ALONG FOR THE RIDE (HAT & BEARD, 2017) is a unique documentary in that it provides a narrative in which the narrator is not the focus. in fact the ANONYMITY of the narrator, SATYA DE LA MANITOU, makes all his observations of his late close friend / collaborator / benefactor of more than 40 years, the towering 20th century cultural icon DENNIS HOPPER, that much more intimate and powerful.
this film is a cultural artifact for the ages about a significant artist from a confidant who wishes to bring to light not only his PERSPECTIVE, but the equally valid threads and perspectives of past producers, actors, directors, architects, painters, musicians and artists that came into his orbit. with that in mind, notable participants in this film include directors WIM WENDERS (THE AMERICAN FRIEND), LAURENCE SCHILLER (THE AMERICAN DREAMER), PHILIPPE MORA (MOD DOG MORGAN) and DAVID LYNCH (BLUE VELVET), actors JULIE ADAMS, LINDA MANZ, CHRISTA LANG, MICHAEL MADSEN, STELLA GARCIA, DEAN STOCKWELL, artists EDWARD RUSCHA, JULIAN SCHNABEL and JAMIE HEWLETT, architect FRANK GEHRY and musicians MARK MOTHERSBAUGH (DEVO), DWIGHT YOAKAM and DAMON ALBARN (BLUR, GORILLAZ) among others.
a cynic could definitely misinterpret and dismiss a figure such as SATYA as that of a garden variety HOLLYWOOD enabler and sycophant on first blush, but such an unfair assessment would not take into account the emotional, personal and artistic support he provided for years when HOPPER was in the wilderness after being blackballed in the aftermath of the release of his post EASY RIDER (COLUMBIA, 1969) directorial effort THE LAST MOVIE (UNIVERSAL, 1971). in fact, he wouldnt direct again until OUT OF THE BLUE (DISCOVERY, 1980). during that interim period it was SATYA among others who helped him navigate such peaks and valleys of his life and career with steadfast, unconditional support. enabler is a cruel term with loaded connotations, catalyst may be better.
THE LAST MOVIE, set in PERU, dealt with the CULTURAL BAGGAGE that cinema places on locations and indigenous peoples whose landscape is ultimately transformed by the experience in the mindset of viewers. in a sense cinema is a new form of COLONIALISM as westerners reassess and reinterpret the CULTURAL GEOGRAPHY of another and transfigure it into something less beautiful and ultimately alien to its inhabitants. i remember visiting CAMBODIA years walking among the wondrous ruins of ANGKOR WAT, which has a deep history in multi-layered HINDU and BUDDHIST iconography, and being told by a tour guide about some scene from a shitty ANGELINA JOLIE film (TOMB RAIDER) that was filmed there. that level of CULTURAL APPROPRIATION just felt sleazy and ultimately a form of theft. the sheer power of the location was immense on its own terms and did not need that extra layer to entice visitors, or so i thought. maybe some people went there because of that film. so in other words, HOPPER made a THOUGHTFUL film in THE LAST MOVIE that intelligently conveyed a COMPLEX theme that was a little too much for HOLLYWOOD and he fought for that vision like hell. that battle ultimately deprived him of the opportunity of making another film for nearly a decade, as studio execs thought otherwise irrespective of his having final cut over the project. HOPPER thus gained the reputation in HOLLYWOOD for being UNREASONABLE, not a team player and worse, UNHINGED.
being a first-rate acting talent saw HOPPER through the 1970s, in which his deep CURIOSITY that informed his directing was not satiated. little known in greater popular culture is the fact that HOPPER was a longtime art collector and had a knack for recognizing and valuing pieces by emerging artists like ANDY WARHOL and JULIAN SCHNABEL early in their careers. to understand HOPPER is to appreciate his multi-faceted ability to excel at various mediums beyond cinema, including as a PHOTOGRAPHER and WRITER. it was this capacity for EXPERIENTIAL INQUIRY about the world around him that made him such a unique artist, one who was constantly on the edge. he was also fiercely loyal as exemplified by his quiet ADVOCACY work in NEW MEXICO on behalf of the local NATIVE AMERICAN population, in fact he is buried in TAOS according to the customs of the PUEBLOAN community.
this film was a lot to take in and i am not doing it justice, but it succeeded in providing a DELICATE multi-perspective portrait of a COMPLICATED, SECRETIVE artist and immense cultural force. i will definitely return to this film as i seek out and watch the remainder of his directorial filmography that i have been unaware of until now. THE LAST MOVIE is most definitely worth checking out.
i first became aware of CLEVELAND-based artist DEREK HESS by way of the album covers he produced in the early 2000s for ascending POST-HARDCORE bands, notably CONVERGE and UNEARTH among many others. his EXPRESSIONISTIC, SKELETAL drawings often depicted CONTORTED, faceless bodies in a moment of PHYSICAL and SPIRITUAL DISCONNECT. i found his work to be emotionally charged and unflinchingly VISCERAL. like CARAVAGGIO, its art that is very much concerned with the individual's connection to the PHYSICAL BODY as a vessel that bears intense emotions of ANXIETY, GRIEF, SORROW, REGRET and PAIN. in many ways, it fit the potent HONESTY and PATHOS of those albums like hand in glove.
FORCED PERSPECTIVE: THE STORY OF ARTIST DEREK HESS (COAT OF ARMS, 2013) is a poignant documentary that reveals the artist and his connection to not only art as CATHARSIS, but art also as a vehicle for DISCOVERY and CONNECTION. it tracks his evolution from comic book aficionado to trained figure artist to concert poster designer to celebrated fine artist and serial entrepreneur whose work is part of the LOUVRE's collection among others. it really is quite the career trajectory but the essence of this film is not so much on his career milestones, but his dual connection with the CLEVELAND-based cultural scene he helped nurture and foster as well as his own relationship with his SOBRIETY and BIPOLAR DIAGNOSIS. coming to AUTHENTIC, hard-fought terms with his own physical limitations and learning of the impact his actions have on those around him is at the heart of what this film is about. it is the basis and foundation from which his art can develop and self-renew without being clouded by CHEMICAL DEPENDENCIES. his work is so powerful it almost requires an UNBLINKING, unadulterated gaze straight into the soul. his work is the seeming very definition of SOBRIETY in how it depicts and evokes the COMPROMISED PHYSICAL and SPIRITUAL nature of the HUMAN CONDITION without wincing or turning away. it shows the distance between our ASPIRATIONAL selves and our own dreary reality as is. and that DUALITY is something i very much appreciate about HESS' work.
i had no idea going in how much an inspiration SILVER AGE OF COMICS pioneer GIL KANE had on his work, especially with his dramatic use of foreshortening and forced perspective in order to evoke scale in a representational composition. KANE and his peers utilized such techniques as a narrative device in order to draw the viewer into the PSYCHODRAMA at play in the comic book. it feels like HESS utilized such as an EXTREME means of depicting INTERNAL, often SELF-DIRECTED CONFLICT at scale. its an INVENTIVE and CLEVER inversion.
ultimately HESS' ability to visually depict powerful INTERNAL PROCESSES related to INTENSE EMOTIONS is what he is renowned and celebrated for. in that he is a SINGULAR visionary. this film gets at the man behind the artist and his own personal struggles that feed his art. i found this documentary to be quite courageous in its depiction of HUMAN FRAILTY and would recommend to anyone interested in art as well as recovery from CHEMICAL DEPENDENCY and MENTAL HEALTH-related issues.
there is no stigma. only the determination to be yourself and showcase your own truth.
there is something identifiably AMERICAN about CANDY DARLING.
as a relatively new country, throughout our history there has always been this unique capacity to SELF-MAKE ourselves in some optimistically divined utopian vision of what we could and should be, unhampered by centuries of triumphs and mistakes. in essence we are collectively in the process of bringing a more perfect vision of ourselves to fruition. the SELF-MADE, projected figure of ANDY WARHOL superstar and cultural icon CANDY DARLING showcases that distinct TENSION that comes between LIVED FANTASY and LIVED REALITY.
born in LONG ISLAND amongst the post-war newly built track houses and stifling suburban CONFORMITY of MASSAPEQUA, CANDY knew from an early age that she was different. watching a relatively recent documentary such as this reminds you instantaneously that the larger cultural discussion regarding SEX and GENDER identity has only become mainstream in recent years (about a decade after this film). the whole concept of not identifying with your assigned GENDER was completely taboo in 1950s AMERICA, where POLITICAL, ECONOMIC and RELIGIOUS CONFORMITY was practically a national value in and of itself. what makes BEAUTIFUL DARLING: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF CANDY DARLING, ANDY WARHOL SUPERSTAR (CORINTH FILMS, 2009) such an intriguing documentary is how it showcases a specific downtown NYC arts scene in the 1960s where SEXUAL EXPRESSION was not only tolerated but celebrated. in some ways these WARHOL superstars (JACKIE CURTIS, HOLLY WOODLAWN and CANDY DARLING) along with the likes of LOU REED were the trailblazers that opened the door that we have been walking through as a culture for the past half century. its been in the past five years that mainstream magazines like PLAYBOY and SPORTS ILLUSTRATED have used TRANSGENDER models in their publications and actors such as ELLIOT PAGE and LAVERNE COX have brought their powerful presence to film and television screens. despite modern troglodyte conservatives that wish to drag us back to the stone age with their REGRESSIVE GENDER PRESCRIPTIONS prescriptions and bullshit self-serving, binary moral constructions, we very much live in a new world that takes into account that life is complicated. people are complicated. deal with it.
that being said its interesting to hear writer FRAN LEBOWITZ' opinion on CANDY and the seemingly SUPERFICIAL, PERFORMATIVE conception of FEMININITY she arguably brought to life. as a caucasian CISGENDER man i feel more than a little out of my depth speaking on this subject, but there does seem to be some light in how much of our GENDER is PERFORMATIVE through our ADOPTION and INTERNALIZATION of SOCIETAL CUES and CULTURAL PRESCRIPTIONS surrounding BODY IMAGE, PRESENTATION, VOCAL AFFECTATION and even POSTURE. the fact that CANDY grew up a severely abused child who took SOLACE and ultimately ESCAPISM in the 1950s cinema. her ideation of FEMININITY was informed by silver-screen starlets like MARILYN MONROE, JEAN HARLOW and especially KIM NOVAK. in many ways her INTERNALIZATION and eventual formation into becoming CANDY was performance of such that seeming coalesced into an IDENTITY. again, i am not denying her ability to self-identify as TRANSGENDER, but i do think that LEBOWITZ angle regarding the performative aspects of gender to be compelling if not food for thought.
ultimately for CANDY this was her LIVED EXPERIENCE and her LIVED REALITY, and she paid dearly for it. one of the most heartbreaking aspects of this documentary are the diary entries where she confesses to the DESPAIR and ISOLATION she felt about not being accepted by SOCIETY and not being able to partake in normal life rituals like being in a relationship, having a normal job and even visiting relatives. after her death her mother basically disowned her memory after remarrying.
for me BEAUTIFUL DARLING is just another reminder of how we need to treat each other with a sense of DIGNITY and genuine COMPASSION. very moving film. well worth checking out.
summing up the cultural legacy of seminal 20th century experimental ROCK AND ROLL musician and composer FRANK ZAPPA neatly is such a difficult task, but accomplished BRITISH director ALEX WINTER (yes, of BILL & TED fame) does an admirable job in this recent estate-authorized documentary ZAPPA (MAGNOLIA FILMS, 2020). as such, this is the first film given access to the extensive ZAPPA archives and it shows since there is much intimate footage of the composer, THE MOTHERS OF INVENTION and all iterations of his band over the years, not to mention family footage of his four children growing up.
im convinced this is one of the better music documentaries i have seen in recent years, partly because of the respect WINTER pays towards his subject. this is not a hagiography by any means and ZAPPA is shown warts and all. we see him as a man possessed by a ferocious drive and manic creativity that is a result of his being a "slave to his inner ear." we also see him as a womanizer and someone that put career in front of family for much of his professional life. in fact, his hit only hit song "VALLEY GIRL" was created as an excuse by his daughter MOON UNIT to spend time with him. again, WINTER does not shy away from his shortcomings that made him a complicated figure.
an aspect concerning ZAPPA that i was unaware of was the extent to which he was independent after his time at WARNER BROS, establishing ZAPPA RECORDS and later BARKING PUMPKIN RECORDS to put out his own records as well as those of supposedly commercially unviable acts like ALICE COOPER and THE GTO'S. this commonplace now for major artists, but back in 1981 not so much. seems ZAPPA was trailblazer from a business perspective as well.
one thing that comes across in spades is ZAPPA's love of MUSIC and MUSICIANS. this can be seen not only in his numerous collaborations with talented musicians, but also with regard to his sticking his neck out at congressional hearings related to the PARENTS MUSIC RESOURCE CENTER and their efforts to censor music. ZAPPA and his music was not a target, but his stature and credibility provided the opposition to this wave of potential overreach with a fitting white knight and spokesperson. i dont recall seeing BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN, BOB DYLAN or TOM PETTY up their selflessly fighting the good fight. kinda sad that none of them did. with all the bullshit going on currently in FLORIDA with banned books and whatnot, it feels very much like we are coming full circle on this matter.
also im glad that a significant portion of this film was dedicated to the orchestral compositions written by ZAPPA throughout his life. it is a lesser known and criminally under-appreciated aspect of his immense oeuvre by the general public. especially at the end of his life when he was dealing with terminal PROSTATE CANCER, it was rehearsing and conducting these orchestral compositions that gave him great pleasure. so im glad that such was not overshadowed by his celebrated ROCK AND ROLL career.
when i think of ZAPPA i am presented with a towering cultural figure who more than anyone else i am aware of, never compromised his vision. he is the very embodiment of creative freedom. who knew the CZECH people agreed in that estimation. his music has not aged a bit and has influenced countless musicians that seek to challenge and push the medium forward. i hear his influence in everyone from ANIMAL COLLECTIVE, THE RESIDENTS, PRIMUS and SYSTEM OF A DOWN to THE FLAMING LIPS, THE BUTTHOLE SURFERS, KING GIZZARD AND THE LIZARD WIZARD and TALKING HEADS.
ZAPPA is an incredible achievement and is most definitely worth checking out.
SHEPARD FAIREY is a celebrated RHODE ISLAND SCHOOL OF DESIGN-trained GRAFFITI ARTIST / GRAPHIC DESIGNER best known for his "OBEY GIANT" urban guerrilla sticker/poster/stencil campaign and the ubiquitous "HOPE" icon he created in support of BARACK OBAMA's successful presidential campaign back in 2008. inspired by the likes ROBBIE CONAL, BARBARA KRUGER, MARCEL DUCHAMP, ROBERT RAUSCHENBERG and ANDY WARHOL, FAIREY ventured out with his EXPERIMENTAL CAMPAIGNS that often played with REPETITIVE MESSAGING and the general public's capacity to be influenced and manipulated by such.
the recent documentary OBEY GIANT: THE ART AND DISSENT OF SHEPARD FAIREY (HULU, 2017) is very much concerned with fleshing out and introducing the career of FAIREY to a general public that is seemingly unfamiliar with STREET ART and its misunderstood code of ethics, which are often the target of overzealous police departments. what comes across is the intent of his work, which is often POLITICALLY, CULTURALLY and SOCIALLY ACTIVIST in nature, and the inherent risk of utilizing forgotten derelict and abandoned building facades as his canvas. there is a transition of sorts from the "ANDRE THE GIANT HAS A POSSE" SOCIAL EXPERIMENTALISM phase to his reactionary BUSH-era visual screeds against the war in IRAQ to his more recent, constructive post-OBAMA that advocates on behalf of a whole host of causes he believes in and provides free visual graphic work for (including CLIMATE CHANGE, MARRIAGE EQUALITY, PRISON REFORM, IMMIGRANT RIGHTS, etc.). in essence FAIREY is a master of PROPAGANDA, but he uses his powers for good in that he creates omnipresent visuals that promote and support an immediately identifiable VALUE SYSTEM that promotes CORE HUMANISTIC BELIEFS in INCLUSIVITY, DIGNITY, INQUIRY and DIVERSITY.
i personally was unaware of FAIREY's legal challenges regarding the ASSOCIATED PRESS photograph he transformed into the famous "HOPE" icon. the fact that there were two images and he misremembered which one he utilized and thus made a string of bad choices to cover up that mistake. the documentary itself may be a mea culpa on his part as such apparently affected his CREDIBILITY and fundamentally questioned his HONESTY. in my mind the whole charade feels like corporate overreach. seems the ASSOCIATE PRESS was attempting to extract money and the ability to reach back and futilely attempt to control the ability of artists to transform what is essentially their INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY. feels equally ludicrous as the BOSTON police department arresting FAIREY on the opening night of his new showing at the prestigious INSTITUTE of CONTEMPORARY ART. what a bunch of schmucks. what i gained from those two misadventures is the cost of doing business as a famous GRAFFITI ARTIST. that is the risk you run playing along the edge of legality. not that im judging in the least.
OBEY GIANT: THE ART AND DISSENT OF SHEPARD FAIREY is an interesting career retrospective for a guy that is still young, only 52 as of 2022. as long as he isnt incarcerated, im very much looking forward to his creative work and international ADVOCACY CAMPAIGNS for years to come.
i found the recent SEE KNOW EVIL (MADE TO MEASURE, 2018) documentary about the late ITALIAN fashion photographer DAVIDE SORRENTI to be quite touching. the film is obviously meant to be a RECLAMATION of his public image in the wake of the cultural backlash to the 1990s media phenomenon known as 'HEROIN CHIC' that his work was retroactively (and incorrectly) attributed.
SORRENTI had quite the back story. he suffered from a hereditary BLOOD DISORDER known as THALASSEMIA, which attacks the blood's production of hemoglobin and thus decreasing its ability to distribute oxygen throughout the body. this condition is life-threatening and does particular DAMAGE to several vital organs. SORRENTI spent his entire young life in PAIN, visiting hospitals for regular blood transfusions and sleeping hooked up to machines that added much needed oxygen to his system. THALASSEMIA is the type of condition that the patient diagnosed with it, is more than aware they are likely not going to live much pass the teens, if at all.
so in essence the life he led was one that was very much in the moment with few guardrails or time to waste being shy or indecisive. through his designer mother FRANCESCA and his model/photographer brother MARIO he was afforded access to the fashion industry of NEW YORK and carved out a niche as a street and fashion photographer in the INTIMATE and UNADORNED vein of LARRY CLARK or NAN GOLDIN. his work showcased models in CONTORTED poses with DOUR, MELANCHOLIC expressions, often draped in VIBRANT colors that were just slightly out of focus. the overall effect were AFFECTING photographs that projected a sense of internal PATHOS and portents of deep SUFFERING. it is hard not to read these VISCERAL images and see the connection between his own experience of the world and that of this ominous but SEDUCTIVE imagined reality. its almost like appreciating a CARAVAGGIO painting with the knowledge that for the artist those pictures of suffering martyrs and saints are projections of his own DOOMED sense of moral damnation.
the idea that his mother's well-intentioned efforts within the larger fashion community to address HEROIN usage in the wake of her son's passing led ironically to a mistaken national dialogue about glamorizing HEROIN in commercial advertising is TRAGIC. that national conversation in the media WHITEWASHED his talent, his work and his creativity. SORRENTI was only active over a three year period from 1994 through 1997 which also coincided with the ALTERNATIVE ROCK explosion coming from the northwest and a titanic shift away from marketing materials showcasing the female form as ample and athletic. the FASHION INDUSTRY through the rise models like KATE MOSS, JAIME KING and MILLA JOVOVICH in response displayed a more streetwise aesthetic that had more attitude and personality than what was showcased in the 1980s. in many ways we are still living in the marketing world of the 1990s in terms of visual aesthetics and SORRENTI was a part of that movement. its just UNFAIR that outside political agendas smeared his work.
SEE KNOW EVIL is a compelling documentary irrespective of one's interest in PHOTOGRAPHY or FASHION. its more about the ATTITUDE and INTENTION with which you live your life each and every day. definitely worth checking out.
years ago when i was an secondary english teacher as a matter of necessity (i was tasked with creating an elective) i started teaching PHOTOGRAPHY. the class very much dovetailed with the online school newspaper i also helped initiate. there was some instruction regarding composition and light but the thing i always attempted to instill was the idea of capturing a MOMENT. french photographer HENRI CARTIER-BRESSON even had a term for it, THE DECISIVE MOMENT.
in the recent documentary SHOW ME THE PICTURE: THE STORY OF JIM MARSHALL (SAMPSONIC MEDIA, 2019) you are presented with an all too human figure in legendary PHOTOGRAPHER JIM MARSHALL who despite his serious shortcomings created an almost MYTHICAL body of work in how well he captured intimate moments with CULTURAL ICONS as they were in the ALCHEMICAL process of SPIRITUAL TRANSCENDENCE and ARTISTIC ACHIEVEMENT. being bombarded with his generation-defining photographs of the likes of MILES DAVIS, JANIS JOPLIN, BOB DYLAN, JIMI HENDRIX, JOHN COLTRANE, MUDDY WATERS, THE WHO, CHUCK BERRY, JOHNNY CASH, SANTANA, LED ZEPPELIN, B.B. KING, CREAM, THELONIOUS MONK, JEFFERSON AIRPLANE, THE ROLLING STONES, JOHN LEE HOOKER, THE BEATLES, DUKE ELLINGTON, JOHN MAYALL, ARETHA FRANKLIN, THE GRATEFUL DEAD, DUANE ALLMAN as well as regular people during moments of POLITICAL STRIFE and PERSONAL COURAGE during the midst of the CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT, it becomes apparent of his preternatural gift to anticipate the moment and capture it at its peak EMOTIONAL POTENCY. my breath was taken away because i have had t-shirts and posters of several of what i learned were his PHOTOGRAPHS. they are iconic 20TH CENTURY CULTURAL MOMENTS, no way around it.
and what makes this documentary so interesting is that for a man with such SENSITIVITY and INTIMATE capacity to capture such images, there was an alternate figure that inhabited the same body that harnessed a mountain of SELF-LOATHING, manic drug consumption and glowing adoration of the PHYSICAL INTERPERSONAL INTIMIDATION that came with gun-wielding. its very much a JEYKLL and HYDE dynamic at play which allowed him unlimited access and deep TRUST on the part of his subjects and the manufactured fear and loathing of those who tried to get close to him. growing up in a single-parent immigrant household with just memories of a brutally ABUSIVE father, it make sense that he had issues with INTIMACY outside of what he found in his viewfinder.
but we are all the more enriched that his work exists and its interesting to consider how the medium itself has transitioned in recent years with the advent of SOCIAL MEDIA and the the proliferation of amateur photographers utilizing the camera phone in their pocket. we are inundated and bombarded on a minute-by-minute basis with an unrelenting cacophony of poor PHOTOGRAPHY. much like music, PHOTOGRAPHY itself has been DEVALUED since the advent and CULTURAL UBIQUITY of the IPHONE over the past two decades. id argue such a state of affairs makes his work stand out that much more. its interesting to consider that he left the field in the late 1970s once his access became limited by the CORPORATIZATION OF LIVE PERFORMANCES. in true capitalistic form, even someone as brilliant as MARSHALL was DISPOSABLE and seemingly REPLACEABLE by know-nothing bean counters and invested parties who wanted to control all assets of wealth-generation, including event PHOTOGRAPHS.
so MARSHALL marks the end of an era of sorts. its hard to believe that his kind will appear again, just given the state of the music business and the pervasiveness of SOCIAL MEDIA. again, we are all enriched by his work and hopefully this documentary will shed some light on what to the public is an often invisible occupation.
this documentary is a revelation. SHOW ME THE PICTURE is definitely worth checking out.
this was a fun film.
BAD REPUTATION (MAGNOLIA, 2018) is a recent documentary that examines the career and cultural legacy of legendary badass musician JOAN JETT. she is that rare icon where labels like "trailblazer" or "pioneer" dont really do her legacy justice. she is basically an institution unto herself, from her late 70s all-female band THE RUNAWAYS, to her production work with the likes of BIKINI KILL, CIRCUS LUPUS, THE GERMS and, of course, her successful solo career with numerous hit singles.
but what really defines her career are the glass ceilings she shattered. its absolutely staggering to consider the intestinal fortitude it took as a female teenager in the 1970s to start a band. this was during the peak of the GLAM ROCK/GLITTER scene in HOLLYWOOD and the industry was geared towards an industry that saw women more as accessories then equals on the stage. this was ROCK AND ROLL and not FOLK MUSIC from the 1960s, so JETT and her bandmates went full bore into and took the full brunt of CHAUVINISM and outright MISOGYNY head on. as teenagers. just blows my mind.
and its that passion, determination and authenticity as a ROCK AND ROLL lifer, notwithstanding her own innate talent, that her public persona is built upon and has garnered her respect from generations of musicians including a murderer's row of notable participants documentary including former and current BLACKHEARTS members as well as IGGY POP (THE STOOGES), DEBBIE HARRY & CHRIS STEIN (BLONDIE), KATHLEEN HANNA (BIKINI KILL), IAN MACKAYE (MINOR THREAT, FUGAZI), MILEY CYRUS, BILLIE JOE ARMSTRONG (GREEN DAY), ALISON MOSSHART (THE KILLS), PETE TOWNSEND (THE WHO), PHANIE DIAZ (FEA, GIRL IN A COMA), MIKE NESS (SOCIAL DISTORTION), LAURA JANE GRACE (AGAINST ME!) and ADAM HOROWITZ (BEASTIE BOYS). likewise the film also includes interviews with those that have commented on her LGBTQ and ANIMAL RIGHTS activism over the years including MICHELLE CHO (formerly of PETA) and GENE BAUER (FARM SANCTUARY), MICHAEL J FOX (who co-starred with her in LIGHT OF DAY) as well as notorious graffiti artist SHEPARD FAIREY. for some unknown reason disgraced TRUMP ADMINISTRATION official NIKKI HALEY was interviewed as well (?), which was more than a little weird and i may or may not have thrown up in my mouth, but thats neither here nor there.
the focus of much of the documentary is JETT's post-RUNAWAYS career and her involvement with the unlikely producer and former BUBBLEGUM POP songwriter KENNY LAGUNA, who was both her confidant and familial support system throughout the rest of her career to date. theyre an odd couple of sorts, but that level of platonic intimacy and constant arguing and bickering is entirely endearing as they both care about one another. that core supporting relationship (which also included LAGUNA's wife MERYL) was what turned her career from what possibly could have been another cautionary tale to one of hard fought and enduring success. it must of been so difficult to stomach and push ahead despite male rock critics and DJS publicly debasing her work (and her physical being) along tired SEXIST tropes. and she pushed forward with such a sense of confidence and cool. i cant imagine.
for me the other artist that comes immediately to mind with a similar revolutionary career trajectory is that of LITTLE RICHARD who fought his way out of MACON, GEORGIA in the 1950s as a GAY, BLACK musician and ultimately became an architect of ROCK AND ROLL itself. and i think there is reason that the JETT and RICHARDS are so cherished by ROCK AND ROLL fans beyond their music, its that idea that they fought and suffered for their art. they both had that sense of determination, passion and sheer defiance that allowed them to make their mark despite the odds.
and how can you not love that. like i said, i really enjoyed this film. definitely required viewing for all music lovers.
all hail JOAN JETT!
COUNT ME IN (RED & BLACK, 2021) is an interesting documentary because it is not so much concerned with the history of drumming per se (because it does dabble in the evolution of the instrument); its primary focus is the actionable pleasure of actually playing the drums. that driving PRIMAL CONNECTION to not only the other players, but the audience as well. it is the drums that establish and maintain that SACRED UNION and keep it pulsating in unison.
much of the film itself centers around interviews with STEPHEN PERKINS (JANE'S ADDICTION, PORNO FOR PYROS), CINDY BLACKMAN (LENNY KRAVITZ, SANTANA), CHAD SMITH (RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS) and JESS BOWEN (THE SUMMER SET) who all participate in a drum circle (with complete kits) at the film's conclusion. for me that active listening and seamless SYNCHRONOUS INTERPLAY between players is at the heart of what drumming is. it is something i witness firsthand in my youth in NIGERIA watching musicians there play in drum circles with talking drums; the collective INHALATION/EXHALATION as time signatures weave in and out of each other. im not religious but there is something SPIRITUAL about that.
the film does pay its due to those players that are key in the evolution from JAZZ to ROCK AND ROLL including the likes of ART BLAKEY, BUDDY RICH, ELVIN JONES, MAX ROACH, RINGO STARR (THE BEATLES), KEITH MOON (THE WHO), CHARLIE WATTS (THE ROLLING STONES), GINGER BAKER (CREAM) and JOHN BONHAM (LED ZEPPELIN).
that transition is interesting from JAZZ to the BRITISH INVASION bands is interesting because in essence the new breed thought like JAZZ drummers (in terms of FINESSE and SWING). but helped initiate a new lexicon that was the basis for all that followed. similarly the transition from the technically gifted drum gods of the 1970s to the more rudimentary PUNK drummers was an evolution in intent. there was a sense of going for the jugular and getting out just as quick, technicality being an unnecessary frill that distracted from the song's impact. interesting stuff. the drum becoming an instrument of PROPULSIVE AGGRESSION leading the charge.
watching this its very easy to nitpick about innovative and highly consequential past and current drummers that were overlooked including NEIL PEART (RUSH), DANNY CAREY (TOOL), TRAVIS BARKER (BLINK-182), MOE TUCKER (THE VELVET UNDERGROUND), BILLY COBHAM, DAVE LOMBARDO (SLAYER), ROY HAYNES, BILL WARD (BLACK SABBATH), ZACHARY CHARLES HILL (HELLA), TITO PUENTE and MEG WHITE (THE WHITE STRIPES). but i feel such criticism is not warranted because creating such an exhaustive list was not the intent of the film (although the lack any mention of latin percussionists is glaring). COUNT ME IN is much more involved with the joy of playing and those players that influenced the drummers being interviewed, which also included STEWART COPELAND (THE POLICE), TOPPER HEADON (THE CLASH), SAMANTHA MALONEY (HOLE, EAGLES OF DEATH METAL), CLEM BURKE (BLONDIE), TAYLOR HAWKINS (FOO FIGHTERS), NICKO MCBRAIN (IRON MAIDEN), RATT SCABIES (THE DAMNED), BEN THATCHER (ROYAL BLOOD), EMILY DOLAN DAVIES (THE DARKNESS, BRYAN FERRY), ROGER TAYLOR (QUEEN) and IAN PAICE (DEEP PURPLE).
i feel this film was successful in that not only celebrated the ARTISTIC POTENTIAL of the instrument, it also examined its nuances by including a consultation by JESS BOWEN with ROSS GARFIELD, a.k.a. THE DRUM DOCTOR. based on her needs he curates a kit that she utilizes in the studio at the close of the film. i think most people would that that a drum kit is a drum kit is a drum kit, but really once you get into sizes, materials and the vintage of the pieces the whole affair becomes quiet SUBTLE and INTIMATE. you really get a sense of the DYNAMIC RANGE of the instrument through this process, and not just SONICALLY but EMOTIONALLY.
and that was my big takeaway from the film. that and hearing the drummer from my favorite band (JANE'S ADDICTION) talking about why he loves his instrument so much. i was more than pleased to watch and learn that STEPHEN PERKINS was such a central figure in this documentary. so im biased. that said this is a film definitely worth checking out even if you cant keep a beat (like me).
thats probably why i play guitar.
ive been on a bit of a HAYAO MIYAZAKI kick as of late and recently rewatched the 2004 DISNEY re-dubbed version of the classic JAPANESE animated fantasy film MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO (STUDIO GHIBLI, 1988). the film centers around two young girls who relocate into an old countryside house with their father in order to stay closer to a hospital where their ailing mother is convalescing.
what draws me to this film again and again is how much of the narrative is propelled by a sense of intense interiority on behalf of the psychological state of the two young girls, SATSUKI and MEI. contrary to AMERICAN animated films, the pacing is very slow and prodding which only spurs further attention to these young girls and their experiences with sprites and ultimately TOTORO and his cadre of friends. these small sprites known in the film as the SUSUWATARI are a part of the natural world and can only be seen by children. this invention feels very much deep rooted in JAPANESE CULTURAL and RELIGIOUS SENSIBILITIES surrounding SHINTOISM and BUDDHISM where connection to the ENVIRONMENT and one's place in the NATURAL ORDER and its cycles is of paramount importance. it is a source of STRENGTH and NOURISHMENT and is the basis for the psychic vitality of a COMMUNITY.
i also cant help as a westerner watching this film and not somehow project this notion that such fantastical journeys with animistic entities are stand-ins for a deprived maternal presence. the girls very much miss their mother and are confronted with adult concepts like INFIRMITY and DEATH in a very tangible, almost existential manner. its fascinating to think of this animated film as a celebrated product for children given its thematic bent, but then JAPAN is a very different culture that doesnt attempt to shield some cold, sober realities from the next generation such as in the UNITED STATES. the very concept of ADOLESCENCE is very much an invention of THE WEST so its compelling to consider the interplay of such an idea within a traditional JAPANESE setting.
i cant praise this film enough. much like everything MIYAZAKI and STUDIO GHIBLI touch, it is very much worth checking out.
i really enjoyed this film.
not because of its subject necessarily since i have nothing against TWISTED SISTER, their music, their fans or their legacy. what i appreciate about THIS IS F***ING TWISTED SISTER! (ANDREW HORN FILMPRODUKTION, 2014) is that it is two-hour long documentary focused entirely on the tireless struggle to make it in the entertainment industry despite nearly overwhelming odds against the band.
the band spent more than 10 years relentlessly playing and replaying the TRI-STATE bar circuit, building up a rabid following based on SHOCK TACTICS that seemingly glossed over their accomplished MUSICIANSHIP, PRESENCE and STAGECRAFT. their narrative is a populous one since their success was not manufactured over night, but rather organically built up one fan at a time over the crucible of repeat live performances. i thought it was quite refreshing to hear DEE SNIDER and JAY JAY FRENCH speak about the lengths they went to differentiate themselves from the pack and just the general daunting work ethic that they maintained despite years of diminishing returns. it must have felt quite hopeless and downright QUIXOTIC to be in the band throughout the 1970s playing bars in small-town LONG ISLAND, upstate NEW YORK, CONNECTICUT and the JERSEY SHORE.
usually bands in documentaries highlight the glorified heights and record sales of years gone by, but here the band is focused on their salad days when the unspoken connection between band and audience was at its zenith. and looking back that is not to say there arent some CRINGE-INDUCING admissions, such as the DISCO SUCKS shtick that led them to hang an effigy of BARRY WHITE on stage, which went over real well in RACIST parts of upstate NEW YORK where it was confused with a promotion of lynching. yikes! just the idea that the band jumped on the DISCO SUCKS movement at all is a bit DISAPPOINTING given the HOMOPHOBIC and XENOPHOBIC overtones of that popular movement by a largely white heterosexual male audience. there is also a bit of lazy CHAUVINISM and lame attempts at MACHISMO on stage and off throughout THIS IS F***ING TWISTED SISTER! which grew a bit tired. one would think that the band would have been somewhat open to GENDER FLUIDITY or at least the concept of not being outright hostile to other sexual preferences given their stage presence but NO. such was definitely not the case at the time. like KISS, they aped the image of the NEW YORK DOLLS without every coming to terms with its broader meanings and ramifications.
but maybe such RETROGRADE attitudes was all just indicative of a time and place forty years ago. in a sense, i respect them for being open about their past and the choices they dont repeat now. i give them that. i was similarly impressed by how in depth they went back into their years of STRUGGLE, when they were aspirational wannabes living on a dream. doesnt get more AMERICAN than that. it is also a testament to their singular FOCUS, DRIVE and downright STUBBORNNESS that they ultimately succeeded. this documentary is definitely worth checking out and investigating on account of that alone.
i will probably rewatch it again within the year.
with PUNK ROCK there are so many people credited with getting the initiating the genre, everyone from THE STOOGES and THE MC5 to the NEW YORK DOLLS, THE RAMONES and even THE DICTATORS. the documentary STIV: NO COMPROMISE, NO REGRETS (CHIP BAKER FILMS, 2019) takes a look at STIV BATORS, frontman of what is in all likelihood is the first PUNK band THE DEAD BOYS (as well as later outfits like SHAM 69 one-off THE WANDERERS and the GOTH-tinged LORDS OF THE NEW CHURCH). and its a sad truth that unlike his contemporaries in IGGY POP, DAVID JOHANSEN and JOEY RAMONE and later acolytes like that of JOHN LYDON, JOE STRUMMER and DAVE VANIAN, BATORS is a relative unknown. at least he was to me.
so that is essentially the raison d'être for this film, it is a sort loving effort by former band members, crew and friends to resuscitate his legacy and public profile. what is sad is that despite some archival interview footage of JOEY RAMONE speaking about his former peer, there is little in the way of interview footage by major players, which is a shame. it sort of limits the appeal of what is otherwise a more than competently constructed film which examines his rise out of rural OHIO to starting bands in CLEVELAND and ultimately infiltrating the nascent downtown CBGB's scene in NYC with a vengeance in the mid 1970s. in fact, HILLY KRISTAL (owner of CBGB's) bankrolled their debut and managed them after seeing them play his club. unfortunately that moment was the peak of their career and larger cultural relevance. the band fell apart after a few more disastrous efforts in which they were mismatched with producers unsure of what to do with them or their sound. subsequent efforts were interesting but BATORS seemed to be chasing trends (60s PSYCHEDELIA, 80s POST PUNK) rather than setting. his absurd and tragic death in PARIS seemed a fitting marker to someone steeped in ROCK N ROLL cliches (again following in the footsteps of JIM MORRISON a generation before him).
after watching the documentary i am no closer to understanding why BATORS was a seminal figure in the history of PUNK. not to be cruel, but outside of his niche of devoted cult followers, there doesnt seem to be any real consensus surrounding the nature of his brilliance. i am more than a little baffled as to why this film was released knowing that there wasnt any high profile testimonials/aspersions regarding his legacy.
maybe his relative unknown public profile is right where it should be. i dont know the answer to that. maybe somebody with weight on the subject could tell me because everything ive read in countless books on PUNK ROCK mention THE DEAD BOYS as a footnote to the lasting impact of other later bands in that same scene, i.e. THE RAMONES. i am still interested in the subject, but in my estimation this documentary, however well-intentioned and edited, was half-baked and could have used more credible participants.
like any major cultural movement that has an impact, the shorthand history of the ALTERNATIVE ROCK scene is largely confined to the shortlist of bands that made money for corporate labels and sustained commercial appeal on the radio and the attention of the national press (i.e. SEATTLE bands like NIRVANA, SOUNDGARDEN, PEARL JAM, ALICE IN CHAINS or soundalike groups like SMASHING PUMPKINS and STONE TEMPLE PILOTS). what the recent documentary UNDERGROUND INC: THE RISE & FALL OF ALTERNATIVE ROCK (THIRD FACE, 2019) attempts to do is expand that limited narrative to include a diverse set of bands of the era who have had an immeasurable impact on the INDIE, ALTERNATIVE and POST HARDCORE scenes that followed in the new millennium despite their lack of widespread commercial appeal and industry promotion. these impactful bands include the likes of FUGAZI, SUNNY DAY REAL ESTATE, MY LIFE WITH THE THRILL KILL KULT, DRIVE LIKE JEHU, QUICKSAND, ROCKET FROM THE CRYPT, HELMET, COP SHOOT COP, JAWBOX, THE JESUS LIZARD, COURSE OF EMPIRE, FUDGE TUNNEL, BRAD, JETS TO BRAZIL, HANDSOME, TEXAS IS THE REASON, GIRLS AGAINST BOYS, MINISTRY, ONLY LIVING WITNESS, SURGERY, BIG BLACK, FAILURE, CORROSION OF CONFORMITY, DOWNSET, FISHBONE and SUGARTOOTH among countless others.
some of these bands had died-in-wool DIY INDIE/HARDCORE ethos that carried them throughout their existence (like FUGAZI, SUNNY DAY REAL ESTATE, BIG BLACK and JETS TO BRAZIL), but the vast majority of these bands found themselves subject to traditional pressures that come with the responsibilities that comes with a bigger budget, which includes pressures that derive from outsized AMBITION, PUBLISHING SPLITS, DRUGS, lack of RADIO/TOUR SUPPORT and CREATIVE CONTROL. it really goes to show that the major label system as configured in the 1990s was brutal and laid waste to once-promising acts that could not say no to the allure of wider distribution and recording / promotional budgets. the FAUSTIAN bargain seemed to be at the expense of control once your commercial appeal wained.
obviously some of these independent bands are well-known (FUGAZI, THE JESUS LIZARD, QUICKSAND, JETS TO BRAZIL, SUNNY DAY REAL ESTATE, JAWBOX) given their influence on later bands ranging from AT THE DRIVE-IN, THURSDAY, SAVES THE DAY, THRICE, POISON THE WELL, TAKING BACK SUNDAY and (my favorite) GLASSJAW. but just as interesting are the ones that i had never heard of before like COURSE OF EMPIRE, HANDSOME, SURGERY and SUGARTOOTH or one's ive only learned about recently (like COP SHOOT COP) through fellow DJs at MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC. for most of the second half of the 1990s i was overseas in AFRICA so i didnt come of age going to independent HARDCORE and INDIE shows. i was never a part of that community, so for me this documentary is fascinating in that it presents an amended list of influential yet largely unknown bands (by followers of the mainstream press like me) that mattered during that decade and influenced musicians within the creative set that followed. having listened to some of these bands now for a period, im ashamed and a little stunned that i had no idea some of these bands even existed, but then again why would i? the whole point of this documentary is that they werent promoted or supported well by the major label system.
its too bad some of these groups couldnt be like the MELVINS and reclaim their identity by going back and kicking ass on an indie label after being let go or shelved by a major. i can only imagine once you had a taste of a certain standard of recording and touring experience it is difficult to go back. it is hard to think of bands that successfully navigated that indie-to-major-back-to-indie terrain outside of bands like CLUTCH, DINOSAUR JR, SONIC YOUTH and the aforementioned MELVINS. of course with the advent of the internet this whole conversation is a mute point. its an interesting CULTURAL ANACHRONISM since now everyone is essentially working as if they are on an indie.
i cannot advocate any more forcefully how much of a revelation UNDERGROUND INC: THE RISE & FALL OF ALTERNATIVE ROCK was for me. i consider it required viewing for anyone interested in not only ALTERNATIVE ROCK, but especially the greater story of INDIE ROCK and HARDCORE and all its attendant offspring like POST HARDCORE and METALCORE. well worth rewatching and further future investigation as it set me on a path of discovery and appreciation.
not gonna lie, when i started watching the documentary LAST DAYS HERE (9.14 PICTURES, 2012) about the rehabilitation of DOOM METAL legend BOBBY LIEBLING of PENTAGRAM, i almost felt implicated in incentivizing of the documentation of somebody's PHYSICAL, EMOTIONAL and PSYCHOLOGICAL DESTRUCTION.
the dude lived a hard life full of DISAPPOINTMENT and mental ANGUISH that was not helped by a decades-long DRUG ADDICTION to everything from crack cocaine to various opiates. the toll said DRUG ABUSE did to his body is rather profound, with GROTESQUE open soars up and down his body. at the depths of the DEPRAVITY filmed the man was psychosomatically convinced of being consumed by parasites. it was just SAD.
the film follows his manager and friend (and arguably his enabler) SEAN PELLETIER who seeks to revitalize LIEBLING's career and get him back onstage again. in the late 2000s there was a swell of interest from the public in 1970s DOOM METAL thanks to like-minded upstart STONER and SLUDGE METAL groups that gained popularity during this period, namely HIGH ON FIRE, DOWN, MASTODON, EYEHATEGOD and QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE among others. whats interesting about PELLETIER is that it is hard to discern his true intentions throughout the film and whether or not here is a benevolent influence. in essence, is he helping or EXPLOITING LIEBLING? the singer was in BAD SHAPE and had spent decades cocooned in his parents MARYLAND basement, wasting away in ISOLATION. the immeasurable toll on his parents who obviously love him is almost too much to bear at times as a viewer. its just PAINFUL to watch.
the fact that the dude pulls of a comeback, plays shows and even gets married proves that there is hope out there for everyone, i guess. but i dont know. if your singular motivation to get up in the morning is to be adored and admired by others then i have my doubts. doesnt feel particularly sustainable. at all. LAST DAYS HERE is a unique film that feels like a cross between ANVIL!: THE STORY OF ANVIL (ABRAMORAMA, 2008) and SOME KIND OF MONSTER (review linked HERE). definitely worth watching for fans of the DOOM METAL genre, but also comeback narratives in general
when you consider the longevity and wildly EXPERIMENTAL nature of the music, it is hard not to be impressed by the career of seminal SLUDGE / ALTERNATIVE ROCK / PUNK ROCK band MELVINS. as the documentary THE COLOSSUS OF DESTINY: A MELVINS TALE (HELLSMORE MEDIA, 2016) attests, the narrative of the group is very much centered around the enduring friendship and artistic alchemy between BUZZ OSBOURNE and DALE CROVER. and its interesting that the film uses said friendship as its defining unifying structure as OSBOURNE is renowned for his UNCOMPROMISING, often BRISTLY public persona. the dude no doubt comes off like a born contrarian in interviews. but in a sense that distance to public perception or press critiques is what keeps his band free to chart their own course.
as a business man, OSBOURNE goes on in great detail about how producing limited run in-house publications and vinyl re-pressings is their core strategy for long-term SURVIVAL as a business venture. they acknowledge that their music is available for all in this modern digital world of streaming services and video sharing social media platforms. and that is alright. the free widespread distribution of their music is a mute point, so their focus is on artistic extensions and hands-on limited pieces for their hardcore fanbase. OSBOURNE at length defends this practice, which seems entirely reasonable to me. i cant imagine what PUNK purist would see such as beyond reproach, the dude needs to make a living.
its funny that for a band that defends their art and need for control with a ZEALOUS fervor matched by few, the first thing i think of when i consider the band themselves is their unique ability to seek out collaborations. the nearest analogue to this well outside of the rock world in that id very much liken it to the NON-PRECIOUS, IMPROVISATIONAL and highly COLLABORATIVE realm of JAZZ. the documentary goes into the bands various lineups and incarnations that has included members of CLOWN ALLEY, LUSTMORD, RED KROSS, BIG BUSINESS, MR. BUNGLE and THE BUTTHOLE SURFERS as well as collaborations with everyone from JELLO BIAFRA to LEIF GARRETT. whatever incarnation, whether expanded or contracted in terms of instrumentation, it is that core musical identity of OSBOURNE and CROVER that prevails. and they are UNIQUE in that they are fearless in their ability to try anything.
for me it is that dichotomy of extreme control of their product and their RELENTLESS devotion to the COLLABORATIVE nature of music that defines their cultural significance 30 years into their career at the time of filming. its pretty ridiculous that a truly exhaustive list with the likes of JELLO BIAFRA (DEAD KENNEDYS), SCOTT KELLY (NEUROSIS), DAVID YOW (THE JESUS LIZARD), GENE SIMMONS (KISS), MIKE PATTON (FAITH NO MORE, MR. BUNGLE, FANTOMAS), J MASCIS (DINOSAUR JR), MARK ARM (MUDHONEY), JG THIRLWELL (FOETUS), CHRIS CORNELL & KIM THAYIL (SOUNDGARDEN), MATT PIKE (SLEEP, HIGH ON FIRE), KRIST NOVOSELIC (NIRVANA), PAUL LEARY & JEFF PINKUS (THE BUTTHOLE SURFERS), JOSH HOMME (QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE), KEITH MORRIS (BLACK FLAG, CIRCLE JERKS, OFF!), SCOTT "WINO" WEINRICH (THE OBSESSED, SAINT VITUS), BRENT HINDS & BRANN DAILOR (MASTODON), LOU BARLOW (DINOSAUR JR, SEBADOH), DONITA SPARKS (L7), KID CONGO POWERS (THE GUN CLUB, THE CRAMPS, THE BAD SEEDS), COREY TAYLOR (SLIPKNOT) and countless producers, artists and former band members who all agreed to testify to such artistic and cultural relevance in interviewed segments. it seems the secret to success is surrounding yourself like-minded people with similar values and treating your business like an extended family. despite being dropped by a major label (ATLANTIC RECORDS) after three stellar records (HOUDINI, STONER WITCH and STAG), the band had advocates and friends with independent labels (AMPHETAMINE REPTILE, IPECAC) which helped support their long-term artistic endeavors.
THE COLOSSUS OF DESTINY: A MELVINS TALE is most definitely worth checking out if you have any interest in the music of the MELVINS or their philosophy of making it in the music industry as currently constructed. their example is a powerful one, both in business and in terms of building a community.
with the revelation in recent years of his diagnosis with PARKINSON'S DISEASE, the cable documentary THE NINE LIVES OF OZZY OSBOURNE (A+E, 2020) has the feeling of a long-form EULOGY about the beloved and celebrated singer. PARKINSON'S is a long-term auto-degenerative disease (much like life itself) that attacks the nervous system and is highly debilitating. so stands to reason that now is the best time speak with the man and have him reflect on his life in depth.
to its credit, THE NINE LIVES OF OZZY OSBOURNE is as much concerned with the narrative surrounding the iconic and massively influential career of OZZY OSBOURNE as it is with his private relationship with his family, with special attention to his wife/manager/business partner SHARON. notable participants in this documentary include three of his adult children (AIMEE, KELLY and JACK) as well as former bandmates RUDY SARZO, TONY IOMMI and GEEZER BUTLER and industry peers like ROB ZOMBIE (WHITE ZOMBIE), JONATHAN DAVIS (KORN), MARILYN MANSON, POST MALONE, ICE-T (BODY COUNT) and record producer RICK RUBIN.
i will not try to hide my adoration of OZZY. suffice to say i have dedicated not one but two radio show episodes to him and his massive influence (DEER GOD RADIO 12: OZZY OSBOURNE and DEER GOD RADIO 133: OZZFEST). i have also written in the past about watching him perform at OZZFEST JAPAN in 2015 (linked HERE), which in my opinion didnt go well (note: i was not aware of his condition at the time i wrote it). in my opinion the allure of OZZY is his ability to be an everyman. he's not a MYTHOLOGICAL figure like ROBERT PLANT, phenomenal poet like BOB DYLAN or JOHN LENNON or have a preternaturally stellar vocal range / stage presence like RONNIE JAMES DIO or ROB HALFORD. to me he has something more valuable, he makes great music seem TANGIBLE and within reach of his audience. his lyrics are immediate and direct with little need for fancy decorations to show off his cleverness. there is a reason that his work in BLACK SABBATH has influenced every generation of modern rock music since (NEW WAVE OF BRITIS HEAVY METAL, PUNK ROCK, THRASH METAL, ALTERNATIVE ROCK, DEATH METAL, HARDCORE, SLUDGE METAL, METALCORE, POST HARDCORE, BLACK METAL, etc.). and a lot of that has to do with the unique PERSONAL relationship OZZY has with his audience.
so all that being said, i thought it was particularly interesting that THE NINE LIVES OF OZZY OSBOURNE moves past the more tabloid-bating aspects of his career (biting the heads off doves and bats, pissing on THE ALAMO, snorting ants on tour with MOTLEY CRUE) and delves into his failings as a father with his first marriage and the time he was so out of his mind on drugs that he attempting to strangle his second wife SHARON. to me that relationship with SHARON is the crux of this film and the central node on which his life and career hinged. the daughter of OZZY's former manager DON ARDEN, it was SHARON that basically willed OZZY to move on with his career after being dismissed from BLACK SABBATH in the late 1970s. her PATIENCE with his ADDICTIVE PERSONALITY which included drugs and infidelity is almost saint-like in some aspects, even as recently as a few years ago. interestingly the very recent public shaming of OZZY for his dalliance with a longtime hairdresser was completely omitted from discussion in the film. that was an interesting decision since here most of his poor behavior is limited to the 1980s.
with that one omission in mind, the film does a pretty good job of providing a portrait of a legendary musician that doesnt delve into HAGIOGRAPHY as is often the case. by his own admission OZZY is flawed human just like the rest of us. maybe his extremes are further out then us mortals will ever go (example: attempting to strangle your wife while intoxicated) but it is precisely his FALLIBILITY that makes him one of the most beloved frontman of all time.
and perhaps one of the greatest as well.
photo manipulation by nacrowe
iconic ALTERNATIVE ROCK musician DAVE GROHL of NIRVANA / FOO FIGHTERS fame has been on a bit of a creative streak the past few years, diversifying his many interests into a string of well-received documentaries and HBO specials centered on the role of music and its many facets (production, recording, touring, inspiration) in society. it doesnt seem that far-fetched that the next outlandish GROHL production would be a schlocky HORROR film that effectively parodied his self-perception as the slavedriver of the FOO FIGHTERS.
in STUDIO 666 (ROSWELL FILMS, 2022), whose title is a reference to the band's longstanding BURBANK recording facility STUDIO 606, GROHL is demonically possessed after setting up shop in an old abandoned hillside estate and recording there. again, this conceit is parodying GROHL's recent real-life proclivity for cooking up ever more outlandish concepts for recording albums (i.e. his home on tape for WASTING LIGHT or utilizing studios across AMERICA in SONIC HIGHWAYS, each studio a different song about that city). its pretty funny that its actually conceivable that recording in a haunted house would could probably be the hook or premise of an actual FOO FIGHTERS album (or even recording in space or on ANTARCTICA or in a submarine).
now i will fully admit that i am not a fan of HORROR films, especially the 1970s and 1980s SLASHER variety that thrives on gore and jump scares. its arguably the only genre i avoid. exceptions include early GERMAN EXPRESSIONIST films and the later inspired series of UNIVERSAL MONSTER movies. but in STUDIO 666 i see much less GEORGE ROMERO or TOBE HOOPER and much more HERSCHEL GORDON LEWIS or even MEL BROOKS. in essence the violence is so over-the-top and ridiculously that its beyond hilarious. its very much reminiscent of DRACULA: DEAD AND LOVING IT (BROOKSFILMS, 1995) with regard to how the ultra-violence is interpreted and ultimately perceived.
obviously the real-world passing of drummer TAYLOR HAWKINS a month after STUDIO 666's release makes watching it a bittersweet experience. there has been quite a bit of discussion and controversy over a universally derided hit piece by the ROLLING STONE which essentially stated that HAWKINS was overworked and suffering from exhaustion and was looking to limit the band's brutal touring schedule before and up to the time of his passing. people close to the band have bitterly stated that this is complete utter bullshit, but its still uncomfortable that the subtext of the film's basic plot surrounds the band going along with GROHL idiosyncratic notions despite their own reservations. its just a little unnerving and odd, thats all.
my hope is that GROHL will continue when the time's right and find the proper creative venue for his passion of connecting people through music. its what he does and to me that is what the FOO FIGHTERS legacy very much is about. even this goofy and schlocky labour of love deep down is ultimately about that need to connect and find a sense of community (in METAL!!!!).
sending all my love to the band at this horrible moment.
R.I.P. TAYLOR HAWKINS
what the documentary ONCE WERE BROTHERS: ROBBIE ROBERTSON AND THE BADN (DIAMOND DOCS, 2019) examines effectively is the mercurial nature of that special alchemy that makes musical collaborations work. its a mysterious process that is deeply rooted in our most basic need for connection, which is what i feel when i am entranced and under the spell of music.
this documentary is, in essence, a look back at criminally short and influential career of THE BAND from the perspective of ROBBIE ROBERTSON. it examines everything from his childhood split between TORONTO and a FIRST NATION reservation to his introduction to early ROCK N ROLL and beyond. having discovered AMERICAN ROCKABILLY and BLUES artists at a young age, ROBERTSON taught himself guitar and began writing songs while still in his teens. this gift for songwriting coupled with his indomitable drive led him to a gig with RONNIE HAWKINS AND THE HAWKS (where he met future THE BAND bandmate LEVON HELM) that morphed into LEVON AND THE HAWKS before becoming BOB DYLAN's backing band on his famed 1966 "electric" tour and then finally solidified into THE BAND.
what is interesting is how THE BAND's musical chemistry was what enabled their ability to shape-shift so abruptly with such conviction and authenticity, from RHYTHM & BLUES to FOLK ROCK hybrid to what would later be deemed AMERICANA and ROOTS ROCK. the tragedy is that this unspoken bond was challenged and ultimately discarded due to tribulations related to addiction, publishing rights, recognition and family. its a cliche story now but its interesting to look back at a period nearly half a century ago when such traditional interpersonal stress points were not widely known. its also particularly sad that for a musical outfit that succeeded based on their ability to fruitfully and selflessly collaborate, that it was this gnawing of said relationship that led to their downfall.
forget the music, but it feels like that abandoned relationship is the real tragedy elucidated throughout ONCE WERE BROTHERS. it was that connection that made peers gravitate to them immediately, as seen through recent interviews and archival footage of BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN, GEORGE HARRISON, BOB DYLAN, PETER GABRIEL, TAJ MAHAL, JIMMY VIVINO, JOHN HAMMOND and VAN MORRISON, ERIC CLAPTON, JANN WENER and MARTIN SCORSESE attesting to such.
my sense is that such a connection is frail combustible entity that must be nourished and renewed and sacrificed for. its almost like a surrogate family of sorts. which is odd, because my interpretation of THE BAND was that they were a band of brothers or family of sorts. their music has that intimate vibe of shared experiences, mutual admiration and sacrifice. i guess heroin trumps such more than it doesnt.
this film is well-constructed and worth watching whether or not you are interested in this seminal and revolutionary CLASSIC ROCK band.
i sought out the documentary AS THE PALACES BURN (9.14 PICTURES, 2014) after reading LAMB OF GOD frontman RANDY BLYTHE's memoir DARK DAYS (link to review HERE). its an interesting film in that it was originally intended to focus on the metal community and specifically fans of the band living in difficult situations (cartel violence in MEDELLIN and rigid gender prescriptions upon women in MUMBAI specifically) and using music as an outlet. what ended up happening is roughly halfway through filming BLYTHE was charged with manslaughter in the CZECH REPUBLIC for the death of a fan that happened two years before. rather than focusing on the fans, the film instead transitions into a compelling real-life drama revolving around concepts of personal RESPONSIBILITY and EMPATHY.
the fact that BLYTHE returned to stand trial after a few months after spending 38 days in the notorious PANKRAC PRISON is a testament to his character and his sense of honor and obligation to the family of the departed. it also served as a focal point for the wider global metal community to rally behind, as noted with interviews with the likes of SLASH and COREY TAYLOR. bassist JOHN CAMPBELL mentions that the album they were touring on during this whole debacle, RESOLUTION (EPIC, 2012), was named in honor of BLYTHE's mindset regarding maintaining his sobriety (the downside of which are made famously apparent in the previous band documentary KILLADELPHIA). each band member individually corroborate how the experience made them as a unit stronger as BLYTHE had absolutely "walked the talk."
what started as a documentary about FANDOM and the healing and rejuvenating power of music instead became one about the band's sense of duty to their community. this documentary is well worth seeking out or rewatching, irregardless of whether or not you have read BLYTHE's equally impressive memoir of his insane prison experience.
i was pretty frustrated watching the documentary THE DAMNED: DON'T YOU WISH THAT WE WERE DEAD (THREE COUNT FILMS, 2015) about the legendary first-wave BRITISH PUNK ROCK band. i've never been much of a fan of THE CLASH so in my eyes the two seminal groups of that movement in ENGLAND were always THE SEX PISTOLS and THE DAMNED. whereas THE SEX PISTOLS were all about NIHILISM, SELF-DESTRUCTION and the piss and vinegar embodiment of a seething underemployed and underrepresented underclass of BRITISH youth in a time of economic and social upheaval, THE DAMNED were the ARTIER, IDIOSYNCRATIC cousins who were better musicians and songwriters, and more than a little bit more interesting. that's just my opinion obviously.
ii thought this film was a missed opportunity. the majority of this documentary gets into the minutiae of THE DAMNED's career and the ensuing lineup changes over the years, which truthfully was not that compelling and felt like one bitter ROCK N ROLL cliche after another. none more dull that the selfish allure of money. there was also this undertone of self-pity due to their career being less profitable than that of their peers. i understand how such is interesting for them, but as a viewer that is not really my concern. we all know THE OFFSPRING, GREEN DAY and BLINK-182 made more than the bands they copied (cough, cough, THE DAMNED, THE BUZZCOCKS and DESCENDENTS). nothing new about that story.
the film only really got into their legacy in the last 10 minutes of the film, specifically their influence on the LOS ANGELES PUNK ROCK scene of the late 1970s and into the 80s HARDCORE scene thereafter. THE DAMNED famously played in LOS ANGELES at THE STARWOOD in 1977 that got the ball rolling for influential bands like THE GERMS, THE WEIRDOS, X, THE SCREAMERS, THE GUN CLUB and THE BAGS who in turn paved the way for second-wave HARDCORE bands like BLACK FLAG, DEAD KENNEDYS, ADOLESCENTS, T.S.O.L., SOCIAL DISTORTION, FEAR, DESCENDENTS and BAD RELIGION among countless others. remember, THE SEX PISTOLS final gig was in SAN FRANCISCO in 1978 and they never made it to LOS ANGELES. THE DAMNED was the de facto PUNK ROCK entry point for musicians during that period in CALIFORNIA and thus the scene is undoubtedly a major part of their legacy. the underutilized interview participants alone showcases a murderer's row of major players in the history and evolution of PUNK ROCK including the likes of CHRISSIE HYNDE (THE PRETENDERS), MICK JONES (THE CLASH), LEMMY KILMISTER (MOTORHEAD), CHRIS STEIN (BLONDIE), GLEN MATLOCK (SEX PISTOLS), NICK MASON (PINK FLOYD), JELLO BIAFRA (DEAD KENNEDYS), IAN MACKAYE (MINOR THREAT / FUGAZI), DAVID GAHAN (DEPECHE MODE), JACK GRISHAM (T.S.O.L.), KEITH MORRIS (BLACK FLAG / CIRCLE JERKS), BILLY IDOL (GENERATION X), GAY ADVERT (THE ADVERTS) and DEXTER HOLLAND (THE OFFSPRING) among others. for more information on the topic definitely check out the following books: JOHN DOE's UNDER THE BIG BLACK SUN: A PERSONAL HISTORY OF L.A. PUNK (reviewed HERE), ALICE BAG's VIOLENCE GIRL: A CHICANA PUNK STORY (reviewed HERE), HENRY ROLLINS' GET IN THE VAN: ON THE ROAD WITH BLACK FLAG, (reviewed HERE), KIDS OF THE BLACK HOLE (reviewed HERE), and KEITH MORRIS' MY DAMAGE: A PUNK ROCK SURVIVOR (reviewed HERE),
so yeah, i thought they should have leaned into what made them unique amongst their peers and what managed to translate into the next generation of bands. it is that LINEAGE that i find more interesting than petty squabbles over songwriting credits and royalty payments. its too bad the director didnt lean harder into such as that topic was by far and a way the most interesting at the closing at the documentary.