Posted on February 9th, 2016 No comments
75 years ago, John Huston unleashed onto an unsuspecting public a film that would become one of, if not the most iconic gumshoe detective mystery movies of all time, The Maltese Falcon.
You can’t utter the words “Film Noir” without The Maltese Falcon coming to mind. From Bogart’s portrayal of Dashiell Hammett’s Sam Spade, to the multiple twists and turns, to the bitter ending, this slice of the dark side of peoples’ lives has become the standard by which all other films of its kind are measured.
And now it’s back on the Silver Screen, in glorious black and white, for its 75th anniversary. Now that’s the stuff that dreams are made of.
Tiki Chris, reporting from the screening room at Tiki Lounge Talk
Posted on February 8th, 2016 1 comment
for Mod Movie Monday at Tiki Lounge Talk, starring Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Channing Tatum, Alden Ehrenreich, Hobie Doyle, Ralph Fiennes, Scarlett Johansson, Tilda Swinton.
(NO Spoilers, just some fun facts)
I won’t go into the basic idea of what the movie is about…you can read about that anywhere. I’m going to tell you why, as one who digs mid-century coolness, you will dig this movie and need to see it on the Big Screen.
“Hail, Caesar!” takes place sometime around 1950-51, and is set in Los Angeles (after all, it’s a movie about the movie business).
So here we are, transported back to the early 1950s. Now you might expect the movie to hit us over the head with imagery and symbolism of that era. Well, the Coen Brothers (The Big Lebowski, No Country for Old Men, Fargo, The Man Who Wasn’t There) are too good to resort to that kind of shtick. They have their own brand of shtick, and it’s subtle…it’s in the spoofiness of the whole thing, and how every scene is shot in such a way that it reminds you of another movie, one from the actual era.
The movie starts off in a timeless way, then before you realize it, the nostalgia bits are added in and multiplied. These start out small (an actress taking “dirty pictures” (read: full but skimpy clothing) in the middle of the night, a meeting at the Imperial Garden (“They have the best Mai Tai’s here), and time-establishing shots of Brolin’s wristwatch, which looked like it was probably from the 1930s.
From there the Hollywood spoofing takes center stage, with incredibly fun scenes that mimic some of our favorite movies from the 1930s, 40s and 50s. These scenes include an aquatic dance number complete with mermaid (think Ester Williams), a cowboy guitar & song (Gene Autry), and a fully-executed sailor dance number that would have fit right in to “On the Town” (well, most of it). Watching that sequence featuring Channing Tatum, all I could think was, Gene Kelley and Frank Sinatra are looking down and laughing their asses off. Well done.
And then of course there’s George Clooney’s character, they typical big star, a playboy and the kind of 1950s actor who could bring tears to an audience with one line. Also, not so bright, and easily influenced, which helps carry the main story line to a really fun and cool ending. I applaud Clooney for taking this role, and he was fantastic in it.
But the real juiciness it that dotted throughout the movie is pretty much EVERY possible nod the era’s nostalgia and movies of the time, including:
A mid-century modern Malibu house overlooking the ocean (compete with bar)
Close-up of the Cadillac nameplate on the chrome dashboard of the car
A lasso-wielding singing cowboy who does his own stunts
4-button multiline telephones
Vaudeville/slapstick comedy (where you least expect it)
Hollywood cover-ups (I won’t spoil it)
Carmen Miranda-ish character
Dance routines out of nowhere
Actual songs from the era, as background music
Romans (of course)
Black and White “artsy” movie within the movie, with odd camera angles
Over-dramatic, high-society type director who is incredibly serious about his musical
“Epic” movie splash screen
Backlot shots of Roman columns next to modern cars
Stars who’ve had multiple marriages
The future of aviation (Lockheed)
The future of TV replacing movies
Intellectuals sitting around discussing things but not taking action (until they take action)
Cool Chinese Restaurant/Almost a Tiki Bar
1950’s Housewife (with a line to her husband something like “You know what’s best”)
One of those old lawn chairs with the plastic webbing
Old movie cameras
Dailies complete with cards that say things like “Big Credits Here”,
The Ester Williams-style number is incredibly fun to watch, as is Tatum’s dance routine (I like that the movie gives us full numbers, not just a 15 second snippet). Even the cowpoke’s song is a hoot.
So, my recommendation…It’s a great movie, fun plot, exceptional characters, the right amount of nostalgia without it being obvious, unbelievable dance numbers, and laugh-out-loud comedy, plus visuals that will make you wish you lived back in 1951.
-Tiki Chris P. reporting from the screening room at Capitol Studios, Hollywood.
Posted on January 24th, 2016 No comments
The short reason: Because science fiction is a huge part of mid-century American pop culture, and The X Files derives its main plot from the “little green men” who started visiting us (according to believers) in 1947.
The crash-landing of a UFO in Roswell, New Mexico in 1947 really kick-started the Martian-based sci-fi craze of the 1950s. Sure, science fiction movies and novels, etc. had been around for decades at that point (no one can forget Orson Wells’ 1939 broadcast of “War of the Worlds”), but when the public got its first taste of real rocket-aged stories of flying saucers and short, green aliens, the genre took off…and hasn’t really let up since.
Before Roswell, UFO sightings were few and far between, and were usually written-off as unsophisticated people mistaking modern airplanes or – yes – weather balloons for space ships. The “cigar-shaped metallic object” that was usually reported more-often really was just an aluminum-skinned plane, seen by people who may have never even seen a motorcar or Streamliner train in their lives. Consequently, most sightings weren’t widely reported.
But after that fateful night in Roswell generated so much hype and interest, the media, sci-fi authors and movie execs realized they had a money-making bonanza at their fingertips. Comics, movies, TV shows, books…you name it were all fair game to perpetuate the Martian/UFO phenomenon.
As the Roswell UFO event began looking more and more like a government cover-up, the media and entertainment industry used it to fuel the fires of government conspiracy theories. Suddenly, our government which had protected us, seen us through WW2 and saved the world, was being viewed as a secretive, manipulative and even lying entity that was completely out of reach of the American people. Add to that the anxiety that came with post-WW2 Cold War-era threats of atomic war, the perceived threat of a communist takeover of the world, and still mysterious circumstances surrounding the JFK assassination…the entertainment industry had the perfect cocktail of public fears to play on. And play they did…with thousands of movies, TV shows, books etc. making billions of bucks along the way.
The X Files takes us back to that era, both in its basic mythology and in actual flashbacks to the 1940s, 50s and 60s. The show does a fantastic job combining the alien abduction theory with a government conspiracy, hiding a truth so horrific that even the greatest movies, books and TV shows of the era wouldn’t dare ponder. And interspersed with the alien mythology are the “Monster of the Week” episodes, giving us a cool, re-imagined view of some of the most interesting concepts to come out of mid-century sci-fi, from human-like creepy creatures to eerie paranormal mysteries. It’s like watching a modern take on the greatest parts from The Outer Limits, The Twilight Zone, Night Gallery and all those ’50s monster movies put together. Don’t believe me? Look for yourself…The truth is out there.
Sure, the original X Files series was filmed and takes place in the 1990s, complete with large-shoulder padded suits, crappy cars and a curious lack of cell phones and internet, but if you can get past that, watch it for the reasons I shared above. I’m confident you’ll dig it.
The New X Files short series starts tonight at 10pm. I really hope it starts off with a cool space ship, like the one that landed in our front yard last week.
-Tiki Chris reporting from the media lounge at Pirate’s Cove Tiki Bar, Florida
Posted on May 17th, 2015 No comments
May 17, 2015: Christopher “Tiki Chris” Pinto, author of several novels set in mid-century America, discusses his thoughts and ideas on the MAD MEN series on the eve of its series finale.
They are calling it “The End of an Era”, a fun double entandre that eludes to both the end of the era that Mad Men represents, and the end of one of modern television’s most respected and acclaimed shows. It’s the series finale of a TV program that promised us a glimpse into the events and lives of our favorite era, the era of mid-century pop culture, of cocktails and Tiki bars, Bachelor Pad music and finned cars.
And as we prepare to watch the finale, I have to admit I look back at the past 7 seasons with a bit of disappointment. Not in the quality of the show or its writing, and certainly not in the fine acting. Not even in the enjoyment I’ve had watching it, absorbing it, and appreciating the small details and hidden meanings that made it so great. Just in the fact that it moved way too fast into the 1960s for my taste, and for most of my friends who also tuned in to watch a show about mid-century cocktail culture in the 1950s.
Because when MAD MEN was first promoted, that’s exactly what it promised: A look into the lives of the cocktail culture set, played out during the 1950s, defined by the most notorious drunkards of the time, advertising executives. We got what we expected in season one, from sexy, accommodating secretaries in tight dresses to smarmy, misogynistic, Martini-swilling ad men with thin ties and pocket squares, driving big fancy cars and taking over the world one account at a time while their wives played the part of homemaker with the kids. We got to see incredible, larger than life ad pitches that rarely happen in the real world but fit perfectly into our imagination’s concept how the good old days must have been. And we were treated to all this eye candy with the best background tracks plucked from the Ultra Lounge series of Bachelor Pad and Exotica tunes of the day.
But we were misled (by advertising!). Almost as soon as it started, the 1950s decade ended in MAD MEN, swinging us full-on into 1960 before the paint on Roger’s ’59 Caddy had a chance to dry. But we were OK with that, because, after all, it’s mostly agreed that the golden era of cocktails and mid-century pop ended somewhere around the time of Kennedy’s assassination, the coming of The Beatles, and escalation of the Vietnam war. So we figured “our show” would linger in the early ‘60s, maybe with more glorious flashbacks to the 1950s.
Not so, of course, as this was not “our show”, it was Mathew Weiner’s. And Mr. Weiner happens to be a huge fan of 1960s pop culture. His intent from the start was to base the show at the END of the cocktail era, and show the drastic changes that took place in American culture in the 1960s. AMC may not have made that fact obvious in their advertising, but they sure as hell hooked us in.
Don’t get me wrong…it’s a great story, and one that Mathew Weiner has told incredibly well, from a perspective not seen before. Let’s face it…whenever someone makes a show or movie about the 1960s, it’s always from the point of view of the young, the rebels, the hippies and college kids who wanted to change the world, not from “the man”, the established middle class who fully enjoyed the world they had created after WW2. It’s about time someone told the story of the anti-anti-establishment, the coolest cats and kittens who dug drinking at the Tiki bar and thought hippies were kooks.
And yet, as the series comes to a close, I can’t help but personally ask, “Is That All There Is?” Couldn’t the show have lingered just a little more in the late 1950s/early 60s? Couldn’t there have been fewer time jumps, where the show could have done some more things with what was happening before the major culture-changing events of the 1960s, especially with advertising?
It just seems to me, as a writer, that there were so many juicy things going on that got glossed over or completely ignored. For instance, color television made a huge impact on the industry. Directors and camera operators were suddenly faced with shooting TV spots that looked good in both black and white AND color. Production costs rose. More people needed to be hired to accommodate the changes. Agencies were in upheaval, trying to figure out how to accommodate the new medium while remaining profitable (just like they have with the internet). That alone would have made a good season thread, if not a multi-show plot line.
And what about changes in the auto industry? Sterling-Cooper made every effort to get a car on the roster. But the show never went into how difficult it was to effectively advertise/market automobiles at a time (1959-64) when horsepower, styles and tastes were changing faster than the liquor bottles on Don’s minibar. Back then car styles changed pretty drastically every one or two years. When you consider that today’s models usually stay exactly the same for 5-8 years, you can imagine how difficult it must have been to convince buyers that the car they just bought last year was out of date junk. I really would have liked to see the show back up to around 1958, and get the Edsel account. Imagine how much fun that would have been!
And then of course, there is the whole concept of the Playboy bachelor, the never-married, successful young man who drives an Austin Healey sports car, listens to Martin Denny, reads Esquire and of course Playboy, drinks Macallen Scotch and plays golf on weekends before hitting the nightclubs in search of a tipsy, willing bird. It really surprises me that not a single major character on MAD MEN was single because he wanted to be. What a fun and interesting addition a true cocktail set bachelor would have made to this show!
But that’s just my own personal opinions and ideas, and that’s not the show. That’s not MAD MEN as Mathew Weiner envisioned it. We may have been misled by AMC’s advertising in the beginning, but we soon realized this wasn’t going to be a show about the 1950s. It was about the ’60s, and how that decade changed everything. And guess what?
We still love it.
Adieu, Mad Men, and thank you Mr. Weiner for bringing us one hell of a show.
– Christopher “Tiki Chris” Pinto, reporting from the television viewing room at Tiki Lounge Talk
Posted on February 17th, 2014 14 comments
(Translation: Let’s take a history lesson from 1955)
Hep talk, Jive, hipster lingo…It all started with jazz musicians back in the 1920s and 30s. It’s generally accepted that “jive” started as a kind of code, especially to warn your fellow musicians about an impending police raid on the speakeasy you happened to be playing in that night. From there it took off into just a cool way for these kats (musicians) to differentiate themselves from the squares, and from there is took off into any USA culture click that considered themselves gone, out, way out, and in possession of a coolness that the cubes could never dig. Dig?
Sent to me 20 years ago through a very un-hip but easy-to-use channel, “email”, this is a list of the hippest words with their American translation. I’m not sure, but I believe this dictionary was originally printed in Mad Magazine, c. 1955
ABE’S CABE – a five dollar bill
BIG GEORGE – a quarter
BLAZE – to go
BLOOD – wine
BREAD – money
BRIGHT – day
BROWN ABE – a penny
CHEATERS – eye glasses
CHLOROPHYLL GEORGE – a dollar
COOL – nice
CRAZY – odd
CRIB – house
CUBE – 3-D square
CUT – make fun of
CUT OUT – leave
DIG, TO DIG – to understand
DUCE – a two dollar bill
ENDS – money
FLICKS – movies
FLIP – react enthusiastically
GONE – wonderful
GREASE – eat
HENCHMEN – friends
HOLLYWOOD EYES – cute girls
HUB CAP – important fellow
JAMS – bop records
JELLY TOT – young hub cap
LATER – I’ll see you
LAY DEAD – wait
MAN – opening word when addressing a kat
MAN, MY – friend, comrade
MAN, THE – Stan Kenton
NOD – sleep
NOWHERE – condition of a cube
OUT, THE OUTEST – best
PLAYER – popular fellow
QUIT, QUIT IT – leave
RANCH – house
RANK – stupid
SCARF – eat
SCROUNGY – bad
SIDES – bop records
SILVER JEFF – a nickel
SILVER WING – a half dollar
SLAMMER – door
SONNET – radio commercial
SPLASH – rain
SPLIT – to go
SQUAT – sit
SQUARE – one who is nowhere
STOMPERS – shoes
STONED – ecstatic
STROLLER – car
STRUGGLE – dance
THIN ONE – dime
TICKS – minutes
TUNES – bop records
TURKEY – square
WASTED – broke
WHEELS – car
WILD – nice
YARD, A YARD – a hundred dollars
Dig it how some of these terms are still cool today, like ‘dig’ and ‘cool’, along with ‘scarf’, ‘player’, ‘crib’ and ‘jams’. I also particularly dig that “The Man” is Stan Kenton (see previous post). Well, it’s a bop dictionary, after all.
Compare to the 1958 “COOL” Magazine Hipster Dictionary, one that was more for the masses, not so much for Bop jazzers. Some common ground, of course, but a lot more words for ordinary things. Bop musicians didn’t need so many words. They said very little, saving their strength to play all those notes in their complicated Bop charts. Wild, man, wild.
-Guest Post by Zoot Jackson, Gobble Pipe blower and swingin’ kat extraordinaire.