In Tune with June
Jan 13, 2014 | 2805 views | 0 0 comments | 18 18 recommendations | email to a friend | print
When I learned that there was a film about the making of a Disney movie (“Mary Poppins”) I immediately thought of a Disney classic, “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.” That timeless movie was the first one in Technicolor and the first full-length animated feature. When my Aunt Rose took me to see it I clearly remember several frightening and intense sequences, especially the jealous queen who wanted to be “the fairest of them all” so she tricked Snow White with a poisoned apple. Another memory from the film is a game we still play. Can you name the seven dwarfs? Can you? No cheating, but see the answer at the bottom of this paragraph. Most of us on hearing the name Disney think of the theme parks, Disneyland and Walt Disney World. The “Snow White” movie is also particularly memorable for songs like “Heigh Ho,” and “Someday My Prince Will Come” (many jazz musicians still play that one). Well, now comes a new film, “Saving Mr. Banks,” in which one of today’s most beloved and well-known stars, Tom Hanks, plays Walt Disney, one of Hollywood’s most beloved and well-known icons. This movie is a first about Disney himself and it focuses on how Disney struggled to convince persnickety “Mary Poppins” author to sell him the rights to her beloved story. In her role Emma Thompson shines playing with spirited fussiness bringing both power and delicacy to the character she’s given. “Saving Mr. Banks” seeks to soothe its audience to reassure us as Tom Hanks’ benevolent Walt Disney keeps reassuring Emma Thompson’s uptight P. L. Travers. As a moviegoer, just sit back and let Disney take charge -- and everything will be fine. Walt Disney gave us a world with magic, whimsy, and optimism. Oh, yes, as promised, here are the names of the seven dwarfs: Doc, Sneezy, Grumpy, Happy, Bashful, Sleepy, and Dopey. How many did you name?

Even though the title of this new television series didn’t appeal to me, I decided to give it a go and watch “Mob City.” That was a mistake since I was still recovering from the shoot-‘m-ups in “Boardwalk Empire.” However, I was trying to be open-minded. TNT’s “Mob City” is a perfect embodiment of film noir recalling 30s and 40s movies. Joe Teague (Jon Bernthal) is a former Marine who’s now a cop but here’s the rub: he’s a cop but that doesn’t mean he’s all good. In this series the women are dames who talk tough and crack wise but somehow love gets them in the end, whether it’s love for a guy or a pile of dough. Moral murkiness is replicated in “Mob City.” Joe Teague has the face for the role, punk-handsome in a kind of Robert Mitchum way (if you know who he was). The actor has the ever-cool, taciturn character down pat. Most of the players in the series have what you’d call an elusive morality. There are many interrelationships among the major ones. I needed to stay awake to keep up with them. A plus to the series is that there are many period details: sleek, big grilled cars, the ever-present fog of cigarette smoke, and a mix of actual songs from the 1940s and 50s. That said, “Mob City” doesn’t feel like a museum piece and it appears to have a good script and great performances. You can’t judge by me—I’m still in the market for music, romance, and happy stories—one that spreads sunshine all over the place.

Who doesn’t like the English actress, Judi Dench? It was a rhetorical question from my discerning friend. Well -- my son, Andy doesn’t like Judi Dench, but his wife, Andrea, and his sister, Jolie, do. Me too! That’s the reason I was interested in seeing the lady’s latest film, “Philomena.” Considered one of our greatest actresses, her Philomina glows with the radiance of someone serene in her faith despite inhuman treatment by the Church. Based on a true story, it’s a provocative drama about forgetting and forgiving and the difference between the two. The movie is a gem of a film and Ms Dench’s Philomena’s feelings, reactions, and timing are priceless and pure acting gold. The story isn’t just about penance or even abuse but about faith. At the core of the film, the main character doesn’t doubt, doesn’t question. She’s the real victim here and yet she becomes accepting of her trials, understanding of her enemy, committed to genuine love. If you are fortunate enough to see this movie, you’ll be captivated by the character’s true story, angered by the injustice that was done to her, and admiring of her indomitable faith. Judi Dench makes you believe that Philomena has the capacity to forgive providing the movie with a solid moral center. In my eyes, Judi Dench, the actress, is a treasure.

“It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing.” That’s the lyric composed by Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington (1899-1974), composer, pianist, bandleader of jazz orchestras. Ellington originated over a thousand songs and his extensive oeuvre is the largest recorded personal jazz legacy, with many of his extant works having become standards (a sample: “In the Mood,” “Mood Indigo,” “Sophisticated Lady,” “Take the A Train” and so many more). As a black jazz titan in a racist age, he rose to stardom in the 1920s. The aristocratic maestro took on a weighty double role: to lift jazz to the level of concert music, and to win respect for his race. That is why I was so interested in Ellington’s newest biographer, Terry Teachout. In “Duke: A Life of Duke Ellington,” he calls him “a riddle without an answer, an unknowable man who hid behind a high wall of ornate utterances and flowery compliments that grew higher as he grew older.” Teachout, the drama critic for the Wall Street Journal, delved behind “the smiling, non-committal urbanity that he shows to the world.” In the biographer’s poignant last pages the reader learns that the jazz giant is broke and passé. I found myself wishing I hadn’t read this book about the enigmatic legend. As a confessed escapist, I prefer simply to keep Duke on a pedestal and enjoy the music he gave us.

You can email June Sturz at

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