The new HBO documentary, Elvis The Searcher, sets itself apart from so many other takes we have seen on the man. True, it is was authorized by the Presley estate, Priscilla Presley is one of the producers, and they do tread lightly on his “legal” drug use, and there is no mention of other women. That all said, the film takes a mostly honest look, a discourse, at Presley’s life and his place in the history of popular culture. Since his sad final years, his death and his afterlife, Elvis has become something of a laughing stock, known more for being a fat, pathetic, over the hill, jumpsuit wearing laughing point than the pop culture subversive artist he was. The documentary attempts to correct this by putting Elvis, his talent, his revolutionary influence back in its proper perspective. It’s also, intentionally or not, a look at the sad failure of the American Dream. Continue reading
“I was born in a crossfire hurricane…” Sympathy for the Devil – The Rolling Stones.
For the first time since 1966, The Rolling Stones were touring America. It was 1969, and the venues were large palaces like Madison Square Garden. It was a month-long tour that began in early November and cumulated one month later. The Stones were on fire. Jagger is in top form strutting on stage like a rooster let loose in a hen house. The music is raw, and the audience primed. The MSG concerts would be preserved with the best cuts eventually finding their way on vinyl in 1970 as Get Your Ya Ya’s Out. The Stones agreed to end their tour with a free concert in California, a sort of west coast version of Woodstock. Continue reading
Along with Martin Scorsese, Roman Polanski, Brian DePalma, Arthur Penn, Francis Ford Coppola, John Frankenhiemer and Woody Allen, Sidney Lumet was one of the filmmakers from the period roughly beginning in the late 1950’s through the late 1970’s that shaped and formed my love of cinema. With the imminent demise of the studio system, that period was a significant turning point in American film. Overblown, over budgeted Hollywood productions and television would help end the Hollywood Studios stranglehold. A new order was on the horizon as were a new legion of filmmakers and Sidney Lumet was right in the mix. Continue reading
When Jimi Hendrix arrived back in the states from England, he along with his new backup musicians, Noel Redding and Mitch Mitchell, came back as rock stars. In Britain, The Jimi Hendrix Experience recorded a series of singles including, Hey Joe and Purple Haze. In 1967, the Experience came to America and really hit it big at the Monterey Pop Festival with Hendrix famously setting his guitar on fire. After the festival, the band went on tour with the headlining teen pop group, The Monkees, which Hendrix nicknamed, the Plastic Beatles. It was an odd pairing to say the least. The crowds were mostly fans of The Monkees, young teenybopper girls and their mothers. The site of the psychedelic rock threesome with their wild clothes, permed hair and hard rock music must have shocked the mothers in the audience out of this house dresses. They must of thought the group ranked to the left of obscene. Continue reading
Tab Hunter Confidential is an insightful and personal look at a man who despite the Hollywood system managed to find a path to inner peace and happiness. His honestly and sense of self come clearly through. The film is also an excellent look at the Hollywood system’s inner workings into the making of a star and the secrets that are buried. We learn how he was groomed for stardom as the clean cut, boy next door type. His face appeared on the cover of hundreds and hundreds of fan magazines. He dated beautiful starlets including Natalie Wood. He appeared in hit films and recorded number one charting records. Yet, Tab Hunter was not real. Continue reading
Photographer Bill Cunningham admits he is no artist. He is neither a commercial photographer like Bert Stern nor a documentarian such as Dorothea Lange. But what he does, he does well. Cunningham is a well-known photographer in the world of fashion but don’t pin that label him either. That’s not what he does. He emphatically says so himself. He says this though he has worked for Vogue, the original Details and currently works for The New York Times. Continue reading
Tomorrow night on the PBS American Masters series at 9PM (check local listing for exact time and date in your area), the premiere of a full length feature documentary on photographer Dorothea Lange. According to press releases “Dorothea Lange: Grab a Hunk of Lightening” will feature “newly discovered interviews and vérité scenes with Lange from her Bay Area home studio, circa 1962-1965, including work on her unprecedented, one-woman career retrospective at New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA.” The film is produced, written and directed by Emmy award winning Dyanna Taylor, the granddaughter of Lange and her second husband Paul Schuster Taylor. Continue reading