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

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.

Monday, June 21, 2021

Musical Watch: The Harvey Girls (1946)




Watched:  06/21/2021
Format:  TCM on DVR
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1940's
Director:  George Sidney

So, I recorded this one as part of the Cyd Charisse "Star of the Month" retrospective on TCM, and while I have been waiting for the AC repair guy to call me back (it's 100 today in Austin), I put the movie on.

I'd always heard the name of the film The Harvey Girls (1946), but didn't know anything about the movie - just that it was a big, 1940's-style musical with Judy Garland as the lead.  I assumed it was about a group of sisters in the Harvey family.  Nope.

Sunday, June 13, 2021

Musical Watch: In the Heights (2021)



Watched:  06/10/2021
Format:  HBOmax
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2020's
Director:  Jon M. Chu

A few years back, Jamie and I paid our money and saw a local stage production of In the Heights at the Zach Scott Theatre here in town.  It wasn't a touring show, but it was a professional show with a mix of local talent and hired talent from out of town.  The theater in question struggles, I think, because the audience is on the gray and silver side, and bringing in shows with a hip-hop tinge, or something like Hedwig (which we also saw there) seem to throw off the audiences that still pat themselves on the back for coming in for the Janis Joplin show they do there about three years.  

But the show was solid, not least because the actual source material is what it is.  In the Heights was the work that made Lin Manuel Miranda in the musical theatre world and enabled him to do something as ambitious as Hamilton.  And, I don't think I need to tell you a ton about where that carried him.  

The movie of In the Heights (2021) was supposed to be released summer of 2020, I believe, but was shelved until this summer, and is now enjoying both a theatrical release and a release on HBOmax.  

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Musical Watch: Meet Me in Las Vegas (1956)




Watched:  06/02/2021
Format:  TCM on DVR
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1950's
Director:  Roy Rowland

Cyd Charisse is Star of the Month on TCM.  We're on record that Cyd Charisse is a pretty good idea in general, and so we're going to watch some of these movies we've not seen before (they're airing on Tuesdays in June).  

This one felt more or less like an excuse for a variety of talents and Vegas floor shows to do a little something here and there in a showcase tucked between the paper-thin story of a Vegas gambler/ rancher and a ballerina who meet and fall in love.  That ballerina is, of course, Charisse.  You won't know the gambler/ rancher.

But the movie also has Agnes Moorehead as an earthy ranchwoman, Jim Backus as a casino manager, George Chakiris as a young romantic, Paul Henreid as Cyd's manager, Frankie Lane as Frankie Lane, and... most exciting of surprises... Lena Horne as Lena Horne.  

It's... dopey and fine.  I don't love it.  Charisse is amazing in every one of her numbers, not the least of which is a "Frankie and Johnny" performance (with narration by Sammy Davis Jr.).  

Anyway, I wouldn't rush out to see it, but it's... fine.


Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Watch Party Watch: The Apple (1980) - @#$% this movie




Watched:  05/07/2021
Format:  Amazon Watch Party
Viewing:  First (and last)
Decade:  1980's
Director:  Menahem Golan

Well, I've now seen The Apple (1980), the sci-fi, near-future dystopian musical religious and political allegory.  And while watching, this is roughly how I felt:

Monday, May 10, 2021

PODCAST: Amadeus (1984) - a Signal Watch Canon Episode w/ Alfredo and Ryan




Watched:  05/03/2021
Format:  Amazon Streaming
Viewing:  Unknown
Decade:  1980's
Director:  Milos Foman


Alfredo returns to discuss a movie that goes way back to make a household name a lot more understandable to us modern folk. It's a fabricated fantasia of a biopic about two guys with very different skill levels at their jobs, competition in the workplace, and what happens when you get notes on too many notes. Join Alfredo and Ryan as we take on a cinema classic, and get a little classical ourselves.



Music:  
Written by WA Mozart, scored by Neville Mariner, performed by St. Martin in the Fields
Symphony No. 25 in G Minor. K. 183 & Requiem Confutatis
Rock me Amadeus - Falco, Falco 3


Signal Watch Canon:

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.