ABC airs remake of “Dirty Dancing” as a musical

Wednesday, May 24, 2017 ABC aired a 3-hour (including commercials) remake by Lionsgate of the 1987 low-budget hit “Dirty Dancing”, originally directed by Emile Ardolino and released by Vestron and Artisan (which Lionsgate bought), the new version by Wayne Blair.  The remake was probably facilitated legally by Lionsgate’s ownership of some of the original materials.

The original low-budget film had been a surprise hit. The new version is set up as a musical, of sorts, with all the popular songs  (like “The Time of My Life”) played, providing some of the lilt of 80s disco music.

The plot is actually rather intricate.  The film is set in 1963 at a resort, the Sheldrake, in the Catskills (the new film was shot largely in North Carolina and Virginia, especially near Blacksburg). “Baby” (Abigail Breslin), son of a doctor (Bruce Greenwood) visits the resort and gradually falls in love with the working class dance instructor Johnny Castle (Cold Prattes).  There are tensions between Johnny and some of the other Ivy League young men at the resort (this is pre-assassination, pre-Vietnam Kennedy era). There are some racial tensions with an African American dancer. And there are a couple of long subplots involving Baby’s borrowing money from her dad for a friend Penny (Nicole Scherzinger) to have an abortion when Colt’s rival Robbie (Shane Harper) knocks Penny up; the abortion is botched (as often happened in those days, when “the abortionist” would be portrayed as a common criminal on the TV show “The D.A.’s Man”).  Later Colt gets falsely accused of petty theft.

The “dirty dancing” style is perhaps more curious in gay discos, where gradual unmasking happens. In the movie, Colt is usually attired with a completely open shirt, with only a little chest hair, rather derivative of  John Travolta in “Staying Alive” (1985).

Author Ryan Field has a gay novel from Riverdale Publishing based on the title.

Patrock Swayze had played Colt in the 1987 film.  Swayze would die after a 20-month battle with pancreatic cancer, a much more resilient survival than for most.   Jack Andraka’s book “Breakthrough” describes had a teen discovered a possible early detection test for pancreatic cancer.

I recall visiting a similar resort in the Adirondacks, at Lake Placid, as a child on a summer trip with my parents, where dinner was announced with a gong.

Name: “Dirty Dancing”
Director, writer:  Wayne Blair
Released:  2017, remake of 1987
Format:  1.85:1  TV
When and how viewed:  ABC Network 2017/5/24
Length:  150 approx
Rating:  PG-13 probably
Companies:  Lionsgate, ABC Studios
Link:  ABC

(Posted: Friday, May 25, 2017 at 3:15 PM EDT)

“Beauty and the Beast”: in the end, “smooth” is still “desirable”

Beauty and the Beast”, directed by Bill Condon, has a simple enough moral:  physical beauty may be skin deep, but real love is soul-deep.  I’ve been there before.  I heard that speech in 1978.

The film is Walt Disney Studio’s remake of the 1991 play of the setting of the Broadway play, about 1990, by Alan Menken (lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice. That in turn is based on the fairy tale by Linda Woolverton.  So, we have children’s literature.

When I worked as a substitute teacher, I did an English class (10th grade) where the assignment was to write a fairy tale.  One of the boys wrote a tale starting, “Once upon a time there lived a banana”.  Imagine where that could go.

In fact, for all the artistry surrounding talking teacups and living heirlooms in a dark castle in medieval France, this sort of classic works better for me on stage, like “Wicked”.  Yes, the songs are wonderful.

As for the morality tale, the prince (Dan Stevens) gets transmuted into a beast after he turns away a homeless old hag.  He’s really worse off than “the Rich Young Ruler” in the New Testament.  In nearby towns (or maybe Paris), Belle (almost out of “Days of our Lives” in the past), played by Emma Watson, has to fend off a suitor Gaston (Luke Evans), who warns her about the fate of spinsters – they drop out of eternity.  She runs away to the castle (the climate transmutes from summer to winter without much change of altitude, just like in “The Shack”) and meets the prince, and of course falls in love with him.

So she looks beyond the obvious.  I could just pretend that she is attracted to hairy men (after all, Caucasians evolved in colder climates, where that sort of natural selection of a cis-gender manly-looking secondary sexual characteristic might be logical).  Maybe he just looks Neanderthal (and it’s possible that Europeans benefited from the best Neanderthal genes, as they took over).  Gaston will follow her, with guide Maurice (Kevin Kline), and Josh Gad will play LeFou (sounds like the name of a government teacher).  In the final scene, though, Beast changes back.  It seems that “smooth” (or “thmooth” – that is, immature) is what is “desirable”, even for men, after all.  David Skinner (author of the 1999 essay “Notes on the Hairless Man”) will celebrate in the world of conservatism.

I do recall in the early 1970s, before “My Second Coming” (Chapter 3 of my “Do Ask, Do Tell I” book) a couple of women tried to encourage me to adopt an “alternative” appearance to appeal to them — head shaving, hippy beads, body art — as if I could cover up my physical flaws and get away with it. That confounded my own idea of virtue.

Name:  “Beauty and the Beast”
Director, writer:  Bill Condon
Released:  2017
Format:  2.35:1  Imax, 3-D
When and how viewed:  Regal Ballston Quarter, 2017/3/21, afternoon, small audience
Length:  129
Rating:  PG
Companies:  Walt Disney Studios
Link:  official

(Posted: Wednesday, March 22, 2017 at 9:30 AM EDT)