Friday, June 13, 2014

Weekend Entertainment Recs for Seniors & Others

Film: Sullivan's Travels (1941)
Joel McRae is Hilarious in Preston Sturges's Comedic Gem

For a short blip in time film writer-director Preston Sturges was the king of romantic comedy in Hollywood. This film is one of his finest works. Joel McRae plays the lead as an utterly insufferable film director who is also the king of comedy in Hollywood. However, he is unbelievably pretentious and constantly bewails the fact that no one takes him seriously. He sneers at this own work and wants to instead produce a film of great suffering and dramatic portent. To this end he decides to take to the road where he can embrace the real America and find himself artistically. It is virtually one disaster after another as soon as he sets out on this road trip and utterly hilarious.

This film was a partial inspiration for three Woody Allen films. In "Bullets Over Broadway" the John Cusack playwright could be the twin of Joel McCrae as he constantly bemoans his fate as "an artist". In "Hannah & Her Sisters", Woody Allen is utterly sunk into despondency until he checks into a movie theater and watches the Marx Brothers. Likewise, Joel McCrae is restored from the depths by viewing a cartoon in this film. Finally, Jeff Daniels in "Purple Rose of Cairo" is a dead ringer for Joel McRae as an actor in every respect. They could be clones.

Joel McCrae was a huge comedic talent and is just about totally unknown to today's moviegoing audience. You will not regret rediscovering him in this film.

This film is available on iTunes and Amazon currently. I am a top reviewer at Amazon. You can see my reviews here.

Novel: The Traveler by John Katzenbach
grand classic in serial killer novels

I've read some newer serial killer books but this one is a classic and nothing new has surpassed it. There are two brothers, a psychiatrist and a photographer. It is the photographer who is the serial killer who wanders the world in his stellar career, which also makes it easy for him to murder people. The psychiatrist brother practices on patient's in institutions who are only a step or two removed from his brother. But he doesn't know that. He is proud of his very successful photographer brother. These two will inevitably be brought together but it is a world class ride getting there. When done reading this one, go read his other classic, THE ANALYST.

This novel is available everywhere in all formats. I am a top reviewer at Amazon. You can see my reviews here.

TV: House of Cards, Season Two
You must like very dark work to enjoy this series

I like very dark work and this series is certainly one of those. To some viewers too much darkness can push a show over the edge. I, however, absolutely loved it. Kevin Spacey's Francis Unger is even more rapacious than in season one. He also is on a no holds barred effort to become the next president. Even Claire, his wife, has a few moments of doubt but not Francis. Kevin Spacey also takes this right up to the edge of satire but does not push it over. It is close especially since he has frequent asides to us the audience. Both Spacey and Robin Wright Penn do an outstanding acting job as the ultimate political couple. Both Claire and Francis go the extra mile this season in eliminating anyone standing in their way to the White House. The guy they seek to topple as President is a much better person than either of them but he is terribly weak as a President. I personally am looking forward to season 3.

This is a Netflix original and both seasons are carried there in their entirety. Amazon sells the seasons as DVDS. You really would be best off seeing the series in order. I am a top reviewer at Amazon. You can see my reviews here.

Music: Ella Fitzgerald Sings The Rodgers And Hart Songbook

The Perfect Triangle: Rodgers, Hart & Fitzgerald

Rodgers and Hart, rather than Rodgers and Hammerstein, is for many the better partnership when it came to creating songs. It was the better duo for most jazz musicians to later interpret and for us rag tag listeners it was a pure pleasure from beginning to end.

Richard Rodgers' brother was home on break from Yale when his parents, a Park Ave. surgeon and his society wife told him that he had to find Richard a lyricist when he returned to Yale. He returned to Yale and brought home Lorenz Hart as his future lyricist. Rodgers, who had the personality of a bank president, hated the rakish rogue Hart but had to endure him for his glorious lyrics. To this day any soloist will want to tackle a Rodgers & Hart song to prove his musical mettle.

Add to this mix Ella Fitzgerald. She was already famed for her earlier songbooks but everyone agreed that she outdid herself with this one. If you have never bought her songbooks, this is the one with which to begin your collection. Fitzgerald has a way of floating with her voice over the music and all of her renditions are lovely and perfect. 

Note: This originally came in two volumes in CD. For downloading MP3 purposes instead, those two volumes may have been consolidated into one.

This album is available for immediate download at Amazon and iTunes.  I am a top reviewer at Amazon. You can see my reviews here.

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