Saturday, October 23, 2010

'War' Deserves to Be Lost

February 29, 1968

"How I Won The War," directed by Richard Lester. Starring Michael Crawford and John Lennon. University Theatre.

Lantern Movie Reviewer

It's nice that the cast of "How I Won The War" is having so much fun. I wish I could say the same for the audience.

Never have I seen such a happy bunch of actors. They get to go around in pantaloons and funny hats, get to fall into ponds, get to run out in the good, fresh sunshine, in fact, get to do everything but act.

This sort of thespianistic therapy has worked quite well in other films (nobody acted much in "Georgy Girl") but here it is operating at a distinct disadvantage for several reasons.

No Story Line Present

There is first of all no shred of story line with which to hold our attention while the actors cavort. There is also no dramatic conflict. There are no more than three solid laughs. There is nothing particularly horrifying.

What there is plenty of is POINT. Point sticks out all over. Director Richard Lester is divesting himself of all his hostility towards war. War is absurd, he is saying, and as such should be treated absurdly.

So he proceeds to construct an episodic, vaudevillian banality aimed at pointing up the utter foolishness of war and the rank folly of glorifying it on the screen. With unbridled relish he attacks every war movie cliche in sight. The problem is that what he is doing is all too noticeable. His picture is literally pregnant with purpose.

When Mr. Lester fiendishly zooms in on a dying soldier we are allowed only a few seconds of pure Hollywood emotion before someone butts in front of the camera and exclaims, "Haven't you had enough? Go let this man die in peace." And our heads hurt from having the message thumped into our skulls.

Actors Romp Through Picture

At any number of times during the film the actors are allowed to race hither and yon in sequences which must have sounded hysterical in script conferences. No sooner have they completely taxed our patience than the scene abruptly switches to fancifully tinted beaches lined with lushly colored war dead. The effect is supposed to be one of revulsion and grim irony, but its stultifying obviousness leaves us silent--not with contemplation, but with disinterest. To add visual polygamy to mental portentiousness, Mr. Lester has taken his trusty handheld camera and gone wild. Scenes are wholly out of order, cuts are fast and furious, camera angles are dangerously artsy. The director is really reaching for effect.

What story there is has to do with a British squadron fighting in North Africa and elsewhere during World War II. Thanks to the lamebrained decisions of their youthful commander, played in desperately comic fashion by Michael Crawford, the group scrapes out of every battle it fights, but not without losing one man. Each fallen comrade returns to the fray subsequently, clad in a different pastel shade (blue for one battle, pink for the next.) By movie's end the troop is quite pretty indeed, but no funnier.

Lennon Makes Appearance

Beatle John Lennon makes an appearance as a stupid soldier, a role to which he could become easily accustomed, judging from the natural manner in which he acts this one. Mr. Lennon has been given precious little to do. He gets to do The Big Death at the end (an honor he shares this year with Jim Brown) and a few other things, all of which he accomplishes adequately.

The rest of the cast ranges from what used to be called "silly ass English" to what is still called "ballsy Greek." All speak absolutely unintelligible English.

Two Redeeming Features

There are one or two redeeming features to "How I Won The War." One is a splendid scene in which the British prisoner and Nazi commander compare their reflections on genocide. Two is the film's undisguised ambition.

"How I Won The War" aspires to much more than it is or ever can be. It would like to be shocking. It is instead only confusing. It would like to be thought-provoking. It instead leaves us cold. It would like to be the final statement on war and war movies--a noble impossibility. It would like to be all of these things, but it is unfortunately none. By assuming a frenetic, campy, unwholesomely flippant and disjointed position, it has defeated itself.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Dark Horse Records Releases Ravi Shankar / George Harrison Box Set

Press Release:

Los Angeles, CA – On October 19th, Dark Horse Records / Rhino Entertainment will release a limited edition deluxe box set entitled RAVI SHANKAR GEORGE HARRISON COLLABORATIONS which honors the sitar master’s 90th birthday.

Collaborations is a 3 CD and 1 DVD uniquely numbered limited edition box set (the CDs come in replica vinyl jackets). All compositions were composed by Ravi Shankar and produced by George Harrison over a period of 20 years. The DVD is a rare concert performance of the Ravi Shankar’s Music Festival From India recorded at London’s Royal Albert Hall in 1974. The albums include the acclaimed Chants Of India (1997), The Ravi Shankar Music Festival From India (studio version 1976) and Shankar Family & Friends (1974). The 56-page book includes a foreword by Philip Glass, a history of George and Ravi “in their own words” and rare photographs from both family archives.

The personal and musical friendship between Ravi Shankar and George Harrison has been known and well documented for decades now. It was a friendship that was powerful enough to make an impact on the large, musical life of the late nineteen sixties and it reverberates, as clearly, even today. – from the Foreword by Philip Glass

In 1973 George Harrison signed Ravi Shankar to his Dark Horse Records label. The first joint recording project between George Harrison and Ravi Shankar, Shankar Family & Friends brought together renown Indian classical musicians such as Ustad Alla Rakha, Lakshmi Shankar, and Shivkumar Sharma alongside Western jazz and rock musicians including George, Ringo Starr, Tom Scott, Klaus Voormann, Jim Keltner and Billy Preston. One half of the album comprises instrumentals and songs, while the second half is a thematic ballet to a yet un-staged performance.

Ravi Shankar’s Music Festival From India (live from the Royal Albert Hall) was the first artistic event organized and sponsored by George Harrison’s Material World Charitable Foundation; bringing together a 17-piece Indian classical ensemble as well as a solo sitar performance by Ravi Shankar accompanied on tabla by Alla Rakha.

In 1997 George Harrison and Ravi Shankar again collaborated on an album. This time Ravi created music for ancient Sanskrit chants with the challenge of maintaining the authenticity of the ancient verses, along with four original compositions. Released in 1997, Chants Of India are timeless, Vedic verses chanted for the well being of man and mankind.

“The friendship with George started in 1966 and that's when I met him along with the other three, but George was something very special from the very beginning. Something clicked between us and he was so interested in wanting to know about Indian music.” - Ravi Shankar

“In 1966 through the grace of God my life was blessed and enhanced from the sudden desire to investigate the classical music of India. Although intellectually, I could not comprehend it the music, (which happened to be Ravi Shankar and the sitar) made more sense to me than anything I had heard in my life. When I read Ravi saying he felt he had only started, I was overwhelmed, humbled and encouraged to try and understand the music and the man much more.” - George Harrison

This is how the interesting, unique and lifelong friendship began between Ravi Shankar and George Harrison. “Collaborations,” available on Dark Horse Records and distributed worldwide by Rhino Entertainment, is a celebration of these two musical geniuses and how their friendship and deep mutual respect for each other created opportunities to push musical boundaries.

Disc: 1
1. Vandanaa Trayee
2. Omkaaraaya Namaha
3. Vedic Chanting One
4. Asato Maa
5. Sahanaa Vavatu
6. Poornamadah
7. Gaayatri
8. Mahaa Mrityunjaya (Om Triambakam)
9. Veenaa-Murali
10. Geetaa (Karmanye Vadhikaraste)
11. Mangalam (Tala Mantra)
12. Hari Om
13. Swara Mantra
14. Vedic Chanting Two
15. Prabhujee
16. Sarve Shaam

Disc: 2
1. Vandana
2. Dhamar
3. a) Tarana b) Chaturang
4. Raga Jait
5. Kajri
6. Bhajan
7. Naderdani
8. Dehati

Disc: 3
1. I Am Missing You
2. Kahan gayelava shyam saloné
3. Supané mé ayé preetam sainya
4. I Am Missing You (reprise)
5. Jaya Jagadish Haré (Dream, Nightmare & Dawn)
6. Overture - Part One: Dream
7. Festivity & Joy
8. Love Dance Ecstasy - Part Two: Nightmare
9. Lust (Raga Chandrakauns)
10. Dispute & Violence
11. Disillusionment & Frustration
12. Despair & Sorrow (Raga Marwa) - Part Three: Dawn
13. Awakening
14. Peace & Hope (Raga Bhatiyar)

Disc: 4 (DVD)
1. Introduction by George Harrison
2. Hymns from the Vedas
3. Tappa-Raga Khamaj: Tala Chanchar
4. Tarana-Raga Kirwani: Tala Ektal
5. Raga Jait: Tala Rupak
6. Vilambit Gat, Drut Gat and Jhala Raga Yaman Kalyan: Tala Teental
7. Naderdani
8. Krishna Krishna: Bhajan (Based on Raga Pancham-se-gara: Tala Dadra)
9. Dehati
10. Musicians Introduction
11. Vandana
12. a) Alap b) Noom Toom c) Jor: Raga Abhogi
13. Dhamar; Raga Vasanta: Tala Dhamar
14. Khyal; Raga Kedara: Tala Teental
15. Tarana; Raga Kirwani: Tala Ektal; Chaturanga: Raga Yaman Kalyan: Tala Teental
16. Kajri
17. a) Pallavi b) Thani Avarthanam; Raga Bilahari: Tala Aditala
18. Thumri; Mishra Piloo: Tala Jat
19. Raga Mala (Based on Raga Khamaj): Tala Teental
20. Ravi and Anoushka Mixing in 5.1

COLLABORATIONS (Product Description)
Limited Edition 3CD/1DVD Box Set with magnetic clasp includes:
-56 Page hardbound Book (9” x 9”)
-3 CDs in Replica Vinyl Sleeves
-1 DVD in Sleeve
-Uniquely Numbered Certificate Of Authenticity

-Chants Of India CD (1997)
Creating music for ancient Sanskrit chants, while still maintaining the tremendous integrity and purity of them was a welcome challenge that George Harrison and Ravi Shankar undertook with great care and deliberation. Recorded over three sessions, two in Madras India and one in London, the music was composed by Ravi Shankar and produced by George Harrison. This album sold over 100,000 units in the US alone, and has been out of license for over five years.

-Music Festival From India CD (1976)
Under the auspices of the Material World Charitable Foundation, George Harrison invited Ravi Shankar and 17 Indian classical musicians including Shivkumar Sharma, Alla Rakha, Sultan Khan and others, to London to record an album. This troupe then toured Europe, culminating in a show at London's Royal Albert Hall. Composed by Ravi Shankar and recorded during five weeks in 1974, this album was produced by George Harrison. This album was only released on vinyl, and has not been available for over 30 years.

-Shankar Family & Friends CD (1974)
The first joint recording project between George Harrison and Ravi Shankar, 'Shankar Family & Friends' brought together Indian classical musicians and Western rock and jazz musicians, including Ringo Starr, Billy Preston, Jim Keltner, Tom Scott, Klaus Voormann and Hari Georgeson (George Harrison). Composed by Ravi Shankar and produced by George Harrison, one half of the album comprises instrumentals and songs, while the second half is a thematic ballet to a yet un-staged performance. This album was only released on vinyl, and has not been available for over 30 years.

-Music Festival From India DVD (1974)
The DVD is a rare, previously unreleased concert performance of Ravi Shankar's 'Music Festival From India' recorded at London's Royal Albert Hall in 1974. DVD includes the concert film, separate concert audio and bonus feature (Ravi and Anoushka Mixing in 5.1).

George Harrison opened the Royal Albert Hall show with a warm introduction for his friend Ravi Shankar. This entire concert was originally filmed and recorded for the Material World Charitable Foundation. Over the years, many of these master films have been lost, destroyed or misplaced. This bonus DVD compiles all the complete filmed performances discovered from this historic concert, and the entire concert in stereo and 5.1 audio.

Lennon Passes Drivers' Exam

LONDON (AP)--Beatle John Lennon, 24, passed his driving test recently.

"It wasn't too bad," said Lennon, "but I was nervous."

John already owns a Rolls-Royce and a midget car. His wife drives a Volkswagon. Now that he's passed his test--the first time he tried--John said he thought he would buy and drive a sports car.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Tonsil Ashes Not Ringo's

January 8, 1965

(UPI)--A Galesburg, Illinois, woman wants everybody to know that the tonsils of "Beatle" Ringo Starr are not enshrined in the Illinois community.

Mrs. Robert Tomlin says it all started at Christmas. She gave her 13-year-old daughter and 15-year-old niece two small boxes for Christmas. Each contained some cinders and a note reading "Ringo's tonsils . . . after cremation."

The girls didn't get the joke. They took the boxes to school and allowed their classmates glances at the "prize possessions." Local newspapers and telephone stations became flooded with phone calls. Teenagers wanted to know if it was true.

Said Mrs. Tomlin: "If you can believe in Santa Claus, I guess you can believe in Ringo's tonsils."

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Oh No! Haircuts?

January 8, 1965

Practically nothing escapes the pressure for conformity in modern society and haircuts are no exception.

The first indication of the possible trend toward bowl-on-the-head haircuts for all men came on Nov. 13 when a 15-year-old Connecticut boy was suspended from school for wearing his hair in bangs, Beatle-fashion, though the New York Times reports he did have his hair trimmed in the back.

He refused to change his hair cut and was backed by his father who testified, "My son isn't even a Beatle fan. He just likes to wear his hair in bangs."

Nearly a month later his parents tried unsuccessfully to file a complaint with the State Commission on Civil Rights. The Board of Education voted to uphold his suspension.

Then it happened in Columbus.

John R. Dunno, a South High School sophomore was suspended Dec. 21 by Principal Harold Washburn when he refused to change his Beatle-style hairdo to a more conventional one. The principal said the style was "bizarre" and would tend to disrupt the school's tranquility.

Dunno's mother went to court to protect her son's right to wear an independent hair style. She filed a suit against the Columbus Board of Education asking that her son be allowed to keep his hairdo.

After negotiations on both sides, Dunno returned to school Monday with a "compromise" haircut--he combed his hair off his forehead and shaved off his sideburns to conform to the "norm."

We hope educators' sudden demand for uniform haircuts is based on their concern for easier educational penetration of the cranium, rather than social acceptance insurance.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Today's Music - The Anthem of Revolution?

June 3, 1970

Lantern Staff Writer

The decade 1960-1970 has witnessed a revolution in this country that will probably change the course of history. It began in the early '60s and had its full realization in August 1969 at a place called Woodstock.

How could such a momentous event occur with virtually no one aware that a movement existed? The answer lies with the youth. The new generation that was born at Woodstock was part of an evolutionary pattern. It was not simply the change from knee length skirts to mini skirts and bell bottoms or the "sudden" expansion of morals.

It took shape in the music of today's youth which many adults turn off with a disgusted flick of the wrist. They never realize that they are turning out the pulse of a nation and the key to the upcoming generation.

Music has always reflected the thoughts of the country and the present songs are no exception. A "Life" article on the Beatles formulated the following opinion of the new music. "Pop music today is being transformed by the esthetic of pop art. That sounds like tautology but it is the formula for a revolution."

For the most part, the older reviewer of modern music has held a scornful attitude toward his younger counterpart. By ignoring the new beat he seemed to think it would go away. The beginning of this decade was exemplary of this attitude. In the November 1960 issue of "Harper's" magazine, Vergil Thompson made the following statement in his review of music in the 1950s.

"It is as if the whole world of musical creativity had caught the same disease. Music of today is non-committal. No plain or urgent communication peers through its surface. A species known as rock and roll, if you are interested, is on the decline. It is commercialized hillbilly aimed at selling gramophone records to persons between the ages of nine and fourteen."

Music Communicates

If you take this statement apart, you will see that this does not apply to the '60s. The music of today strives to communicate. It is full of creativity and wonder. In the early 1960s it asked questions about society and now it is trying to supply the answers. The world of musical creativity has indeed caught the same disease.

It is true that many of today's lyrics express only crude desires to "get turned on" or "take a trip." Others, however, look for a better time in love, war and civil rights. A minority appear content with the present situation. These distinct trends in musical themes reflect the confusion that exists in the world. To understand how the drastic changes came about, the study of the evolution of the popular singer and the various forms of music is essential.

Songs Hit Social Problems

With the advent of Bob Dylan, performers began to concentrate on words rather than just melody or a good beat. Dylan's "Blowing In The Wind" was typical of the early '60s. This song raised pertinent social questions. The song offers no solutions. The answer is left blowing in the wind.
"How many times must a man look up before he can see the sky? How many ears must one man have before he can hear people cry? How many deaths must it take till he knows that too many people have died?"
The Beatles were the next step in the musical evolutionary ladder. When the screaming finally calmed down, both adults and teenagers found hard, thought-provoking verse from the pen of John Lennon.

In their songs, the Beatles sing of the problems of the emerging generation. "She's Leaving Home" is a good example of the simplicity with which they state some complex problems of youth. "She's leaving home after living alone for so many years. Fun, fun is the one thing that money can't buy."

One enamored reviewer of "Abbey Road" philosophized,

"Whenever a new Beatles album is released it's generally a critical and social as well as a musical event. . .Some folk poet once said that in ugly times beauty is the only true protest, and, if nothing else, "Abbey Road" bears him out."

Simon and Garfunkel appeared as the next force in popular folk-rock business. Stephan Kanfer synthesized their appeal for "Life." "Their songs are simply laments of celebrations of the ordinary . . . and therein lies their success."

Their message for the youth is to look at the commonplace in life and point out that nothing is commonplace. They specialize in letting their fans take a realistic look at life. Despite the inevitable end, we must live life to the fullest. An excerpt from the "Leaves That Are Green" is highly typical of their style.
I was 21 years when I wrote this song/ I'm 22 now but I won't be for long/ Times hurries on/ And the leaves that are green turn to brown/ And they wither with the wind/ And they crumble in your hand./
After the singer in the 1960s was assured his audience would listen to the words, he began to comment on the situations he found smoldering under the affluent times. The age of social protest was ushered in.

Melody and Lament

The combination of haunting melody and sorrowful lament made an immediate hit of "Society's Child" by 16-year-old Janis Ian. This ballad stirred up the growing controversy over interracial dating. The escalation of the war brought Peter, Paul and Mary to the scene with "The Great Mandella (The Wheel of Life)."

Listening to the radio was in some ways comparable to reading a current magazine. The whole question was finally thrown out when Dione Warwick asked, "What's It All About Alfie?" From that moment on the pop field began concentrating on finding the answer.

One adult supporter of the new rock sarcastically told his critics:

"Rock is subversive not because it seems to authorize sex, dope and cheap thrills but because it encourages its audience to make their own judgments about social taboos."

The Mamas and the Papas rephrased his reply. "You gotta go where you wanna go, do what you wanna do, with whomever you wanna do it."

Musicals Follow the Trend

The broad world of music, however, does not limit itself to the discs. In the last decade there have been scores of popular musicals on Broadway which also reflect current trends. Two of the more popular shows, "Camelot" and "Hair" represent both ends of the continuum.

The successful Camelot, recently revived in movie form, first appeared in 1960. The success of such a moralistic play at the beginning of the decade indicated that the new era was searching for something to cling to.

Musicals are integral parts of the song world. Through his lyrics, the songwriter echoes the plot of the story. The plot is kept alive and recalled as the song is heard. A "Newsweek" reviewer described that play as "a potentially noble expression of noble ideas transmitted through Arthurian legend."

The fact that Camelot was so popular is this trouble period of our history is no surprise. The soliloquy by King Arthur adeptly poses some questions which are puzzling the newly animated generation.

"Could it possible be civilized to destroy what I love? Could it possibly be civilized to love myself above all? Violence is not strength and compassion is not weakness. We are civilized!"

Birth of Love Generation

The last segment of the swinging '60s heralded the true birth of the "love" generation. Like Spiro Agnew, hippie, LSD, and Haight-Ashbury became household words having various conotations depending on your point of view.

The musical "Hair" summed the whole hippie business up with hard beat and rather crude but penetrating lyrics. In the plot, nothing but love and youth are projected as sacred. A Newsweek article defends the lack of substantial script.

"What it quite properly tries to do is present the hippie phenomenon as the mixed up but inescapably alive eruption of energy that it is. Hair ignites the key images and issues of the lost and found generation."

This show became the pulse of a revolution that would take place a year later. For once, adults garnered a little insight from listening to the album. The music clearly reflects the mixture of insolence for the old ways and deep concern for each other that the new philosophy includes.

One of the spirit songs from the play sings of the Utopia that should exist. "How can people be so heartless? / How can people be so cruel? / Easy to be hard, Easy to be cold."

New Peace at Woodstock

The crescendo of thought and emotion rose and the overflow poured into a field called Woodstock. This celebration of the birth of the newest force in society took place at Bethel, New York between August 15 and 17, 1969. More than 400,000 of the "turned on" between the ages of 16 and 30 witnessed the event while thousands more were turned away.

There were no fights, rapes or stealing in the closely packed field. Clothes, food and drugs were shared freely with strangers. One astounded observer commented, "Young people created a kind of peace in a situation where none should have existed."

A cameraman who lensed the event provided some clues as to what took place and why.

"There was a feeling about Woodstock . . . The music was the reason for the whole thing. That's what music is. It's the thing that talks to everybody that gives everyone a common bond. All other methods are owned by the Establishment. That's why music has the fantastic drawing ability today."

The originator of Woodstock, 24-year-old Michael Lang, spoke on the far reaching effects of the art fair. "This is not just music but a conglomeration of everything involved in the new culture."

The festival appears to be the "shot heard round the world" for music lovers. Posters bearing the legend "Woodstock Music & Art Fair - Aquarian Exposition - 3 Days of Peace & Music" are selling in stores across the nation.

An essay in Time magazine dissected the musical event and concluded that it was "music that is not just a particular form of pop but the anthem of revolution . . . Rock is one long symphony of protest . . . The revolution it preaches is basically moral; it is a proclamation of a new set of values as much as it is the rejection of an old system."

Is this a true indication of a trend for the '70s? How can we guarantee that our values are not changed by the momentum of society?

Chicken or the Egg?

One freshman stated the dilemma: "On the question of music's influence on society one is faced with the elemental question: which comes first the chicken or the egg? i.e. Does music influence society or does society influence music?"

In a poll taken in a college dorm the consensus was that music dictates many facets of an individual's life. A typical comment from a sophomore pinpoints the reaction of the group. "Music is an expression of the type of life that people are living."

This presents quite a different outlook from the sardonic comments of Thompson on music in the '50s. The experimental sounds of today mirror our confused and searching society.

In the 1970s, the Fifth Dimension have formally announced the Declaration of Independence for a new generation.

We are in the midst of a social and cultural revolution. We don't know where we are going. We are so deeply involved in our world we must leave it to another time to judge the real worth and direction of our music.

Bob Dylan warns in song, "The order is rapidly changing. Get out of the new, if you can't lend a hand. The times they are a-changin.'"

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Delectable Blonde 'Candy' Wears Out Film Welcome

"Candy," directed by Christian Marquand, starring Ewa Aulin, Richard Burton, Marlon Brando, and the telephone book. At Loew's Ohio and University City Cinemas.

Lantern Staff Writer

"Candy," as readers of the book know, is a delectable blonde teenager whose heart contains a bounty of love she is willing to share with poets, gardeners, hunchbacks, and gurus, and, if the truth were known, perhaps with department store mannequins and Lantern reviewers. In the book, she wore out her welcome after about 40 pages; in the movie, she manages to be mildly amusing for nearly 60 of her 123 minutes until she becomes a victim of the over-indulgence (in everything) which she is satirizing.

Buck Henry (who collaborated on "The Graduate") has written a script whose lines are responsible for the scattering of good laughs "Candy" contains. Unfortunately, when the plot goes astray in the second half, Henry is more to blame than anyone else.

Christian Marquand is a good actor who has never directed a motion picture before. Considering his inexperience, the unevenness of the script, and the film's obvious low budget ("Candy" is the cheapest-looking major movie I have seen this year), he has done an adequate job. However, adequacy is just not enough with such specialized material as "Candy"; Mike Nichols is probably the only director who could have really pulled it off.

As for the performances, two are truly memorable. One of these is Ewa Aulin in the all-important title role, and she could not be better. Miss Aulin is voluptuous, innocent, and super-stupid--everything a Candy should be. Almost as good is John Astin in dual roles as Candy's father and uncle.

James Coburn is reasonably funny as a surgeon and Walter Matthau is very funny as a super-patriot in the film's two best bits. Richard Burton's appearance and demeanor gets laughs, but his section about a Dylan Thomas-type is only so-so. Ringo Starr has little to do as the gardener, and Marlon Brando's accent keeps slipping.