Saturday, June 11, 2022

Judy Garland at 100

June 10th marked the 100th anniversary of the birth of Frances Ethel Gumm, who we all know as Judy Garland.  

Garland was a star from almost the time she could walk, and was a performer of stage and screen until her untimely passing just 12 days after her 47th birthday.  I am now older than Judy Garland ever was.

I would be very curious to know what the average person on the street thought of Garland during the 1940's til her death.  To put it mildly, her life was tumultuous.  And I am sure the movie magazines and gossip columns covered that, but most people couldn't have known much about her issues at work and at home.  She simply had to have been a given - she had been on screen since before The Wizard of Oz, and even if she disappeared for a while, she always seemed to return, whether it was television or stage shows.  

But the studios seemed literally cruel to her, in ways that anyone should share with their starry-eyed kids considering a career in show-biz, both in front of and behind the lens.  But in the end, though she's been gone for almost 53 years, she's still a draw, whether it's folks tuning in for Easter Parade or Meet Me in St. Louis or The Harvey Girls or Wizard of Oz.  A few people can name directors or studio chiefs, but folks will still stop to see what Garland is doing on screen.  

I don't know if it's a triumph or a tragedy.  But you also can't imagine movies without her.

Friday, June 10, 2022

Friday Watch Party: Streets of Fire

It's a Rock & Roll Fable!

I can't and won't try to explain Streets of Fire, a not-a-musical that acts like one, produced by Joel Silver and lensed by action-director Walter Hill.

But... Join us for motorcycles, rock n' roll, crazy dialog, a fantasy make-believe-land of mid-century America that's weirdly violent, boroughs that each have their own musical theme, and which has no obvious sources of economy other than rockin' out, and a major, major gang problem!

If you dig the music of Jim Steinman (Meat Loaf, Bonnie Tyler), a weirdly cast Rick Moranis, and a 19 year old Diane Lane playing 27 or so - this is the movie for YOU.

Day:  Friday - 06/10/2022
Time:  8:30 PM Central, 6:30 PM Pacific
Service:  Amazon Prime
Cost:  $4

31 Years Ago: Superstition

I've been informed that Siouxsie & the Banshees' "Superstition" dropped 31 years ago today.  

Here's a pair of favorite tracks


Julee Cruise Merges With The Infinite

Vocalist and musician Julee Cruise has passed.  

Cruise is well known to fans of Twin Peaks, and is one of the signature sounds of the aural landscape of the show.  She released solo work as well as standing in for Cindy with the B-52's during tours.

She was s unique and rich talent, and she'll be missed.

Wednesday, June 8, 2022

Doc Watch: Closed For Storm (2020)

Watched:  06/07/2022
Format:  Amazon Prime
Viewing:  First
Director:  Jake Williams

While I've been sick, I've been watching some urban explorer videos and whatnot, and one of the videos I was watching pitched a full documentary the team had put together about the abandoned Six Flags New Orleans.  It's one thing to make a YouTube video with some footage of derelict buildings and combine it with found images and video, and whatever history you can piece together from the internet (which is often shockingly in-depth), so I was curious to see what a full doc looked like when these same folks put in some doc-style labor.  

Closed for Storm (2020) is a solid feature-length-ish effort.  Like the short-form videos by the same team, it chronicles the intentions, financial big movements that impacted the development of the facility, the actual use of the facility, and the factors that led to the decline.  In prior shorter videos, those factors are usually directly economic paired with bad luck and one or two other things, forseeable and otherwise.

Closed for Storm has to grapple with 2005's hurricane Katrina and the impact on New Orleans and the rise and abrupt end to Six Flags New Orleans.  It documents the bizarre purgatory of the property as it sits, rotting more every year, no one making any moves to level the place or do something with it.  The film winds up being a microcosm of the well-documented perfect storm that is Louisiana politics, callowness of big business, economic disparity in action, and the undealt with trauma of a region

As a micro-budget production by folks doing their best, not all of the film feels as polished as it could be.  I was expecting as much.  But it shows promise for the filmmakers if they can continue to elevate this core concept of using something as crazy as an abandoned theme park as a story telling device to illustrate how shit kinda really works/ doesn't work.  

Unlike Astroworld, which was apparently simply financially failing (news to me), Six Flags New Orleans was lost to the storm and given up on by new owners of Six Flags.  From 2005 to the release of this film, the city of New Orleans, never famous for its decision-making, has left the remains of the park to simply rot, rejecting all proposals.  And if you've ever sat through a bureaucratic process like an RFQ proposal, you know there's intense disinterest and misunderstanding by the persons involved.  So, instead of having literally anything else there, the park has just rotted.

Interviews include attendees, former employees, and the folks trying to find ways to revive the property.  Everyone is deeply sincere, and it's a layer to the usual "why it failed" and "urban explorer" videos you see all over YouTube.  We're not just guessing, the video is talking to people who were there, who lost jobs and who saw a good thing for the community abandoned rather than rebuilt, like so much of New Orleans.  But it seems they couldn't get any of the city-folks who so cavalierly dismiss the park year after year.

If I felt like one major point roughly implied, but not directly stated:  the kinds of people who are making decisions about the future of the amusement park shown in the video are not the kind of people who would give one much thought.  I'm not saying they need to be amusement park nerds, but.  They strike me as the sorts of folks who can take days of vacation and jump on a jet and go to Disney if they want to see an amusement park, or go skiing or do whatever.  But vast parts of the population can't afford to and don't do those things.  In a city like New Orleans, which is largely aimed at adult entertainment or expensive pro sports, an amusement park is no small thing.   

Anyway - I hope these folks keep working on their films.  It feels like there's a lot here to consider, and using specific examples of entertainment properties and resorts is fascinating way to consider economic and cultural forces.

Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Comedy Watch: Senior Year (2022)

Watched:  06/06/2022
Format:  Netflix
Viewing:  First
Director:  Alex Hardcastle

So, it's impossible to talk about this movie and just talk about the movie.  

First, let's get it out of the way - this is a movie that was never, ever intended for me.  So proceed with caution.

Second - this is the first I've seen of Rebel Wilson in a while, and, yes, she's worked hard to reduce, as we once said.  She always looked terrific, and she continues to do so (that is not her actual body in the poster above, which is weird).  Rebel Wilson is all about the eyes and smile, and so long as those don't change, we're good.*

Third - we may now discuss the plot, which opens the can of worms.  

Sunday, June 5, 2022

Noir Watch: My Name is Julia Ross (1945)

Watched:  06/04/2022
Format:  TCM Noir Alley
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1940's
Director:  Joseph H. Lewis

I'd had this one burning a hole in my DVR and it seemed like a good way to kill the 90 minutes before I planned to go to bed.  It was actually a B movie in the traditional sense - only 65 minutes or something - so it really fit the bill.   

The plot is whackadoodle and I loved the set up.  Rich-ish jerks go about recruiting a young woman into a job as a secretary, then abscond with her and gaslight her, telling her "no, you're not Julia Ross.  You're Mrs. Hughes" (ie: the wife of the guy she thought was her employer) "and you're crazy.  Sometimes you get these kooky thoughts you're someone else."

Place spunky woman in gothic mansion on a seaside cliff, add paranoia, gaslighting and dickery, and you have a groovy movie.  And, man, is it a cast of FACES.  George Macready, May Whitty, Anita Sharp-Bolster, and even Joy Harington.  Our star is Nina Foch, with whom I'm not terribly well acquainted, but she's terrific.  

Anyway - I'm kinda shocked of the two movies I watched last night, this was the one that had me the most jazzed.

Mystery Watch: Death on the Nile (2022)

Watched:  06/04/2022
Format:  HBOmax
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2020's
Director:  Kenneth Branagh

I have not read any Agatha Christie, which seems like a really stupid blind spot for me to have, but here we are.  I have also not watched Poirot mysteries on PBS and I haven't watched the older versions of these same stories.  I assumed I'd get to them, and I haven't.  Life is short and I mostly waste it.  I did watch the prior movie starring director/ star/ producer Kenneth Branagh, Murder on the Orient Express, and I thought, as a movie, it was pretty solid. Nothing to win awards, but accomplished what it wanted to do.

But as I have COVID and I was trying to figure out how well my brain was working, seeing if I could follow a Poirot mystery seemed like a good idea.  And the answer is - I could follow it!

I 10,000% suspect that this movie is just the bare bones of the original novel, which I am not looking up to check, as I should read the book at some point and I don't want to ruin it. 

This one had a few things going against it.