Each week Elma and I give you 5 opinionated but culturally relevant choices, based on our experience of curating smart sticky stuff for Ovation, Trio, Bravo, A&E, Sundance, Fuse, and others.
For New Year’s Eve we’re reposting one of our favorite lists from 2015, which serendipitously happens to be our readers’ favorite according to the great god of blogs: metrics.
As we assembled this in a hotel lobby six months ago, we were eagerly awaiting the meltdown of Donald Trump’s candidacy and the first snowfall after our return to the East Coast. We’re reposting it as is,
Six months later, we’re like Ferlinghetti, still waiting!
Ain’t that life all over?!
This is the list as we originally posted it, with one major addition at the end. Happy New Year, dear readers!
Lafayette, Louisiana. July 18, 2015.
This week we’re writing from the road — halfway through an epic migration back from the land of orange groves and medical marijuana to the mighty city of Oz.
Even though the would-be emperor there is short on heart and brain, there are parallels to the man behind the curtain — he has a loud voice and lives in an emerald tower.
And, we’ve gotta say, he does seem to have an abundance of courage.
So we’ll put aside our political qualms and take a lesson from Donald the Great and Powerful – even if you don’t have everything, you can get a long way just using what you’ve got.
This week’s watchlist is a highly personal selection of road movies. Each one has moved us deeply, but in a variety of very different ways.
THE WIZARD OF OZ (1939)
Yellow brick or asphalt, hitting the road strips away the unnecessary. Ruby slippers or a dinged-up gold minivan, you’re reduced to the basics.
The first time we left the land of perfect weather for the home of the New York Times, we took a typewriter, a bicycle, and two suitcases.
Like Dorothy’s journey, that trip had hallucinatory overtones. We’d raised a nest-egg by growing magic mushrooms in mason jars, up in a tiny Hollywood Hills. Two thousand dollars. We were rich.
Then we were running away. This time we’re following the advice of the good witch — heading home.
If you think you might actually want to own a DVD of this classic, there’s one at the Cracker Barrel just off Interstate 10, here in Lafayette.
Heart-wrenching, beautiful, one of the handful of perfect movies ever made. In glorious black and white, full of innocence and cruelty.
Simple, naïve Gelsimina (Fellini’s wife, Julietta Messina) is sold by her mother to the coarse, two-bit strongman Zampano (Anthony Quinn, 10 years before Zorba).
They hit “la strada” in a three-wheel motor bike, travelling the Italian backroads and making their living by putting on impossibly low-rent shows. It seems like no matter how brutish he is, he can’t dull her childlike enthusiasm. Until the very fact that he begins to need her makes him go too far.
The first time we saw this, we wanted to watch every movie Fellini made – but none of the others moved us quite as much.
La Strada is only available on DVD, unless you subscribe to Hulu Plus.
Not all road movies are profound, and certainly not Stanley Kramer’s glorious Cinerama follow-up to his Oscar-winning Judgement at Nuremberg.
A sobering commentary on the evil of greed – not!
Like everything else in this madcap epic, greed is simply a flimsy excuse for a nonstop, helter-skelter barrage of slapstick and shticky one-liners, driven by an incredible cast, including Spencer Tracy, Milton Berle, Sid Caesar, Ethel Merman, Mickey Rooney, Phil Silvers, Terry Thomas and that superb lunatic Jonathan Winters.
As a kid, we laughed so hard we chipped a front tooth on the seat in front of us. Not a big chip — but it’s still there, right at the tip of our tongue.
We were born and bred deep in the cornfields of the Midwest, so even though we laughed our butt off at this one, we felt a little guilty.
It’s taken us a long time to figure it out. But it boils down to this– where we come from, people with unkind opinions are not always unkind people. We’re still grappling with that one, and about how we feel about crazy talented Londoners shooting fish in a barrel.
But driving for days under the massive skies of so-called flyover states, we’re reminded of how thoroughly we’ve become creatures of the coastal cities.
That’s good and it’s bad. We’ll miss L.A. for many reasons, among them, the celebrity spottings.
One day when the kids were young, Borat himself showed up at a local playground. His handlers eagerly approached and asked if he could offer one of the kids some candy. They were a little desperate — there were no other legal guardians at the playground. All the other women were nannies.
We said yes, and signed the release form. After all, it was free candy.
We forgot that Thelma and Louise invented the selfie.
When it was released in March 1991, Callie Khouri’s story summed up everything that an American road movie needed to be.
On a short break from their humdrum lives, Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis make an unavoidable decision and go on the run. Cut free from the constraints of their lives and society, there is nothing left for them to do but search for their true selves.
The fact that they were women made the story even more singular. As did Ridley Scott’s uniquely British perspective to the American idiom and landscape.
We’ve read that Sarandon is working on a 25th-anniversary road trip next year, with costar Davis and that fresh-faced sex toy Brad Pitt.
A day down the road from Lafayette, now we’re sitting in a hotel lobby on Tchoupitoulas Street. Fittingly, Marvin Gaye’s “Mercy Mercy Me” (…things ain’t what they used to be…) just started playing.
Like Billy and Captain America, we’ve taken the southern route, catching the Santa Monica Freeway a few block from our L.A. house and weaving off and on of Interstate 10.
But that’s where the similarity ends – no Harleys, no blow, no weed, no hookers and no Jack Nicholson.
Instead, it’s a Honda Odyssey piled up with two adults, three heavily mediated boys, and a small shaggy dog. But for us, none the less epic. But unlikely to antagonize even the hardest-ass redneck.
Even though we’ve licensed the movie and metWould the cemetery scene bore us? Peter Fonda, we haven’t watched Easy Rider in years. Would “Born to Be Wild” still send a chill up our spine?
Would the cemetery scene bore us? Billy is gone. But there’s enough hippy in us to think it would be great to recapture, just for a moment or two, the sense of awe on Hopper’s stoned-out face.
NEW YEAR’S EDITION ADDITION:
MAD MAX: FURY ROAD (2015)
Our latest version of what we generically refer to as “The Zombie Apocalypse” is solar flares — it really could happen!
Given the headlines, it seems natural that the best road movie of 2015 should be director George Miller’s nitro-fueled update of his 1979 breakout hit.
This post-apocalyptic tour de force has made dozens of top-ten lists and is now available to rent online.