Friday, July 27, 2007

Hairspray The Musical

So, things haven't been completely T.A.M.I. 'round these parts, although it would seem so on this blog. I have been listening to and watching other things. I saw "Hairspray" last Friday, but I didn't get to give it the once over. Let's try it now.

I liked it. I liked it very, very much. I'd say it was the best musical since "Little Shop Of Horrors". "Waitaminit, Terry", you might be thinking, "That movie is 21 years old. There have been a lot of good movie musicals since then." Yeah, you're right, but there hasn't been any that've been this much fun. For some inane reason, there is a trend that states a musical can't be well done unless it's done with total and unbridled seriousness. "Chicago" left me cold. I remember seeing it in the movie theatre and, as soon as the opening number started ("All That Jazz") I leaned over to my friend and whispered, "Ah, shit. It's that f**kin' Fosse musical." "Moulin Rouge" was okay, but it was a monster of recycled pop that gave the "SGT. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" movie a run for it's money. I coulda went with "All This and World War II", but let's not get too obscure. "The Phantom of the Opera" was a limp, tragic mess that needs no more of my thought. "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" was a mind blower, but maybe too self aware to be transcending into the pop mainstream. I liked "Dreamgirls", but it would have been a throwaway movie if not for Eddie Murphy and the swooningly marvellous performance from Jennifer Hudson (whom I still have a deep crush on because of that performance). The difference between those films and "Hairspray" is that "Hairspray" doesn't want to do anything but entertain you, completely and thoroughly. There's no high drama, nothing to make you think and no pithy pathos. It's so very refreshing because of that.

Not to say that New Line Cinema didn't try to pass it off as the next "Dreamgirls" with it's Ad campaign, with it's title done in a "Dreamgirls" type font. It also suffered from an ad campaign that featured NONE of the songs, as if the studio was ashamed it was a musical. Wow, imagine that. Let's not tell the audience it's a musical or they might not want to see it. John Travolta in drag=good, singing=bad. I hate corporate entertainment studios.

The film is solid, however. Although the dance aspect is obscured in favor of a segregation plot (the opposite was true for the original movie), the film remains sunny and largely inoffensive. Nikki Blonsky is quite the cute and appealing little cannonball as Tracy Turnblad. She's much better than Rikki Lake in the original in my opinion as she's spunkier. Amanda Bynes was almost completely wasted in the Penny Pingleton role. She spends 3/4 of the film standing behind Blonsky and sucking on a lollipop (though Allison Janney scores highly as her mom, Prudy Pingleton). It's not until the fourth quarter of the film they finally let her sing and let loose. Brittany Snow is, well, functional in her part as prissy bitch Amber Von Tussle and daughter to Michelle Pfieffer's villainess Velma Von Tussle. Pfieffer does a great Debby Harry impression, but I miss the bomb in her hair. Zac Efron looks like he's preparing for the lead role in the "Cry Baby" musical than anything, but he's appealing enough. James Marsden is pretty much wasted as a white-bread-bland Corny Collins. Christopher Walken, as Tracy's father, shines in a surprisingly fragile and tender role. Of course, Queen Latifah is simply marvellous as Motormouth Maybell; the real star of the movie. Elijah Kelley, however, nearly steals the movie from everyone as Seaweed, dancer extraordinaire and potential boyfriend of Penny Pingleton. He's got the looks and charm of a major star. Gotta watch for him in the future.

But the thing everyone wants to know is, how is John Travolta??? Well, he's okay. He plays the role straight and seriously as a put upon mother (unlike that hack Harvey Firestein, who apparently thought the role was a man playing a woman) and in that he does Divine proud. He's a bit stiff at first, but as the plot unfolds around him, the character begins to open up and gives Travolta some breathing room. The only problem I could detect was his voice, which sounded an awful lot like Dustin Hoffman in "Tootsie". You know, that soft, wispy whisper with a slight impediment.

The Musical numbers are exceedingly well done and the movie flies by in a quicksilver 2 hours. There's not much else I need to say except SEE IT ON THE BIG SCREEN. The Widescreen compositions demand theatrical viewing. HDTV can't compare. I'll buy it on DVD, if only for the numbers they cut and any other features that might be had, but it won't make me forget John Waters' sublime original.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

They Came, They Conquered. T.A.M.I.

This is just a quick note, 'cause I gotta go to bed. ;)

After hundreds of viewings over the years and countless hours of studying it in reference books and interviews, I finally got to see "The T.A.M.I. Show" on a big, silver screen with a capicity crowd. By the scheduled 7:30pm starting time, the 150 seat screening room was filled to the gills with 10 extra people in folding chairs, lining the walls and a line of people stretching out the lobby. Many people were turned away for this single showing of the greatest Rock Concert film ever made. After many delays and opening comments, we were treated to two unrelated short films that totalled about a half an hour. Then, after a proper introduction for T.A.M.I. from Film Archivist Adam Sekuler, we were off and running at about 8:30pm. It was much, much more than a movie going experience, it was Church.

The print itself was what I expected. It was, to my eyes, a dupe of a 16mm television syndication print that itself was reduced from a 35mm print. In fact, except for splices in different places (of course) it looked exactly like my super 8mm copy. It was zoomboxed (the opening credits were regularly lopped off the sides of the screen) and contrasty.... but it was T.A.M.I.; big, beautiful and glorious. The sold out crowd hooted, hollered and cheered throughout the movie, giving applause to the most deserving of performances. The Film was also greeted with eruptions of laughter from the overzealous dancers to the inappropriate-at-casual-listen lyrics for Billy J Kramer and the Dakotas' hit song, "Little Children". Make no mistake, no one in the theatre was laughing derisively; this was honest, loving laughter. There was some grumbling about the Supremes and The Barbarians segment being out of sync, but every optical print of "The T.A.M.I. Show" has that problem. It played out of sync during it's initial run. The crowd, overall, was incredibly varied: Black, white, old, young. There were old hippies, moms and dads taking their children for posterity's sake and film scholars (both self made and legit), all sharing the love of this very rare and special event.

All hell broke loose in our theater, predictably, when James Brown hit the stage. People applauded when he sang "Out Of Sight", and some cheers erupted at the climax of "Prisoner of Love", but when he tore into "Please, Please, Please" it was liberation and deliverance at it's most raw and primal. Every time The Godfather fell to his knees and was ushered off stage, a cape draped across his shoulders, an electric wave washed over the audience. I saw fists pumped into the air. People were fighting the urge to stand up and cheer. The hoots and applause threatened to drown out the already loud mono speaker. It was so incredibly electric that we all used the Rolling Stones finale to calm ourselves down.

After the movie, everyone filed into the lobby to gather themselves. I'd never seen a group of people so genuinely intrigued and curious about what they just witnessed. I took it upon myself (since I was so Jazzed, I just had to talk to SOMEBODY about it) to teach and preach the gospel of T.A.M.I. to a few people asking questions to each other. I hope I was informative without being snobby. I think I was OK, though.

I came home and a friend of mine from LA had dropped me a note saying that Dick Clark Productions was, indeed, preparing a DVD of "The T.A.M.I. Show" for an imminent release and that new film elements for the Beach Boys segment were recently found. That probably explains the repeated delays. If that's the case, then good, I'd rather wait for a perfect release than get something substandard. I've waited this long, what's another 10 - 20 years? LOL.

As a coda to this fine evening, I'd like to thank Adam Sekuler for bringing T.A.M.I. to the Pittsburgh area. He's really a heck of a guy. It's a shame he lives so far away. I'd like to hang out with him someday. Ya done good, my man. It was one of the best movie going experiences I've ever had... and I've had quite a few.
(Guess my note wasn't so quick after all!)

Friday, July 20, 2007

They're Coming From Alllllll Over The World... To Pittsburgh!!!

In the greatest bit of serendipity that's happened to me in YEARS, the legendary Rock and Soul masterpiece... you guessed the title... "The T.A.M.I. Show" is going to play in Pittsburgh this Monday night at 7:30 pm at the Melwood Screening Room. It's going to be a 16mm print and the guy that rescued the print from the Minneapolis film archive will be there to talk about "The T.A.M.I. Show" and his project "Search and Rescue"; a film preservation campaign.

It will undoubtedly be a zoomed in crop from the Elecrtonovision transferred 35mm, which in itself was matted off for theatrical exhibition. 16mm reductions from 35mm theatrical prints usually don't carry the matted info, since the format is smaller and would compromise the quality of the actual, viewable image. It will most likely be missing the Beach Boys segment as nearly all prints in existence have had this performance missing (if it's there, it'll be between the Jan & Dean segment and the Billy J Kramer and the Dakota's performance). My jaw will drop and I may even stand for an ovation if it does appear. The running time on the Pittsburgh Filmmakers website lists the running time as 123 minutes, but even my absolutely complete composite I made myself (consisting of the early 80's Night Flight broadcast and the Beach Boys performance from the "Sounds of Summer" DVD a few years back) only runs 118 minutes. If it does run 123 minutes, I am positive it will be because of the speed of the projectors motor making the disparity between the two running times.

Regardless, I'm stoked beyond stoked. I'll make every attempt to be there (a 99.999999999999% confirmation that I will!). I'll be the bald guy with the huge grin on my face.

EDIT: I made some minor changes to the above since I just re-read it and realised what I pompus dick I was being. Adam Sekuler, the person leading the "Search and Rescue" effort and the person bringing the print, is doing my little sleepy corner of the universe a great service and I want to acknowlege that. I apologise for the tone and I'd like to point out that's not my average demeanor.

(OK, it IS, but I'm trying to break that bad, bad habit.)

(for more info)

Wednesday, July 18, 2007


Sorry I haven't posted anything in the last few weeks. Busy busy busy, y'know. I'll be back on track soon... and with a new edition of the SHOCKEDELIC RADIO SHOW, too!!!!

For now though, check out some of this cool s**t (to paraphrase Dolemite). There's a new site called "Trailers From Hell" the concept is frickin' awesome. They take established exploitation directors and thave them comment on their favorite movie TRAILERS! It's so awesome, I wanna cry. Seriously.

If you've read my previous posts, you'll know I'm in total celluloid love with "The T.A.M.I. Show", so it was a true thrill when I saw that none other than John Landis does commentary for the trailer. He was THERE, man! There are some incredible revelations here, if his recollections are to be believed (Marvin Gaye appearing WITH Tami Terrell???? Little Stevie Wonder?????? Not in the finished movie, they ain't!). OK, so where's the damn DVD already???!???!?

Watch below!