February 29, 2008

Lincoln Theater Center

ghost of lincoln theater sign
The Lincoln Theater Center in Lufkin, Texas, was an Art Deco style building built in the late '40s as a single-screen theater. It was made for African-Americans to be able to attend a theater and watch movies starring African-Americans. The seating was designed for 350 to 400 people, and the complex included a barber shop and a newspaper stand.

lincoln theater center
A preservation project began this past Monday night with the showing of black and white movies (the movies were shown at the Museum of East Texas) starring all African-American casts. Stormy Weather (1943) was one of the films shown.
lincoln theater

Lena Horne performing the title song to Stormy Weather

The Love Guru trailer

I love Mike Myers. The soul of Peter Sellers must be somewhere within him. And he is still attached to the Keith Moon biopic, now titled See Me Feel Me: Keith Moon Naked for Your Pleasure. That should be interesting. It looks like he has managed to make another Austin Powers movie (I love those too) without actually making an Austin Powers movie.....Watch this trailer to see what I mean:

The Pitka character seems like a variation on the Goldmember theme. And it could be extemely silly, but what the world needs now is silliness, sweet silliness. Not exactly highbrow perhaps, but it looks like it could be fun, with several hilarious scenes. We'll see!

February 28, 2008

"Big Yellow Taxi"

Ladies of the Canyon (1970)

From the Wikipedia entry:

"Big Yellow Taxi" is a song originally written and performed by Joni Mitchell.

Mitchell got the idea for the song during a visit to Hawaii. She looked out of her hotel window at the spectacular Pacific mountain scenery, and then down to a parking lot.

Joni said this about writing the song:

"Living in Los Angeles, smog-choked L.A. is bad enough but the last straw came when I visited Hawaii for the first time. It was night time when we got there, so I didn't get my first view of the scenery until I got up the next morning. The hotel room was quite high up so in the distance I could see the blue Pacific Ocean. I walked over to the balcony and there was the picture book scenery, palm tree swaying in the breeze and all. Then I looked down and there was this ugly concrete car park in the hotel grounds. I thought 'They paved paradise and put up a parking lot' and that's how the song 'Big Yellow Taxi' was born."

The song was first put out as a single and then was put on the album Ladies of the Canyon in 1970; a later live version was released in 1975 and reached #24 on the U.S. charts. In 2005, it was voted #9 on Canadian Broadcast Company's list of the top 50 essential Canadian tracks.

pic from laurelcanyonthebook.com

Appearing to contradict the visit to Hawaii as having been the song's inspiration, author Rosemary Lord writes on page 91 of Hollywood Then and Now: "Joni Mitchell wrote a song, 'Big Yellow Taxi,' in which she sang about paving paradise and putting up a parking lot. She was referring to the Garden of Allah, which was sold to Lytton Savings and Loan in 1950. They demolished the colorful playground and built the parking lot mentioned in the song." This site describes the Garden of Allah as having been at "the mouth of Laurel Canyon," so the fact that Joni Mitchell spent time in and around Laurel Canyon would lend some credence to the Garden of Allah theory. Perhaps both are correct.

February 27, 2008

"Luck Be a Lady"

"Luck Be a Lady" was written by Frank Loesser for the musical Guys and Dolls. The musical opened at the 46th Street Theatre on November 24, 1950. It eventually became the fifth longest-running Broadway musical of the '50s.
In a classic, hilarious example of miscasting, Marlon Brando (portraying Sky Masterson) "sang" the song in the 1955 film version. Frank Sinatra, cast as Nathan Detroit in the same film, took to calling Brando "Mumbles" during and after filming. Now, why would he have done that?....

Later, it became a signature song for Sinatra, first released on the album Reprise Musical Repertory Theatre. One of the best recorded live versions he did that I'm aware of was for the 1966 TV special, Frank Sinatra: A Man and His Music Part II. This is live television, with Nelson Riddle conducting. Frank (and orchestra) really tear it up(!):


February 26, 2008

Scenes along Texas State Highway 237

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tijuana taxi
Parked outside Royer's Round Top Cafe in Round Top on Saturday.

tijuana taxi starboard

Heading out of Round Top:
looking down 237, outside round top
replica of saxony home
replica of saxony home historical plaque
house off of tx-237

Right outside of Warrenton:
house outside of warrenton
abandoned near warrenton
William Christenberry perspective

Between Reutersville and Oldenburg:
mansion on the hill
abandoned house between oldenburg and reutersville
William Christenberry perspective

In the few yards of land along 237 known as Oldenburg:
"pay, I say, pay attention, boy!"
former gas station in oldenburg
oldenburg, texas, history marker

February 25, 2008

What's the most you ever lost on a coin toss?

Lacking both the time and the inspiration for a Monday morning post, let me repost this from December 22, in honor of No Country for Old Men essentially sweeping the Oscars (all but for its cinematography):

Here is the Charlie Rose show on which he discussed No Country for Old Men with Joel and Ethan Coen, Javier Bardem, and Josh Brolin. I've seen it twice thrice in the theaters, and I think it's a damn fine film. There are moments of pure suspense - the type Alfred Hitchcock used to do (think of the scene in Rear Window when Jimmy Stewart watches as Grace Kelly is being attacked by Raymond Burr). The video:

Here's the film's trailer:

It's odd how the official movie site and the trailer both use music, yet there wasn't a bit of it in the actual film. I expected there would be a soundtrack similar to something like the one used in Fargo (1996). Music is generally such a big part of many Coen films, like Raising Arizona (1987) or The Big Lebowski (1998). But other than during a couple of the most intense moments of suspense, there is absolutely no musical soundtrack. In fact, I wouldn't describe what was used as "music" as much as I would categorize it as "ambient sound." It's one of the things which makes it such a unique film experience.

Still, I had questions about the plot, so I'm reading the novel by Cormac McCarthy. I find McCarthy's not using quotation marks during character dialog to be extremely annoying. And isn't that I'm not up to the challenge of deciphering when the character's are speaking or not - I made it through (and understood) Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury and Absalom, Absalom!. I had planned to delve into McCarthy's novels, but I'm afraid he's lost me with that style. It just seems so unnecessary of a thing for him to do.

  • Here are the pictures from my visit to Eagle Pass
  • February 22, 2008

    The Blue Bonnet Court

    I've been looking forward to taking pictures of this one for a while! I actually had a dream about it. From the Wikipedia entry:

    other side of blue bonnet court
    The Blue Bonnet Court, originally called the Bluebonnet Tourist Camp, is a historic motor court-style motel in north-central Austin, Texas. Built in 1928-1929 by Joe and Elizabeth Lucas, the motel is situated on the northwestern corner of the Hyde Park subdivision along what was then the main road out of town. In the 1930s it featured Austin's first neon sign, which still hangs from the front (though in a dilapidated condition).

    austin's first neon sign!
    Blue Bonnet Court features a stone wall in front with 11 basic rooms and attached covered parking. The rooms are rented today as efficiency apartments.

    looking up at blue bonnet court sign
    The motel is located at 4407 Guadalupe Street. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1990.

    side view of the blue bonnet court

    February 21, 2008

    "In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning"

    I can't believe I've not done a post about this one, yet:

    "In the Wee Small Hours" was written by David Mann, with lyrics by Bob Hilliard. The song was recorded by Frank Sinatra on February 17, 1955, and is the opening track on the album so good, it hurts -- In the Wee Small Hours.

    Ranking it #100 out of its list of the 500 greatest albums of all time, Rolling Stone said about the album from which the song came:

    In the Wee Small Hours, the first collection of songs Sinatra recorded specifically for an LP, sustains a midnight mood of loneliness and lost love -- it's a prototypical concept album. From the title track, brought in on the bell tones of a celesta, through a trenchant recast of "This Love of Mine," a hit from his Tommy Dorsey days, Sinatra -- reeling from his breakup with Ava Gardner - is never less than superb. His voice rarely hits the same downbeat as his languorous rhythm section, yet they're locked in a fluid step. Put your ear close to the speaker and you can hear the soft intake of his breath.

    February 20, 2008

    "No Stairway!" policy temporarily waived

    Post inspiration from CollegeHumor, via cityrag (brought to you today by TigerDirect.com.....grrr...)

    I've said it before, but I believe Matt Stone and Trey Parker from South Park are the closest thing to a social satirist such as Jonathan Swift we have today. Many people are unable to see past the vulgarity and crudeness of some of the humor, but the biting, dead-accurate social critique is always there. A great example from the past season is in the episode titled "Guitar Queer-o," wherein they point out an intrinsic problem with the super popular (understandably so) Guitar Hero video game series. The problem is that all of the time and effort put into mastering the game could be time and effort invested in actually learning to play a real guitar, or any instrument, for that matter. Particularly in the case of teens and pre-teens, it's such a shame, and quite frankly, a waste.

    I feel so fortunate to have grown up in the 80s when there wasn't really such a thing (and if there had been, my parents would not have spoiled me by buying it anyway; I wasn't even allowed TV in my room). Had there been, I might not have learned to play guitar - a skill I still enjoy, some twenty-five years later. How many kids playing Guitar Hero today will be able to say that about their Guitar Hero "skills" twenty-five years from now? How about zero?

    This boy's parents have done him such a huge favor (for one thing, he'll never lack a girlfriend, if my experience was typical):

    Has some group done a cover version of "Stairway to Heaven"? How idiotic is that?? It sure doesn't sound like Led Zeppelin in a couple of places! The kid is certainly playing the Jimmy Page parts note for note, though.

    February 19, 2008

    Giant (1956)

    A Texas-sized post:

    Despite its length (over three hours), I've always loved Giant. It's such a quintessentially Texas American movie. But for me (and others), it's all about James Dean. This poster:

    graced the wall of my dorm room my freshmen year at college. The film Cool Hand Luke was considered by members of my frat to be "our movie," but I always felt it should be Giant. Anytime I wear cowboy boots (even today), I think about Jett Rink/James Dean.

    The trailer:

    From the Wikipedia entry:

    Giant is a 1956 drama film and was directed by George Stevens. The movie was adapted by Fred Guiol and Ivan Moffat from the novel by Edna Ferber. It stars Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson, James Dean, Carroll Baker, Jane Withers, Chill Wills, Mercedes McCambridge, Dennis Hopper, Sal Mineo, Rod Taylor and Earl Holliman. Giant was the last of James Dean's three films as a leading actor. The film earned James Dean his second and last Academy Award nomination, of three starring roles. He died before Giant was released. Nick Adams was called in to do some voice-over dubbing for Dean's role.

    These are some of the more "striking" images created and captured by director George Stevens and his cinematographer William C. Mellor (with occasional description):

    title screen
    bick benedict arrives in maryland
    Bick Benedict arrives by train in Maryland. Note Reata logo.

    breakfast in maryland
    a Maryland breakfast

    train back to texas
    the Benedict/Reata train car logo

    two for texas
    two for Texas

    benedict brand

    back in texas
    Welcome to Marfa!

    driving to reata
    approaching reata
    George Stevens is said to have taken Rock Hudson out to this set just prior to the beginning of shooting, and asked the actor what color he wanted the house to be painted.
    first close look at rink
    The first good look at Dean in his last role.

    breakfast in texas
    a Texas breakfast (may contain cholesterol)

    rink watching welcoming party for leslie
    a real texian now
    Leslie - a "real Texian now"

    rink waiting to give leslie a ride
    hollywood sound stage
    back in Hollywood

    mexican village
    Mexican village near Reata

    riderless horse
    leslie's riding pants
    Several years ago, a girlfriend I "forced" to watch this with me (for no doubt a second or third time) noticed a detail about Elizabeth Taylor's riding pants in this scene I had somehow overlooked.
    pile of hats
    jett keeps the land
    Jett Rink chooses land over $200

    rink walking off his property lines
    Rink walking off his property lines

    king of all he surveys
    morning in reata
    Dean strikes a "messianic" pose

    james dean
    flying the flag at reata
    richer than all y'all stinkin' sons of benendicts
    "I'm a richie... I'm a rich boy. Me, I'm gonna have more money than you ever thought you could have!! You and all a them stinkin' sons of Benedicts!"

    name change
    way of the future
    cattle rancher meets oilman

    a self-made man - Edna Ferber, of course, based Rink on Houstonian Glenn McCarthy. As Rink ages, Dean sort of fades out and away...

    rink and derricks
    Due to his shaved back hairline, Dean was initially thought to be a much older man at the time of his death.

    rink parks outside club seven
    sal mineo
    Sal Mineo

    a big hat to fill
    Dennis Hopper, along with Sal Mineo, appeared with Dean in Rebel Without a Cause (1955).
    dennis hopper
    post-oil reata
    An "aged" Elizabeth Taylor with a post-oil Reata in the background.

    obregon obit
    final stop
    home again
    reata chapel
    formal opening invite
    invitation to a hotel opening

    come fly with me
    this then is texas
    parade for Jett Rink

    rink on parade
    too fast to live, too young to die
    As Jett Rink, Dean didn't even get the last word. What is sometimes called the "last supper" speech had to be later dubbed in by Nick Adams (also in Rebel Without a Cause):

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