Off the Kuff Rotating Header Image

movies

Let’s go to the drive-in

Yeah, I’m down with this.

Everything old really is new again.

In the midst of ongoing concerns and restrictions over the Covid-19 pandemic, Houston is going back to the future with a new drive-in movie theater. The Drive-In at Sawyer Yards, a pop-up operated by the Los Angeles-based Rooftop Cinema Club chain, is set to open May 12 with a line-up of classic films for an audience that doesn’t have to leave the car.

Located at 2301 Summer St., right near Buffalo Bayou Brewing Co., The Drive-In at Sawyer Yards will offer two screenings seven days a week. This is the company’s second drive-in venture as it already operates one in London, England.

“Bringing back the nostalgia of the drive-in theater as well as the return of a great American institution, the kings of outdoor cinema want to provide relief through the power of film to Houstonians during this difficult time. Guests of the new drive-in theater can have an away-from-home cinema experience from the security of their own vehicle,” the company said in a statement Wednesday.

The opening films are “Grease” and “Drive” and they will be followed by “Night at the Museum” (May 13), “Silence of the Lambs” (May 13), “The Princess Bride” (May 14), “Romeo + Juliet” (May 14), “The Greatest Showman” (May 15), “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” (May 15), “Grease” (May 16), “Moulin Rouge” (May 16), and “The Sandlot” (May 17) and “Brown Sugar” (May 17).

Tickets — at $28 per vehicle regardless of occupancy — can be purchased online beginning today at noon at www.rooftopcinemaclub.com/houston/venue/the-drive-in-sawyer-yards. Moviegoers can bring their own snacks or order concessions from Rooftop Cinema or food and drinks from Buffalo Brewing Co. All orders are made online and guests will be notified for pick-up to avoid unnecessary time spent away from their vehicles.

I just showed this to my 13-year-old, and she was excited by the idea. (She also reminded me that I have not seen “The Greatest Showman”, which she considers a travesty on my part.) So yeah, I think we have a movie night in our future. Anyone know what Joe Bob Briggs is up to these days?

Reopening roundup

Judge Hidalgo adjusts to the new status that has ben imposed on us from Austin.

Judge Lina Hidalgo

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo on Tuesday announced plans to significantly expand novel coronavirus case tracing, and maintain reserve hospital capacity, to prepare for a potential virus surge as businesses reopen.

Hidalgo outlined the strategy in response to Gov. Greg Abbott’s decision a day earlier to allow restaurants, malls, movie theaters and other businesses to reopen Friday. Harris County’s government will do its best to adjust, the county judge said.

“Frankly, I think containing this virus will be a tall order given the May 1 timeline,” Hidalgo said. “But we’re going to do everything we can, move heaven and earth to make it work.”

The county plans to recruit 300 “contact tracers” to investigate where infected people may have spread the virus and to whom. Epidemiologists will train existing county employees, volunteers and some new hires on how to track the path of a COVID-19 patient.

[…]

With a finite supply of nasal swabs, the judge warned that the county can only handle up to 100 positive cases per day. A spike would jeopardize the supply.

“If we let our foot off the gas right now, the virus will inevitably come back, and it will come back as much force, if not more force, as before,” Hidalgo said.

“For us to be safe, we need to get keep the new cases below 100 new cases a day,” she said.

I don’t know if those 300 contact tracers in Harris County are a part of the one thousand new contact tracers that Greg Abbott promised or if they are in addition to them. That would be a good question to clarify, in case Abbott meant one thing but was happy to let you believe another. In either case, we’re going to need a lot more testing. Far as I can tell, we have a lot more lip service than testing capability, at least at the state level.

Meanwhile, our local czars have their own plans.

Houston’s new recovery czar Marvin Odum says both the city and the county will eventually unveil plans for businesses in the region to reopen in a “gradual” and a “phased” approach, depending on business sectors.

Odum told Houston Public Media it’s important to first understand the risks around those various sectors returning to business

“And then making sure that we’re building — in cooperation with our medical community, and the state, and others — a monitoring program, which would involve testing strategically applied to those groups, contact tracing where necessary, and being able to bring people back to work.”

Odum says that approach is key to simultaneously getting people back to work and keeping them safe.

[…]

“Everything has to be based on data and science before we open up any businesses,” Walle said.

Odum said there will be some segments of the economy where the risks can be managed easier.

“But as you get into sectors that have more human contact — dealing with customers for example — that may require some additional tools,” Odum said.

Walle is State Rep. Armando Walle, the Harris County Recovery Czar. He will be advising Judge Hidalgo and Commissioners Court as Odum will be advising Mayor Turner and City Council.

And of course, various things that are now allowed to open may yet take their time in doing so. Museums, for instance:

The Museum of Fine Arts Houston isn’t ready to announce any reopening date, citing the need to establish safety precautions and to communicate with city officials.

“Our Return to Work Task Force has been actively working to determine how best to safely reopen the MFAH for our 650 staff and our visitors, but we are just now, along with many others, considering the governor’s statement,” the museum said in a statement. “We have not yet had an opportunity to connect with the mayor’s office and the county’ judge’s office to understand what the local requirements will be, as the report notes is needed.”

The Asia Society is also following a cautious path.

“We are not reopening on May 1,” an Asia Society representative said.

The Holocaust Museum Houston “might open, at the earliest, Memorial Day weekend,” said a representative who spoke with the museum’s CEO, though any opening would need “an ongoing sanitization process” to be put in place.

The Menil and the Houston Museum of Natural Science did not respond by press time. However, the Asia Society representative said all of Houston’s museums, led by the MFAH, are communicating with one another.

Movie theaters:

Movie theater chains across Texas, though, seem fairly unified in their decision-making: there’s no point in reopening early. The Plano-based Cinemark, Austin-based Alamo Drafthouse, and out-of-state chains like AMC and Regal (both of which operate a number of theaters across Texas) all responded to the news that they’re allowed to open as early as this weekend with a resounding, “Nah, not yet.”

There’s a good reason for that, even if theaters, like almost every business that isn’t a supermarket or home improvement store, are hurting amid the shutdown: there’s nothing to watch. Theater chains live and die by the studio release calendar, and studios haven’t released a movie since March 13, with the first new releases not scheduled to debut until mid-July. Theaters may be allowed to open, but they’d be relegated to picking from a slate of repertory releases and indie films that are being simultaneously released on video-on-demand services merely in hopes that they might be able to entice 25 percent of customers to risk contracting the virus in order to watch something they can easily see at home. And while Abbott may have issued an executive order allowing movie theaters to reopen, the ecosystem of the movie business isn’t built around what individual theaters choose to do.

Your various major releases, like Black Widow, which my 13-year-old is gonna demand to see on opening weekend, have either been released on streaming or pushed back into the late summer or fall, when everyone fervently hopes this will be much more behind us. Until then, all the theaters will have to show are oldies and maybe a few small indy films. Good luck with that.

Restaurants are more likely to be available.

No sooner than Gov. Greg Abbott’s press conference on reopening the Texas economy had ended, restaurateur Michael Sambrooks was on the phone making calls to servers to come back to work.

Abbott’s announcement Monday that restaurants could reopen Friday for dine-in service at 25 percent of occupancy brings the battered restaurant industry one step closer to resuming traditional operations.

“I’m ready to get 25 percent back to work,” said Sambrooks, owner of Sambrooks Management, whose restaurants include 1751 Sea and Bar, Candente and The Pit Room. “It definitely feels like a step toward getting back to normal. It feels very hopeful to getting open and start serving people again.”

[…]

While resuming dine-in service has been something Houston restaurateurs have been anticipating, 25 percent is nowhere near normal operations, said restaurateur Benjamin Berg of Berg Hospitality.

“In any other time, if you were operating at 25 percent, you’re talking about closing your doors,” said Berg, whose restaurants include B&B Butchers & Restaurant, B.B. Lemon, B.B. Italia, The Annie Café & Bar and Turner’s. “Twenty-five percent isn’t a great business model, but it’s something.”

With the glass-half-empty perspective, that means 75 percent fewer guests; 75 percent less revenue, Berg added.

Still, on Monday he found himself busy planning how to order food, train staff and retool restaurants in hopes that some of his stores could be open on May 1.

“There’s no way we can reopen everything at the same time,” Berg said. “It would be like six grand openings again.”

But for someone like Alex Au-Yeung, who owns the 80-something seat Phat Eatery in Katy, having 19 ¾ customers — as he calculates his 25 percent occupancy — is a move toward getting back to full capacity at his Malaysian street food restaurant.

“It won’t be close to normal operations, but we’ll do what we can,” he said, adding that he also will continue curbside pickup and delivery. “I know there are people who would love to go back out to eat.”

What returning to dining out will look like and feel like will mostly be dictated by guidelines the TRA association laid out weeks ago to assure worker and customer safety as the state strives to reduce the spread of coronavirus. The TRA’s measures include health checks for employees prior to each shift; indoor and outdoor seating with safe distancing guidelines; hand sanitizer or washing stations available to customers and employees; sanitizing common areas and surfaces regularly; and sanitizing dining areas after every use. Expect to see disposable menus, waiters wearing face masks and spaced-out seating in dining rooms — many of which may be operating by reservation-only in order to control the 25 percent restriction.

On Monday the TRA emphasized that no restaurant should reopen until it is ready to do so: “Texas restaurants are experts in safety, sanitation and customer satisfaction, and we know that these values will continue to drive their decision making.”

Dallas Eater lists some good reasons why restaurants shouldn’t rush to reopen, including “Many restaurants aren’t big enough for six-foot table spacing”, “There’s no such thing as social distancing in a kitchen”, and “Servers returning to their jobs will be forced to take a serious pay cut as revenues stay low”, among others. It’s a Dallas-specific list, but I daresay it would apply anywhere else.

Look, I wish them all well, I really hope every single restaurant is able to come back from this catastrophe. I don’t think I’m ready to eat in a restaurant yet, and I’m worried these half-measures won’t do much to help them in the interim. I don’t know what the best answer is. Maybe this will work out fine. I sure hope it does. There’s just no way to know.

Hollywood’s plans to come back

I’ve posted a few times about how sports leagues like MLB are making plans to return to action from coronavirus shutdowns. The larger entertainment industry, including TV and movie making, are in a similar position as the sports leagues, and they too are starting to game out how they can (safely) return to doing what they do. This story gives a good outline of where that stands.

We are still months away from cameras rolling — studios’ most optimistic projections are for July-August production restarts, and the more realistic ones are aiming to be up and running by September. California is still under a stay-at-home order, which currently expires on May 15.

There are many different issues we will cover, starting today with the resumption of location and soundstage shoots.

Getting up and running again in this brave new world is going to be very difficult to navigate. For one thing, insurers are unlikely to cover productions for COVID-19 cases when business resumes, according to multiple sources in the know. Producers all over filed multimillion-dollar claims triggered when civil authorities — governments — prevented filming from continuing and forcing production shutdowns. When the business starts up, that will now be considered an identified risk, and insurers will not cover it, sources said, just as CDC is warning of a second coronavirus wave.

What does that mean? Most likely, everyone on a film or TV production will be required to sign a rider, similar to ones they sign covering behavior codes in areas like sexual harassment, to indemnify the productions. “You acknowledge you are going into a high-density area, and while we will do our best effort to protect you, nothing is failsafe and if you contract COVID-19, we are not liable,” said a source involved drawing up these guidelines. “There is no other way we can think of to address this. If you don’t want to sign, don’t take the job.”

Conversations about how to return to production began ramping up late last week amid stabilizing levels of new COVID-19 cases and deaths in Los Angeles County, boosted by an encouraging drop in new infections over the weekend. Unfortunately, the optimism was short lived — Tuesday and Wednesday brought record spikes in deaths– but discussions continue because the business cannot begin to recover until an industry goes back to work.

So far, there are no protocols on which studios have settled, but active discussions continue, including with the film commissions in New York and Los Angeles, we hear. AMPTP and IATSE are leaning in hardest here to map lists of safety concerns and solutions, and every major studio in Hollywood has top people trying to figure out every scenario that needs to be addressed before shows can get up and running. The same conversations are taking place in other areas that touch the business, from the offices where people work and congregate, to hotspot eateries and movie theaters.

A lot of this starts with the state of California’s plan to gradually ease up on restrictions. Studios will still need to contend with any remaining local restrictions. There’s a lot in here, from catering to heavier use of green screens to avoid filming crowds to extra special handling of topline stars, and some of the items listed will likely be similar to the steps other businesses will have to take to reopen their own offices. Check it out.

Preserving Texas’ film history

Cool story.

Click play on the grainy, black-and-white image titled simply “Houston Time Service” on the website of the Texas Archive of the Moving Image and you’re treated to a 110-second Houston love story.

The film, from the 1940s, is about a phone number Houstonians could call to get the correct time. Ruth McClain Graham owned the service, according to an Oct. 24, 1947, Houston Chronicle story. Two years earlier she had married Shadrack E. “Shad” Graham, an itinerant filmmaker, who, apparently taken with the proprietor, produced the film promoting the business.

But film, like love, can be short-lived, and that’s what has driven Caroline Frick’s race against time. The role of film preservationists like Frick, an associate professor of film at the University of Texas’ Moody College of Communication in Austin, becomes ever more crucial as moving images depicting life and history become unplayable.

As the years play on, the decay of aging motion picture film accelerates, as does the quality of magnetic tape on which video is recorded. Video projectors and old-format tape machines break, are not repaired and discarded. The race to get these recordings into a digital format – also unlikely to survive forever – becomes more crucial with each passing year.

“This is what we are trying to prevent,” says Frick, who founded and is executive director of the Texas Archive of the Moving Image, or TAMI, in 2003, opening a plastic bag filled with what looks at first glance to be beef jerky. It’s actually decomposing celluloid, curled and blackened. The smell from the bag is a pungent, vinegary rot, and in TAMI’s crowded offices near downtown Austin, you can catch a whiff if you stand next to stacks of boxes filled with 8-, 16- and 35-millimeter film.

Another threat is in the shrinking universe of ways to watch these historic movies, a dwindling number of obsolete devices available for playback. Frick points to a Sony reel-to-reel videotape machine on the floor that once was the pride of a television station editing room. It was designed to work with a now-abandoned, 1-inch tape format.

“We were able to play something once on that after we got it, and then it broke,” she says, sighing. “We’re still looking for parts.”

A staff of five — all part-timers — are in the office on this chilly January day. Some work on physical restoration of film, others scan it into computers for digitization. Another crew catalogs and curates, putting context to the images that, ultimately, stream across the internet to computers, phones and tablets.

It is a daunting task, hampered by a lack of funding — TAMI’s annual budget is in the $300,000 range — and made overwhelming by the sheer amount of content that flows in. So far, TAMI has digitized about 58 terabytes of film and video, but only 10 percent of that is available for viewing at its website, texasarchive.org.

“The number one reason for the disconnect between what we have digitized vs. what is streaming is budget – the human labor of researching and contextualizing the content,” Frick says. “Everyone is excited about what AI will be able to do some day (for automated curation) but, as of yet, nothing is as reliable or useful as the human eye and brain.”

I’m old enough to remember calling a phone number to get the correct time. Crazy to think about now, but here we are. In any event, preserving old film is a much more challenging task than preserving old books because of the technological barriers. Look at it this way: Most of us have obsolete technology from recent years that has information on it that is now unreadable to us, like various forms of portable storage from computers. The TAMI folks have to deal with machines from decades ago, where there may literally be nothing else like them in existence. Once these old films are gone, that’s it, they’re completely lost to history. Whatever the value of any individual piece of celluloid may be, it sure is a shame to lose something like that. Read the rest of the story and check out the Texas Archive of the Moving Image. Maybe you have something that would interest them.

The KLOL documentary

Of interest to me, and other middle-aged guys like me.

This past week Houston filmmaker and blogger Mike McGuff released a trailer for his upcoming film about the late, great radio station, Rock 101 KLOL-FM, and it’s getting Houstonians of a certain vintage very excited for the finished product.

The story of the raunchy Houston radio phenomenon will be told in McGuff’s first documentary, with appearances from the likes of Outlaw Dave (one of the Texican’s creative mentors), Lanny Griffith, Colonel St. James, Pat Fant, David Sadof and even the late Jim Pruett of morning duo Stevens and Pruett in footage shot before he passed away in 2016.

To help with this long-gestating rock doc, McGuff, a former newsman, has turned to crowdsourcing platform IndieGoGo to bankroll some final nips and tucks for the promotional side of things. He’s hoping for a wide release in 2020, just in time for the station’s 50th anniversary. KLOL, formerly KTRH-FM, was born in 1970 as a progressive-rock station, evolved into a more structured album-oriented-rock and then classic-rock station before owner Clear Channel flipped it to Spanish-language in 2004.

As McGuff says, it has been a long journey to get this film in the can. When it comes to labors of love, sometimes time is the best ingredient.

“This project was only supposed to take a couple of years, at least that is what I told my very patient wife back in 2010,” McGuff says. “The years kept piling on as I kept chasing people for interviews, conducted a bunch of research, and waited for people’s photos and video to be found.”

As their onetime promo went, I admit it, I listened to Stevens and Pruett back in the day, and not just them. My enthusiasm for Dayna Steele’s Congressional campaign came very honestly, I assure you. I was right in the sweet spot of their demographic. Anyway, you can see a trailer for this here, and if you want to contribute to the Indiegogo campaign, you can do that here. You know you want to.

Sandra Bullock hurts Dan Patrick’s fee-fees

Poor little snowflake.

I can see why she might intimidate him

Texas Lieutenant Gov. Dan Patrick is not too pleased that Oscar winning actress Sandra Bullock has agreed to star in a movie about former state Sen. Wendy Davis, whose 13-hour filibuster helped stall an anti-abortion bill in 2013.

“It saddens me that Sandra Bullock agreed to play Wendy Davis in a movie called ‘Let Her Speak,'” Patrick said in downtown Austin, just miles from where Bullock once owned a home.

When a member of the audience doubted it, Patrick assured the crowd it was true.

“Sandra Bullock,” he repeated. “I used to like her.”

But Patrick said he’s already taking steps to keep Bullock and film crews out of the Senate chamber to recreate the filibuster that raised Davis’s statewide profile. Davis ran for governor in 2014 and lost to Gov. Greg Abbott.

“And by the way, if I have anything to do with it, I’m not going to let them use the Senate chamber to shoot, because they’ve already disgraced it once,” Patrick said. “They’re not going to do it a second time.”

Patrick told the audience at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a conservative public policy advocacy group, that he already has other issues with the movie. He said they sent him a script and asked, “Guess who the villain is?”

After a pause, Patrick raised his right hand and smiled: “Me.”

Can’t imagine why anyone might think of you that way, Danno. Now please go ahead and show me where that mean lady hurt you. You’re safe now. RG Ratcliffe has more.

Friday random ten – All in, part 1

I have a lot of songs that begin with the word “All”, so settle in and get comfortable.

1. All About Soul – Billy Joel
2. All Along The Watchtower – U2
3. All Around My Hat – The Mollys
4. All Around The World Or The Myth Of Fingerprints – Paul Simon
5. All At Once – Bonnie Raitt
6. All Because Of You Days – Echo and the Bunnymen
7. All But Blind – Larry Nozero
8. All Day All Night – And The Kids
9. All Day Music – War
10. All For The Best – from “Godspell”

Yes, that’s a U2 version of the Jimi Hendrix classic. Bono et al are distinctive enough to pull it off in a way that doesn’t necessarily invite unflattering comparisons. I’ve professed my love of the movie version of Godspell – it’s so gloriously and joyfully 1970s that I don’t know how anyone could not love it. Have I mentioned that Victor Garber, who has been in everything though he’s probably best known for being Jack Bristow in Alias, played the Jesus role in the movie? I have no idea if this classic movie is available on a streaming service, but if you come across it you should totally watch it. Anyway, I have a few more “All”-based lists, so be ready.

Friday random ten: Fluxblog 1980

It’s all about 1980 this week:

1. The Tilt – 7th Wonder
2. Everybody Wants Some! – Van Halen
3. I Got You – Split Enz
4. My Sick Mind – The Roches
5. Another Brick In The Wall Part 2 – Pink Floyd
6. Joy And Pain – Maze Featuring Frankie Beverly
7. Mister Softee – Kid Creole & The Coconuts
8. That’s Entertainment – The Jam
9. Black Woman – Fred Anderson Quartet
10. I’m Coming Out – Diana Ross

All this comes from the Fluxblog 1980s survey mixes, a gigantic free download of music from each year in the 80’s that you really should check out. I’ve mentioned it before, and it’s been a tremendous find. (There’s now the first few years of a similar survey of the 1990’s, which I need to start downloading.) It covers everything from big hits of all genres to the stuff that only the cool kids knew about to novelties to really obscure songs, all of which combine to give a good picture of what music was like that year.

As for the list above, I have two movie-related comments. One, I remember watching Pink Floyd: The Wall back in the 80s, and it’s every bit as weird and disturbing and psychedelic as you’d expect, even if you’re not stoned while watching it. And two, “Everybody Wants Some!” will always remind me of John Cusack flipping burgers at the world’s worst fast food joint.

Friday random ten: Ladies’ night, part 22

Happy Leftovers Day, y’all.

1. Hotel Pool – Lily & Madeleine
2. Womanizer – Lily Allen
3. Hypnotized – Linda Jones
4. Tumbling Dice – Linda Rondstadt
5. 1917 – Linda Rondstadt and Emmylou Harris
6. Funkytown – Lipps Inc. (Cynthia Johnson)
7. Jenny Jenkins – Lisa Loeb
8. Boy Boy – Lissie Trullie
9. Let’s Turkey Trot – Little Eva
10. Time Warp – Little Nell, Patricia Quinn & Richard O’Brien

The inclusion of Little Eva’s “Let’s Turkey Trot” is just one of those odd things that happens with these lists. “Time Warp” is of course from The Rocky Horror Picture Show. I recorded but (I confess) never watched the recent live RHPS production, though the girls and I enjoyed the Ivy Levan rendition of “Science Fiction Double Feature”. I have high hopes for the forthcoming live production of Hairspray, though. “Tumbling Dice” is from Linda Rondstadt’s underrated career as a solo rocker, and also from the killer classic rock soundtrack to the movie FM. I know nothing of the movie but once had the soundtrack on cassette, taped from a roommate’s LP. That should tell you all you need to know about my opinion of the relative merits of the two.

Friday random ten: Ladies’ night, part 21

I took last week off from my two regularly scheduled music-themed posts because I just didn’t have it in me. They’re back this week, not because I feel better per se, but because there’s comfort to be found in both the music and in the habit of experiencing it. So here we go again.

1. Self Control – Laura Branigan
2. Dance Like Nobody’s Watching – Laura Marano
3. Cluck Old Hen – Laura Veirs
4. Four Words – Lauren Anatolia
5. Astrodome – Leah White and the Magic Mirrors
6. Break It To Me Gently – Brenda Lee
7. Steal My Sunshine – Len (Sharon Costanzo)
8. Love Letters – Ketty Lester
9. Hello Stranger – Barbara Lewis
10. I Know Things Now – Lilla Crawford

Ketty Lester went on to play Hester-Sue Terhune on the TV show Little House on the Prairie, which I watched on occasion but was never really into as a kid. I have no idea who that character was, but I always enjoy stumbling across trivia tidbits like that while checking to verify that a given artist is in fact female as I suspect from the name. I read some of one of the Little House books to Olivia when she was younger, but neither of us was into it any more than I was into the TV show in the 70s. Austin and Ally, the latter of whom was portrayed by Laura Marano, and the movie version of Into the Woods, in which Lilla Crawford’s Little Red Riding Hood character sang that song, were more her speed.

Saturday video break: Minnie The Moocher

From the movie The Cotton Club, it’s Cab Calloway’s greatest hit:

I saw that movie in the theater back in the day – it was kind of mediocre, but the soundtrack is killer. I’ve owned it on vinyl and on CD, and of course now it’s been ripped to MP3. I suppose I should watch the movie again some day – it has a great cast, including a very young Diane Lane. I see that Siskel and Ebert both loved the movie, so maybe I’m wrong about its merits. I just know I thought it was meh at the time.

Now here’s a live version from Big Bad Voodoo Daddy:

Man, I love the sound of a muted trumpet. I’m pretty sure the soloist in this video had a straight mute as well as the cup mute you see going. I also like that they have a different verse in this song. What’s your favorite version of this tune?

Saturday video break: Meant To Be

Remember the Squirrel Nut Zippers?

I remember them well, and I wish they had made more CDs. I’ve been a fan of various forms of swing/jazz/ragtime music since my earliest exposure to jazz band in school. Of the bands that rode the swing revival wave of the 90s, the SNZs were my favorites. Turns out some form of the Zippers played a free outdoors concert in Houston last night, but I was unable to make it.

That song is of course called “Meant To Be”. A song by that same name provided a critical plot point in Disney’s Teen Beach Movie, a more-fun-than-it-had-any-right-to-be mashup of West Side Story, Back To The Future, Grease, and, well, teen beach movies.

Long story short, the girl with pigtails and the blond boy need the girl in the red polka dot dress and the boy with the guitar to be the “meant to be” in question. Watch the movie for yourself if you want to know more – it ain’t Shakespeare, but I’ve watched way worse. There was of course a Teen Beach Movie 2, which believe it or not generated some controversy in how it ended. It also generated this reprise of that song:

No word yet if Teen Beach Movie 3 will be a thing that happens or not.

Saturday video break: Mah Na Mah Na

There are many ways to spell that, but we all know the words. Sing along with the Asylum Street Spankers:

Very sad there’s no live video recording of that, it was always a blast to watch them perform it. With the title rendered as two words and not four, here’s CAKE:

Yes, I know, the video is a clip from Who Framed Roger Rabbit?. I guess the band never made their own video for this.

Of course, the version everyone knows if from The Muppet Show, imported from Sesame Street:

The original version of the song, by Piero Umilani, is from a movie Sweden: Heaven and Hell (Svezia, inferno e paradiso).

If your first thought was like mine, that you expected a Benny Hill sketch to break out as you were watching that, then the song’s history should be easily comprehensible.

Saturday video break: Lady Luck

A couple of newer songs from my collection. The first one called “Lady Luck” is by Pickwick, featuring Sharon van Etten:

That’s from a South by Southwest sampler I got via Paste magazine. Don’t ask me how I came to be offered some of these samplers, the original impetus for them is lost to the mists of time. Another song called “Lady Luck” is from an actual CD collection of Texas music, by Dean Seltzer:

Again, I don’t recall where the original CD came from, but I’m glad I have it. And because I feel like it, here’s my favorite personification of the concept of luck:

I know that everyone associates that song with Frank Sinatra, but it was Marlon Brando who had it in the movie. Luck if you ever were a lacy to begin with, luck be a lady tonight.

Friday random ten – To the stars

Because Audrey got to watch “Star Trek: Into Darkness” and “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” with us last December, that’s why.

1. Science Fiction/Double Feature – from “Rocky Horror Picture Show”
2. Enterprise-Sulu Medley – Hi-Fidelity
3. The Saga Begins – Weird Al Yankovic
4. Star Wars – Moosebutter
5. Star Wars Medley – Lager Rhythms
6. Starships – Pentatonix
7. Beam Me Up, Scotty – Feo y Loco
8. UFO Attack – Asylum Street Spankers
9. Space Oddity – David Bowie
10. Mean Green Mother From Outer Space – Audrey II

She asked when the next Star Trek movie would be out as soon as the credits were rolling (it showed on TV and I grabbed it for the TiVo). Thankfully, the answer to that is “July 22”, which happens to be exactly one week after the “Ghostbusters” reboot that both of my girls are super excited about. It’s going to be a good summer.

Saturday video break: I Wanna Be Like You

A Disney classic, sung by “King Louie” Prima in The Jungle Book, here’s Los Lobos:

That’s from a live morning-show TV appearance; skip ahead to about 1:30 to get past the talk. This is a different rendition than what they did on the seminal Stay Awake album of diverse Disney covers – you can hear that version here if you want. I consider that to be the canonical cover, and you can hear their influence in Big Bad Voodoo Daddy’s version:

Still a great rendition, with smoking horn work, but I favor Los Lobos. What’s your preference?

Saturday video break: The State of New York concedes the existence of Santa Claus

A climactic scene from one of my favorite movies of all time:

That is of course the one true version of Miracle on 34th Street, the original 1947 version. I do not speak of the 1994 remake, but I will concede that this is a movie that really could be reimagined in a contemporary light. I mean, my kids have never written a letter to Santa Claus. I’d bet most kids from the last ten or twenty years have never written letters to Santa. You can’t have that scene without actual by-God on-paper delivered-by-the-USPS letters to Santa. How would you do a scene where the judge is finally convinced that this is the One True Santa? I don’t know that there’s a similar authority that could be invoked today like the USPS was in 1947. How would you do it?

Saturday video break: I Can’t Turn You Loose

Ladies and gentlemen, let’s welcome Joliet Jake and Elwood Blues:

I couldn’t find the clip from the movie for that, but we can all picture it, I’m sure. That was an Otis Redding song. Have you ever heard his original version of it?

Who knew that had words, right? I don’t have Redding’s original version, but I do have a pretty faithful cover by Was (Not Was):

The recording I have is a little longer and doesn’t end as abruptly, but it’s as energetic as that one. I feel turned loose, how about you?

Friday random ten: Revisiting the Rolling Stone 500 Greatest Songs list, part 13

Here’s their list.

1. Papa Was A Rolling Stone – The Temptations (#169; also a cover by Andrew Rothman)
2. Let’s Get It On – Marvin Gaye (#168)
3. Fast Car – Tracy Chapman (#167)
4. Bohemian Rhapsody – Queen (#166)
5. Nothing Compares 2 U – Sinead O’Connor (#165)
6. I Can’t Stop Loving You – Ray Charles (#164; also versions by Frank Sinatra with Count Basie, and the MOB)
7. Rock Around The Clock – Bill Haley and The Comets (#159)
8. The Sounds of Silence – Simon and Garfunkel (#157)
9. Proud Mary – Creedence Clearwater Revival (#156; also covers by Ike & Tina Turner, and the MOB)
10. A Hard Day’s Night – The Beatles (#154)

Song I don’t have but should: “Folsom Prison Blues”, Johnny Cash (#163). I don’t need to explain this, do I?
Song I will always associate with Bill Clinton and Arsenio Hall: “I Only Have Eyes For You”, The Flamingos (#158). Remember when then-candidate Bill Clinton played his tenor sax on the Arsenio Hall Show? This was the song he played. I always thought that was an, um, interesting choice on his part.

Am I the only person who thinks “Papa Was A Rolling Stone” sounds more like a Sly and the Family Stone song than a Temptations song? And wow, are there a lot of songs in this group that were in movies: High Fidelity (“Let’s Get It On”, done by Jack Black); Wayne’s World (“Bohemian Rhapsody”); American Graffiti (“Rock Around The Clock”); The Graduate (“The Sounds of Silence”); A Hard Day’s Night (guess).

Saturday video break: Groove Me

One of the great cover bands of our time, the Blues Brothers:

It’s been over 33 years since John Belushi died. Every now and then I wonder what kind of career he would have had if he had managed to tame his demons enough to survive them. He was amazingly talented, but he’d entered that “not quite sure what to do next” phase of his life, and who knows how that might have gone. What a terrible, tragic loss.

Here’s the original version of that song:

If you knew without looking it up that it was done by King Floyd, give yourself a pat on the back.

(Yeah, I know, I got out of order again. This is what happens when I do these that far in advance. Next week will be out of order too, so be prepared to cope.)

Saturday video break: A real live nephew of my Uncle Sam

Taking a break from cover songs for a good, patriotic reason today:

I’d love to see a modern take on that. Imagine Jay-Z interpreting and re-choreographing Jimmy Cagney’s song and dance above. Or Bruno Mars, or Justin Timberlake, or maybe even Katy Perry, if someone can figure out how to make “a real live niece of my Uncle Sam” work lyrically. They’d need to find a way to work Left Shark and his dance partner into the chorus, that much I know. What do you think? Happy Fourth of July!

Adickes documentary

I’d watch that.

Recently local video production company The Storyhive announced details of an upcoming documentary about Houston artist and sculptor David Adickes, the man behind many of the large-scale public art pieces dotting the Bayou City area.

The film, titled “Monumental,” will chronicle Adickes who at the age of 88 is still exercising his creative muscles daily. The film has been in production for three years now, according to the producers.

They shot footage with him in Huntsville at his old high school, which he turned into the Adickes Art Foundation Museum in 2012. They just recently spent a day with him at his house in the Montrose area as he created a mock-up for a statue of an astronaut for a project he’s currently an integral part of.

It could one day be the second-tallest statue in the United States, right behind the Statue of Liberty in New York City, if the project is completed as planned.

“He’s talking about his entire life in the film and the production will focus on his life in Houston after he returned from Europe mostly,” says The Storyhive’s Jena Moreno. The film only has a crew of three people.

Here’s the Facebook page for the project. If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you know I’m a big fan of Adickes’. The film is aiming for a 2016 release, and I intend to be at a screening. I’m so glad someone is doing this.

Saturday video break: The Rainbow Connection

Going out of order, inspired by a Facebook post by my friend Andy, here’s a classic song with a particular resonance for this week:

From the original “Muppet Movie” of 1979, which I need to find on DVD and make my kids watch. I do have this song in my library, though I don’t have any covers of it. Searching around YouTube, here’s one I might like by the Dixie Chicks:

And because I’m a sucker for a capella, here are the Yale Whiffenpoofs:

No, I don’t know what’s up with the guy dressed as Mr. Incredible. Just roll with it. It seems appropriate for this weekend, don’t you think?

Friday random ten: Sum sum summertime

After all the rain we’ve had here, we haven’t had any opportunities yet to complain about the heat. I suspect that’s about to end.

1. All Summer Long – The Beach Boys
2. Cruel Summer – Bananarama
3. Dirty Summer – Mother Falcon
4. In Summer – from “Frozen”
5. Our Last Summer – from “Mamma Mia”
6. Summer Song – Joe Satriani
7. Summer, Highland Falls – Billy Joel
8. Summertime – The MOB
9. Summertime Blues – Joan Jett & The Blackhearts
10. You Took The Words Right Out Of My Mouth (Hot Summer Night) – Meat Loaf

I bet it wouldn’t take long to come up with a random ten list of movies with “summer” in the title. “Summer of ’42“. “Summer School“. “I Know What You Did Last Summer“. You take it from there.

Saturday video break: Cherry Bomb

It’s time for another edition of Same Name, Different Song. Today’s song “Cherry Bomb” is fairly well known in either rendition, though I’d venture to guess that the John Mellencamp version has been on the radio a lot more.

I had Mellencamp’s album “Scarecrow” on vinyl (still have it, I believe), and “Lonesome Jubilee”, from whence this song came, on CD. Tiffany was the big Mellencamp fan in our house – she had all his CDs from “Lonesome Jubilee” forward. We saw him play at the Woodlands Pavilion some 15 years ago, and it was a great show. I don’t know if he’s still touring these days, but if he were to come to Houston again I feel reasonably sure we’d get tickets.

The other song by this name was by The Runaways:

Yeah, no question about these two songs being different. This one was in at least two movies, “Dazed and Confused” and of course “The Runaways”. Maybe not a radio staple, but it got plenty of exposure.

“The luckiest man on the face of the earth”

Seventy-five years ago today, Yankees great Lou Gehrig said farewell to baseball and the fans at Yankee Stadium with one of the most memorable speeches of sports history. Here’s an old newsreel of Gehrig’s career and a clip from his farewell speech, on July 4, 1939.

Sports On Earth has the full text of Gehrig’s speech, and a comparison to the version from Pride of the Yankees. They’re paying tribute to the Iron Horse today at Yankee Stadium. Lou Gehrig died of the disease that bears his name in 1941, but his memory endures. Happy Fourth of July, everyone.

Saturday video break: Cups

Cup-stacking is a thing with the kids these days, and this song from “Pitch Perfect” is the soundtrack for it (music starts about 1:28).

David Letterman was quite impressed by Anna Kendrick’s cup percussion ability:

As someone who finds it hard enough to do one musical thing at a time, color me impressed as well.

Saturday video break: “Baby clothes. This place has got everything!”

A shot-by-shot LEGO remake of the mall chase scene from The Blues Brothers:

How awesome, not to mention OCD, is that? Here’s the side-by-side comparison:

And the “making of” video:

All done by the folks at Bricktease. I am in awe. Via Consumerist.

Friday random ten: Five, six, seven, eight…

So tomorrow the Rice Owls will play the Marshall Thundering Herd at Historic Rice Stadium in the Conference USA championship game (noon EST, 11 AM CST, ESPN2, check local listings), and I’ll be there in the stands with the Rice MOB, freezing my embouchure off. In any event, to honor the occasion and to hopefully avoid angering the weauxf gods, here are ten songs from my collection for which the MOB has an arrangement. Odds are you’ll hear a couple of these if you tune in or attend in person.

1. I Can’t Turn You Loose – Was (Not Was)
2. Vehicle – Ides of March
3. Love Shack – The B-52’s
4. Hit The Road, Jack – Ray Charles
5. Pipeline – The Ventures
6. Everybody’s Everything – Santana
7. YMCA – The Village People
8. Money For Nothing – Dire Straits
9. You Can Call Me Al – Paul Simon
10. We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together – Taylor Swift

That latter one was my contribution to the script for the U of H show, since our parting of conference ways may mean it’s a long time before we face off on the gridiron again. Our director Chuck Throckmorton arranged it as a medley with Neil Sedaka’s “Breaking Up Is Hard To Do”. Believe it or not, I don’t actually have a copy of The Kingsmen’s version of “Louie, Louie”, which is the MOB’s calling card. If you’ve ever seen the movie “The Naked Gun: From The Files of Police Squad”, in that scene with the USC Marching Band at Dodger Stadium, it’s the MOB version of “Louie, Louie” that you’re hearing. We play it after every touchdown, so I hope we’re all sick of hearing it by the end of the game. Go Rice!

Saturday video break: Try A Little Tenderness

Song #64 on the Popdose Top 100 Covers list is “Try A Little Tenderness”, originally by Bing Crosby and covered by everybody in the galaxy but for these purposes by Otis Redding. Here’s Der Bingle:

Oh, that voice. Makes you want to go lay a pile of eggs, doesn’t it? Such a shame being a great talent doesn’t make one a great human being. Anyway, here’s Otis Redding:

Another monumental talent, and the polar opposite stylistically. As with Karen Carpenter, and sadly many other artists on this list, you have to wonder what might have been had his life not been cut so tragically short.

Like I said, there’s about a zillion versions of this song. I’m partial to the one from “The Commitments”:

What’s your favorite?

Alamo Drafthouse coming inside the Loop

Woo hoo!

I am so thrilled to announce that we’re getting two new Alamo Drafthouse locations in Houston! I love living in Houston and I love the Alamo theaters here, and the expansion of the company in this wonderful city is nothing but great news. Northwest Houston is getting a theater, and we’re finally getting that long-coveted inner loop location. It’s a great spot, convenient to downtown, Midtown, museum district, Rice and Montrose and with plenty of room for a beautiful, spacious theater. You guys: this is HUGE!
From the press release:

(HOUSTON, Texas, May 30, 2012) – Triple Tap Ventures LLC, owner and operator of the Houston area Alamo Drafthouse Cinema locations in West Oaks Mall and on Mason Road in Katy, Texas, is pleased to announce it will bring two new Alamo Drafthouse Cinema locations to Houston in 2013.

[…]

The second new Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, scheduled to open after Vintage Park, is a highly anticipated inner-loop location, which will be centrally accessible and located in Houston’s bustling Midtown area. Alamo Drafthouse Cinema – Midtown will be located at 2901 Louisiana Street as part of a mixed-use project developed by Crosspoint Properties and, like Alamo Drafthouse Cinema – Vintage Park, will offer state-of-the-art auditoriums featuring 100 percent digital projection and sound as well as an expansive and inviting lobby bar which will be visible from Milam Street and boast panoramic views of Houston’s impressive downtown skyline. In addition, there will be a ground floor lobby entrance leading up to the theatre, which will be located on top of a three floor parking garage.

“We are thrilled and excited to be announcing the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema – Midtown and to have the opportunity to bring our unique experience to our existing inner-loop customers as well as introduce the Alamo brand to a new audience,” Michaelsen states. “The Alamo Drafthouse Cinema – Midtown will no doubt be the epicenter for movie going entertainment for the 700,000 plus residents living within 15 minutes of the new theater and a must-visit destination for those located around the Houston area. We greatly appreciate our strong relationships with inner-loop organizations such as Aurora Picture Show, the Downtown Management District, Market Square Park, the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, Whole Foods and many more, and look forward to creating new partnerships with our Midtown neighbors.”

I am over the moon at having this theater nearby. There’s a map of the location at the Chron’s Newswatch blog, and if you zoom and and switch to street view, you can see they’ll be using the space now occupied by some abandoned building. Alternately, you can look at the photos on Swamplot for more. Oh, and they’re a few blocks away from the McGowan light rail stop. Awesomeness all around. Via InnerLooped.

Saturday video break: Hallelujah

Song #72 on the Popdose Top 100 Covers list is “Hallelujah”, originally by Leonard Cohen and covered by everyone on the planet many artists, in this case Rufus Wainwright. Here’s the original:

That’s probably not the version you’re most familiar with; Jeff Buckley’s cover version, which was really covering John Cale’s version of the song, is the template that everyone uses these days. (Here’s that discussion of the song’s evolution I’ve linked to before; it’s always worth a read.) There are so many versions out there that Cohen himself called for a moratorium on new covers a few years back. I doubt that’ll stop anyone. Here’s the Wainwright version:

Yes, this is the version that was in “Shrek”, in the scene just before Dustin Hoffman Shrek interrupts Fiona’s wedding to Lord Farquaad. If you don’t like this version, there’s plenty more where that came from. And yes, this song will reappear later in the list. What’s your favorite version?

Supreme Court keeps beaches closed

Phooey.

Affirming the private-property rights of shoreline landowners, the Texas Supreme Court ruled Friday that the public’s right of access to state beaches cannot be guaranteed when hurricanes or storms reshape the coast.

The sharply divided ruling will limit the state’s ability to enforce the Open Beaches Act, a 53-year-old law that had been used to force landowners to raze or move structures that intrude on the public right of way because of storm erosion.

Writing for the 5-3 majority, Justice Dale Wainwright said the easement that preserves public access to Gulf of Mexico beaches cannot suddenly jump many feet inland after a storm, encroaching on private property where no easement previously existed.

“On one hand, the public has an important interest in the enjoyment of the public beaches. But on the other hand, the right to exclude others from privately owned realty is among the most valuable and fundamental of rights possessed by private property owners,” Wainwright wrote.

[…]

Public land, owned by the state, runs from the high tide mark to the water and is known as the “wet beach.” Friday’s ruling did not change this concept.

Instead, the ruling focused on the “dry beach,” which runs from the high tide mark to the vegetation line and may be privately owned.

Under the Open Beaches Act, the dry beach also is typically subject to an easement that keeps it open to the public.

[…]

In its ruling, the Supreme Court acknowledged that the public beach easement can subtly shift to follow natural patterns of erosion. It cannot, however, jump to encompass previously private property after a storm, the court said.

Remember the Christopher Reeves Superman movie? Lex Luthor buys up a bunch of seemingly worthless land in the middle of the desert in California, then hatches a plot to detonate a nuke in the San Andreas Fault, thus causing a massive earthquake that results in most of the coastline to fall into the ocean and turn his desert wasteland into valuable beachfront property? Basically, on two separate occasions, the Supreme Court of Texas has sided with Lex Luthor. That’s what this comes down to. Forrest Wilder has more.

Stephen Klineberg, superstar

I want to see this.

Dr. Stephen Klineberg

David Thompson and his colleagues at ttweak are best-known for their work on the quirky “Houston – It’s Worth It” campaign, paying homage to the yawning potholes, soul-sapping humidity and all the other things that help to define the sprawling city.

But they may have found the quintessential symbol of Houston in the star of their new film, “Interesting Times: Tracking Houston’s Transformations Through 30 Years of Surveys.”

Since 1982, Rice University sociologist Stephen Klineberg has followed the city’s economic fortunes, changing demographics and enduring belief that Houston is a better place to live than almost anywhere else.

His basic pitch after decades of study: “We are the most ethnically diverse city in the nation, a city reinventing itself for the 21st Century.”

He argues that Houston’s future depends upon raising the education levels of its growing Latino population, as well as improving parks and other urban amenities to attract knowledge workers and innovators who could live anywhere.

The film premiered earlier this week at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. It’s a 30-minute sweep of skyline, streetscapes, archival footage and bits of data from the surveys.

Mostly, it shows the 71-year-old Klineberg, alone on stage in an empty auditorium at Rice, barely containing his enthusiasm as he talks about his life’s work.

I can’t find anything on this on the MFAH films page, but this will be shown at Discovery Green on April 27 after the 2012 Houston Area Survey is released. In light of recent news, I hope they’ve asked questions about attitudes towards marriage equality. No matter the case, the HAS is another great thing about Houston, and Klineberg deserves the accolades.