Don’t forget that we have moved our BLOG to our website. This week’s post is a review of Viceland’s new show with Ellen Page and Ian Daniel. Thank you for your support!
It is no secret that WordPress as a blogging platform has been going downhill for a while. WordPress is more focused on website design and blogging has become an after thought to the company. We’ve run into all kinds of problems this past year, such as the stats being way off – how can you have a dozen people like or comment yet have no visitors? Our reader repeats other people’s posts several times making it hard to find others on here. And biz on this end has grown. So, to make daily lives easier, Jett Wilson BLOG POSTS are now on jettwilson.me . We’ll post a reminder of that a few times in the weeks ahead but that is where it can be found now. The site is still being revamped but the blog is up and running. Follow me there, and thanks for your support! – Jett Wilson
There are times when you realize how much some people sacrifice to help others. If you want a little inspiration, or you love basketball, then find The Street Stops Here. You can order it or watch it via Youtube.
This is the story of Bob Hurley Sr. who coached a small inner-city Catholic high school (that survived donation to donation) and turned it into the most successful basketball program in history. He won around two dozen championships and produced more college and professional players than probably anyone else has.
The kids he coached were from the street. They grew up surrounded by drug dealers, gun violence, and the homeless. Yet, over decades, only one of his kids didn’t graduate. Some kids didn’t have a family, others rode a train each day for an hour just to get to the school. There is a level of dedication by both coach and players exhibited here that is rare.
If you think the school is a big fancy place, think again. It is an an old run down building where everyone foregoes better pay elsewhere to help the kids at the bottom of society. The school doesn’t have a court of its own or a weight room etc. The success is born of hard work and sweat. A lesson to us all. This movie is an easy 5/5 on the rating scale.
It is a sad fact in our society, and a disquieting testament to our human character, that perception and P.R. often overrides truth. Joan Crawford is mostly defined by another book, released after her death when she couldn’t defend herself, but it should be books like this that define her, for most of the first one is a lie.
This biography by Charlotte Chandler – who has written other film biographies – is a brilliant primer for anyone wishing to learn about Joan Crawford. While not perfect, it does a masterful job of giving the reader, and any lover of films, an overview to the life of one of the greatest actresses in film history. Chandler relies heavily on interviews for her information, and there are some frank discussions included in the book, including lengthy ones with Joan Crawford herself.
Abandoned by her real father, raised by a mother who worked and lived in the back of a laundry room, Joan grew up knowing how to fight for what she wanted. That served her well in Hollywood.
She was a great dancer. Started acting when silents were around then made the transition to talkies and never looked back. She was talented, played the starlet to the hilt, and landed some of the best female roles in film history. She won a Best Actress Oscar for her role in Mildred Pierce.
As I mentioned earlier, this book relies heavily on interviews. Joan rubbed shoulders with some of the greatest names in film history, from Chaplin to Spielberg, so the names included on these pages read like a ‘Who’s Who’ of Hollywood.
I was pleased to discover that Chandler devoted a large section to her interview with Douglas Fairbanks Jr., one of four men married to Joan. You know a person isn’t all bad when their ex’s consistently praise her overall. Fairbanks gave great insight to the earlier years of Hollywood and his marriage with Joan.
Even Bette Davis – whom Joan had a famous rivalry with both on screen and off – was spoken to in length. And when it came to the allegations made against Joan after death, well, Miss Davis made no bones in saying they were rubbish. Joan also had two other daughters she adopted who say the allegations were fabricated. I’m not going to name the other book or author here. Why promote a false herring?
I was proud to learn that Joan secretly, when she first started to make it in Hollywood, arranged to rent a hospital room. She made a deal with a doctor and some staff that they would treat people who couldn’t afford medical help and Joan picked up the tab. She did that for the rest of her life and kept it secret. Only in this book did one of her close friends reveal the secret. It says something to character when a person performs a feat of that nature on their own.
Some will criticize this book for not diving into Joan’s romances more. It is reputed that Joan slept with a slew of men and possibly women over the years but Chandler purposely avoids romantic sensationalism. It is also possible that Joan had to prostitute herself to make ends meet before she became a star but Chandler skirts around that issue altogether and really doesn’t talk much about Joan’s struggle to survive those early years as a dancer. As a biographer, I think she should’ve and if the book has a shortcoming, it is in that area. I don’t say that because people thrive on that dirt. When you think of it, those tidbits are the least important things in our lives in the end. I mean, who hasn’t slept with someone we shouldn’t have? But they do so show one’s perseverance and shape the outlook on the world. A biographer has to at least explore those details. It can be done without publishing every little secret.
One of the most popular posts I’ve ever done on this blog is The Louisiana Flip. I wrote it in 2012 and I still have people reading it. The name is that of a drink from Joan’s movie The Grand Hotel which is one of my all-time favorite classic movies. I highly recommend it for viewing.
Joan Crawford was legendary for her beauty, her dancing, and most of all, her acting. She rose from a broken home, from dwelling in Midwest slums, to rise to the peak of her profession. She made fashion trends, helped the needy, cared for the troops, and tried to give back to those who suffered like she had.
If you wish to see her films, I suggest starting with Mildred Pierce; The Grand Hotel; Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?. If you wish to find a biography to learn who she was as a person, I suggest starting with this one by Chandler. 4/5 on the rating scale.
What an amazing movie. This story about a boxer isn’t about boxing but rather to what depths a man must sink to win what he prizes above all else. It’s about a man’s flaws, rashness, redemption and above all else, love, for without love redemption has no value.
The script for this movie is brilliantly crafted. The movie starts off and you say to yourself, ‘I know where this is going’ but about two minutes later you realize you have no clue. By that time, you are totally caught up in in the performances being given.
Jake Gyllenhaal is one of the premier character actors of his generation. He whipped his body into shape for this role and he enters the movie ring with his killer abs, knockout left, and his ‘abandoned on the street’ attitude, that defines his character. You simultaneously fear and empathize with him.
As good as Gyllenhaal is in this movie, the standout for me is Forest Whitaker. This is by far one of his best supporting roles ever. Honestly, I came away from this movie thinking he should’ve been nominated for an Oscar for his portrayal of a broken down gym owner, with a not so clean past with the Southpaw. In the movie, Whitaker’s character is the Southpaw’s redemption. Moving beyond one’s past is a major theme in this movie. The Oscars could’ve used a little diversity this year and Whitaker is a prime example of what they missed by overlooking minorities in the nominating process.
Rachel McAdams is believable in a supporting role as the Southpaw’s wife and Oona Laurence does well as the kid, smarter than her years, daughter. There really isn’t a weak link among the cast in this film.
There should’ve been more fanfare about this film when it was released but in the chaos that was the movie industry of 2015, a lot of great movies came and went without hardly a box office ripple. As I mentioned earlier, while there are some great boxing scenes, this isn’t a boxing movie. I promise you that if you rent this (it is out on DVD now) that you’ll be caught up in this drama. A strong five by five rating for the Southpaw from me.
His real name was Jones. A name like that certainly was unsuitable for a person destined to influence a half-century of culture. The moniker ‘Bowie’ fit his creative glove much better.
I could sit here and talk about his music; ‘Fame’, ‘Space Oddity’, ‘Heroes’, ‘The Man Who Sold The World’, ‘Let’s Dance’, ‘Absolute Beginners’, ‘This Is Not America’, ‘Rebel, Rebel’ and anything with the Ziggy Stardust persona. Though, if I did that, it’d limit the conversation.
I could critique his films; ‘The Man Who Fell To Earth’, ‘Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence’, or his tour in ‘Elephant Man’. Again, a bit limiting in the scope of his career.
Certainly, he knew fashion. The man who made Glam Rock kewl and groups like Kiss possible always seemed to look good whether he was on stage as Ziggy Stardust or simply rocking in a suit that he wore as easily as the rest of us wear jeans.
Everyone has stories to tell of Mr. Bowie. Yesterday, I was listening to Chirp Radio and the DJ Superfrye had people write in with their reflections. It was clear how much Bowie’s art – and for him it was all art – meant to so many lives. The photo above is part of a tribute being paid Bowie on Bloom County. It is humorous but it is a nod from one great artist to another.
I recall being sick one summer and the radio station latching on to ‘Fame’ and ‘Golden Years’ and playing the shit out of those, so much so that the tunes are still embedded in my brain. But the listeners then – and now – didn’t mind.
What Bowie brought to me though was the first realization that life itself is a parody. He seemed to understand that better than anyone so there was no conflict showing up on stage as Ziggy in an age when gender-bending performances had been regulated to farces like Some Like It Hot. He was daring the world – ‘Does it really matter?’. The world took a pause, then shouted back, ‘It does not!’
When he took us all out into the cosmos with Major Tom, he was showing us all that we’re only specks in a vast universe, that even with all our technology, we haven’t really begun to understand who we are or our role in the cosmos.
On stage he performed, showed us, that the norms we cherish so dearly, cling to as though they are a life jacket thrown from a sinking ship, only allow the parody to thrive. The truth lingers a scratch beneath the surface of the parody. With a single scratch – if we dare to make it – we realize our true selves, the core of what makes us individual. Our real essence struggles, longs to come out with the ego of a Ziggy or the passion of beginners starting a journey, for while we all bleed the same, our cries of pain and our laughter of joy are as distinct as the stars that seduced Major Tom. With each artistic piece, Bowie pricked himself and challenged us to do the same so we can experience life. We should all be grateful for having tasted the fruits of the creative genius that just passed from us.
Goodbye, Mr. Jones. Thank you, Mr. Jones.
I took advantage of the Itunes .99 ongoing rental sale of documentaries and downloaded Life Itself. The documentary is based on the memoir by Roger Ebert and filmed during the last days of his life.
If you don’t know who Roger Ebert is, you are probably under the age of 30. He was a movie critic, so good that he won the Pulitzer Prize, and with rival/television partner Gene Siskel, gave us the famous ‘Thumbs Up’ that use to be on every movie poster. If a movie got ‘Two Thumbs Up’, the moviegoer knew it was worth the price of admission.
Ebert was an interesting person, a fact that comes out from the first frame of this film. He was also very public. Admitting he was an alcoholic for instance or going public with the travails of his illness.
It is painful to watch Ebert at the end. He spoke with the help of a computer, his lower jaw having been remove and at the right angle, you can see through it. But until the very end he kept right on writing. Just before his death, he even wrote a column thanking his readers over the years and basically saying goodbye.
I was surprised by how much animosity there was between Ebert and Siskel, especially in the beginning of their relationship. I probably shouldn’t be, considering they were rivals. They eventually became friends but it took a while and the outtakes from their tv show – which half the country watched at some point – shows the progression of that relationship.
Roger Ebert – and Gene Siskel – influenced a lot of filmmakers. In the movie, Martin Scorsese credits them with literally saving his life and career. Other filmmakers speak of Roger’s generosity over the years and to his credit, Roger actively sought out unknown talent, to encourage them, lend a hand, and put them out there. Errol Morris states quite frankly, without them, he had no chance of a career.
What helped make Roger Ebert – and Gene Siskel – good as critics was that you could learn from them. Now they often had different opinions but their discussions were informative, plain spoken so that the average guy could understand the point about cinema being made. If you paid attention, if you were aspiring to be a writer or filmmaker, you picked up pointers on what worked and was appealing to an audience or what turned them off. I know I learned some nuggets of truth from them over the years.
Life Itself is worth the view. I’d like to check out the memoir someday because Ebert was a true writer. For the film, hit up the Itunes store for that .99 rental. The film is 5/5 in my book.
Last night I streamed Frontline: Netanyahu At War. Frontline streams all their episodes off the PBS.org site and so I got to catch-up on their latest 2 hour special that had broadcast earlier in the week. It was well worth the view.
Frontline – considered to be in the elite of journalistic broadcasts – focused on Netanyahu’s career and the conflict between him and Obama. There are stark observations that become disturbingly clear in the show.
For instance, the conversations Netanyahu had with people at Rabin’s funeral – the only remorse he had was that Rabin’s assassination made Rabin a hero when Netanyahu thought he could beat him in the election. Of course, Netanyahu helped incite the hatred that led to Rabin’s murder so it shouldn’t be a surprise that nowhere will you find remorse for the killing on his part.
The one element that seemed to rear its head over and over again is how much contempt, disdain, the Likud party has not just for Obama but Americans in general. Other Likud officials were in the program and either mocked their counter-parts or ridiculed Americans. Stories of Netanyahu screaming at John Kerry or lecturing Obama and Bill Clinton as though they had no knowledge, just bore out how little foresight Netanyahu and Likud have.
The lack of foresight is because for them it is all about holding political power. Never do you hear them speak about obtaining peace or simply doing the right thing to avoid bloodshed. Instead, it was all about using bloodshed to gain control.
One also comes away from the show with a renewed appreciation for Obama’s Middle East policy. For instance, it is clear from the diplomats and advisers involved that if Obama had included Israel in the Iran negotiations, Netanyahu and Israel would’ve done all they could to sabotage the deal which has bore fruit.
Netanyahu has altered the U.S.-Israel relationship permanently. I don’t think anyone questions that. There is no gratitude, not an ounce, from Jerusalem to D.C. for what the Americans have done for them. It is a shame to say but that has taken a toll.
This was another great piece of journalism by ‘Frontline’. You can stream it off the pbs.org site. I encourage you to do so.
By now the world knows of the militia group who have taken over a Federal Bird Sanctuary in Oregon. The leaders are from the Bundy Family in Nevada and there are about 150 armed lunatics in the place. *Since my original posting, it seems many of the terrorists went home already. There may only be a couple dozen actually at the sanctuary. But the point remains the same.
Now if this were a bunch of black protesters or 150 Muslims, the place would already be bombed and stormed, no doubt with few survivors. However, since it is a bunch of white guys with racist and neo-Nazi connections, well, that is different. They have to be coddled and treated like they have a legitimate point by the media when all they want is the overthrow of the government and the establishment of a fascist regime.
I don’t blame the Feds for taking their time with this. For starters there are 150 guys and clearly they aren’t too bright. Being holed up in the Oregon wilderness in the middle of January won’t go down as a strategic brainstorm. And seriously, a bird sanctuary??? And the Feds, all they have to do is jam the phones, the radios, turn off the water and heat, and in a couple weeks guys will start crawling out. I’ve heard people say that these militiamen are survivalists, they can live off the land. Well, when you are surrounded with snipers taking pot shots at you, reaching the land to pick berries becomes a really hard task. Again, too much tv has rotted the brain cells.
Social Media is having a field day mocking these guys with hashtags like #yallQaeda and #yeehawdists. I admit, I laughed my ass off at some of the jokes last night. (Instead of 72 vestal virgins it is 72 vestal strippers named Brandi lol) It is no joke what is going on though with these guys terrorizing locals. Schools are cancelled, businesses closed, and now millions in your tax dollars are going to be spent on an operation that will probably put people at risk and end with casualties.
The rising tolerance for lunatics, particularly white guys who wave their guns and threaten people because they don’t like a policy or Obama or the fact their neighbor speaks Spanish and that freedom of religion means not only Christianity, is really becoming a sore point with the vast majority of the population. These people can’t win at the ballot box so they take to their guns. It is that simple.
The government is going to have to start making examples out of these terrorists – which is what they are. Hopefully with just a long prison sentence but if they persist then with armed force. These racist terrorists have been in our midst far too long.
If you ever have listened to a hit song or album recorded in the 1960’s or 1970’s, then you have listened to The Wrecking Crew. Their names aren’t on the record or song, but they played all the instruments. If you have ever heard theme songs like from Batman, Pink Panther, Bonanza, Hawaii 5-0, you’ve heard The Wrecking Crew.
Who were The Wrecking Crew? As the 1950’s ended, musicians began migrating to Los Angeles and soon the industry was recording big hits there. Prior, all the action had been in New York. The Wrecking Crew was a group of studio musicians, around two dozen strong, that were used on practically every record made in Los Angeles.
This documentary was made by the son of Tommy Tedesco, considered one of the greatest guitar players around. He spoke to several members of The Wrecking Crew for the film including the likes of Carol Kaye (a female who was at one point making more money than the President, which back in those days said something) and Glenn Campbell, who was a member before he made it big as a singer.
The musicians lived their music. They literally went from one studio to the next. They would often start at like 8 a.m. and finish at 4 a.m. every single day. In the film, you hear producer after producer state how they would wait until they could book The Wrecking Crew for their session. The musicians were in such demand that for nearly two decades they appeared on practically every album that charted.
And those albums were music history. Beach Boys albums, done not by the Beach Boys but The Wrecking Crew. Brian Wilson who is in the film states flatly he wouldn’t have had it any other way. Everyone pretty much agreed in the film that Brian Wilson was one of the great musical genius’ of our time.
Phil Spector and the great ‘Wall Of Sound Era’, with songs like ‘You Lost That Loving Feeling’ or ‘Be My, Be My Baby’ – The Wrecking Crew. They gave Frank Sinatra his first number one hit as well as wrote the riff for ‘These Boots Were Made For Walking’ by his daughter Nancy. Elvis used them. Sonny and Cher. The Mamas And The Papas.The Byrds.
When they weren’t doing music they were doing television and movie scores. There is a funny story in the film about the first time Disney used them and apparently underestimated their skills.
This movie has a loose feel to it, much like The Wrecking Crew itself. There are some sad, and cautionary tales as well. The stories are entertaining. I liked the credits when the film began sampling all the different hit songs recorded. It was like someone jammed a jukebox full of quarters.
There is one story worth recalling. Herb Albert was wanting to record an album, he was just starting out, and so a producer called some of The Wrecking Crew and asked if they would play as a personal favor to the producer. So they were agreed to help out. The guys joked that they got only $15 a song or two for $25.
The album became a hit and launched Herb Albert and The Tijuana Brass. When Albert became famous, made his fortune with their work, what did he do? He went to the musicians union, paid the fine for not paying the guys scale at the initial recording, then cut checks for all The Wrecking Crew involved for the money they normally would’ve gotten. Now that is remembering who did you a favor.
The Wrecking Crew was an era. That era is gone now. But it is a sweet success that is pleasant to look back on. If you are interested in music, show business, how American culture evolved, then this movie is for you. And next time you hear ‘Good Vibrations’ , remember that vibe came from a bunch of unknown musicians who were the most successful in music history. The movie is 5 of 5 on anyone’s scale.