You spend your life dreaming, running 'round in a trance
You hang out forever and still miss the dance
And if you get lucky, you might find someone
To help you get over the pain that will come
Yeah, you were so cool back in high school, what happened?
You were so sure not to have your spirits dampened . . .
- Tom Petty, Wake Up Time
I was talking with my daughter last week about a feature film called "What's Up Doc?", which we used to watch on our video, time after time, howling with laughter. It's one of the best comedies ever.
The film was directed by Peter Bogdanovich. Last night BBC4 cleared its schedule for a showing of a monster documentary made by Bogdanovich in 2007 - 4 hours of pure engaging magic, with never a dull moment for lovers of great rock music. It's a real tribute to the art of a great documentary maker that the film engages on so many levels, telling a heartwarming story of a great musician, singer and composer - Tom Petty.
Prior to watching this film I hadn't fully realised what a great band the Heartbreakers have been from the very beginning - a group of terrific musicians, and a kind of family and not just a group of performers.
I hadn't realised, either, that Tom and the band had hit the really big time in Britain before they were even known in America. Following that first amazing tour here, to promote their first album, they went home and went back to being struggling musos, trying hard to get radio stations to even play their music.
It's a measure of Tom's genius that later in his career he worked regularly with and made records with some of the true greats of rock music - Bob Dylan, George Harrison and Roy Orbison. The Travelling Wilburys seemed to come together almost by magic, and Tom made a major contribution to the band's songwriting and performing.
Tom's interest in music seemed to really take off when, as a kid, he was introduced to Elvis Presley by a relative who was working on one of the King's films. However, it was after seeing The Beatles performing on television - a startling experience according to him - that his world changed forever and he was convinced he would spend his life writing songs and performing in a band.
In the course of the film TP spoke with great clarity and intelligence, and without a shred of ego or pretention, about his life and times, and of course about his passion for music. He was as determined to make great records with a great sound and great songs as he was to put on great live shows.
Another measure of the greatness of Tom and the Heartbreakers is the fact that Dylan chose them to be his "backing" band for a world tour. Dylan's never going to play with musicians who are anything but the best, but it was interesting to listen to the guys in the band being interviewed about the way in which Dylan always stretches his band to the furthest limits by constantly playing in different keys, with different tempos, and improvising with the arrangements within his songs. With the Heartbreakers he knew he could do whatever he wanted and the band would always be paying attention and be able to respond and improvise and go with him.
At the conclusion of the film Tom says, "Everybody used to care. Now they don't care."
Tom still cares.
Check out Ballad of a Thin Man - with Dylan hugely enjoying himself, and some great drumming and guitar soloing:
Knocking on Heaven's Door - Dylan a master of the harmonica: notice the way he signals to the others he's enjoying the blast and he's going to extend the opening harp solo -
An extended live version of Refugee, with great Hammond and guitars -
Well, if he gets lucky, a boy finds a girl
To help him to shoulder the pain in this world
And if you follow your feelings
And you follow your dreams
You might find the forest there in the trees
Yeah, you'll be alright, it's just gonna take time, but now
Who could have seen you'd be so hard to please somehow . . .
What's Up Doc?
"Utterly hilarious is the best short description for "What's Up Doc?" This seldom-discussed, nearly forgotten hommage to screwball comedy is one of the most consistently funny, inspired, brilliantly realized ever made. There are no weak spots. Even if you are not a Streisand fan, it must be admitted that she has a gift for comedy (and she only stops the action once, to sing for five minutes). Ryan O'Neil is a perfect foil as an uptight college professor completely bamboozled by Streisand. Smaller roles are humourously portrayed by the likes of Austin Pendelton, Kenneth Mars and Mabel Albertson.
But, for those who love this movie, the real star of the show is MADELINE KAHN, as the all-time great comic character of Eunice Burns. Who can forget Eunice forcing her way into the hotel banquet hall, swinging her purse as a weapon? Or poor Eunice cowering on her hotel room bed, asking "what more can they do to me?"
Director Bogdanovich's version of the car chase which closes the film is so tremendously funny and entertaining that the viewer is sorry to see it end.
A richly comic feast."
- by mackjay
"What's Up Doc is one of six movies I use to offset ANY bad mood. I have seen it countless times and still can't keep the suitcases straight.
This film is full of visual humor and one liners; Madeline Kahn screaming and taking on all comers while dragging the doorkeeper across the ballroom floor; the hotel crook using his "charm" to drop Mrs. Van Hoskins in her tracks; Eunice hiding in the bathroom because snakes "live in deathly fear of tile"; the promise of Howard conducting an avalanche in A Flat.
My only regret about this movie is that it began endless failed efforts by television and movie makers to replicate the chase through San Francisco. No one has. That sequence is the best example of humor, timing, backdrop, and action, of the chase genre. It has never been equalled by either serious or comedic directors.
Little mentioned in these reviews are Kenneth Mars and Austin Pendelton, two fantastic character actors who are the emeralds surrounding the diamonds of Streisand and O'Neal in the glorious setting of this jewel.
Thank goodness no one in What's Up Doc knows the meaning of the word "propriety!".
- by annmason1
"A zany, riotous slapstick comedy that lives up to what it purports to be...a zany, riotous slapstick comedy! Silly, simple and superficial . . . `What's Up, Doc?' is pure, unadulterated fun. Bugs Bunny should be proud.
Saluting its classic screwball predecessors, this innocent send-up has all the joy, style and panache one could ask for . . . Director Peter Bogdanovich, (who also wrote the story and co-produced) was at his zenith when he made this in 1972. Thirty years later, I've yet to see anything comparable to it.
Proving before her she had a nose for comedy (she was a hoot in `The Owl and the Pussycat'), Streisand outdoes herself here. She wisely (and generously) defers to the director and, in return, churns out her most engaging performance yet as a wacky, accident-prone, highly determined gal who creates utter chaos out of confusion while striving to win the guy. She proves once and for all she is a funny, FUNNY girl, her quicksilver timing a joy to behold. And, as a bonus, she sings!
`What's Up, Doc' is a refreshing reminder that laughter is still the best medicine. Th...Th...That's all, folks!"
- by Gary Brumbergh
"Not only in my top three favourites of all time, but most definitely the funniest hour and a half ever registered on celluloid. I first saw it in 1974 - I was nine - and instantly fell under the spell.
Streisand delivers like a sniper and actually looks sexy and desirable, O'Neal does his bespectacled Iowa music professor with all the dizziness of sex on legs that he was, and the cast generally glide through two separate crescendos of stupid situations, fuelled by dialogue in break neck speed, each more hilarious than the previous, all inexorably slipping into general uproar and mayhem at every turn.
This is a true comedy classic that hasn't lost any of it's breeziness, funk, sexiness and freshness with years. Dumb, twisted and invigorating all at once it's a true gem. Watch it and feel your I.Q. drop, and get hooked by all means. Or miss at your own peril."
- by Oggz
"I think this film is the funniest movie I have ever seen. No matter how many times I see it, I always find surprisingly fresh and completely hilarious. Barbra Streisand's performance is the centerpiece of the whole film. She simply glows with warmth, sexiness, and humor. There isn't a moment when we don't find her completely believable. Ryan O'Neal adds a great physical presence and is gloriously restrained. The film also contains some great supporting turns from Ken Mars, Liam Dunn, and especially Madeline Kahn, who nearly steals the movie in her film debut."
- by MAX80
Nick Clegg has this piece in today's Guardian:
Don't take offence at our coalition. Its aims are liberal
A Lib-Con deal was the only responsible choice. And our shared aim is to build a fairer society by a radical dispersal of power
It's helpful that Clegg's bothering to give us an update on his thinking, but Oxzen took issue with his concluding words:
And from our different traditions we can pursue one simple, shared aim: this will be the government that re-empowers the British people.
Such a shallow and glib slogan - they can empower but they can't re-empower since the powerless have never had any real power. Without PR the concept is meaningless anyway. In Britain it's the major parties and the cliques who control them, and over-mighty governments and prime ministers, that have power. Money = power. I'll believe in decentralisation and power to the people if and when I see it.
There are, however, six good reasons for Clegg to have joined in a coalition with the Tories:
1) Too many Labour MPs made it clear they wanted no part of a coalition.
2) Too many Labour MPs made it clear they will never support PR.
3) New Labour needed to be kicked out - as a punishment for being a lousy government, and also for the party to re-think what it's about, under new leadership.
4) Britain needs a progressive and not a regressive Tory party, and with the help and the constraints of the LibDems Cameron has a chance of bringing this about.
5) Several things done by Labour need to be undone, and several things not done now badly need to be done.
6) There needs to be a demonstration that a coalition government can work effectively in Britain as a whole, just as it has in Scotland and elsewhere. Under a fair voting system coalition governments are both inevitable and desirable. Government by 'big tent' parties using whipping systems in the name of party 'discipline' both stifles debate and fudges issues.
One overwhelmingly bad reason for the LibDems to join with the Tories is to assist them in slashing spending on front-line public services, creating further unnecessary unemployment, and putting us into a deeper and more prolonged recession - all in the name of rapid repayment of debt and appeasing 'the markets'. Nick Clegg says nothing about this in this column. Since the rate of debt repayment was such a major issue in this election Clegg can't stay quiet about it in the name of 'collective responsibility'. We need to know what Clegg and Cable are now advocating, even if, or especially if, they continue to disagree with Osborne and his fellow slashers. I'm sure we're grown up enough to accept that they were simply outvoted in cabinet, if this is the case. It's all very well showing TV pictures of happy smiling faces around the cabinet table - we need to know what they're saying and who's arguing for what. Coalition is all very well - but it has to be done in an open and transparent manner, if it's to have credibility, legitimacy and public support.