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

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Doc Watch: Tina (2021)




Watched:  03/29/2021
Format:  HBOmax
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2020's

I've never been a hardcore Tina Turner fan, but like everyone of my generation I am familiar with her work, and have some idea of her pre Private Dancer life through cultural osmosis.  The first one of her albums I ever purchased was greatest hits collection, Simply the Best because I *loved* "Simply the Best" as a song, and figured "can't hurt to own the greatest hits".  And I have no timeline of how I came to really understand Tina Turner's story.  I *do* remember watching the video for "What's Love Got To Do With It?" and my parents sort of watching in amazement that (a) Tina Turner was on MTV and (b) their kids, 9 and 11, were like "this Tina Turner seems cool".  And then my folks saying something about a creep of an ex-husband.

And, we lost our minds over how cool she was in Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome.  And she is.  Go back and watch it.    

I confess, I never had much affinity for biopics - 2 hours is not enough time to show a life, let alone how botched the movies tend to be vis-a-vis actual facts (which are always more interesting than the invention of the movie) - and I wasn't super interested in watching someone dressed up as Tina Turner get beat up for two hours.  But hearing about the movie is how I came to understand exactly how bad Ike Turner had been.  But I've still never seen What's Love Got to Do With It.

It seems I'm not alone in this opinion.  

Tina (2021) is a roughly two hour doc that uses intervies, original and archival, that charts Tina Turner's course from abandoned child in Nutbush, Tennessee to living in Zurch with her dedicated husband.  And it's a goddamn shattering ride.  And, as it turns out, possibly Turner's final word on her life to the public.  

Saturday, March 13, 2021

Goin' Home - 1 Year Later


A year ago today marks the day the pandemic toppled our lives.  In the morning, I saw a message that my employing institution was closed and we were to not come to campus.  We spent the day scrambling, setting up impromptu work stations with our laptops we'd been instructed to take home nightly for weeks at that point.  

By late in the evening, Jamie had gone to bed and I was left with myself, sorting through the erupting confusion and fear, and then I saw the video of  famed cellist Yo-Yo Ma playing the familiar tune by Dvořák.  I won't lie - I sat here in this same spot on my sofa watching the recording on this same laptop and I sobbed.

Exhaustion, crippling uncertainty...   After a day of scrolling endlessly through stories of what was coming, what we didn't know, and the posts and communications between friends and family offering what we could in support and all feeling the same darkness closing in, Ma reached for kindness - a prescient kindness - with his simple recording. 

In a year that has seen horror and cruelty, that seemed to set the world ablaze over again each morning, I'm still stunned by how he seemed to know and know what to do.

"Goin' Home" is a sentimental song even without lyrics - it had some retroactively applied years after the song was originally penned.  And even with all of us stuck in our houses, "Goin' Home" - returning to a place of comfort, to a time when we can see our parents without masks, share a meal with friends - is something that made sense then as we peered into the unknown, and all the more a year later.   

Today Ma received his vaccine injection, and in the fifteen minute wait/ observation window, he brought out the cello and played some favorites.  

At the outset of the pandemic, celebrities tried to read stories or write poems and stay in touch with their audience.  Patrick Stewart gamely read Sonnets.  Ma partnered with painist Kathryn Stott and put out an album - the proceeds of which will support musicians struggling to make ends meet during the pandemic.


Sunday, February 28, 2021

Doc Watch: The Go-Go's (2020)




Watched:  02/27/2021
Format:  Amazon Streaming
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2020's
Director:  Alison Ellwood

As a kid, I liked The Go-Go's as well as anyone who was, like, eight years old.  I thought they had catchy tunes and whatnot.  It was much, much later - probably in my late 20's that I was like "huh, actually, these are really, really solid pop songs."  And I gave them some reconsideration.   

Even back when I was a kid, I remember hearing "punk band" tied to The Go-Go's, and looked at Belinda Carlisle wearing pastels and with her hair up in a pony tail, and was like "what?"  But later started kind of putting the pieces together, but not really.

The Go-Go's (2020) documentary hit right around COVID and got a lot of festival play, but it's a tough year for something like that.  So, I was thrilled when it finally came to Amazon, because I would probably have just as likely paid for a ticket to see it in the theater.  

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Musical Watch: The Band Wagon (1953)




Watched:  02/21/2021
Format:  TCM on DVR
Viewing:  Second
Decade:  1950's
Director:  Vincente Minnelli

This isn't the world's best musical, but it's also aggressively about not being about anything (by way of being a traditional, vaudeville-style Broadway show, and proving THAT'S what people really want).  

It's been a long week, and I have a lot of things on the DVR, but Jamie didn't care what we watched, and I figured Cyd Charisse seemed like a great thing to watch.  

By the time this movie was filmed, Astaire was in his mid-50's, and the story seemed all but pointedly about him.  His character is a film song and dance man who has lost the spotlight.  By this point, musicals were far from dead, but maybe weren't at the height of their heyday.  He's playing someone maybe a few years younger than himself (convincingly) who returns to New York to work on a show with a husband and wife writing team (Oscar Levant and Nanette Fabray).  They get involved with the latest big-name of Broadway, who does *serious theatre*, but who wants to try a musical.  

You know he's fancy because he's doing that new-fangled Oedipus Rex show.  

They rope in a top-tier choreographer and his top-teir ballerina girlfriend played by Cyd Charisse.  

This isn't the only musical from around this time that feels like middle-aged people wrestling with the coming wave of American theater and dance and trying to take the piss out of it.  There's a kind of goofy number in White Christmas that's really the one that doesn't work trying to poke fun at what we now call "modern dance".  And, as I said up top, this one wants to remind us "please stop taking these new musicals seriously!  Your heart really just wants to see people dance for 90 minutes and end with a wedding!  Right?  RIGHT?"  

And, you know, sometimes that's true.  But you kind of want to say to the movie "my friend, you haven't seen *anything* yet.  Wait for the 60's.".  

The movie is probably most famous for its show-within-a-show-within-a-show interlude of Astaire playing a priavte eye in a sort of Chandler/ Hammer/ whatever mystery homage and an excuse for Charisse to sex it up a whole lot.  It's goofy as all get-out, and for the life of me, I can't figure out if it's full camp, a light spoof or someone trying to be quasi-earnest.  But... the "Broadway Melody" sequence it is not.  (By the way, this was written by the same folks who wrote Singin' In the Rain).

But, man, really, I'm not sure this sequence could have happened any earlier than 1953 or much later than '53.  Noir (not yet called noir) had been in theaters for almost ten years, and all I can think is that this was how it was interpreted by song-and-dance folks trying to be cool, daddio.  But... holy @#$%balls.



(also, look for when Julie Newmar walks right up to the camera!)

What *does* work, and beautifully, is the Dancing in the Dark number with Astaire and Charisse, which is the kind of number you want to see and remember with the talent they've lined up.  The pair are in amazing form, and it's the one time you kind of think "well... maybe" as you look at the romance they're trying to push between a man and a woman young enough to be his daughter.



That poor Cyd Charisse, such an ungraceful and plain girl.

On the flip side, there's this weird thing where they suggest that the writer-couple is on the skids and the wife has taken up with the big-deal actor/ director/ producer guy that never... gets resolved.  I guess we see a couple break up in slow motion, but just sort of from the edges?   Someone help me out here, because that was weird and dark and I can't find mention of it anywhere online.

Anyway, it's not my favorite film, but I was amazed how much of it I didn't remember.  A lot of people love this film, but... eh.  It's fine.  

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Musical Watch: Swing Time (1936)



Watched:  02/17/2021
Format:  TCM on DVR
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1930's
Director:  George Stevens

What with the freeze on here in Austin, Jamie requested we watch something we didn't have to follow closely and wouldn't be depressing.  Well, I happened to have recorded Swing Time (1936), a famed Fred Astaire/ Ginger Rogers collaboration.  

We did NOT have to pay much attention to the movie to follow the film.

just a couple of Hollywood hoofers



Uh, look.  I just don't have the time, energy or headspace to give the movie proper consideration.  It has a cute, very 1930's plot about plucky underdogs finding their way to the big time and glamour through dance.  Unfortunately - the big show stopper number they give Astaire to show off his talents is a minstrel number in black face, and... you know... sometimes dealing with the racism of our forebears is a real fucking bummer.  Like, you're just going about your business and cheering on the two lovebirds of the picture, and then Astaire turns around and starts slathering on blackface, and you're like "COME ON, MOVIE."  

Anyway - already exhausted and not wanting to deal with nonsense, it was not welcome and kind of threw me off from the admittedly lovely final dance sequence ending.  The movie is a good, light-hearted musical romance.  I very much enjoyed the lead and supporting characters, and it was fun.  Oh, and, yes, I hope you like the song "The Way You Look Tonight", because this movie loves it.

I've seen other Astaire movies, but few Ginger Rogers films, and she really was perfect for the screen for what they were doing.  Lovely, all the grace you read about, and perfectly paired with Astaire.  

and she knew how to wear a gown


And, hey, she was pretty funny, too, in her own right.  

Anyway - its' worth watching at some point from an historical and entertainment persepctive, but be aware of the "oh god, this is super racist" 10 minutes or so that I would more than understand would be a solid reason not to watch the film.



Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Mary Wilson Merges With The Infinite


Mary Wilson of The Supremes has passed.


Growing up, The Supremes were put on a pedestal by the media, and my mother herself was a fan.  While it was not non-stop Supremes music in our house, I was aware of her opinion on them.  And, even by middle school in the mid-80's, I was pretty well aware of their pop culture stature and place in American music.  

Just before COVID hit, SimonUK and I went to go see Mary Wilson at a small theater here in Austin.  Our seats were terrible, off to the side and partially obstructed by the piano.  Still, I was excited.  Hilariously, I'd found out days before that my parents were also going to be at the show, and sure enough - there they were.

Anyway - show starts, and Mary Wilson does a number, maybe two, then looks over at me and Simon and says "there's better seats right up front".  So.  We got up and moved, and I sat front row center for Mary Wilson, and I am here to report - it was one of the best concert experiences of my life.  

That was less than a year ago.  

I am stunned to learn of Wilson's passing.  She seemed a fraction of her 70+ years, was lovely, hit every note and kept the room in the palm of her hand.  I was semi keeping track of her for when I expected she would return.  

As shocked and saddened as I am to hear she has passed, I also am sure of her legacy and place in music history.  

We'll miss you, Mary Wilson.

Sunday, February 7, 2021

PODCAST: "Singin' in the Rain" (1952) - A Signal Watch Canon episode w/ Jamie and Ryan


Watched:  02/06/2021
Format:  HBOmax
Viewing:  Unknown
Decade:  1950's
Director:  Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly



Jamie and Ryan sing the praises of an American classic! It's pouring superlatives and compliments as we take a look at a movie that really speaks to you, even if it's not with its own voice. Join us as we talk through the technical achievements, phenomenal performances and great fun of an American classic!

Signal Watch Canon Playlist
Jamie's Cinema Classics

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Musical Watch: Pal Joey (1957)




Watched:  01/26/2021
Format:  TCM on DVR
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1950's
Director:  George Sidney

So, sometimes you watch a movie and it doesn't work out.  I did take a note that this movie, on paper, seems to have everything going for it, but it isn't well remembered.  Which, you know, can often mean something.  Starring Frank Sinatra, Rita Hayworth and Kim Novak, and from George Sidney who has a list of quality directorial credits as long as your arm, it shoud have been a cinch.  But.

Pal Joey (1957) could be retitled Pal Joey - A Study in The Male Gaze or That's Problematic!  And this is coming from the guy who stands on soapboxes about modern audiences learning from and understanding the societal frameworks of a year in which a film was released.  

But we don't get thirty seconds into the film and our hero is being accused of trying to both get a minor drunk and maybe sleep with her.  Another two minutes in and blatant racism.  And then 90 minutes of misogyny and every possible shot they can get of the female form.

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Happy Birthday, Dolly Parton

 


Today is Dolly Parton's 75th birthday, and if 2020 gave us anything, it's yet another wave of well-deserved Dolly-mania as Dolly showed us all, once again, what it looks like to be a decent human being who can also make grown adults cry with a song.

We're experiencing our own wave of Dolly-mania here at League HQ, so join us.

And here's Dolly's gift to us - a reminder that things can and will be better.

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Phil Spector Passes





In this era it's hard to remember what it was like not knowing every crazy thing someone famous did or had done, and  in a pre-social media era, it was maybe easier to conflate madness and genius.  And Phil Spector managed to leverage his gigantic cultural shadow to protect himself from consequence, terrorize and generally make miserable some of the foundational acts of American pop music.  

Spector is perhaps one of the original producers to earn a name beyond the music industry, and is definitely the longest sustaining name of a producer people still recognize.  

Look, I love the Wall of Sound stuff.  Back to Mono was one of the first big outlays I ever made for a boxed set when I couldn't afford it and somehow made it work.*  The Crystals, Ronnettes, Darlene Love... totally my thing.  But I'm also well aware of the nightmare Spector made their lives.  

In the end, he murdered actress Lana Clarkson - then managed to dodge jail for a few years and was eventually convicted.  

Since learning of his various and frequent abuses, I've not been able to reconcile Spector's work in the studio with what he did in his private life.   By the time the news about Clarkson's murder hit, I knew enough about the guy that I wasn't that surprised.  I just thought he would have more self-preservation instinct than to actually draw that kind of attention to himself.

Anyway - you don't have much choice but to sometimes separate the artist from the art.  But, man, is it hard to do so sometimes.  


*back then skipping meals was always an option for saving money - I could just be dizzy for a bit til dinner

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Merry Christmas. Baby, Please Come Home.


I learned a long time ago that posting on Christmas Eve is a fool's errand.  I'll get about three clicks on this.

But here we go!

This year it's just Jamie and me for Christmas Eve.  While my family lives in town, it's too complicated with kids involved to co-quarantine with the other folks who live here.  So, my brother and his family are with my parents having a very traditional sort of Christmas Eve and morning.   My brother and the kids swung by today to drop off some gifts, and I got to see the wee ones go bananas in the front yard for a bit and we got to wish them a Merry Christmas.  We'll Zoom tomorrow, so that's okay.

Tonight we'll Zoom with Jamie's family and tomorrow Jamie's Dad will zip up from San Marcos for a bit so he can collect his Turkey dinner from us and to be festive for a while.  

Tonight:  tamales and queso.  I bought those red and green tortilla chips from HEB.  Jamie had to be up at the crack of dark for dialysis, so she's shutting down early.  But I figure we'll squeeze in part of A Christmas Story tonight (we already watched the new Star Trek).   Also, thank the little baby Jesus for Netflix's selection of Yuletide firelog videos - that's making some nice filler while I do this.

But - hey.  

It's been a hell of a year with the pandemic and the crazy "president" and the general f'd up state of the world.  A few things have gotten me through this.  There's Jamie, of course, who is a champ and listens to my insane ranting.  There's family who check in on us.  Scout, who makes sure I'm getting out and about.  

And there's y'all.  Who are out there reading the posts, listening to podcasts, making podcasts, and joining in on Watch Parties.  You kids are the absolute best.  

Also: booze.  Booze has helped a LOT.

Up above is Ms. Darlene Love, who performed the greatest of the modern Christmas music staples and set the stage for the moody Christmas music I generally prefer (although the Kylie Minogue Christmas album is a banger).  May the spirit of Darlene Love get you through the evening.  And may we all work toward a Christmas where we can be with loved ones next year.

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Hallmark Watch: Christmas at Dollywood (2019)

Dolly's outfit needs more sequins



Watched:  12/18/2020
Format:  Hallmark Channel on DVR
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2010's
Director:  Michael Robison

Arguably, no one involved with this movie knows how anything works in real life and everyone but Danica McKellar's character should be fired.  And Dolly, of course, should always be held blameless.

We've watched a lot of parts of Hallmark movies this year, but watched almost none from start to finish - but when a movie promises to serve up Dolly in prime, post 2000 incarnation of Dolly as glamorous wise songstress and embodiment of goodness - I'm in.  I have, in fact, watched a good chunk of "The Coat of Many Colors" movie and everything.

Monday, December 14, 2020

PODCAST: "A Muppet Christmas Carol" (1992) - a Xmas Genre Xrossover w/ Stuart & Ryan




Watched:  11/29/2020
Format: Disney+
Viewing:  Unknown
Decade:  1990's
Director: Brian Henson


Stuart and Ryan talk the Dickens out of a movie featuring a bunch of felt animals and a CBE for the arts of England. It's got ghosts, a weirdo pretending to be a great author, great sets and a missing song. Maybe not a huge hit when it showed up, it's now a staple of holiday viewing and both very much a Muppet movie and very much a Christmas movie - so it fits the theme for this year.
Music - Muppet Christmas Carol OST
Scrooge - Paul Williams
When Love is Gone - Paul Williams

Playlist - Xmas Genre Xrossover 2020

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

PODCAST: "Anna and the Apocalypse" (2017) - a Xmas Genre Xrossover 2020 episode w/ SimonUK and Ryan



Watched:  11/21/2020
Format:  Amazon Streaming
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2010's
Director:  John McPhail


SimonUK and Ryan have a holly jolly time biting into the 2017 multi-genre cult fave that has them singing and dancing in the aisles. Join us for a yuletide discussion of a newer film that might just be the Christmas treat you're looking for - it's a real slay ride. 
Christmas Means Nothing Without You - Roddy Hart, Tommy Reilly 
Hollywood Ending - Roddy Hart, Tommy Reilly 
 
Xmas Genre Xrossover Playlist

Saturday, November 28, 2020

Dolly Watch: Christmas on the Square (2020)



Watched:  11/26/2020
Format:  Netflix
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2020's
Director:  Debbie Allen, y'all

I don't know if you guys know this, but the past few years Dolly Parton has been producing a variety of movies - including a few which appeared on Netflix last year.  My memory is that prior movies were basically using ideas from one of her more popular tunes (I actually watched a good chunk of Jolene, but think I forgot to write it up).  But I think Christmas on the Square (2020) is based on a new song from her recently released album (a solid Christmas record, if you're so inclined).  

This was very much a movie musical - relentlessly so - and intended to give everyone's mother something to watch this Christmas that they could casually mention that they had seen - and then recommend.  Directed and produced by the great Debbie Allen, it's not really a surprise the movie features singers and dancers trying their hearts out, and the film is packed with folks with plenty of talent madly dancing and singing around our leads.

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Musical Watch: Hello, Dolly! (1969)



 
Watched:  11/08/2020
Format:  Disney+
Viewing:  Unknown.  Maybe 4th
Decade:  1960's
Director:  Gene Kelly

Hello, Dolly! (1969) has some amazing sequences worth checking out just to see what was going on in the post studio-system era when a surviving studio threw a huge ton of money at a film.  From massive sets to costumes for hundreds (if not thousands), the expense of the thing is hard to get your head around - and every dollar is on the screen.  There's talent galore, including established and rising heavyweights, and even unknown bit players have some moments.

Thursday, November 5, 2020

Election Week Watch: The Muppet Movie (1979)




Watched: 11/04/2020
Format:  Disney+
Viewing:  Unknown
Decade:  1970's
Director:  James Frawley

We watched most of this movie on election night in order to avoid the news.  Finished it up last night in order to avoid the news.

Everytime I watch this, I am reminded that Rowlf is the funniest Muppet.   And Paul Williams needs to be re-re-discovered every three years.


Saturday, October 17, 2020

PODCAST: "Phantom of the Opera" (1925) and (1962) - Universal and Hammer Studios! - Halloween 2020 w/ SimonUK and Ryan


Watched:  October 4 ('25) October 6 ('62) 2020
Format:  BluRay (Kino Lorber) and Amazon Streaming
Viewing:  1000th and First
Decade:  1920's and 1960's
Director:  Rupert Julian and Terence Fisher



SimonUK and Ryan cannot remain silent on the topic of that wacky phantom what lurks beneath the opera! We take a look at two of the many film appearances where a creepy music teacher stalks and abducts his pupil while making the most of a poor real estate situation and skin condition. We take a look at the 1925 film from Universal as well as the 1962 take from Hammer, and, boy howdy, are these two different films. 
Toccata and Fugue in D Minor - JS Bach (unknown performer)
Don Juan Triumphant?   I'm not sure, honestly


Halloween and Horror (everything at The Signal Watch)

Sunday, October 4, 2020

Not That Spooky Watch: Little Shop of Horrors (1986)




Watched:  10/03/2020
Format:  Amazon Prime?  Jamie put it on
Viewing:  ha ha ha... I have no idea
Decade:  1980's
Director:  Frank Oz

I think SimonUK and I are going to podcast this movie after Christmas, so I'm not going to write it up. Weirdly, despite the fact I do watch this movie fairly often - somehow I've never written it up on this site, which is kinda odd.  There's a few mentions of the movie on Melbotis.com, but the format over there was kinda all-over the place. 

Here's a post from back when I did DITMTLOD posts where I talk about Ellen Greene as Audrey.

Anyway, this seems like good incentive to actually cover it on the podcast this winter.