Saturday Odds & Sods: Tell Me Why

Cuban Movie Theatre by Walker Evans.

Now that I’m fully vaccinated, things are slowly but surely getting back to normal at Adrastos World HQ. A close friend of mine paid an extended visit the other day. He’s an engineer so when he noticed that one of our front stairs was wonky, he insisted on fixing it. His motto is: “I fix shit.” Thanks, pally.

I’ve been listening to a lot of early Beatle. The music and lyrics may not be as sophisticated as their post-Revolver work, but the harmonies are to die for. They sang live in the studio back then and the blending of John and Paul’s voices is sublime. The best example of Beatly greatness I can think of is the fact that George Harrison was the third best singer in the band. And George was no slouch. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

There are many songs titled Tell Me Why. I picked three of them. The Beatles song is basically a John Lennon song and was written in 1964. The Beatles recording history is complex, the early US and UK albums were quite different. In the UK, it appeared on Hard Day’s Night and in the US on Something New. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Our second theme song was written by Neil Young in 1970. It was the opening track on the album that made him a star as a solo artist, After The Gold Rush.

Our third theme song was also written in 1970. Barry Gibb wrote *his* Tell Me Why for the family band’s 2 Years On album.

Now that I’ve told you why, let’s jump to the break.

We begin our second act with a trip to the movies. Popcorn anyone?

Ken Levine On The Oscars: I’m not the only one who has given up on the Academy Awards. Comedy writer-director, sportscaster, and blogger Ken Levine has too. Ken watched this year, but I did not. He did not like what he saw:

What does it say when I agreed with the sentiments and still truly hated the Oscarcast?  What a boring, pretentious, heavy-handed slog.  The only time you saw stars was in the In Memoriam segment.  And those names whizzed by so there was more time for music trivia.  Only highlight for me was Tyler Perry.   The speeches were interminable.  And screw the Academy.  They shifted Best Picture to end with Best Actor, obviously in anticipation of Chadwick Boseman winning and ending on a big tearjerker.   Instead, Anthony Hopkins (deservedly) won, and no dummy he, he figured why schlep all the way out there to lose?  So for the big finale, the winner wasn’t present.  A fitting Wile E. Coyote ending to a tedious lecture-filled, self-congratulatory salute to movies that no one has seen or wants to see and stars that no one knows.  

Tell us how you really feel, Ken.

Ken wrote some other Oscar posts before and after the unceremonious ceremonies:

Before: Why I Won’t Be Reviewing The Oscars.  Are The Oscars Dead?

After:  And The Worst Oscar Goes To 2021. Why No One Gives A Shit About The Oscars.

I agree with Levine’s premise. Before the pandemic I found it increasingly difficult to find the sort of movies I like in theatres. I’m not big on comic book movies, fantasy films, or action flicks. There’s better and more challenging material to be found on TV now, be it cable or streaming. 

I was surprised at how little I missed going to the movies during the lockdown. I hope to never see another comic book movie or forgettable Star Wars flick again.  

That felt good.

The last word of the segment goes to the Fab Four with the theme song of their second and lesser feature film:


The Book Report:

Bag Man began life as a podcast. I rarely listen to podcasts but this one was about my crooked countryman; former Maryland Governor and Vice President Spiro T. Agnew, so listen I did.

Agnew was ashamed of his Greek ancestry and only mentioned it when it was politically advantageous. That’s okay with me because the Greek American community was embarrassed by this petty grifter when all the facts came out.

For a time in 1973, the country had dueling constitutional crises. The Agnew case arose during Watergate. It added urgency to its disposition. The last thing we needed was a crooked Veep replacing a crooked president. That’s why Agnew got off so easily. He spent no time in jail and spent the rest of his life proclaiming his innocence. Yeah, right.

Bag Man is a breezy entertaining read. Rachel Maddow and co-author Michael Yarvtiz overdo the Trump comparisons and the level of Agnew’s popularity. He was by no means a shoo-in for the 1976 Republican presidential nomination. There was a guy named Ronald Reagan ready to run that year as well.

There are several mentions of Agnew’s White House office. He did not have one. Fritz Mondale was the first Veep to have an office in the West Wing. Tricky Dick preferred to stash his mouthy Veep in the Executive Office Building.

The strength of Bag Man lies in the story of the US Attorneys in Baltimore who spearheaded the Agnew case. Few of them had spoken previously.

I give Bag Man 3 stars and an Adrastos Grade of B.

The last word of our second act goes to CCR with a song that mentions Agnew and Tom Paxton with a brief song about him:

We begin our third act with our favorite stolen feature.

Separated At Birth Casting Edition: The whole “they snubbed Chadwick Boseman” flap was preposterous. I say that as a fan of both players. 

I saw and did not care for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. It was stagey and Chad’s performance was far from his best. How is losing to one of the greatest actors of all-time a snub? The Oscar producers took a gamble, and it blew up in their faces.

Vulture has a plausible explanation for why Hopkins won.

Here’s Anthony Hopkins as John Quincy Adams in Amistad side-by-side with the real former ambassador, secretary of state, president, and congressman.

The Movie List: It’s the bad choice list. Most of these flicks were at least worthy of 3 stars but they won against much better movies. I only wrote about movies I’ve seen and listed the film or films I thought should have won. I don’t go into years such as 1941, 1950, or 1972 where a great movie was selected over one of equal quality. The all-time worst selection was 1976 with 1996 a close second. Sheesh.

Fifteen Movies That Should Have Lost The Best Picture Oscar

  1.   1936: The Great Ziegfeld instead of Libeled Lady or A Tale Of Two Cities
  2.   1947: Gentleman’s Agreement instead of Great Expectations or Crossfire.
  3.    1952: The Greatest Show On Earth instead of High Noon.
  4.    1956: Around The World In 80 Days instead of Giant.
  5.    1960: Ben-Hur instead of Anatomy Of A Murder.
  6.    1964: My Fair Lady instead of Dr. Strangelove or Zorba The Greek.
  7.    1976: Rocky instead of Network, All The President’s Men, or Taxi Driver.
  8.    1981: Chariots of Fire instead of Reds or Atlantic City.  
  9.    1987: The Last Emperor instead of Broadcast News.
  10.    1990: Dances With Wolves instead of Goodfellas.
  11.    1994: Forrest Gump instead of Pulp Fiction or Quiz Show.
  12.    1996: The English Patient instead of Fargo, Jerry Maguire, or Secrets & Lies.
  13.    1997: Titanic instead of LA Confidential.
  14.     2005: Crash instead of Good Night, And Good Luck or Capote.
  15.     2014: Birdman instead of Boyhood

The worst movies on the list are The Great Ziegfeld, The Greatest Show On Earth, Rocky, The English Patient, and Crash.

As you can see, I used to care about the Oscars. Oh well, what the hell.

Saturday GIF Horse: Here are two Oscar moments that didn’t suck starring Jack Palance and David Niven:

Saturday Soundie: Are you ready for Sister Rosetta Tharpe with a big band? You have no choice.

Let’s close down this virtual honky tonk with some more music.

Saturday Classic: Frank Sinatra, Nelson Riddle, and Oscar winners. A classic combination from 1964.

That’s all for this week. The last word goes to the 1948 winners of Best Supporting Actress and Actor Oscars: Claire Trevor and Walter Huston. Both won for films directed by Walter’s son John. It was a vintage year for the Hustons. John won a pair of Oscars for The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. It’s unclear if he was obliged to show any stinking badges to get into the ceremony.