Monday, June 11, 2018

Everything Old Is New Again

It remained cloudy and gloomy as I finally rolled out of bed this morning. Did a quick episode of Tiny Toon Adventures while eating breakfast and getting ready for work. I'm not the only one who's had to deal with a deluge of bad weather recently. "Rainy Daze" shows what the Toons do to pass the time during equally stormy days. Monty's idea of chasing boredom is renting friends to torment with his dangerous toys. Buster manages to turn the tables on him after he's attacked one too many times. In the second story, Babs uses her imagination to make ordinary household chores a lot more fun. She and Buster take a trip in the third. They're aiming for Aruba, but somehow end up saving a seal from a Cruella Di Vil-imitating poacher in the Arctic.

Work was wild today. It was either insane or stone-cold dead. There was no in-between. We'd suddenly get long lines, and they'd toss me into the register...and then, ten minutes later, it would be totally quiet. It's the end of a huge four-day sale and the second day of another big sale. I did round up carts for an hour in the beginning of the day and about 40 minutes or so towards the end, but I was mostly inside. It got so crazy, my break was more than a half-hour late because I had to take customers.

At least the clouds were gone by the time I finished. The sky was brilliant blue. The wind had turned fresh and still a bit cool. It was probably in the lower 70's, chilly for this time of year, but certainly more pleasant than the upper 80's and humid we had last week. I took the long way home down Nicholson Road, dodging rush hour traffic until I got into Oaklyn.

Worked on writing for a few hours. Leia is able to help release Han from the evil red crystal with a kiss, but he can't talk, and he's weak as a lamb. The light returns Luke to his human form, just as Palpatine gets his hands on Yoda and drains his magic. The small green elf uses his last breath to admonish Leia and Luke to pass on their training to a new generation of Jedi.

Broke at 7 to have baked asparagus, mashed sweet potatoes, and leftover chicken legs for dinner. Watched That's Entertainment as I ate. This 1974 documentary covers the MGM musical in all it's Technicolor and black-and-white splendor, from the panicked early talkie revues to the extravaganzas of the late 50's. On one hand, the fact that every host in this film but Liza Minnelli has since passed away makes it a bit hard to watch now, especially for musical fans...and makes her line during her segment on her mother Judy Garland about film capturing a moment all the more ironic. On the other hand, though almost every film in this movie has since been released in one home media format or another, it's still nice to see all these wonderful musical numbers together in one place. (Especially ones like the Esther Williams water spectacles that are coming from movies with plots that are basically filler between songs.)

The That's Entertainment movies make great background music when you just want some great songs performed by wonderful talents, or to see the numbers without all the "extra" stuff. It's also a nice way to introduce kids with a taste for older movies to the basics of the classic musical.

Ended the night baking peanut butter bars while watching All That Jazz, a far less pleasant musical journey. Joe Gideon (Roy Schinder) may be a big-shot Broadway and Hollywood director, but he's also pretty much a sleazy ass. He's sleeping with a variety of women, including his current girl Kate (Ann Renniking), while still working with his ex-wife Audrey (Leland Palmer) and helping her with their daughter Michelle (Erzebet Foldi). He drinks, chain smokes, and takes every drug on the market in order to direct a big Broadway show while simultaneously edit his most recent film. All three women and the "Angel of Death" (Jessica Lange) try to point out that he's literally killing himself, but he ignores them. Even after he ends up in the hospital for heart surgery, he's still smoking and living it up with the ladies. Death does finally come to claim Joe...but he won't go without one last big variety show, retelling his life in show business terms as he comes to terms with what he's done to himself.

Bob Fosse directed and co-wrote this strange musical, based after his experiences directing the original 1975 Chicago while editing the movie Lenny. There really are some fabulous numbers here, all in Fosse's signature knock-kneed style. My favorite was Michelle and Audrey's energetic duet to Peter Allen's "Everything Old Is New Again" that even Joe loved. The flashy finale, set during Joe's open-heart surgery, is a lot more bizarre. Schinder and Ben Vereen really tear into the Everly Brothers' "Bye Bye Love" (here called "Bye Bye Life") in the last moments.

A portrait of a man who has lived life to the fullest coming to terms with death is dark for musical comedy, and it's definitely not for everyone. While it was nominated for nine Oscars in 1979 and won four (for Original Screenplay, Original Score, Set Direction, and Costume Design), many critics even then didn't quite know what to make of it. I'm not really sure, either. I'm glad I saw it once, but it's not something I'm going to seek it out again. If you're a fan of Fosse or the cast or like your musicals on the darker or more surreal side, this is worth checking out.

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