Sunday, October 31, 2010

Mystery Science Theater 3000 presents Manos: The Hands of Fate

Manos: The Hands of Fate
as presented on Mystery Science Theater 3000
seen online @ YouTube

Inevitably there comes a time where you simply have to see something for yourself to believe it. Friends warned me about this movie. Numerous online reviews paid testament to its awfulness. In the end, though, I had to see it for myself. There was no way around it. Some might say I took the easy way out by watching the Mystery Science Theater 3000 version instead of the pure, unadulterated one, but after seeing it, I'm convinced I made the right decision. No one should have to watch the original version of Manos: The Hands of Fate. That's too cruel.

I prepared for it the best I could. I scoured the IMDB reviews - and I was surprised to see how many people were eager to talk about it. 612 reviews have been posted as of this writing, and a number of them are quite creative. There's another reason, perhaps, that people watch bad movies - because they so often inspire great reviews. I should've realized that. After all, how often do glowing, four-star reviews of anything make you laugh? They may be beautifully composed, but in the end, it's all in service to a praiseworthy work... and human nature tends to find more pleasure in tearing something down.

Which brings me to MST3K. While I was familiar with the show, I'd only seen snippets here and there of it, so it was nice to finally sit through an entire episode. People have always talked at a movie theater before, but this show seemed to have made it an art form. While not as much of a free-for-all as your average Rocky Horror Picture Show screening, I have to admit that the snark made watching Manos much more bearable. Then again, given how bad Manos is, that's still like saying I preferred having five of my toenails ripped out instead of all ten. If I understand the show's premise correctly, the guy and the two robots are forced to watch bad movies by some evil mad scientist or something, but they don't look like they're being coerced. If anything, they seem resigned to their fate... but maybe that's part of the joke. It's obviously in the spirit of late-night or Saturday-afternoon creature-feature shows, with some host introducing the movies, and that's cool.

I had started watching Manos in the early afternoon, but then I got an instant message from someone I really wanted to talk to, so I set the movie aside for awhile. Then I decided to go out, thinking I could watch the rest when I got back, which I did. The copy uploaded onto YouTube which I saw claimed to have it in ten parts, but I only saw nine, which was confusing. Then again, I wasn't that eager to see it to the very end, which I'm sure you'll understand.

In trying to look at it from the filmmakers' point of view, I'm sure they felt like they were capable of making as good a film as anything out of Hollywood, and they were probably acutely aware of the limitations they had to work within in terms of talent, on both sides of the camera. In that sense, the very fact that they got Manos completed and distributed means they beat the odds. Filmmaking today is much easier for the average person than it was in 1966, after all.

That said, I get the impression no one told director-writer-star Harold P. Warren that perhaps he should rethink his script... or find a better production crew... or better actors! It brings to mind a couple of other auteurs who can't be told anything: George Lucas and James Cameron. And yet, their movies have made billions of dollars worldwide, while Manos languishes in infamy. Is that justice?

Funny thing is, I couldn't help but think that with a little more thought, Manos might've had something to say about cultists. Charles Manson was beginning to put his Family together around the time it came out, and Jim Jones already had his People's Temple at the time, though they wouldn't move to San Francisco for another nine years. I wonder if such thoughts were even in Warren's mind when he originally conceived this story. Regardless, I've seen Manos now, and I can get on with my life.

Previously in Halloween Week 2010:
Young Frankenstein
The Phantom of the Opera
The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari

MST3K presents Santa Claus Conquers the Martians

Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari
seen @ Trinity Church at Wall Street, New York NY

Trinity Church is this great big church down in lower Manhattan that dates all the way back to the 17th century. It's got quite a history. Though not a believer, I've always been fascinated by the architecture of churches and cathedrals ever since studying them in my high school art history class. In college, I took photography, and one of the very first places I went to take pictures was St. John's Cathedral. I think it's the general design of a church that interests me: the vaulted ceiling, the flying buttresses, the stained glass windows, the sculptures. Obviously not all churches are built the same, but the classical looking ones, the ones that have stood the test of time all over the world, those are always great to look at and admire.

So it was with a very secular feeling of awe that I came to Trinity last night for a screening of the silent film The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. A small vestibule leads to a long, spacious nave, overlooked by a high, vaulted ceiling. The movie screen at the front blocked the altar, and candelabras flanked its sides. High above, a backlit carving of Jesus (presumably) shines from the rear wall. A giant organ stands stage right from the movie screen. The pews line up on either side of the center aisle, kind of like box seats at a stadium, with giant pillars like oak trees at intervals. Within each pew was a slanted desk-like surface with a nook underneath containing prayer books, hymnals, and of course, bibles. Maybe this all sounds like standard accoutrements for a big-city Catholic church, but I'm not Catholic, so seeing all of this was a rather exotic and unusual experience for me.

There were some concessions to modern times, however. Spotlights and video screens were mounted on the pillars. The latter were tied into the main screen, so they'd also show the film, but they were wide, and as a result the aspect ratio of the original film was distorted significantly. The picture on the rectangular video screens was flat in comparison to the more square-like main screen that showed the film in its original dimensions. Fortunately, I had a good view of the main screen and didn't need to rely on the video screens. (Well, actually, the guy in front of me was pretty tall, so I had to lean a little bit to the right, but not much.)

The screening of Caligari was part of a family-friendly Halloween party the church was throwing that afternoon. Before I entered, I caught sight of a play area for the kiddies with what looked like some kind of "spooky" jungle gym. I also saw a photo booth, which I found odd.

The pews were more comfortable than I thought they'd be. That's because they had cushions. I really thought I'd have to sit on the hard wooden benches. (At least I didn't have to kneel.) It was a large crowd. I had to sit towards the back after not finding anything closer to the front, and I obviously didn't want a view obstructed by a pillar.

A lady preacher introduced the organist after some obligatory announcements about upcoming events. I gotta say - this guy was amazing. The organists at the Loews Jersey City theater are always entertaining in an old-school Hollywood kind of way, but you could tell this guy was used to playing in a church. It didn't hurt that the acoustics here were stronger. From the opening chords, I swear it was almost as if my heart skipped a beat and my teeth rattled. That's how powerful the music was. I was sleepy last night and I occasionally nodded off, but sooner or later, another power chord would jolt me awake again!

I'd only seen Caligari one other time, back in my film history class in college, so I didn't remember much. Unlike Nosferatu, there's fewer dark, moody shadows and more weird, unusual set design. This didn't strike me as a horror movie so much as a psychological suspense movie, kind of like Hitchcock's Spellbound or even recent fare like Memento. It hints at the supernatural, but it has more to do with madness and obsession.

The Trinity Church was an inspired choice of venue to watch a silent German expressionist film - by candlelight, no less! I have no idea how often they show movies there, but I certainly wouldn't object to returning for another one - especially if it means hearing that organ again!


Previously in Halloween Week 2010:
Young Frankenstein
The Phantom of the Opera

Friday, October 29, 2010

Soundtracks: The Lost Boys

(This is going up early because I'm seeing a movie tonight and I'm gonna write about it tomorrow.)

The Lost Boys was another great summer movie that I saw with friends from camp. It's a little bittersweet to watch this now, because of what happened to Corey Haim since. Corey Feldman seems more than eager to continue the Lost Boys movies without him, though. This is another soundtrack I have on vinyl, and this remains my favorite song from it.

INXS and Jimmy Barnes, "Good Times"

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Phantom of the Opera (1925)

The Phantom of the Opera (1925)
seen online @ YouTube

I hadn't intended to watch so many silent horror movies this week, but I've taken a greater interest in silents recently, in part a result of discovering the blog Silent Volume, which is an excellent resource. Watching silent films requires your complete attention; you can't doze off or else you'll miss a title card or some other bit of information. It requires a level of interactivity greater than in "talkies;" you have to imagine what the actors sound like, and your interpretation may be different from the person next to you. And of course, the music is integral for establishing mood, be it low comedy or high tension.

The version of The Phantom of the Opera that I watched was not the greatest in terms of picture quality. There are several moments in the film where characters read handwritten notes, and I had to pause the movie so I could make them out. Some were more difficult to see than others. In addition, the score sounded like it was merely taken from some classical music record without any regard for how it fits the scenes. Lighthearted moments would have somber music playing, and vice versa.

I couldn't help but notice that in the comments, there was some discussion as to whether or not Lon Chaney's Erik, the titular phantom, was a tragic romantic figure or not. Personally, I don't see how he could be. Yes, he does what he does out of love, but his love is obsessive, possessive and leads to acts of madness and desperation. And some women think this is romantic? (There's a funny scene from the movie Forget Paris where Billy Crystal addresses this. If I could remember what he said verbatim, I'd quote it here.)

Not much more to say about the film except that I'd love to have seen this when it first came out so I could see people freak out over the famous unmasking scene.


Previously in Halloween Week 2010:
Young Frankenstein

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Young Frankenstein

Young Frankenstein
seen online @ YouTube

Okay, so I know that this is Halloween week and that means horror movies, and I'm more than willing to play along. But in trying to decide what to watch this week, something occurred to me which I had forgotten. Normally, I'm not a big horror movie fan, although I can certainly watch them. In looking at other film blogs, however - and indeed, pop culture blogs in general - there seems to be a greater acceptance of mediocrity when it comes to horror movies.

It's common knowledge that there's a long and undistinguished history of bad horror movies (and sci-fi too) that a number of film bloggers and film fans love to celebrate. I would imagine a big part of it goes back to memories of those old late night creature features on local television from childhood, when B-movies didn't seem so terrible. I watched them too; I know all about it. As an adult, however - not to mention as a discerning film watcher - I personally find it a bit harder to appreciate them the same way.

Maybe I sound like a snob, but while it can be fun to laugh at an old B-movie with a group of friends at a midnight-movie screening, given a choice, I'd much sooner watch a quality movie instead. I can't help but marvel at those who revel in bad movies, who seek them out and write detailed analyses about them. Horror in particular; something about bad horror movies truly stimulates some people's imaginations.

I had picked out several old horror films on Hulu that I thought I would watch for WSW this week - all of them cheesy schlock that I figured I'd watch for the fun of it. When it came time to sit down and start with one, though, I stopped and found myself reconsidering. I knew the one I picked out was far from a classic, but did I really want to spend an hour and a half with it simply for the sake of my blog? I looked it up on IMDB and read the reviews. Many of them were of the "so bad it's good" variety, though some genuinely panned it.

Maybe bad movies need to be "enjoyed" with friends. I can understand that - but in the horror blogs I've seen, many of the bloggers don't need a group experience to watch them. Maybe bad movie fans - especially fans of old bad movies - see this as a reaction to the mountains of truly awful new movies these days. Maybe they see a sincerity that's absent in these days of market-tested, formulaic, inoffensive rom-coms and inspirational biopics and man-child special-effects actioners. I could definitely get behind that.

My experience, though, is different. My appreciation of movies originates with my father, whose tastes went towards Westerns and dramas. He definitely sought out quality whenever possible - and if I were to be honest, I'd say it's reasonable to assume that his sensibilities had an impact on me, to a degree. So while I can understand why a film fan might be heavily drawn to bad films in general and bad horror in particular, I can't say that's my bag because I'm not drawn to them as naturally as others.

So instead I put on a film I knew I would love and enjoy. While Young Frankenstein may not be scary, it sure as hell is funny. Even as the opening credits rolled I was grinning in anticipation of what was to come, and most of the funny lines I knew verbatim. I take more satisfaction in that than in a forgotten B-movie from fifty years ago. That's just me, though.

I will try to pick out an old B-horror movie for this week, though, because I believe one can learn from the bad stuff as much as from the good stuff.


Previously in Halloween Week 2010:

Bride of Frankenstein

Monday, October 25, 2010

Alamo Drafthouse coming to New York?

...There’s so much going on culturally, both with the media and what’s showing but within the film world itself, there isn’t anyone else doing exactly what we’re doing. I totally respect places like the Film Forum but we aim to complement everything that’s going on and have our own special place.

- TCM to air restored Metropolis next month. (UPI)
- Concept images and artwork for Toy Story 3. (Cinematical)
- In appreciation of older women on the big screen. (Guardian)
- A look at the modern day Black List and why screenwriters want to be on it. (Austin 360)

Nosferatu (1922)

Nosferatu (1922)
seen @ Landmark Loews Jersey Theater, Jersey City, NJ

So Saturday morning I'm futzing around online when my high school buddy John instant messages me on Facebook for a chat. I ask him if he and his wife Sue would wanna come with me to Jersey City to see Nosferatu at the Loews Jersey. He'd never been there before, so naturally I sold him on the place - big gorgeous movie palace, playing old films all the time, extremely easy to get to from Manhattan. It worked.

The Loews is directly across the street from the PATH train, which connects New Jersey to New York. This being Saturday night, it was plenty crowded, which we expected. What we didn't expect was the car being so warm, which might not have been so bad if the weather wasn't as warm as well - we've been getting temperatures in the 50s and 60s for weeks.

Another surprise: a huge crowd for this movie! The line for Nosferatu wrapped around the side of the building and far down the adjacent alley. The only other time I'd seen a line that long at the Loews was for when Celeste Holm appeared at the All About Eve screening a few years ago. Once again, it was a diverse crowd, and I couldn't help but notice a few goth-looking kids amongst the patrons. I guess that should come as little surprise.

John and Sue seemed quite impressed with the Loews. Sue originally came to New York from Columbus, so she and I briefly compared the Loews to the Ohio Theater, another movie palace, which I'll write about in the future. We couldn't do much in the way of sightseeing because we wanted to get good seats as quickly as possible. Showtime was scheduled for 8:20, but it was delayed by about a half hour because so many more people were coming in. It wasn't a sellout by any means, but I suspect no one at the Loews was expecting such a large crowd. At any rate, the organist continued to enthusiastically play as the auditorium slowly filled up. I tried to get popcorn and sodas for us (small boxes, like the kind you get at a carnival, and 12-ounce cans, both reasonably priced) but they had to pop more popcorn while people were waiting on line, so I just got soda instead.

Nosferatu was the first silent film I had seen on such a large screen, not to mention with a live organist, and I can't begin to describe the difference seeing it this way makes. The music of the beautifully ornate organ fills you, gets in your bones. It helps you fill in the gaps left to imagination when watching a silent film, and when heard live, enhances the film-watching experience to a great degree.

Modern movies, as good as many of them are, tend to leave little to the imagination most of the time. The host alluded to this point when introducing the film; how so many people, in an age of computer-generated effects and crystal-clear digital imagery, still choose to see an almost 80-year-old foreign silent movie, and I think that speaks not only to the power of the film itself, but the need for movies that engage your imagination and immerse you within the worlds they create. Love it or hate it, Avatar succeeded phenomenally at this. While certain aspects of the plot struck me as illogical and inconsistent, I found Nosferatu to be a remarkably visual movie, with a creative use of light and shadow that evokes primal feelings of dread and fear.

John and Sue invited me to spend the night at their place in the city, so I did. John and I stayed up late and watched Bachelor Party on Encore. After he went to bed, I watched Frozen River, also on Encore. The next day, after we went out for breakfast, we went back and watched the Family Guy movie parody of The Empire Strikes Back. I was tempted to make a separate entry on these three movies, but I didn't see the need. (Besides, I'd like to give an awesome movie like Frozen River a proper write-up. Maybe in the future.)

John and Sue said they'd be willing to go back to the Loews again, which is great news for me. Next month the theater will show Frank Sinatra movies. We'll see what happens.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Soundtracks: Pretty in Pink

New wave! By the time I started getting into it in high school it was more like old wave... soon to be supplanted by grunge. By an amazing coincidence, we had just gotten cable TV around this time, which meant MTV! VH1! Mostly, though, my new wave education came from an awesome radio station we had here in New York called WDRE-FM. They had the best deejays and played the coolest music. I still miss it, though in all honesty it was a product of the 80s and would not fit in today's world. The music, however, will live on!

Suzanne Vega, "Left of Center"

Friday, October 22, 2010

Scarlet Street

Scarlet Street
seen online @ YouTube

Scarlet Street is worth watching for the chance to see cinematic toughie Edward G. Robinson cast way against type as a shrinking-violet salaryman henpecked by his fussy wife and manipulated by a pair of con artists (although it's difficult, bordering on impossible, to take grown adults who use epitaphs like "Jeepers" and "For cat's sake" seriously). I gotta admit, though, it has some peculiar ideas about the art world. In the movie, EGR tells Joan Bennett he's a professional fine artist (when in fact, he only paints as a hobby), and once she gets her hands on his paintings, she and her pimp-tastic boyfriend sell them under her name. Eventually she becomes an art world star.

I love how being an artist in this movie is associated with being a "Greenwich Village long-hair," which implies a kind of radical, counter-cultural art sensibility, yet EGR's artwork is anything but. One of his paintings is a streetscape of an elevated subway platform with a snake wrapped around a pillar. A little odd, perhaps, but nowhere near as weird as some people in the film make it out to be, especially given some of the popular artists at the time this movie was released: Salvador Dali, Marcel Duchamp, Wassily Kandinsky, Mark Rothko and Rene Magritte, in their prime; and Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning and Francis Bacon coming up. And Picasso was still kicking around too. Granted, I wouldn't expect all of the characters to be that familiar with the fine artists of the day, but it's clear there's a basic awareness of non-traditional, counter-culture art that has redefined the medium - even if people can't name its practitioners. EGR's work is not in that league, yet people treat it like it is, which just struck me as strange.

And then there's the speed at which EGR's paintings are not only discovered by an art critic, but instantly rocketed to fame, albeit under Bennett's character's name. For as long as I've known her, which is over 17 years, Vija has been a fine artist in her spare time. I'm biased, but I think she's an excellent one. She's had her work shown around New York, as part of group exhibitions, but she has yet to have a solo show, which she does want and which I certainly think she deserves. In this movie, Bennett gets a big solo show after one art critic sees "her" work. Granted, her boyfriend strong-armed the critic and dealer into it, and the critic seemed smitten, to say the least, with Bennett, but still, she goes from a nobody into the new Georgia O'Keefe practically overnight!

And then there's the idea, perpetuated by the art critic, that women's art can be distinguished from men's art. Vija has done all kinds of material, from realistic to abstract, and I don't believe there's anything particularly "feminine" about any of it. She's done a fair amount of women and children, though I wouldn't call that in itself an indicator... or is it? I dunno. Some people do think there is validity in this idea, I know, and maybe there is (and maybe there isn't), but the way the art critic said it in the movie made it sound paternalistic and sexist - especially since he was clearly attracted to Bennett.

Scarlet Street isn't bad by any means - a bit cheesy in places, perhaps - but for some reason the more the story unraveled the more I got to thinking about this stuff. I had seen this before - I'm fairly sure it was Bill who introduced me to it - and none of this had occurred to me then. Go figure.

I was trying hard not to fall asleep while watching it. It was late and I had been up way earlier than usual yesterday because I had to go to a bike lane rally in Brooklyn. I think I've mentioned that I like to bike ride. Well, anyway, there's all this agita over biking in New York lately, and yesterday there were two different rallies both for and against a new lane in Brooklyn. So I had to get up early for it and I didn't get much sleep. Probably should've watched the movie earlier, I suppose.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Sketches: Heath Ledger

From Brokeback Mountain.

This one goes out to all my gay brothers and sisters. Stay strong.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The legacy of the NC-17 stigma

...I don't know which scenes in 'Blue Valentine' that the board -- paid parent volunteers -- feel are too dangerous for the eyes of children, but today I find myself on the side of the Weinsteins again. The arguments against an adults-only rating are the same whether the designation is X or NC-17.

There is [a] perfectly good rating built into the system to allow for serious adult movies to be made and distributed. It's the R, which restricts the audience to adults and children under 17 who are accompanied by their parents or guardians. It is only because the MPAA doesn't trust theater operators to enforce the R or parents to take responsibility for what their children see that the MPAA assumed the role of babysitter.

- Why does the MPAA specify male nudity in their ratings but not female nudity? (Spangle)

- The Billy Joel concert film Last Play at Shea screens in NYC and several other cities beginning this Thursday! (Thompson on Hollywood)
- The real Eduardo Saverin talks about The Social Network. (CNBC)
- A ranking of the most influential documentaries in history. (USA Today)
- Hilary Swank has two Oscars. So why can't she get any respect? (Vulture)
- Brigitte Bardot for president of France? (CBC News)

Monday, October 18, 2010

Blazing Saddles

Blazing Saddles
seen online @ YouTube

Director Ron Howard has a new comedy coming out in a few months called The Dilemma. Judging by the trailer, I have to say it looks very uninspired and dull, which is a bit of a disappointment from the man who gave us Apollo 13, Ransom, Parenthood and Splash, not to mention the Best Picture winner A Beautiful Mind. (I'll have to write about Apollo 13 soon - I have some good memories of the time I saw that.)

Indeed, this movie might have come and gone with little fanfare, were it not for one thing: a line in the trailer that's gotten noticed at an unfortunate moment, to say the least. The character played by Vince Vaughn calls electric cars "gay." Coming as this does at a time of a gay youth suicide crisis, some people are calling this movie out as being insensitive, despite the fact that the word "gay" has been used as a put-down in other movies before, not to mention in other venues.

We do not deny that using the word in this manner is insensitive. We do not deny that this is practiced on a daily basis in many other places within American pop culture and that it has contributed to a climate of intolerance that led to the recent series of suicides. Putting that aside, however, I want to address another aspect of this situation.

The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation says it wants the line cut from the film entirely. While I can understand their outrage, coming as it does at a time fraught with grief and anger, I have a problem with creative people being told what is and isn't acceptable in works of art. It's one thing to organize a boycott of the film, but another thing to dictate how it should be made, because if one offended group can do that, why not others? Where does the line get drawn?

Last night I watched Blazing Saddles, a movie I should be offended by for its liberal use of the word nigger, to describe Cleavon Little's character. Context, however, is everything. Everyone who uses the word nigger in this movie is clearly shown to be an idiot, either by Little or through their own actions. But that shouldn't matter, right? Nigger is an offensive word and it should be excised, full stop, right? I submit that if you do that, you lose the power, and more importantly, the humor, of the film.

I don't know if The Dilemma is comparable with regard to how it uses the word gay. I suspect not. That shouldn't matter, though. Don't see the movie if you think it's offensive, by all means, but don't tell the filmmakers what is and isn't suitable entertainment. Fictional movies only reflect life. They should not be confused for the real thing.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Soundtracks: The Goonies

At my last job, I had a radio at my desk. One day a Cyndi Lauper came on. It was "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun," and I was humming along to it like I usually do whenever I hear one of her songs. This girl next to me, who was about 10-12 years younger, looks at me funny and says something like, "I can't believe you like this song" as if liking a song like this somehow puts my masculinity in question. I tell her I have Cyndi Lauper's first two albums - as in vinyl, as in, I bought them when they first came out. She kinda shrugged and dropped the matter.

Cyndi Lauper, "The Goonies 'R' Good Enough"

Friday, October 15, 2010


seen at AMC Loews Theaters 19th Street East 6, New York, NY

Before it was called rock 'n' roll, it was rhythm 'n' blues. My father taught me that. It was always in the house in one form or another growing up - the Temptations, Smokey Robinson, Ray Charles, Johnny Mathis, Aretha Franklin. I don't believe my father really had anything against Elvis or the Beatles in terms of musical ability alone, but it was always crystal clear where his heart was aligned.

You could say my father was a huge music geek (although it's very odd for me to think of him in those terms). He had an incredible music collection, like you wouldn't believe, accumulated over a lifetime and available in multiple forms: records, tapes, 8-tracks, CDs. I can recall him transferring records onto cassettes and meticulously writing the names of the singers onto the blank labels. He had a fair share of country music - growing up in the deep south, it was as much a part of his experience as R&B. He even had the work of more contemporary singers, like Whitney Houston and Luther Vandross. But the overwhelming majority of his music collection was classic R&B and soul from its peak, whether by the groups themselves or from anthology compilations - and he had a ton of those too, mostly gotten from mail order.

He understood how black music was co-opted by white musicians and turned into what we now call rock, but for all his passion of R&B and soul, he never spoke about this practice with bitterness, at least not to me. Looking back on it now, I suspect he felt it was important to keep black music alive in the face of changing musical trends, for his sake as much as anyone else's, which may have been one reason why he had such a prodigious collection. His, after all, was the generation of Martin Luther King and Brown v. Board of Ed and Selma and the beginning of the Movement. Being black meant something different back then, and the music was as much of an indicator as anything else, if not more so.

Growing up, I had my Top 40 radio to keep me satisfied, but over a slow period of years I began to better appreciate my father's music. The turning point may have been in eighth grade, when I did a report on popular music history. He helped me with that by recommending a book to read - The Death of Rhythm and Blues by Nelson George, which chronicles the transition from R&B to rock and its wider implications. He even lent me some of his cassettes to play in class as I gave my report. I think it may have been after reading that book and writing my report that I looked at my father's music differently.

In high school, I discovered classic rock and my world changed, but I never completely forgot the lessons learned from my father about where rock came from. And today I'm more aware of it than ever. I listen to the oldies station here in New York, WCBS-FM, and whenever they play the Supremes or Ike and Tina Turner or Chuck Berry or Martha Reeves or anything like that, it's kinda like my father is with me and I'm a child again, carefully placing another 12-inch onto his record player and listening to this music that was such an intrinsic part of his life... and mine.

Dreamgirls was another mega-hyped movie, primarily because so many people were certain it would be a major Oscar contender for Best Picture. I remember being skeptical at first, but it won me over to the point where I actually bought the soundtrack immediately after seeing it. I was part of a packed opening day crowd and everyone applauded when it finished. I remember it came out around the same time as the death of James Brown, and that was certainly in the back of my mind as I watched it.

Some of my co-workers who were American Idol fans had to explain to me who Jennifer Hudson was. Given all the buzz around her, I couldn't believe she wasn't a champion. Eventually I learned that even runners-up can become stars as well, but I didn't know that at the time.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Cartoons: City Mouse goes to the movies

I've mentioned how I recently spent a year living in Columbus. While I was there, I did an autobiographical comic strip for a local newspaper called City Mouse Goes West, about my many adventures in this Midwestern city. (Yes, I represented myself as an anthropomorphic mouse. It seemed like a good idea at the time.) This is one of the strips I did, in which I inserted my cartoon avatar and one of my recurring characters, Collie the Columbus Cow ('cause they say Columbus is a cowtown - get it?) into six different movie posters from 2008. (Click on it to enlarge.) Can you recognize them all?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Never Let Me Go

Never Let Me Go
seen @ Kew Gardens Cinemas, Kew Gardens, Queens, NY

The book versus the movie. It's the struggle that has endured for as long as there have been movies: when the latter adapts the former, which is better? My philosophy traditionally has been to see the movie before reading the book, and most of the time I stick to that, because it's been my experience that when you do it the other way, it sets you up for disappointment. The example I like to give is the film Angela's Ashes. I read the book first, and then I saw the movie. While the movie wasn't bad, I think I might've liked it a bit more if I had seen it first, because no movie could ever capture the spirit of Frank McCourt's writing style. Anyone who has read the book knows exactly what I'm talking about.

A few months ago, I saw a trailer for a film called Never Let Me Go, which, it proudly trumpeted, was based on "The best novel of the decade" (according to Time), but that's not what interested me most. It started out as looking like a stuffy British period piece about a boarding school until I saw the bit where the children have some kind of device in their wrists that activates a mechanism whenever they leave their dorm. Suddenly I wondered: is this a science fiction film? Sure doesn't look like one. The thought lingered, and then one day in my favorite book shop I saw The Best Novel of the Decade on a table and I flipped through it. I could've waited for the movie, but after reading the blurb as well as the heaps of praise for it, I decided I was much too curious about this story to wait. So I bought it and read it.

A brief tangent: why does Never Let Me Go, clearly a work of science fiction, get classified with the general fiction? Is it because Kazuo Ishiguro, an acclaimed author who normally does not write genre stuff, is "slumming it" with this story? Is it because there are no ray guns or aliens? This sort of thing bothers me a little bit, and this is far from the only example. I suspect the answer may have something to do with the preconceptions - and prejudices - usually applied to sci-fi, but I can't pin it down exactly.

I didn't hate the book - in fact, I found it quite thoughtful and reflective - but perhaps my problem with it was that I approached it like a sci-fi book. Not having read anything by Ishiguro, indeed never having even heard of him before, I wasn't sure what to expect, so I tended to think of Never Let Me Go in terms of other works of dystopian sci-fi, like Brave New World, The Handmaid's Tale, and books like that. I was continually frustrated at the lack of expansion of the basic premise: human clones being bred for organ harvesting in the name of medical science. I kept wanting to know more about this world that Ishiguro set up, such as the ethics involved in such a practice, how complicit was the British government in this procedure, and most of all, how can the clones, given the fact that they appear to have minds of their own and a modicum of free will, take their situation so passively?

Eventually I realized Ishiguro wasn't interested in all of that as much as he was in examining the lives of the three principle characters and their relationship to each other. And towards the end of the book he does provide answers, to an extent, and I was more or less satisfied with them. I just thought his approach was quite different from how, say, Ray Bradbury or Ursula LeGuin would've handled it.

Here's the thing, though: the movie remains absolutely true to the book while offering a greater degree of clarity - and in this instance, I believe reading the book first enhanced my appreciation for the movie. Yes, some things have been changed - the wrist things, for instance, are new and wasn't in the book - but I feel like the movie gave me a clearer vision of the kind of story Ishiguro was telling, one that I admit I didn't completely get after finishing the book. While I liked the book, I wanted other things out of it, like a complete description of the "donation" process, the history behind it, etc. The movie was able to distill the essential elements of the story without sacrificing its integrity, and as a result I grokked it much easier. When I eventually re-read the book I expect to enjoy it more.

A brief word about the Kew Gardens Cinemas, which I haven't talked about much. It has become my go-to place for independent film now, since (a) it's closer to where I live, and (b) it's cheaper. I have to wait a little longer than I would at the Angelika or the Sunshine theaters, but I'm willing to do that. It's on a quiet little street in a hilly neighborhood across the street from the Long Island Rail Road. They get a few big-name Hollywood films - Eat Pray Love is currently playing there - but it's mostly indies and foreign films. I saw The Hurt Locker there, as well as Crazy Heart, The Kids Are All Right, and Winter's Bone, among many other films. It may not get crowds as big as in Manhattan, but it appears to do well, and has been around a long time.

I smuggled in a box of chocolate chip cookies, despite the sign out front prohibiting outside food. Haven't done that in awhile. I used to do it all the time as a kid, along with sneaking into other movies. I had briefly considered getting chips of some sort, but changed my mind. Cookies are quieter.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Pioneering writer-director Barbara Loden

Loden, who was born and raised in Marion, left her hometown as a teen for New York City. She had the ambition of becoming an actress and more than achieved that goal. The attractive Loden went on to appear on TV with comedian Ernie Kovacs, star in movies like “Wild River” and “Splendor in the Grass,” win a Tony Award for her performance in Arthur Miller’s play “After the Fall” and marry legendary filmmaker Elia Kazan, who directed the Academy Award-winning “A Streetcar Named Desire” and “On the Waterfront.” She directed Off-Broadway productions for the New York stage. Her beautiful looks have even been featured on a postage stamp.

And in 1971, Loden made a film that would bring her out from the shadow of her famous husband and leave a lasting impact on critics and future directors alike.

The pros and the cons of moving the Academy Awards up to January. (MCN, Gold Derby)
Remembering Bonnie and Clyde director Arthur Penn. (NYTimes)
Leonard Maltin reviews a new biography on Cecil B. DeMille. (Movie Crazy)

Monday, October 11, 2010


first seen @ Drexel East Theater, Bexley, OH

For about three or four years during the late 90s I worked at the video store with a fella named Bill. He was a manager, approximately in his mid-to-late 40s at the time, and knew plenty about movies, especially classic ones. He was also gay. I had never worked with a gay person before, but I don't recall thinking it was that big a deal, since I was more concerned with learning all I could about movies. Bill was one of several co-workers who were founts of movie knowledge and I remember feeling hopelessly inadequate. I had gotten this job through a friend's recommendation, and I was eager to pull my weight as best I could.

Bill was not always the easiest person to get along with. He could be temperamental, moody, and caustic at times, with customers as well as co-workers. At the same time, however, he could be hilariously funny and, if not warm, then at least friendly and thoughtful. He and I worked many hours together, and as a result, I learned a great deal about movies, but I also got an education on gay life, especially as it was during the 70s.

Bill told me about Stonewall. He told me about nights at Studio 54. He told me about his acquaintance with Jean-Michel Basquiat. And much more. To call this kinda stuff eye-opening would be an understatement; after all, what did I, a 20-something hetereosexual black kid, know about gay life? Still, though, if a connection was made between us - and I believe there was - it was unquestionably through movies.

We would sometimes put on gay-themed films like The Boys in the Band or The Children's Hour and Bill would talk about their significance. Or he'd put on some of his favorites like Meet Me in St. Louis or Bringing Up Baby and I'd get a better insight to his tastes. He used to always put on All About Eve on his birthday. Bette Davis' lover in the film is also named Bill, and there's a scene where they talk on the phone long-distance on his birthday, and "my" Bill would love it when Bette Davis says, "Bill! It's your birthday!" I still can't watch that movie without thinking of him.

He and I worked several holidays together. I'll never forget the New Year's Eve we spent together where, alone in the store at one point and feeling kinda goofy, we ended up melodramatically singing "Memory" from Cats. I don't recall exactly why; I just remember us having fun doing so.

Bill was the first gay person I got to know well. He wasn't always pleasant to be around, but when he was, he was genuinely a good guy, and my understanding of gay life increased dramatically as a result. While I never had any sort of prejudice against gays, I definintely had some misconceptions about them based in ignorance. In the years since, I've met a number of other gay people, and a few became good friends. Plus, I've done more reading on the subject, and cartoonists like Howard Cruse and Ellen Forney have furthered my understanding greatly.

Which brings me to the current gay civil rights movement. While living in Columbus, Ohio, I followed the Proposition 8 controversy in California and did my best to show my support for gay rights. On the cover of the laptop I'm using right now is a Human Rights Campaign "equal" sticker I acquired while in Columbus. I worked as a cartoonist for a local neighborhood newspaper, and I devoted a couple of my strips to Prop 8 and gay rights in general.

And then I saw the movie Milk. If I were to be completely honest, there are aspects to gay life I still don't understand, and probably never will... and yeah, there's still a smidgen of fear on my part as a result, and that's something I need to deal with. But seeing Harvey Milk's life dramatized in this fashion moved me deeply. The point from this film that sticks out in my mind is how much Milk felt that gays need to come out of the closets in order to gain acceptance, and it's so true. I know for a fact that I would not be as sympathetic and supportive of the cause were it not for me making friends with people like Bill, and Denise and Terry and Tim and Ed and more whom I know, and in some cases, love. I remember the minute I walked out of the theater I got on my cell and called Denise, so eager was I to share my euphoria over seeing this movie with someone who would understand. She wasn't home, unfortunately, so I lingered outside the theater for awhile, simply wanting to hold on to the feeling a little longer.

And now I look at this current rash of gay teen suicides and I despair... and I wonder what it'll take for America to fully embrace their gay sons and daughters as their own. At a time when gay culture has become more prevalent than ever, those who feel threatened by it are making their influence felt, in our schools, our workplaces, and our homes. All I can say is this: don't be afraid. Don't let fear and ignorance of gay people guide you into cowardly acts of bullying. There's no need. Try to get to know a few. You might find you have more in common than you think.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Soundtracks: Once

This past summer I saw Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova in concert with their band, the Swell Season, and I gotta say, if they ever come your way, run, don't walk, to see them. Glen broke three strings on his guitar during the show and it didn't even slow him down! And of course, the crowd went nuts when they did "Falling Slowly," their Oscar-winning song. This was without a doubt one of the best concerts I've been to in years.

Glen Hansard & Marketa Irglova, "When Your Mind's Made Up"

Friday, October 8, 2010

Sweet Smell of Success

Sweet Smell of Success
seen online @ YouTube

Somebody - I'm not sure who - wrote something about the late Tony Curtis recently that I never paid attention to before: that some of his biggest roles were ones that had an air of sexual ambiguity to them. Some Like It Hot, of course, falls into this category, and also Spartacus and a movie I've yet to see, Goodbye Charlie. I suppose I can see why. His good looks were not the chisled, "manly" type like those of a Cary Grant or Kirk Douglas. I guess that made it somewhat easier to buy him as a woman in Some Like It Hot (though not by much). He made some great movies. He'll be missed.

One part of what makes watching Sweet Smell of Success so enjoyable is all the location shots around Manhattan. As I looked at them, I tried to match what I saw here with the Manhattan I grew up with and am familiar with now, and the difference is unrecognizable, to say the least. While part of me grudgingly acknowledges that someone like me would have a difficult time walking as freely around Manhattan as I can now, another part of me wishes it were possible to see, firsthand, the city as it was then. Movies like this make the city look so glamorous, especially at night.

The storytelling in this film is so subtle. Every time I watch it, I catch little things I'd either never noticed before or didn't completely grasp. The scene where Sidney's pimping his cigarette girl friend Rita out to JJ's rival columnist in order for him to take Sidney's blind item is a good example. The things said as well as the things unsaid (to the audience and to each other), the attitudes of the characters, the way they relate to each other - I'd always known what was going on in this scene, but looking at it again last night, I appreciated the skill in which it's all put together.

My laptop recently got hit by a virus. I've got a new antivirus program now, but my Firefox program isn't working, which sucks because that's where all my bookmarked sites are. I'm using AOL, which I hate, until I can get Firefox fixed. Last night I couldn't remember my password for my YouTube account, where I had all ten videos for the movie in my queue. No big deal, but I compensated in a way by opening two windows at once and watched one part of the movie while loading the next part at the same time. You know how sometimes a video will stop in the middle because it's buffering or loading? By watching the movie this way, I got around that.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Requiem for the video store

...Since the first video-rental shops emerged in the late 1970s, they have served as shrines to films and created new social spaces for neighborhoods, often reflecting their personalities. They drew cinephiles, rebellious teens seeking movies of which their parents might not approve, and budding young actors and directors who canonized them in their work.

The shops made accessible high quality films, or quirky or foreign ones, that weren't likely to be broadcast on TV—and on customers' own schedules. Brought down off the silver screen, movies were artifacts people could swap, study and recommend. A generation of movie buffs and cultural critics collected copies of films the same way art and books were amassed. But new movie-delivery methods have made bricks-and-mortar stores obsolete.

There were many more days that were painful rather than pleasurable. When I eventually became a manager, the amount of headaches seemed to double overnight. I got into shouting matches with both customers and co-workers. Sometimes it seemed like my bosses only noticed my mistakes and never my successes. But you know, despite it all, there was also quite a lot about my seven-plus years in video retail that I enjoyed, too. Not all of the customers were lunatics; some, in fact, were very pleasant and I looked forward to seeing them. I made some good friends behind the counter as well. Most of all, I developed a deep appreciation of movies that has stuck with me ever since. Indeed, I was fortunate to have worked in places that had wide selections, old and new, Hollywood and indie, foreign and domestic. I'm proud to say I never worked at Blockbuster. If I had to go back to video retail, I think I'd probably be less uptight about it. I'd try my best not to sweat the small stuff and have a little more fun. It's movies, after all.

20 years of NC-17 movies (Movieline)
TCM promotes H'wood history doc with tour; comes to NYC 10/25-26 (Thompson on Hollywood)
Reminiscing with the cast and crew of Goodfellas (GQ)

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Social Network

The Social Network
seen @ Green Acres Cinemas, Valley Stream, NY

Technology has such a strange hold on us. When I was about 13 or so, my parents sent me to computer camp for a summer, where I learned BASIC, having fun with it but not taking it all that seriously. In college, I took a computer art course during senior year on a Macintosh, not entirely believing it could help me as an artist but everyone said I should take it anyway. Eventually, though, I understood that I would need a home computer - not want, need. When I got one, in 2000, I told myself I could severely limit the amount of time I spent online. I believed I would only need a computer to send and receive e-mail. I didn't want it to take up all of my time.

A decade later, and much has changed. I had been reluctant to embrace the Internet, but little by little, I've come to accept it as much as anyone else these days. Each new technological innovation during the Aughts took the world by storm, but I was always resistant to it at first. I wish I could say why for sure. Money was a factor, but it wasn't the only one. Fear? Maybe - but I've taken to the Internet in general fairly intuitively, all things considered. I put off getting a cellphone for the longest time until it became necessary to have one, and I rarely use mine for anything other than making and receiving calls. Like I always say, I don't need my phone to be anything other than a phone.

Maybe I simply needed to proceed at my own pace. I don't think people realize how shocking is the speed at which technology progresses. With each passing year, it's becoming harder to remember when we all didn't have cellphones or Blackberries or iPods - and we've become so attached to them, we've adapted to them so quickly, it's unreal. The Internet is the same way. I live a significant part of my life online now. This would've scared me ten years ago, but now it's a simple fact.

Which brings me to Facebook. Again, I avoided it in the beginning, like instant message chatting, like blogs, like video streaming, like wireless technology. I only joined Friendster when it was the social network of choice because my co-workers had done so, but I barely used it. Facebook was different. It was - it is - more intuitive, more interactive, more versatile, and when more and more of my friends starting becoming part of it, suddenly it was much harder to resist. But boy, can it take you over. As one of my friends wrote on my wall upon my entry into the site, "Welcome to the time-suck!"

At the outset, I liked the ability to keep tabs on what my friends are doing, but lately I've begun to wonder whether or not it's all just too much information. I've certainly enjoyed learning about aspects of my friends' lives I either didn't know or knew little about. On the other hand, though, some of them talk a lot but don't have much to say, if you know what I mean. This doesn't make them bad people, but it does make me wonder what it's all about, y'know?

When something major happens in the world, everyone has to comment on it. If it's a celebrity death, some people will just post something like, "OMG RIP So-and-So" without saying what that celebrity meant to them, if anything. I mean, I can go to CNN for news!

I play a game on Facebook called Social City which, like Farmville or Mafia Wars, requires you to "friend" strangers. They rely on you to help them succeed in the game, and vice versa. Many people, though, only use Facebook for their gameplay. They're not interested in getting to know the strangers they've "friended." It's their choice, but I find it unfortunate that I have people on my friends list from all over the world as a result of my involvement with Social City (in addition to my "real-life" friends, for lack of a better term) and I can't get to know anything about most of them outside of the game context.

I'm sure other people have written about this phenomenon, and more eloquently than me, but it does seem like a system meant to bring people closer together can be alienating at times. Different people are gonna have different levels of openness with regard to their lives, and I naturally accept that - I've become more cognizant of what I say on the Internet in general as a result of Facebook - but in the end, I believe that social networks are pale substitutes for actual human interaction.

I have tried not to become blinded and deafened by all the hype surrounding David Fincher's film The Social Network. It has not been easy. When I first heard about it, I did not believe the formation of Facebook was a premise worthy of an engaging movie. I'm happy to say I was dead wrong.

Network is a dialogue-driven story in a manner that I found reminiscent of old-school Hollywood, in the days when rat-a-tat-tat back-and-forth between actors was commonplace. In the first fifteen minutes, I found myself wishing the cast would slow down, so rapid-fire do Aaron Sorkin's words come. Everyone feels like they're acting in the moment, but Jesse Eisenberg as Mark Zuckerberg embodies this. Coupled with his cold gaze, he's difficult to take your eyes off of. Is his portrayal of Zuckerberg 100% accurate? Probably not, and I admit, this does bother me to a certain extent, but it does make for compelling drama.

I follow the Oscar race every year, and right now, the popular belief is that Network could go all the way, and maybe it can. A lot depends, though, on whether it can sustain all the accolades it has received, from now until February. One of the trailers that ran in front of Network was for the Coen Brothers' True Grit, and that looked every bit as awesome, so we'll see what happens. Naturally I'm hoping for a race and not a blowout.

The theater I saw Network in is one I hadn't been to in years. I was prepared to pay the standard double-digit admission, but it turns out you can get in on Tuesdays for six bucks. They have a popcorn-and-soda deal, also for six, and on a whim I decided to take it - I normally don't buy anything more than candy of some sort, since movie food has become so damn expensive. All I got for my six bucks, though, was a small soda and a ludicrously tiny bag of popcorn that was gone by the end of the opening credits. It's back to Twizzlers from now on.

A Letter to Elia

A Letter to Elia
seen on TV @ PBS

What surprised me most about Martin Scorsese's documentary A Letter to Elia - and, indeed, quite moved me - was how deeply personal it was. The film was at least as much about Scorsese's life, through the prism of motion pictures, as it was about Elia Kazan's.

Scorsese talked about how he saw reflections of his life - his neighborhood, his relationship with his family - while watching Kazan movies growing up and of how unusual it was to see such recognizable touchstones. I suppose you could say my movie epiphany came with Billy Wilder, the first time I saw Sunset Boulevard, although in that instance I had the benefit of being in an academic setting, with a teacher to help explain and interpret its significance. Scorsese didn't have that; he was taking Kazan's films in raw, unprocessed, and you could tell it made an impact on him.

I remember when Kazan got his Lifetime Achievement Oscar and the controversy surrounding it. At the time, the full impact of the moment didn't quite register with me, but I could easily see that there was a great deal of bitterness on the part of those who never forgot Kazan's role in naming names during the Red scare of the 50s. Seeing Scorsese up on stage with Kazan mitigated the situation for me somewhat; I figured if someone like him likes Kazan, he can't be all bad, right? Letter helped put things in perspective for me. Not being of that time, I can only imagine what the Red scare was like, though I imagine it's not far removed from the post-9-11 terrorist scare and the persecution of American Muslims in particular.

I thought of my father as I watched Letter. He and I would talk movies quite a lot, and he absolutely loved films like On the Waterfront and A Streetcar Named Desire. In addition, he was a student of history, so he would've been well aware of the political climate of the 50s and the forces that acted against Kazan.

Also, in the featurette that followed PBS' airing of Letter, the testimonials of the actors about Kazan's approach with actors jibes with my own experiences. I've dabbled with acting in the past, and in fact I took a course at the Actors Studio after college. The techniques taught there made me completely re-evaluate the way I saw acting. In fact, at a party I went to recently I met someone who was similarly trained, and we ended up putting on a small seminar for some of the other guests. It was fun!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Back to the Future Part II and Part III

Back to the Future Part II and Part III
seen on TV @ G4, New Paltz, NY

I spent this past weekend upstate in New Paltz with my friends Bibi and Eric. This was a bit of a last-minute surprise trip. Bibi had e-mailed me last week telling me about a street festival going on in the historical district and would I like to come up for it? So we hung out there for awhile and then went apple picking at a farm on the outskirts of town. That was fun. There's this tool that you can use to yank apples off the branches; it has this wire basket on one end, with curved extensions on one end that you use to hook the apples off the branches, and once they do, they fall right inside the basket. I found it very useful. After that we went comics shopping, then back to their place for awhile, and then out for dinner.

Wouldn't you know it, though - we were at dinner for so long, I ended up missing the last train back home! We all knew it was at eleven, and we knew we had to drive to Poughkeepsie to get it, but you know how it can be sometimes when you're with friends you don't see very often - you know you have to leave, but you don't want to. This was actually a first in all the times I've visited Bibi and Eric, though. Bibi thought we could drive down to the next town and catch a different train into New York, but that didn't work out. I ended up staying the night in their spare bedroom, which would've have been fine if not for their cats. I've recently developed an allergy to cats, which meant a lot of congestion and heavy breathing through my mouth during the night, but I got through. (The worst part is, I like cats!)

I woke up a little after nine, went downstairs and watched TV with Eric, and what should I find but the Back to the Future trilogy on G4. I had missed Part 1, but I've seen that so many times it didn't matter. When I turned on the TV, Part 2 looked like it was about 15-20 minutes in. G4 is the geek channel; this was only the second time I'd ever watched anything on it. There are "hosts" that pop up during the commercial breaks and talk about facts related to the movies, as well as general geek-related items of interest. (One segment was about a new home video game and how to play it.) This being a Sunday morning, the commercials tended to be the same five or six ones over and over again.

Eric and I pondered the logistics of the timeline in the movies, especially Part 2, which has a great deal of back and forth from the future to the "present" (1985) to the past and back again. The first time I saw Part 2, it confused the hell out of me; now it's less confusing, at least. I remember wondering if there's a chart explaining all the moves back and forth through history throughout the trilogy (and sure enough, there is).

The summer Part 1 came out, I was vacationing with my mother, my aunt, and my cousin in California. We were in a hotel, and I was listening to the radio, and at one point a commercial for the movie came on. I was excited about it, but my aunt was less than impressed. When the commercial said, "Rated PG," my aunt said "That should stand for Put it in the Garbage!" I've never forgotten that; I'm not sure why. (She was actually a wonderful woman, even if she didn't care much for modern movies.)

Bibi woke up later on and caught the tail end of Part 3 as she played with her cats. One of them seems to love batting away crumpled bits of paper if you throw them at him, and Bibi and Eric get a kick out of watching him do it, even though it means balls of paper all over the floor.

I took the bus back to New York instead of the train, as Eric had housework to do and Bibi didn't feel like driving all the way to Poughkeepsie. While I didn't plan on spending the whole weekend in New Paltz, I can't complain. I get to see Bibi and Eric once, maybe twice a year, so any extra time with them is welcome, whether intended or not.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Soundtracks: Purple Rain

Whenever they would show this on TV, they used to bleep out the word "masturbating" during "Darling Nikki." My sister had the soundtrack, so 12-year-old me knew what the word was. I thought it was a really big deal whenever the radio would pay the full version of "Let's Go Crazy" instead of the radio edit because it meant I could hear the badass guitar solo at the end. Prince was mysterious and exotic to me at the time; not knowing any better, I took his whole shtick seriously because I loved his music. Prince/Michael Jackson debates were extremely common back then.

Prince and the Revolution, "Baby I'm a Star"