Saturday, May 25, 2024

Richard Sherman Merges With The Infinite

Songwriter and musician Richard Sherman has passed at the age of 95.

Sherman was one half of The Sherman Bros., who co-wrote some of the most familiar songs in the world, including "It's a Small World (After All)" for Walt Disney, and songs for Mary Poppins and Jungle Book.  They worked on stage musicals, screenplays, and wrote music for Disney parks, including "There's a Great Big, Beautiful Tomorrow" and, of course the music for the Tiki Room.

In recent years, Sherman was treated as a Disney emeritus, and would often consult on their re-makes of films he's worked on, like Jungle Book and for Mary Poppins Returns.  

Our pal NathanC, in his professional capacity at Texas Public Radio, interviewed Sherman a few years ago.  You can listen by clicking here.  Or read it here.

Doc Watch: Lolla - The Story of Lollapalooza (2024)

Watched:  05/24/2024
Format:  Paramount+
Viewing:  First
Director:  Michael John Warren

I just recently wound up writing about Lollapalooza and music festivals over on my more "personal journal" blog, League of Melbotis.  Originally the post was about ACL Fest and fading interest in festivals, but I was half-way through with the post when I saw an ad for Lolla (2024), a documentary tracking Lollapalooza from it's late-80's origins to today and into tomorrow.  I'd started the post talking about that festival as well as ACL Fest, so it's all of a piece.

This evening we went ahead and blasted through the three sections of the doc, each about 50 minutes, for our Friday night viewing.  

For a fuller picture, do check out that post at LoM.  But the key points include the fact I was a fresh-faced 16 year old when I attended the first Lollapalooza tour in 1991, and attended the first four years. 

To begin with: The doc has a lot of constraints.  It needs the involvement of the people who were there in the past, it needs the partnership of the people who currently work with and own Lollapalooza (Austin's own C3 Entertainment), and it's distributed by MTV parent company, Paramount, who lent a lot of material to the film.  For all those shackles, I think they *mostly* do a solid job of painting at least an interesting and accurate historical portrait.  It's just when you get to the modern era that I kind of side-eye the doc as propaganda.  

Thursday, May 23, 2024

Team Bear Watch: St. Elmo's Fire (1985)

Watched:  05/23/2024
Format:  Paramount+
Viewing:  First
Director:  Joel Schumacher
Selection:  Household Joint Decision

Birth of a NationThe Jazz SingerPorky's.

All movies that captivated a nation at one point or another for a variety of reasons.  But, also, proof that, no matter their popularity in the moment, not every movie holds up over time.  

I had never seen St. Elmo's Fire (1985).  I was ten when it came out, so too young and not interested.  We only sporadically had premium cable during the era when I suspect a lot of my peers watched the movie.  But over the years, I had seen no particular reason to watch this film.  For a movie that was often mentioned as of a certain place and time - usually in talking about "The Brat Pack", it was never referenced textually or subtextually; ie: no one was suggesting that one should see this movie to be culturally literate - but there often seemed to be a belief that everyone *had* seen it.

However, St. Elmo's Fire co-star and 80's heart-throb Andrew McCarthy's documentary Brat is set to land on Hulu.  The film promises to cover the phenomenon of the Brat Pack from the inside, talking with the folks who were tagged in a notorious New York Magazine article "Hollywood's Brat Pack" by David Blum.  

But the thing is, I'm just young enough that a lot of the Brat Pack stuff didn't hit me.  I think they're mostly elder Gen-X, but in 1985, I was concerned with soccer practice and robots, not dealing with my friend's personal problems as they flexed to grow into adulthood.  So this movie was *not for me*.  Nor were a lot of the movies made by the Brat Pack in the general time of their release.  And as I'm sure the doc will cover, the Brat Pack stigma deeply impacted those actors as it made them a brand, a brand that spoiled as we hit 1990, when maybe I would have been interested in young Hollywood (which I never really was).*

The movie is most famous, really, for the cast of then-young stars, more than anything.  It was like an Avengers of former Tiger Beat features pushing into more adult territory.

Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Kurosawa Watch: The Hidden Fortress (1958)

Watched:  05/21/2024
Format:  Criterion
Viewing:  First
Director:  Akira Kurosawa

A really pretty fascinating, human movie about a princess being smuggled incognito across feudal Japan, The Hidden Fortress (1958) is a cinema classic that I'd missed til this point.  A large-scale, gorgeous film, it can read a bit like a fable, with the point - beyond its existence as a rollicking samurai movie - revealing itself in the final scenes, feels organic and still provides a bit of catharsis as the plot threads come together.

The story follows two bumbling, inept peasants who can't seem to do anything right.  They're greedy to a fault, believe themselves clever (they are not, and are constantly shown to make terrible mistakes), and probably terrible people.  They even arrived too late to participate in a war they thought would enrich them, and were caught and pressed into work digging graves.  Heading home, they stumble across a Toshiro Mifune, who is a samurai general travelling incognito.  He's stowed the heir to the throne of his clan in a hidden fortress.

Taking the wealth needed to restart the clan and the princess, the peasants, the general and the princess (posing as a mute country girl) travel across the land trying to reach home and safe harbor, the peasants unaware of their companions' identity and doing it for the massive amounts of gold that they're transporting.

Monday, May 20, 2024

Monsterverse Watch: Kong - Skull Island (2017)

Watched:  05/20/2024
Format:  Max
Viewing:  Third?
Director:  Jordan Vogt-Roberts
Selection:  Jamie

Confession time.  Or, possibly, self-realization time.  

I can be a wee bit protective of OG versions of popular entertainment content.  I think it's important to know where something which is part of the zeitgeist first appeared, the context, and - if I can - seek out that original bit of entertainment and understand how it came to be.  

My personal feelings on the original King Kong (1933), I've tried to make clear.  
I won't belabor too much on the original King Kong film here, but suffice to say, knowing most people are only familiar with latter-era version of Kong, I always want to direct the spotlight back to the original formula, because it's an amazing technical feat as well as a lovely film.

Crime Watch: The Untouchables (1987)

Watched:  05/19/2024
Format:  4K
Viewing:  Unknown
Director:  Brian DePalma

When I was 12, it was, for reasons lost to time, very important for me to see The Untouchables (1987).  Something about the trailers must have set me off.  But I had also, in 1986, sat through the entirety of the Geraldo Rivera debacle, The Mystery of Al Capone's Vault.  And while we all sat there in real time watching Geraldo Rivera show his whole ass to the world by famously finding nothing,* they filled that time with biographical and historical info on Capone and the 1920's mob scene in Chicago.  So it's possible Geraldo had no small part in why I wanted to see this movie.  

My excitement was such that I bought one of those movies magazines (that you can still get at Walgreen's) with "behind the scenes" material and lots of glossy promo pictures and whatnot.  But, this one was not just filler - they actually got into the actual history of Capone and his cohorts, many of whom have unnamed parts in the movie.  I also learned, hey, there had been a popular TV series of the same name back in 1959-1963.

When the movie arrived, I was 12 and had no idea who Brian DePalma was.  Or Ennio Morricone.  And certainly not David F'ing Mamet.  Thanks to a dad who was a Bond guy, I was versed in Sean Connery.  And I knew Costner from Silverado, certainly.  But unless it was Harrison Ford, I don't think I was yet watching movies to see anyone in particular.

What I remember from seeing the movie the first time includes