Archives for posts with tag: dance contest

Street Music

Street Music (1981) ****1/2

A bittersweet variation on a staple 80s genre – the underdog story in which a motley assortment of misfits band together to save the [insert cause of choice: summer camp, dance club, etc.] – Street Music serves as the perfect vehicle for sprightly, diminutive cutie Elizabeth Guttman (alias Elizabeth Daily), whose exotic looks viewers may recognize from such classics of the decade as Valley Girl (1983) and Pee-wee’s Big Adventure (1985).

Guttman plays Sadie Delaware, a busker who makes her living giving spirited renditions of old-timey jazz songs. Yet to get her big break in show business, Sadie lives with her boyfriend Eddie (Larry Breeding) in the ramshackle Victory Hotel in San Francisco’s Tenderloin, a colorful slum full of alcoholics, eccentric old codgers, and prostitutes. Unfortunately for the hotel’s residents, it is scheduled to be demolished, and all of its occupants are expected to vacate within a matter of days. Monroe (D’Alan Moss), a black Marxist who works at the Victory, hopes to mobilize the elderly tenants to picket and fight the eviction, but Sadie just wants to get out of the ghetto and make a better life for herself.

Street Music taps into common liberal fears of the 1980s: loss of individuality, ideals, and character; the sacrifice of the little guy on the altar of rising consolidation, commercialism, corporate power, and conformity. The tenants of the Victory – old Jews, blacks, Hispanics, crazies, food stamp recipients, and bohemian artists – represent the liberal dream of harmonious racial diversity in a setting of noble squalor and hearty communitarian grime. A modest movie about little heroisms, full of graffiti, garbage, and heart, Street Music will appeal to admirers of truly independent cinema. Sticklers for craft, however, are warned that, true to its subject matter, Street Music‘s boom operator seems to have been a drunkard, with the microphone dipping into view in more than one of the scenes.

4.5 out of 5 stars. Recommended.

Rooftops

Rooftops (1989) ***1/2

West Side Story director Robert Wise returns to the dance-oriented inner-city fantasy in Rooftops, the story of homeless heartthrob T (Jason Gedrick), who lives in a Lower East Side water tower “like a bat or a rat or something”. T falls for nappy-headed Puerto Rican treat Elana (Troy Beyer), unaware that she works for her cousin Lobo (Eddie Velez), the neighborhood crack cocaine kingpin. Lobo is making life difficult for everyone; and when one of his henchmen burns T out of his tower, Lobo’s days as the local thug-in-chief are numbered.

A prime document of the War on Drugs and its naive “Just Say No” ethos, Rooftops packs a vibrant blast of nostalgia for 80s freaks. Set in a fairy tale barrio where bright, resilient youths settle their differences with beat-driven martial dance showdowns, the movie is splashed with graffiti and peppered with quaint slum dialogue like “You dissin’ me, homeboy” and “don’t bust on my crib”.

Other sights and sounds of sentimental interest include the expected 80s fashions (Batman tank top, anyone?); funky music by the Eurythmics, Etta James, and others; and several shots of the World Trade Center looming large and doomed in the distance. Rooftops is elegantly photographed and entertainingly choreographed, but will be most likely to please admirers of period kitsch along the colorful lines of Body Rock (1984), Delivery Boys (1985), Band of the Hand (1986), and Lambada (1990). One only wishes Rooftops had more dancing and less sanctimonious anti-drug messaging.

3.5 out of 5 stars.

Rooftops preview

DoggieB

Pat Buchanan has said, “If you want to see what the future of America is going to look like, I think you ought to look at California.”  San Francisco – or, as Michael Savage would have it, San Fransicko – is one of the most progressive cities in the Golden State; and if the cinematic acid trip Doggie B, aka Doggie Boogie: Get Your Grrr On!, serves as any kind of mental health forecast for the country as a whole, then these Disunited States are definitely nightmare-bound.

Doggie B introduces children to Peter Wolfe (Scott Cox), a gay San Francisco man who, apparently having despaired of finding love in the AIDS capital of California, has devoted his life to dancing with dogs, even going so far as to make it his life’s calling and dancing with his dog professionally in competitions with other dog dance teams.  His dream of interspecies Astaire-and-Rogers-dom is cruelly dashed to pieces when evil competitor Gertrude Spinner (Bettina Devin) causes him to have an accident with his dog, which drives Peter into a downward spiral of junk food obsession and gloom.  Fortunately for everyone (excepting the viewer, that is), his niece Cassie Barbizon (Jesse Draper) has a more optimistic outlook and hopes to pick up where her uncle left off, with puppy Pijo as her partner.  Complicating her blueprint for self-actualization is Cassie’s mother, ambulance-chasing attorney Karen Barbizon (Barbara Tintori), who expects her daughter to follow in her footsteps by studying law.

Doggie B plays a bit like a Rick Sloane film sans the nasty humor (minus the good parts, in other words), with Gertrude recalling cartoonish villainesses Queen Bee and Malathion from auteur Sloane’s Vice Academy series. That a film about dog dancing proves to be less than spectacular can hardly come as any surprise, but the autistic canines in Doggie B have little to do and evince an unusually low level of animal charisma.

Doggie B does, however, have two major strengths in its favor. The first is its amazing visual flair, with no inch of footage escaping without generous splashes of color and zaniness, whether in the art direction or the actresses’ coifs and costumes that at times make the film appear to be peopled entirely by auxiliary members of the B-52s.  The second thing this film has going for it is its cast of colorful, perky character actresses.  Men hoodwinked into renting Doggie B for their children can be consoled at least that, while they are certainly in for a long and grueling haul, there are several attractive actresses in the film, with tall, shapely Jesse Draper quite the knockout, other kooky San Francisco ditzes looking very edible, and scary Bettina Devin perhaps appealing to fetishists of the mature.

A star and a half.  Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Doggie B is:

9. Anti-Christian.  This film’s good book is the “Dog Dance Bible”.

8. Anti-drug.  Gertrude has secretly been injecting her dance partner with “doggeroids” from a glowing green Re-Animator syringe.  Though there appear to be no adverse effects for the dog, the doggeroids, it turns out, are extremely damaging to a woman’s complexion.

7. Multiculturalist/pro-immigration.  A nice Caribbean (?) doctor introduces Cassie to holistic dog therapy after an old white doctor proves ineffective at treating Pijo’s malaise.

6. Pro-gay.  Though his orientation is never made explicit, Peter’s choice of costumes (beginning with the sweater tied around his shoulders and ending with his climactic John Travolta leisure suit) and make-up for his performances leave little room for doubt.  He wipes his mouth in disgust after a cute fag hag plants a big juicy one on him.  The whole film is a fabulous high camp fever dream.

5. Racist!  Doggie B perpetuates the Magical Negro stereotype with a kinky-afroed black yogi-priestess who can communicate with dogs.  Jews are mercenary, neurotic, and cynical, with personal injury chiseler Karen getting excited at hearing about a terrible car pile-up.  Her practice’s slogan is, “Get hit, get rich quick.”

4. Pro-miscegenation, breaking down prejudiced species barriers.  Doggie B blazes trails by proving that canines are suitable dance partners for Jews.

3. Individualist.  “Mom, this is not about you,” Cassie tells her mother prefatory to her intention of going for the gold with Pijo.  “Believe it or not, I’m growing up.  I’ve changed.  I’m creating my perfect life.”

2. Pro-family.  Despite disagreements, relatives maintain ties, share affection, and help each other.  Parents concerned about adult content are, however, alerted to the off-color inclusion of a sexual slap on the butt.  Also, Cassie’s love interest Roman (Patrick Alan Davis) says to her at one point, “You look hot – I mean, it’ll stand out on the dance floor” [italics added].

1. New Age.  “This stuff really works!” Cassie exults after taking Pijo to Shangrrrla, a clinic for dogs where their spirituality finds alignment.  At Shangrrrla, too, the viewer learns that, “In rare cases, when our souls are wounded, certain quite special dogs become spiritual healers.”  Peter wears an ankh during his climactic routine, which begins with his emergence from a giant disco ball in the shape of a dog’s head, the lowering of which occasions a kind of religious experience in the crowd.  San Francisco’s hippie drum beaters also put in a cameo.

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