Recommended: Blonde, Gucci, Big Head Todd

Monroe in Seven Year Itch by sculptor Seward Johnson (Photo by Tim Van Schmidt)



Tim Van Schmidt | New SCENE


Usually, in this column, I write about things I would fully recommend. But this may not be the case with the recent Netflix feature “Blonde”.

Let’s just say it. Despite a dreamy (nightmarish?), even groundbreaking film style and a riveting performance by Ana de Armas, “Blonde” is painful and sad. It follows the tragic life and death of the 1950s-60s screen star Marilyn Monroe.

“Blonde” was directed by Andrew Dominik and based on the book by Joyce Carol Oates, a work that the author has said is fiction.

That makes the important questions fly.

Did Monroe’s mother really try to drown her as a child? Did the “Ex-athlete” really beat her with his belt? Did the President sexually abuse her? Did the film studio really addict her to drugs? 

True events or not, in “Blonde” it is Monroe’s inner struggles that end up being the most destructive. As Norma Jeane Baker, her given name, she was a lost girl. The concoction that became Marilyn Monroe was the exact opposite. How do you survive without these opposing things tearing you apart?

Sixty years after her death, the movie industry is still buzzing about Monroe’s train wreck of a life. If she could choose what her legacy would be, would it be her passion for acting, or would it be this kind of lurid rehashing of the worst moments of her life?

“Blonde” is the first movie to earn an NC-17 rating to be released on a major streaming service.

Blonde is about Marilyn Monroe (Photo by Tim Van Schmidt)

Gucci: The 2021 release “House of Gucci”, directed by Ridley Scott, reveals another train wreck, but this time it is the fall of the Gucci family — famous as fashion trendsetters — amid the rise of the Gucci brand, brought to prominence by corporate take-overs. This train wreck is full of scheming, and jealousy, and includes murder.

Forget the big headline stars — Lady Gaga and Adam Driver. Who really makes this production cook is Jared Leto, who plays Paolo Gucci, a wannabe fashion designer with little talent or sense. Leto, simply unrecognizable physically, creates a memorable character with very odd tics.

Monroe’s early years on display at the Catalina Museum (Photo by Tim Van Schmidt)

In comparison to “Blonde”, the bad things that happen here — family members being sidelined by other family members and the law — seem to be rich people’s problems. Monroe’s problems initially come from a humble beginning, tugging on viewers’ sentiments. But the Guccis are used to being treated like royalty.

In “House of Gucci”, it turns out that power does corrupt. Driver’s portrayal of Maurizio Gucci changes from an uninterested heir to a cold business titan. Gaga’s characterization of Patrizia Reggiani goes from bad to worse as ambition and greed take hold.

In some ways “House of Gucci” is comparable to “Blonde” in that, apparently, life at the top is no bowl of cherries for either movie stars or fashionistas.

Jared Leto at CSU in 2012 (Photo by Tim Van Schmidt)

Big Head Todd: This is rich.

Washington’s was once a big bar with an amazing jumble of cool stuff covering the walls and ceilings. It was both a hometown bar and a college hangout.

Washington’s would bring in area bands and a very early one I remember seeing there with a dozen or so other fans was Big Head Todd and the Monsters.

Big Head Todd and the Monsters (Photo by Tim Van Schmidt)

Thirty-some years later, Big Head Todd and the Monsters are back for a two-night stand at Washington’s, November 25-26.

Things have changed a lot. Now, Washington’s is a premium music hall and the band is one of the most successful groups in Colorado music history — it’s all for the better.

Visit “Time Capsules by Tim Van Schmidt” on YouTube.

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