Sure, fair question. Honestly? Not that great. Not horrible! Actually, lots of great elements. Just… put it this way: I looked up a bunch of reviews, and the translation of the star ratings amounts to roughly “fair and a half.” That would describe it.
It’s really a drag, because the Runaways story is so fantastic, I keep expecting someone to really nail it. There have been books, a documentary, certainly plenty of articles. I had thought that this film would do it. Not so much. The problem isn’t quibbling with details. It’s more like the entire thing is like skipping rocks. Big chunks of info are just not there. Maybe there’s just too much to tell? Who knows, maybe someday this guy will come out with something killer.
But lest I discourage your attendance (!), here’s what’s kind of fantastic about it:
1) The work of the stylists and set designers is incredible. This isn’t a slightly modernized, glossy ’70s. This is an ugly, grimy ’70s, where the platform shoes were actually terrible looking and home decor was a cheap melange of brown and orange. Hideous but flawless.
2) From a visual standpoint, it’s far richer than you’d expect from a film made for less than $10 million. Great cinematography packed with color and contrast. Best of all are, without a doubt, the shows and performances. Lord knows we’ve all suffered through terrible, hokey “underground rock club” scenes in films, but these gigs look and feel exactly right. It’s loud and dirty, pitch black in the corners and crammed with high style rockers.
3) Dakota Fanning as Cherie Currie. Pretty astounding. Considering that I know her as a bulgy-eyed, quasi-adult eight-year-old chirping on late night talk shows, I was floored. You won’t even recognize her. Hardest of any role in this movie was getting Cherie right, vocally and visually. The Runaways are thought of as sexy jailbait, but in reality it was not a male fantasy. It’s ugly and vulgar, and Cherie had a very weird vocal delivery. Knowing all that, watch the video below. Crazy, right?
4) Michael Shannon as Kim Fowley. Holy crap. I’m burying the lead here, because this one portrayal is basically the DeNiro/Raging Bull of rock movies, I’m tellin’ ya. Shannon’s already made a name for himself playing slightly unhinged characters, but the way he nails Fowley is incredible. It’s more than just nutty outfits and the ranting and raving; he actually captures Fowley’s vampirish combo of megalomania, lasciviousness, desperate greed and raw ambition. The real Kim Fowley, taken as a whole, is a complete creep in my opinion, but I’m forced to admit his “vision” has generally been beyond reproach. As a result, Shannon gets the movie’s best lines, whether he’s putting the band through boot camp, coaching them about touring, or manipulating recording sessions. And let’s just say that when he answers the phone hanging upside down while reading The Art of War, you have to wonder if it’s virtually documentary.
Go see it, and cross your fingers for a film version of Ozzy’s book!
You know when people say that someone-or-other is a “national treasure”? Nice accolade, but nowhere near enough to describe Lemmy Kilmister. I think of him as a kind of extraterrestrial. Maybe a superhuman visionary, dropped onto Earth by an exasperated higher power to teach us lunkheads a thing or two.
To that end, I’m thrilled to find out that the Lemmy documentary is finally premiering at SXSW in a couple of weeks. A celluloid document of one of the greatest rock ‘n’ rollers to ever walk the Earth is so long overdue it hurts.
Check out the trailer below, and heed Dave Grohl’s sage opening words: “Fuck Keith Richards…” Indeed. Sure, Keith’s lived a little, but let’s be honest: He’s also worth a solid nine figures and flies around on private jets. His most strenuous moment in recent years was hurting himself climbing palm trees in Fiji. Seriously.
Lemmy? Not in the same category, thanks. I’ve seen Motorhead plenty of times, but the most recent was at BB King’s in Times Square. It’s a tourist-y restaurant, but with a venue on the lower level that’s club-like small. From time to time they host big-name veteran acts at a punishing ticket price. Man, is it worth it, though. Once you’re in, you’re so close it feels like a private show.
It was chaos that night — I suspect a lot of that follows Lemmy around. Outside were fleets of choppers parked along 42nd Street like soldiers at attention, and once you descended to the club, it was nothing but bug-eyed, teeth-grinding biker gorillas divided around the space by gang. Gentle and alert maneuvering were required to get into place, to say the least. But when the band came out, I was slack-jawed. Dumbstruck.
You know that Charlie Murphy/Rick James thing from Chappelle’s Show, where Charlie says that he saw a glowing aura around Rick James the first time he met him? It was like that. Except Lemmy’s aura is basically a roar of black smoke, WWII memorabilia and Jack Daniels mist. And the volume in there! My face was vibrating! (As he says in this great clip of interviews, “Nobody’s talking while I’m on, I’m sorry. They’re watching the band or they’re leaving.”)
I’m tellin’ ya, it was force of nature shit, and all I’m ever on is seltzer, trust me. There he is, 60 years old, head flung back, shouting into the mic with that giant industrial fan at his feet blowing his hair back. I swear he’s not even human. I wasn’t watching a guy, I was watching a presence. Now I’m chomping at the bit to see him on the big screen.
I may be the tidiest, most organized person you’ll ever meet, but when it comes to A&E’s Hoarders, I am wide-eyed and glued to the TV. My sister calls it “slob porn.” Come to think of it, I used to just watch Style’s Clean House, but now I realize that show is just a gateway drug to the hard stuff. Once you see something like a woman who’s allowed a goat to eat through a wall of her house (Hoarders ep. 8, “Judi and Gail”), you can’t go back to those amateur packrats who just save too many copies of Better Homes & Gardens or what have you. Seriously. A goat.
Years before hoarding became a cable TV staple, however, I had delved pretty deeply into the story of the Collyer Brothers from New York City in the 1940s, and was reminded of them recently when Brooklyn firefighters failed to save folks from a packed apartment house, referring to it in NYFD code: “A Collyer Situation.” The simple facts around Homer and Langley Collyer are sad, but not unfathomable. The brothers lived in a Harlem brownstone that they packed with belongings for decades into their old age, until one of them died under a tumbling pile of clutter, and the other died from lack of his assistance.
As with most hoarding cases, though, the devil is in the details. Like, for instance, that after their death, the authorities moved a full 130 tons of debris from their house. That’s over a quarter-million pounds. The first floor alone held 19 tons. There were 14 pianos! A T-Model Ford! The folding top of a horse-drawn carriage! And booby traps to protect it all!
Perhaps strangest were the bundles of newspapers from floor to ceiling in room after room, covering decades of dailies. Why keep them? Well, Homer had gone blind of natural causes many years prior. Langley was working to bring his sight back by feeding him 100 oranges per week along with black bread and peanut butter (of course! a common cure!), and he figured that when Homer got his sight back, he’d want to catch up on the news.
The Wikipedia entry on the brothers is fairly comprehensive, but the best source among all the books, plays and films that have described or borrowed from or fictionalized their story, is definitely Franz Lidz’s Ghosty Men. As someone with hoarders in his own family, Lidz has some sympathy for the Collyers, and delves as well as he can into their eccentric family past and presumed psychology, even if they were just considered run-of-the-mill freaks upon their death in 1947.
For your edification, I’ll close with a short list of some of the Collyer’s more exotic prized possessions: parts of a wine press, a horse’s jawbone, an early x-ray machine, baby carriages (they were both lifelong bachelors), a collection of guns, glass chandeliers, bowling balls, multiple sawhorses, three dressmaking dummies, painted portraits, a kerosene stove, more than 25,000 books, human organs pickled in jars, hundreds of yards of unused silks and fabric, a clavichord, two organs, banjos, violins, bugles, accordions, and 34 bank account passbooks. Yikes.
The 1966 Gay Talese essay “Frank Sinatra Has a Cold” has a bit of a life of its own. For better or worse, its appearance in Esquire tagged it as a pioneer of “New Journalism,” alongside the work of Talese peers like Mailer and Capote, etc. In fact, it’s so heralded, it’s got it’s own friggin’ Wikipedia entry. I’d never actually read it until recently, when I picked up a collection of Talese essays that also included “The Silent Season of a Hero,” another Esquire piece contemporary to it, about Joe DiMaggio.
Both hold up as astute profiles and great works of observant journalism, but reading them back to back, I noticed something else entirely. Sinatra and DiMaggio are like two sides of a coin. Both are titans of their fields, but they’re also both sons of working-class Italian immigrants (in Sinatra’s case, a Hoboken fireman; for DiMaggio, a San Francisco fisherman). What’s more, they both rocketed to fame in the ’40s, bringing sudden dominance and legitimacy to the rapidly growing Italian -American population in New York and elsewhere. When DiMaggio arrived in the Bronx, the stadium quickly became packed with patriotic, flag-waving Italians. (On a more startling note, his teammates all affectionately called him “The Dago.” Different times, no?) Sinatra’s Italian roots probably dogged him most with regard to purported Mafia ties, but even that was far more glamorous than seedy.
But here’s the massive difference between them: Sinatra slid into his fame like it was a kid glove — custom-made, and about time it’s ready, punk. DiMaggio, on the other hand, suffered terribly under the spotlight. People remember DiMaggio as an American icon and athletic superstar. The reality was that he was a bit of a crank, never spoke to the press, hated Hollywood and celebrity, and was ferociously private (not a great mix with marrying Marilyn Monroe, of course). As a result, the tabloids were able to impose all manner of stoic heroism on him. The DiMaggio you think you know isn’t the real DiMaggio.
No need to go on about Sinatra. The guy owned the entertainment world, and secretly held heavy sway in politics and business. He had a scorched earth policy in his personal dealings and sexual exploits. He married movie stars, he strutted on record, stage, TV and film. If anyone in the 20th century was larger than life, for pete’s sake, it was him.
But when Talese visits these men, it’s the mid-’60s. The world is changing, and while their stars may not have faded, per se, they’re relics. How do they adjust? » Read the full post
You’re just starting out, right? Got that guitar for your birthday. Or maybe saved up to buy a starter axe. Gonna take some lessons. Gonna download tablatures for your favorite jams. Ready to rock the neighborhood.
But heed my warning. You are faced with a choice. And it’s this. Do you want to be Steve Vai?:
Or do you want to be Angus Young?:
Don’t be a sucker. I think you know where I’m comin’ from.
In fact, how about you try for a Chuck Berry? It’s the right thing to do: