music friday: rock and roll hall of fame part 1

I'm going to take the next few weeks to adjust the current "acts I've seen live" theme. What will follow for a month or so will be artists I've seen, that haven't previously been featured in this long series, who are in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. They'll appear in order of their induction, and I'll mostly avoid comments ... I'll just post some relevant videos.

Chuck Berry, inducted 1986. (Fillmore Auditorium, 1967.) He was an original Hall inductee. Duh.

Bo Diddley, inducted 1987. (Berkeley Community Theater, 1979). I've told this one before. When I saw Bo in 1979, he had fun playing up how old he was. I am currently 17 years older than Bo was that night.

Muddy Waters, inducted 1987. (Keystone Berkeley, 1980).


witness for the prosecution (billy wilder, 1957)

Crowd-pleasing courtroom drama from an Agatha Christie play that is silly nonsense but fun nonetheless. Charles Laughton seems to be enjoying himself, and his cagey overacting is probably the best thing about the movie. Nominated for six Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, and Best Supporting Actress (Elsa Lanchester), but it won none, and Marlene Dietrich supposedly felt terrible that she didn't even get nominated. There are lots of gossipy items attached to the film ... both Charles Laughton and Marlene Dietrich were said to have had a crush on Tyrone Power. Elsa Lanchester is welcome every time she turns up on the screen, at least for people like me who love Elsa Lanchester.

The promotional campaign for the film centered on the surprise ending.

I had a good time watching Witness for the Prosecution. Laughton, Dietrich, and Lanchester were the main reason, although I'll grudgingly tip my cap to Agatha Christie for another of her surprise endings. Most of the time, I'm of the "there's no there there" school of thought about Christie, but there's no denying that she knows how to lead a reader on. If you've never seen Witness for the Prosecution, and you are a Christie fan, you should jump at the chance to watch this film.


geezer cinema: stowaway (joe penna, 2021)

Director Joe Penna and writer Ryan Morrison made a film called Arctic that got decent reviews, although it slipped right past me. Stowaway would have done the same ... I'd never heard of it ... until my wife picked it for our weekly Geezer Cinema date. One of the best things about something scheduled like Geezer Cinema is that every two weeks, my wife chooses the movie, and it's rarely something I would have chosen on my own. So I get exposed to new stuff.

Penna and Morrison intended to do a lot with a little. The budget was only $10 million. They got some good actors who were just below the kind of star power that costs money (Toni Collette, Anna Kendrick, Daniel Dae Kim, Shamier Anderson), and created a chamber piece where there were no other actors and most of the action took place on a space ship that looked mostly functional ... not cheap, but not expensive. They had a couple of nice visual set pieces that also looked inexpensive without looking cheap. And they veered away from standard space-ship shenanigans ... yes, there was a stowaway, but it wasn't the monster from Alien, just an engineer who was accidentally left on board (not the only time the plot was a bit too much to believe). Stowaway is interested in big concepts, human concepts about the meaning of life, which intensify when the four passengers realize the ship, which is headed for Mars, doesn't have enough air for all four of them.

The problem is, Stowaway moves at a glacial pace. It's about four people, but we never learn enough about them to actually care what happens to them. It's basically uninteresting for two hours. It has hints of Gravity, except Gravity is a great film that makes us care about Sandra Bullock floating in space. And it's half-an-hour shorter than Stowaway. If you're going to take your time with your story, you need to give us some reason to stick around, and Stowaway never gets there.