Saturday, October 03, 2015

License to Trill

The theme for the anxiously awaited James Bond film SPECTRE has been released and elicits nothing morethan polite golf applause. Sam Smith's "Writing's on the Wall" is underwhelming to say the least, but certainly not the worst to say the most. It's a wisp of a tune that actually should have been something to blow the doors off an Aston Martin. Instead, there's this B-side ballad and unfortunately, the Writing on the Wall reads:
Here I sit,
Came to shit,
but only farted.

To be frank, the opening theme song for Bond films has always been a dicey proposition. The franchise tends to cater to current pop music trends and with mixed results since it is so ephemeral. It began in the Connery era when, after the one two knockout punches delivered by Shirley Bassey on GOLDFINGER and Tom Jones with THUNDERBALL, the singer chosen for YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE was...Nancy Sinatra, undoubtedly due to "These Boots Were Made for Walkin'". Thank goodness the song itself was decent enough and the production covered up many of her flat tones. Many times the gamble paid off, but for every Paul McCartney, Duran Duran and Tina Turner, the landscape is littered with a-ha, Rita Coolidge and worst of all, Sheryl Crow, badly in need of Auto-Tune for her flat rendition of TOMORROW NEVER DIES, making Nancy Sinatra sound like Maria Callas in comparison. But my favorite song credit has to be "THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH performed by Garbage". I couldn't agree more.

But I'm no fan of Adele's Oscar winning theme for SKYFALL either. I find it mid-range and rather unremarkable. Sure, I predictably go for the undeniable classics such as the aforementioned Bassey and Jones numbers. In Bassey's case, it stops and ends with GOLDFINGER. DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER is acceptable if deriviative and the less said about MOONRAKER the better.I find Gladys Knight's rendition of LICENSE TO KILL underrated just as I do Tina Turner's GOLDENEYE. I'm also a sucker for both Lulu's MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN and Jack White/Alicia Keys' "Another Way to Die" from QUANTUM OF SOLACE. And every time I hear "Nobody Does It Better" from THE SPY WHO LOVED ME, Carly Simon wins my heart every single time.

You'll notice I'm not mentioning the composers here. Need I mention John Barry, Marvin Hamlisch, David Arnold, et al? I suppose I should but I am concentrating on the finished product.

But while we're on the subject, Carl Davis' instrumental renditions of the 007 theme songs on the album BOND FOR ORCHESTRA transforms many of these otherwise piss poor songs into something quite magical and decent offerings even better. Chris Cornell's "You Know My Name" from CASINO ROYALE just knocks it into the cheap seats and "We Have All the Time in the World", even without Louis Armstrong's melancholy raspiness, is still a wonderful melody from ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE. Madonna's mediocre electronica effort,  DIE ANOTHER DAY, actually gets to live a little while longer.

Naturally,the songs  have no bearing on the film themselves. When the two coincide, it's serendipity. When it doesn't, it's not a total loss. No matter how I feel about Smith's half-hearted SPECTRE theme, it will be aided by yet another brilliant title sequence created by Maurice Binder's worthy successor, Danny Kleinman, a rarity in this day and age.

Of course, one could only imagine the themes and artists that could have been, such as this previously lost recording of Johnny Cash's take on THUNDERBALL

Yippy-ky-ay, Mr. Bond!

Sunday, September 06, 2015

Labor Pains

As Labor Day signals the end of another summer, it's time to sit back and reflect on the season gone by.

Well, that was quick.

The record heat has lost caused this time of year to lose me as a fan. I don't do extremes very well any longer. Maybe I should move into a nice temperature-controlled mall. On the other hand, life was certainly a lot easier with the miracle of air-conditioning. (You can blame me personally for destroying the planet, greenies) We've lived in a rented townhouse for the past nine years, originally through a property management group. When we moved in, we were informed there was no central air. Fine and dandy, we thought. We had already lived in an apartment w/o said amenity, making do with ceiling fans. This place had no such appliance in any room. My son Matt graciously donated his two box fans that we placed strategically in the house. We made due with what we had. Besides, this is Oregon. It never gets above 90 for very long. Who needs anything else? It's like umbrellas here. They're for rain-sensitive pussies. Cut to: Lat Year at this time. The townhouse owners decided to wisely show the property management group to the curb due to their gross incompetence (Their name is The Alpine Group, by the way. If you're in the market for a new abode, steer clear of these maroons.) The owners took over the lease and after our initial meeting, they inquired as to how the place was holding up. For example:

"How's the air conditioning working?" they asked.

"We don't have air conditioning," we scoffed.

"You'd better have air conditioning. We paid for it."

The owner walked over to the thermostat and flipped the switch. For the first time in eight years in this home, we had air conditioning.

Egg on the face would have been worse in the heat.

I didn't attend one movie this summer, the first time in forever. There was nothing I felt compelled to run out to the cinema that I couldn't wait for at home. Isn't that a sad state of affairs? Even worse was another fatal shooting in Louisiana, echoing the psychotic Colorado rampage that finally made its way through the courts. On top of that, when I do finally visit a local cinema, it will a solo affair as per my usual. I allowed a nitwitted Facebook posting to take me aback, proclaiming that "There a guy sitting behind us in the theater...AND HE'S ALL BY HIMSELF! OMG! I CAN'T RELAX AND ENJOY THE MOVIE! WHAT IF HE...???". 
I don't know. Told you to put your fucking phone away during the movie, you dumb-ass doorknob? But that's not what kept me out of the theaters this summer. Product and product alone. Sequels, remakes and bland blah blah blah.

Naturally, that other thing didn't help matters any. Paranoia, justified or not, can't help but creep into what used to be considered our general well-being. Profiling can't be avoided when the guilty parties fir the same demographic.But those that don't are seen as predatory time-bombs, ready to snatch your kids and/or waste everyone with the same vigor as aggressively taking out the garbage.

So no film outings for me this summer, but I wasn't a complete shut-in.

Fortunately I managed to see Grant-Lee Phillips this last May in concert at the Alberta Rose Theater in Portland, performing with Steve Holtz, a fine singer/songwriter in his right. After yet another amazing set by this artist I'm proud to call my friend, I had an all-too brief but still gratifying reunion with Grant. He gave me a copy of his 2012 album WALKING IN THE GREEN CORN, another sensational solo work that I highly recommend, containing one of his most beautiful compositions, "Bound to this World". Yeah, I'm three years late to this party. What else is new? Besides, is there an expiration date on art?

In the meantime, the world continues to back up my proclamation that 2015 is the Year of the Sap. Need I really mention Trump? I think not. How about the other occupants of the clown car known as the Republican presidential contenders? Hillary ain't looking so good, but I don't think she ever did. Christ, will she win by default? Bernie Sanders is this election's Dennis Kucinich and Dopey Joe...oh, say it isn't so. It looks like I am probably sitting this election out and will be proud to admit it. Add this to the ongoing shit storm of cop killings, black people killings, religious crackheads, sandwich pedophiles, moralistic hackers, transcendental all makes me want to yell "Uncle!" 

But I won't, Not just yet. There's a balance in my world at least.

I haven't mentioned the stage productions of my melodramas because I have done so ad nauseam. I'll only add that it was indeed a swell season professionally and it's even sweller to able to say those words. (See previous post- A MELO SUMMER)

The BIG event of the summer was the visitation of family members far and wide when I got immersed in major grandpa love from my three grandchillun. That's the icing on the cake known as Summer 2015 and my life in general. It's a well-worn cliche to say that one most focus on us on what is best in life. No, Conan, it's not to crush your enemies, see them drive before you and to hear the lamentations of their women. Those are pretty sweet, but at this point in my time here on Earth, I take solace in this:. I have a great family and feel blessed to be a part of it. They manage to center this oft-kilter life of mine and the time in which I exist. Things could always be better until I am in their embrace. Then I realize that this is the best of all possible worlds. Everything else can take a powder.

So long, Summer
Bring on the Fall.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

A Melo Summer

Some sweet summer memories from 2015.

As I continue on with this play marketing journey I have been on the past two years, I have discovered that melodrama is often synonymous with summertime as many companies tend to believe this is the optimum time of year for these shows, probably since they tend to be more family-friendly than genres.

This year I had three melodramas running in three different states, one more than last year, a number to grow next time around. But this year....I'm no longer regional (in my beloved Calif-orn-I-A) and can be considered national. (Hey, whatever delusions of grandeur I can conjure up is better for my mental well-being than a bottle of Muscatel and a bag of Cheetos.)

LA RUE'S RETURN or HOW'S A BAYOU?, the very first
Avenue Theatre LA RUE cast photo
melodrama I wrote with my best friend Ed Thorpe (aka Max), had two productions this summer, its debut out of state fell in West Plains, Missouri in June. The Avenue is a renovated art deco cinema converted to this community theater playhouse.


One proud papa
Next up. LA RUE had the honor of being the summer attraction at the Great American Melodrama and Vaudeville in Oceano, California in the same exact spot as last year;s SONG OF THE CANYON KID (LONE PRAIRIE-it's complicated). Max had the honor of visiting them in July.

Jacques La Rue and Miss Polly-GAM style

On top of that, the Great American is celebrating its 40th anniversary, so this is a real honor. (As opposed to a fake honor?. What am I babbling about?)

The show runs until Sept. 20


Finally, the Canyon Kid and Thunder rode into Wyoming this July for the Cheyenne Little Theatre Players' production of SONG OF THE LONE PRAIRIE or POEM ON THE RANGE at the historic Atlas Theatre in Cheyenne.
This show had two-count 'em-two separate casts for this show, which kind of makes it two shows in one. That's what I keep telling myself anyway.

They even made Thunder a bigger star than he was already.
(Thanks, Julie Wagner, the actress who brought Thunder to life. Here's a carrot for you.)


It's gratifying to know that community theaters like the Avenue and the CLTP embrace melodrama and consider it to be viable enough to include it in their seasons filled with such shows as SEUSSICAL, OLIVER, SPAMALOT, LEND ME A TENOR and AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY. Of course I'm also grateful that theaters that specialize in this form like the Great American Melodrama continue to exist as well. It's certainly good for me as a creator that specializes in this genre, but it's also good for theater in general. I still believe that any type of theater should be supported and not looked down upon from some elitist point of view. It all helps perpetuate the art form as a whole.

Speaking of which, coming this fall...a new murder mystery. Oh, get ready to turn your noses up at this one, you wags.