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“Take Me With U” : A Screening of Purple Rain

5 May

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Going through Prince’s catalog on Tidal (I finally broke down and got the free trial–you already know I’m canceling that shit on the 29th day) evokes the feeling of going through my mom’s photo albums when I visit her on the holidays.

It is hard not to think of the outrageous leather pants and fish net shirts that my mom and aunt used to wear back in the 80’s. My uncle was a guitar playing, motorcycle riding, martial arts freak, so naturally he was a Prince fan. There weren’t many people in my family who didn’t at least own a copy of Purple Rain on vinyl or cassette.

When I was academically ineligible for high school baseball my sophomore year, I would come home from school, fix a sandwich, and listen to the A side of the 1999 album (Let’s Pretend We’re Married and Delirious were my jams).

What I remember most about going to see the first installment of the “Batman” series (directed by Tim Burton), was stopping at Sam Goody (remember those?) and grabbing the soundtrack on cassette.

My parents were never shy about exposing me to anything as a young child (refer to my write-up on American Werewolf of London), and revisiting all these old songs from my childhood is like hearing them for the first time. As an 11-year-old, I listened to what felt and sounded good–things like lyrics and production meant very little to me. Listening to the man’s music now as an adult , it is so easy to pick up on the influences he had on

a) light-skinned dudes (I can see why the 80’s were ruled by light skinned bruthas–with the emergence of Drake and Steph Curry, there may be a resurgence of that era)

b) hipster bands like Wild Nothing, Of Montreal, and Toro Y Moi

and c) Beck (Midnight Vultures was pretty much a Prince homage).

It was really easy to take his contribution for granted because I grew up listening to him.Every member of my family actively followed his career. Let’s be honest, unless you were a hard-core fan, or a music scholar (which I’m not) it was easy to sleep on his stuff after the mid 90’s–by that point he was making music for himself. To be even more honest, by the time I was in my late teens, there were a lot of males like me who thought he was a little strange (harmless–but it wasn’t like all the homies piled up in the car and drove downtown jamming Prince).

His death shook me up so much, because I happened to take off from work because of a bad dream I’d had the night before. I’d dreamt I was in a two seated plane with a friend who’d never flown before, and we were crashing. I was frantically trying to unbuckle my seat and jump out of the plane. The dream itself was so unsettling that I went online and requested a substitute teacher for the day. Then I  went back to sleep.

It was only after a few hours of running errands, that I’d come home to have lunch, had checked twitter to see my timeline flooded with tweets mired in disbelief. I wasn’t the biggest Prince fan. I don’t own a single CD of his, and it has been years since I’ve watched or listened anything by him that wasn’t played at the club or on the radio. The “Prince” sketch on The Chappelle Show isn’t even in my top 10 of his sketches. But I have to admit that the news stung a little.

I immediately wanted to call my aunts and uncles, and I even picked up the phone to shoot a  few texts, but for some reason decided not to do so. I wasn’t even planning on writing anything about him, having been removed from anything he’d been doing for so long. A phenomenal thing happened after his death though, throughout the country, movie theaters began screening  his first feature film, “Purple Rain” in his honor.

There was a showing of it at the local art house cinema here in town, and I made sure to get a nap so I would be able to stay up late enough for the 10 pm show. I’d seen the movie as a kid of course on Beta Max and VHS,of  course, but seeing it on the big screen seemed like the way to go.

It didn’t disappoint either. Don’t get me wrong, some of the dialogue was definitely corny and overdone, but how many 80’s movies aren’t guilty of this? It was pretty crazy seeing Clarence Williams III (Sampson from Half Baked) in the movie, playing his father. There is a sense of self-awareness at times– like it knows that a bit may fail, but they go for it anyway (a fearlessness that many 80’s movies share) . The close up shots (evocative of fans from David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust tour) during the opening montage are dynamite and hilarious.

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There were some uncomfortable moments for sure. The scenes where groupies are getting smacked around or thrown in dumpster are hard to watch. But there are plenty of redeeming moments. Morris Day and his flunky Jerome, bring a much-needed levity to the movie with their tongue in cheek interactions (there is even a nod to Abbott and Costello’s “Who’s on First?” bit written into a scene). “Let’s have some asses wigglin’ I want some perfection!” was easily the funniest line of the movie (“Don’t get my seat wet” may be the next funniest). I died laughing,and guiltily giggled well into the next scene.

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The hypnotic scene of the movie may have been,  when the Revolution took the stage to perform “The Beautiful Ones.” It was mesmerizing watching Prince sing this to Apollonia as Morris Day is trying to wine and dine her. It clearly unnerves her as the song climaxes with Prince screaming emphatically,”Do you want him? Or do you want me? Cuz I want you!”

It seems counterintuitive to think that Prince, who has been known for so long as “that dude” could ever be in a place to write such a vulnerable song. Even at such a young age, Prince understood how beautifully attractive people allowed themselves to become callous and careless.

The movie of course ends on a high note. After a series of heavy events in the film, the final performance, a medley of Purple Rain, I would Die 4 U, and Baby I’m a Star had people in the theatre dancing in their seats.

Seeing this movie put in perspective just how big he was (at the time) and how big he would become. The end of the movie is his Chuck Berry moment. He was the Jimi Hendrix of my parents generation. He was to black people what David Bowie and Elvis were to whites.

The sad thing is, that he was such a semi-recluse for so long, that I’d forgotten how much of a pioneer he was. The man was a true artist. He wasn’t afraid to stir the pot, and he didn’t burn out. He lived his life according to his own terms. Although it is sad that the world lost one its brightest and most enigmatic artists, on the bright side, he has left us so much to consider about life, art, and music.

I’ll be in Minneapolis this summer, and my buddy doesn’t know this, but he and I are taking the unofficial tour that we should have taken during my visit last summer. I’m not even one-tenth of a fan as many die hards out there, and I’ve never had the desire to see him live, or meet him. But I can’t think of a more appropriate way to pay homage to the Artist Formerly (and Forever) Known as Prince, than going to see Purple Rain. It was a pretty unique experience.

 

BM

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An American Werewolf Screening in Tulsa

16 Mar

When I texted my mother that I’d be taking in a screening of the 1981 classic, “An American Werewolf in London”, she texted me to “stick to the roads, be aware of the moon, and stay off the Moors.” No I’m just kidding. She told me that it was the first movie she and my dad had ever taken me to.

This text revealed to me what all the sessions of therapy had not, and I finally understood why shadows and werewolves scared me so much growing up. I still to this day can’t be in the same room if the Thriller video is on television (the Vincent Price part especially creeps me out).

I hadn’t seen “Werewolf” since I was a kid, and hadn’t even thought about it, until I saw an advertisement for it on Facebook somewhere (Actually thats a lie. This chick and I rented it from Blockbuster one night after our shift at Red lobster. But she thought it was cheesy, so we mugged down instead of watching it.). I figured if there was a movie that was made to be seen on the big screen, then this was it.

If you ever have the chance to see it at the theaters, you should do it. It is hilarious, it is spooky, and it is in a way sad.

For those of you who’ve never seen it, it is about two American college students from New York, Jack and David, who are  backpacking across Europe. They start in England with the intention of finishing up in Italy.

Jack starts the movie off stating his reservations about being in a cold, and spooky part of England, when they could be in warmer weather with better chances of meeting women. Jack,a smart aleck, with a typical New York sense of humor is both easy to like and loathe. His inability to pick up on social cues indirectly causes the two of them to be forced out into the moors, on a wet and chilly night.

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It is only after they hear the howling of a wild animal, that they realize that they didn’t heed the advice of the local townspeople, and see they did not keep to the road, and that there is a full moon.

The results are disastrous and David wakes up to find that he was in a coma for 3 weeks, his best friend Jack was “killed by a madman” (as David may or may not have been running away from–leaving Jack behind), and that he is in London, having bad dreams about Nazi monsters killing his Jewish family (scenes which are both terrifying and darkly humorous)

There is a heartbreaking scene of the main character, David going into a phone booth, and calling his little sister in New York to tell her that he loves her before he tries to unsuccessfully off himself. It sets up an epicly weird scene that turns into an unforgettable 25 minutes of cinema.

For such a hokie movie, it really forces the audience to feel an assortment of emotions. The gags are really dark, but extremely funny. The dialogue is loaded with Jewish humor that can be easy to miss if you know nothing about the culture. There is even a classic Knock Knock joke sprinkled in the script for good measure.

I don’t think a movie like this would see the light of day in this era. The 80’s were a riskier time for movie making. People were not afraid of making bad movies where the mistakes could be just as fun as the highlights. Gore and humor aren’t exactly synonymous in this day and age. There is a self awareness about this film that isn’t around in a lot of “scary” movies.

The final scene in the movie is the biggest payoff, and when the credits roll, you don’t really know what to feel like. It was so good, I went back the next night; knowing I wouldn’t have a chance to sit in a theater and see it on the big screen again. Believe it or not, it was just as good the second time around.

Thanks Mom and Dad for hipping me to this film so early in life. The therapy, high electric bills, and sleepless nights finally paid off. This might be my new favorite movie. Now if I can somehow talk the Circle Cinema into screening the Warriors movie…..