Favorite Underrated Stuff Tag

Our Favorite Underrated Stuff (Pt. 5)

underrated stuff
Pugwash, A Rose in a Garden of Weeds

Founded in 1999 by Thomas Walsh, Pugwash is a superb Irish rock band with more than 10 studio, live, and compilation albums. The 2014 compilation A Rose in a Garden of Weeds showcases the band’s memorable power-pop melodies, lush production with layers of ringing guitars and instrumental colors, and inviting vocal harmonies framing thoughtful lyrics.

Upon first hearing Pugwash I thought, here’s what a better Electric Light Orchestra would sound like. I also get a George Harrison feel from the way the songs can sound friendly and familiar then go off into unexpected chord progressions and directions. If you hear echoes of XTC, it’s no coincidence, as Pugwash has recorded four albums with XTC founder Andy Partridge’s label, and XTC guitarist Dave Gregory has contributed string arrangements.

underrated stuff

But like any great band, Pugwash ultimately sounds like no one else. This music sounds timeless, like it could have come from 1967 or 2017.

 

The album’s 17 songs range from the good to the absolutely stunning, from the pop perfection (no other way to put it) of “Answers on a Postcard” to the beautiful, heartbreaking longing of “Here.” Pugwash is way more popular in their native Ireland and in Europe. But their 2017 album Silverlake is also stellar and has earned best-of accolades in Irish end-of-year polls. Maybe the rest of the world will finally catch on.

 

Action

Well, I don’t know if I’d actually call this a gem. In fact, the 1999-2000 TV comedy Action is mostly in astoundingly bad taste. So this isn’t a “recommendation” per se. And yet . . . Action mercilessly and often hysterically spoofs the Hollywood movie industry in a manner insiders might consider closer to truth than satire.

 

The series revolves around the misadventures of movie producer Peter Dragon, sardonically played by comedian Jay Mohr. Dragon is a rude bully of a big-time producer of schlock action films but his last movie was a disastrous flop, so now the pressure is on for him to create another hit. Mayhem ensues as Dragon encounters one obstacle after another in getting the movie made, from accidentally hiring the wrong screenwriter (his name was similar to the one Dragon wanted—oops!), to playing psychiatrist to a binge-eating leading lady and substance-addled male star, to dealing with endless disasters on set and off.

 

Action skewers no-talent starlets, clueless executives, diva directors, sexual proclivities, racial, ethnic, and religious stereotypes, and most of all the desperation, hunger, and phoniness behind Hollywood’s glitz-and-glamour veneer. (There’s a running joke about who can and can’t get a table at the see-and-be-seen restaurant.)

underrated stuff

The supporting cast is spot-on, especially Illeana Douglas as Wendy Ward, a world-weary actress-turned-call girl-turned-Dragon’s-girlfriend/VP at Dragonfire Films. Buddy Hackett turns in a surprisingly sympathetic performance as uncle and confidant Lonnie Dragon. There are big-name cameos and name-dropping galore.

 

Although Action is played as over-the-top farce, it’s not one-dimensional. Dragon’s feelings towards his daughter during Take Your Kid to Work Day are touching (even if the day ends in inevitable disaster), and his why-do-I-keep-doing-this sense of self-doubt under all the bravado lifts his character from one-dimensional to sympathetic. (Well, somewhat.) There’s heart amidst all the in-joke invective.

 

I remembered Action as more of a silly spoof when it first came out, and upon re-watching realize it’s far more controversial. Sometimes the lens of memory is cloudy. You may be extremely offended, and I have to note that swaths of Action are simply just cringingly bad. But if you’d like to see Hollyworld get its comedic comeuppance, and have a high tolerance for politically incorrect humor, you may find Action the ultimate inside joke.

 

Action is available for streaming from Amazon Video and iTunes.

 

3D TV

Life moves fast—technology moves faster. So I suppose we can consider 3D TV—the buzzworthy technology only a few years past—a forgotten gem nowadays. (I’m not the only one who thinks so.) Which, considering the public’s appetite for ever-more-elaborate entertainment sort of surprises me.

 

Then again, maybe not. Look at the history of improved audio formats such as DVD-Audio, SACD, and hi-res digital—they’ve either croaked or been largely met with indifference. So why should 3D TV have been any different? (And who knows, maybe even HDTV would still be a pipe dream had digital TV not been federally mandated.)

 

Still, I’m willing to bet, whether optimistically or pragmatically, that 3D TV will make a comeback. People want their entertainment bigger, more dazzling, more explosive, more realistic. And 3D has been embraced by virtual reality and gaming fans, and IMAX 3D doesn’t look like it’s going away.

 

Perhaps getting rid of cumbersome goggles via autostereoscopy or 4K 3D will be the catalyst. Maybe the first 3D TVs were too expensive. But in our technological journey from the Edison cylinder to the Star Trek Holodeck, I’m thinking 3D TV is forgotten but not gone.

Frank Doris

Frank Doris is the chief cook & bottle washer for Frank Doris/Public Relations and works with a
number of audio & music industry clients. He’s a professional guitarist and a vinyl enthusiast with
multiple turntables and thousands of records.

Our Favorite Underrated Stuff (Pt. 4)

Mike Gaughn’s recent Favorite Underrated Stuff post sent me on a journey down memory lane that had me recalling some underrated stuff from my past I felt compelled to share.

 

Flash back to California’s Bay Area in the early 1990s . . .

 

I lived in downtown Berkeley, California, about a mile walk from UC Berkeley, in a large house owned by my best friend that he rented out to six other college students. I worked as a golf pro at a private country club in nearby Orinda,

where one of my best friends from high school, Pierre, also worked while he went to Cal.

 

Every Tuesday night, all the theaters in downtown Berkeley had a “$2 Tuesday” deal where the majority of films were—you guessed it—two bucks. After work, Pierre and I would have some golf-related challenge—putt-off, long drive, bunker shots, etc.—where the loser would have to pay for the winner’s movie. Or beer. We tried not to be too rigid.

underrated stuff

Nearly every Tuesday, we would go and see a movie. Often, we had nothing specific in mind—we would just stroll down Shattuck Avenue, where there were multiple theaters, and we would see what was playing that looked interesting. Two-Dollar Tuesday was a buffet where you were free to sample anything and everything, and we did. We saw foreign films, independent films, obscure and bizarre unrated films, and, occasionally, even mainstream fare.

 

It was terrific to experience such a variety of cinema—the mental equivalent of throwing a bunch of stuff against a wall and seeing what stuck.

 

Here are some of my favorites from that glorious three-year period . . .

Flirting

This Australian coming-of-age film takes place at two boarding schools—one all boys, one all girls—separated by a lake, and stars Noah Taylor, Nicole Kidman, and the screen debut of 16-year old Thandie Newton, who is just perfect in this role. I love the awkwardness of Taylor’s Danny Embling as he fumbles through each scene, struggling to fit in at a new school while slowly developing his confidence, and the slow development of his relationship with Newton’s Thandiwe, who has her own set of struggles, being the only black girl at school and dealing with Kidman’s mean girl, Nicola. You can’t watch this movie and not root for Danny, both cringing and cheering along with him, and remembering those tender/sweet/clumsy moments of the beginnings of a childhood crush. This film is in my Kaleidescape collection, and one I still return to on occasion.

 

Tous les matins du monde (All the Mornings of the World)

This takes place in the 17th Century and examines the life of French composer and viola player, Marin Marais, and the complex relationship with his mentor and instructor, Monsieur de Sainte-Colombe, and Colombe’s daughters, Madeleine and Toinette. Interestingly, as time changes throughout the film, older and younger Marais are played by father and son duo Gerard and Guillaume Depardieu. Entirely in French with subtitles, this is the first foreign film I can remember really loving, and it also gave me an ongoing passion for musical works featuring viola and cello. The music throughout the film is beautiful and is used to drive and carry each scene.

 

Tous les matins du mondes is available on Amazon, YouTube, Google Play, Vudu & iTunes

 

A Midnight Clear

Another film with a young, star-studded cast that includes Peter Berg, Kevin Dillon, Ethan Hawke, Arye Gross, and Gary Sinise, this World War II-era drama plays out at Christmas with a band of US troops discovering a weary group of Germans cut off from their main force. The hungry and tired German soldiers would rather surrender than fight and die, and the two sides develop an uneasy friendship as they co-exist in near quarters and come up with a plan allowing the Germans an honorable surrender. The acting is terrific throughout, and while the film builds towards it tense climax, it really shows the human side of conflict.

Night on Earth

It has been years since I’ve seen this movie, but I remember loving the randomness of it as Jim Jarmusch weaves together five different cab rides from five different cities around the world on the same night at the exact same time. The film’s action travels easterly from LA, to New York, to Paris, to Rome, and finally to Helsinki and features a wide range of actors, including a chain-smoking Winona Ryder, a rapid-fire and sex-obsessed Roberto Benigni, a new-to-America former clown Armin Mueller-Stahl, along with Giancarlo Esposito, Rosie Perez, and Gena Rowlands. Each vignette includes a nice mix of humor and drama and gives an interesting look at life around the world from inside a cab.

 

Night on Earth is available on Amazon

John Sciacca

Probably the most experienced writer on custom installation in the industry, John Sciacca is
co-owner of Custom Theater & Audio in Murrells Inlet, South Carolina, & is known for his writing
for such publications as
 Residential Systems and Sound & Vision. Follow him on Twitter at

@SciaccaTweets and at johnsciacca.com.