Tuesday, October 31, 2006

...the red haze of blood blood blood...

Happy Hallooween! I suppose I've got the wrong holiday - I think the record is really about Walpurgisnacht - but hey: who can resist witches on Halloween? Liars, baby - broken witch live:

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Horror Films, Best of

Joseph B. has a horror film meme started: probably not the only one. List of the best 15.

This is harder than it seems. Listing the best films in a genre raises the difficulty - do I rank them as films (that happen to all be horror films), or do I rank them for how good they are at being horror films? If I do the latter - don't I have to define the genre? What makes a horror film? Any kind of break down - "scariest", "most disturbing", "the films that scarred me for life" (using Joseph's criteria) - is basically a variation on the same problem. How shall I answer this difficulty? damned if I know. Probably in the most roundabout and inconsistent way I can.

1. Nosferatu - well this, at least, is easy, for this is the best of the bunch by any criteria. It's a great film, period - beautiful and perfectly put together; it'll give you shivers; and it's definitively a "horror film". It seems to me - the horror genre depends on the notion of the monster. (There's more to it - the sense of fear, say - but I'll try to work that in...) It depends on monster that play fairly specific roles. The monster in a horror film is either our Other - a thing we fear from outside ourselves; or our Double - something we fear about ourselves. Or - more commonly - they are both. The monster is a projection of our fears - it is a foreign thing that invades us, but is, in fact, a projection of ourselves. It is, very often, a projection of our fears and desires blended into one being. And the emotional effect of horror is, partly, the recognition of this - horror films evoke the Other, then show that it is in fact our Double - that the fear we seek to control is part of us.... In the movies, Dracula and Frankenstein are the definitive monsters. Dracula the seducer, our sexuality made into murder; Frankenstein's monster, perhaps, our fear of death, of helplessness, abandonment, of all the desires we can't rationalize. As the genre develops, they also evolve into a distinct approaches to language - Dracula is the articulate seducer, the talker, the whispering voice, beautiful (at least for the moment), self-aware, knowing what he wants and how to get it. Frankenstein is the silent, inarticulate threat, deformed and horrible, exuding raw anger and fear, cut off from love, from community, from humanity. Nosferatu dates from before this split became commonplace - Murnau's vampire is horrible, though still seductive - he is a force of power and desire, but he is unable to speak, to express his desire in anything but murder. This makes him more like the later Frankenstein model - and more like Mary Shelley's version of the monster, a character who covers the full range of possibilities, from silent, inarticulate, helpless, to an educated, sophisticated talker.

2. Ugetsu - this is more like a romance than a horror film. The woman is less monster than a temptress, in either case, not implicated in Genjuro's psyche quite the same. So despite being a ghost story, I'm not sure I'd call it a horror film. So it can't be number 2.

2. Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein - I will treat them as one, because magnificent as either one is, they are even better together. The better question is, why should they be second to anything? They aren't, as horror films - as films? They're still magnificent, but Nosferatu is - more than that, even.... They are the perfect horror films, especially taken together, and from a structural point of view. The monster in these films is set up to function both as a horrible thing for the audience to fear and loathe - and quite explicitly as an object of pity, to be identified with. The play between the monster as Other and monster as our Double is very clear in these films. Add to that the way they work together as a bildungsroman - the story of a boy becoming a man - matching the anxieties expressed through the monster with the experience of growing up. It's truly great stuff.

3. Dracula - and here's the other side. It's an odd film - lots of it is very stagy and awkwardly put toegther - but it looks absolutely gorgeous, cheap sets and all (thanks to Karl Freund, mostly), and Lugosi is spectacular.

4. Dead of Night - As a film, the structure, the slow steady buildup of fear, to the magnificent dummy sequence, and the general creepiness of the frame story, makes it a joy to watch. And I don't think I have to explain how ventriloquist and dummy stories fit my thoery of doubles and others.

5. Eraserhead - again, definitively - the monster baby, that is other and double, our child.... Children - the fear of parenting or the memory of the fears we felt as children - are also central to horror as a genre. (I won't be the first to suggest that the Frankenstein model revolves around children - fathers and sons, the monster, especially the inarticulate monster, as a child, etc.)

6. The Mummy - this is Karloff's chance to play the articulate monster. And he is more than equal to the task. He might even be better - he gets a lot more of the sadness of the character than Lugosi did (Shrek did to some extent, and Kinski nails it in Herzog's remake of Nosferatu.) The film overall, though, is marred by a really silly story and some flat direction and editing - though it looks beautiful, frame after frame - those Germans knew how to photograph things.

7. Don't Look Now - we revisit the role of children in horror - here, the loss of a child. The links between sex and death. The externalization of our fears.

8. Vampyr - another vampire film, this one animated by a very powerful dream logic, characters and objects and plots moving with a kind of symbolic association. Includes the quintessential expression of the fear of death - a character dreaming his own death, and POV shots from inside the coffin.

9. Nosferatu, Phantom of the Night - Herzog's remake of the Murnau film with Klaus Kinski as Orlock and Bruno Ganz as Jonathon Harker. Haunting and wonderful - those shots of the city, Isabelle Adjani moving through the empty streets.

10.Kingdom/Kingdom II - Lars van Trier taking on american television, ghost stories, soap opera, surrealism... with monstrous babies (who better to play a monster baby than Udo Kier?) and all the rest...

11. Bride of the Monster - wait: this isn't really a horror film. It's perhaps inexcusable to put an Ed Wood film in such an exalted position - I understand that, though the fact is, this film is this enjoyable. I suppose this is where the pure pleasure of watching a film overcomes a strictly dispassionate assessment of it - and yes, some of the pleasure is in the badness of it. On the other hand, you have Lugosi's performance - hunkering down for one last bit of acting. Martin Landau might have won the oscar, but he did it in part by imitating Lugosi, who is wonderful and damned near oscar worthy himselve - "home? I have no home".... But all that said - this really isn't a horror film. It's science fiction. So I have to pretend I didn't actually list it.

11. Evil Dead II - I suppose I could combine it with Evil Dead I like I did the others, but whatever. Modern horror films like this do tend to take away the sense of the monsters coming from inside us - well - this one does. Who cares? This is funny and thrilling and gory and perfect. Though all this talk about monsters - I don't know. There is nothing really horrifying about it. I am very tempted to rule it something else - a disguised adventure story (like Army of Darkness) - a Romance, in the old fashioned sense. I should, because that would let me put Reanimator on in its place. Reanimator has the same tone - the jokiness, the gore - but fits a lot better into the horror film scheme I have outlined. Sex and death - desires and fears - blended together, made explicit. It's a great film. And it's almost as funny as the Evil Dead ("who's laughing now?" vs. "more passion!") Parse this as you choose.

12. Night of the Living Dead - I'm not going to write a book on all these films. I've kind of made my point. This is less psychological than social though, which is an interesting twist that I plan mostly to ignore.

13. Suspiria - gorgeous film, creepy and cool...

14. Black Sabbath - beautiful movie, Bava's experience as a DP showing. Nicely covers the possibilities of Italian horror - an old fashioned ghost story, a giallo, and that magnificent Karloff vampire story.

15. Funny Games - Stunning post-modern horror film, the monsters infiltrating everyday life (the classic family—father, mother, son) and wreaking havoc. These monsters come from the TV. They also destroy everything. A very complicated film, really, though on the surface it is simply one of the most unsettling horror films I have seen in ages. This is one (and there aren't many) that gave me bad dreams - I dreamed it, a night or two after I saw it. Not to be recommended. In terms of sheer disturbing power, this might be the winner of the whole freaking poll.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Le Temps Perdu?

Via Crooked Timber comes a time waster pur les ages - French mini games (Jeux Chiants.) As noted in the post, this - "Double Jeu" - is particularly cruel and addictive. Kind of like pong on a see saw. With insults.

Random Friday Music Post

Hooray hooray! Today's hits are:

1. PJ Harvey - Rid of Me [for all those cool new bands who seem to basically keep reworking this song over and over - The Kills, Yeah Yeah Yeahs - why not stick to Polly Jean?] (****)
2. Come - Orbit [though I wonder how much connection there was between 90s women post-sorta-punkers and Thalia Zadek?]
3. Johnny Cash - the Man Who Couldn't Cry [Loudon Wainwright song given the definitive Cash treatment.] (wasn't rated, but that was an oversight: ****)
4. Madonna - Rescue Me [surprisingly catchy Madonna tune, that outstays its welcome]
5. Sleater Kinney - Hubcap [there's that moment in this one that kicks in the whole band, singling, playing, hard - build and release at its finest!] (***)
6. Feelies - Slipping into Something [there aren't enough stars. That bit after the second verse, when the drums do a double take and the song accelerates - gives me shivers. Live, with the first part already going double time, it was heaven. I was addicted to the Feelies in the 80s, saw them every time they came to town, basically... And then there's the way Jonathon Demme uses it, uses that same moment in the song, to signal the tone shift in the middle of Something Wild - a movie that, these days, I don't hear much about - but should, for it is a masterpiece, and not just for the Feelies footage.] (*****)
7. Fairport Convention - Come All Ye (***)
8. Lone Justice - Working Late
9. Strokes - Electricityscape
10. Spiritualized - Electricity (***)

And, video? I can't find Slipping (into Something), and I posted that late 70s Crazy Rhythms video ages ago - but it's clearly a Feelies week: let's see - how about:

(Jonathon Demme directed I believe). And here's a live clip of Deep Fascination, with Bill Million churning away and Mercer doing some Lou Reed-ish wanking at the end...

But that said - I have to finish where we started: Polly Jean?

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Poll Results

Good lord! It's been a week since Andy Horbal's poll (best American fiction films of the last 25 years) ended - he's had the results posted for a week. I have been hopelessly remiss.

I shall rather arbitrarily quote the top vote getters: it's roughly a top 10....

8 Votes:

Goodfellas (1990, Martin Scorsese)

7 Votes:

Pulp Fiction (1994, Quentin Tarantino)

6 Votes:

Miller's Crossing (1990, Coen bros.)
Unforgiven (1992, Clint Eastwood)

5 Votes:

Blue Velvet (1986, David Lynch)
Dead Man (1995, Jim Jarmusch)
Fargo (1996, Coen bros.)
Groundhog Day (1993, Harold Ramis)
Mulholland Dr. (2001, David Lynch)

4 Votes:

Schindler's List (1993, Steven Spielberg)
Do The Right Thing (1989, Spike Lee)

My top ten (listed here, the first time) was:

1. Blue Velvet
2. Rushmore
3. Do the Right Thing
4. Brazil (is that considered American? maybe not.)
5. Full Metal Jacket
6. To Sleep With Anger
7. Mulholland Drive
8. This is Spinal Tap
9. Dead Man
10. Donnie Darko

Meanwhile, speaking of polls, and in keeping with the season, Joseph B. at it's a madmadblog is looking for horror movie lists: top 15, to be posted and discussed on or around all saint's eve.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Music on Friday

Let's try something different - the usual method, iPod, randomly shuffling, 10 songs - but this time, from the "New Adds" playlist. So - new stuff, plus whatever I finally got around to putting on the computer in the last month. What does that yield?

1. Bad Brains - The Big Takeover
2. Velvet Underground - Rock and Roll [from the Quine tapes, which I finally copied to iTunes]
3. Jeremy Enigk - Dare a Smile [from the new record]
4. Heroin - Head Cold [like the Bad Brains, it's been sitting around the shelves for a couple years, but seeing American Hardcore made me pull it down and put it on the computer]
5. Velvets - Sister Ray/Foggy Notion - 28:42 of it.
6. Outkast - Hollywood Divorce [Idlewild soundtrack, a nice piece of work]
7. George Harrison - What is Life [I've had this for years too, All Things Must Pass, but never bothered to put it on the computer. Or rather - I put a couple songs on the computer, and never even listened to the rest of it. That's a hell of a record.]
8. My Bloody Valentine - I can see It (but I can't feel it) [that first record, which has been around for some time....]
9. High Rise - Cotton Top [had the live record on the computer; decided to put High Rise II on as well; serve your guitar wanking needs]
10. A Hawk and a Hacksaw - There is a River in Galisteo [another new record]

And video? Can't beat the Bad Brains.

World Series

I hesitate to post this. I remain perfect in the post-season, getting every single series wrong - though I said coming in it was the most unpredictable post-season in ages. The only series I actually thought I could call was the Yankees over Tigers, and even that was based on the assumption that the reason the tigers had been losing for the last month was that their pitchers were all worn out. Wrong!

The World Series, though, is not like that. The world series looks extremely easy to call. This poses a dilemma - when you're 0-6, you worry - is that a trend? I mean, even flipping a coin, wouldn't you come up with 2-3 wins? So if I call this one - is my luck going to hold? This is a dilemma because this si the first series since the Tigers-Yankees where I felt a strong rooting interest in one fo the teams - and the first anywhere that seems like a no-brainer. I'm tempted to call the upset, just to preserve the 0-7, but I don't think that would fool anyone.

So - the point of all this is that if these teams play to their abilities, this will be the third 4-0 AL sweep in 3 years. Yeah, maybe Carpenter can win a game or two - not much else is likely to get past the Tigers. Unless they're bored again. They have too much going for them - a deep starting rotation, deep bullpen, plenty of rest, fine offense that is playing well up and down the lineup, and both Tony LaRussa and Jim Leyland. The Cards have Carpenter and Pujols and seem to have forgotten most of the season - it's almost like they went into hibernation in May (like the Tigers did in September). But I don't think that can last. They almost lost to the Mets, who started Oliver Perez TWICE. So - I have to take the cats. They look as fat and hungry as this beast:

Friday, October 13, 2006

Friday Music Post

I have to figure out a more interesting music meme to follow than this one, but I am headed out the door to a Kieslowski double feature, so I will stick to the tried and true. Maybe add a link - Andy Horbal takes on a Slate piece about 21st century fiction, wherein someone says movies have had no luck showing contemporary technological life, living on the net as it were. Andy doesn't agree. Discussion follows. And I suppose this ties back to music, because technology has always had a huge impact on how people experience music. How I experience it. I have noted, possibly on this blog, though I would have to dig and I am not going to dig for it, that the iPod has made me think of music in terms of songs - which, for me, is like going back to the 70s, before I got my own record player, and got all my music off the radio. All in terms of songs.

Speaking of which, here are 10 songs currently on my hard drive! When rated - I will include that - there's a variation for you.

1. Public Image - Flowers of Romance
2. Wire - Sand in my Joints [featuring one of the great guitar solos of all time - my tastes in guitar solos is very broad.] (****)
3. Television - See No Evil (live) [off one of those Mojo CDs; that reminds me - I saw 3 copies of Mojo in a news stand today, all of them with the CD gone. For $9, I want my CD!] [Anyway, this has a nice little guitar solo in it - but a great great song, I should say, before moving on. (*****!)]
4. Boredoms - Super Good [this is what I mean by becoming song oriented - Boredoms mutated, about the tijme of this record (Super Ae) from a song oriented noise band into an album oriented band - I love their records (this, Vision Creation Newsun and Sea Drum/House of Sun), but it is almost impossible to rate their songs - and somewhat unsatisfying to listen to their songs, the way iTunes brings them up. You need to listen to the whole record. A problem!]
5. Ramones - We're a Happy Family (***) [I am going to have to explain the ratings eventually, I think. Right now, Camera Buff is waiting so I better stop writing letters for every song.]
6. Yes - Perpetual Change [the guilt! the horror! there must be a mistake somewhere - this can't be mine can it?]
7. Hall and Oates - She's Gone (***) [That rating looks a little low, for primo Hall and Oates.] [I should rate the guilt factor associated with some of these songs, while we're at it.]
8. Ohio Players - Love Rollercoaster [That's better] (****)
9. Shonen Knife - Burning Farm (***)
10. Elvis Costello - What's So Funny About Peace Lve and Understanding? (***)

And video - the top rated song of the week!

Saturday, October 07, 2006

More Baseball

While the NL series are still going, the odds are getting to be very good that I am going to go 0-4 in predicting the division series'. I can't say I'm disappointed. I did go on record saying I had no idea who was going to win - but better - seeing the Tigers win makes it all worthwhile. I am not surprised by the Yankees losing - they did look like last year's red sox, and met the Red Sox' end - though I thought it would come in the next series. But the Yankees are old and flat and aren't going to win again with this crew of players - once they started buying free agents instead of developing players, the end was at hand, and their regular season success has been a mirage for 4-5 years now.

The Tigers, on the other hand, aren't the first team to abuse the league all summer, fade at the end, then pick it up in the post-season. That's exactly what the White Sox did last year. The A's, meanwhile, might have knocked out the team I picked to win it all, but I can still half claim them - they seemed to me a coin flip, and they came up heads. The next series should be a pretty good one.

The NL is still going, though the Padres and Dodgers are on the brink. Pads showed some life I see. Dodgers, who knows. As for rooting interests here out - since the only one I really cared about was seeing the Yankees lose - I have to just go with the American League. Better teams. And I suppose I can stick with tradition and root against the Mets. I haven't got the heart for it really - too many guys on the team I like (Pedro, Glavine, Billy Wagner, Beltran and Reyes and even Cliffy Floyd), and nothing really to resent them for. Overpaying Pedro maybe, but on the other hand, now he's NY's problem, not Boston's. I wish he was around for this - if he were playing I would probably cheer for the Mets. That would have been unthinkable until 2 years ago. But now, I have forgiven them. In fact, I might be able to go back to one of my longest running traditions, cheering against the Dodgers - except they have Nomar and Derek Lowe and Greg Maddux.... I don't hate anyone in the post-season anymore!

Update: I see the A-Rod haters are having a field day. It is gratifying to see Yankees suffer, and particularly gratifying to see slappy suffer - but if old George decides to clean house - they can still get Manny for him! Hell yeah.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Friday Random Ten

Once again:

1. Meat Puppets - Quit It
2. Brian Jonestown Massacre - Take it From the Man
3. Jay Farrar - Feel Free
4. Meat Puppets - Liquified (9000 songs,a nd 2 from the same record; as long as it's the Meat Puppets, can't complain)
5. Warlocks - We Need Starpower
6. The Who -Time is Passing (from the extended CD of Who's Next)
7. Bay City Rollers - Yesterday's Hero (nice to see perhaps the greatest family in rock represented on the list; might, given the choice, have taken the younger Youngs over George though)
8. John Lennon - Love (from the Acoustic record)
9. Big Star - In the Street
10. Guru Guru - Girl Call (a little krautrock always rounds out the day nicely)

And video? Can't find the two above, but here's a later Meat Puppets performance on Jon Stewart's show, in fine form:

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Playoff Predictions

...a real exercise in futility this year. It's been an odd year - no one looks dominant. The NL has been particularly ugly, with only one team winning 90, the Cards getting in with 83 wins - but the AL hasn't set the world on fire. The teams that would look like the clear favorites - the Mets and Twins - are missing key pitchers, Pedro and Liriano, and the Mets, especially, look like they are in trouble. Over it all, sort of, stands the Yankees - a team that looks remarkably like last year's Red Sox - they'll pound the bejesus out of all normal pitchers, but their own rotation is very shaky, and they'll probably disappear without a trace if they run into a hot pitching team. The problem is, they might not see any hot pitching teams.

But what the hell: might as well make some guesses. Though I'm already too late on a couple of them.

1) Yankees - Tigers: the yanks can hit. They have innings eating starters and Rivera. But they can be beaten. Maybe not by the tigers - though if the stripes pitching comes around, it could happen. They have some nice young arms - of course they also have Kenny Rogers and Todd Jones. They do have enough bullpen and hitting to get to the Yanks if they can get past the starters before Rivera is available. But that sort of thing could create a lot of 12-9 games, and odds are the bombers are going to win those. Still - you gotta hope.

2) Twins - A's: The Twins seem to me the most predictable team in the playoffs. (Them and the Cards, who are predictably awful.) They won't give up a lot - they have some pop, that should show up eventually. They are balanced, they have a great bullpen, they have Santana, and they have Gardenhire and a nice mix of veterans and youth. They were shut down by Zito I see - but that's not too surprising. The thing is, the A's are not predictable at all - they could be mediocre - they could be very good. If Harden has a good start? if some of the hitters like Chavez step up? (and by "step up" I mean "return to form.") They have a chance. I think they are pretty even with the Twins - the Yanks? it depends - if the pitching is on top of its game? they should win. If not? well - any team that doesn't pitch against the Yanks will lose. Twins still look like the (overall) favorites to me, but it's a lot closer now.

3) Padres - Cards: The Cards look like the Red Sox without Jonathon Papelbon. We all know where the sox are. I see Carpenter shut SD down today - I don't know if the rest of the rotation can do much, though. The Pads should stay in a lot of games, but they won't beat up on anyone - but if they give it to the Cards, the Cards will take it. And let's face it - if there's one player in this post-season who can win a series alone, it's Albert Pujols. I still think the Pads will sneak it out.

4) Dodgers - Mets. I see El Duque is hurt. Pedro is out. With Pedro, the Mets are the favorites - without him - not so much. Like their cross-town rivals, they can probably hit their way through most problems, but they seem even more vulnerable to any kind of opposing offense. And less likely to chew up decent pitching staffs the way the Yankees can. (You have to be outstanding to beat the Yanks. Decent - which most of the teams in this post-season are - is not going to do it. You need to get Zito, Harden and Haren, or Peavy and Wells, or Lowe, Penny, Maddux all at the top of their game to win. Santana, Bonser and Radke. I think we will see one of those things happen. That's usually how world series' are won. No one looks like last year's Sox, who had a dominant pitching staff - a couple teams are similar to the 04 Sox, with a dominant pitcher or two, and a couple guys with the track record to indicate they could be unhittable for a couple weeks. And a team or two - the Tigers, say - are a bit like the 03 Marlins - young and talented, who could click at the right time... But if no one steps up against them, the Yankees will swallow all comers.) But the Dodgers have a very intriguing team. Nice set of pitchers with very good post-season pedigrees (Maddux and Lowe), decent bullpen, nice collection of hitters, who also have some post-season experience (though not a lot of winning.) I think they can take the Mets and if they are playing well, might be the best team in the NL right now. Of course they might not play well. So...

Before today's games, I would have picked the Twins in the AL, but now, I'm thinking while they can still win - it's a toss up between them and the A's. I do think whoever wins that series will beat the Yankees. Though I dearly hope the Tigers take out the Yankees - I just don't believe it.

NL? I was leaning toward the Padres actually, but I think I will amend that. I think they will still find a way past the Cards, but I think the Dodgers might be the team to beat.

Over all? The Twins will win the World Series if they make it. The baggydome will tell. If not - if the Dodgers do win the NL, they should win the world series. Otherwise - I might venture a pick once the teams are settled: I have to see what happens in the other series' first. Right now, no.

As for rooting interests: there are plenty of interesting matchups, but only one really Vital Result to be hoped for. I hope it is not too hard to guess what it is. They aren't called the evil empire for nothing.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Moving Furniture Around

Not a lot. A few new blogs on the sidebar - most notably, David Bordwell and Kristin Thompson, which they have inaugurated with a swarm of posts. And I have to mention Andy Horbal's blog - don't forget to vote for the best American fiction film of the last 25 years! 170 plus comments on that post - and a ton of new film blogs to explore. And? A few tweaks to the profile, primarily some effort to fine tune the favorite films (it's now top 10 directors and top 5 contemporary directors) and bands. All that and a more cowboy-centric profile, if the right picture ever shows up. I might still monkey around some, but not tonight. I have to post before midnight.