Saturday, December 22, 2007

Sweeney Little Xmas

Graphic: Original program from the Philadelphia tryout of Stephen Sondheim's ANYONE CAN WHISTLE, autographed by Lee Remick.


Probably Not Attending to SWEENEY TODD


One of the most reasoned reviews I’ve read of the current release of the Stephen Sondheim/Tim Burton Sweeney Todd is by Andy Klein in LA’s independent City Beat: “Have Yourself A Sweeney Little Christmas!” - Dec. 20-26, 2007.


At one point he comments “The unrealistic murders on stage have become tight close-ups of throats being slit, followed by geysers of blood and all-too-believably convulsive deaths. The first killing, of Pirelli, is more than a little disturbing in its in-your-face graphicness. Burton revels in the ugliness.” (I know this may actually induce many members of today’s audiences into the theaters).


Ultimately Klein recommends the film, though he laments (as I do) the loss of Angela Lansbury’s “dotty and craven” Mrs. Lovett: “Something delightful has been lost in the translation.”


Two letters in today’s LA Times also criticize the graphic but alleged “tongue-in-cheek” gore.



While I adore Sondheim and like some Burton (mostly, I admit, the stunning Main Title credit sequence in Mars Attacks and the delightful Nightmare Before Christmas holiday makeover of Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion), I guess I’ll have to dream about (and wait for, while not holding my breath) a film version of the sublime Follies. This is a stage production that, with its flashbacks, shifting perspectives, spectacle and cinematic ambiance, would seem made for the movies. A dream film collaboration between Vincente Minnelli and Ken Russell with all the resources of MGM at its peak would be nice.

So, while I’m curious, with my admitted low tolerance for gore and ugly imagery I may have to pass on Sweeney (or simply experience its also admitted brilliance on CD, the ideal medium for most Sondheim scores).


I was always an impressionable child, too highly influenced for both better and worse by movies. This did not change as I got older and I still have trouble shaking disturbing cinematic images that seem to get wired into my brain. (I get queasy just looking at the ads fo the Saw series).

In the meantime LACMA is showing Neptune’s Daughter in January. I can’t wait cause, baby, it’s cold outside these days…….

BTW: Has anyone ever noticed that parts of the opening number in Anyone Can Whistle, “Me and My Town,” sung by Lansbury and a men’s chorus, sound exactly like a vintage 1940s Kay Thompson MGM vocal arrangement?


RC

Monday, December 10, 2007

Rebirth Without the Rain

Photo: Firezone, Gaviota, Pacific coast, north of Santa Barbara Photo by/COPYRIGHT Ross Care, 2007

Inspite of the fact the much touted winter storm that blew through southern California last weekend brought little rain, bits of greenery, mostly chaparral, are emerging in the fire zone along route 101 on the coast near Gaviota. The eternal, hopeful resilience of nature (in spite of man's interference).

Friday, November 30, 2007

Musings on Obscure Vintage Musicals

Jeanette MacDonald about the time of BROADWAY SERENADE.





The first in a (possible) series of blog musings on obscure movie musicals…..



BROADWAY SERENADE (1939)



I had always thought the Jeanette MacDonald/Nelson Eddy I MARRIED AND ANGEL (1942) was one of the most bizarre MGM musicals ever made (and it is), but BROADWAY SERENADE, at least its bizarrely spectacular finale, runs a close second.



Essentially the plot of this odd film is a routine triangle among a talented but temperamental composer (Lew Ayres), his diva of a wife (Jeanette MacDonald), and a suave and romantically inclined backer (Ian Hunter) of a hit Broadway revue in which her musical star swiftly rises. But the score, supervised by MGM musical stalwart, Herbert Stothart, is an anything-but-routine, if emphatically uneasy mix of high brow classics, operetta, and pop-swing, and takes the MGM musical trend of providing a musical something for everyone one step beyond.




This catchall score includes two Tyrolean men-in-lederhosen operetta tunes, “High Flyin'” and a lyrical European waltz, both of which are reprised in an on-stage performance that partially includes MacDonald and her young baritone co-star on skies. (The schmaltzy arrangements are frequently livened up with some incongruous swing interludes). Overall music is credited to Stothart and Edward Ward, with lyrics by Gus Kahn, and Bob Wright and Chet Forrest, the latter two the team which eventually adapted Broadway’s KISMET. The song, “Time Changes Everything,” is credited to Kahn and Walter Donaldson.




Jeanette also does an operatic aria, MADAME BUTTERFLY’s “Un Bel Di,” in her endearingly off-kilter warble. But it’s ambitiously staged with the diva making a precarious but graceful descent from a huge Japanese bridge onto a set embellished with living mannequins and which looks like a BxW dry run for the “Limehouse Blues” number in ZEIGFELD FOLLIES.




However, the piece de resistance is the film’s finale, composed by her musical partner/husband who has been estranged until he can come up with his own blockbuster success. He of course does, but his breakthrough composition turns out to be what? A surreal avant-garde opera, a symphonic jazz cantata, a precursor to a Sondheim musical? Whatever, it’s based on Tchaikovsky’s “None But the Lonely Heart” which is fragmented, reassembled, sliced and diced, and intercut with more swing interludes in a pioneering manifestation of shocking early postmodernism. (It of course was really all stitched together by the brilliant Stothart, MGM’s resident maestro of the ’30s, who frequently raided the classics for his many MGM scores of the era, and Ward who apparently did the swing sequences).




It’s then performed by Jeanette and a cast of thousands, all playing musical instruments and wearing masks that look like a cross between Kabuki theater and an Amicus horror film. At the center of it all is Jeanette, unmasked, of course. Dressed in pristine Grecian garb and perched on a pedestal only a few stories lower than the one in THE GREAT ZEIGFELD, she is manically and at length serenaded by legions of the monstrous orchestral furies. (BROADWAY SERENADE indeed!) It’s all staged by Busby Berkeley, by the way, and probably ranks as both his least-known and most excessively grotesque production number.




The young Lew Aryes (who makes a final appearance at the grand piano at the climax of the finale) is one of the most freshly handsome of MGM’s rather stodgy 1930s leading men. When not having violent outbursts of temperament when their husband/wife musical act is heckled by distracters, he delivers his mostly hokey lines with soothingly masculine sensitivity. Ayes is best-known for his lauded performance in Universal’s ALL QUIET ON THE WESTRN FRONT, but he was rather ill-used by MGM, starring in a series of eclectic MGM ‘30s films (including ICE FOLLIES OF 1939 with Joan Crawford and James Stewart). His work at the studio concluded with the hit series based on the Doctor Kildare stories, and his interesting career was interrupted (but not ended) by his status as a conscientious objector during WWII. Ironically, he later appeared as the reluctant vice-president in Preminger’s ADVISE AND CONSENT in 1962.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Disney World - Animal Kingdom



Expedition Everest: The Mount Everest of roller coasters at Disney World's Animal Kingdom, Florida.
Yes, I got on it!


Saturday, November 17, 2007

Not Such A Small World After All


Returning from a Florida excursion which included a few days at the overwhelming Walt Disney World a friend had saved me an LA Times article about the World’s (much) smaller California precursor, Disneyland.

Seems D-land’s “It’s A Small World” attraction is due to be shuttered for a makeover in January for an unusual reason: some of the guests are no longer small enough to make it through. The Times notes that “heavier-then-anticipated loads” have been causing the boats to stall at two points in the ride.


This has happened so often that an exit platform has been installed next to Canada’s mini-Mounties because they’ve had “so many problems” with the grounded boats. The official Disney line never mentions the F word (f**), instead blaming the problems on fiberglass repairs on the much-put-upon dinghies. (Small Craft Warnings indeed).


At any rate, the ride will go down for major refurbishment in January 2008. This will include replacing the flumes to add some additional depth to the water channels and making the boats more “buoyant”. In the meantime guests now unable to complete the round-the-world tour are being given a consolation prize: a food ticket.


This just in: my same friend just reported that he heard on the radio Friday morning that a woman was caught dumping some kind of white power into the water at “Pirates of the Caribbean”. Cocaine or some other nefarious substance was originally suspected, but the none-pixie dust allegedly turned out to be the worldly remains of a cremated loved one. The woman was allegedly charged with littering… More later, if anything more turns up.

++++++++

Robert Zemeckis’s BEOWULF opened in 3-D Friday. The apparently hyper-gory re-thinking of the literary classic was skewered by Times critic, Kenneth Turan, in the Friday (Nov. 16, 2007) edition. Though also critically lambasted I thought Zemeckis’s also 3-D POLAR EXPRESS was a rather sweet film. But since sweetness is NOT what the diminishing movie ticket-buying audience is going for these days you can hardly blame the director for going for the gore this holiday season. Though I’ve always been intrigued by 3-D after Harry Potter and LORD OF THE RINGS I’m personally so over the sword-and-sorcery trip.

But as far as 3-D goes, the best thing I’ve recently seen in the process (since REVENGE OF THE CREATURE and THE MAZE at the recent and celebrated LA 3-D Expo) is MICKEY’S PHILHARMONIC, one of the key Fantasyland attractions at Disney World. The brief but stylistically meticulous recreation of the flying sequence from Disney’s PETER PAN, in both 3-D and a kind of SuperCinerama three-panel wide-screen process, is spectacular and a vintage Disney animation/3-D buff’s dream come true. Also, the LION KING sequence includes a nod to the surrealistic “You Belong to My Heart” sequence from THREE CABALLEROS in psychedelic 3-D.

On my last day in the park I sat through this amazing short film, a kind of mini-MELODY TIME (that actually features more of Donald Duck than the Mouse), at least six times and found something new in each viewing. I can only hope MICKEY’S PHILHARMAGIC may be one of the attractions imported to California with the proposed makeover of the now-notorious California Adventure park.

+ + +

Well, at least one film out of the seemingly endless procession of boring new ones listed in the daily Times calendar section seems really interesting: Greg Araki’s new SMILEY FACE. (“High. How are you?”) Called “the CITIZEN KANE of stoner movies,” Araki will appear in person at selected Nuart screenings (7.30/9.50) on Friday and Saturday. Whatever it may turn out to be you can just about count on SMILEY FACE not being boring or predictable!


Recently I also liked the British Channel Four Films’ BEAUTIFUL THING (1996), one of the many hidden treasures available from the vast recesses of Netflix. It’s yet another coming out story, but a subtle and unclich├ęd one, and its real strength is the sensitivity and candor with which it deals with relationships among an eclectic assortment of straight/gay characters in a southeast London apartment building.
RC

Friday, October 26, 2007

Gaviota Coast, North of Santa Barbara
Photo by/COPYRIGHT Ross CARE

Tuesday, October 23, 2007, early evening.

You'd never know the worst fires in our history were raging across southern California when this was taken



Monday, October 22, 2007

Just Another Day in Paradise


Impressions - October 21, 2007, Sunday

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Sunday morning woke up to windows rattling. Bad sign. Probably another red flag fire day.

Windy through the morning. Very windy. Santa Anas. Up to 80 mph I later hear.

After noon I take a nap and wake up in near darkness. Red darkness with a pervasive smell of smoke. It’s around 2.30 pm and when I go outside everything looks like these pictures. Building super says there’s a fire somewhere in the county. Fires.

Take these photos. These have not been altered color-wise; this is the way it looked. The snow-like specks in the pictures are flecks of blowing ash being illuminated by the flash that goes off automatically because it’s so dark. But the sky is flaming crimson like the Van Allen belt has caught fire again. Where are Walter Pidgeon and Barbara Eden when we need them?

Inside again I try to find an AM news station. There is of course nothing in the Sunday papers because the fires started overnight. I find that the biggest blaze is around Malibu. It has (as of this writing, Sunday evening) destroyed several buildings and part of the famous Malibu castle. Pacific Coast Highway is closed.

There are other fires around Ventura County and my section of Ventura seems to be under the path of the various converging streams of smoke and falling ash.

Listeners are warned to stay inside with the windows closed.

I drive downtown anyway. It’s smoky, but without the volcanically lit skies of Montalvo, a section of Ventura which is south of town off the 101 freeway. I stop at the pier; the ocean and sky are leaden, but not red. Crossing the freeway overpass ash ripples across the concrete like gray snow. The sea is ashen and eerie and the high surf has a slight tinge of yellow. A fresh breeze blows in from the Pacific.

On the way home I stop at a major pumpkin patch near the Montalvo exit. A few people are there selecting pumpkins against a vast ashen sky. The guys who man the patch are wearing surgical (breathing) masks. It’s like picking out a pumpkin at the beginning of a contemporary horror movie. I buy a beautiful white squash with green stripes. It looks like a small pumpkin. I have never seen so many different types of squash and pumpkins and they are artistically and profusely displayed over what seems like several acres. The men decide to close the pumpkin patch.

When I get home Montalvo is no longer under hellish skies. Now it’s just smoke. It looks like just before a thunderstorm back east, but of course no storms will come, at least no rainstorms. I take advantage of the dim light and watch DVDs: a wonderful “Knowing the Score” documentary on Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring with Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony. It seems appropriate because Montalvo looked like the opening of FANTASIA’s Rite of Spring sequence just a few hours ago. Then CAT PEOPLE (the original), all cool black-and-white shadows in which I would like to get lost. (And do for the length of the fim).

When I try to tune in the AM station again it has drifted away. Hate TV and I am not connected to any cable service here, so I don’t know what’s happening with the fires but the air is less smoky and there is the pale iodine-colored disc like a ghost sun in the now-pearly pink skies.

But as I get ready for bed the wind is howling and the windows are rattling again and somewhere down the street it sounds like wind chimes are being shredded.


See below for more photos.

Latest Fire



Whippoorwill St., Montalvo, section of Ventura, CA., October, 21, 2007





























Friday, October 19, 2007

Off World (Graphic/Photoshop Image by Ross Care)





BLADE RUNNER: The Final Cut


I recently saw the newly restored print of Ridley Scott’s BLADE RUNNER at the state-of-the-art Landmark Cinemas in West Los Angeles. The classic science fiction film has appeared in a number of guises since its original release in 1982. As of 2001 one of Leonard Martin’s movie and video guides commented “at least two alternate versions have been released since the original, followed in 1993 by the ‘director’s cut,’ which the film’s champions hail as a vast improvement.”




This edition is subtitled The Final Cut and is on a limited release in theaters prior to an exhaustive DVD release, allegedly featuring every version of the film. While I am certainly among the film’s champions I had heard a new theatrical version was in the works and so had deliberately abstained from watching any small screen version for some time now. No matter what you may personally feel about the various editions – I personally always liked the original version with what I always felt was a rather haunting and noiresque voice-over – this new version is certainly an optimum experience.





Visually and aurally this film was made for the big screen and the visuals are magnificent, and not having seen any version of it for some time allowed me to experience the sense of wonder, fascination, and horror I felt on my first viewing. There is a sense of scale to the awesome Panavision shots of a futuristic and polluted LA that can simply never come across on video.



Dramatically and conceptually BLADE RUNNER still packs an emotional wallop as well, and the deaths of the replicants remain among the most chilling in genre cinema. Harrison Ford has a kind of goofy, vulnerable charm that is absolutely right for the character and the supporting players are equally distinctive and well realized visually and dramatically.



This limited engagement will run seven more days (according to today’s, Friday, October 19, 2007, LA Times). The Landmark, at W. Pico and Westwood in West LA, is one of the town’s newest luxury screening venues and everything there, projection, sound, ease of access and free parking, seemed practically perfect on the Tuesday afternoon I was there.


Ross Care

Monday, October 15, 2007


Tomorrowland, Disneyland, USA -

Can you name the three vintage attractions that these old Disneyland posters in the current Tomorrowland represent?

Worse yet, do you remember them????


From this to this in a few hours. See below: Palms to Pines Highway.
Photos by/COPYRIGHT Ross Care, 2007.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Palms to Pines in Palm Springs

Photo: Near the Palm Desert end of the Palms to Pines Highway, near Palm Springs, California. Note there are NO palms or pines visible here. Looking into the Coachella Vally towards route 10.
Photo: by/COPYRIGHT 2007 Ross Care

+++++++

Took a new route to Palm Springs last week, the Palms to Pines Highway, something I’ve always wanted to do. (Tried this on my last trip but the high winds on the Palm Desert end buffeted the Honda so violently we turned back at about 3,000 feet).

Going east from LA on route 10 you pick up the highway, route 243, at Banning (just before the Cabazon casino and dinosaurs). Palms to Pines quickly winds from low to high desert, soon hitting about 5,000 feet where the pine forests begin. Once in the pines the landscape becomes quite similar to the Sierras and northern California. In the midst of this is Idyllwild, an “Alpine village” and artsy-craftsy stopover in the mountains before the descent into more high desert. (Off-season it was pretty much of a snooze and reminded me of Mount Gretna, Pennsylvania).

On the way to Idyllwild is a beautiful little lake, the name of which I do not recall at the moment. This little gem, nestled in beautiful woods of oak and other deciduous trees, is however also suffering from the current western dry spell. A ranger told us it is a natural lake fed by rain and snow melt and of course we’ve had very little of any of that for many seasons now. The pea green color of the water is due, we were told, to the proliferation of algae, now so pervasive that the lake is being studied by UCLA and cannot even be stocked with fish. Even so it’s one of the prettiest, most tranquil spots I’ve seen in southern California.

Moving on from Idyllwild route 74 and the descent begins. The landscape shifts almost immediately, and moves though a huge flat valley plateau of high desert that is unlike anything you see in the lower Coachella Valley/Palm Springs deserts. Getting closer to the posh town of Palm Desert the landscape takes on almost Biblical proportions. A huge chasm appears on the right side of the road, a kind of mini-Grand Canyon that could easily serve as the backdrop for a film of Jesus (played by Jeffery Hunter, of course) being tempted by Satan.

Stopping a bit to explore the roadside one could look apprehensively into the abyss and on the other side of the road observe the remnants of the flash floods that can rampage through the area. Hard as that may be to believe in this arid environment the evidence is there in the shattered plant life (and unfortunately) the trash – beer cans, bottles, whatever – left in the aftermath of the floods.

Mostly everything about the Palm Springs area is surreal, but nothing more so than coming down from the high desert wilderness heights of this end of the Palms to Pines highway into the posh town of Palm Desert. In the mini-megapolis which runs from Indio and Palm Desert to Palm Springs the Old Testament crags (which grow to look more like barren and forbidding slag heaps as you approach Palm Springs) merely serve as a backdrop for Starbucks, Chuck E Cheeses, and unnaturally green and grassy byways with names like Bob Hope Drive and the Gene Autry Trail.

And then there’s the disarmingly retro Palm Springs itself.

Friday, September 21, 2007

The Fire Last Time

After a Wildfire Near Gaviota, California Coast.
Photo by/COPYRIGHT 2007 Ross Care

This is the area I describe in my Sept. 6, 2007 "Hot Spells" entry.

This view is looking directly from the parking area by the railroad tracks towards the beach. The rock marks the spot where the small stream flows into the Pacific. As I described, the fire crossed route 101 (north of Santa Barbara), and the railroad tracks and moved through this small valley to the beach. It also burned up to the bluffs on the right of the photo. You can also see one of the paths to the beach at the right.



Friday, September 14, 2007

Drive-In in CinemaScope


Abandoned Drive-In Theater, York, Pennsylvania. Photoshop Image
Photo by/COPYRIGHT Ross Care 2007

Even drive-ins converted to CinemaScope with the wide-screen craze of the 1950s. Fortunately wide-screen projection became an industry standard so the converted screens did not go to waste.

This is a photo of the screen at the Stony Brook Drive-In on old route 30 east of York, Pennsylvania, circa the 1980s. The image is a combination of color and black-and-white done in Photoshop. The image also approximates the CinemaScope screening ratio.


For a Film Score Monthly message board on CinemScope see:

http://www.filmscoremonthly.com/board/posts.cfm?threadID=44610&forumID=1&archive=0


Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Electric Eyes Are Watching You


This is a full image of one of the frames from my previous THE INVASION entry, the electric eye door from the now demolished Senate Theater on Market Square in Harrisburg, Pa.
Inside the doors were a small vestibule with posters and stills for coming attractions, then another set of doors which led to the back of the theater with its refreshment stand to the left. Just to the left of the candy stand was narrow staircase which led to the downstairs lounge.
Photo by/COPYRIGHT Ross Care

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Hot Spells

The California coast at San Onofreo beach near Gaviota, spring, 2007. It doesn't look like this anymore. (But it will again).
Photo/COPYRIGHT by Ross Care
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Though the recent hot spell now seems to be cooling off temperatures in southern California hit the ceiling over the holiday weekend. Death Valley recorded 122, which is three degrees hotter than Kuwait City. Palm Springs was cooler at 110, and Anaheim hit 104 on Sunday which no doubt made the weekend crowds at Disneyland even more intolerable.
The LA Times reported 16 deaths reportedly due to the heat. The LA area suffered power outages that left thousands without power for several days. Downtown Los Angeles reported a high of 101

In California global warming and greed are even influencing art. The Santa Barbara Independent, one of the better regional papers in my area, reports: “Eco-arts agitator Bruce Caron withdrew his application to paint a 1,000-foot light blue line on downtown city streets to show where the sea level may rise as a result of global warming.” The Independent reports Caron decided to cancel his project when it reportedly drew too much controversy and opposition, especially from real estate interests who were worried the project would lower property values.

Yesterday I drove through Santa Barbara on the way to my favorite out-of-the-way beach up north. San Onofreo is about 125 miles north of LA. I had heard that there had been another wildfire near Gaviota and when we arrived firemen were still attending the site.
The fire had started on the inland side of the 101 freeway and jumped the four-lane highway – two lanes north, two lanes south with a divider – and railroad tracks to burn its way to the sea cliffs. What was once a small pleasant valley with a (seasonal) creek flowing through oak woods and across the beach into the Pacific (see photo which was taken looking south from the general area) is now an ashen, blackened no man’s land.

However, fire is a natural process in the west (or used to be).
After living through the seasonal changes of the east coast for most of my life, and being extremely attuned to them as well, I came to observe that in southern California having no real winter simply means that vegetation runs its life/death cycle without really being swept away by a harsh winter.
Come spring new growth simply pops up, or tries to, among last summer’s dead growth that, without trimming or fire, simply becomes a tangled, often-impenetrable (and tinder-like) mass. Thus fire is the kind broom that sweeps things clean just as a harsh winter with its rain, snow, and cold does in the east.

However, regeneration here is quick and efficient, even with little rain. Just this year a few months after a minor wildfire on the top of the 101 grade south of Oxnard vegetation quickly returned, even during one of the driest years on record. Though it was disturbing to see one of my favorite areas along the coast turned into a ghostly ashen landscape out of Corman’s THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER, I do look forward to following the transformation that will inevitably follow.
RC

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Pod Power: The INVASION

Left: The Senate Theater, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, circa 1980s.

Right: The Senate's electric eye. The doors magically opened automatically, an appropriate touch to the wonderful old theater which screened the sci-fi and other genre films of Universal International and RKO.

When the theater was razed it was reported to me that the mayor of Harrisburg, to his eternal shame, took an ax to the doors of this beautiful deco entrance. Through no fault of its own the Senate was reduced to showing porn - on Market Square! gasp! - during its final days. (But that's NO EXCUSE!!!!!)

A genric Hilton Hotel now stands where this beautiful vintage theater once entertained countless Harrisburg moviegoers of all ages. By a happy coincidence Open Stage of Harrisburg, one of the area's most progressive theater companies, is now situated in the small street which ran just behind the Senate's CinemaScope screen. (And where I always enjoyed the posters and billboards for coming attractions when downtown was still the place to be on a Saturday afternoon)

This is where I first saw THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD.

Photos: by/COPYRIGHT by Ross Care, 2007.

++++++++++++++++++

THE INVASION

My fascination with fantasy/genre films probably began when I was terrified by THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD at the tender, impressionable age of 10.

Fantastic as it may seem today, I was so affected by THE THING (and as much by what was UNseen in this film, as by what WAS) that I was afraid to go down into the Senate's basement lounge to get to the pay phone to call my dad to come get me.

And so I felt a combination of obligation and interest, perhaps more curiosity than actual interest, to take in the current remake of one of my favorite adult sci fi films, INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS.

About THE INVASION (as it’s now called) the LA Weekly wryly commented: “Not that using actual pod people as actors is the only innovation German director Oliver Hirschbiegel (he of the egregiously overrated Hitler biopic DOWNFALL) and debuting screenwriter David Kajganich bring to the table.”

And: “The whole point is that these people are supposed to have a difficult time camouflaging their emotions…..”

At any rate on Monday I managed to drag myself to a 5.25 screening at the Century Ventura 16, a cavernous and intimidatingly vast movie factory where simply finding the correct theater down one of the endless Haunted Mansion-esque halls is your first major challenge.

Even though I was a bit late I was still forced to endure the obligatory assault of trailers, during which all the films previewed seemed to have been inspired either by the finale of THE WILD BUNCH or a reworking of the Charles Bronson DEATH WISH/“I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore” revenge genre.

As for the INVASION, well, I hardly know what to say…. After the previews I felt that the film’s overriding irony that only by BECOMING pod people can the human race seem to achieve any kind of peaceful, none-violent coexistence on this planet made real sense.

In another telling comment on our time there was no compelling romantic interest at all, just a kind of low-key-to-the-point-of-ho-hum affair between Nicole Kidman and the maturely hunky new James Bond, Daniel Craig. However, the major bond here is a kind of obsessive NOT WITHOUT MY DAUGHTER spin on the relationship between single/estranged mother Kidman and her virus-resistant son.

(Has Nicole become, is she now camp? See Gus Van Sant’s TO DIE FOR. But that’s a whole other article).

THE INVASION is certainly not without interest and it is extremely NOW with its (yes, obvious) allusions to AIDS, the environment, and the current global political madness. Actually after watching it I mused that this is a film absolutely overripe for the kind of probing review Charles Leayman, my associate at the late lamented Lancaster Independent Press, used to do so well in the ‘60s and ‘70s.

I can only hope that somehow Chuck may bestir himself from his pastoral torpor and rise to the occasion once again, somehow and somewhere. THE INVASION was made for your special perspective on (and intelligent skewering of) contemporary films, Chuck….

In the original 1956 film, INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS, when Dana Wynter says to Kevin McCarthy (who has just romantically quoted Shakespeare to her) “that way lies madness…..” you felt, you knew that these were two human beings whose human qualities (for better or worse) and lives were infinitely worth saving from the pod invasion. And that the madness to which this attractive, civilized couple were referring was the good human madness, with all its bittersweet emotions and complex foibles.

In THE INVASION most of the characters seem simply mad (and annoying) and so in many ways the podization of the human race does seem sort of preferable to the sound and fury which contemporary life seems to have become.

I don’t have to go on at length about THE INVASION to suggest what that tells us about the way we live now and what we have become without any help from an alien virus.

BTW if you see THE INVASION be sure not to leave during the credits because there’s a trippy visual sequence backed up by John Ottman’s fine orchestral/electronic score that finally provides one of the best and most compelling sequences in the film.

And lest we think civilization (and romance) as we once knew it is dead, Rufus Wainwright is doing a Judy Garland evening at the Hollywood Bowl on September 23!

Note: See below for a photo of the orginal INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS stars.

Ross Care

Dana Wynter and kevin McCarthy Dana Wynter and Kevin McCarthy, stars of the original (and best) INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (1956). At a screening of the film in Ojai. PHOTO Copyright by Ross Care 2007
The pod is under the table........

Monday, August 27, 2007

WINDMILLS Brave the Storm, near Palm Springs - Photo COPYRIGHT by Ross Care, 2007

Spoke with someone from the East Coast yesterday and heard you are all suffering from that witch's brew of heat and humidity which I remember so well from my days in Lancaster (Pa.). And which seemed to last longer each year until spring and autumn were just the vaguest of memories.

So thought I'd blow you a little dry California air.

These are actually energy producing windmills along route 10 on the way to Palm Springs. (So they don't cool off Palm Springs which remains in the triple digit temperature range a lot of the year).

They do make for a dramatic landscape though.

They are also close to the famous Cabazon dinosaurs which were featured in PEE WEE'S BIG ADVENTURE, and which add a further bizarro spin to the already other-worldly desert ambiance. The windmills have been featured in a number of films as well.

See also: http://www.cabazondinosaurs.com/

Ross

CACTUS FLOWER, Photoshop Image/COPYRIGHT by Ross Care

Saturday, August 18, 2007


Photo: Heron in a (sort of) secluded spot on the Ventura river not far from the Pacific ocean. Note the 101 (Ventura) freeway in the background.
Photo by/COPYRIGHT 2007 by Ross Care

Wild Ventura

Ventura is fortunate to still be the home of some of the rare wetlands still remaining along the increasingly developed central California coast. At the mouth of the Ventura river is a small but varied and ever-changing environment, not spectacular but fascinating for the few who may take the time to get to know it.

It’s a great spot for bird watching, especially for those (like me) who lack the patience to sit around waiting for the elusive creatures to present themselves. The broad mouth of the river with its shallow water and sandbars is a popular hangout for gulls, pelicans, coots, and cormorants. The latter are often seen perched on logs or rocks languidly spreading their wings in the sun to dry (each individual bird looking a bit like a Harryhausen homunculus).

I even once observed a group of white pelicans that stayed in the freshwater of the estuary for a few days. (These opposed to the happily now more common California brown pelicans). Another transient group was a mixed flock of blackbirds, including the beautiful redwings, which massed in the reeds along the riverbank.

There is also a resident kingfisher, an elusive and restless flash of crested blue and white that can also be detected by its whirring twittery call. Various species of herons and egrets are also not uncommon.

Strangely enough the woods that stand between the river and the campground remind me of the east coast southern woods of the Carolinas and Georgia. The low dark oaks also remind me of the palmetto groves of the Georgia sea islands, without the palmetto of course. (Though there is very southern looking Spanish moss on the trees up the coast around Solvang).

Following the trail through these tangled, shadowy woods, aside from the constant buzz of the traffic, it’s easy to forget you are adjacent to the 101 Ventura freeways, one of the major arteries between Los Angeles and Santa Barbara and the upper central coast.

Walks though the estuary in July and August also amaze with their lush greenery while the rest of California turns brown and gold. The various reeds, including a giant bamboo-like variety, peak at this time of year and provide of mass of emerald green along the banks.

Wildflowers bloom on the dunes along the shore where, as often in California, the seasons seem to confusingly intermingle.

Ross

Friday, August 17, 2007

The Fire This Time II


Well, another California wildfire that is probably getting attention on the news around the world (again). This one, called the Zaca (ironically for Zaca Lake), started on July 4th in the backcountry of the Santa Barbara County wilderness, and has since burned 116,700 acres (and counting). The West in general is in an extreme state of drought, Lake Powell in Arizona is drying up and the beautiful canyons sunk to create it are again emerging like Debussy’s Cathedrale Engloutie. (I love that).

Of course the drought and triple digit temperatures have done nothing to stop the rampant development around desert communities such as Lancaster, Palmdale, Palm Springs, and of course that hugest, most surreal of desert sponges, Las Vegas itself. Everyone is of course confident that water will materialize from somewhere even as water-rationing announcements are heard - and probably ignored - on the radio, and the Colorado and other rivers are being relentlessly siphoned away. We’ve got to keep those Palm Desert golf courses GREEN somehow!

Anyway, as of Thurs., August 16 (2007) the Zaca fire was moving towards the Ventura County line in” a remote area far northwest of Ojai,” as the Ventura paper assures us. (Well, at least nobody will have to stop surfing).

I remember when I had just moved to California and drove back from Los Angeles to find the hills behind Ventura ablaze with a moderate wildfire. A few years later things got more serious as another larger fire crept over the midtown hills, one that this time I could watch from my music room window on Santa Cruz Street. This fire had a sort of communal feel and everyone was out on the street watching. It was one of the few times I really got to see and speak with so many of my neighbors. That fire was eventually contained but driving up into the hills afterwards you could see that it came within several hundred feet of the posh homes on the rim of the hill (like the moon growing dim).

The Sunday morning of that fire one woke to an eerie Martian cityscape. Streets were lit with an unearthly pink glow, the sun was a garish red-orange. It was like waking up in TOTAL RECALL.

Some of the same efx are visible again with the Zaca fire though not yet so extreme. They show up mostly at sunrise and sunset when the sun becomes a perfect iodine-colored disc in a pinkish beige sky. Ash accumulates on your car and there are pink reflections on streets and anything reflective

The title The Last Days of Pompeii often comes to mind during such times, especially when we were passing through Santa Barbara on the 101 last week and a huge cloud of smoke appeared over the mountains that (fortunately and so far) separate the town from the inferno on the other side. As the smoke advanced it looked like a volcanic eruption, - Etna, Vesuvius, our own dear Mount St. Helens came to mind. And what an odd contrast to see both the blue clarity over the Pacific on one side and the hellish smoky miasma over the distant mountains on the other.

And odd how quickly you get used to such things Out Here.

Sort of……

Ross

Pacific sunset during Zaca wildfire. Photo: Ross Care

Friday, August 3, 2007

Michelangelo ANTONIONI 1912-2007

LACMA poster for Modernist Master ANTONIONI retrospective, Sept., 2006

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Modernist Master REVISITED: Michelangelo Antonioni -
Film Retrospective/ LACMA

Revised from a 2006 article.



Crowds were lined up around the corner to the Calder fountain side of the Bing Theater for the September 17 (2006) screening of LA NOTTE, a highlight of a month-long retrospective, Modernist Master: Michelangelo Antonioni, produced by the Film Department of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Though the nominal focus of the event was Antonioni’s 1961 masterpiece, LA NOTTE, the sold-out house was also due to the fact that this unique evening included appearances by Antonioni himself, and his wife. Enrica Fico Antonioni. Also on this substantial program were two short films, a documentary, BEING WITH ANTONIONI, directed by Signora Antonioni, and Antonioni’s own ten-minute THE GAZE OF MICHELANGELO, both screened prior to LA NOTTE.

For me personally the era in which Italian masters such as Antonioni, Fellini, and Visconti came into prominence with the “foreign film” renaissance of the late 1950s and 60s is an integral part of my cinematic past and consciousness. These Antonioni films particularly made an indelible impression on me, with their beautiful but bored women in impossibly chic little black dresses, and their brooding males torn between intellectual angst and exhausted ambition. And especially the unique black and white cinematography that captures in glowing chiaroscuro the paradoxical modernity and antiquity of Italian cityscapes. Never had malaise, ennui, and contemporary Italy seemed so seductive.

Watching one of Antonioni’s masterpieces, LA NOTTE (1961) on Friday brought all those feelings back, with the added frisson of knowing the maestro himself, one of the last remaining titans of modern cinema, was sitting in the row in front of me. LA NOTTE records one night in the life of a smart and of course conflicted Milan couple, a writer (Marcello Mastroianni) and his wife, (Jeanne Moreau in one of her most unforgettable performances). After the pair visit a dying friend in a hospital Moreau flees and, in a haunting and purely visual sequence, takes a walk on the wild side of Milan, cruising a seamy section of the city where she has an ambiguously erotic encounter with a group of young males, one of which would have driven Pasolini crazy. After reuniting (and after a visit to a nightclub where they witness an incredible contortionist act by a striking black woman who looks like Sade) the couple attends a genteelly decadent party at the home of a rich, culturally inclined industrialist, and reach a kind of reconciliation at dawn on a misty, deserted golf course.

The film is quintessential Antonioni, beautiful, vaguely disenchanted people adrift in a Milan that at times looks like something out of a science fiction movie. But the recent short films that preceded LA NOTTE were equally hypnotic. Antonioni suffered a stroke in 1985 but continued making films while also concentrating on painting. One of these films, THE GAZE OF MICHELANGELO, opened the evening. The 10-minute film is a purely visual study of Antonioni’s encounter with recently restored Michelangelo sculptures in an Italian church, and intimately probes both the details of the various statues and the still handsome face of the 95-year old maestro.

There is not a word of dialogue and no music until the last few minutes of the film, but one comes away with a more intimate impression of the two Michelangelos in ten minutes -the lines and details of the first Michelangelo’s work contrasting the aged hands of Antonioni with the ageless marble - than most filmmakers could achieve in a feature Especially haunting is the use of sound, or rather of Cage-like silence, the soundtrack being mostly ambient stereophony, the sound of distant creaking doors, echoes, and church bells, all the noises one would peripherally hear (or not quite hear) in the (not quite) silence of an Italian church. When music is finally heard, an a cappella Palestrina choral Magnificent, it’s a virtual epiphany.

Enrica Antonioni later commented that the film took one and a half years, but really a lifetime to make.

The second film, BEING WITH ANTONIONI, is an impressionistic study of just that: a record of a journey around Italy with the maestro as he works on his Matisse-like paintings (rendered by various obviously adoring young assistants) and is fed (this being Italy) and feted in Venice, Assisi, and other cities. There is no narration and no translation, but the film features a surprisingly hip and eclectic musical soundtrack. The climax of the film showcases the various art works the audience has seen in progress throughout the film.
Enrica Fico Antonioni appeared after the short films for a Q&A with moderator Ian Birnie, director of the LACMA film department. Ironically, Signora Antonioni reminded me a bit of Giulietta Masina and seems to possess the same ironic gamin quality. She also spoke for Antonioni who is verbally incapacitated by his stroke, and when the maestro himself finally appeared on stage in a wheelchair he had to silence the endless standing ovation with a gesture rather than a word. During the discussion Enrica had affectionately noted how much Antonioni still enjoys seeing his own films - when asked about his watching the films of others she gave a sort of wry, noncommittal shrug.

And just before the screening of LA NOTTE Birnie commented with a note of ingenuous surprise “He wants to see it…..” and the maestro was carried off the stage to a position on the extreme right of theater to view one of his masterpieces with his adoring public.

The series concluded with screenings of L’ECLISSE (THE ECLIPSE) (1962) and the 1995 BEYOND THE CLOUDS on Sept. 24. Antonioni’s greatest hit, BLOWUP (1966) and ZABRISKIE POINT (1970), both in English, were seen on Sept. 30.

MICHELANGELO ANTONIONI 1912-2007

Ross CARE

Thursday, August 2, 2007

They say in RAINTREE COUNTY

It's the 50th anniversary of the 1957 MGM film version of Ross Lockridge, Jr.'s epic American novel, RAINTREE COUNTY.

I did an article on the novel, the film, and the musical score for the Library of Congress. It was recently updated and put online at the RAINTREE COUNTY website.

WANT TO KNOW MORE?????

http://raintreecounty.com/Care-LoC.htm

See also:

raintreecounty.com

Friday, July 6, 2007

After a long silence......

For the 4th of July I was taken to lunch at a Japanese restaurant, very nice but imagine doing that 60 years ago???

Then I went home and watched the ever-patriotic STARSHIP TROOPERS again.
It reenforced my feeling that this is one of the BEST, if most disturbing and blackly humorous science fiction movies ever made.

And that Dutch/now international director, Paul Verhoeven, is one of the most fascinating filmmakers of our time. (But then all my favorite current directors are European).

I highly recommend his recent THE BLACK BOOK, one of the best movies of the year. Also his older epic, FLESH AND BLOOD, which I discovered via Netflix.

California is in the grip of one of the dryest summers on record. It hit nearly 130 (127) in Death Valley and many inland cities are in triple digit temperatures as well.

You've probably heard or read about the major wildfire up at Lake Tahoe, and there are some minor (so far) ones north of Santa Barbara.

Fortunately Ventura is on the coast and remains comfortably cool, even chilly at night. The fog, the "June gloom" which started in April this year, and the ocean breezes, help.

The Pacific around Ventura/Summerland (between here and Santa Barbara) is even comfortable enough to swim in, which I did on Monday. However, it was still pretty freezing at a beach we drove up to north of Santa Barbara yesterday. So I got sunburned, but not wet.

However, aside from the fact you can hardly ever get in the water comfortably the California beaches are still a heavenly environment, especially the more remote ones up the Central Coast where you can observe flocks of pelicans flying in Vs like eastern geese, and the occasional seal and dolphin in the surf.

At any rate, belated patriotic - yeah, right! - greetings from the West Coast.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007


The Thomas Hardy statue in Dorchester, Dorset, England.
I was somewhat taken aback to see an ESSO gas station across the street from Mr. Hardy at the time this photo was taken, sometime in the 1980s. Nonetheless I loved my time in Dorchester and the surrounding countryside, much of which seemed to have remained as it was in Hardy's time.
For a beautiful website with more images of Dorset see:
For my own collection of U.K photographs see:

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Fate & Remembering Hardy

At the library today I found a book of short poems. The first page I opened to had a poem by Thomas Hardy which I had found and was struck by in a huge volume of Hardy's Collected Poems some years ago and was never able to find again.

Hardy's "fate" at work????

Here is the last verse:

"But Time, to make me grieve,
Part steals, lets part abide;
And shakes this fragile frame at eve
With throbbings of noontime."

Friday, June 8, 2007

At the screening of NORTH by NORTHWEST at the Orpheum Theater in Los Angeles. Star Eva Marie Saint and Patricia Hitchcock, Alfred Hitchcock's daughter. Patricia mentioned she is currently working on a book about her mother Alma's contributions to the Hitchcock films.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

The RIALTO: One of the old Broadway movie theaters that has, obviously, not been graced with the magnificent restoration work recently done on the Orpheum (which is just down the street from the Rialto). Note the vestiges of its noble movie past with the name of one of the great stars of MGM still clinging precariously to this side of the old marquee. I remember those old classic plastic letters to well, not to mention the great Esther Williams who is still one of my favorite stars.


Hopefully the many classic old theaters on this stretch of Broadway will be saved by the wonderful restoration work that has begun with the Orpheum. Photo by/COPYRIGHT: Ross Care

NIFTY NEON: The entrance to the Orpheum Theatre after the Wed., May 23, 2007, screening of NxNW. Note the spotlight creating the ambiance of an old Hollywood premiere. Photo by/COPYRIGHT: Ross Care

Orpheum Theatre

The Orpheum Theatre on Broadway in "downtown" Los Angeles. Photo by/COPYRIGHT Ross CARE. Taken just before the screening of Hitchcock's NORTH BY NORTHWEST which I describe in my previous post. Note the spotlight.

Friday, May 25, 2007

NORTH by NORTHWEST on Broadway (LA)

NORTH by NORTHWEST on Broadway


No, not the musical.

The Hitchcock - may I say Alfred Hitchcock/Bernard Herrmann film? - was screened on Wed. night (May 23, 2007) as part of the Los Angeles Conservancy's "Last Remaining Seats" film series.

Star Eva Marie Saint and Patricia Hitchcock, Hitchcock's daughter and sometime actress, were in attendance and were interviewed by LA CONFIDENTIAL director, Curtis Hanson, before the screening.


But for many the real star of the evening was the Orpheum Theatre itself.

Never having seen it in its prime IMHO the recent restoration job was magnificent. From the lobby to the upper reaches of the spacious balcony this is grand elegance on a scale unknown in today’s climate of tawdry vulgarity.


One only hopes the restoration fever spreads to the other derelict theaters of the what is now finally being touted as LA's Historic Theaters district.

Though in spite of the gentrification efforts a stroll down Broadway (towards Grand Central Market) still has more of a feeling of MIDNIGHT COWBOY than of even of THE BANDWAGON's 42nd St., the area still has what is probably the greatest concentration of classic theater buildings/movie palaces still standing (some just barely) in the USA.

I always feel a strange combination of exhilaration, nostalgia, and depression when I see them. Many now house hideous commercial malls; some are simply abandoned.

Names like the Roxie, the State (the old MGM LA flagship theater), and many others, can still be discerned. There is even an old Pantages Theater and building (beside the Roxie), in an extremely decrepit state but with four impressive Eagle sculptures still intact on the second story.

The impressive Tower Theater is just down the street from the Orpheum. It also seems relatively intact, aside from the dreadful arcade of street vendors lining 8th St. Hopefully it may join the Orpheum in an eventual makeover.

Also down the street (on Broadway) from the Orpheum: the Rialto. Amazingly, one side of the marquee (away from the Orpheum) spelled out in those distinctive plastic serifs I remember so well from my first movie going days, the name of one of my favorite MGM stars.
(I could not make out the movie title, too many letters missing....)

Exhilarating, yet as I walked away from the glowing neon rainbows of the Orpheum under the darkened, somewhat eerie eaves of the Tower it was with that pervasively bittersweet sense of nostalgia I probably feel too often these days.

I can only wish for a personal Time Machine to take me back to Broadway - the Los Angeles Broadway - to revisit the entire Golden Age of Hollywood.

Actually, the period between 1948 and 1953 would do.....

Special THANKS to the Los Angeles Conservancy for this magnificent evening.

Monday, May 14, 2007

The Desert Garden, the Huntington Musuem and Garden, San Marino (Pasadena), Caliofornia.

Palms to Pines


The "Palms to Pine's highway, a.k.a. route 74, above Palm Spring.
Note there are no Palms OR Pines at this point.
The car and tiny figure (to the middle right) give some impression of the size this vast and rather brutal landscape. On this day the wind was so ferocious we only drove to about 2,000 feet or so, then feared for the Honda being swept away into the abyss by the blast! (This did not seem to deter the natives who passed us and zoomed on with a rather shocking distain for the curves, altitue and wind velocity!)
There is, however, actually some hardy, rather picturesque flora growing here. (It's a bit like Mars with castus, yucca, and aloe). I photographed some when we stopped to turn around.
Palm Springs was very pleasant last week, not exceptionally hot (for Palm Springs). It IS a surreal environment though. You can't see it in this photo but somewhere beyond those far hills is an unreal strip of unnatural GREEN which is the town of Palm Desert. Going up this highway is kind of environmental culture shock.
You leave the artifical lushness of the Palm Canyon highway (which runs from Palm Springs to Palm Desert and beyond) and ascend very quickly into this ominous Mercury-like terrain which reminds you that what you just left behind is in reality a fragile strip of civilization (if you call Starbuck's civilization) and, of course, consumerism, in an arid, burning desert.
One just hopes the water holds out for this and most of the rest of the west/southwest. But at the moment the prognosis does not look good.......
On Friday we left Palm Springs in a major sand/dust storm which closed one of the routes out of town.
On Tuesday we left the lushness of the Huntington in Pasadena to skirt the Griffith Park wildfire which was miraculously contained with very little damage.
This time........

Friday, May 11, 2007

The Fire Next Time

The wildfire in Griffith Park has been contained. No structures were damaged.

However, there's a new fire on Catalina Island. At this writing I am not aware of its status, but the LA Times reported it was moving towards the town of Avalon this morning.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Wildfire Thoughts

Aside from the rather terrifying experience of the Griffith Park wildfire on the way home, yesterday was actually one of the most peaceful, almost spiritual days I have experienced in quite awhile.

It was an off day at the Huntington and anyone with a Bank of America account could get in for free, a welcome change from the monthly Free Days when the musuems are overcrowded and the grounds (and cafe) become mommy/stroller HELLs!

Actually, I felt I was seeing this beautiful refuge for the first time.

And there was actually time and space to appreciate the musuems art and collections. At one point I was almost transfixed by a Sergeant portrait of Pauline Astor. For a moment I felt like James Stewart (or Kim Novak) in Hitchcock's VERTIGO, sitting almost alone in the gallery staring at this beautiful painting.

The lovely face and pearl necklace were almost three-dimensional, the rest of the painting (including the mischievious King Charles dog at the lady's skirts, were almost stylized. I was quite entranced by it all.

Just before we left we took a long walk through the Huntington's desert garden. These are always a revelation and one is always stunned and amazed by the sheer variety of nature, even in the planet's more arid and forbidding zones.....

The feeling, the total absorbtion took me quite unawares, as did the great column of smoke that loomed ever larger as we left the security of the Huntington at about 4.30 and moved down the freeway towards and by the out-of-control wildfire climbing the dry hills and canyons of Griffith Park.

A very strange and illuminating day, only in California (for better or worse)......

The FIRE This Time

Driving out of Pasadena yesterday after a tranquil day at the Huntington Musuem and Gardens I noticed that the smog seemed especially dense.

When we were on the 134 (Ventura) freeway moving west towards LA we realized it was NOT smog. About half of Griffith Park between Glendale and Burbank was on fire.

You have probably read about or seen this in the news by now.

This was not our first experience of a wildfire Out Here, but they are always terrifying.
After the column of smoke I could actually see the fires consuming the hillsides at Griffith, home of the lengendary Griffith Park Observatory and also of the LA Zoo.

There are horrifying photos in the LA TIMEs today and apparently the fire has NOT been contained due to excessively dry conditions and heavy winds.

Who'd have thought as we were enjoying the balmy breezes on the lush Huntington grounds this was happening just down the freeway?????

But that's life Out Here on the Edge....

More later if I'm up to it.

Ross

Friday, April 27, 2007


Speaking of bella Italia, this is an Italian poster for Ken Russell's 1975 biographical fantasia, MAHLER. This is one of Ken's best bio films, and indeed one of his best features.
The poster shows (partially!) Antonia Ellis as Cosima Wagner.
This photo was taken in Milan around the time of the original European release.
I'm a big Russell fan and wrote a feature review of his LISZTOMANIA for Film Quarterly (U. of California Press) shortly after this much maligned film was released. Someday I'd like to write about MAHLER as well.
I recently was able to track down one of Russell's rare BBC bio films, CLOUDS OF GLORY, about the relationship between Williams Wordsworth, and his sister, Dorothy.
As with MAHLER, CLOUDS OF GLORY (with David Warner as Wordsworth) was shot in England's beautiful Lake District. This short film was a real find (on VHS tape only, I believe) and was one of my most memorable viewing experiences so far this year.
Bravo, Ken!

Once Upon A Portastudio



As you can see, everyone loves Snow White and her seven little friends. (Even in Italy where she is known as Bianca Neve (or something like that. This photo was taken at some kind of garden ornament center somewhere in mid-Italy).

So anyway, it was interesting to work on a show for young people which does a spin on the familiar fairy tales and characters. I've been working on the music for this show, ONCE UPON A FOREST, for over a month now. The music is almost complete and I'm currently working on sounds for wind and a dragon.

The script calls for everything from Celtic marches to period swing dances and suggestions of '60s pop. Obviously this is not your grandmother's fairy tale style, and creating the various styles and periods has been great fun.

My personal style also ranges from techno to retro. My creative/recording processes are the same. I work with a new Casio digital keyboard/work station, but I record with an fairly vintage (by now) Tascam 4-track analogue cassette recorded (which I just had serviced down near Disneyland).

Luckily everything worked for this project, as I am very prone to technical disasters when nearing the deadline for an important project.

As note in a previous post, the show is being produced by Open Stage of Harrisburg in May. See previous post for details.

Spring on Sunset Blvd.

Looking east on Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles. Near the Cinerama Dome and the world-famous Amoeba. Spiderman is coming!

Malibu Spring

Spring by the sea. Giant coreopsis blooming along the California coast at Malibu.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Sort of Bloggin' + New Original Score

Already behind on my bloggin'.

Because currently I'm working on a new theater score, for a production of ONCE UPON A FOREST, for Open Stage of Harrisburg.

Once Upon A Forest -

A contemporary spin on characters from the Brothers Grimm and other fairy and folklore tales.

May 18, 7:00, May 19, 2:00 & 7:00 and May 20, 2:00.
For more INFO:
Ginger Roberts
Coordinator of Educational Programs
Open Stage of Harrisburg
223 Walnut Street
Harrisburg, PA 17101
717 214-3250
education@openstagehbg.com

So I have not really had the time to explore all the possibilities here.

Spring is moving apace in California, however. We actually had a few hours of rain yesterday, Friday, April 20 (2007).

Rossano's CALIFORNIA SPRING Slide SHow

http://travel.webshots.com/slideshow/558403777SFavQs

Friday, March 30, 2007

Spring on Figueroa Mountain & the Central Coast

Spring IS here, as I discovered yesterday on a trip up the coast to Figueroa Mountain. This is one of the leading places for wildflowers north of Santa Barbara but I went with no expectations, due the lack of rain over this recent winter.

However, they must have gotten considerably more rain in this area which is actually the point where southern California melds into what's known as the central coast.

As soon as one passed through Santa Barbara the landscape began to green up. The 101 freeway becomes the old Pacific Coast highway at some point and becomes a coastal route up to Big Sur. I've seen the coasts of Europe but I must say this coastal route along the Pacific is one of the most beautiful and awesome (in the true sense of the word) anywhere.

And it's interesting to see how this characteristic central coastal landscape actually begins as soon as you get north of Santa Barbara with ocean views of surf, cliffs, and bluffs on one side, and vistas of rolling green fields and hills and some rugged red rock peaks on the other.

As I noted, we did have more rain - rather unexpected this time of year - on the central coast, so perhaps the green season will - also unexpectedly - last a bit longer in this otherwise pervasively dry season.

And if you look close on the way up you can even see fields with llamas (or are they alpacas?)
Savannah


Monday, March 26, 2007

Spring Is Here (I Hear)

Well it's springtime in California.

It's been a very dry year so far, and so it does not promise to be a very good wildflower season. However, driving up PCH last week the magnificent sculptured hills and canyons north of Santa Barbara were green and spattered with purple lupine and the occasional golden California poppy.

I also noticed that a certain field seems to be bristling with the shoots of thistle plants which, when they were in bloom last summer, very much resembled a kind of huge lavender blue thistle I had previously seen only in Italy, around Siena in Tuscany.

I was of course thrilled to see one of the hills hear covered with with this beautiful shade of blue last year, though I have no idea how the plants got there.

Calfiornia is full of surprising and varied plantlife, at least those areas not so far plowed over for Development. Developers are working at getting at this unspoiled area, one of the last around this part of the coast, but so far they've been kept at bay.

May it be ever so (but I doubt it).

Anyway, it's SuperBeautiful this time of year, and I want to go back soon as Californians know the green will not last. (But then, what does?)

I might add that it, the coast, only gets more thrilling as you drive north towards Big Sur.

Everybody's bloggin'


So why can't I???? (Since nobody's truckin' anymore.....)

This is my first attempt at a blog.

Anyway, I hope to meditate on various aspects of living in the great state of California, which is a bit like living on another planet.

("Planet, schmanet, Janet....")

Also issues of music and film and how bad and supremely boring both (and everything else) have gotten over the past few decades.

(Has ANYthing interesting happened since the '60s????)

I also hope to post some photos of Out Here and Over There, meaning Europe which I still miss a lot in spite of the fact California is about as close to a European ambiance as you can get in the States (except maybe for Savannah).




As I mention I have something of an Identity Crisis: am I a composer who writes, or a writer who composes? (And does it matter, as everyone else Out Here seems to have the same problem). Anyway, it's fun trying to work it out.

More anon.