LET THE SHOPPING BEGIN AGAIN!

Now that Thanksgiving has been cleared from the table (so to speak), it’s now time to concentrate on that festive(?) activity called the “Holiday” shopping season. (It used to be called the “Christmas” shopping season, but this writer has explained in detail for this name change, and won’t elaborate on that change any further!)

Anyway, from now (or sooner) until January, folks are expected to go out there to buy gifts for others or for themselves. Although everything seems to be more pricey as they were from the previous year, the urge of spending has changed its priorities. No longer that people had to camp out in front of their favorite (or not so favorite) retail market(s) to grab something reduced in price, since so-called “black Friday” sales were going on as early as the Labor Day weekend!

But we here at ALO-L central have been reporting on this stuff for years. To give you an idea on what we are referring to, we once again dug rather deeply into our archive to bring out an essay that speaks upon this very topic.

The article below first appeared in Vol. 11-No. 48 during the week of November 28th of 2006, some fifteen years ago. It shows that the more things change….

Well folks! Whatever one wants to call this season (“Christmas”, “Holiday” “Winter Solstice”, etc. etc.) the official “Shopping” season has begun in full force! Since Thanksgiving Day when some retailers, sneaky enough to offer so-called “Black Friday” offers one day before Black Friday, got to the attention of Christmas, etc. shopper telling ‘em to spend like the Dickens, and not be stingy as a Scrooge! And since the American economy is somewhat in a funk with gas prices higher than one would like, the housing market is soft, and job security isn’t too secure, it’s spend, spend, spend, making the retail market books go in the ‘black’ (that is, profitable), and the consumers go into the red. Some folks are still paying off debts from the last Christmas shopping season, or perhaps the year before! Whatever the case, it’s the time to grab the goods for somebody to find under their tree come whatever holiday mornin’!

Retailers are hopeful that people will whip out their wallets in order to feed their coffers between now and the end of the calendar year. With Christmas Day falling on a Monday this year, retailers will once again have a final full weekend to deal with–the time where people can do most of their shopping! So planning by happenstance worked out in everyone’s favor. (Beside that, Christmas this year is a “real” three day weekend, rather than the holiday falling smack dab in the middle of the week!)

And this season is more than just shopping. It’s party time where such get-togethers will commence. Some will be cute tea time-type events, while a few will be big-deal blow outs! According to a recent survey of some 1000 mid-sized and big companies, 80% reported that they will offer their employees some sort of bash by the end of the calendar year. That’s up a few points from previous years when said companies, trying to keep the bottom line in order, stated that their end of the year hooplas would either be cut back, or not take place!

Since New Year’s Eve is within this mix, there are the annual New Year’s events to deal with. It’s all the same year after year. A club, bar, restaurant, or a place where folks gather to eat, drink, or both, will offer a party-like setting where one will get party favors, perhaps some “happy-hour” food, champagne at midnight, and just a lot of hoop-de-dooing. All of this nonsense is there for some inflated price. There’s also the private parties where folks will be doing pretty much the same thing–at a cheaper cost!

Getting back to Christmas, etc., there are other things to do. Sending cards will still be as big. In spite of the fact that one can send a card via-e-mail, it’s not just the same experience as getting a card from somebody through regular mail! This would be a card to place on a mantel, a Christmas tree, or perhaps over a fireplace or affixed upon a doorway. And with such cards, one may receive a bonus. Perhaps a photo or two of the sender and/or their family and friends will be enclosed. One may even be “lucky” enough to get one of those generic “What-I-Did-The-Previous-Year” letters, where one will write a page or two detailing all of the antics one did since January 1st. Since these letters will go to a vast audience, many of these notes will report on people and/or events that the receiver may not necessarily know just what the person is writing about. Some folks will really care about Uncle Looie’s gall bladder operation, while others will wonder just who the hey Uncle Looie is!

We can also talk about baking cookies, stringing up lights, and perhaps playing tired recordings of The Muppet’s Christmas Album on their turntables, CD players, or their iPods! But those are tired cliches, so we’ll move onward!

In short, there will be too much going down for the next six or so weeks, so one better get used to it! But come January when things begin to settle down, one can wipe their brows with a loud WHEW, and ask themselves the musical question, “Wha’ happened?”

Happy Holidays, whatever holiday one chooses to be happy about!

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LICORICE PIZZA (MGM) features Alana Haim as Alana Kane and Cooper Hoffman as Gary Valentine. Both of them are living in the region of the Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley c.1973. Gary is a fifteen year old boy who is an actor as well as entrepreneur or sorts. Alana is a older woman by a few years who becomes involved with many of Gary’s episodes. They become tangled with everything from creating public relations press releases for a Japanese restaurant, Gary’s involvement in selling water beds, a brief encounter with fading film star Jack Holden (Sean Penn) attempting some kind of comeback, Gary’s switching businesses by operating a pinball arcade in the former waterbed storefront, their connections with a hopeful candidate who’s running for mayor of L. A., and even facing with the gasoline shortage that ushered in the “energy crisis” that later added a nationwide recession and a spike of inflation! (The latter two would be experienced in the next few years!) And taking everything into consideration, Alana and Cooper form a relationship that would blossom to something romantically based. It’s just another part of life for the young baby boomer-types living in the valleys of Encino and Sherman Oaks!

This movie is another entry written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, a filmmaker whose roots come from this part of L.A. whose zip codes start with 913– and with an area code of 818. (In 1973, the area code for the SF Valley was still 213, but never mind this fact!) Many of the plot points that the two leads face within this feature film are very amusing, full of life and liveliness, as well as sporting the usual twists and turns that PTA is known for. However, unlike the movie’s log line that reads in part …the story of Alana Kane and Gary Valentine growing up, running around and falling in love in the San Fernando Valley, 1973…The film tracks the treacherous navigation of first love…, one would expect to view a traditional coming of age film with a pair of young “kids” that stumble upon what their lives are all about while discovering that through their little antics they drift through, they indeed fall in love.

Well, some of those thoughts are depicted. However, there isn’t a lot of seamless continuity within its storyline to constitute a standard coming of age tale. One can compare these ploys by taking let’s say, a TV series that is written and plotted well, but one winds up viewing the episodes out of sequence. (It’s well crafted, but doesn’t make as much sense as it could!) Or maybe that this film was composed out of linear fashion, with sequences crafted to be eventually placed somewhere. Instead, they were later stitched together making this as a kind of “frankin-film”. This may mean that perhaps PTA has a few elements in mind that were again, well written with the dialogue to go along with it all, and then slapped it together just because those scenes, etc., were just too good to throw out or to be cast aside! Thus, one has a movie that is well flared holding a running time of some 133 minutes. But at times, it doesn’t make as much sense as it should.

But those same exploits are still interesting to see as depicted. Both of the two leads perform their roles very well. Alana Haim as her character of the same first name, holds a resemblance that is a cross between Sissy Spacek and Sandy Dennis. (She resembles a “girl-next-door” type!) Her “partner in crime”, Gary as played by Cooper Hoffman, son of the late Phillip Seymour Hoffman, is a free spirited guy that could be an everyman’s (or everyboy’s) hero. He’s upbeat, has a bit of mischief inside of him, and always has a hold on things, even through he declares his love for Alana by the time the end credits are about to roll–or actually, flash as static titles as period music plays along in sync in its soundtrack.

One excellent note to point out. The art direction by Samantha Englender, set decoration by Ryan Watson, and costume design by Mark Bridges are all dead ringers for the era this movie speaks for! (The early 1970’s) One will see lots of earth tones within its sets, and plenty of paisley and beige color patterns within much of the costuming. Back then, the hippy generation was beginning to fade away where the elements that were once “weird” were entering into the mainstream. If one lived through that period (this writer included), one would recognize these bits of eye candy. However, a good looking movie doesn’t make it as an entertaining movie in its accustomed sense. This feature as with many other movies of this kind that have more talk (dialog, etc.) that walk (action, etc.), are great to view on a video device rather than in a movie house. After all with a film running over two hours, watching this title via video (streaming or otherwise) gives plenty of moments for the viewer(s) to grab a snack, play with their phone(s), answer the call of nature, etc., even through one may feel that they might have missed something in the story thanks to the for noted continuity.

A few of PTA’s rep players make an appearance here, including John C. Reilly playing Fred Gwynne. Yes, that Fred Gwynne, although he is on screen for only a few seconds, and he doesn’t do a great impression of Fred Gwynne to begin with!

For those that are fans of Paul Thomas Anderson’s other movies, this title is amusing for what it is and that’s about it. But this reviewer will give credit to this man who sends another loving tribute to where he grew up as seen the way that he only could!

PS…The name of this movie is called “Licorice Pizza” that has nothing to do with food. It got its name from a long-gone franchise of record (12” vinyl) stores that one dotted the L.A. basin. Sadly, no Licorice Pizza outlets are depicted in this movie or even referenced. Now you know!

This film is rated “R” for cussing, drug references, and some “barley there” nudity. Now playing in selected theaters.

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