Friday, October 29, 2010

Searching for Bryan Adams

So I’m in the car the other day after a long hike, riding home with some people I know from Barcelona.  I jokingly ask if they have any Bryan Adams to make the ride home more interesting. We all laugh at the prospect of listening to Canada’s greatest export, but two minutes later I hear the opening notes of Summer of ’69 on an acoustic guitar. Turns out they had the Bryan Adams Unplugged album on CD. Who knew that he had an Unplugged album?!?

Firstly, I am a Bryan Adams apologist. I loved “Everything I Do, I Do It for You”. I really loved “Heaven.” (Let’s be honest though, that song with Rod Stewart and Sting really sucked). His songs are poppy and corny, but if they catch you at just the right moment they can mean a little more than they should. Needless to say, hearing Bryan Adams on a sunny, warm afternoon after a long hike was awesome. Let me give you another example.

In undergrad I started to date this girl. She had a car, which was pretty rad for the 90s. And the first few times we drove around in it as a couple, Summer of 69 kept coming on the radio. A truly uncanny amount of times. Eventually it became ‘our’ song, all ironically, tongue-and-cheek style. A few years later, when I learned guitar, me, her and her roommate used to jam out to this. It was easy to play and even easier to shout along to.

Fast forward to 2010. When I hear this song now, it sounds a little different. The nostalgia of youth gone by that Bryan sings about is a little more real in my thirties. My enjoyment of it is a lot less ironic. In fact, it speaks to my own Summer of ’69. I’d like to think the halcyon days of the late-90s weren’t the best days of my life (we’d all like to think that they’re still ahead of us, right?!?!), but they were pretty damn good. This song for me now captures it.

Of course, it could have been any other song on the radio a bunch of times when I first started to date that girl. But it wasn’t. Bryan Adams, you’re officially on my life’s soundtrack. All the more amazing, it’s un-ironic.

Now please don't make any more shitty songs with Sting and Rod Stewart...


The 100 Greatest Horror Movie Quotes

I discovered this guy, Harry Hanrahan, through Pajiba, another movie blog-site that I look at fairly regularly. He makes these pretty great movie montages and what have you, and I thought this one would be a good way to start off this particular weekend. Or what I call: The Holidays. My holidays last from about Halloween to New Years Eve, much to my boss' chagrin. But what can she do? Discriminate against my beliefs? I think not.

Anyhow, you can check out his other ones, I once wrote about one he did featuring the 100 Greatest Quotes from The Wire (which he did a sequel to as well. (Which, incidentally, still didn't feature my favorite quote or one of my favorite quotes.

That being said, from Pajiba : "Ahead of Halloween, our illustrious video editor, Harry Hanrahan, is debuting another one of this 100 Quote video masterpieces here on Pajiba. It’s not for the faint of heart. For those hoping for some comic relief, you won’t find it here. There are no pithy one liners or Evil Dead II quips. These quotes are purely of the scary variety, and Harry scoured the best horror movies of all time to compile another extensive montage designed for the hardest of the hard-core horror movie movie fans.

Pull up a seat. Take your place on the edge of it, and soak in the terror."

A list of films found in the video:
0’00 - Session 9, The Devil’s Rejects, Candyman, Texas Chainsaw Massacre
0’32 - Misery, Psycho, American Psycho, The Hitcher (1986)
1’00 - Peeping Tom, When a Stranger Calls (1979), Black Christmas (1974), Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978), A Nightmare on Elm Street
1’32 - The Fly (1986), An American Werewolf in London, Aliens, The Blair Witch Project
2’00 - The Thing, Friday the 13th, The Haunting (1963), Poltergeist
2’29 - The Ring, Scream, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween, The Exorcist, Manhunter
3’01 - Dracula (1931), IT, The Exorcism of Emily Rose, Child’s Play, A Nightmare on Elm Street
3’34 - House of 1000 Corpses, Halloween, The Omen
4’01 - Hellraiser, The Lost Boys, The Evil Dead, Pet Sematary
4’33 - The Omen, My Bloody Valentine, The Return of the Living Dead, Scream
5’04 - Friday the 13th, Island of Lost Souls, White Zombie
5’35 - Zombie Flesh Eaters, Dawn of the Dead (1978), Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956), The Birds
5’59 - Jaws, The Thing, Halloween, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Psycho
6’33 - Carrie, Evil Dead II, Black Christmas (1974)
7’01 - The Sixth Sense, The Shining, Candyman, Freaks
7’32 - Dracula (1931), Blue Velvet, Hellraiser, Videodrome
8’02 - Friday the 13th, The Mummy (1932), The Shining, IT
8’37 - Silence of the Lambs, The Black Cat, Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2
9’01 - Audition, Black Sunday, Hellbound: Hellraiser II, Saw II, The Serpent and the Rainbow
9’30 - Deliverance, The Mist, The Wicker Man (1973), The Wicker Man (1973)
10’00 - The Fly (1958), Evil Dead II, The Exorcist, Frankenstein (1931), Rosemary’s Baby
10’34 - Se7en, Carrie, Hellraiser, Silence of the Lambs, IT
11’06 - Black Sunday, Them! (1954), The Haunting (1963), Night of the Living Dead, Poltergeist, The Shining
11’28 - Phantasm, Suspiria

What can I say? I'm a sucker for well-made montages.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

It's been a long time, since I left you, without a dope beat to step to...

Well, well, well. Some might say that this entry is a little overdue. First off, it was my idea to start the blog. ME ME ME! That said, my homeboys Matt and Kevin held it down for real in my absence. Great articles about cool subjects and we’re up to a decent amount of hits so they must be doing something right. Let’s be honest though, having me not write yet is like keeping Lebron James on your bench. It’s time to unleash the beast. I hope to be adding more entries going forward that will rock your world. Things that will make you laugh. Things that will make you cry. And things that you make you go hmmm. I’m a little out of practice, so I may not bring the heat like I usually do. But here I am, in the flesh (digitally) and ready to roll. And now, the moment you've been waiting for...I present to you the LeBron James of the blogging world…

OK I really don’t have much to say at this point, so give a man a break. In lieu of anything of substance or depth, let’s talk about a song I can’t get enough of: “Skinny Love” by Bon Iver. This is the version I love, from the Jools Holland show in England. Bon Iver just kills it. It’s such a heartbreaking sounding-song. I say “sounding” because when you read the lyrics they really don’t make much sense. At times it almost seems as though he was throwing words together randomly. But it sounds so plaintive and yearning that it’s always resonated with me. Although I usually like the lyrics to be somewhat understandable, in this case I'll let his self-indulgent lyrics go. 

Isn’t this the most apropos first-entry for me? Overly sentimental and lacking clarity? I’d say that’s about right.

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s been real and it’s been fun. But it hasn’t been real fun, just kidding! OK, I’m not kidding. ANYWAY, enjoy this first entry. I’m sure scholars many years into the future will look back on this moment as a turning point in the history of literature. Count yourself lucky to be a part of it.


My Wish For a Back The Future themed Tour

With all this broo-haha over the 25th Anniversary of the release of Back To The Future, I feel like something is getting lost in the shuffle. It's certainly not the actors, I saw the main ones on The Today Show today (sans Crispin Glover of course.

And..Mary Steenburgen? I don't want to make waves here, but seriously no one cares about Back To The Future Part III. I mean besides the trivia that ZZ Top played a jug band in the movie.

Anyway, who is that handsome gent in the back? Why Huey Lewis of course!? How insulting on the 25th Anniversary of the release of Back To The Future and the release of the movie and all these extras on Blu-Ray that Taylor Swift is there to sing in the Plaza but they make Huey Lewis hang out inside the studio. C'mon people! Put him outside and rock both of his songs from the Back To The Future soundtrack. Sure, that would only appeal to oldie oldersons like myself, but come on, we have more liquid cash for entertainment than those dorks that are really into Taylor Swift. We're the ones that (might) be buying stuff advertised during The Today Show. Show us some love! At any rate, I am quite sure Huey Lewis and the News have been out touring....Casinos, maybe? But they need to jump on this Back To The Future gravy train and have some comeback Back To The Future concerts. It'll be packed with people my age!

Listen, I'm no promoter obviously, and I don't understand the logistics of this sort of thing. And I realize he only has two songs on the soundtrack, but I mean he could just play the rest of Sports and maybe the title track from Pineapple Express. Okay, I haven't thought this through obviously, but there should be some forum for Mr. Lewis to gain some money off this, and for us to enjoy his righteous jams once again. Well, I guess we just did. Nevermind.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Splice (2010)

This revolved around a rogue pair of gene splicing scientists who decide to take their experiments to the next level and add human DNA to the animal DNA they have been working with. Trouble ensues, obviously or there wouldn't have been a movie.
This was disappointing just because it could have been so much better. And it definitely has its moments, particularly in the beginning when you are dealing with their experiments, and the icky sort of body horror of creating new life from different sets of DNA. One moment is particularly amazing, but I don't want to spoil it here. The movie seemed confused, and it took too long to become the monster movie it really wanted to be. I would love to see David Cronenberg make a remake that would be really creepy.

Friday, October 22, 2010

A Trip Down The Rabbit Hole

Last week I had one of the rarest experiences in relation to my fanaticism with music.  There are a few things in music that bring me joy like none other.  There’s the obvious instance of an amazingly dope show (the times I’ve seen Radiohead, The Raconteurs, The Hives, and The Avett Brothers all qualify in that category).  I also find it remarkable when I put on an album that I haven’t listened to for some time that I never really thought much of, and then all of a sudden, it clicks with me and I find it to be so much better than I had previously given it credit.  The Smashing Pumpkins’ Pisces Iscariot, Radiohead’s Pablo Honey, and Matthew Sweet’s Altered Beast are all excellent examples of that for me.  The other special moment has probably only happened three times prior to last week.  It started with Genesis’ Foxtrot album (more specifically, the epic track Supper’s Ready), continued with Pink Floyd’s equally epic track from their album Meddle, Echoes, and the Grateful Dead’s Terrapin Station.  For these are all songs/albums that came from the 70’s which I had never known existed.  And when I listened to them for the first time, they did something to me that rarely happens, I became infatuated almost immediately.  What makes it even more special is the fact that these are all songs and albums that are older than me and have been around my entire life, yet it took many years for them to even reach my ears.  How could I have been missing out on all this great music for so long? 

I had to listen to them over and over again and would talk to others about them incessantly, which provided various reactions.  My high school friends thought I was lame for getting so amped for Peter Gabriel era Genesis, so the only one I could talk to about them was my brother who got me into them in the first place.  In fact, he’s still one of the only ones I can talk to about them, which I suppose is a way for us to bond even more since we both love them so much, to the point where we’ve seen the French-Canadian Genesis recreation band, The Musical Box, four times, which I’m sure will be the topic of an upcoming blog. 

I had plenty of friends who were into Pink Floyd so they shared my enthusiasm when I started getting into them, and though I’ve never gotten that into the Grateful Dead, I was pretty much blown away while hanging at a friend’s party my senior year in college when Terrapin Station came on.  I was so taken aback and was even more so when I found out it was the Dead performing it.  I went out and bought the album the next day and played it over and over again at parties and at home.  Every time I hear it now, I am brought back to the beach house in Fairfield, CT where I first heard it.  And I hadn’t had a moment that profound since, until last Friday.

I mentioned in my post about Motley Crue how much I love Palladia, and it came through for me once again.  For it was on that channel that I saw a documentary on the nerd, prog-rock, pseudo metal, baseball loving, Canadian band, Rush.  It's called Rush: Beyond The Lighted Stage and I would highly recommend it to any music fan.

I had been aware of them for years and had known of their most popular song Tom Sawyer since high school.  I knew lead singer Geddy Lee had a crazy high voice and is way into baseball, and I knew that I could make the statement that drummer Neil Peart is the greatest of all time and any true music fan would probably not argue with me.  But for some reason, I never cared enough to delve into their material no matter how many good things I heard about them.  Incidentally.  Though I’m not a huge fan of Family Guy anymore, I do love this clip:


My buddy Jon from grad school is probably the biggest Rush fan of all my friends so I learned more about them by talking with him, but still, I never really cared to listen to them all that much.  But last Friday I found myself watching this excellent documentary that hooked me in right away.  I was immediately drawn to their character as they seem to have as much integrity as any other artist or band that has ever existed.  They are just down to earth, good guys, who, as Billy Corgan put it, “have a level of musicianship that is just insane".  After their second album, it became clear that they weren’t drawing large audiences and the record company pretty much gave them one more chance to conform and produce a hit album that would sell and make a lot of money.  So what did Rush do?  They made an album whose entire first side was dedicated to a 20 minute prog rock opus.  They made the album they wanted to and thought that they would most likely get dropped, but that would be OK because they’d rather have gone back to their day jobs than make an album that wasn’t true to them.  How can you not be amazingly humbled by that logic?  Especially in the 70’s!  These guys are cool.  To everyone's surprise, the album did very well and garnered them more notoriety and paved the way for the rest of their career.

The make it or break it album for them was called 2112 and it was this album that piqued my curiosity the most.  This was their Thunder Road, the album that would define a now classic band.  This was the album that Jack Black, Billy Corgan, Kirk Hammet, some dude from Pantera, and everybody else interviewed for the documentary lauded as the album that sold them on this band.  I then paused the movie, went to my computer, and downloaded the album.  I had to hear it.  And this is how it starts:

As a result, I’ve found myself back in that beach house in Fairfield, becoming slightly obsessed with an album (well, mostly that 20 minute title track) that I can’t believe has escaped me despite the fact that it’s two years older than I am.  But there’s even more to this personal groundbreaking story, for while they say good things come in threes, I had sort of an omen the next day.  I was flipping through an issue of “Rolling Stone” when I came upon a review of the new Guitar Hero game.  And while the reviewer didn’t enjoy it as much as the new Rock Band, he did indicate that the highlight of the game was the last song which he described as such;  “Warriors of Rock caters to the game’s original metalhead fan base with heavy Eighties classics, alt rock hits and the ultimate guitar geek centerpiece, Rush’s 1976 prog epic 2112.  You rock your way through a new ‘Quest Mode’ to earn the right to tackle 2112, which is broken into seven suites with between-song narration from the band. (You also get to shred the Rush tunes in psychedelic settings like a temple and in front of the Rush starman).”  Needless to say, I was somewhat floored to read this not 12 hours from viewing the documentary that introduced me to this song in the first place. 

A few hours later, I found myself in a sports bar in West Palm Beach with two of my uncles as we sat down to watch some college football.  Not long after my arrival, two middle-aged well-dressed women sat next to us and started talking about the Bar Mitzvah they had just come from.  They were very nice and liked to talk, as do my uncles.  So the conversation went on for a while until it was discovered that these two women had a lot in common with my uncles (and to a degree, me) in regards to their musical tastes.  They start talking about all the shows they’ve seen and I could not help but hold back a smirk as my uncles bragged about seeing bands such as Blue Oyster Cult, Journey, and REO Speedwagon back in the day.  You know, when music was really good.  So I’m sitting there enjoying the conversation when one of the women starts talking about how she just saw Rush a few months ago.  I asked her about it and she went into how amazing it was and how it was the 15th time or so that she had seen them and that they’re still amazing live.  I had to bite.  I told her about my experience the night before and she just started getting all psyched to talk about 2112 and how it’s the greatest song ever.  She told me about how she first heard it on a record and listened to it repeatedly when it came out, usually with her headphones on.  According to her, I absolutely had to listen to it with headphones and that I should also follow the lyrics since they’re apparently amazing as well (by the way, there is no way you could understand the lyrics without reading them.  Geddy Lee’s voice simply won’t allow for that to happen).  Evidently the story takes place in the future (I’ll leave it to your no doubt stellar intuitive skills to guess which year) where the government has banned all music.  The hero of the tale finds himself in some deep cave where he finds an old guitar and begins to play it, laying the foundation for setting everyone in society free once again.  I still haven’t read the lyrics, but this woman was so passionate that there is no way she was wrong.  She encouraged me to check out more of their stuff and to more importantly, go see their show, for they’ve still got it.

Seriously?!  32 years of my life have gone by and I never heard of 2112.  And now, in the span of about 20 hours, I was being bombarded with what I could not aptly describe better than a “sign”.  I have listened to the song and album several times since and am really digging it.  I think this is the beginning of me delving into more of their catalogue and I’m pretty psyched about that.  There’s an entire band out there that apparently has some amazing music that I’ve never heard of, and in some ways, that’s more exciting than discovering a new band.  I don’t know how to explain or describe that feeling but for me, it is somehow more rewarding and meaningful.  I have slept on Rush for my entire life and I am just waking up to something that has always been there and that could be completely life-altering in regards to my journey into the music world. 

I’m not sure if I’ve done a good job of describing this aspect of discovering music.  But I think a pretty good analogy can be found in one of my all time favorite movie scenes (which apparently Youtube won’t let me embed in this entry, so I’ll just have to post the URL for you to check out)

 For it is in instances like my recent introduction to Rush, where I feel like Neo, and Morpehus is my Genesis/Floyd/Dead/ Rush, and my world is about to open up into new territories.  It’s not a complete analogy, but there are elements that are so true, and it really does encapsulate the beginnings of that “a-ha” moment that is so rare, but is oh so amazing.  God, music rules.


Thursday, October 21, 2010

Bad Obsession

So rather than just post a comment to Kevin’s challenge in his last post, I figured I'd put the current blog on which I’m working on hold as I feel compelled to write a little more than just a few blurbs about one of my all time personal favorite musical projects, Guns N’ Roses’ “Use Your Illusion”

I could probably write for hours on end in regards to this band as I can say with some degree of certainty that they are one of my top five all time favorite bands.  No joke.  While I don’t listen to their music all that frequently, when I do, I realize that their songs never get old.  The “Illusion” albums also represent some of the last albums I owned on tape.  I actually had to buy them on tape twice as a tragic event occurred while I was on a trip to visit my uncle JB in Florida.  We had gone to a rock quarry near his friend’s outside Gainesville to go swimming and such.  After a fun-filled day we were packing up the car to leave when it happened.  I had left my bag in the middle of a dirt road and one of JB’s buddies accidentaly ran over it with his truck, crushing my tapes and walkman located inside.  The “Illusion” albums were ruined and I was devastated, for at that time, I had probably listened to at least one of them for three months straight.  But lucky for me, JB bought me new copies and all was right with the world once again.  A few years later when I joined the CD world, I bought them a third time, and I can tell you this, those albums would be worth a fourth, fifth, or sixth purchase if necessary.  I’ll never live another day without having access to them.  Period.

So when Kevin initially asked me to select the songs from both “Illusion” albums that I would put on a solo album if I had to, my initial reaction was that it would be nearly impossible to do.  I jumped on my ITunes account and began going through all the songs and to my surprise, within a minute I had my list.  Now while I would never want to cut either album, as both are stellar, there are certainly some songs that stand out amongst the others and were absolute no brainers for me.  And what I’ve discovered, and am somewhat disappointed by is that it’s a fairly predictable list.  Just about every major single that came from those albums is on my list and every long song (over seven minutes) made the cut as well.  For while there are some brilliant tracks that didn’t make the cut, I had to go to my default in what can be considered an unfair, but also interesting question.  So here goes, my list of tracks that I would prefer if “Illusion” had been one album, in the order I'd probably put them:

  1. “Civil War"
  2. "Don't Cry"
  3. "Don't Damn Me"
  4. "You Ain’t the First”
  5. "You Could Be Mine"
  6. "Locomotive"
  7. “Double Talkin’ Jive”
  8. “November Rain”
  9. "Breakdown"
  10. "Estranged"
  11. “Dead Horse”
  12. “Coma"

So yeah, I’m a sucker for the longer tracks.  And don’t chastise me for going with so many singles as well, because the thing is, they’re freaking amazing.  Notice I didn’t go for the covers of “Live and Let Die” and “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door”.  Nor did I opt for the latter singles such as “Garden of Eden”, “Yesterdays”, or “Get in the Ring”.  But just for kicks, I thought I’d include some honorable mentions that I’d like to say I’d put on this list, but when push comes to shove, I just can’t:

“Perfect Crime”
“Bad Obsession”
“Back Off Bitch”
“Shotgun Blues”
“Pretty Tied Up”
“So Fine”

Those are just the first that come to mind, but I suppose they all really should be honorable mentions.  Except “My World”.  That song is just dumb.  But what the most amazing about the “Illusions” is that they’re both as long as an album can get at nearly 80 minutes each and they’re both near perfect.  It’s so hard to find albums that are perfect from start to finish.  Let alone albums that last 78 minutes from start to finish.  Let alone two albums at 78 minutes from start to finish.  Let alone the fact that the two albums were released on the same day.  Most double albums are packaged together but the Guns separated them in a move that nobody ever really did before and nobody has ever really done since.  Springsteen did with “Lucky Town” and “Human Touch”, and despite the fact I’ve never really listened to either of them, I doubt either of them are as good as either of the “Illusions”.  Plus, he never really intended for those albums to be released at the same time, it just happened that way. 

At any rate, I’ll leave you with a clip of an interview Axl did for MTV in regards to the massive tour behind the “Illusion” albums that were probably the beginning of the end for the band.  The world probably needed Guns to break up as it’s clear to see that Axl is batshit crazy, and sometimes I wish they had stayed around longer.  But maybe that’s why I love them so much; they never really faded away.  Every album they made was amazing and for a few short years, we had one of the all time greatest rock bands at our disposal, and they'll never get old for me.  Despite Axl's claim to the contrary, time will not fade the pages in my book of memories.


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Next Installment

Part 2 of what looks like it might shape up to be a pretty epic look at 90's music by Steve Hyden is up at the AV Club. This time taking a look at Axel Rose and Kurt Cobain. I really like the way he writes and I like his somewhat sympathetic portrait of Rose here. Or at least find it interesting. By this time, I, of course, was pretty heavily into drinking the Nirvana kool-aid in high school, but I think he takes a nice step back and does a really fair job of comparing and contrasting.

One especially interesting passage, actually the opening paragraph he sets up by talking about the trouble in writing about any historical time period. That the tendency is to always paint with a fairly large brush. I feel like we all do it in some way. I did it earlier today in talking about the sixties. He says, "The trickiest part of writing history is putting styles, trends, and social movements in proper perspective. Not everybody spent the ’60s making babies in the mud at Woodstock, or the ’70s doing blow with Bianca Jagger at Studio 54. We dwell on these things because they’re easily recognizable signifiers of their respective eras, but a lot gets overlooked when you use the easy shorthand of Nehru jackets and Bee Gees songs. The spectrum of experiences in any era is simply too wide; it makes me wonder whether the so-called “monoculture” ever really existed, where “everybody agreed on” what was good on the radio and the three TV networks. Maybe we’ve just gotten better about recognizing that even really popular things are irrelevant to significant portions of the population. A band as seemingly all-encompassing as The Beatles were in the ’60s probably didn’t mean much to a black teenager living in inner-city Detroit, a truck driver from rural Texas, or the millions of decent, hard-working, square-as-hell middle Americans who impatiently waited for those tuneless long-hairs to finish their songs on Ed Sullivan so the jugglers and impressionists could come on."

I like how he takes that closer look at the time period. And its also interesting to note, in any historical analysis, how anecdotes and rumor start to become the official story. 

Here's a question for my fellow writer, Matt, who also enjoys these bands and these sorts of exercises. (I am sure we have talked about this in person before) Say Gun 'N' Roses released Use Your Illusion as just a single album-which songs, from both albums-would you keep and put on that one single album?


Right At Your Door (2006)

So I was looking for something spooky to watch, and this has been sitting my my Netflix Watch Instantly queue for some time. Like a long time, so I figured I would take a shot at it. This could basically be a three person play. It all takes place pretty much in one location. There is two main characters, and a few others (some faceless due to gas masks) come in and out, but it boils down to basically a two person drama. It is about a husband and wife played by Rory Cochrane (Slater from Dazed and Confused) and Mary McCormack who live in the hills of L.A. One day, Mary goes off to work leaving Rory (not their names in the movie obviously) home, and a dirty bomb, or several, go off in an around the downtown L.A. area. One of the things that the movie does really well, is besides some chilling scenes of toxic ash falling from the sky, and the view of smoke rising from downtown L.A., is that the husband only gets his information, along with the audience, from whatever they are telling him n the radio. The best part is probably the beginning when the explosions first happen and he races around, confused and scared, trying to figure out what to do as reports come fast and furious the radio, and he catches glimpses of police trying to control the area, many starting to don gas masks. He is told to seal up his house, and eventually his wife finds her way home and he has to decide whether or not to let her into the house. It's interesting too, how the flow of information is handled, as per usual there is just as much rumor thats turned into fact. Overall, it turns into a drama involving just the husband and wife, trying to wait things out. I have to admit after the killer opening, it drags some in the middle, and leads to a real kicker of an ending. 

But it jangled my nerves enough, evoking enough memories of what it was like on the morning of 9/11 that I had to watch something in a more goofy realm of horror afterwards to sort of wash the taste out of my mouth, so to speak. Hence:


Dracula A.D. 1972 (1972-of course)

I've mentioned before that I am, by no means, an expert in Hammer Horror films, although I'd like to see more. While they are, obviously, never great filmmaking, thus far my experience has always been entertaining. And watching Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee make absolute mincemeat of their scenery is a real special pleasure. Here, the Count, played by Lee, is resurrected by some devil worshipping hippies and wakes up in swinging 70's Chelsea. Peter Cushing (Grand Moff Tarkin-Never Forget) plays Van Helsing, the vampire hunter's, grandson (or great grandson, I forget). Anyway, its pretty awesome to watch these two pros go toe to toe in a pretty ridiculous setting. Hammer Horror never really aspired to be great filmmaking, and if they stay this entertaining, then, well, they've definitely done their job.

Oh, and you don't believe devil worshipping hippies existed? Think again. I just learned of this song a few months ago from a mixtape of 60's music made by a DJ called Alphabethead. Sometimes I get bored (and annoyed) with hearing about the sixties, and sometimes I find something like this to remind how wild the sixties could really get.

Come To The Sabbat by Black Widow


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Barbara Billingsley

Barbara Billingsley also passed away this past weekend. I wasn't going to write anything about her at first because I didn't remember her work besides being America's most perfect mother on Leave It To Beaver.

And I figured, its sad she passed away, but I never even really watched Leave It To Beaver in reruns. But then the coverage of her passing reminded me that she had somewhat of resurgence in the eighties and early nineties. She, of course, was involved in one of the most famous scenes from the movie, Airplane:

But almost as close to my heart is the fact that she voiced the unseen Nanny on one of my Saturday morning cartoon staples growing up, Muppet Babies:

Whoa. That Muppet Babies clip opens up with a shot from Aliens. They used to do that all the time, mix clumsily mix live action and the cartoon. I used to get amped when they'd show clips from stuff I liked like Star Wars. But, at that age, I wouldn't have caught Aliens. I remember one time the Muppet Babies had to go down to the basement and Kermit or Fozzie referred to it as the "Temple Of Doom" and they showed a clip of the Kali Ma statue from Temple of Doom. That was awesome.

Where was I? Oh, Barbara Billingsley. In the eighties and nineties she was in a lot of sitcoms like Murphy Brown and Parker Lewis Can't Lose. She was also in a movie I quite enjoyed when I was young, and am not sure how it holds up today. It's the movie where Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon reunite called Back To The Beach in 1987. I should watch it again. But I remember her playing an announcer during the final surfing contest (don't ask). And her sons from Leave It To Beaver played Siskel and Ebert-like judges for said contest. At the end instead of calling Frankie Avalon "The Big Kahuna", she called him, "The Big Crapola". It was funny when she said it (at the time). But I'll be damned if I could find a clip of it. I couldn't even find a picture of her in it. The only reason I probably saw the movie is because men of my Dad's age are still nursing a crush on Annette Funicello that exists to this day, so he really wanted to see it. 

But just for s's and g's, here's an odd clip from the movie where Annette Funicello sings a song called "Jamaica Ska" accompanied by Fishbone. No joke.

R.I.P. Eyedea

I took this from someone who may or may not someday write something in this very space. I am also paraphrasing him here by saying, I wasn't so much into Eyedea's music, as in his albums. But his skill as a freestyler is undeniable. He's really amazing. Some might argue that freestyling is the true litmus test for an MC. Some might argue. Unfortunately, he passed away this past weekend and noone is sure of the cause just yet.

Here is showing off his skills alongside Slug of Atmosphere.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Joan Rivers: A Piece Of Work (2010)

I have to admit that I have never really thought ANYTHING about Joan Rivers. She always seemed to be really old school, some aging diva playing Vegas and what not. My Dad was a big Johnny Carson fan, and at one point he bought a box set of the "Best Of" of Carson (on VHS!) and I remember seeing old clips of her on there. I probably would have passed on this documentary altogether if it wasn't for my favorite podcast, Doug Loves Movies. On one episode of the show his guests and him mention how they had just seen this documentary during the Summer and how surprisingly good it was. So, it has been on my radar. (By the way, if you like comedy and you like movies, check out Doug Loves Movies its awesome. Perhaps not for everyone, I guess, but it is great) At any rate, that has to be my reaction. It was surprisingly good, and surprisingly interesting. Basically, they follow Joan Rivers around for a year, and manage to also get some tidbits on her back story. There is some juicy stuff there: Carson being so mad at her in the 80's for getting her own show, Bill Cosby helping her get her break on Carson....It's a pretty amazing portrait of a woman who, depending on who you ask, is in the middle, on the downside, or on another upside of her career. Judging by whats shown here, she is a workaholic (again, she's 75 and she seems to put most 25 year olds to shame in terms of her energy. So on the one hand, its nuts how busy she attempts to keep herself. Whats also nuts is her actual current comedy: its so raw and raunchy, and really funny. Which was surprising. It was also nice to hear about how her success early on, her subject matter, helped pave the way for female comedians of the day. Although she hates to hear about what an "icon" she is. Thats amazing too, even after all this success (you should see her ridiculous NYC Penthouse. It would make Liberace pass out) She still worries about all this, her act, her money, and she seems oddly so vulnerable still. Its really an eye-opening portrait of someone I probably wouldn't have given much thought to previously.


Friday, October 15, 2010

He Was The Walrus

I’m sort of ashamed to admit this, but John Lennon’s 70th birthday eluded me until Kevin reminded me of this special day and suggested that I go ahead and blog about my favorite musician of all time, for the Beatles are my all time favorite, and Lennon is easily my favorite Beatle.   I say this not necessarily for his personality as he was kind of a dick (George Harrison is much more likable and is by far the Beatle I would most want to hang with if given the opportunity and if mortality was not an issue), but because, for me, he wrote the strongest Beatles songs and was the most interesting of all.  Don't get me wrong, McCartney was great too and had some phenomenal moments, but anytime I’ve tried to make a Beatles mix; I’ve found it to be very Lennon heavy.  He was the most creative, experimental, artistic, and troubled member of the group and he was also their leader; the one who started it all.  And had some crazy dickhead of a whack job not shot him outside The Dakota in New York City on December 8, 1980 he would have been celebrating his 70th birthday this past weekend.

I’ve always been a Beatles fan but I became obsessed with them around my sophomore year in high school when I first really listened to “Rubber Soul” while traveling with my family as we picked my older brother up from college for Christmas break.  That Christmas, I also received "Hard Day's Night", "Revolver", “The White Album”, “Sgt. Pepper”, and “Abbey Road” as gifts.  I was freaking hooked, and I was particularly drawn to Lennon’s contributions that I had never heard before:



To me, he always had more edge than McCartney and Harrison and whereas I know a number of people who are drawn to McCartney and his amazing gift of melody, I have to defer to the more experimental and rocking side of Lennon. 

Lennon also seemed like he had more integrity than McCartney, for where Paul in the later years pushed the band to make a concept record that didn’t end up being a concept at all, a horribly awful movie (“Magical Mystery Tour”) and another film of the band recording “Let It Be” (which turned out to be a miserable experience for everyone) he just seemed to be trying to do too much.  Lennon was more about exploring himself and his music by addressing his own problems of abandonment from his childhood.  Lennon seemed to become more true to himself as McCartney seemed interested in making money and promoting himself and his interests.  As a music fan, I’m much more drawn to artists with integrity and who try to stay true to themselves and who don’t get too caught up in their own fame.  Granted, Lennon did this to a certain extent with all his protests of the Vietnam War, but at least that was for a good cause.

I’ll also concede that the years with Yoko seem pretty annoying, but when you step back and look at it, Lennon was head over heals in love with her and I think that was really great for him.  I think a lot of people have problems with Yoko because she’s a powerful woman which many men find intimidating.  Yeah, she forced herself on the band as they recorded their latter material and I don’t blame the other members for getting annoyed, but there is something beautiful about their relationship.  I’d venture to bet that most people would kill for a relationship that passionate and meaningful. 

The band eventually broke up and although Lennon went on to create some amazing music (much of it the best solo music to come from a Beatles member), little of it could compare to what he did while he was in the Beatles.  It’s extraordinarily sad for me that he has been dead all these years, and I often wonder what he would be doing today.  But I do find comfort in the fact that he started to make peace with himself and others in his latter years and was really becoming dedicated to his wife and infant son, Sean.  Lennon’s influence is so profound and will be passed on from generation to generation.  I’m not even sure anyone will ever truly understand how deep and meaningful his presence truly was. 

I’ve spent some time listening to some of his music this past week and although it’s been a while since I’ve done that, I can truthfully say that it never gets old.  What saddens me the most is the fact that his relationship with the other members of the Beatles never really mended after their breakup.  Many reports try to keep the mythology alive that everything between the former band members was pleasant but my suspicion is that is far from true.  I suppose that is one of the things that you sacrifice for musical genius.  How could these guys not be so full of themselves with all the phenomenal music they created?  Maybe that’s why Ringo was the one nobody ever seemed to have an issue with.  In any event, today I am left mesmerized and solemn thinking about my musical hero. 

I’ll leave you with a clip of what is quite possibly my favorite Lennon song of all time.  A few years ago, I made a mix for my sister and wrote some of my own liner notes to her to give a little background on each song.  In the mix, I included this Lennon solo track and I believe I described it as such:  “You know that episode of ‘Seinfeld’ where Elaine dates that guy who must have absolute silence every time the Eagles’ ‘Desperado’ comes on?  Well, this is my ‘Desperado’”.  For a better song to encapsulate John  Lennon, you will not find.  Call it egocentric, or simple-minded, or depressing, or despondent, but as far as real talk goes, this is as real as it can get.  And that's reality.


Famous Monsters of Filmland Covers

Here's a smattering of covers from the famous Famous Monsters of Filmland magazines. These cover illustrations are pretty awesome. I especially like the Exorcist one just because, to me, that movie is so much more than your average "monster" movie. My other favorite has to be the "Jaws vs. Ape" one. Anyway, I hope you enjoy a little old school monster nostalgia. If I judge it right, these are probably smack dab in the middle to late period of it's run:


Thursday, October 14, 2010

Eric Stoltz in the disappearing photograph from "Back To The Future"

Remember in Back To The Future when there was a picture of Marty McFly and his sibling, and they were disappearing from the photograph because they were being "erased from existence", because there was a chance their parents might not meet and kiss and fall in love at the Enchantment Under the Sea Dance? Sure you do! Anyway, as much as my mind was blown by seeing footage of Eric Stoltz playing Marty McFly before they fired him, somehow seeing that they put this photograph together is almost as mindblowing. Man, Eric Stoltz must really be loving the fact that everyone is bringing all this back up all the time. Just wait until the 25th anniversary of Mask or Some Kind of Wonderful, Eric. It'll be your turn soon.


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Monsters (2010)


Tina and I caught this on the On Demand In Theaters Now on the ol' cable box last night. I heard about this through people seeing and reviewing it at SXSW, which is what originally piqued my interest. I had never seen the trailer so I had no idea how they marketing it.  It might be an easy sell, but people might just be disappointed with what they get. I feel like we were disappointed but that might not be the movie's fault. Let me explain. The movie takes place 6 years after a N.A.S.A. probe carrying some sort of organic life from outer space crash lands in Mexico. Most of Mexico becomes an "infected zone" where the organic life had grown and reproduced into the "monsters" of the title (You never quite get a great look at them but they look sort of like big space octopi). The American and Mexican armies are still trying to contain them 6 years later, especially the Americans are trying to keep them from getting into the U.S. and spreading. They do this mostly by force but also by erecting a huge wall on the border to keep them out (Get it!?) A photographer and the daughter of the guy he works for ends up having to travel through the  "Infected Zone" in order to get back into America. So here's the thing, you listen to that description and you expect one thing, I suppose. And we were, on this night, looking for thrills and chills, so to speak. But what we got is actually a more human drama that is more an allegory about immigration and U.S. interventionism. But even that is sort of background fodder for the main two characters and their story and the human cost of everything that's going on. Its sort of a bastard child between Cloverfield and The Road. What's amazing is that the writer and director Gareth Edwards, takes the very indie production, he did most everything on the film, manages to make something that looks like a big budget film with the leanest of productions. It was basically him, his editor, and his two actors for most of the time. It's really a dramatic thriller/love story disguised as a sci-fi film. He even manages to organically create a relationship between the two leads which starts off as antagonistic, and due to circumstances slowly transforms into something. It's actually all really interesting, and especially interesting to see what can be done with little or no real resources, in that sense it is really impressive. Just don't go into expecting monster movie thrills like we did because they aren't there. There are a few, and the atmosphere of tension he manages to create through bare glimpses of the creatures and news footage make for really nice world building. But if you go into expecting it to be a thrilling experience its not so much. But it is definitely an interesting one to say the least.


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

October Spooktacular Long Weekend Roundup

So, I am sort of playing catchup here. For one thing I had change from the corny "Shocktober" moniker, because I just realized I had stolen that from another blogger. So, I went with the even cornier "October Spooktacular". SPOOOOOKY! Anyhow, I kicked off this October Spooktacular (yeah, it works) this weekend with a few classics and one non-classic that is just out-and-out insane. More on that later. So October is like the Spooky Holiday Time where often people like to revisit old scary favorites, especially because they are often on television right now. You know, like people normally do. This Saturday ended up being somewhat of a lazy Saturday, and to an extent I blame the movies that happened to be on. And my own sloth, of course. But they were doozies! To whit:

The Descent (2005)

 I can't believe SyFy was showing this movie at 11 AM on a Saturday. Good for me, bad for any kids that happen to come across it. Seriously this isn't just a great horror movie, but a great movie in general. I think it is destined to become a modern horror classic. First off, it features a bunch of tough-as-nails ladies going spelunking, and they aren't just cutsie airheads either, they know whats up and what the risks are. But, of course, they get trapped in the cave...and something ELSE is down there with them. It sounds so trite I know, but even before the "creatures" show up, it plays into our most primal fears: of the dark, and, to an extent the fear of being lost, and the fear of being stuck in a small place. Ugh. It also has what I consider to be one of the scariest jump scares that I have seen in 10 years. The first time I watched it with Tina we both screamed and grabbed one another. Thankfully, we were at home at the time.

The Shining (1980)

An actual bonafide classic. Everytime I watch it too, I find something else about it I like. I mean at first it was the big sort of scary stuff that stayed with me: the elevator full of blood, the twin girls in the hallway, the lady in the bathtub, the guy in the dog suit. And they stay with you for good reason, don't get me wrong. But there is all sorts of things to admire. I can see what some people find Jack Nicholson to be a distraction, I mean he acts much too overly "crazy". Check out when he is talking to Lloyd the bartender, he's all smacking lips and exaggerated mannerisms. But the atmosphere is so oppressive, that, to me, he really isn't much of a distraction. But Shelley Duvall, as his wife Wendy, is really good, having to shoulder the responsibilities as everything starts to unravel in that place. Even before that the weight of dealing with her husband and the mysterious powers of her son were clearly weighing on her: check it out in the very beginning when Danny has an "episode" and she is talking to the doctor, the ash on her cigarette growing longer as she tries to come up with a way to explain to the doctor what happened with Danny and her husband before they moved. Also, it being Stanley Kubrick and all, it looks amazing. Check out just how these shots are framed:

The Exorcist (1973)

I've never understood when I meet people who tell me this movie is too slow for me. I really like that it is such a slow burn. The horror of something like what happens to Regan sort of slowly insinuating itself into someone's normal life is a terrifying proposition on its own. If it had happened all of a sudden, and Regan jumped out of a closet in full makeup, it just would not have worked as well. It's smart: it askes big questions about man's place in the universe and about religion. And it is scary: for it to be able to have not only shocks, but to be able to sustain a mood of visceral, nervewracking horror for two hours is just an amazing feat. True confession:  It's still one of the few movies I'd rather not watch by myself with the lights off. It still gets under my skin. Hence, why I watched it at 10 AM on a holiday Monday morning.

Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977)

So, I figured, I had never seen it, and it is also available right there on my Roku. It's only one of the more reviled and ridiculed movies ever. Why not give it a shot? All I can say is: wow. Yeah, its really not good, but it also not good in a spectacularly crazy fashion. It's so weird, Warner Brothers obviously wanted to recreate the "magic" so to speak of the original Exorcist so they threw a bunch of money at the sequel. And, for whatever reason, decided John Boorman was the man for the job to bring dignity and restraint to the production, just like he did with his previous offering, Zardoz. Seriously, Mr. Boorman spent a good portion of the seventies in a very odd place, and it shows in his movies. So, like his previous movie, dignity and restraint went out the window via the ejector seat. Boorman and the Warner execs must have been sharing....something. From the outcome its pretty clear what that was:

But, hey, it was the seventies. Boy, was it.

Honestly, I don't know where to start with this thing, there's so much nuts and wrong with it. Boorman had lofty goals to examine the nature of good and evil and the duality within mankind. Instead it had a frothing performance by Richard Burton as Father Lamont, at his most Shatner-like. It had James Earl Jones dressed up in a bee costume. It, seriously, had a tap dance interlude by Linda Blair. It had a new age machine called The Synchronizer where the users could synch up there thoughts. Pazuzu, the name of the demon apparently that originally possessed Regan, flying as a swarm locusts. Really.  I will say though, I do find Louise Fletcher quite fetching. Its all really a mess, but if you have the chance and the inclination to watch it, you should check out just because it is so nuts.

One other thing about it. I seem to be making a habit of mentioning the music last, but the score is done by none other than Ennio Morricone, probably most famous for doing the music for The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. His score, particularly the main title, just like the movie itself, is also weird and kind of crazy. It's like he decided to meld disco and...tribal music, maybe. Here I have to say that its the type of looney that it sort of does a 180 back to being amazing. Here's a taste along with a few scenes for you:

This movie has it's ardent defenders too. I was surprised that none other than Pauline Kael and Martin Scorcese loved it and thought it was better than the original. Both of them are wrong.


The Social Network (2010)

I'll freely admit then when I first heard that they were going to make a "Facebook movie", I thought the idea sounded terrible. Then slowly, over time I warmed to the idea. David Fincher was attached to direct, and, to a lesser degree, Aaron Sorkin was attached to write. (He's a fine writer, but sometimes his writing really grates on me). Weird combination, maybe. But ultimately the result is really fascinating, and, I think a lot better than it had a right to be. I mean, its hard to pull something like this off, its harder to make a movie about people typing things compelling. But Fincher and Sorkin manage to pull it off. First off, it looks amazing, particularly the parts set at Harvard. Secondly, it's acted really well. Jesse Eisenberg in particular is great as Mark Zuckerberg. The film version of Mark Zuckerberg is really fascinating, who knows what he is actually like in real life. Even today in the kitchen at work people had various ideas of Mark Zuckerberg as a character and his motivations and what. To tell you the truth, I am still not sure. But, what makes sense to me is something I haven't researched but someone told me over lunch today: his second-in-copmmand (so to speak) the man who put up the money for the endeavor, Eduardo Saverin, played by Andrew Garfield, pitched the idea of the book The Accidental Billionaires  to Ben Mezrich. And thinking about the book and the movie, all somewhat, if not highly fictionalized, and coming from his, justifiably hurt, perspective makes a lot more sense coming from a very specific perspective. The movie is basically a dissection of all these characters, their relationships, and the creation of Facebook, being told through the various lawsuits that were eventually brought against Zuckerberg. I still don't know what exactly to make of Zuckerberg, I think Rashida Jones, playing one of his attorneys, says it best basically when she tells him, (and I am paraphrasing) that, he's not actually an asshole, he just likes to pretend he is. 

Two last things: it's weird because the beginning of this movie starts in Fall of 2003, that's really not that long ago. It's also interesting that originally Facebook (or The Facebook) was supposed to be about exclusivity, and now everyone and their mom is on it. I guess thats why its worth a billion dollars today.

And, lastly, the score done by none other than Trent Reznor is really really good.


Oh, and it ended with this song. A Beatles song that is not only good but very apropos. (I know, I know, Matt, saying a Beatles song is good is just redundant.)

Eric Stoltz in Back To The Future

I have a few more posts on the way today, but I just came across this.

As you may or may not know, it has become a part of pop culture legend that Eric Stoltz was the original pick to play Marty McFly in Back To The Future. But after five weeks of shooting the director, Robert Zemeckis, and producer, Steven Spielberg decided they needed to change directions for the character and he was removed and replaced by, of course, Michael J. Fox. Some footage of what Stoltz did is being incuded in the new blu-ray release of Back To The Future. It's pretty wild.

I realize that Eric Stoltz is a successful actor, and has made his share of money. But, man, it must have hurt to be yanked off of Back To The Future and for the movie to become such a huge smash hit.