Friday, December 18, 2009

Camera Obscura: 'The Runaways'; Bad Girl Movies: Blondie's Christmas Carol

I woke up today planning to write about a movie now on DVD which is likely my favorite for the year ... only to have all train of thought hijacked effortlessly by the likes of Joan Jett and Cheri Currie. So I am chucking the original plan here today and going in a whole new direction thanks to the just released trailer for the movie "The Runaways", a bio-pic about the all-girl band from the 1970s headed by Jett and Curie which lands in theaters in March 2010.

First, the trailer:

With the legions of Twilight fans tracking every move of the series star Kirsten Stewart, who plays Joan Jett in the Runaways movie, it's deeply pleasing to know that a new generation is about to get hip to the band whose name, music and images made teenage boys like myself get a bit crazy back in the mid-1970s. (
holy moley is that really Dakota Fanning as Curie in that clip?? I thought she was like 12 or something ...)

Jett was 17, Curie was 16 when the band hit the record stores with their first album. Whenever a new Runaways album hit the stacks, all us boys would stare silently at the images wondering why the heck no girls in our school looked so cool or dared rock so hard. Sure, some girls had some of those clothes and mullet-like haircuts but there was nothing around our school to match those mythic girls who rocked the nation. They looked dangerous, like they could not get a good fake ID, but could buy liquor, had cartons of smokes, drove motorcycles, said curse words to any parent or adult, could break out windows with their music, might break out windows with their hands if they wanted, might slug you in the face just for standing near them.

Dangerous girls.

Jett produced this new movie, a project she has been shepherding for many years, going so far as to block a documentary, "Edgeplay", about the band from using any Runaways music and refusing to appear in the movie, though most of the rest of the band are there telling pretty terrible tales of how used and abused those young girls were. They were more often placed in dangerous worlds than they were dangerous themselves. Jett also spent some time with actress Stewart earlier this year, sharing some stories and such, and Stewart is doing her own singing in the movie (but I'm pretty sure that is not Fanning singing "Cherry Bomb" in the trailer ...)

Speaking of Cherry Bomb, here's the real band rocking that song, with Cherie on lead vocals and which Jett wrote:

There was another movie about the band, called "We're All Crazy Now" (or "Du-beat-e-o") which is a mangled slab of footage Jett was contractually forced to work on and deserves the utter absence of attention it has earned.

A fictional movie I have mentioned before is a decent riff on the band, starring Diane Lane and Laura Dern, called "Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains" which is pretty good really and worth checking out. Lane plays a Jett-like rocker who takes no crap, plots a meteoric rise to success and learns about the mean old music business and the dangers of fame. The trailer for the movie is here.

Cherie Currie did some acting stints in the 1990s on shows like Matlock and Murder She Wrote (!!!) but she took the romantic lead in a very underrated and odd low budget science fiction film from 1983 called "Wavelength", opposite Robert Carradine. The movie centers on the young couple who discover the secret government lab where aliens from another world are stored and help break them out. Tangerine Dream did the music for the movie, and you can check out some scenes from it right here.

If you need a few biographic details of Joan Jett's career, then you, dear reader, need to go back to the basics of rock and roll education. It's like this - the 51-year-old is an icon in music and pop culture and even has her own Barbie doll. 'Nuff said.


Speaking of bad girl movies, Turner Classic Movies will show a seldom-seen blaxplitation chick flick at 2 am tonite called "Darktown Strutters", a movie that nearly defies description -- but the TCM site tries:

... a cult film still looking for its audience. Combining elements of black action, soul and funk music, musical numbers, science fiction, slapstick comedy, and surprisingly blunt race-relations satire, this one-of-a-kind cinematic phantasmagoria offers a case study in how a screenwriter’s personality can fuse unexpectedly with that of the director. When prominent abortion clinic owner Cinderella (Frances Nealy) goes missing along with a string of other black community leaders, her singing daughter Syreena (Trina Parks) and her fellow female biker gang members tangle with the bumbling, racist police and equally inept Ku Klux Klan members before uncovering a nefarious plot by barbeque ribs magnate Commander Cross (Norman Bartold) to undermine the entire political organization of the black community."

One more bad girl today, just in time for Christmas --- though she is really 65 years of age and is prepping a new album for 2010 - that's Debbie Harry, singer for Blondie. They have a new version of "We Three Kings" which makes me smile:

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