Friday, August 2, 2013

Crazy, Lazy Lists

Entertainment Weekly, that bastion of middling pop culture, recently published a special issue called "The Top 100," which included the top 100 movies, top 100 tv shows, top 100 novels, top 100 albums (yes, we used to call them that), 50 top plays, and so on. As one reader put it, the magazine managed in one full swoop to @#$%^*(}% all of its readers, including this one (yes, I admit it!). Many of the choices were inevitable and some were woefully misguided.

Some blatant mistakes: Evelyn Waugh's brilliant BRIDESHEAD REVISTED was left off the best novels list (PORTNOY'S COMPLAINT, THE STAND, the Harry Potter novels, etc. were included!) and the magnificent tv series BRIDESHEAD REVISTED, generally considered one of the finest in history,was shunt aside for the likes of THE REAL WORLD, THE RIFLEMAN, SURVIVOR, AMERICAN IDOL, CHAPPELLE'S SHOW, DAWSON'S CREEK, BEAVIS AND BUTT-HEAD, ET AL.

Novel No Shows: Faulkner's LIGHT IN AUGUST, his most profound and readable. Vonnegut's SLAUGHTER HOUSE-5 and Gunter Grass' THE TIN DRUM, two of the greatest antiwar satires, both full of compassion and humor. ALICE'S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND and THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS pull me back again and again. No film version has come close to its illustrations, its puzzles, paradoxes and original characters. Huxley's BRAVE NEW fiction, a new language, simply amazing. D.H. Lawrence's SONS AND LOVERS and/or WOMEN IN LOVE, not only ahead of their time sexually but also great writing. And the non-listers list goes on and on.

So, here comes another list to get upset about, and more will follow:

Best Animated Feature: PINNOCHIO, 1940, Disney's finest film takes the Italian fairy tale about a wooden puppet who must prove himself before he becomes a real boy. The characters are fully developed humans or personified animals who are even more human. The fox Honest John and his punching bag accomplice the cat Gideon are perfect con men, Stromboli, the traveling showman, is a monstrous showman, Pleasure Island is a paradise for immature boys who are turned into donkeys, and Monstro the whale is truly terrifying. But what's truly amazing are the visuals that seem more fluid and real than most movies even today. The animators have mastered the tricks of great cinematography taking us into the mouth of a whale or on a joy ride on Pleasure Island. The film, with its old world details of Geppetto's workshop and the allures of Pleasure Island, is a worthy precursor to films like INCEPTION.

2. Best Comedy TV Series: THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW. No other comedy series has the heart, comedic invention, and more wonderful characters than this one with lovable but flawed characters who work beautifully together in a workplace filled with
absurdity and reality.  Mary Richards (Moore) was a tv trail blazer, a single woman in her 30's who is seeking a career, not a man to care for her. She was a delightful mix of ambition, caring, and humor who had to handle her gruff but gentle bear of a boss, played to perfection by Ed Asner; Ted Baxter (Ted Knight), the daffy news anchor who  commits malaprops by the dozens; Betty White's lascivious Sue Ann Niven whose sexual asides contrast with Mary's gee whiz innocence, and the rest of a memorable cast.

Now, the above is not really a list. Just two entries in two categories. Time to go wild. LISTOMANIA!

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