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Denofcinema.com: Saturday Night at the Movies by Dennis Hartley review archive

01/01/2003 - 02/01/2003 02/01/2003 - 03/01/2003 03/01/2003 - 04/01/2003 04/01/2003 - 05/01/2003 05/01/2003 - 06/01/2003 06/01/2003 - 07/01/2003 07/01/2003 - 08/01/2003 08/01/2003 - 09/01/2003 09/01/2003 - 10/01/2003 10/01/2003 - 11/01/2003 11/01/2003 - 12/01/2003 12/01/2003 - 01/01/2004 01/01/2004 - 02/01/2004 02/01/2004 - 03/01/2004 03/01/2004 - 04/01/2004 04/01/2004 - 05/01/2004 05/01/2004 - 06/01/2004 06/01/2004 - 07/01/2004 07/01/2004 - 08/01/2004 08/01/2004 - 09/01/2004 09/01/2004 - 10/01/2004 10/01/2004 - 11/01/2004 11/01/2004 - 12/01/2004 12/01/2004 - 01/01/2005 01/01/2005 - 02/01/2005 02/01/2005 - 03/01/2005 03/01/2005 - 04/01/2005 04/01/2005 - 05/01/2005 05/01/2005 - 06/01/2005 06/01/2005 - 07/01/2005 07/01/2005 - 08/01/2005 08/01/2005 - 09/01/2005 09/01/2005 - 10/01/2005 10/01/2005 - 11/01/2005 11/01/2005 - 12/01/2005 12/01/2005 - 01/01/2006 01/01/2006 - 02/01/2006 02/01/2006 - 03/01/2006 03/01/2006 - 04/01/2006 04/01/2006 - 05/01/2006 05/01/2006 - 06/01/2006 06/01/2006 - 07/01/2006 07/01/2006 - 08/01/2006 08/01/2006 - 09/01/2006 09/01/2006 - 10/01/2006 10/01/2006 - 11/01/2006 11/01/2006 - 12/01/2006 12/01/2006 - 01/01/2007 01/01/2007 - 02/01/2007 02/01/2007 - 03/01/2007 03/01/2007 - 04/01/2007 04/01/2007 - 05/01/2007 05/01/2007 - 06/01/2007 06/01/2007 - 07/01/2007 07/01/2007 - 08/01/2007 08/01/2007 - 09/01/2007 09/01/2007 - 10/01/2007 10/01/2007 - 11/01/2007 11/01/2007 - 12/01/2007 12/01/2007 - 01/01/2008 01/01/2008 - 02/01/2008 02/01/2008 - 03/01/2008 03/01/2008 - 04/01/2008 04/01/2008 - 05/01/2008 05/01/2008 - 06/01/2008 06/01/2008 - 07/01/2008 07/01/2008 - 08/01/2008 08/01/2008 - 09/01/2008 09/01/2008 - 10/01/2008 10/01/2008 - 11/01/2008 11/01/2008 - 12/01/2008 12/01/2008 - 01/01/2009 01/01/2009 - 02/01/2009 02/01/2009 - 03/01/2009 03/01/2009 - 04/01/2009 04/01/2009 - 05/01/2009 05/01/2009 - 06/01/2009 06/01/2009 - 07/01/2009 07/01/2009 - 08/01/2009 08/01/2009 - 09/01/2009 09/01/2009 - 10/01/2009 10/01/2009 - 11/01/2009 11/01/2009 - 12/01/2009 12/01/2009 - 01/01/2010 01/01/2010 - 02/01/2010 02/01/2010 - 03/01/2010 03/01/2010 - 04/01/2010 04/01/2010 - 05/01/2010 05/01/2010 - 06/01/2010 06/01/2010 - 07/01/2010 07/01/2010 - 08/01/2010 08/01/2010 - 09/01/2010 09/01/2010 - 10/01/2010 10/01/2010 - 11/01/2010 11/01/2010 - 12/01/2010 12/01/2010 - 01/01/2011 01/01/2011 - 02/01/2011 02/01/2011 - 03/01/2011 03/01/2011 - 04/01/2011 04/01/2011 - 05/01/2011 05/01/2011 - 06/01/2011 06/01/2011 - 07/01/2011 07/01/2011 - 08/01/2011 08/01/2011 - 09/01/2011 09/01/2011 - 10/01/2011 10/01/2011 - 11/01/2011 11/01/2011 - 12/01/2011 12/01/2011 - 01/01/2012 01/01/2012 - 02/01/2012 02/01/2012 - 03/01/2012 03/01/2012 - 04/01/2012 04/01/2012 - 05/01/2012 05/01/2012 - 06/01/2012 06/01/2012 - 07/01/2012 07/01/2012 - 08/01/2012 08/01/2012 - 09/01/2012 09/01/2012 - 10/01/2012 10/01/2012 - 11/01/2012 11/01/2012 - 12/01/2012 12/01/2012 - 01/01/2013 01/01/2013 - 02/01/2013 02/01/2013 - 03/01/2013 03/01/2013 - 04/01/2013 04/01/2013 - 05/01/2013 05/01/2013 - 06/01/2013 06/01/2013 - 07/01/2013 07/01/2013 - 08/01/2013 08/01/2013 - 09/01/2013 09/01/2013 - 10/01/2013 10/01/2013 - 11/01/2013 11/01/2013 - 12/01/2013 12/01/2013 - 01/01/2014 01/01/2014 - 02/01/2014 02/01/2014 - 03/01/2014 03/01/2014 - 04/01/2014 04/01/2014 - 05/01/2014 05/01/2014 - 06/01/2014 06/01/2014 - 07/01/2014 07/01/2014 - 08/01/2014 08/01/2014 - 09/01/2014 09/01/2014 - 10/01/2014 10/01/2014 - 11/01/2014 11/01/2014 - 12/01/2014 12/01/2014 - 01/01/2015 01/01/2015 - 02/01/2015 02/01/2015 - 03/01/2015 03/01/2015 - 04/01/2015 04/01/2015 - 05/01/2015 05/01/2015 - 06/01/2015 06/01/2015 - 07/01/2015 07/01/2015 - 08/01/2015 08/01/2015 - 09/01/2015 09/01/2015 - 10/01/2015 10/01/2015 - 11/01/2015 11/01/2015 - 12/01/2015 12/01/2015 - 01/01/2016 01/01/2016 - 02/01/2016 02/01/2016 - 03/01/2016 03/01/2016 - 04/01/2016 04/01/2016 - 05/01/2016 05/01/2016 - 06/01/2016 06/01/2016 - 07/01/2016 07/01/2016 - 08/01/2016 08/01/2016 - 09/01/2016 09/01/2016 - 10/01/2016 10/01/2016 - 11/01/2016 11/01/2016 - 12/01/2016 12/01/2016 - 01/01/2017


 

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Hullabaloo


Saturday, March 05, 2016

 
Saturday Night at the Movies


All the glitter we can use: We Are Twisted F- - - -ing Sister! ***
(and a Top 10 list)


By Dennis Hartley

















First off, there ain’t no such thing as an Easter Bunny, OK? And as much as we’d all like to believe in this new millennium of instant, “one-mouse-click-away” validation, there is no such thing as “overnight success” - especially in the music business. You may have heard of writer Malcolm Gladwell’s “10,000 hours of practice” rule, which is equated as the minimum investment of time and effort required to master a field? Well…it’s true.


Consider pseudo-glam shock rockers Twisted Sister (I know…it’s been a while since you have). They may have appeared to come from nowhere with their breakout hit (and MTV staple) “We’re Not Gonna Take It” in 1984, but by that time the band had already labored in the trenches (i.e., the Jersey/Connecticut/L.I./Westchester County circuit) for 12 years.


Those first 10,000 hours of dive bar stage time are chronicled in an entertaining (if slightly overlong at 135 minutes) documentary from Andrew Horn called We Are Twisted Fucking Sister! (just out on We Are Twisted F***ing Sister!). Horn begins in 1972, which is when longest-running member, NYC-based guitarist Jay-Jay French, joins a glitter band from New Jersey who called themselves Silver Star. They become Twisted Sister the following year (French’s idea), and then go through a number of personnel changes before the key addition of lead singer Dee Snider in 1976, infusing stylistic changes that kick-start the gradual evolution into the version of T.S. we all know and love (or hate). Horn may be teasing for a sequel; he ducks out just as they are poised for their big break.


While I’ve never been a huge follower, I came away from the film with admiration for their stick-to-itiveness and stalwart dedication of their rabid fans. It’s especially impressive considering that they built a coterie of self-proclaimed “SMF”s (acronym for Sick Mother Fuckers) the old-fashioned way-one gig at a time…sans radio play or record company support (they didn’t snag a major label deal until 1983). And as footage from their club days reveals, they were one tight live act, from their Bowie medleys to their meta stage shtick (recalling The Tubes). In the age of American Idol and YouTube, it’s a reminder that paying your dues (putting in those 10,000 hours) still counts for something.






Don’t scrape the glitter off just yet! Here are my picks for the Top 10 glam rock movies:


Ballad of Mott the Hoople – Mott the Hoople never consciously set out to be a glam band, yet they remain synonymous with the era due to their brief association with David Bowie, who produced their 1972 album All the Young Dudes (and penned the eponymous hit single). But leading up to that period, the band had flirted with a number of genres, from country rock to proto-metal. And they already had a great in-house songwriter on board in pianist/lead vocalist Ian Hunter, whose influences were more Dylan than Bowie. Chris Hall and Mike Kerry’s documentary is a fairly comprehensive retrospective on the band, with great anecdotes from band members and tons of rare footage. Fans will love it.


Born To Boogie – Ringo Starr directed and produced this “lost” 1973 rock’n’roll cult film (meticulously restored and reissued direct-to-DVD in 2005), which captures late great T. Rex front man/glam icon Marc Bolan at the peak of his strutting, charismatic, androgynously beautiful rock god glory. Don’t expect an insightful portrait of the artist; it’s more of a “lightning in a bottle” capture of the era, highlighted by footage culled from two 1972 concerts. The original theatrical version released in the U.K. only ran just over an hour, but the DVD is lengthened by inclusion of both full performance sets. Film directing is not one of Ringo’s strongest suits; be prepared for some cringingly amateurish vignettes in between the song sets. Still, it’s a fascinating historical document.


Hedwig and the Angry Inch – It’s your typical love story. A German teen named Hansel (John Cameron Mitchell) falls head over heels for an American G.I., undergoes a (less than perfect) sex change operation so they can marry, and ends up seduced and abandoned in a trailer park. Now completely unanchored (geographically as well as sexually) the desperate Hansel opts for the only logical way out of this mess...by creating an alter-ego named Hedwig, putting a band together, and setting out to conquer the world. How many times have we heard that tired old tale? But seriously, this is an amazing tour de force on the part of Mitchell, who not only acts and sings his way through this wildly entertaining musical like nobody’s business, but directed and co-wrote (with composer Steven Trask; the same duo co-created the original stage version).


Jobriath A.D. – There have been a good number of “rags-to-riches-to-rags” show biz tales that played out to their inevitably sad denouement within the walls of New York City’s Chelsea Hotel…this may be the saddest one yet (and that’s saying a lot). That’s where one Bruce Wayne Campbell (aka Jobriath) checked out permanently in 1983, dead from AIDS at 36. As you learn in Kieran Turner’s documentary, it all began promisingly enough. Proclaimed a child prodigy due to his proficiency on piano, he made his show biz entrée in the late 60s, when he landed a plum role in the original west coast production of Hair, which he soon left to begin finding his own way as a singer-songwriter. In 1972, he was “discovered” by Carly Simon’s original manager, Jerry Brandt (either the savior or the villain of the piece, depending on who you believe). Before Bruce knew it, his newly forged persona of “Jobriath” had a two-record deal with Elektra, and was hyped as the “American David Bowie” and “True Fairy of Rock and Roll” before the public heard a note (no pressure). See it to discover how it all played out.


Mayor of the Sunset Strip – George Hickenlooper’s fascinating portrait of Sunset Strip fixture Rodney Bingenheimer (whose English Disco club served as the west coast HQ for the U.S. glam scene from 1972-1975) doubles as a whirlwind time trip through rock music’s evolution, filtered through a coked-out L.A. haze. The diminutive, skittish and soft-spoken Bingenheimer comes off like Andy Warhol’s west coast doppelganger. The ongoing photo montages of Rodney posing with an A-Z roster of (seemingly) every major seminal figure in rock’n’roll history recalls Woody Allen’s fictional Alfred Zelig, a nondescript milquetoast who could morph himself to match whomever he was with at the time. The film is peppered with appearances and comments from the likes of music producer Kim Fowley (whose whacked-out rock’n’roll career warrants his own documentary), Pamela des Barres (legendary super-groupie and former member of Frank Zappa protégés The GTO’s) and her husband, actor-musician Michael des Barres (who steals the show with priceless backstage tales). Brilliantly made, and essential viewing!


Phantom of The Paradise – To describe writer-director Brian DePalma’s 1974 horror schlock-rock musical take-off on The Phantom of the Opera as “over the top” would be understatement. Paul Williams (who composed the memorable soundtrack) chews all the available scenery as ruthless music mogul “Swan”, a man with a curious predilection for insisting his artists sign their (somewhat long-term) contracts in blood. One who becomes so beholden is Winslow (William Finely) a talented composer hideously disfigured in a freak accident (and that’s only the least of his problems). Jessica Harper plays the object of poor Winslow’s unrequited desire, who is slowly falling under Swan’s evil spell. Musical highlights include the haunting ballad “Old Souls” (performed by Harper, who has a lovely voice) and “Life at Last”, a glam rock number performed by “The Undead”, led by a scene-stealing, riotously campy Gerrit Graham as the band’s lead singer “Beef”.


Rocky Horror Picture Show - 40-odd years have not diminished the cult status of Jim Sharman’s film adaptation of Richard O’Brien’s original stage musical about a hapless young couple (Barry Bostwick and Susan Sarandon) who stumble into the lair of one Dr. Frank-N-Furter (Tim Curry) one dark and stormy night. O’Brien co-stars as the mad doctor’s hunchbacked assistant, Riff-Raff. Much singing, dancing, cross-dressing, axe-murdering, cannibalism and hot sex ensues-with broad theatrical nods to everything from Metropolis, King Kong and Frankenstein to cheesy 1950s sci-fi, Bob Fosse musicals, 70s glam-rock and everything in between. Runs out of steam a bit in the third act, but with such spirited performances (and musical numbers) you likely won’t notice.


Slade in Flame– Akin to Mott the Hoople, it may be arguable amongst music geeks as to whether Slade was truly “glam” (they were a bit on the “blokey” side- as the Brits would say), but they are nonetheless considered so in some circles, and this 1974 film was released during the heyday of space boots and glitter, so there you go. The directorial debut for Richard Loncraine (Brimstone and Treacle, The Missionary, Richard III) the film is a gritty, semi-biographical “behind the music” drama about a working-class band called Flame (suspiciously resembling the four members of Slade, wink-wink) who get chewed up and spit out of the star-making machine (this just in: managers and A & R people are back-stabbing weasels). Far from a masterpiece, but better than you’d expect, considering its non-professional cast (with the exception of Tom Conti, in his first film!).


Velvet Goldmine – You could call this the Citizen Kane of glam rock movies. While Todd Hayne’s 1998 love letter to the 70s glitter scene has its flaws (let’s just say that it plays hard and fast with its verisimilitudes) he gets credit for being one of the few latter-day filmmakers who has revisited the era with any palpable sense of earnestness. Obviously inspired by (as opposed to “based on”, which is an important distinction to make here) the professional and (and purely speculative) personal relationship between David Bowie and Iggy Pop. Set in the mid-1980s, the story concerns a British journalist (Christian Bale) assigned to uncover “whatever happened to” a 70s glam-rock star (Jonathan Rhys Meyers, in flashback) who may not be “dead” after all (long story). Ewan McGregor’s Iggy-ish character might hold the key. Also with Toni Collette. Reminiscent of The Hours and Times (a speculation on John Lennon and Brian Epstein’s relationship).


Ziggy Stardust: The Motion Picture – It’s fun to speculate if director D.A. Pennebaker had been given a clandestine “heads up” that he was about to capture what you might call Ziggy Stardust’s “retirement party” for posterity as he was setting up to film a 1973 David Bowie concert at London’s Hammersmith venue. It was news to Bowie’s backup band, The Spiders From Mars who (as the story goes) didn’t have a clue that their boss was about to undergo one in a series of alter-ego ch-ch-ch-changes until he made his mid-set announcement to the audience that this was to be their “last show…ever.” It’s all captured right there on camera, along with a dynamic and exciting performance by Bowie, Ronno & co., who are on fire. Technically, it’s a bit lo-fi, but a must-see for fans.


And to play us out, the quintessential glam rock video, by my personal faves, The Sweet:




More reviews at Den of Cinema



--Dennis Hartley


Update from digby:  As Dennis knows,  The Sweet is my favorite too. I'll add this one: