About Brittany

Cold sober, I find myself fascinating.

10 Albums

As a quick footnote to my last post, I have recently been pondering at what point I should become concerned and/or seek medical attention (NOT from Dr. Julia Hoffman, of course) when I find myself resonating with sentiments expressed by David Collins? (He only tried to kill his father…twice? Has been possessed a handful of times, made friends with ghosts, been accused of being an insane liar…totally respectable!)

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(That point has passed. You went past go, Brittany, but you did not collect $200. )

Moving on…

I was recently “tagged” on social media to post about ten albums that have had an impact on me. This task was particular difficult for me because it’s easier for me to think of individual bands and musicians who had an impact on me, as I have this obsessive personality that requires me to listen to everything they ever recorded and consequently makes it hard to narrow down which album has had the most impact. But hey, let’s give it a whirl…

10. Graham Nash, Songs for Beginners (1971) 

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I am a simple man
And I play a simple tune
Wish that I could see you once again
Across the room
Like the first time

I’ve said it before, and I guess I’ll say it again: Graham Nash is undoubtedly my favorite member of CSN. Compare Nash’s first solo effort to those of the other members (which aren’t too shabby, don’t get me wrong–I love CSN), and you’ll hear why. The album is full of raw, emotional songs about Nash’s breakup with Joni Mitchell and fervent cries for political activism, but each song is so carefully crafted to pop/singer-songwriter perfection. I listened to this album a lot as a teenager–no regrets.

9. Pink Floyd, Wish You Were Here (1975)

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Remember when you were young? 
You shone like the sun
Shine on you crazy diamond 
Now there’s a look in your eyes
Like black holes in the sky 
Shine on you crazy diamond 

As a teenager, I had a vague notion of Pink Floyd but didn’t really become interested (translation: obsessed! I can’t have interests like normal people, remember?) in the band until I discovered Syd Barrett and his music. “I’ve got a bike/You can ride it if you like/It’s got a basket, a bell that rings and/Things to make it look good/I’d give it to you if I could, but I borrowed it.” Ughh, love that stuff. Everything about that era of the band is so unique–the sounds, the lyrics, even the delivery of the lyrics…nothing like it in the world, methinks. Ice creeeeeam, tastes good in the afternoon! Ice creeeeeam, tastes good if you eat it soon!

But the fact of the matter is that the band endured and made more music without Syd Barrett than they did with him. The band could not have happened without Syd Barrett, but it also could not have lasted with him at the helm. Still, the band found ways to acknowledge his importance and pay tribute to him in some of their most famous works, Wish You Were Here included. (Even though Roger Waters has stated, in his usual stubborn way, that only one song off the album is really about Syd, but I find his influence permeates so much of the album, albeit if not always so forthrightly as “Shine on You Crazy Diamond.”) During the recording of the album, a shaven, overweight Syd Barrett visited the studio, shocking his former bandmates and reducing them to tears. The emotional weight this album carries is palpable in its lyrics and music.

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How I wish, how I wish you were here
We’re just two lost souls
Swimming in a fish bowl
Year after year
Running over the same old ground
And how we found
The same old fears
Wish you were here

When I bought the album on CD (that used to be a thing, you know), I specifically ordered a version that also included the early Pink Floyd singles–“Arnold Layne,” “See Emily Play,” “Candy and a Currant Bun,” “Apples and Oranges”–as bonus tracks, making it the perfect CD for me, as it melded my favorite non-Syd Barrett Floyd album with some of my most favorite Syd Barrett songs.

8. Pulp, Different Class (1995) 

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You will never understand
How it feels to live your life
With no meaning or control
And with nowhere left to go.

(Now I’m wondering why I didn’t re-create this album cover at my wedding? Uhh, because those are some ugly flowers, that’s why, the second voice in my head says.)

Oh, Jarvis.

What can I say? I spent a good portion of my life obsessed with and worshipping that guy. And for good reason.

Pulp spent a long time (what, fifteen years or something) in the music business without much to show for it. (And that would be because some of the early Pulp music is really, really not very good. Just trust me on this one.) With Different Class, Pulp’s recognition and success reached a whole new level. They had top ten hits, nationwide fame, and Jarvis Cocker–the guy who once fell out of a window trying to impress a girl with his Spider-man impression and spent months in a wheelchair as a consequence–was suddenly a sex symbol at 32.

Different Class is full of some of his best songwriting, dealing with themes of sex (Jarv’s fave), the class system, drugs…yet all set to a flagrantly POP beat. There’s the scathing, vengeful “I Spy” (in which Jarvis advises that you should take him “seriously, very seriously indeed ‘cos I’ve been sleeping with your wife for the past sixteen weeks”), anthemic call to arms for all the mis-shapes, mistakes, misfits, the depressing come-down at “Bar Italia” “where other broken people go”, the infectious sing-a-long “Disco 2000” about the one that got away, and the ultimate ATTACK on the clash of the social classes “Common People” (really a shame how the video/single omits the final, most biting verse). And then there’s “F.E.E.L.I.N.G.C.A.L.L.E.D.L.O.V.E.”, “Live Bed Show,” “Underwear,” “Monday Morning,” “Pencil Skirt”….

It’s impossible to choose a best or even favorite track. This is the album that catapulted a mild interest in Jarvis Cocker to a full-blown obsession, kicking the door open for all the rest of “Britpop.” It would be years before any other musical genres would be allowed to enter the fortress.

7. Frank Sinatra, A Jolly Christmas from Frank Sinatra (1957) 

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I love those J-I-N-G-L-E bells, oh 
Those holiday J-I-N-G-L-E bells, oh 
Those happy J-I-N-G-L-E B-E-DOUBLE L-S 
I love those J-I-N-G-L-E bells, oh 

If you’re surprised that there’s a Christmas album on this list, then you CLEARLY haven’t listened to this Christmas album. I listen to this album year-round. A song from this album made its way to my wedding reception playlist. It’s Sinatra. It’s perfect.

I first got into Sinatra after being assigned to read Gay Talese’s magnificent profile of Sinatra, “Frank Sinatra Has a Cold” during my next-to-final quarter of college (the first time around), and I thought, “Wow, he has to be the coolest guy, ever.” And guess what? He is. I just don’t wanna live in a world where there is no Frank Sinatra. In the words of Dean Martin, “This is Frank’s world, and we’re just living it.” Amen, brother.

6. The Smiths, Hatful of Hollow (1984) 

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I am the son, and the heir, of a shyness that is criminally vulgar
I am the son and heir, of nothing in particular

It was difficult to choose one Smiths album; truthfully, any of their albums could be inserted here. But I may or may not still be wearing an oversized, pit-stained Smiths t-shirt, an heirloom passed down from an older sister, with this album cover on it, so I’d say its impact is pretty obvious.

Morrissey has a lyric for every situation in my life:

Struggling with the state of yourself and your life? “Every day you must say, how do I feel about my shoes?”

Feel like your work is not meaningful or productive? “But sometimes I feel more fulfilled making Christmas cards with the mentally ill.” 

When someone finally asks your honest opinion of them? “Frankly, Mr. Shankly, since you ask: you are a flatulent pain in the arse!”

Have to deal with the consequences of telling someone your honest opinion of them? “Sweetness, sweetness, I was only joking when I said I’d like to smash every tooth in your head.”

Feeling under the weather and someone asks you how you’re feeling? “Oh mother, I can feel the soil falling over my head.”

Just something I may or may not say every day: “Oh, I’m too tired/I’m so sick and tired/And I’m feeling very sick and ill today.” (I am a “delicate flower”!!!!)

Someone says “I love you”? “So…scratch my name on your arm with a fountain pen. This means you really love me.”

Moving onto a new obsession and your previous obsession starts to feel left out? “I still love you, oh, I still love you/Only slightly, only slightly less than I used to, my love.”

PMSing and carrying around some extra “water” weight? “You’re the one for me, fatty/ You’re the one I really, really love/And I will stay/Promise you’ll say/If I’m ever in your way/A-hey!”

And ad infinitum.

I mean, these lyrics just roll off the tongue. So good.

(I recently saw a headline about a study that concluded that “Smiths fans were neurotic.” Was such a study necessary? I mean, really????????)

If you want to have a fun game of charades sometime, try using Morrissey lyrics. “Punctured bicycle, on a hillside, desolate.” Ahhh, fun times.

5. Oasis, Definitely Maybe (1994) 

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You’re the outcast, you’re the underclass
But you don’t care, because you’re living fast
You’re the uninvited guest who stays ’till the end
I know you’ve got a problem that the devil sends
You think they’re talking ’bout you but you don’t know who
I’ll be scraping your life from the sole of my shoe tonight

As a young child, my brother and I would go upstairs to my older sister’s lair and deface the posters of her musical heroes with sticky-tack: Morrissey’s nipple magically grew one very long hair and the Gallagher brothers’ noses always had dangling boogers. I had a strong aversion to the Gallaghers in particular because I knew one of them (who also thought he was John Lennon) had called George Harrison a “nipple” (“NIP-PLE”) and I got tricked into watching one of their concerts instead of getting to watch A Hard Day’s Night for the nth time because I was told John Lennon was in it. (He was–in photographic form at the conclusion of “Live Forever.”) So it was a long time before I sold my soul to this rock ‘n’ roll band.

But oh boy, when I did, there weren’t no turnin’ back. Noel Gallagher’s latest solo effort asks, “Who built the moon?” Uhhhh, you? Would follow that dude to the moon and back, no questions asked.

What a debut album–it kicks in with “Rock ‘n’ Roll Star” and never, ever lets up. Soul sold.

4. Bob Dylan, Bringing It All Back Home (1965) 

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Yes, to dance beneath the diamond sky
With one hand waving free
Silhouetted by the sea
Circled by the circus sands
With all memory and fate
Driven deep beneath the waves
Let me forget about today until tomorrow

I cycled through many musical obsessions as a teenager, but I think perhaps my obsession with Bob Dylan lasted the longest and had the greatest impact, which is odd considering I probably listen him to the least out of any artist that appears on this list. I devoured all his albums, watched Dont Look Back more than was healthy, and wore sunglasses a lot. Yeah, not healthy behavior, but having a thorough knowledge of Dylan’s catalogue is something I consider worthy of being mentioned on my resume. Once, I had to explain to a dense individual how important Bob Dylan was to music. Like, they legitimately didn’t get it. It was sad. Don’t be that person.

Bringing It All Back Home is my favorite Dylan album, as it blends both acoustic and electric Dylan and contains some of my favorite Dylan tracks (which I did NOT play at my wedding reception!)–and Rick Nelson’s, too. I know, I have great taste.

3. The Jam, The Gift (1982) 

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Why are you frightened can’t you see that it’s you
That ain’t no ghost it’s a reflection of you
Why do you turn away an’ keep it out of sight
Oh don’t live up to your given roles
There’s more inside you that you won’t show

Paul Weller is the man who knocked down the walls built by Jarvis Cocker.

My first exposure to The Jam was the video for “Going Underground.” I thought, “Good song, lead singer is a bit odd-looking.”

Ha. Ha. Ha.

I feel like with each of my obsessions, it just got worse. Like, I spent A LOT of time obsessing about Paul Weller. Way more time than I spent obsessing about Jarvis Cocker, even. The only reason I don’t spend so much time doing it anymore is because…well, I found more fulfillment in my work and life, I guess. And I also sought medical attention. Only kidding, ha. Maybe I should have.

Anyway.

The Gift may not be my favorite Jam album (but it includes my favorite Jam song, bar none), yet it is their most musically diverse and adventurous. And it has so, so, so many good songs.

And it’s their last. Weller, at age 24, announced the dissolution of the band at the height of their fame. Guts, man.

Bring on The Style Council!

(Never forget the time I threatened to turn this blog into an analysis/discussion of Style Council videos.)

2. The Beach Boys, Pet Sounds (1966) 

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Sometimes I feel very sad
Sometimes I feel very sad
(Can’t find nothin’ I can put my heart and soul into)

I don’t even know what to say about this album. I love it so much. It is absolute perfection from start to finish. It’s a spiritual kind of thing, don’t you think? Yes, yes, it is. Yet there are still people who don’t “get” this album. Don’t be that person. Make the world a better place. Listen to Pet Sounds, preferably at least once a day. You just have to listen…listen.

1. The Beatles, Rubber Soul (1965) 

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Was she told when she was young
That pain would lead to pleasure?
Did she understand it when they said
That a man must break his back
To earn his day of leisure?
Will she still believe it when he’s dead?

Any Beatles album could hold the top spot on this list. As many musical obsessions have come and gone, The Beatles were the first and remain the most intense and innate part of my existence. The Beatles are the sound of my beating heart.

It’s odd (to me, anyway) to think of how this is the album that so influenced Brian Wilson to write Pet Sounds, yet he and I listened primarily to different versions. Brian was listening to the Capitol version, with a different track listing (including the false-start version of “I’m Looking Through You”), and I have always listened to the original UK version. (Capitol may have been onto something, actually: omitting “What Goes On” is downright inspired and inserting the folksy “I’ve Just Seen A Face” and “It’s Only Love” blend in well with the musical landscape of the album.) Yet we both have the same intense love affair with the album. Revolver may have opened the doors for Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, and Sgt. Pepper is certainly more advanced technology-wise, but neither has the heart of Rubber Soul. In fact, as much as I love each of their albums, I might go as far to argue that no other Beatles album has the heart that Rubber Soul does. The empathetic drumming Ringo lends to John in “In My Life”? Just…my heart.

I’ll stop now. I find it hard to express my feelings about this band of brothers for, like Cordelia, my love’s more richer than my tongue…

I know everyone stays up REALLY late at Collinwood, but it’s way past my bedtime…

P.S.

Because no one has found out that he’s a vampire from another century.

Can’t stop, won’t stop. HELP!

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Watching Dark Shadows with Subtitles: A New Obsession

…because, of course, I am in dire need of one of those.

My Dark Shadows binge-watching has been aided by the invent of streaming. Sure, I have the entire series on DVD, but there’s an added luxurious laziness to streaming. No need to get up and change the disc after 10 episodes! (I’m over burning calories, anyway–hey, I’m married now!)

But streaming also became a necessity when I needed to watch portions of the show that were currently on loan to a family member in need. (The crazy blood runs deep and is genetic.) So, I signed up for a free 14-day trial of MPI’s Dark Shadows streaming service, darkshadows.tv. The best part about this streaming service? Besides, you know, not having to get up and change the disc after 10 episodes…

Subtitles.

Yep. Subtitles.

In fact, the subtitles are so awesome, I’m becoming even more outraged that this service wasn’t completed for the DVDs. I’m not hard of hearing (yet), but the subtitles bring so much to the show. Let’s take a look!

First, there’s the description of the music (among the best, ROBERT COBERT = LEGEND!).

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50% of the show.

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The other 50%.

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Even in broad daylight, things are eerie at Collinwood.

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Mrs. Johnson doesn’t get around to cleaning this part of Collinwood too often.

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Things usually get tense when Barnabas has to deal with 20th century technology, i.e. use a telephone. He refuses to have such a modern convenience installed at The Old House, you know!

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So Josette’s Music Box is just a music box, but Quentin’s “music box” is EERIE. Fine, be that way.

Then, there’s the descriptions of things that happen frequently around Collinsport:

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Everyday occurrences, no lie.

Some things only happen when Barnabas and Julia are under duress, forced to help create a mate for one of the worst Dark Shadows characters of all-time, ADAM…

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Dance, monkey, dance!

Then, there’s things that happen occasionally and warrant a screen cap, obviously:

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Maniacal, charming, same thing.

Slight detour here, but while watching Quentin “maniacally” laugh as he has driven everyone out of Collinwood, I noticed something in the hallway…

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Have I lost my mind (98% chance) or is that the box that holds the hand of Count Petofi? Just lurking around in Collinwood, circa 1969? (By the way, check out this “Count Petofi style wood box” on eBay! The price has dropped dramatically!) Guess I’ll have to go back and watch even more episodes to find out. Oh, dirty darn…

Then, there’s just the ability to capture inspiring lines of dialogue:

Inspiring lols, that is. 

EVER AGAIN. (CLENCHED EYELIDS.)

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This line comes before one of the greatest moments (maybe THE greatest) in Dark Shadows history: Barnabas hits Willie over the head with a glass bottle in order to escape (the same way that Maggie escaped Barnabas when she was a prisoner in the Old House–remember when they used to build houses with secret passages and jail cells in the basement? Those were the days!!). This line reminds me of Chunk, speaking to Sloth, in The Goonies: “Sloth, you’re gonna live with me now. I’m gonna take care of ya…’cos I love ya.” Yeah, I’m a pretty balanced individual, really.

Pre-Wedding pep talk.

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Yeah, come on, Angelique, Barnabas has fooled how many generations of Collins that he’s his own great-great-great grandson? They’re not that bright.

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Oh my gosh, I can’t stop laughing. Adam + Charred Eve = OTP!

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Well, staring at the portrait of your long-lost love (your wedding present to her that didn’t arrive until after you had married Angelique) who has been DEAD for nearly 200 years will do that to you…

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Jason McGuire wishes you would have had that attitude when he came over for a visit a few episodes ago…

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Of course. And everyone will come dressed as a member of the Collins family. Guess who Barnabas will be?

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Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!

(Legend has it these were Jonathan Frid’s exact words to Dan Curtis when he requested to play a character other than Barnabas–GASP!–hence the birth of Bramwell Collins.)

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And it won’t be an accident like the time I strangled my first crazy wife!

And, saving the best for last:

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Ooooh, BURN!

(Quentin will do that to ya. He’s H-O-T.)

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It may not have been high-budget television (had to allocate a good portion of the budget to all the candles for the Old House), but dang, if it isn’t just the most addictive and enjoyable television-watching experience of my life…

(Yet my husband claims you had to “grow up watching” this show to like it. “Is that guy Frankenstein?” he asks. “Why isn’t he a vampire anymore?” he wonders. “Why can he become a vampire again if Adam is still alive?” he muses. Sure sounds like someone’s trying to play catch up, if you ask me…)

A Note on the Genesis of Count Petofi

Bonjour, mon vieux! Your beloved Countess has been–er–busy, debating about what to blog about next (more leftovers of songs I didn’t play at my wedding reception? Little teaser: no “Light My Fire”, “Will Never Marry”, or “Happiness is a Warm Gun”. Are you shocked? Very. NAME THAT MOVIE OR GET OFF MY BLOG!!), being obsessed with a little magical kitchen appliance called a FOOD PROCESSOR (I want to use it all day, every day forever and ever…I’m starting to have dreams about using it–and cutting my finger handling the blades, but that’s not important, I will suffer for my art if necessary!), and watching a lot of Dark Shadows. I mean, like a lot a lot. I’ve cycled through quite a few story arcs in the past few months (yeah, let’s say months, that sounds like a more balanced individual)–Parallel Time, Barnabas’ introduction, and–can I get a YA-OOOOOOO here?–Quentin Collins, womanizer (he can’t help it, really), Werewolf, and non-believer of Barnabas’s “I’m my own great-great-grandson” cover story.

I’m not really sure what prompted the re-awakening of this compulsive Dark Shadows watching, but I’m pretty sure it’s like cancer: it comes back worse. I mean, I have trouble leaving the house. (Just. One. More. Episode.) And I want to decorate my house like the Old House, sans electricity, indoor plumbing ‘n’ all. Yikes.

Anyway.

My husband married me knowing I loved this melodramatic “gothic soap opera” from the 1960s, a decade I probably should have been alive during. And I tried to reign him into my inner circle of obsession and madness, but the trouble was, he wasn’t gripped by the throat like Willie was. He said it was too slow. (THE NERVE!!) He refused to watch it unless he was trying to fall asleep.

Still, I married him, knowing he didn’t like Dark Shadows or The Brady Bunch (that’s really not normal, is it?) or The Monkees. Musta been love.

But then this thing happened…He started lurking when I was watching episodes. And he started asking questions. “Why is she [Maggie] still in this condition? Shouldn’t something else be happening to her by now?” “Is he a werewolf or does he just need a haircut?” “What happened to Count Petofi and the gypsy king?” And one of his questions has prompted this blog entry: “Why did you name your blog The Hand of Count Petofi? Is he your favorite character?”

Uhhhh, no! Barnabas and Quentin 4EVER. (Literally. You and I are gonna live foreverrrrrrr, we’re gonna live foreverrrrrrr...) So why not name this blog CousinBarnabas or WerewolfSideburns? Why The Hand of Count Petofi?

First of all, here’s a little mini bio of Count Andreas Petofi from none other than The Dark Shadows Wiki (because I don’t think I could say it any better):

Count Andreas Petofi is an extremely powerful warlock who first appeared in the 1897 storyline. He used the alias of Victor Fenn-Gibbon and presented Edward Collins with a forged letter of introduction from his friend, the Earl of Hampshire (793) to establish residence at Collinwood.

Petofi had very poor eyesight, which was odd because his powers were so great one would imagine he might have corrected his eyesight. He wore glasses with very thick purple frames to help correct his vision (786). He had certainly found a way to stop or slow his own aging (801) as he was at least 150 years old in 1897 according to Magda Rakosi. According to the Count, he had once possessed a pet unicorn, which he had killed on the full moon before curing himself of the curse of the werewolf. It was telling this story that told Quentin Collins he was a werewolf at one time, because most people would not have known that a werewolf does not recall what happened when they are in beast form (801).

The Count explained to Edward Collins that he could barely speak above a whisper as he had served with Lord Kitchener in the Sudan. It seems that the knife of a tribesman caught him just above the shoulder blade, and the tip pierced his throat. Petofi claimed he was almost given up for dead (793).

Somehow Petofi had placed a large reservoir of power into his right hand, which he then lost as payment to the gypsy woman who cured him of his lycanthropy. In the place of his hand he wore a wooden hand which generally held his cane. The gypsies kept the hand in a box where it did not decay, and retained considerable magical powers. The hand was stolen by Magda from King Johnny Romano (778), but she could not control it (786).

Count Petofi sent Aristede to recover the hand, but by the time he found Aristede unconcious on the docks, Angelique was in possession of the hand. Later that evening he recognized the box it was being kept in, being held by Angelique at Collinwood (793). He watched through the window as Angelique attempted to use it to take away Quentin’s disfigurement.

Among Petofi’s greatest enemies were the Gypsies (794). He concocted an elaborate scheme to escape their vengeance which involved switching bodies with Quentin Collins or (later) Barnabas Collins.

A struggle followed which resulted in a fire, burning the building and presumably destroying both Petofi and Garth Blackwood. This is assumed because Petofi’s glasses were found in the fire, something he could not get far without, and Blackwood was never heard from again (883).

Uh, seriously, why not name this blog The Hand of Count Petofi? A warlock with poor eyesight who wears thick purple frames and a former werewolf whose severed hand holds magical powers? And you only know he’s been destroyed because his glasses are among the remains of a fire? Life ambition right there.

Plus, when you Google Count Petofi, here’s a screenshot of the image results:

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I think I’ll start using this as my profile photo on social media:

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I’m a little perplexed as to why this gem of Petofi cuddling under the beloved Afghan that saw so many Dark Shadows characters through so many crises is not among the top images:

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Just tell me how to travel to the future already, Barnabas!!!!! 

And if you go back to that Google Image Search, you’ll see one of the related search terms is “McCartney.” Whaaaaaat? What does the Cute Beatle have to do with a powerful 19th century warlock?

Nothing, really, just the fact that I’m obsessed with both and have blogged about them. Yep, many of the images that come from clicking on that “related search” come from this blog.

Which brings me back to the original question at hand: Why name this blog The Hand of Count Petofi?

No reason, really, except at the time I started up this blog I must have been in the throes of a Dark Shadows obsession and lovin’ on the 1897 storyline (one of the best). This blog could have just as easily been named RobinGibbsTeeth or FatBrandog or something equally mundane and meaningless. Oh, you bet I’m loopy all right…

Hey, check this out:

Yes, the video is entitled “Count Petofi Does the I-Ching & Chokes Himself.” Guaranteed to improve your quality of life. You’re welcome.

(Try to ignore the ever-annoying Dr. Julia Hoffman and her eye-fluttering and SIGHS — LIFE IS SO HARD AT COLLINWOOD!!! Oh my gosh why didn’t Barnabas choke her when he had the chance? Oh, yeah, SARAH! Ugh.)

Until Next Time,

David Selby Scan from Return to Collinwood

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Let’s Movie! Part Two

Nearly two years ago (yikes! Who’s minding this store, anyway?), I posted an entry about Tuner Classic Movies’ branding campaign, known simply as “Let’s Movie.” The campaign (which I now assume is defunct) invited audiences to not only watch films on their network as they were meant to be–commercial-free, uncut, and presented in their original format–but also to share their favorite things about the movies. The list should not be a list of favorite movies or the best movies but instead a list of moments, lines, and visuals that have made a lasting impression on you and encapsulate what you love about the wonderful world of film.

When I initially posted my own list, I wrote: “I recently finished reading Furious Love, a book about Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. It tells of how Burton was initially unimpressed with Taylor as an actress. ‘She’s just not doing anything,’ he complained to Joe Mankiewicz, Cleopatra‘s director. Then Mankiewicz showed him Taylor’s impact onscreen and from her, Burton learned how the visual element of film could often trump the spoken element of theater. Some of my very favorite moments are those subtle, visual moments that you have to watch for closely (sometimes these moments prompt explanation in the list that follows, sometimes they don’t), but still many of the items on this list are simply lines that have often crept into my everyday dialogue.” At the time, I only posted 45 items, failing to reach 100. I tried very hard to not repeat multiple lines or moments in the same film (sometimes failing). I don’t know that I am going to try to do that again because there’s often not just one line or moment in a film that makes me love it. So, back by popular demand, here is part two of LET’S MOVIE…

46. Montgomery Clift doing “Chattanooga Choo Choo.” (The Big Lift, 1950) 

Sorry if you thought I’d get through this list without mentioning this dude a time or two dozen…

The Big Lift isn’t a great movie by any stretch, but it is a unique performance by Montgomery Clift in that he is more romantic and comedic in this role than any other. This moment in particular highlights, as the video description states, “an untapped gift for comedy.” So often is Monty remembered for his portrayals of tortured, principled loners–which often murks with his personal life–that it is a pure joy to see him so full of life. That man had a smile that could light up a street full of people. That’s how I like to remember him–he was funny, he was charming, he was even, at times, supremely happy.

I recently read Patricia Bosworth’s biography of Montgomery Clift for the oh, I don’t know, maybe sixth time. (And I recently was perusing reviews on Amazon about the book and was utterly shocked at how many people find it boring, a waste of time, etc. These are probably the same people who say “I never cared for Montgomery Clift.” There’s just no accounting for people who have zero taste.) Recently on CBS Sunday Morning, Sharon Stone noted that her residence (in California, presumably) was the “Montgomery Clift property.” Well, I was 99.9% sure that Montgomery Clift never owned a property in California–he preferred living in New York and only traveled to California when he had to for filming–and darn it, I had to read the biography again to make sure. (Results of my research affirmed my initial reaction: he did not ever own a property in California; he stayed with friends and rented a few properties, notably during the filming of Raintree County and recovering from his car accident.) ANYWAY, reading the biography again was both delightful and heartbreaking: he was so incredibly talented and had so much to give to the world, yet there was such a downward spiral in his life (and it didn’t, as people often assume, simply begin after his devastating car accident) that just breaks my heart. I was so delighted in reading the book again to be reminded of his connections to David Ford (Sam Evans on Dark Shadows, duh) and John Fiedler (voice of Piglet, what more could you possible need?) and Robert Redford — such a tenuous thread of connections to people that seems particularly tailored to me and my interests. Well, I just can’t wait to talk to this guy in the next life.

47. “You know anything about mountain climbing? … You know anything about flying an airplane? … What do you know about deep-sea diving?” (From Here to Eternity, 1953) 

Speaking of Clift’s untapped talent for comedy, how about the scene in From Here to Eternity where he rips into the guy (appropriately named Phil) who has stolen his gal (Donna Reed) from him? Phil is bragging about surfboarding and asks Prewitt (Clift) if he knows anything about surfboarding. “No,” Prewitt abruptly replies, fuming. Then he starts–oh, so passive-aggressively–throwing questions at Phil: “You know anything about mountain climbing? You know anything about flying an airplane? Me either. What do you know about deep-sea diving?” It’s so great. And Prewitt’s little Hawaiian shirt? Just the icing on the cake. Heavens to Betsy, this guy was the best. Unfortunately, no one has uploaded this clip onto YouTube, so–dirty darn!–you’re gonna have to raid your local library and borrow the film, one of the few Clift performance available on Blu-ray (a confusing fact in itself, that man’s face was made for high-definition).

48. “Not the jacket!” (The Family Stone, 2005) 

The Family Stone is a great Christmas movie, a great movie that perfectly captures what family relationships are really like, and a movie that makes you wonder, “Why doesn’t Luke Wilson make more movies (or more movies like this)?”

49. “Michael Francis Rizzi, do you renounce Satan?”
“I do renounce him.” 

“And all his works?”
“I do renounce them.”
“And all his pomps?”
“I do renounce them.”
“Michael Rizzi, will you be baptized?”
“I will.”
(The Godfather, 1972) 

Don’tcha just love how the church organ and the gunshots perfectly complement each other? Divinity, I tell ya.

50. “Hey, what are you gonna do, nice college boy? Didn’t want to get mixed up in the family business and now you wanna gun down a police captain because he slapped you in the face a little bit? Huh? What, do you think this is the army where you shoot ’em a mile away? You gotta get ’em close and–BADABING!–you blow their brains all over your nice Ivy League suit. Come ‘ere! You’re taking this very personal. Tom, this is business, and this man is taking it very, very personal.” (The Godfather, 1972) 

James Caan is amazing as Sonny Corleone. Badabeep! Badabap! Badaboop! This scene shows Sonny’s genuine affection for Michael, who doesn’t quite see the humor in the situation. Ah, Michael. Ah, Sonny. Goddamn FBI don’t respect nothin’!

51. “Fredo, you’re my older brother, and I love you. But don’t ever take sides with anyone against the Family again. Ever.” (The Godfather, 1972)

52. “I know it was you, Fredo. You broke my heart. You broke my heart!” (The Godfather II, 1974)

Happy new year, ya filthy animal.

I know what you’re thinking: enough with The Godfather quotes already! But this is what happens when your husband leaves you alone for the night: you end up watching The Godfather and debating which part you like best. One. No, two. No, no, one! Ad infinitum. And you realize how so many of its lines are, like, in your DNA. And you realize the need for therapy…

53. Robert De Niro in The Godfather II. 

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Best supporting actor indeed! I mean, just look at Vito’s concern for poor little Fredo, crying and suffering from pneumonia. Everything Vito did, he did for his family. See, The Godfather is really a film about family, and that’s why it is perfect for every occasion! You can watch it at Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, birthdays, weddings…

Ok, I’ll stop now. Maybe.

54. Nick Arden (Cary Grant), in the elevator with his new bride, is shocked to see his first wife (Irene Duane), declared missing at sea and presumed dead after seven years. (My Favorite Wife, 1940) 

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Hats off to Nancy Meyers and co. for paying tribute to this in The Parent Trap (1998).

55. “You were born older, George.” (It’s A Wonderful Life, 1946) 

56. “I did NOT send you to Go Kart camp!” (Heavyweights, 1995) 

I say this, like, all the time.

57. “Let her burn, let her burn, let her burn all night. Bring me out here in the doggone middle of the night to turn off the light. Can’t he ever get anything right? ‘Oh, no, dad, I’ll–I’ll be sure to turn the lights off.’ Well, he couldn’t turn a light off at the house, why would he ever turn one off down here at the store?” (That Thing You Do!, 1996)

I also say this all the time.

56. JIMMY: Sorry I’m buggin’ you. I guess I’m alone in my principles.
[Storms off, leaving the table.]

LENNY: Oh come on. Oh, there he goes–off to his room to write that hit song “Alone in my principles.”
— That Thing You Do!, 1996 

Steve Zahn is a gem.

57. “Shoulda dumped you in Pittsburgh! Which one of you butts said we were engaged?” (That Thing You Do!, 1996)

I also say this all the time. People only started taking it personally once I was actually engaged.

58. “Now that’s better, Johnny. You know, I missed you. Ever since the club split up, I missed you. We all missed you. Did ja miss him? YEAH! The Beetles missed ya, all the Beetles missed ya!” (The Wild One, 1953) 

Thank you to The Beatles Anthology for introducing me, at a young age, to so many things, including Marlon Brando!

59. “When this baby hits 88 miles an hour, you’re gonna see some serious shit.” (Back to the Future, 1985) 

60. Biff’s transformation and green track suit. (Back to the Future, 1955) 

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“Oh, Marty! Marty, here’s your keys. You’re all waxed up, ready for tonight.” Then he puts his hand on his hips. This guy…I tell ya.

61. “Why must we marry at all? Why can’t things just stay as they are?” (Little Women, 1994) 

62. EDIE: I recognized you by your nose.
TERRY: Quite a nose, huh? Some people just have a face that sticks in your mind.
(On the Waterfront, 1954) 

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Well, I’d say.

63. Spencer Tracy’s final speech in Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? (1967)

I love Spencer Tracy; he was such a genuine, natural actor. His performance here is touching and brilliant–his final on film (he died seventeen days after the film was completed), but what I think I love even more here is Katharine Hepburn’s reaction to his performance. In watching her films with Tracy, their affection for each other is so natural and obvious, I’m not sure how anyone would have not known they were partners off-screen. I don’t really think she’s acting here; I think she is genuinely reacting to his performance and his words about love and especially his love for her, enduring through the years.

(Side note: My husband and I watched this — his first time seeing the film (which amazingly some people call “preachy” and “irrelevant”, we must live on different planets) or any Spencer Tracy film actually — and after it was over, I think he might have even had a tear or two, he said, “That was a really good movie. It’s one of my favorite movies now!” I feel like such a successful human being.)

64. Mortimer (Cary Grant) discovers a body in the window seat. (Arsenic and Old Lace, 1944) 

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“But there’s a body in the window seat!”
“Yes, dear! We know.”

Or just Cary Grant’s facial expressions in general. Especially in his comedic roles, which are my favorite. Give me funny Cary Grant over goopy, romantic Cary Grant any ol’ day. Chaaaaaarge! “He’s so happy being Teddy Roosevelt!”

So many great lines in this film: “Where’d you get that face? Hollywood?” “Insanity runs in my family. It practically gallops!” “Even the cat’s in on it!” “I’m not a cab driver, I’m a coffee pot!”

Don’t wait to watch it for Halloween (a necessity); watch it now!

65. “Your girl is lovely, Hubbell.” (The Way We Were, 1973) 

Watching The Way We Were is such a commitment–namely, a commitment to feeling emotionally exhausted and drained for several days. I mean, how could Hubbell leave Katie (annnnnd his child)? No one was gonna love him the way Katie did. No one was gonna push him to go to France and write that second novel. No one was gonna brush his hair like Katie! Ughhhh. I don’t think I will ever get over this movie. Someone want to remind me why Redford was not nominated for his acting in this film?

66. “Excuse me. Could you help me? I’m looking for the Russian Tea Room.” “This is the Russian Tea Room. You’re in front of it.” (Tootsie, 1982)

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Sydney Pollack forever!

67. “Happy Thanksgiving. It’s your turn to say Happy Thanksgiving back.”
“Happy thanksgiving back?”
(You’ve Got Mail, 1999) 

68. Montgomery Clift teaching the lost Czech boy English in The Search (1948). 

Most adorable thing in the world, I’m tellin’ ya.

“Now, I ask you, am I genius or am I not?”

“No.”

“Ok, ok. But look lad, the answer should have been yes! Yes! Yes!”

I say, yes, yes, yes!

And I’m not just sayin’ it for the chocolate, which is my number one motivator in life, not gonna lie.

69. I have no words, just… (The Heiress, 1949) 

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So sad. Not a cruel mercenary at all!

70. “Blane? His name is Blaine? That’s a major appliance, that’s not a name!!” (Pretty in Pink, 1986) 

Says the guy named…Duckie.

71. JOHN: ‘Ello, grandfather!
PAUL’S GRANDFATHER: Hello.
JOHN: He can talk, then, can he?
PAUL: Of course, he can talk. He’s a human being, isn’t he?
RINGO: Well if he’s your grandfather, who knows? Hahahaha!
— A Hard Day’s Night (1964)

I just love that someone has put this on YouTube. Hahahaha!

72. Sam Craig (Spencer Tracy) explains the inner workings of a baseball game to Tess Harding (Katharine Hepburn) in Woman of the Year

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73. That final moment in Paddington 2

I don’t want to give anything away…I’ll just say, I wasn’t expecting to shed a tear, but you know that Paddington — he’s just the sweetest thing in the world.

Besides an orange marmalade sandwich, of course.

74. “Watch me for the changes and try to keep up, OK?” (Back to the Future, 1985)

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75. “If she can stand it, I can! Play it!” (Casablanca, 1942) 

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Some films that are purported to be the greatest can be underwhelming (for me, that would be Citizen Kane), but Casablanca really is perfect–sharp dialogue, the cinematography, great characters matched by great acting. Every scene is must-watch. Practically every line is quotable. It’s just perfect.

I rue the day I walked out of Goodwill not buying the framed Rick’s Cafe print…but hey, I do have some “pretty fancy shoes” from there.

76. The cameo by original Dark Shadows actors Jonathan Frid (LEGEND!!!!!!!!!), Lara Parker, David Selby (The Original Werewolf Heartthrob™), and Kathryn Leigh Scott in Dark Shadows (2012). 

Original actors' cameo, Dark Shadows 2012

AKA its one redeeming moment. Let’s just leave it at that.

78. Montgomery Clift’s arrogant silence and decidedly cool airiness as Matthew Garth in Red River (1948). 

While Howard Hawks may have worn out his arm teaching Clift how to punch and Clift wasn’t exactly the most convincing physical threat to John Wayne’s Thomas Dunson, he does display such an inner strength that is palpably threatening. Clift conveys this as he always does–the little things, like thoughtfully rubbing his nose, staring off into space (aka the Chisholm Trail) with those eyes of his, and sucking wheat…

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You know, things that you’d only notice if you were really watching closely, which is the only way to watch a Montgomery Clift movie. Love this guy. If that wasn’t obvious.

79. “Edie, you love me!” (On the Waterfront, 1954) 

After seeing The Post and writing about it on this blog, I had to get it out of my system by watching a GOOD movie. So I watched On the Waterfront aka another perfect movie that I could never get tired of watching. Brando is Brando, but Eva Marie Saint is great, too, conveying Edie’s conflicting feelings here so thoroughly and ending with what has to be one the greatest on-screen kisses of all-time.

80. Scarlett O’Hara slapping everyone in Gone with the Wind (1939). 

Prissy, Rhett, Suellen, and even her beloved Ashley (“Oh, Ashley!”) get walloped by Scarlett in the four-hour film. The Yankee deserter who shows up and steals earbobs from Ellen O’Hara’s sewing box? Well, Scarlett did a little more than just slap him.

81. “I want that you tell me was she feeble-minded? My Mother! Was she feeble-minded? Was she?!” (Judgment at Nuremberg, 1961) 

Some actors steal scenes. And some actors steal movies. And one actor steals a three-plus hour movie with a fifteen minute scene. That’s Montgomery Clift, honey!

He took his craft so seriously. Before shooting the scene, he got a (bad) haircut because he believed it was something his character would have done. Clift didn’t take a salary for Judgment at Nuremberg, and when he had finished his scene, he stayed and watched Judy Garland film her courtroom testimony. After it was over, director Stanley Kramer found Clift in tears. “Wasn’t she wonderful?” he asked Clift expectantly. “Awww, Stanley,” Clift replied, wiping his tears. “She did it all wrong!

I just love that story.

I have to say: I think it’s disgusting that Clift made fewer films than the number of times Meryl Streep has been nominated for an Oscar. Just…disgusting.

The list ends here for now. The final nineteen (of which only 12 will be from a Montgomery Clift movie and the other 7 will be from The Godfather, ha ha ha) will have to wait for another time. Until next time…

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Why Paddington 2 is a Better Movie than The Post

During the month of January, I have gone to the movie theater twice. One of the films I saw is a delightful, charming, and heartwarming film about friendship, family, and loyalty; the other is a star-studded, Oscar-nominated “thrilling” drama that puts the audience to sleep in the first ten minutes (if not sooner).

Yep. Paddington 2 is a superior film to The Post in every single way. Fact.

Paddington 2 picks up where the first film left off: Paddington is happily settled with the Brown family and an essential part of the fabric of the community. Aunt Lucy’s 100th birthday is quickly approaching, however, and Paddington has to work hard to buy her the perfect present: an antique pop-up book illustrating all the essential London landmarks. What Paddington doesn’t know, though, is that the pop-up book is actually a hidden treasure map, heavily coveted by washed-up actor Phoenix Buchanan (played to perfection by Hugh Grant). When Buchanan steals the book (in disguise, of course), Paddington is unjustly framed for the crime and sent to jail.

Yes. Paddington goes to jail! Gasp.

Poor Paddington. But Paddington, being Paddington, makes friends and improves jail-life for everyone: the uniforms become pink-tinged, bedtime stories are implemented, and there are orange marmalade sandwiches for everyone, even the hard-edged Mr. Knuckles!

Paddington 2 is better than the first Paddington (which is also charming and adorable), but it is most definitely better than a film that is nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture.

Rotten Tomatoes describes The Post as “a thrilling drama about the unlikely partnership between The Washington Post’s Katharine Graham (Streep), the first female publisher of a major American newspaper, and editor Ben Bradlee (Hanks), as they race to catch up with The New York Times to expose a massive cover-up of government secrets that spanned three decades and four U.S. Presidents. The two must overcome their differences as they risk their careers – and their very freedom – to help bring long-buried truths to light.” While that sounds promising, what that actually translates to on-screen is a very, very slow film with a minimal story and lackluster, underwhelming performances–including by the supposedly amazing Meryl Streep aka the most overrated, underwhelming actress ever.

Three-quarters of the film focuses on whether The Washington Post is going to secure The Pentagon Papers and scoop The New York Times. In the last quarter of the film, the papers are secured, and the debate on whether to publish them rages. It’s approximately 1000% less interesting than it sounds. All the President’s Men and Spotlight — two films that really showcase the tough grit, integrity, and relentlessness of journalists — it is not. Nothing is captivating or compelling, least of all the characters and the performers who bring them to “life.” Streep’s Graham is bland and lifeless; a somnambulant Jason Robards has more passion and believability as Ben Bradlee than Hanks can muster in two hours. I felt nothing for these characters or their dilemma. I was not moved to care, as interesting an example of media law The New York Times vs. The United States is. The only emotions I felt during the movie were agonizing boredom and relief when it finally ended. (I guess I also felt elation, early in the movie, when I spotted a movie poster for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid — and subsequently I would feel longing for that kind of sophisticated, witty film-making.)

With the current state of affairs, I understand the urgency and importance of The Post, but it really is lacking in acting (supremely disappointing) and storytelling (even more disappointing). The film has no heart, plain and simple. While watching Paddington 2, however, I was drawn into Paddington’s world, full of concern and love for Paddington just as all the other characters are in the film. I laughed, I was on the edge of my seat, cheering for Paddington, and in the film’s final moments, my throat even constricted and I felt a tear or two or a thousand welling up. Heart.

 

Songs I Did Not Play at My Wedding Reception

If I were to blame my lack of updating this blog on one thing, it would not be the death of my beloved Macbook Pro (RIP) or lack of time or some silly nonsense, it would just have to be the fact that I am now a married Countess–Mistress of Collinwood, if you will–and I have responsibilities, people! (Nothing like poor Judith helping her dear Gregory– Reverend Trask’s great-grandson–rebuild his sadistic school or keeping herself out of the insane asylum, but responsibilities nonetheless!) But, beloved readers, I have not forgotten you.

My wedding day was perfect. Or at least I think it was. There was a lot of planning and stress, of course, but it was a fairly simple affair. (I think?!) One of the final things I worked out was the music playlist. I wasn’t too worried about the music because: 1) I have the best taste B) If all else failed, I would have just played Pet Sounds from start to finish ad infinitum and, D) I don’t think 99.9% of attendees paid any attention, anyway. And when I finally did create a dump playlist (you know, like a first draft–just get it down, man), it ran 3-4 hours for a 90-minute event. Oops. And so that is when the really hard work began: cutting songs. Should “Layla” be unplugged or not? How much Beatles is too much? (No such thing, I decided. Approximately 28.9% of the eventual playlist was by The Beatles, collectively or solo. Not that anyone was counting, except the one guest who dared to jest, “Too much Beatles!” To which I replied, “Off with your head, Alice!”)

I may be biased, but I would say the eventual playlist was perfect. There were, however, more than a handful of perfect songs that did not make the cut, and for no better reason than I have nothing better to blog about and have been stuck with the same playlists on my iPhone since my Macbook died, here’s me musing about why a few of them ended up on the cutting room floor…

“Cornerstone” – Arctic Monkeys

Tell me, where’s your hiding place
I’m worried I’ll forget your face
And I’ve asked everyone

I’m beginning to think I imagined you all along

This was actually in the playlist until, quite literally, the very last minute when I cut it – for time and because I had inserted another song that ended up to be that song. The lyrics really showcase how Alex Turner is heir to Jarvis Cocker’s throne of breathy, creepy, I’m-in-love-with-you-but I’m-not-stalking-you kind of thing. I mean, come on: I smelt your scent on the seat belt/And kept my shortcuts to myself. That’s killer. Oh, Jarvis, I used to think you were the real deal. I love this song. And the video. Arctic Monkeys are back this year, aren’t they? Hallelujah! 

“There Is A Light That Never Goes Out” – The Smiths

…except I wanted to play the instrumental soundcheck version, false starts and all. Even though Morrissey’s voice can be the most comforting sound in the world (I believe I once famously compared it to your mom cutting the crusts off your peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, even though I’m an avid devourer of crusts – hey man, this figure doesn’t happen all on its own), I love this instrumental version — such beautiful music, the perfect juxtaposition to Morrissey whinging (I use this word in a loving way, mind) And in the darkened underpass I thought oh God, my chance has come at last…But then, I think this ultimately reminded me too much of relying so solely on the music of The Smiths and Morrissey and staring out of bus windows on long, cold, wintry days. Too solitary to be played on my wedding day.

“You Do Something to Me” – Paul Weller

Dancing through the fire, yeah
Just to catch a flame
Just to get close to
Just close enough 
To tell you that
You do something to me
Something deep inside

Or, actually, anything by Paul Weller. No Jam, no Style Council, no Paul Weller Movement, no nuthin’. Probably because I wanted to marry Paul Weller for the longest time before I met my husband, and part of me still believes that in a parallel time storyline, he and I would end up together. Not something you exactly want to evoke on your wedding day, right?

“Slide Away” – Oasis

Ugh, I love this song. So much. Back when the Gallaghers were still saying nice things about each other, I believe Noel once stated that this was Liam’s greatest vocal performance, and Liam called it the greatest rock ‘n’ roll love song. So many great lines in this song: “I dream of you and we talk of growing old, but you say please don’t”, “Let me be the one who shines with you/In the morning we don’t know what to do/We’re two of a kind”, “I don’t know, I don’t care, all I know is you can take me there…”

I spent a lot of time debating this one–and which version. The album version is, of course, amazing, but it  have you heard it live? Oh my heart. Ultimately, comparing the youthful arrogance, energy, and unity of the Gallagher brothers’ chant of “WHAT FOR?” at Knebworth in ’96 and the tired resignation of the band’s performance of the song at the iTunes Festival in ’09 broke my heart. This band, man. Put your life in the hands of this rock ‘n’ roll band and they just might throw it all away. (Even though they told you they wouldn’t.)

“Baby, I Love Your Way” – Peter Frampton

I am not yet prepared to declare to world exactly how many copies I own of Frampton Comes Alive! (but hey, like most people, I only own one copy of I’m In You), but hey, I love that album and this song. But no matter how many times I listen to it, I still have difficulty listening to it without being reminded of a greasy Ethan Hawke (is there any other kind of Ethan Hawke? Just sayin’…) mocking it.

“Simple Man” – Graham Nash

Wish that I could see you once again
Across the room
Like the first time

What a song, man. (What an album! One of my favorite albums. Of. All. Time.) Graham Nash is the real deal for me, dude. He’s my favorite member of CSN(Y–what a loser, don’t get me started), with Stills a nose hair or two or heck, a mutton chop behind. This song, written about his breakup with Joni Mitchell, just tears the hearts to pieces, don’t it? I just want to hold you, I don’t want to hold you down. Duuuuuude. On a happier, note, I also wanted to play The Hollies’ version of “Just One Look.” I mean, Doris Troy is Doris Troy and all, but there’s just something about some scrawny white guys from Manchester singing Just one look and I felt so I-I-I’M IN LOVE! (If I could figure out a way to make the font get gradually bigger, I would.) Makes me happy just thinkin’ about it.

“That’s The Way I’ve Always Heard It Should Be” – Carly Simon 

Ah, my girl Carly. The day my husband proposed, we went record shopping, and I found a good lump of Carly Simon records. The clerk commented, “A Carly Simon kind of day, huh?” As every day should be. Carly once introduced this song as “a kind of weird song about marriage.” (Pssst, what do you think Art and George were talking about? Doesn’t George look perturbed when he discovers the camera watching him? Heh, heh.)

You say we can keep our love alive
Babe all I know is what I see
The couples cling and claw
And drown in love’s debris
You say we’ll soar like two birds through the clouds
But soon you’ll cage me on your shelf
I’ll never learn to be just me first
By myself

A great song. But maybe not one to play at a wedding reception.

“Your Smiling Face” – James Taylor

The real JT, people. What a jam. Unashamed to admit I know the words to this song by heart. No one can tell me that I’m doing wrong today whenever I see your smiling face my way…

And have you seen JT perform it on Sesame Street with Oscar the Grouch? No? Well, prepare yourself for a lil’ slice of divinity:

You know James, you’re so aggravating!

“Girl” – Davy Jones 

You know, it was a real turning point in our relationship when my husband admitted he had not seen every episode (or maybe even one episode) of The Brady Bunch. I think that stuff might just be in my DNA, and there’s a strong possibility that Mike Brady might just actually be my real father. So we watched my favorite episode of the series: “Getting Davy Jones.” And you know what? My husband-to-be didn’t exactly care for it. (His expression resembles the engineer’s in the studio.) YIKES! I had some real soul-searching to do that night. I mean, there are just some days when you feel like Marcia calling to tell her teacher that she couldn’t get Davy Jones and then–WHAM!–in walks Davy Jones…in the form of singing this song. See ya on the flip side, Davy.

“I Need You” – The Beatles

Please come on back to me.
I’m lonely as can be.
I need you.

Yep, there were a few Beatles songs that did not make the cut, and this one probably hurts the most. George never commented on this song, but it is one of his best early songs–so full of love and longing. The track features an effect called violining. George plugged a foot-controlled tone pedal into his trusty twelve-string Rickenbacker, allowing him to to quickly increase or lower the sound of the instrument. But you already knew that, didn’t you?

“You Didn’t Have to Be So Nice” – The Lovin’ Spoonful

Oh, I love this song. It is divinity. I have a vinyl record of The Very Best of The Lovin’ Spoonful, and it must have belonged to a radio station at one time–it’s marked WIDR all over, someone meticulously wrote the times of each song, and someone also lovingly inscribed the back cover: “All cuts are GREAT!” How true. But I wanted to play this song just because it reminds me of my husband — not because he is a Lovin’ Spoonful fan (“Who’s that?”, he would probably ask, bless him) or anything like that but just because he is the nicest guy. And he didn’t have to be so nice… I would have liked him anyway.

And just as a reminder of what a weird and wonderful world the 1960s were, here is–contain your excitement, ladies–Peter Noone introducing the Lovin’ Spoonful on an episode of Hullabaloo!:


“Without You” – Harry Nilsson 

I’m not really sure why I even put this in the running in the first place. The Badfinger version is probably superior (I debate this a lot in my head, but I’m 100% sane, I swear), but dang, if that band doesn’t break your heart. I think I like the Harry Nilsson version because 1) I instantly think of the cover of Nilsson Schmilsson (A+++ album & cover) and well, that’s like my life goal right there and 2) I’m 1000% convinced that if the note at 1:24 won’t grow hairs on your chest (just like any good ol’ jalapeno pepper), nothing will. I CAN’T LIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIVE, I CAN’T GIVE ANYMORE! How could anyone even remember that Mariah Carey sang this song after hearing Nilsson and Badfinger do it? I was more than a little shocked. And disturbed. And instantly signed up for another session with my therapist, Judd Hirsch. (Are you guys watching me for the changes and keeping up OK?)

“Wish You Were Here” – Pink Floyd 

Reflecting on this playlist now, this is one of the songs that initially makes me scratch my head and wonder, Why did I want to play this song? But, you see, the answer is quite simple. The theme of the wedding reception was It’s A Wonderful Life (yes, the Christmas movie AKA the most perfect movie of all-time). Each table and its decorations centered on a quote from the film. My personal favorite? “Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?” I decorated the table with old family photos — of my grandparents, their parents, etc. People I wished were there but of course couldn’t be. It was my favorite table. But nobody really ever sat there all night — maybe because there were already others sitting there.

And well, I love this song, and it is a love song–like the entire album–for Syd. And oh, how I love Syd.

“All or Nothing At All” – Frank Sinatra

All or nothin’ at all
Half a love never appealed to me
If your heart, it never could yield to me
Then I’d rather, rather have nothin’ at all

After the Beatles, Sinatra was star of the night. Or the playlist–whatever. The best version of this song (Sinatra recorded several, y’know) is, without contest, found on Sinatra and Strings. There, Sinatra’s vocal really captures all the incredible turmoil and pain of the lyrics. He’s not messin’ around, boy. The first Mrs. Frank Sinatra once commented that she never married again because well, how do you re-marry after being married to Frank Sinatra? That’s how I feel about Frank Sinatra’s voice. How can you listen to anyone else sing something he’s sung? There’s no getting over that voice, man. And he could sing it all.

“Annie’s Song” – John Denver

Come let me love you
Let me give my life to you
Let me drown in your laughter
Let me die in your arms
Let me lay down beside you
Let me always be with you
Come let me love you
Come love me again

If  you think you’re too cool to listen to John Denver, you’re not cool. At all. This is a beautiful, beautiful song. Not playing this song probably hurts the most. I should have cut something else in its favor.

Well, that’s all folks.

Much love & best regards (BLECH) FROM The Countess

IT (Andy Muschietti, 2017)

I’ve been meaning to write about IT for quite awhile…but then I got a little distracted. I saw It the first week it was released, but then I saw Dunkirk the following week and was kind of blown away and had to write about it right way, Tom Petty was dead, then he wasn’t, and then he really was, and I also developed this new hobby of trapping and killing fruit flies (it’s all in the flick of the wrist, honey). With these distractions fading to the background and Halloween (and Stranger Things 2) just around the corner, I think now is the appropriate time to talk about It. 

Let’s get something out of the way: Nothing can compare to the terror of reading the book. Nothing. Now, I’m not one of those snobs who thinks the book is always better than the movie because that’s just not true. Get over it. (I have written about this before.) But the terror and thrill of reading the book is something that is going to be impossible to translate to the screen. I made the mistake of reading It on my Nook Glowlight Plus (RIP my original Nook Glowlight and Barnes & Noble caring about their customers)…I’ll just say that when the back cover states that it should only be read in well-lit rooms, IT MEANS IT!!! If you have any doubts about Stephen King as a writer, read It because not only is It extremely well-written but It is also about much more than a dancing clown named Pennywise.

Now that we have established that is impossible for any screen adaptation to match the novel, we can do what everyone I know has been doing: compare it to the three-hour television mini-series produced in 1990.

As a child, the television adaptation was frightening, but so was the Radio City Hall stage version of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. (Actually, that’s still a little scary.) For what It was, this version is a decent translation of the novel, albeit constricted by length and television standards (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing). After seeing the film version, however, the mini-series appears tame and dated, not to mention sleep-inducing.

On the big screen, there are changes: the childhood portion of the story (which is the sole setting of this adaptation) is shifted from the 1950s to the 1980s. Initially the change startled and bothered me, but the more I thought about it and continued to watch the film, it just made sense. The 1980s is far more relatable — soundtrack, cultural references, etc. — for a film audience today than the 1950s would be. Reflecting on the novel (and the 1990 miniseries), however, there is one part that the filmmakers chose to leave in (without explanation) that is out of place in the 1980s setting — Bill’s bicycle, Silver. The bicycle plays a key role in the novel, and its name derives from The Lone Rangerwhich is a lost cultural reference point for (I’m guessing) the majority of a film-going audience. In the film, the bicycle is still clearly named Silver, but it is unexplained, and there are no shouts of “Hi ho silver away!”, which is just sad (if only because it brings back memories of Captain Sobel in Band of Brothers). But, I guess that is really nitpicking and would only affect you if you’ve actually read the book.

The biggest change — in my viewing — was the fact that IT takes Beverly down into the sewers, luring the other Losers down there. I don’t remember that happening in the book, and it kind of soured my viewing. The filmmakers did, however, choose to omit that one scene from the book, so maybe this alteration was their way of strengthening the bond between Beverly and the other Losers.

Changes (major and minor) aside, the acting from the child actors is superb and a vast improvement from the miniseries (which, again, was decent). They perfectly convey the terror and trauma of battling IT and the bond of friendship between seven outcasts. Yet, my chief criticism of the film, however, has to do with the portrayal of these children — and whether they are 11 or 14 (or whatever age they are supposed to be in this new version), they are under 18 and so they are CHILDREN.

It is rated R, which doesn’t always mean much. With the graphic violence and horror displayed in It, an R-rating makes sense. Apparently, however, an R-rating gives the filmmakers the freedom to drop the f-bomb in every sentence of dialogue, 90% of which is spoken by these CHILDREN. This kind of vulgarity is not only done in poor taste, it is absolutely unnecessary. Yes, King uses language in his writing. Yes, real people talk like that (…but they don’t exactly sound intelligent or cool doing it, no matter what anyone might make you think). And yes, sadly, there are even some children who know and use this kind of language. But you know what? They don’t come out of the womb talking like that. It is learned behavior, and if they don’t learn it at home (which, sadly, some do), they are going to learn it from media. What an irresponsible and tasteless decision on the part of the filmmakers because the language does nothing to make the film better or more believable.

(I spent months researching and writing a 40-page thesis about the Hays Code and how filmmakers of the 1950s and 1960s made BETTER and more INTELLIGENT and more ARTISTIC films by WORKING AROUND CENSORSHIP LAWS AND NOT SACRIFICING THE STORY, so forgive me if I seem like I’m on a soapbox right now BECAUSE I AM. I have zero tolerance and respect for this kind of lazy, vulgar filmmaking, and the more I think about it, the more I dislike this film version because of it.)

I’m really worked up now. I really didn’t plan for this blog post to take that direction. I actually liked the movie when I was watching it…but I’m having a hard time reconciling that positive feeling with the idea of how lazy and tasteless the amount of language in the film is.

So I will returning to the night I first saw the film: IT scared me. I didn’t want to go home alone. I woke up multiple times in the night and was afraid that there was a dancing clown in the corner of my bedroom, or out in the hallway, or in the–heaven forbid–bathroom. I heard mysterious tapping noises in the kitchen. I was really scared. But then I watched the video for Billy Joel’s “Uptown Girl” for half an hour or more and felt totally fine.

So I guess the point of this blog post turned out to be that Billy Joel actually cures all. Thanks, Billy!