Thursday, September 20, 2012

80s neo-noir: House of Games

House of Games movie poster

There seems to be a not-too-uncommon stereotype about psychiatrists and psychologists, which is that more often than not, they turn out to have psychological issues of their own. Or at least that’s what some people believe. And this notion is explored in David Mamet’s 1987 movie House of Games.

Lindsay Crouse plays a psychiatrist (and author of a best-selling book) whose sessions with a compulsive-gambler patient inspire her to conduct research by interacting with some of his gambling associates, in an attempt to help him out. Through her own curiosity, she winds up getting herself drawn into a risky underground world of professional con artists. Her striking sense of adventure seems contrary to her otherwise stoic demeanor. And, as the movie progresses, it becomes apparent that she (despite being a psychiatrist) has some unresolved issues of her own. Certain aspects of her personality begin to unfold as she continues to venture with the grifters. Though, prior to her involvement with them, she had already exhibited a particular peculiarity of making occasional-but-noticeable Freudian slips -- something which later plays a significant role during a pivotal scene in the movie. It’s also worthy of note that she doesn't ever reveal her name to any of the grifters until that very scene. The movie begs two questions: What will result from her interactions with the grifters? And will it lead her to learn more about con-artistry or to learn more about her own self?

House of GamesHouse of Games

During the early and mid 80s, Crouse put in some impressive performances in movies such as Prince of the City, The Verdict, and Places in the Heart (for which she received an Academy Award nomination as Best Supporting Actress). I happen to love the movie Places in the Heart, and I will write a blog entry about it hopefully sometime soon. Despite Crouse’s accomplishments back then, however, she now seems to have fallen off the radar.

House of GamesHouse of Games

The movie also stars Joe Mantegna, JT Walsh, Meshach Taylor, as well as William H. Macy in a small role. In addition, this was the directorial debut for Mamet who was previously a playwright and a screenwriter. For me, the best aspect of the movie is that it has an overall neo-noir feel to it. In particular, some viewers have suggested that this movie’s dialogue (and the delivery of that dialogue) is a sort of homage to film noir of the 40s and 50s. Interestingly, this movie was Roger Ebert’s choice for best movie of 1987.

Here’s the trailer:

Roger Ebert picks House of Games as the best movie of 1987 @6:25

Thursday, September 13, 2012

“Excuse me, are those Bugle Boy jeans that you’re wearing?”

In the late 80s, the Bugle Boy clothing brand released a couple of comical commercials which featured a man clad in Bugle Boy jeans who gets asked by a woman if those are Bugle Boy jeans he’s wearing…and it turns out that that’s all she wants to know from him.

One of the commercials dates from 1989 and features a man in a condominium situated amidst the backdrop of the Miami skyline. He’s sitting in a chair, and he receives a phone call, at which point a woman’s voice on the other end of the line asks if he’s wearing Bugle Boy jeans. When he says yes, she thanks him and hangs up.

Another commercial takes place on a nearly empty desert road. It features the same guy from the previous commercial, standing on the side of the road, seemingly waiting for someone to stop and give him a ride. Suddenly, a black Ferrari speeds right past him, only to quickly stop and go back in reverse to where the man is standing. The driver of the Ferrari turns out to be a woman, who happens to ask him, “Excuse me, are those Bugle Boy jeans that you’re wearing?” He says yes, she thanks him, and then drives off.

By the way, the woman in this commercial is a British former model named Annabel Schofield, who had appeared in Versace ads in 1985.

There’s some debate as to the year in which this latter commercial aired on tv. The person who posted the video of this commercial on Youtube listed the year as 1988. However, someone left a comment on the video‘s page saying that they believe the commercial is from the 1990-1991 period. It’s likely that the commercial was still being aired in 1991. Though I know for certain that it aired in 1990 because I traveled to New York that year and I went shopping for clothes there with a cousin of mine. One of the items I bought was a pair of Bugle Boy jeans, and later that day, my cousin and I were joking about the Bugle Boy commercial, mentioning that “the girl takes off after asking the guy if he’s wearing Bugle Boy jeans.”

One interesting thing about this latter commercial is that it went on to be quite well-known by the public -- it became a meme of the popular culture of the late 80s/early 90s -- and was even parodied various different times, including in a music video by the band Genesis.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Helen Reddy: From “I Am Woman” to “Imagination”

Helen Reddy Imagination

As a singer, Helen Reddy was quite famous during the 1970s. Her popular song “I Am Woman” was undoubtedly not only one of her biggest hits, but was also considered an anthem of the so-called “feminist movement.”
In the 80s, however, Reddy’s music took a different direction from the Easy Listening tunes she was known for in the 70s. The year 1983 saw the release of Reddy’s album titled “Imagination,” which went on to be the last album she recorded that contained original songs. Among the tracks was “Imagination,” which bears the same title as the album. The song has a strong synthpop-ish sound, very typical of songs from the early-to-mid 80s. The midsection of the song features an instrumental part, which works well with the accompanying video to the song:

I have childhood memories of watching this video on tv after school.

There is also an extended version to the song.