Sunday was damned odd: two different sessions of speaking with an orchestra. In the first example, I spoke to introduce the orchestra. In the second I spoke with the orchestra. It's a piece that requires narration, and I am Your Humble Narrator, I guess. This time it was just the dress rehearsal. Wish I hadn't agreed to do it, but that's always how these things go. Then it's over and I'm elated. It's something different, which is good. (I hate something different.) (I can't stand the feeling that your life is unvarying and without change or challenges, and that's when I want something different, and leap at the chance to do something different. (Also, I hate something different.)
The first gig was BGH, or Benson Great Hall, or Bovine Growth Hormone as I like to call it; before the audience came in I took this to show you what it's like to walk across a stage to the microphone.
Thrilling, I know. After the concert I went home and fell asleep, which was the proper order of things, I think. Had slept late and shouldn't have been tired, but half the night was nightmares and jerky awakenings, because the second part of the day had burrowed down mole-deep into my subconscious and filled with with dreadful what-ifs. One of those dreams where walking is tremendous work, every step a leaden slog, unbearable and inexplicable exhaustion dragging you back with every attempt to move forward. See, the second orchestra gig isn't just introducing and leaving the stage. I have to perform. I'm reading the narration for a piece of music about a boy who learns how to play jazz, and it's not a case of waiting for the orchestra to stop so I can talk. The lines are woven in the score, and if I miss anything or lose my place it's hosed. If the mistake is small, say, hossissimo, I can recover, but it's like nothing I've done.
Not worried now. The rehearsal was fine, once I got the hang of it - it helps if you can read a score. It's all 4/4. There are sufficient punctuation points to hit that I'll know where I am. The only thing is the acting part; I chomped the wax tadpole tonight, but it was a cold read and I wasn't amplified, so the lines had to be shouted. It doesn't help that the text is rather inert. I mean, you sell a line like "he also discovered the fun in different sounding mutes."
But it was an honor to do with the orchestra, and the performance will be great - the jazzmen Manny conscripted for the gig are pros, and the improv sections were magic. More on that next Monday, after I hope I will say "the joint was not stunk up by yours truly."
See, the Swede went to Pretty Olympia, and I went to Scummy Olympia, but at the end of the day we both went to the same theater when the G-Man premiered the must-see action flick. I think he brought Holiday; I know I brought The Model. Can't remember how either liked the movie - it would have been cool if they did, but expected if it didn't. Those were the days.
Let me back up. Saw a movie this weekend.
It had the usual problem that bothers me about action movies. No one ever said "hold on. Please. Stop. I must have a sandwich and I need to crap." That was one of the things I liked about the first version of the movie; the characters were exhausted, and had to find a place to sleep and prepare sustenance. People suffered constant bodily injuries without lasting effect; I counted at least six disabling concussions. The overall premise was preposterous, too. I mean the founding document that made the entire series possible. It's just ridiculous. It falls apart the moment you look at it with a mildly critical eye. That doesn't matter, because the first was amazing and will be amazing for all time, and the second was also amazing in its day, and still holds up. The rest - meh.
In short, it's everything I really can't stand about modern CGI action movies.
But. You cannot completely dismiss a movie that has a good Terminator robot trying to smile as best as he can for his mug shot:
Many of the younguns who hated the movie have experienced the original "Terminator" from a distance, and have been able to gulp up Arnold's career in a few weeks of weekend action-movie binging. Those of us who were there at the time - well, you either got an Arnie movie or you didn't. You either bought him on his own terms or you applied external critical criteria and expanded his success to mean something awful about the culture. If you just enjoyed the movies as action flicks that occasionally rose above their origins when the writers put pithy phrases in the mouth of a giant Austrian, then you . . . you liked Arnie. Arnie was your guarantee, in a way: it's not going to be mushy. It's not going to be deep. Stuff's gonna blow up. Arnie will win. There will be a moment when a New Iconic Quip is delivered.
I stopped expecting that after "Eraser," because "you're luggage" isn't the sort of memorable phrase you can use in daily life with your pals. People can fault Terminator Genisyis: The Misspellling for many things, but underneath the constant recycling was a wealth of mythos-specific quippery. I mean, any movie that can have Terminator enthusiasts laughing when the T-80 says "John Connah talks too much" has blown up the canon like a tanker-truck full of fuel oil. I think that's why the Serious Fans hated it: the movie did not respect their earnest desire for something deep and dark and tortured, with backstory about the days when John Conner led humanity out of its caves, and into the bright light of victory.
First of all, that was always nonsense. Skynet would have just gassed everyone. Then again, the idea of Skynet is silly. It nuked every city but somehow managed to preserve an industrial infrastructure that could make robots. And flying machines. Okay! Sure. It works when you're in the theater and seeing it for the first time and it's 198X, but compounding this preposterous storyline over and over with more elaborate additions just makes you roll your eyes, like someone trying to bring grandeur and pathos to a story about donkeys taking over New York.
Probably helped that I did not give it my full attention. There are some movies that profit from this. It's something you can do in this modern world - put the movie on the second screen, pay attention when it seems to require it, listen to it when it's talky, pause it when you wish. You're not sitting in a theater being beaten over the head by something that rattles on at its own pace.
Oh: Pretty Olympia was the downtown gym; there's where the Giant Swede went. I went to Scummy Olympia on Lyndale, so known for its true grotty gym atmosphere. We took our dates to see the premier of "Predator," which talk-show host Geoff Charles (who went to Scummy, which is how I got into talk radio, but that's another story) had not only arranged for his listeners, but he'd had an interview with Arnie on the show, which . . . blessed in the event in a very 80s way. I'll always remember that night.
Didn't enjoy the movie, though. Something about seeing it with your Model Girlfriend - literally - makes you wince at the amount of shooting doing on. She can't possibly be enjoying this.
Never made that mistake again.
"There was someone in here the other day and he asked if you were here," the clerk said on Saturday. So here's a big wave to You, and I hope you enjoyed the place as much as I do. It's now full of Christmas stuff, but that will have to wait until Thanksgiving has passed. For now, a jaunty doughboy:
He doesn't look too bright, does he? But he looks genial enough. Up for a good time. And he could turn loutish and cruel in a second.
Who the hell would put this on their mantle?
I am stunned by how good this is.
Well, most of it. Some parts are, as you'll see, insane.
Let’s flash forward past the opening sequence. Noir as heck:
If the wife’s dead, and there’s a big picture of her in the house, then we’re in Laura / Rebecca territory. Any house that has a picture of a wife on the wall is a place that's inevitably visited by murder and regret, and sure enough the hisband on the left has come home to find his wife dead. Here are the cops, buying the husband’s story completely:
And what’s his story? He was out with the Phantom Lady. They met in a bar. I won’t say they met cute. More like morose.
He's left home because his wife is a shrew. The mysterious lady agrees to go out to a show with him, and we get a bit of inadvertent documentary:
Times Square. The theater:
I don't know where that is; the Casino in New York closed in 1930.
Anyway. What follows is damned odd. The drummer is our old friend, Creepy McGunsel:
He gives the Phantom Lady a greasy sex-look. And then the musical act comes out and both the singer and the Phantom Lady hate each other because they’re wearing the same hat, which the singer can see from the stage and apparently thinks the world knows, and Elisha Cook is grinning, and it’s just . . . off. Almost David Lynch off, in the sense of people behaving like malevolent shadow-people in a bad sick dream.
Well, the couple splis up, and the guy goes home, and his wife is dead. That's where the cops come in. Of course he's suspected. The cops grill him and don’t believe him. Next morning, at his office, we meet his secretary. It’s quite possibly he might
have a reason for not wanting to stick around with his wife, who hated him and wouldn’t give him a divorce.
Ellen Raines. Gore Vidal’s cousin and, despite that or because of it, a lifelong Republican and anti-Communist.
So they retrace the guy’s steps from the previous night, and no one remembers him or the Phantom Lady. They’re all obviously lying. The husband is charged, and there's a trial - yes, this thing moves that fast. In court we never see the lawyers, the judge, the accused. We see the spectators; we see the cops watching from the wings; and the entire case is spoken over shots of a steno writing shorthand. Why? Because other movies show you the trial, and this one seems keen to just be different. Let’s say you have two cops waiting outside for the accused to come back from an interview with one of his supposed alibis. A standard director might have them talking about the case, keep the thing running on rails. This movie does this:
See? Has nothing to do with the story. The cops don't matter. They're just doing their job. Another day at the office.
Anyway: the beautiful secretary decides to clear her boss, and that means finding the Phantom Lady. There’s a wordless sequence that’s almost five minutes long as Kansas - that’s the secretary - goes to the bar where the bartender lied. She just sites there and stares at him for three nights. She leaves when he leaves. They end up at the same train platform.
The El. It looks like a monster.
He’s behind her. The train approaches. We see the bartender - who of course was bribed to say he'd never seen the Phantom Lady - move to push her in front of the train when someone else comes along.
The tension, the cut to the unconcerned interloper, the splash of light - it's not particularly special by itself, but after five minutes of wordless tension the light is like a loud siren.
Next night it's the theater, where she dolls up . .
. . . and makes eyes at Elisha Cook. Let’s just say it has the desired effect.
Off to a jazz club. Check out this transition, and you'll see why say that this movie is, for the time, insane.
Eliza takes to the drums. Again: not a word in the sequence. Eliza is drumming with glee because he thinks he’s going to have sex with the woman he picked up, and he’s all jazzed up.
She gives him the drift:
But then . . . then there's this.
It’s the most David Lynch noir ever made. Did I mention there’s a woman hanging from a rope reflected in the mirror?
Forty-five minutes into the movie, Franchot Tone shows up.
He's a sculptor. With problems.
These shots! It's almost entirely like this:
I could go on. Reviews on imd are uneven. It’s not perfect, but there’s not a shot I wasn’t tempted to screengrab.
Back on the Amazon program! Huzzah. I won't post a link unless it's worth buying.