Friday, April 3, 2020

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom


Synopsis in 3 sentences or less:
After jumping out of a plane over India, Indiana Jones helps a poor village by rescuing its children and its sacred stones from a Thuggee cult. 

Memorable Quote:
What is Shankara?  ~Short Round
Fortune and glory, kid. Fortune and glory.  ~Indiana Jones

Highlight:
Indy paying his respects to Short Round for saving him, followed by this tour de force:
  • Indy, now let's get out of here.  ~Willie
  • Right. All of us.  ~Indy
Indy's transformation from a fortune-and-glory seeker to a savior is complete, as we cut to the majestic Parade of the Slave Children theme and Indy freeing the children while wreaking havoc on the Thuggees. One of the greatest "make you feel like you can run through a wall" scenes in movie history.

Lowlight:
It's too bad that Lao Che was never brought to justice, as far as we know.

Most interesting piece of IMDB trivia:
The diamond that Indy is looking to acquire in his meeting with Lao Che, in Club Obi-wan, is the Peacock's Eye (the diamond that young Indy, and his friend Remy Baudouin) go hunting for after WWI ends, in Chapter 18 of "The Young Indiana Jones Adventures" prequel series.

Other thoughts, observations, and questions I didn’t ask when I was in fourth grade:
  • As a kid, I had a framed Temple of Doom poster growing up, so my relationship with this movie goes back a long way. 
  • On paper, the Anything Goes musical number might seem kind of random, but it works here, in part because of John Williams's great arrangement. It is a little weird in the middle of the song when they show 30 caucasian ladies on a massive stage that looks way too big for the nightclub and that seems to be hidden from the view of the patrons. 
  • It's sad to see Indy reduced to giving a priceless historical artifact to gangsters in exchange for a diamond, but then again his character growth from a "fortune and glory" mentality to saving the children is the theme of the movie. And if the diamond really is the Peacock's Eye which he searched for many years earlier, it's a little more defensible. 
  • 9:02 mark -- I never noticed before how the band continues to play during the commotion, and a bit later they sit calmly a few feet away from Indy while the gangsters are throwing knives at him. 
  • The scene with Indy, Willie, Lao, and his sons around the table is fantastic. If there was an academy award for a maniacal laugh, the guy playing Lao's son (the one who doesn't get impaled by a skewer) would be the clear winner. 
  • Willie is a big American star who is headlining at a popular club, and she's known Indy for 5 minutes, but that doesn't stop her from getting on a plane with him at a moment's notice and without any belongings or knowing where they're going. 
  • 13:22 -- "Nice try Lao Che!"
  • Indy says he doesn't know how to fly the plane, but he knows how to fly in Last Crusade ("Fly, yes. Land, no"). He flew several times in Attack of the Hawkmen, but I don't remember if he actually piloted or not. 
  • 21:51 -- One of my favorite exchanges in the movie:
    • That's more food than these people eat in a week. They're starving.  ~Indy 
    • Oh, I'm sorry, you can have it.  ~Willie. 
    • Eat it.  ~Indy
    • I'm not hungry.   ~Willie
    • You're insulting them, and you're embarrassing me. Eat it.  ~Indy (with a big grin)

    • While I'm much less of a picky eater than I used to be, I'm still a bit picky. And there have been times where I've been at someone's house and have been repulsed by what's on my plate (I can think of one time where there was a fruit salad with mayonnaise), but in those moments I've thought of this scene and discovered the inner fortitude to eat it anyway with a smile on my face. 
  • I like the old guy in the village. Apparently he didn't speak English and recited his lines without knowing what they meant. I also like that Indy is familiar with Pankot Palace and speaks the same dialect as the villagers. 
  • The village scenes have a timeless, classic feel, and I love the nighttime scene where the village is aglow with firelight and the dying kid gives Indy the centuries-old parchment. 
  • Another fantastic nighttime scene when Indy and Short Round are playing poker while Willie is getting scared by animals and then unknowingly flings a snake, much to Indy's horror. That's why they call it the jungle, sweetheart!
  • Ford hurt his back riding the elephants and had to fly from Sri Lanka to the U.S. for surgery, which put the entire movie in jeopardy.
  • I don't know why Indy sternly tells the others, "Don't come up here!" when inspecting the statue and getting blood on his hands. He's already leading them into harm's way by taking them to the palace, so why be concerned by the statue?
  • Dinner scene = classic. While the menu gets all the attention with its eyeball soup and the monkey brains, the conversation between Indy and Chatter Lal is an underrated part of the scene. 
  • The bedroom cat-and-mouse scene between Indy and Willie is tremendous and includes some memorable dialogue, and I've always thought it was cool how the bad guy emerges from blending in with the mural. It's a good time to mention Kate Capshaw -- I don't recall seeing her in any other movie or tv show, but she's incredible in this movie: spunky, charismatic, pretty, funny, and sweet all at once. This movie is where she met Spielberg, and then they married in 1991. Some great lines in this scene:
    • What sort of research would you do on me?  ~Willie
    • Nocturnal activities.   ~Indy

    • She's not coming. I can't believe I'm not going.   ~Indy

    • This is the night that I slipped right through your fingers!   ~Willie
  • From one amazing scene to another as we head into the spiked room. Everything about this scene is perfect, except for the timing of the spikes (i.e. in the amount of time it takes Willie to pull the lever, the spikes would have killed them long before given the height of the room -- it would have worked better if the ceiling was higher). Nevertheless, it's an iconic, first-ballot hall-of-fame scene with memorable music, tremendous acting from Ford and Capshaw, and some of the best lines of the movie:
    • There are two dead people down here!  ~Willie
    • There're gonna be two dead people in here!  ~Indy

    • And then my favorite: We...are going....to die!  ~Indy
  • I'd be remiss if I talked about the spike scene without mentioning the bugs. They are really disgusting, especially the part where Willie pulls the lever and these massive bugs (including a giant centipede) crawl into her hair. Really, really disgusting. 
  • More great dialogue: 
    • Have you ever seen anything like this before?  ~Willie
    • Nobody's seen this for 100 years.  ~Indy
  • That brings us to the human sacrifice scene. This movie led to the development of the PG-13 rating and is usually described as the darkest of the Indy movies, and that label is epitomized by this scene. Obviously, it's a dark scene, but I find it more cartoonish than scary or disturbing, and I don't know that it's any worse than the end of Raiders with the face melting Nazis. 
  • And yet another of my favorite lines! 
    • You could get killed chasing after your damn fortune and glory.  ~Willie
    • Maybe. But not today.  ~Indy
  • 1:08:54 -- It always gives me goosebumps when Indy takes the stones and starts walking away, only to stop in his tracks when he hears a child screaming.
  • Fun fact: the massive bearded Thuggee that Indy hits with a rock is played by the same actor who played two characters in Raiders: the Sherpa in the bar fight and the mechanic that gets propellered. 
  • With all due respect to Short Round, he's not knocking down any adult fighters when he weighs 50 pounds. 
  • Such an amazing set piece as Indy swings from the platform to the mine cart while the main theme plays. The filming of this and the following mine cart chase is all-time great. 
  • One thing about the first three Indiana Jones movies is that there's no wasted scenes or dull moments -- the plot just flies along. 
  • When Indy instructs Short Round to "Watch it on the curves, or we'll fly right off the track," I guess that means apply the brakes on the curves, although I'm not quite sure. Impressive driving for a 9 year-old kid, but remember, Shorty knows how to drive. 
  • Now we get to the climatic rope bridge scene, which my friend Joe Passman aptly described on my podcast as one of the best scenes in movie history. 
  • There's a great video in the special features DVD of Harrison Ford by himself on the rope bridge running at top speed like a maniac. 
  • 1:44:56 -- Hang on lady, we going for a ride!
  • Indy returns the children and the rock to the village and "sees its power now." I see one of the happiest, most glorious movie endings of all time. 

Final Analysis:
Quite simply, a tour de force and of the best movies of all time. It's also one of the most rewatchable -- there's not a bad scene or a dull moment, and the plot moves with the speed of a runaway mine cart.  The soundtrack is all-time great (I bought the CD a few years ago and often listen to it when I'm driving), the actors are all tremendous, and India is a magnificent setting and unique for a big-budget American movie.

Not everyone feels the same way as I do about this movie, including Spielberg who has badmouthed it quite a bit. Some feel that it stigmatizes India in a negative way and is culturally inappropriate -- India was so against it that they didn't allow filming in the country (the India scenes were filmed in Sri Lanka). I don't begrudge anyone who is offended or bothered by it, but I can only speak for myself when I say that it is one of my all-time favorites. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Raiders of the Lost Ark


Synopsis in 3 sentences or less:
Indiana Jones tries to find the Ark of the Covenant before the Nazis do. 

Memorable Quote:
Snakes, why did it have to be snakes.  ~Indy

Highlight:
The map room scene with John Williams's amazing theme. Powerful stuff.

Lowlight:
The implication behind the conversation when Indy sees Marion for the first time:
  • I learned to hate you in the last ten years.  ~Marion
  • I never meant to hurt you.  ~Indy
  • I was a child. I was in love. It was wrong and you knew it.  ~Marion
I know what you're thinking, that it's a little weird that she says she was a child, but that's just a figure of speech, right?  Let's ask George Lucas, whose thoughts were preserved in a transcript of a brainstorming session he had with Steven Spielberg and Lawrence Kasdan in 1978:

  • We have to get them cemented into a very strong relationship. A bond.  ~Lucas
  • I like it if they already had a relationship at one point. Because then you don't have to build it.  ~Kasdan
  • I was thinking that this old guy could have been his mentor. He could have known this little girl when she was just a kid. Had an affair with her when she was eleven ???!!!!!!??????!!!  ~Lucas (I added the extra punctuation)
  • And he was forty-two.  ~Kasdan
  • He hasn't seen her in twelve years. Now she's twenty-two. It's a real strange relationship.  ~Lucas
I'm speechless. Apparently the script had Marion at 15 and Indy at 25 when they first met rather than 11 and 42, but that's still statutory rape. 


Most interesting piece of IMDB trivia:
When Brody first goes to Indy's house to discuss the mission, Jones is dressed the way he is because he is entertaining a young woman in his bedroom. The script originally planned to show her before moving to the next scene, to give Indy a more worldly persona (like James Bond). However, her appearance was cut, as Steven Spielberg thought that being a playboy did not fit Indy's character.

Other thoughts, observations, and questions I didn’t ask when I was in fourth grade:
  • Paramount Pictures: the same studio that gave us MacGyver and Mission Impossible. Consider me on Team Paramount. 
  • Vic Tablian plays Barranca (the guy dressed in white who pulls a gun on Indy) and the monkey man later in the movie, and he played Demetrios in Young Indy's My First Adventure and Spring Break Adventure. Alfred Molina plays Satipo, and I know him from Maverick and Chocolat. I'm not sure why Indy has Satipo along -- he doesn't seem to add any value. 
  • Where did the boulder end up going?
  • Notice the plane's tail letters: "OB - CPO", as in Obi-Wan Kenobi and C3PO.
  • Indy is surprised to see the snake in the plane (Reggie), but wouldn't he have seen it before, assuming he was on the same plane on the way down?
  • Great opening that's simple, gritty, and reveals everything we need to know about the character: his rough edge, his daring, the costume, the whip, the fear of snakes, the theme song, and his relationship to Belloq. 
  • It's clear right from the beginning that Harrison Ford is the perfect choice to play Indiana Jones. With all due respect to Tom Selleck and anyone else that was considered, no one else could have done what Ford does with this character. 
  • Now we move to the classroom and see Professor Jones, and his nerdy, clumsy demeanor is a sharp contrast to his macho persona from the previous scene. 
  • I like how a student leaves an apple on Indy's desk and then Marcus picks it up, brushes it off, and puts it in his pocket. 
  • Marcus says, "I'm sure everything you do for the museum conforms to the international treaty for the protection of antiquities." Uh, what?  Indiana Jones might have a lot of good qualities, but he wasn't conforming to any academic standards when he went into the Peruvian temple to steal a gold icon from the natives while making no effort to research the site or do any historic preservation. Lucas makes it clear in the transcript I mentioned earlier that Indy has a bit of a dark side and is not a by-the-book archaeologist:
    • He is an archeologist and an anthropologist. A Ph.D. He's a doctor, he's a college professor. What happened is, he's also a sort of rough and tumble guy. But he got involved in going in and getting antiquities. Sort of searching out antiquities. And it became a very lucrative profession so he, rather than be an archeologist, he bacame sort of an outlaw archeologist. He really started being a grave robber, for hire, is what it really came down to. And the museums would hire him to steal things out of tombs and stuff. Or, locate them. In the archeology circles he knows everybody, so he's sort of like a private detective grave robber. A museum will give him an assignment... A bounty hunter.
  • Watching this movie and Last Crusade as a kid legitimately made me want to work as an archaeologist when I grew up where I would hunt for treasures and pledge loyalty to a museum that would receive all my findings.
  • Why couldn't Professor Abner Ravenwood be in a young Indy episode when he's at the U. of Chicago? 
  • Indy asks if the college museum can have the ark when he finds it, and Marcus says yes. Imagine being a small college museum: "Here we have some old coins, there's some ancient pottery, over here is the Ark of the Covenant..."
  • My second favorite scene is where Indy and Marcus are explaining what the ark is to the two Army Intelligence officers in the college's great hall.  The dialogue and acting is excellent, and I just enjoy it, especially when Indy opens the book (is it a bible?) and shows the army guys the picture of the ark and we hear the ark theme. 
  • Interesting that Indy is described as an "expert on the occult" while also being completely dismissive of "magic, superstitious, hocus pocus."
  • According to the Indiana Jones wiki, Marshall College is in Connecticut, but Indy's plane is shown taking off from San Francisco. 
  • Toht, the nefarious Nazi, is on Indy's flight from San Francisco. On such a long flight on a small plane with several layovers, wouldn't everyone on the plane have spoken to each other at some point?  That would have been a fun deleted scene where the plane stops to refuel in the Philippines and Toht fakes an American accent while making small talk with Indy. 
  • The Marion drinking scene is reminiscent of MacGyver-Eye of Osiris, as noted by me in my Eye of Osiris review. 
  • An incredible entrance by Ronald Lacey as Arnold Toht, a great villain who doesn't get enough screen time.  "We...are....not thirsty!" 
  • It's nice to see Sallah as more intelligent than in The Last Crusade, where he's kind of a buffoon. I'm a little confused about why they say he's been hired about the Germans -- is that because he was forced to or because he's acting as a double agent?
  • Great blasé facial expression from Ford as he shoots the swordsman. Supposedly there was going to be a more elaborate fight scene, but Ford had dysentery during filming and suggested a quick resolution because he was uncomfortable. 
  • Some good dialogue between Indy and Belloq in the bar, though I wonder why they wouldn't kill him there or try to get the headpiece out of him. I guess as my mom would say, then there wouldn't be a movie. 
  • There's quite a bit of important screen time for the monkey.
  • I've always been a bit bothered by Indy's transparency and lack of discretion while digging out the Well of Souls. He seems to think he and his small digging team can operate completely out in the open (and on top of a hill, no less) while surrounded by tons of Nazis. Not that there's an easy way to be discrete about it, but still.
  • It's crazy the lengths that the production team went to in filming the snakes, some of which is recounted in the IMDB trivia. For all that I complain about the use of CGI in movies of today, I understand why someone would choose CGI over bringing in thousands (repeat: thousands) of real snakes.
  • Where does the kerosene bucket and pump come from in the Well of Souls?
  • When Indy and Marion exit the Well of Souls, there's a brief shot of a guy sitting there kind of slumped over -- is he dead, or taking a nap?  Also, shouldn't the exterior where they exited have been a clue to the Nazis that something was in there when they were first looking for the ark?
  • I'm not normally someone who pays much attention to costuming, but the default Indiana Jones costume is spectacular. It just looks so freakin' cool, worn, and comfortable. Apparently it was modeled after Charlton Heston's costume in Secret of the Incas
  • The truck action scene is outstanding, though I wonder why the Nazis didn't just shoot the truck tires. 
  • Indy doesn't have his fedora when he swims to the sub. I guess he must have found a way to contact the sub when he got back to the States and asked them to send his hat back. 
  • As you know, I'm not a huge fan of magic in tv/movies, and so I don't care for the ending where the ark melts everyone's face and burns them with fire lasers. The ark is good at cleaning up, too, because there's not a trace of any Nazi bodies when it's all said and done. 
  • When the bureaucrat condescendingly says "Top men", Indy should slap him. 
  • Well done on the box scene at the end. I'd say that we'll see the box again in Crystal Skull, but I'm still pretending that movie doesn't exist. 

Final Analysis:
Obviously it's a groundbreaking, transcendent movie. My impression is that the majority of moviegoers and critics feel like it's the best Indy movie, but I see it as a notch below and as laying the foundation for the next two, which are two of the best movies of all time. I don't mean to put this movie down, though -- it's a great one. The plot is the epitome of high concept -- as you can see above, I completely summarized the movie in 14 words. I also love the high stakes, which Marcus Brody establishes when he says, "An army which carries the ark before it is invincible."

I'll say it again: Harrison Ford is beyond perfect for this part. His look, his voice, his attitude, his sensitivity -- we're talking about a once in a generation combination. Much like RDA, he's basically playing himself, whether it's as Indiana Jones, Han Solo, Witness, Air Force One, The Fugitive, Patriot Games, etc. But that's not a criticism, given that "himself" is a pretty cool dude and someone we love to see in movies.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Young Indiana Jones -- Episode 22: Hollywood Follies



To Watch: Click Here

Synopsis in 3 sentences or less:
Indiana Jones gets a job in Hollywood to make sure that a perfectionistic director gets his film done by its deadline. Then, he works as another director's assistant on a Western and finds himself on screen after several stunt men get injured and an actor dies. 

Memorable Quote:
It's no life for a woman, sharing a bed with a man and his mummy.  ~Harry Carey

Highlight:
I like the mood of the scenes where the actors and the cowboys hang out at night around the campfire and tell stories -- looks like fun.

Lowlight:
Indy's moral compass goes south when he takes the drunk Italian prince into Mexico and abandons him with no passport.

Brushes with historical figures:
  • George Gershwin (second appearance)
  • Carl Laemmle
  • Isadore Bernstein
  • Irving Thalberg
  • Erich von Stroheim
  • Jack Ford
  • Harry Carey
  • Wyatt Earp

Other thoughts, observations, and questions I didn’t ask when I was in fourth grade:
  • 5:25 mark -- what an amazing train!  Shouldn't we have better trains now than they did 100 years ago? 
  • Apparently Foolish Wives was a real movie and is described by wikipedia as an "erotic silent drama film." Sounds like a real hoot. 
  • 57:44 -- for being a young writer trying to make it in the industry, Claire has a very nice beach house. 
  • 1:04:50 -- director Ford stops the caravan to shoot a scene with the dramatic sunset, but that wouldn't translate in a black and white movie, right?
  • The scene with the burning cabin looks a little bit like Vazquez Rocks from the MacGyver Location Adventure
  • 1:12:05 - I think this is the first time in Young Indy that his fear of snakes is mentioned. 
  • The horse and wagon stunt is reminiscent of Raiders where he crawls underneath the truck. 

Final Analysis:
Overall a good episode. I liked the second half better than the first, and it was cool how they mixed in some black and white footage of the "finished product" during the Western scenes. Ranking it 6th out of 22.

Final Series Analysis:
Most of these episodes I watched for the first time, and I hardly remembered anything about the ones that I had seen previously. Let's start with the pros of the series:
  • A production value that was second to none. Lucasfilm has cash, and they weren't afraid to spend it while filming on location all over the world with top-notch cinematography. I'm not a tv historian, but I can't imagine there were too many other network tv shows that filmed in as many exotic locations as this one.
  • The war scenes are likely the best and most elaborate to ever appear on network tv. 
  • Sean Patrick Flanery is an excellent actor, and he brought a high degree of likability and charisma to this role. His softer, more sensitive character isn't really in keeping with Harrison Ford's more macho, edgier portrayal, something that we see in the Last Crusade where River Phoenix portrays young Indy with an edge. But I don't fault Flanery for his interpretation. 
  • The guest star list is incredible: Daniel Craig, Elizabeth Hurley, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Jeffrey Wright, Vanessa Redgrave, Max von Sydow, Anne Heche, and Christopher Lee, among others.
  • They found a way to get Harrison Ford involved. Kudos.  
Now, let's move to the cons:
  • Not enough adventure. That's an understatement, so I'll say it again: NOT EVEN REMOTELY CLOSE TO ENOUGH ADVENTURE!  I love history, more so than probably 95% of the population, but even I thought there was way too much emphasis on placing Indy in historical situations with every single famous person from the 1910s. That emphasis is evident in the DVD set where there are hour-long documentaries that accompany each episode and explain the historical references in great detail. It's as if the production team (or maybe just George Lucas) was more interested in giving the audience a history lesson rather than making some exciting stories. And as I said, I love history and I love Indiana Jones, but even I thought that the history was too much. With the budget they had, they could have had some amazing adventure set pieces, and there should have been plot line after plot line of "Indy finds a treasure and is chased by a lot of bad guys" instead of "Indy dates multiple women while being a stage manager for a Broadway play" (and that was one of the better episodes). 
  • To continue on that point, the episodes with nine year-old Indy are practically unwatchable given their glacial pace. As older Indy would say, "They belong in a museum."
  • I'm not a Remy fan -- I just find him annoying. 
  • The war episodes go on for too long.
  • Not enough references to Indy characteristics, such as the whip, fear of snakes, and the map screenshots when he travels. Instead of meeting with some obscure 20th century writer that 99% of the audience has never heard of, why couldn't he have had some interactions with a young Belloq or a young Lao Che?
So there you go.  I'm glad I watched it, but I'm also glad to be done with the kid stuff, because it's time to get serious and move to the movies. Fortune and glory await. 

Monday, March 2, 2020

Young Indiana Jones -- Episode 21: Scandal of 1920



To Watch: Click Here

Synopsis in 3 sentences or less:
While Indiana Jones is in New York, George Gershwin gets him a job as a stage manager of a Broadway play. In his spare time, he dates three women who are unaware of each other: a singer in the play, an intellectual poet, and a wealthy socialite. 

Memorable Quote:
That's right, son. I've got a feeling that this is gonna be a night to remember.  ~Mr. Schuyler
You're right, sir. It's gonna be a night to remember.  ~Indy

Highlight:
The performance at the end where Indy is frantically running around is very funny and well done.  In particular, I liked the part where he was rope swinging above the theater to get to the chimp, although it was unclear why a chimp was hanging out on the set unsupervised.

Lowlight:
It was a little strange that they brought back Hemingway to just sit in the audience for about 15 seconds of screen time. Instead, they should have brought back Amy from Winds of Change to be a 4th love interest, since she was supposedly in New York.  

Brushes with historical figures:
  • Sidney Bechet (second appearance)
  • George Gershwin
  • Ted Lewis
  • Irving Berlin
  • George White
  • Ann Pennington
  • Franklin Adams
  • Dorothy Parker
  • Harold Ross
  • Edna Ferber
  • Beatrice Kaufman
  • Robert Benchley
  • George Kaufman
  • Ernest Hemingway (third appearance)

Other thoughts, observations, and questions I didn’t ask when I was in fourth grade:
  • It's not clear why Indy is in New York -- perhaps he is on summer break from school, but shouldn't he be going on an archaeological dig or something?
  • I would never have recognized Anne Heche if I hadn't seen her name in the credits. The only other thing I've seen her in is 6 Days Seven Nights (opposite Harrison Ford) where she had short, blond hair, in contrast to her long, black hair in this episode. 
  • Gershwin is the man -- I have his piano rolls CD (which is genius) and the 30-page sheet music to Rhapsody in Blue (which is iconic, and which I'm listening to right now).  Total stud.
  • By the way, I only made it to page 4 of the sheet music. Gotta keep practicing! 
  • 27:22 mark -- did they have neon signs to that extent in 1920? I don't believe so. 
  • I like the guy who plays Mr. White -- he seems like a true New Yorker (just googled him and he is from New York).
  • They were either digging really deep for the historical figures in this episode (most of whom I've never heard of), or maybe I'm just an uneducated bumpkin. 
  • According to IMDB, Linda Rondstadt did the singing for Peggy.
  • Clever ending as the ladies see each other in the bathroom and recognize something of theirs, and then it's easy to see what's coming as Indy gets his head pushed in the cake, la mordida style. 

Final Analysis:
This is a very good episode -- funny, good music, well-acted, and a great ending.  Ranking it 3rd out of 21. 

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Young Indiana Jones -- Episode 20: Mystery of the Blues


To Watch: Click Here

Synopsis in 3 sentences or less:
While an archaeology student at the University of Chicago, Indiana Jones is getting his real education at night in the city's jazz clubs. With practice and tutelage from some jazz experts, he turns himself into a respectable "sax man." He also attempts to solve a mobster's murder with the help of Ernest Hemingway and Eliot Ness. 

Memorable Quote:
You can play happy birthday in jazz, or you can play St. Louis Rag so straight it won't be jazz no more.  ~Sidney

Highlight:
There are half a dozen scenes that would be the highlight in most of the other episodes, but the biggest highlight in this one can only be one thing: the presence of the man himself.  What a brilliant call to bring Harrison Ford in to bookend the episode, and of course he's awesome in his brief time on screen. It's just great to see him and hear the Indy theme.

Lowlight:
Indy comes off as too innocent and in awe of his musician friends. That characterization might have worked in a pre-war episode, but given all the drama that he experienced in Europe, it's hard to imagine him being so wide-eyed and sheepish about playing the sax.

Brushes with historical figures:
  • Eliot Ness
  • Sidney Bechet
  • Louis Armstrong
  • Ernest Hemingway (second appearance)
  • Al Capone

Other thoughts, observations, and questions I didn’t ask when I was in fourth grade:
  • Jeffrey Wright delivers what's arguably the guest star performance of the series with his energetic and charismatic portrayal of Sidney Bechet. 
  • It's doubtful that Eliot Ness was 1/24th as goofy and inept as he's portrayed, but his character acts as a good foil for Indy, and it's fun to see young Ness and young Capone cross paths. 
  • The music is another highlight in this episode, with one amazing jazz number after another. In particular, I dig the variations on Turkey in the Straw.   
  • Those old-school jazz clubs are the coolest. Between those jazz clubs and the blues club in my favorite Quantum Leap episode, Chicago must have been the place to be back in the day. Now I think of it as a place with crazy drivers and too much traffic. 
  • 45:55 - some great acting from Wright and Flanery when Sidney surprises Indy by calling him up on stage to perform. 
  • Jane Krakowski appears as Colosimo's wife. I saw her name in the opening credits and at first thought she was the one who stopped Indy at the frat party to tell him that she liked his music. 
  • It's a little sad at the end to see old Indy, the same guy who successfully took on hundreds of Nazis and Thuggees, get pushed around by a couple of two-bit crooks, but I like how he cleverly uses the saxophone to get the upper hand. As Dr. Jones Sr. says in the Last Crusade, sometimes when you just sit down, the solution presents itself. 

Final Analysis:
From start to finish, this is the #1 episode. So many highlights in this one: I already mentioned Jeffrey Wright and the jazz music, but there's also the Godfather-style Italian mafia plot, the dinner debate over the role of African-Americans in an unjust society, the frat party barbershop quartet scene, and the action sequence in the warehouse. And the presence of the great Harrison Ford is the icing on the cake.  

Monday, February 17, 2020

Young Indiana Jones -- Episode 19: Winds of Change


To Watch: Click Here

Synopsis in 3 sentences or less:
Indiana Jones's has a front row seat at the Treaty of Versailles as a translator. Then he returns home to an icy reception from his father. 

Memorable Quote:
Change is painful. People will do anything to prevent pain.  ~Indy

Highlight:
Much like Spring Break Adventure, I like the vibe of 1920s Americana that they create in his hometown of Princeton. 

Lowlight:
Jones Sr. is a flat-out jerk in this episode. His character has always been stuffy and too interested in his own work, but his behavior in this episode is unforgivable.

Brushes with historical figures:
  • Lawrence of Arabia (third time for Lawrence)
  • Arnold Toynbee
  • Gertrude Bell 
  • Woodrow Wilson
  • Prince Faisal
  • Ho Chi Minh
  • Robert Goddard 
  • Paul Robeson

Other thoughts, observations, and questions I didn’t ask when I was in fourth grade:
  • The guy playing Woodrow Wilson doesn't look anything like Woodrow Wilson, not that people who look like Woodrow Wilson grow on trees. Turns out that the actor is the crooked cop from Witness. And other guest star with a Harrison Ford connection is the German negotiator who played Dr. Nichols in The Fugitive. Great scene at the end where Dr. Kimball interrupts Nichols during his speech -- ok, I'm off track. 
  • 9:00 mark - Wilson says that he's prepared to succeed where Jesus Christ failed. In basketball, they call that a heat check. 
  • 12:40 - "The answer to this problem therefore is simple. We go and consult the people themselves...we ask them what it is they want."  Wilson is on fire right now. 
  • Fun fact: I've been to the Woodrow Wilson presidential library and birthplace in Staunton, Virginia. My wife and I were passing through town on our way to West Virginia. We had no plans to see the historic site and didn't even know it was there until we made a wrong turn and saw it right in front of us. So we decided to stop and check it out -- we got a nice guided tour and saw some old cars, and I got a souvenir glass. 
  • 15:13 - the normally soft-spoken Lawrence of Arabia surprisingly blows a gasket and tells Indy to go to Hell. 
  • I was recently was watching the first episode of Ken Burns's Vietnam documentary, which relayed the story about how Ho Chi Minh was hoping to meet Wilson in Paris after WW1 but never got the chance. 
  • The actress who played Amy was the cheerleader and Keanu Reeves's love interest in The Replacements.
  • I didn't know anything about Robert Goddard other than knowing of Goddard Space Center in Maryland. I did know Paul Robeson (although didn't know he was a football player). Great voice

Final Analysis:
Decent episode with no big highlights or lowlights. Ranking it 7 out of 19. 

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Young Indiana Jones -- Episode 18: Treasure of the Peacock's Eye


To Watch: Click Here

Synopsis in 3 sentences or less:
As World War One comes to an end, Indiana Jones and Remy travel to Egypt and Indonesia in search of a legendary diamond that once belonged to Alexander the Great. Along the way, they meet up with other diamond hunters, pirates, and pacific islanders. 

Memorable Quote:
There are all kinds of ways of life in this world. One is not right, one is not wrong. Understanding others, we can accept them, and through acceptance comes a peaceful world.  ~Malinowski

Highlight:
The scene where the pirates board the ship is fun.

Lowlight:
Too much Remy in this episode. In general his character is kind of annoying and doesn't bring much to the table, and at times it's hard to understand him with his thick accent.  Hopefully this will be his last episode.

Brushes with historical figures:
  • Howard Carter.  He also appeared in My First Adventure and is played by the same actor. 
  • Bronislaw Malinowski. I'd never heard of him, but apparently he was a famous anthropologist.

Other thoughts, observations, and questions I didn’t ask when I was in fourth grade:
  • Why is everyone fighting even though the armistice is about to be official within the hour? Did that really happen?  Let me check the internet....yes, looks like it did
  • Finally, the war is over and there can be some episodes about something other than WWI. 
  • It sounds like Remy says that he's been married to his wife for three years and has only seen her for ten days. But then at the train station it seems like he has a bunch of kids. 
  • 8:28 mark - Shouldn't Indy know Greek instead of Remy needing a scholar to translate?
  • Hard to believe that Indy and Remy are so quick to leave home and travel halfway around the world immediately after returning from a long and grueling war. Even more surprising is that Remy's wife not only tells them to go but gives them some of grandma's jewelry to finance their trip. "Even though you've been gone for three years and home for only an hour, why don't you leave right away on a wild goose chase and leave me to manage the home and the children!"  Maybe she finds Remy annoying, too. 
  • 13:12 - It's the Indiana Jones traveling-on-the-map picture! I don't recall seeing this in any of the earlier episodes -- too bad, because it's cool and evocative of the movies. 
  • 22:05 - Some sloppy editing when they're supposed to be looking at a newspaper that is clearly blank. 
  • Nice ending where Malinowski helps Indy to prioritize archaeology over diamonds and fortune. Unfortunately, Indy forgets this lesson at the beginning of Temple of Doom. 

Final Analysis:
After a litany of war episodes, it's nice to see Indy going back to some good old-fashioned treasure hunting. Ranking it 4th out of 18.