Friday, October 28, 2016

Friday Roundup

Weekend before last, I did some experimenting around with stenciling designs onto fabric. Result: the snazzy tank top emblazoned with Nick Rhodes’ lovely face. I wouldn’t say the process was easy, exactly, but it was relatively straightforward. Very quickly, here are the general steps: I took a photograph of Nick and did a whole bunch of futzing around in Photoshop to make it stencil-ready.  Like so:

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: “The Bow-Wow Affair”

A well-dressed man in a dark cloak (Paul Lambert) lurks in the shadows outside a mansion, glowering malevolently and doing his very best Dracula impression. He climbs through a window into an empty bedroom, where he spreads out a pair of polka-dot pajamas on the bed and stabs a jewel-handled dagger through them.

Back at U.N.C.L.E. headquarters, Napoleon is undergoing rigorous physical therapy at the capable hands of lovely agent Sarah Johnson. Apparently Napoleon blew out his knee when he tripped over the office cat, which means he’ll be taking a backseat for most of this episode. This makes it the first-ever episode to focus primarily on Illya instead of Napoleon, but really, the big takeaway here is that U.N.C.L.E. has a cat wandering around headquarters, whom we will never see and who will never be mentioned again. As a cat lover, I count this as a huge missed opportunity. Mr. Waverly interrupts Napoleon to ask for a personal favor: The stabbed set of pajamas belongs to his cousin, Quentin Baldwin, who has asked Waverly for help uncovering the perpetrator behind the attack.

After inspecting the dagger, Napoleon summons Illya on the intercom: “We’re in need of your talents. Are you free?” “No man is free who has to work for a living,” Illya replies glumly, “but I am available.” Ah, yes, wonderful. There’s something delightfully off-kilter about the first-season depiction of Illya, who was prone to drifting in and out of episodes while delivering enigmatic statements and looking glamorous.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Duranalysis: “Too Much Information”

This band is perfect, just don’t scratch the surface…

The video for “Too Much Information”, the third single off of Duran Duran’s 1993 Wedding Album, was directed by Julien Temple, who also directed the band’s lovely and stylish video for “Come Undone”. More importantly, though, he helmed the 1988 sci-fi musical comedy Earth Girls Are Easy; “Come Undone” is swell, but Earth Girls Are Easy is a classic. Despite consisting mostly of performance footage, “Too Much Information” still manages to be a raucous good time. Let’s hit it:

The video was filmed on the enormous, elaborate, multilevel set Duran Duran used during their 1993 Dilate Your Mind tour. The set, described by Nick as a “cross between Flash Gordon and Kafka”, is a large-scale pastiche of pop-culture ephemera created by legendary English National Opera stage designer Stefano Lazaridis; it required six trucks to move it from venue to venue and ended up being too huge and unwieldy to fit on several of their stages (a scheduled performance at the Hollywood Bowl, for instance, was ultimately shifted to the LA Forum). If you think about it, this sort of works as a metaphor for the entire Duran Duran experience: larger than life, faintly ludicrous, and bursting at the seams with too much awesomeness to be contained by the Hollywood Bowl.

Monday, October 17, 2016

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: “The Four-Steps Affair”

Well, this is a weird, messy little episode.

This was scripted, at least in part, by U.N.C.L.E.’s very best staff writer, Peter Allan Fields, who brought us a whole slew of this show’s finest episodes, including “The Concrete Overcoat Affair”, “The Foxes and Hounds Affair”, “The Ultimate Computer Affair”, “The Girls of Nazarone Affair”, “The See-Paris-And-Die Affair”, and “The Fiddlesticks Affair”. Alas, even Fields couldn’t work his usual magic with this one, for a very good reason: This episode is pieced together from unused footage shot for two separate theatrically-released Man From U.N.C.L.E. feature films, neither of which were written by Fields: To Trap a Spy, which is the feature-length version of the pilot episode, and The Spy With My Face, the feature-length version of “The Double Affair.” Fields had the unenviable job of bridging together unrelated leftover plotlines into a single semi-cohesive story, with mixed results.

Somewhere in the Hamptons, a badly wounded U.N.C.L.E. agent named Dancer (Miguel Landa) arrives at a mansion. Bleeding profusely, he crawls inside, where he’s greeted by his lover, Angela (Luciana Paluzzi). He calls headquarters and recites a few lines of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam to a laconic Mr. Waverly, but the call is disconnected midway through. Fearing the house is surrounded by THRUSH agents, Angela urges him to slip out the window and escape in the darkness. As soon as Dancer crosses in front of the window, the duplicitous Angela directs a blazing spotlight at him, making him plainly visible to the THRUSH goons lurking outside. The goons riddle him with bullets.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Friday Roundup

I’ve been grievously neglecting Duran Duran over the past few months, so I’m happy to announce that Duranalysis will resume next week and (hopefully) continue on a more or less regular schedule through the end of the year. First up: 1993’s “Too Much Information”, a video bursting at the seams with gleeful forays into tonsorial madness. Look for my analysis to be posted on Thursday or thereabouts. In the meantime, to get back into the Duranalysis spirit, what’s your preference: John’s cherry red coiffure, or Nick’s purple (sorry, Nick, lilac) locks? Discuss in the comments below.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: "The Very Important Zombie Affair"

Hey, everybody! Ready for a hefty dose of Voodoo Magic™?

Illya and Napoleon arrive at the Miami airport, looking to meet with a contact who, per Mr. Waverly’s instructions, will be wearing a striped suit and a panama hat with a green hatband and carrying a nudie magazine tucked under his arm. Upon spotting their man, Napoleon asks him for a light, whereupon the man passes him a matchbook with a hotel address and room number scrawled on it.

As soon as the man leaves, however, Napoleon and Illya spot another man in a striped suit and green panama hat, who, yep, has a nudie mag tucked beneath his arm. Confused, Illya wanders over to him and asks for a light. The second man hands him a matchbook, which turns out to be blank. Illya tosses the matchbook in the trash, only to have it explode seconds later. Illya and Napoleon might not be the most competent spies out there, but by gum, they sure are the luckiest (and the prettiest, and the most charming, but that’s neither here nor there).

Friday, October 7, 2016

Friday Roundup

Congratulations to Mousie Mouse, who won the September giveaway of a signed copy of Demon City and a bunch of Japanese snack foods! The day I mailed this package off to Mousie, she and her family were evacuated from coastal Florida in advance of Hurricane Matthew. I presume the post office will not attempt to deliver mail to an evacuation zone, so Mousie, you will mostly likely be united with your package whenever you’re able to return to your home, which I hope will be very soon. Please stay safe, and thank you for entering the giveaway. I’ll probably try to do another one in November, so for anyone interested in free swag, keep following these roundups for details.

Monday, October 3, 2016

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: “The Take Me To Your Leader Affair”

I’ll start this recap with a bit of trivia: This episode was written by Bernie Giler, who penned two other U.N.C.L.E. episodes: “The Foreign Legion Affair”, which is one of the rare episodes to depict Illya as someone who, despite his outwardly frosty demeanor, might enjoy having sex with pretty ladies, and “The Her Master’s Voice Affair”, which features a nubile young woman who is hell-bent on seducing a recalcitrant yet bemused Illya. Just think of this episode as a messy yet entertaining mishmash of “Foreign Legion” and “Her Master’s Voice”, and you’ll be all set.

Napoleon and Illya arrive at an observatory located on a private island in the Caribbean, which is run by astrophysicist Dr. Cool (frequent U.N.C.L.E. guest star Woodrow Parfrey). They’re greeted by Dr. Cool’s daughter, Coco, who is played by the adorable Nancy Sinatra. Coco, who is dressed to kill in a hot pink bikini and matching boots, leads them to her father, who grills his visitors on how much they know about radio astronomy. “Very little,” Napoleon replies, at exactly the same moment that Illya cheerfully says, “A good deal.” Ah, it’s going to be one of those episodes where Napoleon ends up feeling disgruntled and inferior in the face of Illya’s dazzling intellect. Excellent.