Saturday, July 9, 2016

This Week's Tragedy in Dallas and Beyond

As a record of what occurred this week -

Alton Sterling, an African American man, was killed in Baton Rouge, Louisiana by two police officers during an arrest.  Witnesses and video of the incident indicate that the police were unwarranted in the shooting, that Sterling was upset but not able to resist - and the video definitely shows an immobile Sterling shot at point blank range by the officers.

In Minnesota, Philandro Castile, another African American man, was shot and killed by a police officers while reaching for identification while seated in his car with his girlfriend and a 4 year old child.  Castile's girlfriend live-streamed the video of what occurred to Facebook.  The video is available on YouTube and other locations as of this writing.

Thursday, 7/7, peaceful protests were scheduled in most major population centers, part of what has become known as #blacklivesmatter, a movement intended to draw attention to the unjustly assumed guilt,lives lost to police bullets, and the situation of African Americans in the United States in regards to overly violent responses of police especially in cases involving Black men and women.  

On Thursday evening, as the protest march drew to a close in Dallas, Texas around 8:45 P.M., a sniper began firing from the rooftops, striking 11 officers and killing five.  In the chaos, no civilians were injured, one man was briefly mistaken as a suspect and then cleared, and three wound up in custody and the/ a gunman was killed by police in the early morning hours of 7/8.

The sniper was targeting white officers, and details are still coming out about his background (but less, so far, about the three others held in custody).

To add to the confusion, the police used a remote controlled robotic device mounted with a bomb to approach and kill the gunman and bring the threat to a definite conclusion.

In short, it's been an awful week.

MST3K Watch: Bride of the Monster (1955) (MST3K episode 1993)

I've seen this movie a few times thanks to the power of MST3K.  And if you're ever curious to see one of the movies covered in the Tim Burton film Ed Wood, I strongly recommend this one.

But I am not spending time writing up this movie.  We all have lives.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Musical Watch: Oklahoma!

The first time I saw Oklahoma! (1955) was in Spring of 1994.  I was sitting on my bed/ couch (it's hard to explain, but anyone who ever lived in Jester at UT understands), when my roommate, Peabo, burst in through the door.
"Oklahoma! is on TV!  Right now!"
And we turned it on and watched the whole thing, complete with commercial breaks.

I don't know that I saw it again for a few years, but I saw a rendition of the stage play at the Paramount in Austin circa 2000, and we own the DVD and have seen it at least twice.  

Jamie's actually from Oklahoma (the state, not the musical), and her mom was a big fan of the show, so when Jamie arrived, part of the package was a baked-in enthusiasm for the music from the Rodgers & Hammerstein production.  

Tuesday night Jamie and I hit The Paramount Film Series for the first time this summer (along with Cousin Sue) to see the movie on the big screen.

Whether you've seen Oklahoma! or not, it's a bit like Westside Story or other big musicals - you've heard the big hits whether you know that's where they came from or not.  And in the case of Oklahoma!, the big hits are nigh every song in the show.  So, even as bits in a commercial or co-opted elsewhere, you've heard 'em.  The album has been a #1 record in both the US and the UK (circa 1957), certified multi-platinum and is consistently in production.  If you don't know the music, I assure you - your parents do.

A lot of it's pretty damn catchy.

What's weirdest to me about Oklahoma! is the utter disparity between the sunshiney image of the movie - complete with upbeat music, sweetly naive bumpkin characters, hokey imagery - and the really pretty dark story at the middle of the play, as well as some pretty adult content.  In short, you absolutely could not perform this play in a middle school without a lot of cutting.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Ann Miller Watch: On the Town (1949)

I watched On the Town (1949) just last year at The State Theater downtown, so there was no good reason to watch the movie again.  But, Ann Miller.  Sometimes these things happen.

Here's my write up from last time.

best not to think on it too much

Marvel Watch: Iron Man III (2013)

In some ways, all I want to write about here is how much I like Gwyneth Paltrow in movies and how at odds that is with what little I know about her from what we all get to hear about her real life.  Pepper Potts I want to hang with.  But Paltrow?  It's hard to say.

When I went to see Iron Man III (2013), I was laboring under the misconception it was about Pepper Potts as much as it would be about Tony Stark, but, alas, that was not to be.  It was just a few moments that they chose to use in the trailers.

While I really like all three Iron Man movies, gigantic flaws and plotholes and all (and Iron Man 2 has plotholes you could navigate in a steamliner), there's just no comparing what goes down in this movie - scale-wise - with, really, any of the Captain America movies or even Thor.  Or Guardians of the Galaxy.  It's a personal story for Tony, and that focus gives it a certain sense of a 90's actioner to it except in two or three big-scale sequences (like saving everyone who fell out of an airplane).  The consequences of the story seem entirely tied to Tony, and that makes the movie all the more personal while also really making it seem consequence-free in a lot of ways that, say, The Winter Soldier felt like it mattered to everyone on Earth.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Jungle Watch: The Legend of Tarzan (2016)

In some ways it's a goddamn crime that the version of Tarzan that Millennials grew up with was saddled with Phil Collins music and Rosie O'Donnell's voice blasting like an air-horn throughout.  I recently tried to re-watch the Disney version of Tarzan, and for all the technical achievements of the film, that "let's do things tied entirely to what's popular in the moment", upon reconsideration, makes the film a grating mess.

I guess Gen X may have been the last generation to be given Tarzan to enjoy in steady doses.  I remember watching black and white Tarzan on TV as a kid, and I have to assume it was Johnny Weissmuller and Maureen O'Sullivan with Cheeta.  It's also possible we were watching later movies, the 1960's TV series...   Who knows? Tarzan has known a lot of incarnations in film and television, including maybe the version that really informed me most about Tarzan, the 1970's-era cartoon show.

Before the release of 1984's Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes, Marvel put out a Tarzan magazine comic which covered the first half of the first Tarzan novel.

And this was really what informed me as to the more detailed version of Tarzan's origin.

Like a lot of kids, we played "Tarzan", even if I can't really recall what that meant other than climbing whatever we could get a grip on around the yard and imagining we'd made friends and foes of the 10 or so jungle animals we could name.  But being able to talk to monkeys and lions seemed like a pretty good deal to us.  The 70's and 80's were still safely within the 20th Century, and the notion of High Adventure was still very much a marketable commodity at the time, across nearly all genres, and Tarzan was right at the center of that.

I finally watched the original Johnny Weissmuller movie and read the actual Edgar Rice Burroughs novel of Tarzan of the Apes just last year.  The book is a book of its time, as is the movie, and both have their place in history.  While the prose of the novel may be purple and many ideas in the book would now seem dated, the story still holds as an adventure and romance.  And if we're looking for our own cultural DNA, both Tarzan and ERB's John Carter are vital to understanding what was to come with superheroes and superhumans in fiction and popular culture, and - of course - that's now escalated to culture writ large with fifth generation offspring of Burroughs' creations throwing shields in billion dollar movies.

All that to say, I was a bit pre-disposed to want to see a new Tarzan movie, and, yet, I've seen very, very few of them to date.  Not even Greystoke, which I am told again and again is not worth seeing.

Noel Neill Merges With The Infinite

In an article appearing on The Superman Homepage a statement by her manager, biographer and friend, Larry Thomas Ward has informed us that, Noel Neill has passed at the age of 95.  The New York Times has also released an obituary.

I never took advantage of the opportunities to meet Noel Neill that were available when she was still doing comic conventions and The Superman Celebration in Metropolis, Illinois.  By the time I made it to Metropolis, she was 94 and no longer attending.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Noel Neill has passed

I'll write more later, but The Superman Homepage is reporting that Noel Neill, who played Lois Lane in both movie serials and for several season on TV's The Adventure's of Superman, has passed away at the age of 95.

We're very sorry to hear this news and wish her loved ones well.  More later.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Bond Watch: The Man With the Golden Gun (1974)

The last time I remember watching The Man With the Golden Gun (1974) was during a summer sleep-over in middle school.  At the time, my folks had a tent, and Peabo and I had the bright idea that we'd set up the tent in the backyard and sleep out there.  Of course, this was summer in Texas, and about 9:00 someone figured out it was really hot in that tent, so we went inside to watch TV until it cooled off outside.  The Man With the Golden Gun was just starting, we watched it, and then just slept inside, because camping in your yard makes no sense.

Flash forward to 2016:  As the movie wrapped up this time, Jamie and I had differing opinions.  This is more or less one of the better Moore movies, says I, and Jamie found it "very silly".  I guess it boils down to how you feel about Sheriff JW Pepper, slide whistles and elaborate, carnival-like death traps.  These things, of course, I take deadly seriously.

Bond is told a master-assassin, Scaramanga (Christoper F'in' Lee!) is gunning for him and is taken off his current case about a missing solar energy scientist.  He goes after Scaramanga, tracking him around the planet, and it seems the two cases could be dovetailing.

The cast is an interesting ensemble.  The aforementioned Christoper Lee, model/ actress Britt Ekland, Maud Adams, HervĂ© Villechaize (Tattoo from Fantasy Island) and some Bond stalwarts like Lois Maxwell.  And, of course, Roger Moore.

The locations include Hong Kong and Thailand, and more than one person I've met has been to "James Bond Island" in Phuket.

I kind of dig the change of pace in this movie - that it's an equal to Bond picking a fight with him to see who's the better man.  Of course, that gets an echo of sorts in Skyfall, but Javier Bardem didn't have a shooting gallery with a Roger Moore life-sized doll, did he?  No.  He did not.

This one features karate schools, a half-assed boat chase, an amazing car trick (completely undercut with highly questionable sound effects), lasers, and lots of good stuff.  Including a flying car.  Like, a legit flying car.

I dunno.  I enjoyed it.

A Signal Watch Fourth of July

Ann Miller, inspiring patriotism

And now, Lou Reed goes full on patriotic...  You may listen as you read.