Tag Archives: movies

Celluloid Heroes


  1. Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour movie opened
  2. Websites have found that numeric lists are really popular

. . .various websites have come up with lists of the “best” concert movies of “all time.” That “all time” adverb is a bit odd given that in the grand scheme of things, movies haven’t been around for a hell of a long time.

The Lumière brothers, Auguste and Louis, essentially started the movie theater business in December 1895. Early movies were, of course, silent. But people including Thomas Edison figured that having a musical soundtrack would be useful, so some early films came along with sound-carrying cylinders. Coordination was often iffy. So in some cases there were entire orchestras in the theaters providing movie music in real time. The first full-length movie with synchronized sound, including singing, didn’t appear until 1927: The Jazz Singer. For each reel of film there was a record to accompany it.

While many of the “best” lists are predicated on the person who is making the list, in this case we’ll go with the choice made by the Rotten Tomatoes “Tomatometer®” as it “represents the percentage of professional reviews that are positive for a given film or television show.”

In other words, instead of being the opinion of one guy sitting in his parents’ basement, it is the opinion of multiples: “A Tomatometer score is calculated for a movie or TV show after it receives at least five reviews.”

Five is presumably better than one.

Their The Eras Tour-provoked list is of 60 concert movies. Which seems a bit excessive, but presumably having a longer list helps Rotten Tomatoes not necessarily with its SEO but with its parent companies’—Comcast’s Fandango Media is the majority owner and Warner Bros. owns a piece of the action—financial interests (e.g., selling tickets to currently available movies).

Continue reading Celluloid Heroes

“All I Gotta Do Is Act Naturally”

There has long been an association between music and the movies. Think only of the fact that the first movie with synchronized audio dialogue was The Jazz Singer (1927).

Over the years, popular musicians have found movies as being a medium that helped propel their career. Let’s face it: Elvis didn’t make dozens of movies because he thought he’d give Marlon Brando some competition.

Does anyone think that A Hard Day’s Night (1964) and Help! (1965) were made for reasons other than to get the Beatles more visibility that could be calculated into record sales?

Also in the 1960s there was a series of thematically related movies with an interchangeable cast below the leads that had music as a basis: the Beach movies with Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon, including How To Stuff a Wild Bikini (1965) and Beach Blanket Bingo (1965). Again, Frankie and Annette were there mainly because they were singing teen idols, not because of their acting chops. (Avalon was to appear in another notable music-driven movie of the 1970s: he was Teen Angel in Grease (1978). Annette had made her start as a singer and actor on “The Mickey Mouse Club,” which also gave rise to the careers of Justin Timberlake, Christina Aguilera and Britney Spears, the first of whom has also gone on to make several movies, including a role in The Social Network (2010), as Sean Parker, the co-founder of Napster, which has had immeasurable implications on the music industry since it was launched in 1999.)

As for musician/actors: Sometimes it is a matter of talent. Sometimes it is simply a matter of packaging.

Taylor Swift is a talented musician for whom the term “superstar” can be appropriately used. Her career has been one that has endured and her fan base has done nothing but expand.

One could make the argument that given the extensive number of music videos she has appeared in—some 60—and that she’s not just sitting on a stool strumming her guitar and singing, but actually playing roles, Swift has cumulatively made at least two movies (assume three minutes each, so that would be 180 minutes, or about the length of two 90-minute movies).

Continue reading “All I Gotta Do Is Act Naturally”

Tonight on TCM! Rediscovered Silent Film with Score by Quasar Wut-Wut

Trailer: The First Degree, 1923 (score by Quasar Wut-Wut)

Via Chicago Film Archives.

How cool is this? A couple years ago Chicago Film Archives discovered a 35mm print of a lost silent film in their collections, buried under agricultural and sponsored films from Peoria. Turns out, it was The First Degree, directed by Edward Sedgwick and starring Frank Mayo, originally released in 1923 and probably not seen since then.

Chicago Film Archives hired our pals Quasar Wut-Wut to compose and record an original score. As you may recall, several years ago the Quasars had been commissioned by Northwestern University’s Block Museum of Art to write and perform an original score for Buster Keaton’s 1926 silent masterpiece The General.

The first screening took place at the Gene Siskel Film Center last year with live accompaniment by the band. The Chicago Tribune described the score as “an intriguing spell of contrasts, eerie electronic loops interwoven with more traditional melodic waltz-time themes played on piano.”

The band has played a few more screenings since then (in Madison, Cleveland, and Ann Arbor), but if you couldn’t make any of those appearances you will get your chance tonight on Turner Classic Movies.

The First Degree will air at 10pm Eastern/9pm Central as part of TCM’s 24 hours of programming for National Silent Movie Day, Wednesday, September 28.

So set your DVRs, your VCRs, or your alarm clocks, because you’re not going to want to miss this!

Quasar Wut-Wut: web, bandcamp, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

Continue reading Tonight on TCM! Rediscovered Silent Film with Score by Quasar Wut-Wut

In Advance of a Broken Band

There was one scene in the massive filmic edifice that is Get Back, the film of the Beatles nearing the end, the likes of which was only exceeded by the magnitude of Napoleon’s 1812 retreat from Moscow, that made me shake myself from my stupor during which time I was wondering how it was possible for Paul McCartney to be chewing on his fingernails so frequently and yet have the ability to play bass, piano, drums and probably a multitude of other instruments had they been in Twickenham Studios or Savile Row or inside his car or randomly on his route to work.

This was after George Harrison decided that he could continue to be a member of the band and Billy Preston, who happened to be in town, was dragooned, willingly, into the band.

During an exchange between McCartney and Lennon it was pointed out that the Beatles were four, then three, then four, then five. That is, John/Paul/George/Ringo, John/Paul/George/Ringo, John/Paul/George/Ringo, John/Paul/George/Ringo/Billy. It was even suggested that they might ask a multitude of others to join the group, equaling, perhaps, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

The issue, of course, is the still somewhat alive horse that I’ve flogged over the years, which is: When does a band stop being a band? Or when is it a band in name only?

As is well known there is a tendency for acts to continue on with the name of a band although there are people missing from the lineup that made the band what it was.

Continue reading In Advance of a Broken Band

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.

Continue reading TV, Movies & Concerts

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!

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.