Saturday, March 22, 2014



I am continuing to prepare my Sink For Your Supper concert tour, which begins next week in Schenectady. My music director and I are having some disagreements as to whether the Gilligan's Island theme is really an appropriate song for a symphonic venue. We have agreed, however, on arrangements of Nearer My God To Thee and Lusitania in the Sky With Diamonds . Fortunately, with a symphony concert, little motion is required and there will be no major dance routines. I have been able to put away my Thinner Thighs in Thirty Days exercise videotape and am able to attack the Girl Scout cookies Norman laid in last month. Hopefully, there will be no repeat of that unfortunate incident from last year when Norman laid the Girl Scout along with the cookies.

The Schenectady pops are crafting a giant white iceberg made of Styrofoam for my entrance. I shall descend its slopes while the orchestra plays a stirring rendition of It Was Sad When The Great Ship Went Down . I have yet to find an appropriate dress for the concert. Nothing in the GlamourPuss collection seems quite right so I have an emergency call in to Jean-Paul Gaultier. He's talking about layers and layers of white tulle with an ice blue crepe de chine overlay. I can't quite picture it but I'm sure it will be sheer genius. Madame Rose says I should make my initial entrance in a harness rappelling down the iceberg’s face but I don’t think that sets quite the sophisticated tone for which I’m searching.

Having solved today’s immediate problems, I repaired to the home theater feeling in need of something fun and frothy (All those songs about death by drowning can make one need a peppy moment) so I put in Amy Heckerling's Clueless from 1995. Amy Heckerling is a sharp observer of youth culture (she made her name wit hFast Times at Ridgemont High - one of the seminal films of the early 80s) and an inventive comic director and in this film she's at the top of her form.

Clueless is a sly adaptation of Jane Austen's early 19th century novel, Emma . In order to translate the insular world of the provincial English town into a modern idiom, Heckerling hit upon the modern American high school, which, with its cliques and rituals and ossified social strata, is in many ways an apt analog. The Emma figure, Cher (named for the great singer of the past who now does infomercials), is the queen of her Beverly Hills high school society. As the film progresses, she learns that her adolescent judgments of the world and the way it ought to be are not always correct, helping her mature into an adult. She and her friend Dionne (named for another great singer, now best known for the Psychic Friends Network), attempt to remake a Midwest transplant, help lovelorn teachers find romance, and have other minor misadventures on the way to maturity.

Alicia Silverstone became a star in the role of Cher. She's young, lissome, and a wonderful combination of world-weary experience and hopeless naiveté that captures both sixteen and the tone of the film perfectly. Stacey Dash, as her friend, is less convincing but not detrimental. The large supporting cast includes such stalwarts as Dan Hedaya as her grumpy father, Wallace Shawn as her debate teacher, Julie Brown as her dykey gym teacher and Paul Rudd as her ex-stepbrother. The film, however, does not belong to the actors as much as it does to Heckerling's acute and jaundiced eye for social satire (mall culture, cell phones at the dinner table, dating rituals et al.).

There are moments that are a little too hokey (Gigi playing when Cher appears in a grown-up dress and is spied by her true love) and some parts that drag, but the end result is a sweet and endearing comedy of manners with some wickedness underneath and I think Jane Austen would have approved.

An unfortunate result of this films success was the onslaught of imitators with everything from Shakespeare ( Ten Things I Hate About You from The Taming of the Shrew ) to George Bernard Shaw ( She’s All That from Pygmalion ) being reset as teen films in American high schools. Most of the imitators have little in the way of wit and style and are completely unnecessary, except to the acting career of Freddie Prinze Jr. I keep expecting The Duchess of Malfi or The Country Wife with Julia Stiles to turn up next.

Computer clothes matching. Date dumping. Exposed slips. Gratuitous oral sex jokes. Claes Oldenburg sculpture. Columns from 1972. Flunked drivers test. Donated bong. Gratuitous happy wedding finale.

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