At times, blogging feels exactly like the marathon dancing competition in Sidney Pollack‘s 1969 They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? It’s cruel, unnatural, never-ending, and of questionable worth. Some are driven mad by it, somewhere behind the scenes an uncaring MC is counting his money, and the pregnant woman and the aging sailor never stood a lick of a chance to begin with. We may all be better off with a merciful bullet through our skulls.
Neither judge nor jury seemed to even notice that I’d abandoned this particular dancefloor for a while — until one faithful reader finally came forward and asked where all the pithy reviews were at — you know, for the sake of their Netflix queue. Muckworld’s been idle for the last few weeks while I dedicated myself to a couple of other as of yet unnameable projects, both of which are poised to break out soon and change the world as we know it forever.
In the meantime, a quick overview of the popular history of “Yowza! Yowza! Yowza!” (sometimes spelled “yowsa, yowsa, yowsa”), the MC’s jocular yet irresistible call to keep on dancin’. Probably a corruption of “yes, sir,” bandleader Ben Bernie used it as his catchphrase in the 1920s. It was parodied by Looney Tunes and appropriated by disco sensation Chic and His Excellency Frank Zappa. Here’s YouTube proof that it can make anybody shake a leg:
As for the movie: title, conclusion, and framing device (from Horace McCoy’s novel) are too heavy-handed to convince, but the proto-reality show drama of misery and self-abasement on and off the depression-era dancefloor is absolutely riveting, and the sadistic derby especially had us out of our seats with excitement and horror. If only I’d had the ice bucket and smelling salts when I couldn’t rouse my friend John for the late night sets at last year’s Bonnaroo — and if only I’d thought of the three magic words.
They Shoot Horses Don’t They? Sydney Pollack, 1969. ***
Also: The Interpreter. Sydney Pollack, 2005. ** Granted, the sweeping helicopter shots of the UN building probably look better when you’re not watching them on your iPod — but the drama fits in the palm of your hand either way.
This post is dedicated to my old friend Jens Müller, who made “Yowza! Yowza! Yowza!” his relentlessly overused catchphrase back in 1990. There’s a “great” photo of us by the Grand Canyon in very 1990 poses and haircuts that I’ll dig out as soon as I get back to my desktop. You have been warned.