Saturday, July 21, 2018

Jimi Hendrix (1973)

Year 10, Day 202 - 7/21/18 - Movie #2,998

BEFORE: Hey, that Clapton documentary was a real deal, because if you think about it, and if I treat this whole chain like one giant rock concert (which it is) then last night I got to see the Beatles performing "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" with Clapton on guitar, then the Yardbirds did a number, "For Your Love", Cream came out to sing "I Feel Free" and "Strange Brew", then Blind Faith took the stage (unfortunately it was to perform "Presence of the Lord", not "Can't Find My Way Home"...) and then Derek and the Dominoes treated us to "Bell Bottom Blues" and "Layla" (good luck getting that last one out of your head...).  Finally Clapton did some solo numbers like "Tears in Heaven".

But right now, please welcome to the stage, the master of the Stratocaster, here to perform some of his greatest hits, direct from his gig in heaven's house band, Mr. Jimi Hendrix!  Don't worry, Clapton's not going anywhere, he's going to sit in on this session, as an interviewed subject.

FOLLOW-UP TO: "Jimi: All Is By My Side" (Movie #2,791)

THE PLOT: A biography of Jimi Hendrix, the world-famous guitarist who died in 1970.  Friends and prominent musicians comment on Jimi's life and his influence on rock music.

AFTER: It's another fine coincidence that on this date in 1967, Hendrix played the first of three nights at the Café-a-Go-Go in New York City - an event that's mentioned in the film, Jimi playing in the Village and people heading downtown to check him out.  This was when the band was known as Jimmy James and the Blue Flames, backing up John Hammond Jr.  After that, Jimi played at the Cheetah Club with Curtis Knight and the Squires, and that's where Linda Keith (girlfriend of Keith Richards) saw him play, and she recommended him to Chas Chandler, who "discovered" him over at Café Wha? shortly thereafter.

But the really important Hendrix performances - Monterey Pop (1967), Woodstock (1968) and Isle of Wight (1970) are represented here in this film, which weaves the concert footage in-between the interviews.  It makes an odd sense, because if the film were just interviews it would be too boring, and if it was all concert footage, then there would be no context.  So a balance needed to be struck, to capture the different aspects of Jimi, to remind people three years after he died what they were all missing out on.

I didn't include the concert film "Monterey Pop" in my line-up, because I'm fairly sure I've seen that one.  I got this documentary last year, Turner Classic Movies ran it with the Bob Dylan documentary "Don't Look Back", which they made us watch in film school.  D.A. Pennebaker directed both "Don't Look Back" and "Monterey Pop", so that makes sense too.  The clips from "Monterey Pop" included here feature "Wild Thing", "Hey Joe", "Like a Rolling Stone" and of course the famous footage of Jimi setting his guitar on fire.

(Kids, remember, whether you're starting a summer campfire or putting ACTUAL flames on your guitar, NEVER pour lighter fluid on an already-lit fire.  Jimi did not practice proper fire safety technique on stage in Monterey, and now we've got all kinds of wildfires in California.  Jimi's a rock-star and he lived dangerously, and where is he now?  Just saying.  Also, don't do drugs.).

From Woodstock comes Jimi's famous rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner", something he probably got a lot of flak for (as Dick Cavett suggested in footage here) but I don't have a problem with it - it's one of my favorite covers of our national anthem.  All the extra guitar noise that Jimi added just sounds like explosions and falling bombs, and that's really what the song is about.  He added the sounds of war to a song about war, and then when he comes back to the tune, it's like the bombing has stopped, the smoke has cleared, and we hear the melody again and it gives proof that the flag is still there.  Perfectly appropriate.

Then from the Isle of Wight Festival we've got "Red House", "Machine Gun", "In From the Storm" and Jimi's sped-up, cut-time version of "Johnny B. Goode".  God, his hands move so fast on that last one, it's hard to believe he's even playing live.  And then he plays with his TEETH, which probably left a lot of people scratching their heads, like are his teeth super-flexible or something, but the secret truth about the guitar is that it doesn't really matter what that strumming hand is doing, like you can hit the strings down there with anything, the secret is with the fret hand - as long as that hand is doing what it should, it's impossible to hit a wrong note.

So the guitar is just a harmonica played with your hands, once you learn the finger positions for the chords it's not that difficult.  Or maybe that's just the way that Jimi made it look, I never could get that "F" chord down, largely because I didn't have the time to devote to playing all day so I could build up callouses on my fingers, which seems to be a prerequisite for playing well.  I had a cheap guitar where the strings didn't require much pressure on the frets, so I pussied out.  And my fingers were too big to hold down only one string on it, so I sometimes had to figure out new positions where it didn't matter if my finger covered the next string over also.  Hey, I was no Hendrix.

But if you told me that Hendrix only played like five concerts in his whole life, which I know is not possible, I might be inclined to believe you because that seems to be all that was ever filmed, and we've seen these clips again and again.  If he did only play five concerts, and two of those were Monterey Pop Festival and Woodstock, wouldn't that be all he needed to do?  I never really understood the timeline before, but thankfully Jimi's is a little easier to follow than Clapton's - the Jimi Hendrix Experience broke up in June of 1969, which means that when he played at Woodstock in August 1969, it was essentially as a solo artist, with a band that had only rehearsed together for about 2 weeks.  The festival MC introduced them as the Experience, but that probably should be taken as a misnomer.

Then on the Band of Gypsys LP, he played with Billy Cox and Buddy Miles, then when that line-up dissolved, the final line-up for the New Experience got him back together with Mitch Mitchell and Billy Cox, but by this time Hendrix was following in the footsteps of Hank Williams, which means showing up drunk or stoned, and eventually showing up dead, which pisses off the tour managers and the fans who had tickets for that gig.  Still a good career move in the long run, though - I mean, the only place you can go after super-famous is immortal, right?

The interviews here are terrible, and let's leave it at that.  I couldn't take the woman who said "you know" about five times in every sentence, and the other one with the terrible, overbearing New Yawk accent.

Jimi's going to stick around and do another set here tomorrow as a headliner, before joining the backing band.  Eric Clapton, Pete Townshend and Lou Reed have to split, but they'll both be back for encores before the chain is done.

Also starring Jimi Hendrix, Mick Jagger (both also carrying over from "Eric Clapton: Life in 12 Bars"), Pete Townshend, Lou Reed, Little Richard, Mitch Mitchell, Billy Cox, Frankie Crocker, Al Hendrix, Buddy Miles, Fayne Pridgon, Arthur Allen, Albert Allen, Stella Benabon, Eric Barrett, Paul Caruso, Monika Dannemann, Jenifer Dean, Alan Douglas, Germaine Greer, Harold Parker, Pat Hartley, Linda Keith, Eddie Kramer, Juggy Murray, Juma Susan, Charles Washington, and archive footage of Noel Redding, Dick Cavett.

RATING: 5 out of 10 pawned guitars

Friday, July 20, 2018

Eric Clapton: Life in 12 Bars

Year 10, Day 201 - 7/20/18 - Movie #2,997

BEFORE: OK, I'm off the Beatles, but at least one of them will show up tonight in this documentary about Eric Clapton.  It seems like nobody associated with this film reported the full cast list to IMDB, so the information there is very sparse.  All I can really confirm before watching it is that George Harrison will appear, either in an interview or in archive footage.  Only four other people are listed as appearing in this film, and that's ridiculous or at least impossible.  Geez, I've updated film casts on IMDB myself, it's not that difficult.

This means I have to watch the film and take notes on who appears, just so I've got a record for my own internal bookkeeping - it's more work than I should have to do as a viewer, obviously.  And if I had known the full cast weeks ago, my linking could have been much easier.  Oh, well, time to get to WORK.

THE PLOT: A look at the life and work of guitarist Eric Clapton, told by those who have known him best, including BB King, Jimi Hendrix and George Harrison.

AFTER: Well, at least this is a warts-and-all portrayal of a rock star, which seems to ring a little truer than one that tries to gloss over the gory details.  I can't say I'm a huge Clapton fan (it took me years just to figure out that "Slow Hand" was an ironic nickname) but I'm obviously aware of his guitar talent and a bit of his back-story - OK, mostly the fact that he was attracted to George Harrison's wife, and wrote "Layla" to express that desire, and I saw this love triangle play out from Harrison's perspective in "Living in the Material World".  This film shows the flip side of that story, but also dips into Clapton's winding career though different 1960's groups, and then covers the years of heroin addiction and alcoholism.  At one point I think the doctors told Clapton that he could die if he STOPPED drinking, and that's some real rock-star level alcoholism.

There are also depictions of the concerts Clapton gave in the late 1970's when very drunk, and he apparently said some very racist things on stage, ranting about foreigners and such.  There's an attempt by Clapton here to back-pedal a bit, but we all know now that drinking doesn't make people racist, that's the Roseanne Barr tweeting defense, and it doesn't hold up.  Alcohol just lowers a person's inhibitions, they might do things while drunk that they wouldn't do sober, but it doesn't GIVE people opinions about things, those opinions have to come from somewhere else.  Then Clapton moves to the "I've got many black friends" defense, along with "I listen to mostly blues music from black performers."  Yeah, nice try, but that's no excuse for racist rants either.

Clapton got himself clean in the early 1980's, and embarked on a series of comeback albums and such, some of which were clearly influenced by working with Phil Collins ("Forever Man") and finally began to assert himself as a solo artist - after being in so many bands and burning so many bridges, it's tempting to think that he had to perform as a solo artist because there was nobody left to form a band with.  But I'd never say that.

But hey, he's the only person to be inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame THREE times, for his work with Cream, the Yardbirds and as a solo artist (no induction for Blind Faith? or Derek and the Dominos?)  And finally when he was clean he found himself capable of having real adult relationships, not just carrying on affairs with married women that produced secret children.  Again, it's one thing to be a rock star on stage, but it doesn't have to carry over to your personal life.  At some point, even rock stars need to grow up and relate to other humans in a positive way - it's just too bad so many people have to get emotionally hurt while they take a few decades to figure that out.

As I type this I'm listening to the Derek and the Dominos album "Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs" off YouTube, because I only know a few songs from it, and I'm curious about the whole double album now. That's FOUR sides of LP music!  (Umm, records used to have sides, that was a thing.)   I didn't know much about Derek and the Dominos, so tonight I learned that this group came together basically from the bunch of backing musicians who played on George Harrison's album "All Things Must Pass", and they stuck together to make the "Layla" album, which then took two years to chart!  Apparently there was much confusion among the public over who was in the band, I mean "Derek" rhymes with "Eric" but how were they supposed to figure that out?  It's not like the record company had a publicity department that could get the word out via press releases and such.

We all know the tragedy about what happened to Clapton's young son, which stresses the importance of window guards in places like New York City - what a terrible break, and I'm glad he remained strong throughout the grieving process.  I know artists and musicians frequently turn their personal tragedies into art, and that's part of their process, but after "Tears in Heaven" became so successful, I just don't know if it's appropriate to turn a child's death into a bunch of gold records and Grammys.  Those all seem tainted somehow, like he should have turned them down or something, it seems a bit morbid to celebrate the success of that song, am I way off base here?

I'm trying my hardest not to sit on my high horse and pass judgement on a man I don't know, but I can't help it when the documentary highlights so many years of bad behavior.  Hey, I like to drink beer too, in fact I was out at my favorite beer (and food) festival earlier tonight, but I don't consider myself an alcoholic, or use my drinking to justify any bad behavior.  For some people it's a crutch, and also a poor excuse for doing the things they do.

I know that "12 Bars" refers to a set of chord progressions in blues music, but was it meant intentionally here as a play on words, since the film's subject struggled with alcoholism?

Also featuring interviews with Pattie Boyd (carrying over from "It Was Fifty Years Ago Today"), Roger Waters (ditto), Steve Turner (ditto), Eric Clapton, Duane Allman, Patricia Clapton, Sylvia Clapton, Rose Clapp, Ruth Clapton Bartlett, Tom Dowd, Chris Dreja, Ahmet Ertegun, Hughie Flint, Richard Goldstein, Alex Hooper, Cathy James, B.B. King, Charlotte Martin, John Mayall, Jim McCarty, Jamie Oldaker, Alice Ormsby-Gore, Ben Palmer, Howard Smith, George Terry, Mike Vernon, Bobby Whitlock, Steve Winwood, and archive footage of Paul McCartney, John Lennon, Ringo Starr, Mick Jagger, Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix, George Martin (all carrying over from "It Was Fifty Years Ago Today"), Ginger Baker, Jack Bruce, Chuck Berry, Bob Dylan, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts, Aretha Franklin, Muddy Waters, Little Walter, Bill Graham, Jim Gordon, Carl Radle, Bobby Keys, Gary Wright, Lory Del Santo, Melia McEnery, Conor Clapton, Ella Clapton, Sophie Clapton, Julie Clapton, James Brown, Gloria Estefan, Bonnie Raitt, Lyle Lovett, Tony Bennett, Natalie Cole, Larry King. (Come on, was THAT so hard? Somebody, please, update that IMDB page...)

RATING: 6 out of 10 blank stares

Thursday, July 19, 2018

It Was Fifty Years Ago Today! The Beatles: Sgt. Pepper & Beyond

Year 10, Day 200 - 7/19/18 - Movie #2,996

BEFORE: OK, I promise that after tonight I'm getting off the Beatles, although those four lads are likely to pop up again in the countdown.  Of course, as soon as I settled on the final order for my 50 films, I thought of one more concert film that I always wanted to watch, and never quite got around to, and I figure if I don't do it now, then when am I going to do it?  But the problem with concert films is that they're all about THAT band, and in this case I'm thinking of a film with a band that has a few people in it that don't do a heck of a lot of interviews.  Ah, screw it, it's the Talking Heads, and I've never seen "Stop Making Sense".  But after I thought about it, I figured there was no possible way to work it in.

Only I just checked, and David Byrne is interviewed in two other films that are on the list - now, if they were next to each other, I could just slip "Stop Making Sense" right in there between them, only they're NOT next to each other.  So that means I had to tear the list apart and put it back together a different way, shuffling some things around to see if I could keep those three films with Byrne in a row, because that would be the only way to work it in.

Success!  I had to break some links up and find some new ones, but now the 50-documentary chain is a 51-documentary chain, and the linking is preserved.  That's it, no more films added.  But I'll be very upset at the end of the year now if I'm one film over and I can't end 2018 the way I want, which would lead to me to conclude that working in "Stop Making Sense" was a bad idea.  I guess we'll see.

The Beatles carry over again from "How the Beatles Changed the World", but only in archive footage, but hey, that's OK.  A few of their friends from the last film who were interview subjects were also interviewed for this one.

THE PLOT: A documentation of the influences that went on to help create the seminal album "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band".

AFTER: This is another film being scratched off my Netflix list, just like last night's film.  I'm already making progress in getting that list down to a more reasonable level.  (Plus I just finished watching "Stranger Things" season 2, and I know there's probably a season 3 coming, but I'm still taking it off my list for now, to give me that false sense of accomplishment...).

I thought this would be more of a behind-the-scenes, "making of" for the Sgt. Pepper album, but it's just not.  There are a few stories that relate to the production of Sgt. Pepper's, like the fact that Lennon borrowed real service medals from Pete Best's family for their military-style costumes, and he was very nice about making sure that those medals were returned safely, but that story doesn't really relate to the making of the music.  It's nice, but I was hoping for more of the nuts and bolts, the craft of songwriting or music production involved.   Huh, the trivia section on IMDB is telling me that there's not a single note of Beatles music in this documentary.  I suppose that explains it, it was made on the cheap and someone didn't want to pay for music rights.

The people interviewed, however, are friends, family and associates, like John Lennon's sister (I didn't know he had one...) and Freda Kelly, who worked at Apple Records (and there's a whole documentary about her, too, but I'm avoiding that one...) and a secretary from Apple Records who typed up lyrics for George Harrison, and helped him come up with the title of "Within You Without You".  Umm, good job?    So in a way, this film is a companion piece for "Eight Days a Week - The Touring Years" because it sort of picks up with the Beatles in 1966, right after they stopped touring, and were in the studio working on Sgt. Pepper's, and interviewers would ambush them and ask them what was coming next.  People were so anxious for new material, as Sgt. Pepper's was taking so long, that "Strawberry Fields Forever" was released early - it was going to be part of the album, but then became just a single on its own, or a double A-side single with "Penny Lane".

Now, the bad thing about this double A-side single was that the Beatles then felt that the song couldn't be released on the upcoming album (it was released later on "Magical Mystery Tour") plus the sales for each single only counted as half - both singles got the same position on the charts after splitting the sales, so "Strawberry Fields Forever", which would have been a #1 hit if they had released it with a B-side, only got to #2 on the charts.  (This is not to be confused with a single released with a b-side where both songs became hits, like "We Will Rock You" and "We Are the Champions" by Queen.)

Anyway, "Strawberry Fields Forever" was not only another groundbreaking psychedelic song, with the Lennon vocal eerily slowed down, it had one of the first music videos, with the Beatles running through a field, with the film footage also slowed down, run backwards, and such.  True to form, it was the Beatles "being weird".  People remember seeing Ringo jump up impossibly high into a tree, when in fact he was probably jumping down from the tree, as the footage was being run in reverse. I remember experimenting with this sort of thing with a Super-8 camera in film school, and I logically figured out that if I didn't get a camera with the reverse function, I could instead hold the camera upside-down, and then in the editing room I could just cut and flip a section of the film and that created the same reverse-motion effect.

But after three films, I've definitely hit the wall on Beatles information - some of the same stories from last night are repeated here, like the one about the Beatles going off on the retreat to India with the Maharishi, and Cynthia Lennon missing the train to Wales - yeah, I've heard that one before.  And the flap over Lennon saying the Beatles were "bigger than Jesus" is explored again. Definitely time for me to move on, but I'll circle back to some of the Beatles again, definitely.

Also starring Tony Bramwell (carrying over from "How the Beatles Changed the World"), Bill Harry (ditto), Pete Best, Julia Baird, Andre Barreau, Jenny Boyd, Ray Connolly, Tony Crane, Hunter Davies, Steve Diggle, Neil Harrison, Freda Kelly, Billy Kinsley, Simon Napier-Bell, Philip Norman, Barbara O'Donnell, Andy Peebles, Steve Turner, and archive footage of Jane Asher, Pattie Boyd, Brian Epstein, George Martin, Yoko Ono, Maureen Starkey, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Mick Jagger, Brian Jones (all carrying over from "How the Beatles Changed the World"), Syd Barrett, Barry Gibb, Maurice Gibb, Marianne Faithfull, Cilla Black, Cynthia Lennon, Julian Lennon, Keith Moon (last seen in "Quadrophenia"), Roger Waters, Twiggy, Englebert Humperdinck, Jimi Hendrix.

RATING: 5 out of 10 meditation sessions

How the Beatles Changed the World

Year 10, Day 199 - 7/18/18 - Movie #2,995

BEFORE: No shockers here, the four Beatles carry over from "Eight Days a Week" thanks to archive footage, of which I'm sure there is plenty.  I mean, have there ever been four people more filmed and/or photographed than the Beatles?  OK, perhaps, but nobody leaps to mind right now.

THE PLOT: The history of the Beatles and their cultural influence.

AFTER: It's just like I suspected, there are more famous people shown in this film than are represented in the cast list on the IMDB - meaning that my time spent linking these docs together COULD have been much easier, if only someone in the rights & clearances department had kept better track. As it is I now have to wind my way through pop music history, jumping around in time quite liberally, because in order to know who exactly appears in which films, I would have had to watch them all somehow before watching them, which would have been impossible.  In a couple days I'll move on to another subject, so please bear in mind that the order in which I'm tackling these docs has nothing to do with how much I like each band or performer, or how influential they were, the order was chosen specifically to maintain the linking.

Speaking of influence, this documentary is all about it - the historical influence that the Fab Four had on the culture of the 1960's and beyond.  The easiest points to make here center around music, since the Beatles invigorated both sales of singles and then albums, they were the first group to have the top 5 selling singles at the same time.  Then they released the first psychedelic song ("Tomorrow Never Knows") and the first genuine concept album ("Sgt. Pepper's") and then I think the first group to have two number one albums after breaking up.  But I probably need to check that last factoid.  But don't forget the entire British invasion line-up - the Stones, the Who, the Kinks, the Animals, and so on, they were all trying to follow in the Beatles' footsteps, to one degree or another.  And of course, it was unusual for any band to have not only two lead singers, but two genius creative songwriters in it. That didn't really come along again until Jagger-Richards, or perhaps the Guess Who if you're Canadian.

Obviously they influenced music, and then fashion came right along with that, but what else?  Anyway, the fashion part mostly came from Brian Epstein at first, who put the Beatles in suits so they wouldn't look like punks, and then maybe the parents of 60's teens wouldn't mind so much that their kids were rocking out.  But parents hated the Beatles long hair anyway, right?  And it wasn't even so long, that's what so weird about it (just wait until 1968 or 1969, parents...) but I guess then that anything besides a crew cut on a dude was considered long hair back then.

Obviously there were movies, too - I think the Beatles were the first musicians to play THEMSELVES, or fictionalized versions of themselves, in a movie.  Sure, Elvis Presley had been in many movies, but he always played a race-car driver or a soldier or something.  It's weird that he never just played a rock star, right?  But I think this is sort of a moot point, because after two movies, the Beatles made confusing films like "Magical Mystery Tour" that were quite terrible.

Last night's doc touched a bit on the Beatles' influence on civil rights, how they forced the desegregation of venues such as the Gator Bowl.  I wish they had mentioned that again here, but that seemed to be left out in favor of other matters.  Of course we know that the Beatles hit America at what seemed like a very opportune moment, shortly after the Kennedy assassination, and Americans were in a funk and didn't know if they would smile and dance again.  Hmm, maybe that's a bit of an over-simplification, but I didn't know that the winter of 1961-62 was such a rough one in the U.K., and so that country was also allegedly in a bit of a funk.  I'm not sure that I buy that one either, but I do believe it took a long time for the U.K. to cheer up after World War II, and even longer to clean up all the debris from Nazi bombings.

Tying the success of the Beatles to things like Britain's post-war decline, and even going back as far as the Industrial Revolution, makes for more tenuous connections.  I can probably determine that the Beatles were a hit because they were attractive men who wrote good songs and had cheeky personalities, and that's got nothing to do with the sun setting on the British Empire, right?  This film succeeds better when it mentions things like Paul's interest in the underground art scene of London.  We tend to think of John as the Beatle most closely connected to the counter-culture, but Paul lived on the top floor of a building where there was an underground bookshop on the main level, and he became friends with the shop's owner, popping in late at night to pick up something to read.  He also visited a lot of art galleries, and turned Lennon on to underground art - John went to the gallery and wasn't as interested in the art, but he did meet Yoko there.

There's another mention here of religion, Lennon's famous "bigger than Jesus" comment that wasn't taken well by the right-wing Christians in America.  His apology, which clarified that he wasn't bragging, just stating a fact, was probably too little, too late for some people.  But like it or not, you have to admit that he had a point - I mean, how many gold records did Jesus have?  Sure, he had more fans, but he died poor, and the Beatles were rich.  And the Beatles never re-united, but Jesus had a heck of a comeback tour after Easter.

Then there's the Beatles' affiliation with the underground, the counter-culture, which manifested itself out in San Francisco, as the beat movement turned into the hippie scene.  Paul had admitted in the press to taking LSD, which some people felt he should have kept quiet about, but that was Paul, honest to a fault.  John and George got a bit jealous, apparently, since they'd taken LSD too and nobody made any fuss over that.  Paul blamed the media for printing the story, and that sort of sounds like a bit of a cop-out, I mean, what else was the reporter going to do, NOT print that fact?  So really, the Beatles are responsible for the rise of tabloid journalism, too, because they led lives that were interesting enough to print stories about.

I didn't know about this event that took place at Royal Albert Hall, which was a giant poetry reading, featuring Allen Ginsberg and other members of the counter-culture.  I thought of the line from "A Day in the Life" that goes "Now they know how many holes it takes to fill the Albert Hall..." - allegedly this line came from a newspaper article about potholes (4,000 holes in Blackburn-Lancashire) but now I'm wondering if Lennon hated poetry, and this was some kind of reference to a large bunch of (ass)holes turning up at this event held at the Albert Hall.

But the cultural revolution that began with kids buying Beatles records with their own money, dressing differently from their parents and having their own views on love and politics hit a snag when things started to get violent.  Teens were starting to protest the Vietnam War, and there were riots for civil rights, and it seemed like the only way to protest injustice was with violence.  This is where the Beatles separated themselves from the youth culture, and tried to remain above the fray.  After declaring that "All You Need Is Love" (which itself is something of an over-simplification, because yes, people need love, but they also need food, clean water, decent housing, and human rights...) Lennon wrote in "Revolution" that "We'd all love to change the world...but when you talk about destruction, don't you know that you can count me out."  In other words, we need to work for peace, but if we use violence to bring about social change, then it's just not worth it.  The thought that one needs to become violent to end violence was apparently too much of a contradiction for him.

And that's the thinking that led to the famous "bed-in", and the recording of "Give Peace a Chance".  Now, I'm all for peace, and working for peace, but that really is a terrible song.  Why couldn't Lennon champion peace by writing better lyrics?  Rhyming "Revolution" with "Evolution" is great songwriting, and so is "constitution" with "institution" - heck, I'll even allow rhyming "Chairman Mao" with "anyhow", it's all good.  But he lost me with this whole "Bagism, Shagism, Dragism, Tagism" thing, and rhyming "Ministers, sinisters, banisters and canisters" is essentially nonsense.  He had the whole world looking to him for answers about how to enact social change, and he wrote what is basically a goofy chant with a super-annoying repetitive verse.  Lennon really dropped the ball on this one.  Still, I'm glad he took reporters to task for breaking the news that a couple spent their honeymoon in bed together.

It's also notable that this is man who just a few years before, while performing for the Queen, had made the request "Will the people in the cheaper seats clap your hands, the rest of you, just rattle your jewelry?"  At the time, this was a cheeky poke at high society from a working-class band.  Just four years later, reporters were coming to the Beatles to ask what they thought about Vietnam.  But by this time Lennon was apparently tired of breaking down barriers and touring the world, and just wanted to stay at home in Surrey with his new girlfriend/wife.  

But musically, they were always pushing the envelope.  Several of the experts interviewed here (which include the publisher of Mersey Beat, Village Voice reporter Robert Christgau, and a couple close associates of the Beatles) pointed out that the first time they listened to the Sgt. Pepper album, it was very weird, because it was so unlike all of the albums that had come before.  You can probably say that about any album from your favorite band, even if you're used to a group's sound, any time you hear a new collection of work, it might sound weird.  Now, of course, everyone's heard "Sgt. Pepper's" hundreds or thousands of times, so we're all used to it and it doesn't seem so weird any more.

This film's budget for Beatles songs was apparently quite limited, so they're few and far-between.  That's fine, but I don't approve of playing background music in other parts that seems like a rip-off of the instrumental parts of "Come Together" or "She Said, She Said".  That seems a little unfair.

Also starring Tony Bramwell, Robert Christgau, Anthony DeCurtis, John Dunbar, Jonathan Gould, Bill Harry, Chris Ingham, Barry Miles, Mark Paytress, with archive footage of Brian Epstein, George Martin, Richard Lester, (all three carrying over from "The Beatles: Eight Days a Week - The Touring Years"), Mick Jagger, Elvis Presley, Cliff Richard, Yoko Ono, Jane Asher, Peter Asher, Maureen Starkey, Pattie Boyd, Linda McCartney, Bob Dylan (last seen in "Steve Jobs"), Brian Wilson, Timothy Leary, Allen Ginsberg, Brian Jones, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Queen Elizabeth II, John F. Kennedy (last seen in "Hidden Figures"), Martin Luther King Jr. (ditto), Jackie Kennedy, Harold Wilson, Robert Kennedy, Richard Nixon (last seen in "Kill the Messenger"), Wilfred Brambell, Freddie Mercury, Madonna, Michael Jackson, Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, Chris Martin, Billie Joe Armstrong, Mike Dirnt, Tré Cool.

RATING: 6 out of 10 Teddy Boys

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

The Beatles: Eight Days a Week - The Touring Years

Year 10, Day 198 - 7/17/18 - Movie #2,994

BEFORE: It's finally here, it's finally here - the day I've been planning for months is here!  It's the start of my big Summer 2018 Rock Music chain, which should get me through the dog days of summer and also distract me from the fact that I'm not traveling to San Diego for Comic-Con this week.  But let me stop thinking about that, and focus on the fact that I'm about to witness perhaps the greatest line-up of musical acts that ever played the same venue (umm, my widescreen TV, that is...) I'm talking the Beatles, the Stones, Elvis Presley, David Bowie, the Grateful Dead, the Doors, the Eagles, Chicago, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Bruce Springsteen, the Beach Boys, Michael Jackson, James Brown, Joe Cocker, Whitney Houston, Lady Gaga, Amy Winehouse, and then I'll wrap things up with the metal bands like Black Sabbath, Quiet Riot, Twisted Sister, and Rush, in some order.  Plus there will be many surprise guests like Alice Cooper and Frank Zappa...
I'm sorry, but the tickets are very exclusive for this event - in fact, there's really just one V.I.P. seat, but you can always follow along at home. 

Let's lay down a few documentary ground rules: First, there are only two kinds of films allowed in this chain, either straight documentaries (interviews and such) like tonight's opening act, and also notable concert films. NO dramatic re-creations or biopics allowed, like the upcoming film "Bohemian Rhapsody" film with Rami Malek as Freddie Mercury - it looks great, but it's automatically outside the scope of this chain. And no "Mockumentaries" allowed either - for a while I had "The Rutles 2: Can't Buy Me Lunch" in this chain, because it allowed me to link between the Stones and Bowie, but I found another way.  I'm fairly sure I watched that film before, and it's not great. So bye-bye.

Secondly, I'm limited to what documentaries have been made, and which are accessible to me.  I'd love to include everyone from Abba to ZZ Top, but if nobody ever made a film about a certain band, then that can't be part of the line-up.  And if there is a documentary about Billy Joel or Pink Floyd, but it's not on any of the streaming services or I'm not aware of it, well, then, that doesn't do me much good, does it?  So really, this is a chain dedicated to documentaries that I've heard of, which are either already in my possession, or readily available on Netflix or iTunes.  In some cases I've been aware of these docs for YEARS, and just never found the time or made the effort to track them down. 

Linking remains in place from film to film - the order here was specifically designed to allow key musicians (or interview subjects) to carry over instead of actors.  However, an actor - Sigourney Weaver - carries over from "Holes" to this first film, and an actor who narrates the final film will carry over to get me back to narrative films.  Any films that don't link to other films, like a short documentary about Queen that's currently airing on cable, is also being dismissed from the line-up.

Also, an appearance in archive footage counts the same as an appearance or interview specifically recorded for the documentary.  This is for the purposes of totaling up all appearances at the end of the year.  So it's not uncommon for, say, Ronald Reagan or Donald Trump to make my year-end list, because their 3 appearances, even in news or archive footage, still qualify them.  If 17 of these documentaries feature file footage of Paul McCartney, then those will be added to films like tonight's, where he was interviewed on camera, and to any acting appearances, such as his cameo in that pirate movie earlier this year.  Same goes for Keith Richards, Mick Jagger, etc.

Today just happens to be the 50th Anniversary of the film "Yellow Submarine" - I realize the Beatles themselves didn't have much to do with the production of that film, but that still makes this a great day to dig into their history.

FOLLOW-UP TO: "George Harrison: Living in the Material World" (Movie #1,516)

THE PLOT: A compilation of found footage featuring music, interviews an stories of The Beatles' 250 concerts from 1963 to 1966.

AFTER: It makes sense for me to start here - and not just because of the Sigourney Weaver lead-in.  What greater watershed moment in music history is there than the advent of the Beatles, the way they came to America and changed rock and roll forever?  I mean, I know there was Elvis before them, and Buddy Holly and all that rock and roll in the 1950's, but things were never the same again after they hit big in 1963.  (I'll backtrack and get to Elvis in a couple weeks...)  And they only toured for three or four years before they devoted themselves to studio work, of course by then they were rich as kings, so why keep going out on tour?

Personally, the first pop music I ever knew was the Beatles - my mother had a big songbook for piano with all their best hits (the unplayable ones, like "Revolution No. 9" were conveniently omitted) and I would sit at the piano for hours trying to play simplified versions of their songs.  Then in college I really got into their music, as everyone does in college I'll bet, and then spent time trying to play their songs on guitar.  And quite probably the first documentary I ever saw was "The Compleat Beatles" - I never thought to question whether the Brits all spell "complete" wrong, or if this was to match the "eat" spelling of "Beatles".  That documentary sort of put a big whitewash on things, like probably not much mention of drugs, divorces, and all the groupie sex that the Beatles had in the 1960's.  Compleat?  Hardly.

But after that documentary (and so many others about the Beatles), is there anything left for anyone to learn about them?  I've read several books about the workings of the band also, so there's not much I'm still curious about, unless it involves finding out that there are still things I can learn about them. That's probably the trick for any documentary, though - take something that people know and put some spin on it so they can view it in a new light.  The angle here is to focus on their tours, from live performances at the Cavern Club to the Reeperbahn in Hamburg, and then their tours of America, Europe, Australia even, right up to Candlestick Park in San Francisco in 1966.  (The end credits show their last performance on that London rooftop, for completion's sake.) 

Now, I'd been led to believe that the main reason for the Beatles putting an end to touring in 1966 was that their songs had become more complex, and impossible to perform live, at least with the technology and instruments of the time - this was before there were keyboards that could mimic string sections and trumpet solos, and they couldn't exactly travel with a full orchestra either.  But the way this film was edited (and if you think about it, a documentary like this is mostly edited, not directed...) I now believe the reverse was true, that the Beatles' music got more complicated (Sgt. Pepper, The White Album) precisely BECAUSE they stopped touring, and had more time to develop their craft in the studio.

I conclude this because the film shows all of the problems inherent with their live concerts - like at the famous Shea Stadium concert, where the Beatles could hardly hear themselves play over the sound of the crowd.  And whatever they could hear of their own performance was filtered through giant amps and a terrible sound-system - baseball stadiums were not exactly known for their hi-fi P.A. systems at the time.  Then on top of that, there were ALWAYS a few people trying to bust out of their seats and run to the stage (apparently) and in some venues, there were HUNDREDS of people trying to storm the stage.  Plus bomb threats in places like Memphis, reactions to Lennon's comments about being "bigger than Jesus" made them fear for their lives.  Whether people loved or hated the Beatles, either way they were trying to tear them to pieces. So it's no wonder they stopped touring.

They landed in America full of pep and cheeky comments, and three years later, all the excitement of playing for the fans was probably gone.  All this probably would have put a strain on any band, I guess that's the price for such success, but I wonder if it was worth it.

What else DID I learn tonight?  First off, that "Hippy Hippy Shake" and "Dizzy Miss Lizzy" are the same exact song, except for the lyrics.  The backbeat, the guitars - identical.  Listen to them both back-to-back if you don't believe me.  I'm guessing that the Beatles came up with the second one in the early years so they wouldn't have to write another new song.

I also got some insight about why the band struck such a chord with teen girls in 1963, and it's got a lot to do with pronouns.  Look at the song titles from their early U.S. hits - "Please Please ME", "From ME to YOU", "I Saw HER Standing There", "Love ME Do', "SHE Loves YOU" - they all imply a level of familiarity, enough to use personal pronouns and suggest that the Beatles were talking about the audience, or people that the listeners knew.  Well, of course the girls would swoon over them, there's Paul McCartney asking the girls to please please HIM, and saying that he wants to hold YOUR hand, and they're practically on a first-name basis if they're using non-specific pronouns!

I didn't know about Larry Kane, he's a reporter that traveled with the Beatles to every stop on their 1964 and 1965 U.S. tours.  I bet he saw a lot - including the fact that by 1965, the Fab Four stayed fab with the help of a lot of pot. (Considering how much speed they took while performing in Hamburg, pot was probably a relaxing change of pace for them...)

I didn't know that the Beatles played a role in integrating America, either - the Gator Bowl in Florida was a segregated arena, as one might expect in the South of the 1960's, but the Beatles wouldn't play there unless their concerts were integrated.  Hey, sometimes that's how progress happens, with boycotts or a similar form of financial blackmail.

The filmmakers were really smart in their song selection here, even though we've all heard the Beatles' songs so many times that they hardly even register any more - or is that just me?  But even when the band only had one or two albums to their name, there wasn't much repetition in the performances that were chosen for this documentary.  The audience would probably get sick of any Beatles song if we heard it too many times, or even once per continent they toured.  But maybe the difficulty of touring so much could have been better emphasized if we kept hearing the same songs over and over again, like the Beatles probably did.  Most fans only got to hear each Beatles song played once in concert, but pity the Beatles themselves, they had to hear those songs every frickin' night for three years.

I was lucky enough to see McCartney in concert twice, both times at Giants Stadium in N.J. during my college years - he toured in support of the albums "Flowers in the Dirt" and "Off the Ground".  Both were great shows, and I think together they were the first times he'd played some of the more famous Beatles songs live since the 1960's.  Also I got to see Ringo in concert once, with his All-Starr Band.  Not the first tour, though, which featured Clarence Clemons, Joe Walsh, Dr. John and Nils Lofgren - or the second tour with Burton Cummings, Timothy B. Schmit, etc. No, I saw the band's third line-up, with John Entwhistle, Mark Farner, Randy Bachman, Mark Rivera and Felix Cavaliere.  Seems about right. Still, it was a fun show.

Also starring Paul McCartney (last seen in "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales"), Ringo Starr (last seen in "Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping"), Elvis Costello, Whoopi Goldberg (last seen in "The Muppets"), Eddie Izzard (last heard in "The Lego Batman Movie"), Richard Lester, Richard Curtis, Larry Kane, Malcolm Gladwell, Jon Savage, Kitty Oliver, Howard Goodall, Ed Freeman, with archive footage of John Lennon (last seen in "National Lampoon: Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead"), George Harrison (last seen in "Pawn Sacrifice"), Ed Sullivan (last seen in "The Patsy"), Brian Epstein, George Martin, Billy Preston, Neil Aspinall, Muhammad Ali, Derek Taylor.

RATING: 7 out of 10 press conferences

Tuesday, July 17, 2018


Year 10, Day 197 - 7/16/18 - Movie #2,993

BEFORE: Normally, this would be the week I'd be headed to San Diego for Comic-Con, staying up all night on Tuesday, leaving early AF on Wednesday morning, arriving at noon West Coast time, checking in to an AirBnB and then heading straight down to the convention center to set up a booth.  That's usually about 36 hours with no sleep, unless I grab a nap on the plane.  Then three hours of convention, a burger and a beer float, then collapse with exhaustion, repeating as necessary for the next five days.  But for the first time in a LONG time, I'm not doing that, I'm staying in NYC where it's hot and crowded, and well, very comic-con like, only with fewer celebrities and people in costumes.  If later on this week I feel like I'm missing out, I'll just go stand in a long line for lunch or something and get very aggravated.

I'd also be looking for a place in my chain to take a week's break, and now I don't have to do that.  (Oh, but it would have been perfect, leaving off after today's film and then starting the new subject matter when I got back...)  Sigourney Weaver carries over from "The Meyerowitz Stories", and she's going to help me kick off the Summer Rock Music Concert series tomorrow, if you can believe that.  I'm all set to "rock out with my doc out" - documentaries, that is.

I could have just gone straight into the docs after yesterday's film, but I decided to squeeze one more film in here, largely because it helps my numbering, but also because it's been really freakin' hot in NYC, and a film with a bunch of thirsty kids digging in a desert seems very appropriate.  The only potential problem here is that I've got another film with Shia LaBeouf in it, which now will be relegated to the unsinkable section at the bottom of my list.  It might have been better for linking purposes to keep those two films together, but then they would have been two unlinkable films together, so maybe that wouldn't have been much help.  It's tough to say - but maybe with enough time I can find a way to link to that other film, or eventually I may have to give up on linking entirely and just deal with what's left in some other order.

THE PLOT: A wrongfully convicted boy is sent to a brutal desert detention camp where he joins a crew digging holes for some mysterious reason.

AFTER: I've known about this film for a long time - it was released in 2003 - but never was curious enough to watch it and find out what exactly the kids were digging in the desert for.  I was OK with leaving that a mystery, and I'm glad now that I never read any reviews with spoilers, because then I'd be less inclined to watch it, and now I could go into it with a clear mind and a lot of unanswered questions.  It's based on a book for kids, I think, and usually that would be a bad sign for a movie (cough - Spiderwick Chronicles - cough) but the story here was very detailed and kept me interested.

And I got really worried whenever the story flashed back to something that seemed very tangential, like the story of the Western outlaw, "Kissin' Kate" Barlow, or the story set back in the old country about Elya Yelnats, Stanley's great-great-grandfather, how he got cursed by a fortune teller and then left for America.  These stories were so wild, it didn't seem at first like there was ANY WAY that they could have an impact on the present-day storyline.  But they did, it all came together in the end, and there was a point to everything, which is more than I can say for some other movies.

But let me back up just a bit, and put the non-extraneous side stories, umm, on the side.  Stanley Yelnats IV (yes, his first name is his last name spelled backwards, making him a human palindrome) is a regular kid who gets accused of stealing some valuable sneakers, when in fact they just fell on him as he was walking down the street.  He's sentenced to go to camp, which doesn't seem so bad, except it's not the kind of camp where you learn to paddle a canoe or sit around a bonfire singing and roasting marshmallows, it's a labor camp where kids are made to dig holes in the desert.  Hey, I just realized that a 2003 film about kids being taken from their parents and put in camps was about 15 years ahead of its time.  But these aren't immigrant kids, they're kids in trouble with the law who may need some discipline, and digging holes seems to be the method of delivery.  But is there some other reason why they're digging holes in the desert?

Well, it turns out there is.  But what they're looking for and why they're made to dig there is really the point of the story, and that's where the flashbacks (eventually) come in.  It turns out that the story of Stanley's ancestors (several of whom share his palindromic name) stretches back to the old country (they never say what country, but they filmed in Latvia) and that old curse, and then reaches the Old West, where Stanley Yelnats I apparently had an encounter with not only Kissing Kate, but also the ancestors of the mysterious warden.  It almost stretches believability to think that the descendants from these two families were one some kind of collision course of destiny, but hey, it's a story.

I didn't pick up on a couple of things right away, namely the significance of Stanley carrying Zero the way he did, and then when they went back to the camp, why they chose to dig in THAT hole again, over the others.  But my main NITPICK POINT concerns the gypsy seer back in the old country, who cursed Elya Yelnats because he forgot to come back and carry her up the mountain.  Why the heck did she want to be carried up the mountain in the first place?  Why was this so important to her?  It's a weird thing to have there and not explain.

Also starring Shia LaBeouf (last seen in "Bobby"), Jon Voight (last seen in "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them"), Tim Blake Nelson (last seen in "Kill the Messenger"), Henry Winkler (last seen in "Sandy Wexler"), Patricia Arquette (last seen in "Boyhood"), Siobhan Fallon Hogan (last seen in "Going in Style"), Dulé Hill (last seen in "Men of Honor"), Eartha Kitt, Khleo Thomas, Nathan Davis, Rick Fox (last seen in "Blue Chips"), Brenden Jefferson (last seen in "Crimson Tide"), Jake M. Smith, Byron Cotton, Miguel Castro, Max Kasch, Scott Plank, Shelley Malil, Damien Luvara, Sanya Mateyas, Ravil Isyanov, Ken Davitian, Noah Poletiek, Zane Holtz, Steve Kozlowski, Roma Maffia, Michael Cavanaugh, Ray Baker, Eric Pierpoint, Nicole Pulliam, Allan Kolman, Louis Sachar.

RATING: 6 out of 10 cold showers

Monday, July 16, 2018

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)

Year 10, Day 196 - 7/15/18 - Movie #2,992

BEFORE: This is not just a link to get me closer to my Summer Rock Concert/Rockumentary chain, it's also the third film I'm watching this year directed by Noah Baumbach.  I could have linked here directly after "While We're Young", which shared two actors with this film, but that might have gotten me to the music docs a bit too soon - and, hey, look at how many films I squeezed in between that other Baumbach film and this one, that's another 17 films off the list! 

Elizabeth Marvel carries over from "Gifted". Back on Netflix for this one, I'll be spending a lot of time streaming stuff for the rest of the summer.

THE PLOT: An estranged family gathers together in New York for an event celebrating the artistic work of their father. 

AFTER: I've seen this thing quite a few times already this year - the smart or very talented father, who's also been a college professor, is dying and/or getting older, and his death or illness has an effect on his adult kids, and then all the family secrets come out.  Let's see, that describes "Proof", "Kodachrome", "Winter Passing", "One True Thing" - also "Beginners" and "Wish I Was Here", if I remember correctly.  Again, those were all watched THIS YEAR by me, so I suspect that screenwriters are running out of ideas for dramas, and are just repeating the same ideas over and over - or perhaps they all have daddy issues themselves.  Anyway, I'm about to get off of narrative films for the next month and a half, because I'm really in need of something different.

When I watched "The Squid and the Whale", another of Baumbach's films, I thought it felt very Wes Anderson-like, which I chalked up to the fact that the two men were co-writers on "The Life Aquatic" and "The Fantastic Mr. Fox", but now I think it's all just part of Baumbach's style, which seems to fall somewhere between Wes Anderson and Woody Allen.  On the whole, that's not a bad place to be.  This film reminds me somewhat of "The Royal Tenenbaums", because every character is neurotic and the family has a father who toggles between dotty and dictatorial.  And the complicated extended NYC family also reminds me a bit of "Hannah and Her Sisters", which is my favorite Woody Allen film, so putting that film together with something "Royal Tenenbaum"-like is almost right where I'd want a film to land. 

It takes a little while to unravel this complicated family, since there are three adult children - Danny, Jean and Matthew - and they keep calling each other half-brothers and half-sister.  Danny seems to be the oldest, followed by Jean and then Matthew's the more successful accountant in the family, while Danny's an ex-musician and Jean never really gets to say what she does for a living, some kind of facilitator but even the other family members don't understand her job.  Danny and Jean are Harold's children from his first wife, while Matthew's the son of his second wife, and Harold's now married to his third wife.  Perhaps this sort of thing is all too common in today's families, especially the famous ones, but it seems like a nightmare to keep everyone straight, even within the family.  And the family members here have cousins and in-laws that they've never met, largely because Matthew lives in L.A., where he does accounting for rock stars so they don't end up spending all of their money. 

(Unfortunately, I found it confusing that Ben Stiller plays the youngest sibling, because he SEEMS like the oldest, and in fact, the actor is the oldest of the three.  So it took me a while to realize his character was the youngest, because it seemed out of step with reality.)

I was joking the other day about how if everything went well at "Jurassic Park", then you wouldn't have much of a movie.  Similarly, if everyone in a family was well-adjusted, in stable relationships, and very easygoing about coming to terms with their parents' impending mortality and also their own, then you wouldn't have much of a family drama, either.  You'd probably wonder why the filmmaker chose to tell a story about them, since they have no neuroses at all and seem rather boring.  So that's why nobody in this movie seems to be able to hold down a relationship for very long, everyone's divorced, on their third spouse, or is probably due to get divorced very soon.  It's a somewhat negative view of relationships, but again, these are very disfunctional people. 

I approve of most of the points it sort of gets around to making, which are that all films made by people in film school pretty much suck, adults have a hard time dealing with their parents for more than a few days at a time (I know I sure do) and siblings tend to fight over what's best for their parents when it comes to medical and estate issues.  The ins and outs of the art museum world, I don't feel I know enough about that to comment on, but the family stuff seems to ring true.  Or true-ish, it's just taken pretty far to the extreme.

Also starring Adam Sandler (last seen in "Sandy Wexler"), Ben Stiller (last seen in "While We're Young"), Dustin Hoffman (last seen in "I Heart Huckabees"), Emma Thompson (last seen in "Bridget Jones's Baby"), Grace Van Patten, Candice Bergen (last seen in "Rules Don't Apply"), Rebecca Miller (last seen in "Proof"), Judd Hirsch (last seen in "Independence Day: Resurgence"), Adam Driver (also last seen in "While We're Young"), Sigourney Weaver (last seen in "A Monster Calls"), Michael Chernus (last seen in "The Dinner"), Gayle Rankin (last seen in "The Greatest Showman"), Danny Flaherty (last seen in "The Wolf of Wall Street"), Adam David Thompson (last seen in "A Walk Among the Tombstones"), Ronald Alexander Peet, Matthew Shear (also last seen in "While We're Young"), Sakina Jaffrey, Mandy Siegfried, Josh Hamilton, Justin Winley, with cameos from Jordan Carlos (last seen in "Sleeping With Other People"), Mickey Sumner (last seen in "American Made").

RATING: 6 out of 10 lunch reservations

Sunday, July 15, 2018


Year 10, Day 195 - 7/14/18 - Movie #2,991

BEFORE: I've got just three days left before I start my Summer Rock Concert Series - or maybe it's the Summer Rockumentary series, with bonus concert footage, whichever.  So it's my last chance to get all my ducks in a row, double-check my links and make sure that I didn't leave anything out.  Up until now it's been sort of disappointing that there was one music documentary in my possession that I couldn't work into the chain - and it was "Whitney: Can I Be Me".  I was willing to table it, but then I saw that one of the cable channels is running a documentary about George Michael, and one of the people interviewed in that is Cissy Houston, and that made me think that I could work that doc about Whitney Houston into the mix.  It took some doing, but I was right.  Had to shuffle my David Bowie films down the line a bit, so they'll be appearing closer to the end of the chain, but it had to be done.

Then the only other problem was that there was a break in the chain, late in the line-up, even though people like Alice Cooper and Dee Snider have been interviewed countless times, for documentaries about themselves and others - but I just couldn't get the documentary about Quiet Riot to connect with the documentary about Black Sabbath.  Again, the solution is to add another film or two, perusing the cast lists on IMDB until I could spot a connection.  Unfortunately I was relying on a German documentary called "Cum On Feel the Noise" for my linking, but it's just not available on any channel or streaming service in America, so I had to find a replacement.  But I found another documentary about Ozzy Osbourne that connects to the one about Metallica, so I can now take the doc "Lemmy" and move it to make the connection between Quiet Riot and Black Sabbath.  Problem solved, only now the chain is 50 films long - but hey, that's a nice round number.  This rock music topic should keep me occupied for the rest of the summer now.

(There's a documentary about Queen that's airing too, but it doesn't connect to anything else, so it's out.  Sorry, Queen.  I'll wait for the biopic "Bohemian Rhapsody", which looks quite good, based on the preview.).

This all kicks off on Tuesday - but for now, Octavia Spencer carries over again from "The Shack" for another film about a really smart kid.

FOLLOW-UP TO: "The Book of Henry" (Movie #2,973)

THE PLOT: Frank, a single man raising his child prodigy niece Mary, is drawn into a custody battle with his mother.

AFTER: As I approach my 200th film of 2018, which will mark the year as 2/3 over, I realize how many things I'm going to have to total up at the end of the year.  Like the number of appearances by child actors (McKenna Grace making her third appearance today...) and also the number of fatalities - this has been a rough year on kids, in everything from "Rabbit Hole" to "The Shack".  Thankfully the genius little girl in this film fared better, it's just that her mother died (the circumstances of this, we find out midway through the film) and she's being raised by her uncle.

He apparently realizes that she has incredible intelligence and a knack for math, but he resists any suggestions of putting her in a special school.  And the reasons for this, we also learn later in the film.   The uncle himself is a former philosophy professor, but now works in freelance boat repair.  However, we're not sure if there was some kind of incident at the college (another plot point I've seen several times so far this year) or if boat repair just pays really well, or if perhaps this is just the sort of place where your philosophy degree lands you, sooner or later.

But everything in his life becomes grist for the mill once his mother comes back into his life, and wants to take Mary, her granddaughter, back to Boston.  Well, it is the home of Harvard and M.I.T., but eventually despite some very nice gifts, we realize she wants to raise the kid as a carbon copy of her own late daughter.  (Which circles me back around to the start of the week, this is a plot point from "Jurassic Park: Fallen Kingdom"...)

If there's a point to be made here, it seems to be something about how in confusing custody cases such as these, everyone claims to be doing what's best for the child in question - but how does anyone make that decision, is it based on income, closeness of relation, educational opportunities, living conditions, or what?  And how can anyone be sure that whoever wants custody isn't just doing what they think is best for themself, and not for the child at all?  And what constitutes a "normal" childhood, after all?  Isn't every child's experience different?

Speaking personally, I tested very well on math when I was in grade school, and some of my grade school teachers did give me extra work, or challenged me to complete my work faster than the other students.  When I hit 7th grade, I was put in an 8th grade math class - and during 8th grade, I was sent up to the high school each day to take Algebra II with the 10th graders.  But this caused problems because the junior high and the high school were on different class schedules, so I was always missing some 8th grade class to take advanced math.  And then by the time I'd reached 10th grade for real, I took Algebra II again, so things sort of balanced back out - and in 12th grade, I took calculus and did all the work, but honestly I have no idea what it was all about, or any memory of it now.

Something similar happened with computers, back when my parents were looking to keep me busy and mentally challenged during the summer, I took advanced summer courses at a college in Massachusetts - things like chess, logic, problem solving, and even radio broadcasting.  Computers were high-priority then, like learning the BASIC programming language was important.  (This would have been about 1981 or 1982.)  From there, some students went on to learn Fortran and Pascal, but I sort of hit the wall at the tender age of 13, and after a couple days of a computer course at M.I.T., I realized I was in over my head, and asked my parents if I could quit.  I think I made the right choice, because those languages never became important for anything, right?  A few years later, everything was all HTML and Java and I would have been wasting my time if I'd stayed on that track - or at least that's what I tell myself.

But what I learned was that in many ways, it's better to be a large fish in a small pond.  I knew I wasn't the smartest one in my high school, or the kid with the best grades, but I felt maybe I was in the top 10.  My school started a program called "Academic Distinction" when I was a freshman, and I found that if I took a couple courses on independent study, I could keep my music elective classes and still qualify for the program.  I did really well on the PSAT and other standardized tests, even got a little scholarship money out of that, but the best move I made was to take as many Advanced Placement courses as I could - the bonus was that if you took the A.P. test in one of those courses, it counted as your final exam, so by the middle of May in my junior and senior year, I could pretty much coast until June.  And then all of those A.P. credits counted when I got to college, so I could take fewer of the required math and science courses at NYU (I think I took just Intro to Psych and Astronomy, both of which interested me...) and then got to graduate a year early!

I think that if I had been placed in a more advanced school, I might have felt out of place, or worse, felt like I was in over my head.  Instead I chose to stay in the public high school and I waited for my chances to excel at things, like standardized tests.  I know they say you shouldn't hide your light under a bushel, or something like that, but there's another school of thought that says if you under-promise, once in a while you get a chance to over-deliver.  That's how I learned to live my life, anyway.

As for the movie, it's easy for me to pick someone to root for - whichever custodian is nicest to the girl's cat, and lets her keep him.  See, that was easy.  Next case...

Also starring Chris Evans (last seen in "Avengers: Infinity War"), McKenna Grace (last seen in "Ready Player One"), Lindsay Duncan (last seen in "Alice Through the Looking Glass"), Jenny Slate (last heard in "Despicable Me 3"), Glenn Plummer (last seen in "Frankie and Johnny"), John Finn (last seen in "The Human Stain"), Elizabeth Marvel (last seen in "Aloha"), Jon Sklaroff (last seen in "Masked and Anonymous"), Jona Xiao, Julie Ann Emery, Keir O'Donnell (last seen in "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes"), John M. Jackson, Joe Chrest (last seen in "On the Road"), Kelly Collins Lintz (last seen in "The Accountant").

RATING: 5 out of 10 dioramas