Tag Archives: movies

Then, Now and In Between

On September 11, 1956, the movie Rock Around the Clock opened in London. And after the showing at the Trocadero there was a bit of a kerfuffle with teens gone rowdy. This resulted in other theaters in England cancelling their showing of the movie.

To which I can only think “Huh?”

Fred F. Sears directed the film, which was shot in January 1956. This was near the end of Sears’ career, as he died of a heart attack, age 44, in November 1957. It is worth noting that 16 movies Sears directed were released between Rock Around the Clock and shortly after his demise, with the five subsequent to Rock being Earth vs. the Flying Saucers, The Werewolf, Miami Expose, Cha-Cha-Boom! and Don’t Knock the Rock. (In all, he directed 60 films—which is all the more remarkable when you know that he didn’t start until 1946.)

Which pretty much gives you a sense of (a) Sears’ oeuvre and (b) the types of movies that were being released back then. Things change.

The plot of Rock Around the Clock was essentially about the discovery and launch of rock and roll. The band that launched a thousand AM radio stations was, of course, Bill Haley & the Comets, the band that had release the single “Rock Around the Clock” in early 1954.

It was actually the second time the tune had been released, with the first being by Sonny Dae and His Knights, in 1953. Sonny Dae & His Radio Raskals were performers on the “WRVA Old Dominion Barn Dance,” which also featured Lester Flatt, Earl Scruggs and the Carter Family. Which pretty much gives you a sense of (a) how musical performances were taken much less seriously back then and (b) that musical performers, like the Carter Family, are the stuff of Ken Burns’ documentaries today.

When you read the date in the first sentence of this you probably thought back to last Saturday, September 11, 2021, the 20th anniversary of the day that irrevocably changed America.

On that day in 2001 Jake Brown posted this on Glorious Noise:

Please stop flying into buildings

God help us. I get into work today to find a group of people staring at the television. Just as I realize that the smoking building is the World Trade Center, I see a plane fly right into the second tower and explode. Live on tv.

All the major news websites are totally down right now. Either overwhelmed or just plain off. This is fucked up.

It was fucked up.

Continue reading Then, Now and In Between

The Black Widow Effect

This is not about music. At least not directly.

It is about performance, pay and distribution. All things that are absolutely germane to those who make a living via musical performances.

The first goes to the lawsuit filed by Scarlett Johansson (or precisely, Periwinkle Entertainment, Inc., F/S/O [which means “for services of”] Scarlett Johansson) against the Walt Disney Company.

Quick: Where is the Walt Disney Company as a legal entity located?

1. California
2. Florida
3. Delaware

Yes, Delaware. Let’s not lose sight of the fact that the entertainment business is big business so Disney, like a majority of Fortune 500 companies, incorporate in Delaware, largely because Delaware legislatively keeps its corporation statutes up-to-date regarding the world as it exists today, not at some hoary point in the past; it also operates a special court, the Court of Chancery, that rules on corporate law disputes sans juries.

(That said, the suit was filed in L.A.)

The opening line of the suit is worth pondering: “Over the past decade, Scarlett Johansson’s work has generated billions of dollars for Marvel Studios, and, by extension, its parent company, Disney.”

Billions of dollars over the past decade.

The lawsuit contends that her latest, Black Widow, would provide Johansson with money that would be based, in part, on box office receipts but the amount of those receipts was reduced because Disney didn’t just make Black Widow a “theatrical release” (i.e., in move theaters), but, on the day that it opened in theaters, made it available to subscribers of Disney+ (for $30).

Back in 2017 Johansson and Marvel Studios entered into an agreement in which “that guaranteed her a share of ‘box office receipts’” and “To protect her financial interests in these box office receipts, Ms. Johansson obtained from Marvel a valuable contractual promise that the release of the Picture would be a ‘wide theatrical release.’” The idea–remember, this is 2017–is that Black Widow would play in a whole bunch of cineplexes for what was an industry standard of 90 to 120 days, after which there could be other outlets.

In other words, she would make bank primarily during the time it was in theaters.

But because it was released on Disney+ as well, the number of people who would pay at the box office was reduced.

Continue reading The Black Widow Effect

Some Days in July and The Beatles

According to The Beatles Bible, “Lennon was a notoriously bad driver.” On July 1, 1969, the day that recording was to begin for Abbey Road, Lennon, Yoko Ono, her daughter Kyoko and his son Julian were involved in a car accident, as Lennon drove into a ditch in Scotland. He would have probably been better off had he (1) been a better driver or (2) had a better work ethic, such that he’d show up in the studio, which is located in London, on July 1.

He did make it to the studio on July 9. As Yoko sustained more injuries than John, a double bed was ordered from Harrods and delivered to the studio, so she could be on hand in order to provide her insights into the music. Their first bed-in protest against the Vietnam War had occurred a few months earlier, in March, in Amsterdam. May 26-June 1 they had their second, in Montreal. Perhaps this bed was a protest about something else.

The first day Lennon was in the studio the band did takes 1 to 21 of “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer.” The following day they did overdubbing and mixing of the tune.

Lennon, evidently, missed Ringo’s 29th birthday, which was on the 7th.

The song in question is about a serial killer. That Macca is quite the crack-up.

Apparently John was completely dismissive of the song, reportedly not participating. George and Ringo didn’t much like it, either, but they performed on it.

One of the reasons they weren’t chuffed about it was that it took three days to complete. A three-minute, 27-second ditty. Three days.

Paul must have really been invested in it.

Bang! Bang!

Continue reading Some Days in July and The Beatles

TV, Movies & Concerts

With the exception of both (one always; one frequently) being staged in theaters, the movies and concerts have only slight crossover. Of course, one thing to be kept in mind that both are keenly entrenched in economics, as in “the film industry” and “the music business.” Pull at our emotions though the good ones do, it is still about making a return.

And there is undoubtedly going to be a return to something akin to what had been the case, though in the case of the film industry things may be somewhat different than will be the case vis-à-vis concerts.

After World War II, when life underwent a profound change, with people moving to new places that are now the familiar suburbs, a device that had been around since the late 30s but expensive and not particularly useful came onto its own: the television set. By 1948 there were multiple network broadcasts. Because the movie theaters tended to be in city downtowns and not in the suburbs, there was a decrease in the number of people who went to the movies. They could simply stay home and watch TV.

While television didn’t kill the film industry, as some had feared, there was at least a change in the nature of the execution of movies. There were new approaches to how movies were filmed and shown—as in things like Cinerama—and there were early “blockbusters,” like the Cecil B. DeMille movies that were “epic” in scope.

As time went on there was something of an entente between the two mediums.

In terms of technology, there were repeated efforts to make the movie “experience” more worth going to a building with screens, such as 3D and IMAX. But at the same time there was a huge growth in the number of consumers who were buying increasingly large and capable screens and sound systems that allow them to have something of a wide-screen filmic experience without having to pay $10 for popcorn. Channels like HBO and Showtime brought nearly new releases into homes.

Hollywood struck back with things like the Marvel-based films that are like those of DeMille: Seeing them on something that is measured in feet rather than inches is an experience onto itself.

But then there was COVID and suddenly Hollywood discovered that their outlets were shut down. People were sheltering at home with their massive TV screens. What could they do with their “product”? Disney+ had Hamilton in the can, so it came up with a plan to offer it exclusively on its channel, which led to a huge boost in subscriptions to the service. Then with Mulan it tried to do one better by adding an additional fee to watch it, a Disney+ subscription acting only as a means to get to the ticket window. Somehow they had to get as much ROI as the new prevailing conditions allowed.

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I Was a Nine Year Old Cultist

Source Family Photo
I love this movie: The Source Family. It details the formation and history of your proto-typical southern Californian 70s cult. Founded by entrepreneur-judo champ-war hero-man-killer-turned-spiritual-guru-and natural-food-purveyor, Jim Baker, The Source Family did a lot of its recruiting via a psych-rock band comprised of Family members. Over the years, the band recorded several highly collectable albums under various names, including Yahowa13, Children Of The Sixth Root RaceFather Yod And The Spirit Of ’76Fire, Water, Air, and Yodship. While the trailer for the film implies a bit more doom and drama than the film actually delivers, it’s still a fascinating look into how one man can take over the lives of many. And the music is pure gold!

The Source Family - Official Trailer

I have had a lifelong obsession with cults. The idea that a person, by sheer force of personality, can control others fascinates me. That so many of these stories end in tragedy appeals to my sense of drama. That so many of them include sex, drugs and rock and roll appeals to my love of outlaw culture. And to think that it all started with a warning…

I spent the summer of 1980 in Wichita Falls, Texas with family friends. I was nine years old and excited to be on a trip all by myself, but also spent many late drives home from rodeos crying in the backseat because I was certain my parents would die while I was away. Such was the psyche of a young boy away from his family for the first time.

Psyches were generally fragile in that time. The 70s may have officially ended that December 31, but the cultural ramifications and general freakiness were still very much in play. The year 1980 was much more like the loosey-goosey 70s than the Yuppie-filled decade it marks. Music was still loose, drugs were still prevalent, people were still searching. It was confusing.

The parents I was staying with of course had to work, which left a minimum of eight hours a day where their daughter and I were unsupervised. We spent much of that time at the community pool listening to Eddie Rabbit croon about how much he loved a rainy night. We were pretty good kids so we didn’t really get into much trouble but I did get into a scrap or two with the neighborhood boys and it was eventually decided that we would attend Bible school.

Most of the classes were boring, but toward the end of the summer we had a whole week dedicated to cult awareness. You have to remember that the Jonestown massacre had occurred less than two years previous. The first American Blessing Ceremony of the Unification Church (a mass wedding conducted by Rev. Sun Myung Moon) was still two years away. In Texas, and around the country, there was a growing fear of cults and their influence on young people in particular.

The week kicked off with a movie that we all watched in the church activity room. It was all very spooky with grainy news footage of Jim Jones and various fakers, but Jones was the star and it was easy to see why. Who can forget those shades and the fact that his most infamous, heinous act was the origin of an idiom that so perfectly articulated the danger of blind submission. I was indeed drinking the cool aid.

The rest of the week was focused on how we spot cults and those who might want to indoctrinate us into their fold. What actually happened was I went home armed with a dozen or so other cults and leaders I wanted to research. My library lending habits would certainly raise the suspicion of today’s Security State listeners, but this was 1980! I could check out as many books on sadistic egomaniacs as I like!

Somehow, Jim Baker and The Source Family never hit my radar. Maybe it’s because of how the story ends (and I won’t give that away here), but I’ve since been spending some time on Wikipedia and various other sites dedicated to the Source Family story and all I can say is, “Yahowha!”

Movie Review: TRON Legacy

Video: Orangechair.tv – “TRON: Legacy”

TRON: Legacy brings us back to the grid, but the game has changed. It is one of the most visually appealing movies of the year and sports an amazing score from Daft Punk, but the plot lacks the substance to hold up to repeat viewings.

Daft Punk presents a score that turns an otherwise dull movie into a spectacular two-hour music video. The result is a fusion of Hans Zimmer’s Inception and Trent Reznor’s The Social Network scores with an extra dash of adrenaline.

Movie critic for OrangeChair.TV, Mike Eisenberg is also an independent filmmaker and staff writer at Screenrant.com. For more of his reviews, check out OrangeChair.TV.

Leonard Cohen – Bird On A Wire

Leonard Cohen - Bird On A WireLeonard CohenBird On A Wire (TMC)

The story goes that Leonard Cohen’s manager, Marty Machat, commissioned director Tony Palmer to follow Leonard around on a 20-date European tour with the intention of capturing a bit of the creative muse on celluloid.

The film Bird On A Wire sat in Machat’s storage until he passed away, at which time Cohen took over possession and kept the film in hiding. Recently, Cohen returned the footage to the son of his former manager, who immediately set about tracking down Tony Palmer to complete the project that had started four decades earlier.

Continue reading Leonard Cohen – Bird On A Wire

Wesley Willis’s Joy Rides

Wesley Willis's Joy RidesNewly released on DVD, Wesley Willis’s Joy Rides is a beautifully assembled biographical documentary of one of Chicago’s most unique artists. Wesley Willis was a diagnosed chronic schizophrenic who found a way to turn both his art and his music into a reliable source of income over his tragically shortened life; he died at 40 of leukemia in 2003. Willis’s twin careers as both an artist and musician fascinated some, offended others, and were marginalized by still others.

His career as a visual art is sometimes even further obscured by the same subset of fans who loved his music. While it is easy to dismiss his ballpoint-pen artwork of cityscapes, to do so is to do Wesley a huge disservice. I wasn’t aware that to a degree, Wesley had formal architectural drawing experience. The amount of detail in his drawings is staggering, and the fact that years after he’d visited a certain city he could draw a building or a subway tunnel from memory is an astounding ability. The movie shows Wesley in the latter part of his life while drawing, and it’s fascinating to see the artist in action.

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New Lennon Bio Pic: Nowhere Boy

It’s a terrible name so can the film be any good? Who knows? A new biographical film on John Lennon titled Nowhere Boy premiered in the UK this week. The film focuses on Lennon’s youth up through the launch of The Beatles. One unique factor is the use of Lennon’s actual voice to drive some of the narrative. He’s a fascinating character and the story of The Beatles doesn’t get old for many of us, but how many really good non-documentary movies have been made about John Lennon’s life and music?

Trailer: Nowhere Boy

Via Melophobe

John Lennon: iTunes, Amazon, Insound, wiki

The Beatles: iTunes, Amazon, Insound, wiki