Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Freddie Hubbard

Jazz trumpet great Freddie Hubbard has died. The NME, among others, has the details.

I can't think of the man without thinking of the time I saw him perform with Coltrane pianist McCoy Tyner in either 1988 or 1989 -- my memory fades but I think I've narrowed it down to those two years.

It was one of the first times I had been to DC's Blues Alley and I was prepared for a good show; I had already seen McCoy Tyner once, I think, and I knew his work with Coltrane, obviously.

As for Hubbard, I knew a bit about his Blue Note work at that time but was still new to his genius.

So McCoy plays a few songs with his band and then Freddie comes out.

I spot a yuppie couple in the front with their freckle-faced son sitting with them. I could imagine the parents telling the kid what legends these two performers were, that kind of thing; how this was going to be real jazz, not that Kenny G shit, and so on.

Freddie plays -- I'm being generous here -- probably half a song until he just stops and launches into this stream of invectives I probably shouldn't type: "Goddamn waitresses serving drinks when a motherf***er is trying to play!" and so on.

Like Fred Sanford with a horn or something.

Then, he storms off the stage, leaving McCoy and his band to continue the show.

I tried to get a glimpse of the kid's face after that. He didn't look too wide-eyed anymore.

So kid, here's the lesson for the day: McCoy Tyner is the exception; a lot of the real jazz legends are and were temperamental geniuses, which is to say assholes sometimes.

But, in the end, Freddie's albums on Blue Note *are* downright magnificent and so what if he stormed off? That doesn't change or diminish his musical talent which will live on long after he will.

Rest in peace, Freddie.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Prince Charming

It's weird reviewing a film that neither Kozo or Brian has already reviewed.

1984's Prince Charming is a pretty weird and sometimes dreadful Wong Jing feature that has the distinction of being -- correct me if I'm wrong here -- Maggie Cheung's first feature.

The film is a kind of mistaken identity romp reminiscent of 1930's screwball comedies in America -- but I think I'm being too kind!

Kenny Bee and Nat Chan are two young guys in Hawaii looking for love. Kenny's father is a big businessman and Nat is from a poorer background. Kenny is unlucky with girls, getting the hiccups when he is around them, and Nat is such an expert that he is going to help Kenny find a woman, get married, and thus please his family.

There are some Benny Hill-style shenanigans on the beach and the two fellows meet Cherie Chung and Maggie Cheung.

The plot abruptly shifts back to Hong Kong where Kenny is now set to investigate one of his father's shady business underlings who is apparently embezzling or something. In a lot of nonsensical zaniness, Nat is somehow mistaken for Kenny's character and Kenny is left to pretend to be Nat's chauffeur.

What follows is probably the most enjoyable part of the film with Kenny trying to woo Cherie and Nat trying to woo Maggie. Kenny and Cherie's date at the movies is cute in a kind of slapstick way, bringing to mind similar very low budget comedies from the same era in America.

Rosamund Kwan shows up with a very 1980's hairdo -- I think she actually got better looking as she got older -- as a woman hired to seduce and marry Kenny, I think.

The ending of the film dissolves into the typical Wong Jing mindlessness -- it's almost like they ran out of money and had to figure out a way to wrap up the plot. The end bits of action are so out of place and odd and nonsensical that comparing them to the Benny Hill Show would be a major compliment.

Look for Wong Jing himself in a small cameo as well.

For fans of the Hong Kong actors involved, this film is probably an essential viewing experience; Maggie Cheung in her first role, Cherie Chung looking impossibly gorgeous in just about every shot of film, and even Kenny Bee managing to make the pastel fashions of the 1980's look good.

And Cherie's brother-in-law in the film is played by Hong Kong film veteran, Chan Wai-Man.

And Kenny Bee's mother is played by HK veteran actress Ouyang Sha-fei.


The Celestial Region 3 DVD is anamorphic widescreen -- a nice touch -- with a pretty good picture that looked just a trifle grainy in some scenes. It has both Cantonese and Mandarin language tracks -- I'm guessing by this era that most films shot in Hong Kong were released in Cantonese. Additional extras include the original trailer and some stills.

You can order the DVD from YesAsia here.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas Everybody!

Merry Christmas Everybody!

Not sure why my eyes are closed in this pic -- was I wishing for some wonderful toy? G.J. Joe-with-the-kung-fu grip perhaps? -- but I am sporting my usual new pajamas on Christmas Eve. My best friend the exact same age in the apartment next door would get new jammies on Christmas Eve -- usually some cartoon thing -- and we'd spend Christmas Eve talking about what we hoped Santa would bring that night.

Then we would spend Christmas Day opening presents with our families and then go to all of the other kids' apartments in our building to see what Santa brought them.

It was like a little benevolent gang.

And then I'd have another Christmas at my grandparents' or my father's since my mom was divorced.

Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

"The light pours out of me!"

The big music news of the day for me is the reunion of Magazine. The NME has the word here.

Christ, The Specials and now Magazine? Two of my favorites from that post-punk era in England with Magazine always being criminally underrated by the masses -- now reforming!

(Unbelievably, they were on "Top of The Pops!" -- Check out the first clip below)

The reunion will be bittersweet without the amazing guitarist of the band, John McGeoch (who died on my birthday in 2004). The guy played in every band that mattered for a brief span of time. His riffs were essential to what Magazine was trying to do.

And I'm assuming that the reunion will include bassist Barry Adamson who really has had an amazing career as well.

As a rule, I'm a bit skeptical of this kind of reunion but I have to be honest and admit that I would indeed try to get tix for this show if I was going to be in England at the time.

The band's Peel Sessions just got reissued and that release is even available as a download from Amazon, here.

Magazine - "Shot By Both Sides"

Magazine - "The Light Pours Out Of Me"

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Blogging Question

This is a dumb question but I just found a comment that was dated two days ago sitting here waiting to be moderated.

Normally, I check my gmail account and the comments are there, similar to e-mails, and I just click through to publish them here.

But this comment was not in my gmail account but was visible here and waiting to be moderated when I logged into Blogger.

So I need to login to both?

I'm still new to this whole thing.

Friday, December 5, 2008

R.I.P. Forrie!

Well, it was only a matter of days given the reports on his health, but Forrest J. Ackerman has died. News is here

I'm not going to elaborate on his life story, or why he's important to so many, but I will reference my meeting with him, briefly touched upon in this recent post.

That convention in 1997 was probably the first sci-fi or film convention I had attended since a shabby one in Biloxi, Mississippi in 1978 that I begged my parents to take me to.

And I really didn't expect to see Forrie at the convention; my friend and I were attending for Caroline Munro and the other Hammer luminaries in attendance.

So it was a totally unexpected sight to round the corner and suddenly see Forrest J. Ackerman manning his own booth that cloudy Sunday, eating a Pizza Hut Personal Pan Pizza.

In fact, it took me a second to process the fact and I was probably a bit awestruck much like when I met Ackerman friend Ray Harryhausen at another convention a few years later.

I mumbled my thanks and got an autograph -- Forrie even had cool postcards of himself ready to hand out.

And when thinking back to the first 10 years of my life before the arrival of Star Wars, I can't think of many people in film who influenced me as much as Harryhausen.

And I knew of him because of Ackerman's magazine, Famous Monsters of Filmland.

I got my first issues, when I was probably about 7, at this old drug store whose name escapes me in District Heights, Maryland while my grandparents babysat me before my mom picked me up after work.

That would give me a few hours to enjoy the mag before my mom would cut out the scary pictures; I can still recall pleading me with mom, "That picture doesn't scare me!" Or: "But the picture on the other side of that page is of King Kong!"

That kind of thing.

And that may sound silly but, in that era, Famous Monsters was the only magazine I can recall that actually covered the making of monster films, specifically classic ones.

I learned about Jack Pierce, for instance, from that magazine.

That magazine, my grandfather's stories of working in a movie theater in the 1920's and 1930's, and a few books from the library were the foundations of my education -- what made me a movie fan.

And I will be indebted forever to Forrest Ackerman's work.