Hosing Down

Telly Pathetic

“I want my yoga pants to smell like I sweat money,” the babe on my television’s screen confessed, and against every decent fiber of will I may have possessed at that moment, I was bitch-slapped into submission by a rush of shock and lust.

This was the latest pinnacle conquered in the ongoing evolution of the Television Commercial and I was grateful to have witnessed it. Someone had come up with a new way to sell laundry detergent: address the glands, baby, and watch your sales explode. That is, if your target audience can remember more than that babe and her desire… the name of your product, for example. I certainly can’t, but I’m unable to stop wanting to personally verify if the girl succeeds in getting what she wants. And I sure as heck want to write a song with her quote as the title. It’s timeless, ambitious, and provocative — like so much else on TV these days, if you live in an alternate universe.

Elsewhere, there is a fast and furious trailer for the new movie Furious 7. In it, there’s a short clip of another babe asking, “Should I call the cavalry?” Then some fast blasting, then a medium shot of a mean looking, ‘roid-raging badass who, while unleashing loud salvos of machine gun fire, sums up the intelligence level of the filmmakers by proclaiming, “I am the calvary!”(sic) The fact that this mistake not only made it into the film itself but passed further scrutiny for its television advertisement makes one want to thank the morons behind it for their inadvertent Christian reference during the Easter season. Still, I must protest: I know of Calvary, and that movie tough guy with the big gun ain’t no Calvary. I mean, get a friggin’ dictionary, dudes!

Or at least watch King of Kings, which pops up a lot on TCM and TBS this time of year. Even better, watch the DVD or (better still) the incredible Blu-ray. Composer Miklos Rozsa’s main musical theme for this film, recorded and published in 1961, is to my mind one of singular, unsurpassed beauty and sensitivity. As we started saying and then endlessly repeating as teenagers, “It’s in the chord changes, man!” The chord changes here are near-proof of the existence of Heaven. And as for the movie itself (which I adore), it contains one of the most stunning unsung mistakes in the history of cinema. The length and style of Harry Guardino’s hair and beard (he portrays Barabbas) changes completely within seconds from when he starts to exit his prison to when he appears on the street, a free man. True, the souvenir book for the film includes a shot of Jesus (Jeffrey Hunter) wearing tennis shoes while carrying the cross, but at least that didn’t make it onto the screen! (I pointed this last one out to the film’s screenwriter Phillip Yordan back in the mid-seventies and he cracked up, having somehow never noticed it previously). TCM’s Robert Osborne used to introduce King of Kings with words lifted without attribution from a great book by my friend and former next-door-neighbor Gary Smith, and that is why Mr. Osborne most likely will be going to Hell someday. Overall, King of Kings is one of maybe two or three movies — aw, heck, two or three subjects — that I find extremely difficult to stop expounding upon once I’ve started, as anyone who really knows me will attest to. So, dear reader, you are about to witness, with the conclusion of this very paragraph, an example of my remarkable strength of will.

Elsewhere on the tube recently were a couple of musical performances that I found noteworthy for disturbing reasons.

Lady Gaga received a lot of great press for her medley of songs from The Sound of Music during the Academy Awards. Before I toss my wrench into the works, let me emphasize that I believe Dame Gaga to be a remarkably talented singer, a fine if somewhat derivative composer, an amusing fashionista, a stylish vomiteuse, and a superb actress. The problem I had with her Sound of Music performance was that it wasn’t a Lady Gaga performance at all; it was from the first note to the last a carefully studied imitation of Julie Andrews. Every phrase, breath, modulation of volume, and employment of vibrato was taken entirely from Ms. Andrews’ hard-won excellence. The audience was entirely clueless. This kind of work is the stuff of Las Vegas and cabarets and karaoke and should never be perceived as an artist’s own interpretation, but rather as an artist’s facility with mimicry. As our culture continues its death-plunge, the inability of the masses to recognize the correct appellation of a spade is revealed with ever-increasing frequency.

The second — and far more troubling, in some ways — musical miscue recently presented on the tube is one that nearly causes me physical pain to bring up and put in print. It was during the Grammys telecast and began immediately after some member of the cast of The Walking Dead (in full zombie make-up, which was very weird) introduced a live (note the irony) performance by Sir Paul McCartney. People say oh wow, man, he just did a private concert the night before, so he can be forgiven for being a bit rusty, can’t he? And I say I’ll forgive Paul McCartney any of his very rare missteps — but the fact that he chose to perform “Maybe I’m Amazed” out of all the fabulous choices among his genius offspring frankly makes me worried that things might not be all smiley and thumbs-up in that aging brain of his. “Maybe I’m Amazed” is one of Paul’s highest-registered songs and wasn’t a cakewalk for him to properly pull off 40 years ago. Here, at the Grammys the song became The Unbeatable Foe and delivered to Sir a TKO. The fact that he seemed unaware what a bad choice that particular song truly was is troubling and the memory of him struggling with it is a nightmare. I do fervently hope that he’s okay. One wonders if he’d be able to find a way to get back home if he were dropped somewhere a few blocks away in his own neighborhood. Once there was a way…

NEWSFLASH! Please pardon this intrusion, but my lovely publisher has just informed me that at the Grammys, Paul McCartney was introduced not by some television actor but by Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones. She insists that I note that correction so that’s what I’m doing, but I don’t really believe it for a second.