Yes, Shelfers. It's that time once again when we take out our dart and throw it upon the big circled target that is the media. Did we hit the bullseye? I'm not sure... I don't even really play darts, I just play a dart player on TV. That of course makes me uniquely qualified to present to you today's media roundup. And if you don't mind- today's roundup focuses a little more on the ladies. Do you mind? We don't.
Top Shelf Pick of the Week
All the Roadrunning- Mark Knopfler and Emmylou Harris
Years ago, during the early days of MTV (which I did not get at home, but friends did) they played the Dire Straits song Money For Nothing all the time. It was, back then, a very cool and innovative music video. I got the album, and really enjoyed it. Then, a couple of years later, I went to see The Princess Bride (another Top Shelf Classic). I loved the movie and thought one of its strengths was the music- especially the theme song "Storybook Love." It was a haunting, romantic, and down to earth song that truly evoked not only the romance of the movie, but the spirit and the scenery of the film as well. I rushed out to buy the soundtrack and discovered that the music was created and produced by Mr. Dire Straits himself, Mark Knopfler. Wow. That was unexpected.
Since then, I've been pleasantly surprised to see that the number of "rock and roll" artists who work in film score music has grown. To musicians like Knopfler, Stewart Copeland, and Danny Elfman (who really started out with film scores), the chance to record is more than a rock and roll MTV lifestyle- it is about exploring and expanding their music. Imagine my recent surprise when I discovered that Mark has released an album with fellow artist, Emmylou Harris. Created and recorded over the past six years, this album is a collection of songs that have Mark's signature style but combines easily with Emmylou Harris' melodic bluegrassy, almost Irish-folk singing. You would think that this was an odd pairing- but once you hear some tracks, you'll find yourself just enjoying the music. I've only heard some tracks-(Beyond My Wildest Dreams in particular is really good) but the album has definately moved up on my "must have" list, so I'll be enjoying the whole thing soon. Maybe you will find that this is an album best heard sitting on a porch swing or rocker, while sipping you favorite beverage and watching the sun go down. Lilting, wistful, and unpretentious - All the Roadrunning is worth picking up.
Just need to add to our list the That's Entertainment Box Set from Rhino Records. This 6 CD set explores the music from the MGM musicals from the years 1929 to 1957. If you've ever seen the That's Entertainment films, or if you are a fan of musicals, you need to do yourself a favor and pick up this box set. All the music from the clips are here and the breadth and depth of the MGM library is well represented. Rhino does a great job with remastering and bringing back movie soundtracks (I have the Seven Brides For Seven Brothers Soundtrack among others and the quality is excellent) and the Box sets are no exception. We thought the release date on this was in May- but it actually debuted this week. If you have the previous set produced about 10 years ago- it still might be worth your time as there is the new sixth disc bring the track count to 135, and all of the music has been remastered. As Fred and Cyd sang in Band Wagon, "The stage is a world, the world is a stage of entertainment!"
Ava Gardner, by Lee Server
Ava was a beautiful glamourous movie star who wringed every drop she could out of life. (By the way, John McElwee over at Greenbrier Picture Shows has Norma Shearer part II for this week's Glamour Starter. Hey John- how about a Glamour Starter for the lovely, and fellow North Carolinian, Ava?) Married three times before she was 35 (Sinatra, Artie Shaw, and Mickey Rooney), I think Ava is being introduced to a newer generation of classic film fans through the story of the men in her life, rather than through her films. That is a shame. She wasn't a fantastic actress as much as she was a fantastic beauty, but that doesn't mean she didn't hold her own on the screen. She was vivacious and her work in several films, like Showboat, Mogambo, The Killers, and The Barefoot Contessa was good - especially Contessa. Three of her films were movies based on Hemingway books. I've always wondered what the result would've been had she done more Film Noir. Her last really good film role was in the soon-to-be released on DVD, Night of the Iguana. I think her talent was always taking a backseat to her beauty- much like Marylin. Ava lived hard, and it showed as she got older. Maybe Server, who previous biographic subject was the equally hard living Robert Mitchum, will deliver a biography that is less judgemental of its subject as other previous biographies have been. Otherwise- we still have Ava's own words in her autobiography, Ava: My Story.
A Perfect Union: Dolley Madison and the Creation of the American Nation by Catherine Allgor.
Dolley Madison is a very unique figure in many ways, one of which was her unflappable style of being able to be both diplomat and First Lady all in the same evening. Her charm and skill wasn't lost on those who knew her. Senator Henry Clay, no slouch himself, referred to her as a "master politician." She was by the time of her death in 1849 one the most celebrated first ladies to have hit Washington, DC. Today, it almost seems somewhat trite to look back at her, other than to mention she saved portraits from the White House when the British attacked and burned DC. It may be time for us to reaquaint ourselves with such a wonderful and strong person from a time in our nation's history when we needed such people.
Whiskey Rebellion: George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, and the Frontier Rebels Who Challenged America's Newfound Sovereignty by William Hogeland.
Wow- and you thought the whole tax day thing was rough. Try being a tax collector back in the day before e-file! One of the first national Federal taxes did not sit well with citizens, particularly those accustomed to homebrews. The Whiskey tax elicited a strong response as armed men attack tax collectors and sent them back home empty handed, if they were lucky. Those attacks became more organized and the men grew into a small scale rebellion. The frontier men saw the tax as a threat to their economy, and Washington saw it as a threat to the nation's burgeoning sovereignty. These things were serious, people... it wasn't too far removed from Pre-constitution days when that sovereign paper to alot of people was still paper. The young nation had to exert itself and an army was sent to the frontier. The roots of our national military, tax laws, and even processes of the Federal government all have relevence and roots with this story.
Express Lane Meals: What to Keep on Hand, What to Buy Fresh for the Easiest-Ever 30-Minute Meals by Rachael Ray
Alright, I know what you are thinking- yes, she is very cute, but the lady can cook. Some people love her and some people...don't, but I can't think of ever hearing anyone say they hate her. Not like I've heard people say they hate Martha (you know of whom I speak). Why this cookbook? Well, if you have seen her show, you know Rachael is all about efficiency and time management in the kitchen. Her show is called 30-Minute Meals, after all. This book is aimed at not only giving you easy recipes, but planning and process, but also how to stock your kitchen with essentials that will allow you to only have to buy a couple of items in the 10-item or less lane every so often to make that night's dinner. (Get it- Express Lane Meals? Shelfers are sharp!) Also included is information on what to keep fresh in the fridge, as well as what needs to be in the pantry. Quick dinner doesn't have to mean casserole in a box or soup in a can. It can be good. And Rachael is cute as a button to boot. Did I say that already? Anyway, I like cooking shows and cookbooks that teach and instruct and make you a better cook, instead of a collection of recipes that are too hard, too expensive, and too elaborate to consider trying on your family. When time is of the essence, health and taste doesn't always have to be secondary.
Classic Musicals from the Dream Factory.
It used to be that MGM was the king of the musical. Elaborate sets and costumes, wonderful composers and directors, and of course the top musical stars- its no wonder it was called the dream factory. This five disc set contains the musicals Summer Stock, It's Always Fair Weather, Three Little Words, Til the Clouds Roll By, and Ziegfeld Follies. Ziegfeld Follies is an all-star review of some of the acts and songs that were part of Flo Ziegfeld's legendary Broadway shows. Three Little Words and Til the Clouds Roll By are biopics of some famous composers, Jerome Kern and Bert Kalmar and Harry Ruby. It's Always Fair Weather stars Gene Kelly and the lovely Cyd Charisse and serves as a sequel of sorts to the musical On the Town, which starred Kelly and Frank Sinatra. The three serviceman buddies from that flick have now been discharged from the Navy and gone their separate ways. Cyd Charisse works out a way to reunite them. Summer Stock stars Judy Garland, Gene Kelly and Gloria DeHaven. Kelly is trying to convert Judy Garland's barn into a summer theater (isn't somebody always?). Kelly enlists the aid of Judy's sister, played by DeHaven, who is well aware of the farm's financial difficulties. This musical proved to be Judy's last.
Tonight- NCIS and The Unit packs a wallop. Seems like Abbey is being stalked at the NCIS and it seems as if The Unit will find itself in a POW situation. Check it out.
Tomorrow night is the night for The Amazing Race. The Mighty Phil K. has the teams headed Down Under, which is his neck of the woods. We shall see if B.J. and Tyler can pull back into contention from last weeks non-elemination round setback.
On South Park, Cartman, Stan, Kyle, and Kenny stumble into a cave and are trapped inside. Cartman discovers a treasure and tries to find out a way to get him and the treasure out, without the other guys finding out of course. After last weeks disappointing and sort of dull Towlie episode (the lamest character ever, as described by Cartman) lets hope the guys are back in form.
Shelf Picks on TCM
April 25th: Bell, Book and Candle (1959) Witch Kim Novak enchants James Stewart in this film made shortly after the two did Vertigo.
April 26th: Sullivan's Travels (1941) Veronica Lake and Joel McRae stars in this Preston Sturgess comedy classic. Later check out Myrna Loy and Cary Grant in two films, Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (1948) and The Bachelor And The Bobby-Soxer (1947).
April 27th: Stewart Granger and Deborah Kerr star in two adventure packed films- The Prisoner Of Zenda (1952) and King Solomon's Mines (1950).
April 28th: A valentine to classic film fans in this 1990 film by Giuseppe Tornatore, Cinema Paradiso (1990)
April 29th: Richard Burton stars in the Cold War Spy classic, The Spy Who Came in From the Cold (1965). Later, Marilyn Monroe gets mixed up with modern cowboys Clark Gable and Montgomery Cliff in The Misfits (1961).
April 30th: The king of Radio Comedy, Jack Benny stars alongside the wonderful Carole Lombard in her last film, the classic To Be or Not To Be. Next, be sure to check out this classic film of all screwball comedies, Katherine Hepburn and Cary Grant in Bringing Up Baby (1938).
Well that's all for this week. How about go outside for a change and play some ball with your kid? The movies and other stuff will wait, trust me.
They named a brandy after Napoleon, they made a herring out of Bismarck, and the Fuhrer is going to end up as a piece of cheese!