Five Things: July 6, 2023

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_ONE

Streaming’s most wanted: Why it’s so hard to find these iconic film and TV titles | Josh Rottenberg

But despite years of lobbying by Caron, “Moonlighting” has yet to appear on any streaming platform, held up by the high cost of clearing the rights to the large amount of music used in the show. Caron has felt an even greater sense of urgency since Willis was diagnosed last year with frontotemporal dementia, ending his legendary career.

Music rights have long been an obstacle for old shows and movies getting an extended life in other formats — Hello, Miami Vice! Hello, Pump Up The Volume! — but I didn’t realize Moonlighting was in that category, too. I loved it back in the day and don’t remember music being a major element the way it was in Miami Vice, but it’s one I’d definitely watch again to see if it holds up at all. While Miami Vice mostly did — graded on a proprietary curve — so many don’t, which really is the unspoken reason so many of them remain unavailable.

Beyond music, Rottenberg gets into the other reasons you can’t legally watch some old favorites, most of which are usually related to complex financing deals and a tangled web of ownership, the most random of which is Bristol-Myers Squibb’s ownership of distribution rights to a bunch of films. Yes, the global biopharmaceutical giant, Bristol-Myers Squibb!

Then there’s Dogma, Kevin Smith’s best movie, which is owned by Harvey Weinstein himself because apparently the default for everything in Hollywood is horrible.

__TWO

Talk Hard: The Making of the Teen-Angst Classic ‘Pump Up the Volume’ | Eric Ducker

These are angsty times we’re living in, which is just one reason that Pump Up the Volume, an incredibly influential if criminally under-seen teen drama released 30 years ago on August 22, feels so resonant right now, despite its late-’80s/early-’90s fashion and technology.

Moonlighting and Miami Vice got me thinking about another hard-to-find old favorite, Pump Up The Volume, and while looking to see if it still isn’t available to stream anywhere (it’s not), I stumbled across Ducker’s excellent memorial for its 30th anniversary. I can’t remember exactly when I saw it for the first time, but I was living in South Beach when it first came out in August 1990, one week after my 21st birthday — a little older than its high school characters, but closer in age to Christian Slater and Samantha Mathis.

I was absolutely its target audience in several ways, partly because I could relate to Mark’s situation, having moved to the lily-white suburbs of Yorktown Heights in the latter half of 11th grade and resenting my mother for it for years to this very day. There was also my dissatisfaction with nascent adulthood, which had inspired me to quit my job and move to South Beach with a cousin, a friend, and zero ideas about how we’d survive down there. The early 90s were different in so many ways, but the movie’s underlying themes resonated with me back then and clinched a place on my list of all-time favorite movies and soundtracks.

During the early days of the pandemic, I tracked down a copy of the DVD and watched it with my wife to see if it held up, and while I definitely think so — again, on a proprietary curve — she vehemently disagreed. It was a pivotal moment: was this grounds for divorce? An irreconcilable difference? We ultimately decided to never speak of it again and will be celebrating our 25th anniversary in two weeks.

The real secret to marriage? I don’t actually know, but I know I’ll never ask her to watch Pump Up The Volume again!

___THREE

The ‘V’ Files: The Shocking Legacy of an ’80s Sci-Fi Cult Classic | Anthony Breznican

Few fans are likely aware of V’s backstory, its origin as a pure anti-fascism parable devoid of extraterrestrials, or the horrific true-life crime that shocked its cast and crew when one of its stars, Dominique Dunne, was savagely killed and another became embroiled in the tragedy as a witness. And despite the show’s success, Johnson was forced out, leading to the eventual collapse of the franchise. The making of V could be a prime-time soap opera of its own.

Going further back in time, I loved the original V miniseries, although I remembered it being much longer than it actually was and had no idea about its inspirations nor the myriad shenangians that led to its eventual downfall. Secret Galaxy has a great overview that covers similar ground, albeit in breezier fashion with some insights into why there is so little merchandise available, while Breznican digs deeper into Kenneth Johnson’s fascinating story, and has a lot more on Dunne’s murder and how the show dealt with it.

I remember mildly enjoying the 2009 reboot, but none of it stuck the way the original did, and I’d be curious to see how Johnson would reimagine it all today when the ease with which humanity gave into the visitors could be mistaken for a documentary now. Until then, I tracked down a copy of the original on DVD a week ago and plan to re-watch it soon. The visual effects definitely won’t hold up, but I wonder if the story does?

____FOUR

Kool Moe Dee and British Knights: The story of one of hip-hop’s earliest sneaker campaigns | Adam Aziz

“The term ‘How Ya Like Me Now’ fit with British Knights’ boisterous and in-your-face tone from a marketing perspective,” said Lynch. “It aligned to other marketing slogans used at the time, like ‘The shoe ain’t nothin’ without the BK button’ and ‘Your mother wears Nikes.'”

I vaguely remember British Knights as being way too expensive for me as a kid but didn’t remember their relationship with Kool Moe Dee. They were definitely one of the hot brands back in the day, though. I was mostly an off-brand kid (whatever Stride Rite sold back then), and I think I had a pair of Lottos at one point — with the Velcro logo in different colors! — which might have been my first “fancy” brand, although probably off the back of the proverbial truck.

When I read this earlier this year, I was stunned to realize 2023 is Hip-Hop’s 50th anniversary, which means the music I grew up listening to is officially in “classic” territory, complete with terrestrial radio stations dedicated to its earliest years. I still remember buying vinyl, and pressing pause on the cassette player to edit out the DJ between songs, and rarely ever hearing hip-hop on the radio (unless it was WBLS), and now hip-hop is everywhere and comes in a variety of styles, some I barely understand but are all inarguably part of the ever-expanding culture.

I’m currently in the middle of reading The Come Up: An Oral History of the Rise of Hip-Hop by Jonathan Abrams, and it’s been a bizarre walk down memory lane. In addition to artists I hadn’t thought of in ages and forgotten songs that are immediately recognizable at first mention, the most surprising thing has been multiple reminders that I remember the Bronx I grew up in the 70s and 80s — about a mile from Kool Herc’s seminal party — very differently than being one of the most dangerous places in the country it apparently was. To me it was just home, and I didn’t really know anything else besides what I saw on TV, most of which seemed like a completely different world.

“How Ya Like Me Now,” indeed!

_____FIVE

The Glorious Return of a Humble Car Feature | David Zipper

The touch screen pullback is the result of consumer backlash, not the enactment of overdue regulations or an awakening of corporate responsibility. Many drivers want buttons, not screens, and they’ve given carmakers an earful about it. Auto executives have long brushed aside safety concerns about their complex displays—and all signs suggest they would have happily kept doing so. But their customers are revolting, which has forced them to pay attention.

I absolutely hate cars that have gone all-in on replacing analog dashboards with iPads of various shapes and sizes. It’s something I love about our Hyundai, one of the few manufacturers who’ve mostly resisted the temptation. Teslas look ridiculous, but that’s their design aesthetic; seeing their influence on other manufacturers has been maddening, and VW’s ID Buzz dashboard is one of the ugliest I’ve ever seen.

I don’t personally believe self-driving cars are coming anytime soon, so designing cars we still have to be in full control of to be as safe as possible should be the highest priority. Instead, we’re living in a transitional period where safety and reliability are taking a back seat to “innovation” and an automated future, alongside subscriptions to formerly standard features and reluctant and belated recalls to fix issues that should never have been shipped.

*shakes fist at cloud*


PS: Apparently this issue’s unplanned theme was nostalgia?!? I don’t usually have any idea what’s going into these newsletters until I start putting one together. I use Feedly to bookmark articles of interest in a “Newsletter Consideration” folder as I come across them, and at least half of them never get used. I usually have a lead article in mind and go from there. An unexpected theme often starts to present itself and I run with it, and some of those older articles find a home. This was definitely one of those issues.

This might be the first time in 2.5 years that there wasn’t an overt publishing or library angle somewhere, though, so apologies to those of you who understandably assume that’s what you’d be getting. Licensing and rights kind of counts? Hope you enjoyed it anyway!


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