“Tonight, in a world television premiere…”

Just recently I mentioned how much I miss commercials with jingles. Nowadays, using current or classic pop music seems to be the only option advertisers are willing to consider – often with unfortunate and inappropriate juxtapositions.  For example, Iggy Pop’s paean to life as a heroin addict being used to sell staterooms on Royal Caribbean cruises.

But other forgotten and sorely-missed artifacts of the past are the elaborately produced and majestically themed  intros for movies aired on the major television networks (back when there were only three).  These fantastic spots reached their zenith in the 1980s, with all three networks offering amazing animation and soaring and inspiring orchestral accompaniments – solely for the purpose of bringing us tonight’s presentation of “Gremlins 2: The New Batch.”  What a time it was…

CBS – The Tiffany network provides a stirring mix of swooshing colors and letters interspersed with live-action shots of solid chrome movie-making equipment and the hard-working hands of all the behind-the-scenes crew who bring the magic of movies into our living rooms. The brass heavy music and the thumping drum line make this a real toe-tapper.  Dignified yet modern, not overly-theatrical, befitting CBS’ status as the classiest of the 3 then-extant networks.  Hard to believe this is the same network that has since brought us seven seasons of “Two and a Half Men.”

ABC – Perennial  laughingstock underdog ABC more than holds it own here.  The highly dramatic musical intro combined with the pulsating tunnel of stars stirs both our patriotism and our slavish devotion to the stars of Hollywood.  They lose points, though, for the ugly Bauhaus rip-off font used on the movie marquee.  And the music, while initially stirring, loses it it in the end with pleasant though uninspired brass-and-strings.  It can’t hold up to it’s competitors in this regard.

Oh and be sure to watch this whole clip – there’s an excellent teaser for an upcoming episode of “Dynasty” at the end.

NBC – The Peacock network wins, though in a tight race.  The stars-made-out-of-film-stock motif is ingenious – both more clever and subtler than ABC’s use of stars.  And the orchestration is superb, starting off almost suspensefully, drawing us forward to the first crescendo – the appearance of the network’s storied peacock along with a play on the NBC “bong-bong-bong” chime.  Then a nice little playful xylophone-and-strings interlude before closing out with a souped up version of the NBC Chimes – perhaps the three most recognizable musical notes in history. Truly excellent.

How much sharper than a serpent’s dent

Liliane Bettencourt and François-Marie Banier

The NYTimes has been periodically covering the French scandal involving Liliane Bettencourt, heiress to the L’Oreal fortune and the richest woman in Europe, and her daughter, Francoise Bettencourt-Meyers. And boy is it juicy!

Mme. Bettencourt-Meyers is alleging that her mother is surrounded by manipulative sycophants who are scheming to enrich themselves from the Bettencourt fortune.  One of the beneficiaries of Mme. Bettencourt’s largesse is “society photographer” François-Marie Banier who has received, among other things, an island in the Seychelles.  The daughter filed a lawsuit against her mother in 2007, attempting to wrest control of the family fortune from a mother she portrays as doddering and out of touch…  Sacre bleu!

And it gets better – the French Labor Minister has been forced to resign amidst allegations of nepotism, after his wife was hired to help manage Mme. Bettencourt’s money. There are also whispers that he overlooked Bettencourt tax obligations during his stint as budget minister in charge of tax collection.  Other accusations include the distribution of cash-stuffed envelopes to politicians who visited Mme. Bettencourt for tea.  Plus, an apparently disgruntled former butler for Mme. Bettencourt secretly recorded her having discussions that touched on tax havens, tax evasion and Swiss bank accounts.  Apparently a movie is already in the works…

But my favorite part thus far is Mme. Bettencourt’s comment during an interview on TV:

My daughter could have waited patiently for my death instead of doing all she can to precipitate it.

How do you say “Oh, snap!” in French?

French Heiress vs. Daughter and Political Intrigue

Let’s All Square Dance!

God, how I love Bugs Bunny…  He was my favorite as a kid, though as an adult I appreciate him on an entirely different level – for example, the fact that he is so frequently in drag…  “Sashay right on out the door” indeed.

Down the rabbit hole…

It’s amazing how I go looking for something on YouTube and then click on a related video… and then another…  and then another…  and then before I know it, I’ve stumbled across a blast from the past such as this gem by the DeFranco Family, circa 1973.  They sure had some smooth moves!

Why, grown-ups?

I went to see the matinee showing of “Toy Story 3” today – and it was really excellent…  As with every Pixar movie, I was all weepy at the end.

Of course, the problem with going to see kids movies is that there are lots of kids in the audience. I mean, I steel myself for this – I get that kids haven’t yet fully developed and may not hew to established norms for behavior in a movie theater.  As I should know to expect by now, however, the kids are generally fine – especially when movie is as good as this one.  The story, for the most part, manages to keep them rapt with attention…  Sadly, the same cannot be said for their parents…

I knew the couple behind me was going to be trouble even before the movie started – complaining loudly and ad nauseum about the number of previews.  Then, once the movie started, out came the sugary snacks they’d smuggled in, encased in the most crinkly and loudest cellophane ever.  And they’d been thoughtful enough to bring a movie-length supply of whatever it was they were cramming down their gaping maws…

Of course, they were also quite busy talking and exclaiming throughout the film.  Every time some reference was made to the plot line of an earlier installment, they’d loudly pronounce, “Awwwwwwww…”

And can someone please explain to me the compulsion to repeat aloud the punchlines of jokes delivered in the movie, followed by a guffaw as if they’d just made the joke themselves?  For the life of me, I’ll never understand this.  We all got the gag, folks!  That’s why we’re all laughing – we don’t need you to explain it to us.

It should come as no surprise that when one of their kids asked a question about the plot, the response was not the appropriate (and delivered in a stage whisper), “Honey, there’s other people trying to watch the show – remember you have to be quiet so they can enjoy the story too.” It was, instead, an intricate recap of the last 20 minutes of the film to bring the poor kid up to speed…

The thing I wonder is whether this is unique to a movie auditorium – or do they teach their kids to act like selfish jackasses in any circumstance?

“Mooommm! The line for ice cream is too long!”

“Oh, that’s OK, dear…  Just go up to the front of the line and cut… We’re more important than everyone else…”

“Daaaaddd! I want a dolly like hers!”

“Well, why don’t you just go over and knock her down and take it from her?  Remember, the world revolves around us…”

I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that these particular parents appeared to be the exception to the rule.  And kudos to those of you teaching your kids some manners – but I really do prefer to tar you all with the same brush…  Just makes things easier.