Vintage Movies: “Ordinary People”

MAGNET contributing writer Jud Cost is sharing some of the wealth of classic films he’s been lucky enough to see over the past 40 years. Trolling the backwaters of cinema, he has worked up a list of more than 500 titles—from the silent era through the ’90s—that you may have missed. A new selection, all currently available on DVD, appears every week.

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Ordinary People (1980, 124 minutes)

Robert Redford’s razor-sharp directorial debut, Ordinary People, won the best picture Oscar for 1980. At first glance, it may resemble a suburban, upper-middle-class family from a TV sitcom, but there’s something going on here that’s not even remotely funny.

Calvin and Beth Jarrett return home from a community theater production and notice their teenage son’s bedroom light is still on. Beth (Mary Tyler Moore, as you’ve never seen her before) goes straight to bed, but Calvin (Donald Sutherland) knocks on Conrad’s door. “Trouble sleeping?” he asks. “No,” replies Conrad (Timothy Hutton), who’s pretending he’s been reading. “Have you thought about calling that doctor?” asks his dad. Insisting he’s all right, Conrad doesn’t mention all the times he’s awakened late at night, covered in a cold sweat.

The next morning, Calvin calls Conrad three times before he comes downstairs to breakfast. “Did you sleep?” his dad inquires. “Yeah,” answers Conrad, lying. “French toast, your favorite,” says Beth, putting a steaming plate in front of their younger son. Staring blankly at the dish, Conrad finally says, “Yeah, I’m not really hungry.” Irked, Beth quickly whisks away the plate and scrapes the food into the garbage disposal. “If you’re not hungry, you’re not hungry,” she snaps. Calvin protests, “Hang on a second, Beth. He’ll eat it.” He turns to his son. “You have to eat, Con.”

Beth rushes off early, leaving the men in awkward silence. “I gotta go,” says Conrad. “Lazenby’s picking me up.” His dad blurts out, “Is he? Great!” Conrad protests, “Why is it great?” Calvin fumbles for the words. “I don’t know, I-I don’t see the old gang much anymore. Why don’t you bring them around, Phil and Don and Dick Van Buren? We’ll play some touch football on the lawn.” Conrad grabs his school books and heads for the front door. “See you later,” he says, not looking back.

A month later, Conrad practices saying something in the elevator of a medical office building: “I couldn’t be better!” Dr. Tyrone Berger (Judd Hirsch), dressed in a faded blue cardigan, ushers the teenager into his office. “Sit down,” says the doctor, lighting a cigarette. “Are you feeling depressed?” “Yeah, a little,” admits Conrad, tapping his foot nervously. “I’ll be straight with you. I don’t like this already,” adds the boy. “How long were you in the psychiatric hospital?” asks the doc. “Four months,” he answers. “I tried to off myself. Didn’t Dr. Crawford tell you about me?” “Yes, he said you had an older brother who died,” says Berger. “Boating accident wasn’t it?”

Conrad grudgingly agrees to skip swimming practice twice a week to see the shrink for an hour on Tuesdays and Thursdays. But It’s the last place in the world he wants to be, reliving that horrific day when his brother Buck was killed.

From The Desk Of Van Dyke Parks: “A Coney Island Of The Mind” By Beat Poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti

VanDykeParksLogoWith Van Dyke Parks’ new Songs Cycled (Bella Union), the renowned composer, arranger and vocalist (in that order), not only releases his first album of originals since 1995’s Orange Crate Art (with Brian Wilson singing), but lends his usually complex creations a renewed sense of simplicity. The thoughts may be determinedly complicated and touched by the soul of social protest, but Parks’ music is deliciously direct, while remaining as elegant as anything he’s done for himself (à la 1968’s chamber-pop initiator Song Cycle) or others (the Beach Boys and Rufus Wainwright amongst them). Parks will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our brand new feature with him.

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Parks: He still holds forth there, at City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco. Of this collection, my favorite poem is “I Am Waiting.” (“I am waiting for for someone to really discover America … And I am waiting for the American Eagle to really spread its wings and straighten up and fly right … And I am perpetually awaiting a rebirth of wonder … “)

An ex-naval hero Commander in WWII, Ferlinghetti survived, illuminated and questioned authority.

Read this book. It won’t turn you into a commie. I promise.

Video after the jump.

Continue reading “From The Desk Of Van Dyke Parks: “A Coney Island Of The Mind” By Beat Poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti”

From The Desk Of Van Dyke Parks: The Cliff House

VanDykeParksLogoWith Van Dyke Parks’ new Songs Cycled (Bella Union), the renowned composer, arranger and vocalist (in that order), not only releases his first album of originals since 1995’s Orange Crate Art (with Brian Wilson singing), but lends his usually complex creations a renewed sense of simplicity. The thoughts may be determinedly complicated and touched by the soul of social protest, but Parks’ music is deliciously direct, while remaining as elegant as anything he’s done for himself (à la 1968’s chamber-pop initiator Song Cycle) or others (the Beach Boys and Rufus Wainwright amongst them). Parks will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our brand new feature with him.

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Parks: A place to escape the First World, its insolvable problems, just two hours north from L.A. on Pacific Coast Highway, in Mussel Shoals (no not that fabled musical Muscle Shoals in Alabama). It hides there, incognito, in a postage-stamp community straddling a coastal sliver along the route from Santa Monica to Santa Barbara. Un-airconditioned rooms inhale cool beach breezes, reminiscent of a ’40s blue-collar retreat. An Olympic-sized swimming pool, with deck-chairs lawn-side, invites a good beach read. Marine life idles in tidal pools with a jetty projecting west. It’s capped by a phony island that has palm trees masking the oil wells pumping oil shoreward. That kitsch industry masks the serenity within.

Commuters drive by, oblivious to this pearl of an affordable getaway. The highway’s hum recedes in the sounds of surf. The restaurant is a foodie’s Eden. Town action is a short hop north in Santa Barbara, for scenesters who just have to be seen. Closer yet, Rincon Beach, a surfer’s paradise. A perfect recipe for an endless week-end in quiet excess.

Video after the jump.

Continue reading “From The Desk Of Van Dyke Parks: The Cliff House”

MP3 At 3PM: Lisa Papineau

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Lisa Papineau‘s depressive, dark and layered “Out For A Swim,” off Blood Noise (out October 8 via Neurotic Yell), recalls EMA’s droned-out and emotional Past Life Martyred Saints, or a more gloomy Liz Phair (See: “Flower”). On the first single from her third solo album, Papineau is showing potential. Download it below.

“Out For A Swim” (download):