August 31 movie: Strut! Documentary about the Philadelphia Mummer's Parade. Georg and I agreed that this wasn't the best in term of movie-making. It had some structural problems: three false endings, for one thing. And they offered frustratingly brief hints to issues from the parade's past (for instance, blackface was common until it was banned in the 60s, and women were excluded until I think the 70s, which the movie alludes to but never says outright).
Still, we both thought it well worth watching because it did such a good job of capturing the Mummer experience. If you've never seen the Mummers, it can be summed up in a few words: String bands. Ostrich feathers. Sequins. Elaborate musical numbers. Longshoremen in drag.
I learned some things, for instance there are apparently several different styles of mummer's strut. I had no idea. They had a guy demonstrate three styles: Polish-American strut, Italian-American strut, and string band strut. The kind I learned was the Italian style, which he said is favored by the comics. It's also the simplest of the three, or maybe I just think that because it's the one I know.
Also, I didn't know that the comics march to New Orleans-style jazz, not string bands. (They don't show the whole parade down here, and only sometimes show any of it, and so it's been decades since I've gotten to see the comics.) They interviewed a jazz band which marches with the comics every year, and I have to say they were terrific. Really talented.
They hardly showed any of the fancies in the movie, I guess because the fancies are the least, what's the word, the least dynamic part of the parade. I like the fancies, though. My least favorite part of the Mummer's Parade is the fancy brigades. Because to me, the fancy brigades are just like the string bands, except no string band. Also the fancy brigades don't have to walk the parade route so their props are much more elaborate, more like sets. Which, if you like big props I guess that's an improvement. Personally, I like the fact that everything in a string band's show had to travel the whole route. (I'm guessing the string bands are allowed to bring their props on a truck. If they have to push and/or carry everything, that would be hardcore.)
I highly recommend this movie if you've ever heard of the Mummers. It's worth it for the archive footage of historical parades alone. And there were a couple of segments showing truly spectacular still photos. If the director had been half as talented as the photographer, this would have been an Oscar-worthy documentary.
There was one hysterical anecdote from the movie: a member of one of the string bands (I forget which one, Ferko maybe?) is talking about how one year their club got in trouble with the cops and their captain got arrested. Apparently the parade route goes through some ritzy neighborhoods, and the city hadn't thought to put in port-a-johns along the route. And the people in the string band were relieving themselves on sidewalks and yards along the way, which had the residents in an uproar. The mummer calmly explained, "You can't march 3 miles and drink beer the whole way and not have to pee. It's not our fault." That's inarguable logic right there.