Monday, November 13, 2017

Musical Theater Therapy: "God Bless the Absentee"



Musical Theater Therapy jumps back 4 decades (1980) to Paul Simon's only writing credit for a theatrical release--he was among the writers for The Paul Simon TV Special and shares an Emmy for Outstanding Writing in a Comedy-Variety or Music Special with Lorne Michaels, Chevy Chase (so that's why he was in the "Call Me Al" video), Tom Davis, Al Franken, Charles Grodin, Lily Tomlin, and Alan Zweibel: One-Trick Pony.

What a coincidence that he got a job writing for a special where his name was in the title.

One-Trick Pony is a naturalistic musical (where people are singing because they're actually singing, and other people can hear them, and there's usually not a lot of choreography); and while it's not a great movie, it's a really good movie.
A pretty good movie.

To appreciate it, you have to contextualize it among American auteur movies of the late 70s and thus not expect anything good for the lead character. It's like what if Kramer vs. Kramer was about one Kramer constantly on the road with his band and struggling to make new music while Dustin Hoffman broods while watching the kid. Or if The Deer Hunter was a musical, except nothing at all like that.

It's a semi-autobiographical work about Simon's change from Columbia Records to Warner Bros. Records. The presence of other notable Warner Bros. recording acts like The B-52s, David Sanborn, and Lou Reed is purely coincidental... as is the fact that the film was distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures.

NOT! That's called synergy, and if you don't understand the importance of leveraging existing organizational assets to minimize external costs and maximize profits, then the terrorists already won.

Synergy: it's like nepotism for things. And nepotism always works out just fine.

Fun fact: it's likely that letting Paul Simon star in the movie he wrote (but did not direct) was part of the deal that Warner Bros. Records offered him to lure him away from Columbia Pictures, and thus the entire movie was probably just a planned to be charged off toward their business development activities. My best guess is the movie gave WB accountants a way to write-off 3 to 5 months worth of cocaine. Okay, that might just be a fun speculation.

Fun fact: One-Trick Pony marks the film debut of which remarkably talented "Brat Pack" member? Hint: her distinguished career includes a Tony nomination, an Oscar nomination and 2 Emmy awards. She's also a singer with the voice of an angel and does a rather charming version of "Me and Bobby McGee" sitting naked in a bath tub on the lap of Paul Simon (because it was filmed in the very late 70s let's say that Simon is also naked because, reasons).

A: Robert Downey Jr. hash tag the more you know

The band in the film if portrayed by Paul Simon's actual touring band from the same period... synergy! Also, it's clear these guys are not actors. Listen to the, um, casual nature of their dialogue over the beginning of today's song, "God Bless the Absentee." It's a sweet song from Simon's pre-Graceland oeuvre and crafts a nice mood for this scene. This album (and movie, to be honest) is a personal favorite. It's not Simon's best work, but watching it at random hours of the day or night on The Movie Channel, one of 2 premium cable channels even available to us, is one of only 3 happy memories I have from 1982.

Fun fact: The Movie Channel began as a way to promote the Warner Bros. film library... SYNERGY!

Today's lesson? Obviously it's the thing about synergy.

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