Monday, September 20, 2010

Now Showing: "Time in a Bottle" by The Muppets

Since my earlier Jim Croce post was so well-received (thanks Tank!), and since I simply cannot resist The Muppets, I thought what the heck? Why not do another one?

This has to have been the first time I ever heard this song, and I still find it a very moving performance, considering that it stars a lump of foam. Of course, given what most actors are like nowadays...

Time in a Bottle was performed (by Jim Henson himself) on Episode 207 of The Muppet Show - an episode first aired in 1977. No doubt Croce's early, tragic death (on this day in 1973) gives the song an even greater poignance...
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"Operator" by Jim Croce

Jim Croce is one of the most beloved singer-songwriters of all times; a native of Philadelphia, he was instrumental in the development not only of the blue-eyed soul sound for which the city is known but also for the folk-rock fusion that helped define the sound of the 1970s.

When he died in a plane crash on this day in 1973 - the day before his third album was to be released - the music industry lost one of its best voices, not to mention one of its best lyricists. Although his string of hits was a short one, it has endured. Time in a Bottle, Bad, Bad Leroy Brown, and this one, Operator, are some of the most poignant and durable songs of the decade.

Croce's personal motto was: 'If you dig it, do it. If you really dig it, do it twice.' Right on.
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Happy Birthday Sophia Loren

My personal favourite film of hers has to be Ieri, oggi, domani (aka Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow) by Vittorio de Sica, which won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 1965; in it Sophia Loren stars with Marcello Mastroianni as three very different characters - one in Naples (yesterday), one in Rome (today), and one in Milan (tomorrow). Sexy as he is, Mastroianni's characters all seem like the same man; cast as a paragon of Italian womanhood in all its variety, Loren triumphs over him as easily as she does completely. After all, it's the role she was born to play.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketNot only did that film display her range as an actress, it arrayed her against any number of her homeland's architectural masterpieces - and proved that there isn't a villa, campanile, or cathedral in all of Italy that holds a candelabra to her in the beauty department.

Born on this day in - get this - 1934, the 76-year-old icon is still going strong. In fact, she posed for the famed Pirelli Calendar in 2007; the calendar, which usually features supermodels, just once they thought they should get a goddess - and did they ever!  Even more recently Loren appeared in Rob Marshall's film version of Nine.

Never content just to be a pretty face, Loren is also a savvy business woman, marketing her own lines of eye wear, jewelry, and perfume. Accustomed as she is to being the subject of superlatives, she insists that her greatest achievement is her two sons, Carlo Jr. and Edoardo.

An Oscar winner for De Sica's 1960 masterpiece Two Women, in 1991 she also received an Honorary Oscar for her contribution to world cinema; not only was she on hand to give Federico Fellini his Honorary Oscar in 1993, she also handed one to Roberto Benigni for 1998's bittersweet miracle, Life Is Beautiful. Needless to say, her majestic presence dissolving into girlish glee upon exclaiming 'Roberto!', as much as Benigni's antics upon accepting the award, were the highlight of the telecast.
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In Memoriam: Upton Sinclair

Shit disturbers, malcontents, muckrakers... I love 'em all.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketUpton Sinclair was all of these and more, with one crucial difference: he didn't just do it for kicks, but in aid of a cause.

Okay, so the cause he aided wasn't always the cause he set out to aid; he wrote The Jungle, his legendary 1906 novel set in the Chicago stockyards to highlight the drudgery of urban poverty and instead brought about legislation aimed at cleaning up the food supply. 'I aimed at the public's heart, and by accident I hit it in the stomach,' he said, a little too ruefully, following its publication.

Still, if you're going to miss one target it helps to be fortunate enough to hit another, even bigger, one. After all, people are conditioned to ignore their hearts, but few can treat their stomachs the same.

So while Upton Sinclair's political career can only be described as an utter fiasco, his literary career is without equal, frequently achieving through art what he could not hope to do through politics. Sometimes wordy, often hyperbolic, but always passionate, his novels delivered socialist rhetoric into the hearts and minds of Americans in ways that campaign speeches never could.

Born on this day in 1878, Upton Sinclair died in November 1968, having published more than 90 books during his 90 years on Earth.

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