Released 21 years ago, Robert Townsend's breakout movie Hollywood Shuffle stands the test of time, as witnessed by these hilarious but poignant clips from the 1987 comedy. What made Hollywood Shuffle -- which was directed & produced by Robert Townsend and written by Robert Townsend and Keenan Ivory Wayans -- so great was the perfect balance of satire and comedy it possessed as it accurately portrayed the rampant stereotyping of African Americans in film and television roles. And it was never far off the mark either. (Examples of stereotyping in popular American film and TV productions were not hard to find, offering Townsend lots of material to draw from. For an example of stereotyping in 70's TV, just rewatch an episode of Starsky and Hutch with the comic book jive-talking Huggy Bear character played by Antonio Fargas in it.)
Hollywood Shuffle is one of those rare really funny comedies that actually has a strong message and says something of worth. Recently re-watching Hollywood Shuffle, which is available at Amoeba Music on DVD (ask for it if you cannot locate it in the store), I was reminded of all the great actors that were in it including the aforementioned Townsend and Wayans plus Damon Wayans, Dom Irrera, Don Reed, and John Witherspoon.
The gang fight clip (above) is where the Stereotypes battle with Townsend playing Jimmy, leader of the Afros. The movie is just chock-a-block with great scenes, including the black actors school scene (below), and the spoof on Siskel & Ebert, "Sneakin in at the Movies" (also below).
10.30 AM - Time to open Amoeba.
I’ve been working at Amoeba Music for over three years now (although I often still feel like a newbie) but it wasn’t until last Thursday that I had co-workers over to my house for the first time.
The reasons for this are many, and complicated. For one, whenever you have humans over to your house to visit, there’s all sorts of things one must do, like… talk to them… and… well, talk to them. It’s daunting! Nevermind the fact that my cat, Fangs, is only one moment away from figuring out how to eat someone.
My cat Fangs. (It's always hard to get him to be still long enough to get a good picture.)
You’ll remember (unless you won’t) that some time ago I blogged about the film crew of “Alvin & The Chipmunks” using the front of Amoeba Music Hollywood for a shoot, for which I was an extra (cast as a bouncer).
Charlie, who works in the classical music department, and Smithy, who works soundtracks (with me) and pop vocals, and I had tried to goad each other in going to see the movie in the theatres to find out if either Amoeba or I were actually in it, but none of us were willing to pay the huge (if justified) price of an ArcLight Cinema ticket, especially considering the film looked painful.
Me, relating the preview I saw of the movie in question.
We decided, therefore, that when the movie came out of DVD – which it recently has – we would congregate at my apartment, drink enough booze to buffer any psychological damage that watching Jason Lee interact with CGI rodents could have and face the beast.
BackWoods is set in 1978 and depicts two English couples on vacation in a remote community in Navarre/Nafarroa, Spain. The locals have bad style, are ugly and probably smell bad. They're also suspicious of and rude to the well-meaning and rather annoying city slickers. When you see Gary Oldman's character loading a shotgun you can see clearly all the way to the credits. If a gun shows up in a movie, it's never just to look at.
At first the film treats us to a bit of heavy-handed character development. Oldman's character, Paul, is a know-it-all and yet strangely likeable due to Oldman's considerable charisma. Paddy Considine as Norman is whiney and unsympathetic. Paul's wife, played by Virginie Ledoyen, is extremely unpleasant and nonsensical (women!) and Aitana Sanchez-Gijon as Oldman's wife is pretty unmemorable. They all bicker and snipe constantly till you're begging the locals to kick their spoiled asses already. One morning, Paul takes Norman on a hunting trip into the beautiful countryside. Norman is too soft to shoot a bunny. Paul says something like, "There's two kinds of things in this word: the hunters and the hunted." Deep. Things take an obvious turn when the two discover a girl with crab hands (Helpful Heloise, what's the proper name for this deformity -ed.) chained up in a shack. They do the sensible thing and abscond with her. When the backward, angered villagers catch on, it's Norman who will have to find his inner hardman if he's going to survive. Did you see that one coming? You did? Good.
If this all sounds terribly familiar and predictable, it's (of course) because it is. The film makes no efforts to disguise its exceedingly well-worn story and debt to its inspirations. It's content to get by on the adequateness of the cast and crew and by the story's sticking to tried-and-tested formula. I reckon it's set in the '70s simply because it's a particularly '70s genre. There are exactly zero surprises to be experienced. When one of the country folk attempts to rape a character, my reaction was, "I was wondering when the leering, greasy one was going to do that!" Because, you know, people in the country just sit around all year round just picking their rotten teeth... waiting for vacationing dudes and their womenfolk so that they can get their rape on.
When you like a lot of the sci-fi movies from the mid-to-late 1970s, you frequently are treated to Rubellian utopias populated by horned-up hedonists, robots who are polished like (coke) mirrors and multi-racial aliens all getting together at the space disco/cantina/casino. As with almost all science fiction, it's more a reflection of the time of it's conception than any like future. This stuff was heavily indebted to the sexual revolution that preceeded it and was wholly clueless about the AIDS epidemic lying around the corner. In the tense, cold-war-fearing 80s, just a few years later, sci-fi frequently fell into two camps. On the one hand you have bands of marauders roaming the post-apocalyptic wastelands in churched-up dune buggies out to terrorize the few remaining civilized humans, who are attempting in a harsh world to preserve culture and science and maybe the knowledge of how to grow food. On the other you have gritty near-futures where market economics and technology have exploded into fearsome things, exploited by crusties who can access the internet through datajacks in their skulls. And they live in cities called Neo Tokyo and the like. But, for now, back to the 70s...
As one can imagine, guest lectures from Californian electronic producers who dress in Victorian garb is not a daily occurrence here at the University of Limerick in Ireland. Gigs in this Irish city by Californian electronic producers are equally close to the ground.
Hence, the intense local media focus on one Alfred Darlington, better known as Daedelus, regarding his mini-tour of Ireland. The man's lamb-chop sideburns have been a staple image in both regional and national newspapers for the last few weeks, the anticipation around the city and university morphing into something so pronounced that you could feel the interest tingling in that cold April air.
I guess Irish weather has quite a lot in common with the music of Daedelus, given that both are unpredictable and dramatic – sometimes calm, sometimes wild. Despite this similarity, Friday (April 11) saw sunshine all the way for the Limerick leg of the tour, following his annihilation of ClubHeadBangBang in Kerry the night before.
Organised by the Music Technology Department along with local event promotors Kerrynini and Cheebah, the seminar took an informal approach in the same vein as the man's music: open, informal, inviting, all underpinned by a sense of chaotic genius. What was instantly apparent is the fact that Daedelus is truly a friendly chap, addressing the gathered students and beat-heads in a relaxed, modest manner, despite suffering from an acute case of jet-lag. Luckily, he's had his coffee. His accounts of his early explorations into digging were both fascinating and funny, relating how his competitive digging-buddies pushed him out of the funk and soul crates and into the altogether stranger world of childrens' recordings and soundtracks.