Rockin’ in the Film World #17: Frank Zappa’s 200 MOTELS (United Artists 1971)


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Frank Zappa is definitely an acquired taste, one I acquired as a young kid listening to albums like “Absolutely Free”, “Weasels Ripped My Flesh”,  and “Apostrophe”, which goes a long way in helping to explain my warped world view. Zappa’s avant garde rock’n’roll, a mélange of jazz, classical, doo-wop, psychedelica, and anything else he could think of, combined with his nonsensical, sexual, and scatological lyrics, skewered convention, the plastic world of suburban America, and hippie culture as well (Zappa was an equal opportunity offender). 200 MOTELS was his first attempt at making a movie, co-directing and co-writing with British documentarian Tony Palmer, and to call it bizarre would be a gross understatement.

Visually, the film is as close to Zappa’s avant garde compositions as you can get. 200 MOTELS was shot on videotape and transferred to 35mm film, using techniques like double and triple exposure, color filters, flash-cut editing, and…

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Rockin’ in the Film World #15: THE BEATLES: EIGHT DAYS A WEEK – THE TOURING YEARS (Apple Corps/Imagine Entertainment 2016)


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Beatle fans will have a blast watching THE BEATLES: EIGHT DAYS A WEEK – THE TOURING YEARS, director Ron Howard’s 2016 rock doc covering the Fab Four’s career from their earliest club days through the height of Beatlemania, until they stopped touring for good in 1966. The film features rare and classic footage of The Beatles live in concert around the globe, juxtaposing their rise with news events of the day and interviews with all four members.

Howard conducted brand-new interviews with Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, and included archival interviews with the late John Lennon and George Harrison. Through these and behind the scenes clips and press conferences, we get a sense of what it was like to be at the center of all the Beatlemania  madness. Ringo says it best: “We just wanted to play… playing was the only thing” far as these talented musicians were concerned, but…

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Music Video of the Day: The Cooler with Ringo Starr (1982, dir. Godley & Creme)


I’m terrible with anniversaries or other things I should be aware of to make tie-in posts for. That’s why I missed the 50th anniversary of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. I’m sure everyone posted the music video for Strawberry Fields Forever yesterday. So let’s go with something else Beatles related.

Back in 1982–or 1981 according to mvdbase–a short film was made starring Ringo Starr that is an extended music video for the songs Private Property, Sure To Fall, and Attention. From what I’ve read, this earned Lol Creme and Kevin Godley a nomination for a Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival for Best Short Film. Also from what I’ve read, it not only has Ringo in it, but Paul, Linda, and Barbara Bach.

I know I’ve said on numerous occasions that when something crosses the into A Hard Day’s Night territory then I don’t include it in one of these posts, but I’m making an exception here. Besides, it’s only about 10 minutes long. It’s not like the ABC film Mantrap (1983). That is over 50 minutes long.

I’m guessing this is Barbara Bach. I’m not really sure. I have no idea where Linda is in this.

I do know that this is definitely Paul.

The gist is that the audience travels with Ringo as he goes through a bunch of references to prison movies like The Great Escape (1963). As we go along we see Ringo try to escape in different ways. He has to shine Ilsa: She-Wolf of the SS’ boots. He has a delusion that he is in the Old West where Paul may have also played the following cowboy:

I’m quite sure it’s him. I’m just not 100% sure.

Eventually Ringo McClane…

comes across what he thinks is going to be an exit, but it just takes him back to the cooler again.

Seeing as this came out in 1982, that would make this year the 35th anniversary of The Cooler. I found it to be enjoyable. It’s a nice little piece of post-Beatles work that I have to imagine has all but fallen into obscurity.

We can do one better than just that though. Since it is 2017, that means it’s also the 30th anniversary of when Ringo did commercials for Sun Country Classic Wine Cooler.

Ringo and a polar bear. I love it. I would have enjoyed it more if it were the polar bear played by Vincent Price, but I still enjoy these.

Enjoy!

50 Years Ago Today: The Beatles’ SGT. PEPPER’S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND (Capitol Records 1967)


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June 2, 1967. The beginning of the so-called “Summer of Love”. The underground hippie culture was grooving toward the mainstream. And those four loveable mop tops, The Beatles , released their eighth album, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”, on America’s shores, ushering in the concept of “concept albums” that still reverberates in music today. The Fab Four were Fab no more, but genuine artists, with a little help from their friend, producer George Martin.

The Beatles had stopped touring  the previous year, tired of the grind and the hysterical screaming that drowned their music out. They had done some experimenting in the studio with “Revolver”, their previous LP, but “Sgt. Pepper” was something different. Martin and the band members, influenced by both The Beach Boys’ “Pet Sounds” and Frank Zappa’s “Freak Out!” discs, utilized then cutting edge studio techniques (tape loops, sound effects, varying speeds) and instrumentations (sitar, harmonium, Mellotron, tubular bells, even…

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A Movie A Day #79: Blindman (1971, directed by Ferdinando Baldi)


In the old west, a professional gunman (played by Tony Anthony) has been hired to escort 50 women to a Texas mining town.  The gunman is known as Blindman, precisely because he is a blind man.  He is also a fast and deadly with a gun and has an apparent psychic connection with his horse.  Unfortunately, for Blindman, it turns out that his partners double crossed him and sold the 50 women to a Mexican bandit.  Blindman must go to Mexico to rescue the women from the ruthless Domingo (Lloyd Battista) and his crazy younger brother, Candy (Ringo Starr).

You read that correctly.  This is not only a Spaghetti western about a blind gunslinger who owns a seeing-eye horse.  It’s also a Spaghetti western that co-stars the man who replaced Pete Best.  Of the four Beatles, Ringo was always the best actor and he is surprisingly convincing as a psychotic Mexican bandit.  As for the rest of Blindman, it can not compare to the best Spaghetti westerns but there’s enough novelty in the idea of a blind gunman that it is still interesting to watch.  Tony Anthony may have been one of the lesser known Spaghetti western stars but he probably gave the best performance of his career as Blindman.  Along with being a violent, bloody, and nudity-filled western, Blindman is also a comedy.  Most of the jokes are delivered by Tony Anthony, who spends a lot of time talking to himself and who, despite being blind, stares straight at the camera while doing so.  (Most of the jokes were also written by Tony Anthony.  He’s one of the credited screenwriters.)

Why does Blindman do what he does?  As he puts it in the movie, “To be blind, with no money, now that’s a bitch!”

 

Playing Catch-Up: Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping (dir by Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone)


Have you heard of Conner4Real?

If you haven’t, you’re probably just old or else you don’t keep up with what’s happening in the world of popular music.  His real name is Conner Friel and he used to be a member of the Style Boyz.  Of course, the Style Boyz eventually broke up.  Kid Brain became a farmer.  Kid Contact became a DJ.  And Kid Conner — well, he became Conner4Real and he became a bigger star as a solo artist than he ever was as a Style Boy.  His debut album, Thriller, Also, broke records.

But the follow-up, Connquest … well, Connquest wasn’t quite as acclaimed.  In fact, it was hated by just about everyone.  This is despite featuring classic songs like:

Finest Girl (Bin Laden Song)

Mona Lisa

and Equal Rights (featuring P!nk).

Fortunately, when Conner4Real was facing his greatest existential crisis, a film crew was present to record his struggle.  For those of us who were fascinated by the career of Conner4Real, Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping is a chance to see how Conner dealt with everything from his terminally ill pet turtle to the elaborate marriage proposal ceremony that led to Seal being attacked by wild wolves.  We would have gotten to see Conner and his manager defeat a swarm of mutant bees but, unfortunately, that happened right after the only time that Conner’s manager asked the film crew to stop filming.

Oh well, these things happen.

So, as you should have guessed from all that, Popstar is not a serious film.  It’s a mockumentary, with the emphasis on mock.  It was also one of the funniest films of 2016, a spot-on parody of the silliness and pretensions of fame.  Conner is a combination of Justin Bieber and Macklemore at their shallowest, a well-meaning but thoroughly empty-headed singer.  In fact, if Conner was played by anyone other than Andy Samberg, he would be so annoying that the film would run the risk of being unwatchable.

But fortunately, Conner is played by Andy Samberg.  It’s hard to think of anyone who plays dumb with quite the same panache as Andy Samberg does.  There are plenty of lines in Popstar that shouldn’t work but they do, specifically because they’re being delivered by Samberg.  He brings just the right amount of sweetly sincere stupidity to the role.  Almost despite yourself, you find yourself hoping that things will work out for Conner and the other Style Boyz.  Conner may not deserve to be as big a star as he is but it was obviously going to happen to some idiot so why not a sincere one?

Samberg is not the only funny person in Popstar.  The movie is full of funny people, from Sarah Silverman to Bill Hader to the always underrated Tim Meadows.  It’s also full of celebrity cameos and I have to admit that I usually tend to cringe when I see too many people playing themselves.  But in Popstar, it works.  One need only rewatch something like Zoolander 2 to see how well Popstar pulls off its celebrity cameos.

Sadly, as funny as Popstar was, it was also one of the biggest bombs of 2016.  (The trailer, it must be said, did not do the film justice.)  However, I expect that it will soon develop a strong cult following.  In a few years, we’ll get a sequel.  It probably won’t be as as good.

Oh well.  These things happen.

Rockin’ in the Film World #7: The Beatles in A HARD DAY’S NIGHT (United Artists 1964)


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(It’s a Sunday night, February 9, 1964. Everybody’s watching THE ED SULLIVAN SHOW to get a peek at this new phenomenon called Beatlemania. The adults in the room are disgusted, saying things like “They look like a bunch of girls!”, “They must be sissies!”, and “Yeah yeah yeah? What the hell kind of song is that??” They just don’t get it.  But the six-year-old kid watching along does, and a lifelong obsession with rock’n’roll is born…)

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From the opening shot of the Fab 4 being chased down the street by screaming teenyboppers to the final clanging guitar notes of the title tune, A HARD DAY’S NIGHT makes a joyful noise introducing The Beatles to the silver screen. John, Paul, George, and Ringo come off as a mod version of the Marx Brothers with their anarchic antics, guided by the deft hand of director Richard Lester. Shot in cinema verite style, this zany, practically…

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