Friday, September 23, 2016

"The Get Down"

The Netflix series the Get Down got mixed reviews, which I do not understand.
I watched the first episode (of 8) last night and it's great!
It's about a group of kids in the South Bronx in 1977, participating in or witnessing the birth of hip-hop. 

Sort of like the kids in Stranger Things, they live within their own kid culture, relying on each other, and navigating their city on kid maps, because
a) they want to, like kids do, and 
b) the adults can't protect them from the destructive forces around them. 

It's too soon to say, but so far I like it more than Stranger Things, partly because it's fantastical, sort of like a parrot flying into your face, but in a pleasant way?
but it's not a fantasy--the monsters are real: the intro includes a flash of film footage of John Wayne Gacy.

Despite the reviews, I was willing to give it a try because director Baz Luhrman made one of my favorite movies, Strictly Ballroom (1992--complete on youTube)--about Scott, the son of ballroom-dance teachers, and Fran, a fierce, gawky dance student--here, practicing on the rooftop, with the laundry:

And right away, Luhrman puts Fran's catchphrase into the mouth of one of the kids on Get Down:
"A life lived in fear is a life half-lived." (
Vivir con miedo es como vivir a medias.)

Ballroom Dancing is his personal story, Luhrman said in 2013
"Ballroom dancing, I think, it was an escape into working class theatre"---which helps explain why he gets the Bronx black and Hispanic kids who are similarly looking for escapes into music & performance.
"[Strictly Ballroom's] not actually a show with me, it's about my life. I was a ballroom dancer. I went quite far," said Luhrmann [below at 10 y.o., with dance ribbons].
He grew up in a northern NSW village [in Australia].
"My father drove us two hours twice a week to Taree to do dance lessons. We were extremely isolated. I lived in a tiny town of 11 houses. And my father, who had been to the Vietnam War, was very obsessed with education and so we were ballroom dancing, commando training, painting, music, the arts.…
"You'd be cleaning up the shop (at the petrol station his family owned) and fixing up the farm and then you'd be putting on a tuxedo, sparkly shirt and it was the theatre. You were performing, people were clapping, you'd travelled to the big smoke (Newcastle). It was majestic, it was escapist, it was beautiful. But it was also profoundly political."
 [end quote]

Luhrman created the Get Down with "a lot of help from the originators of hip hop themselves, like Grandmaster Flash, Nas, and writer Nelson George, who all contribute to the show. 

“I reached out to people whose story it was, because it’s not my story,” Luhrmann says. “I just curated that story.” 

 It felt like the real '70s to me (not the fake '70s-feel of the Nice Guys I keep complaining about)--for instance, throughout the first episode, this sweet kid Ra-Ra (Skylan Brooks) keeps trying to get his friends to go see a certain newly released movie:


Michael Leddy said...

I skimmed a NY Times article about the series and thought at first that it was documentary. Sigh. I may watch anyway.

If we’re on the subjects of dance (Strictly Ballroom) and kids (Stranger Things), may I recommend Mad Hot Ballroom?

(I just watched The Fits — very interesting.)

Fresca said...

I figured you'd have mentioned it if you'd watched it--I hope you will and will let me know what you think. You were a lot closer to the Bronx than I was!

Oh, yes, thanks, I liked Mad Hot Ballroom a lot.
I guess I like ballroom dancing! though I've never really thought much about it.

Have you seen Strictly Ballroom? It's predictable Cinderella, but it's wonderfully weird too (like Cinderella should be).

I don't actually like anything else Luhrman has done, until now (though I didn't see his Great Gatsby).

Michael Leddy said...

The title is familiar, but I don’t think I’ve seen it. So many movies!

Yes, I commuted to Fordham College in the Bronx.