“Ninety percent of everything is crud.” – Theodore Sturgeon
Welcome back to “The Ten Percent,” a regular column where every other week K. Dale Koontz and I take a look at the inverse of Sturgeon’s Law; in other words, the small portion of everything which is not crud. So many films premiere each year, but only a very few are remembered and revered years later. That’s not a matter of genre – the Ten Percent is a big tent, with plenty of room for comedy, drama, horror, animation, musical, science fiction and many more. But admission into the tent is not easy to come by. Films in this category last because they are high quality productions which demand more of their viewer than simple passive reception.
Before I talk about why 1963’s The Great Escape belongs in the Ten Percent, it’s worth taking the time to point out the film’s flaws. First, neither bicycles nor motorcycles were used in the 1943 escape from Stalag Luft III. Second, the “Great Escape” of 76 Allied POWs took place in unseasonably cold weather during one of the worst winters seen in Eastern Poland in 30 years. Third, there were no Americans among the escapees who were mostly British and Canadian. Finally, there was never any regulation which stated that Allied prisoners were duty-bound to attempt to escape. In fact, many, perhaps most, American and British POWs were generally leery of escape attempts.
It was 1991 and I was shopping at a music store in an industrial park on the outskirts of Toronto, CD Warehouse I think it was called, when I came across Leisure, the debut album by British band Blur. I remember reading about them in the NME and Melody Maker, music magazines I was constantly devouring at the time, but I hadn’t listened to any of the band’s music. No one knew of them over here. Baggy. Shoegazers. A little psychedelic. That’s what I had read about them. Interesting enough, sure. But I loved the album cover: the stock photo of a 60’s-era woman in a bathing cap, attractive with her carefully detailed eyeliner, lipstick and well-plucked eyebrows, staring happily at me, content in her well-lived, leisure-themed life, enticing me to join in on it.
I did. I took a flyer on Leisure and never left the musical world of Blur.
Twenty-one years and seven albums later, I’m still in that musical world and the career-spanning Blur 21 box set, released this past summer from Food/Virgin/Parlophone, reminds me how great that world has been.