Tuesday, June 13, 2006
This is one of those weeks where there are some really cool things coming out, that if you scanned the average sale ad or release list, you'd miss it. At the same time there aren't many "big" releases this week, so your wallet could stand the rest. Especially if you went ahead and picked up the John Wayne John Ford Collection last week. (Psst - hey kids- Father's Day. You remember Father's Day? Hint, hint) So take a breather this week and try something different. Consider this an intermediate roundup! You know, kind of like the last minute gift table or the "Gifts under $20" section where you can pick up something nice and not break the budget. Even the Top Shelf pick, which is a must buy, is not going to dip into your ramen noodle money.
Top Shelf Pick of the week:
This is America, Charlie Brown
This eight-episode miniseries premeired on CBS in 1988. It was the first animated prime time "mini-series" that debuted on television and was also seen later on Saterday morning and more recently on Nick. Episodes covered the voyages of the Puritans to the New World, the writing of the Constitution, the building of the Transcontinental Railroad, the Wright Brothers and several inventors, composers and other American Icons. Now some of you are thinking one of either two things: "Sure, this is watered down history. No minorities, no women- just white mans achievements" or "Gee, Mr. Loophole, how much history can a cartoon teach. I mean, it's just a cartoon." Allow me to start with the last possible contention first: It is just cartoon, much in the way the history textbook that your kid likely doesn't have in school is just a book. What you get out of it and the journeys it leads you on is where the true value is found. No book, just as no other medium of information, is truly the entire collection of information, knowledge, and yes- opinion, that you will ever need. If this cartoon is a launching pad for a lifetime interest in history, then your eight year old needs it yesterday. Trust me, they're not going to get it in school anytime soon. Make sure you ask if they understand and if they have questions so you can discuss it with them. That way, this is more than a cartoon. It was designed as a look at people and events in American History that have been significant or important in some way. And it is presented in a very entertaining and non-pointy head academic way. Schoolhouse Rock got me interested in History as a kid. Very short capsules of information lead me to discover so much more. Often a journey on a very long path begins with a very small gate.
Next, in regards to minorities and women and why this isn't post-modernist social history; well, first of all it isn't revisionism. That's a good start. The fact is, it does talk about Americans, and that includes all minorities and includes women's history. Sufferage, slavery, immigration, jazz, heck even Vietnam are discussed in the course of the series in a matter of fact tone. It isn't overly harsh, but then some difficult topics aren't avoided either. The purpose is in discussing the story of America through Charlie Brown and the gang and the result is a wonderfully scripted and superbly animated series that every family should own. And with music created especially for the series by David Benoit, Dave Brubeck, George Winston, the Winans, Lou Rawls, Ed Bogas, and Wynton Marsalis (and with music by the late Vince Guaraldi of course) how can it go wrong.
Other great picks this week:
Betty Grable Collection
This collection of 4 films features the World War II Pinup girl with the gams, Betty Grable in several pretty decent Fox musicals. The films are also available separately.
My grandfather loves this comedy starring Dom Deluise as an overwieght man trying to overcome his weight problem. Dom finds love, and it is love that begins to really help him, providing him a different form of comfort and security other than food. There are some very funny moments, and while the film will seem a bit dated the sweetness and humor and problems are not.
The Rat Pack Collection
If you don't already own Oceans 11, Robin and the Seven Hoods, or Four for Texas this is a good chance to swoop them up in one buy. Oceans 11 is my favorite of the bunch and I am looking forward to seeing Four for Texas. These aren't Citizen Kane by any stretch of the imagination, but they were never meant to be. They were meant to be fun and entertaining. That suits me to a T.
A Half Century of Hits: Jerry Lee Lewis
Jerry Lee Lewis somehow falls under the shadow of Elvis when it comes to Rock and Roll- as do many other artists. However, that doesn't mean he really deserves to be there. Lewis was a dynamic performer and could really warble out some great hits. This box set collection covers his career through its many phases.
I'll Be Seeing You: A Sentimental Journey: Regina Carter
I have never really heard too much "violin jazz" until I checked out this album. It is a little strange hearing the violin in the forefront of a swing jazz band, but it works. Regina Carter covers some well worn songs from the American Songbook, but her take on some of the standards are fresh and enjoyable. St. Louis Blues and I'll Be Seeing You are particular standouts.
Suitcase: Keb Mo’
Blues are a wonderous thing- and I think that we are truly in a time when the new Blues artists or artist willing to crossover or bring the Blues into their music is hitting another high. Keb Mo' takes traditional Blues for spin and brings in some other Blues styles into Suitcase. An excellent followup to his Grammy winning album Keep it Simple.
Mercernary: Dr. John
Dr. John, to me, is almost impossible to really pigeonhole. He probably likes it that way. You have heard that distinctive voice and that signature piano. He takes jazz, blues, funk, and good old rock and roll, shoves it in the blender and then adds his personal touch. I love the man's music and when you close your eyes, you can almost feel the beatup hardwood floor under your feet and smell the smokey air.
Television: (check local listings for times)
The Shelf Picks for TCM this week-
June 14th: Road to Singapore (1940) Road to Morocco (1942) Back To Bataan (1945)
June 15th: The Belle Of New York (1952) Raging Bull (1980)
June 16th: Mogambo (1953) Boom Town (1940) China Seas (1935)
June 17th: Pillow Talk (1959) The Thin Man (1934) Love Crazy (1941) Double Wedding (1937) I Love You Again (1940) Libeled Lady (1936)
June 18th: Jason And The Argonauts (1963) Abbott And Costello Meet The Invisible Man (1951) Abbott And Costello Meet The Mummy (1955)
June 19th: Marlene Dietrich: Her Own Song (2000) Clara Bow: Discovering the "It" Girl (1999)
June 20th: Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) The Big Sleep (1946) Casablanca (1942)
Well, that's all for this week Shelfers. And as always, your comments are welcome. By the way... Happy Flag Day. Don't forget to Pause for the Pledge!
I wouldn't give you two cents for all your fancy rules if, behind them, they didn't have a little bit of plain, ordinary, everyday kindness and a little looking out for the other fella, too.