Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Movies You May Have Missed - "Cotton Candy" 1978

Cotton Candy is a made-for-TV movie (purportedly a failed pilot), and cult favorite among the musically inclined who were born too late to be Boomers and too early for Generation X. (Lucky for us—those media-created definitions are consistently lazy and stifling.) We are the generation born into television culture, starting with our first moments on earth. Cheesy television drama is partially what made us who we are: ironic, satirical authority-questioners. Look at Bill Murray. We grew up idolizing him—the human equivalent of Bugs Bunny.

This feel-good garage-band underdog story, directed by Ron Howard, is so rare, I myself haven't seen it. It's not available on tape or DVD. You can probably download it from a bootlegger, if you must. And perhaps we should. Howard is an efficient child-of-Hollywood storyteller who consistently taps into human emotions, hopes and desires. He's not going to louse this up too much, in general.

This small-town musical adventure of a teenage misfit forming a pop band named Cotton Candy could definitely have been pure crapola. But I'm guessing (since I can't watch it as a whole) that at heart, it touches on some basic truths about forming a band in high school and dealing with the aftermath, as a pleasant under-taste to balance out the hyper-conflicted minutiae of TV teen drama. In other words: bearable terrible television. Plus it was filmed near Dallas and features a girl drummer who has a scholarship to M.I.T. through her dad's company. What more could you want?

Town East Mall in Mesquite, TX - site of the Cotton Candy cultural revolution

Guitar solo

Charles Martin Smith (the nerd in American Graffiti) is every-man George Smalley—great underdog name. George can't cut it in varsity football and he'll be damned if he's going to be an equipment manager, so he forms a Todd Rundgren-like bubble-gum band, Cotton Candy, hoping to land some chicks. Ubiquitous 70s presence and Howard sibling, Clint Howard, is Corky Macpherson, ardent band manager. Mark Wheeler is Torbin Bequette (heh—every time someone yells "Torbin!," it's funny), lead singer of Cotton Candy's rival band, Rapid Fire. Every band needs a rival band to spur them on to greatness (see Purple Rain). Rapid Fire has the distinction of being a terrible rival band, only playing one song—a cover of I Shot the Sheriff, which they proceed to butcher during every performance. Pathetic.

The fans don't seem to mind though. They can't get enough of warblin' Torbin. It's just like the time when everyone went crazy for Bow Wow Wow. No one can explain how this happened. I saw Bow Wow Wow open for The English Beat and they played a nearly two-hour set with only one hit under their belt. The crowd went wild for their filler material anyway, which all sounded just like I Want Candy. My cries of "GET OFF THE STAGE!" were unheeded because majority ruled. That's my best explanation for the success of Rapid Fire within this Howard brothers' co-written world.

Cotton Candy rules

Rapid Fire drools

Will Cotton Candy win the local mall's Battle of the Bands, stay together, and get through high school without too much bloodshed or heartbreak? It's a Ron Howard production. What do you think? And luckily, YouTube uploaders have got this covered.

First, let's have a listen to Cotton Candy sing their soon-to-be hit, She Rolls. *nodding my head* Not bad. Not bad at all.

Rawbtube composed the fantastic Hot Rash!, consisting of dialogue and clips from the film. This is my new jam. I'm being serious here.

Schlockmeisters considerately runs through a VHS edit, giving you the overall story arc of Cotton Candy, without having to watch it in its entirely.

If you you're ready to be inspired by 70s-era mall-culture TV-rock-band realness, you might be able to find some Cotton Candy on the Internet—repository of all that is sacred to Generation Y culture. I will say this (SPOILER) - any movie that ends with a climactic prom-off between dueling bands, is aces in my book.

Prom off!

Note: Leslie King rocks as Brenda Matthews

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