Uncle Bardie’s Spotlight Song: Backstage

Once a week on Friday, Uncle Bardie celebrates the creativity in others by shining a Spotlight on a movie, a song or a creator. This week’s Spotlight Song is Gene Pitney’s “Backstage”:

There haven’t been too many songs about the touring life musicians endure. I’ve featured two on my Spotlight express: Bob Seger’s “Turn the page” and Gene Clark’s “Backstage Pass.” Both outstanding songs. One of the first was Gene Pitney’s “Backstage.”

Gene Pitney began his career as a songwriter for other musician. He wrote Ricky Nelson’s “Hello Mary Lou,” Bobby Vee’s “Rubber Ball” and “He’s a Rebel”by the Crystals. In the early sixties, he took up performing. His tenor voice could give a song a powerful rendition which was lacking in many of his contemporaries.

From 1961 to 1965, he turned out hit after hit, perfect songs for the radio format of that time: “Town Without Pity,” “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance,” “Mecca,” “Twenty-four Hours from Tulsa” and “I’m gonna be strong.” It’s hard to listen to any of these songs and not pull over your car and listen.

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Uncle Bardie’s Spotlight Movie: Final Portrait

Once a week on Friday, Uncle Bardie celebrates the creativity in others by shining a Spotlight on a movie, a song or a creator. This week’s Spotlight Movie is “Final Portrait” (2017):

With some artists, I need an In to appreciate their work. “Final Portrait” was the In I needed to access the amazing work of the Swiss Alberto Giacometti, one of the great artists of the twentieth century. He was as important to the art world as many of his contemporaries including Chagall, Matisse, Picasso, Dali and Henry Moore. He was a sculptor, a painter, a printmaker.

At the end of his career, he had abandoned all art movements and focused on creating something original. Influenced by existentialism, he stripped down his sculptures and portraits to what would seem to be the essence of the subject.

“Final Portrait” is based on A Giacometti Portrait by James Lord, a writer who made the art world his subject. Director Stanley Tucci gives us a few weeks in the artist’s life in 1964, close to the end of his life. During those weeks, James Lord (Armie Hammer) sits for the artist for a portrait. Alberto Giacometti (Geoffrey Rush)i tells Lord that it will only take two or three days. The process turns into weeks and what seems to be an eternity for Lord. A painful eternity.

It is a gray world, the studio of Giacometti. Only Caroline, the prostitute and Giacometti’s muse, brings color into his world. As the project continues, James Lord gets to see Giacometti create. Geoffrey Rush is always good. No matter the part. Whether it be David Helfgott in “Shine,” Sir Francis Walsingham in “Elizabeth,” Javert in “Les Miserables,” Harry in “Tailor of Panama,” The Maquis de Sade in “Quills,” or Lionel Logue in “The King’s Speech,” his work as an actor is superb. As Alberto Giacometti, he gives one of the best performances of the films I have seen him in.

Lord also gets to know Giacometti’s brother and closest friend, Diego, played by Tony Shalhoub. I have enjoyed Shalhoub’s work since I first saw him as the Italian cabdriver, Antonio Scarpacci, in the series “Wings”. Later he was the hypochondriatic detective Adrian Monk in “Monk”. At first, I didn’t recognize Shalhoub. His quietness seems to make him fade into the scenery. Shalhoub makes us realize how essential Diego was to his brother.

Giacometti’s long suffering wife, Annette, is played by Sylvie Testud and Clemance Poesy is Caroline, Giacometti’s prostitute muse. Both actresses are French and new to American audiences. And both are wonderful as the two closest women in Giacometti’s life.

Usually biopics are a chronological narrative of the subject. What he did when he was a kid. What got her started on her road to greatness. But the movies seem to leave something out. Something that is the essence of the subject. Something that reveals the inner light that makes the subject worthy of so much attention.

By concentrating on a short time, Stanley Tucci has given us the Giacometti’s life. He has brought insights into the artist’s creative process: the struggle, the perfectionism, the desire never to settle, the focus, the concentration. By choosing those few weeks in 1964, Tucci has given us what may be easily called a great biopic.

Uncle Bardie’s Creator Spotlight: Robert Capa, Photojournalist

Once a week on Friday, Uncle Bardie celebrates the creativity in others by shining a Spotlight on a movie, a song or a creator. This week’s Creator Spotlight is the photojournalist Robert Capa:

You may have heard the names Ansel Adams, Margaret Bourke-White, W. Eugene Smith and Henri Cartier-Bresson. All great photographers. Let me call your attention to another, the photojournalist and war photographer, Robert Capa.

There were war photographers before Capa. British photographer Robert Fenton and Hungarian Carol Popp de Szathmar covered the Crimean War in the 1850s. Matthew Brady took over 10,000 images of the American Civil War.

But it is Robert Capa who comes to mind when I think of combat photojournalism. Beginning in the early 1930s, he took a photograph of Leon Trotsky at a rally. It was his first published picture. He was in Spain during the Spanish-Civil War. He was at D-Day. And he was in Israel during its founding. He ended his life, doing his job as he always did. In 1954, he stepped on a landmine.

It was Capa who said, “”If your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.” He was always close enough because his photographs are not just good enough. They are memorable. He set a standard which war photographers continue to live up to.

Looking through Capa’s photographs, we realize how essential these photojournalists are. They risk their lives to give the rest of us what can only be communicated in pictures. And their images are powerful when they show the truth of war.

So today I honor Robert Capa. And, in so doing, I honor all those journalists who put themselves in harm’s way.

Uncle Bardie’s Spotlight Music: Gloomy Winter

Once a week on Friday, Uncle Bardie celebrates the creativity in others by shining a Spotlight on a movie, a song or a creator. This week’s Music Spotlight is Dougie Maclean’s recording of “Gloomy Winter Noo Awa“:

Dougie Maclean is a well-known Scottish performer and composer. His album, “Tribute,” honors the three great Scottish poets/musicians of the eighteenth and early nineteenth century. Robert Burns we have all heard of. He’s Scotland’s national poet. But Niel Gow and Robert Tannahill, not so much. Unless we were a Scot. At least, not until Dougie Maclean’s album.

Of all the songs on the “Tribute” album, I love “Gloomy Winter” the best. The song is deeply moving. And the words, ah, the words. Here’s a poet who knows and loves his countryside. Here’s a poet who brings that countryside to reflect his loss.

As the year passes us onward into a new year, this is a good one to remember all those who have passed on.

And here’s another one from Dougie Maclean I am wishing ye at the end of 2018:

Uncle Bardie’s Spotlight Creator: The Appalachia Santa Claus Special

Once a week on Friday, Uncle Bardie celebrates the creativity in others by shining a Spotlight on a movie, a song or a creator. This week’s Spotlight is the Appalachia Santa Claus Special and the folks who support it:

In these rough and tumble times, it’s always great to hear a bit of good news about our fellow Americans. So today’s Spotlight is given to you in the Christmas spirit. To shine a little light on something that reflects the holiday spirit. Here’s hoping your Hanukkah and your Christmas are wonderful. And that your New Year is the best. Blessings, my friends.