan County still made sense.

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Still, the exceptional quality of the season all comes back to Mags and the rest of the Bennett clan. The potency of the story begins with the critical yet often forgotten truism that a villain is best if they don’t really operate as a villain, perpetrating actions out of pure malevolence. That makes for hollow fiction, and it’s something that occasionally dogged Justified in the future when it indulged in sadistic characters like Robert Quarles (in Season Three, played with admirable gusto by Neal McDonough) and Boon (in Season Six, played with one off-key note by Jonathan Tucker). Mags, however, does terrible things for reasons that she can clearly justify as part of a greater good for herself and her family. Sometimes her actions stem from an overblown sense of hill-folk honor and sometimes they result from her reckoning of the machinations necessary to reach an end goal of familial security. The story becomes more compelling because every decision is traceable and understandable, even those that are abhorrent.

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Within the structure of the season, Yost and his team gift the actors with rich, delicious material and wisely let them blaze through it, whether with beautiful unhinged creativity (the invaluable Jeremy Davies as Dickie Bennett) or unyieldingly raw emotion (Kaitlyn Dever as Loretta McReady, a part she started playing when she was barely a teenager). Rewatching episodes now, I’m surprised at how direct and punchy the the language is. It’s still clever and sharp, but the writers’ room mantra clearly echoed Leonard’s own less is more (or at least enough, dammit) philosophy. The show would evolve to the point where a character would correctly describe Boyd’s manner of speaking as “using forty words where four will do,” as if Leonard’s sensibility was being juiced up with syringe blasts of David Milch’s roundabout elocutions (every time another Deadwood alumnus arrived on set, the writers propensity for intricately verbose monologues of pungent pontificating bloomed like a spreading meadow of voluptuously odiferous wildflowers increased exponentially). Much as I enjoyed the pile-up of words that would eventually become the norm on Justified, the tighter approach to the writing is ultimately more satisfying. Of course, that’s a prime takeaway from the Leonard lesson plan.

If there was any doubt Leonard agreed Justified stood as one of the more successful adaptations of his work (though I’m not sure he ever accepted the hat worn by the character), it was surely eliminated by the author’s decision to revisit the main character a new novel, entitled simply Raylan, released in 2012. Those pages in turn fed the storytelling of the third season, basically creating a narrative fiction circle of life. Further solidifying the importance of Justified in Leonard’s mighty legacy, Raylan was the novel published before his death, in 2013. The book even had a picture of Olyphant on the cover. It couldn’t be clearer. After years — decades, really — of mixed results, someone besides Leonard finally got Leonard right.

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Previously…

An Introduction
Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season Five
Cheers, Season Five
The Sopranos, Season One
St. Elsewhere, Season Four
Veronica Mars, Season One
The Office, Season Two
The Ben Stiller Show, Season One
Gilmore Girls, Season Three
Seinfeld, Season Four

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My Misspent Youth: Captain Victory and the Galactic Rangers by Jack Kirby

I read a lot of comic books as a kid. This series of posts is about the comics I read, and, occasionally, the comics that I should have read.

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While I was a committed student of the history of Marvel Comics upon devoting myself to their stories at the age of ten, I was shamefully slow to come around to the art of the creator who was arguably the most important figure in the groundbreaking, foundational years of the publisher. Working with writer Stan Lee, artist Jack Kirby was the architect of the early Marvel Universe, officially co-creating almost every major character in that monumental first decade of bold new comic book storytelling. Even though Kirby’s Marvel masterpiece was undoubtedly Fantastic Four (though there are conflicting stories about precisely how the creative process worked, it seems clear that Marvel’s First Family benefited from the strongest Kirby influence, with Lee often giving his partner only the barest of plot before the drafting table was engaged), my favorite character and titles, I still didn’t warm to the artist’s distinctive style when I’d encounter old stories. It was blocky and weighty, almost crude to my untrained eyes. Though I’d later figure out that some of my favorite artists — like John Buscema, John Byrne, Jim Steranko — all drew from a Kirby influence, at least to a degree, the trailblazer seemed overly simplistic compared to the intricacy and nuance I believed I saw elsewhere. Man, was I wrong. In my defense, let me repeat that I was ten years old when this fandom journey began.

By the early nineteen-eighties, Kirby no longer had a home at the House of Ideas he helped build, in large part because of an ongoing dispute over what he felt he was owed for the enduring success of his creations, most notably a stockpile of original art — suddenly a lucrative commodity on the collectors’ market — that Marvel refused to return to him. After digressions in the field of animation and elsewhere, Kirby returned to comic books with fledgling independent publisher Pacific Comics, a company willing to give him something nearly unprecedented in the field: complete ownership of his own creation. Under their aegis, Kirby came up with a series called Captain Victory and the Galactic Rangers. Rather than the sort of superhero fare he’d drawn at Marvel Comics, Captain Victory felt like an extension of the more science fiction work he’d crafted when given a fairly free hand at DC Comics in the nineteenseventies (and then during his brief return to Marvel in the second half of the decade). It suited Kirby’s majestic imagination, giving him a chance to fill the page with wild, futuristic dreams.

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As the title implies, Captain Victory is a leader within a intergalactic army of protectors, bent on protecting the universe from the evil impulses of marauding, invading creatures, such as the Insectons. Burning through new clone bodies as a result of his courageous self-sacrifice on the battlefield, Captain Victory is widely admired by his cadre of fellow Galactic Rangers, obviously drawn from diverse corners of the galaxy.

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In the early issues of the series, the Galactic Rangers have come to Earth, looking to protect this primitive planet from malevolent forces beyond the population’s understanding. This gives Kirby plenty of chances to heighten the sense of wonder through the apoplectic and terrified reactions of the Earthling law enforcement officials Captain Victory and his crew encounter. Mostly, though, there’s no real need for such devices. The outrageous boldness of Kirby’s concepts is enough to leave any reader’s head spinning. His storytelling was typified by a sense of constant wonder and off-the-cuff inventiveness, making his comics progress with the exuberantly free logic that a child brings to the crafting a fiction, with any idea that pops into their head instinctively deemed good enough to keep the tale going. Of course, as we’re talking comics here, the lunatic ideas are only as good as their rendering in pen and ink. Kirby’s got that sorted out.

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Realistically, Captain Victory and the Galactic Rangers resides fairly low on the list of great Kirby creations. It occasionally feels derivative of his own prior work (he’d later implicitly tie it to the Fourth World stories he created for DC Comics) and is filled with dialogue that’s surprisingly simplistic, as if Kirby were trying reassert the notion that comics were for kids, despite the little detail that Captain Victory was created for the developing direct market, making it less likely that youngsters were going to get their jam-stained hands on it. Even still, it’s blazingly fun in a way that I tended to resist back then, convinced that my comics needed to be mature and serious, dealing with significant issues and intense emotions. I still love those other comics I read, but I could used a dose of Kirby wonder back then, too. It’s a shame it took me as long as it did to realize it.

Previously…

Fantastic Four by Stan Lee and John Buscema
Contest of Champions by Bill Mantlo and John Romita, Jr.
Daredevil by Frank Miller
Marvel Fanfare by Chris Claremont, Dave Cockrum and Paul Smith
Marvel Two-in-One by Tom DeFalco and Ron Wilson
Fantaco’s “Chronicles” series
Fantastic Four #200 by Marv Wolfman and Keith Pollard
The Incredible Hulk #142 by Roy Thomas and Herb Trimpe
Uncanny X-Men by Chris Claremont and Dave Cockrum
Godzilla by Doug Moench and Herb Trimpe
Giant-Size Avengers #3 by Steve Englehart, Roy Thomas and Dave Cockrum
Alpha Flight by John Byrne
Hawkeye by Mark Gruenwald
Avengers by David Michelinie and George Perez
Justice League by Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis and Kevin Maguire
The Thing by Dan Slott and Andrea DiVito
Nexus by Mike Baron and Steve Rude
Marvel Premiere by David Kraft and George Perez
Marvel Super-Heroes Secret Wars by Jim Shooter and Mike Zeck
Micronauts by Bill Mantlo and Butch Guice
Batman: The Killing Joke by Alan Moore and Brian Bolland
What If? by Mike W. Barr, Herb Trimpe and Mike Esposito
Thor by Walt Simonson
Eightball by Dan Clowes
Cerebus: Jaka’s Story by Dave Sim and Gerhard
Iron Man #150 by by David Michelinie, John Romita, Jr. and Bob Layton
Bone by Jeff Smith
The Man of Steel by John Byrne
Fantastic Four by Doug Moench and Bill Sienkiewicz
“Allien and How to Watch It” by John Severin
Fantastic Four Roast by Fred Hembeck and friends
The Amazing Spider-Man #25 by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko
Marvel Two-in-One #7 by Steve Gerber and Sal Buscema
The New Mutants by Chris Claremont and Bob McLeod
Dark Horse Presents
Bizarre Adventures #27
Marvel Team-Up #48 by Bill Mantlo and Sal Buscema
Metal Men #20 by Robert Kanigher and Ross Andru
The Avengers by Roy Thomas and John Buscema
Fantastic Four by Marv Wolfman and John Byrne
Y: The Last Man by Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra
American Flagg by Howard Chaykin
Marvel and DC Present by Chris Claremont and Walter Simonson
Batman by Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli
Marvel Two-in-One Annual #5 by Alan Kupperberg and Pablo Marcos
Web of Spider-Man by Louise Simonson and Greg LaRocque
Super-Villain Team-Up #12 by Bill Mantlo and Bob Hall
What If? #31 by Rich Margopoulos and Bob Budiansky
Fantastic Four by Scott Lobdell and Alan Davis
Magik by Chris Claremont and John Buscema, Sal Buscema, and Ron Frenz
Marvel Two-in-One Annual #7 by Tom DeFalco and Ron Wilson
Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters by Mike Grell
Avengers #202 by Jim Shooter, David Michelinie and George Pérez
Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. by Jim Steranko

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College Countdown: 90FM’s Top 90 of 1995, 32 and 31

32 freak32. Love Battery, Straight Freak Ticket

It often seemed that playing grunge music and being from Seattle basically combined up to create a golden ticket for qualifying bands in the early-to-mid-nineties, but the crossover success wasn’t uniformly distributed. Love Battery had the right sound and the correct zip code. What they didn’t have was a label that knew how to market them. Straight Freak Ticket was the band’s fourth album overall and their first full-length since jumping from Sub Pop Records to Atlas Records. It obviously did pretty well with at least one batch of college kids. As far as I can tell, it didn’t make much of a dent elsewhere. Shortly after this album was released, drummer Jason Finn left the band to join the Presidents of the United States of America, which seemed to work out all right for him. Love Battery petered out after the release of the 1999 album Confusion Au Go Go, though there have been the requisite reunion shows in recent years.

31 besides

31. Sugar, Besides

Music from Sugar sure came at a steady clip during the band’s relatively brief tenure. Former Hüsker Dü powerhouse Bob Mould’s return to playing with a group (another trio, no less) after a couple of excellent solo albums, Sugar released their first album, Copper Blue, in 1992, a mere six months after debuting on the stage of the famed Athens, Georgia venue 40 Watt Club. The released the ferocious EP Beaster the following spring and the group’s sophomore album, File Under: Easy Listening, arrived in 1994. Less than a year after that came Besides, a collection of B-sides and other stray bits.

Besides is essential for the inclusion of lead-off track “Needle Hits E” alone. Tuneful, bruising, exuberant, and yearning, it is quintessential Mould and simply one of the best songs Sugar ever recorded. Starting with this and “If I Can’t Change Your Mind (Solo Mix)” (which probably is the best song Sugar ever recorded and arguably Mould’s finest three-and-a-half-minutes as a songwriter) is unfair to everything that follows. There’s certainly good stuff to be found across the record — I’m partial to the tight, focused instrumental “Clownmaster,” and it’s fun to hear Sugar pummel the psychedelia out of the Who’s “Armenia City in the Sky” in a live cover version — but the exhaustive nature of the release means that there’s plenty of material that was properly relegated to filler on a CD single. There’s also a heavy reliance on live material, much of which isn’t all the revelatory. While it’s interesting to hear a song like “Explode and Make Up” become more ruminative in the live version, even as the band is delivering a fairly faithful take on it, the bulk of the concert material can’t transcend the usual live album flaw of feeling like the audio equivalent of a cloudy mirror’s reflection.

What Besides demonstrates most forcefully is that Sugar was truly the Bob Mould show, no matter how much he’d argue that he wanted it to be a true band, with the normal creative give and take that implies. Bassist David Barbe wrote four of the tracks — and takes lead vocal duties on them — and they come across as sadly drab. “Frustration” is so lacking in energy that it seems to belong to an entirely different band, though I’ll admit that it’s entirely possible Barbe had no way of winning, since his “In the Eyes of My Friends” is spot-on and winds up sounding like a weak imitation of Sugar. Mould was at a creative peak at this time. Anyone was going to have a tough time putting their songs up against his.

As it turned out, this was the last album to bear the Sugar name. By most accounts, the breakup was precipitated by Barbe’s desire to spend more time with his growing family. Mould has maintained that the dissolution of the band was fairly painless, at least compared to the napalm strafing that accompanied the end of Hüsker Dü, and that’s backed up by the continued connection between the band members, as when Mould worked in Barbe’s Athens studio and enlisted his former bandmate engineer the recordings. In general, Mould has affectionately embraced his Sugar material, especially in recent years. Even so, Besides is ultimately a tangential release, hardly the kind of album that demands attention. Then again, a person could do worse in demonstrating the appeal of Mould and Sugar than playing those first two tracks.

Previously….

An Introduction
— 90-88: The Falling Wallendas, Parasite, and A.M.
— 87-85: North Avenue Wake Up Call, Live!, and Life Begins at 40 Million
— 84 and 83: Wholesale Meats and Fishes and Orange
— 82-80: (What’s the Story) Morning Glory, Fossil, and Electric Rock Music
— 79-77: Coast to Coast Motel, My Wild Life, and Life Model
— 76-74: Gag Me with a Spoon, Where I Wanna Be, and Ruby Vroom
— 73 and 72: Horsebreaker Star and Wild-Eyed and Ignorant
— 71 and 70: 500 Pounds and Jagged Little Pill
— 69-67: Whirligig, The Basketball Diaries, and On
— 66 and 65: Alice in Chains and Frogstomp
— 64 and 63: Happy Days and Exit the Dragon
— 62-60: Lucky Dumpling, Fight for Your Mind, and Short Bus
— 59-57: Good News from the Next World, Joe Dirt Car, and Tomorrow the Green Grass
— 56 and 55: …And Out Come the Wolves and Clueless
— 54-52: We Get There When We Do, Trace, and Twisted
— 51-49: Thrak, Stoney’s Extra Stout (Pig), and You Will Be You
— 48 and 47: Shamefaced and Here’s Where the Strings Come In
— 46 and 45: 13 Unlucky Numbers and Resident Alien
— 44-42: Elastica, Private Stock, and Death to Traitors
— 41-39: Optimistic Fool, Ben Folds Five, and Above
— 38-36: Collide, Cowboys and Aliens, and Batman Forever
— 35-33: Taking the World by Donkey, One Hot Minute, and Dog Eared Dream

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From the Archive: Life with Mikey

mikey

I’m well aware that not every movie that hits screen in the warmer months is expected to turn into a marauding blockbuster, but I’m still occasionally taken aback by how small-scale some of the summer releases were back in the early-to-mid-nineteen-nineties, when I was still one-half of a weekly movie review radio program. One week before Jurassic Park opened in 1993, one of the two wide release openings was Guilty as Sin, a lousy courtroom drama directed by Sidney Lumet and starring Rebecca De Mornay (who had at least had a surprise hit with the thriller The Hand That Rocks the Cradle the year before) and Don Johnson. The other was Life with Mikey, which can probably reasonably be tagged as the beginning of the end of Michael J. Fox’s film career. It made about $12 million at the box office. Total. As for my review, the film is better than its fade into total obscurity would suggest, but I still think I’m probably a notch too generous toward it. I stand by my rave about the fictional sitcom’s theme song. I bought the soundtrack (used and deeply discounted, but I still bought it) just to get it.  

One of the most miserable stories in the entertainment industry is the commonly told tale of a former child star whose career became nonexistent after puberty hit. That journey from adoration to indifference has been travelled by the main character in the new film LIFE WITH MIKEY. Michael J. Fox plays a man who grew up as the star of a silly family sitcom that resembles LEAVE IT TO BEAVER. But these days the most high profile job he can get is cutting ribbon at the opening of a new turkey restaurant at an otherwise abandoned strip mall. So, to make ends meet, he works with his brother running a talent agency that specializes in kids. The problem is that most of their clientele are utterly talentless, or as the older brother, played by the gifted Nathan Lane, puts it, they’re the children that time forgot. The one moneymaker in the group is an obnoxious cereal commercial star, well-played by David Krumholtz, who uses his success to bully his agents into doing whatever he wants.

The agency is about ready to go under when Fox finds a preteen girl pickpocket who has enough natural charm and spirit to land a major deal with a cookie company. The film spends some time examining the nature of child performers and happens when they’re not cute enough to get jobs anymore. But since the girl comes from a broken home and moves into Fox’s sloppy bachelor pad with him, the movie is dominated by their squabbling and bonding. Director James Lapine does manage to keep the film from becoming shamelessly sappy and there are even a couple of sweet moments that are played with just the right amount of restraint.

The main problem is that the chief plot isn’t very interesting. Fox and the young girl, played by newcomer Christina Vidal, go through a predictable series of conflicts and neither of their characters really develop past the most basic level. The film’s greatest strength comes in the scenes that revolve around the talent agency and the cheesy commercial the kids appear in. There are several montages showing the variety of youngsters that audition for the agency and each of the misguided performers is terrifically funny, especially an intensely serious young man who can even make a scene from THE ODD COUPLE depressing. Make no mistake, LIFE WITH MIKEY has a lot of problems, but when the film’s gags work, they connect for solid laughs. And besides, the film’s worth seeing just to hear the daffy LIFE WITH MIKEY theme song that plays over the closing credits.

(2 and 1/2 stars, out of 4)

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One for Friday: Eugenius, “Flame On”

eugenius

There were all sorts of reasons for me to play songs off of Oomalooma, the debut album from Eugenius, when it arrived at my college radio station, in 1992. First and foremost, there was the presence of Eugene Kelly as the band’s chief creative force. Kelly was one of the key members of the band the Vaselines, a group Kurt Cobain, recently installed as the voice of my generation, couldn’t stop talking about. Eugenius could also claim personnel, at one point or another, from buzzy bands like Teenage Fanclub and BMX Bandits. Then there was the helpful hook of the band changing their name from Captain America because of threatened legal action by Marvel Comics, exactly the sort of story perfectly suited for the brand of between song chatter favored by my on-air brethren. Topping it all off, there was a cow on the front cover. Nestled in the middle of Central Wisconsin, the folks at my station naturally gravitated to any song that allowed us to reference the large mammal that earned the state the nickname “America’s Dairyland.”

It’s possible some or even all of the criteria above factored into my shift-to-shift decisions to integrate something from Oomalooma into my playlist. However, knowing myself, I suspect the only thing I needed to know was that one of the tracks on the album was entitled “Flame On.” My comic book geekiness ran deep and strong. A band that took a song title from the two-word phrase Johnny Storm hollered when he ignited into action as the Human Torch was a band that I needed to celebrate, maybe no matter how good or bad the music was. Luckily, the music was good, exactly the sort of power-pop-tinged guitar rock that briefly found favor as a catchier alternative to shoegaze. I didn’t always make my musical selections for the shrewdest or most well-informed reasons. Luckily, I was making those choices in a place where it was hard to go wrong.

Listen or download –> Eugenius, “Flame On”

(Disclaimer: I believe Oomalooma to be out of print as a physical item that can be easily procured from your favorite local, independently-owned record store in a manner that properly compensations both the proprietor of said store and the original artist. I could be wrong. There was a reissue about six years ago that could still be in print, but that also looks difficult enough to come by that I question its ready availability. Regardless, I am sharing the song here with no intent to harm the commerce of anyone who deserves to profit off of this artistic creation. I will gladly and promptly remove the track from the interweb if asked to do so by any entity or individual with due authority to make such a request.)

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Top Fifty Films of the 40s — Number Thirty

30 ribbon

#30 — She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (John Ford, 1949)

One of the pleasures of examining the long swath of Hollywood film history is considering the ways in which the long-lasting masters of the form adapted to the technological changes that came their way. She Wore a Yellow Ribbon was not John Ford’s first film in color, but it virtually quivers from the great director’s efforts to construct his film visually with all the possibilities that Technicolor had to offer as the nineteen-forties were drawing to a close. Like few of his contemporaries, Ford used the screen the way a master painter uses a canvas. While always remaining virtuous to the base requirements of his narrative, Ford typically found the most striking, moving, wise way to frame his shots, building uncommon beauty into his cinema. This was especially true of his westerns, when the vistas of untamed America provided the richest clay imaginable for Ford to metaphorically sculpt. What’s more, the directness that often came with westerns suited Ford’s storytelling preferences. There’s subtext there for those who want to search for it, but the moral quandaries are front and center in a meaty, satisfying way.

She Wore a Yellow Ribbon was the second of what is referred to as Ford’s “Cavalry Trilogy” (preceded by 1948’s Fort Apache and followed by 1950’s Rio Grande), a group of films that put John Wayne into that particular uniform. Wayne plays Captain Nathan Brittles, who’s time presiding over a small post is nearing an end thanks to his pending retirement. He is given the storied last mission: quelling the mounting tension of Cheyenne and Arapaho tribesman following the defeat of George Custer and his men at Little Big Horn. There’s also the necessary subplots revolving around romance as Brittles and his men are also charged with transporting some women, the wife and niece of the commanding officer, to a stagecoach to take them on a journey east. The crux of the film, though, is that struggle against a changing terrain as the nineteenth century shuffles to its close.

In many respects, the film anticipates the more elegiacal westerns that would begin to appear in the following decade and would reach their peak prominence in the nineteen-sixties. Much of the film’s emotional weight is carried by the sense that a certain era is closing down, exemplified by the Brittles preparing to leave active duty. Wayne was still a relatively young man at the time — he turned forty-two that year — and it had been a mere ten years since Ford’s Stagecoach made him a major star. What must have looked like the actor stretching himself at the time of the film’s release now looks like the earliest manifestation of a preoccupation with rapidly passing time and looming mortality that would mark some of the finest works and performances in the latter half of Wayne’s career. She Wore a Yellow Ribbon succeeds on its own terms, but I suspect it endures because of the way it’s a pivot point in the filmographies of both Ford and Wayne, establishing some of the themes that would solidify in future classics The Searcher and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. By 1949, the director and the movie star had already accomplished so much. She Wore a Yellow Ribbon demonstrated they were prepared to approach their work together with the fervor and commitment of people who still had something to prove.

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Top 40 Smash Taps: “Love Rollercoaster”

These posts are about the songs that can accurately claim to crossed the key line of chart success, becoming Top 40 hits on Billboard, but just barely. Every song featured in this series peaked at number 40.

This feature has gone on far longer than I expected. Just look at all those songs underneath the Previously… down there. When I started this, almost four years ago, I had a nice, tidy list of singles that peaked at #40. As I poked around for other writing, I kept stumbling on other songs that qualified, enough so that I eventually decided I needed a new, more rigorous round of research. That doubled my list, making reaching the final post far more daunting. Still, I felt confident I was done. I bore no illusions that my collection of songs and summaries would be exhaustive, but it would be close enough to settle up as an impressive project. All this preamble is my laborious way of noting that I didn’t have the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ cover among my list of Top 40 Smash Taps until I researched the band’s post-One Hot Minute discography for this past weekend’s College Countdown entry. And all this writing about writing is my way of acknowledging that I lack the requisite mental energy to write about Red Hot Chili Peppers again, and yet I want to go ahead and get this one out of the way. The Red Hot Chili Peppers delivered their take on the 1976 chart-topper by the Ohio Players for the Beavis and Butt-Head Do America soundtrack. This is an example of Peppers at their laziest, romping through a rote cover of a song squarely in their wheelhouse, with Anthony Kiedis delivering heavily distorted vocals with lackadaisical, officious machismo. Okay, that’s that. Ten posts left. Unless I find yet another one.

Previously…

“Just Like Heaven” by The Cure.
“I’m in Love” by Evelyn King
“Buy Me a Rose” by Kenny Rogers
“Who’s Your Baby” by The Archies
“Me and Bobby McGee” by Jerry Lee Lewis
“Angel in Blue” by J. Geils Band
“Crazy Downtown” by Allan Sherman
“I’ve Seen All Good People” and “Rhythm of Love” by Yes
“Naturally Stoned” by the Avant-Garde
“Come See” by Major Lance
“Your Old Standby” by Mary Wells
“See the Lights” by Simple Minds
“Watch Out For Lucy” by Eric Clapton
“The Alvin Twist” by Alvin and the Chipmunks
“Love Me Tender” by Percy Sledge
“Jennifer Eccles” by the Hollies
“Video Killed the Radio Star” by the Olympics
“The Bounce” by the Olympics
“Your One and Only Love” by Jackie Wilson
“Tell Her She’s Lovely” by El Chicano
“The Last Time I Made Love” by Joyce Kennedy and Jeffrey Osborne
“Limbo Rock” by The Champs
“Crazy Eyes For You” by Bobby Hamilton
“Who Do You Think You’re Foolin'” by Donna Summer
“Violet Hill” and “Lost+” by Coldplay
“Freight Train” by the Chas. McDevitt Skiffle Group
“Sweet William” by Little Millie Small
“Live My Life” by Boy George
“Lessons Learned” by Tracy Lawrence
“So Close” by Diana Ross
“Six Feet Deep” by the Geto Boys
“You Thrill Me” by Exile
“What Now” by Gene Chandler
“Put It in a Magazine” by Sonny Charles
“Got a Love for You” by Jomanda
“Stone Cold” by Rainbow
“People in Love” by 10cc
“Just Seven Numbers (Can Straighten Out My Life)” by the Four Tops
“Thinkin’ Problem” by David Ball
“You Got Yours and I’ll Get Mine” and “Trying to Make a Fool of Me” by the Delfonics
“The Riddle (You and I)” by Five for Fighting
“I Can’t Wait” by Sleepy Brown
“Nature Boy” by Bobby Darin
“Give It to Me Baby” and “Cold Blooded” by Rick James
“Who’s Sorry Now?” by Marie Osmond
“A Love So Fine” by the Chiffons
“Funky Y-2-C” by the Puppies
“Brand New Girlfriend” by Steve Holy
“I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)” by Bonnie Pointer
“Mr. Loverman” by Shabba Ranks
“I’ve Never Found a Girl” by Eddie Floyd
“Plastic Man” and “Happy People” by the Temptations
“Okay” by Nivea
“Go On” by George Strait
“Back When My Hair Was Short” by Gunhill Road
“Birthday Party” by the Pixies Three
“Livin’ in the Life” by the Isley Brothers
“Kissing You” by Keith Washington
“The End of Our Road” by Marvin Gaye
“Ticks” and “Letter to Me” by Brad Paisley
“Nobody But You Babe” by Clarence Reid
“Like a Sunday in Salem” by Gene Cotton
“I’m Going to Let My Heart Do the Walking” by the Supremes
“Call Me Lightning” by the Who
“Ain’t It True” by Andy Williams
“Lazy Elsie Molly” and “Let’s Do the Freddie” by Chubby Checker
“Second Fiddle” by Kay Starr
“1999” by Prince
“I’ll Try Anything” by Dusty Springfield
“Oh Happy Day” by Glen Campbell
“I’d Love to Change the World” by Ten Years After
“Friends” and “Married Men” by Bette Midler
“Spice of Life” by the Manhattan Transfer
“You Can’t Roller Skate in a Buffalo Herd” by Roger Miller
“Don’t Pity Me” by Dion and the Belmonts
“Ask Me No Questions” by B.B. King
“Can’t Leave ‘Em Alone” by Ciara
“All I Really Want to Do” by the Byrds
“Let It Be Me” by Willie Nelson
“Clones (We’re All)” by Alice Cooper
“The Last Word in Lonesome is Me” by Eddy Arnold
“Two Hearts” by Stephanie Mills and Teddy Pendergrass
“Good Timin” by Beach Boys
“I’m Movin’ On” and “Sticks and Stones” by Ray Charles
“Me (Without You)” by Andy Gibb
“In the Mood” by Ray Stevens
“Angel” by Rod Stewart
“Love Will Find a Way” by Jackie DeShannon
“Spinout” and “Until It’s Time for Me to Go” by Elvis Presley

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Posted in Music
July 2015
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