Time flies…

Three years ago today, I was knifed.

And by knifed, I mean Noel Gallagher released the following statement: “It’s with some sadness and great relief to tell you that I quit Oasis tonight. People will write and say what they like, but I simply could not go on working with Liam a day longer.”

Oasis has never been my favorite band (that title belongs to the Beatles). I don’t have the deepest emotional connection to Oasis (that, too, would be with the Beatles). I don’t even admire them the most as individuals (…the Beatles, of course).

But they’re pretty close.

“I let you turn off the Beatles, so I could watch THIS?!” — Me, circa 1995/6

I despised Oasis at the peak of their fame; I was seven, obsessed with the Beatles, and watching A Hard Day’s Night for the fiftieth time when I was hoodwinked into watching an Oasis concert because they played with a huge picture of John Lennon in the background and even played with the Beatles. After twelve years of bitterness and one chance listening of “Live Forever,” I embraced this abrasive, arrogant, fearless band. I counted down the days until the release of Dig Out Your Soul. I traveled eight plus hours to see them in concert, where I could have had the worst possible seats in the entire world and it wouldn’t have mattered–it still would have been as amazing and exhilarating as it was with the-almost-worst-possible-seats-in-the-world. When I left home for school the first time, with my parents and younger sister in tow, we listened to (What’s the Story) Morning Glory the entire drive. And when I felt homesick those first few weeks away from home and didn’t quite feel like going down to Strawberry Fields, I listened to Oasis. And when I finally came home one weekend, it was spent jointly celebrating the birth of my mother and Liam Gallagher, replete with marathons of Oasis concert videos and a cake that read “Happy birthday Linda and Liam.” Y’know–the usual.

The band celebrates Liam’s 33rd birthday in Denver, Colorado, 2005. Precious.  

And so when this band bowed out, it hurt. When the Beatles disbanded, John Lennon responded to the public’s continual overdramatization of the split: “It’s just natural, it’s not a great disaster. People keep talking about it like it’s The End of The Earth. It’s only a rock group that split up, it’s nothing important. You know, you have all the old records there if you want to reminisce.” And he was right. It’s not that important. And the records are still there. But when the one band you love who isn’t dead or broken up or on an indefinite hiatus or old and irrelevant breaks up, it still kind of hurts.

And I love Beady Eye. And Noel Gallagher and his high flyin’ birds. Or turds. Or smurfs. Or whatever they’re called. But I still miss this little band that once was the biggest and best band…

I miss their arrogance.

I miss their brotherly love.

I miss their b-sides.

I even miss their Umbro jogging suits.

And it’s not important. And it’s not the end of the world. It’s only natural.

But I still miss them.

Surviving the Seventh Season of Gilmore Girls

If I were into making lists (…yeah, right), Gilmore Girls would be fighting for the top spot as my favorite television show of all-time. I love Gilmore Girls. I love the fast-paced, witty dialogue, packed with pop culture references ranging from the Monkees to Il Duce to Dorothy Parker to Rob Lowe and back again, the quirky characters of the idyllic Stars Hollow, the complex relationship between Lorelai and her upper class parents, and, of course, the unbelievably close friendship between Lorelai and Rory–who also happen to be mother and daughter.

But I absolutely dread the seventh–and final–season of Gilmore Girls.

When I was an undergrad, I would watch the entire series every quarter term, averaging about a season a week. The first three seasons were easy to tear through; they’re pretty seamless. The show’s dynamic changes when Rory leaves to attend college in the fourth season and continues to change as Rory assimilates more and more to the socialite, privileged society her mother abandoned as a sixteen-year-old. But by the sixth season, the fabric of the show began to fray a little bit, and it had completely unraveled by season seven, slowing down my weekly intake of episodes. When I watched the show when it originally aired (Tuesdays at 8 on the WB/CW!), I don’t remember noticing its decaying quality, although certain moments definitely did make me cringe, but re-watching the show numerous times since (the number of times I’ve seen the show in its entirety is well into the double digits), the decline is painfully obvious.

It’s easy to attribute the atrocity that is season seven to the change of command from creator Amy Sherman-Palladino to David Rosenthal, a writer and producer under Sherman-Palladino’s reign, but maybe it’s not completely fair. Of course Sherman-Palladino’s writing and vision for the show and its characters was sorely missed in the final season, but there were still seeds planted in season six–the somewhat unbelievable plot development that Luke had an eleven-year-old daughter, the subsequent disintegration of the Luke and Lorelai relationship, Lorelai running to Christopher again–that allowed for the debacle of the seventh season. It had to be difficult for the incoming writers to pick up those pieces, try to fulfill a vision that wasn’t their own, and still stay true to the characters.

Yet it isn’t so much what happens in the seventh season that aggravates me and fills me with dread as it is the way in which it happens. Lorelai and Christopher getting married? Fine–really. But am I supposed to believe that Lorelai, who was always so adamant that “timing” was the biggest issue between her and Christopher, is just going to jump into a marriage a few months after a devastating breakup–quite possibly the worst time? Is that really true to her character? I’m not completely sold that it is. And that’s bad writing. Anna, the mother of Luke’s child, is just going to uproot her life in Connecticut to take care of her ailing mother, who evidently cannot be moved, in New Mexico? And she’s going to deny Luke any access to their daughter? Okay. More bad writing. We’re going to recycle old story lines–the Great Stink resembles Kirk’s Easter Egg disaster, Richard’s heart attack mirrors an earlier health scare, Rory’s jealousy over a dinner with Logan’s work colleagues even recalls her reaction to “hanging out” with Logan and his buddies over a poker game, to name a few–and just hope no one notices? Even more bad writing.

Life’s short, talk fast–that was the show’s original tagline. Season seven, however, is long and talks slow. There’s only a single Godfather reference. (It’s amazing how many times I watched this show without having seen The Godfather. Seeing The Godfather is truly a life-changing event, and I highly recommend it to everyone.) Not only is there less dialogue, but when the characters do talk, they don’t always say something. They seem lost, and there is a lack of substance. Every episode of the first six seasons brimmed with multiple story threads, making full use of the wonderful supporting cast, who are sparsely used throughout the final season. Ken Tucker of Entertainment Weekly dubbed the final season Gilmore Ghosts, an apt description of a show that had become a mere shadow of its former brilliance.

The final episode, “Bon Voyage,” however, alleviates some of the pain of that final, tedious season.

In “Bon Voyage,” Rory, recently graduated, accepts a job to cover the campaign of Barack Obama for an online magazine–a job which begins in just three days, canceling the town’s graduation party for Rory and forcing Lorelai to quickly adjust to the idea of not being able to see her best friend and daughter for months on end. What I love most about this episode is how it was really about the relationship between Lorelai and Rory, which had always been the focus of the show but was sometimes only the background to their romantic lives, school and work, and the fractious relationship with Lorelai’s parents. This episode was about Lorelai and Rory saying goodbye to one another; everything else was in the background. And when Lorelai jabbers incessantly (as she’s wont to do) about all the wisdom she has meant to impart to Rory, Rory responds with one of my favorite lines of the entire series, “You’ve given me everything I need.”

Luke, being Luke, still throws together a surprise going away party for Rory, thwarting quick departures and heavy downpours. But as Richard, Lorelai’s father rightly states, it is just a much of a party for Lorelai and a testament to her character and ability to raise Rory as she did as it is a party for Rory. It is, quite simply, a celebration of the Gilmore Girls–a fitting end to the series.

(The decision to cancel Gilmore Girls was not made until two weeks before the final episode aired, making this episode that much more amazing because it was such a perfect end to the show without fully intending to be.)

But then there’s the final shot of the girls making one final stop before Rory boards the plane to Iowa…

…which perfectly mirrors the final shot of the pilot episode:

As much as I hated to see the show end, even with its creative drought, this is the most fitting conclusion for the show: a shot of two best friends, a mother and daughter, talking about anything and everything over a very large cup of coffee at Luke’s Diner.

It was heartbreaking and difficult to say goodbye to the Gilmore Girls, and it remains so each time I re-watch the series. I like to imagine what the seventh season could have been like if Amy Sherman-Palladino had been able to work out a contract with the network. I wonder what possibilities an eighth season held. But really, by the end, the Gilmore Girls had already given us everything we needed.

(Plus Santa gave me the complete series on DVD for Christmas.)

The Olympics, Depression, Bradley Wiggins, and “My Ever Changing Moods”

Because the Olympics is almost over, which makes me sad, and this video is my preferred anti-depressant…

Because Bradley Wiggins, cheered on by the Modfather himself, became the first British Cyclist to win the Tour de France and subsequently earned a gold medal in the cycling timed trial and then–to top it all off–hung out with his hero (at a Stone Roses gig, no less), sparking conversation about this infamous video…

But mostly because the video for “My Ever Changing Moods” by The Style Council is one of my favorite things in the world…I’m going to devote an entire post to it. Because I can.

In case you have not yet sold your soul to the star of this video, Paul Weller (I’ve forgotten what that feels like–do you actually do things because you want to, instead of thinking, “What would Paul Weller do?”, “Would Paul Weller approve?”, etc.), let me improve the quality of your life and tell you a little bit about him. Paul Weller was 13 when he formed the Jam, he was 18 when the band had its first top 40 hit in England with “In the City,” and by October 30, 1982, the day he announced the Jam’s disbandment, the group had recorded six studio albums, scored 18 consecutive top 40 singles in the UK (including four number one hits–well, okay, “Beat Surrender” was still a few weeks shy of release at the time of the announcement), and become one of the defining bands of their era. Oh, and he was 24–24! Lennon turned 24 amidst Beatlemania; Weller could have left the music industry at the end of the Jam and his status as a seminal songwriter still would have been secure. Instead he formed the Style Council.

The Jam had always been on the fringes of punk. They wore well-tailored suits. They loved the Beatles. And Tamla Motown. And the Sex Pistols. But the Jam was still very much a punk rock band; the Style Council, however, were once described by Weller as a “musical kama sutra.” The Style Council explored and indulged Weller’s love of soul music (as well as funk, synthpop, house…the man loves everything), only hinted at during the Jam’s tenure, and alienated much of his former fan base.

More alienating perhaps than the music, though, were their videos. The world at large had only known Weller as the dour leader of the Jam; the Style Council exposed another side of Weller rarely seen during the Jam’s heyday–a side with a sense of humor. A sense of humor many people didn’t quite understand. A sense of humor fully exploited in the Style Council’s divinely silly videos. Which is what makes them my favorite things in the world.

Which brings us back to the “My Ever Changing Moods” video (my personal favorite). And Bradley Wiggins. And the Olympics. And me being depressed because the Olympics are ending soon. And me watching this video an unhealthy number of times to combat that depression.

The video begins with Weller preparing for a cycling race (we’ll meet his competitor in a moment) by kissing some inanimate object. I have no idea what it is (I ain’t no cyclist fanatic, people). I only wish it were me. Remember, I said this was unhealthy. Very, very, very, very, very unhealthy.

This is Weller’s competition, rubbing Bengay on his legs or something. His name’s Mick Talbot, aka keyboardist and co-founder of The Style Council. Can you say NERD? (Don’t get me wrong, I still love Mick. He is great.)

This is seriously intense. The race is about to begin, and while Mick is super cool and collected, Weller grits his teeth. I can really see where the press got that angry young man image.

And they’re off! I really like the camerawork here.

Of course Mick is waving at people because it’s the first time he’s been out in public in a few days. Here’s a little tip for ya, Mick: waving at strangers is going to slow you down and make you lose this race. (Yeah, I know, Weller did the exact same thing two seconds earlier, but he looked waaaaaaay cooler.)

So they’re going along, racing and singing, “The cool before the warm, the calm after the storm.” And nobody thinks this is totally weird for a music video or anything.

But then, Paul and Mick decide to take a little snack break. And Weller is really excited about that. He just can’t wait to see what Mick has packed. Neither can I.

Mick packed a banana for Weller. How thoughtful. But then Mick sees some girls across the field dancing and nudges Weller. This is Weller’s reaction. He’s pretty much my favorite human being.

The boys leave in a rush because girls are scary. That thermos looks lonely.

Annnnnd back to the race. Time to kick things into high gear here ‘cos that finish line is near. Whatever Mick ate didn’t really sit too well with him.

Whoa, finish line just ahead! My money’s on Weller. He’s got some wiry little legs.

WHAT? WHAT? I can’t believe it–and, apparently, Mick can’t either. This is probably the first time he’s beaten Weller at anything. Ever.

Weller, classy act that he is, is a good sport about it, though.

Mick even gets a trophy! Weller is a downright adorable loser, though, ain’t he? Well, I’d say.

Party time! Weller is a good, super adorable friend and opens a bottle of champagne to help Mick celebrate. Weller isn’t about to spoil Mick’s fun and tell him that he didn’t exactly just win the Tour de France. How incredibly sweet.

And at the end of the video, they’re still friends. And that marks the end of this utterly ridiculous and wonderful video.

But why do I love it so much? Besides the obvious fact that Paul Weller is wearing biking gear, I think it has a lot to do with the song itself. “My Ever Changing Moods” is my favorite song by the Style Council, bar none (even though it only has 285 plays in my music library). The Jam was a much more consistent band, but the Style Council contains some of Weller’s finest pieces of writing, “My Ever Changing Moods” among them. Weller was also at his most overtly political during the Style Council, and “My Ever Changing Moods” is a song that aches for change, yet the overriding emotion of the song is hope. It’s downright euphoric–not unlike winning the Tour de France and a Gold Medal in a matter of weeks, I’d imagine.

“God bless you, too.”

Wow. With visits from some little people (i.e. my nieces and nephew), reorganizing my bookshelf (who knew removing 37 cluttered hardcover books could improve its aesthetic so drastically?), late nights at the Aquatic Center in London (now, sadly, over), completing a course in world history taught by the devil incarnate (cue “Song 2”: WOO-HOO), and of course freaking out about the Old Navy commercial with Jason Priestley and Gabrielle Carteris (aka Brandon Walsh and Andrea Zuckerman), there hasn’t really been much time for blogging.

Last week, though, I was racking my brain for a way to teach the final chapters of The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver. In those concluding chapters, the protagonist makes several key phone calls, and I wanted to find a film scene to reflect the themes and emotions expressed in those phone calls. My mind immediately went to one of my favorite pieces of acting ever committed to film.

Can you guess what it is?

Well, can you?

“I was comin’ out of my boots!”

I know.

I’m so predictable.

Of course it’s Montgomery Clift.

Of course it is.

The Misfits didn’t make my list of favorite Clift performances, but that’s because I limited myself to five. (Okay, six.) It is one of his best–and probably most underrated–performances. It’s a relatively small role, which suited his fragile state best by this point in his career, but the scene where Clift’s character, Perce Howland, makes a phone call to his mother is by my favorite in the entire film.

Gay Langland (Clark Gable) and Guido (Eli Wallach), with Roslyn (Marilyn Monroe) and her friend Isabelle (Thelma Ritter) in tow, drive into town in pursuit of a third man to help them in their plan to round up wild mustangs to sell. Just outside of town, seated alongside a phone booth, is Perce, waiting to place a phone call home. After briefly greeting Gay and the gang, Perce’s call to his mother finally comes through.

What I love most about this scene is how Clift seamlessly uses the phone booth as a prop. The door is casually left open when the conversation is light and non-invasive–Perce boasts of his recent accomplishments in the rodeo and sends his love and greetings to his family back home; the door is hastily closed to prevent his new and old acquaintances from hearing–or seeing, rather–his fractured state–the arguments with his mother about spending his rodeo money and his relationship with his stepfather.

And I think part of what makes this scene–and this character–so real, so very real, is that Clift embodies it almost perfectly. Perce, like Clift (especially at this time in his life), is self-destructive and lonely. He later tells Roslyn his friends and girlfriend abandoned him a year previously, and he has no one talk to. Many of Clift’s friends, too, severed him, particularly after his accident and further spiral into drug addiction, branding him a lost cause. Perce’s relationship with his mother is strained, as evidenced by the phone call; Clift’s suffocating and tumultuous relationship with his own mother arguably fueled many of his deep-rooted and life-long problems. And when Perce emphatically states, “Oh, no, no, no, my face is fine. It’s all healed up. Just as good as new.” Well, my heart just breaks.

The most devastating line of the phone call, however, is reserved for last. The operator has notified Perce his call is about to expire, and Perce hurriedly tells his mother to tell his relatives, whom he lists by name, hello for him. An argument about his stepfather–and his failure to specifically ask his mother to say hello to him–ensues. And subsides. The door is, of course, closed. Perce promises to call at Christmastime and anxiously asks, “Hello? Hello?”, wanting to tell his mother one more thing. The call has been disconnected. “God bless you, too,” he mutters–presumably to dead air.

The Misfits was on television the night Clift suffered a fatal heart attack. When his live-in personal secretary asked him if he wanted to watch the film, Clift responded from inside his locked bedroom, “Absolutely not!” Those were the last words he spoke to anyone.