The Beaver trilogy ( A movie review)

Sometimes I like to take a break from my usual posts and write about anything else unrelated. I have a passion for film and art and just plain weirdness. In fact when it comes to art, the weirder the better.  A few years back I downloaded this video from Youtube and it was entitled “Lost and found video night”   It is a VHS rip of compilation of various clips taken from tv and movies, a lot of cable access shows, random bollywood clips, everyday people’s home video recordings, even funny edited content like NWA playing over an episode of Fat Albert, just wild stuff.  Anyways the video featured some stuff from the actor Crispin Glover, he played George Mcfly in Back to the future.  On the video was from some random movie where Crispin Glover is dressed in drag as Olivia Newton John and singing in a cheesy talent show.  The clip was just him singing and it was grainy and was in bad quality, I had no idea what this was but it was fascinating to me. It was like a train wreck and without context, it left me wondering what the hell this was.

I did a quick online search to find the clip on Youtube and it turned out it was something called the “Beaver trilogy”   I was intrigued and needed to see it but of course, it was unavailable except in short clips.   Over the years I forgot about it, until I watched the lost and found video again with the Crispin Glover clips.  Yesterday I managed to track it down and finally watch it. it was one the most interesting pieces of film I had seen in a long time.

The Beaver trilogy starts off as a documentary short in 1979.  The director Trent Harris was working at a television studio in Utah. He was outside packing up and he sees this kid taking pictures of the news helicopter.  The kid walks up to him and introduces himself and says he is 20 years old.  The movie dubs him “Groovin Gary: although that wasn’t his real name. He looks like a typical stoner of the 70’s he has the Jeff Spicoli laugh and feathered hair and bell bottoms, he seems excited to be on tv, like it’s his big break. He comes from a small town called Beaver, Utah ( Hence the name “The Beaver Trilogy”)   He claims he’s the Rich Little ( Google it) of Beaver and proceeds to do impressions of John Wayne, Sylvester Stallone, Barry Manilow and mentions he also does an Olivia Newton John impression which he dubs “Olivia Newton Don”.  It’s obvious this guy loves being on camera and talks about the town of Beaver and shows the camera man his car which is a 1964 camaro with red upholstered seats and an 8 track tape deck with an Olivia Newton John tape stuck inside and photos of Farrah Fhacet and Olivia Newton John ingrained in the car, clearly the guy was a fan of Olivia Newton John.  Groovin Gary and Trent part ways for the moment.

In the next scene, Trent is reading a letter that Gary had sent to him explaining that he was organizing a talent show in Beaver where he would do impressions and perform as Olivia Newton John. Gary begged them to come film the show and the director seemed to take some humor in this and agreed.   They arrive at the local mortuary where apparently this is the only woman in town that agreed to do Gary’s makeup. I’m sure some of it also had to do with fear on Gary’s part.  So it’s a scene of her applying make up on Gary while he explains  he’s not a “Girl”.  He’s just a guy who dresses up like Olivia for kicks, to make people laugh. he doesn’t want to people to think he’s gone “totally nuts”  He eventually puts his wig on leather boots and he is dressed as Olivia.

The last scene is the talent itself.  It looks like it was Gary”s old high school auditorium. The directed managed to film some of the preceding acts which gives a clue of how conservative and boring this town is. There is a number where two sisters are singing some old song from the 50’s, another number where it some kind of choreographed dance routine  with cheerleaders twirling batons. Just really awful, even by talent show standards. It’s hard to be believe this was a documentary and not scripted.  So after that Olivia Newton Don ( Groovin Gary) enters the stage and it just gets really uncomfortable.   People were expecting Gary to do a Barry Manilow impression or something and instead he comes out in drag. You have to realize this is a small conservative town in 70’s, I don’t think anyone was prepared for his. He sings the song “Please don’t keep me waiting” by Olivia Newton John, in a terrible singing voice but he seems so emotional, really owning the song, to the point where he’s almost in tears, maybe from feeling humiliated.  After the song, he is carried off of stage by a masked man ( a skit) and that was the end of the talent show.

The documentary ends with Gary summing ti up as really going well.  He says people enjoyed  it and got a laugh but it’s unconvincing. He looks defeated, it was probably one of the most humiliating moments in his life and I am sure the whole town judged him.  A strong part of me thinks that he was struggling with homosexuality in a small judgemental town in the late 70’s and how alone he felt. And this talent show was him coming out, although he didn’t plan it that way. I think he was passionate about singing and having fun and thought others would enjoy it too.  He thought this would be his big break to be on television and I think he may have felt like a fool and that everyone was going to see it. It was just a look of regret.   The very last footage we have of Gary is him standing by his car as the director is in his car, driving in the distance. And it I couldn’t help but wonder what happened to that guy. How did the town react? It just left so many questions.

Now if it had just been the short documentary, it would have been interesting enough but the director decided to make 2 more short fictionalized dramatizations about the story of Groovin Gary, one short played by Sean Penn in 1981, right after filming “Fast times at Ridgemont High”  the other short starred Crispin Glover in 1985, around the filming of Back to the future.    The Sean Penn short was in black and white and he sounded just like Jeff Spicoli, with his stoner laugh. Trent Harris hires an actor to play himself. In both dramatized shorts, the tape in the camera breaks and Gary’s segment is never recorded.   Sean Penn pretty much acts most of the dialogue from the documentary including the scene at the mortuary and the talent show. Trent Harris portrays himself as a smug jerk who exploits Gary for laughs and uses it to propel his television career. When Trent and his friend are driving to Beaver, Utah. They are smoking a joint and laughing at the prospect of this kid singing in drag.

The talent show is pretty much the same as in the documentary although it pans to the audience to see their shocked reactions and gasps as Gary walks out as Olivia Newton John.  After the number Gary is confronted by the Emcee who tells him he is a disgrace and humiliated himself and the whole town on television. He calls him a “Fruit” and tells him to wash his face, as if he is his father.  Gary is clearly humiliated because he thought everyone would laugh with him and not at him. He didn’t create this talent show to make a spectacle of himself. In fact, he is the one that organized all so it so he could show off his Olivia Newton Don persona, he really thought people would enjoy it.

The rest of the movie is drama.  Gary is in his room with a large picture of Olivia Newton John behind him.  He makes a phone a call to Trent and begs him not to put the talent show on television. Trent says that it was great and he has a deadline, he worked really hard to film it and he wasn’t going to remove it.  Gary hangs up the phone while Trent is talking. He goes to the closet and pulls out a shotgun.  He places the gun his mouth and tries to pull the trigger but is interrupted by a phone call.  It’s one of his female friends who says that she loved the show and could he do his Olivia impression at party of hers.   He says nothing and the movies ends with just the image of the post of Olivia Newton John.

The third and final short with is with Crispin Glover, the short creates more of a cohesive backstory. This time everything takes place in Idaho and his name has been changed to “Larry”  It is also filmed in color and is of better quality.  Larry is an outcast in this small town is bullied and mocked by some of the townspeople. He is in his room, wearing a blonde wig and his mother wants to know whats bothering him, he tells her some story and she goes back downstairs. He goes to a local dinner and when he asks for coffee, the waitress just ignores him. He meets an older man and he offers Larry a job the next week.  These guys bully him and put a tack on his chair and everyone laughs except for the old man who kicks them out. Apparently this old guy is fond of Larry and protects him.  There is also another scene in the diner where Larry is meeting his friend and he is getting hassled again by the same guys. It sort of reminds me of the scene in the diner in “Back to the future” where George Mcfly is getting bullied, maybe that’s where they got it from.

There is way more drama in the last short.  They show Larry getting ready before the talent in the boys room at the old high school. While he’s changing, two guys walk into the bathroom and Larry walks out. They have a look of disbelief and laugh at him, Gary looks humiliated, he is already regretting this.  He goes backstage and his friend ( the one in the diner) who was supposed to help him with the music, sees Larry in drag and asks him what the hell he’s doing. He refuses to take part in it and calls him sick and you could tell Larry is really hurt by this, mostly likely because this may have been his only friend and he was abandoning him when he thought that he’d be there to help. Just like the other short, it painful to watch.

When Larry finally walks on the stage as Olivia Newton Don, the crowd gasps in horror. And his mother who is in the audience has a shocked look on her face and walks out the auditorium.  He play the number as the audience sniggers but he continues until the end.   He excitedly runs backstage to see the old man from the diner.  The man calls him a “fuckin disgrace” and that he humiliated himself and the whole town. He alludes to Larry being gay and regrets that his daughters took part in the talent show. Larry is left looking defeated and humiliated, He truly thought that everyone would enjoy the show and clearly it became a spectacle, one he didn’t plan.

The last scene, Larry drives up to the diner. And sees everyone inside.  He puts on his blonde wig, walks in, orders a coffee to go and promptly leaves town, smiling and laughing. All while Olvia Newton John;s song “Please don’t keep me waiting” plays in the background.  He could finally leave this judgemental town and be himself, he was free. And the film ends there.

I don’t why know this affected me because it left an impact on me. I’m not gay nor I want to dress in drag but this was heartbreaking in many ways. It was heartbreaking that Gary wanted to be accepted so bad by others and all they did was hate him, because he was different, I could relate in a sense; being passionate about something ( especially writing) and feeling like you can’t share with others in real life because you fear you’ll be judged.  It was sad that Gary was exploited by this director and how the media ( and it’s viewer) are entertained by laughing at the expense of others.  Gary wasn’t an actor, he was a real person and his goal wasn’t to be laughed at but he was and I am sure it destroyed him as well as unintentionally outed him in a most likely homophobic town.  I wonder if some of those fictionalized scenes were based on truth.  Did Gary really ask for Trent to not air his talent show on television? Did Gary really try to kill himself?  I couldn’t find much information. I do know that Gary died about 10 years ago from a heart attack and he was married to a woman without kids.  He even reunited with Trent Harris at the Sundance film festival where they showed the Beaver trilogy in it’s entirety.   It just an interesting piece of 80’s underground cult cinema that I wanted to share with you. Now go out there and find it because it really is an interesting film especially if you are fans of Sean Penn or Crispin Glover

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The language of Art

Anyone who reads my blogs or has met me in person knows that I love music; it is my refuge; my escape from a chaotic world.  Ever since I was a little boy; I loved to sit alone in my room and listen to music after a tiring day; it calms me down and as an adult; it inspires me to write.  I love to escape into art; whether it be through music, film or writing; I immerse myself in it.  I have also had an eclectic taste in film and music; I like things that are unique or different; often films or songs that are much older than I am; art that makes you think and look at the world in a different way; I don’t like what everyone else is listening to or watching.   I started exploring film a few years back and realized I loved foreign films; I love hearing a new language and learning about different cultures; I appreciated other countries take on film making and how it made me see film from another perspective. I learned to enjoy reading subtitles; instead of seeing it as a chore of having to read the movie ( like many see it as).   And here was the thing what made the film beautiful was the fact that it wasn’t in English; it was the way they expressed themselves and the words seemed to flow and an almost jealously on my part that I couldn’t speak that language; English to me just sounds so boring to me ( maybe it’s because it is all I hear)  You may not know this but my father and his family are from Cuba, I remember sitting with them at lunch and hearing my father converse with my grandparents; I had no idea what they were saying but it sounded beautiful to me. In fact I felt my father had two personalities; who he was in everyday life; speaking English and this other person when speaking Spanish; it amazed to me for some reason. And maybe that where my love of foreign languages began why I seek it out in art.

A long time ago I decided  to teach myself Spanish; lamenting to myself that I never got the chance to have a conversation with my grandmother; I knew she loved me but communication was impossible with such a language barrier ( she spoke no English).   I figured that besides looking at my dad’s old books in Spanish and using a Spanish/English dictionary; I would watch the Spanish channel and listen Spanish language radio to lose myself in the language until I could learn it.   It helped that all the women on the Spanish channel were beautiful even if I had no idea what they were saying.   So I ended up teaching myself a lot of Spanish by watching and listening to Spanish language media.   I then start exploring music in different languages; a lot of it were used in some of the foreign films I watched and I realized how that the language wasn’t important; it was the music itself. In fact the inability to understand the language added mystery and intrigue and made me like it even more.   I ended up buying some bossa nova records  (  I love Portuguese sounds like a mix of Spanish and french; a really sexy language) and finding a lot of old foreign music on Youtube ( thank god for the internet)  It’s not the type of music you can play at full blast in your car with others and do car karaoke but it’s the kind music that you’d listen to after a long day to relax and unwind and escape to anywhere you want; Italy, German, France, Japan, Cuba; anywhere).  Watching foreign films and listening to world music allows me to go places that I’d never be able to go to otherwise and that is the reason why I go to it.  So I encourage anyone to go exploring and you might find English media to be a little bland and boring after discovering what the world has to offer.

Dave

 

One of the first foreign films I fell in love with “L Eclisse”.  Bellisimo

 

 

Do you have 15 1/2 hours to spare for this German masterpiece?

Stuck in the 90’s

When people say 90’s they’re talking about boy bands or Britney Spears; or beanie babies or boy meets world; or Tommy Hilfiger shirts; the latter half doesn’t count to me cause it’s irrelevant.  My question is what created such a cultural shift from the early 90’s grunge apathetic culture to corporate music ( puff daddy anyone) and shows like Friends being one of the most popular shows on tv ( I never understood it’s popularity since I hated those kinds of people in real life. Why would I want to watch them on tv?)

I assume they are talking about their childhoods;  I spent mine in the mid 80’s to the early 90’s; too young for Nevermind but old enough to remember Kurt Cobain’s death.   By the time I hit high school; all the great bands were either broken up; it’s leaders dead or it faded into obscurity.  My brother and his friends had Nirvana; while I had Limp Biscuit and Korn; yeah that says it all.

If I had to describe the 90’s in a words it’d be; whatever.  No one cared about anything and it was better that way.  Not everyone was triggered every time and offended by every little thing.  Maybe the internet changed everything; I noticed everything went downhill after that; it’s hard to explain.  Like entertainment from the mid 90’s on just sucked; I can’t name a movie from that time period that could even compare to movies from the past; Hollywood garbage to me.

I remember back then that if you didn’t have MTV; you missed everything.  In my house we didn’t have it for 2 years ( from around 1995-1997).  We finally got cable again and it was bands that I had never heard of. Gone was Dr Dre and Snoop doggy dog ( he will always be snoop doggy dog to me) and was replaced by some fool named Puff Daddy who had music videos about being in space and car chases; that’s not hip hop. uh huh uh huh yeah every 30 seconds is not hip hop. What happened to smoking weed at barbecues and hot girls shaking their asses? And they kept talking about these 2 dead guys I had never heard of :Biggie and Tupac.  I felt like I had missed everything culturally.  I missed the grunge era and rock music; it seemed like rock just died suddenly and it’s never been revived.

I don’t know what generation I’m in; I’m stuck in the middle between Gen X and Millennial; I’m grumpy and apathetic and I love grunge and punk music of the 80’s and early 90’s  ( Am I Gen X enough?) but I also came of age when the internet came out.  All I know is that I’m tired of hearing about the 90’s by kids who were still wearing diapers at the time. Stop stealing the 90’s; that’s my generation, dude. Just accept you grew up in 2000’s; it sucks but eventually you have to accept it. Just like I accept I’m stuck in the  90’s.  Whatever dude.  I’m off to update my Gin Blossom Angelfire homepage while listening to the latest limp biscuit cd I bought from circuit city. Peace

Sincerely stuck in the 90’s

Dave

 

When art goes unappreciated

I would like to touch a little more on my Connie Converse post.  I’ve always considered myself to be someone who appreciate the arts; whether it be music, film, writing, and drawing.   Even though for a long time I didn’t consider myself an artist; I consumed art; I lived it; I immersed myself in movies; I got lost in the music I was listening to. But I always find myself gravitating towards art that was a little left of the dial; art that’s subversive, art that breaks norms; in other words if it was strange and weird; then I liked it. I clearly remember as a kid going to the library ( this was a few years before Blockbuster) and getting those big clam-shell VHS tapes; I always headed for the special interest section with documentaries about art or films like the magical mystery tour by the Beatles; I was less interested in the music ( although they were and are my favorite band) and more interested in how strange the film was; there was no cohesion; it was just random scenes sliced together and none of it made any sense; it had a dream like quality and I loved it. I especially like the scene where there is a  woman at a restaurant and John Lennon is a waiter and he keeps putting all of this spaghetti on her plate; and she gets more and more distressed as he smiles evilly with this ominous music playing in the background; it was genius and as I kid I totally got it because it was unique.  Now, I don’t remember this but my mom told me that one I brought home an Opera tape; or could have been Peter the Wolf; I have no idea why I watched this but apparently I was fascinated by it; this is not normal for a 6 or 7 year old. I also liked films that made you think in a different way; films that brought up social issues with non linear plotlines and actors you’ve never heard of; the lower the budget the better  I was also fortunate enough to live in a city with some of the best museums in the world             ( which are free by the way) and I got to experience seeing art first hand; and I was always drawn ( pun intended) to more modern art with distorted faces; twisting sculptures that most people walked by in confusion; I was amazed by. I would have much preferred to be at an art museum than at a football game.   And music; I liked oldies a lot as a kid but as I grew older; I find myself searching for artists that were were “different”; that had a unique sound and was far from commercial; it wasn’t done intentionally or to be cool ( trust me no one was impressed by my music tastes) it just what i happened to like.  I love finding obscure artists; that were relatively unknown; they struggled to find an audience but have managed to find a dedicated fan base years later. I feel like I’m part of a exclusive club that knows about these bands.  For the longest time I didn’t even realize that there was a demand for music like this.  With the advent of social media and online publications; there seems to be a growing interest in outsider music ( music that doesn’t appeal to the mainstream; oftentimes with a low fidelity sound and not on major labels)  Music is so important to me; it is my refuge and since I feel misunderstood i look for music that resonates with me; music that seems deal with issues of alienation and frustration; music with odd time signatures and sometimes upsetting lyrics; because not all of us are happy and can relate to the cheery music I hear blaring everywhere I go.  As long as art is strange and odd than I will be there.

But what frustrates me about having these strange tastes in art is the fact that I have no one to share it with; no one understands and it goes totally unappreciated; much like the artists themselves.  I have many times told people about films or music that I am interested in and I can tell they don’t get it; they need simple art that they can understand and relate to. They seem to be unwilling or unable to explore and appreciate something that might be a little different; if you ask me; those are some pretty boring people. And that’s the problem art goes unappreciated all the time; there are thousands of great filmmakers, musicians, painters, writers whose works get ignored by a world that refuses to understand them. Art at this point is a commodity. And I was thinking about artists who never got the recognition they deserve and it’s simply based on the fact that they were born in the wrong time or place. I was watching a documentary about artistic cities in the 1920s and Paris was one of them. Paris was a wild city in the 1920’s; it attracted artists of all sorts and included a lot of venues that broke the norms; with topless dancing every night; loud jazz; drinking; drugs; everything that was taboo at the time. And I just imagined someone coming from small town America; where their art was dismissed by an ignorant population; finally able to share their art and have it appreciated by an open audience; willing to understand good art; how incredible that must have felt.

I by no means consider my writing to be great art but I do consider it be art nonetheless; so may times I feel my art is unappreciated; especially when I share it outside of my blog.  I just feel like people don’t fully understand where I’m coming from; they may be disturbed by some of the topics i choose to discuss; they may find it depressing but it’s my art and my feelings. And like any artist it hurts when it feels like it’s unappreciated and misunderstood; it take it very personally. So I relate to the forgotten artist who isn’t looking for worldwide fame but just a little recognition.   Art is very personal to artist; it’s everything and we take it to heart when we don’t get the appreciation we’d like. I know it sounds very egoistical and it is but what can i say? It’s lonely; being into the arts. I wish I could live in a city like Paris and maybe I could flourish as a writer; meet others just like me and be inspired by others; Paris seems to be a very inspiring city. I hope someday I can find my place in the world as an artist and I no longer feel alone. Until then I will keep writing and reaching out to those who might just understand and appreciate the art I am trying to create.

Thanks for listening,

Dave

 

Image result for john lennon waiter

The world is better in black and white

I’ve noticed the black and white challenge on my facebook feed. I have to say I much prefer black and white in photography and films as well. When you use black and white you put the focus on the scenery, object or person you are trying to photograph. You’re not distracted all the other colors and activity in the background. Also when you photograph people ( portraits), it adds an aura of mystery and beauty to that person. When it comes to film a lot people won’t watch a movie in black and white, they don’t realize that color doesn’t matter, it’s what the characters are saying, the story and the dialogue that is important. Some of the greatest films ever made were in black and white and sadly few have been seen by today’s audiences. Its sad how underappreciated black and white photography/film is to the average audience.20171114_153332