Tuesday, February 24, 2009
What can I say but, yep, right in the middle of the televised Obama speech I felt an urge to turn to this, which I was initially turned onto by the unlikeliest source-Guru Master Lou. Is it the finest greatest hit compilation evuh? A newly discovered Bukowski gem? David Mamet's shortest and most brilliant play? If you don't gobble it up in one full sitting you are indeed a pussy, and forever denied entry into the club: 27:18
Monday, February 23, 2009
Unabashedly addicted, I virtually quiver in boyish anticipation as the yearly Academy Award Show approaches, reveling in the good, the bad, and the truly ugly moments, checking off my Oscar choices, and rooting for the deserved and railing against the undeserved. And, of course, handing out my own awards the day after.
Michael J. Pollard Surprise Award: Oscar Show Producers Bill Condon and Laurence Mark, creating the most watchable Academy Award show in years
Billy Crystal on Steriods Award: Hugh Jackman for tossing away a traditional opening monologue and going for the Crystal-like jokey song –and-dance number
Rob Lowe/Snow White Award: “The Musical is Back” production mismash (credited to Baz Lurhman), despite the presence of the dynamic Beyonce
Mickey Rourke Daddy-O Hair Award: Multiple winners, including Man on a Wire director James Marsh (gigolo Dracula look), Slumdog cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle (aging Brit rockstar look), and presenter Adrien Brody (Charlie Manson disciple look)
I Know That You Know That I Know Award: Watching Jerry Lewis carefully contain himself as he delivered a surprisingly short, shockingly unsentimental, impeccably worded acceptance speech, looking all the while like Quasimodo-meets-the-monkey-man, or Jekyll about to transform into Hyde as split-second expressions of rubbery mayhem threatened to tear away his deep-boned attempt at steely sincerity
Lovelier Than a Hundred Dollar Bill Wrapped Around A Piece of White Chocolate Award: Penelope Cruz
Ain’t Gonna Really Help the Revolution Catchphrase Award: Sean Penn’s “You commie, homo-loving sons of guns”
Bad Chemistry Award # 1: Sarah Jessica Parker and Daniel Craig
It’s Called Timing Award: Steve Martin and Tina Fey very funny screenplay presentation
It’s Called Concept AND Execution Award: Ben Stiller’s hilarious Joaquin Phoenix riff
Blink and You Missed It Award: Judd Apatow’s amusing take on the critically flayed comedic box office hits montage
Forever Young Award: Eva Marie Saint, Shirley MacLaine, and Sophia Loren
Scarier Than Hellboy Award: Goldie Hawn
I Wanna Hang With Him Award: Josh Brolin
Please Put Yer Hair Back Down Award: Diane Lane
Bad Chemistry Award # 2: Zac Efron and Alicia Keyes
Yes Indeed I’m in Love Again Award: Marisa Tomei
Orson Welles Woulda Been Proud Award: The simple, but highly effective incorporating of classic film moments into each Best Film montage
Ahh, Growing Up Award: Natalie Portman
Simplicity, That is Thy Name: All in all smart and brief acceptance speeches, and not one orchestra play-off
Do It Again Award: Sheer genius, tasteful and emotional affecting, and, as the night wore on, almost suspenseful (who would appear, and which presenter would be teamed-up with which nominee)-the whole idea of having former winners gathered to present the four acting wards
Close, But No Cigar Award: Me, myself and I, for hitting 19 outta 24 winners correctly.
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
I somehow slumbered (a sure sign of my own wilting mindscape and coagulating blood vessels) by the 2003 release of my literary hero (and ofttimes personal guru) Richard Meltzer’s Da Capo Press book length rant about his own impending geezerdom, Autumn Rhythm (“Musings on time, tide, aging, dying, and such biz”), and having recently been gifted said tome, found myself curled over in the hardy-har-har position more often then not. Meltzer (once among the greatest rockcrits right alongside Lester Bangs, Nick Tosches, and a coupla other more seriass types) has long since set his piercing gaze at the vagaries of pop culture in general and at the general descent of human (particularly American) behavior, all the while banging out his written explorations with his own brand upon the brain literal stylistics, a giddy and rambunctious chomp-and-whomp of howling CAPITALIZATION'S, bending ellipses, slangarama, dovetail poetics, and randomly edifying lists. Meltzer is the hairiest of navel gazers, both goofily egofied and outrageously self-examinitive, yet always resoundingly hilarious. Chapter titles alone tell what you need to know: “Sick Person’s Car,” “Dust,” Goodbye Porkpie Cravat,” “Person Who’s Dead,” “The Old Fuckeroo.”
Then again, here’s the real deal, from the chapter the book‘s title is drawn from, “Autumn Rhythm”, from a sub-section entitled “Irrelevant”:
A simultaneous mass exit, like the whole world going down in one fell swoop---“Armageddon,” “Holocaust,” “nuketime U.S.A.,” whatever you want to call it—is terrifying in no small part because it would make all of our individual deaths irrelevant, rob them of their uniqueness---a bogus uniqueness to be sure, but one forever seen as crucial to the projected end gestalt. (You’re born alone, you die alone—that old chestnut.)
“See here how everything leads up to this day,” sang the Grateful Dead in 1970, speaking of an old man’s day of dying, his lying in pain (for passerby’s amusement) as his sole final anything. With world snuffout, personal agony has no moment, and nobody lies dying, everybody just DIES…ceases to be…is and summarily ISN’T…and nothing else is, or was, ever again, ever…even words aren’t, and weren’t.
The thought of dying young---“before your time”---in such a universal termination is one grimly unacceptable excruciation. To be over 45, let’s say, or 50---to already be in the “death zone”---and be faced with imagining that same annihilation is quite another. To have toiled and moiled through a lifesworth of delusions, for an approximate –minimum full-life’s duration, and have it add in a flash to undifferentiated molecules on the slag heap of undifferentiated nothing—now THAT is a frightening outcome to grabble with.
If for no other reason that to serve as an exemplar, let me get fatuously personal: to be forced to surrender the concept of FUTURE, and of strangers not born, their grandparents not yet born; finding delight (or finding anything) in my silly writings; to be in the same breath abandon, after so long and foolishly embracing something as absurd as the notion of works (and words!) that OUTLIVE MEN…well…fuck shit pissgodfuckingdammit…tell me about it, okay?
Thursday, February 12, 2009
Nothing like it. The hidden gem, the found object, the gewgaw in the back of a bedroom dresser draw. Often tarnished, sometimes obscured, possibly encrusted in dust, but mysteriously enchanting and magically beckoning. Culture vultures live and feed off this stuff--the seemingly endless trove of lost classics, overlooked wonders, ignored geniuses. At the same time it downright pisses us off, despite the frequency of the occurrence that we, the self-proclaimed diviners of all things cool, hip, underground, and ramalamadingdong, that we somehow missed the boat.
Well its happened again. From, of all places, Florida, in the early to late-80’s, a rocker named Charlie Pickett, alongside a few different versions of the traditional line-up (2 guitars, bass, and drums), cranked and spit out an affecting patch of Stonish, cow-punk, and neo-punk sounds, all of them delivered with the proper ferocity and extremely well-written. Along the way Charlie and his boys managed to get produced by REM’s Peter Buck, signed by Twin/Tone, and underwent at least one lengthy tour-in-a-van to America’s then punk palaces.
A wide array of Pickett’s indie singles, LP and EP cuts, and a few live tracks have resurfaced on a collection entitled Bar Band Americanus (Bloodshot), a must-have for anybody still intrigued by the punk movement and it’s many offshoots and tie-ins. Pickett and his boys definitely fostered a punk attitude, and many of the songs are dripping with smart ass drug references and overt paeans to drug use, but Pickett’s overall soundscape (when delving into Rank and File territory) translates as a less ferocious (and less caricatured) Heartbreakers, with a huge debt to the one and only Flaming Groovies. (Pickett actually takes the ultimate challenge--covering the seminal, one-of-a kind, tower-of-song “Shake Some Action”, and almost, almost, pulls it off.) The sharp writing (“Get Off on Your Porch”, “All Love All Gone”, “Penny Instead”, “Heads Up-Heels Down”, “American Travelust”, "Overtown") whether it be focused on the typical topics of drug sickness or bad love, or more expansive themes like America’s landscape past and present, are vividly resounding despite the variance in recording quality.
According to the liner notes Charlie’s gone from junky to guitar slinger to practicing lawyer still up for the occasional gig. (Sounds like the premise for a HBO series.) Hello and Goodbye Charlie, and I just can’t believe I missed out the first time around.
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Despite my fevered ardor for Guy Maddin’s The Saddest Music in the World (2003) and My Winnipeg (2007), I somehow missed his in-between effort, Brand Upon the Brain (2006, Criterion, 99 minutes, $39.95) yet another truly captivating exercise of Maddin’s rickety-tickety Freudian nightmare meta-silent David Lynch-meets-King Vidor brand of cinema. Campy? Not quite. Eye-winking? Certainly. Disturbing? Just about. Naughty? Undeniably. Visually stimulating? To the point of distraction and beyond. Brand Upon the Brain is a simple tale of childhood rediscovery set largely in a lighthouse on an a remote island, with a bit of fratricide, gender-bending, teen sleuthing, mad science, Lord of the Flies, voyeurism, black magic, age reversal, and even human resurrection tossed in the Maddin blender. That blender is shot on 8mm; chock full of silent film technique, surrealistically layered, both dizzying and hypnotic. While it operates within the seeming confines of primitive expressionism it moves and flits with the speed of light—shopworn imagery propelled by a rapid fire modernism. It sure ain’t butter for the popcorn crowd, but anyone with an eye for truly vivid filmmaking won’t be able to take their peepers off it. Pop this in the DVD player and it will feed your dreams for days.
Friday, February 6, 2009
Let's face it, as we baby boomers age and rage on,we can't help but look for any and all evidence concerning both the vitality and potency of the Over-50 club. Pop cult figures and artists and writers who seem to still be in game shape take on a new transferential significance. Hey ma, look what he's doin', top of the world, in my mind's eye I'm right up there on top of that exploding tank with 'em, still sharp as hell, fueled with defiance, and poetically coherent. So right, you guessed it, I too worship at the alter of the Gnarly King,aka Neil Young, whose newest tidbit manages to make you laugh and clench your fist simultaneously, who somehow embraces the new DIY technology by thrusting his middle finger at it, who still rocks in gutbucket style and rants with pointed virulence, who is still, despite his age (thank-yer-stars), having a spanking good time rocking in the free world.
Tuesday, February 3, 2009
Timothy Hutton brings just the right does of personality and solidity to Leverage (TNT, Sunday, 10:00 PM), a capricious modern day Robin Hood tale, wrapped up in the mechanics of the caper genre. Hutton plays an ex-insurance investigator, given to drinking, grieving the loss of his son, and angered at the insurance company that did him wrong. He puts together a team of crooks consisting of an attractive con artist (Gina Bellman), a laid back tough guy (Christian Kane), a computer hacker (Aldis Hodge), and an upscale thief (Beth Riesgraf), and together they drum up a full-scale con, exchanging sideways looks and petulant quips all along as they grab back the bacon from the pigs of the week. It’s a predictable paint-by-numbers hour, with a decent comic tone, easy and breezy, pleasantly forgettable. I’ve always enjoyed Timmy Boy’s work, and the intelligence and ease he seems to bring to it, but this is a mere popcult trifle, neither dramatically substantive or wickedly entertaining, not even registering enough to fight its way to the back-up DVR list.