Muse Reporting on the arts and culture

A summer to remember

Arts | Entertainment tries to recapture the spirit of 1969
by Mary Jackson
Posted 8/09/19, 03:43 pm

Nostalgia for the iconic summer of 1969 has gripped the entertainment industry in recent months. Events such as the first moon landing, the Woodstock music festival, and the killing spree by devotees of Charles Manson brought momentous highs and lows, and still captivate Americans 50 years later.

Recent efforts by entertainers to capture the intensity of the era include a TV series (Mindhunters) and a new Quentin Tarantino movie (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood) about the Manson murders, a failed plan to host a three-day music festival called Woodstock 50, and the upcoming release of a remastered version of the Beatles’ Abbey Road, which came out as the summer waned in September. The period is often remembered for its political unrest, racial tensions, and the Vietnam War, but not everyone was focused on social turmoil that year.

“There was a dispute going on in the culture,” author Larry Eskridge told me. “[But] some of the most popular content was very safe, very vanilla.”

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford as lovable outlaws, became the year’s top grossing film. The movie challenged traditional Western and frontier narratives of the past, depicting atypical cowboys who at times sought love, peace, and a second chance.

Other pop culture events delivered much-needed cheer that year, too. Television shows The Brady Bunch and Sesame Street debuted. So did Eric Carle’s famous children’s book, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, and Elvis Presley’s 10th album, From Elvis to Memphis, which led to his onstage comeback at the Las Vegas International Hotel after an eight-year hiatus. And as the summer moved into fall, New York’s “Miracle Mets” overcame seven years of futility, aided by a late-season collapse by the Chicago Cubs, to win the World Series.

Meanwhile, the Jesus Movement, a counter to the hippie and drug countercultures, was gaining significant momentum by 1969. Coffeehouses, churches, and other outposts sprouted up in the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, and throughout the Pacific Northwest, offering beleaguered hippies a safe haven, free food, communal homes, and the gospel message.

“It was a true seeker moment,” said Eskridge, who wrote God’s Forever Family: The Jesus People Movement in America (Oxford University Press, 2013). “It was filled with disillusionment and a sense that things were unraveling … but that spiritual unrest sent many young people searching.”

Associated Press/Photo by Billy Dai (file) Associated Press/Photo by Billy Dai (file) Chinese director Zhang Yimou at the 2018 Golden Horse Awards in Taipei, Taiwan

Beijing bows out of Asian Oscars

China won’t allow its movies or actors to participate in the Golden Horse Awards in Taiwan this year. The awards are some of the Asian film industry’s most prestigious honors, but China is forcing a boycott of them in retaliation for Taiwan’s resistance to Chinese authority. Some tense moments in China-Taiwan relations came up during last year’s ceremony after documentary director Fu Yue called on the world to recognize Taiwan as an independent nation in his acceptance speech. Chinese participants refused to appear on stage or at the post-awards banquet after Fu’s remarks.

People in China’s film industry would have had a hard time attending the awards anyway because Beijing just announced a ban on solo travel to Taiwan starting Sept. 1. A spokesman for Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen called the move a blow to China-Taiwan relations: “Culture has no borders and art especially should not face political barriers. No matter what the reason, it’s not a smart move to prevent those in arts and culture from participating in this sort of a film industry event that encourages free creation and welcomes multiple viewpoints.” —Lynde Langdon

Associated Press/Photo by Amr Alfiky Associated Press/Photo by Amr Alfiky R. Kelly in Chicago on June 6

A growing rap sheet

Prosecutors in Minnesota piled on to the charges against singer R. Kelly with new counts of prostitution and solicitation on Monday. Kelly, whose full name is Robert Sylvester Kelly, is accused of inviting a 17-year-old girl he met at a promotional event in Minneapolis to his hotel room and offering her money for sex. Kelly is in jail in New York, where last week he pleaded not guilty to federal charges of sex abuse. He has about 40 open criminal cases against him, including counts of child pornography and sexual abuse in Chicago

“As this new case demonstrates, it is not too late for there to be justice for even more victims of R. Kelly,” said Gloria Allred, the attorney for the alleged victim in Minnesota. —L.L.

President on trial

The next installment of FX’s American Crime Story will spotlight the 1998-1999 impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton with a focus on his extramarital affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. The series is set to air within weeks of the 2020 presidential election, but the show execs don’t think it will influence voters. “I don’t believe it’s going to determine who’s the next president of the United States,” FX CEO John Landgraf said. “I think that’s a little hysterical.” —L.L.

Mary Jackson

Mary is a graduate of the World Journalism Institute mid-career course and lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and four children. Follow Mary on Twitter @mbjackson77

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