Sunday, May 21, 2017

An Offense from the past

Last Wednesday's Pop Offensive was dedicated to the sounds of 1970s top 40 radio, a little experiment in time travel so successful that all of our 21st century technology started to fail us. If not for a last minute intervention by our station manager, Katherine, I would have had to make a desperate plea for someone with an 8 track player to come to our rescue. Of course, if you listened to the show, you know all that already.

However, if you didn't listen, you missed out on all that drama, as well as a pretty great selection of classic pop tunes from the era of Nixon, Ford and Carter. The Ohio Players, Looking Glass, Earth Wind and Fire, The Osmonds, you name it--they were all there in all their satiny, elephant flared finery. Of course, the episode is now available from the Pop Offensive archives, so there's no need to take your own life just yet. And if you need another reason to live, check out the Pop Offensive Facebook Page, where, in addition to a bunch of swell videos of the songs I played, you will find the complete playlist.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

WEDNESDAY! Pop Offensive takes you back to the 70s (whether you like it or not)

To those who weren't alive in the 70s, it was a decade of kitsch. To those who were, it was a decade of kitsch, melancholy, boredom and confusion: Gas lines, the Nixon presidency, Vietnam, Cambodia, and, my god, so much beige. For those of us who saw the era from that perspective, the chirpy sounds emanating from the AM radio dial were something of an ironic slap in the face. But, oh, how things have changed. Today we can enjoy those songs, not only for the lovingly crafted pop gems that they are, but for the wholly fictional halcyon age that they celebrate. So put on your happy face and join me on Pop Offensive tomorrow night (Yes, it's still just me, seeing as Jeff Heyman is still enjoying his self imposed exile) as we salute the ersatz golden age that was the 70s, as represented by the AM radio gold of the day. We'll be streaming live from starting at 7pm Pacific time. Be there!

Friday, May 5, 2017

Lola la Traleira, aka Lola the Truck Driver (Mexico, 1985)

Every legend has a beginning, and for Rosa Gloria Chagoyan it was Lola the Truck Driver (aka Lola la Traleira), the Mexican box office hit that led the way to her becoming a rare female star in the testosterone sweating sausage fest that was 1980s Mexican action cinema.

Of course, there is a long way between Lola and the previously reviewed La Guerrera Vengadora 2, so if you’re looking forward to seeing Rosa execute sick jumps on her rocket-firing stunt cycle while exploding bad guys left and right as she did in that movie, you’ll probably be disappointed. Chagoyan, known primarily for being a radio personality at the time and thus, I assume, something of an unknown quantity as a screen presence, is here largely relegated to being eye candy while her male costars take on most of the brawling. She does do an awful lot of truck driving though.

Like La Guerrera Vengadora, Lola is something of a family affair, with Chagoyan’s father-in-law Raul Fernandez directing and her husband Rolando Fernandez co-starring. The film gets off to a running start as a semi plows through a wooden shack in a hail of bullets. In hot pursuit of the big rig is law enforcement officer Jorge (Rolando Fernandez), who is trying to put a stop to a drug smuggling ring that is using commercial container trucks to move their shady goods. Somehow he and his colleagues have missed that it is Leoncio, the owner of the trucking company (Milton Rodriguez), who is the brains behind the whole operation.

Leoncio is a man whom our current president might actually be right to call “a bad hombre.” Just how bad is Leoncio? Well, so bad that, at the beginning of the movie, we see him brutally murdering an elderly truck driver who refuses to take part in his operation. This righteous old dude is the father of Lola (Chagoyan), who, after inheriting her father’s rig, hits the road with her godfather (Joaquin Garcia Vargas) in tow. Vargas essentially takes the role of hapless comic relief little person that was inhabited by Rene “Tun Tun” Ruiz in the Vengadora movies, with the added trait of being old and somewhat crabby. There are actually a lot of comic relief characters in this movie, one of whom is an exaggerated gay stereotype who basically runs in and out of scenes with his hands fluttering. I also have to mention the teenage hitchhiker Lola picks up at one point--who, based on his unabashed gawping at her rack, appears to be intended as a surrogate for the film's male viewers.

Once Lola hits the road, we spend a large part of the movie only checking in on her intermittently—usually to find her driving down the highway with a serene expression on her face—and instead focus on the crime fighting exploits of Jorge and a mobile whorehouse situated in a truck’s cargo container. One of the girls involved in this enterprise is Alondra, who is played by Ranchera singer Irma Serrano, co-star of Santo’s worst movie ever, El Aguila Real. Alondra has insinuated her way into Leoncio’s inner circle—essentially as one of the bikini clad girls you will inevitably find draping themselves indolently upon the patio furniture of any self-respecting movie drug lord’s home—and is secretly reporting back to Jorge on his plans.

Lest you think that literally everyone in Lola the Truck Driver is doing exciting things except for Lola herself, let me say that that is only mostly true. During the film’s first hour, she does, to her credit, take part in a comedic barroom brawl that is accompanied by cartoonish musical cues and engages in a silly hair-pulling match with one of the hookers. Finally she meets up with Jorge, who is also driving a truck, and the two team up to deliver a wide load of justice to Leoncio and his fugly minions. And it is for this all too brief moment that Chagoyan assumes her place as the star of Lola the Truck Driver, only to too soon be lost in the maelstrom of airborne police cars, exploding helicopters and anonymous plummeting bodies that is the typical Mexican action film’s climax. After that she saves Jorge from a burning car and chases down Leoncio in an articulated bus—a mode of transportation that seems somewhat at odds with Lola the Truck Driver’s mission statement.

I think at this point my opinion that Rosa Gloria Chagoyan is criminally underused in Lola the Truck Driver is probably pretty obvious. Still, she has a radiant presence that makes the movie go down a lot easier than it otherwise might. Because of that, I am going to watch the two succeeding Lola movies with the expectation that I will see an incremental ratcheting up of bad-assery on her part. If not, I will be gravely disappointed. You wouldn’t like me when I’m disappointed.