This Is Me--2024 A to Z Theme

My A to Z Themes in the past have covered a range of topics and for 2024 the theme is a personal retrospective that I call "I Coulda Been" which is in reference to my job and career arc over my lifetime. I'll be looking at all sorts of occupations that I have done or could have done. Maybe you've done some of these too!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Soundtrack Of My Life

          Yesterday I pondered which television show of my childhood was most representative of my life.  Today I will stay in a similar vein as I return to a musical theme.  A few weeks ago a piece was posted by Jessica, the Modern Day Drifter, on her  Country Girl blog about The Soundtrack To Your Life.  She proposed the following:

What would be the soundtrack to your life? What songs would be included that can sum up past events as well as things in the present?

            This challenge was right there in my train of thought at the time, since I was busy posting favorite albums and music.  I thought briefly about the concept and started this piece to file away for my "blogs to be posted in the future" file.  Well, the future has come and it is now.  I am pleased to accept the Modern Day Drifter's challenge as I present:
The Soundtrack of My Life(Click titles to hear the songs)

Sabre Dance -- From Aram Katchaturian's Gayne Ballet Suite, this energetic tune was a standard of juggling and other circus acts.  My parents used this song in their act and it is a piece of music that resonates from my childhood.

The Ballad of Davy Crockett-- Coon skin caps were all the rage in the 50s and every boy loved the legendary Davy Crockett.  I was no exception.
Hound Dog --I may have liked Davy Crockett, but even at the age of five I could see that Elvis was where it was at when it came to impressing the girls.  I had my Elvis impersonation that I liked to entertain people with.
The Wayward Wind -- My family had already done a good bit of travel and made a few moves when this song caught my attention in the late 50s.  I could identify with the song because traveling had gotten in my blood.  At one point my parents took my sister and I to see Gogi Grant, who had hit the charts with her version of the song, at a showplace in what was then a little town out in the desert called Las Vegas.
Sugar Shack -- When my family moved from San Diego to go to Northern Indiana this song was at the top of the charts.  Rock music had not really caught on with me, but this song started breaking my resistance and I started following the pop music trends.
Good Vibrations -- By the time this song came out I was living in East Tennessee.  I was a big fan of the Beatles and the Beach Boys and music in general.  The music was continuing to  move in new directions as the artists began experimenting. The psychedelic leanings of Good Vibrations and Sgt Pepper kept me searching for more new, consciousness distorting sounds.
Goin' to the Country --Living in Tennessee near the Smoky Mountains brought me closer to outdoor activities such as hiking and camping.  Also, I began to appreciate country music as country rock began to catch on in a big way.
Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere --Neil Young became my favorite artist.  This song expressed a yearning I was beginning to have to do something with my life.  I was an adult. I wanted to travel and have adventures.
Open Road / The Magic of the Open Road --- These are two of my own songs that I wrote about being on the road.   They were part of a musical I started writing in the mid 1970s.  It would be appropriate to have some of my own compositions in my soundtrack.

In a Persian Market-- This is magic music by Albert Ketelbey.  In the late 70s I got my wish to travel and have adventure as I joined a traveling magic show.  This music was used in the show and was a piece commonly used by magicians and in circuses.

California --I'd never heard of this song by Phantom Planet until I started making this list.  I was looking on the Mixpod playlist maker for a version of a song called "California" by Compton and Batteau but could not find it.  Actually I kind of like this song better.   After many years on the road, my wife and I headed to Los Angeles with our three kids to settle down.

Beethoven's 7th Symphony  2nd movement  --- The 90s were are period of ups and downs for me--divorce, raising three daughters as a single father, a lot of work, loneliness, and finally finding someone new and gettting remarried.  This music by Beethoven to me expresses a range of human emotion from melancholy to soaring triumph.  I hope even bigger triumphs are in my future.

Writer in the Sun -- I hope this song will reflect who I am many years in the future. 

In My Life-- What better song to sum up one's life.
               There's mine, what about yours?   What kind of soundtrack would you like to have to accompany your life story? 

            Don't forget to sign up on the Linky list if you are interested in the Ten Hot Latin Picks blogfest that will be next Monday July 5.  Check at the end of my post yesterday for more details.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

My Life As A Televison Show

            Today I'm taking a break from music and movies, but I'm not straying far.   Jennee Thompson at Cheap Therapy has offered up a little blog challenge that makes an interesting proposal:

           ".... Compare your life to one of your favorite TV shows growing up. Is it anything like your life then or now? Are you a main character? If the show was still on would you watch it."

            I like this challenge.  As I child I did tend to watch a goodly amount of television.  I grew up in the 1950s and 60s so my television choices may be dated, but I think most people will be familiar with them since they have been in such wide syndication.

            Overall my favorite TV show when I was young was The Twilight Zone.  There may have been some times of my life when it seemed like I was in The Twilight Zone, but overall I guess my life wasn't that weird.  The great writing of Twilight Zone episodes probably had as much influence on my own aspirations as a writer as anything else.  Since its original run, The Twilight Zone has reappeared in other incarnations, but I've never really gotten interested in those.  Nothing has taken the place of those old black and white original installments.

           Another favorite program that I did identify with in many ways was Leave It To Beaver.  Part of the great popularity of this show in its day was the way it effectively captured the lifestyle of many typical American families.  I easily identified with Beaver Cleaver since I was about his age.  I didn't have an older brother, but when my father came home from work each evening he was wearing a suit and tie and my mother was always at home with me and my siblings.  The events depicted in the show were not rip-roaring ridiculous, but very real in a humorous way.  The parents were kindly and wise, and the kids were mostly obedient and faced the music when they weren't.  In the end a lesson was always learned.

          Leave It To Beaver still shows up in syndication and whenever I happen across it I usually watch it.  The show still holds its charm for me.  In the 90s the show was revived with Jerry Mathers, the original Beaver Cleaver, as a grown man with kids of his own.  I anxiously tuned in when it first came on and I still enjoyed the updated version.  The show still had some of the original characters and Jerry Mathers was still the Beaver except older.  However, not being much of a TV watcher I didn't keep up religiously with the program, but I watched and enjoyed it when I did turn it on.

           The favorite show that I would most compare my life to is The Ed Sullivan Show.   This was a variety show that came on every Sunday evening.  All sorts of entertainers were showcased in this one hour throwback to vaudeville.  Ed Sullivan's show showcased singers, comedians, and variety acts.  Through the show American audiences were introduced to Elvis Presley, The Beatles, and many other huge stars of the rock and pop era.  You can still see reruns of Ed Sullivan episodes on television and I'll always stop to watch when I run across one.  I even have some of the Ed Sullivan DVDs that have been put out.

           In the movie musical Bye Bye Birdie the family's dream is to be on the Ed Sullivan Show, which becomes the denouement of the story.  The Ed Sullivan Show was a cultural touchstone for the era.  Since my family did a professional juggling act, an appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show was one of my father's biggest dreams. It never happened.  Back then my role on the show would have been an appearance as a performer.

            Throughout my life the Ed Sullivan Show influence has been felt as I pursued my own show business career in the late 70s and 80s.  Now I feel like Ed Sullivan on my blog.  Every week I feel like I'm trying to present a blog version of Ed Sullivan's variety show as I present topics of a wide range.  I'm not content to stick to one single subject.  It's not over til the fat lady sings, and even then it's not really over.  Next week I might have puppets, circus acts, an up and coming comedian, or a scene from the latest Broadway musical. 

          Ed Sullivan used to say, "Tonight we have a really big shoe."   When he said "show" it sounded like "shoe".    That's what I try to envision on my blog--"a really big shoe".  If I'm trying to follow in Ed Sullivan's footsteps then I've got some really big shoes to fill.

           I have one more scheduled mini blog fest which will be happening next Monday July 5th.  I don't think I'll get much participation on this one since it has to do with music influenced by Spanish and Latin American culture.  But don't just dismiss it thinking you don't know enough about it.   Don't forget about artists like Santana, Shakira, Richie Valens, and Julio Iglesias.  The Spanish / Latin influence in music goes way back and covers many fads and styles.  There is the dance music like tango, cha cha, salsa, and rumba.  Cuban and Brazilian (okay Portuguese is okay) music have been staples to many of our ears.  This might be more fun than you think so I hope you'll join us.   Linky list should be going up tomorrow.

Monday, June 28, 2010

10 Favorite Love Songs and 10 Favorite Break Up Songs

           There are so many different kinds of love songs.  Often they are not so much songs about true ever-lasting love as they are songs about yearning, unrequited love, and plain old lust.  Love in music often is confused like the concept of love in our lives.  I have tried to recall songs that speak about that deeply caring sacrificial love between two people.

10 Favorite Love Songs:

I Love You -- Originally recorded by The Zombies in 1965, it was a hit for a group called People! in 1966.  It's a lovely minor key melody with a catchy guitar riff.

And I Love Her -- An absolutely beautiful tune done by The Beatles.

The Man I Love -- A hauntingly beautiful melody by George Gershwin with words by his brother Ira.  It is a true standard that has been recorded by many artists.  Not a song about a specific love in the here and now, but a description of the man the vocalist is looking for to love one day.

Longer Than -- Considered sappy by some, this is a beautiful song by Dan Fogelberg that describes an unending love.

Endless Love -- Lionel Richie wrote this classic love song that has since be recorded by many artists.

Let's Stay Together -- One of Al Green's best songs expresses the marriage vows in a lilting funky rhythm.

God Only Knows (What I'd Be Without You) -- Brian Wilson's work of genius expresses some paradoxical statements but in the end the words are talking about a true love.

Anniversary Song  -- Al Jolson and Saul Chaplin adapted what was originally a Romanian melody called "Waves of the Danube" into this beautiful love song.  A proven lasting love between two people in their golden years is the truest romantic love of all.   That is what this song is about.

Our Love Is Here to Stay -- Another great love song by George & Ira Gershwin tells about a love that will last.

I Love You More Today Than Yesterday  -- Spiral Staircase had a hit with this jaunty tune.  As the title indicates it's a song about love that grows stronger over time.

            The break up songs came more easily for me, but it's probably just something about my personal history where at certain times of my life I paid closer attention to lyrical content in order to find songs that related to my circumstances.  Here are ten break up songs that have been especially meaningful to me and what the heck, they are pretty good songs despite to subject matter.

10 Favorite Break Up Songs:

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do-- Neil Sedaka wrote it and charted with two versions.  I prefer the up tempo original version-- "Down doobie do down down".

Bye Bye Love -- This Everly Brothers standard has been recorded by many.

It's All Over Now--Written by Bobby and Shirley Womack and most famously recorded by The Rolling Stones, this is a  swaggering unsentimental song about breaking up. Of course, from the way the narrator of the song tells it, I can't blame him for being disgusted with his former love.

Only Love Can Break Your Heart -- Neil Young's sentimental tearjerker about lost love.

Why Is Love Always the Last to Know? -- This song by Dan Fogelberg was one I listened to frequently prior to my first divorce.  I guess I thought he had written it for me.

What About the Bond? & Fascist Architecture -- Both of these songs came from Bruce Cockburn's great album Humans.   The album was recorded during Cockburn's own divorce and is at times bitter and angry, but a musical masterpiece.  These are songs about the dissolution of marriage and the questions and doubt this event raises in the mind of those of us who have to through it.

Laugh Laugh  -- My take on this song recorded by the Beau Brummels is that the narrator has already broken up with a girl he loved who went for someone else who is now dumping her.  What else is there for the story teller to do but laugh?

Red Rubber Ball -- Originally a hit by The Cyrkle, this is an upbeat optimistic break up song.

With Pen in Hand -- Bobby Goldsboro had a hit with this tearjerker about divorce.

How Can I Mend a Broken Heart?-- This was a big one for the Bee Gees, but Al Green took it to a new level.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

A Living Sacrifice

         Jonah, a Hebrew prophet, tried to avoid God's call by running away.  A great storm threatened to destroy the ship he had boarded for his escape and take the lives of the innocent crew members on board.  Everyone soon realizes that the cause of their impending doom is Jonah because he has shunned God.

       The sea was getting rougher and rougher. So they asked him, "What should we do to you to make the sea calm down for us?"
        "Pick me up and throw me into the sea," he replied, "and it will become calm. I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you."
         Instead, the men did their best to row back to land. But they could not, for the sea grew even wilder than before.  Then they cried to the LORD, "O LORD, please do not let us die for taking this man's life. Do not hold us accountable for killing an innocent man, for you, O LORD, have done as you pleased."  Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm. At this the men greatly feared the LORD, and they offered a sacrifice to the LORD and made vows to him.
        But the LORD provided a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was inside the fish three days and three nights.
Jonah 1:11-17 (New International Version)

             Jonah confessed to the men that it was he who was going to cause the ship to be destroyed and all aboard to lose their lives.  The men of the crew were now seeing the power of almighty God.  But when Jonah told them that the only solution to saving them and the boat was to throw him into the sea these men were taken aback.  Even though these men did not serve the one true God, they were not heartless, uncaring individuals.  They did not want to kill a man with whom they had no quarrel.

              They tried their best to save themselves, but the storm grew worse.  They cried out to God because they were afraid that they would die for killing God's prophet and then they followed Jonah's instruction.  They threw him overboard and the seas became calm.  Witnessing God's power caused the men to turn to Him and they experienced a change in their lives. They were saved in more ways than one and likewise God provided a miracle to save Jonah.  He was now going to be taken back to start his journey to Nineveh and this time he was going to be taken back to land via submarine!  The Bible says it was a "big fish" that swallowed Jonah.  We don't know what kind of fish it was, but it was probably not really a whale.  Whatever it was, it was an amazing miracle from God.

             But Jonah's three days inside the belly of a fish was a foreshadowing of things to come.  Centuries later Jesus spoke the following words:
A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a miraculous sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah." Jesus then left them and went away.
Matthew 16:4 (NIV)

           Like the pagan sailors, the generation of Christ's time wanted signs and wonders to give them some answers.  Many were not listening to God and did not understand what Jesus was telling them.  Now we understand what Jesus meant when He talked about the "sign of Jonah".  Just as Jonah was in the belly of the fish for three days and then returned to his mission, Jesus was in the grave for three days and then resurrected.

          Like Jesus, Jonah was sent on a mission to deliver a message of salvation and to turn lost people to the Lord.   Jonah was disobedient, but through his disobedience he and the others learned that they cannot save themselves, they can only be saved by God through their faith and obedience.  Jonah finally achieved his mission, but imperfectly.  Jesus compared His own circumstance to that of Jonah's but allowed that Jonah was imperfect. 

           We read what Jesus said about this in Matthew:

          Then some of the Pharisees and teachers of the law said to him, "Teacher, we want to see a miraculous sign from you."
         He answered, "A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now one greater than Jonah is here.
Matthew 12:38-41 (NIV)

             Do you see people in the world today waiting for signs and wonders in order to believe?  What signs and wonders do you recognize in your own life?  What have you tried to do in your own life to save yourself?  What was the result of your efforts?   Is there anything you need to toss overboard to calm stormy seas in your life?

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Clean Up Time

             Changes are coming as promised last Saturday, but the process may be gradual at first.  Don't expect a remarkable transformation to suddenly occur before your eyes--at least none is planned yet.  What may be a big, but almost imperceptible change will be occurring in the upcoming week in this blog.   More on this later.

           First let's look at the big change that occurred over the past week on Tossing It Out.   The week started out with Alex J Cavanaugh's Movie Dirty Dozen Blogfest.  My blog topics turned away from the music fixation that I have had for several weeks as I posted my twelve favorite movies on Monday.  There were about sixty participants in this totally fun blogfest.  I'm still not sure if I got through all of them, but I found a lot of movies I may need to check out over the summer.  Thank you Alex for hosting this wonderfully successful blogfest. 
          As happened with the music favorites lists, I could not confine myself to just one list.  During the course of the week I listed my dozen favorites that came after 1990 my favorite show biz movies, and my favorite dark movies.   Then on Thursday we had an interesting debate day question about censorship and movies.   There were some sharply divided opinions but as always the discussion was amicable.

          On this upcoming Monday I will return to music with the 10 FAVORITE LOVE SONGS / 10 FAVORITE BREAK UP SONGS list.   If you have some you'd like to suggest, be sure to sign up on the Linky list at the top of the page.  The following days will consist of cleaning up.  I'll begin wrapping up the music and the movies and start moving back to business as usual on Tossing It Out.  There is one more scheduled event which will be the favorite Spanish or Latin albums on Monday July 5th.  After that  music topics may appear on occasion, but this blog won't be all music.

Now please give me your opinion:

      First I have a few questions:    Have you ever seen the number of your followers drop unexplainably?   Would you like it if somebody notified you before they drop you to let you know why?  Was it something you did wrong?   Is there a way to see which follower has dropped you?     

        Do you ever stop following blogs on your list of the blogs you are following?  Here's why I ask--I'm planning to do exactly this.   I have a number of blogs that I follow that I never look at because they don't interest me.  There are also blogs that I have commented on and they never acknowledge me or comment on my posts.   I'm also planning to get rid of some of these.  Now you who are reading this have nothing to fear. If someone is following my blog I will continue to follow theirs.  However if I'm following someone's blog and they do not follow mine and never acknowledge me in any way then I don't see where we have any real relationship and they are taking up space that could be occupied by someone for whom I care more.  My dashboard reading list has become very full and I think housecleaning is due.

        I want your honest opinion.  Am I being petty?  Do you do this sometimes?   Should I notify the parties that I am going to drop just in case there has been an oversight in reciprocation?   I can think of some blogs that have been up longer than mine and regularly post very fine blog bits, yet they rarely get comments and only have a few followers.  Why?  Probably because when someone does comment they rarely acknowledge the commenters and they never seem to make comments elsewhere.  I wonder why they have blogs if they aren't interested in some kind of interaction?

        If any of you have any thoughts about any of this I'd love to hear them.   The way I see it my first change in the interest of helping me organize my blogging activity and free up my time for other things is to start doing some house cleaning.   Please--if you are currently following my blog and I am not following yours, let me know so I can fix that.  Also, if you see that I have stopped following your blog and you are still following mine let me know that I have made an error.  I do plan to notify anyone whose blog I intend to stop following to see if they want to have a reciprocal relationship or if they even care.

        Changes have to be made but I want to do it carefully and fairly--in other words I want to do it right.

         What do you think?

Friday, June 25, 2010

Dark Movies, Dark Stories

           My Mom could always tell a good scary story when I was a kid.  I would enjoy the thrill of the fright and the sigh of relief that I had survived another scare.  We also regularly went to the movie theater matinees where the fare was frequently horror movies.  I can recall going to see films like Abbott and Costello Meet the Wolfman, The Amazing Colossal Man, and The Creature From the Black Lagoon.  But the one the really grabbed me was Godzilla--the version where Raymond Burr, television's Perry Mason witnesses the destruction of Tokyo.  I had seen the future and it was doom and destruction caused by atomic radiation.

          Consequently, one of my favorite types of films were the ones that dealt with darker themes.  These were often monster and horror films, but they also grew into the realms of movies that dealt with the darker side of humanity and the impending doom of the unknown forces of nature and man's irresponsible stewardship of the Earth.   Potentially fear producing and nightmare inducing films became a genre of intense fascination for me.

            Today I offer up thirteen dark stories on film:

Thirteen Scary Favorites: 

The Creature Walks Among Us (1956)--The third in the Creature from the Black Lagoon trilogy is perhaps the darkest of the three.  Whereas The Creature From the Black Lagoon was a good monster flick and the follow-up Revenge of the Creature went for more sensationalism, The Creature Walks Among Us tends to be more contemplative as it examines more ethical and philosophical questions.  It is a somber and brooding film in the end.

The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957) --While sailing in the ocean, a man exposed to a toxic substance later begins shrinking in size.  He becomes smaller and smaller as his wife tries to get him help.  The special effects are not bad for its day.  The ending is among my all time favorites in filmdom.

Vertigo (1958)-- An Alfred Hitchcock film is certainly worthy of a place on my favorites list.  Since one has not yet appeared, it is imperative that one show up on my dark films list.  Vertigo starring James Stewart and Kim Novak is an excellent one to fit the bill.  A film with a twist in the tradition of the best of Hitchcock also has a great psychedelic dream sequence.  The Birds is another excellent choice for Hitchcock that fits into the horror genre.

The Day the Earth Caught Fire (1961)--Here's a film that tackled the issue of global warming before Al Gore ever thought of it.  Except this is global warming to the extreme.  After nuclear testing gone awry the orbit of the Earth is disrupted causing the planet to begin to head toward the sun.  Filmed in black and white then tinted orange to create a look of heat, this low budget film is well acted with a good story line.  I found the ending to be almost spiritual, but maybe that was my interpretation.

The Tenant (1976) -- This film from Roman Polanski is a mind-bending experience that may have you shaking your head.  It's creepy fun trying to figure out who's who and what's what. 

Falling Down (1993) --This is my favorite Michael Douglas role and a film that anyone living in Los Angeles can empathize with.   Douglas plays a man frustrated by his failures in career, marriage, and fatherhood who, after being stuck in traffic on an intensely hot day, abandons his car on the freeway.  He then sets out on foot on a cross city trek to get to his child's birthday party.  On the way, he wreaks havoc with anyone who stands in his way.  It's a story of prejudice, urban frustration, and culture conflict.

Ed Wood (1994)--This is actually somewhat of a comedy and one of the most optimistic films I've seen.  Yet it deals with some dark topics about an individual whose life was actually somewhat dark.  This is a loving and playful look Ed Wood, a low budget film director who is credited with making some of the worst films ever.  Johnny Depp is amazing as always.  Martin Landau won an Oscar for his portrayal of Bela Lugosi.  This could have gone on my Dirty Dozen Favorites list because it is a favorite film of mine.

Lost Highway (1997) --This is one of the darkest, most mind-bending films ever--certainly not everyone's cup of tea.  Lost Highway is surrealistic madness from David Lynch.  The film deals with the nature of evil and immorality and graphically depicts it.  With a hard, hard R rating this is a film that justifiably presents sexual images, extreme violence, and crude language in order to get its point across.  It is a film that I like very much for its surrealism and weirdness.   Another Lynch film that deals with similar issues is Blue Velvet.  A Lynch film that is also dark, but not with so much R content is The Elephant Man.

Abre Los Ojos (1997) -- This Spanish film translated as Open Your Eyes was later remade in an English version called Vanilla Sky with Tom Cruise, Penelope Cruz and Cameron Diaz.   Vanilla Sky was pretty good, but the original version was better.  The film is a science fiction about cryogenics and virtual reality dreams. 

Dark City (1998) --This is another science fiction film about mind control and artificially devised realities.  The main character begins to sense something is peculiar about his life and the world he lives in.  He sets out to find the answers to the questions that begin to plague him.  It's a clever premise that is along the lines of movies like The Matrix and The Thirteenth Floor.

Limbo (1999) -- This is a John Sayles film about people in Alaska whose lives are falling apart.  They have become alienated within their despair and just get by in their lives.  A lonely single mother, her self-mutilating teenage daughter, and a lonely former fisherman are brought together in a situation of survival in the wilderness.  This film has some superb acting.  The ending may leave you laughing, slapping yourself in frustration, cursing the screen in anger, or just staring at the screen wondering what it was all about.  When I saw this film the first time I thought about it for a couple days and then realized the genius of the ending--it was the most appropriate way to end the movie and explained much of the story.  At least that's the way I saw it.

The Prestige (2006)--This is a fascinating film about two rival magicians obsessed in finding the greatest magic trick.  Although it essentially starts as a show biz type movie, the story takes a turn to science fiction.  The premise is pretty clever.

The Dark Knight  (2008) -- The most recent of the Batman films was made especially notorious with the incredible performance by Heath Ledger as the Joker.   Fabulous sets, effects, concepts, and good acting from all.   The dark superhero Batman is pitted against the madness of the Joker and his army of crazies.  One of the best batman films so far.

         On Monday we will be listing our 10 Favorite Love Songs and 10 Favorite Break Up Songs.  Sign up on the Linky list at the top of the page if you'd like to add yours.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Self-censorship in the Film Industry

           It's family movie night.   You've brought home a DVD that has received rave reviews.  Your mother-in-law, spouse, three kids, and a neighbor kid are all there to join in viewing the movie on you 50" flat screen TV.  Then it starts:  a few F-bombs and gratuitous s**ts are uttered, clothes come off, people engage in sexual acts, heads are graphically blown off, and all in the name of entertainment.  Is all of this graphic display needed to get a point across?

           Pre-60s films were able to suggest activity without getting graphic about it and it worked quite well, thank you.  We knew that Bogie, James Cagney, and Edward G. Robinson were really tough guys that you wouldn't want to mess around with and yet you never heard them utter a profanity.  In fact, I think a tough guy who speaks intelligently can be much more frightening than some obnoxious street thug whose every other word begins with an "f".

          Likewise, when you saw a couple kiss passionately, the camera might pan away as the scene faded with billowing curtains or waves crashing on the beach.  You could imagine what was going to happen after that and didn't have to be titillated with a lesson in romantic biology and the kids could be left with a mystery that they would be unlikely to question.  Come on, let the characters have their moment of privacy and let us get on with the real story.

          I'm not saying to eliminate the genres that are now mainstream.  I'm just saying to let the pornography, slasher, gore, or whatever genres that are distasteful to many of us remain separate from mainstream film releases.   There has been a routine influx of what was formerly taboo slipping into films without adding anything particularly worthwhile to the stories.

          As an example, check out the edited for television versions of R rated films and see how much of the film is lost in the censoring.  To cite a specific example I like to use the Viet Nam war film Platoon.   When I first saw this in the theater I was so distracted by the profuse profanity that it detracted greatly from my enjoyment of the movie.  Later I saw the edited version on television and it seemed like a much better movie without the profanity.

          Some may argue that profanity is necessary for realism because that's the way people, like gang members for example, talk in real life.   My argument is that movies and certain popular forms of music like (c)rap have set a standard for popular language usage and that since the early 70s, profanity is much more broadly accepted then it was prior to that time.  When I was in high school in the late 60s I heard very little profanity.  Now I can listen to the middle school kids using language that would have made a sailor of old blush--odds are they got this from movies and music.

          My topic for today's discussion:

Should the Film industry exert more self-censorship?

        Would the quality of the resulting product be improved?  Would any artistic merit be lost through censoring that which might be objectionable to some?   What benefit was gained by being able to show anything and say anything we wanted in films?  What films can you think of that you did not enjoy as much as you might have because of some element that could have been left out?  

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Favorite Show Biz Movies

          I have been an avid fan of the movies since I was a child. My parents used to take my sister and me to the movie theater with fair regularity during the 1950s and early 60s. We would see all kinds of movies--musicals, monster movies, comedies, romances, and especially circus movies. My parents were professional jugglers and if my father thought a juggler would be in the film we would go see it.

                Television also brought many more opportunities for film viewing as stations did not have much in the way of syndicated programming and often resorted to movies to fill up time. There were midday movies, before dinner movies, Saturday night movies, and the late night movie programming, which regularly showed horror films, which were my favorites.  I was watching an average of about 7 to 10 films per week.

            Due to my show business background, I have a special interest in movies about show business.  These films were often formulaic and centered around the music and dance numbers.  Because of the nature of the subject matter, these films are often musicals.  My list today is not musicals in general, but films about entertainers and the entertainment industry.  They are often biographical, depicting a rise to stardom and sometimes a fall, but some of them are just stories where the show business life is the background of the story and the lifestyle of the characters.  

Some Favorite Show Business Movies:

Fred Astaire -- Many of his films are great show biz pics, but my choice for this list is  Broadway Melody of 1940 (1940).   This uses the formula of song and dance buddies meet girl, act breaks up, Fred saves the day, and Fred wins girl.  Great songs and dances, and there is a good juggling scene.  Fred also shows some adept juggling moves.  In my opinion, Fred Astaire was one of the greatest actors, singers, and dancers of the 20th century.

Busby Berkeley was a specialist in amazing synchronized dance numbers and of course his films are typically about show business. I would recommend most any of his movies.   One of my favorites is Footlight Parade (1933).   It's a lightweight silly story, but the dance numbers are awesome.  They are supposed to be taking place on a stage in a theater, but it's movie magic at its best.  Great singing and great dancing and James Cagney to boot.   He was no slouch of a dancer either.

Federico Fellini is one of my top favorite directors.  I have three show biz picks for him--- La Strada (1954), The Clowns (1974),  and Ginger and Fred (1986).   La Strada is a heartbreaking film with Anthony Quinn in the role of a strongman with his travelling one man circus.  He acquires a mentally deficient young girl to act as an assistant and wife.  His mistreatment of her leads to a tragic end.  It is a real tearjerker.
The Clowns is a docu-fantasy about clowns and how they affect us.  There are some wonderful circus scenes of clown routines.  You can read my review of Ginger and Fred in an earlier post.

Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942) is a rousing bio-pic with James Cagney starring as song-writer vaudeville entertainer George M. Cohan.  Starting with little Georgie's childhood with his travelling family's vaudeville act and into his rise as a successful Broadway star and songwriter, this will make you want to wave the American flag and stand up and cheer.  It's a wonderfully entertaining movie.

Rhapsody in Blue (1945) is another bio-pic, this time about composer George Gershwin.  Hollywood's version about how Gershwin got his start in the music industry called "tin pan alley" and eventually became a respected composer of modern music.  Some fine musical performances including Gershwin's famous "Rhapsody in Blue". 

Give My Regards to Broadway (1948) -- This elusive film is one I discovered only a few years ago, but is perhaps dearest to my heart.  The story is about a family of vaudeville jugglers at the end of the vaudeville era.  The father and the son (played by Dan Dailey) are convinced that vaudeville is going to make a comeback and they want to put the act together again.  The mother wants to just stay home and retire while the two sisters are thinking of marriage and settling down.  It reminds me of my own father and our family juggling act.  It's a movie I can identify with and it's a realistic view of a show biz family.

Jolson Sings Again (1949) --This is the sequel to The Al Jolson Story, which was on my Monday list.   The movie starts where the first movie left off and follows Jolson's subsequent comeback to stardom as he becomes a popular radio and television artist.  It's probably truer to life than the first film, but it's still Hollywood and it's very entertaining.

Singin' In The Rain  (1952)-- A true Hollywood classic with wonderful performances by Gene Kelly, Donald O'Connor, and Debbie Reynolds.  A story about silent film actors making the transition to the talkies.   It's pure fun all the way.

7 Faces of Dr. Lao (1964) --Tony Randall plays the roles of seven different strange characters in this fantasy about a mysterious circus that visits a small town in the West at the beginning of the 20th century.  This unusual circus is not there so much to entertain as to teach the town's citizens some important lessons about themselves.  Juggling plays an important role in this film as a symbol of developing hidden talents to do what you thought you couldn't do.

Circus World (1964)-- The circus creates a vibrant, exciting backdrop full of color and visual wonders, but unfortunately circus movies are usually somewhat weak and cliche ridden.  No matter though, I like circus movies and they are always entertaining.  This one stars John Wayne as the circus owner.  I don't know why this one is so hard to find, but I'm looking for it to come out on readily available DVD.

Cabaret (1972) --This a dark, but entertaining movie about an American singer/dancer, played by Liza Minelli, in Germany during the rise of the Nazis.  Directed by Bob Fosse, the film has good cabaret routines and good story.   A true story depicted in a German film from 1997, The Harmonists based on the true story of The Comedian Harmonists, is an even more realistic depiction of a popular singing group who became persecuted when it was discovered that three of its members were Jews.

All That Jazz (1979) is a semi-autobiographical film by Bob Fosse, which depicts his downward descent due to stressful living from hard work and hard living.  It has some fabulous song and dance numbers.

Selena (1997) -- Jennifer Lopez stars in this bio-pic about the popular Tejano singer Selena, who was murdered by the president of her fan club.  The music is very good and the acting is top notch.  Based on my personal experience, this film effectively captures the life on the road with an entertainment family.  I could really relate to this film.

 That Thing You Do! (1996) -- Written and directed by Tom Hanks, who also has a role in the movie, That Thing You Do! is a fun romp that follows the rise of The Wonders, a fictional group from Ohio.  Full of good original songs and delightful acting performances, this movie also does a good job of capturing life on the road and in the entertainment business.

           Be sure to join us tomorrow when I pose a debate topic about the movies.  On Friday I'll be looking at some of my favorite dark movies.    And the Linky list is now up at the top of the page for next Monday's Blogfest about your 10 Favorite Love Songs and 10 Favorite Break Up Songs.