Archives for posts with tag: cruelty

Multiple MickBlame_It_on_the_Night_poster

Blame It on the Night (1984) ***1/2

Top arena rocker Dalton (Nick Mancuso) has his busy but more-or-less freewheeling backstage lifestyle upset when he learns he has an illegitimate son, Job (Byron Thames), now a teenager attending a military academy. Dalton desperately wants to make up for lost time and to be a real father to the boy, who, however, has been accustomed to icy military discipline and insists on acting like he has a baton stuck up his ass. The clash of their personalities and the cache of Job’s unresolved emotional suppression and resentments provide the background for this innocuous 80s movie’s conflicts.

Philip Norman gives the following account of the Rolling Stones frontman’s involvement with Blame It on the Night in his 2012 biography Mick Jagger. Approached with the opportunity to star in the film, “Mick was initially interested, especially when producer Gene Taft offered him a co-credit for ‘original story’ if he would provide material from his own direct experience of rock stardom. He changed his mind, however, on realizing that the estranged parent-child theme had uncomfortable parallels with himself and his daughter Karis. When the film finally came out in 1984, ‘Michael Phillip Jagger’ was still co-credited [with Gene Taft] for the story.”1

The resulting experience suffers, haunted by the absent Jagger’s specter, so that one can only wonder, while watching Blame it on the Night, what the film might have been like had Jagger actually committed to playing the lead, which instead went to handsome but comparatively colorless Nick Mancuso. Jagger’s input on the rock ‘n’ roll life would likely have lent a gritty edge to what, in the event, is an overly sanitized portrayal of the world of rockers, roadies, and floozies, so that the movie almost seems to have been made to play on the Disney Channel. Scenes of Dalton angrily telling his son to clean up his room or, worse still, engineering a cringe-inducingly forced reconciliation around a campfire, are unconvincing, to say the least. Only former Willie Nelson drummer Rex Ludwick brings an air of rock excess to the film in the role of Dalton’s hearty-partying bandmate Animal.

Perhaps to compensate for the absence of Mick, notable Rolling Stones collaborators Billy Preston and Merry Clayton (whose fiery “Rape! Murder!” vocals fans will know from “Gimme Shelter”) appear as themselves in minor roles. Unfortunately, the music, with the exception of the marginally catchy title tune, is uniformly uber-generic 80s pop cheese delivered with sappy Michael McDonald earnestness. On the plus side, Blame It on the Night is appealingly paced and goes down as smoothly (and is about as nutritious) as a spoonful of Jell-O. Nostalgia aficionados, furthermore, will appreciate that Blame It on the Night features more than one obligatory 80s rock montage sequence. Think of it as a C-grade rock ‘n’ roll Over the Top minus all the testosterone and arm-wrestling.

Running out of Luck

Running out of Luck (1986) *****

Previous to helming this epically bizarre film, Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle (1980) director Julien Temple had also created the atmospheric music video for the Rolling Stones’ “Undercover of the Night” (1983). “For Julien Temple,” relates Philip Norman, “the filming [in Paris, passing for South America] was an experience that made the Sex Pistols seem almost a rest cure by comparison.”2 But whatever his bad experiences on that set, Temple agreed to reunite with Mick for another tropically-themed collaboration in 1985 when he jaunted to Rio de Janeiro to film the absurd rock musical Running out of Luck.

Essentially a vanity project for Mick, Running out of Luck finds the star playing his arrogant, sneering self in what amounts to a series of several music videos connected by a loose adventure narrative. After shooting a video for self-absorbed director Dennis Hopper (!) in Rio, Mick picks up three women who turn out to be transvestites (“She’s a geezer!”) and who beat him up, rob him, and stow him in a meat truck that takes him into the middle of Brazilian nowhere. After stumbling around and hallucinating in a desert, Mick gets picked up by a horny virago (Norma Bengell) who forces him to work on her banana plantation and satisfy her sexual needs. While there he hooks up with Brazilian bimbo Rae Dawn Chong (who has a steamy, bare-breasted love scene with the star) and makes his escape from the plantation only to fall into further misadventures and gets thrown into a grimy prison, which, fortunately for the viewer, is lax enough to let Mick to sing and wiggle his butt to his heart’s content. Mick’s moll Jerry Hall, who also appears in the film as herself, has meanwhile decided that Mick is deceased and entered into a tawdry affair with an American politician.

For those who feel, as this writer does, that the “Dancing in the Street” video with Jagger and David Bowie camping it up like a couple of move-busting insane asylum escapees is one of the finest slices of cinema ever broadcast, Running out of Luck is the real thing – a veritable mother lode of eccentric 80s Mickness in full-lipped snarling glory. Among the various sights and sounds and marvels awaiting the viewer of this freak show of a flick is Mick in drag, Mick getting manhandled and stepped on, Mick licked, Mick groping a tranny, Mick eating maggot-infested prison gruel, Mick playing the roulette tables like James Bond, Mick writhing with a tarantula on his back – and more! The funniest scene has him stumbling into a country store, trying to convince the proprietor that he is, in fact, Mick Jagger, and futilely jumping around, shouting, and shaking his ass to prove it. In short, any Rolling Stones or 80s obscurities fan should pounce at the chance to watch this sicko sweetness dredged from the VHS trash trove.

Mick Jagger performs “She’s the Boss” in Running out of Luck (1986)

Endnotes.

  1. Norman, Philip. Mick Jagger. New York, NY: HarperCollins, 2012, p. 475.
  2. Ibid., p. 526.

Blackfish poster

Not many movies move this jaded reviewer to tears, but Blackfish (2013) does exactly that. This top-notch documentary details the troubled life of Tilikum, a literal killer whale responsible for the deaths of three people – two orca trainers, Keltie Byrne at Sealand of the Pacific in 1991 and Dawn Brancheau at SeaWorld in 2010, plus mysterious SeaWorld trespasser Daniel P. Dukes in 1999. Like other orcas before him, Tilikum was abducted as a child and delivered into captivity for the entertainment of tourists. As Blackfish reveals, hunters prefer to capture the young whales because they are cheaper to transport, with the result that orca families are systematically bereaved by the amusement park industry.

The whales are then thrust into unfamiliar surroundings, frequently into the company of unfriendly fellow orcas, and kept in cramped quarters equivalent to confining a human being to a bathtub for the whole of his life. Whales living in captivity, consequently, tend to have lifespans half of that of their brethren in the wild and can manifest what in a human would be considered psychosis or psychological trauma. Tilikum’s life seems to have been an unusually unhappy one. In addition to the indignity of doing demeaning tricks for fish in an unsavory circus atmosphere, he was regularly abused by the female orcas with whom he performed as a lucrative stud – Tilikum’s dorsal collapse, or lugubrious drooping of his fin, serving as an appropriate symbol of his sexual humiliation and sadness.

5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Blackfish is:

4. Statist. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) appears as a force of good in the film, condemning SeaWorld for covering up such unscrupulous practices as misleading its employees about Tilikum’s violent past.

3. Anti-capitalistic. Blackfish stands as a shocking document of the reprehensible things some people will do to “make a buck”.

2. Animal rights militant. No person with a heart, having once seen Blackfish, will want the practice of killer whale capture and exploitation to continue.

1. Diversity-skeptical. Three of the interviewees, speaking only with overt reference to whales, make statements on the tribal nature of the creatures suggestive of broader relevance for the humans in the audience. Multiculturalism, it turns out, is just as dysfunctional among killer whales! Orca researcher Howard Garrett explains killer whale groupings in captivity:

And they say that they’re a family, that the whales are in their family, they have their pods; but that’s just a, you know, an artificial assemblage of their collection, however management decides they should mix them, and whichever ones happen to be born or bought and brought in, or – that’s not a family, you know, come on.

Orca trainer turned animal rights activist Jeffrey Ventre adds:

You’ve got animals from different cultural subsets that have been brought in from various parks. These are different nations. These aren’t just two different killer whales. These animals, they’ve got different genes, they use different languages.

Most sobering of all, Emory University biopsychologist Lori Marino offers uncomfortable truths diversity cultists ought to heed and consider in their parallel human ramifications:

Well, what can happen as a result of their being thrown in with other whales that they haven’t grown up with, that are not part of their culture is, there’s hyper-aggression, a lot of violence, a lot of killing in captivity that you don’t ever see in the wild.

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