Pop Culture Affidavit Episode 53: The Softacular

Episode 53 Website CoverRemember all of the awesome music we used to jam to growing up in the ’80s and ’90s?  Remember all of the important bands that you heard just as they came out and before they became huge?  Well, in this episode I’m going to take you on a nostalgic musical journey that has absolutely NONE OF THAT!  No, it’s time for an honest look at our formative years with 16 memorable soft rock and pop hits from the 1970s and 1980s, the same hits I was forced to endure while sitting the back of my parents’ car on the way to my grandparents’ house.  So buckle up … it’s time for The Softacular.

Here’s the direct link to the episode.

Here’s a link to the Pop Culture Affidavit iTunes feed.

Here is the Two True Freaks Pop Culture Affidavit webpage.

And for your viewing pleasure, here are the videos I could find to accompany everything used in the episode.  I made every effort to find either an official music video or a live performance from the time when the song was popular (after the cut) …

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In Country: Marvel Comics’ “The ‘Nam” — Episode 52

IC 52 Website CoverWe are back to our usual business this time around and back to Vietnam with a little detour into the Korean War along the way as Martini and Daniels find a soldier’s diary and we see his life in the army as told over the course of nearly 20 years. It’s The ‘Nam #45, “Looking Out for Number One” by Doug Murray, Wayne Vansant and Tony DeZuniga.

As always, in addition to the summary and review of the issue I’ll be taking a look at the historical context, letters and ads. Plus, I have a special announcement concerning the show’s format as well as listener feedback!

You can download the episode via iTunes or listen directly at the Two True Freaks website

Two True Freaks Presents: In Country iTunes feed

In Country Episode 52 direct link

The Blonde Leading the Blonde

There is a scene toward the end of Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion where Toby (Camryn Manheim) tells Heather (Janeane Garofalo) that Heather’s constantly telling her to “fuck off” throughout high school really hurt her feelings.  Heather, who at that point had come to the realization that Romy and Michele–whom she claims made her life hell in high school–went through hell because of the actions of the “A Crowd,” realizes that she made Toby’s life hell and says, “Tremendous!”  While Garofalo plays Heather as the bitter and cynical one at the reunion, it’s a scene that is a lot more funny and perfect than the way I just described it.  She’s just realized the truth about how bullying works within the high school social hierarchy:  the kids on top picked on someone below them and that person found someone below them to torture and that person found someone below them, and so on.

It’s one of a few darker points made throughout a movie that is best known for its two ditzy main characters.  Romy (Mira Sorvino) and Michele (Lisa Kudrow) are living in Los Angeles ten years after graduating from high school and leaving behind their lives in Tucson.  While they clearly have fun, neither is particularly successful–Michelle is unemployed and Romy works the counter at a Jaguar dealership (where she is constantly hit on by Ramon in the service department)–and after Romy runs into Heather at the dealership (Heather got rich after inventing a quick burning paper that eventually was used in a special kind of cigarette), the two prepare for their high school reunion by flipping through their yearbook and it goes from happy and funny to a realization that they spent the better part of four years getting shit on by the “A Crowd,” which was led by Christy Masters (Jessica Campbell).  Seeing that they’ve basically amounted to nothing and that they have to show up Christy and the A Crowd, they borrow a Jaguar from Ramon at the dealership, buy sophisticated-looking business suits and flip phones, and come up with a backstory about their having invented Post-Its.

This obviously falls apart, mostly due to Heather, who is unaware of the cover story and blows it right in front of Christy, who then take the opportunity to ridicule Romy and Michele for their lie in front of the entire class.  It leads to Romy and Michele going back to their car, putting on custom-made dresses, and then marching back into the reunion where Romy walks right up to Christie and says:

What the hell is your problem, Christie? Why the hell are you always such a nasty bitch? I mean, okay, so Michele and I did make up some stupid lie! We only did it because we wanted you to treat us like human beings. But you know what I realized? I don’t care if you like us, ’cause we don’t like you. You’re a bad person with an ugly heart, and we don’t give a flying fuck what you think!

Christie and her minions laugh it off, making fun of their outfits, but Lisa Luder (Elaine Hendrix), who was once one of the A Group but lost touch with them over the years as she worked her way up the ladder at Vogue, compliments the outfits, to which Christie replies, “You’re just jealous. Because unlike a certain ball-busting dried up career woman, I might mention, we’re all HAPPILY MARRIED!”

“That’s right, Christie,” Lisa says “Keep telling yourself that.”

It’s one of my favorite exchanges throughout the entire movie because in a way it fulfills a fantasy that I’m sure quite a number of people who weren’t on top of the pecking order have had at least once.  In fact, what writer Robin Schiff (who also wrote the play the film is based on, Ladies Room) and director David Mirkin (who was a longtime Simpsons writer and had worked on, among other series, the Chris Elliott show Get a Life) do is explore several scenarios that you’d expect from a movie that’s about a high school reunion:

  • The popular crowd still wants to act as if it’s on top
  • You want to see if your high school crush is still like you remember
  • There’s one-upsmanship to see who’s the most successful
  • You feel secure or insecure as to how his or her life has turned out
  • You come to realization that high school is not as important to your overall life as it seemed when you were there

There are all elements that could be taken seriously and even used for a drama, but Schiff and Mirkin turn what could be a middle-of-the-road movie into a weird, even crazy at times farce that is more of a “best friends” movie (I hesitate to use the word “chick flick”), and that’s what puts it above any run-of-the mill comedy of the time.  It also capitalizes on what was then a growing nostalgia for the Eighties (The Wedding Singer would be released about 10 months later) with flashbacks to 1987 and a soundtrack that included Wang Chung, The Go-Go’s, Kenny Loggins, Belinda Carlisle, and Cyndi Lauper–in fact, what’s probably the most famous scene in the movie is a choreographed dance the ladies have with Alan Cumming to “Time After Time”:

Funny enough, nearly twenty years after Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion came out, it’s now a great movie to watch for Nineties nostalgia.  The entire look of the movie just screams Nineties and I have to wonder if it was one of the things that the producers of Hindsight watched when they were planning their Nineties flashback series.  And while I’ve skipped over quite a bit of the movie in favor of a couple of the themes it explores, it’s easily one of the best films about a high school reunion ever made.

Since You’ve Been Gone

Back when there were video stores, there were always moves that you rented because nothing else looked good.  When I was in junior high, these were often produced by a studio like Cannon, but as I got older, and my film taste diversified from random ass, often crappy action movies to random-asse crappy comedies (I never said my taste improved as I got older).  One of those movies was Since You’ve Been Gone.  This one sat on a shelf at the Blockbuster in Bayport for what seemed like eons in 1999, staring at me, begging me to rent it, only to be disappointed when I decided that watching Jawbreaker was a better idea.

But one day, when I happened upon the film again, I picked up the box and read what seemed to be a good equation for the type of movie I could spend some time with on a Saturday night:  Lara Flynn Boyle + David Schwimmer + Teri Hatcher + High School Reunion = Decent Time.  Hey, picking up a video on an off chance worked for Clerks, so why not go for this?

Believe it or not, while Since You’ve Been Gone is not Clerks, it’s still an entertaining little flick that is worth it when you are scrolling through Netflix looking for something to watch.  The most interesting piece of trivia about it is that it was directed by David Schwimmer, who at the time was at the high point of his Friends fame and it also has a fairly decent number of walk-ons and cameos by famous actors (or at least people that I can spot).  While  it is an ensemble, it basically follows three sets of friends through their high school reunion at a hotel in downtown Chicago (and props to the film’s writers for not setting the reunion at the actual high school).

Our first group is made up of Kevin (Philip Rayburn Smith), Molly (Joy Gregory), and Zane (Joey Slotnick), who are basically, I would say, the most ordinary of the entire cast.  Kevin, a pediatrician, is the snarky cynic; Molly, his wife, is the outsider (she didn’t go to high school with Kevin); and Zane is their friend who achieved some marginal fame as a musician (although his most famous song is one that another artist sings).  Kevin’s time at the reunion is an exploration of that cynicism–confronting an old rival, seeing an old flame, and receiving bad new from work make him increasingly bitter.

The second group is that of Holly (Heidi Stillman), Electra (Laura Eason), and Maria (Teri Hatcher).  Holly survived a plane crash and is now a motivational speaker, while Electra is a walking calamity.  Maria–whom they haven’t seen in years–is living in Europe and has become a “worldly” type, peppering her speech with snooty-sounding European phrases.  So their plot is about the bullshit they create for themselves, although Electra’s is one of having more and more terrible things happening to her over the course of the night, including chipping her tooth on a nail that someone put in her slad and having her ass glued to a toilet seat.

David Schwimmer, who directed the film, as Rob, the douchebag class president.

Finally, there’s Duncan and Clay.  Clay (Thom Cox) is and has been “crazy” and self-destructive and Duncan (David Catlin) is his best friend and de facto caretaker.  Duncan is also the guy who is constantly shit upon by class president Rob, who is played by David Schwimmer in the douchiest way possible.  Duncan, it’s discovered by the end of the film, is great at networking with people and Clay winds up hooking up with Grace (Lara Flynn Boyle), who is just as destructive as he is and spends the entire night playing brutal practical jokes on her former classmates.

Honestly, while the plots of the film are solid enough to carry the whole movie, the most memorable stuff is found int he various one-off jokes and random cameos (Jon Stewart, Jennifer Grey, and Molly Ringwald as “Claire,” to name a few).  Years ago, I reviewed Since You’ve Been Gone for Bad Movie Night and noted that the film feels like it is the reunion of the graduating class that we see in Can’t Hardly Wait (which Since You’ve Been Gone actually predates by two months) and even though that review is more than a decade old, I still think that makes sense.  Can’t Hardly Wait is very much like this–random characters with separate storylines that all exist within the same setting (Can’t Hardly Wait takes place at a massive graduation party).  And while there are certainly better high school reunion movies than this one (Grosse Pointe Blank comes to mind), Since You’ve Been Gone is quite possibly one of the most realistic in its premise.  After all, an event like a high school reunion doesn’t have a through storyline, and everyone brings their own lives–and often their own baggage–with them.

Schwimmer and writer Jeff Steinberg play that for laughs and serious where it needs to be but with the exception of Zane singing his song at the reunion (after Grace has destroyed all of the band’s instruments through a massive feedback), which provides background for a montage, they do a competent job of not laying any emotion on too thickly. Like I did a number of years ago, you’d probably only ever watch this if you happened to be browsing through Netflix and it caught your eye (it’s been available for streaming for years and I don’t think it’ll be gone anytime soon).  But at least, I suspect, you’ll find it’s worth it.

In Country: Marvel Comics’ “The ‘Nam” — Episode 51

IC 51 Website CoverJust after my extra-sized episode 50 comes another special episode. This time, I am talking about The ‘Nam but instead of covering a specific issue, I have a special guest, ‘Nam creator and writer Doug Murray! He and I sat down to talk about his experience in the war, his comics career, his time on the book, and the work he is currently doing as a novelist.

You can download the episode via iTunes or listen directly at the Two True Freaks website

Two True Freaks Presents: In Country iTunes feed

In Country Episode 51 direct link

If you’re interested in reading more of what Doug Murray writes, here is a link to his Amazon.com page:

Doug Murray at Amazon

Pop Culture Affidavit Episode 51: Good Times Never Seemed So Good

Episode 51 Website CoverWith this episode of the podcast, I’m kicking off “High School Reunion Month.”  No, I won’t be attending my high school reunion (there are scheduling conflicts) but I am going to be doing two podcast episodes and two blog posts about high school reunion movies from the Nineties.  First up?  Beautiful Girls, a 1996 ensemble comedy directed by the late Ted Demme and starring Matt Dillon,Timothy Hutton, Rosie O’Donnell, Martha Plimpton, Natalie Portman, Michael Rappaport, Mira Sorvino, and Uma Thurman.  I take a look at the movie and offer up my favorite moments as well as tackle some long-awaited listener feedback.

You can download the show via iTunes or listen/download directly via the Two True Freaks Website.  Here are the links:

Two True Freaks Presents: Pop Culture Affidavit iTunes link

Pop Culture Affidavit Episode 51.mp3

And for the blog, here’s some bonus material!

The song “Beautiful Girl” by Pete Droge, which plays over the opening credits (and provides the opening music to the show):

Gina (Rosie O’Donnell)’s epic rant about men and the female form:

The movie’s trailer:

Beautiful Girls

Skipping the Reunion: A Playlist

So a couple of weeks ago, I wrote about a mix that I made for when the 15th anniversary of my high school graduation happened.  I contemplated putting a mix together for 20 years and after some back and forth with my always awesome friend Laura, decided to put it together.  Some of the songs on that playlist made it into episode 50 of the show, and for your listening/viewing pleasure here is the playlist in its entirety, Skipping The Reunion.

Social Distortion, “Story of My Life”

The Ataris, “So Long, Astoria”

Green Day, “One of My Lies”

Barenaked Ladies, “Shoe Box”

Brett Dennen, “When We Were Young”

Gin Blossoms, “Follow You Down”

The Replacements, “Color Me Impressed”

The Connells, “Stone Cold Yesterday”

Hootie and the Blowfish, “Time”

Bastille, “Flaws”

Better Than Ezra, “A Lifetime”

Indigo Girls, “Ghost”

R.E.M., “Half a World Away”

Fortunate Ones, “Wherever You Go”

Pet Shop Boys, “Suburbia”

The Cure, “In Between Days”

Andrew W.K., “Got to Do It”

Captain Tractor, “Icarus Wings”

[Unfortunately, there was no YouTube video available for this]

Frank Turner, “The Way I Tend To Be”

The Gaslight Anthem, “1,000 Years”