Saturday, June 30, 2007

Saturday Stuff

So - Piper at Lazy Eye Theater named me for the 8 Things meme a couple days ago. I find myself, alas, strapped for time. So shall I cheat? 8 reasons why I'm strapped for time? combine, say, our generic round up/random music post with this meme? ha ha ha! sinister laughter!

1. I have Red Sox tickets for tonight. Take that!

2. Given some time to think about it - I really jumped the gun opining on the Celtics' Ray Allen trade. Once I noticed that he had surgery on both ankles - I should never have doubted Danny Ainge. Of course he would find a way to do something Royally Stupid with that pick. (Thinking about it now - what he should have done is trade up to three for Horford - if the Hawks were really hesitating between Horford and Yi, Ainge should have sweetened the Yi side fo the deal to get Horford. Horford would be an immediate asset to the Celtics, I think. Unlike Yi. And without the risk of Complete Disaster that hangs around Ray Allen. Though without the potential entertainment of seeing Ray Allen and Allen Ray on the floor at the same time. How one hopes!) - I notice that this hasn't really been a fact: maybe the relevant fact is, I haven't seen the C's live in more than a decade and don't expect that to change any time soon.

3. Here is a fact - as of Wednesday, I have seen every Ozu film in existence. I would have done this a couple years ago, when Harvard hosted a complete retrospective - but End of Summer was cancelled. Well - thank you, Eclipse!

4. Last night I saw Brand Upon the Brain - it was all one could hope for! The Past! The Past! Secrets! Secrets! Secrets! Too much for Guy!

5. Maybe I should do something in the spirit of the meme - I once saw Roger Ebert shoppping for Love and Rockets comic books! I hid under a desk when Bill Buckner made his famous error in 1986! Iwalked out before Nirvana came on at a club in 1991, because the sound system was terrible, and I'd already seen the band I wanted to see (Smashing Pumpkins!) I've never smoked anything of any kind in my life!

6. I have recurring dreams about finding stashes of pop culture in old stores, libraries, basements and attics - sometimes music (stashes of Bowie records in an old hope chest), usually Hardy Boys books. When I have these dreams I always recognize them as dreams, and start to wake up, disappointed that the stuff doesn't exist - then, on examining it closer, realize, it does exist! I'm not dreaming! The best thing I ever found in one of these dreams was a recording of the Hardy Boys adventure Jack Keruoac wrote and performed for radio in the mid-50s. I just hope Borges was right.

7. The last 10 songs to play on iTunes!

1. Richard & Linda Thompson - For Shame of Doing Wrong *****
2. Dangerdoom - Vats of Urine [good lord.]
3. Johnny Cash (with June Carter Cash) - Give My Love to Rose - from Live at Folsom Prison. More husband and wife singing...
4. Captain Beefheart - Veteran's Day Poppy ***
5. Bob Dylan - Tangled Up in Blue *****
6. Sonic Youth - What a Waste
7. The White Stripes - Conquest - that didn't take long to turn up here...
8. Asian Dub Foundation - Charge
9. Jacques Brel - Marieke
10. G.O.N.G. - Dynamite: I am your Animal

8. A video: you could follow a link, to see some live G.O.N.G. - but here, let's try Asian Dub Foundation - Naxalite, live.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Draft Liveblog

This is something to try. The NBA draft! who, oh who will go first? No surprises, I assume - Greg Oden?

Doing this, trying this trick - is a way to procrastinate from Piper's passing on the Eight Facts meme - that's what I should be doing... Here comes Stern - Greg Oden, as expected since last year somewhere... Next - let's go way out on a limb and guess - Kevin Durant!

The real fun, though, are the Celtics rumors. After all, when you get down to it, that's what I care about. What can Danny Ainge to do keep the C's mediocre for another 10 years?

Update: here's Oden talking to Stuart Scott. He's smarter and funnier than Scott. He has everything you could ask, I think - he has it all, even the personality, the drive - he looks to me to be a real deal immediately....

Ah: this will occur - Ray Allen for Wally, Serbiak [sic] and Jeff Green - sweet Jesus! Ainge didn't screw it up! That's almost pure profit! - And there goes Kevin Durant - who could be pretty damned good himself.

Update: So Seattle goes young - Durant replaces Lewis (free agent); trades Allen for the others - that's something. Now - Durant - he's dull and direct, letting his game talk, I guess it is. Now it's Portland - Q: did they ever really think about taking Durant? A: What chance that anyone is going to answer that question? We move on to Atlanta - Horford?

Update: Horford it is. That's a good sign, sort of. Rumors before the draft about the Hawks' divisions - management and ownership, suing each other, fighting, some of them thinking about taking Yi Jianling - Harford is the basketball choice. This is good. This could also be a prelude to a trade for Amare Stoudamire - that rumor was floating around... Let's see if there''s a trade coming up. Right now, though - Memphis - takes Michael Conley. And so -

The C's are on the clock: and what will they do? if they take Green and trade for Allen - that's a good deal. That leaves them with Jefferson, Rondo, Gomes - with Pierce and Allen, who is Wally S with a lot more game. They were a hard team to figure out last year - they were incredibly awful, but they finally developed their young players, and they did show signs. So - what now? All right - enough of this crap - Celtics! Celtics!

Update: Deal! Wally and West - Jeff Green: for Allen. Meanwhile - we go through the NBA comedy, since the trade was not made by 2 PM - so he puts on the Celtics hat, and waits for Stern to make an announcement... So - well, the truth is, this is as far as I need to go with this.

Update: So 6 - Yi Jianlian to Milwaukee. Not bad, I suppose. Controversy! Yi's people don't want to play there - so this could be a trade coming. Del Harris pushing him on his son? does this mean there's a trade coming with the Mavs? Anyway - here comes Minnesota - Kevin Garnett wants out - they suck - so here's their pick.... Corey Brewer - Florida.

But what I care about - the C's. So far - the ESPN people are mocking poor Danny and company - Dick Vitale says, "outfoxed". Well? I have to find out what the locals think - hard to say. What do I think? Good lord, I don't know. The Right Now factor - I suppose, there's no doubt: Allen is another 25 PPG guy - he and Pierce can fill it up - they'd have to wait for Green... long term? It is fun - the national people don't have the prejudices the locals have - the locals are all wringing their hands over Paul Pierce whining about getting a veteran....

Love the comments on the Bobcats - Jordan losing, feeling sorry for himself - here he goes: Brandan Wright - another Tar Heel - that's all they ever seem to pick...) (And Chicago rubbing the Knicks' fans into it - taking Noah - a third Gator (sensible - back to back champs?) - he looks to me like the real deal - he will play hard, play smart, and fit in well on the Bulls - a tough, smart team...

Update: So - finally - the C's, Ray Allen, etc. What I think: 1) that Allen will fill it up, along with Pierce - an immediate improvement... 2) Long term? Allen is getting along in years - so is Pierce - they cost a ton... 3) back to the commentators: the locals are definitely a bit intimidated by the fear of continued development - and Pierce bullying them. The national guys can look at the C's, not care about winning this year, think about what will happen to them in 2-3-4 years. And think Green or Yi or Brewer or Noah or Wright or whoever will help them more in 3 years than Allen. Well? They might be right - Allen is expensive and old... but I also think, the future is going to come from Gerald Green and Al Jefferson - they have stockpiled kids - they have to bring in some vets and move forward. The question, really, is this - can they get 2-3 years out of Pierce and Allen? If they do - and if the kids develop - which is reasonable to hope for - they might actually turn into a reasonable team. Though to really win - they need more: they need Green or Jefferson to utrn into stars - that's a stretch.

And? Sacramento takes Spencer Hawes - a big SOB.... Paxton talks about Noah - "an energetic athletic 7 footer." Stephen A. Smith doesn't like the pick - they have too many high energy guys. Um... They need someone in the low post but - sheesh! No kidding: who doesn't want low post power? If it was that easy... energy works better. Atlanta meanwhile takes AC Law... a point guard! whoo hoo! I don't care.

So that's all! "Live blogging" will end, unless something really exciting comes along... Maybe I'll finish the 8 facts meme - let's hope.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

100 Films

One thing I'll say for the AFI's big list hoopla - suddenly, everybody's doing it. Maybe it's coincidence in some cases - like this monster list from the Guardian, 1000 Films to see before you die (which with 1000 films to play with manages to leave out City Lights, All Quiet on the Western Front, Fires on the Plain, any Hou Hsiao Hsien, so far... right. Edward Yang made it though! hooray! And Amelie... and, oh yeah - no Blessed Event and Bombshell - any list with 1000 films and no Lee Tracy, ain't worth shit. Maybe Night Mayor will sneak in.) Meanwhile, lists directly inspired by the AFI list, like this one from the Alliance of Women Film Journalists, are turning up, and journalists and bloggers are joining in the fun with a gusto - Anne Thompson at Variety; Edward Copeland (top 100); The Shamus (top 100 not on the AFI list); the Self Styled Siren (top 100 not on the AFI 400 nominees); Thrilling Days of Yesteryear (top 100) - with more lists promised, say, by Damien at Windmills of my Mind. I dropped hints myself the other day, and tonight, my friends, you will see the result.

This is what happened ten years ago - people went round and round for weeks about what should be on the list, what shouldn't - and posted, some of them, their own lists. And not to quote myself again - but composite lists "iron out all the oddball films, the marginal films, the individual tastes" - they may help sketch in what is important, but the conversation always gets more interesting when you see what all us various film geeks like.

And so - here goes. 100 films; all American (I may supplement this with a world wide list in the future); in order, more or less, though it's hard to say how far that should be taken. Art isn't really a competition, so orders of merit are more for fun and as a kind of gauge of - something, a sign of what we value in art, more than a measure of the value of the art. But I do love lists. So here you go.

1) It's a Wonderful Life - 1946 - Frank Capra
2) Mr. Smith Goes to Washington - 1939 - Frank Capra
3) McCabe and Mrs Miller - 1971 - Robert Altman
4) The General - 1925 - Buster Keaton & Clyde Bruckman
5) Vertigo - 1958 - Alfred Hitchcock
6) Maltese Falcon - 1940 - John Huston
7) Duck Soup - 1933 - Leo McCarey
8) His Girl Friday - 1940 - Howard Hawks
9) Blue Velvet - 1986 - David Lynch
10) Woman Under the Influence - 1974 - John Cassavetes.
11) Nashville - 1975 - Robert Altman
12) Touch of Evil - 1958 - Orson Welles
13) Rear Window - 1954 - Alfred Hitchcock
14) Searchers - 1956 - John Ford
15) Rushmore - 1998 - Wes Anderson
16) Big Sleep - 1946 - Howard Hawks
17) Bride of Frankenstein - 1935 - James Whale
18) Sweet Smell of Success - 1959 - Alexander McKendrick
19) Citizen Kane - 1940 - Orson Welles
20) The Gold Rush - 1925 - Charlie Chaplin
21) Killer of Sheep - 1977 - Charles Burnett
22) Fort Apache - 1948 - John Ford
23) Elephant Man - 1980 - David Lynch
24) Night of the Hunter - 1955 - Charles Laughton
25) Rebel without a Cause - 1955 - Nicholas Ray
26) Imitation of Life - 1959 - Douglas Sirk
27) Killing of a Chinese Bookie - 1976 - John Cassavetes
28) The Long Goodbye - 1973 - Robert Altman
29) Inland Empire - 2006 - David Lynch
30) Love Me Tonight - 1932 - Rouben Mamoulian
31) Night at the Opera - 1935 - Sam Wood
32) Doctor Strangelove - 1963 - Stanley Kubrick
33) Trouble in Paradise - 1932 - Ernst Lubitsch
34) Frankenstein - 1931 - James Whale
35) Bringing Up Baby - 1938 - Howard Hawks
36) The Conversation - 1974 - Francis Ford Coppola
37) Some Like it Hot - 1959 - Billy Wilder
38) Saint Jack - 1979 - Peter Bogdanovich
39) Platinum Blonde - 1931 - Frank Capra
40) Top Hat - 1935 - Mark Sandrich
41) The Awful Truth - 1937 - Leo McCarey
42) The Asphalt Jungle - 1950 - John Huston
43) Written on the Wind - 1956 - Douglas Sirk
44) Birth of a Nation - 1915 - DW Griffith
45) Do the Right thing - 1989 - Spike Lee
46) Eraserhead - 1977 - David Lynch
47) Our Hospitality - 1923 - Buster Keaton
48) Broken Blossoms - 1919 - DW Griffith
49) Chelsea Girls - 1966 - Andy Warhol
50) Mean Streets - 1973 - Martin Scorsese
51) Sherlock Jr. - 1924 - Buster Keaton
52) Brazil - 1985 - Terry Gilliam
53) The Lady Eve - 1941 - Preston Sturges
54) Greed - 1925 - Erich von Stroheim
55) Trash - 1970 - Paul Morrissey
56) Treasure of the Sierra Madre - 1948 - John Huston
57) All Quiet on the Western Front - 1930 - Lewis Milestone
58) Big Red One (Restored) - 1982/2004 - Sam Fuller
59) Blessed Event - 1932 - Roy Del Ruth
60) Charlie Verrick - 1973 - Don Siegel
61) Gay Divorcee - 1934 - Mark Sandrich
62) Blade Runner - 1981 - Ridley Scott
63) Dead Man - 1996 - Jim Jarmusch
64) The Godfather - 1972 - Francis Ford Coppola
65) Wizard of Oz - 1939 - Victor Fleming
66) The Killing - 1955 - Stanley Kubrick
67) Tabu - 1931 - FW Murnau & Robert Flaherty
68) African Queen - 1951 - John Huston
69) The Freshman - 1925 - Fred Newmeyer & Sam Taylor
70) Golddiggers of 1933 - 1933 - Mervyn LeRoy
71) Mulholland Drive - 2001 - David Lynch
72) Horsefeathers - 1932 - Norman McLeod
73) The Shop Around the Corner - 1940 - Ernst Lubitsch
74) To Have and Have Not - 1944 - Howard Hawks
75) Palm Beach Story - 1940 - Preston Sturges
76) Chinatown - 1974 - Roman Polanski
77) Dracula - 1931 - Todd Browning
78) Psycho - 1960 - Alfred Hitchcock
79) Lolita - 1962 - Stanley Kubrick
80) Othello - 1955 - Orson Welles
81) Twentieth Century - 1934 - Howard Hawks
82) Sunrise - 1927 - FW Murnau
83) Raiders of the Lost Ark - 1981 - Steven Spielberg
84) The Producers - 1968 - Mel Brooks
85) It Happened One Night - 1934 - Frank Capra
86) Full Metal Jacket - 1987 - Stanley Kubrick
87) Badlands - 1973 - Terrence Malick
88) Notorious - 1944 - Alfred Hitchcock
89) King Kong - 1933 - Merian C Cooper
90) Steamboat Bill Jr. - 1928 - Buster Keaton
91) This is Spinal Tap - 1984 - Rob Reiner
92) Stagecoach - 1939 - John Ford
93) Sunset Boulevard - 1950 - Billy Wilder
94) Taxi Driver - 1976 - Martin Scorsese
95) Pulp Fiction - 1994 - Quentin Tarantino
96) Morocco - 1930 - Josef von Sternberg
97) Bombshell - 1933 - Victor Fleming
98) Groundhog Day - 1993 - Ivan Reitman
99) Letter from an Unknown Woman - 1948 - Max Ophuls
100) Faces - 1968 - John Cassavetes

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Weekend Randomosity

The usual mix of sloth and distraction has kept me from a music post... so mix it with some pointers, and -

Two blogathons going strong: Film Music at Windmills of my Mind - and Ambitious Failure, at This Savage Art. Plenty to read at both of them.

Lots of posts about the AFI's revised 100 years, 100 movies list. A partial list: New Critics (Chuck Tryon) and New Critics again (M. A. Peel); Edward Copeland; Adam Ross at DVD Panache; The Self Styled Siren; Roger Ebert and Jim Emerson.... etc. I remember when the first one came out, a good deal of back and forth in the corners of the net I haunted then - though I never quite cared, thinking it was a bland, homogenized list, that might prove entertaining to argue about. In fact I have the words at hand: "Composite lists like this are never as interesting as individual lists. By their nature, they iron out all the oddball films, the marginal films, the individual tastes. This is a nice celebration, and makes a good starting point for other debates." So - I'm tempted to offer my own alternative. I should post more lists....

And we shall! let us, indeed, turn directly to the task at hand, and put up some music. Just loaded the new White Stripes into iTunes - interesting stuff! Let's see what comes out of the digital jukebox, shall we?

1. The Allman Brothers - In Memory of Elizabeth Reed (live) *** - an auspicious start, though I am merely a casual Allman Brothers fan
2. Ghost - Soma - I never noticed this before, but iTunes lists Ghost's genre as "reggae" - now that is strange.
3. SunnO))) - Bathory Erzsebet - happy ditty about the serial killing countess
4. Merle Haggard - I Think I'll Just Stay here and Drink - always nice for Merle Haggard to come up on the iPod
5. Radiohead - Just ***
6. Bing Crosby - I'll Be Home for Christmas - 6 months early, but der Bingle is always welcome
7. Theoretical Girls - Contrary Motion - Glenn Branca and company
8. Modest Mouse - Breakthrough - fairly early, though sounding more like their more recent records than some of their early stuff
9. Minutemen - Beacon Sighted Through Fog - from What Makes a Man Start Fires, one of the great records of the 80; at 1:43, their epic, to that date...
10. Leo Kottke - Learning the Game - a nice ending...

Video - can't find the song up above, but plenty of Merle on YouTube - here's the "Legend of Bonnie and Clyde":

And because I can't resist: Merle Haggard and Johnny Cash, doing "Sing Me Back Home":

Friday, June 22, 2007

Blogging and Thinking

The Thinking Blogger Award meme has been going round the blogs I read like the flu around a daycare center. I am pleased and flattered to have been coughed on by my old pal Moviezzz. (I am probably even more pleased to see another of his nominations - another of our old pals, Evan Waters - interviewed in this week's Friday Screen Test at DVD Panache. Very cool.) It's been fun watching the praise flow around the film corner of the blogosphere, because by god there are a lot of blogs that have earned it - and this is another way to find another dozen blogs I ought to be reading every day.

So then: Three rules has the thinking blogger award meme:

1. If, and only if, you get tagged, write a post with links to 5 blogs that make you think,
2. Link to this post so that people can easily find the exact origin of the meme,
3. Optional: Proudly display the 'Thinking Blogger Award' with a link to the post that you wrote.

Three rules, and five blogs that make you think. Lots of blogs make me think - narrowing down, even trying to avoid blogs already named (in this meme outbreak), ain't easy. These are all blogs I find informative and inspirational (that's foreshadowing, by the way), that (with one rather huge exception) I don't see linked to nearly as much as I think they deserve.

1. Roslindale Monogatari - Michael Kerpan has been a regular (perhaps the leading) poster on the Ozu yahoo group since I started reading it, and now he has a blog. He posts weekly roundups of films seen, mostly Asian, especially classic Japanese films - with summaries and screen shots, lots and lots of screen shots. His blog is a constant reminder of the depth - the unexplored depths, even to as much of a Japanophile as myself - of Japanese cinema, and he is (at the blog and elsewhere) a great source of information about those films.

2. Strange Culture - RC left a couple comments here a month or so back and I started reading his blog and it has quickly become a favorite. He writes about films, religion, culture, their intersections - posts like his recent pair on information and inspiration are pretty darned near the definition of "blogs that make you think." Good stuff.

3. Quiet Bubble - Walter at Quiet Bubble is another polymath -writing about film, comics, literature, music, roadside attractions, sometimes all at once - always elegantly and engagingly. I don't have much more to say - click the links, and it should be obvious what I mean.

4. Talk to me Harry Winston - Tram writes about movies, plus politics, culture, art, etc., all with wit and insight. And her blog is where I found the links to Todd Haynes' Superstar! (Still available, by the way.) Another fine site.

5. And finally, engaging in a bit of unabashed hero worship - even though he's probably been named as a "thinking blogger" about 50 times already.... The inventor of the blog-a-thon, and, as far as I'm concerned, the center of the film blogging universe (the best comment section there is) - Girish Shambu.

And that's it - thanks again to Moviezzz for pointing to me, and it makes me happy to be able to recognize some of the other blogs I have enjoyed and learned from. Thanks to all!

Monday, June 18, 2007

Monday Roundup

Let's try this again - that last outpouring of musical opinion rather overwhelmed the rest of this post: but some of it I want to get said...

Mainly - I wanted to commemorate the passing of three giant figures of arts and culture: Richard Rorty, Ousmane Sembene and Rudolf Arnheim.

It was rather startling to learn that Arnheim was still alive - I know of him mostly as one of the very early generation of film theorists: that was a long time ago. He was 102 years old, that helps. Anyway, I have read about him, but not read him, but the Bordwell tribute linked to above makes me very interested in doing so.

I have read Rorty - Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature, even - I don't know how much I understood, but I was impressed. I mean, by the time I finished I'd probably learned enough to understand it if I reread it. It was inspiring - I have no doubt I will return to his work in the future - I am partial to many of his ideas. Argument as re-description; the value of constantly expanding what we know; the dangers of final vocabularies. AS far as I grasp it, it makes sense to me.

And Sembene - I've only seen three of his films, though I have seen Ceddo several times, and I heard him speak. He made superb use of his resources - his films seem simple, even crude - but he makes optimum use of what he has. Ritual, symbolism, allegory, political themes, words and images - he uses what he can control like a master.

And - beyond that? I'll point, without (much) comment for the moment: Moviezzz comments on EW's 25 best action films - a discussion with overtones of the philosophy of vagueness - when does a film with violence turn into an "action movie"? ZZZ's also got footage from the new PT Anderson film.

And oh - another Blogathon! July 15-21, at the Projection Booth: "Movies I've Borrowed for an Unreasonably Long Time" Blog-a-Thon. The way my viewing habits run hot and cold - very hot: right now I am in the midst of watching Deadwood start to finish (that Journey post previous I wrote hearing it read in the voice of E. B. Farnum), A Deadwood disk a day, more or less... at other times... I do have one film I've had for three months. Child's play. Somewhere in the house I have a Chaplin disk I lost back in 2001. Anyway - another blogathon to look forward to.

And speaking of which - later this week, Film Music blogathon at Windmills of my Mind.

Who reminds us, by the way, that today is Roger Ebert's birthday - the great man is back in action, here reviewing La Vie En Rose, a pretty fine use of film music itself. And that - or rather, this - Piaf doing what she did - is where I shall leave you. Bon soir!

Sunday, June 17, 2007

A Musical Rant

I have been working up a kind of round up post, which may or may not appear, when all is said and done. This started life as an item on that post, but has started to grow beyond the bonds of decency, and needs its own post...

Amanda Marcotte at Pandagon wonders if Journey is due for a revival - thanks to the Sopranos, and - she implies - because hipsters have jumped the shark. Well - I don't want to get into what the hipsters think: trying to parse out those questions will cause the brain to shrink and pull away from the cave of the skull. But I have too many opinions on music not to take a few shots at Journey, and maybe poke around the question, Which Bands Should Be Revived?. I don't know from hipsters, but I do know that my neighbors - most assuredly not hipsters, judging from their musical tastes - love their Journey. I could hear one of them yesterday declaring (outside over beer and burgers) that "Don't Stop Believing" was the best Journey song ever. God knows they've played the goddamned thing enough. Now the question strikes me as being a bit like arguing about the best item on the Taco Bell menu. But it is also wrong on the merits. Nice enough schlock-rock it may be (and perhaps ideally suited for its pride of place at the end of the Sopranos' run), but it hardly matches up to "Wheel in the Sky" or "Lights" - both halfway decent pop songs, with a decidedly less schlocky sound.

But as a general thing: christ I pray Journey doesn't make more of a comeback than they have already. I would suggest they have never gone away as fodder for the average schmoe - but god forbid this sort of thing spreads and people (who aren't just looking to get drunk and bleat out lyrics they can remember from junior high) start trying to claim they're underrated. I will be calm. I will philosophize: it strikes me there are three types of bands that get revived or re-evaluated.

1) Bands that were unfairly neglected or denigrated in the first place - that on rediscovery, recontextualization, what have you, are seen for what they were - damned good. Some names that come to mind - The Bee Gees; Queen; George Michael - all have suffered periods of abuse; all are superb.

2) Bands that were neglected or denigrated for relatively legitimate reasons - but should be appreciated for other, no less important reasons. The first name to come to mind is The Carpenters: they had great songs; Karen had one hell of a voice. But their sound, production, etc. was hideous (most of the time) - the worst faults of 70s soft-rock. This category contains a number of bands that started well but turned to shit - Chicago comes to mind, or Heart. Or acts who come in and out of focus - Neil Diamond, I'd say.

3) Bands that can be appreciated at a very simple level - or ironically - but should not be taken as more than that. And I will happily put Journey in this category. And a great many others of all kinds.

Meanwhile: there are two other types of bands that sometimes get revived. First - bands that have no excuse needing to be revived. Bands, that is, that anyone with half a clue should like as soon as they hear them. Think Johnny Cash - who may have had a stretch out of the public eye, but anyone hearing Folsom Prison Blues or San Quentin should have immediately wigged to his true value. Marcotte lists Motorhead, Led Zeppelin, Fleetwood Mac as being revived (along with Cash) - again - amongst the hipsters? maybe. But that condemns the hipsters, in most instances. (Though with the Zep, and Sabbath, and bands of that ilk - they did require rescuing from themselves: it was easy, in the 70s, to lose the sounds of those bands in the blur of their godawful behavior and clothes, and the general atmosphere of bloat and self-indulgence. I did: it took a belated exposure to punk (and rap) to make me hear them again.)... The second type - bands that nothing can save. I dread with a terrible dread the days coming, 5-10 years from now, when the 90s get revived: when hipsters drag Creed and Limp Bizkit from their moldering graves and declare them cool, after all. I get some inkling of this baneful day in the attempts to prop up the ghastly remains of Def Leppard and many of their fellow 80s hair metals bands. Ugh. And I am so very very glad that I have never come across any signs of an Air Supply revival. The thought appalls....

But going back: the categories are a bit fuzzy. Most of these bands fall into disfavor in the first place because of shifting fashions: so why would the fashions that drop the Bee Gees into disrepute be different from the fashions that bring the Carpenters low? or turned Heart from a fine, if unspectacular, band into schlock? Well - I'd say, because quite frankly - the Bee Gees were still writing great songs as a disco band - and disco itself, seen for what it is, isn't half bad. The Carpenters had great songs - but the sound - there was no excuse for sounding like that. Elton John did soft rock and he never sounded like that. Not mush. And Heart? well - that's a different problem - they not only fell into the putrid pit of 80s production styles, they stopped writing decent songs. Ditto Chicago. Ditto Journey, though they didn't have as far to fall, and, in their defense, didn't fall as far. But 80s pop-rock galls me anyway - bands like Bon Jovi, who did write fine songs in their day, sounded like crap.

And so - I have to stop. I fear, behind all of this, is a pet peeve. The idea that Journey might be making a comeback annoys the bejesus out of me. For one reason - because if you have to bring back middle of the road, mediocre, 70s arena rock mewlers turned 80s superstar overproduced mewlers, at least can't you bring back a band that could write songs? If anyone's gonna get a revival, why can't it be Reo Speedwagon? They did write good songs: even in the 80s, at least on Hi Infidelity - terrible production, but still some very nice material, that holds up - unironically (and ironically, I can't deny it) - better than anything Journey did.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Musical Interlude

And again, a weekend, and time for some music. Fire up iTunes and see what comes out...

1. The Velvet Underground - Some Kinda Love **** - as a song, as good as it gets - as a performance (this is straight off Velvet Underground), also superb, but there are various live versions that are better: since stars are for sorting... I feel like I need to explain why I would list a song like this at less than the highest possible level
2. Warlocks - Bleed With Out You Babe - Lou's legacy lives on
3. Marvin Gaye - Ain't that Peculiar
4. Beastie Boys - High Plains Drifter ***
5. Kevin Drumm - Samson's Cold Minotaurs -
6. Pere Ubu - Humor Me **** - see remarks re Some Kinda Love...
7. Sonic Youth - Unmade Bed
8. Richard Thompson - I'll Never Give Up - from his new record; I suspect a political meaning, though I have not parsed the lyrics yet.
9. Pere Ubu - Life of Riley (Live, from Apocalypse Now) ****
10. Edith Piaf - Polichinelle

Video: none of the songs above, but here are a couple of the acts, performing on David Sanborn's Nightmusic show. Richard Thompson, trading leads with Hiram Bullock:

and Cloudland era Pere Ubu:

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Brigitte Lin's Eyes

The happy day is here at last: the Action Heroine Blog-a-thon, at Film Experience. Here on this humble blog, let us pay tribute to the possessor of the best stare on the planet: Ms. Brigitte Lin.

Brigitte Lin is a classic movie star. She has the kind of screen presence women had in the 30s - she's more Barbara Stanwyck or Marlene Dietrich than anyone in this day and age. She's almost a silent film star - doing almost everything with her eyes, the tilt of her head, a gesture. It's a quality filmmakers have recognized and used: it's hard to think of any recent star who has provided more iconic images that Lin: in Peking Opera Blues, in The Bride with White Hair, in Chungking Express and Ashes of Time - and especially, in the second and third installation of the Swordsman series, where she plays one of the screen's great monsters, Asia the Invincible.

Asia the Invincible starts life as the brother of one Wu, head of a highlander group called the Sun Moon Sect. The first Swordsman film is about the machinations of a host of heroes looking for the Sacred Scroll, which offers unlimited powers to whoever uses it. At the end of this, Jacky Cheung, playing (in grand style) a completely faithless sniveling courtier, seems to get away with the scroll - whether he is supposed to be Asia or not, it's Asia who has the scroll and who reads it and follows its formula for unlimited power. This requires a certain sacrifice - though since the sacrifice turns him into Brigitte Lin, it has its mitigations.

The third film of the series, The East is Red, is (almost) all Asia's, and all Lin's. But the second film, Swordsman II, gives us Asia in transition - and that gives Lin a chance to use all her skills. Swordsman II is still, really, about the swordsman - played here by Jet Li - trying to retire from martial arts but constantly dragged back in by the complications of the troubled world. Asia is the ultimate villain in the story. But one of the complications Ling (the swordsman) faces is a strange, beautiful, silent woman who shares his taste for wine - none other than Asia the Invincible, mid-transformation, her voice still a man's, her face and body, Brigitte Lin.

Silence is no impediment for Brigitte Lin. She has the presence of a silent film star - she has the eyes of a silent film star. She controls the screen with her eyes, her gestures, the way she stands. The premise of Swordsman II, Asia mid-transformation, moving back and forth between appearing as a man and a woman, with her voice separate from her body, lets her play across her range. Dressed as a man, she bullies her underlings and enemies, caresses her concubines and her weapons, all the while smirking at what she knows and they don't....

Dressed as a woman, she flirts with Jet Li, let's him seduce her and protect her, but never without maintaining complete control.

It's all in the eyes: if the crux of feminist theory (grossly simplified) is that women are made the object of the male gaze, then Lin - like Barbara Stanwyck and her peers - resists that misogyny in the most obvious way: she never relinquishes her gaze. There is no doubt about the power of Brigitte Lin's eyes - filmmakers know, and the good ones exploit it - even when they hide her eyes, they know, there is no escape - she is never just an object to be looked at, she is always the one doing the looking.

And she is in control, of herself, if nothing else. She conveys, in Swordsman II (and indeed, in most of her greatest films), a strong sense of her awareness - she conveys curiosity, her sense of the strangeness of her situation. A man becoming a woman, and a person gaining unlimited power, at the same time - she toys with herself, what her body is doing these days, what her will can do, how people react to her, she tests herself and others, and takes palpable delight in it all. Awareness, consciousness, thought, in films, is often shown as a function of a character looking - Lin looks at the world, at other people in it, and she judges them, with those eyes.

And - I haven't forgotten that this is an action heroine blogathon - and we can't forget that Asia the Invincible is, after all, a supervillain. If you go against her, she will kill you with a flick of the wrist (and that glare):

There's a lot more of that in the next film - Asia wreaking havoc. Here, she only rarely has to muster much of the power of the Sacred Scroll - more often, she just keeps doing her needlework -

- until Jet Li starts trying - then, well, she becomes wrathy....

...I suppose the rest would be a spoiler - even knowing there's another Asia the Invincible film doesn't really tell you how this one ends. But I'll risk it far enough to say that the the ending of this film, and much of the premise of the next, depends on the kind of ambivalence and curiosity (for lack of a better word) Lin gives the character. She becomes a judge of sorts - testing the world, usually, though not always, finding it lacking. (That's quite explicit in The East is Red.) When you are, in fact, invincible, you can sometimes afford to let the good guys off the hook - you can even look away for a moment (maybe the only moment of the film she isn't staring something down).... Asia is a great character: Lin, a great actress, who makes the most of it.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Weekend Update

Music! with the iPod misbehaving, this playlist may be entered in something close to Real Time! That may lead to something.... Having gone a week without a post, I should try to make this more substantial. Like - what is happening in the blogosphere this week?

There are Blogathons going on and starting up: Simpsons blogathon, just concluding. A Ghibliathon just started - no roundup post up, but entries exist! UPDATE: now the headquarters post is up. And on Tuesday next - Film Experience hosts an Action Heroine blogathon - certain names come to mind... And (another late night update) - I didn't mean to forget Moviezzz' Grease 2-a-thon, Monday...

Discussions of films I don't plan to see: Dennis Cozzalio hosts a discussion of Hostel II. Michael Guillen posts a two-part interview with Eli Roth at the Evening Class: many others are less enthusiastic (more from Damian Arlyn). I don't have much to add to the comments I left at Moviezzz' place: there's no such thing as bad publicity; it really does matter what the film is about - texts and subtexts and context and all that; and I doubt it's about anything more significant than freaking the squares. Or maybe what I mean is - I can think of plenty of things to say about it, but it's all speculation without seeing the film, and I have no intention of doing that. Not because it's gross or evil or anything like that - because it sounds stupid. From what has been said (by defenders as well as distractors) it sounds like whatever meaning the film has, it has as a concept - "Torture Porn!" It may have some political implications, but I don't know if they depend on the film itself - just on the idea of what is in the film. It occurs to me, for instance, that Roth is to be commended for treating torture as a psycho-sexual pathology, instead of trying to pretend that real world torture (Abu Ghraib; Gitmo) has something to do with a "war on terror." Obviously not - it's all about causing pain, and symbolism - torture a Moslem as payback for 9/11. But that you can get from his interviews and the arguments; seeing the film seems superfluous.

And finally, updating links - either the Shamus has been on vacation in Bangkok, or has moved to a new location: Bad for the Glass.... Also some changes to the blogroll: a few additions; a sad subtraction - as we note the death of Steve Gilliard, an excellent political blogger and journalist. A good roundup of goodbyes can be found here.

And the Random Ten:

1. Liars - Hold Hands and It Will Happen Anyway ****
2. Eels - Novocaine for the Soul ****
3. Velvet Underground - Black Angels Death Song (live - thanks to Robert Quine)
4. Acid Mother's Temple - Stone Stoner [I'm listening this while reading Jim Emerson's response to a bit of Bill O'Reilly bullshit: somehow, seems right, especially when they get talking about dope. Legalize drugs, and this is what you will be hearing, from every car window!]
5. Sonic Youth - The Sprawl
6. Stanley Brothers - Man of Constant Sorrow ****
7. Miho Hatori - Barracuda
8. Byrds - Time Between
9. Burnt Sugar - Gibberish & Bushwhack
10. Feelies - Too Far Gone ***

And for video? Nice lot of songs up there, but let's add another. Nick Cave as Elvis!

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Boss of it All

If you're expecting a review of Boss of it All - well, okay. Though my main reason for posting is to complain. And complain about utterly local things... Specifically about the Coolidge Corner movie theater, who are showing this film - in their digital screening room. Which means - it's shown on a DVD. A nice DVD projector, sure - but still... This is the second time in a month that I have been annoyed to find a film I wanted to see was being shown there on video - the last time was Zoo. I was annoyed because I had been reading about the film somewhere and the director specifically mentioned that he'd shot it on film. So - I was displeased to find it on video. (And before that - Bamako.)

I feel guilty about complaining - the Coolidge has doubled its number of screens in the last couple years, and uses them to bring in marginal films. This means - that digital screening room is bringing in more films that might otherwise not be shown. But I am going to complain anyway. First - because it is a bloody shame to show Lars Von Trier films (or films as visually rich as Zoo or Bamako) on video, not film... And second, because the result seems a bit less that there are more films getting a theatrical run than that the Coolidge can keep films like The Lives of Others around for half a year. I don't mean that's a bad film - or the other films at the Coolidge are bad (right now, that would be Once, Away From Her and Day Night Day Night) - but those other four films have all played elsewhere - and three of them are still playing elsewhere. And now, between them, they are keeping a Lars Von Trier film off the real screens - and it is not playing anywhere else. And it worries me that this allows the Coolidge to bring in films instead of someone else - to get them instead of the Brattle or something like that - where, even if they only played for a day or so, at least they would get shown on a real movie screen.

Nothing to be done I guess. The irritating part is that these films aren't going to play anywhere else - it is precisely the films that won't show up somewhere else that get shown in the digital screening room - so I can't just choose to go where they'll look right. Very annoying. Anyway - as for the film itself - it's pretty good. A comedy - an IT company is run by one Ravn, who pretends there is a "boss of it all" in America. He wants to sell the company to Icelanders - he needs the boss on hand to seal the deal. He hires an actor - who has too many theories, including an infatuation with a crank ploaywright named Gambini - there are complications and the actor has to convince the employees as well... Things proceed. It's quite funny, a worthy Danish successor to Office Space or The Office - though it's Lars Von Trier and he's up to a good deal more. Brechtian jokes, jokes about Dogme (the crazy playwright sounds a bit like that), about filming in Danish instead of English - and a new trick called Automavision - a way of programming the camera, to randomly change position, angle and so on... Another way of giving up control, you could say - which of course is part of what Dogme was about as well... It's disorienting, but also rather funny, in itself. Von Trier's theories tend to be almost as funny as the films - serious or not, it's a bit of a put on.... And usually entertaining, in its utterly bizarre way.

Saturday Morning

My iPod, I fear, is starting to give up the ghost. Seems - and I may be imagining this, but I doubt it - that it starts out playing well, but after playing half an hour or so, starts to degrade. Like a warped LP, feeding through a radio station with bad reception. The nostalgic possibilities do not quite justify the annoyance.

Anyway, here goes, with the ritual Friday Top Ten, which as usual, appears on Saturday:

1. Spacemen 3 - Revolution (live) ***
2. Bob Dylan - Absolutely Sweet Marie
3. Butthole Surfers - Pepper ****
4. Pylon - Springtime
5. Motorhead - Bite the Bullet
6. Dr. Nerve - A Hammer in his Hand [Chicago meets - what? Albert Ayler? close enough. Got the groove part down, got the noise down too. Hell of a band.]
7. Beatles - Here, There and Everywhere (lack of stars more due to the pointlessness of distinguishing Beatles songs from one another...)
8. Franz Ferdinand - This Fire
9. Fripp & Eno - Tarazed
10. Pere Ubu - Electricity ****

As for YouTube - who else is going to link to Dr. Nerve videos?