Friday, August 24, 2007

Essential Reading 8/24/07

Interview with Edward Landler, who is finishing up a documentary on Watts Towers that he's been working on for 15 years.

Jeremy Beaks recommends a list of pre-code talkies. "More than the Bible, Americans' concepts of right and wrong were instilled by Walt Disney, Frank Capra, William Wyler and so on. It's a fascinating legacy, one that's probably beneficial and pernicious in equal measure."

Cinebeats has a great list of cool foreign (mostly genre) films that I'll be trying to see in the future.

Simpsons quotes now showing up in the OED.

A report on film restoration as of Jan. 1, 2150.

So there's this conservative think tank called Family Security Matters that has several prominent "mainstream" conservatives on their board. They also have some horrifying extremist shit published on their website. They've tried to wipe out the evidence of it, but it's been saved by Google cache. Read the jaw-dropping fascist diatribes that have been salvaged here (suggesting Bush nuke Iraq, dissolve congress and the courts, and name himself President for Life), and here ("The very least that must be done to halt the Hispanic invasion is the mass enslavement, or execution, of the invaders, which must be followed by an American invasion of Mexico to enforce American language and values upon the Mexicans"). Fun reading.

Max Roach, 1924-2007:

Check this one, too.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Funniest Man Alive Michael Cera.

This week's hyperbolic statement brought to you by Superbad.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Spittin' Wicked Randomness, Vol. XXII

I love this photo.

My final contribution to The Fake Life: a look at the endings of Spike Lee movies (to fit in with the Best Endings theme), and some contribution to this Death of Cinema discussion. Remember, your comments are always welcome.

Last week's episode of KCRW's Good Food included Jonathan Gold's rundown of the best bacon dishes in L.A. To wit:

Hunan ham (bacon) stir-fried with hot peppers at Chuan Xiang Tower (227 W Valley Blvd #118A, 626-293-8653) in San Gabriel

house-cured guanciale (hog jowls cooked Roman-style) at Vincenti in Brentwood

sweet, thick and juicy Nueske bacon at Square One
in Silver Lake

"pig candy" (bacon baked in brown sugar) at Lou in Hollywood

bacon wrapped dates stuffed with Parmesan cheese at A.O.C. in Los Angeles

There's more detail if you listen to the podcast. Good stuff. On the opposite end of the appetizing spectrum, this week's show had a piece on Eyeball Tacos. God, I can't even think about that.

You know what other podcast I've been listening to? Writer's Almanac. From which I learned that yesterday was the birthday of both H.P. Lovecraft and Jacqueline Susann.

Name that film!

Kill Dill!

Danny Trejo's favorite taco!

When Andy met Steve!

Two DVD's I'm looking forward to: Gus Van Sant's debut Male Noche, and finally a complete Twin Peaks! God, I can't wait to watch Twin Peaks again.

Finally, respect for one of my favorite jazz musicians, possibly the greatest drummer of all time, Max Roach. When I learned he had died a couple days ago, I went sifting through my old cassettes to see if I could find this song I taped off the jazz show on WUOG, a live Max Roach recording that had someone keeping a steady afrorhythm on a cowbell or something, while Max improv'd all around the beat. But I've been periodically throwing out old tapes, and I guess an old cassette that just says "jazz tape" on it is an easy target. Instead, go to Locust Street and get acquainted with the man.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Religious Right: Still Not Lovin' The Troops

Saturday, August 11, 2007

The Wild World of Hasil Adkins

I taped this documentary off someone a few years back. No idea who's responsible, but since it doesn't seem to have ever gotten any distribution, I put it up on YouTube. Part 2 is here, part 3 is here. Curiously, bits of this doc were on YouTube already in the form of this episode of the British show, In Bed With Medinner, which (contrary to the comments from outraged psychobilly fans) is quite hilarious.

Hasil Adkins was a crazy rockabilly performer from the backwoods of West Virginia, who performed as a one-man band, playing drums with his feet while singing and strumming guitar. He's best known for his 1957 (maybe?) single "She Said," which was covered by The Cramps. He died two years ago. This documentary catches him late in his life, but with age (and the ravages of alchoholism) not slowing him down. Wild, hilarious, and offering some glimpse of life in the rural South.

I had to edit out about 10 seconds from the first part because the tape was damaged (looked like I might have pressed "record" while the tape was in the VCR at some point. Ah, the days of analogue).

Elsewhere, Noz at Cocaine Blunts has unearthed 80 Blocks From Tiffany's, a documentary on late-70's gang culture in The Bronx, which is another way of saying "the early days of hip hop culture."

Edit: Oh yeah, I knew there was something else I wanted to link. My friend Jason Jenkins posted some video from the Fujirock Festival. Cool footage of Iggy, Deerhoof and Marva Whitney. Flip through the last couple pages of his blog, there's some great stuff. It looks so much cooler than any rock festival I've ever been to in America.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

2006 Revisited

I watched The Host again last night. When I listed my Best of 2006 at the beginning of this year, I made a comment that The Host was a lot like Little Miss Sunshine, but watching it again, with that idea in mind, it's much more obvious. There's even a wacky escape from the hospital in a van with family members running to get in the open van door! It's practically the same movie!

So I figure, now that I've seen most of the key films, I'll re-do my list. I think the only really important films (besides those Iwo Jima movies, which I really doubt I'll ever get around to) that I still haven't seen are Hostel and Cars. So for now, my Top 10:

1. Pan's Labyrinth
2. The Fountain
3. Children of Men
4. Dave Chappelle's Block Party
5. The Descent
6. Lady Vengeance
7. United 93
8. Casino Royale
9. Volver
10. Old Joy

And the 10 runners-up:

The Host
The Good Shepherd
This Film is Not Yet Rated
Awesome: I Shot That
The Queen
Jet Li's Fearless
Marie Antoinette

Looking back on it, 2006 is really an incredible year for movies. This bullshit about the Death of Art Films, or Hollywood studio product driving everything else out of the market, is totally given the lie by a half-dozen filmmakers who realized very ambitious, unconventional projects last year: Guillermo Del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth, Alfonso Cuaron's Children of Men, Alejandro Innaritu's Babel, Darren Aranofsky's The Fountain, Terry Gilliam's Tideland, and David Lynch's Inland Empire. I think three of those turned out to be masterpieces of cinema. Tideland and Babel both missed the mark a bit, and Inland what it is. But the fact that anyone is even attempting this sort of thing speaks pretty well for the state of the art. Add Almodovar's Volver and Park Chan-Wook's Lady Vengeance and you've got a pretty great year right there. Then, almost on the opposite end of the spectrum, there's Paul Greengrass' 9/11 docudrama United 93, one of the most intense movies I've ever seen and a masterpiece in it's own right.

I didn't put Casino Royale in the top 10 after my first viewing, even though I loved the hell out of it. But, like most people I know, I've been into the Bond films for almost as long as I've been going to movies, so I'm an easy mark for stuff like the buildup to the big line at the end of the movie, or just the idea of making a Good James Bond Movie. So I had to handicap it a bit. But watching it the second time on DVD, I realized just how good it is, not just in conception but in executino as well. Everything, from the rapier dialogue on the train to the brutal fight on the stairway, is just much better than it needed to be. This is a Great Movie, full stop. Maybe even better than Goldfinger.

2006 also gave us two of the best concert films of all time. I know I'm very, very biased when it comes to the Beasties, but there is no film out there that conveys the experience of being in the audience at a concert better than Awesome. And I've already watched Block Party multiple times. I can tell that it's going to be the movie I watch the most times over my life from the whole year.

The Descent is an excellent genre entry. I said this before, but the problem with so many horror movies is that they have to make the characters make idiotic decisions in order to keep them in danger. The characters in The Descent make very bad decisions, but they all make sense for those characters, in those situations, with the incomplete information those characters have.

Finishing out my top 10, the zen character study Old Joy is, like The Descent, a movie about old friends spending a weekend in the Appalachians, but with much less spectacular results. I'm always fascinated by these small movies where not much seems to happen (my favorite example has always been Ruby in Paradise).

Shortbus, The Host and Brick are all fun, kooky, and well-made little movies. The Good Shepherd is a great film for History Channel/espionage buffs, but probably a bit slow and ponderous for anyone else. It has to be, given the subject matter, but you can't deny that it hurts the film, so I can't quite put it in the top 10. This Film is Not Yet Rated is maybe not quite as great as I thought it was when I first saw it, but certainly one of the movies I'd be quickest to reccomend as a must-see movie this year, and manages to be as fun and entertaining as it is informative.

The last few I just added on there to make it an even 20, but The Queen is the film that I think should have won Best Picture. It's not perfect--way too reliant on expository dialogue to convey every idea to the audience--but it seems signifigant in a way that none of the other nominees did. It was about an important moment, and I don't mean the death of Diana, but the change in the way people do things, the "Oprah-ization" of the world, although that's generally used as a derogatory term, and I don't think it's necessarily a good or bad thing. But, as Elizabeth says in the film, the world has changed, in very strange ways, and the film does a great job of exploring the divide between the old world and the new.


A few other things I'd like to mention. First of all, The Fake Life is coming to an end. Sad but true. But we're ending with a two-week blowout of posting new and old material. The old stuff includes a repost of some of my (and Charlie's) What's Left? columns. I still get a lot of compliments for the piece on Song of the South and the Censored Eleven, but I'm personally very proud of the Going Ape! article, because it's one of the only funny things I managed to write for TFL. As for the new stuff, check out Doug and Andrew's debate about Land of the Dead. Good stuff. And both Andrew (dark and cruel) and Doug (happy and inspiring) have pieces up about their favorite movie endings (with more to come).

Bobbie has her own blog now. Go there for her opinions on comedy and politics, stuff about upcoming shows and classes, and general stuff about life. She's moved copies of most of the stuff she's written at TFL and elsewhere on the web there, but she's also writing some new stuff.

Joss Whedon has a new webcomic up at the Dark Horse Presents' MySpace page. It's called Sugarshock, and it's a scifi comedy about an all-girl rock band. It's pretty silly. I mean that in a good way. For the record, I didn't really like the first four issues of his new Buffy comic (Chris Stangl has a pretty good review up, which mostly lines up with my take on it), but I LOVE the stand-alone issue 5.

And don't forget: Tomorrow is Vincent Price day on TCM! I might call in sick just so I can finally see The Last Man on Earth.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Tom Snyder (1936-2007)

Sometime around 1996, I remember watching some documentary, probably on E!, about late night talk shows. What I remember is finding out that the conversations with the guests were all planned out beforehand. There was someone working on the show (this was the position held by Janeane Garofalo's character on The Larry Sanders Show) whose job it was to interview the guest beforehand, find out what they wanted to say, and write down all the setups for the host. Somehow, finding this out just pissed me off completely. How fucking lame that these people can't even have a conversation on TV without setting it all up!

That's about the time I started watching Tom Snyder's show, which came on at midnight, or maybe 12:30, during the last period of time that I didn't have a job that required me to get up in the morning and prevented me from watching late night talk shows.

Snyder was a weird host. As he was getting the show underway, he'd always say "so fire up a Colortini, sit back and enjoy" or something. Was that a joke he'd started in the 60's the first time he had a show in color, and for some reason kept it going? I don't know, because I'd never seen any of his previous talk shows, and only really knew about him from seeing Dan Akroyd's impersonation on SNL. And why that strange choice of verb? You don't "fire up" a martini. And he'd tell these long jokes, and pause before the punchline to ask someone off camera, "You know where I'm goin' with this?" (a phrase that I started using myself) But the one thing you can definitely say is that he didn't do scripted interviews. He talked. Sometimes you wondered what the hell he was talking about, but there was no question that you were listening to a real conversation.

Snyder died a week ago, so it's kinda lame that I'm just getting around to this, but I wanted to say something about him because he was an interesting guy (and I'm not gonna front like Ingmar Bergman or Antonioni were big enough parts of my life to write about). So tonight, let's fire up a colortini (or whatever you like to fire up) for Tom Snyder.

Monday, August 06, 2007

A Quicky (On Global Warming)

Global warming denialists are kinda funny. It should be a relatively simple Occam's Razor test: do you believe that the combined efforts of Al Gore and the handfull of politicians who have made an issue of the environment, the powerful alternative energy lobby, liberal academics and environmental activist groups have managed to strong arm 90+% of the scientific community into going along with the lie of man-made global warming, or do you believe that the oil companies (the most economically powerful group in the world, which also happens to include the President and Vice President of the United States), the coal lobby, the U.S. auto makers and the manufacturing industry in general have used their massive wealth to convince a small handfull of scientists (most of them in oil-funded think tanks) that the whole thing is a hoax? It doesn't seem that dificult to figure out.

But apparently, some industries are starting to line up on the side of reality. According to Dr. Robert Bell, author of The Green Bubble - Waste into Wealth: the New Energy Revolution, insurance companies are beginning to actively lobby for more sane environmental policies as they are faced with the possibility of huge payouts for damage caused by increasingly strong tropical storms and advancing oceans. Robert Bell isn't a climatologist, but an economist, who is looking at the politics of "greening" from a mostly economic standpoint. Ian Masters has an fascinating interview with Dr. Bell on his July 29th episode of Background Briefing. Download the podcast here.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Nostalgia Blast: Video Concert Hall

Back in 1979, when I was first discovering the wider world of rock music (ie, stuff besides KISS), the local TV station started showing this show called Video Concert Hall. It was basically a one hour, syndicated version of MTV. And I got to thinking about it, and did a Google search, sure that someone out there must have made some kind of tribute page to it, or at least a wikipedia entry. Sure enough, not only is there a wiki, there's a blog!

Some of the songs that stand out in my memory of watching this show were The Police's "Message in a Bottle," The Who's "Baba O'Reily," Nazareth's "Holiday," and Pete Townsend's obscenely catchy "Let My Love Open the Door." I hadn't developed the most discerning tastes yet--I remember thinking that this cheesey Styx song rocked hard!

One thing that was kinda neat about it was that they programmed pretty much everything they could get their hands on, so in addition to the rock/pop stuff, there was disco from The Bros. Johnson and Rufus & Chaka Khan, southern rock from The Atlanta Rhythm Section, and even a jazz video from Herb Alpert. And thus, some of the first rock songs I was exposed to were by The Cramps, The Dickies and Iggy Pop. Man, The Dickies' cover of "Knights in White Satin," which I didn't know was a cover at the time, is so great. The original is, to my ears, one of the most godawful things ever recorded, and they turn it into this fucking BRILLIANT pop-punk song. It's the guitar solo that really makes it, taken directly from the original, but put into a context that really lets it shine.

Another thing that was pretty cool about it was that it opened with a montage of video clips set to the first 30 seconds or so of Led Zeppelin's "Carousalambra." I only knew the song as "the Video Concert Hall Theme," so when I bought In Through the Out Door and first heard the song on the record, it was pretty freaky.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

August Events

In 1979, a punk rock band out of Florida called The Eat pressed 500 copies of a 7" with two of their songs, "Communist Radio" and "Catholic Love." 100 of those copies were given away free at a release party, and many of them were probably smashed by the crowd. Then, years later, Jello Biafra was being interviewed in Maximum Rock n Roll, and he mentioned "Communist Radio" as one of his favorite regional punk records. Next thing you know, copies of it were going for as much as $1,000 to obsessive punk collectors. "Communist Radio" really is one of the best pop-punk songs I've ever heard, pure hook built on a Ramones beat. And now, the entire discography of The Eat, along with several live performances, is now available on a double CD from Alternative Tentacles, It's Not The Eat, It's The Humidity. And there was much rejoicing! Thanks to Something I Learned Today and KBD Records for alerting me! It's also available for download on eMusic, along with other great Florida bands. For more information on The Eat and Florida punk, go here...or check your local library!

Yes, many exciting events are coming up this month. The American Cinematheque wraps up the Mods & Rockers festival tonight with a 3-hour extravaganza. All My Loving features vintage 1967-68 performances by Hendrix, Zappa, Floyd, The Who, The Beatles and more set to violent news footage from Vietnam, and it's followed by Cream's 1969 farewell concert and a 1971 documentary following Cream's drummer Ginger Baker through Africa! And tomorrow begins the 7th Festival of Fantasy, Horror, Science-Fiction and Whatever the Fuck! Some highlights: This Sunday, Ken Russell's The Devils shares a bill with The Blood on Satan's Claw. Next Thursday, a Peter Lorre/evil hands double bill of The Beast With Five Fingers and the amazing Mad Love. Saturday the 25th, a new Ultraman movie, and a double feature of Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) and Fiend Without a Face.

August on TCM is Summer Under the Stars month, where each day is dedicated to one star. 7/6 is Robert Mitchum, 7/7=Jane Russell, 7/9=Myrna Loy (with plenty of Thin Man movies), 7/10=Vincent Price, 7/16=Elvis, 7/19=Errol Flynn, 7/30=Buster Keaton. Also, Friday is Joan Crawford. I'm not a huge Joan Crawford fan, but they are showing Trog!

Music worth grabbing this week:

Anonymous - Corporate Food 7". Some of the weirdest shit I've ever heard.
Danny Cox - "Hot Down in Chile". Pro-Alliende funk!
Melvin Jackson - "Funky Skulls". Epic funk jam with bizarre treated bass.
Killed by 7". Exactly as many great punk tunes as you can shake a stick at.

Recomended reading: George Saudners' critique of the American psyche. One of the funniest things I've ever read.

Chicks With Mics: 08/02/07

This is going to be a hot show, with several of my favorite comics (and best friends) performing on one night in the Ice House Annex. Come on out!

Speaking of the Annex, last Thursday was a surreal experience, as I participated in The Dopest Show on Earth, a sort of pothead variety show. There was standup, there was music, and there was a gameshow, in which I was a contestant. The twist of this gameshow is that all the contestants were high. Because the host, Jeffrey Peterson, took us out to the parking lot and smoked a bowl with all of us. A strange experience, to be sure. Then there were three elimination rounds for the four contestants. First round was who could blow up a balloon fastest (I guess to see who had the strongest lungs from smoking pot?), second round was trivia questions (about pot-related movies and pop culture), third round was playing Operation. I got eliminated in the trivia round. It was clearly due to my cultural bias--both the questions I missed had to do with black foks (one on Next Friday, the other on Montel Williams, who I didn't realize was a big medical marijuana advocate).

Highlight of the night, for me, was the musical guest, Woody Woodstraw the Devil's Son-in-Law, aka John Norwood Fisher, aka founding member of the world's greatest party band, Fishbone! Bobbie did a shout-out to him on stage ("Could you have come up with a more difficult handsign?"), and he talked to us for a while after the show. So I was pretty starstruck.

Fisher's set was great. He played about four songs, some on a 5-string bass, others on an acoustic guitar (which he kinda played like a bass anyway), and did some funny storytelling between each, in character as The Devil's Son-in-Law. Ton's o' fun!