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The Preshow Entertainment was THE BEST OF BLONDIE, a "videogram" from 1981. These are videos by Blondie, mostly made before MTV. More like bad '70s student films (I should know), they were all pretty much awful. The 45 minute presentation began with a later song, "Call Me" (theme from AMERICAN GIGOLO). Too bad the band wasn't featured in the video. We did, however, get to watch a cab driver make his way around NYC for the entire song. You may ask why. And so did we.

The videos serve as stunning proof that Debbie Harry had no presence whatsoever, even while singing "(I'm Always Touched By Your) Presence, Dear." In one song she almost smiled, and in another, we think she may have moved. But Blondie had three things going for them: a chick, the right time/right place, and their songwriting. "Always write for your competence level" is a good rule, and they stuck to it. I always considered them greater than the sum of their parts, like a lot of bands of that era (The Shirts, The Ramones, okay, all of them). Put them together and sometimes you get magic.

I'm almost sure that Blondie was the first band to have a number one rap song ("Rapture"). They also sneaked a few words into their songs that FM radio today might get fined half-a-mil for, like "finger fucking" ("Rapture" again), and the tamer "pain in the ass" ("Heart of Glass").

Other songs performed by this wax museum of a band; "In the Flesh" (not Pink Floyd's, silly), "X- Offender," "Union City Blues," "The Tide Is High," and "Denis."

The movie, on DVD (yay!), was: SE7EN

I remember seeing it in the theater when it was released, and not hating it, but not loving it. I thought it too stylized. And the hoopla over the opening credits seemed to me a bit wrong. I think I wanted less atmosphere and more story. But that said, it was a well crafted film. I couldn't deny that.

However, seeing it again I got a better handle on it, and enjoyed it a lot more. My theory is that SE7EN was a forerunner of its neo-noir style. There were a lot of copycats afterwards (COPYCAT, another serial killer movie that came out at the same time not being one of them). After a while, that look became the norm, and that was even worse because it was unoriginal and usually bad. But now, here is the one that started the popularity of this kind of image structure, and it seems no one improved on it since.

It certainly could be argued that there were similar stylized films before SE7EN. But like Blondie, being in the right time and the right place, and doing something a little more raw than the others can make all the difference in the world. Would Blondie or SE7EN be a hit if they were breaking today? Not sure.

Breaking down SE7EN, you'll find it's really cliche, which means its success had a lot to do with director David Fincher. It's the story of two cops, one on his last case (Morgan Freeman), and an anxious rookie (Brad Pitt), who are trying to stop a serial killer whose model for murder is the seven deadly sins, before he strikes again. It's old school cop vs. new school with a Lawrence Sanders-y hook. If that were the pitch, it may seem two steps away from a Mad Magazine parody. But SE7EN transcends cliche, and one way it does this is by taking its time. The movie is paced slowly, making its two hour and se7en minute running time seem much shorter. And, like life itself, it can be grotesque (some of these murders are stunning) or humorous (Brad Pitt's character getting Cliff notes for book research).

What I love so much about SE7EN is not the stuff on the surface. The underpinning of the story is less about cops and villains, and more about the individual, and what makes them who they are. Like another fun thriller, THE HITCHER (the 1986 one), the bad guy is here to teach the good guy (or maybe not so good guy) a lesson. You think you're perfect? Oh, you're a cop, so you're a good guy? Well, it ain't necessarily so, and here's what I'll do to prove it to you. Now, maybe I'm being over-analytical (I've been down that road a few times), but that's what I get out of the movie.

Now, let me make clear what I meant by cliche. I was talking about the elements of the movie, on the surface. But dig deeper and you'll find a smart story that hits all the buttons perfectly. And an ending that's so in the pocket, it's hard to deny its brilliance. And for those who have seen it, I'm not talking about the box. I'm talking about how the whole plan of the killer (played by Kevin Spacey) played out.

There are too many spoilers in this film for me to go into much more detail. But seeing it again made me notice things that I didn't the first time round. For example, (again, in the over-analytical file), it seems Fincher shot a lot of Gwyneth Paltrow (playing Brad Pitt's wife) from the neck up (a true head shot, if you know what I mean) as well as from across the room, distancing her from the others. And I was no longer bothered by Freeman's old ways (research on the net? Nope. There's a library!).

Fincher also does a great job balancing suspense and mystery. He made a scene where Spacey holds a gun to Pitt's head, yet doesn't shoot him- suspenseful, when we know he's not going to shoot main player Pitt. Can't happen.

So, if you haven't seen SE7EN yet, get to it. And if you have, and weren't thrilled, try it again. And if you have, and loved it, well, then, I guess you just wasted some time reading this.

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