September 17, 2016

Eight Days A Week: The Beatles - The Touring Years

I've seen many Beatles documentaries, and this one is one of the best. Instead of covering the band's whole career well, director Ron Howard documents one aspect of their career comprehensively (touring 1963-1966). I have seen some of the concert footage in this movie before, but

  • Not with perfectly remastered picture
  • Not with original audio - usually documentaries only have the film, so they play the Beatles records over the footage. This doc has the original audio to go with the film footage.
  • Not without narration - usually concert footage is played under documentary narration to save time
  • Not at length - several sequences are shown in long unbroken stretches.

What did I learn as a longtime Beatles fan?
The Beatles touring years blazed the trail for modern pop concerts in arenas and stadia. The Beatles had to play bigger and bigger venues to satisfy demand: "you can't have 2,000 fans inside a theater and 10,000 more fans on the street tearing themselves apart" was the reality. Their PA equipment was completely inadequate to broadcast their music to a screaming crowd. There was zero stage monitoring equipment, so they could not hear themselves. The kids showed up to see The Beatles, and that's all they could do.
Local police forces were completely incapable for dealing with the crowds. There was zero security for the band - the footage of Paul elbowing people through a scrum to make it from the limo to the stage door is jaw-dropping. Just imagine Taylor Swift or Beyonce fighting their way through a crowd of police and fans today!
Coolidge Corner Theater, sitting directly behind Red Sox owner John Henry

September 4, 2016

Blazing Saddles

I have seen this movie many times on VHS, and a few times on widescreen DVD, but it was wonderful to finally see this movie on a big movie screen, and a sold-out theater too! The big screen meant I saw at least a dozen jokes that I had never noticed before on my television set. Also, because I have mostly seen this movie on a VHS tape I taped off of broadcast television in the 1980s, I was surprised at how much swearing there is in the movie. And, I can't say I've seen many movies since then that have so much swearing, tons of raunchiness, and the smashing of racial and sexual taboos left right and center. Is it possible that this mostly white crowd felt okay about ourselves watching super racist people being made fun of? Was this a safe place to make the n-word something we could laugh at? Who the Christ knows. I also noticed that Gene Wilder is actually kind of a supporting player in this movie. He has a couple of memorable iconic scenes, but he's often hovering behind Bart in the movie. Also, see my Miscasting Awards post for more: it still doesn't make any sense that The Waco Kid, a washed-up legendary gunslinger would be played by Wilder, but of course, the movie would not be as good without him. (RIP Gene Wilder! AMC Loews Boston Common Screen 16)

September 3, 2016

Kubo & The Two Strings

Beautiful and sad. Some exciting and funny parts but mostly melancholy. Charlize Theron is terrific as the monkey and Matthew McConaguhey is charming and hilarious as the samurai warrior-turned-confused beetle. This film's serious tone and thoughtful Asian themes makes Kung Fu Panda look like an Asian minstrel show. Deep thematic similarities to Harry Potter and Star Wars. Recommended for older kids (9 and up) for pervasive sadness and scary relatives.