Richard joins Ryan Doyle and Jay Michaels of the NewsTalk 1010 afternoon show The Rush for Booze and Reviews! Today he talks about the Death in the Afternoon, a drink that sprung from Ernest Hemingway’s legendary liver, the Death in the Afternoon, the new “Velvet Underground” documentary, the latest from Michael Myers “Halloween Kills” and the reason Andrew Lloyd Weber bought a comfort dog.
Richard joins CP24 to have a look at new movies coming to VOD, streaming services and theatres including the lumbering return of Michael Myers in “Halloween Kills,” the emotional family drama “Mass” and the rock ‘n’ roll documentary “The Velvet Underground.”
Richard and CTV NewsChannel morning show host Jennifer Burke chat up the weekend’s big releases including the relentless return of Michael Myers in “Halloween Kills,” the emotional family drama “Mass” and the rock ‘n’ roll documentary “The Velvet Underground.”
Richard sits in on the CFRA Ottawa morning show with host Bill Carroll to talk the new movies coming to theatres, VOD and streaming services including the lumbering return of Michael Myers in “Halloween Kills,” the emotional family drama “Mass” and the rock ‘n’ roll documentary “The Velvet Underground.”
Richard joins NewsTalk 1010 host Jim Richards on the coast-to-coast-to-coast late night “Showgram” to play the game “Did Richard Crouse like these movies?” This week we talk about to talk about the return of Michael Myers in “Halloween Kills,” the emotional family drama “Mass” and the rock ‘n’ roll documentary “The Velvet Underground.”
Fans of The Beatles and The Rolling Stones may disagree, but The Velvet Underground are arguably the most influential band of the late 1960s and early 1970s. “The Velvet Underground didn’t sell many records,” said Brian Eno, “but everyone who bought one went out and started a band.”
They pointed the direction for everyone from David Bowie and Patti Smith to U2 and The Black Angels, and “The Velvet Underground,” a striking new documentary from director Todd Haynes, and now playing on Apple TV+, aims to bring people up to date on one of the most ahead-of-their-times bands of the 20th century.
Narrated by interviews with friends, family, colleagues, and, most importantly of all, the band, guitarist and singer Lou Reed, guitarist Sterling Morrison, bassist and violist John Cale, singer Nico, and drummer Maureen “Moe” Tucker, the film is a trippy look at the tumultuous time in New York City’s art world that gave birth to the band. “That love and peace crap,” says Tucker, “we hated that.”
Using split screens, montages and plenty of archival footage, Haynes paints an impressionistic portrait of the influences—early rock n’ roll, doo-wop, gay life in New York, drugs, Andy Warhol and more—that go a long way to reconcile how Cale’s experimental “drone” work—the “hum of Western civilization,” he calls it—blended with Reed’s more melodic sense to form a renegade sound nobody had heard before. Add to that, lyrics that essayed heroin addiction, death, sado-masochism and other topics not usually sung about in three-minute pop songs and the result is aggressively radio unfriendly rock whose echoes are still felt today. “We didn’t put things in,” Reed said, “we took things out.”
Haynes meticulously walks us through the band’s history, the rise, fall and ugly dissolution, wallpapering the movie with a visual onslaught of images that suggests the multi-media presentation Andy Warhol created for the band’s live performances. The pop artist saw those shows as a “chance to combine music, art and films,” and the documentary continues that spirit to capture the excitement of the story. The storytelling is rather conventional, linear, but the visuals are an idiosyncratic eyeful that match the ambitious nature of the music.
“The Velvet Underground” focusses on the band’s classic line-up heyday, giving later incarnations a bit of a short shrift. Nonetheless, the doc captures the mood and the spirit of a band music journalists have struggled to pigeonhole for decades.
Tim Burton likes strange stories. From the razor sharp fingers of “Edward Scissorhands” to “Pee Wee’s Big Adventure,” he has made his trade on stranger-than-life stories.
Now, with “Big Eyes,” starring Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz as Margaret and Walter Keane, he has found a true-life tale that is stranger than fiction.
There was a time when Walter Keane was the top selling painter in the world. Original paintings of his big-eyed waifs commanded thousands of dollars but if that was too high end for you, a print could be purchased for the price of a breakfast at Dennys. And sell they did, like hotcakes. Keane became rich and famous and even though gallery owners, like the one played by Jason Schwartzman in the movie, thought the “taste police” should be called wherever the paintings were displayed and a critic (Terrence Stamp) called them grotesque and “an infinity of kitsch,” the morose portraits were very popular.
“I think what Keane has done is just terrific,” said Andy Warhol. “It has to be good. If it were bad, so many people wouldn’t like it.”
Trouble was, Walter couldn’t paint. He was an artist wannabe with a talent for promotion of other people’s work. In this case it was the work of his wife Margaret. For her the paintings were a personal expression, for him they were a personal cheque to fame and fortune. From selling the paintings at street fairs to the walls of jazz clubs to their own gallery and finally department stores all over the world, Walter became the public face of the phenomenon while Margaret sat at home, tucked away in a small garret cranking out big eyes and keeping her mouth shut.
Eventually Margaret sought out the credit she and share of the money she had rightly earned in a dramatic courtroom battle that was settled with easels and brushes instead of lawyers and writs.
Like Burton’s look at the life of Hollywood hack Ed Wood, “Big Eyes” once again proves that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and sometimes fact is stranger than fiction. The love and generosity Burton slathered on Woods’ eventful life and subpar work is once again on display.
The big-eyed paintings are an acquired taste, a kitschy look at another time when outsider art took center stage but Burton uses them not just as an artifact form another time but to present a story of an artist’s quest for recognition and recompense. It’s a trip back in time to the early to mid Sixties when women’s art was not taken seriously—“Your husband is quite a talent. Do you paint too?” she’s asked—and while we never really learn why the paintings become so popular, we know that through some savvy promotion they did.
What’s more important is the how and why of Margaret’s story. Why did she let her husband steal the spotlight and the money?
That’s the heart of it all and through Waltz’s flamboyant performance as the charmingly vile Walter and Adams’s soulful take on the shy and pliable Margaret we’re given a glimpse into a one-sided and unhealthy relationship with a very public face.
If the eyes are the window to the soul, “Big Eyes” is a skillful, if a little thin look at an artist’s soul and the soulless shark who tried to steal it from her.
During her short life Edie Sedgwick was a complex character who was many things to many people. She was an heiress, a drug addict, Vogue’s “Youthquaker” of 1965, one of Andy Warhol’s Superstars, the Queen of underground art scene and a relative of one of the signatories of the Declaration of Independence. She was the darling of hip New York society who battled mental illness. She was a poor little rich girl who lived at the seedy Chelsea Hotel. In death she became a legend.
A new film, Factory Girl, attempts to present Sedgwick in all her multifaceted glory, but only manages to skim the surface. Director George Hickenlooper is clearly in love with the topic and the times and it shows. The movie made me want to time travel back to 1966 New York to check out the art scene and go to at least one of the parties shown in the movie. He has recreated Warhol’s famous tinfoil-wall papered factory with great care and taken pains to get the small stuff right. It’s the larger details that the movie has trouble with.
The basic problem here is that the two main characters—Edie and Andy—are presented as one dimensional people, so self-obsessed and emotionally detached that it’s hard for the audience to care one way or another about them. By the time Edie’s life starts to spin out of control it’s too late for her and the audience. Never given the chance to connect with her on a level other than the superficial her downfall seems somehow inevitable and contrived.
Superficially though, the main actors nail it. They look great, Guy Pierce mimics Warhol’s frail, pale-skinned cool to a tee, while Sienna Miller (who’s actually much prettier than Edie was) brings the glamour and enchantment to Edie that made the real-life Edie so interesting. Too bad they didn’t dig a little deeper.
Factory Girl is all surface and no heart, but it’s a pretty good surface.