Wednesday, September 17, 2008
YouTube Wednesday:Putting You in the Mood
Liking the audio wasn't part of the plan. But we do.
WODEN'S DAY. Now that the New Great Depression is upon us, it's time to think about how we'll survive the next four months till Barack Obama gets inaugurated and fixes everything in a few days. I don't mind telling you it's going to be quite a shock. We'll all have to move out of our Manhattan penthouses and look for work somewhere away from Wall Street. There aren't any real instruction manuals for a cataclysm of this sort. Will there be enough gas for our BMW SUVs? And will there be batteries for our Ipods and Blackberries? Nobody seems to know.
But necessity is the mother of invention, as they say, so I decided to look for guidance in the movies. That first Great Depression has been covered pretty thoroughly in the movies, it turns out, and it's possible there are some survival strategies we could adapt for ourselves even if they didn't have things nearly as bad in the old days, what with their mere 90 percent decline in the stock market, their piddling 25 percent unemployment rate, and their more manageable 50 percent mortgage default rate. We'll just have to do the best we can.
It looks like there are three main ways of surviving a depression to pick from, according to Hollywood.
1. Get Adopted by the Well-to-Do
The first and perhaps best way is to figure out how to hang around with rich society folks and movie stars even though you personally don't have any money. That's what William Powell did in My Man Godfrey, and we all know how smart he was.
Just being around money makes it rub off on you.
A variation of this is becoming a kind of star yourself by being famous for what a great symbol you are of the problems and aspirations of the common man. That gets you invited to places where the food and drink is exceptionally good, and beautiful women start to admire you for just being there. Like Gary Cooper did in Meet John Doe.
Heck, he wound up with a Barbara of his own.
Come to think of it, Obama demonstrated this approach just last night at his $28,500 a plate dinner in Hollywood. I mean, if you can't actually be Barbra Streisand, be her lapdog instead. It sure beats handing out MREs to homeless wretches in south Texas or distributing chits for free shoeshines to the newly unemployed at the Lehmann Brothers Tent City Center.
2. Become a Sports or Entertainment Sensation.
This one has the disadvantage of requiring you to possess some natural talent and determination to excel in a way that people can easily recognize. But you don't need a fancy resume or much in the way of educational credentials. Like Russell Crowe showed us in Cinderella Man.
We didn't say it was easy. You've got to take some punishment.
Actually, though, you don't even have to be a human being for this one. But it helps to know some who have the guts and faith to believe in you against all odds.
Did we mention the punishment? Like even a couple broken legs.
Some of you will already be edging toward the show business line. The news isn't all good there, either. For example it's possible to be good and likeable and all, and still fail to become an international sensation. Like Clint Eastwood showed us in Honkytonk Man.
I doubt if anybody even paid a cover charge.
You've got a bettter chance if you lay off the smokes and have a great national health insurance program to cure your tuberculosis before the big recording session. Still, the truth is, you could easily wind up six feet under with nothing to show for it.
As you can see, relying on talent and resolve is a very mixed bag.
3. Get Moving and Keep Moving. If You Have to, RUN.
Sometimes the only available option is to get the hell out of the house and down the road. You can fill up the 4WD gearbox of your SUV with sawdust and set out for Oz with your "BP likes windmills" roadmap to guide you. Or if you don't have a car anymore, hop a freight train. That's what Preston Sturges taught us in his great movie Sullivan's Travels. As bad as it sounds, you might hook up with Veronica Lake, which is a jackpot all its own.
That's Joel McCrea with her. The lucky bum.
Of course, things don't always go completely, sbsolutely perfect for Joel in this movie, despite the Veronica angle. Freight trains sometimes contain shady characters with clubs (the bludgeon kind, not the golf kind). A lot of you may want to pass up the train option. But cheer up. Even if you don't have a car, there's nothing that says you can't steal one,
That Bonnie was a pip, wasn't she?
However. A life of crime is sometimes directly associated with a death of crime. Just so you know. Which is why maybe it's better to keep a low profile and just follow along as best you can to wherever everybody else seems to be going. Like to California, where they have the very best health and welfare programs for the indigent in the whole damn country. And lots of cameramen to boot. Who can capture your big personal sob story on film and make you an icon among pitiful losers for the rest of time. That's why there isn't anybody anywhere who hasn't seen Henry Fonda shake his trembling finger at fate in The Grapes of Wrath.
His daughter went on to become a famous movie star. See?
Didn't Michelle Obama say something similar about the country's unfeeling oppression on the subject of Princeton student loans? Well, there you go. She's famous, right? And she's definitely ready to weather our imminent New Great Depression. That's why we've got to elect her husband pretty damn quick if we don't want to get caught speechless in the new normal. We need to be ready, too. We need an immediate government program to supply us all with our own teleprompters so we can beg for help in the most affecting possible way. And we're going to need lots of practice. Which is why it's so helpful that South Park anticipated the "running like hell" strategy more than a year ago. Watch. Practice. Act out. It's the new WPA.
It brings tears to our eyes.
We can do this. I know we can. No, don't thank me. Thank Hollywood.
COMING CLEAN. Don't want anybody to get the wrong idea. We love all these movies. Every one of them is worth watching. The ones from the thirties are delightful and upbeat, which was appropriate to a time of pain and despair. Of the later ones, only Bonnie and Clyde seems dated, mired in the usual '60s anti-establishment swamp. The three newer ones are excellent. Eastwood's Honkytonk Man is surprisingly affecting and effective. Cinderella Man keeps getting better on subsequent viewings, which is rare indeed. And Seabiscuit. Uh, apologies, but we're animal people here, and specifically horse people who disapprove of racing in a big way (still angrily grieving for Barbaro), but I love this movie so much I'm going to watch it again tonight. The divine spirit moves and it fills all who can accept it with an ocean of light. A thousand bucks on the midget horse to waste War Admiral's ass. Any takers? What if I told you War Admiral has degrees from Harvard, Yale and Princeton? Thought not.