Archive for the ‘Movies’ Category

Slowly fading all away, but still Reatarded

Posted: July 2, 2016 by The Social Retard in Movies, Music
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Even though this was written a year before, consider it an addendum to the earlier post about Jay Reatard. This is my review of the documentary of the aforementioned prolific artist.

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Better Than Something BlackstarBlackstarBlackstarBlackstar1/2 (4/12/12)

A raucous performance (as if there was any other kind) of “Oh It’s Such A Shame,” by Jay Reatard and band in France opens Better Than Something with a bang. This is followed by excerpts and remembrances from the 2010 South By Southwest tribute show. The format of the documentary is a bit off putting as footage of Jay in 2009 is juxtaposed with comments from fellow musicians and friends recorded less than a year later, after his death. There’s also plenty of archival footage of performances with the Lost Sounds, Angry Angles, and the Reatards. While Jay obviously didn’t enjoy doing press, the footage of him at his home show the notorious perfectionist and cantankerous personality in a relaxed and affable light. He oozes enthusiasm whether talking about record collecting or even recalling a horrific childhood tale that inspired the Lost Sounds’ “1620 Echols St.”.

Though mostly reflective, Jay makes his views of music and the lifestyle a career music demands. He speaks candidly about his self-destructive impulses, needing to “destroy my whole life just to build it back up”. Particularly amusing is Jay’s constant music evolution as a means to avoid complacency. He compares punk rock to wrestling and his embarrassment that he was nearly thirty and still referred to as a Reatard. He didn’t want to end up like 1980’s pro wrestlers Jake “The Snake” Roberts* or Koko B. Ware ending up “smoking crack in a Ramada”.

There are plenty of interesting tidbits revealed in the doc. He had planned to one day release a country album under his real name. Jay was buried next to Isaac Hayes, thereby making that cemetery the coolest ever. He made music because he was “afraid of everything else”.

This isn’t The Decline Of Western Civilization. It’s not a cautionary tale. It’s not Sid & Nancy, a glamorization of punk lifestyle and drugs. Better Than Something is a unique celebration of this prolific and truly gifted artist. What makes this film special is the rare opportunity to chronicle an emerging punk rock artist on his ride to stardom only for him to fall and never live to see his legendary potential. We see him at the beginning of his creative apex in almost real time. Then again, each subsequent Jay Reatard release sounded more and more special; it’s hard to argue that there wasn’t even more amazing music to come. Filmmakers Alex Hammond and Ian Markiewicz were certainly in right place at the right time. And while we can all agree that we wish the narrative had different ending, they did a great job of adjusting to the circumstances. They documented Jay Reatard’s music as his music documented his life.

*=2016 footnote: You should also check out the Jake “the Snake” documentary: The Resurrection of Jake the Snake.

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Like the rest of the world, I was introduced to the Paul Thomas Anderson films through his second effort, Boogie Nights. I thought it was absolutely atrocious. What about these horrible irredeemable characters am I supposed to find fascinating or entertaining. Aside from topless Heather Graham (something I’d waited around ten years to see at that point, since License To Drive. Maybe not that long as I was only 9 when LTD came out and the concept of tits as eye magnets had not quite germinated), this movie held no intrigue.

I was 18 when Boogie was released and probably not in the proper or mature headspace to deal with the concepts introduced. I most certainly did not want to see Marky Mark’s dick either. My hatred of Mark Wahlberg stems from this movie (likely even further back to his awful music days). It also established PTA as a director I had zero interest in following. He was part of an indie filmmaker movement, following right behind the Kevin Smiths and Robert Rodriguezes of the world. I lumped him in with the Todd Solondzes (one sick little fuck) and Wes Andersons (yes, I really hate Wes Anderson) rather than the Darren Aronofskys.

Despite all the touting of Magnolia by a friend of mine, I stuck to my guns and refused to watch another PTA flick. It had Tom Cruise in it, along with that same pudgy creepy fucker from Boogie Nights. Fuck that. It just looked awful, no offense. Then again, this same friend said that she would watch the Firefly pilot if I watched The Royal Tenenbaums. She also tried to get me to watch I Heart Huckabees (from the then completely insufferable David O. Russell, more on him at another time maybe), which I actually just walked out on after 20 minutes. This was at least 7 years ago and I have no assurance that she has seen one minute of Firefly. This is a scenario where we both lose.

Do I even need to give a reason why I didn’t want to see Punch Drunk Love? I know that he of the Technicolor Shirt and Nightmare Beard loves it but he’s usually wrong, about everything.

With all this in mind, then, why did I bother to see There Will Be Blood. Other than the title, I couldn’t think of a reason initially. I have always been an admirer of those in film that are just good at their craft. I like to see them at the height of their powers. For all of his awards and acclaim, I had no real interest in the work of Daniel Day-Lewis. He made long, boring period pieces. Only Gangs Of New York really interested me and it was awesome. TWBB fell right into that oeuvre. I had been reading about his process of acting and the reviews all called this DD-L’s finest performance to-date. I threw my own misgivings out the window and gave it a shot.

What I saw was a mesmerizing achievement. Every moment carefully molded by a master craftsman. Granted, when you get the greatest acting performance in the history of film from DD-L, you’re starting from a position of strength. Add in a nearly equal effort from Paul Dano and all you really have to do is turn on the camera and sit back. That’s not what happens though. The whole world of the film is visceral, bleeding with life. The camera is every bit of a character, allowing us to bear witness to the magic. I’m not sure where TWBB falls in my all-time favorite movies list but if I were voting on best all-time films, I would be hard pressed to pick something else.

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All PTA had to do now was follow that up. Which he did, five years later, with The Master. With the weight of that enormous victory threatening to crash down on him, he managed to take the same approach with vastly different material. Every moment, every movement thoughtfully planned and executed. He once again gets the most out of his performers as Joaquin Phoenix and even the pudgy creepy fucker from Boogie Nights (who will now be referred to as the late Philip Seymour Hoffman) give the performances of their careers. The same cannot be said for Amy Adams, as she always so amazing that it’s impossible to quantify what her standout and subpar work actually look like.

I get the feeling while watching these two movies that this must have been how people watching Orson Welles movies in the 1940’s. There Will Be Blood and The Master are two perfect films when compared to others of their time, just as Citizen Kane was likely considered the greatest of its era as the least of its superlatives. Me, I think Citizen Kane is boring. But I’m also a child of the eighties and nineties. Just as I don’t expect people of two generations after me to feel that PTA’s films to be timeless. The fact is that in this time, with this technology, and this age of public awareness and accessibility. There is simply more stimuli to occupy the attention of people everywhere that a three hour epic about an oil tycoon or a cult leader aren’t on top of people’s to-do lists. In the forties, something like Citizen Kane was new and all the more majestic. Seventy years later, there’s just more competition. This is what makes these films all the more special. In an age of instant gratification, Anderson took the time to be meticulous and dare to reach perfection, uncompromising and fearless.

Talk about delayed gratification. It took 10 years for me to find the value in PTA’s work and now I don’t want a Hollywood where someone with his vision is written off by pigheaded fools like me. These movies are some of the greatest examples of how happy one can be to be wrong. I don’t think I’m mistaken about the other films but it was wrong to dismiss PTA as a filmmaker when he was only scratching the surface of his capability. When even a hack like David O. Russell can pull out a Silver Linings Playbook or The Fighter (sorry to say but American Hustle was just alright, though Amy Adams left me gobsmacked, and Flirting With Disaster is utter shite), maybe it’s fair to wonder what Todd Solondz has been up to. His last movie was 2011’s Dark Horse. The female lead is Selma Blair? Fuck that. That’s a hurdle to climb another time.

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The woman, pardon the wrong term, the LEGEND above, is a huge inspiration. Her story is beyond a rags-to-riches tale. It’s a survivor’s tale. You probably know all about Tina Turner’s abusive marriage to Ike Turner from the phenomenal movie What’s Love Got To Do With It, starring the dynamic Angela Bassett as Tina and Laurence Fishburne as the chillingly psychotic Ike Turner. If you haven’t seen it, let me go Siskel on you for a moment- see it. You won’t be disappointed. Despite her everyday nightmare of a marriage, the music still called Tina. And thankfully for the rest of the world, Tina still shook, rattled, and rolled with her muse.

Private Dancer was released in May of 1984. It was Tina’s fifth solo album, she was the age of 45, and it was her breakthrough. It was a worldwide smash, spawning four songs that were top 10 hits in the United States; “Let’s Stay Together”, “What’s Love Got To Do With It”, “Private Dancer”, and “Better Be Good To Me”The album won three Grammy awards back in the days when they still meant something and were still fun to watch (in case you live under a rock, those days are long past). The videos were a smash, Tina’s concert tour was a smash, she was already beginning work on her autobiography, I, Tina; she was everywhere. More importantly than that, she was discovered by a whole new audience while re-igniting the long dormant ashes of her audience that had been with her through Ike Turner’s Kings of Rhythm and The Ike & Tina Turner RevueUnlike many acts before her, she got a second chance. And she ran with it. There were a string of bestselling albums following, the autobiography was a New York Times bestseller for over a year, and a multitude of awards were awarded to “The Queen of Rock.” No one was more deserving.

Tina first came into my orbit one night in Summit while having a sleepover at my friend Crystal Reed’s house. It was August of 1984 and I was stranded in front of the TV with Crystal watching this phenomenal and utterly addictive cable channel called MTV. I had been out with her throwing rocks at cars over the overpass, but the heat began to get to us, so we ditched her brother Ronnie who was riding his bike, and went into their little apartment. Her mom brought us lemonade and sugar cookies (probably not the best idea!) and we plopped down in front of the TV. I was waiting for Duran Duran (still am waiting) and I heard this song start. A ship rolling through the harbor, and a shock of wild hair. The woman turned around, the song began, and I was transfixed. She had style, grit, and swagger. And as Ronnie helpfully pointed out upon walking in from his bike riding, she had killer legs (not my cup of java, but I report indiscriminately). The song, obviously, was “What’s Love Got To Do With It”I had it stuck in my head the rest of the day and beyond that. The first album I bought when my aunt Colleen gave us the awesome white phonograph that resembled the starboard of the USS Enterprise? “Private Dancer”I still have it. Definitely not in great shape, but the record still plays and it still sounds fresh, soulful, and raspy. The sounds of a survivor rising from the ashes like the phoenix in leather skirts that she is.

Private Dancer still stands the test of time nowadays. The rest of the album itself is flawless. There isn’t a shite song on it. You have your well-honed and oft-played anthems named, as well as other unreleased gems. “I Might Have Been Queen” could easily have been Tina’s anthem. “Show Some Respect”, possibly an autobiographical slap at Ike and any man who wanted to co-anchor her roost. “I Can’t Stand The Rain”a slow brown-eyed soul dirge, that wouldn’t have been out of place in the Ike and Tina catalogue of days of old. “Steel Claw”a song unlike any I’ve heard in her entire catalog before or since (and a sign of her rock and roll side coming out). “Help!”her very distinct take on the Beatles classic, and last but not least, “1984”her very unique take on the David Bowie classic from his solo record “Diamond Dogs”The album is a winning combination of soul, rock, funk, and Tina. And we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Rose Tint My World Already

Posted: October 31, 2013 by The Social Retard in Movies, Music
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pation. Yeah. It wasn’t until I was 17 that I saw The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Sometimes, you have to experience things at a certain time in your life. You’re not always ready or receptive to what something can offer. No, I’m not coming out. It was the same way with the Pixies. It took me years to like them (as silly as that seems now). I was, like most heteros, resistant to the idea of this movie because most boys tend to grow up homophobic or just act like anything that can be construed as “gay” is abhorrent in order to fit in.

My first job was at Home Run Inn Pizza. Sadly, it goes down in my personal annals (that sounds weird) as only my second worst job (lookin’ at you, Fucktarded Party Boy Outlet). I was a food runner before graduating to bus boy or, more accurately, bitch. I met a young lady who was also a food runner and she was obsessed with the movie. She went to the midnight show of it almost every weekend, often in costume. I didn’t get it. What is with this movie that inspires such weird loyalty?

It wasn’t until Halloween the following year, when Comedy Central was airing it at some absurd hour of night, that I finally gave it a chance. I tuned in at the end with “the floor show”. I had no idea what in the hell I was seeing. Did it challenge my then-narrow views of male and female archetypes? To say the least. It was a bit confusing and uncomfortable but there was something else bubbling up beneath everything else. It was fun. I was grateful, for the first time, that CC had a penchant for airing the same program back-to-back on occasion because I knew that this was something I needed to see from the beginning.

Tim Curry’s performance as Dr. Frank-N-Furter was spellbinding. He had such a commanding presence. He was a grease-painted charismatic genius with a great voice. He was a singing, cross-dressing Willy Wonka. Not since Gene Wilder had I seen a performance quite like this. Amidst the nonsense of the content, Curry and Wilder are so completely immersed in their characters that nothing appears out of the ordinary. They make you buy into their whimsical worlds. Granted, it is easier to believe in a man with a large confectionery plant run by orange dwarves than omni-sexual aliens creating buff dudes while manipulating space and time.

Apart from that were the songs. Of course, the songs. From the initial ivory tickling of “Science Fiction Double Feature” to its ending reprise, the film is bursting with a strange array of rock tunes. Richard O’Brien, who plays Riff Raff and wrote the original play, sings in a nasally whisper about an assortment of B-movie themes, actors, and titles. It sets the tone for what you’re in for: the ultimate B-movie. There’s science fiction (of the double feature variety), horror (not like Rocky), gender dysphoria, and singing!

If you haven’t seen it, you either live under a rock or are very narrow-minded. Even if you are a conservative coward, the songs could still be something for you. You’ve got 50’s style rock “Hot Patootie”, awkward love songs “Dammit Janet”, and Stooges-like punk rock with “Sweet Transvestite”. Well, maybe that last one isn’t for you. “The Time Warp” is so widely accepted now that it’s played at freaking weddings, and it’s soaked in sexual innuendo. Pelvic thrust, anyone?

I have owned the movie and the soundtrack on five different formats. After watching the movie the first time, I knew that I wanted these songs. It took forever to find a store that had the CD of the soundtrack but I eventually found it at the Sam Goody at Yorktown mall. It was expensive too, $16 or $17. And this was in 1997! And the record business wonders why people started illegally downloading. Next, I needed the movie. I found that cheaper…on VHS. It’s hard to believe but, at one time, my movie collection consisted of Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs, True Romance, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, Jurassic Park, and Rocky Horror. Pretty stellar, huh? That was it, all on VHS. The advent of DVD happened right when I was first employed and so my frivolity began.

Naturally, I had to own Rocky Horror on DVD and did. Despite my assertion that the soundtrack was flawed due to its omissions of “Sword of Damocles” and “Planet Schmanet, Janet”, I still bought the vinyl from Music Masters in downtown Downers Grove. This place has some interesting import options in such a small store. I managed to grab RHPS, INXS’ Listen Like Thieves, and a 45 of Michael Jackson’s “Rockin’ Robin” for cheap. Quite a strange haul, but a good one. When the 35th Anniversary blu-ray came out, that was an absolute must-have. It is inconveniently too tall for any of my blu-ray towers but it is forgiven due to its everlasting fantasticality (fantasticness?). Is this too much to spend on some old ass movie? Maybe to you, but aren’t you willing to spend for something you love?

You know what? Fuck it. Why am I defending this movie? People across the globe are still watching it weekly after 38 years. That is the very definition of lasting appeal. [Strange aside: I don’t like the crowd participation experience. I don’t enjoy people standing up and shouting in the middle of a theater, during a movie I actually love watching. I prefer to watch it at home and sing along. Is that wrong?] Nobody’s going to be watching fucking Avatar that far down the line. Calling it a cult classic doesn’t even do it justice. Maybe at one time that was accurate but as the world’s opinions have diversified, Rocky Horror has become more and more mainstream. Too much so, perhaps. While I think Glee is a horrid television program, I applaud them for having an entire Rocky Horror episode. That’s millions of people who are likely being introduced to the flick for the first time. Give yourself over…One of us! One of us! Whew…let’s never talk about Tod Browning movies. Even I have my limits.

For as fanatical as I am about all things Danzig in music, there is a certain television creator that I would also be willing to follow into the Hellmouth. Joss Whedon. For the sake of this writing, I am going to pretend that I have only seen the first episode of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., as any further episodes mentioned can only weaken my tale.

I had seen a few things that Joss had done prior to 1998, like episodes of Roseanne (funny) and Alien Resurrection (terrible), but my initiation to the Whedonverse proper didn’t occur until Buffy the Vampire Slayer‘s second season, episode #13. I had seen the Buffy movie and righteously dismissed the show, thinking, “Why make a show about that piece of shit?”. While my question was valid, I was proven wrong. Had my friend Joe and I not been so horribly bored on Tuesday nights, we never would have broken down and gave the show a chance.

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Oh look, how sweet. We tuned in at right about this point. Buffy and Angel bone and then it would seem like Angel was going to vomit from revulsion. But then he goes into an alley and starts weeping in the rain. We found this so funny, that this dude gets the hot chick and goes outside to cry, that we had to see what happened next.

The next week, “Innocence” aired and we got some context. It wasn’t long before the absurdity fell away and I was hooked on the plot. Angel goes from lover to arch nemesis, killing Buffy’s friends along the way. It was actually gripping. It didn’t hurt that Sarah Michelle Gellar was downright foxy.

After that storyline and the finale to the second season, I figured the show was never going to get that good again, so I stopped watching. The following year, I’m over at Hector’s house and, once again, there is nothing on television. We’re sitting in the kitchen, which didn’t really make any sense as not only did he not have cable, but this TV was the size of a small microwave with an identical reception. We’re flipping channels and we see Buffy is on. I try, in vain, to tell him that the show was pretty good and nothing better was on. He waffled until I told him that the girl from True Lies was on-screen and she was hot now. The episode was “Faith, Hope & Trick”, Dushku’s first episode of the show.

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The episode wasn’t that great but I knew I didn’t want to miss a week of a show with her in it. I doubt I told him this but, from that point forward, I was only going to hang out on Tuesday nights if Buffy was on the menu. I finished the third season without fail and thought it was nearly as good as the previous one. Then, Season Four happened and everything fell apart. I almost jumped ship then. The only saving grace was the Faith story arc (y’all know why by now). The fifth season is severely underrated, in my opinion. The premiere episode with Dracula was fucking hilarious. The fact that they got Rudolf Martin to play Dracula, a month before he played the historical Vlad Tepes himself, should not be overlooked. It did introduce little annoying sister Dawn in the biggest “what the fuck” moment in the show’s run but that was forgiven due to the Xander lines about being a buttmonkey and covering his referring to Dracula as “master” by following it up with “bater”. Then there was the Buffy’s mom dead episode, “The Body”. And the flashbacks with Spike in “Fool For Love”. Great stuff. The only downside to that season was the continued use of Riley Finn, the meathead boyfriend of Buffy. He should have died at some point. That, and the end (at first, anyway). My friend Steve can attest to me actually bellowing “No!” when Buffy jumps into the portal in the season finale.

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What in the hell was I supposed to do now? The title character in my favorite show was dead. Little did I know at the time that Whedon was going to bring her back in a mostly forgettable sixth season. If it weren’t for the musical episode, I don’t know if there was anything worth watching before that season finale.

The last season came and was largely okay. It did bring back the use of Angel crossovers since it was the last season. They just weren’t allowed to say Buffy’s name over on the WB/CW/POS. It was with this plot device that they brought back Faith. Knowing that was the plan, I had decided to go back to watching Angel, even though the first season was a dud. I felt I needed some context for when Faith showed up and ended up liking the drawn out story of The Beast and Cordelia being possessed.

These two seasons also introduced me to the two main cast members of Whedon’s failed program, Firefly. I actually resented these actors and their characters because I thought they were hording in on the Buffyverse. Once again, Whedon proved me wrong.

Late in 2004, with all of Buffy and Angel off in the sunset, I was badgered to death at Books-A-Million by Ren Fair addict and co-worker, Dawn. The irony of that name being the one to do this is not lost on me either. She kept saying that I would like Firefly because I liked the other two shows and to just give it a try. I got the lone boxed set for Christmas and opened it the day before that. I finished watching by the early afternoon of Christmas Day. This show was different but had a lot of the same charm of the other shows. I was Buffy age when I watched Buffy and Firefly consisted of older folks than those shows, which I was becoming at the old age of 25.

Lucky me, when I found out that those characters’ stories would move on the following year in the film, Serenity, which I saw twice on opening day and a third time within the week. I absolutely love that movie. It may have been the greatest thing Joss Whedon had done ever. That is, until The Avengers, which I will stop talking about as I’m willing to bet there’s a future blog post about it.

I have all of the Buffy and Angel seasons on DVD, I bought Firefly on Blu-Ray (after having the DVD), I have purchasedSerenity three times (twice on DVD, the original and special editions, and once on Blu-Ray). I have both seasons of Dollhouse on Blu-Ray, even though it’s bad (again, you know why). I may even buy that new show to pair with The Avengers, even though I’m not enjoying it. Why? Because, in Joss, I trust.

You see, I happened to tune into the show at precisely the right times that would convince me to watch. It’s Kismet, no? Not only would I have never watched the vampire-infested programs but I also never would have been tempted to watch Firefly and, therefore, Serenity. I may have been prejudiced against The Avengers, which may just be my favorite movie ever, because of that. What a strange confluence of events that led me there. And I never would have watched if it weren’t for a soaken wet Sarah Michelle Gellar or a gothed up Eliza Dushku. Thank you for those, and so many other, visuals, Sir Whedon.

Ed Burns and Shitty Soundtracks

Posted: October 5, 2013 by generationgbooks in Movies, Music
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brothers-mcmullen-soundtrackI was so inspired by Dave’s last post about finding two albums of relevance in good times and bad (in one trip) that I decided to tie two absolutely abysmal albums- soundtracks, no less- that have several common threads together, and blog about it. Except that unlike Dave’s previous recollection, this one is not a happy vinyl adventure, so I figured, I’ll give another side of the vinyl frontier. Anything goes here at Hannibal Collector. 

The year was 1995 and my ex “Biceps” was home on leave. The first thing he wanted to do after having a quick tete-a-tete (fucking French phrases) about Amish country was to go see a movie. Most guys who were thousands of miles away from their girl would have used that time to, uh, get re-acquainted with their girl, but not my guy. Nope. He wanted to see shitty cinema. I should have known it was too good to be true. We went to see this awful, awful Ed Burns movie called The Brothers McMullen, at some dumpy theater in Oak Park. I just remember it was a matinee, and I’m glad it was, because the money I paid for it (yes, not only did I NOT pick this steaming pile to see, but I PAID. He was on a “budget” which was cheap-speak for his burrito and beer in El Paso habit) was definitely not worth it. I wish I’d gotten loaded beforehand, it would have been more bearable. No, it wouldn’t have, I lied. Worse than that? The fucking soundtrack. It was awful. It was a lot of Celtic and Irish music. Normally, if I’m at Irish Times in Brookfield and I have a stomach full of Shepherd’s Pie and full of booze on St. Patty’s Day, that’s alright, because I have no clue what I am listening to, nor would I care in that setting. That was not the case. I was bored to tears with the plot, annoyed with the idiot for not wanting Wang Dang Sweet Poontang instead of this crappy flick we were at, and worse than that, sober. All of it added up to churning dislike. The music made me feel like I was front and center at the worst Gaelic Storm concert known to man, with bad acting and an idiot at my side who kept whispering how “moving” it was. Moving bowels, maybe, you dolt. Just when I thought “It can’t get worse”, it did. “I Will Remember You” by Sarah McLachlan begins. If there’s nothing that Burritos for Jesus loves more than bad cinema, it’s bad cinema ballad music. By the end of the song, not only was he teary eyed, but he was doing the sway. For those who know him, you know the boy is seriously afflicted with Bad White Boy Dancingitis. I seriously questioned whether I could sneak out of there and go hide by Mike’s (he lived on Harrison, not far from this dive theater) while Burritos for Jesus was making sweet love with this awful music. My burning hatred for Sarah McLachlan? This was probably the start. I should have seen this whole experience as a warning for the end that was already writing itself. If a guy can’t take you to a good flick or at least pay for the shitty flick he’s making you sit through while he tries to be Meatloaf (but sounding more like Beetloaf) and croon the soundtrack during the film, run like hell. Or sneak out of the theater.

By the time 1996 rolled around, he was gone. Unfortunately, Ed Burns was still making bad movies. I went out on a couple of dates with my friend DT to try to erase the pain of the end of my first love and engagement. DT was a blast, a nice guy who liked loud, rowdy music, drank like a fish, lived at Denny’s, knew great movies, and better yet, a Libra. For those of you not familiar, that meant he has a snowball’s chance in hell of being more than friends with me. Anyhow, I was feeling low around Sept as Biceps’ birthday drew near. DT got free tickets to a movie of his choice. One night, while he and I were eating bad food at Denny’s and then demolishing a bottle of vodka, I told him, laughingly, of that movie date a year before. He misunderstood and thought I was a huge Ed Burns fan, and so he surprised me by taking me to- you guessed it!- the new Ed Burns film. It was playing in some arty theater in Westmont, near where he was living at that time. It was the film She’s The One. Do yourself a favor and don’t check it out. I did enjoy it more than The Brothers McMullen, namely because I made sure I was shitfaced this time, and I was seeing it with my friend and just looking to see what I had hoped was a good movie. Ed Burns had a better known cast this time, including his longtime girlfriend (who clearly wasn’t the One, because he ended up marrying Christy Turlington, best known to people who know me, because she was the model on the cover of Duran Duran’s Notorious album). He also had two minuses in the actress pool, meaning The Aniston and the Diaz were in this movie. Two strikes right there. And Ed Burns, he tries so hard, but I just don’t buy anything he’s selling. The only thing I did dig in the entire movie was John Mahoney, later of Frasier fame. The rest? I was fucking bored. DT was yawning throughout the movie, and about 45 minutes into it leaned over and said “Sorry, G, I owe you a pack of smokes for putting you through this.” The music? Well, it was better than the other, but still left a lot to be desired. Much of it is Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, of whom I am a fan, but it’s watered down and inspired by a lackluster film. Walls(Circus) was the most well known song, perhaps the only song come to think of it, released off of this album. There is a ironic link to Dave’s post about Rumours in this, because Lindsay “Genius” Buckingham sings background vocals on that song, but otherwise, a number of strange brew flows on this one. There’s a Lucinda Williams song on there, which I was not inclined to like or dislike (more like disinterest). There’s Asshole by Beck, which is a nice little ditty. But otherwise, it’s like a Tom Petty demo album, and except for Walls(Circus), not an album I would bother with on any level. It’s just there, like Ed Burns.

A year later, I am at a flea market with Redneck Flats. He ditched me and Mark by a cart selling bootleg rap cassettes. Mark and I stocked up and got a lot of great stuff; Tupac, Biggie, Puff Daddy before he went Diddy Doo Doo, etc. That bum went off in search of likely bongs or smoking apparatus of which I would maintain a healthy distance from, but unfortunately, he came back, excited and clutching a large paper bag with “surprises”. Brown bags with surprises usually do not bode well, as we all know. When we got back to the house, Mark and I were dying of curiosity. He pulls out a bunch of records. Some Steve Winwood, Traffic, Heart, and Wings. Stuff I would normally rather knit carrots to than actually be forced to listen to. Then he tells me to close my eyes and hands me two albums. I open my eyes. Screaming occurs. Would you like to guess what the fucker got me? Well, dear reader, he got me the soundtracks for The Brothers McMullen and She’s The One. The evil had come full circle. I remember a conversation ensued to determine why the fuck he would think I wanted this shit. He went on to say that he remembered me telling him about the Ed Burns movies I had seen, except the pot-smoking wasteoid believed I was FONDLY recalling them, not the opposite. True case of miscommunication. I don’t remember what happened to those vinyl records, he either kept them, I sold them, or maybe Mark walked off with them. In this case, I hope they vanished into a crack in the Earth..like Ed Burns movies. 

Bret Easton Ellis + Danzig > Less Than Zero

Posted: September 16, 2013 by The Social Retard in Books, Movies, Music
Tags: ,

lg_zero

Where to begin? This may be the most convoluted post yet. I guess we’ll start with Less Than Zero, the novel, initially. I believe I saw it when I was 17, at the height of my teenage angst. Who am I kidding? I’m twice that now and still very much full of teenage angst. I had just read the book Generation X by Douglas Coupland and had never been so devoid of hope ever. That book was such a downer. Naturally, my impulse was to go even further down the nihilistic rabbit hole, so where better to turn than the works of Bret Easton Ellis.

If you ever want to read a book full of characters with no redeemable qualities, see Less Than Zero, the introductory dissertation. This is hardly exclusive to <0, however. The Rules Of Attraction and Glamorama are similarly difficult to get through because you have no rooting interest in seeing the characters do anything but self-destruct and die. The main character of American Psycho is equally unsympathetic because he’s a serial killer but at least he’s strangely likable.

The movie, which I sat down to watch recently, shines a neon light on the characters making them less menacing and interesting without making them any more appealing. Robert Downey Jr.’s character, Julian, is more a tragic figure in the movie than just a consummate fuck up and scumbag, as he was portrayed in the novel. We’re somehow supposed to feel sorry for this guy . Maybe this has more to do with RD2’s on-screen presence than anything in the script. In a nutshell, this movie sucks…and hard.

There is something worth saving from the wreckage of <0: the soundtrack. Then up-and-coming producer Rick Rubin was charged with the music and he used the opportunity to put a spotlight on his and Russell Simmons’s still fairly new Def Jam Recordings. Label alumni included LL Cool J, Public Enemy, Slayer, and just signed Glenn Danzig. The rest of the album is mostly throwaway except for the now classic Bangles’ cover of Simon & Garfunkel’s “Hazy Shade Of Winter” and a track from Roy Orbison. I know. Which one of these is not like the other? Well, fast forward seven years from <0 when Rick Rubin produces American Recordings for Johnny Cash. That, and the subsequent volumes, resurrected the Man In Black’s career and brought it to new commercial heights. On that first album is a Danzig-penned track called “Thirteen”. The performance is legendary and one of the true highlights on that extraordinary album. It would appear something similar might have been in the cards with Orbison.

The Big O’s contribution to this soundtrack is also a Danzig composition called “Life Fades Away”. You can tell that Glenn wrote it for Orbison as it has an old timeyness that we hadn’t heard from his Misfits or Samhain work. Ol’ Roy sings the fuck out of it too, ending on as strong a note as he had ever belted. Who knows if this wouldn’t have led to a career revival on the level of Cash but the world would never know as Orbison passed away the following year. Danzig would also deliver a similar sounding track, “You and Me (Less Than Zero)”, his first as a solo artist. Credited with the Power & Fury Orchestra, (and as “Glen” on the label) Danzig proves that he can do powerful without sheer brutality. His singing is still in full throat and you can’t imagine him standing still in the studio while trying to record it. His delivery is every bit as intense as any of his prior work or since but there is no distortion.

The soundtrack includes flat out stupid covers by Aerosmith and Poison, a lackluster “In-a-Gadda-Da-Vida” from Slayer, the non-Anthrax edition of Public Enemy’s “Bring the Noise”, and a decent track from Joan Jett. But after Orbison, Danzig, the Bangles, and even LL Cool J, the album is just not terribly good. However, the fact that the Orbison and Danzig tracks only appear on this soundtrack makes it essential to own.

I hunted mine down on Gemm.com on May 19, 2010 from a less than honest seller. He claimed in the listing that it was sealed but it certainly was not. The cover is pretty fucked up but, to be fair, the record itself is in excellent condition. I would have raised a bigger stink but it only cost $6.10. I would have gladly paid even more for a 7″ featuring Orbison on the A-side and Danzig as the B-side (or vice versa) if such a thing existed. You hearing me, Def Jam? I would still buy it. Make it.

As for Bret Easton Ellis, his last two novels have taken his previous works and turned them on their head, in a good way. He’s gone so fucking meta, it’s ridiculous. Lunar Park is vintage Ellis only with using himself as the main character. Imperial Bedrooms is the sequel to Less Than Zero, only it makes sure to tell you that <0 is a fictional account of the characters within. The movie, laughably so. This allowed him to bring back the Julian character. It is my favorite book of his. I never re-read novels but I recently re-read this one and it is so deliciously twisted. For even more meta-ness, Andrew McCarthy (star of <0, the film) reads the audio book of Bedrooms, which is narrated by the Clay character than McCarthy played 25 years prior. Fucked, right? Yes, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Suspiria

I have talked before here about my time at Crown Books and my misadventures with Jenny. While she was a full-on nutter, she did turn me on to My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult as well as the films of Dario Argento. If she hadn’t been crazy, maybe she wouldn’t have known about these things and, ergo, neither would I. The “Italian Hitchcock”, king of the giallo (term for a crime fiction story), master of gore. I’d like to think that I would have found him inevitably as I watched countless Troma movies and random bullshit horror rented from Family Video. But maybe I wouldn’t have and I would have missed out on more than just film.

Argento is certainly an acquired taste. I often find that his work is easier to admire than to enjoy. My first experience was with Tenebre. I took Jenny at her word that the film was phenomenal, so I bought the DVD. Amazingly enough, I found the Anchor Bay “Dario Argento Collection” version at my local Best Buy. The first thing I remember as being striking to me was the appearance of John Saxon. I have, in the past, been quite the horror movie guru so I was very familiar with him. You would know him as Nancy’s dad in A Nightmare On Elm Street – the original, you heretic. But Nightmare didn’t come out until two years after Tenebre (Unsane in America). Maybe this flick had some credibility after all.

The camera work was like nothing I had ever seen in that kind of a film. The camera was its own character. It served as the killer’s eyes and we got to view the murder scenes through his (spoilers?) point of view. The gore was a vibrant, unrealistic red. The style was so immense that it becomes difficult to acknowledge the lack of substance. At least equal to the visuals was the score by Italian prog rockers Goblin. From the opening tones of the main theme, I had no idea what in the hell I was hearing. Not since Peter Frampton had the talk box been used to such absolutely evil effect. Between that and the organ synth of main composer Claudio Simonetti, it was so different and so out there. The audio and visual elements come together that definitely adds up to more than the sum of its parts.

I eventually would go back to Music Warehouse to get as many compilations of Goblin’s soundtrack work as possible. When Argento’s Sleepless came out in 2001, it was the first time in a long while that Goblin had done a soundtrack. I actually went online and ordered the soundtrack from an Italian website. There, it was titled Non Ho Sonno. This was long before Google translate (or Google even?) so I went on the site and hoped for the best. I was already a savvy online shopper at that point, so I figured that I didn’t do something horribly wrong. The CD arrived and I was not disappointed.

After conceding to Jenny that she may have actually been right about a second thing, I went back to Best Buy and caused a ruckus when they didn’t have any other Argento flicks. I then proceeded to buy all of the ones in the “Argento Collection” as they had all been recently remastered and restored for the first time in the U.S. I bought good ones: the two disc limited edition of Opera, Phenomena (with Jennifer Connelly and Donald Muthafuckin’ Pleasance) and the not terribly good: Inferno. There were also some great like Cat O’ Nine Tails and Suspiria.

Suspiria was the first in a proposed trilogy called “the Three Mothers”. It was released in 1977 and is widely considered Argento’s masterpiece. My copy is the limited edition three disc version that includes the soundtrack by Goblin. Every death scene is a macabre work of art, many have been mimicked over and over. It stars American Jessica Harper as a ballerina whose new academy is run by witches. It’s creepy as fuck. Inferno came out three years later and was totally lackluster.

The third came out a few years ago, Mother of Tears, and I was fortunate enough to see it at the Music Box. It was a great ending to the trilogy and a sign that Argento hadn’t completely lost his chops. His last two movies might prove otherwise. The best part was that it starred his daughter, and the object of my ultimate fanboy affection, Asia.

Asia is just flat out fucking beautiful and though a lot of her work lends evidence that she may not be a great actress (as a lot of the movies she is in are total rubbish), you need only check out Traveling Companion to know that she has got some chops. It’s all in Italian but that’s why there are subtitles. I actually don’t watch it in subtitles myself. I believe that, like a silent movie, that you should be able to know what’s going on just based on performance. Hers is fantastic. She has also become an established director in her own right. But, honestly, she really is gorgeous. I would actually watch XXX with Vin Diesel again just for her and that movie is fucking unbearable.

Argento has given me so much. He introduced my world to his film, the music of Goblin, and his daughter. I have collected nearly all of his films available (including the ones above: The Bird With the Crystal Plumage, Four Flies On Grey Velvet, Trauma [with Asia], Two Evil Eyes [co-directed by George A. Romero], The Phantom Of the Opera [with Asia], Sleepless, The Card Player, Do You Like Hitchcock?) and even some on Blu-ray (Cat O’ Nine Tails, Deep Red, The Stendhal Syndrome [with Asia], and the awful digital transfer of the region free import of Tenebre). I have the four Goblin comps from DGA on CD but I would like to get some on vinyl but they be pricey. I also have procured a fair amount of Asia’s films (Demons 2, The Church, Traveling Companion, Scarlet Diva, and The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things). At the height of my madness, I spent $400 on a first edition of the book Art Of Darkness: the Cinema Of Dario Argento from the bastards at Alibris through my job at Books-A-Million. I shit you not. That’s about how much after my employee discount. After losing my job at BAM (the fucks), I had to sell it. Losing that book still burns more than losing that job, or any job. Hopefully, I can find it again (and cheaper).

My ultimate goal is to eventually get to Rome to go to Profondo Rosso, the Dario Argento store. As nice as it would be to see the mother country, I don’t know that I would need to see anything else. Insanity? Probably, but so goes the price of extreme fandom.