Rebel Without A Cause; SIX

Divorced, beheaded, survived

I haven’t attended enough cultural/entertainment events for my tastes of late. While I did go to the reopening of the Spectrum Theatre on April 24, I haven’t been able to get there since, and I want to soon.

I saw Rebel Without A Cause, the first James Dean movie I ever viewed.  Experienced with a 21st-century lens, Jim Stark (Dean) seems less a rebel than, in the words of ScreenRant, “a troubled youth struggling to find his place in a society he sees as hypocritical and devoid of meaning.”

Indeed, it is the high school clique that almost immediately scorns him without much provocation who are at least as broken as he. The knife fight between Jim and Buzz (Corey Allen), a few years before West Side Story, is said to reflect the “social pressures of male teenagers.”

Surely, Jim is frustrated by his ineffectual father Frank (Jim Backus), who allows Jim’s mother Carol (Ann Doran) to uproot the family at the first sign of difficulty.

Control

Jim’s one male friend, Plato (Sal Mineo), is a real outsider, abandoned by his parents, needing “to assert some control over a world in which he feels powerless and invisible.”

Jim’s classmate Judy (Natalie Wood, later in West Side Story) evolves from her disregard for Jim as her classmates did, while missing her old relationship with her father (William Hopper from Perry Mason), to Jim and Judy becoming surrogate parents to Plato.

Indie Wire makes the case that Plato is the first gay teenager on film while avoiding getting stopped by the restrictive Hays Code

It’s an interesting slice of life, with Ray (Edward Platt from Get Smart), the cop specializing in dealing with youth a sympathetic character. Even if it is “overwrought and cloyingly melodramatic,” I still appreciated the chance to see it on the big screen.

Famously, the three leads all died too soon. In a gallery of Lost Photos From a Legendary Hollywood Archive, Dean is captured just a month before he died in a car crash at the age of 24 on 9/30/55, even before the film premiered. Natalie Wood drowned at sea in 1981 at the age of 43. And Sal Mineo was murdered in 1976 at the age of 37.

Divorced, beheaded, died…

SIX, which my wife, daughter, and I saw at Proctors Theatre in Schenectady I don’t think is that compelling a book. I had listened to the music beforehand. But for what it is, it does the thing extremely well. It was an 80-minute rock show with a sextet of Henry VIII’s queens.

The Times Union review by Katherine Kiess is about right. “Styled as a ‘Renaissance Idol’ belt-off…they compete in a glamor-coated trauma Olympics to see whose marriage was the worst.”

You can tell it was a rock show because they namechecked “Schenectady!” a half dozen times before the “LED wall panels and cathedral windows that become everything from a church confessional to a dating app screen.”

The four-piece band, the Ladies In Waiting, cooked.  And the singers were excellent. So it’s perhaps not great theater but, as the Los Angeles Times noted, it is “unapologetically revisionist. That’s why it’s successful.” And entertaining enough.

Sister Marcia should do a movie blog

Ritz

It occurred to me that sister Marcia should do a movie blog. I love watching movies, but she devours them. And often the old ones, many of which I still haven’t seen, but she has viewed multiple times. And she’s very conversant about them.

We remember seeing West Side Story with our mom and sister Leslie. It must have been in a second-run theater because she’d have been too young to see the film in 1961. Still, I recall that the ticket taker was concerned that the violence would be too much for her. This was before the movie ratings were implemented in 1968. And maybe it was too “adult” for her, but she loved it.

As kids, we would occasionally get taken to the drive-in, often the one near the airport after the one on Upper Front Street closed in 1963. I don’t remember any of the films except The Dirty Dozen, and that is only because former NFL great Jim Brown was in it. Marcia likely remembers a lot more of them.

Trauma

She occasionally reminds me of when I was mean to her. I was supposed to take her to the Ritz Theater, a second-run cinema on Clinton Street. This was so traumatic that she remembers exactly where we were, in the shortcut from Gaines Street to Oak Street. Reportedly, I asked her what movie we going to see, and if she couldn’t identify it, I wouldn’t take her. She got very upset. Her memory is such that this story is probably true.

The Strand and the Riviera were theaters on Chenango Street in downtown Binghamton. Our mother used to work first at McLean’s Department Store, then at Columbia Gas, both of which were nearby. I imagine we saw a bunch of non-animated Disney fare or safe comedies such as With Six You Get Eggroll.

When I visited my family in Charlotte, NC in the 1970s and 1980s, I’d see movies with my mom Rocky, Star Trek IV, and Dreamgirls – it’s so weird that I remember these without prompts – and I imagine Marcia attended these as well.

But she has embraced Turner Classic Movies and various other platforms over the years. If I need a recommendation for a film in a particular genre, I know who to ask.

Happy birthday, sister Marcia.

Spectrum movie theatres are back!

mint brownies

Since I publicly mourned its closing on February 24, I’m happy – nah, ECSTATIC! – that the Spectrum movie theatres are back!

Per the press release: “Spectrum 8 Theaters first opened in 1983 by two couples who previously had owned and operated an independent movie theater, the Third Street Theatre, in Rensselaer.” I used to attend the Third Street. “For decades, the Spectrum has been synonymous with independent, upscale programming of avant-garde, foreign, independent, and widely-released features.”

Scene One Entertainment and its CEO Joe Masher is promising  to “restore the selections that made the Spectrum’s concession stand a treasure: locally-sourced cakes, pastries, cookies, gluten-free delights, real butter on fresh, hot popcorn, and mint brownies.” Many of these elements disappearted during Landmark’s seven-year operation at 290 Delaware Avenue.

“The old new Spectrum” has installed an exhibit titled ‘Looking Back, Heading Forward’ featuring 12 local artists with a nod to the past and to the future showing portraits and people gathering together around the arts.

The theater is now “hiring for all positions here at the Spectrum. Be part of the comeback story in Albany’s Delaware Avenue neighborhood.” A very small part of me is tempted, but no.

My first film…

I’m enough of a geek that I feel as though I should go to the grand reopening. I’ve seen Amelie, Cinema, March of the Penguins, and The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, all at the Spectrum. I also watched The Wizard of Oz at the Spectrum in 2022, and even if you’ve seen it on television, I’m recommending that you view it on the big screen.

And I saw Polyester at the Third Street Cinema! They will be offering the  ODORAMA CARDS, which you obviously need.

Still, I’m going to opt for a film I’ve never seen, which meanseither The Bodyguard or Rebel Without A Cause. Having seen NONE of Jamres Dean’s films in a cinema, I’ll probably opt for Rebel.

I still don’t kno what “regular” film I will see. The rrailers have often helped me to decide, and except for Covil War, I don’t know much about the current films. 

Musical

My wife and I saw the Spring Awakening at Cohoes Music Hall on Saturday. As this review in Nippertown notes, it is excellent. You should know that it deals with mature and intense themes.

It’s playing one more Thursday through Sunday. A member of the cast and one of the musicians attend our church, and another musician sold us our house back in 2000; I knew about the actor but not the musicians beforehand.

We saw a production of this musical back in 2010. while the set in the new profduction wasn’t as snazzy, I thought this production flowed better than the earlier one.

Actor Dennis Quaid is 70

Thing Called Love

Dennis Quaid was born in Houston, TX. He has appeared in several movies I’ve seen, all in the cinema except for The Parent Trap, but none of them I’ve viewed since the initial viewing. Most of them I liked.

Breaking Away (1977) -This is a sports movie about bicycling, which I really enjoyed. It was Oscar-nominated for Best Picture and won for Best Original Screenplay.

The Right Stuff (1983) – It won four Oscars, including Best Picture, and deservedly so. It was… what the title said.

The Big Easy (1986). Per IMDb, “Both Ellen Barkin and Dennis Quaid consider this the favorite of all the films they’ve made.” I saw it with a friend, and we both thought the crime drama had plot holes that one could drive a police cruiser through. But the soundtrack is marvelous. Someone posted most of it on YouTube, some with variations from the album. Notably, it leaves off what AllMusic called “a respectable track,” Dennis Quaid singing Closer To You, which he wrote.   I can’t find the studio version, but here’s a live take with Bonnie Raitt and the Neville Brothers.

Dennis shows up on the video for Bonnie’s Thing Called Love (1989) from her Grammy-winning comeback album, Nick Of Time. It’s a sexy video, even though they were just friends.

Postcards from the Edge (1990) – the somewhat autobiographical account of the lives of Debbie Reynolds and author/screenwriter Carrie Fisher, played by Shirley MacLaine and Meryl Streep, respectively. Quaid plays the Streep character’s sometimes boyfriend. I related to the family drama.

The Parent Trap (1998) – Quaid and Natasha Richardson play the divorced parents of the twins played by Lindsay Lohan (X2). Having watched the Hayley Mills original film, I think the remake was better, which I imagine is sacrilege.  I saw this on video with my daughter.

Traffic (2000) – A fine film, though Quaid, as one of the bad guys, gets about fifth billing.

21st Century

The Rookie (2001)—Based on a true story, it’s the tale of a high school chemistry teacher who coaches the school’s baseball team. Once a pitching prospect before an injury, he agrees to go to a professional tryout if his team wins the championship. (No spoiler: they do, so he does.) I immensely enjoyed it.

Far From Heaven (2002) – A seemingly perfect 1950s suburban couple, played by Quaid and Oscar-nominated for Best Actress Julianne Moore, is jeopardized. The Moore character consoles herself with the friendship of their gardener (Dennis Haysbert). A fine work by the actors and writer/director Todd Haynes. My favorite Quaid movie.

I might have caught other films. The TV movie Dinner With Friends is about two close couples who are confounded when one couple decides to split up. And I’m sure I caught some guest appearances on SpongeBob or Inside Amy Schumer.

Dennis is the younger brother of actor Randy Quaid. According to reports, “the two have not communicated in over 20 years due to a bad real estate deal in Montecito, California.”

Happy birthday to Dennis Quaid.

Movie review: Cabrini

Angel Studios

My wife took a too-rare weekday off, and we decided to go to the cinema. A  good friend of hers had recommended the movie Cabrini, so we went to the Regal Cinema at Northway Mall.

Sister Francesca Cabrini (Cristiana Dell’Anna) from Italy wanted to set up an orphanage in China. After she rangled with the local cardinal, Pope Leo XIII (Giancarlo Giannini) acceded to her desire to expand her mission. But instead of her going east, he said she and her fellow nuns should go west to the United States.

Specifically, she and five other nuns headed to New York City in 1889, to the Five Points section of lower Manhattan, which “gained international notoriety as a densely populated, disease-ridden, crime-infested slum.” It was a ghetto of Italian orphans and the adults who would exploit them.

Yet, Cabrini, who was often quite ill, and her colleagues managed to win over the kids, even the wounded Vittoria (Romana Maggiora Vergano.)

But there were headwinds. The local archbishop Corrigan (David Morse) was cautious, not wanting to undo the church’s balance with the powerful and unsympathetic Mayor Gould (John Lithgow).

What Cabrini ultimately managed to accomplish was comparable with Carnegie or Rockefeller.

Critics

In general, I agree with all the critics, who were 91% positive on Rotten Tomatoes. It’s solid, sincere, believable, and highlights a powerful and impressive woman. Cristiana Dell’Anna was very good. Steven D. Greydanus wrote: “As single-minded as its protagonist, Cabrini drives home in every scene its themes of human dignity—particularly the dignity of women and marginalized groups including immigrants and the poor—and solidarity in the face of prejudice and social injustice.” It’s mostly true.

It’s also a bit staged and affected, often looking drab. The dialogue is too modern; at 142 minutes, the film is at least 15 minutes too long. But still, it’s a thumbs up.

Once again, I must mention how much I hate seeing films at the Regal. The ads started at 11:53 for a purported noon start, but between the legit previews and the straight-out ads, the movie didn’t begin until 12:20.

Angel Studios

Two of the coming attractions were interesting. Like Cabrini, they were developed by Angel Studios, the makers of Cabrini.  The filmmakers seem to use a more robust version of crowdsourcing/membership.

One preview was for Sight (May), “starring Greg Kinnear and Terry Chen, [which] follows the true story of Dr. Ming Wang, a Chinese immigrant who defies all odds to become a world-renowned eye surgeon. Drawing upon the grit and determination he gained from a turbulent uprising in his youth, Dr. Wang sets out to restore the sight of a blind orphan.

Also, Possum Trot (July 4) is “the true story of Bishop and First Lady Donna Martin, and their tiny Bennett Chapel church, in the town of Possum Trot in the woods of East Texas. Twenty-two families linked arms and courageously adopted seventy-seven of the most difficult-to-place children in the local foster care system, igniting a national movement for vulnerable children that continues today.” One of the executive directors is Letitia Wright, one of the stars of The Black Panther movies.

More Angel

Future films include Homestead -“Amid chaos, ex-Green Beret joins prepper compound; love grows, truths arise, and a community unites;” Bonhoeffer – “When a pacifist is called to a political act that could change the course of history, how will a man of honor respond?” and David – This animated musical is based on the biblical story of a giant slayer that inspired a nation.”

A previous movie, Sound of Freedom, is “based on the gripping true story of a man’s mission to rescue children from the world’s darkest corners. This action-packed drama shines a light on the harrowing reality of sex trafficking and the valiant efforts of those who work tirelessly to combat it.” The critics were lukewarm (57% positive), but the audience was 99% favorable. It played at Regal in August of 2023, but I did not see it.

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