Monday, May 29, 2023

New York, New York: Stepping Around the Heart of Scorsese’s Movie Musical

 The wonderful "Wine and Peaches" number in New York, New York. (Photo: Paul Kolnik)

Martin Scorsese’s 1977 New York, New York, perhaps the only Big Band musical film after the collapse of the Big Band era, is about the meeting – collision is more accurate – of two young musical hopefuls in Manhattan on V-J Day, both newly out of the service. Jimmy Doyle (Robert De Niro, at the end of his astonishing early career – the year after Taxi Driver) is a relentlessly confident saxophonist and Francine Evans (Liza Minnelli, in her least-known great performance) is a vocalist. He keeps asking her out; she keeps telling him no. But his persistence, obnoxious as it sometimes gets, is inseparable from his charm, and though she tries to resist she ends up acceding to every one of his demands. She does go out with him, she lands him a job by performing a duet with him at an audition – it’s “You Brought a New Kind of Love to Me,” and they’re a knockout together (Georgie Auld, who plays a supporting role, dubs Jimmy’s sax) – and they become lovers, then husband and wife. You’d have to be De Niro to pull off this part. The marriage is a disaster, because Jimmy is demonically focused on his career and professionally competitive, and when Francine doesn’t – or can’t – do exactly what he demands of her, he steams. And he cheats on her. The divergence in their careers – she becomes a star of stage and movie musicals, he becomes one of the inventors of bop – operates as a symbol for all the ways in which their relationship is unworkable.

Sunday, May 28, 2023

Tina Bids Farewell: The Exuberant Buddhism of the Late Tina Turner

Tina Turner, in 2018. (Photo: Charles Gates)

“The Buddhist concept of changing poison into medicine works. My life has proven it."  – Tina Turner, Living Buddhism, July 2018.

As a Buddhist, I don’t, of course, believe in the customary concepts of heaven or hell, since as fellow practitioners well know, we humans do a pretty good job of manufacturing our own versions of those two domains right here on earth while we’re alive in this material world. Like many of you, though, I do, however, believe in reincarnation, and that’s where my mind first went when I learned of the passing of the great Tina Turner at the age of 83 at her home in Switzerland on May 23, 2023, with her beloved second husband Erwin Bach at her side. Her first husband, the notoriously abusive Ike Turner, whose sole role in history has become his introduction of a shy sixteen-year-old girl named Anna Mae Bullock to the recording industry and his transformation of that girl into Tina, the larger-than-life talent we all came to adore, has drifted off into whatever hellish domain awaits the cruel and inhuman among us. But Tina, she might well have gone elsewhere.