Posts Tagged ‘Hairspray’

John Waters: This Filthy World

April 12, 2017

I mentioned over a year ago that I spent a lot of my childhood living in a house not far from where John Waters lived (and probably still lives). I do not live there anymore so I do not mind saying that I lived in the Tuscany-Canterbury neighborhood and it was maybe a five-minute walk to where Waters lived. The whole time I lived in the neighborhood, I never saw him. The adults told us that was where he was. When we went trick or treating, his house always just had a bowl out front. We were always told he was a recluse and not to bother the guy which we always respected. Now I know that’s not entirely true. After seeing Crybaby and Hairspray (his more kid-friendly films) I was a fan and I did not want to get on his bad side. Later, when we were chased out of a large apartment complex’s garden, we were looking for a place to play. One of our parents asked John Waters and we ended up playing in his back yard for a long time. It is still a fond memory.

John Waters was the king of stories about outsider culture. He talked about the cool or terrifying thing happening just beyond the borders of the establishment. That track record has influenced me for a long time in my life. Especially lately, I have been pushing the borders of what I know and exploring culture new to me. While Nikki Minaj may not have been new when I discovered her, her work was new to me and I was glad I found it. That spirit has also guided me to push against boundaries. John Waters created truly nasty (yet funny) films and was unafraid to get dirty, gory or to draw outside of the lines. It makes me less afraid to check out stuff that I might have been nervous about revealing I watched. I listen to pop music, I watch all ages cartoons and I enjoy some traditionally “girly” entertainment partly because of Waters’ displays. He also contributed to the dark and campy parts of my sense of humor.

This movie is John Waters’ one-man show from a few years ago, a show he toured but this performance was in New York City instead of Baltimore. While I would have loved if the footage on Netflix was in Baltimore, it actually worked out better. A large part of his show is him explaining why he loves my hometown of Baltimore and I could not agree enough with him. He talks a lot about the charm that Charm City has even though we are some of the craziest people. He talks about trying to be a rebel in Lutherville, the age old problems of trying to rebel against the suburban machine. I also found it funny that he pushed literacy since he’s from The City That Reads. Like Waters, I love Baltimore for all of its weird quirks and interesting people. His joy at talking about the city is the way I felt when I returned from New Jersey to the land of my birth and how I feel about the 410 every day that I wake up.

The majority of the rest of the show is about John Waters’ career which I have followed ever since I discovered him in the nineties. Of course, that is not remotely when he started. John Waters and his friends got started in film as crazy independent filmmakers. They made movies expressly made to screw with people. They were shown at midnight. Inspired by filmmakers like William Castle and Kroger Babb, he wanted to viscerally affect the audience. That is why Pink Flamingos ends with a drag queen literally eating crap and also why Eat Your Makeup has the same drag queen playing Jackie Kennedy during the infamous assassination. He hired an elemental drag queen named Divine and a band of misfits and they shocked the world. That attitude filtered into his later career as he brought so-called ‘real’ actors into the fold and made them into misfits too. Stars like Johnny Depp, Melanie Griffith, Edward Furlong and Kathleen Turner got to show different sides of themselves.

Overall, I loved this movie. While John Waters is not exactly a stand-up comedian, that was pretty much where his delivery was. He has a lot of fun standing on stage to tell some great stories and deliver funny one liners. He moves at a fast clip so you barely have time to recover before the next laugh, outrageous statement or gross out moment comes. There is nobody on Earth quite like John Waters and it is clear that he knows it. He is delighted by each reaction he gets even if it is revulsion, maybe especially if it is revulsion. He plows ahead at full steam and the crowd loves it. I am so proud that I come from the same city as this man.


Media Update 12/15/2016

December 15, 2016

Hairspray Live!

John Waters is a legend in Baltimore and a great filmmaker beyond my hometown. The original Hairspray is a film I remember fondly from my childhood. I grew up among diversity in a liberal school so racism was a boogeyman that I found hard to really grab a hold of. People like Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks were heroes to us but we never saw what they faced growing up. The racial issues raised in Hairspray seemed like a no-brainer to me. Looking back, the movie really represents Baltimore which has one of the highest populations per capita of black people. I had never seen the musical before but I have always wanted to. I have only seen a few of these Live events but I have liked them so far. The sets and effects were amazing for a live performance. I loved the backstage access they gave with interviews and shots of actors rushing about backstage. The singing and acting were fantastic. Harvey Fierstein was really fun. I already liked Ariana Grande and Dove Cameron who were perfect casting choices for a high profile production like this. I was really impressed with Maddie Baillio and Ephraim Sykes. Maddie played Tracy Turnblad with a bubbly energy very similar to Ricki Lake’s original performance. Sykes played Seaweed Stubbs and really was an excellent dancer and he also had a great voice. I could see how the energy of this version came directly from the original and this version definitely had Waters’ campy sense of humor. It also kept the original social message of the original. I prefer the original but I definitely recommend this version to all of you musical theater fans out there.

Sum of All Fears

I have long wanted to watch this movie because a lot of it was filmed in Baltimore. It is also the only Jack Ryan movie that I had not seen until this week. The Jack Ryan franchise is an interesting animal. There have been four different actors in the role now and, in that way, it is a little like James Bond. However, they have rebooted it twice so it is a little bit of a mess. Affleck’s star was starting to fade at this point because of his appearance in Pearl Harbor however, it was before his nosedive started with Gigli. I like Affleck a lot. He is charming and a really good actor. Some directors did not know how to use him and he probably mismanaged the huge push in popularity that Hollywood gave him. This movie is more tense political thriller than it is an action movie. So the movie is trying to be a little more Hunt for Red October than Clear and Present Danger. Much of this movie’s charm for me is the play between Morgan Freeman and Affleck and between Liev Schreiber and Affleck. All three are great actors with different strengths and weaknesses. The plot has to do with the threat of nuclear war, Neo-Nazis and using a tense political atmosphere to play countries against each other. Unfortunately, Neo-Nazis are still very relevant to our country. There is a cameo by our former football team, the Baltimore Stallions, our CFL team that we had between the Colts and the Ravens. However, we thankfully never had the hideous domed “Baltimore Forum” stadium that makes an appearance. It was nice to see the Super Bowl being held in Baltimore even if it was a fictional scenario. This movie was actually way better than I thought it would be. It got a lukewarm reception initially at best but I liked it for what it was. It plays on a lot of old wounds between the US and Russia which are cropping up again these days along with new wounds.

Step Up

Romantic dance dramas are not really my thing but I had to watch this after learning that is set in Baltimore. Not only that but a large portion of it is shot in the neighborhood right down the street from me. This is Hamden, a neighborhood famous for both drug-related crimes but also for the tight-knit and heartwarming community. For example, it is the sight of 34th street, the biggest Christmas display in Baltimore. It also has The Avenue which has over a dozen great restaurants. The movie has the Maryland School for the Arts which is a stand-in for Baltimore School for the Arts where the other half of the movie is set. My brother went to BSA and so did Tupac Shakur and Jada Pinkett-Smith just to name three alumni. Channing Tatum is a really good dancer. He obviously throws everything he has into dancing and really knows how to use his body. In this movie, he acts opposite his future wife (Jenna Dewan) who does a great job as well. It was actually really refreshing that this movie’s conflict was not exactly rich vs. poor although there is that element present. Dewan’s family is richer than Tatum’s foster family. A lot of the students at the MSA are scholarship students so it is more about putting in an effort. (The BSA is actually a public school and therefore free.) Tatum is pretty good at being a bit of a jerk, a poor Hamden kid with a chip on his shoulder. Of course, I walk and drive the streets of Hamden every day and I think it is a great neighborhood. Unfortunately, these movies always involve the main character doing really stupid stuff until he steps up (pun intended) in the end. Still, I would recommend this movie as it is actually not too bad.

Music of the Week:

Al Great – Star of The Show

Mary Prankster – Blue Skies Over Dundalk

SR-71 – Right Now

Charm City Devils – Shots

The Orioles – Baby Please Don’t Go

Weekly Updates:
– I finished Season 1 of Arrested Development
– I am almost done Luther Series 1
– I started season 4 of The Office
– I finished Season 2 of Parks and Recreation
– I am near the end of Season 2 of Dark Matter
– This week’s theme is “Good Morning, Baltimore!”
– My semester is over this week
– Looking forward to Christmas despite the difficulties that come with it

Baltimore on Film

April 2, 2016

I love when my hometown of Baltimore is in anything. I especially love when film trucks come to town and they shoot a movie or television show here. It feels like Baltimore often gets the short end of the stick because we’re often overlooked. Maybe it’s because we’re too close to Washington DC or maybe it’s because they see us as boring. Baltimore is anything but boring and the architecture and culture are near and dear to my heart. Now, everybody knows The Wire and Homicide: Life on the Streets and, although I love them, I don’t need to discuss them. I picked a couple that may surprise you. All of them are shows and movies that I really like.

Live Free or Die Hard

I love the Die Hard franchise. My whole family loves the Die Hard franchise. People are down on Live Free or Die Hard but I feel it’s a good Die Hard movie but understandably not the best. However, it’s still a lot of fun to watch. The movie is set mostly in Washington DC but has a fairly lengthy segment in Baltimore. They travel to a Baltimore neighborhood to visit with Kevin Smith’s character which is the greatest collision of Jersey and Baltimore since me. Aside from that establishing shot, numerous locations in Baltimore stood in for DC streets. It’s pretty hilarious for a Baltimore boy who grew up disliking DC.


I could have put all of John Waters’ films in here as my old neighbor’s movies are pretty much all set and largely filmed in the Baltimore area. Hairspray is a great example of this as we see all sorts of areas downtown and areas out in Baltimore County. The movie is set in Baltimore at a boiling point in the civil rights movies. Baltimore is a great city for that because we have historically been caught between the north and the south. Baltimore really comes alive in the movie and it looks like a place you want to live. When the movie originally came out I was six and I frequently was near locations in the movie even if I wasn’t aware. Also, forget about the new version as only one establishing shot was filmed in Baltimore. Most of it was filmed in Toronto of all places.

X-Files – The Unusual Suspects

I watched the X-Files almost every Sunday for the first few seasons. It was a great show that mixed mystery, science and the supernatural together. I loved the characters, especially Mulder and Scully because both actors made it work so well. An early indicator of my love of conspiracy theories was probably how much I loved The Lone Gunmen, a ragtag group of informants for Mulder. In season five I was overjoyed to learn that the characters would be given their origin story. Not only do they get a well-written backstory but it’s also set in Baltimore. In fact, much of it is filmed in the Baltimore Convention Center. We also get an appearance from Detective Munch of Homicide and Law and Order: SVU fame.

Twelve Monkeys

Twelve Monkeys is a great movie but admittedly it’s a very strange movie. The science fiction elements end up being a little confusing but you tend to expect such things from a movie with time travel in it. There are great performances in the movie that cover a lot of the weak points and the movie ends up being a great Terry Gilliam movie. In particular, we get a great performance from Bruce Willis and a show stealing performance from Brad Pitt. In the movie, a man is sent back in time to Baltimore to prevent a catastrophe. Unfortunately, a lot of iconic scenes take place in Pennsylvania but there are plenty of shots in Baltimore. Specifically, there were scenes shot on Gay Street and in Mount Vernon. I have been in these neighborhoods more times than I can count.

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