Wednesday, May 27, 2009

My Favorite Things

The other day I completed my collection of the vintage Bond novels. You know the ones. The skinny Signet paperbacks with the little tiny paintings and 'A James Bond Novel' written vertically along the right side. I had them all ages ago, but lost most of them over the years. So over time I've been picking them up again and finally have all 14 sitting on my bookshelf in chronological order.

I've always loved those Fleming novels. He's my favorite writer. Better than Steinbeck, Hemingway or Faulkner in my opinion. It got me thinking of my other favorite things. But not just individual things, but 'groups' of things. The stuff I have to have that over time mean so much to me.

The Beatles Albums: Whether it's the 'official' UK collection or the 'unofficial' USA collection, or in my case, both, you gotta have them all. Forget the compilation stuff, the 'new' BBC or Anthology albums. And forget the solo stuff, too, while you're at it. Those albums, from 1963 to 1970 are a must. Even Yellow Submarine.

The 'Real' Beatles Movies: By the 'real' ones, I mean the can't-miss combo of A Hard Day's Night and Help!. If you want to really understand what the Beatles were, their energy, their humor and their intelligence, these films capture what made them more than a musical group. They were a phenomenon and I wanted to be just like them. Their other movies, Yellow Submarine, Let it be and their TV special, Magical Mystery Tour are all meaningless compared to these Richard Lester flicks.

The Beatles Anthology Documentary: I'm counting this as a 'group' of things, because it was originally shown as a six-part series in late 1995 on ABC. This Beatles' made doc covers it all. And with a running time of eight-plus hours, I never get tired of it.

The Films of Stanley Kubrick: He only made 13 movies, and two of them are expendable (Fear and Desire and Spartacus). But the other eleven are essential and I learn something new about them every time I watch one.

The First Three Ramones Albums: The Ramones, Leave Home, and Rocket to Russia are all you need as far the Ramones, the kings of punk, are concerned. And you can toss in the live album, It's Alive, just cuz, like those first three, it has the original drummer, Tommy, on it.

The Honeymooners Original 39: The greatest sitcom ever. Forget the 'lost' episodes and the horrible 'color' ones. When I discovered these black-and-white gems, in late-night reruns on KPTV Channel 12 in Portland, I understood why Gleason was called the 'Great One' and why Art Carney won all those Emmys.

Jerry Lewis Movies 1960 thru 1964: Nine movies, five directed by Jerry and four by Frank Tashlin, are not only hilarious, but the quality of production (especially the ones directed by Jer) is beautiful. The sets, the colors, the camera work...dismiss him if you want, but Lewis was a great filmmaker during this chunk of time. There's a DVD set called 'The Legendary Jerry Collection' that has them all. I keep it handy whenever I need a laugh.

Bonanza: The Pernell Roberts Years: The first six seasons (out of 13) are really outstanding. Great cast, great scripts and gorgeous scenery. When 'Adam' (Pernell Roberts) left, it was like losing a limb. The show never recovered or was nearly as good. They're not on DVD, but TVLand shows them every day.

Star Trek, The Original Series: Yeah, the third season is weak, but there's still some good stuff there. The first season is best. More moody and scary than the more energetic later episodes. But whatever season, with that cast and smart writing, it's not only the best Star Trek series, but the best Sci-Fi show ever. And screw those 're-mastered' versions. They give me the creeps.

The Lee-Kirby Fantastic Four Comics: Basically, it's the first 100 issues. They had the guts to call it 'The World's Greatest Comic Magazine', and damnit, they were right. No other comic has come close. Everything else pales to those 100 or so books from the 1960's.

The Ian Fleming James Bond Novels: I already covered these, but to recap, they are beautifully written. No one can describe stuff like Fleming. Whether it's clothes, food or sex, the guy had a way with words that can't be topped. And the stories are a blast. I love the Connery movies, too, but these novels are so much more important to me. More serious and adult than the films.

So is it only old/dead people's work that I find 'essential'? I'd have to say, 'yeah, probably', except for television. I might eventually include 'The Sopranos', 'Band of Brothers' and the new 'Battlestar Gallactica' DVD collections as some of 'favorite things'. But they'll have to stand the test of time. For example, I used to think 'Seinfeld' was super, but now I'm not so sure. Regarding filmmakers, novelists, and musicans, I doubt that I'll latch onto any bodies of work with as must gusto as the above. But I might discover some other cool old stuff.


Blogger therealshell said...

I agree with you on "Seinfeld," which I mostly don't find as funny as I did all those years ago. In fact, I think that "Seinfeld" last two or three seasons were mostly lame.

3:47 PM  

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