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Showing posts from June, 2020

I’LL DO ALL THAT I CAN [248]

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I could easily have wondered why my family owned the “Rocky IV” soundtrack album, but the opening of James Brown’s “Living in America” answers that question very quickly. However, we also had a cassette named “The Power of Classic Rock,” and when that blinked back into my consciousness, I needed answers. The track listing for this album befits the name “The Power of Classic Rock,” and its 1985 release date: “Drive,” by The Cars, “Purple Rain,” “I Want to Know What Love Is,” “Dancing in the Dark,” “The Power of Love” (by Jennifer Rush), and “Total Eclipse of the Heart.” But this album is not a compilation of recent hits: it is a covers album, the “artist” is The London Symphony Orchestra, assisted by The Royal Choral Society, and was the seventh album in a series that began in 1978. The premise is simple: the “Classic Rock” series recreates popular music in a classical, symphonic style. The record label that instigated the series, K-Tel – yes, them of the cheap, quiet and gr

DON'T BE STUPID, BE A SMARTY [247]

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"I hope you've got a sense of humour," advises the writer, director and animator Bill Plympton, introducing his film "Hitler's Folly." The 67-minute mockumentary, presenting an alternate history about Adolf Hitler's career as an animator, has been presented, for free, at www.plymptoons.com since its release in 2016, because Plympton surmised it was not the sort of film that Hollywood would wish to make. However, even this film recognises that Hollywood already put the boot in to Hitler. When the director of the "documentary," relating the story provided by a conspiracy theorist murdered at the beginning of the film, says, "is this the biggest pile of horse crap you've ever heard," as if you needed reminding, rationalising its existence with "Mel Brooks did this kind of thing with 'The Producers,' and he is perfectly fine... to this day, perfectly fine."  "Springtime for Hitler" is a com

WE'RE LEAVING TOGETHER [246]

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Taking a look at Twitter, I see Debbie Harry and Kate Bush are trending. The BBC had shown two episodes of “Top of the Pops” from 1989, repeating old performances they made. As ever, that was not why they were still trending from the night before: it was from people opening Twitter themselves, and expressing thanks that they hadn’t died, because seeing their names trending got them worried for a moment. Of course, writing their names out one more time feeds them back into the system, and the process continues. My sincere hope is that, one day, this will happen to Twitter itself, and no-one will have reason to care. I have maintained a presence on Facebook and Twitter since 2009, initially to avoid being impersonated, and later just to keep up appearances, as more people made social media their primary form of communication. Today, these accounts are only used to promote my writing, along with an Instagram account I recently started, in order to keep a hand in there. (I should

PRIVATE EYES, THEY’RE WATCHING YOU [245]

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“Who is this man? You know we can’t afford any trouble.” The filmography of Orson Welles is usually split into two categories: “Citizen Kane,” and everything else. While two more films, “The Magnificent Ambersons,” and “It’s All True,” were made under Welles’s contract with RKO, only “Citizen Kane” was made the way he wanted, and finished and released as he intended. There remains only one version of “Citizen Kane,” and that is the vision of its director, co-writer and star.  This distinction is critical when discussing Welles’s films, as in most cases, especially 1955’s “Mr Arkadin,” you must clarify which version you watched. A French-Spanish production, filmed across Western Europe, “Mr Arkadin” was taken out of Welles’s control by the producer when the original release date was missed – after four months of editing, only the first third of the film had been pieced together. There now exists about five different versions that are available to view, cut together in vast

TOUCH MY BUMPER, HEY, LET’S MAKE A DEAL [244]

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Between 1984 and 1989, Billy Ocean could do no wrong, topping the charts in both the UK and US with punchy electric rock songs: “Caribbean Queen,” “Loverboy,” “When The going Gets Tough, The Tough Get Going,” and the outlier ballad “Suddenly”.   Audiences in the UK saw the beginnings of this force through “Love Really Hurts Without You” and “Red Light Spells Danger,” but Ocean’s voice has a rich tone that he can project effectively, like asking Lionel Richie to go hard or go home. What made Ocean’s 1980s songs particularly memorable were the videos, in particular how “When the Going Gets Tough...” features Kathleen Turner, Michael Douglas and Danny DeVito on “backing vocals,” the song having been used by their film “Romancing the Stone.” The video made for “Loverboy,” a fantasy filmed at Durdle Door in Dorset that evokes Jim Henson productions like “The Dark Crystal” or “Labyrinth,” make you want to see the whole film, until you realise that this was one Ocean song that was not

HURRY UP IT’S HALLOWEEN [243]

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“Halloween III: Season of the Witch” has been around long enough to be reappraised as an enjoyable cult horror film, successfully separated from the eternally rebooted Michael Myers roadshow - indeed, the first “Halloween” film is treated as a fictional work, with a trailer appearing on TV before one of the incessant Silver Shamrock ads.  However, because people were apparently expecting to see The Shape again, it was the least successful “Halloween” film at the time, dooming the idea of an anthology series – it may have been released in the US in time for Halloween 1982, but when it ran out of steam, it took until 9th June 1983 for it to reach UK cinemas. “Halloween III” remains my favourite film in the series, only because it is the one I actually wanted to watch. The plot is essentially an anti-consumerist retelling of “Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” even based in a carefully controlled named Santa Mira, this time overrun by the Silver Shamrock Novelties mask facto