Archive | Blast From the Past Matters

Six Packs & Soft Underbellies: ‘The Outsiders’

Like many growing up in the 1980s, I regarded “The Outsiders,” Frances Ford Coppola’s adaptation of S.E. Hinton’s 1967 young adult novel, as the ultimate babe fest. To date, it may be the greatest shrine to young male beauty ever filmed. Starring Rob Lowe, Matt Dillon, C. Thomas Howell, Ralph Macchio, Patrick Swayze, and Emilio Estevez at the apex of their hotness, a pre-orthodontia Tom Cruise was the ugliest dude in the cast. Turning flips in the air, popping perfect biceps in rolled-up black tees, lolling cigs out of rosy pouts, and batting long lashes beneath expertly combed pompadours, these boys were so appealing that they triggered early puberty in a whole generation of tweens (then called preteens).

Thirty-odd years later, I dig this parade of Aphrodites even more, and for mostly loftier reasons. Howell stars as 14-year-old protagonist Ponyboy Curtis, so named by dead parents who left him in the care of 17-year-old brother Sodapop (Rob Lowe), a dreamboat of a high school dropout, and biggest brother Darrel (Patrick Swayze), who has forfeited his dreams of college to keep his younger siblings out of foster care. Based in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the Curtis boys live on the wrong side of the tracks – we’re reminded of this from the first scene’s lonely train whistle– and they provide a homebase for all the tenderhearted, rough-hewn “greasers” in their gang. Continue Reading →

Let Down by ‘Low Down’

“Low Down” won the cinematography prize at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, and it’s easy to see why. The debut directorial feature of Jeff Preiss (director of photography on “Let’s Get Lost,” “New York Memories”), it is a crimson and gold reverie that bathes the seedy clubs and SRO hotels of early-1970s Hollywood in instant, bittersweet nostalgia. This is a film whose prism of sunlight and shadows would be worth watching all day long as a video installation. As a biopic, though, it is both too much and too little – a shame, as it is based upon A. J. Albany’s very fine memoir about her fraught relationship with her father, acclaimed bee-bop pianist Joe Albany.

Until her mid-adolescence A. J., or Amy Jo as she was called back then (she was named after two March daughters in Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women), was a team of two with her daddy. As she writes:

It wasn’t a musically productive period for him, but it’s when I knew him best. If he wasn’t in jail or rehab, we were together …. He heard music everywhere, in the squeaking of rusted bedsprings and the buzzing flies. Dripping faucets were filled with rhythms to him, as was the irregular flashing of the busted neon outside our window. Some shook their heads and thought he was a nut, but I never believed that. Continue Reading →

"All, everything I understand, I understand only because I love."
― Leo Tolstoy