Monday, May 27, 2013

Weiner: Missing Classic Ad Doubleness & the power of "Retsyn"

The Mad Men recap factory is enjoying the doubleness Weiner wrote into the Mad Men episode "The Better Half."  But for a guy whose show is about advertising, he missed the chance to evoke his themes using the products and classic ads he grew up with, and that his characters would know very well.

Certs: Two, Two, Two Mints in One
Certs is the product embodiment of this episode's theme, as summed up by Alan Sepinwall: "The Better Half" was an episode about the two sides of ourselves — the person we think we are versus the person others see, or the person we are at work versus at home — and yet another sixth season episode loaded with doppelgangers and time-displaced versions of the same characters." 

The twin blondes in the 50s polka dots dresses is one of the early Certs commercials. The classic line remembered is

"Two [click] Two [click] two mints in one"

which was used for the campaign for years.  I never really knew what that meant, what are the 2 things? Here is the answer:

Twin #1: "Certs is a candy mint"
Twin #3: "Certs is a breath mint"

Voiceover: "Stop. You're both right. New Certs is two mints in one. Stops bad breath in seconds, the tastiest mint of all"

This of course lead to one of SNL's golden-age sketches:
"It's a floor wax"
"No, it's a dessert topping"

"Calm down you two. New Shimmer is a floor wax AND a dessert topping"

The specifics of the two sides of Certs were dropped in the 1970s versions, except for the all-important Retsyn, which is one of those ridiculous things that has stayed in my head.

Certs has a "golden drop of retsyn, the miracle breath purifier that makes your breath clean and fresh"

Certs: The Date
I have no memory of this side of the Certs campaign:

If he kissed you once, will he kiss you again? Be certain with certs. The delicious tasting candy mint that makes your breath as sweet as your smile

With Certs, if you kissed you once, he'll do it again. Make certain with Certs.

Doublemint Gum
The glory days of the Doublemint Twins started in the 70s, but the idea and an early version of the jingle were around in the 60s:

Double your pleasure, double your fun
With doublemint, Doublemint, Doublemint gum

I Can't Believe It's Not Butter
The episode opens with Don & Ted are in a creative thrown down on how to approach the new account, for Fleischmann's margarine. Weiner has consistently withheld the creative successes of the era from Don: no American Airlines; getting Chevy, but for the Vega; and now Fleischmann's, when history dubbed that these ads would be remembered.

Imperial Margarine
"It's flavor fit for a king"

Chiffon Margarine
"This can't be margarine. It's too sweet, too creamy" 
"Oh, It's not nice to fool Mother Nature"

And, for the record, the pich for both is solidly built on taste, not cost. Point to Don.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Jay Gatsby & James Tiberius Kirk: Together Again

The kick-off to summer brings us face to face with two of the last century's big mythologies.

"Gatsby, Gatsby, Gatsby"

Al Pacino's distinctive 1990 comic book Al Caprice voice popped into my head from the moment I saw the trailers.  Perhaps not the association Baz Luhrman was going for, but the stagey, frenetic pace of the "Roaring 20s" party scenes was so cartoonish that it harkened back. And this was ages before I read Matt Zoller Seitz' review which noted the association from the visual side: "CGI cityscapes that visualize 1920s New York by way of Warren Beatty's candy-colored Dick Tracy."

The trailer/commercial cut was either a great strategy or dumb luck: the film has a more human scale than that sales tool hinted at, which is why the most common comment from all level of reviewer is: "not a disaster"  . . . ."

With Gatsby you bring your relationship with the novel as well as earlier versions, the Redford/Farrow being the most well known.

I'm not a big fan of the novel. I'm a Hemingway girl. It's not that you can't like both, but I see it in the Coke/Pepsi; Astaire/Kelly; Beatles/Stones binary world. So I approached the movie with no canon prejudices or particular loves.

Peel Away Stray Observations

•The Cult of the Blowing White Sheer Curtains.

At the Buchanan manse, we first meet Daisy amid a swirl of white sheer curtains, billowing because the tall doors to the patio have blow open.

It's a great image. idealized, pure, angelic, ethereal, highly romantic: bliss. All the things Lieutenant Gatz projected onto the teenage Daisy when he fell in love with her.

It's a motif I noticed in Jane Campion's film about Keats, Bright Star:

"What struck me is the shot of Fanny in her white room with the white muslin curtains softly blowing. It’s a visualization of the “bliss” that overfills Fanny after her first walk out with Keats. It also captures the soft, light feeling that reading Keats’s poetry can create."

•Joel Edgerton is all wrong as Tom Buchanan. A commenter on Vulture said it best: "Joel Edgerton’s Tom Buchanan: wrong wrong wrong. He looks like a LES thug, not a patrician, and plays it as such. Dern at least actually came from a similar background and knew the kind of bastard he was playing."

Am I wrong, or does Tom come in from playing polo, meets Nick, has drinks, AND DOES NOT SHOWER. It then is dark, so time has past, they are sitting down to dinner, and he's wearing the SAME CLOTHES HE PLAYED POLO IN. How does he not shower?  How does he not "dress for dinner?" I understand he's supposed to be a sort of brute, but Baz,  he's not Stanley Kowalski.

•Vulture's Kyle Buchanan polled: Did You Snicker or Applaud at Leonardo DiCaprio’s Introduction in The Great Gatsby? 

Most people liked the over-the-top entrance, because it was by someone who is a MOVIE STAR. I liked it best for the terrific use of Gershwin's glorious Rhapsody in Blue. And it reminded me a little of Jean Dujardin's George Valentin, the other self-consciously movie star, movie star.

•I thought the best thing about the movie is that it expresses more emotion between the lovers than I ever experienced in the book. And most of that is Leo.

Star Trek: The Timelines & Demanding Respect for the Chair

A.O. Scott makes this comment toward the top of his review: "You get a bit of that in the beginning of the new movie, the second in the rebooted franchise directed by J. J. Abrams, which takes place before all the stuff we remember from television and the first six feature films."

KFrost, Chicago corrects him in the comments:
No, it doesn't. It takes place in an alternate timeline. If you didn't get that concept, you probably shouldn't be reviewing the film....

See, I knew the whole timeline reset that took place in the 2009 reboot wasn't all that clear, and I knew that it was going to matter.

There is some clarity in keeping to just one detail of 2009: Vulcan has exploded and Spock's mom is dead. So clearly all the TV episodes where he goes back to Vulcan, and the other episodes when his mom comes to visit, could not have happened. But we know they did, so this storytelling is an alternate trajectory, not continuous prequel, and it doesn't replace or negate the facts of 1960s, because when you make up alternate timelines you get away with things like that.

I really enjoyed Abrams's first Trek, and the emotional connection to watching it in reruns for almost a decade as a kid. This one was less satisyfing, but still fun.

Peel Away Stray Observations

•I agree with all the people who say too bombastic, too many chases and explosions at the sake of good story and dialogue.

•Not a great script. How is it possible that Spock doesn't say "fascinating" even once? It was in his vocabulary in 2009.

•Lots of little twists with the villain. Those I liked. (Can't say more because of spoilers).

•There is one motif that is quite notable: running! Running and running by various characters through various vessels. Clearly, Doctor Who is influencing its American cousin in many ways.

•Christopher Pike demanding "respect for the chair." This is an immediate classic line.

Where do the films go from here? Do they continue to mine (some would say cannibalize) the original, or can they establish their own emotional connections with the 21st century audience?

I enjoyed my time with Jay and Jim, but I need to stay outside of the dark for a while now.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

An Inspiring Visual Revelation: To the Sounds of T. Tertius Noble

Sunday, May 19. Does anyone remember the weather? I'll remind you. In Manhattan, it was grey, grey, grey, and rainy ALL DAY. Sometimes the rain was heavy. When it wasn't raining seriously, it was constantly drizzling. And grey. The greyness enveloped everything. You could almost taste it.

In the midst of all this misty, water, precipitation, wetness, my choir  at the Roman Catholic Church of the Ascension on West 107 Street was giving a concert. It was a combination of the adult choir with the children's choir. The children's choir are neighborhood kids, not some chosen music majors elite. I admire their participation, since this kind of choral singing isn't the coolest thing for a 10 year old, and what they accomplished in the concert is truly wonderful.

The Music
The piece from the concert that music director Preston Smith uploaded to YouTube is the Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis in B Minor by T. Tertius Noble. That's a memorable name. He was born in England in 1867, and was organist and choirmaster at the great Ely Cathedral from 1892 to 1898. Then he came to New York, and was choir director of St. Thomas Church, the Episcopal beacon on Fifth Avenue, where he founded the St. Thomas Choir School for boys in 1919.

That draws a nice line from the glories of Ely Cathedral to the young kids around West 107 Street.

The Revelation
Here's the amazing thing.  I had a pretty good idea of how the concert went, from the singing to the dreary wetness of everyone slogging into the pews with dripping umbrellas. I was wet and soggy myself from 9:00 a.m. onward, with all the back and forth to the church for Mass, then rehearsals, and the concert.

Then, when I watched the video, I was astonished to see sun rays streaming across the choir loft. They are so artfully beautiful that it is almost like something out of Hollywood.

It would be surprising to see such defined rays on any day, because the church is situated such that other buildings, built after the church,  block the light, and it is only very specific times when any sun actually enters through the stained glass.

But it is bordering on the miraculous to see these rays, caught on the video, on the wet, dreary, grey day WHEN THERE WAS NO DISCERNIBLE SUNSHINE AT ALL THAT DAY.

And that's the revelation: sometimes you are surrounded by light, which you cannot see until someone shows you a different angle, a different perspective from the one you're entrenched in.

Please click and see. And think about this phenomenon, especially if things seem dark and grey in your life. There are always positive and wonderful things around you. You may even be bathed is sun rays, and not know it. Plus the music is pretty good too.

Photo by Jean Prytyskacz.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Dorothy & Phyllis: Detective Queens, Amateur Theologians, & Moms

Update 11/27/14: Baroness James has now joined Dorothy Sayers and Agatha Christie in the great beyond. She died today in her home in Oxford at 94.

There are three great English writers of detective fiction: Dorothy L. Sayers; Agatha Christie; P.D.James.

Sayers died in 1957 at the age of 64 and Christie in 1976 at age 85, but the Baroness James is still with us, at a spry 92. And just last week she participated in a series of conversations at St. Paul's Cathedral, London, called 'The Mind of the Maker,' named after a treatise by Dorothy Sayers that explores an analogy between human creativity/creation and the doctrine of The Trinity.

This conversation with the Rev. Michael Hampel was framed around the James's own journey of faith, including its impact on her writing. (She is almost always asked, "Why isn't Adam Dalgliesh a Christian?" Her answer is that he loves the Church of England but would not be an active member.)

Hampel leads the conversation to Dorothy L. Sayers, who put Lord Peter Wimsey on the literary map in 1923 with Whose Body? Adam Dagleish made his first appearance forty years later in Cover Her Face.

Sayers was a serious student of Christian dogma, even though she remained outside the halls of academia. She believed her very best work was her translation of Dante's Divine Comedy, which is still used and known for her extensive notes. She wrote a serious of very accessible essays about the Apostles and Nicene Creeds collected as Creed or Chaos?

It's interesting that these two dynamic writers of detective novels—a genre that is loved by such a very broad range of readers—each had a deep, underlying interest in theology, which appeals to a very narrow swath of readers. Sleuths & Christian doctrine are unusual pasttimes to join up, except that you can investigate each eternally. Hmm.

Adam Dagleish & Lord Peter

For literary geeks it is a thrill to hear the creator of Adam Dalgliesh opine on Lord Peter and his creator.  Bits from the interview:

He (Adam Dalgliesh) doesn't develop as spectacularly as Lord Peter.

I think she [Sayers] fell in love with him [Wimsey] and made him the kind of man she would want to marry. An intellectual interested in religion.

She had a lot in common with Harriet Vane, who wrote detective stories. There's a slight bossiness about her, Harriet. And Dorothy was quite pugnacious.

If we want to know what it was like to work in an Advertising Office between the wars, we read Murder Must Advertise. It's absolutely brilliant.

And They're Moms

P.D. James married a doctor in 1941 and had two daughters. Dorothy married a Scottish war correspondent in 1926 and became stepmother to his two children. She had a son out of wedlock two years before, and asked her Aunt and cousin to raise him. So besides theology, our sleuths shared the identity and experience of mother.

James took the experience of giving birth into an unusual creative place with her 1992 dystopian novel, The Children of Men. Set in England in 2021 it tells the tale of a world suffering from global infertility. The 2006 film made many alterations to the novel, but it brought the work to a wide audience and James herself liked it.

From Caryn James's article on the movie: "As Ms. James said in an interview when the book came out: “The detective novel affirms our belief in a rational universe because, at the end, the mystery is solved. In ‘The Children of Men’ there is no such comforting resolution.”

Happy Mother's Day, Baroness.

A Literary Six Pack for Mom

Courtesy of the New York Times and SMITH online magazine, the Six-Word Memoirs phenomenon meets Mother’s Day.

I first ran into the Six-Word Memoirs in Lizzie Widdicombe’s New Yorker write-up in 2008. SMITH had run a contest: Your life in six words. Why six words? Lizzie believes the precedent was Hemingway’s short story in under 10 words composed to win a bet: “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”

(This story is itself a piece of apocrypha attached to Papa by the playwright John deGroot in his 1996 play of the same name. Excellent explanation about it here.)

Regardless of the origin, the six-word autobiography is now well established because of the SMITH contest, which spawned a series of books: the original Not Quite What I Was Planning, (the winner of the contest from the 25-year-old hairdresser from Minnesota with the great name Summer Grimes); its sequel in a deluxe edition; then Six Word-Memoirs on Love and Heartbreak; Six-Word Memoirs by Teens Famous & Obscure, and more.

The ones in the New York Times submitted for Mother’s Day are witty, poignant, sad, funny, and spine tingling: a complete spectrum of experiences of the mother/child relationship. You can hear whole backstories in the six words.

Here are some where the relationship was sadly painful:

Her way was the only way.

Made me the scapegoat, thanks mom.

Never a kind word for me.

She did the best she could.

Single motherhood: think long and hard.

Never met mother; sent to another.

Then there were a bunch that I could have written for my Mom:

You know what's in my heart.

Made dinner every night. Thanks, Mom.

Most intelligent human being I know.

Six words is not nearly enough.

Whenever I walked in, Mama smiled.

Put on a sweater, I'm cold.

And here are my two six-word memoirs for my Mom:

Brother happy. I cried alot. Sorry.

“No lipstick?” Sure Mom, for you.

Happy Mother’s Day to you all!