Rix Flix: Nice Guys, Injuns, Alice, Suicide and all that Jazz

Suicide Squad

If this is intended as an antidote to all those superhero flicks, count me in. Otherwise, well. my inner twelve year old enjoys watching Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn.

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Batter UP!

The Nice Guys

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Writer/director Shane Black’s follow-up to his cult film hit Kiss Kiss Bang Bang isn’t nearly as clever or original as his 2005 hit but stars Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe seemed to have a lot of fun making it. 

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No, it’s not the singer Neil Diamond

This film isn’t a current release (I signed  out the DVD at the local library) but it does make for provocative and insightful viewing – regardless of your ethnicity or whether you played cowboys’n’indians as an adolescent. Documentary film by  Quebec-born Cree film-maker Neil Diamond examines how native Indians have been portrayed in North American movies using clips from silent films, John Wayne westerns, Billy Jack flicks and more modern examples like Smoke Signals, Dance Me Outside and Atanajuat: The Fast Runner ( to name a few.)

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There are also video bites from Native Indian activist Russell Means, First Nations actors Adam Beach and Graham Greene, Professor Melinda Micco and film-maker Chris Eyre (among others).

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Born to Be Blue

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This is another film that has been out for a few months. I rented it on DVD because I have always been a big fan of Chet Baker’s music. There has been a Baker biopic in the works for over a decade (originally Brad Pitt was signed to star with Richard Linklater directing) but it took Canadian money, Ethan Hawke as Baker and Toronto-born filmmaker Robert Budreau to bring it to reality.  Like Miles Ahead (a fictional reporter played by Ewan McGregor invades the home space of Miles Davis played by Don Cheadle to find out why the famed jazz trumpeter has not recorded or toured in seven years) Born to be Blue is a “reimagined” version of real events. It’s true that Baker was wired on heroin, served jail time, was beaten up and lost his teeth in the process.  What isn’t true is that he was romantically involved with an actress named Jane (Carmen Ejego as Jane plays a composite character representing the women in Baker’s life) What’s true is that he was the “James Dean of Jazz”, the “Prince of Cool” just like the film says, a pop idol back in the early 50s when jazz still ruled the charts.

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Chet Baker in the 1950s

What isn’t true (to the best of my knowledge) is that Hollywood planned to make a documentary on his life (depicted in the film). 

Writer/director Budreau skips over some of the more sordid aspects of the jazz legend’s life. (For that you will have to check out Bruce Weber’s riveting but ruthless Baker doc Let’s Get Lost).

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Chet Baker -Lost in the Eighties

Budreau prefers to think (as he says in a DVD extra) that Born to Be Blue  is the kind of film folks might imagine while listening to Baker’s lightly swinging playing and dream-like vocals (“he sang with an innocent sweetness that made young girls fall right out of their saddle Oxfords,” Rex Reed once wrote. The film, on the other hand, has Dizzy Gillespie, portrayed by Kevin Hanchard, advising Baker not to try singing.)

The playing and vocalizing sounded effortless. And in the beginning, they were. That may have been part of the problem, the film seems to say.

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Interestingly enough, some of the folks funding Born to Be Blue also shelled out money to produce this illuminating documentary on the famous (or infamous) shock rocker.  The film itself was produced and directed by Sam Dunn and Scot McFadyen who collectively have worked on rock docs about Rush and Iron Maiden (to name just two).

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Sam Dunn (right) and Scot McFadyen (the other guy)

I signed this one out from the library (in other words, it’s not a new release) on the word of my little sister. I have never been a huge Alice fan (although I hafta admit “Under My Wheels” has a greasy kick to it) but I was attracted partly by my sister (who doesn’t recommend  many films – especially docs) and by the reputation of Messrs Dunn and McFadyen.

Rent it for vintage photos and trivia (the band’s original name was The Earwigs),cameo appearances by his wife (he has had only one), his mom and dad and some true confessions on why the original band broke up.

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Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

Most of all, you will see and hear and why the character of Alice Cooper almost killed its creator, a nice, church-going, golf-loving family man from Phoenix, Arizona named Vincent Furnier. 

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Vincent as Alice: “Now let’s not lose our heads over this character.”

 

 

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Author: rixbitz

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