Richard Pryor – December 1, 1940 – December 10, 2005

Arguably the greatest stand-up comedian of all time, and one of the first and most successful to transfer his talents onto the big screen, Pryor’s wit was often rooted in tragedy and his ability to instantly win over an audience with his charm. Multi-talented, multi-faceted, his award-winning performances touched on subjects such as race, politics, and sexuality, often with a self-deprecating and shockingly vulgar approach which audiences continue to be bowled over by. With an alarmingly difficult early life, Pryor had a brief stint in the Army before setting foot on the stage. Eventually writing and performing on TV shows such as Sanford And Son and Saturday Night Live, he found find greater mainstream success in a number of major hits including Brewster’s Millions, See No Evil, Hear No Evil, and Superman III. With the saddest eyes to ever look over an audience at a comedy show, and with endlessly energetic, manic performances, Pryor continues to make millions laugh uncontrollably.

RIP

Feel free to share your thoughts and memories of Pryor in the comments section below.

May 29, 2015 at 9:53 am Leave a comment

Best Director: 1964

Actual Nominations: George Cukor. Peter Glenville. Robert Stevenson. Stanley Kubrick. Michael Cacoyannis.

This year’s nominees were mostly from adaptations of books or plays with original material being left by the wayside. That being said, the adaptations on display here are seen as the definitive versions and much of that fact is largely down to the directing talent. Picking up the official win this year was George Cukor for My Fair Lady which, for better or worse, os one of those films you’ll know something about even if you’ve never seen it, whether it be the plot, the cast, or the songs. A veteran of Hollywood this is his most successful musical, and thanks to his experience with comedy and drama he deftly handles the humorous aspects of the films while ensuring that it isn’t just pointless giggle chow. Peter Glenville gets his only Oscar nomination for Becket- having directed much of the cast for the stage production this wasn’t a huge leap for him. Robert Stevenson spent much of his career as Disney’s go-to-guy for film directing, but with Mary Poppins he became immortal. Possibly due to his experience on Disney movies he ensures that Poppins is a bright, vibrant, energetic film which never offends ar fails to delight children, but I just candle handle all that singing, dancing, and smiling. Kubrick gets another well-earned nomination for Dr. Strangelove where he hones his satirical venom just enough whilst keeping the tone and presentation fairly light in contrast with his later tackling of similar subjects. He gets credit for arguably making this the only original work in the category. Michael Cacoyannis closes the nominations with his well observed and loved Zorba The Greek, his most renowned work.

My Winner: Stanley Kubrick.

This is an easy choice for me as not only did Kubrick largely come up with the idea for the film and work on the screenplay himself, his touch can be seen in every frame. There remains a relevance and power to the film in these, some would say, pre-apocalyptic days we find ourselves in, and every day we see stories of absurdity from ever media outlet based on war and power. With so much of our lives and choices beyond our personal control and either lying in the hands of other mere, fallible mortals, or the fried, efficient, but humanity-free and equally fallible computers. It is known now as it was then, but hopefully the right lessons preached in this little film may have been heeded by the right people. Few films are more than just entertainment – this is one of the few.

My Nominations: Stanley Kubrick. Sergio Leone. Guy Hamilton. Jean Luc Godard. Cy Endfield. Bryan Forbes.

Only Kubrick makes it over from the official nominations. Joining him though is a host of talent from all over the globe. Sergio Leone gets a well deserved mention for Fistful Of Dollars while Guy Hamilton steps into the Bond hot seat and gives what many see as the definitive Bond film with Goldfinger. Bryan Forbes’ Seance On A Wet Afternoon did get nods in other categories, but it is the atmosphere which he creates which gives the film its lasting impact, while Cy Endfield packs as much heroism, action, and patriotism into a pre-Michael Bay film as you could wish for with Zulu. Godard gets a nod this year for Band Of Outsiders, one of the smoothest crime capers there is, but one with so much more than just plans of robbery.

My Winner: Stanley Kubrick

Stanley-Kubrick-was-the-First-Man-on-the-Moon-1090699

May 27, 2015 at 12:09 pm Leave a comment

Nightman Listens To – New Jersey – Bon Jovi

Greetings, Glancers! Before all the Snookies and muscular metrosexuals began stinking up the place, Bon Jovi were celebrating their home with their 4th album and mega hit New Jersey. Riding high on the success of their previous album, the band were rapidly becoming one of the biggest in the world, but it’s rare that a single album is enough to sustain a band or prove their abilities, and so the boys needed to prove themselves. New Jersey arguably goes further than Slippery When Wet by branching out a little from their usual sound successfully, while knocking out another number of glossy rock anthems which have stood the test of time. Like most of the band’s biggest albums, I’ve likely heard every song here at least once, but I can’t say for sure that I’ve listened to the album in a single sitting. Lets rectify that now!

Lay Your Hands On Me: Echoing drums, cheesy ‘hey’ shouts, and phaser/guitar/airplane noises to create a strange opening. A minute in and the experimental sounds still abound, with a few spoken pieces added. Eventually the gospel like organ and choir starts before giving way to the 80s Jovi sound. It’s nice that they’re trying new things in their first song, but strip that all away and we have another straightforward, mid-paced, well written anthemic rick song. The verses aren’t great, Jon has some odd vocal tics, but the chorus is great. There isn’t much more to it – the chorus gets stretched out for the last couple of minutes, with further backing vocals and instrumentation to give added oomph.

Bad Medicine: A famous guitar/synth intro gets us into fist pumping full swing and no time is wasted as the chorus blasts out in the opening moments. Funky verses at a mid-stomping pace lead into an anthemic bridge with singalong lyrics before tailing into that big chorus again. Simple stuff, but very catchy and yet another track for a wide range of listeners to headbang to. There isn’t much else to the song, a decent solo in between repeated choruses spreads things out to the five-minute mark, although all that ‘wait a minute’ nonsense at the end could, nay, should have been cut.

Born To Be My Baby: Three big hits in a row, this one again wastes no time in getting to the point with catchy chanting leading into atmospheric pumping synth similar to ‘Runaway’. This is a high energy track which sometimes gets lost amidst all the more famous singles from the band, but I’ve always felt it’s one of their strongest. It’s perfectly 80s, but the melodies are great throughout – verse, bridge, and chorus are each breathless and excellent. A particular scratching solo works well, and those 80s stadium drums make you want to run through the streets in an 80s movie montage.

Living In Sin: This one opens like an 80s pop ballad, and I don’t remember it. Guitars and drums come in eventually, though it’s all soft, middle of the road stuff. The chorus is once again anthemic but it isn’t working for me as I don’t recall hearing it before and it doesn’t have a particularly strong hook. A standard solo followed by a rinse and repeat to end brings an ok song to its conclusion… nothing memorable here, fairly standard 80s ballad cheese, but I imagine a lot of young couples got naked to it at the time and it likely holds a strong nostalgic value.

Blood On Blood: Another hit which opens with tinkly guitars and other effects along with tumbling drums and weird synth and Baywatch piano. South Park vocals with a Springsteen feel give a triumphant anthemic feel, and the pace and the chorus ensure this is another classic. It’s a feel good, fast paced smiling rocker with nice backing vocals and some good melodies. We bring things down a notch for a quiet, whispered section before bringing it all up again for a final chorus section. So far this is shaping up to be the strongest Bon Jovi album yet, but I don’t recognise most of the upcoming songs, so we’ll have to see if it drops in quality for the second half.

Homebound Train: Lone guitar whining which recalls Led Zep opens this one, before a big riff comes in. I don’t remember this one, but it seems funky enough. The ‘down down down’ section sounds familiar so I must have heard it at some point. It’s an odd vocal choice for the lyrics as Jon sings it in a sleazy style, when it appears to be a simple song about going home, though maybe it’s all about sex and I haven’t been listening properly. Nice duel between synth, harmonica, and guitar, pretty good guitar solo, then a funky mid-section. A decent enough, fun rock track.

Wild Is The Wind: Lots of harmonics on the guitars in this quiet opening. I knew it wouldn’t be long before the Cowboy Jovi appeared. I wasn’t 100% if I had heard this when I saw the track list, but yes I’ve heard it, even though I don’t remember it fully. The song becomes standard Bon Jovi rock stuff by the time we get to the chorus, but it’s a pretty great song; atmospheric, ok lyrics, musically and melodically strong, and a slightly more complex song from a structural standpoint. None of the hooks are as instant as the band’s most famous tracks, but there’s a consistency meaning they’re equally strong. One of the guitar parts sounds an awful lot like a guitar part from Bryan Adams’s .Heaven’.

Ride Cowboy Ride: We’re defo into Cowboy territory now, as the name suggests. A radio static tune with acoustic guitars and duel vocals serves as an introduction for the next track, but as a standalone song it fine, and the main hook is catchy without lapsing into full-blown Country disasters.

Stick To Your Guns: This opens with a blast before calming and transforming into an acoustic ballad for the verses. It’s another inspirational, full-blooded American anthem of the Springsteen ilk, but the chorus isn’t as powerful as the verse, and we all know that an anthem only works if the chorus is the peak. The chorus is fine, it’s just a little weak when placed beside the very good verse. I do like the way the guitar solo merges with the vocal when it begins.

I’ll Be There For You: This is the band treading into complete acoustic rock and ditching the synth to make a more honest, typical ballad. Even though the guitars are electric, and the drums are big, at its core this is an acoustic track. The verses are good, and unlike the previous track, the chorus takes things up a notch to ensure we move into anthem territory. The song does get stretched a little needlessly with an overly long second verse – it seems like an attempt to fit as many lyrics in as possible, but we get the idea after a few lines. Still, another good song.

99 In The Shade: When I saw the name of this one I immediately had visions of 80s cheese, though the name wasn’t familiar to me. It starts at a high pace, with Queen-esque harmonies before merging into standard 80s rock. Oh lord, ‘tell the boys’… as soon as you hear something like that, you know you’re fighting a lost cause. Yes, my assumptions were correct, this is all 80s cheese, how wonderful it is to party and all that shite. Most of the lyrics of the verses are lost, the chorus lyrics are light and shite, and there aren’t any melodies of note. There is a lot of shouting though, if you’re into that.

Love For Sale: Talking and harmonica messing around. Sounds like the band pretending to look like they’re arsing around. This continues at a high pace with a demo feel. It sounds like they are having fun anyway, there’s a great solo, the drums and bass are non-existent. It’s an odd choice of a final track for an album packed with stadium filling anthems and really should have been a hidden track if they really wanted to include it. It’s an ok song, but isn’t worthy of closing the album.

A mostly, consistently good album then, with a first side of hits, and a second half of lesser tracks ranging from very good to ok, and only one which I would consider poor. This is probably the best Bon Jovi album out of the four I’ve covered so far, and there are still quite a few hit albums coming up as the band began that treacherous crossover into the nineties. As with each of the Bon Jovi albums so far, there isn’t a lot of wisdom or emotion on display – these are party or driving albums, heart-pumping songs to get you moving and smiling, and it’s easy to cut away the chafe from the good stuff. Let me know what you think about the album in the comments – any special memories of hearing the songs at the time of release or if you feel it is another poodle rock mistake!

May 26, 2015 at 1:52 pm Leave a comment

Manic Mondays – 25th May 2015

‘And like pretty girls, oblivion exists’

Boxes And Lists

May 25, 2015 at 9:49 am Leave a comment

Walk Of Fame – Inductees 14th May 2015

To check the dubious reasoning behind these posts, check the original here:

https://carlosnightman.wordpress.com/2015/05/14/walk-of-fame-a-celebration-of-heroism/

In this new series of posts I’ll be selecting a Star at random from every decade (who was born in that decade) starting from the 1880s up until the 1990s to be interred in this land of magic and wonder, who will for ever more see their name set in stone far beyond the places where Gods dare to tread. Each name will have a unique star placed and statue built-in their honour. Often accompanying these additions will be news of a new store or museum to go alongside those stars whose work is of particular genius, and you too can visit and see the place of your dreams, simply by closing your eyes….

1880s:  Bela Lugosi. For contributions to cinema. One of a handful of early horror icons, and a name that resonates today even though his first appearance was in 1917. Eternally remembered as one of the first and most charismatic Draculas, Lugosi’s other work includes The Black Cat, Ninotchka, and The Body Snatcher.

1890s: Frank Capra. For contributions to cinema.One of the greatest directors in Hollywood history, Capra’s life began in rural Italy, before he emigrated to the US where he fought in two World Wars and wrote, directed, and produced some of the most successful movies of the 20th Century, including It’s A Wonderful Life, Mr Smith Goes To Washington, and Lost Horizon.

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1900s: Joseph L. Mankiewicz. For contributions to cinema. Following a successful career as both a screenwriter and producer, Mankiewicz began making his own movies which he would be most fondly remembered for, with works including All About Eve, Guys And Dolls, and Cleopatra.

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1910s: Roald Dahl. For contributions to cinema and Literature. Perennial favourite of imaginative children, and one of the major forces schools have used for decades to entice children into the joys of reading and writing, Dahl’s long and varied career saw him as a screenwriter, Wing Commander in WWII, poet, and novelist for kids and adults alike. Contributions to film include Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, You Only Live Twice, and Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory.

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1920s: Robert Hardy. For contributions to Cinema and TV. Starting his acting career in the 50s, Hardy has moved seamlessly between Theatre, TV, and Cinema earning a CBE in the process, with works including The Harry Potter Series, The Spy Who Came In From The Cold, and Sense And Sensibility. 

1930s: Tom Baker. For contributions to cinema and TV. Famous primarily for being the longest running Doctor (with iconic scarf and hat), Baker has been a monk, in the Medical Corps, in the Navy, as well as a writer and voice and theatre actor. Works include Doctor Who, The Golden Voyage Of Sinbad, and The Vault Of Horror.

Tom-Baker

1940s: Chevy Chase. For contributions to cinema and TV. One of few comedians who has successfully navigated stage, TV and cinema to become a household name for each platform, Chase has appeared in works such as Saturday Night Live, National Lampoon’s Series, and Fletch.

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1950s: Bill Pullman. For contributions to cinema and TV. Everyman US actor Bill Pullman has appeared in a variety of genres, from horror to comedy, from drama to sci-fi blockbuster, with works including Independence Day, Torchwood, and Lost Highway. 

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1960s: Nancy Travis. For contributions to cinema and TV. With smokey eyes and massive smile Travis risked being typecast, but thanks to a number of strong performances she has maintained a long and varied career, in works such as Three Men And A Baby, Duckman, and The Vanishing.

1970s: Gabrielle Anwar. For contributions to cinema and TV. Starting out as a child actress on British TV, Anwar carved out a Hollywood movie career before returning to the small screen to great success, starring in such works as Body SnatchersThings To Do In Denver When You’re Dead, and Burn Notice.

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1980s: Hayden Panettiere. For contributions to cinema and TV. Singer, voice and screen actress, model, Panettiere has made waves on a variety of platforms thanks to memorable performances in works such as Heroes, Nashville, and Scream 4.

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1990s: Abigail Breslin. For contributions to cinema. Another up and comer in Hollywood, Breslin has already impressed (and been nominated for an Academy Award) with her range in works such as Little Miss Sunshine, Zombieland, and Signs. 

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In addition to a host of other attractions, this weeks sees the addition of:

The Griswold Christmas Exhibition, in honour of Chevy Chase, and as voted for by the esteemed writer over at http://established82.com/, this exhibition is closed 365 days a year, features a real not-working 6ft festive tree, and a carol singing SWAT team for your viewing pleasure.

In honour of the induction of Bill Pullman, a full size recreation of the mothership from Independence Day has landed and can be boarded and explored, with over 500 guest rooms if you choose to say overnight. Please note that all wireless devices must be turned off during your stay.

And finally, due to popular, demand two conjoined Chocolate factories have been built in honour of Roald Dahl’s famous novel. Visit the gift shop and stock up on your favourite Wonka creations, play paintball against a team of Oompa Loompas, or take a pleasant boat ride through our rambling chocolate river!

Which star are you happy to see being inducted, and what in your wildest would you like to see being built? Remember, in The Spac Hole, there are no limitations!

May 22, 2015 at 3:40 pm Leave a comment

Best Supporting Actress: 1964

Actual Nominations: Dame Edith Evans. Agnes Moorehead. Gladys Cooper. Grayson Hall. Lila Kedrova.

A fairly terrible year this with a bunch of ye olde stage actresses of high renown, mostly known for playing the snooty, the haughty, the high brow. The list of names even read like the cast of characters from a 19th Century Play. So out of 5 similar enough roles and performances, I have picked my winner as the actress who turns her role off its centre in Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte  – it’s just enough off centre to make it more of a re-examination than a straight portrayal.

My Winner: Agnes Moorehead.

My Nominations: Agnes Moorehead. Jitsuko Yoshimura. Deborah Kerr.

A fairly rotten year for supporting actress with only Jitsuko Yoshimora as The Daughter from Onibaba and Kerr from Night Of The Iguana setting the world alight, while Moorehead is the only crossover.

My Winner: Agnes Moorehead.

Do you agree with my brazen statement that this was a crappy year for Supporting Actresses? Let us know in the comments who your picks are!

May 20, 2015 at 2:05 pm Leave a comment

Nightman Listens To – Madonna – Like A Virgin!

Greetings, glancers, and welcome back to another exciting entry in the Nightman Listens series. Today, we’ll be looking at one of the biggest albums of the 80s, and one which launched the career of one of the most influential women in music

Hard to believe, but yeah

Hard to believe, but yeah

Madonna’s first album was a decent success and the follow-up was recorded and released a year later to great acclaim. With a number of high performing singles and a distinct sound, it is one of the archetypal 80s records, going on to encourage a bunch of imitators to follow Madonna’s musical approach, fashion sense, and provocative approach. Surrounding herself with some terrific writers, Madonna’s drive for success was spurred by the songs she was recording around this time. Looking at the track listing, I actually only recognise two of the names, though I’m sure I’ll know some of the others once I hear them – I’ve never actually sat down and listened to the whole thing. So let’s do this!

Material Girl: Aah, for someone my age there are any number of songs which instantly transport you back to the 80s. Big synthetic drum blasts and funky beats – as soon as that riff comes in, you’re already back there and when the vocals come in there’s no coming back. It’s all very cheesy, almost deliberately so, with Madonna both mocking and praising the materialistic lifestyle. The chorus is perfect, and the verses are pretty catchy too. Of course, we could do without all the squeaks and squawks, but it was the 80s. The production here is excellent, much higher quality. The song feels a little stretched, possibly for video purposes, but it never out stays its welcome.

Angel: Plinky plonky. Laughs. Hmm, I don’t recognise this one so far. Fairly catchy and sultry vocals. Vocals get more bizarre as the song goes on. Chorus is ok, not overly strong. There’s a nice synth break in the middle, another laugh which manages to not be as cheesy as you would think, so well done for that.

Like A Virgin: One of the most recognisable songs of the decade, and possibly Madonna’s signature song. Opening with honking synths it’s another which instantly grabs hold. Madonna sings in a high register, and both verse and chorus melodies are catchy. The lyrics fitted perfectly with Madonna’s image at the time, as an independent strong woman. Musically it crosses that line between pop and dance brilliantly – a song just as good to listen to in the bedroom, on the dance floor, on your Walkman.

Over And Over: Drums. Fast paced blaps. More synth. It’s another I don’t recognize. It’s good fun hearing all these 80s songs which you didn’t hear first time around, or forgot about as they all manage to pull back memories. I was only a toddler when this albums came out, but nevertheless, the music was replayed on TV and radio for years. Anyway, not many hooks on this one, the chorus is ok, but it’s definitely mid-album filler.

Love Don’t Live Here Anymore: Ah yes, I remember this one, and it is of course a cover. Given the synth treatment, it’s probably Madonna’s first ‘dark’ song with its desolate lyrics about loss. The vocals are fine at the high ranges, but things get a little strange for those lower notes. Nevertheless, the arrangement blending strings, synth, guitars, and booming drums gives that timeless 80s feel, and it sounds a little like something Roxette would have done. The song threatens to drag on a little bit, but Madonna brings it back by some fine yelping and howling for the final moments.

Dress You Up: Thumping drums. Disastrous synth. Nice melody. Hand clap sounds like cardboard boxes being dropped in a puddle. Silly lyrics about clothes/sex. I remember the chorus. The chorus is a little too short and whiney. Feels more like a one hit wonder than a genuine memorable Madonna track. It’s a little weak sounding with flat production, decent melodies. It’s a fun, silly inclusion that doesn’t really go anywhere.

Shoo Bee Doo: I don’t know this one. A piano led ballad with a lot of space for Madonna’s vocals. Now drums, slowly becoming more of a dance track. Some of this sounds a little familiar, but I can’t place my memories accurately so I may well have heard this in my youth, or it could simply be similar to other songs I’ve heard. Something about it is also reminding me of a Michael Jackson song, but I can’t quite determine which one. Oh dear Lord, Saxomophone. Vague, light, forgettable, overlong but aside from those points, nothing particularly poor about it.

Pretender: Weird fast noises. Synth drums and other strangeness. I don’t know this one. Attempts to be funky, but doesn’t quite work. Weird vocals, silly boo-hoo lyrics. Nothing catchy here, no matter how many times ‘He’s a pretender’ is shouted at me. Ooh, an interesting middle section. That almost went somewhere good, but didn’t quite manage it.

Stay: The final track, hmm this is a pretty short album. Then again I’m used to metal and prog albums lasting forever. More weird noises at the start. These last few tracks have been more reminiscent of stuff from the first album – middling dance pop songs with no real hooks. It’s an ok song, but not memorable in the slightest. No, not more speaking parts. When will we learn that talking during songs just DOESN’T work? EVER.

I think I was expecting that to be a bit more. Only the singles have any sort of impact, with the rest of the album being average fluff. Note – it turns out that  one of my favourite Madonna songs – Into The Groove – was added to a re-issues of this album, after being recorded for the Desperately Seeking Susan soundtrack. Ah well, we’ll have to skip that one. Hey, Crazy For You was also recorded around this time and wasn’t part of any studio album. This album would have been epic had those two tracks replaced a couple of the others! So, nothing overly brilliant here, but it’s easy to appreciate the impact and sales the album had. Next time we visit Madonna’s back catalogue, we’ll be going through True Blue which I know contains at least two of my favourite Madonna songs, and I’ll be keen to hear if there are any classics I’ve missed.

Let me know what you thought of this album in the comments – does it contain any of your favourites, or is it an aged relic of a time best forgotten?

May 19, 2015 at 12:17 pm Leave a comment

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