Monthly Archives: February 2016

Another Hollywood conundrum?

 

An earlier post about the late John Wayne compared him to Arnold Schwarzeneggar in his success in building a long, high-profile, lucrative career on a modest film acting ability.

However, on further reflection, a better modern comparison might be with Nicholas Cage. Not only did Cage win a Best Actor Oscar at the reasonably early age of 32, he has also appeared in leading roles for many of the most significant directors of the past 40 years, like Martin Scorsese, the Coen Brothers, David Lynch, Oliver Stone, Ridley Scott, Alan Parker, Norman Jewison and Brian De Palma.

You might argue about the respective merits of those individuals, and Cage did not always appear in their most (artistically or financially) successful works, but it’s still a respectable CV. What might we deduce?

Cage’s start in films is probably connected to his being the nephew of Francis Ford Coppola, already highly successful as the director of The Godfather and Apocalypse Now, and in his early days he did appear in several of his uncle’s films.

His screen persona is less defined than either John Wayne or Arnold Schwarzeneggar, although I would certainly hesitate to describe him as versatile in the way you could apply that adjective to Dustin Hoffman, Marlon Brando, Spencer Tracy or James Stewart. Possibly Cage has worked hard at being a good industry insider, a good team-player, not too demanding or too much of a prima donna, trying to ensure that his performances helped films earn a decent return for their producers? In other words, a good professional. All successful organisations, businesses and industries, creative or otherwise, need them.

 

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Council minutes  

 

Until I read Bernadette Hyland, I was one of the few people of my musical generation whom I had known to have preferred the Style Council to the other stages of Paul Weller’s musical career.

In my early 20s by the time punk arrived, I had already developed too many musical loyalties to embrace it fully. But I did love the strong songs, the loud guitars, the sense of a new movement on the march and the dislike of some elements of previous musical fashion which I too was uncomfortable with.  Johnny Rotten’s address to an older music fan, “You’re too old and your hair’s too long” attracted me in the same way as, a few years later, the irreverent description of Bruce Springsteen (whom I was a fan of) by either John Peel or John Walters as “Barry Manilow with a switchblade”.

I also liked much of the music’s political commitment. A few years later, the Style Council were, for me, better than Paul Weller’s previous band, the Jam, because they were more politically assertive and more musically varied. The US soul music of the 1960s and 1970s was a major influence on both strands: the Curtis Mayfield of “People Get Ready”,  the Sam Cooke of “A Change is Gonna Come”, the Marvin Gaye of “What’s Going On”. The  developing musical sophistication, moving the sound away from guitar dominance, was certainly apparent in the final Jam single “Beat Surrender”.  Although the Jam did not seem at the time as politically engaged as, say, the Clash, you can see earlier signs of Weller’s political focus in the lyrics of hits like “Eton Rifles” and “Going Underground”.

A mix of male and female voices is often more powerful and effective than either on its own, and the combination of Weller’s with D.C.Lee was a large part of the success of the Style Council sound, in unison with the keyboards of Mick Talbot.  Weller also assembled an imaginative larger multi-voice ensemble called the Council Collective to make “Soul Deep” in support of the miners during the 1984-85 strike.

Many popular Style Council songs, like “Long Hot Summer”, did not deal with social and political issues. However, most of my favourites did. Such as “Walls Come Tumbling Down” with its cheerful opening rallying-cry,  “You don’t have to take this crap”,  and “The Lodgers” with the similarly scornful tone of “There’s room on the top if you tow the line, and if you believe all this you must be out of your mind”.

Especially “Money-Go-Round”, dedicated to, and with profits to Youth CND, I seem to recall.  “Same old wealth in the same old hands…they’ve got it wrapped up tight, they’ve got it safe and sound”. Highly relevant still in this era of continual corporate tax evasion.

 

 

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