Happy New Year everyone. The promise of snow over the Holidays was not exaggerated. On Christmas morning we had 6-8 inches on the ground and and 1-2 inches fell throughout Christmas Day. But that is past. The New Year is upon us. This song expresses my dearest desire for each and every one of you. That you feel safe. For safety is not about the pandemic and has pitifully dominated the past year – like the song says it’s about living with/in grace, being rested, calm, anchored, unchained, holding no blame, no fear, no blame, being brave and open. I would also argue that is the foundation of love. I love each and everyone one of you even if we have never physically met. Thank you for your kindness and support.
In this post I want to focus on two musicals that are directly connected to non-musical films. I am a HUGE lover of Federico Fellini’s films. I think I have all of them on DVD. And have watched them dozens of times and still find them enjoyable.
Three Fellini films were adapted into musicals (stage and/or film). The film that was only adapted for the live stage was La Strada. 8 1/2 one of Fellini’s several masterpieces was adapted first into a live stage production and re-named NINE. And was later adapted by director Rob Marshall for film. If you love Fellini it can be a bit unnerving at first to watch this musical. But it does pay off with repeated viewings. Fellini was known for his film style called magical realism mixing flights of fancy with realistic situations and settings. The musicals don’t seem to carry that over so well. NINE especially seems more like straight opera in an obviously staged setting. But it’s overall story is consistent with the film about a film director in crisis professionally, romantically and emotionally. And the music in NINE is absolutely wonderful. It has an all-star cast that includes Daniel Day-Lewis in the lead role of the director Guido. And the women are a who’s who of modern film including Sophia Loren, Dame Judi Dench, Nicole Kidman, Penelope Cruz, Marion Cotillard, Kate Hudson, Fergie and others. Here are clips from some of my favorite numbers in the film.
in this first clip French actress, Marion Cotillard, as Guido’s wife decides to say goodbye as she’s had enough of his cheating and dishonest behaviours. The song is “Take It All”. It is quite wonderful how the song reflects her interior dialogue in comparison to the “real” conversation she is having with Guido.
This next clip comes much earlier in the film and features Penelope Cruz who plays Guido’s mistress, Carla, always competing for his attention. In this scene Guido has escaped the movie set to try and pull things together and he places a call to his mistress. And she gives him what can only be described as a cinematic version of phone sex. So hot! And our good old Guido pretends it’s a call from the Vatican. LOL
And for a final scene – Kate Hudson in an unusual role featuring her singing and dancing. Cinema Italiano captures all the flash of a paparazzi photo session and glitz of Italian film making while singing about all the wonderful things that are typically seen in Fellini films (or in this case Guido’s films).
Now film number two. The hit Broadway Musical SWEET CHARITY from 1966 was made into a film 1969 and featured Shirley McClain in the title role of a girl who is looking for “real love”. The original movie was Federico Fellini’s NIGHTS OF CABIRIA which told the story of a prostitute looking for genuine love. For the adaptation to the stage and film production of SWEET CHARITY the main characters career was changed from prostitute to taxi dancer; a girl that dances with men who pay her. Of course the insinuation is that there is more than dancing going on. But that is Hollywood and the censorship board for you – always sanitizing and trying to “clean up” film. But the music is wonderful and deserves some mention here. Charity is an honest, and free spirited girl who has managed to maintain a certain innocence in spite of her profession. It is an endearing film but there is one thing about it that has not aged particularly well – that is it’s use of snap shots in place of filmed action in an effort to save time. But that aside – the music and dancing is great.
For this first clip I give you the song “Big Spender” which takes place in the dance bar where Sweet Charity works. A memorable song to say the least.
As Charity has several hits and misses in her quest for true love with men that have paid to dance with her and she has fallen in love with them hoping they were true in their intentions only to find they are not. After one of her rejections she is left wandering down the street in the rain and comes upon the “film star” Vittorio, played by Ricard Montalban who is in the midst of being rejected by his romantic interest. He and Charity connect and he takes her to a swank exotic club featuring different dance and music acts. Here is a the scene featuring the dances “The Aloof”, “The Heavyweight” and “The Big Finish” choreographed by the legendary Bob Fosse.
Well Charity does meet here true love in an elevator and eventually he takes her to “church” officiated by Sammy Davis Jr. It’s the Rhythm Of Life Church with a groovy hippy culture. Another fantastic song. So, turn up the volume, tap you feet, clap your hands to the “Rhythm Of Life”
So what about the original Fellinin films these wonderful musicals were based on. Here are the trailers. first for 8 1/2 and then Nights of Cabiria. Both films I highly recommend.
This is the time of year when people start compiling and review “best of” for the previous year. Those things have typically bored me and seem like a cheap “journalism”. Because they don’t really look at the “best of”. they look at the most popular. And we all know it if was popular it played to the lowest common denominator across the spectrum of popular culture.
As I said a few days ago 2020 was a difficult year culturally speaking. And in that post I included a clip from the movie TOMMY – which is still an amazing musical film. This year I find myself at the point where I’m re-watching musicals. The year has been so emotionally, psychologically exasperating that a little escapism is prescribed. And movie musicals fit that bill. In this post I want to focus on the films of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. Three Astaire/Rogers films rank as my favorites among the lot. So if you’re just tired, fed up and frustrated with life take a little escape. It’s okay. (I can’t promise these videos can be seen in other countries but hopefully you will find a version that is accessible and available.)
First up is the song “HEAVEN from TOP HAT (1935) with music by Irving Berlin. This lush little number is the elegant dancing manifestation and lyrical expression of the songs title.
Next is another favorite Astaire/Rogers film SWING TIME (1936) with music by Jerome Kern and Dorothy Fields. Fred, plays a professional dancer who plays dumb and clumsy to meet and court Ginger. Here is the set up scene which also features Fred and Gingers comic sidekicks played by comedy veteran character actors Victor Moore and Helen Broderick.
… and the payoff… in an effort to save Gingers job….
And the last Astaire/Rogers film I want to feature is SHALL WE DANCE (1937) featuring music by George and Ira Gershwin. This film was unusual in it’s attempt to blend/merge tap and swing dancing with ballet. There are many wonderful numbers that features Fred in diverse settings where he can famously dance with different props. But I want to feature one of my favorite scenes which is comic bliss and sheer fun. It’s the famous roller skate scene. The setting is Fred and Ginger have escaped their New York hotel because they were being overrun by reporters and photographers who think they are married, and the scandal of her being supposedly pregnant on top of it – so they go to the park. You will note that these are not the roller skates of today with a boot like shoe and resin wheels. These are the old-fashioned strap on skates with steel wheels which makes this number all the more remarkable. Please enjoy “Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off”.
As a sort of end note; I want to include another wonderful dance on roller-skate scene this time by Gene Kelly. Personally I find the song a little inferior and the movie (a musical satire) with music by Andre Previn, isn’t one of his best but the dancing on roller skates is quite wonderful and endearing. Enjoy Gene Kelly from the movie IT’S ALWAYS FAIR WEATHER (1955) dancing/skating to the song “I Like Myself”. The notion of dancing on wheels has all the elements of danger that inspires awe when done successfully. And note again these are the old fashioned strap-on skates with steel wheels.
Looks like we will have snow for Christmas here in Ohio. I honestly can’t remember the last time we had a white Christmas. Well with everything going on this past year the holidays are somewhat melancholic. One of my favorite “mood” singers is Julia Fordham. Here is her song DECEMBER 24TH originally from a 1995 compilation album Winter Fire & Snow: Songs For The Holiday Season that featured various artists from around the world.
The lyrics will take you through the rest of this year into the new year. Enjoy.
“just goes to show ya, just goes to show ya, none of us have time to waste….you don’t always get back what you give”
Since Winter has long been a favorite time of year – because this old bear enjoys hibernation – and I had “need” to go out and see what snow cover there might be – I decided to head out this morning, with my camera, as the sun rose slowly in a clouded sky. I went to one park where I’ve been spending a lot of time the past few months and I went someplace I’ve never been to in Winter. And since the Winter Solstice is just around the corner I decided to post a couple of snow photos of the place I’ve never been to in Winter. Over the Summer and fall this location is used as a popular outdoor music venue and is also the site of an outdoor theater where plays are staged over the warmer months. The areas you see in the photos would be the grassy fields where cars park and concert goers would then walk to the main venue. The music venue has hosted all the major rock and pop acts over the years. I’d seen a few shows here but ticket prices were normally out of my budget. I actually prefer it as you see it here – empty. Never really got used to the large drunken crowds that tended to populate these events. So enjoy my version of “winter fest” at Blossom Music Center in Cuyahoga Falls, OH.
A couple of weeks ago I decided to drive onto private property to see “What’s UP with this bus?”. No one was around so I took a couple of shots. Was expecting, you know, standard bus interior. I was not prepared for what I found. Best view was through a hole in the back door.
I mean, I’ve met and known a lot of cool “chicks” on buses but I wasn’t expecting to find a hen house/chicken coop. Yep that’s exactly what this was used for.
(warning – not the best photo)
And now a favorite song that mentions buses. The album this came from brings back many fond memories. Specifically of a youth outing in the summer of 1976 (I’m banned from releasing details. LOL). And the drum riff by pan-disciplinary drummer Steve Gadd is sheer perfection. Go ahead, “Hop on the bus…” and enjoy. If you have a favorite bus song or if these images bring to mind a specific song feel free to post a link in your comment.
I was digging through my vinyl collection and came across a real gem of a double album titled The Best Of The Mills Brothers. It had this wonderful song on it which I now dedicate to all politicians. Because they always hurt the one they claim to love (the country and people they serve who voted them into office).
So therefore; when I take a photo it is complete or whole because I am not there. I, the photographer, am always moving . To keep things whole for my photos. You may see me in someone else’s photos but not my own. I am the absence where air rushes in. Another way to look at it. When you stick your hand in a river, lake or any body of water – as you withdraw, does the water hold the shape of your hand? No. It rushes back to fill the void. The water cannot tolerate the void. It must be complete. Such is a photo. It captures the completeness(i.e. wholeness) of all things – even if those things (like today’s photo) may seem to be missing something. It is still complete as it captures a singular moment of the subjects evolutionary life cycle. When I am dead even though I may appear to not move; I will continue to move as the decay process takes over until I return to the earth as dust. And when I am no longer remembered, when that dust is then used to bring nutrition or life to something else after I am gone I will still be moving. Absence is just as important as presence. This also helps explain why a photo will never be of the future – it will always be the past because the once the photograph has been taken the photographer moves on even though the subject in the photo continues to change. You may say, “what about time-lapse” photography. That still only projects the past. By time you see it the subject has completely moved on. It is all part of maintaining a wholeness in the universe. Absence is the grace that presence cannot afford. We do not need presence to be happy. We can find happiness in absence. To loop back to the poem we can find happiness in the rush of air to fill the void as I move away until something else comes and fills that space. Probably the closest thing in photography that captures the sense of moving to keep things whole is Polaroid or instamatic photography. While you are watching the photo develop the blank space slowly becomes filled with the image. From absence to wholeness. But unfortunately that’s where it ends (or does it?).
Musically Samuel Barber’s Adagio For Strings captures these notion especially at the climax where there is a great silence/pause which punctuates the sound.
or you may like the Choral version by one of my favorite vocal groups.