“Here ’tis, Mama’s Favorite 285 lbs of Jam, Jive and Everything!”ūüé∂

Fats suffer

Fats Waller 

(May 21, 1904 – December 15, 1943)

The title sums it up. “Jam, Jive and Everything!.” ¬†Thomas Wright “Fats” Waller is one of the most charming, talented and prolific artists to ever tickle the ivories of a¬†stride piano.

We share a birthday РMay 21st.  His last recording session was in Detroit, Michigan Рhome of my birth. I guess it was destiny that his music and spirit would come to bring me such joy!

What excites me about Fats?

When I was a kid and first saw the groundbreaking musical Stormy Weather (1943) I was familiar with its star Lena Horne because my father loved him some Miss Lena. But for me, the wonderful surprise of the film was Fats Waller.

Fats Waller and Lena Horne

When you see him you’re totally invested. ¬†His personality jumps off the screen. ¬†People talk about presence. ¬†Fats created “presence!”

Fats is credited with advancing the musical style – stride piano. ¬†Although known for his two most famous compositions: ¬†“Ain’t Misbehavin'” and “Honeysuckle Rose”, he penned many more uncredited hits such as “I Can’t Give You Anything but love, Baby” and “On the Sunny Side of the Street”.

Waller copyrighted over 400 songs and began his professional career as a pianist at the age of 15, working in cabarets and theaters.

His life and artistry became the Broadway musical revue “Ain’t Misbehavin‘ produced in 1978. ¬†(The show and star Nell Carter won Tony Awards.)

Aintmisbehavin

Recordings of Fats Waller were inducted into the¬†Grammy Hall of Fame¬†which is a special¬†Grammy Award¬†established in 1973 to honor recordings that are at least 25 years old and that have “qualitative or historical significance”.

 

Here ’tis, a tribute to Fats’ brilliance¬†and charm:

 

Fats Waller – Ain’t Misbehavin’ – Stormy Weather (1943)

 

This song cracks me up!

Fats Waller – Your Feet’s Too Big! (1936)

 

Fats Waller – Honeysuckle Rose (1929)

 

Thanks, Fats for the jam, jive, and everything!

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R.E.S.P.E.C.T – Aretha Franklin – Queen of Soul RIHūüíúūüé∂

Aretha Louise Franklin¬†(March 25, 1942¬†‚Äď August 16, 2018)

 

Growing up in Detroit, Michigan in the 1960’s, every day on my radio I jammed to the greatest music of all time; Motown, Sam Cooke, the Godfather of Soul James Brown, and, the incomparable Aretha Franklin. She sang from the very depths of her soul becoming an icon and forever soundtrack of our lives.

Aretha began her career as a child singing gospel at New Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit, where her father, C. L. Franklin, was the minister. In 1960, at the age of 18, she embarked on a secular career, recording for Columbia Records.

After signing to¬†Atlantic Records¬†in 1967, Ms. Franklin achieved commercial acclaim and success with songs such as “Respect”, “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman”, “Spanish Harlem” and “Think”.¬†By the end of the 1960s, she was being¬†called¬†“the Queen of Soul“.

Recording 112 charted singles on¬†Billboard, including 77¬†Hot 100¬†entries, 17 top ten¬†pop singles, 100¬†R&B entries¬†and 20 number-one R&B singles, Aretha became the most charted female artist in the chart’s history. She won 18 Grammy Awards and is one of the¬†best-selling musical artists of all time, having sold over 75¬†million records worldwide.

Aretha received numerous honors throughout her career including a 1987 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, in which she became the first female performer to be inducted. She was inducted to the UK Music Hall of Fame in 2005.

In August 2012, Aretha was inducted into the GMA Gospel Music Hall of Fame and listed in at least two all-time lists on Rolling Stone magazine, including the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time, and the 100 Greatest Singers of All Time.

Today we both mourn and celebrate the life of a musical pioneer, Civil Rights Activist, and without dispute the reigning Queen of Soul.

Let’s take a look back at her remarkable career and journey through the soul-stirring music of Ms. Aretha “Queen of Soul” Franklin.

 

A Century of Black Filmmakersūüéě

PIONEERS OF AFRICAN-AMERICAN CINEMA

Directed by Richard Norman, Richard Maurice, Spencer Williams and Oscar Micheaux

This collection of the works of America’s legendary first African-American filmmakers is the only one of its kind. Funded in part by a highly successful Kickstarter campaign, the packaged set includes no fewer than a dozen feature-length films and nearly twice as many shorts and rare fragments. Subject matter includes race issues that went unaddressed by Hollywood for decades.

Spencer Williams Films

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Spencer Williams

Spencer Williams (July 14, 1893 ‚Äď December 13, 1969) was an American actor and filmmaker. He was best known for playing Andy in the Amos ‘n Andy¬†television show and for directing the 1941 race film “The Blood of Jesus”. Williams was a pioneer African-American film producer and director.¬†(Wikipedia)

The Pioneers of African-American Cinema collection includes new digital restorations of over a dozen feature films, plus shorts, fragments, trailers, documentary footage, archival interviews, and audio recordings.

This clip is a scene from Richard Maurice’s ELEVEN P.M. (circa 1928). It is regarded by historian Henry T. Sampson as one of the most outstanding black films of the silent era and is Maurice’s second and only surviving film.

Eleven P. M is one of more than a dozen feature films showcased in Kino Lorber’s five-disc collection PIONEERS OF AFRICAN-AMERICAN CINEMA, now available at KinoLorber.com and Amazon.com. Music is by Rob Gal. Mastered from 35mm film elements preserved by the Library of Congress.

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Oscar Micheaux

Oscar Devereaux Micheaux¬†(January 2, 1884 ‚Äď March 25, 1951) was an African American author, film director and independent producer of more than 44 films. Although the short-lived Micheaux Book & Film Company produced some films, he is regarded as the first major African-American feature filmmaker, the most successful African-American filmmaker of the first half of the 20th century¬†and the most prominent producer of race films.¬†He produced both silent films and sound films when the industry changed to incorporate speaking actors. (Wikipedia)

These films and filmmakers deserve to be remembered, honored and explored. Their contributions play a significant role in the development of the American cinema.

For more on the history of African-American Cinema:

 

“May the Schwartz¬†Be With You” – Off-the-Wall Movies

 

Spaceballs

 

Like Galaxy Quest was an homage to Star Trek, Mel Brooks off-the-wall comedy Spaceballs (1987) was a send-off of Star Wars. Its setting and characters parody the original Star Wars trilogy, as well as other sci-fi franchises including Star Trek, Alien, and the Planet of the Apes films.

The plot is set in a distant galaxy, planet Spaceball which has depleted its air supply, leaving its citizens reliant on a product called “Perri-Air.” (See, I told you off-the-wall)

Mel Brooks

Mel Brooks

In desperation, Spaceball’s leader President Skroob (Mel Brooks) orders the evil Dark Helmet (Rick Moranis) to kidnap Princess Vespa (Daphne Zuniga) of oxygen-rich Druidia and hold her hostage in exchange for air.

Rick Moranis (Dark Helmet)

Rick Moranis (Dark Helmet)

But help arrives for the Princess in the form of renegade space pilot Lone Starr (Bill Pullman) and his half-man, half-dog partner, Barf (John Candy). (IMDb)

 

Spaceballs is a 1987 American science fiction parody film co-written, produced and directed by Mel Brooks. Starring Brooks, Bill Pullman, John Candy, and Rick Moranis, the film also features Daphne Zuniga, Dick Van Patten, and the voice of Joan Rivers as Dot Matrix. (Wikipedia)

 

The film was met with a mixed reception but I think it can be classified as a cult classic, definitely an off the-wall-classic.

Going back and researching this film I almost forgot the funniest scene that had me on the floor. When I first saw this I literally screamed! Which I’m sure had the cleaning lady a the Residence Inn, where I was staying, shaking her head. (This chick is nuts!)

 

OMG, that was hilarious!! Who would have thought you could turn that incredibly terrifying moment in Alien into this “spit your milk out” moment.

Once again, Rick Moranis is absolutely brilliant! Just looking at him in that ginormous helmet, you can’t help but crack-up. Portraying the embodiment of the “Napoleon complex” his action playing with his dolls is too precious.

Trivia:

  • IT WASN‚ÄôT THE FIRST STAR WARS PARODY FILM.

Amateur filmmaker, Ernie Fosselius was so enamored with Star Wars in 1977 that he cobbled together a 12-minute short, Hardware Wars, which he shot for just $8,000 in an abandoned laundromat. It was even declared a ‚Äúcute little film‚ÄĚ by George Lucas.

  • LUCAS GAVE HIS (CONDITIONAL) BLESSING.

Based on Brooks not doing any merchandising.¬†The Lucas people were just upset about one aspect of Spaceballs,‚ÄĚ Brooks told Starlog in 1987. ‚ÄúThey didn‚Äôt think it was fair for us to do a take-off and then merchandise the characters.‚ÄĚ

  • BILL PULLMAN WAS BROOKS‚Äô THIRD CHOICE.

According to Pullman, the actor‚ÄĒwho had not yet had a starring role‚ÄĒwas approached by Brooks only after Tom Cruise and Tom Hanks turned down the role of Lone Starr, the Han Solo-esque lead of the film. Pullman said that hiring Rick Moranis and John Candy freed Brooks up to cast a relative unknown.

  • BARF‚ÄôS EARS UPSTAGED THE ACTORS.

John Candy, who played half-dog/half-man Barf, was usually trailed on-set by Effects artist Rick Lazzarini and the effects crew, who had to control both his tail and his ears.¬†At one point, Lazzarini was told¬†by Brooks that he didn‚Äôt ‚Äúhave to move the ears so much!‚ÄĚ They were too active in scenes focused on other characters. (Candy, incidentally, performed with a 40-pound battery backpack strapped to him to control the animatronics.)

(Jake Rossen-(mental_floss)

 

John Candy - Barf

John Candy – Barf

So, if you’re looking for a good laugh and a total mind distraction, I recommend “Spaceballs” as the perfect gag-filled tonic.

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If It’s Saturday It Must Be The Blob!ūüďļ

Maybe I’m just a wee bit set in my ways, but the day of the week dictates the genre that I watch. Monday thru Friday are pretty wide open, however, Saturday and Sunday must stick to my criteria. Saturday afternoon is definitely B-horror/Sci-fi flicks and Sunday is reserved for Melodrama film classics.

If you’ve read my About Page you know that as a kid the Saturday Matinee had a big influence on my love of B-horror/Sci-fi movies and William Castle.

The Blob, The Incredible Shrinking Man and The Tingler. Now that’s good stuff!

 

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 The Blob (1958)

The Blob, directed by Irvin Yeaworth, was Steve McQueen’s first leading role before he got his own TV series – Wanted: Dead or Alive (1959). McQueen was called “The King of Cool” and starred in such popular films as The¬†Magnificent Seven and The Thomas Crown Affair. He received an Academy Award nomination for his role as Jake Holman in The Sand Pebbles.

The Blob plot revolves around what happens when an old man pokes a stick at a piece of a meteor and it cracks open releasing an oozy substance that starts to crawl up the stick. He tries to shake it off but ends up with “the blob” all over his hand. (This is why you don’t poke at things that drop from the sky. Yeesh!)

Steve (also his character name) and his girl Jane, after almost hitting the old man who has run onto the road, take him to the local doctor. Cutting to the chase: while Steve and Jane ( Aneta Corsaut, who eventually plays Andy Griffith’s TV girlfriend Helen) leave the doc’s office to look for clues to what’s on the old man’s hand, The Blob absorbs the old man, the doc and his nurse. Next thing you know it’s at the midnight horror movie. Cue the fleeing and screaming and holy crap how do we stop it. Phew, that was exhausting.

 

 

The theme song, written by Burt Bacharach and Mack David (who wrote some of the top hits of the sixties) is a catchy little gem. “It creeps and leaps and glides and slides across the floor…beware of the blob.” Catchyūüėä

 

The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957) 

The Incredible Shrinking Man

Directed by Jack Arnold

I’ve watched this movie a hundred times and the ending always makes me cry. This thought-provoking Science Fiction classic taps into an anxiety of our purpose and what exactly is the meaning of life. Scott Carey (Grant Williams) is dusted by a radioactive mist while on a boating vacation with his wife Louise (Randy Stuart). A few weeks later he starts to notice his clothes are fitting looser and he also appears to be losing height. After visiting a specialist, it is confirmed that he is indeed shrinking.

Reduced to living in a dollhouse and eventually fighting for his life against the family cat and then battling it out with a big, hairy tarantula living in the basement, Scott finally shrinks to an infinitesimal size, entering the realm of the unknown.

For me, this movie is so much more than just another Saturday afternoon B-Movie flick. The closing monologue makes the point by concluding that¬†no matter how small, we still matter in the universe because, to God, “there is no zero.”

 

 

The film won the first Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation¬†in 1958 by the World Science Fiction Convention.¬†In 2009 it was named to the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress for being ‚Äúculturally, historically or aesthetically‚ÄĚ significant and will be preserved for all time.

The Tingler

Producer/Director William Castle delivers his finest in The Tingler (1959), his third collaboration with writer Robb White. The film stars the incomparable Vincent Price as Pathologist, Dr. Warren Chapin who researches and discovers the existence of The Tingler.

Percepto is my favorite William Castle gimmick. There comes a time in the movie when the Tingler (a parasite that feeds on fear) is loose in the theater and to save your life you need to scream! For grins, in select seats in the theaters, Castle placed the Percepto system which made the seat vibrate to simulate the feeling of fear you feel in your body when The Tingler strikes.

Man do I wish I could have been there in 1959 when The Tingler attacks the projectionist, the film strip breaks and The Tingler appears on the screen. If that’s not enough, the lights go out and you hear the voice of Vincent Price declaring that The Tingler is loose in the theater so scream, scream for your life! Awesome!!

Just think of it, being in the movie theater watching The Tingler scene and ending up participating in the experience in your Percepto seat, with lights out and the sound of Price’s voice. I love it!!!

 

Break out the¬†popcorn and let me know your faves in the comments!¬†ūüćŅūüćŅūüćŅūüćŅūüćŅ

Favorite Trailers That Make The Cut!ūüé¨

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I was working on a post the other day and the TV show Nothing but Trailers was on in the background. It got me thinking about some of my all-time favorites and what constitutes a great trailer.

First of all, it can’t just be a series of scenes from the movie. That really irks me! What’s the point of me going if you’ve already given me your best shots? Just lazy.

An excellent trailer peaks your curiosity¬†gets your heart-stirring and demands that you’re first in line to see it. An incredible trailer gives you minimal information but builds the anticipation with atmospheric music, punctuation¬†shots, and an ending that¬†elicits the core emotion of the film.

This is the criteria I applied to the following trailers and is the basis for them being some of the most memorable.

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Number One has got to be the 1979¬†sci-fi classic – Alien. “In space, no one can hear you scream.”

Starring Sigourney¬†Weaver, director Ridley Scott scared the crap out of me and the little boy sitting in front of me at the theater. Oh, and to make matters worse, I was pregnant at the time. Yikes! (if you’ve seen it you understand if you haven’t, what?? You must!) And my girl Sigourney Weaver showed the world what a badass woman in space looks like.

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Sigourney Weaver

This is the epitome of an incredible trailer. Little bits and moments and truly haunting music. My heart was racing and I had no idea of what I’d just seen.

The visuals were outstanding! There was absolutely¬†nothing familiar in the images coming off the screen.¬†The Alien and its accompanying elements were designed by Swiss surrealist artist H. R. Giger. (I don’t know how he slept with those images in his head) The film¬†received both critical acclaim and box office success, receiving an Academy Award for Best Visual Effects.

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Number Two is the sci-fi thriller –The Dark Knight¬†(2008) – “Why So Serious?”

First of all, Heath Ledger. Second of all, Heath Ledger!! Even in the trailer, his intensity shines thru. He draws you in and you’re compelled to see more. His Oscar-winning¬†performance was incredible and the most talked about that year.

Ledger¬†almost made a¬†complete sweep of over twenty awards for acting, including the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, Screen Actors Guild Award for Best Supporting Actor, the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor ‚Äď Motion Picture, and the BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role.

Heath Ledger

Unfortunately, we lost him, but his genius as The Joker lives on. Starring Christian Bale as the caped crusader and directed by Christopher Nolan, when I saw this trailer I knew where I was going to be on opening night. Totally lived up to the hype.

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And, Now Presenting… “The Master of Suspense”!

In 1960, Alfred Hitchcock shocked the world with his groundbreaking thriller. Unsuspecting moviegoers stood in lines that wrapped around the block with no one being allowed admittance after the movie began. Intensifying the anticipation, each patron’s directive was to NOT reveal the ending.

Watch this legend pull on your tension string. From the “Master of Suspense”, Sir Alfred Hitchcock’s¬†– Psycho (1960)¬†“…she just goes a little mad sometimes.”

This trailer shows Alfred Hitchcock taught the world just how horror is done. Fits all my criteria for an incredible movie trailer and then some. Starring Janet Leigh and Anthony Perkins, my heart is racing right now re-visiting this magnificent piece of cinema.

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Sir Alfred Hitchcock – (13 August 1899 ‚Äď 29 April 1980)

Hitch’s stylistic trademarks include the use of camera movement that mimics a person’s gaze,¬†forcing viewers to engage in a form of voyeurism.¬†In addition, he framed shots to maximize anxiety, fear, or empathy¬†and used innovative forms of film editing. (Wikipedia)

To quote me, “An incredible trailer gives you minimal information but builds the anticipation with atmospheric music, punctuation¬†shots, and an ending that¬†elicits the core emotion of the film.”

An unquestionable classic!

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Now that I’ve shared some of my faves, I’d love to hear some of yours! ūüėé

 

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The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)

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I love this film because of its unequivocal message to man. Earth, get your¬†act together or you will be destroyed! If your inability to understand the gravity of your nuclear capability bleeds over into the galaxy, we will end this planet’s existence. Boom – Drop the mike!

The fact that humans continue to¬†measure power by how many times over we can destroy the earth as if there’s a planet B¬†never ceases to floor me!

Obviously, the need continues to heed Klaatu’s warning.¬†“Your choice is simple: join us and live in peace, or pursue your present course and face obliteration”

“The Day the Earth Stood Still” was released in 1951 during the Cold War period. (It could be argued that it never ended.) It stands as a classic sci-fi cautionary tale as relevant today as it was then, as we continue to deal with¬†the tensions that arise daily by the ongoing threat of a nuclear war.

The Day the Earth Stood Still (a.k.a. Farewell to the Master and Journey to the World) is an American black-and-white science fiction film from 20th Century Fox, produced by Julian Blaustein, directed by Robert Wise, that stars Michael Rennie,(Klaatu) Patricia Neal, Billy Gray, Hugh Marlowe, and Sam Jaffe.

 

The screenplay was written by¬†Edmund H. North, based on the 1940 science fiction short story “Farewell to the Master” by¬†Harry Bates. The score was composed by¬†Bernard Herrmann.

The plot involves a humanoid alien visitor named Klaatu who comes to Earth accompanied by a powerful eight-foot-tall robot, Gort, to deliver an important message that will affect the entire human race.

But, when Klaatu’s flying saucer lands, a nervous soldier mistakes a gift for the President as a weapon and fires, injuring Klaatu. Gort has his back and immediately begins to disintegrate the tanks and weapons. Cue the pandemonium!

Klaatu is taken to Walter Reed Hospital but escapes and lodges at a¬†boarding house¬†as “Mr. Carpenter”, the name on the¬†dry cleaner’s¬†tag on a suit he took. Among the residents include young widow Helen Benson (Patricia Neal) and her son Bobby (Billy Gray). The next morning, Klaatu overhears the boarders speculate about the alien’s motivations.

Not unexpectantly the talk turns to Communism and the “Red Scare”. And, of course, it’s a conspiracy because you can’t trust the government.

Producer Julian Blaustein set out to make a film under the working titles of Farewell to the Master and Journey to the World that illustrated the fear and suspicion that characterized the early Cold War and Atomic Age. He reviewed more than 200 science fiction short stories and novels in search of a storyline that could be used since this film genre was well suited for a metaphorical discussion of such grave issues.

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Studio head¬†Darryl F. Zanuck¬†gave the go-ahead for this project, and Blaustein hired Edmund North to write the screenplay based on elements from Harry Bates’s 1940 short story “Farewell to the Master“. The revised final screenplay was completed on February 21, 1951. Science fiction writer¬†Raymond F. Jones¬†worked as an uncredited adviser. (Wikipedia)

Trivia:

The robot Gort, who serves Klaatu, was played by¬†Lock Martin, who worked as an usher at¬†Grauman’s Chinese Theater¬†and stood seven feet, seven inches tall. Not used to being in such a confining, heat-inducing costume, he worked carefully when wearing the two oversize, laced-up-the-front or back, foamed¬†neoprene¬†suits needed for creating the illusion on the screen of a seamless metallic Gort.

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Wise decided that Martin’s on-screen shooting time would be limited to half-hour intervals so Martin would face no more than minor discomfort. These segments, in turn, were then edited together into film’s final print. (Wikipedia)

In a commentary track on¬†DVD, interviewed by fellow director¬†Nicholas Meyer, Wise stated that he wanted the film to appear as realistic and believable as possible, in order to drive home the motion picture’s core message against armed conflict in the real world.

Also mentioned in the DVD’s documentary interview was the original title for the film, “The Day the World Stops”. Blaustein said his aim with the film was to promote a “strong¬†United Nations“.

 

The Music:

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The music score was composed by Bernard Herrmann in August 1951 and was his first score after he moved from New York to Hollywood. Herrmann chose unusual instrumentation for the film: violin, cello, and bass (all three electric), two theremin electronic instruments (played by Dr. Samuel Hoffman and Paul Shure).

By using the theremin, Herrmann made one of music’s first forays into electronic music.

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The Day the Earth Stood Still¬†was well received by critics and is widely regarded as one of the best films of 1951.¬†The film¬†is ranked seventh in¬†Arthur C. Clarke‘s list of the best science fiction films of all time, just above¬†Stanley Kubrick‘s¬†2001: A Space Odyssey, which Clarke himself co-wrote.

The Day the Earth Stood Still¬†holds a 94% “Certified Fresh” rating at the film¬†review aggregator¬†website¬†Rotten Tomatoes.

In 1995, the film was selected for preservation in the United States¬†National Film Registry¬†as “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.

 

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Klaatu made an excellent case for using Gort as the “interplanetary police” – accountability. Governments need to be held accountable for the death and destruction they are capable of wielding.

No individual has the right to take another’s life and no country or planet has the right to end our existence! I think we could use some Gort right about now!

 

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