This week kicks off the summertime season. Or actually, it kicks off the unofficial summertime season. The summer solstice, if one desires to be accurate about it, doesn’t officially begin until June 21st according to this writer’s paper calendar provided as a “free will gift” from the Boys & Girls Town of America as founded by Father Flanagan, or at lease as depicted in that classic MGM feature Boy’s Town. (Catch this pic on Turner Classic Movies whenever they next schedule it!)
This week (or the previous weekend) is the time where folks start off on their summertime antics, from hosting a traditional BBQ, to taking a getaway to the woods, beach, or desert. (This last choice is listed assuming one lives near a comfortable vehicle driving range from a desert!) Perhaps it’s the time to take it easy by catching the first (maybe second) wave of movies hitting the multiplexes that feature the usually blend of over laden special effects, or other type of subject matter that appeals to a rather larger audience. Or even still, it just might be the weekend were one remembers those serving in the military that didn’t necessarily return from the battlefields of the world to later recall their stories and tales of what occurred “over there”!
But summer is the period where the weather is warm(er), the sun shines (most of the time), and where the ACs tend to be cranked up. In other words and phrases, it’s the period where everything is normal–or it’s suppose to be!
Since this news service tends to write on the media based landscape, this writer will incorporate some of the notions linked to this time of year and what the media does to reflect this period on the calendar where the sun is as closest to this part of the world–the northern hemisphere. And those those reading this news service from places such as Australia, you folks already has your summer fun a few months ago while we folks on this part of the world were either freezing our a$$es off, or were going through other periods of weather stuff. In California, we folks were drenched with a lot of rain, along with mudslides thanks to the wildfires of November, as well as the springing wildflowers that bloomed in March. But this article isn’t about weather reports. It’s about what one does when the summer is fun, so let’s proceed!
We have written before about the times when people were actually getting out of the house to take advantage in summer activities rather than staying home and watching TV. The three TV networks that dominated the domestic landscape way before such media as cable television (or CATV as it’s known in the industry) became the industry standard, somehow knew that not as many eyes would be viewing their content between early June well into the Labor Day weekend. Thus, many of the programs that ran during their prime time hours, between 7:30 PM to 11:00 PM eastern and pacific time zones, and 6:30 through 10:00 PM central/mountain time, mostly consisted of reruns or programs running for a while, or shows that had built-in short schedules. These kind of shorter run programs were called “Summer Replacements”–programs that were scheduled in place for another program that ran on its time slot due to the previous program taking a “summer vacation” until the fall, or for a title to never return until a new bright and shiny program would fill the time slot.
These summer shows tend to be of the throwaway variety. They were amusing for what they were but nothing too special. The kind of shows airing consisted of musical variety program that featured lesser known talent (cheaper to book,no doubt) that did well in what they did, but were far from being actual can’t-miss TV stars,. Or they were reruns of older shows not seen in a while, only to make a final comeback before dropping out into obscurity, or an anthology of programs that were ordered by the networks as possible new programs only to be later rejected. These shows called “pilots” ranged from comedy, drama, and points in between. Since the networks paid for the production costs for these single episode titles created to be seen later by the program muckety-mucks, they might as well pay off the expenses placed by selling ad time to recoup the losses. These shows were called in the business as “Garbage Can Theater”, meaning the TV audience can view what the “big three” tossed into their trash heaps.
And if TV wasn’t one’s thing, there were the movie theaters to entertain the masses. For many years, the studios didn’t think too much for the summertime with the assumption that regular movie goers were rather be basking in the warm weather rather than spending their time in a movie house that may host air conditioning or not!
Of course, that all changed when in 1975, Universal Pictures released a film version of Peter Benchley’s best selling novel “Jaws”, about a shark that threatens an ocean side community in New England and the team of brave souls that risk their lives into capturing this beast. This feature film of the same name because the first modern blockbuster in moviedom. Since that time some forty plus years ago, the movie industry never became the same again. Even leading up to the present time of now, every studio plans an entry of a film that is big, lavish, and to use a term quite trendy as “epic”, puts out a tile to please the masses. And never mind the fact that this so-called “summer season” began last April. Just as long as folks are willing to plunk down ten dollars and up to view a movie not seen on their big screen TV devices or their smaller screen phone things, Hollywood and its related sources will churn ‘em out! And yes, there are the so-called “indy” and “art” titles released at the same time, but those features are another league of their own.
So there you have it! Summertime wrapped up in a few hundred words. So whatever you do, be safe, be happy, and of course, be what you can be! You can bet your bottom dollar we will also keep the faith! But you already knew that!
NEWS AND REVIEWS
The Wallis Anneberg Center for the Performing Arts of Beverly Hills presents the return of Hershey Felder in HERSHEY FELDER: A PARIS LOVE STORY where he performs both in character and harmony, the story and music of the French composer Claude Debussy.
Hershey begins his presentation as he walks upon his stage as Hershey Felder, telling his audience on how he discovered this composer of music through a box set of classical records put out by The Reader’s Digest. One of the selections on the disk was Debussy’s “biggest hit”, Clair de lune. He began to learn the melody while starting off on his piano lesions as a child. His mother chose this tune as her favorite because the young Hershey played it too many times! This episode in Hershey’s musical background brings this character to life. Donning a long coat from the era (c. late 19th century) while sporting facial hair, Hershey (now Debussy) emotes upon the consciousness and color of Paris, blending these descriptions into his intimate life. These backtales notes upon a composer that wasn’t as gentle and mellow as many of his musical pieces place. He was a womanizer where he spent his affairs with females through various lengths of time, a few lasting a number of years. It wasn’t until his fifth lady friend, Emma, that stabilized him. Now with a daughter named Zou-zou, Debussy continued to express himself through many of the views he witnessed around him and placed these emotions into his musical works.
This latest showcase by Hershey Felder brings upon a new light to the music that is moody and hosts color that one can hear as much as “see”. It’s the form of melody where Hershey states is the kind that can one also feel less afraid. Hershey continues to note that it brought him into a personal peace when his own mother became ill for a length of time. Many of Debussy’s pieces are performed on a Steinway grand piano set upon the center of the stage where on both sides of the piano via stage left/right, a Parisian-style foot bridge extends. (Hershey also designed the stage set!) This bridge represents the community where Hershey once lived near when he was taking residency within The City of Lights.
To illustrate much of the music of Debussy as well as the life of the named composer, animated and static visuals are projected along the upper back stage wall as created by Christopher Ash, influenced within the style of the sketches of American artist James McNeill Whistler. (Whistler’s art had a profound effect on how Debussy would create his works through the shades of color that his paintings possessed.) But the entire show is focused upon Felder as Debussy, emoting all of the joy that his music gave to many of his admirers, both as music fans and through those that played and composed their pieces, many of them dwelling within the universe of jazz! (Did Debussy invent Jazz before Jazz was invented? Hershey confirms these facts!)
Trevor Hay, who has worked with Hershey in the recent past, takes upon the director’s spot that enhances the spoken and illustrated life and times of one of France’s profound contributions of music still heard around the globe.
Among the many musical celebrities that existed within the last 300 years (Franz List, Ludwig Von Beethoven, George Gershwin, etc.), Hershey states that Debussy is more of a personal choice just because his mother associated Clar de lune through her young son’s piano lesions of not so long ago.
So what is Hershey Felder’s next choice to emote through story and music? That show will be called Hershey Felder: Anna & Sergei, opening at The Wallis Anneberg on July 18th, 2020. Stay tuned!
HERSHEY FELDER: A PARIS LOVE STORY, performs at the Wallis Anneberg Center for the Performing Arts, 9390 North Santa Monica Blvd, Beverly Hills, through June 16th. Showtimes are Tuesday through Saturday nights at 7:30 PM, Sunday evenings at 7:00 PM (through June 9th) with matinee performances Saturday and Sunday at 2:00 PM. No performances on June 11th and 12th.
For ticket information, call (310) 746-4000, or via online at http://www.TheWallis.org/show-info.php?id=401
ALADDIN (Disney) stars Mena Massoud as the title character. Living in the middle eastern metropolis of Agrabah, he is a lowly street rat and lives off stealing valuables for resale or for its value. He is rather charming, but as a young adult aged orphan, he must do what he can to get himself out his poverished life while keeping his will to become a better person. While roaming the city’s massive bazar, he makes a chance encounter with a young woman named Jasmine (Naomi Scott), who tries to keep a low profile while at the marketplace. In reality, she is the daughter to Agrabah’s Sultan (Navid Negahban), a well respected city leader. Although Aladdin and Jasmine see a charm with one another, anything beyond that can’t be done since she is a princess and he is a low hung commoner living off the streets. But Aladdin, the cunning kid he is, somehow sneaks in the royal palace dressed as a servant to meet Jasmine. He’s caught by the guards, but is placed into service by making Aladdin enter a secret cave where jewels and valuables are kept by another kingdom. He’s ordered to fetch one item–an oil lamp. While Aladdin is trapped inside the cave, he rubs the lamp to conger a blue colored magic genie living inside. (Will Smith) The genie grants his new “master” three wishes. One of his wishes is to become a prince where he can meet with his new fondness.
This (somewhat) live action feature film that is part of a series of movies that The Walt Disney Company is presenting based on its roster of animated titles, adapts the 1992 cartoon release of the same name that is itself adapted from the old tales of the Arabian knights that has been part of the media landscape for the many years before. (Disney or otherwise!) However, this adaptation is the “Disneyfied” version from the cartoon with a few minor changes. But let’s get to the non-cartoon feature first.
This movies resembles a light comical version of what could be a release from the 1950’s or 1960’s where the special effects could have been created by Ray Harryhausen and shot in “Dynamation”. (Actually, a stop motion figure animation process.) In this case, it’s presented with a load of CGI-computerized based special effects where animals behave (not necessarily sporting human traits), a magic carpet has a personality of its own, and a blue genie that runs amuck. (Chas Jarrett serves as its Visual Effects Supervisor working with a team of EFX personnel too numerous to list in this review.) What is present is much of the elements extracted from the cartoon, such as the song score by Alan Menken on music, Howard Ashman and Tim Rice on lyrics, along with new lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul.
As to the other lead players, there’s the evil Jafar (Marwan Kenzari), the Sultan’s Royal Vizier who wants to take over the throne for himself, Jafar’s parrot Iago (voiced by Alan Tudyk), his animal “sidekick”, as well as Abu, Aladdin’s right-hand monkey. There is also a few minor lead characters not expressed in the cartoon. There’s Dalia (Nasim Pedrad), Jasmine’s handmaiden and the “BFF” she confides in that encourages her to become independent although her father The Sultan wants to find her a suitable husband to marry, Prince Anders (Billy Mangnussen), a good natured yet bumbling prince from Skanland who has his own desires to marry Jasmine, and Hakin (Numan Acar), Jafar’s human right hand man who oversees the palace guards.
Although this live action version is impressive, amusing, and overall entertaining for what it is, one elements can’t be matched–the fast pacing and comical antics of the late Robin Williams who served as the Genie, one of the more memorable and fondly desired characters ever to grace an animated title created by Disney. His over-the-top protrail of the blue genie was a perfect match between a vocal personality and a fluid character that was a stand-alone cartoon into itself. In this live action version, Will Smith is amusing and comical for what he is. Sadly, he is playing a Robin Williams eight-cylinder genie operating on four. In other words, Will Smith’s version is getting toward the top but never reaches over it.
What makes this film a little to get over is the fact that this movie is being marketed to families. There is nothing wrong with the notion with its “PG” rating (mostly for some “action/peril” scenes as noted by the MPAA), but most (if not all) families of the post-modern age has already seen the cartoon–if not in a theater setting, then on any electronic medium that sports a video screen. (Never mind the countless “sequels” that Disney produced in the 1990’s!) Thus, one can’t help compare this version with the cartoon that been part of Disney’s renaissance era of the 1989-1994 release period when it became a respected movie making source that could have competed with the five other studios existing at the time (independent outlets not included) curing out their goods.
Directed by Guy Richie, ALADDIN is the second of a trio of live action version films from Disney that has/will grace the big screen theater-wise. The first was Dumbo (See review-No. 23-No. 13), and third is the soon-to-be released The Lion King. This latter title promises to be more of a serious nature with the added comedy relief. Call this “reimagining” part of this studio’s “circle of life.”
ALADDIN is now playing at all of the usual selection of multiplexes nationwide.
The Angel City Chorale presents for their spring concert, Angel City Chorale: As Seen on TV…And More!: An event that will feature as its centerpiece, the concert the ACC presented last summer on the NBC-TV series America’s Got Talent.
Under the direction of Sue Fink who has lead this group since 1993, she will once again takes the baton to lead this ensemble of some 200 voices of all octaves as well as their orchestra to vocalize an eccentric blend of tunes from the musical worlds of pop, jazz, blues, classical, world/folk, gospel, and all points in between.
Besides their recreation of their video concert appearance from last summer, the ACC will also feature a momentous medley of TV theme songs from now and then, including a selection from the epic program Game of Thrones. For those into video gaming, there will be inspiring renditions of Liberi Fatali extracted from Final Fantasy VIII, and Sogno di Volare taken from Civilization VI.
For fans of world music, there’s Rauði riddarinn from Iceland. There will also be the gospel inspired So Good, as well as a contemporary classical piece Let My Love be Heard composed by Jake Runestad. Joining this troupe will be as special guest stars, the Angel City Youth Chorale, young singers especially selected from the talent pool of the Los Angeles Boys & Girls Clubs.
Angel City Chorale: As Seen on TV…And More! will be presented on Friday and Saturday nights, June 21st and 22nd at the ACC’s new venue, Barnum Hall, located on the campus of Santa Monica High School, 600 Olympic Blvd., Santa Monica. Both concerts begin at 8:00 PM.
For more information and for ticketing details, visit the Angel City Chorale’s website at http://www.AngelCityChorale.org
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