Sunday, April 29, 2007

mote



The Sonic Youth show at the Roseland last summer was amazing, and Lee's performance of "mote" was undoubtedly (for me) the highlight. Somehow, a soundboard recording of the full concert hit the internet and I managed to snag a copy. I haven't done a particularly thorough search, but it seems that the only high quality recording of any of the dates on their Rather Ripped tour is from Portland. Sonic Youth live is a necessarily lived experience - a live recording doesn't make a whole lot of sense. The voices never quite make it all the way to the right notes (though they get close), and the lyrics can be even more difficult to parse. But live - and I listen to the recordings now, basically, to re-live - they're electrifying. Competing noises and tones fill the concert space, and, to permit myself an understatement, they rock.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

"Comedy"

Have you watched Rich Little's routine from the White House Correspondents' Dinner? He dives right into the impressions. Before doing the presidents, he does John McCain (a fairly poor impression), Arnold Schwarzenegger (in which Arnold actually does refer to himself as "the governator"), Johnny Carson (to tell a joke about lawyers and there's something about wheelchairs) and ANDY ROONEY (which allows him the opportunity to offer such choice nuggets as: "If you choke a Smurf, what color does he turn?" and "If you overdose on Viagra, do you have trouble getting the coffin lid closed?"). Then the presidents: Ronald Reagan (a man he "loves"), Jimmy Carter (which requires false teeth, also inspires a joke about how as a peanut farmer he had "the biggest and best nuts in the country"), George H.W. Bush in conversation with Bill Clinton (basically to tell the following joke: "All they have in Chicago are hookers and hockey players." "You know, Hillary's from Chicago." "What team did she play for?" It takes Little about four minutes to get to that punchline), George W. Bush (the worst impression of the bunch) and Nixon. Nixon was supposed to be the highlight of the routine, but he rambled on forever without really remembering to add any jokes - although there was a lot of jowel shaking and something about how in order to win a Nobel prize you have to be "out standing in your field," which he says when he's supposed to be outside, in a field. Then ended singing "My Way." He tried to get the crowd to sing along, but they wouldn't bite.

There's also the song about how he's "gonna poke a lot of fun/ poke a lot of fun at Washington." He sings it in between each presidential impersonation. Groan. And yet, I can't turn away - the fascination of painfully unfunny comedy is remarkable. Oh, and he cracks himself up when he says the word "ass."

Andy Rooney, seriously.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Morris Brown

My favorite song of 2006, which has one of the most audaciously tacky, who-thought-this-was-a-good-idea music videos of all time:



Dancing midget televisions? A pink poodle (and does the purple dog remind anyone else of Clifford the Big Red Dog)? An amusement park? And are those Big Boi's label recruits riding the Ferris wheel? My biggest problem is, I think, the large number of things with faces singing along: the sun, the flowers, the car, the walls, the dog... Wow. I'm pretty sure this was directed by the same guy who made Big Boi's video for "I Like the Way You Move," except this time he let the whimsy run wild. It's a shame, because the song's phenomenal. So's the album, by the way. Aside from the pointless final track - which I can safely say is the lowpoint in Outkast's entire discography - the album's consistently excellent, and drags rarely, despite what the music police would have you think.

Fassbinder on understanding/portraying human behavior

On Chabrol:

“Chabrol’s eye is not that of an entomologist, as is often claimed, but that of a child who keeps a number of insects in a glass jar and observes the strange behavior of his little creatures with a mixture of amazement, horror, and pleasure. […] He doesn’t do research with them. Otherwise he could, and would have to, discover reasons for their brutal behavior, and convey these to us. Never mind that there have to be some little creatures who are less colorful than the others, less showy, but the vast majority of them are completely colorless creatures that provide the basis for the existence of the more beautiful ones. But these are completely overlooked by the child, who doesn’t do scientific observation but only looks, allowing himself to be dazzled by the glittering, special ones; he overlooks them, and therefore can’t really understand the behavior of his favorites.”

Sunday, April 22, 2007

A Hubley Sunday

Cockaboody


Emily's animation for Hedwig:


Emily animates the dB's:


Georgia singing one of the slow, pretty ones from I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass:


Georgia sing the acoustic version of Tom Courtenay:


Finally, John Hubley directs A Date with Dizzy:


"Hey Pete! Let's eat! More meat!"

Thursday, April 19, 2007

The Invisible Man

Although I didn't really have the time, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to see James Whale's Invisible Man at Doc Films tonight. I'd previously only seen Whale's Frankenstein movies, and while Bride of Frankenstein might be the filmmaker's ultimate blend of comedy and classical horror, The Invisible Man is grotesque and unabashedly slapstick, with a remarkably advanced camp sensibility. It's as if Whale knew that his laughs would outlive his scares, and planned accordingly. Or, perhaps more likely, he was just making himself laugh.

Really, The Invisible Man hardly qualifies as a horror movie, especially since most of the violence is utterly ridiculous, with Rains childishly taunting his victims while they fall all over themselves. It's hard to think of the episode where the invisible man steals a policeman's pants as anything but hilarious. A horrible train wreck half way through the movie seems curiously out of place, tossed in to the film to justify the manpower that would be expended on catching the invisible man in the second half - but Whale executes the crash so unrealistically and with such precise comic timing that I couldn't help but chuckle. Most of the actors don't seem to be fully in on the joke, although even the more wooden and clueless among are obviously enjoying themselves (with one or two very notable exceptions in the prosthetic ingenue Gloria Stuart and the cowardly William Harrigan). Claude Rains as "The Invisible One" (as per the credits) is all covered up and can't play for sympathy like Karloff in the Frankenstein movies, keeping the film firmly within the realm of farce. There's one actress who knows exactly what kind of movie James Whale was making, and that's character actress Una O'Connor. Running the tavern/inn where Claude Rains holes up to seek an antidote, she's the first to discover Rains's horrible secret - a discovery that sets off a series of periodic shrieks of shock, disbelief, fear, discomfort... really anything that might merit a reaction of any kind. Whale is so enamored of her rather hilarious scream that he had her do it over and over and over again, occasionally with almost no provocation whatsoever. Maybe my favorite thing about the film is that, without really dipping into irony, Whale isn't above utilizing the weaknesses of his script or his actors for laughs (just look at his casting of Henry Travers - Clarence the angel from It's a Wonderful Life - as respected scientist Dr. Cranley if you have any doubt as to Whale's intentions). As a matter of fact, I'm pretty sure that a fully competent cast would have weighed it down. As it is, I haven't had more fun in a movie theater in ages.

The big reveal:

Monday, April 16, 2007

Video link

Matt McCormick's got a new video for the Shins song on his website here: http://www.rodeofilmco.com/films/video_australia.php

It's fun. Enjoy.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

One Way Boogie Woogie/27 Years Later

We screened James Benning's One Way Boogie Woogie/27 Years Later last night at the Film Studies Center, the first show of the spring for the "Experimental Film Club" (coming up: the new print of Harry Smith's Heaven and Earth Magic and Jonas Mekas's documentary Birth of a Nation). Made in 1977, One Way Boogie Woogie is comprised of 60 one-minute shots of Benning's hometown of Milwaukee - some staged, some captured on the fly, all meticulously and cleverly composed. 27 Years Later is designed to be screened on the same program (without intermission - one flows into the other with only a very brief pause between the two). It's a sort of attempt at a shot-for-shot remake of the original from 2004, but of course the city has changed considerably since the seventies. Benning plants the camera as close to its original position as he can and points it in roughly the same direction. When possible, the original people (actors?) are used again to perform the same simple actions, with frames seemingly remaining unpopulated instead of using any sort of substitution. The original soundtrack plays over the new images, sometimes matching up, sometimes not.

The effect of the two films is markedly different. Both are "structuralist," of course, with their dedication to formal guidelines, and both are nicely playful about and around their constraints. The original strikes me as the more satisfying experience, not least because the constraints of 27 Years Later mean that the camera positions of the original aren't adjusted to achieve the same careful composition and balance. The play with structure in Boogie Woogie has a lot to do with the limits of the frame: the viewer can't help but try to figure out what's just off screen (with Benning encouraging our speculation by occasionally throwing sudden intrusions into the mix, with people or objects suddenly entering the frame, objects being hurled in front of the camera, etc); and, similarly, the viewer reflexively attempts to decode the meaning of the soundtrack and the relationship of these sounds (which sometimes are diegetic in the sense that they can be assigned to something happening on screen, even if its far in the distance in the very corner of the screen, and sometimes are not: music, radio broadcasts, etc) to the image. The other major source of conflict and play has to do with the carefulness and abstraction of the images on screen, the disruption of these lines and shapes by people (and trees, the other non-symmetrical figures that constantly reappear). 27 Years Later is equally witty and playful, but most of the play has to do with the differences and changes from the viewer's partial recollections of OWBW. The second film does help to illuminate the delicacy of the original compositions, and the dependence on a unique perspective for their creation (i.e. the images are in a sense created, and not just "found"). 27 Years Later is an aesthetic game, not a social one, and it's about general change rather than decay or gentrification or neglect. The original wittily questioned the basic assumptions of the medium about form, and although the "remake" retains the wit, the stakes are lower. That doesn't change the fact, however, that the general consensus in the cinema was that 27 Years Later seemed to move faster than Boogie Woogie - I guess some games are more fun than others. The first time around, anyway - I have the feeling that the next time I see the film the original will still have plenty of surprises to impart while its follow-up, though not necessarily less enjoyable, will be considerably less mysterious.