Rachel Sweet’s “Hairspray” video at Cinepunx

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Despite its many iterations — musical, movie musical, live televised musical — John Waters’ original version of Hairspray, released in 1988, remains the best. Now, I’m a fan of musicals, and I’ll admit the Tony-winning Broadway version is pretty damned solid, with opening number, “Good Morning Baltimore,” being the best of the bunch. I’ll even cut some slack to “You Can’t Stop the Beat,” despite it being almost insipidly cloying.

That said, Waters’ film is just so perfectly bizarre and fun and joyous, with a perfect selection of Cameo Parkway R&B sides soundtracking everything. The plot, if you’ve never seen any of the various iterations, revolves around Baltimore teenager Tracy Turnblad getting on The Corny Collins Show, dancing, then becoming more racially aware, dancing, fighting for integration, and more dancing.

Read the From the Stereo to Your Screen column on Rachel Sweet and Hairspray at Cinepunx. Published 1/10/17

“The Best Films You’ve Never Seen” a mixed bag

book cover - best film you've never seenRobert Elder‘s The Best Film You’ve Never Seen: 35 Directors Champion the Forgotten or Critically Savaged Movies They Love (out now via Chicago Review Press) is a mixed bag. The interviews are, categorically, excellent. Elder presents everything as a dialogue between himself and the director to which he’s speaking, allowing for reaction to what’s being said, and questions that dig deeper than something like an essay would.

That being said, while the directors’ candid comments regarding their films — some of which are more than obscure, they’re outright unknown — are illuminating, the value to some of the interviews in terms of what they offer are debatable. The best films seem to be the ones that offer up something from which the director later drew, be it language, style, or something intangible.
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