For this week’s Watercooler Musical Interlude, I’m drawing from a movie and musician that are more closely associated than any other combination I can think of: Harold and Maude. Stevens wrote Don’t Be Shy (above) and If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out especially for the film, but Hal Ashby also used I Wish I Wish, Miles From Nowhere, Tea for the Tillerman, Where Do the Children Play?, and Trouble. Listening to any one of these instantly recalls the movie for me which was a favorite in high school and remains one I like to revisit regularly.

That’s all from my end this holiday weekend. Now it’s your turn. If you’ve seen anything worth talking about since last time, lay it on me.

17 Responses to “Harold and Maude and Cat and Hal and The Watercooler”

  1. A wonderful black comedy and anything that the great Ruth Gordon graced was worth the price of admission alone.

    Finally caught Moneyball. I really enjoyed it and was impressed by the understated performances of Pitt and Hill. I thought it achieved a nice balance between being a quietly affecting character study and a more traditional sports movie. The game remains unfair with small market teams unable to consistently compete with big ones but the film to my mind never sought to suggest otherwise. It never told the full or completely accurate story of the As success that season but it captured enough of its spirit to have one rooting for the film’s under-dogs (Front Office and team). As a SF Giants fan, that’s saying something.

  2. Got to see Bernie on Sunday, and I enjoyed it quite a bit. It runs a tad long in spots, but that’s really my only criticism. Black is great, the direction is smart, and I laughed many times.

    Also took the wife to see MIB3 today in 3D. Enjoyed Brolin and Michael Stuhlbarg. Heck I even sort of enjoyed Will Smith, but the time travel story was sort of weak and the jokes were not that strong. It felt like a final chapter and I hope it is.

    In addition to MIB3, I saw the trailers for Spider-man Redux, Gatsby, and Prometheus in 3D. Safe to say that I will be sticking to 2D for future releases. The 3D added nothing to any of these films and at times the motion jutter was so bad I couldn’t make out the action clearly. It’s possible the theater I saw this in was partially to blame, but I’ve had good experiences therein the past. I think Real 3D just plain sucks.

    I was particularly disappointed by Gatsby’s trailer. It didn’t display anything in 3D that made me think Luhrman’s use of the technology was integral to his storytelling. It’s not fair to judge the entire film based on one trailer, but throw me a bone here. If I going to suffer all the drawbacks of 3D, I want to know it’s worth it.

  3. Yes the Cat is unforgettable in this context and I too am a fan of his music and of this quirky and eccentric comedy classic (HAROLD AND MAUDE) Good show!

    I’d also like to add a link here to everybody’s friend Chuck Bowen’s extraordinary (and well deserved) review in SLANT and high praise for Andrey Zvyagintsev’s ELENA, which is included below among my viewings for the past week.

    Lucille and I were quiet for much of the week, until the four-day weekend when we saw three films in theatres and a high-profile Harold Pinter stage play at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Broadway Bob attended the play and one of the three film screenings. By way of sheer quality, this was the strongest week of 2012, with a masterpiece, a near-masterpiece, a film pushing that level, and a memorable night at the theatre.

    We watched and experienced:

    Harold Pinter’s maddeningly ambiguous and enigmatic THE CARETAKER is actually unforgettable for those very qualities, much as Samuel Beckett’s WAITING FOR GODOT is for the same reasons. Jonathan Pryce plays Davies, a homeless transient who is invited to live in a rather dilapidated London boardinghouse by Aston (Alan Cox). The action is exclusively staged in a cluttered room that is also visited by Aston’s threatening bother Mick (Alex Hassell). Davies is a contradiction of bravado and and subservience, and seemingly knows the lower level he occupies on the class divide. By degrees he becomes demanding and finally tyrannical after he is offered the position of caretaker. Davies is weak, yet predatory, seemingly a pathological liar and suffering from delusions of grandeur. The exceptional Pryce captures the nuances in this role compellingly, even if at times his Welch accent is difficult to negotiate. A highlight is Ashton’s arresting monologue of his past experiences with electro-shock therapy, used to treat hallucinations. The play is really Ashton’s tragedy, and the most intricate drama involves his plight. Cox is passable, but hardly compelling, and effective enough to convince the audience he was ever a different person. The stage design, while traditional is eye-catching and balanced. The many questions the play leaves you with (i.e. Why does Ashton invite such an unsavory old bum into the house? What is the dual purpose of Ashton trying to befriend and frighten the old bum? Who is the real owner of the house, Ashton or Mick? The answers are given or hinted at by Pinter himself in i9nterviews, but it’s clear enough the brothers wanted a father figure to both take care of an reject. But hovering over this play is the ‘Theatre of the Absurd’ championed by Beckett and Ionesco, and embraced in fair degree by Pinter. But the characters, interactions, and humor in THE CARETAKER prove searing and unforgettable, and despite some diction clarity issues because of accents and staccato delivery in parts, this production was well-staged and resonant, and a triumph of sorts for Christopher Morahan. (**** 1/2)

    The three movies:

    Elena **** 1/2 (Sunday afternoon) Film Forum

    Oslo, August 31st ***** (Sunday afternoon) IFC Film Center

    Moonrise Kingdom **** 1/2 (Saturday evening) Union Square Cinemas

    Danish-Norwegian director Joaquim Trier, whose first film REPRISE deservedly won awards and accolades has gone even further with OSLO, AUGUST 31ST, which is the third film in 2012 I have gone the distance with rating-wise. This is the wrenching personal journey of an intelligent and cynical young man who is out of a rehab to reassess his perceptions of whether life is worth living. It’s a lyrical jorney and an introspective one, complete with the director’s affections for Oslo, and with a singular voice and vision, negotiated by a searching camera and the astonishing performance by Anders Danielsen Lie, who also anchored Trier’s earlier film.

    Another director who is fondly remembered for an earlier film (in this case THE RETURN in 2004) Russian Andrey Zvyagintsev is back with a Putin era Russian New Wave fatalistic thriller, ELENA, that displays the worst side of human nature in survival mode, while examining the laws of Russian inheritance, and a society with a disturbing dearth of morality. Zvyagintsev does’nt conform to the ‘what goes around comes around’ formula, instead implying the new world order is one that takes no prisoners. In the name of blood relation, there can be no limits. This is a wholly riveting drama, beautifully framed in widescreen and acted by the impressive cast.

    Wes Anderson may well have made his finest film yet in a career (for me) that has been as uneven as some of his individual films. But in this story of captivating settings, titled MOONRISE KINGDOM, and an irresistible coming-of-age romance, the director is able to poke fun at institutions and family rigidity by applying his illustrative stylistic bravado and clever humorous set pieces and quirky sensibilities to the fleeting nature of this engaging time period and delightful cast of characters. Anderson is truly in his element here, and his use of the great English classical opera composer Benjamin Britten is sublime and funny.

  4. Sartre, as you know I could never quite make that leap to root for the A’s, easily my least favorite team in all of baseball. That’s not to say the film wasn’t enjoyable and well done, with especially strong performances from Pitt and Hill who had surprisingly good chemistry together.

    As a piece of entertaining fiction, I thought it was very good and maybe that should be enough.

    I still think they tried to make losers look like winners to make the film more appealing to a mass audience, but I’m probably just being a dick about that.

    Joel, glad you liked Bernie. It’s a curious little number that I really liked too. I liked how it was filmed like a documentary… almost a mockumentary, but based on a real life event… and how ultimately it was as much about the townspeople and their surprising responses to Bernie as it was about Bernie himself.

    Do I have to see the other MiBs to fully appreciate #3 or is it just like porn where I can jump in any time? (that was kind of a joke).

    Also, color me very skeptical about Gatsby. It’s pretty much exactly what I’d expect a Luhrmann Gatsby to be and it turns out I don’t really want that.

    Sam, I’m delighted you responded to MOONRISE KINGDOM even if at this point I don’t rank it among my favorite Anderson films. I have a sneaking suspicion that this one may grow on me with repeat viewings.

    Oslo was somewhat on my radar since it’s debut at Cannes in 2011, but your enthusiasm seals the deal. I should’ve gone this weekend, but didn’t.

    Chuck’s review and your take on Elena also ensures I’ll be keeping an eye out for it to hit LA. For some reason I think it’s playing the LA Film Festival, but I’m not sure about that.

  5. “I still think they tried to make losers look like winners to make the film more appealing to a mass audience, but I’m probably just being a dick about that.”

    Haha. All I can say is that the team and FO seemed like genuine winners to me. Not only was the team built with a meager budget but it’s composition and the philosophy behind it was ridiculed. After a very ordinary start the team turned it around and achieved a feat that excited the fans and briefly the wider game. I don’t see losers in there simply because they didn’t go on to win the championship.

    The film never pretended that innovation was enough to win it all. In fact, the tension between the success achieved on the field and the failure to win the championship was very much at the heart of a film that argued for the value of recognizing and celebrating ones success (in this case against what was ultimately insurmountable odds) rather than framing oneself as a failure for not being the very best. I thought it provided a nice critique of the irrationality and joylessness of perfectionism.

  6. I might feel a little different about it if the city of Oakland even supported their team, but they rarely have and it’s hard to blame them with their greedy tight-assed owners. I have a hard time getting behind any franchise for whom fielding a team of losers is a business model.

    You can make a movie that spreads frosting on a cat turd with platitudes about winning isn’t everything, but I’m not eating it.

  7. A team of losers? They made the playoffs, won a record number of consecutive games, and had as many wins that season as the uber-wealthy Yankees. If they’re losers what does that make the Mariners? :-)

  8. The Mariners are total (lovable) losers, but no one is making Brad Pitt movies out of them.

  9. The Mariners have the all-time best single season record of any team in baseball history. They also failed to go to the Big Game that year, so in reality, no one cares about 116 wins other than Mariners fans and trivia junkies.

    In the end, the only thing that is really relevant to history is which team won the Series. Best-of stats really only register in historical memory for individual achievements.

  10. I suspect that few people outside of fans of teams involved in recent championship finals and trivia junkies care that much about who won them.

    I’m a SF Giants fan. Who won recent and more distant championships holds no interest for me at all if my team wasn’t involved. All that matters to me is that the Giants play well and make it to the playoffs, if they have a decent run of consecutive wins on the way I get very excited. Those thrills and the others generated during the regular season aren’t erased or made meaningless simply because the team doesn’t go on to win the championship.

  11. See, if I didn’t hate the A’s so much as a basic baseball fan, I might be able to get over my ambivalence for Monkeyballs and be able to appreciate it for the solid entertainment it is.

    Alas, it’ snot going to happen.

  12. I’m not trying to convince you Craig. I know it’s not going to happen. Just offering an alternative take. We can happily agree to disagree. Besides, the Giants won their third in a row and I’m feeling good.

  13. My point sartre is that is true for you as a fan of the Giants, but non-Giants fans don’t pay any attention to your team in any historical sense other than when they’ve won the series. They might say “The Giants have always had a great team” or “I can’t believe the Giants won in XX year because they’ve fielded blah blah pitching” or whatever, but basically the champions each year is the litmus test for most people.

  14. Just know that 74% of my hard-assedness is meant in humor because I realize I don’t really have the critical ground to stand on.

  15. @Joel, true dat. All I’m saying is that I experienced a vicarious thrill and a genuine sense of the As achieving something notable even though that team never went on to win the championship.

  16. Sucker! (kidding. Well 74 percent kidding :)

  17. Haha. They played me like a fiddle.

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