August 2010 Archives
The coolest of posters are often those that depict the legends of jazz. Images of Billie Holiday, Dexter Gordon, Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald and the like. Images of sultry, smoky jazz clubs. Images that depict a groovy, in the truest sense of the word, place that was both physical and metaphorical. Like watching saint & sinner gods & angels laid back in a dark but cosey heaven in their tuxedos and gowns listening to the tonal sounds of, well, saints and sinners pouring forth souls of lament and joy.
The real world of jazz was like any other real world, but of course, with jazz. But these black and white images captured that myth that is the spirit of jazz. But what makes these images more groovy is that it showed the twist within the myth. Look at these images. The twist in the myth is that it's not a myth, what you see here is the real spirit of jazz.
Many and most of the best of these images were created by photographer Herman Leonard. I only just found out he passed away on August 14th. I'm sure I could write more about him and his achievments, which went well beyond simply jazz and the jazz age, but I think his own images of that time says it all well enough.
Thank you, Mr. Herman Leonard
The news of Patricia Neal's passing is a newsworthy event in the fields of arts, entertainment and celebrity. Hers was a long and interesting career of major cinema works and a truckload of accolades, an academy award among them. She had an astonishing life full of tragedy and scandal. And she overcame incredible physical and emotional adversity (as portrayed in one successful movie). She was married to Roald Dahl for 30 years and grandmother to Sophie Dahl.
All this with great detail is covered in many places as is fitting Patricia Neal's standing. But they don't talk much about the things that rate her here. And that's two particular films of huge culty worthiness.
The first film is the cinematic version of the Ayn Rand treatise on why assholdom is good for America. Fountainhead (1949) is an adaptation by Rand herself of that anti-altruism propaganda tome packaged around the crapiest of melodramas.
The movie is so outrageously straight, so sincere in its ultra-self interest philosophies, with lunging chests and flowing misogyny (yes, Ayn Rand seemed to hate all other women), that it becomes almost unbearably camp. The dialogue is so forced you wonder if the actors would crack up before finishing their line. I have a dream of a theatre company that performs word for word movies being simultaneously shown above them. The idea being that when you hear such dire dialogue being performed live in front of you it becomes a truly surreal experience. My first project would be Devil Girl From Mars, but my next would be Fountainhead.
Watch this brief excerpt and I think you'll understand.
Her other work that draws the favour of this blog is one of the great films of all time, though oddly, most mainstream critics give it little thought. Such is a cinematic crime for The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) is such a strong and solid work of philosophical science fiction that not even the shittiest of Keanu remakes can smudge the original's immaculate surface. It is a true classic because though the film is almost 60 it and its message hold up remarkably well. It's not a film that has dated but matured.
And Patricia Neal's role in it, though very important all up, is significant in particular for one seemingly small thing. She quotes, and in doing so, makes famous what would become one of the most cultish, most in-joked phrases of popular culture history. The line is only of four words, though the myth retains three, and these words have been in turn quoted in a number of films and TV shows, printed on t-shirts, put in song lyrics, sprayed on walls and, in my opinion, should be etched into a monument erected in a Washington DC park somewhere.
And so, Patricia Neal, we thank you and we especially thank you for these twenty seconds of groovy cinema history.