Counting Down the Zeroes: Reflections on A Mighty Wind (2003)

This post originally appeared on Film For the Soul during Ibetolis’ amazing Counting Down the Zeroes series, a celebration of films from the 2000s. The year of 2003 was a terrific one, so much so that it was difficult to decide which film I wanted to do for the year. Eventually deciding on a list of 6 or so, I had to have Ibetolis make the final decision for me. Decisions are hard. “A Mighty Wind” is a documentary-style chronicle of a reunion concert honoring the recently-deceased Irving Steinbloom, folk musician manager in the 50s and 60s. Three acts, all former contractees with Steinbloom, are invited to the memorial performance and are featured in the film. Through archival footage, and interviews with the players as well as experts in the field, we’re given a glimpse into the life of folk musicians whose glory days are many decades behind them. Irving’s son Jonathan (Bob Balaban) organizes the concert, booking The Folksmen (Michael McKean, Harry Shearer, and Christopher Guest) first. The Folksmen are a trio which had had one hit in the early 1960s, and continued to play in concerts and TV shows of the day with some lesser but still popular tunes. McKean, Shearer, and Guest are startlingly comfortable in their roles. Of course, this trio is also responsible for aging rockers Spinal Tap, but Guest and co-writer Eugene Levy were actually in folk bands in the 1960s. Shearer’s goofy baritone, McKean’s handsome and toupeed front man, and Guest’s overused tremolo … Continue reading

Bette Davis Project #5: Fog Over Frisco (1934)

“Fog Over Frisco” (1934) – Bette Davis is Arlene, hard-partying step-sister to Val (Margaret Livingston. Again. Sigh.) Arlene is also girlfriend to rich dude Spenser Carlton played by blog fave Lyle Talbot. Arlene hangs around wild bars that are owned and run by gangsters, and even though Val goes with her, she doesn’t realize the evil what lurks about these places, because Val is angelic and perfect and blah blah blah. They even wear color-coded gowns when they’re at the club together, Val in white, Arlene in black. While drinking and dancing at the mob-run club, the boss borrows Arlene’s car and puts a stash of something stolen in her glove compartment. These turn out to be stolen securities and bonds, and Arlene, being the daughter of a famous and wealthy banker, has the ability to fence them for a cut of the profit. Boyfriend Spencer helps with the laundering — he works in Arlene’s father’s bank and has connections — but he’s so worried about the scam that he refuses to do it any more. Arlene’s father (Arthur Byron) is en epic douchebag the next morning, ranting against Arlene’s partying and pictures in the society notices as though she was the most immoral person in the world. He doesn’t know she’s fencing stolen securities, he just knows she’s in the paper. As though this were some Gothic novel, he pronounces Arlene no good because her mother was no good, and threatens to commit her to an insane asylum if … Continue reading

Remember When?

I thought this was interesting: Today I was going through some old VHS tapes to get to some “Ultra 7” episodes I recorded in about 1995 or 1996, when I found a copy of “Victor/Victoria” I’d recorded off TCM at the same time. Did you remember that TCM used to show edited versions of films? I didn’t! This notice (shown at left) appeared when “Victor/Victoria” aired, between Robert Osborne’s intro to the film and the movie itself. Again, I can’t specifically date this, but the other things on the tape make me think this was about the summer of 1995. (EDIT: notes that “Ultra 7” started showing on TNT again back in 1994, meaning this movie could have been taped as early as 1994. However, we didn’t get TCM on cable until it had been around for at least several months, so I’m sticking with 1995 for a date. And as a serious tangent, I’d like to point out that an Internet friend of mine started a write-in campaign to get TNT to show “Ultra 7” and I participated, so I’d like to think I was part of the reason they showed the reruns. Ha!) What’s interesting is that someone who claimed to work for TCM posted to Usenet at around the same time, i.e. the mid-1990s, I think to alt.movies.silent — these posts aren’t archived, this was in the days before Deja News or Google Groups — and they insisted movies weren’t shown edited. Any time an edited … Continue reading