The Dreams.

Took Kate to her first PG-13 movie over the weekend — “Dreamgirls.” I was willing to risk the corrupting influence of bad language, drug use and some sexuality for her to get a sense of what Detroit was, once upon a time. I don’t know if the lesson sunk in; I suspect for her it felt the same way it did for me when my parents brought up James Thurber. Yeah yeah, the night the bed fell, it fell in Columbus, but…yawn. Thurber didn’t come alive for me until I read “Newspaperman,” his essay on Gus Kuehner, city editor at the Dispatch. I don’t think Detroit will be Motown for Kate until (and if) she falls in love with “Dancin’ in the Streets.”

Whenever we go into Detroit, there seems to be a moment to discuss the 1967 riots. They’re depicted in “Dreamgirls” in sort of a montage-y way, using old news footage and stills. Last night at dinner I said, “Did you get a sense of what the riots were like?” and my little media consumer said yes, she did, but “I don’t know how they could set a whole block on fire. Did they use green screen?” Green screen. I ask you.

No, I said, that was a real news clip of an actual city block on fire, but I kept thinking about green screen. I avoid those “making of” documentaries; I want to preserve what little magic moviemaking still has for me, and knowing that some actor spoke all his lines to an empty soundstage later peopled with aliens and a 25th-century city skyline just makes me sad. If only the Detroit riots had been green screen.

“Dreamgirls” was OK. It’s hard to catch lightning in a bottle once, let alone try to duplicate it with Broadway versions of Motown songs. It’s one of those movies where you’re supposed to spend the first few beats of every scene marveling at the clothes and hairdos, and you do, but little moments I liked best are not the ones in the trailer — most involving Eddie Murphy, who can really really sing. I got a little tired at how heavy the roman a clef stuff was — naming the Florence Ballard clone “Effie” just for starters. And how amusing to see Murphy’s character turn from James Brown to Marvin Gaye, and just in case you didn’t get the message, they gave him Marvin’s knit skullcap. Still. A worthy holiday musical, green screen or not.

Only one bit o’ bloggage today, because it’s such a long read: Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean the government isn’t trying to beam voices into your brain.

Posted at 10:37 am in Movies |

31 responses to “The Dreams.”

  1. brian stouder said on January 16, 2007 at 11:41 am

    Another bit of Detroit-related breaking news is that NASCAR champion and broadcaster Benny Parsons just passed away.

    He was a taxicab driver (!) in Detroit, way back in the day – if memory serves

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  2. Marcia said on January 16, 2007 at 3:08 pm

    Green screen.


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  3. Sherry said on January 16, 2007 at 3:12 pm

    IMO, best “feeling of Motown” movie of recent years was a documentary called “Standing in the Shadow of Motown,” about the Funk Brothers. It’s a terrific introduction to the music, the club scene and the racial realities of Detroit during the Motown period. Language may be a little coarse in a few spots, but most of it would air on normal primetime any more.

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  4. Dorothy said on January 16, 2007 at 3:31 pm

    Anyone seen “A Night at the Museum” yet? We saw it over the weekend – took a youngster from the neighborhood as a treat for his birthday. It was just okay, nothing fabulous. I can’t understand why it’s been the number 1 movie for 3 weeks. However on NBC Nightly News last night they did a nice story about the resurgence in interest of museums because of the movie. Sleepovers for kids is a HUGE deal now. Events sold out weeks in advance, etc. Nice to know it’s having that kind of effect on kids (the movie, I mean).

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  5. LA mary said on January 16, 2007 at 4:17 pm

    Luckily, a neighbor mom took my son with her kids to see Night at the Museum. I think the littler kids liked it more than my almost 13 year old.
    I want to see Pan’s Labyrinth, based on recommendations from two very savvy film people I know. It’s R rated, and I’m ok with my 16 year old going, but I have to find out more about why it’s an R before I take the younger one.

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  6. brian stouder said on January 16, 2007 at 4:55 pm

    Pam took the young folks to see Night at the Museum, and they loved it! Then I took the young folks to the museum-museum, and they loved that all the more.

    Dorothy has it right; it’s all good

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  7. Laura said on January 16, 2007 at 6:40 pm

    Jennifer Hudson and Eddie Murphy were great. Beyonce, not so much.

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  8. basset said on January 16, 2007 at 9:50 pm

    Benny Parsons dead? the last man to win the Cup in an unsponsored car? I used to watch him run ARCA back in the late Sixties… that was when racing was fun, before it got corporate.

    sad to hear that. real racing just got a little bit further into the past.

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  9. John said on January 17, 2007 at 4:05 am

    Are you sure she did not say GASOLINE and not green screen? I wish I could understand or appreciate those times better myself. I do know that everyone has told me Newark (and Paterson, Nj) were glorious places until those riots. Newark has rebounded and has an amazing downtown shopping area, but that is a recent development. Paterson the birthplace of the industrial revolution is still a depressed war zone with an oddity, the cooolest mix of ethnic dining (I dare say) in America. Want Peruvian food? No, what about Uraguayan? How about Arabic? What kind of Arabic? Well choose Egyptian, Morrocan, Palestinian, Syrian, Lebanese, Emirati, the list goes on. Philipino? Cambodian? You have not lived until you have had a Columbian seafood dinner.
    I may be wrong but I think Detroit’s problem may be that they wrongly belived a city could live with growth expanding ever outward, and allowed downtown to die, sort of like Ft. Wayne.
    All the developement down near the “New” Lutheran Hospital and off Dupont ROad and Maplecrest is great, but if the core dies, the city will too. We used to live two blocks from Lutheran on Fairfield. A bustling hopsital tends to keep a neighborhood alive and safe. I would not live at the same place now. I look at NYC. In Washington Heights, the epicenter of the 1980’s-90’s crack epidemic, Columbia Presbyterian Hospital created this small pocket of say four blocks around it each way that was still safe to live, work, shop, eat, and park. Move out of that “zone” and we’re talking New Jack City. hence the movie.


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  10. Marcia said on January 17, 2007 at 8:22 am

    Dorothy, yes, I took a gaggle of girls to see Night at the Museum. They loved it; I thought it was decent entertainment. It would have been nice if they had spent the remainder of the evening inquiring about Sacajawea or Teddy Roosevelt, but it didn’t happen.

    Nance, did I tell you that my cousin (who had the heart transplant) is at Lutheran Hospital? He’s actually supposed to go home today, but he’s been “supposed” to go home a few times already, only to be held up by some complication. They’ve been great, though.

    John, Columbia Presbyterian does some ground-breaking work with premature babies. I got a mailing for a conference there once, and they offered, I’m not kidding, an armored bus from the hotel to the hospital.

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  11. LA mary said on January 17, 2007 at 11:56 am

    Where do you live? I grew up in Paterson and Hawthorne. I remember the riots well.

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  12. basset said on January 17, 2007 at 9:09 pm

    another Basset post drops with a damp, dull thud… unnoticed, uncommented, wasted once again. Brian, you there? what are your thoughts on James Hylton trying to make the Daytona 500 this year? What’s the local slang for “no chance in hell” where you come from?

    could be worse, usually the thread just dies right after I post. maybe I need to move to someplace more dangerous.

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  13. nancy said on January 17, 2007 at 9:13 pm

    Don’t you dare, babe.

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  14. brian stouder said on January 17, 2007 at 10:48 pm

    Hey basset! I understand what you’re saying – but keep the faith! Me – I’ve been afraid of looking like a thread-diverting troll, and so I’ve been trying (with limited success) to pipe down a bit around here…but the folks here are always so darned interesting!

    Anyway – I’m a HUGE open-wheel fan; CART in the olden days (many trips to MIS @ Brooklyn MI, and Belle Isle in Nance’s city – not to mention the beautful Mid Ohio road course, and the breathtakingly lovely Road America at Elkhart Lake WI)…and Formula One – which has me depressed now that Schumacher has abruptly retired (for 2007 I’ll be rooting for the kiddo at McLaren – Lewis Hamilton).

    NASCAR is OK by me, but is genuinely loved by my brothers….and (tellingly) by my mom! My oldest brother is a Tony Stewart fan from when Stewart was a sprint car racer; brother 2 is a Jeff Gordon fan from way back; brother 3 always roots for Kenny Schraeder (akin to being a Cubs fan)…in past years I’ve liked Jeff Burton best….but in 2007 – it’s Juan Montoya, baby!!!

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  15. basset said on January 18, 2007 at 12:34 am

    ‘preciate that, Nance… I have driven a Kia through Flint *and* Saginaw during a GM strike, and since I’m still breathing I guess I have used up my allotment of luck for this life…

    Brian, my first race was open-wheel… UMRA midgets at the Daviess County fairgrounds in Elnora, Indiana, in, I don’t know, 1968 or 9, somewhere in there. Been to MIS, let me think, three times, don’t remember ’em much .

    I pull for Sterling in the Cup races, spent a race weekend at Atlanta doing a video with him when he was driving for Hoss Ellington in the early 80s. I don’t pay nearly as much attention to that circuit as I used to, though, not remotely as interesting since the big money came in. Was a lot more fun when we were rednecks, y’know? where’s H.B. Bailey when you need him? Or J.D. McDuffie? Or anyone who didn’t have to be approved by some marketing executive before they let him in the car?

    If I could only go to one race this year it’d be ARCA at Springfield, Illinois… the last refuge of full-body stock cars on a dirt mile. Formula 1, how could you possibly support anyone except Guido Sarducci?

    Took my 16-year-old tree-hugger vegetarian hippie son to his first sprint race last summer, though, and he was into it, so I suppose there’s some hope. Or maybe he just wanted an excuse to go to Bloomington, I dunno.

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  16. basset said on January 18, 2007 at 12:36 am

    Meanwhile, email me if you would, Brian, at… there must be some way to pull your address off this site, but I’m technically challenged…

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  17. basset said on January 18, 2007 at 12:36 am

    Meanwhile, email me if you would, Brian, at… there must be some way to pull your address off this site, but I’m technically challenged…

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  18. Dorothy said on January 18, 2007 at 10:17 am

    basset it’s not you. I always think it’s ME who brings conversation to a dead stop around here. Maybe we all take turns occasionally?? But I agree with Brian – every commenter here always has such interesting observations and I am OC about checking back multiple times a day to see the new comments!

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  19. John said on January 18, 2007 at 10:35 am

    Dorothy…so you come here for the comments rather than our Ms. Nall’s observations and brilliant writing????

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  20. brian stouder said on January 18, 2007 at 10:40 am

    I am OC about checking back multiple times a day

    Dorothy – this made me laugh out loud; well – first I had to figure out ‘obsessive compulsive’ – but yes – Amen!!

    In keeping with the (darkly humorous!) article that Madam Telling Tales linked to, about the well-dressed paranoid lunatic (and his teleconferencing paranoid lunatic support group), I have sometimes wondered if Nance has a hit-counter for the site…and if the counter notes particular hits from the same visitor…maybe this is all going onto our permanent records!

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  21. Dorothy said on January 18, 2007 at 10:44 am

    Now John don’t go putting words in my mouth! I’m bad enough at it myself! Of COURSE I am here for Nancy’s observations and brilliant writing! It’s what got me here in the first place. You guys and gals in the comments are the icing on the cake.

    Yeah, Brian, that occurred to me a long time ago (the counter thingy) but I don’t give a crap. That permanent record thing stopped bothering me the minute I walked out the door of high school in 1975. Not that I ever HAD anything bad there anyway…!

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  22. brian stouder said on January 18, 2007 at 11:56 am

    See – the temptation is to respond to Nance’s dismissive reference to D’Souza’a stupid book, with a reference to the similarly stupid, oddly anachronistic ‘doomsday clock’ – which makes ME have to consciously think “maintain your sense of humor”….but such a post would either foul up the thread – and sex threads are NOT to be fouled up! – or else ignored.

    SO maybe this is the best solution – posting in the day-old threads, and leaving the fresh-baked ones for the best customers!

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  23. LA mary said on January 18, 2007 at 7:02 pm

    I check in here whenever I’m on hold, which is often.

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  24. basset said on January 19, 2007 at 12:43 am

    I don’t understand why anyone on this side of the Atlantic would care in the least about Formula 1. No American cars, only one American driver and last year he crashed on the first turn of the first lap of the only race they run in the USA… Formula 1’s czar is a Brit who refuses to stay in Indianapolis when they run there because it’s just too provincial for him and insists on taking his helicopter up to Chicago where they have hotels up to his standard, as a native Hoosier I say (expletive deleted) him… the cars don’t touch and rarely pass, they are so fragile that if half of the starters are left running it’s a lot… and, once again, who can ya pull for? given a choice of F1 at the Brickyard or a good ARCA race at Salem I’d take Salem.

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  25. brian stouder said on January 19, 2007 at 9:43 am

    No no no –

    see, in addition to race day, you go down there on the Saturday for practice & qualifications and so on – ad do the people-watching thing. Lots of silver-haired men with expensive watches on, who appear to be escorting their beautiful daughters (but the women are not their daughters); lots of drunken, flag waving young men (and the flags are Columbian or German or Italian, and not stars & bars like at NASCAR!) chanting and singing in an adversarial way; and lots of fellows from all over the US who fly in for the weekend to finally see and HEAR a 19,000 rpm Formula One engine at full song….

    I have had many interesting converations in the grandstands, as the Saturday whiles away, with folks like that.

    By way of sayin’ – it’s ALL good!!

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  26. basset said on January 19, 2007 at 11:41 pm

    So the attraction is… rich men with rented women, drunken noisy idiots, good conversation, and high-strung machinery that’ll probably break before the day’s out? I can get most of that right here at home…

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  27. brian stouder said on January 20, 2007 at 12:12 am

    well, when you put it that way…

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  28. John said on January 20, 2007 at 11:10 am

    I grew up in Glen Rock, and over the years lived in Clifton and North Haledon. I miss north jersey food all the time, but not the traffic, expenses, etc. And I love Paterson even if it’s downtrodden.

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  29. LA mary said on January 23, 2007 at 3:47 pm

    We were very close neighbors, then John. I was within an easy walk of Glen Rock, near Rock Road. Paterson’s been downtrodden for a long time, since the silk mills started closing down.

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  30. LA mary said on January 23, 2007 at 9:18 pm

    I miss the Dutch bakeries, the German butcher shops, the Italian delis and places like the Goffle Brook Inn (not far from Glen Rock) which was a bar but also served food. You could order huge trays of mussels with good spicy garlicky tomato sauce and a basket of bread for very little money. I miss the Italian bakeries as well, come to think of it. Remember how pizza places just reeked of olive oil and you could taste it in the pizza? I miss that a lot. Then there’s places like Johnny and Hanges in Paterson with hot dogs all the way, and Clixies, in Glen Rock. I only found out last year that Clixie is a relative of mine. And Shortway’s Barn? On Goffle Road and Lafayette Avenue? Found out I’m related to them too. Shortway was Americanized from the Dutch name Cortweg. My brother is a city councilman in Hawthorne now so I get updated regularly.
    Did you know a teacher/principal in Glen Rock named Carol Frank, or her daughter Marybeth Frank?

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