Monday, May 27, 2013

Behind the Candelabra - a few thoughts on f***king Liberace.

Steven Soderbergh's biopic of the late Liberace, Behind the Candelabra, premiered last night on HBO, and for the one hundred and some odd minutes it played, I could not turn my eyes away.

Based on the book of the same name by Liberace's ex partner, Scott Thorson,  the film tackles the tale of a show-business legend who becomes infatuated with a young man, takes him in, gives him clothing, jewels, a house, and a fleet of cars to show his affections.  And for awhile it's a wonderful life for both of them - each man supplying what the other needs.  But then, when Liberace insists that his partner undergo facial plastic surgery so that he will look like a  younger version of understands that this was probably one hell of a dysfunctional relationship (to say the least).

Matt Damon plays Thorson, and he's nothing short of brilliant.  Physically, Damon appears at first like some sort of late 70's disco angel - all feathered blond hair, delicate features and designer jeans...but as the story continues one watches his physical (as well as mental) metamorphosis into a drug addicted (thanks in part to Liberace's insistence that he loose weight by seeing a quack doctor who prescribes a boatload of pills --- said quack doctor played to the hilt by a barely recognizable Rob Lowe), reconstructed object that his mentor, eventually looses interest in.

Michael Douglas' take on the legendary and outrageous performer is actually quite good - in lesser hands, this might have teetered off into high camp, but somehow, Douglas manages to keep the parody at bay, and creates a rather grounded version of someone who often came off like a cartoon character.   That said, Douglas also shows us the darker side to "Lee" (as his friends called him).  A man who saw what he wanted and took it any way he could.  Behind that prancing, fey, dandy awash in capes and glitter, lay a brilliant entertainer, businessman, and predator.

Though she only appears briefly, Debbie Reynolds is marvelous as Lee's mother, Frances.  I think this might be the only time I've seen Reynolds in anything, and not known it was her right off the bat. 

But more than anything this is Damon's film, and Thorson's story.  The actor fleshes out a character that could easily have been seen as an opportunist and a hustler (and who knows, in reality, he may well have been), and infuses him with a heart and soul.  Are his actions pure?  Hardly, but it's tough to fault the Scott Thorson we see in this film for anything other than  allowing himself to be seduced by a man who offered him more than he could imagine in his wildest dreams. 


Lee and Scott - the real deal

No one but Scott Thorson really knows what went on in that gilded cage - that said, hitching your wagon to a closet case in the public eye is not the sort of job that makes for a happy ending, and being a star fucker of any sort, probably leaves a lot to be desired.  So if your job was fucking Liberace, one can only imagine the real hell that might have caused. 

For the record, in the real world:

* Liberace died of AIDS in 1987
* In 1989 Scott Thorson testified against Eddie Nash concerning the infamous "Wonderland Murders".
* After his testimony, Thorson entered the witness protection program.
* Some time in 1990 he was shot five times in a drug deal that went bad, but managed to survive.
* In 2012 it was reported that Thorson was diagnosed with stage II colon cancer.  He had allegedly made public pleas via the internet to help fund his medical treatments.
* As of the date of this posting, Scott Thorson is in prison charged with burglary and identity theft.

So much for happy endings.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

We Are All Born Lucky - the only cd you'll need this summer!

Singer songwriter, Jay Spears has long been a favorite of mine.  Unfortunately, to the general populace, he is not exactly a household name, and that's a shame, because Spears is a witty fellow whose music is infectious, outrageous, and (quite often) heartfelt.

Having recently survived a major health situation,  Spears has bounced back full of optimism and sass, and delivered his latest creation for our listening pleasure, We Are All Born Lucky ; a sunny, LA-centric collection of songs that tackle topics ranging from earthquakes to politics.   But don't let that put you off, Spears is such a genius, that he can take even the darkest, or most controversial subject and make it musically palatable.

Backed by a terrific group of musicians and background vocalists, We Are All Born Lucky is sometimes like a musical poke at the funny bone that mocks religion ( Guy In the Sky) vegans (Meat) and even driving the infamous highways and freeways  of LA (Drive Time) .  But just when you think you might have Spears musical modus operandi nailed down, he presents a loving  homage to his home town (City of Angels) . 

By the time we make it to the title song of the CD, (We Are All Born Lucky)...well, if you're not smiling, singing along, tapping your feet and agreeing with the lyrics, you might be dead. This is  the point where Spears acknowledges his recent cancer battle and turns that horror upside down and inside out, and then reminds the listener that, no matter what his or her current circumstances, he or she is damn lucky just to be alive. 

One of my favorite songs on this CD is Sleep With Me a Beatlesque charmer about crawling into the sack with a lover and sailing off for the land of nod...just gorgeous, this one, with it's allusions to nautical mythology - a perfect lullaby for a troubled world.

And then,  when you think that things are over, stay tuned as a  wonderful surprise is waiting - a mystery track awaits; A rerecording of Spears' gorgeous
Bougainvillea Waltz (originally found on the  Playing On My Team album) , but  this time, vocalist Jeff McCarthy gives the song a rather Robert Goulet feel with his somewhat  Hoher Bass voice.

In a nutshell, We Are All Born Lucky is probably the only album you'll need this summer, no matter if you are cruising the 101 in Hollywood California, or Route 295 in Mount Holly, New Jersey - this one will get you where you are going during the summer of 2013.

Jay Spears

To get your copy of We Are All Born Lucky, or Jay's previous works (and you MUST see his videos) just CLICK HERE.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Purgatorium - a few words on an independent thriller that delivers!

Director, Travis B. Miller's Purgatorium, is a throwback thriller, and  the kind of movie that stays with you long after the final credits fade to black.  Who knew that one of the more effective bits of cinematic supernatural story telling would come by way of a director and company of actors out of Oklahoma?

Shot on a shoe-string budget, featuring a cast of unknowns, Purgatorium defies the odds and delivers the sort of compelling, suspenseful and terrifying movie experience that most mainstream horror/suspense films (these days at least), rarely achieve.   Forgoing gore, explosions, hyper-kinetic camera work, and sophomoric storytelling, Miller delivers a slow paced, technically brilliant experience that not only brings hints of Hitchcock and  David Lynch, to the table, but also seems to be paying homage to the Technicolor palate of Douglas Sirk (yes, the film looks gorgeous with all of its over-saturated colors).   

But make no mistake,  first and foremost, Purgatorium is a suspense movie;  a group of strangers (circa sometime in the early 60's) find themselves in a house with apparently no way to get out.  Furthermore it seems that these five characters in search of an exit, can't seem to recall how they got into this situation , yet most of them can remember certain moments from their recent past.  The trick, is to unlock the mystery of where, and more importantly, why they are here, and that's when the fun begins with a complex maze of back stories, clues, and dark secrets that...well, yeah, I guess you'll have to see it to find out what happens.

While some of the dialogue is a bit heavy-handed, and some of the acting a little wooden at times, for the most part, the cast delivers. Of particular note is the leading actress who plays Abby (Libby Chancellor). Ms. Chancellor's haunting portrayal of a woman running away from something (but what?) , is spot on (for whatever  reason, she really put me in mind of the character Elisabeth Moss plays on Mad Men ; someone who appears vulnerable, but is actually filled with an inner strength that, when needed, can be called upon).

With it's Twilight Zone / retro vibe,  Purgatorium might seem conventional  to some, and that's understandable, yet, when mainstream suspense and horror films are all bombast with no heart, it's very refreshing to stumble upon something so familiar, yet so surprisingly original.

If you are interested in getting your hands on a copy of this one, or if you'd like to contribute to the Kickstarter Campaign that will assist in getting Purgatorium a wide release as well as a shot at Sundance follow THIS LINK.  Or you can always message Travis Miller on Facebook and he'll be happy to sell you a copy (that's how I got to see it).

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Coming Soon

I started blogging back in May of 2004.  My first online venture was Pax Romano's Ramblings, a humble site that ended up becoming my passion.  In the first few years of that blog, I rarely missed a day to post something, anything, that was crossing my mind.  Initially, I used my blog as a way to let off steam concerning the state of political affairs during the Bush II era.  I was angry...but I soon discovered that political rants are best left to those who enjoy getting into pissing matches with others.  Oh sure, I continued with the occasional piece about politics, but more and more, I found myself posting observational stuff, sometimes poignant , sometimes off the cuff, but always something that was based on events in my life.   Over time I started adding movie reviews and music reviews.  I realized I was no Andrew Sarris or  Robert Christgau,   but what the heck, no one was paying me for my opinions.  
 As if I wasn't busy enough with my first blog, a handful of others were born, some dreadful, others not so bad (if I say so myself).  The blog that got me a tad of notoriety was my horror blog, Billy Loves Stu, which I hoped would be a unique thing as it was supposed to be a gay man's view on suspense/sci-fi and horror films.  And indeed, it was great fun, for a bit.  But then something happened... actually two things:

Thing Number One:  Facebook
Thing Number Two: The Great Horror Blog Explosion of 2006/2007.

Between Mark Zuckerburg's baby, and the glut of horror blogs, I eventually found myself loosing interest in what I was doing (Not only on BLS, but also on my main blog).  Eventually, like homeowners who can't afford the mortgages on their houses, I walked away .

But lately, I have been feeling the urge to dive back in with my opinions, thoughts and rants, and not just with a blurb ... so,  well, it looks like it's blogging time again, kids. Will anyone read what I write, will anyone care?  That remains to be seen.

And the thing is,  I'd love to invite any of you to contribute to this blog.  You want to review a movie? Have at it!  Did you see something on TV that was so damn dreadful you want to rant about it?  Here's your chance!  Got a political bug biting your arse?  Scratch it off here!

And remember, the name of the blog is No Credentials...that means  YOU can speak out on anything even if you have never discussed the topic before in your life, consider it a learning experience.

So, stay tuned. I have a review coming for the film, Purgatorium , as well as a couple of book reviews, and some music recommendations. 

those were there days!