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March 05, 2008

Random Video Finds

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

The only reason these two clips are making an appearance in the same posting is that I ran across both of them for the first time today.

Standup comedian Demetri Martin has a silly-ingenuous schtick going on that's pretty irresistable:

For me, the 1987 movie "Dirty Dancing" was 96 minutes and 15 seconds of cringe-making drivel inexplicably interrupted by 3 minutes and 45 seconds of bliss. Here's the bliss part:

What a gorgeous depiction of a proper girl discovering how sweet wantonness can be. A big hat-tip to the dancers and actors, to director Emile Ardolino, to choreogapher Kenny Ortega, and to The Contours for their version of "Do You Love Me?" Just one big "But": Man oh man, why wasn't I invited to that party?

OK, so I also enjoyed watching Jennifer Grey go around in those just-longer-than-knee-length blue jeans and white tennis sneakers ... Fashion at its best, no?

Fun Facts for the Day: "Dirty Dancing" was the first movie to sell a million copies on video. And the song "Do You Love Me?" was written by Motown CEO Berry Gordy, Jr.

I wrote about Motown's immortal Funk Brothers back here.



UPDATE: I'm sorry to learn this morning that Patrick Swayze -- who is only 55 -- is fighting pancreatic cancer. That's one of the toughest cancers to do battle with.

posted by Michael at March 5, 2008


Seven rarely discussed (?) things I liked about "Dirty Dancing":

Although I can see the negatives about "Dirty Dancing," (among other things, for some reason it seemed somewhat manipulative to me), this film also had some strong positives for me. Here they are -- in no particular order:

1) It's "urban planning" savvy. This is one of the few films that has dealt with the economic decline of an area (in this specific case, a resort area) in a sophisticated way. Set in the Catskills resort area of New York (although filmed in West Virginia?), it offers, in my opinion, a pretty sophisticated explanation of why a once booming resort area like the Catskills suddenly declined -- a lesson that is also useful in understanding decline in urban areas.

2) It's socio-economic savvy. I thought it was unusually sophisticated in its depiction of what someone like Tom Wolfe might call (and maybe has called?) the "status-phere" of this resort. (I think Tom Wolfe has coined a different, but similar, expression though. But it escapes me at the moment.)

For instance I like the way it captured the age and socio-economic groupings that people fall into -- even in a temporary settlement like a summer resort.

(Another good film in this vein -- a fun film, with great music, dancing, etc. that was also sociologically sophisticated -- is "Saturday Night Fever.")

3) It was a wonderful introduction to a beautiful resort, and resort area, that I was not aware of.

4) Although filmed in West Virginia (?), it seemed to capture the look and feel of a "lost" time and place -- the Catskills that I vaguely remember from the 1950s.

5) I like the fact that they used authentic music of the time period but, for commercial reasons, they also used contemporary music that nevertheless had the right feel to it. Had someone asked me before I saw this film if this was a good idea or not, I would have been strongly opposed. But it did work! Somethings are hard to convincingly demonstrate beforhand -- and that's one of the reasons why it's so great that our society provides so many opportunities for people to go ahead with their ideas without first having them approved by a small number of economic or urban planners.

6) For sentimental reasons, Jerry Orbach is a favorite actor of mine -- in part because he is a very talented and accomplished New York / Broadway actor who never went Hollywood. So it was good to see him get such a great role in -- in some ways an iconic role -- in what turned out to be a big movie and do such a good job with it. I like the way he projected the benevolent confidence / arrogance of a physician / father.

7) Although the title originally turned me off, thinking back to that period it does seem plausible that this kind of dancing (which I was probably too young to be fully exposed too) was thought of as too sexual. So this seems to be another nice sociological observation.

Posted by: Benjamin Hemric on March 6, 2008 11:44 AM

I knew the film would be a smash before I saw it, because (like Titanic), its central female character is not just a love-object, she's a heroine. She risks her father's anger to save her boyfriend from being charged with theft and fired.

But my own favourite scenes are when JG dances on the bridge, working out steps, and when she lip-synchs the "lover-boy" sequence in Love is Strange with PS.

Posted by: alias clio on March 6, 2008 12:13 PM

Benjamin -- That's brilliant, I'd love to read more film-discussion like that. In fact, I'm overstating my case against the movie for effect. There were a number of things I thought were pretty cute about it, including the time-and-place stuff.

A. Clio -- Yeah, the "Love Is Strange" bit was fun too. But something that interested me when I was doing, ahem, research was that many of the film's fans love the parts of the film I thought were really awful -- the big showy middlebrow stuff, instead of the funkier rougher stuff. "Gals," I thought. "They really can be sappy!" The fondness so many people, not just gals, have for middle-brow schmaltz. It's a great topic, god knows, though not one I'm ever gonna spend any time on. Can't stand the stuff myself.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on March 6, 2008 12:42 PM

I agree with you about preferring the funky stuff to the schmaltz, especially in this film. The taste for schmaltz appears to be nearly universal now, though. I meet many men who really like it, too.

I enjoyed Dirty Dancing, or parts of it, because I have a "thing" for dance movies. I don't suppose you ever saw Dance With Me, starring Chayanne and Vanessa Williams? It's basically about two different approaches to dance - well, perhaps three: Cuban-style social dancing, where everyone dances to express sociability as well as sexual interest; competition dancing; and modern American-style club-dancing which is shown to be a form of narcissistic showing off to attract potential sexual partners, mean and aggressive and all elbows, with no humour at all. Here's a link (needs patience to watch; the dancing sequence is about 5 minutes in):

Chayanne (who is I think Mexican) is very much a female fantasy in the film, and probably entirely unreal: sweet-natured, sensitive, handsome, and still entirely masculine - he can dance and fix trucks. And laugh at himself.

Posted by: alias clio on March 6, 2008 2:48 PM

A.C. -- Looking forward to that link. Want to try again? I do love watching people dance ... Back in my youth I used to be almost as happy at parties watching people dance as I was to dance myself -- and I do like dancing, however comical I can be on the dance floor. I wish dancing were a bigger part of more people's lives ...

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on March 6, 2008 3:08 PM

I'm trying again, but I can't promise it will work, because I know I had the code in last time (I checked), and it didn't come through:

If I can't make it work here, I'll try posting it to my website.

Posted by: alias clio on March 6, 2008 4:30 PM

All right. Two videos from the movie are now posted to my blog and if anyone is interested, you are welcome to have a look.

Posted by: alias clio on March 6, 2008 4:49 PM

"Dirty Dancing" was filmed at Mountain Lake in Giles County, VA. The "resort" there is still in operation most of the year.

Posted by: D Flinchum on March 9, 2008 12:19 PM

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