Showing posts with label music. Show all posts
Showing posts with label music. Show all posts

Saturday, January 22, 2022

Watch Party Watch: Who's That Girl? (1987)




Watched:   01/21/2022
Format:  Amazon Watch Party
Viewing:  First
Director:  James Foley

I don't know what the opposite is of "catching lightning in a bottle", but Who's That Girl? (1987) is here to make me wonder what that might be, or if we're in need of a new phrase.  

Look.  If you were a straight dude coming of age in the 1980's, you might not have talked about it, but chances are you spent a lot of time thinking about Madonna.  Not as part of the cultural discourse that somehow always placed Madonna in the middle of the po-discourse Venn Diagram and which was mostly nonsense, but for other reasons.  There's twenty seconds of video here which will help you understand.  

So, yes.  Madonna.  By 1987 she was a marketing and musical force who decided to dabble in acting.  Warner Bros., who was in the Madonna business and made both music and movies, said "sure, whatever".  Madonna somehow landed on a script about a girl getting out of prison who has to prove she's innocent, and decided this would be the movie she'd make.  

If catching lightning in a bottle is an unique combination of factors that come together and create a very special film, this is a mix of predictable hackery paired with an unprepared celebrity who doesn't know the difference between fame and talent needed to pull off a project.

Meat Loaf Merges With the Infinite



I don't remember not knowing who Meat Loaf was, which makes sense as I was 2 years old when Bat Out of Hell was released.  And, of course, I appreciated his performance in Rocky Horror, and reteaming with Jim Steinman for Bat Out of Hell II.  

But I still remember one Christmas when I was in college my brother and I slipping out after the folks and company went to bed and we headed for a bar that had been there forever, with a jukebox that hadn't seen much rotation since it had been put in place.  It was a shitty little bar with a clear brand of clientele which we didn't really match, most of whom seemed to be regulars and knew each other, and just as our beers hit the table, the jukebox started with Bat Out of Hell and someone had put in money to play the entire album in order.  

I don't know why, but that night I became totally sold on that album.

Whatever world Jim Steinman wrote songs for (Steinman passed in April) and Meat Loaf sings about is a world that resonates like hell with me.  And, apparently, the be-mulleted denizens of Molly Maguire's Irish Pub in Spring, Texas circa Christmas 1995.  But, yeah, it's a musical theater version of rock and roll, where the already heightened melodrama of romance, heartbreak and all the usual faire of radio rock is raised to rock opera levels.  And at the center, Meat Loaf's sincerity anchors what sh/could be absurd, putting a broken hero at the middle of it.

Here's to you and one of the best selling albums of all-time, sir.  The record seems like an unlikely candidate to grab that mantle, and I'm so glad it has.

Mr. Loaf also acted.  A LOT.  His occasional health issues and personal demons may have kept him from some choices and maybe off the live stage, but he leaves behind not just his music but plentiful roles and screentime.

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Ronnie Spector Merges With The Infinite


 
Singer Ronnie Spector, most famous for her work with the Ronettes, has passed.

Just two weeks ago I was checking to make sure I still had my signed copy of her CD.  



I went through my obligatory Phil Spector phase in college, and came out a bonafide Ronettes fan.  They don't have that many tracks, but what they did put out was all gold, and you hear their stuff all the time, especially at Christmas.


Jamie and I saw Ronnie back in 2017 at the Paramount - where we happened to run into SimonUK.  It was an amazing show, and I'm so glad we could do it.



We'll miss you, Ronnie.


Friday, December 24, 2021

Merry Christmas Eve, Every Buddy


As we do each Christmas Eve, we're giving Darlene Love a spin.  If you've never listened to Ms. Love, give it a shot - see why she's so great live.  

It's been an... interesting year here at League HQ, genuinely filled with love and loss and ups and downs.  It's been a year of instability and amazing support.  And even this Christmas Eve is filled with questions. 

But all you can do is put one foot in front of the other and just keep going.  And that's true in the better years, too.  

On this night of  anticipation, I hope you are either spending the holidays as you wish or have plans for a good night in the coming days.  All I know is that we get another year coming up as this rock hasn't flown away from the nuclear ball anchoring our planets here, or been consumed by it yet.  

We've got another chance.  Let's all do better.  Let's all try to remember that we're all we've got.

While Darlene Love is the patron saint of Christmas here at The Signal Watch, there's always room under the tree for more voices.  And where would we have been in 2021 if not for Ms. Hannah Waddingham?  


Thursday, December 23, 2021

Holiday Watch: "Meet Me in St. Louis" (1944)




Watched:  12/21/2021
Format:  TCM
Viewing:  Second
Decade:  1940's
Director:  Vincente Minnelli

My allergies were destroying me, so we agreed to just put on something light and simple.  I didn't realize Jamie had never seen this one, so maybe it was a good choice?  She never said much about what she thought about it.

Meet Me In St. Louis (1944) is only barely a Christmas film.  It follows about a year with a family in St. Louis over 1903-04, in a world just around the corner from that which inspired Walt Disney's Main Street USA in the Disney Parks.  That's not an exaggeration - Disney did base Main Street on the small town of Marceline, Missouri, where he would have lived about 4 years after the events of the film as a young child (Disney born 1901).

The film boasts a name cast, headlined by Judy Garland, and as a product of wartime filmmaking, the cast skews female-centric and features non-draft eligible gentlemen in support roles.  Mary Astor seems cast too-young as the patient matriarch, paired with Leon Ames as the father.  Lucille Bremer appears in her first (of like 10) role, Margaret O'Brien as arguably the #2 lead in the film at 7 years old, Harry Davenport as "Grandpa".  Joan Caroll, who plays Patsy in Bells of St. Mary's is another sister.  

Friday, December 17, 2021

Alone in the Dark at Christmas - 2021




Christmas can be quiet.  It can be lonesome, even as you sit by the light of the tree or walk streets strung with garland and decorations.

So, every year I tweak it a bit, but I do keep a playlist of songs called Alone in the Dark at Christmas.  Here's this year's offering.  Use it wisely.  


Saturday, December 11, 2021

Sorta Holiday Watch: The Bells of St. Mary's (1945)



Watched:  12/11/2021
Format:  VOD from TCM
Viewing:  Unknown
Decade:  1940's
Director:  Leo McCarey

I don't watch The Bells of St. Mary's (1945) every year - and it's been a while - but when I do, I'm weirdly weepy through the whole thing.  And I do not know why.  Ingrid Bergman smiling in soft lighting in close-up is certainly part of it.  But... I'm not Catholic.  I've only spoken to like one or two nuns in my life.  

The message of the film is not as on the nose as It's a Wonderful Life or a Pixar film where you more or less get why you're having the feels.  But who can argue with the kind of belief in people's better natures, that kindness is its own reward and the value of good cheer that the movie puts forward?  And, for those of you so inclined, it's a look at faith and service that's remarkable.

The Bells of St. Mary's is considered a Christmas movie, and it... is not.  It has exactly one sequence of a movie that takes place over an academic year that takes place anywhere around Christmas.  That scene is a banger, but it barely even advances the plot.  The original release date - Dec. 6th, 1945 - fell in the holiday season (it's on the marquee at the Bedford Falls cinema as George Bailey runs down Main Street), and paired with the song becoming not exactly a staple, but a bit of a standard, of holiday music - it's locked in.  

Saturday, December 4, 2021

Music Doc Watch: The Beatles - Get Back (2021)




Watched:  12/3/2021
Format:  Disney+
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2020's
Director:  uhhhh...

I have what I'd describe as a non-relationship with The Beatles.   

I can't remember a time I wasn't aware of the existence of The Beatles, and since middle-school, I could pick out one of their tunes playing on the radio or over Muzak - but at some point when I was getting into music, I think I found the enormity of The Beatles as cultural force daunting, and their discography too big for me to get my head around.  I also think I had a hard time - as a high schooler - reconciling the Ed Sullivan Beatles with the late-years Beatles.  It was just so much.

I do know that in 1984 my parents took me to the movie theater to see Give My Regards to Broad Street. (That was when I first heard Eleanor Rigby and my wee brain was blown).  But they, themselves, weren't huge Beatles fans.

Monday, November 29, 2021

Signal Watch Christmas Music Playlist




Hey! 

Here's just over an hour of carefully selected Christmas tunes for you to rock to all month long. Play 'em in order and have an egg nog or cider and know The Signal Watch is giving you a confident nod and a lifting of the glass to share in your holiday merriment.


Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Thanksgiving - to the tune of "Africa" by Toto




This is not by me.  This is by The Dug, my brother-in-law.  Credit where it's due.

Thanksgiving (to the tune of "Africa" by Toto)

I hear the drumsticks calling me to biiite /
in between the whispers of some racist conversaaaation /
I show up tired from the flight /
Scents compose a symphony of promised masticaaation /
I saw my uncle nine sheets to the wind /
braced myself for Trump quotes and his new conspiracy theeeory /
Mom turned to me as if to say, "Hurry boy, there's gravy there for youuuu" /
Gonna smile and nod and then preteeend to praaay /
Gonna gain a hundred pounds and chug some Caberneeet /
It's Thanksgiving not in Aaafrica /
Gonna drink a lot and pass the yams and humor Daaaaad



you're welcome


Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Catch-Up Watch: A Star is Born (2018)




Watched:  11/21/2021
Format:  HBOmax
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2010's
Director:  Bradley Cooper

I wanted to see A Star is Born (2018) in the theater so I could get the benefit of the theatrical sound for the music and sound mix, but I didn't.  My memory of the release date is pegged to a lengthy work-trip.  On a terrible tip from a bus driver - I found myself in the shittiest bar in Vegas, trying to get some karaoke together with librarians, but only me and three other people showed up.  That night was the first time I think I heard "Shallow" from beginning to end, and I couldn't believe the song was already an option at karaoke as the film had just been released.

Anyway, that was a very long two week business trip, and that was only one of three dozen incidents along the way (I got shingles in Salt Lake City).  When I got home, Jamie had seen the movie and I decided to wait for home video.  And then didn't do that, either.

I did eventually want to get to it.  Aside from feeling like I should see the movie here in it's fourth iteration, I think Bradley Cooper is a very solid actor who gets dismissed because he's ridiculously handsome.  And I like Lady Gaga as a performer because *gestures at everything*.  Plus, I found it interesting this was Cooper's choice for a directorial debut.  Which makes sense.

Sunday, November 21, 2021

Doc Watch: Dean Martin - King of Cool (2021)




Watched:  11/20/2021
Format:  TCM 
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2020's
Director:  Tom Donahue

Like any other self-respecting 1990's hipster, I have a warm place in my heart for Dean Martin.  I spend less time thinking about Martin than I do Bing Crosby, who was a huge inspiration to the Rat Pack, but - hey - one of my earliest memories is my dad singing the intro to "That's Amore" to me as he tucked me in.  

I would see Martin in Rio Bravo back in college, as well as Ocean's 11, and I started to get a picture of Martin and how he fit into the culture in ways that Frank Sinatra did not.  Probably the easiest analog for us Gen-X'ers is Brad Pitt to George Clooney in the Soderbergh Ocean's films.  

As a doc, Dean Martin: King of Cool (2021) works as a no-consequences sort of film.  No one is out there debating Dean Martin in 2021.  He was.  He is.  He's heard on the radio to this day, and his films are still okay.  So it's about painting a portrait of a guy who was maybe a bit unknowable, even by his own children.  And in that, what you wind up doing is - metaphor 1:  seeing the silhouette of the guy against the backdrop of what we do know, and - metaphor 2:  starting with the stone of what we know and chipping away til the statue of Dean Martin presents itself.

New Music from Chromaplastique - "Why We Punish"

Long time pal and now PodCast contributor, JuanD, goes under the nom-de-plume Chromaplastique when it comes to penning tunes.  He's a longtime musician, and he's spent his COVID time making a bunch of new tracks.  

Juan was technically contributing for years now as the guy who wrote our PodCast intro and outro.

I'm partial to Juan's stuff, and I hope you will be, too.  His latest is a dreamy bit of electronic work with vocals supplied by another longtime pal, Nicole.  

Without further ado:


Sunday, November 7, 2021

Musical Revue Watch: Time Out For Rhythm (1941)




Watched:  11/06/2021
Format:  TCM 
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1940's
Director:  Sidney Salkow

My feeling is that they didn't make movies like this much post WWII.  It's a movie, yeah, but it's a musical/ vaudeville/ what-have-you revue.  It's got a basic framework, and that framework is not that of a musical where songs and bits are part of the story.  Here - the story stops as characters perform for one another.

The basic premise is that a top Broadway performer drops her manager, so her manager teams up with Rudy Vallee and they become successful agents and promoters.  But then the original manager hears his former talent is getting divorced and available to sing/ play snuggle-bunnies, and he decides to throw everything out the window to work with her.  Meanwhile, Vallee discovers a still teen-aged Ann Miller as her maid, basically being Ann Miller, and decides to run with it.

We also get a fairly early appearance from a Shemp-less Three Stooges, Joan Merrill, Brenda & Cobina, Rosemary Lane of the Lane Sisters, and more.  

Basically, it's as easy to watch as it is to drink a glass of Coke.  You may not be nuts about it, but you'll suddenly realize you're at the end of it and shrug.  It's cute and funny-ish, and only has a few problematic bits left over from days of yore.  

Honestly, I watched it like 24 hours ago and had already forgotten about it, so.  I mean, Ann Miller was still very young and just signed to Columbia, so they barely let her speak.  As an Ann Miller movies I'd not previously seen, I'm glad I can check it off, but it's more of an interesting artifact than anything I'd need to own in 4K.

Monday, November 1, 2021

Halloween Musical Watch: Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)



Watched:  10/30/2021
Format:  Hulu
Viewing:  Unknown
Decade:   1970's
Director:  Jim Sharman


There must be plenty of academia written on The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975).  And yet, I find it a bit difficult to discuss.

I was fifteen, just moved back to Spring, TX and in the burbs when my mom - not sure what else to do with friendless 'ol me on the weekends - did what she did for a few months when we first got there, and took me to the local video emporium.*   I'd rent 3 or 4 movies and that's what I'd do when my parents turned in and the insomnia that has defined my entire life kicked in.  And among the tapes - I picked up the 15th Anniversary edition of Rocky Horror Picture Show.  

 I had heard of Rocky Horror when I was maybe 13, but had no real concept.  When I was 14 and still in Austin, some friends suggested we all go to a midnight screening.  Austin was, for reasons that make sense if you knew it at the time, one of the first cities outside of New York or LA to have a regular midnight screening of the movie.  I think it was at its semi-permanent location of Northcross Mall by that time.  And my mom greenlit me going - until about 72 hours before it was time to go, and I don't know what he teacher friends told her, but suddenly I was not going. 

Sunday, August 29, 2021

Regret Interaction Watch: "Burlesque" (2010)




Watched:  08/27/2021
Format:  Amazon Watch Party
Viewing:  Kind of first/ Kind of second
Decade:  2010's
Director:  Steve Antin


I had never seen the beginning or end of Burlesque (2010).  A few years back I had a barber/ stylist who had set up a salon in her house, and instead of the mirror in front of you, she had a television.  And one time I went in and watched a huge chunk of Burlesque, because she'd get distracted by the movie or TV show she was watching, and what should have been a 20 minute haircut (my hair is so boring, I call the style "The Continental"), turned into a nearly 90 minute journey every time.  

Anyway - she was into the movie, and I know lots of people are.  But I come bearing bad news.  Burlesque is a super terrible film that has so much money and star power thrown at it, it looks like it should be good and people kind of accept that maybe it is.  But it isn't.

Sunday, August 15, 2021

Watch Party Watch: Annie (1982)

pretty sure that's Aileen Quinn's head photoshopped onto someone else's body



Watched:  08/14/2021
Format:  Amazon Watch Party
Viewing:  Unknown
Decade:  1980's
Director:  John Huston

Little Orphan Annie is a weird property that, frankly, I can't believe hasn't resurfaced in the past decade of "re-imaginings".  If you can have Archie Andrews battling supernatural forces, and... the same with Nancy Drew, it seems like a junior, globe-trotting adventurer with a dog and a potentially diverse cast seems like a pretty easy sell for a franchise.  

But for people to know that was what the strip was about would mean people read newspapers and therefore comic strips.  Instead, most of my generation knows the character from either the 1982 film Annie, or from one of the thousands of local theatre group productions of the musical upon which the movie is based (I've never seen it live).  

Monday, July 12, 2021

60th Anniversary Watch: West Side Story (1961)




Watched:  07/10/2021
Format:  TCM on DVR
Viewing:  Unknown
Decade:  1960's
Director:  Robert Wise/ Jerome Robbins

So...  it'd been a while since I'd seen West Side Story (1961).  No real new insight here, but... the re-make (by Spielberg, coming soon) is going to drive all sorts of discussions when The Kids figure out people have been aware of many of today's social issues for... ever.  And it's not comforting that we're not many steps forward from where we were in the 1950's when the play was written.

Also - expect people to freak out that the last 1/3rd of the musical, just as you may remember Romeo and Juliet, is just super depressing.  Like, no one is a hero in this thing.  Maybe Maria.  And even Anita's attempts to warn Tony almost lead to outright rape at the hands of the very guys she's momentarily holding blameless for her love's death.  

Thursday, July 1, 2021

Happy Birthday Debbie Harry!

 

If you don't know, I am a fan of the band Blondie, fronted by Debbie Harry and with her husband Chris Stein (who is very good at the twitters and a great photographer in addition to his musicianship).

Here's a happy birthday to musician, actor, artist and icon, Debbie Harry.

Here's "Atomic"


Monday, June 28, 2021

Watch Party Watch: From Justin to Kelly (2003)




Watched:  06/25/2021
Format:  Amazon Watch Party
Viewing:  First full and complete watch of the movie
Decade:  the worst of the 00's
Director:  Robert Iscove

what to say...?

Well, here is what I had to say about the movie before we watched it, having had once caught a good part of it on cable.  Maybe all of it.  I can't remember.

Back around 2002, a show debuted on American television that would introduce the nation to its first not-pleasant gameshow personality, Simon Cowell. That show was American Idol, a program which has left a string of forgettable personalities and the occasional dead body.
 
The two finalists of the first season got recording deals, and a movie. Why a movie? When you're plucking nobodies from nowheresville who were the third best singer in their high school choir and live in their parents' basement? I have no idea. But the end result will also have you saying: what the @#$% is this @#$%ing movie?

That @#$%ing movie is From Justin to Kelly (2003), a singularly terrible film-like-thing that manages to be bad in a way that is hard to describe/ quantify/ explain. It sets its bar as low as any fradulent cash-in, and yet, somehow, manages to dig below that bar and far into the Earth's mantle.

It's a musical! It's a horny college spring break film! It's shot entirely through filters! It's not even trying to hide the fact these people can't act. It has a script seemingly drafted by a man who is probably estranged from his adult children, but who still likes to hang out in places young women frequent so he can comment upon them to young males, like he's one of them, making the young men very uncomfortable.

Because no one ever leaves showbiz, Justin is now "Lil Sweet" in Diet Dr. Pepper Commercials, and somehow Kelly Clarkson simply continues to insist on being an incredibly successful fixture for people with tastes best described as "very basic".

All of this is true.