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slaytonf

Opulence on opulence: Tommy directed by Ken Russell

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Who better to have direct that most opulent output by that most opulent band than that most opulent director, Ken Russell?  The saga of a boy's journey through psychic shock to religious iconism is saved from grandiosity of course by the genius of Pete Townshend and The Who's musical brilliance.  In a similar way, Ken Russel's movie adaptation of Tommy (1975) is saved from visual excessiveness by rushing headlong into even more excessivness.  Though I admire him greatly for his visually robust filmmaking, his movies for me can be tiring to watch.  But I watch them all the same. And in this case, whatever the drawbacks, they are made up for by the music and the performances.  And let us all be grateful it was made while Keith Moon was still alive.  Nothing could have saved it then.

 

Tommy (1975), not the last musical this month, on Tomorrow morning at 1:15 a. m.!  Pacific Time!

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honestly, the weirdest thing about TOMMY for me is ANN-MARGRET'S Best Actress nomination.

she's a talent, and i like her, and she's fine in the movie, but it was an odd result of 1975 having such a dearth of good leads for actresses.

i just have to wonder if her Oscar clip was the scene where the TV barfs pudding all over her.

It's just hard to imagine, let's just say, LIV ULLMAN doing a movie where she rolls in pudding and dog food and gets  a Best Actress nomination, BUT AGAIN- that was the 70's.

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Ken Russell had the ability to "transform" personalities -

Look what he did for Twiggy in "The Boy Friend" -

he turned a famous model into an acting, singing, dancing talent. 

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Who doesn't love The Who?  And if you love The Who, then of course you love "Tommy".  

Coincidentally, I just listened to this great album in its entirety a few weeks ago  (for the first time in a while.) And I thought about it what I always think: truly great music, some of the best rock ever made. Every track is fantastic; you can tell that Townshend, who'd written some outstanding music already, had really found his muse by the time he got to "Tommy". Every time I hear "Pinball Wizard" I realize it's one of the most exciting rock songs ever written. And that's just the "hit" from the album; there are so many unusual, interesting, inventive, and - at the risk of sounding horribly pretentious - "transcendent"  (apologies to Shelley Duvall) pieces on "Tommy".

Anyone here seen "Almost Famous"?  Remember that scene near the beginning, when the kid's going through the rock albums his older sister has left for him, along with a note that says something like, "this music will change your life". One of the first record covers we see is the iconic, strange blue and black grid which is "Tommy".

So, having acknowledged, probably excessively, how much I love this album, I will say, what makes "Tommy" great is the music. The story is silly, and doesn't really make much sense. But that's ok. You could say the same for most operas, whether they're classical or rock. The whole thing about Tommy having a cult following ( I mean the character Tommy), and having some kind of spiritual epiphany when he "becomes aware", is all a bunch of rubbish. But that's ok. It's not for the story that I listen to "Tommy", it's not the story that goes through my head sometimes in the form of an earworm. It's the amazing (journey) songs. 

So, "that said", I don't really get that much out of the Ken Russell film. I'd much rather listen to the record.

(Just an addendum: A much better "rock opera", in terms of story (but not music), of Pete Townshend's is "Quadrophenia", which was also made into a movie. The music on this, too, is first-rate, I love all the songs on "Quadrophenia". But the story actually kind of makes sense, certainly it's a much better narrative than that of "Tommy". )

Still, whether we're talking about "Tommy", "Quadrophenia", "Who's Next", or even "The Who Sell Out" (amongst others), what counts is the great music The Who made. When it comes to songs, music trumps lyrics every time.

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34 minutes ago, misswonderly3 said:

what counts is the great music The Who made. When it comes to songs, music trumps lyrics every time.

As Robert Osborne said, the story is the excuse for song and dance in musicals.  So with opera.  And so with rock opera.  

It isn't clear to me from how you put it, but I hope you think "Quadrophenia" is as good as "Tommy."  Because though it's not as popular, I do.

"Can you see the real me. . . .?"

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5 minutes ago, slaytonf said:

As Robert Osborne said, the story is the excuse for song and dance in musicals.  So with opera.  And so with rock opera.  

It isn't clear to me from how you put it, but I hope you think "Quadrophenia" is as good as "Tommy."  Because though it's not as popular, I do.

"Can you see the real me. . . .?"

Well, clearly we're agreed on how great a rock band The Who are. 

I'm not sure how you could have missed it, I thought I'd made a big point of saying how good "Quadrophenia" is. I love it just as much as "Tommy". To quote my own post, this is what I said about it:

"The music on this, too, is first-rate, I love all the songs on "Quadrophenia".  "

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Ah, well, that explains it.  It was right out there in the open for me to see.  So naturally I was oblivious.

Item:

I am looking for my safety glasses.  I look where I store them.  I look near my toolbox.  I look on all flat surfaces nearby.  Nowhere to be found.  Where are they?  On the top of my head where I pushed them a moment ago when I was done cutting a piece of wood!

Item:

I am looking for my pencil. It is not where I store it.  It is not near my tape measure.  It is not on any flat surface nearby.  Where is it?  I am holding it in my hand!

These are verified occurrences.

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14 hours ago, LornaHansonForbes said:

honestly, the weirdest thing about TOMMY for me is ANN-MARGRET'S Best Actress nomination.

she's a talent, and i like her, and she's fine in the movie, but it was an odd result of 1975 having such a dearth of good leads for actresses.

i just have to wonder if her Oscar clip was the scene where the TV barfs pudding all over her.

It was baked beans.  And why?  Accdg. to IMDb:

Quote

The scene of Mrs. Walker's hallucination of soap, beans, and chocolate coming out of the television set, took three days to film. According to Russell's DVD commentary, the baked bean and detergent scenes (and the Rex Baked Beans parody ad) were "revenge" for real-life baked bean and detergent ads he had made early in his career.

IOW, pretty much Ken Russell throwing story out the window and making the whole scene About Him.  

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Yeah, I forgot the baked beans, BUT I rewatched the scene and there is a decidedly pudding-like substance that spews out of the TV screen after the beans and detergent. And by this, I mean American style dessert pudding. 

Thank The Lord it wasn't British style savory pudding. 

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On 6/28/2018 at 8:49 AM, slaytonf said:

Who better to have direct that most opulent output by that most opulent band than that most opulent director, Ken Russell?  The saga of a boy's journey through psychic shock to religious iconism is saved from grandiosity of course by the genius of Pete Townshend and The Who's musical brilliance.  In a similar way, Ken Russel's movie adaptation of Tommy (1975) is saved from visual excessiveness by rushing headlong into even more excessivness.  Though I admire him greatly for his visually robust filmmaking, his movies for me can be tiring to watch.  But I watch them all the same. And in this case, whatever the drawbacks, they are made up for by the music and the performances.  And let us all be grateful it was made while Keith Moon was still alive.  Nothing could have saved it then.

 

Tommy (1975), not the last musical this month, on Tomorrow morning at 1:15 a. m.!  Pacific Time!

I'm totally with you on this, Slayton and love this almost baroque display of bad taste but overwhelmingly visual anomalies that have to be seen to be believed. And the music is incredible! Ann-Margret sliding around the white satin room on the bolster pillow, accompanied by baked beans is an image I still can't get out of my head. Always loved the homage to Eddie Cochran in the Who's "Overture" and their overall musical creations and this film brings it all to fruition. Who would have conceived of putting someone like Oliver Reed in a film like this but Ken Russell. Being a fan of his film "The Devils" after having read in college the Aldous Huxley book, "The Devils of Loudun" about the isolated nuns, who I think were Carmelites and their delusions, I felt the film was an amazing recreation of the events, again with Oliver Reed. "Tommy" is a one of a kind movie and should be seen by anyone who enjoys films, even if they end up hating it. And yes, thank goodness Moon was still alive and I have a book with nude photos of him in it, that I will sell for a hundred bucks if anyone is interested.

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23 minutes ago, CaveGirl said:

Who would have conceived of putting someone like Oliver Reed in a film like this but Ken Russell. Being a fan of his film "The Devils" after having read in college the Aldous Huxley book, "The Devils of Loudun" about the isolated nuns, who I think were Carmelites and their delusions, I felt the film was an amazing recreation of the events, again with Oliver Reed. 

Although I side with the comic abuse that Monty Python would gleefully heap upon Ken Russell--

One sketch, for example, ends with the characters breaking out into cute '20's musical, and the onscreen title reads:  "Sandy Wilson's production of 'The Devils'".  
(An obvious poke at Ken Russell's production of "The Boy Friend", in case you hadn't gotten it yet. :D )

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16 hours ago, misswonderly3 said:

Who doesn't love The Who?  And if you love The Who, then of course you love "Tommy".  

Coincidentally, I just listened to this great album in its entirety a few weeks ago  (for the first time in a while.) And I thought about it what I always think: truly great music, some of the best rock ever made. Every track is fantastic; you can tell that Townshend, who'd written some outstanding music already, had really found his muse by the time he got to "Tommy". Every time I hear "Pinball Wizard" I realize it's one of the most exciting rock songs ever written. And that's just the "hit" from the album; there are so many unusual, interesting, inventive, and - at the risk of sounding horribly pretentious - "transcendent"  (apologies to Shelley Duvall) pieces on "Tommy".

Anyone here seen "Almost Famous"?  Remember that scene near the beginning, when the kid's going through the rock albums his older sister has left for him, along with a note that says something like, "this music will change your life". One of the first record covers we see is the iconic, strange blue and black grid which is "Tommy".

So, having acknowledged, probably excessively, how much I love this album, I will say, what makes "Tommy" great is the music. The story is silly, and doesn't really make much sense. But that's ok. You could say the same for most operas, whether they're classical or rock. The whole thing about Tommy having a cult following ( I mean the character Tommy), and having some kind of spiritual epiphany when he "becomes aware", is all a bunch of rubbish. But that's ok. It's not for the story that I listen to "Tommy", it's not the story that goes through my head sometimes in the form of an earworm. It's the amazing (journey) songs. 

So, "that said", I don't really get that much out of the Ken Russell film. I'd much rather listen to the record.

(Just an addendum: A much better "rock opera", in terms of story (but not music), of Pete Townshend's is "Quadrophenia", which was also made into a movie. The music on this, too, is first-rate, I love all the songs on "Quadrophenia". But the story actually kind of makes sense, certainly it's a much better narrative than that of "Tommy". )

Still, whether we're talking about "Tommy", "Quadrophenia", "Who's Next", or even "The Who Sell Out" (amongst others), what counts is the great music The Who made. When it comes to songs, music trumps lyrics every time.

Well said, Miss Wonderly. I will assume that you only listen to The Who's "Quadrophenia" album on your quadrophonic system with all four speakers blasting away?

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Ps-  I was wrong about the dog food though. There's no dog food in this movie. I think I was confusing it with LYLAH CLARE

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14 hours ago, EricJ said:

It was baked beans.  And why?  Accdg. to IMDb:

IOW, pretty much Ken Russell throwing story out the window and making the whole scene About Him.  

Baked Beans are an important element of The Who mystique!

One should remember the cover of The Who album, called "The Who Sell Out" which has Daltrey holding up a big can of Heinz Baked Beans, hence the baked bean sequence makes sense to a Who fan. I got the joke when I watched it the very first time, though that baked bean soaked bolster pillow's resemblance to something else being quite oversized, is still haunting my dreams.

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16 hours ago, EricJ said:

It was baked beans.  And why?  Accdg. to IMDb:

IOW, pretty much Ken Russell throwing story out the window and making the whole scene About Him.  

But it would also have been an allusion to the cover of The Who's album (the one that just preceded "Tommy"). "The Who Sell Out". Each of the four members of the band are featured advertising something, and Roger Daltry's rolling in what looks like a bath of baked beans.

Also, beans are mentioned on the album, not so much a song as one of the little fake adverts, "jingles", that make this album so unusual and kind of fun.

Here's the "jingle", which happens to feature the album cover too:

 

  ("What's for tea, darling?"  "Darling, I said, What's for tea?"  "What's for tea, daughter?")

edit: Oops... I posted this before seeing that CaveGirl had already mentioned the beans on the cover of "The Who Sell Out". That's what I get for getting all carried away and posting something before catching up on the thread, first.

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2 hours ago, CaveGirl said:

Baked Beans are an important element of The Who mystique!

One should remember the cover of The Who album, called "The Who Sell Out" which has Daltrey holding up a big can of Heinz Baked Beans, hence the baked bean sequence makes sense to a Who fan. I got the joke when I watched it the very first time, though that baked bean soaked bolster pillow's resemblance to something else being quite oversized, is still haunting my dreams.

Wrong beans, though--

The Who were parodying the oft-seen Heinz "What's For Tea?" ads (which I would have never known in the US except for being a richly overexposed target of parodies for British comics like Benny Hill and The Goodies), but Ken's old advertising devils were for Rex baked beans.  So it's open to interpretation.

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3 hours ago, LornaHansonForbes said:

Ps-  I was wrong about the dog food though. There's no dog food in this movie. I think I was confusing it with LYLAH CLARE

An easily understood misunderstanding, Lorna! 

Don't ever confuse it though with the play and comedy of manners by Sheridan called "The Rivals" which contained the famous character known as Mrs. Malaprop.

Get it, Rival Dog Food?

Well...I thought it was funny.

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On June 28, 2018 at 6:08 AM, LornaHansonForbes said:

It's just hard to imagine, let's just say, LIV ULLMAN doing a movie where she rolls in pudding and dog food and gets  a Best Actress nomination, BUT AGAIN- that was the 70's.

But--but that's the most brilliant scene in the movie!  No joke!

 

Ok. let's get this straight.  Prior to the TV eruption, Tommy's mommy is watching him crowned pinball king.  Racked with guilt, she tries not to watch, getting only commercials for:  baked beans, chocolate, and laundry detergent.  As her psychic trauma builds, we see Tommy in a washer.  Then his mommy busts the TV, seeking relief from her agony--and gets it, temporarily, with the soap suds (cleansing--see?).  But her inner contamination busts out, first with beans, then with chocolate goo.  She revels in her degradation.  All very sexy.

And that is something Liv Ullman definitely couldn't do.

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5 hours ago, EricJ said:

Wrong beans, though--

The Who were parodying the oft-seen Heinz "What's For Tea?" ads (which I would have never known in the US except for being a richly overexposed target of parodies for British comics like Benny Hill and The Goodies), but Ken's old advertising devils were for Rex baked beans.  So it's open to interpretation.

What's open to interpretation?  Russell probably didn't think the exact brand of canned beans was important. I dunno, I only saw the movie once, and that was a long time ago.

Eric, did you not see my post explaining about the whole "canned beans" thing?

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I have seven Who songs in my iTunes collection, as I am slowly building my knowledge of their work. All of them are pre-Tommy, as I slowly move through the highlights of their career more or less chronologically. So far, the songs I have are:

Out in the Streets
My Generation
I Can't Explain
Happy Jack
Armenia, City in the Sky
Odorono
Glittering Girl

Interesting stuff, all.

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1 minute ago, sewhite2000 said:

I have seven Who songs in my iTunes collection, as I am slowly building my knowledge of their work. All of them are pre-Tommy, as I slowly move through the highlights of their career more or less chronologically. So far, the songs I have are:

Out in the Streets
My Generation
I Can't Explain
Happy Jack
Armenia, City in the Sky
Odorono
Glittering Girl

Interesting stuff, all.

Pre-Tommy, I'd add "Substitute", "I'm a Boy", "The Kids are Alright", "Pictures of Lily" and "Magic Bus". "I Can See for Miles" was a big pre-Tommy hit, but I've heard it enough at this point.

While I like Tommy a lot, and can sing along word-for-word, I prefer Who's Next.

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51 minutes ago, sewhite2000 said:

I have seven Who songs in my iTunes collection, as I am slowly building my knowledge of their work. All of them are pre-Tommy, as I slowly move through the highlights of their career more or less chronologically. So far, the songs I have are:

Out in the Streets
My Generation
I Can't Explain
Happy Jack
Armenia, City in the Sky
Odorono
Glittering Girl

Interesting stuff, all.

That's the first time I've heard The Who described that way.

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On June 28, 2018 at 6:18 PM, misswonderly3 said:

So, "that said", I don't really get that much out of the Ken Russell film. I'd much rather listen to the record.

 

1 hour ago, misswonderly3 said:

I only saw the movie once, and that was a long time ago.

I find it at least entertaining to watch as I listen to the music.  And Ken Russell does have a way with the camera.  And I like seeing Eric Clapton, Tina Turner, and Elton John take on The Who.  Maybe it didn't do much for you then, but maybe you aren't giving the movie a fair chance now.  Thing is, you've probably missed the chance to see it, as it's not on Watch TCM, and I doubt it'll be on again.  

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It's certainly not a TCM staple, but this was the eighth time TCM has shown it, according to moviecollectoroh's database, so I'm sure it will be on again someday. Ann-Margaret got an Oscar nomination for it, so it's been part of the 31 Days of Oscar lineup at least twice that I can remember.

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