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

Monday, November 28, 2022

Holiday Watch: Spirited (2022)




Watched:  11/26/2022
Format:  Apple+
Viewing:  First
Director:  Sean Anders

So, at our house, there are two very different stances on Dickens' A Christmas Carol.  To me, the book is a near-religious text and an annual reminder that one can make good on a life ill-lived, that every year is a chance for change and a reminder of how we can improve the lot of those around us.  We are a product of our lives, but at the end of the day, it's the choices we make daily that define how we impact the world.  To Jamie, it's this thing that's on at Christmas that people keep remaking as movies of varying quality.  I think both of these viewpoints are true.  

I'll need to give it another viewing, but it's possible Spirited (2022) will enter the very nichey canon of my favorite adaptations of the story, which include the George C. Scott version, the Patrick Stewart version, Muppets Christmas Carol and Scrooged.  Given the way this year's Thanksgiving has gone down, I may just be raw and in need of a boost that this movie provided, but here we are.

While I'm more than done with movies investigating the mechanics behind Santa's operations (Fred Clause and Arthur Christmas are maybe my highlight of that genre), no one had really taken on the same idea with A Christmas Carol.  And if I'm being honest with myself, I don't know if I'd put any thought into it other than it's a ghost story and this is how they work.

Saturday, November 26, 2022

Fairy Tale Watch: Disenchanted (2022)





Watched:  11/24/2022
Format:  Disney+
Viewing:  First
Director:  Adam Shankman

If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, on where you stop your story. - Orson Welles

There's a lot of good in Disenchanted (2022), but it's a weird film.  Perhaps it's an unnecessary film?  

As much as I, too, wondered how Giselle - she of the cartoon kingdom - was going to adjust as a fish-out-of-water in New York, a fairy tale princess who now has to live in the Big Apple in a place with varying races, religions, opinions, illness, war, injustice...   I'm kind of wondering now - Maybe we didn't need to check in?  Maybe "happily ever after" is the ending this story needed.  After all, this movie starts to push on the edges of what it means to live happily ever after as it continues the tale of Giselle and Robert as it asks "what next?  What about ennui?  What about missing one's homeland and the way in which they were raised?  Isn't life deeply imperfect?"

I don't think it's wrong to limit the challenges of the movie to teen-angst, mean moms, commutes sucking and other suburban and relatable concerns within the control and world of your average schmo.  We have enough to deal with when it comes to the magical challenges of the film that will fill the runtime and primary concerns of the movie's A-plot.  

Tuesday, November 8, 2022

Al Watch: Weird - the Al Yankovic Story (2022)




Watched:  11/07/2022
Format:  Roku Channel
Viewing:  First
Director:  Eric Appel

Is this the greatest rock biopic ever made?  Or simply the greatest film ever made?

I literally have no idea how to discuss this movie.  To discuss it is to explain the joke, and explaining a joke is... a bad idea.

All I can tell you is:  watch this movie.  If you ever had any love in your heart for Al Yankovic, this feels like somehow you get the giddy chaos of Al's greatest work distilled, amplified and refracted back at you in the form of a 2 hour movie that stars Daniel Radcliffe as Al, Rainn Wilson as Dr. Demento and Evan Rachel Wood as Madonna.  I've seen Radcliffe do comedy, and he's really solid.   Seeing ERW turn her considerable talent to comedy was an absolute delight.

If there's no other reason to watch the movie - and there are literally hundreds - watch the movie for the pool party at Dr. Demento's house.  

The movie never loses steam, which is just kind of what I assume will happen as comedies eventually need to trade gags for plot to have a satisfying narrative conclusion.  It never takes its foot off the gas, gripping your hand like a Thelma to the audience's Louise and heads right for the cliff.  

It's a thing of beauty.  We're lucky to have it.

Anyway, I guess I'm saying: watch this movie

Tuesday, October 11, 2022

Angela Lansbury Merges With the Infinite



Angela Lansbury, an actor whose career spanned 1944 - 2018 (not her life, her career!) has passed.  Let it be known that a pre-Murder She Wrote Lansbury was a stone cold fox, which is always a weird revelation about senior citizen TV detectives.  Go watch The Harvey Girls and then come back and we'll discuss.

Because Hollywood is weird, she was like 36 when she was cast to play the mother of the lead in The Manchurian Candidate - roughly 3 years older than her screen son, and it seems she played older characters for years to come - eventually catching up with herself and then maintaining a career as a plucky, sometimes feisty, occasionally insane (Sweeney Todd) individual.  

One of her last screen appearances was in Mary Poppins Returns (2018), but she was just sort of ubiquitous my entire life.  And, of course, as the voice of Mrs. Potts in Disney's Beauty and the Beast, which I heard on a loop every 90 minutes for three years at the Disney Store.  

Here's to Ms. Lansbury, one of the last contemporaries of many of my favorite actors and one I count among our most beloved.  


Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Loretta Lynn Merges With The Infinite




The great Loretta Lynn has passed.


An icon of 20th Century music, bridging generations and centuries and a true story of talent overcoming circumstances, while never forgetting your roots.  


Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Happy Birthday, Madonna




Happy Birthday to Madonna Ciccone of Bay City, Michigan.

Here's to the person who kept me with one ear on pop music during my grumpier years and both eyes on MTV for years upon end.  Heck, seeing the video for Lucky Star is one of my seminal memories as a kid, and I probably need a series of lengthy therapy sessions to work through Express Yourself and Take a Bow.  

She's got a new album out there (of remixes, I think) and currently is going through a new look I have several questions about, but we'll always have Open Your Heart.




Sunday, July 24, 2022

Happy Birthday, Lynda Carter



Happy Birthday to patron saint of The Signal Watch, Ms. Lynda Carter!

Just yesterday, I moved some stuff around and began putting all my Lynda Carter Wonder Woman stuff in one place.  I'm not done yet, so no pics.  But, as always, Ms. Carter was on my mind.  Just more so than usual.

Ms. Carter has had an extraordinarily tough year, losing both her husband and father. That's incredibly hard, and we wish her well.

But in recent months she's been active on social media and she's also released a new song, dedicated to her husband, Robert Altman.  It's a romance from Wonder Woman's POV - in both original flavor and dance remix.  And, she's set to participate in the next Wonder Woman film, which this blog endorses 1000%.  

Here's to Lynda Carter, and may she have spent the day with her family and friends.  



Friday, July 1, 2022

Happy Birthday, Debbie Harry




Today is the birthday of Debbie Harry, Queen of Pop Punk.  

I'm a Blondie fan and a Debbie Harry fan.  That's all I have to say about that lest I start to wax rhapsodic.  

She's the absolute best.










Saturday, June 25, 2022

Watch Party Watch: His Kind of Woman (1951)



Watched:  06/24/2022
Format:  Amazon Watch Party
Viewing:  Third?
Director:  John Farrow

In celebration of Jane Russel's 101st birthday and enduring foxiness, we watched His Kind of Woman (1951) for our Friday watch party.  

I was aware this movie was weird and goofy, coming out of the Howard Hughes-era RKO studio where things seemed more dictated by Hughes' whims and libido than proven formula,  But until you watch a movie with a bunch of other people and you're responsible for what you're all watching - that's when you go from "yeah, this is kind of wacky" to "wow, this movie is bonkers".  

I'm aware that classic film folks turn their nose up at this movie, but they are wrong.  This is a movie that has everything, and it makes me laugh consistently throughout.  If you want serious, dark film noir, keep walking, because this thing has songs, Mitchum just swinging his dick everywhere, Vincent Price showing the moxie he'd bring to his horror career, and Jane Russell just being as Jane Russell-y as all get out (that's decidedly a feature).  

I had forgotten Raymond Burr was our big bad, and that Charles McGraw had shown up as a heavy.  Anyway, I can't think of a lot against the movie except that the last ten minutes goes on for 25.  Like - there's just way too much climax in this movie and it doesn't include Russell, and that is math I can't get behind.

Anyway, here's to the birthday girl.  Here's hoping she's having a great time wherever she is out there.



Saturday, June 18, 2022

Vegas Watch: Viva Las Vegas (1964)




Watched:  06/17/2021
Format:  Amazon Watch Party
Viewing:  First
Director:  George Sidney

Confession:  I thought I had seen an Elvis movie all the way through, but looking at The King's IMDB profile, I hadn't. I've seen others in part (Blue Hawaii, Roustabout, etc..), but am not overly keen on jukebox musicals with a book thinner than a pamphlet.  However, Viva Las Vegas (1964) is kind of the high water mark for these kinds of films, and it co-stars perennial favorite, Ann-Margret.  

Part tourist boosterism for America's playland, part romantic comedy, and all boppin' musical, the film is about 85 minutes of rocket-sled plotting paired with Go-Go dancing, while absolutely nothing happens, and we basically watch plot points used a million times over by '64 to tell the story of Elvis and Ann-Margret falling in love.  And in the last ten minutes of the film, we suddenly have a massive bodycount.  Did not see that coming.

Did I like the film?  Yes.  It's charming, dumb and cute.  Ann-Margret is something else.  Was the film good?  By conventional standards, its a mess.  But it was intended to get teens out to cinemas, promote Ann-Margret and Elvis and sell some records, and by that standard it's Citizen Kane.  

Picture stolen from Jenifer's blog, but you can see Garr in white and Basil's backside in red



Sidenote - Teri Garr is briefly in the movie as a background dancer, and you can see how she got pulled out of the chorus for a leading position.  Also: I heard Toni Basil is in the movie, and you cannot miss her when she's on screen for maybe 4 seconds.




But, yeah, basically Elvis plays a would-be race car driver who is in Vegas to drop off his car for a big road rally before heading off to LA to pick up the new motor.  He meets, immediately, an Italian Count who is the definition of Frenemy, and Ann-Margret, who is a pool manager/ swimming teacher.  Trying to find Ann-Margret, Elvis and the Count go on an ogling expedition of the showgirl shows across Vegas, so, you too, can fill your spank bank and have an idea of what you can objectify for a few bucks if you come to Vegas.  Eventually Elvis finds Ann-Margret, they begin to date (having enormous fun with money we're told Elvis doesn't have), but she doesn't want him to race lest he crash.  So they kind of break up.  But then he goes to race, and she helps.   It makes no sense, as nothing in the movie makes any sense.   And then they show the race, and it's a reminder of how terrifyingly dangerous racing was in mid-Century America and how far we've come in not thinking motor sports should end in death.  

Anyway, it is exactly what I was expecting, except for the scene where Elvis hangs out with a bunch of drunk Texans and it suddenly feels like a documentary or how-to video about how to deal with drunk Texans that is accurate to this day.




Sunday, June 12, 2022

Watch Party Watch: Streets of Fire (1984)




Watched:  06/10/2022
Format:  Amazon Watch Party
Viewing:  Unknown
Director:  Walter Hill

Sooner or later I was going to make the Friday Watch Party Gang watch this movie, and indeed, I did.  

Reactions were, at best, mixed.  

The last time I watched this movie, I was ill and Jamie and I recorded a very iffy podcast that required some follow up when I was feeling better.



Friday, June 10, 2022

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.


Monday, April 18, 2022

Holiday Watch: Easter Parade (1948)




Watched:  04/17/2022
Format:  TCM
Viewing:  Second?
Decade:  1940's
Director:  Charles Waters

I put this on at the start as we were cooking, and then realized I was watching the end.

This movie isn't my favorite.  But it does have Ann Miller in some parts of it.  And that's not all bad.








Tuesday, April 12, 2022

47

 "Needle"
Middle Kids



Dream wives pushing up their prices
Even though it's a dying trade
Cool hands sticking to their guns
Hoping it'll keep them safe

They're eyeing off each other
Hoping to discover the only needle in the hay
But the sun's gone down and they're feeling around
With palms stretched open skimming the ground
I was hoping that things were better since we're all so clever

Quick cash filling up the pockets
Of the most boring men in the room
Red lips, the promise of kisses
Whisper sweet nothingness

They're eyeing off each other
Hoping to discover the only needle in the hay
But the sun's gone down and they're feeling around
With palms stretched open skimming the ground
And you're sitting high above it
Modern comfort is always having something to say
And a million artists have come to this in the past years
Tired and hungry, laughing through tears
I was hoping that we'd feel better since we're all so clever

You look better in the spring
(The violins play the rite of it)
I see you ever considering
Packing up your things and driving into the sea

We're eyeing off each other
Hoping to discover the only needle in the hay
But the sun's gone down and we're feeling around
With arms stretched open skimming the ground
I was hoping that things were better
I was hoping that things were better
I was hoping that things were better since we're all so clever

Thursday, March 10, 2022

Musical Watch: West Side Story (2021)




Watched:  03/05/2021
Format:  Disney+
Viewing:  First
Director:  Steven Spielberg

We won't belabor you with the facts of the 1957 stage play or much about the original film.  There's an endless stream of media on the topic, and even last year we were treated to a lengthy special on the 1961 film reuniting Rita Moreno, George Chakiris and Russ Tamblyn.

I know I was aware of West Side Story when my mom took me to see it as a play in a small, downtown theater in Austin's former warehouse district around 5th or 6th grade.  I don't remember much in the way of my impressions other than being shocked that our heroes didn't walk away into the sunset - unhappy endings were still a novelty at that point.

It's likely I saw at least part of the 1961 version when I was 14 and my English class covered Romeo and Juliet.  But I didn't see it in full til summer of 1992 when I was at a drama camp for 7 weeks.*  I very much remember crowding around the TV and the silence from a room full of 17-year-olds at the film's end.  And, of course, being told "no, the girl in purple is Rita Moreno."

Tuesday, March 1, 2022

Musical Watch: The Man of La Mancha (1972)

artwork by the remarkable Ted CoConis



Watched:  02/26/2022
Format:  Amazon Prime
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1970's
Director:  Arthur Hiller

In high school I saw a college production of Man of La Mancha, and loved the show.  But somehow I never got around to watching the film.  By end of high school, I was familiar with O'Toole and Loren, so that wasn't a deterrent, and even back then, I didn't blink at watching movies from decades past.  I did plan to read Don Quixote on the heels of seeing the play, but never got to it.*  What has shocked me over the years is that the music from the show and the general spirit of a show I saw once at age 17 have stuck with me.

Even if you've never read Cervantes (and I have not) The Man of La Mancha (1972) is absolutely a worthwhile watch.  It's a strange movie, following the show's format, it's a play within a play.  Layer of illusion upon layer of illusion.  Cervantes is an actor performing the play he's written of Man of La Mancha in a town square when the Spanish Inquisition appears and, charging him with heresy, hauls him off to stand trial.  While waiting for his show trial, he cools his heels in a large, open dungeon with a multitude of fellow prisoners who decide to hold their own kangaroo court for him - and in order to explain himself, he sets about using the prisoners to portray a version of his play.

Sunday, January 30, 2022

Rock Watch: The Nowhere Inn (2021)




Watched:  01/29/2022
Format:  Hulu
Viewing:  First
Director:  Bill Benz

Rock stardom in the modern era is not what I think it was 30 years ago.  Sure, there are acts that can fill a stadium these days, but in the age of splintered genres, channels, modes of consuming music, etc...  when is someone "famous" as a musician or band?

The Nowhere Inn (2021) is a very small film that can very much feel like Annie Clark (aka: St. Vincent/ aka: Annie Clark) and Carrie Brownstein fucking around with a budget and telling a rock-and-roll fable that falls somewhere between Ziggy Stardust and Lynch and/ or a dozen other "identity" films.  That's not to say it isn't a watchable and interesting film, but it flits between "I feel like I've seen this before", "Oh, this is a very fun bit", and "people are assuming I know a lot more about Carrie Brownstein and Annie Clark's lives than I do".  

I genuinely cannot remember seeing a movie before that seemed so unclear on the idea that movies are a mass medium and need to contain everything the viewer needs to know - making references to information I'd be lost without from interviews I glanced at between 6 months and 4 years ago is... a choice.  

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.