Thursday, June 30, 2011
You Can Even Eat the Dishes
By Damian Arlyn
There's a moment in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory when the character of Willy Wonka emerges for the first time from his factory to the enthusiastic applause of a crowd gathered to see him. The noise gradually dies down and becomes silent as they realize he is limping along on a cane. Children are unable to hide their disappointment. Grown-ups look confused and concerned. Suddenly, only a few steps from his front gate, Wonka's cane gets stuck in some cobblestones. He freezes, starts to fall forward, does a somersault and victoriously leaps to his feet with a smile. Children's faces light up. The crowd erupts into even more enthusiastic applause. It was all a joke. A delightful bit of showmanship from a master trickster. This introduction, as the story goes, was Gene Wilder's idea. When approached for the role, Wilder stipulated he would only do it if he could make his entrance in just such a manner. When asked why by the director, Wilder replied, "Because from that moment on, whenever I do anything nobody will know whether I'm lying or telling the truth." That kind of profound understanding Wilder brought to the character is just one among many examples of why Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory works just as beautifully now as it did when it premiered 40 years ago today.
The tale of Willy Wonka began as a book entitled Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, penned by Roald Dahl and published in 1964. It told the highly fanciful tale of a poor boy taken on a tour through a magical wonderland by an eccentric confectioner. The book was a hit and in 1970 producer Dave Wolper was looking for a movie idea to serve as a promotional tie-in for a new line of candy bars the Quaker Oats Company was hoping to manufacture. Dahl’s fantastical fable of sugary goodness seemed a perfect fit. It was the first of his stories to be adapted for film and Dahl himself was hired to write the screenplay. Massive changes, however, were made to his script by David Seltzer and this caused Dahl to be severely dissatisfied with the final product and consequently disown it (a phenomenon that was to occur time and again with cinematic adaptations of his works). In a delicious bit of irony, however, the candy bar that Quaker Oats produced turned out to be faulty and so had to be withdrawn from shelves.
To helm the project, Mel Stuart (a director known mostly for TV movies and documentaries) was chosen. It seems an odd choice for a theatrical fantasy film for families (particularly given that his visual style is rather bland), but he acquits himself adequately through his numerous astute filmmaking decisions, his first being to make Willy Wonka a musical. The songs written by the award-winning team of Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley are all (with the exception of the mother's "Cheer Up, Charlie" which was always a fast-forward song for me as a kid) melodic and memorable.
Who among us doesn't know "Pure Imagination," the "Oompa-Loompah" song or "The Candy Man" (made immortal by Sammy Davis Jr.) by heart? To this day, I think Grandpa Joe's energetic rendition of "I've Got a Golden Ticket" as he dances around the room in his pajamas has to be one of the purest expressions of sheer joy I've ever seen in cinema. Stuart also decided to shoot the film in Germany to save on costs. Wisely, however, the country is never identified by name in the film and it adds to the fantastic other-worldly quality of the story.
In casting the film, Stuart had to find not just one or two but five young actors to play the lucky children who find the Golden Tickets. All five are quite good but a couple standouts are Peter Ostrum (in his one and only film appearance) who manages to be believably innocent and selfless without coming off as disgustingly saccharine in his performance as Charlie. The other is Julie Dan Cole as Veruca Salt, the brattiest kid of the bunch…and that's saying something. Cole totally commits to the supreme selfishness of her character and even gets her own song to sing ("I want It Now"). She's the kind of devil-spawn that every parent is afraid their own offspring will turn out to be. The inimitable Jack Albertson plays Grandpa Joe, Charlie's surrogate father figure, with equal amounts of love for Charlie and disdain for the injustices of the world.
Finally, there's Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka. Although Dahl presumably wanted Spike Mulligan or Ron Moody to play the part, Stuart once again demonstrated a keen grasp of the material by approaching Wilder, a brilliant comic actor who thoroughly understood the complexities and ambiguities of the character. His Willy Wonka is unpredictable (as demonstrated by his introduction) but lovable, strange but predominately non-threatening, bizarre but surprisingly witty (quoting such varied writers as Shakespeare, Wilde and Keats). Wilder brings a childlike enthusiasm and exuberance to the role and it is arguably his most iconic performance (and he's certainly given us several to choose from).
For the most part, Willy Wonka charmed critics when it was released, but audiences were not quite as won over by it and tended to stay away (the film only grossed $4 million on a $3 million budget). Eventually, however, it developed a cult following on home video and television broadcasts. How well does it hold up today? Well, obviously there are elements which are extremely dated (the psychedelic boat ride down the tunnel is a like a bad 70's acid trip), but like Wizard Of Oz or Mary Poppins, there is an element of imagination at work in the film (something sadly lacking in most contemporary movies) that makes it utterly charming and helps give it a timeless quality. Today it is remembered with much fondness and affection by many families. Personally, I love the film and when I revisit it every couple years I am surprised at how moved I am by it at various points in story. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory may not be a great film, but it is the product of an era when wonder and fancy could still be found in big screen movies, when cinematic fairy tales could be told earnestly (without cynicism or self-consciousness) and when things like story, character and genuine emotion were more important than budget or special effects.
A comparison with the more "faithful" 2006 adaptation by Tim Burton demonstrates this very thing. The remake is not without its charms (including some stunning visuals and a charming performance from Freddie Highmore), but it serves as yet another reminder that newer is not necessarily better. Among the many miscalculations was Johnny Depp’s decision to play Wonka as an excessively bizarre weirdo stuck in a state of arrested development. With echoes of pop sensation and eccentric man-child (not to mention accused child molester) Michael Jackson, Depp's Wonka was creepy and off-putting. Wilder's Wonka could indeed be dark, mysterious, enigmatic and even outright scary sometimes, but he was never creepy. His character, like the film he inhabited, ultimately had a warmth and a generosity at heart whereas Depp's Wonka, also much like the film itself, had a coldness at the center, a sense of detachment that makes its hard to be engaged by what we are watching even while we are being amazed by what we are seeing. I suspect that the 1971 version of the story will still retain its appeal long after the motion picture landscape has been become overrun with ugly, calculated and expendable pieces of cinematic junk (a fate of which I'm skeptical Burton's version will share).
In essence, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory may not have been revolutionary, but it was definitely non-pollutionary.
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Wednesday, June 29, 2011
“I can handle big news and little news…and if there's no news, I'll go out and bite a dog…”
By Ivan G. Shreve, Jr.
Cinephiles and classic movie fans alike marked off July 17, 2007 as the date when one of their Holy Grails was finally released to DVD: Ace in the Hole (1951), director Billy Wilder’s pungent portrayal of both the fourth estate and the public’s insatiable appetite for the sensationalism they publish and/or broadcast, had never previously been available on home video…and though I had seen the movie years ago on American Movie Classics (it still had its The Big Carnival credits, the title it went by when Paramount tried to recoup the dismal box office generated on its first release) I was amazed by how many online movie critics and bloggers admitted to not having seen the film.
It was the first major financial flop for Wilder (one studio wag dubbed the movie “Ass in the Wringer”) after a string of solid successes that had began in 1942 and because of its epic fail Billy himself wasn’t particularly fond of discussing Hole in later years — he not only ended up being sued by a screenwriter who claimed he gave the idea for the movie’s plot to Wilder’s secretary (Wilder and his lawyers eventually settled out of court) Paramount withheld from him some of the profits from his next feature, Stalag 17 (1953), claiming it was retribution for the financial “hole” Hole left them in. Sixty years ago on this date, the film I consider to be one of his finest works was released to theaters…a movie whose message is pithily summed up on an embroidered sign hanging on a newspaper office wall: “Tell the truth.”
Reporter Chuck Tatum finds himself busted flat in Albuquerque, N.M. — his car is en route to a garage via tow truck, and he’s looking for work after a checkered employment history with eleven major newspapers have shown him in the door for various infractions (adultery, slander, etc.). Introducing himself to editor Jacob Q. Boot (Porter Hall) of the city’s Sun-Bulletin, the quick-thinking, silver-tongued Tatum manages to talk himself into a $60-a-week job as a reporter even though he’s pining for the much faster pace of cities like Chicago and New York. His fellow employees — among them cub photographer Herbie Cook (Robert Arthur) — don’t quite know what to make of Tatum, but they find his demeanor and personality fascinating; Tatum, in the meantime, has cleaned up his act and managed to stay sober for a year though the tedious ennui of small-town life is threatening to kill him.
Assigned to cover a “rattlesnake roundup” story in a nearby county, Chuck and Herbie stop off to gas up and learn from a woman named Lorraine Minosa (Jan Sterling) that her husband Leo (Richard Benedict) has become trapped in an underground cave attraction near their souvenir stand looking for Indian artifacts. In investigating Leo’s predicament Tatum realizes he’s staring into the abyss of a potentially hot news story — very similar to the famous account of Kentuckian Floyd Collins, who was ensnared in a similar cave in 1925. With Herbie by his side, Chuck begins to milk the story for maximum impact; in cahoots with local sheriff Gus Kretzer (Ray Teal), Tatum not only strong-arms engineer Sam Smollett (Frank Jaquet) into using a prolonged method to reach Leo (which will allow for extra days of front-page treatment of the tragedy) but effectively eliminates the competition from other reporters covering the story, who are banished to a “press tent” by the corrupt Kretzer. (When his fellow scribes try appealing to Tatum’s “fair play” by observing that “we’re all in the same boat” he responds: “I’m in the boat…you’re in the water…now let’s see how you can swim.”) The news of Leo’s predicament quickly garners national attention and thousands of spectators and onlookers flock to the site where Lorraine greedily anticipates a financial windfall from the sales of food, drink, souvenirs and concessions from a carnival set up nearby.
Emboldened by the attention bestowed upon him as the reporter with an exclusive scoop (his services are now in demand by the very paper who gave him a pink slip), Tatum tells editor Boot to take a hike when he comes by in a futile attempt to rein him in…and Herbie, who’s also undergone a Jekyll-and-Hyde transformation from idealistic young man to craven opportunist, elects to stay with Chuck when the prospect of selling his photos to magazines such as Look and Life becomes all-too-tantalizing. As for Leo, one of the few decent people characterized in the film (along with his parents, his physician and a priest), his time is running out — and Tatum’s reporter instincts tells him he needs to get Leo out of there fast because an unhappy ending is the kiss of death for his brand of tabloid journalism. But Chuck is too late: Smollett informs him that going back to the original rescue plan will surely endanger Leo in a slate fall. Chuck breaks the news to Lorraine when Leo succumbs to suffocation, and is so disgusted with both her and himself that he attempts to strangle her. Lorraine manages to fend him off by stabbing him with a pair of scissors, and with Herbie’s help Tatum returns to town and the Sun-Bulletin offices in a severely weakened condition. “How'd you like to make yourself a thousand dollars a day, Mr. Boot?” he asks the editor, who stares at him with pity. “I'm a thousand-dollar-a-day newspaperman…you can have me for nothing.” He then collapses and dies on the spot.
At the time of Ace in the Hole's release, Wilder was critically lambasted by both movie reviewers and real-life journalists, who strongly objected to the categorization of the news-gathering fraternity in the film as unscrupulous and self-serving. The passage of time has demonstrated that while the tone of Hole remains satirical the content remains disturbingly realistic. Tales of reporters who have tossed ethics and credibility off to the side and accounts of journalists whose integrity has been compromised by cozying up to subjects they are supposed to objectively cover are too numerous to cite here but filmmaker Guy Maddin, in an essay entitled “Chin Up for Mother,” gets to the crux of why the cynicism of Hole isn’t manufactured but reflective of its time:
Of course, the main theme is the rapacious hunger of tabloid news organizations for their scoops, and of a public for blood (an appetite in this case as sexy and naked as it was in Caesarean times). But these things are nothing more than accurately represented in the movie. The earnest young shutterbug who starts the picture as Tatum’s nemesis is utterly corrupted by him within seconds; the lad’s whiplash transformation from annoying goody-goody to sycophantic ponyboy puts the Oscar-winning mutative wizardry of Rick Baker to shame. Others within Tatum’s orbit — the sheriff and the contractor, particularly — undergo Fredric March-like personality shifts as well, though the cave rat’s wife, the perfectly cast Jan Sterling, appears to have come pre-Hoovered of all scruples. By the time the Great S&M Amusement Corp. rolls in, poor, mad [Leo] Minosa is clearly doomed to die like a dog in his cave.
The jaundiced portrayal of these characters may have turned off moviegoers here in the U.S. of A. but Ace in the Hole did very well overseas, where critics and audiences are able to look at America through a far less jingoistic fog. (The “big carnival” atmosphere surrounding the fictional tragedy in Hole is still around today; if you can turn on your TV set right now and avoid the spectacle that is the Casey Anthony trial I admire and respect your channel surfing skills.) For me, the fascinating moment of truth in the movie is when Tatum and Smollett the engineer are being interviewed by a radio reporter and a casual spectator has the stones to interrupt and point out that there’s something seriously wrong with their “Operation Rescue” setup. There always seems to be a lone voice decrying what is obviously madness in these kinds of situations (Iraq-Afghanistan war, anyone?) but is seldom able to be heard above the sensationalistic din.
Over at my stomping grounds at Thrilling Days of Yesteryear, actor Kirk Douglas is revered as “the king of the rat bastards” — a title that he frequently trades off with other screen legends such as Richard Widmark and Robert Ryan, depending on which actor and his respective movie I’ve watched of late. But what gives Douglas an edge in the race is that he played his characters with an intense ferocity — Chuck Tatum is one of the actor’s best roles, a not-so-distant cousin to the unscrupulous boxer Midge Kelly in Douglas’ 1949 movie Champion. Both men are unrepentant scoundrels (Midge may actually be worse in that he rapes his ex-wife and punches out his crippled brother) but it is interesting to note that they are also motivated by “the American dream” — each individual is determined to rise to the top of his profession and enjoy the fruits of success.
What makes Tatum a fascinating personage is, yeah, he’s a ruthless essobee but he’s also damn good at his job — the papers that dispensed with his services did not do so because he’s a lousy reporter. Despite all the grief Chuck hands him, Boot recognizes how invaluable his work has come to be (he admits that the newspaper’s circulation is up) and earnestly attempts to dissuade him from continuing the Minosa charade because he doesn’t like the stench of the corruption involved (Boot: “Phony, below-the-belt journalism….that’s what it is.” Tatum: “Not below-the-belt…right from the gut!”). In his essay, Maddin contrasts the Tatum character with another legendary cinematic heel, Sidney Falco (Tony Curtis) in Sweet Smell of Success (1957), who shares the same ambition to make good as Tatum but who comes across as a guy who really sucks at being a publicist. Chuck Tatum is also a man who, despite his shortcomings, has a reservoir of charm and a snappy rejoinder in his holster when necessary. During his “interview” he is asked by Boot “Do you drink a lot?” Tatum’s response: “Not a lot…just frequently…” Watching Douglas-as-Tatum is akin to being hypnotized by a cobra, and though he’s unlikable there is also no denying that he’s a tragic character in that his attempts to rein in a situation that has spun out of his control are doomed to despair.
Jan Sterling is magnificent in the role of unfaithful Lorraine Minosa, and she gets one of the classic lines in Ace in the Hole when she tells reporter Tatum: “I met a lot of hard-boiled eggs in my life, but you...you're twenty minutes.” (I think it’s interesting that this bit of dialogue is contradicted by her other famous declaration, “I don’t go to church…kneeling bags my nylons” — suggesting that she’s spent a little extra time in a boiling saucepan herself.) Shamelessly flirting with both Tatum and pretty much anything that’s walked into the souvenir stand wearing work pants, the final shot of Lorraine furiously trying to catch up to the Trailways coach speeding away from the establishment (a great visual pun in that she’s “missed the bus” on everything in her life) has a special poignancy that’s remained with me all these years.
Billy Wilder’s often corrosive take on American customs and mores in his movies were tempered through his collaborations with writer Charles Brackett; Ace in the Hole would be the first film Wilder would do without Brackett’s influence (the script was written in tandem with Walter Newman and Lesser Samuels) and it would also be his first offering as producer. His dissatisfaction with Paramount’s decision to salvage what they could from Hole's dismal b.o. take, however, did produce a positive result in that he was able to renegotiate his contract to allow him greater creative control. With the wider accessibility of Hole, a fresh generation of moviegoers are now able to see why Wilder remains one of the most American of filmmakers (despite his Austrian pedigree) and that Hole (along with Elia Kazan’s 1957 film A Face in the Crowd) was a film far ahead of its time, daring to lampoon and criticize the media for its weaknesses and excesses. In Ace in the Hole, Wilder tells the truth.
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Centennial Tributes: Bernard Herrmann Part I
”As a composer I might class myself as a Neo-Romantic, inasmuch as I have always regarded music as a highly personal and emotional form of expression. I like to write music which takes its inspiration from poetry, art and nature. I do not care for purely decorative music. Although I am in sympathy with modern idioms, I abhor music which attempts nothing more than the illustration of a stylistic fad. And in using modern techniques, I have tried at all times to subjugate them to a larger idea or a grander human feeling.”
Bernard Herrmann in Bernard Herrmann: Hollywood’s Music-Dramatist by Edward Johnson
By Edward Copeland
Our centennial tributes tend to be of actor, actresses, directors and writers. We were honored when lyricist Bill Russell wrote a tribute to composer Frank Loesser, but he was a songwriter, providing both music and lyrics, who penned many memorable songs for stage and screen. We've never attempted to salute a composer known for his instrumental scores, particularly ones he wrote for movies, but Bernard Herrmann born 100 years ago today (exactly one year younger than Loesser), didn't like to be pigeonholed as a film composer since his musical work spanned opera, symphonies, concerts, radio and television in addition to some of the most memorable film scores of all time. That's why instead of just starting this post with a photo of the man and some words, I figured it's more fitting to use clips or links to clips to demonstrate his works such as his score that accompanied the Saul Bass title sequence for Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo, an example of one of his very best. Movie titles and still photographs don't do Bernard Herrmann justice, that's why I'm going to write less than usual in this tribute and let his music do the talking. However, the man was so prolific, I've had to divide the post in half so it doesn't grow so long anyway that it knocks other posts off the front page. While there will be some biography, mainly it will be about his music and I'm going to try to be chronological and, in a couple of occasions, show his influence. We even have a clip of the master musician discussing his craft relating to his scoring to a particular film. If you are reading this at work, I hope you have headphones.
His father encouraged his interest in music and he took up the violin, winning a $100 prize for one of his own compositions at the age of 13. Herrmann's interest in composition became more serious sometime around 1927 while he attended DeWitt Clinton High School and studied with Gustav Heine. His first notable work is considered to be a tone poem called "The Forest" he wrote in January 1929. He enrolled at New York University (while still in high school) and studied composition with Philip James and conducting with Albert Stoessel. Stoessel later headed the opera and orchestra at Juilliard and Herrmann landed a fellowship there in 1930 where he studied conducting and composition with Bernard Wagenaar. He officially finished high school in 1931 around the time he formed his own orchestra, The New York Chamber Orchestra. This was before he was 20. He left Juilliard in 1932 but without a degree. That fall, he attended lectures in advanced composition and orchestration at NYU by Percy Grainger. Herrmann also worked as a music editor and arranger at the Harms music publishing company around this period. That same fall, some dancers he knew from Juilliard asked him to arrange ballet music for a musical revue called +New Americana, which inadvertently led to his professional composing, conducting, and Broadway debuts when he went on to direct the orchestra during his arrangement of The Shakers and his own piece, "Amour à la Militaire," when it opened Oct. 5, 1932. It ran 77 performances.*
By 1934, he was a staff conductor with CBS radio. He seriously began his prolific composing work during this period, writing many scores to accompany CBS radio programs including "The City of Brass" which accompanied David Ross' narration of one of the tales from One Thousand and One Nights or The Arabian Nights. In 1935, he composed the orchestral piece the Currier and Ives Suite. It was described as a short, five-movement piece on the Film Score website which has been running a series all year on Herrmann's centennial. The site notes that its composition occurred while he was employed by CBS because one of the pages of the composition was on CBS paper. Other than that, it says the origin of the piece is largely a mystery. There is a YouTube clip set against classic Currier and Ives drawings that has the orchestral piece.
Herrmann was named chief conductor of the CBS Symphony Orchestra in 1943 (a title he held until the orchestra disbanded in 1951 as TV began to displace radio), where it was said he introduced American audiences to more new musical works than any conductor in history. He particularly championed the American composer Charles Ives. Even before getting that post, Herrmann's output beyond the network and for mediums other than radio or orchestra bloomed. During the 1937-38 period, Herrmann got his feet wet for the first time in composing opera with a 45-minute cantata of Moby Dick. It didn't receive a world premiere until 1940 with The New York Philharmonic under the direction of Sir John Barbirolli. The cantata had never received a live performance in the United States since until April of this year when John Kendall Bailey conducted a 40-voice men's chorus and four soloists to perform it with the American Philharmonic-Sonoma County. Below are excerpts from the score, though it doesn't indicate from what recording it is taken and though it includes stills from John Huston's film of Moby Dick, note that Herrmann did not score that film.
While still just a staff conductor at CBS, the musical prodigy Herrmann would meet another young wunderkind making waves in New York named Orson Welles. He composed and arranged scores for Welles' Mercury Theater broadcasts, including the infamous 1938 War of the Worlds . While working at CBS, Welles lured Herrmann to Hollywood with him and when Welles made his astounding debut as the actor, writer and director of Citizen Kane in 1941, Herrmann had an equally impressive first year as a film composer. Not only did he make an impressive first showing with Citizen Kane and Welles' 1942 followup The Magnificent Ambersons, in between he composed the score for director William Dieterle's 1941 film The Devil and Daniel Webster aka All That Money Can Buy. In 1941, both the scores for Kane and Daniel Webster earned Herrmann Oscar nominations. His Daniel Webster score won (and there were 20 nominees). Though some of his greatest work was still to come, many for Hitchcock, he would receive another nomination in 1946 for director John Cromwell's Anna and the King of Siam but would not receive another nomination until he received two posthumous nominations in 1976. As is unfortunately the case with many YouTube clips, the embedding has been disabled, so click here to view the Citizen Kane opening and hear Herrmann's score for it. Click here and listen to his lovely piece as the reporter reads Thatcher's diary leading into the flashback to Kane's childhood. Of course, here is the music to the final piece of that jigsaw puzzle. Also, two pieces from Ambersons: Herrmann's subtle score running beneath Welles' narration of George's comeuppance and a much bouncier, holiday-theme Herrmann piece accompanying the snowride scene. Finally, they did let me embed his prelude to The Devil and Daniel Webster/All That Money Can Buy so we can hear part of Herrmann's only Oscar-winning score.
In 1943, Herrmann composed the score for Jane Eyre directed by Robert Stevenson but involving many Mercury Theater players including Welles starring as Rochester, Agnes Moorehead as Mrs. Reed and John Houseman co-writing the script. Joan Fontaine starred in the title role. This is Herrmann's main title theme. He didn't score another film for two years when he did director John Brahm's 1945 psychological thriller Hangover Street, which I've never seen but certainly sounds interesting. It stars Laird Cregar as a composer suffering lapses in his memory who thinks he may have killed someone and seeks help from his doctor (George Sanders). Even though the composer is engaged, he somehow finds himself involved with a music hall dancer (Linda Darnell) and his temporary memory losses are threatening the concerto he has a deadline to finish. Herrmann's theme for the main titles alone portend suspense to come. The following year, he composed the score for Anna and King of Siam, which earned him that third Oscar nomination.
In 1947, Herrmann penned the score for The Ghost and Mrs. Muir directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, a film that's very popular on YouTube, only for some reason people like to use scenes and stills from the movie and place modern songs over them. The sample of his score I found and put in the link in the title is on a picture of flames. Go figure. The next year, Herrmann made his first foray into composing for television, making music for many installments of Studio One which went by about a half-dozen different titles during its run. That kept him busy until 1951 when he debuted his first full-fledged opera Wuthering Heights. In the clip below, Yves Saelens sings "Now art thou dear, my golden June" (Edgar Linton's aria) in a concert performance of the opera at the Festival de Radio France et Montpellier 2010. Alain Altinoglu conducts the Orchestre National de Montpellier.
Directed by Robert Wise; Piece: Prelude/Outer Space/Radar
On Dangerous Ground (1952)
Directed by Nicholas Ray (Ida Lupino uncredited); Piece: Death hunt
The Snows of Kiliminjaro (1952)
Directed by Henry King (Roy Ward Baker uncredited); Scene: Peck learns about his leg wound
White Witch Doctor (1953) directed by Henry Hathaway
Now, I'm not going to list EVERY film or television show Herrmann scored, because it would grow too long. It's still going to be so long, that's why I've had to divide it into two posts so everything doesn't get knocked off the page. I'm tempted to leave out lesser titles or even bigger names if there isn't a music sample I can't find. Sometimes though, I'll find some other compelling reason to include a title figure anyone can click on his credits themselves. In 1954, a police drama debuted called The Lineup (it also went by San Francisco Beat at some point) that ran through 1960. I've never seen or even heard of it before writing this, but we do have a clip of one of many episodes of the series that Herrmann scored, a 1956 outing titled "The Wharton Case" so I thought it was worth including not just for his music but a glimpse of police dramas past.
Shower of Stars TV series (1954) Episode: "A Christmas Carol"
In 1955 when Burt Lancaster directed the first of the only two films he ever would helm, The Kentuckian, and he chose Herrmann for the score.
Of course, that year was auspicious for another reason: It marked the first teaming of one of the most important director-composer partnerships in film history: Herrmann and Alfred Hitchcock. What brought The Master of Suspense and Herrmann together for the first time actually wasn't one of Hitchcock's tense masterpieces but his dark comedy The Trouble With Harry about the small Vermont town with the problem of a body that just won't stay put. It also marked the film debut of Shirley MacLaine.
Directed by Nunnally Johnson; Pieces: Prelude, The Children's Hour
So this is where we will leave part I. Click here just in case Part II still doesn't show on the main page.
*Much of the information in this section comes from the Herrmann biography found on Artists Direct.
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Centennial Tributes: Bernard Herrmann Part II
By Edward Copeland
So I had to divide this tribute to Bernard Herrmann in two parts. If somehow you started here and want to backtrack, click here. We pick up still in 1956 and I decided to use two clips for Hitchcock's 1956 The Man Who Knew Too Much. The first, to emphasize Herrmann's score of course during a sequence with James Stewart labeled Wild Goose Chase, is above. The second comes after the jump.
That clip is the classic Royal Albert Hall sequence where the music actually is Arthur Benjamin's "Storm Clouds Cantata" but we get to see Herrmann himself conducting the piece (and we get Doris Day too).
A Hatful of Rain (1957) directed by Fred Zinnemann; Scene: Turning Johnny in
Have Gun — Will Travel was one of the most popular TV Westerns of its time starring Richard Boone as Paladin, a West Point grad turned gunfighter after the Civil War. It ran from 1957-1963. It managed to have two themes: the instrumental one that Herrmann wrote for its opening credits and a song "The Ballad of Paladin" that played over the closing credits. We, of course, are only interested in Herrmann's contribution.
1958 brings us back to Vertigo, whose opening credit sequence I used as the opening to Part I simply because I felt it was one of if not his greatest. Thankfully, it is not one of the movies whose embeds are disabled on YouTube, so I thought I would include an actual scene from the film as well to show how his score worked within the context of the Hitchcock masterpiece. There are so many choices because frankly I don't believe Vertigo would be as great as it is without Herrmann's contribution. I could have selected the opening rooftop chase, the first time Scottie sees Madeleine at Scotty's restaurant with those beautiful, vivid reds, the museum scene, Scottie's dream or many others. I settled on the scene where Scottie tails Madeleine and saves her after she jumps into the bay.
The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958) directed by Nathan Juran; Piece: Skeleton fight
North by Northwest (1959) directed by Hitchcock; Piece: Title sequence
On Oct. 2, 1959, one of the most iconic television series of all times premiered on CBS: Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone. Bernard Herrmann wrote the show's theme, though not the famous one when you're familiar with and you could mimic right now. His intro music was only used for the first season, though he scored many individual episodes.
Here we have an interesting comparison of a Bernard Herrmann score that later is evoked in another composer's score either as homage or something else. You be the judge. First, listen to part of Herrmann's score for director Henry Levin's 1959 film Journey to the Center of the Earth. Then, listen to its echoes present in Danny Elfman's main title music for Tim Burton's 1989 Batman. Next in 1960, Herrmann and Hitch teamed again for the memorable Psycho. If I had my preference, I'd embed a clip of the Saul Bass title sequence with the score, but it's been disabled, so you'll have to click to hear it. However, I was able to embed the shower scene.
Tender Is the Night (1962) directed by Henry King; Pieces: 3 tracks
Here is one of the more interesting comparisons. First, we have Herrmann's original main theme for J. Lee Thompson's 1962 Cape Fear (but unfortunately not actual footage from the movie) and then we have Elmer Bernstein's adaptation of Herrmann's score for Martin Scorsese's 1991 remake of the film — complete with Saul Bass title sequence.
Marnie (1964) directed by Hitchcock; Piece: Prelude
Fahrenheit 411 (1966) directed by Francois Truffaut; Piece: Prelude
The Virginian TV series Episode: "The Reckoning (9/13/67); Piece: Title credits
What's next is something special. First, we have sequences from Truffaut's 1968 film The Bride Wore Black without dialogue, only Herrmann's score. After that, we have Herrmann himself discussing his work on the score of the film against scenes from it.
Director Roy Boulting made a thriller in 1968 called Twisted Nerve for which Herrmann composed a frightening, whistle for the film's killer to use. It has taken on a popularity greater than the film itself. So here are three takes on it. First, we have the whistle as it is emanates from Hywel Bennett as the killer in the movie. Second, we have how Herrmann incorporated the whistle into the movie's score. Lastly, we have Quentin Tarantino's homage to it in a scene in Kill Bill Vol. 1.
The Night Digger (1971) directed by Alastair Reid; Piece: Prelude
Endless Night (1972) directed by Sidney Gilliat; Piece: Suite
Sisters (1973) directed by Brian De Palma; Piece: Main title
In 1974, Herrmann scored the schlocky horror film It's Alive, but I could find no samples of his work from that film. On Dec. 24, 1975, Bernard Herrmann died of a heart attack at the age of 64, but he left two scores behind, both of which received his final two Oscar nominations in 1976: Brian De Palma's Obsession and one of his greatest, Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver. Both nominations lost to Jerry Goldsmith's score for The Omen.
First, there were two clips available for Obsession, which I could embed, but the one that contained an actual scene from the film had spoilers, so I opted just to go with the link to the music. Taxi Driver was another story. It had lots of clips at the same time I wanted a longer version of Herrman's theme, so I split the difference. First, here is Herrmann's main theme. Finally, what better place to end this tribute to Herrmann than with his score to Scorsese's opening credits and Robert De Niro's unstable eyes. Ironic in a way, that his film scoring career began with the ultimately lonely Charles Foster Kane and ends with the God's lonely man Travis Bickle. What range. What talent. Imagine if he had lived longer.
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Tuesday, June 28, 2011
Decades in the making, the gestation period of Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life (2011) is as epic as the film itself. After Days of Heaven (1978) was released to critical acclaim and nominated for four Academy Awards, Paramount, the studio that backed it, offered the director $1 million dollars for his next project, regardless of its subject matter. Despite being burnt out from making and editing Days, he agreed. Malick had been contemplating his most ambitious film yet: the creation of our galaxy and the Earth as well as the beginnings of life. It was originally called Qasida (a reference to an ancient Arabian form of rhythmic lyric poetry) and eventually shortened to Q. In 1979, Malick and a small crew began shooting footage in exotic locales all over the world. The footage they were getting looked great but Paramount was nervous about the absence of a screenplay (Malick would write 40-page poetic descriptions of the imagery) and a structured shooting schedule. Eventually, the studio lost patience with the director’s methods and he not only quit the project but the movie business for 20 years.
The first signs that Malick was returning to his Q project came during pre-production on The New World (2005) when producer Sarah Green received a revised treatment for what would become The Tree of Life. By July 2007, there was a script that fused the cosmic nature of Q with a semi-autobiographical story that focused on a Texas family in the 1950s as seen through the eyes of the oldest child Jack (Hunter McCracken as a child and Sean Penn as an adult). As early as Days of Heaven, Malick had been moving away from linear narratives to a more philosophical tone poem approach. With The Thin Red Line (1998), he began to explore in greater detail man’s relationship with his environment and with the Earth. This continued with The New World, which embraced a nonlinear narrative more than anything he had done before. The Tree of Life is the culmination of Malick’s body of work so far.
The film begins with the death of one of the O’Brien children. The mother (Jessica Chastain) is understandably devastated while the father (Brad Pitt) is stoic but eventually the cracks begin to show and he also grieves in his own way. Cut to the present day and Jack O’Brien (Sean Penn) is an architect, unhappy and adrift in the world, still haunted by the death of his brother. The film flashes back to his reminisces of his childhood in the ‘50s. In this first section, Malick cuts back and forth between the impersonal concrete and glass jungle of the big city in which Jack works and the idyllic suburban neighborhood of his youth.
Early on in the film, the mother says in a disembodied voiceover, “There are two ways through life: the way of nature, and the way of Grace. You have to choose which one you'll follow. Grace doesn't try to please itself. Accepts being slighted, forgotten, disliked. Accepts insults and injuries. Nature only wants to please itself. Get others to please it too. Likes to lord it over them. To have its own way. It finds reasons to be unhappy when all the world is shining around it. And love is smiling through all things.” I believe that this passage is integral to understanding Malick’s film and it becomes apparent that the mother represents Grace, accepting insults and injuries, while the father represents nature, lording over his family.
Right from the get-go, Malick dispenses with the traditional notion of how a scene is structured and linked to another in favor of an impressionistic approach. This is no more apparent than when the narrative segues to an extraordinary sequence depicting the creation of our galaxy and the Earth with absolutely breathtaking imagery — a stunning mix of unusual practical effects (created by Dan Glass and the legendary Douglas Trumbull) and actual footage courtesy of NASA. With this sequence we are entering Stanley Kubrick territory. Like 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), Malick mixes science with spirituality, the cosmic and the ethereal, occasionally commented on via existential voiceover musings about God by the mother. He actually shows the Earth forming and early life being created on the most basic cellular level on up to the dinosaurs. This sequence and its placement so early on in the film is just one of the audacious choices Malick makes.
The film then goes back to early stages of the O’Brien family, to the creation of their children, the painful and glorious experience of childbirth, much like that of the Earth itself. Malick presents two approaches to parenting: the mother is a nurturing figure while the father is a stern disciplinarian. She is in tune with nature while he represents structure. It is this part of the film that is the most engaging as we are presented with familiar, relatable imagery: a very young boy gazes in wonderment and then jealousy at his baby sibling; the shadows of tree branches playing across a wall; the family playing with sparklers at night; kids playing in tall grass; and a tree-lined suburb at dusk with the sky the most amazing shade of purple-blue. These are the innocent, carefree days when you had no worries and would spend hours playing with other children until called in by your mother for the night. Malick has come full circle by returning to the same tranquil Texas suburbs first glimpsed at the beginning of Badlands (1973), his debut feature. These scenes will be instantly familiar to anyone who grew up in the suburbs or a rural environment.
As he did with Linda Manz in Days of Heaven, Malick demonstrates an incredible affinity for working with children and pulling naturalistic performances out of them. All of the kids, especially newcomer Hunter McCracken, act very comfortable in front of the camera, almost as if Malick caught them unaware that they were being filmed. McCracken has a very expressive face, which he utilizes well over the course of the film as Jack becomes increasingly rebellious, testing the rules imposed by his father. Malick documents the children’s behavior and all of their idiosyncrasies, like how they interact with each other and how this differs with their interaction with adults, especially in the ‘50s when they were much more respectful. Much of the film is seen from a child’s point-of-view with low angle shots that look up at adults, trees, and so on. It’s only in the scenes with other children that the camera takes a more level position.
At one point, the father tells Jack that his mother is naive and that “It takes fierce will to get ahead in this world.” Brad Pitt doesn’t play the stereotypical strict father figure but one with layers that are gradually revealed through the course of the film. He works in a factory, a labyrinthine maze of metal machinery but we learn that he wanted to originally be a musician but it didn’t work out. He had to become responsible and lead a more traditional life in order to provide for his family. He still plays piano and passes this ability on to his children. Pitt delivers an excellent performance that grounds the film. The actor has aged well and grown into his looks, relying less and less on them as he gets older. There is a nice scene where he accompanies one of his sons playing an acoustic guitar with the piano that is brief but does a lot to humanize his character. The mother, in comparison, is a more elusive character, more of an ethereal figure as played by Jessica Chastain.
You simply cannot engage The Tree of Life in a traditional way. The first section is a little impenetrable at first as one has to leave the concept of traditional narrative behind and get acclimatized to Malick’s approach. One has to let it wash over you and let his poetic imagery work its magic. Like all of his films, this is one that people will either passionately love or hate because of its ambitious, unusual approach. It will be seen as pretentious by some but any film that strives to tackle big themes like life and death and what it means to be human on such an epic (and also intimate) scale runs that risk. What prevents it from collapsing under its own thematic weight is Malick’s sincerity. He really believes in what he is showing us and treats it with the solemnity and weight it deserves. The Tree of Life has the kind of lofty ambitions most films only dream of reaching and it is easy to see why it is being compared to 2001. Like that film, Malick’s will undoubtedly reveal more upon repeated viewings. There is just so much to absorb that one viewing is not enough because you are too busy trying to make sense of what all this breathtaking imagery means. It will take repeated viewings to fully appreciate what Malick is trying to do and say. This is an important film by a master filmmaker.
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Monday, June 27, 2011
What the hell's the point of being a decent person?
By Edward Copeland
SAM STONE (Danny DeVito): Carol, did I ever tell you why I married her?
CAROL (Anita Morris): Yes, Sam, you told me many, many…
SAM: Her father was very, very rich, and very, very sick. The doctors assured me he'd be dead any minute. There wasn't a second to lose! I rushed right out and married the boss's daughter. He was so sick, it was like the Angel of Death was sitting in the room with him, watching the clock. They pulled the plug on him…he wheezed and shook for about an hour…and then…he stabilized. The son-of-a-bitch just got older and sicker. And older, and sicker, and older and sicker…
WAITER (Arturo Bonilla): (interrupting) More coffee, sir?
[The waiter leaves]
SAM: I couldn't wait any longer, so I went out and made my own fortune. The old fart hung in there for 15 years. Finally died of natural causes. I want the rest of that money! His money, her money, it's my money!
I had to live with that squealing, corpulent little toad all these years. God, I hate that woman. I — I — I hate the way she licks stamps! I hate her furniture! And I hate that little sound she makes when she sleeps.
[Sam imitates a whining nasal sound]
SAM: Ugh! And that filthy little shitbag dog of hers…Muffy!
CAROL: Aren't you scared?
SAM: Scared? Hell, no. I'm looking forward to it. My only regret, Carol, is that the plan isn't more violent.
So sets in motion what is in essence a classical farce, only this has been updated for its era — 1986 — and it's filled to the brim with sex, violence and vulgarity and Ruthless People remains as sleek and funny as it was when it was released 25 years ago today. The film also was significant in another way. After their gargantuan hit Airplane!, their comedic style didn't transfer well to TV with the short-lived Police Squad or even in terms of box office for their followup feature Top Secret! Ruthless People marked the last time the team of David and Jerry Zucker and Jim Abrahams joined forces as directors on the same film, only this time they made a "normal comedy" free of puns, silliness and the throw-everything-against-the-wall-and-see-if-it-sticks style that made their career. The trio didn't even write the screenplay, but it didn't prevent Ruthless People from being a frenetic laugh riot. Some habits die hard though, so watch the end credits closely and you'll find they couldn't resist tossing some gags in there.
Before we get to the restaurant where fashion tycoon Sam Stone explains to his mistress Carol his plans to murder his wife Barbara (Bette Midler), we get one of the most fun animated credit sequences I've ever seen. It's set to a pretty lousy title song written by Mick Jagger, Daryl Hall and Dave Stewart of The Eurythmics and sung by Jagger, but the visuals prove so striking that the song hardly matters. Fortunately, the remainder of the film gets welcome musical accompaniment from the late Michel Colombier, whose bouncy, farcical score fits perfectly with the film's town. The composer died of cancer in 2004, but he wrote many eclectic movie scores for broad comedies, dramas and thrillers, including some quite good ones such as 1984's Against All Odds and 1992's Deep Cover. Let's get back to that animated credit sequence though before we move on, because it is memorable. Matt Singer in a February piece on ifc.com the 50 greatest opening title sequences regretted omitting Ruthless People's and other animated credits, even suggesting that perhaps animated ones needed their own list. The sequence is on YouTube, but you can't embed it, so click here to watch it.
Before Sam Stone can realize his dream of going to his garishly decorated home, chloroform his wife and help dispatch her from this world, he comes home to a bit of a surprise. After an encounter with the much-hated Muffy, Barbara seems nowhere to be found so Sam takes a break, sitting in one of her colorful but very uncomfortable looking chairs when the phone rings. (Kudos must go to art director Donald Woodruff and set decorator Anne D. McCulley for the imaginative look of the Stones' home which seems as if it's been coordinated with the credits created by Sally Cruikshank and costumes we'll see later designed by Rosanna Norton.) A voice on the other end claims to have kidnapped Barbara and if Sam doesn't deliver $500,000, they will kill her. If he contacts the police, they will kill her. If he contacts the media, they will kill her. Sam couldn't be giddier: Someone has taken care of the problem for him and he can't call the police and reporters quick enough. The Ruthless People screenplay was written by Dale Launer, who also wrote the underrated Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, My Cousin Vinny and Blake Edwards' terrible Blind Date starring Bruce Willis, Willis' first film after gaining stardom on Moonlighting. Launer has publicly distanced himself from having anything to do with Blind Date, saying it "was rewritten by so many people, if you hated it, it's not my fault and if you liked it, I can't take credit for it." Launer certainly deserves the credit for the tight Ruthless People script though.
Unfortunately for Sam, Barbara's abductors aren't nearly as ruthless as he is or they'd like him to believe. They are a nearly broke young married couple named Ken and Sandy Kessler (Judge Reinhold, Helen Slater) who really are in it for revenge more than the money. It seems that Sandy is a fashion designer who invented "the spandex miniskirt" which Sam stole and passed off as his own idea, even taking Ken's meager life savings in the deal as Stone made a fortune. Now, Sandy doesn't work and Ken sells stereos — badly. They also believe Barbara was Sam's partner in ripping them off. One thing is for certain: It doesn't take much time with Barbara for the Kesslers to develop the same feelings toward her that her husband has. A lot of sources try to pass Ruthless People off as a variation of O Henry's classic story "The Ransom of Red Chief," but that's not really accurate. The Kesslers never end up offering to pay Sam to take Barbara back (though they do lower her price when they get the idea he isn't going to pay), but Sam would never pay anything and through the course of the story's twists, Barbara changes and ends up being the Kesslers' ally. In the beginning though, she certainly isn't. She's foul-mouthed nasty and prone to hit and kick at every chance she can. As Ken tells Sandy, "Well, let's face it, she's not Mother Teresa. Gandhi would have strangled her."
Like the best comedies, Ruthless People runs about 90 minutes, but that doesn't mean it isn't stuffed full of the complications, twists, turns and misunderstandings essential for a farce no matter what era it's set in. In addition to the kidnappers who aren't as ruthless as they want to be and the husband who hopes if he doesn't meet the abductors' demands, they'll kill his wife for him, it turns out Sam's mistress Carol has plans of her own. She's involved with a true dimwit named Earl Mott (Bill Pullman in his film debut) and plans to secretly film Sam killing Barbara and then blackmail him for a fortune. When she sends her dumb lover to the site of the planned murder to videotape, unaware that Barbara has been kidnapped, he records loud raucous car sex between a man and a hooker — with screams so loud he assumes the woman is in her death throes and can't bring himself to watch and see that it isn't Sam. When Earl brings the tape home, Carol has the same reaction to the first scream and can't watch either — she just mails a copy to Sam. When she contacts him, he's delighted by the kinky tape since he actually watched it. When Sam still wants to be a part of Carol's life and mentions how he'd like to do the same things to her that's in that tape, she gets frightened and decides for her own safety she better send that tape to the police chief (William G. Schilling) and tell him to arrest Sam Stone for killing his wife. The chief thinks he's being blackmailed into doing so because he's the man on the tape. Oh, and there's also a serial killer running around called The Bedroom Killer (J.E. Freeman).
Since the ZAZ team directs Ruthless People, for lack of a better word, so ruthlessly and the movie itself has somewhat disappeared into oblivion in the quarter century since its release, I'm not going to spell out exactly how all these strands resolve themselves. The movie moves so fast and you'll likely be laughing so often that the film will be over before you know it. They've assembled an entire cast at the top of their game and it's not often when the "good guys" in a story" are a couple who kidnapped a woman and are holding her for ransom, but they are so inherently decent that they don't have the heart to pull it off. Early on, when Barbara continues to be nasty as hell to Sandy, she gets so upset that Ken finds her crying in the kitchen, upset that Barbara hates her. "You're her kidnapper — she's supposed to hate you," her husband tells her. Seeing how people treat one another and how Sam doesn't seem to give a damn if he gets his wife back, Ken even makes a concerted attempt to become more hardened. "I mean, what the hell's the point of being a decent person when no one is? Let's be assholes and get rich!" Of course, he's saying this as he carefully catches a spider with a magazine and releases it outside — though he goes back out and steps on it. When he tries to apply it to his job selling stereos, talking a kid into financing a huge overpriced system he doesn't need, he folds when he sees he has a young pregnant wife. He tells Sandy later, "I'm no criminal. I can't even sell retail, and that's legal!"
What turns Barbara around is a mere compliment. She refuses to eat much as she's chained to a bed in the basement and spends most of her time working out to exercise programs on television. One day, Sandy off-handedly mentions that she looks really good and might have lost 20 pounds. After multiple fat camps, diets and experimental treatments, nothing had helped Barbara lose weight before. When she wished she had fancy duds to try on, Sandy brings down some of her own designs to try on. Then she learns of how Sam's refused to pay the ransom, which started at $500,000, which Barbara says should be no problem. Then they cut it to $50,000 and he still resisted. Now, he's balking at $10,000. "Do I understand this correctly? I'm being marked down?" Barbara asks before she starts bawling. "I've been kidnapped by K-Mart!" When the newspaper shows up with photos of Sam coupling with Carol, Barbara is ready to help them take Sam for all he's worth.
The climax turns into a hectic wonder, with practically all the players involved, including Earl who tries to interrupt the new ransom handoff to take the money for himself but can't figure out where the voices and shots are coming from (fine performances from the men who function as the farce's straight men, Art Evans and Clarence Felder as police Lts. Bender and Walters). As Mott stands in the middle of the scene, completely befuddled, the cops get what are really their only laugh lines of the entire film. "This could very well be the stupidest person on the face of the earth. Perhaps we should shoot him," Walters says. When Bender announces over the bullhorn that it's the police department and Earl looks up and asks, "Really?" Bender replies, "No, we're the National Rifle Association." It's hard to believe that this was Pullman's film debut and his only previous screen credit was an episode of Cagney & Lacey, because he's hysterical.
Then again, everyone is great. DeVito does another great spin on his sleazy weasel character, only this time one who is well off. Midler works so well in broad comedy and as Reinhold has shown in films such as Beverly Hills Cop and Fast Times at Ridgemont High, he's able to balance the naif character with the ability to get laughs quite well.
However, Ruthless People always brings a bit of sadness along with it. By ending the ZAZ directing team, separately the three were never as strong individually as they were as a unit. They only wrote together again on the first Naked Gun. Jerry Zucker went in a completely different direction with the films Ghost and First Knight but hasn't helmed a film since 2001's The Rat Race. David Zucker had one of those 9/11 conversions that turned a former liberal into an archconservative and divides his time between making anti-Democratic films and endless sequels to Scary Movie (He's in pre-production on No. 5). Jim Abrahams has stuck pretty much to where they started with the Hot Shots! movies and Jane Austen's Mafia! with the exceptions of Big Business and Welcome Home, Roxy Carmichael.
We'll always have Airplane! Police Squad, Top Secret, Ruthless People and a lot of The Naked Gun movies though to remember and make us laugh.
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Sunday, June 26, 2011
Treme No. 20: That's What Lovers Do
BLOGGER'S NOTE: This recap contains spoilers, so if you haven't seen the episode yet, move along.
By Edward Copeland
I'm mixing my television series metaphors, but one of the important messages that the Giant delivered to Agent Cooper on Twin Peaks was that "The owls are not what they seem." Now, you probably couldn't find two series more disparate than Treme and Twin Peaks (or two artists with more different sensibilities than the Davids Lynch and Simon), but on the second season's penultimate episode of Treme, we stumble upon several instances of things not being what they had appeared to be. On the other hand, maybe Treme and Twin Peaks aren't as far apart as they would seem as first. Investigations play a big part on both shows and, more importantly, spirits are an essential element in the narrative of both series, only Treme's doesn't have the malevolent spirit like Twin Peaks, it just seeks to represent the spirit of a city where, admittedly, bad things happen sometime. Appearances can be deceiving.
A sizable gathering of musicians from all levels from street performers to more successful artists have gathered at the site of Harley Watt's murder for a makeshift memorial service that Annie has arranged. On the railing of the fence surrounding Washington Square, mementos pile up in remembrance of Harley. "We used to call Snooks Eaglin the Human Jukebox," Slim Jim Lynch says. "Harley must have been Human Jukebox 2.0. There wasn't a folk, country, Celtic, bluegrass, acoustic blues he didn't know. He was a bloody encyclopedia." As the camera circles, we spot the many present including Susan Cowsill and her drummer husband Russ Broussard, Coco Robicheau, Wilson Savoy. "I'd see him around town and say hello for years and then he'd just disappear," Davis tells the crowd, "for weeks or months. Suddenly, he'd be back from New York or the U.K. or Prague or Fiji or somewhere. I don't know how he ever got where he went. He never had any money, right?" The camera never seems to stop twirling so we keep catching sight of more of the mourners such as Ingrid Lucia. Coco Robicheau speaks next. "I was playing at The Apple Barrel one night and this dude was out on the banquette yodelin'," Robicheaux relays as the camera passes Washboard Chaz. Robicheaux says he went out to complain about Harley's style and Watt said he was one to talk, "And we were good friends ever since. A beautiful thing." The Rev. D.L. "Goat" Carson steps up and asks "Sister Annie" to come forward. "Thank you all so much for coming," Annie tells them. For the first time, we see that Sonny is there. "When I realized we all loved Harley and none of us really knew much about him. Where he came from? Who his family was? If he had a family? He would always just shrug off any personal question. He lives in the moment and he lives for music, all day, every day. He was always broke, but never beat. I never saw him down — ever. He would say, 'I'm too blessed to be stressed.' I'd be blue about something and Harley would say, 'Darlin', life is short. Let's play a song.'" With that, that is what the gathered musicians do, building slowly, it's not immediately recognizable, but then it's unmistakable that they're singing "May the Circle Be Unbroken" written by Ada Habershon. As all join in and the camera whirls again, we see more of the musicians gathered at the scene: Kirk Joseph, Doreen and Lawrence Ketchens, Andre Bohren aka Dirty Johnny of Johnny Sketch and the Dirty Notes, drummer Mike Voelker, David Leonard and Roselyn Lionheart of Mo'Lasses (Mostly) Women's Brass Band and others who were seen too fleetingly to identify.
In retrospect, the direction of that scene may have seemed obvious, but only in hindsight since the viewer didn't know that the memorial would end with the song "May the Circle Be Unbroken," so the constant circling of the camera was an inspired choice and probably the best way in that setting to catch sight of most of the musicians making cameos. "That's What Lovers Do" seems as if everyone is taking a deep breath after Harley's slaying last week, yet like I mentioned in the previous recap they've put together another fine union of writer and director with Eric Overmyer writing the teleplay and Agnieszka Holland directing. Lots of the usual quick scenes, but the fusion of Overmyer and Holland works to move the episode in such a way that I actually was surprised when the end came because it didn't seem as if an hour had passed. I have to note about Holland, simply because I ran out of time with a piling on of projects that I planned, to do a tribute set for Tuesday on the 20th anniversary of the U.S. release of her great German feature film Europa, Europa. She has made some more features since, but it seems as if she's settled into life primarily as an American television director. She directed three episodes of The Wire including "Corner Boys" and
Toni finally talks with the infamous Officer Billy Wilson (Lucky Johnson), named by George Cotrell's sister as one of the cops who chased Leon Seals into the Iberville apartment where he was shot to death and who also was identified by the intimidated witness as one of the officers rousting people at Robideaux's earlier that same day when Joey Abreu ended up dead. When Toni tells Wilson that both were killed by a .380, the officer, doing his best to charm, says, "It couldn't be us then. We carry Glocks, 40 cal." Toni asks if he's never heard of a throw-down piece. Wilson grins, admitting he knows what a throw-down is, but denying he's ever had cause to use one. Wilson inquires of Toni if any of her sources saw police shoot Seals or Abreu and she has to admit that they didn't. "You at Robideaux's the week after the storm?" she inquires. "Hell yeah — we all were, all week. In and out. Iberville too," he answers. "Faced a few knuckleheads, but we didn't kill 'em, we caught 'em." Toni brings up the incident of Officer O'Dell being fired on in the Robideaux parking lot. Wilson asks if she's positive it was 1st District and her source was reliable, because he doesn't recall hearing that. "Thank you Officer Wilson, you've been a wonderful help," Toni smiles as she shakes his hand and he flashes that big grin again. "To protect and serve. You have a good day, ya hear," Wilson says as he exits. Toni mutters to herself, "Butter would melt in his mouth."
Davis brings Annie a beer at Washington Square Park where the musicians still linger. He asks if she's OK. "I think it was just about perfect, don't you?" Annie says. Davis agrees, though he suggests that perhaps a proper memorial is needed in the evening somewhere — an all-star tribute. Annie doesn't like the idea, reminding McAlary that Harley wasn't "a venue musician. He didn't even like playing in clubs." Davis says she's right, but offers as an alternative that perhaps they should go listen to some music, "Busman's holiday," he proposes. Annie mulls it as Slim Jim comes over and gives her the keys to Harley's apartment. "There's no rush," she tells him. "Isn't the rent paid until the end of the month?" Lynch informs her that he has to fly back to London the next day but "Someone's gotta do something with his stuff."
For the first time, we see Lt. Colson at work in a suit as he's settling in at homicide. The first detective Colson starts asking about a case is a name we've been heard all season but whom we've never met: Detective Dennis Prioleau (John Jabaley). "Anything on that Central City double?" Colson asks Prioleau. "Got a call into narcotics. See what they know about the dead guys," the detective replies. "Think we're losin' the war on drugs, detective? Give me your candid opinion," Colson says. Prioleau tells his new lieutenant that he has a line on a witness, an older woman who called in the slayings. "I'll pass by and talk to her tomorrow night when she gets home from work," he adds. Terry is curious why he can't talk with the woman tonight. Prioleau says he's working a detail. "Prioleau, how many detail hours you work in a week?" Colson asks. "Fifteen, twenty," the detective shrugs as Colson just nods. "Relax Lieutenant, I'll talk to the lady." As Prioleau moves along, Colson requests that Detective Silby join him in his office. Silby heads to his office, but we're going to cut to another scene, a short one, and then return to the Colson-Silby meeting. Why is this necessary? The episode still moves well and overall I enjoyed it, but there's no reason not to run the Colson scenes as a whole.
As Antoine is leaving school for the day, Robert chases him down. Batiste tells him he's progressing well, but the kid wants to know what kind of band he was in when he was his age. "Back then, it was Danny Barker's Fairview Baptist Church Band," Antoine tells Robert. Robert wants to know if he's played on the street and Antoine tells him he's played just about everywhere you could think of — barbecues, bar mitzvahs, birthday parties. "We want to do that — me, Charles and Denard — we want to be on the street like the Baby Boyz. Can you help us?" Antoine cocks his head. That took 55 seconds.
Back in Colson's office, he has a file open and he's looking at a photo of Harley lying dead on the sidewalk. "How do you expect to solve this case if you don't work it?" Terry asks Detective Thomas Silby (J.D. Evermore). I suppose they could have spoken already for part of that 55 seconds — it wouldn't take long for Silby to get to the office as he already was heading that way when we left and it's a very short walk. The question then becomes, "Why is the beginning of Colson's talk about Harley's murder deemed so inconsequential to the viewer?" Do they believe we have the attention spans of gnats? This isn't a case about people we've never heard of — it concerns the killing of a character we've known for two seasons who just got shot to death last week. "I've got 12 other active cases, Lieutenant — with leads," Silby replies. "I'll be honest with you. This one's stalled out a little. He was a street musician." "Your point?" Colson asks. "They were walking in the Marigny late and he said something after he handed over his wallet. Should have kept his mouth shut," Silby tells Colson. "He had it comin' — is that what you're sayin'?" Colson inquires of the detective. "That's not what I'm saying," Silby responds. Terry asks Silby if he works any outside details and Silby tells the lieutenant that he has a couple. "Ever interfere with your police work?" Colson asks. Silby says he doesn't think so. Colson tells him to go talk with that woman again, "Anne Talarico." Yes, Annie Tee is merely the name she performs under. The scene lasts 1:02. Combined with the previous Colson scene, it would have been 1:50 total, maybe a few seconds more to cover Silby's walk to the office. Antoine and Robert's 55 seconds could have waited that long. Truly, all season long, there have been bizarre structuring and editing choices like this being made and I would love Simon or Overmyer to explain why.
DJ Davis & The Brassy Knoll rehearse in McAlary's apartment once again, when a knock on the door interrupts. It happens to be singer-songwriter Alex McMurray who greets Davis. He was driving by with his guitar, heard them and wondered if they would mind if he sat in. None of the other members have any objections and Davis says he doesn't, but once McMurray starts jamming on his instrument revealing what a superior player he is to Davis, McAlary feels usurped again.
"Hey LaDonna. Glad I caught you here," Antoine says to his ex as he enters GiGi's. She tells him she had a meeting. He assumes it was with the businessman he saw leaving when he came in so he asks her what he wanted, but then Antoine notices a business card on the bar. "Oh, a realtor. Y'all movin' back home?" he asks. "We're selling the bar," LaDonna says, keeping her eyes focused down and away from Antoine's line of sight. "Why?" Antoine asks with surprise. LaDonna turns, with some anger in her voice. "None of your goddam business." Antoine attempts to calm her down, insisting, "I'm not pryin', but you don't have to bite my head off. I just came by here to make you whole on the child support." He drops some cash on the bar. She sweeps it up, but says nothing. "You're welcome," Antoine says. "Oh, I'm supposed to thank you now for something you owe every damn month," she lashes out at him. "I wasn't expectin' a ticker tape parade, but there it is," he responds. "All the times you was late with it and I let you slide," LaDonna reminds him. "I always paid, didn't I?" Her attitude has begun to rub off on Antoine who is getting a little hot under the collar. "Not as much as me," LaDonna declares. It's so good that they are finally giving Khandi Alexander stuff to do in the final episodes of the season. It's even better that they managed to work in a scene where she can spar with Wendell Pierce. "What's wrong with you?" he asks. "You," she answers. "Me?" Antoine is puzzled. "I should've known. First time I laid eyes on you — shiftless superfucker with a horn and a hat cocked just right," LaDonna proclaims. "Oh, that again," Batiste says as she continues and he asks why she hasn't buried that shit yet. "I did what I could do, LaDonna." "And look what I have to show for it. Shithole of a bar, debts," she rants. Antoine accuses her of being drunk and she says she's fixing to be. "You love this bar," Antoine says. "Can't believe you sellin' it, but I had nothin' to do with this bar. This is your family's. It's been fuckin' people up since before I was born." "Forget about it, Antoine. Just forget it." "And them babies that I gave you — they are our beautiful sons. Now you got a good man. The troubles that we had — our breakup — that led to what you got right now but you can't see that, huh? That's a solid gold silver lining, baby." It's not clear if LaDonna has continued listening to Antoine, because she's shuffling through papers in a file when she finally says, "Shit. Goddam fuckin' musicians." Antoine takes off his cap and rubs and scratches his head. "You are irrational," he manages to say while he's massaging his temples. Now, that is a scene. It only lasts 1:44 (not counting the prologue in the cab), but look how much dramatic energy can be generated when these talented actors get more time to sink their teeth into a scene.
After being the one who encouraged Delmond to make a New Orleans album, his manager James Woodrow informs him that he's not going to make a dime on the recording. "You the one who told me a New Orleans record would sell," Del reminds Woodrow. "Modestly. And that expectation of a razor-thin profit was predicated on four days in the studio, not four weeks," Woodrow says. "Nor picking up and moving everything to New Orleans." Del tries to explain that Albert won't do it anywhere else. Delmond then asks his manager if he can borrow some money to pay Albert and tell him it's an advance on royalties. "I thought I just explained there won't be any royalties. There will never be any royalties. This record will be in the red for fucking ever," Woodrow tells him. "I understand that. That's why I'm asking you. I'm not going to get it from the record company," Del says.
"This is a good idea," Davis says as he and Annie sit st the bar at Chickie Wah Wah awaiting the performance of Jon Cleary. "I'm worried about you," Davis says as he takes Annie's hand. "You're so calm." "I should be hysterical, weepy?" she asks. "No, I just mean you're so stoic. I think you're in shock or denial or something," Davis tells her. "I'm OK," Annie insists. "I'm just all cried out." Cleary shows up and offers his condolences about Harley and asks if he should do something for him or if they had any special requests. "You choose," Annie says. "I'm gonna do a little tune for a special friend of ours. It's called 'Frenchmen Street Blues,'" Cleary tells those at Chickie Wah Wah from the piano before he begins to play and sing. "Sprinkle my tears on Frenchmen Street/Don't be upset at the news/Don't cut me loose with a soulful song/And don't play no Frenchmen Street Blues/ It's been a ride on the river breeze/ With leaves and fields so green/I join the spirits lookin' down on the smilin'/On the back streets of old New Orleans"
At Toni's office, she and her staff go over notes concerning the Seals-Abreu deaths. Anthony reports that Officer Wilson's record is pretty clean without sustained brutality complaints and several commendations. Alison asks if they've made progress on the white cop, but they still haven't tracked him down. He quit after Katrina and left town. "I need to see the homicide files on these cases, see what their story is. What's in there, what's not," Toni says. Alison doesn't follow where her boss is heading. "It's the coverup that does them in," Anthony explains. Toni begins to tutor Alison on how these sort of cases work. "Shootings like these are usually ruled justifiable," she tells her. "In split-second decisions and threats, they're allowed to use lethal force. All they really have to say is, 'I thought he had a gun.'" Anthony joins in as Toni's pseudo-teaching assistant. "But if they try to cover it up, you can get them on perjury, obstruction." Alison asks why they would lie if all they have to do is get their stories straight. "Maybe just because they can," Toni replies. "Bad cops lie all the time just because they can."
Nelson continues his door-to-door homebuying tour. The homeowner asks Nelson how he's doing and Hidalgo tells him the truth that some won't sell. "They fools," the man says. "Anyone can see somethin's up. You aren't buyin' up all this property just to turn around and rent it out again. Not in this neighborhood." Nelson tells the man he looks familiar and he admits he plays and then Nelson recognizes him as a blues guitarist he's seen play. "I've seen you. You're good," Nelson tells him. "I'm not rich, but I get by," Chris Thomas King says. "My life savings — you're lookin' at it." He invites Nelson in to talk about a possible sale.
More than long overdue, LaDonna talks with a counselor. They film the scene in one of the most interesting ways I've seen one set up on Treme with Khandi Alexander's face in profile but hidden completely in shadows, the way you might see someone interviewed on TV when they want to protect their identity. At the same time, while her face has been concealed, behind it hangs a bright white curtain. "Everything's so different since the storm and I know it," LaDonna says. There's a faint sniff and a slight voice crack, as if she has been crying or may be about to start. "Feel like the rain has just eroded under my feet." She emits a half-hearted chuckle as her eyes and her hand agree to meet halfway to touch one another. "I don't know where I am these days," she tells the counselor, who makes a noise for the first time, a sort of "Mmhmm." The camera goes wide now and the room fills with light so we can see Deborah Franks (Tia James), who sits on a couch across from LaDonna, who is leaning forward in a chair. "I think everyone in the city still feels that way. Anxious, displaced," Deborah says. "Not everyone's been this set upon," LaDonna counters, shot in shadows again. When it returns to the counselor's face, you can see LaDonna's tone took Deborah back a little. "It makes sense after what happened," LaDonna says, noticing Deborah's expression. "From his point of view. And it would be entirely understandable if you felt that way too," Deborah tells her. "He only wants what's best for me," LaDonna says. "The bar represents independence, a link to your past, a sense of place," Deborah explains. "It's all I got. It's my family," LaDonna declares. "You resent him for insisting on selling the bar?" Deborah asks. LaDonna stays mum. "Have you resumed relations with your husband?" LaDonna slowly and scowling shakes her head no.
Davis loads his hatchback with some of Harley's belongings while inside Annie continues going through Watt's stuff when Sonny arrives with that guitar he's been borrowing since his audition for Antoine's band. Sonny asks how Annie is doing. "Everyone is treating me like I'm a China doll," she tells her ex. "I am OK." She asks Sonny if he's playing somewhere when he puts the guitar case and the amp down. "Harley loaned me these so I could gig," Sonny says. Annie tells him he should keep them. "That's what Davis said," Sonny replies. "Exactly," Davis says upon entering the room. "Everything's Goodwill bound." Sonny decides he'll keep the guitar for a couple of weeks, but he's bought his own equipment. Davis asks if he's still with Antoine's band and Sonny says he is, but he's been working a job-job too. "A couple times a week. Oyster boat," he tells them. "Oyster boat," Davis says with surprise. "That's like manual labor." Davis takes another load out, leaving the exes alone. After an awkward silence, Annie tells Sonny about the photo of him rescuing the baby she saw at The Ogden Museum when she played with "Tork." "I told you about that," he says. She tells him she knows he did, though her silence seems to say she had thought he was lying at the time. Sonny shrugs. "It's no big deal." "It looked like a deal to me," Annie says. He thanks her and leaves. Annie moves a guitar and the case it was laying on pops open. In the case, she finds lots of sheets of paper.
As young musicians play outside, Sofia gets the hang of her new paid afterschool job at a coffee shop similar to The Sound Cafe. She's brewing a drink for a customer (Renee Yeaton) who thanks her and gives her a tip. Those blue streaks remain in her hair. Sofia gazes through the window at the young guitar player wearing a cap — and he notices.
In New York at The Lucky Peach, it dawns on me that I forgot that last week's episode was another case of Jacquesamnesia. This episode will be as well. Hope they don't completely blank on him until next season since only one episode remains after this. Nick compliments Janette's new creation: rice flour waffles. "Gooch, check this out," Nick calls to another chef (Ned Yousef). "Chicken and waffles, bitches." Sorry, I couldn't help myself but the first thing that popped in my mind was not an unusual culinary combination, but Mildred Pierce — and not the recent miniseries, but the 1945 Joan Crawford version where I first heard of this combination. If I'd read James M. Cain's 1941 novel first, I'd have thought that. Since Melissa Leo played Lucy in the recent miniseries and plays Toni on Treme, if Janette returns home and opens a restaurant that serves chicken and waffles, will Toni have unexplained flashbacks to a previous life when she was married to a truck driver who bootlegged on the side during Prohibition? I'll stop. It's just my fantasies fascinate me much more than this New York storyline does. To summarize the Janette scene, everyone goes wild over her creation and predict Chang will love it.
"Jesus Christ Toni, I'm barely in the door," Terry says. I have to say I agree with Colson here. She knows the viper's pit the department just tossed him into AND how they mock his friendship with her and she's already trying to get him to snoop for her. "I need to see those files, Terry," she persists. He tells her that it's an open investigation so there's no way he can do that and she knows it. "And I know there's nothing going to happen with those investigations. Witnesses have been intimidated, the evidence has disappeared," Toni insists. "Between the 5th District and the 1st, it never made it to homicide," he says. "You sure about that?" she asks. "Detective Prioleau — Abreu was his case. He lied to the family about where their son died and how. He intimidated a witness —" Terry interrupts, "Who won't come forward." "Not til we see how this plays out, Terry." Toni informs Terry of the bullet casings found in the Ibervilles that were the same caliber as those at Robideaux's. Terry asks where they are and if they were turned over to Detective Calderon, who is in charge of that case. "I didn't think that was prudent. I didn't want them to go missing," Toni says. When he refuses to get her the files, she asks if he'll look. "Can you look me in the eye and tell me you think nothing's going on?" "I'm not making any promises," Colson tells her.
In Baton Rouge, the Williams family has gathered for dinner, including Mrs. Brooks. Alcide grimaces at his food. The only sounds being heard are the distinctive clanks of LaDonna's fork as it repeatedly strikes her plate. Alcide asks his grandma to pass the salt, but LaDonna interjects, saying she already salted everything. "You sure?" Larry asks. "Doesn't taste like it." LaDonna says she's sure. "Why'd you put it on the table?" Alcide asks his mother. "I don't know. Habit," LaDonna responds until she spots her mom passing the salt shaker to her oldest son. "Wait a minute. Why'd you hand him that salt? You want him to have hypertension like daddy?" Her mother apologizes and takes the salt back. LaDonna loudly drops her silverware and gets out of her chair and exits the room with the salt and pepper. "See what you did," Randall tells his brother.
Annie plays her violin while Davis smokes some weed. "That's sweet. What comes next?" Davis asks. "I don't know. That's all he wrote," Annie replies referring to the reams of unfinished songs she found in Harley's guitar's case. "Maybe you should finish some of them."
Images I'm not used to seeing on Treme (or any other series for that matter) are a crowded bowling alley where people hit the lanes while nearby others dance to Zydeco. We see that providing the music is Rosie Ledet and her band The Zydeco Playboys. The site of this unusual fusion of music and sport is Rock 'n' Bowl, which started at Mid-City Lanes on South Carrolton in 1993. In 2007, it actually resided at another site on Carrolton, but the scene was filmed at the current location. The reason we're here is that C.J. Liguori and his wife (Susan Gebhardt) have taken Nelson and yet another date (Brittney Alger) to the spot. "She's hot. I like this," Nelson comments about Ledet. "Bowl a little, dance a little. The night is young." Mrs. Liguori tells her husband that a lane has opened up and C.J. tells her to get it and they'll catch up. Nelson informs C.J. that he closed on a couple houses but still has about a half-dozen holdouts. "Not our problem," C.J. tells him. "Let the city and state worry about the refuseniks." Nelson raises the issues of public hearings, concerned citizens, preservationists and the like. "Yeah, that'll come," Liguori says. "And there'll be a fight — a big one." Nelson thought it was already a done deal. "Transparency has its place, but this is for the good of the city."
Despite his hesitation with Toni, Terry looks through homicide's files. It's a 26 second scene and if he found something, found something missing or didn't find anything at all, neither his facial expression nor the camera gives the viewer a hint other than we know he finds a file on Leon Seals and has another file open which might be on Joey Abreu.
If you thought it was hard to catch all the people present at Harley's memorial, this next scene is even more difficult. It takes place at the legendary Dooky Chase's Restaurant which has served New Orleans since 1941. So many characters and real people populate the tables in this scene it's like playing Where's Waldo except everyone is Waldo. In the first shot inside the restaurant, we see seated at a table writer Tom Piazza, who penned this season's "Feels Like Rain," Treme consultant Mary Howell (the inspiration for Toni's character), Lolis Eric Elie, Treme story editor, writer of this season's "Santa Claus, Do You Ever Get the Blues?", blogger and my guardian angel for these recaps and Elie's mother. We see C.J. present on his cell phone, though how he can hear over the noise I have no idea. Nelson makes the rounds, patting the emissary who landed him his computer cable contract on the back. "I've been working in New York with John Batiste as a matter of fact," Delmond tells an older gentleman. "We're not related though," the man answers. "People are always thinkin' we're related. That's a misconception. He uses two Ts in his name. I use three Ts in my name," Harold R. Battiste Jr. explains. Albert cracks a wide smile. "Now that that's all settled," says Leah L. Chase, longtime owner of the restaurant, "I'll go get Harold some gumbo. Anybody else?" The table says they are fine, but Albert pulls Mrs. Chase over. "Miss Leah, what do you think? You think they gonna tear down the Lafitte or not?" Albert asks. "I do not talk politics on Holy Thursday, sweetie," she replies. Congress did approve the demolition of the Lafitte housing projects which were damaged by the flood after Katrina. Here is a YouTube video of its destruction.
I think I spotted Jacques Morial greeting Mrs. Chase. I know he's in the end credits, so he's definitely in this episode somewhere. Toni stands to greet Judge Bernard Williams (Vernal Bagneris). He asks who the "lovely young lady" is that's dining with Toni at her table and Toni introduces him to Alison. "She's interning with me while she studies for the Bar," Toni tells the judge. He asks Alison if she's been to the restaurant before, but Toni whispers that she's from California. "Holy Thursday at Dooky Chase. Gumbo z’herbes — one of New Orleans' sacred institutions," the judge tells her. "Seems like you guys have a lot of those," Alison says. "Indeed. This one is particularly auspicious. First since the storm," Judge Williams explains. "Quite a turnout," Toni comments. The judge points out someone who isn't present at the restaurant — Pampy Barre. Toni explains who Williams is referencing. "Businessman, ex-cop," Toni says before the judge picks up the biography. "Bagman to the stars. The Feds have Pampy and he'd flip on his mama if he thought it'd take one day off his sentence." Toni asks who is in the crosshairs. "Everybody. Rumor is they even went in over the weekend and seized a bunch of files from city council," the judge tells her. Toni glances across the room at the city council president. "Oliver?" "No no no. Never heard his name at all. I'd be surprised," Williams replies.
Colson walks with Sgt. Johnson (Edrick Browne) and hands him a list, telling him that these were supposed to have been sent there after another evidence facility was closed. "There was a bunch — 25 to 30 cases. Detectives never came by to pick up the evidence," Jackson says. "You know how it was after the storm." Colson shakes his head. "That's always the default excuse, isn't it? The storm, the storm, the storm." The sergeant tells Terry that he's welcome to take a look and he climbs stairs to what looks like a closet on the side of a trailer. When he opens the door, it still looks like a closet — a disorganized, overstuffed closet. Colson can't believe the mess.
The humbling of Davis McAlary continues as he apologizes to Mimi and Don B. for being late to the studio. He wants to know what's up because he got a call from them telling him it was urgent. "I called you to preapprove the new amps and mics, but it went straight to voicemail. You didn't get the message?" he asks his aunt. "We gonna talk about that AMEX bill later," Mimi says. She then hits him with what is urgent. She and Don have decided they need to delay the sampler's release for two weeks because they want to include Lil Calliope's "The True" on it. Davis think that's a good idea — until he realizes that means cutting one of the two tracks by DJ Davis & The Brassy Knoll. Davis insists they're both brilliant and one could break out, but Don says one has to go. Mimi tells Davis he has to choose.
Turns out that Cornell has been hiding a girlfriend from us — and she's none other than Toni's law intern Alison Myers. The two holds hands and whisper to each other as Cornell wishes Sonny, "Good luck" as the Dutchman goes off to meet with Linh. Sonny brings Linh and himself drinks as he joins her at a picnic bench on the dock. "You should come here me play sometime," he suggests. "Do you ever play New Orleans East?" Linh asks. "No. Uptown. Seventh Ward, Eighth Ward," he replies. "Never happen, huh?" Linh smiles as she shakes her head no. "First things first. How do I date you?" Sonny wants to know. "You don't — unless my father says you can," she replies. Sonny asks Linh if she'll ask her father. "No," she laughs. "You don't want to date me?" "I don't want to ask him. You have to ask him," she explains. "So you do want to date me," Sonny says. "If he says it's OK." Sonny inquires whether her father speaks English and Linh says he does if he feels like it. "And if he doesn't?" "It means he doesn't like you," Linh tells him, "and you don't want that to happen."
Back in New York at
Antoine greets Mario as they head into a gig and Batiste asks his trumpet player if he's ever given lessons to kids. "I've been known to. Why?" Abney asks. Antoine tells Mario about a student he has who has some problems that might need some extra help from a trumpet player. Mario says he'd have to meet him and he gets paid to teach. Antoine tells him he'll get back with him.
Toni's serving Sofia dinner and telling her what she heard about the FBI raid of the city council office. "The FBI? Not Oliver's office," Sofia says. "You never know what happens over the weekend," Toni tells her. "I handled the fucking files all day Monday," the teen says. "Watch your language," her mother warns. Toni asks how her job's going. "I'm almost a fully certified barista. Next stop, Starbucks," Sofia answers. Toni questions her daughter's seriousness about the job because of the tone's she's using, but Sofia insists that she is. "Just because you're an overprivileged kid who goes to a good school —" "White kid. Don't forget that one," Sofia interrupts to remind her. "White kid, yes," Toni adds. "That doesn't mean you can't fuck this up." There's a knock on the door. Toni answers it. Terry says, "I didn't find anything. Sorry." He then leaves without saying anything else.
Antoine finishes singing "Me and Mrs. Jones," the 1972 Billy Paul hit whose version you can hear here, but he doesn't realize that something far bigger than a little thing is about to go on. "Now ladies and gentlemen, we are about to feature the vocal stylings of the legendary Wanda Rouzan," Antoine tells the audience. Wanda begins to sing the much-covered multi-genre classic "Misty Blue." "Oh, it's been such a long, long time," Wanda sings but Antoine seems to want to make it a duet adding, "probably too long, baby" as she tries to ignore him. "Looked like I’d get you off of my mind/But I can’t." "No you can't. No you can't," he grins at her side as she begins to look annoyed. "just the thought of you/" "Bets you needs me, huh?" "Turns my whole world misty blue" "I know it do. I know it do." "Oh honey, just the mention of your name" "Antoine Batiste" "Turns the flicker to a flame" "Burn baby burn." "Listen to me good, baby" "I'm listenin'. What you got to say?" "I think of the things we used to do" "All night long." "And my whole world turns misty blue" "Come on baby, you can do it," Antoine says as he starts doing pelvic thrusts as Wands belts some oh's. She picks up the song again. "Oh baby, I should forget you" "You ain't never gonna forget this." "Heaven knows I’ve tried" "You ain't tryin' hard enough." The audience laughs on that line. Wanda repeats "Baby" about three times in a row with Antoine following each one with a "What?" She returns to the song. "when I said I'm glad we’re through." Wanda then turns to Antoine and she isn't singing anymore. "I said you ain't nothin' but a scene stealin', connivin' no-playin', no-singin' pussy-faced, pious motherfucker!" She jumps off the stage and into the crowd. "Where do you think you're goin'?" Antoine asks. "I quit!" "In the middle of a gig? I'm gonna fire your ass," Antoine shouts back. As Wanda's voice grows fainter, we hear her say, "Yeah, you do that." Cornell looks at him. "Now what man?" Antoine tells him to play that intro again. One of the other members ask if he's going to sing "Misty Blue." "Please don't," Cornell begs (though many men have sung it before). Thaddeus suggests they let him and then fine him for every wrong note. Antoine starts singing the song again and screws up the lyrics almost immediately. It's not been a good day for Antoine with women in bars.
Since Terry can't very well call Toni out for a candid talk and a beer, he turns to Percy Bechet, his sergeant when he was shift commander. "The files are sanitized like they barely worked the cases," Terry tells her. "No forensics, no ballistics, not even evidence or admission slips to the morgue." Percy says, "Then homicide." Terry lets Bechet in on his trip to temporary central evidence and what he found there. "All of Seals' stuff. All of Abreu's. Everything in heaps and piles — a mess. The clothes they were wearing, the bullets that killed them — just rotting away," Terry reports. "Devil's advocate, Terry. If this is a coverup —" Percy can't finish her thought before Terry interrupts her, "I'm not saying that it was." You know, there sure seems to be an abundance of overlapping dialogue in tonight's episode. Watching Treme as closely as I do, I've never noticed any writer do that much before, certainly not Overmyer. "Why didn't the detectives go to the morgue, pick up their evidence and make it go missing like the Abreu casings?" Percy asks. "Because autopsies were on St. Gabriel after the storm. Maybe they just didn't bother to drive all the way out there. With everything that was going on, all the confusion who's to know?" Terry says. "Exactly," Percy responds. "They blew 'em off, wrote some half-assed reports and closed the cases." Terry agrees. "You're right. That's probably how it went down."
Antoine asks the band if anyone knows any female singers who might want to fill in for Wanda, even for one night. Now, even though LeToya Luckett was hired to play Toni's law intern Alison did anyone think it was likely that a former member of Destiny's Child would be cast and NOT end up singing, especially when she suddenly turns out to be Cornell's girlfriend tonight? "My new girlfriend sings a little," Cornell tells Antoine. "Would she be interested?" Antoine wants to know. "Maybe a couple of gigs. She's kind of a serious student. A lawyer," Cornell says.
What looks like it could be a Jack Russell terrier (Oliver) lies down next to a couch while in an adjoining room of Piety Street Studios, Delmond's musicians have reassembled in New Orleans to work on his money-losing project. Dana Lyndsey sits on a couch in the recording studio and watches while her cameraman films the session. Albert seems happy with the take and the gathered musicians have added Alfred "Uganda" Roberts to their ranks. "Now that's what I'm talkin' about," Albert cheers. "Sounded good, daddy" Del says. The voice of Mark Bingham on an intercom asks, "Ready to move on?" Dana has walked over from the couch and joined Albert who says, "Give me a minute." Albert and Dana head for another room, but not before he tells the cameraman to turn that camera off. "He's happy?" Donald Harrison declares with surprise. "Didn't that sound the same as what we cut in New York?" Del asks. "I hate to disagree with your ass, but I'm with your pa on that shit," Dr. John declares. "How else you gonna get the legendary Uganda Roberts playin' on your session?" Del says he wanted to bring Uganda up to New York. "New Orleans infect music. It reconstitutionalates it. I'm not tryin' to be some jivenocity sucker, but it
At The Lucky Peach, Janette presents her latest creation, shrimp and grits, to Chang. As far as I know, that dish did not figure in the plot of any 1940s crime melodramas or film noirs, though I've heard rumors that it was considered as a title for Scarlet Street starring Edward G. Robinson and Joan Bennett until Fritz Lang thought better of it. "Try that Gooch," Chang says. "It's delicious." Gooch agrees.
Antoine takes the stage for the first time with Alison at his side and they sing the Al Green classic "Love and Happiness." Antoine may be about to have a third bad experience with a woman in a bar. Desiree is in the audience and doesn't look pleased.
Back to Lucky Peach. A customer gets Janette's attention. It turns out to be "one of my heroes," she says — Chef Donald Link owner of the New Orleans restaurant Cochon in the Central Business District. "Good to see you. Great work," Link says. "We miss you in New Orleans." (As does Jacques. Can't you hear his cries?) Janette thanks him and looks wistful.
Back at the club, Desiree lays into Antoine. "You just haven't been able to tell me why Wanda quit and you replace her with some honey with a big booty," Desiree yells. "Her booty had nothin' to do with it. She works with Toni Bernette. She's a law student, Cornell's girlfriend," Antoine tells her. He tries to explain it was an emergency for one night and not for a regular gig, but Desiree remains livid. "How come all you sing is cheatin' songs?" Desiree asks. "You gotta give the public what they want. What you call a stage persona," he explains. Desiree asks if he's running around on her again, but Antoine swears only on stage.
The same group of young musicians have taken their place in front of the coffee shop and Sofia listens as she fetches their empty mugs. She tells them they sound great and the guitar player Scottie (Scottie Swears) follows her inside. He asks if it's OK if they leave their instruments in the shop for a few minutes. Sofia says it's fine. "We were gonna go out back and smoke some weed if you'd like to join us," Scottie offers. "What about your stuff?" Sofia asks. He proposes sticking a sign on the door that says be back in five. Sofia contemplates it, but she decides to be the good girl for a change.
There have been a few cases of what I promised at the beginning, with deceptive appearances, but the main one has been saved for the second-to-last scene. "This machine floats," the woman reads off one of Harley's guitars. "That's so Harley. Pete and Woody were his heroes. I liked The Kingston Trio and Peter, Paul and Mary. I used to play 'Leavin' on a Jet Plane' just to annoy him." The sudden appearance of Harley's sister Lucinda (Meg Gibson) has left Annie pretty much speechless. Lucinda strums a little on the guitar, prompting Annie to say, "I hope you'll take that." "You don't mind?" Lucinda asks. "Well of course not. We gave most of his things to Goodwill," Annie tells her. "If I'd known you were coming —" "If you had known I existed you mean," Lucinda says. "Harley never talked about his family," Annie admits. "Yeah, that would be me at this point," his sister says. "I apologize again for droppin' in like this. The detective, he gave me your address. He was never much for biography or possessions. Surprised he had a roof over his head. I should go. I've got a busy day tomorrow — cremation in the morning, flying on the red eye. I hope I don't have trouble getting his ashes through security. Sounds like one of his songs," Lucinda finishes. "You know, there were a few other things," Annie tells her, but Lucinda tells her to keep them. "It may be up to you next year, Mardi Gras, official year. He wanted his ashes scattered on the Mississippi. Some parade," Lucinda says. "Saint Anne," Annie tells her. "He was a tremendous songwriter. I learned so much from him." His sister admits, "Honestly though, I couldn't stand his singing. That phony Texas twang." Annie asks what she means. "Oh, what did he tell you? That he was from Austin or Lubbock or San Antonio?" Lucinda asks as she's tearing up. "Waco," Annie responds. "Complete affectation. We grew up in Bellingham, Washington."
LaDonna and Larry lie in bed after attempting to make love for the first time since the rape. "Why did you stop?" she asks him. "I thought you wanted to," he says. "Thought you did," she responds. "You didn't seem like you was really into it," Larry tells her. LaDonna turns her back to him. "We just out of practice, that's all," she says as she stares.
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