INDEPENDENT FILM PRODUCER / DIRECTOR ROGER CORMAN is a SINGULAR HOLLYWOOD legend whose INDUSTRY influence and cultural impact is difficult to sum up neatly, but that is exactly what the recent hour-long documentary ROGER CORMAN: THE POPE OF POP CINEMA (CALIFORNIA PROD, 2021) does.
in a sense, its SUCCINCT overview of his career mirrors that of the FRUGAL no-nonsense aesthetics of his moving pictures, which are often HIGH ON CONCEPT and LOW ON PRODUCTION VALUE. given that he funded his own pictures, CORMAN was incentivized to cut cost where he could, allowing for more films to be created and thus opportunities for profit. his talent pool was often YOUNG and CHEAP and subjects covered exploited the YOUTH CULTURE of the day with MONSTER, SCI-FI, HORROR and SKIN PICTURES. such efforts have rendered CORMAN very much one of the core ORIGINATORS of EXPLOITATION FILMS writ large. his BUSINESS MODEL also allowed for the initial directing opportunities (again, because they were CHEAP) for the likes of such later CELEBRATED talents as PETER BOGDANOVICH (THE LAST PICTURE SHOW), MARTIN SCORSESE (MEAN STREETS, RAGING BULL, GOODFELLAS), RON HOWARD (A BEAUTIFUL MIND, APOLLO 13), FRANCIS FORD COPPOLA (THE GODFATHER, APOCALYPSE NOW), JAMES CAMERON (AVATAR, TITANIC), JONATHAN DEMME (THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS), JOE DANTE (GREMLINS) and JOHN SAYLES (PASSION FISH, LONE STAR). behind the camera, much of his staff were WOMEN, an ANOMALY in HOLLYWOOD where employment skewed WHITE, MALE and OLD. this is INTERESTING given the SEXPLOITATION FILMS CORMAN produced in contrast to the more MUTED, MAINSTREAM fair out of the studio system during the late 1960s and especially throughout the 1970s.
the EXTREME THRIFTINESS of CORMAN is stuff of HOLLYWOOD LEGEND, but seemingly his lasting contribution to AMERICAN CULTURE is the entrepreneurial mythology surrounding the individual with an INNOVATIVE idea in AMERICA has the potential to disrupt an INDUSTRY. his example paved a new lane in the movie business for others to mimic and exploit in later generations, but in today's late stage CAPITALIST ENVIRONMENT it all feels a bit like an ANACHRONISM from a bygone era. today's DIGITIZED and soon to be artificial intelligence-enabled MARKETPLACE has seemingly cornered the market opportunities for new entries who would be swallowed whole or drowned in their infancy before making a bid for economic relevance. my thought is not so much about CORMAN and his innovations, but on what that sort of ICONOCLASTIC FIGURE would be like in today's digital media and highly interactive MARKET LANDSCAPE.
truth is i dont know. but at least this film got me thinking about it.
it is increasingly DIFFICULT to look at the state of things and not come to anything but the UNFORTUNATE conclusion that the world has completely DEGENERATED at that hands of MANKIND over the past fifty years. in the UNITED STATES there has been a clear demarcating line over decades that has seen PUBLIC EDUCATION ATTACKED AND DEFUNDED, THE CLIMATE MORE POLLUTED (MORE PLASTIC THAN FISH IN OCEANS, GLOBAL WARMING), INCOME INEQUALITY MORE PRONOUNCED and the RISE OF AUTHORITARIANISM.
it is almost as if HUMANITY has DE-EVOLVED.
and that is the treatise of the recent DEVOLUTION: A DEVO THEORY (DEAD HEART FILMS, 2021) documentary centered around the philosophical underpinnings of the creative work of iconic POST PUNK / NEW WAVE band DEVO, with interviews with surviving members GERALD CASALE, MARK MOTHERSBAUGH and BOB MOTHERSBAUGH as well as FREEDOM OF CHOICE (WARNER BROS, 1980) producer ROBERT MARGOULEFF and the generationally talented late-career drummer (and noted DEVO superfan) JOSH FREESE. the group began as an art project by CASALE and MARK that was a reaction to the COMPLIANT BEHAVIOR, MINDLESS CONSUMERISM and rampant IRRATIONALITY they saw in AMERICAN culture around them in OHIO at the time. both were students at KENT STATE UNIVERSITY and CASALE himself found himself in the middle of the MASSACRE that happened on MAY 4, 1970 when NATIONAL GUARD soldiers fired live rounds upon a group of VIETNAM WAR protestors, KILLING four students and MAIMING nine others. understandably for CASALE, this was a profoundly TRAUMATIC and LIFE-ALTERING event that made him question his upbringing and the core of his AMERICAN identity. watching and reading the media responses that contextualized and/or justified the MURDER of his fellow students as INEVITABLE left a lasting impression on him. political interests and the propagation of PROPAGANDA was real thing. DEVOLUTION was REAL. only a DEVOLVED SYSTEM would allow such a TRAVESTY to happen. unquestionably this event served as the impetus for initiating DEVO in earnest.
the SAD fact is that over the next forty years, their postulation that humans were DE-EVOLVING has come to fruition. right now the AMERICAN population is DISTRACTING ITSELF with technology, HATRED for their fellow countryman and GREED and SELF-INTEREST is RAMPANT. CASALE sees a widespread BUSINESS CULTURE that is founded not on EMPATHY or MUTUAL BENEFIT but on the most BASE, DISHONEST and DISHONORABLE of human values. there is a basic disconnect given the rampant INCOME INEQUALITY at the current moment that feels like an IMMINENT powder keg ready to explode and effectively dismantle the whole AMERICAN experiment. we are out of touch with our HUMANITY, our connection to each other, our written and fought-for constitution and our fundamental values of EMPATHY and BROTHERHOOD as a nation. everything is WARPED. its obvious to point out DONALD TRUMP since he is the physical embodiment of this bloated LATE-STAGE CAPITALISM and its INSATIABLE GREED and CONSTANT NARCISSISM. not only that CASALE notes that the dude fully embraces and takes JOY in being an ASSHOLE.
so where do we go from here? i dont know. it all feels pretty FUCKED. DEVO was, in fact, right.
i'm a hardcore DEVO fan so of course i recommend DEVOLUTION: A DEVO THEORY, but what takes center stage here is not necessarily their MUSIC or cultural legacy. this film is not about that. it is about the POLITICAL IDEAS and PHILOSOPHICAL CONCEPTS that underpin such, which are CONFRONTATIONAL as they THOUGHT-PROVOKING. at the very least, this documentary is asking its audience to not take them at face value and think for themselves. im certain the promotion of RATIONAL THINKING and THOUGHTFUL, INFORMED DEBATE is what they are seeking with this late-career film. likewise, im sure the promotion of such is what they objectively sought with their INNOVATIVE MUSIC and longstanding career.
there is a moment early in the ANDROID IN LA LA LAND (PERFECTMOTION, 2016) documentary when you learn that GARY NUMAN's wife GEMMA was a member of his fan club back in the day and had a collection of early photographs of early gigs to prove such. the SINKING FEELING i had watching such about the obvious potential pitfalls of marrying a fan were IMMEDIATE and UNFORGIVING. turns out this was completely wrong as his wife is arguably the bedrock of SUPPORT and SECURITY that has helped assist him through PERSONAL and PROFESSIONAL PROBLEMS for decades. if anything, this film seems to be a testament to her DEEP and UNWAVERING DEDICATION and LOVE and the FAMILY they built and fought for together. it really is quite the HEARTWARMING film.
the documentary finds VETERAN SYNTH POP ICON GARY NUMAN at a PROFESSIONAL CROSSRAODS, moving his FAMILY to LOS ANGELES from ENGLAND in the hopes of revitalizing his CAREER and potentially getting involved in a new phase of such working on films scores (a la his friend and mentee TRENT REZNOR). it has been decades since he was a relevant force on the charts, which is not to diminish his CHERISHED roles as a CULT FIGURE and ELECTRONIC MUSIC ELDER STATESMAN. coinciding with his almost decade-long hiatus from releasing any recorded music was a similar years-long bout with DEPRESSION, ANXIETY and CHRONIC PANIC ATTACKS. as the father of three young girls and a dedicated husband, part of his MOTIVATION for pushing himself again in the studio was centered around the longterm well-being of his FAMILY. the resulting album SPLINTER () positions him as a relevant CULTURAL FORCE again and undoubtedly has given him more opportunity for connections in the ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRY.
thats all well and good, but for me the INTERESTING part of this documentary was the relationship of NUMAN with his FAMILY, including his PARENTS. apparently his parents looked after his early CAREER in a management role. his father although seemingly DISINTERESTED in his music or lyrics, was compelled to protect his son and look after his financial interests. it was NUMAN's own inability to cut costs at the behest of his father that his CAREER imploded, leading not just to PROFESSIONAL CONSEQUENCES, but a rift in the FAMILY as well. even decades later this situation still pains NUMAN and it is GEMMA that navigates and mends that tense standoff. you get the sense that in his WIFE NUMAN has found a TRUE PARTNER that has the needs of their FAMILY at the very forefront her priorities. it is pretty INCREDIBLE. my heart broke when she reveals her bought with POST-PARTUM DEPRESSION after a long list of efforts at CREATING a FAMILY together. again, you see how much she has DEDICATED and SUFFERED for in building and NURTURING her FAMILY. that being the case you can see why NUMAN was so dedicated in turning out his best work in decades. the narrative of this film is not that FAMILY is something that drags him down and depends on his COMMERCIAL SUCCESS, rather inversely success provides him with the means to better secure a FAMILY he seemingly absolutely adores and never expected as a SHY, QUIET and UNASSUMING child with ASPERGER'S SYNDROME who became the most UNLIKELY of GLOBAL POP STARS.
i was very much touched by ANDROID IN LA LA LAND. it is most definitely worth checking out.
JIM MORRISON of THE DOORS was and will remain a ROCK AND ROLL ICON for the ages. at his peak he was this sort of HYBRID POET / SHAMAN / PROPHET figure that pointed the way to PUNK ROCK decades in advance and tapped into this previously unexploited thread that effectively unleashed the existing DRUG CULTURE and SEXUAL REVOLUTION on an unprepared square, conventional MIDDLE AMERICA mental prison from which he was raised under. ELVIS PRESLEY and THE BEATLES may have hinted at and pointed the way, but JIM MORRISON was culturally the first AVATAR of unbridled DIONYSIAN LUST and UNADULTERATED CHAOS in AMERICAN musical culture. he was the perfect frontman for that period in AMERICA's history that was turmoil at the height of the VIETNAM WAR, CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT and the emergence of the COUNTERCULTURE as a POLITICAL BLOC.
he is identifiably on the short list of his most INFLUENTIAL ROCK AND ROLL singers of all time and his example was picked up on and pushed forward by his legions of later PROTO-PUNK, PUNK ROCK, POST PUNK, HARDCORE and ALTERNATIVE ROCK acolytes including that of most notably IGGY POP (THE STOOGES), ALICE COOPER, PATTI SMITH, DARBY CRASH (THE GERMS), IAN CURTIS (JOY DIVISION), DAVE GAHAN (DEPECHE MODE), KURT COBAIN (NIRVANA), IAN MCCULLOCH (ECHO & THE BUNNYMEN), PERRY FARRELL (JANE'S ADDICTION), ROBERT SMITH (THE CURE), MARK LANEGAN (SCREAMING TREES), IAN ASTBURY (THE CULT), NICK CAVE (THE BIRTHDAY PARTY) and ANTON NEWCOMBE (THE BRIAN JONESTOWN MASSACRE) among countless others. at this stage more than half a century later, his influence on AMERICAN culture is undeniable and self-evident. his CHARISMATIC, MYSTICAL example is irreparably baked into the very notion of being a ROCK AND ROLL star. what has been reevaluated in scholarly circles in the years since his passing is the literary quality of his POETRY and the relative OUTALNDISHNESS of his LOUTISH behavior. for example JOHN LENNON of THE BEATLES is recognized as one of the great songwriters (if not the greatest) of the 20th century while at the same time treated women poorly and was a TERRIBLE, absentee father to his first son. both things are true. so such are the modern evaluative critical fault lines with JIM MORRISON.
the recent documentary JIM MORRISON: THE WILD CHILD (ENTERTAIN ME PRODUCTIONS, 2019) seems to want it both ways, presenting him at times as both ADONIS and ICARUS. there are only a handful of no-name experts of DUBIOUS quality rendering their opinion and no peers or later acolytes rounding out the critical evaluation. at times it seems they cant decide whether this film is a HAGIOGRAPHY or a critical take down of his legacy. i'm game for it either way, but it just felt HALF-BAKED in the end and i felt at the very least THE LIZARD KING deserved a COGENT argument for or against. the guy was COMPLICATED but not that hard to discern and construct a COHERENT narrative around.
this documentary left me disappointed and i would recommend fans of THE DOORS, CLASSIC ROCK and all things JIM MORRISON to seek information elsewhere as this documentary has all the markings of a CHEAP cash grab. people are STRANGE, indeed.
the recent RANDY RHOADS: REFLECTIONS OF A GUITAR ICON (VMI WORLDWIDE, 2002) documentary is a WARM, WELL-MEANING yet CLUMSY film about the LEGENDARY OZZY OSBOURNE GUITARIST. utilizing archival footage from major PLAYERS is career and new interviews with minor collaborators and acquaintances, the film presents a generationally GIFTED musician who had a HUMBLE sense of grace about his elevated status in the entertainment industry. in other words, the FAME and UNIVERSAL PRAISE surrounding the OZZY releases BLIZZARD OF OZZ (JET, 1981) and DIARY OF A MADMAN (JET, 1981) never got to his head.
as a former educator myself, the aspect of RANDY RHOADS presented in this film that i found most COMPELLING was that at his heart he as a TEACHER. he was a servant to his students. case in point was how even at the height of his scene rivalry with VAN HALEN as a member of LOS ANGELES club band QUIET RIOT, he would lay his ego aside and still transpose and learn EDDIE VAN HALEN riffs at the behest of his students (who were naive to such competition). when living in ENGLAND with OZZY and his family during the writing of BLIZZARD OF OZZ, RHOADS remained TEACHABLE by taking lessons and studying CLASSICAL MUSIC which paid dividends on "REVELATION (MOTHER EARTH)." there is a PALPABLE sense that while he enjoyed his INSTRUMENT, the WRITING PROCESS and PLAYING LIVE, what RHOADS couldnt stand about his peer group was their arrogance towards fans and the public. he never deluded himself into believing his GIFT and PASSION towards GUITAR PLAYING elevated him relative to everyone else. this at the beginning of a decade that truly saw ROCK AND ROLL fall into that mental trip wholesale. in this sense he shared the DIY ETHOS of INDIR ROCK and HARDCORE acts of the 1980s rather than the GLAM METAL contingent he is associated with.
and speaking of DIY, i did not realize the lengths to which QUIET RIOT during this early lineup that RHOADS was a part of went in attempting to garner a record deal. staging multiple televised protests with fans, COUNTLESS showcases and cycling through three managers, all for nought. but its this futility that led RHOADS to audition for OZZY and ultimately become a MODERN GUITAR ICON on par with his rival EDDIE VAN HALEN as well as JIMI HENDRIX, DIMEBAG DARRELL, SLASH and JIMMY PAGE among others. remaining UNASSUMING and TEACHABLE while feverishly perfecting ones CRAFT and sacrificing time and energy towards a goal is an INCREDIBLE ability. especially during that era.
this documentary felt a bit HALF-BAKED with SHODDY visual transitions and LESS-THEN-STELLAR insights from minor characters. i think they should have held out for more HIGH PROFILE MUSICIANS to make this film more worthwhile, because as is its a bit meh. TRANSCENDENT GUITAR PLAYER, MEDIOCRE documentary. he deserved better.
something EXTRAORDINARY happened in the 1960s. from the post-war economic prosperity and relative CONSERVATIVE CULTURAL MALAISE of the 1950s came an ERUPTIVE overflow of long-simmering ideas that altered the COLLECTIVE CONSCIOUSNESS of the BABY BOOMER generation just coming into their own. any and all TRADITIONS were under RECONSIDERATION, which resulted in various movements (CIVIL RIGHTS, FEMINIST, ENVIRONMENTALIST, ANTI-WAR, PROTO-GAY RIGHTS, NATIVE RIGHTS) and new adoptive practices (SEXUAL REVOLUTION and PSYCHEDELIC REVOLUTION) to effectively DISCONNECT this COHORT GROUP from all generations that came before. this was by definition a COUNTER CULTURE.
the SUPERB ALISON ELLWOOD and ALEX GIBNEY-directed MAGIC TRIP (MAGNOLIA, 2011) documentary holds its focus on this MONUMENTAL inflection point in AMERICAN HISTORY, manifested by the transformation of ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST (VIKING, 1964) author KEN KESEY during this period. KESEY was every bit the all-AMERICAN boy next door, the son of HUMBLE dairy farmers who married his middle school sweetheart (til his death in 2001) and attended the local UNIVERSITY OF OREGON as a lettered wrestler (and one-time OLYMPIC prospect). after being injured he became interested in journalism and later creative writing which led him to STANFORD after graduation. it was here that he became involved in nascent government studies on HALLUCINOGENIC DRUGS. it was his understanding at the time that they were being examined and studied for their PALLIATIVE EFFECTS, only to learn years after the fact via friend and colleague ALLEN GINSBERG that such were conducted with more COERCIVE intentions. incredibly, LSD was being state administered to garner information concerning their MIND-ALTERING EFFECTS to be used in future interrogations by the CIA. regardless, a seed was planted in KESEY.
in the late 1950s and early 1960s there was a groundswell of academic and intellectual exploration into the CONSCIOUSNESS-EXPANDING EFFECTS of PSYCHOACTIVE SUBSTANCES, most famously by HARVARD professors TIMOTHY LEARY and RICHARD ALPERT (a.k.a RAM DASS). even BRITISH intellectual heavyweights such as ALDOUS HUXLEY were early proponents of MEASURED and DELIBERATE usage of PSYCHOACTIVE SUBSTANCES in order to gain a WIDER and more VIVID EXPERIENTIAL APPRECIATION and PERSPECTIVE on the natural world and our connection to it. but this was still very much an academic and intellectual affair.
KESEY and his friends (dubbed "THE MERRY PRANKTERS") decided to cross the UNITED STATES from OREGON in 1964, auspiciously to see the newly opened WORLD'S FAIR in NEW YORK CITY while filming themselves along the way. there was a technical issue with the sound, which never linked with the video, and numerous editing attempts rendered the film ultimately abandoned. what is INCREDIBLE is that the majority of the film is conceived from this footage and some of the audio. MAGIC TRIP is a REMARKABLE look at the emerging of a CONSCIOUSNESS and the COUNTER CULTURE of the period. all of these clean shaven, short-haired prime examples of AMERICAN youth over the course of the journey on this PHANTASMAGORICALLY COLORED, heavily MODIFIED school bus (named "FURTHER") took DRUGS that opened them up to new SEXUAL CONFIGURATIONS with each other (regardless of married status) and new NOVEL APPRECIATIONS of the NATURAL ORDER, whose ever-shifting, EXPANSIVE landscape they witnessed in real time from their window. some went MAD and others fled for easier routes eastward, but what emerged was the birth of a new CONSCIOUSNESS. by the time they got to QUEENS and saw the WORLD'S FAIR, the cultural landscape had already effectively SHIFTED, rendering such a WILD corporate fantasyland of the future an anachronism due to simmering DESTRUCTIVE tides of the period related to the CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT and the recent tragic assassination of JFK.
once the common usage of PSYCHOACTIVE DRUGS became something a NATIONAL SOCIAL PHENOMENON (or a trend) over the course of the decade and had long since transcended the measured and deliberate usage prescribed by its academic fore-bearers, KESEY changed his tune somewhat. more than being arrested on trumped-up MARIJUANA charges that forced his hand to avert prison time, KESEY saw the DESTRUCTIVE power of these CONTROLLED CHEMICALS on NAIVE and UNINFORMED users. such is the case with all new technology (nuclear, pharmacological or otherwise) that once out of the bag, the responsibility lies with the participating adult.
it INTRIGUING how in one roundtrip bus excursion across the UNITED STATES that took less than a year to complete is the story of an entire decade. one whose CULTURAL REVERBERATIONS we are still grappling with and feeling more than half a century later. MAGIC TRIP is an EXCEPTIONAL documentary well worth checking out.
originally conceived in the late 1950s as part of a new series of four decidedly MODERNIST guitar models by GIBSON pushed by their LEGENDARY president TED MCCARTY (including the EXPLORER, FUTURA and MODERNE) to compete with the FUTURISTIC FENDER STRATOCASTER, the FLYING V was shelved shortly after production began due to low sales. it wasnt until the PROMINENT 1950s BLUES guitarist ALBERT KING and later 1960s ROCK AND ROLL guitar players like DAVE DAVIES (THE KINKS), ANDY POWELL (WISHBONE ASH) and JIMI HENDRIX began using them that their popularity began in earnest. later in the 1970s and 1980s the model found a home and became identifiable with the NWOBHM and THRASH METAL scenes in bands like JUDAS PRIEST, MERCYFUL FATE, DIAMOND HEAD, SCORPIONS, ACCEPT and KING DIAMOND as well as SLAYER, METALLICA and MEGADETH.
the IN-ARTFULLY named, conceived and executed recent FLYING V (TEN NINETY ONE, 2020) documentary is focused on the SYNERGISTIC relationship between those music scenes and that particular GUITAR MODEL. there is something to be said about the GIBSON models LACK OF CURVES and SPACE-AGE AESTHETICS which stood out on stage and literally pointed the way forward. their popularity resulted in a myriad of later brands, most notably JACKSON, ESP, B.C RICH, DEAN, SHECTER, KRAMER, IBANEZ and so on taking their stab at creating POINTIER, more ANGULAR REVISIONS with DIFFERENT ACTIVE PICKUP CONFIGURATIONS that went well beyond the original SETH LOVER humbucking pickups associated with the original. the film is largely an INCOHERENT series of interview clips with the likes of K.K. DOWNING (JUDAS PRIEST), MICHAEL SHENKER (UFO / SCORPIONS), MICHAEL DENNER & HANK SHERMANN (MERCYFUL FATE), BRIAN TATLER (DIAMOND HEAD), WOLF HOFFMAN (ACCEPT), ANDY LAROCQUE (KING DIAMOND), MICHAEL AMOTT (ARCH ENEMY), DAVE MUSTAINE (MEGADETH), JAMES HETFIELD (METALLICA) and KERRY KING (SLAYER) among others about various aspects of the guitars appeal. most of these interviews are pretty TEDIOUS and REPETITIVE and act almost as advertisements for the band members and their particular MODELS, which does the FLYING V ultimately a disservice in my opinion. the film would have been served better by conducting interviews with the manufacturers themselves and those that are continuing to INNOVATE on the original design. there is also LAZY EDITING and the LACK OF LICENSED MUSIC by said artists, which shows both a LACK OF BUDGET and buy-in from the artists themselves. in fact, the same GENERIC background music is repetitively utilized over and over again throughout to the point that it grates as the film rambles on.
in totality, this film was difficult to watch even with a passion for the subject that i have as a fan of guitars and their development in general. this film feels RUSHED and ILL-CONCEIVED and would have been executed in a more talented director's hands with a bigger budget. NOTHING WAS LEARNED here that a thirty second perusal through the first two paragraphs of a WIKIPEDIA entry couldnt have taught me, which funny enough feels like the extent of the preproduction utilized for this documentary. id given this film a hard pass unless one is exceedingly interested in the subject of FLYING Vs to the extent that they could stomach one EVISCERATING the topic.
dont say you werent forewarned.
there is so much that goes into a THRIVING and VIABLE MUSIC and ARTS COMMUNITY. its not just the VISIBLE ARTISTS and audience INVOLVED, but arguably more importantly an entire LOCAL MUNICIPAL AGENDA that encapsulates SYMPATHETIC ECONOMIC, LEGAL and even ZONING POLICIES. the pre-pandemic documentary NOW SOUND: MELBOURNE'S LISTENING (KEWL, 2018) is an extended argument for the maintaining of said POLICIES in MELBOURNE and beyond so that the EXTENDED COMMUNITY of INDEPENDENT RECORD STORES, RADIO STATIONS, RECORDING STUDIOS, REHEARSAL SPACES, RECORD LABELS, PERFORMANCE VENUES and VINYL PRESSING PLANTS may continue unabated by new political regimes.
at the heart of this argument is the CULTURAL VALUE of said ARTS COMMUNITY from which all the economic benefits are generated. SYDNEY is portrayed as a DOOMED, CAUTIONARY alternative example having previously imposed LAWS and RESTRICTIONS that limited business hours that basically curtailed LOCAL VENUES and cratered the scene overnight. or at least made it go UNDERGROUND with DUBIOUS LEGALITY and higher risk environments for potential patrons.
watching NOW SOUND i couldnt help but be reminded of a similar situation in BROOKLYN neighborhoods like WILLIAMSBURG and GREENPOINT whereby the success of the LOCAL ARTS SCENE, which initially took advantage of SUPPORTIVE ZONING POLICIES and cheap rent, cannibalized itself as it attracted the attention of real estate developers eager to take advantage of the scene's NOTORIETY and now a decade or two later the whole place is a series of FACELESS, IMPOSING residential buildings. one even stands where my cousin's former RECORDING STUDIO was once located. as much as participants in MELBOURNE's EXPANSIVE MUSIC and ARTS SCENE pre-pandemic were pushing for more INCLUSIVITY and much-needed safe spaces for WOMEN and the LGBTQIA community, the sad truth is that ultimately GENTRIFICATION will seemingly level everyone. it happened in BROOKLYN and AUSTIN and various other thriving STATESIDE SCENES. this film seems to be an educational effort aimed at getting the word out about the potential future danger of MELBOURNE devouring itself in the name of short-term PROFITS and ultimately losing its HARD-FOUGHT REPUTATION as a MULTI-CULTURAL HAVEN in the process.
sadly, i think that transformation is INEVITABLE. GREED and CAPITALISM consumes everything in its path, especially ART.
my introduction to the CINEMATIC work of KEVIN SMITH is intertwined with my family's relocation from SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA to NEW JERSEY in the mid-90s. during that period we were only stateside for the summer months as we were living abroad in NIGERIA at the time as part of my parent's work, but found ourselves every year at a distant relative's JERSEY SHORE home in a SUBURBAN town called MIDDLETOWN just off EXIT 114 on the GARDEN STATE PARKWAY. we've more or less been based in the same general area ever since, despite several stints abroad. it was our adopted base and has become our home.
SMITH, much like BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN (or to a much lesser extent BON JOVI) is a prominent part of the cultural fabric of that community, as he grew up in HIGHLANDS and famously worked at the QUICK STOP in nearby LEONARDO by the naval base (both part of MIDDLETOWN TOWNSHIP), before pursuing the most IMPROBABLE of FILM CAREERS. the retrospective CLERK (1091 PICTURES, 2021) documentary follows SMITH's career trajectory and examines how successes and failures effected his sense of IDENTITY. in essence, he learned along the way that he personified a certain AMERICAN archetype revolving around supposed NERDISH pursuits (i.e. comic books, STAR WARS, hockey?) that endeared him to a surprisingly abundant yet dormant national community of likeminded SELF-IDENTIFIED DORKS. this career pivot towards online fan forums (long before social media), touring speaking engagements and later podcasting made him more immediately available and on INTIMATE terms with his audience. yes, he is a noted SCREENWRITER and FILMMAKER with an identifiably specific, working-class ethos and voice to his work, but he has now made a second career of professionally being, in essence, KEVIN SMITH. his fans have basically been riding shotgun with him for years now, supporting his privately distributed INDIE FILMS and learning about his gains (new projects) and setbacks (including a recent HEART ATTACK that led him to go vegan and lose weight).
recently i watched a retrospective documentary on QUENTIN TARANTINO, in which there is mention of a statement he made after learning about the MASSIVE court case against former MIRAMAX / THE WEINSTEIN COMPANY chairman and elite producer HARVEY WEINSTEIN. he noted that he knew enough to know something and did nothing end stop. it was an ANEMIC response that really made TARANTINO look TERRIBLE and surprisingly IMPOTENT. SMITH, likewise, had many of his more WELL-KNOWN and critically REVERED films distributed through MIRAMAX over the years. learning about the WEINSTEIN allegations shocked him to his core, enough to immediately vow to donate all future residual earnings from those films to the nonprofit WOMEN IN FILM, an advocacy group for GENDER EQUALITY in the FILM INDUSTRY. which is pretty incredible.
im just continually relieved that someone from my area has gone on to create great work on such a massive scale while still remaining part of the local JERSEY SHORE community. its just something about MONMOUTH COUNTY where sightings of FAMOUS residents like DEBORAH HARRY (LINCROFT), BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN (COLTS NECK), BON JOVI (RUMSON) and KEVIN SMITH (RED BANK) are met with shrugs. they are just regular people getting on with their lives in peace. success for some is something to aspire to, but these people seemingly didnt lose themselves along the way and remained available and local. i respect them for that and im glad they are from my area.
its difficult to downplay the cultural impact of THE NATIONAL LAMPOON on MODERN HUMOR. what are now considered heralded comedic institutions such as SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE (NBC, 1975-present), ANIMAL HOUSE (UNIVERSAL, 1978), CADDYSHACK (WARNER BROS, 1980) and even THE SIMPSONS (FOX, 1989-present), were built on the collective INSPIRED work of generations of WRITERS (PJ O'ROURKE, MICHAEL O'DONOGHUE, GEORGE W.S. TROW, ANNE BEATS, SEAN KELLY, MIKE REISS, AL JEAN, TONY HENDRA), ARTISTS (SAM GROSS, CHARLES RODRIGUES, M.K. BROWN, RICK MEYEROWITZ, BRUCE MCCALL, GAHAN WILSON) and COMEDIANS (JOHN BELUSHI, GILDA RADNER, BILL MURRAY, HAROLD RAMIS, CHEVY CHASE) famously associated with the publication. the publication, which was started by two preternaturally GIFTED HARVARD undergrads DOUGLAS KENNEY and HENRY BEARD in 1970, grew to be unrivaled in its INTELLIGENT deconstruction of cultural and political events, while simultaneously producing some of the RAUNCHIEST, borderline OBSCENE material meant to probe and titillate at the same time. its beyond INTERESTING that they had both poles so expertly covered during a period of such cultural and political turmoil in the UNITED STATES with the VIETNAM WAR sill very much in effect as well as the aftermath of the FEMINIST, ENVIRONMENTALIST and CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENTS from the previous decade.
i feel i understand why the DRUNK, STONED, BRILLIANT, DEAD: THE STORY OF THE NATIONAL LAMPOON (NETFLIX, 2015) documentary came out when it did almost a decade ago. the SAD reality is that those involved with THE NATIONAL LAMPOON are dying of old age. in fact numerous PROMINENT WRITERS interviewed for this film have passed away just in the past three years. in many ways this film is meant as a testament to their legacy in-their-own-words a la recent efforts to the same effect by other INFLUENTIAL upstart and/or legacy publications like MAD, CURVE, PLAYBOY, BIG BROTHER and CREEM. not to mention the surviving members of MONTY PYTHON, who are a comedic universe and institution unto themselves to rival that of THE NATIONAL LAMPOON. one aspect of this retrospective lens a work in this film that i found COMPELLING was how the HUMOR itself wasnt examined that deeply, i.e. all the SEX-CRAZED stuff from an obvious MALE GAZE perspective that would absolutely not play in recent decades. it feels that such an examination is meant for another film by another party as DRUNK, STONED, BRILLIANT, DEAD seems more concerned with faithfully explaining their mindset as they saw it. not how such somewhat RETROGRADE comedic tropes would fit into our current more INCLUSIVE era. given how influential films like ANIMAL HOUSE and CADDYSHACK have been on subsequent decades of comedic films, a cottage industry unto itself, that examination would be fruitful if pursued elsewhere no doubt.
i appreciate this film for what it is: a timely reminder of the legacy of a major publication that helped mold AMERICAN HUMOR. interview participants beyond the surviving WRITERS, ARTISTS and COMEDIANS included numerous ACTORS (KEVIN BACON, TIM MATHESON, BEVERLEY D'ANGELO, JOHN GOODMAN, BILLY BOB THORNTON & MEAT LOAF) and DIRECTORS (JUDD APATOW & IVAN REITMAN). its an INSANE story but i still feel this film was a bit of a hagiography and a bit of a MISSED OPPORTUNITY to examine how their comedic perspective was reshaped, morphed or completely discarded down the line by subsequent HUMORISTS, COMEDIANS and WRITERS since the publication went under in 1998.
BRITISH author ALDOUS HUXLEY is far and away one of the most REVERED LITERARY MINDS of the 20th century, SCIENCE FICTION or otherwise. his enduring legacy was furthered not just with the release of his TRANSFORMATIVE and TRANSGRESSIVE DYSTOPIAN NOVEL BRAVE NEW WORLD (CHATTO & WINDUS, 1932), but likewise with his decades of ESSAYS and CRITICISM, of which were the basis for many PUBLIC DEBATES and SPEECHES, about some of the biggest topics of the modern era. such include then-novel subjects like the negative effects of OVERPOPULATION on our global ecosystem, the paramount danger of NUCLEAR PROLIFERATION (then in its infancy) and even the potential benefits of PSYCHOACTIVE SUBSTANCES.
this latter interest is of substantial focus in the documentary HUXLEY ON HUXLEY (BRAUBACH PRODUCTIONS, 2009) in which his surviving second wife LAURA looks back at her experience with her late husband. herself an ITALIAN concert violinist that played at CARNEGIE HALL in her teens, was stranded in the UNITED STATES when WORLD WAR II commenced and eventually found her way to HOLLYWOOD where she failed at being a film editing assistant in the burgeoning new industry. she was married to ALDOUS for only seven years from 1956 to 1963, but during that period he was involved with screenwriting efforts with the likes of ORSON WELLES and GEORGE CUKOR as well as holding court at his HOLLYWOOD HILLS home with cultural luminaries such as GERALD HEAD, CHRISTOPHER ISHERWOOD and IGOR STRAVINSKY among others. he also found himself at the cutting edge of a recent revolution in the CONSCIOUSNESS EXPANDING and THERAPEUTIC potential of newly synthesized PSYCHOACTIVE SUBSTANCES based on the CHEMISTRY of compounds PSILOCYBIN and PSILOCIN. this interest put him in concert with younger academics and EXPERIMENTAL practitioners like TIMOTHY LEARY and RAM DASS of HARVARD UNIVERSITY. in essence, the MEASURED, THOUGHTFUL and DELIBERATE METHODOLOGIES surrounding ALDOUS and his exploration of LSD predated and provided academic cover to what would later blossom in the counterculture of the 1960s almost a decade later.
for LAURA, decades after the passing of her late husband in 1963, her life is still very much a continuation of this EXPLORATORY ETHIC, having written and published various self-help books related to her interest in PSYCHOTHERAPY. the DRUGS were just a conduit to understanding the internal capacities, mechanizations and functions of the MIND through bypassing the prefrontal cortex and getting to the heart of the matter. it would seem her such activities were conducted in order for her to achieve her real objective: HELPING PEOPLE. it would appear that such is in alignment with that of the ALTRUISM of her late husband and his adroit and DIRE WARNINGS for the future of HUMANITY. its UNCANNY how PROPHETIC his predictions bore out over time and how PRETERNATURAL his evolved understanding of the HUMAN CONDITION was back in the 1930s through his death on november 22, 1963 (note: yes, the same day as fellow author C.S. LEWIS and the JFK assassination).
this HUXLEY ON HUXLEY documentary is a little WONKY in its editing and pacing but CHARMING and EDUCATIONAL nonetheless, which makes it well-worth checking out.
RIP LAURA and ALDOUS HUXLEY
like a lot of my generation, my introduction to NOTORIOUS ENGLISH PUNK ROCK band THE ANTI-NOWHERE LEAGUE was via METALLICA's BLACK ALBUM-era cover of their INFAMOUS and humorously DEBAUCHED "SO WHAT?" track. that song in particular is so OVER-THE-TOP with its DEBASED lyrics that celebrate the perspective of being JADED with the world due to one's SERIAL COPULATION with everything from THE QUEEN her majesty to BARN ANIMALS, TEENAGE GIRLS and even ELDERLY MEN. not to mention PISS DRINKING and contracting various SEXUALLY TRANSMITTED DISEASES for good measure. its the type of song that is so OUTRAGEOUS youd have to be an idiot to truly be offended by it, almost as if it was written specifically by VYVYAN BASTARD of THE YOUNG ONES to parody PUNK writ large. the old THIS IS SPINAL TAP (EMBASSY, 1984) adage of "its such a fine line between stupid and clever" definitely applies in this situation, no doubt. really depends on your mood which side of that divide this song and this band lands on.
but the documentary THE ANTI-NOWHERE LEAGUE: WE ARE THE LEAGUE (CLEOPATRA ENTERTAINMENT, 2019) itself is about how unlikely an event this band even forming was from the jump. for starters the main culprits, NICK 'ANIMAL' CULMER, CHRIS 'MAGOO' EXALL and CHRIS ELVY initially were all motorcycle enthusiasts and either started or were members of a BIKER GANGS in KENT. music, much less the recent emergence of PUNK ROCK, was not a part of their lives in any MEANINGFUL way as their existence was more about that rolling community of OUTCASTS as they meandered like a HORDE OF VIKINGS throughout the ENGLISH countryside and continental EUROPE. when MAGOO caught the PUNK bug via THE SEX PISTOLS, he wrote a few songs that he ripped off of EDDIE COCHRAN and recent PUNK bands and set off about starting a band. ANIMAL and ELVY were sought out due to their street reputations as PROPER RUFFIANS rather than studied musicians. the all agreed on THE DAMNED and got on the bill of one of their first national tours by bribing them to be their support band. for THE ANTI-NOWHERE LEAGUE, with their GAUDY onstage costumes and overly CONFRONTATIONAL demeanor (ANIMAL's shtick was to carry an AXE on stage), the stage was a better sublimation of their ANTI-SOCIETY instincts than mucking it up with police and rival gangs on the road. almost instantaneously they became the ALPHA DOGS of the NASCENT PUNK scene at the time.
and those first few singles was their peak.
subsequent albums saw them attempt to make a career of it which led them, unimaginably, down a path from the most stubbornly VIOLENT and COMBATIVE PUNK band imaginable to a NEW ROMANTIC DURAN DURAN wannabe band in only a few short years. i had no idea that they lost the plot that bad. going from touring with DISCHARGE on equal billing to effectively playing SYNTH POP with keyboards in tow is beyond SPINAL TAP, its actually difficult to believe it ever happened. after their disbandment METALLICA made their signature track VIABLE again and ANIMAL has been keeping the torch going ever since with younger true believers by his side.
its a crazy story. much is made about the cultural impact of the PUNK movement in BRITAIN and how it prompted budding musicians to fully commit and make COMPELLING music a la THE CLASH, JOY DIVISION, THE DAMNED, THE BUZZCOCKS, THE SMITHS, X-RAY SPEX and THE FALL. but less told are the truly AWFUL bands that never made anything of note or taste a la THE ANTI-NOWHERE LEAGUE. i believe that is the niche of this documentary and by extension the legacy of the band in the greater scheme of things. i should also mention that NOTABLE interview participants include RAT SCABIES of THE DAMNED and STEWART COPELAND of THE POLICE. yes, that STEWART COPELAND. turns out he made a documentary on them back in the day for some unknown reason. who knew?
timing really is everything.
generations of musicians limited not to the PET SHOP BOYS, GARY NUMAN, THE MAGNETIC FIELDS, MARC ALMOND (SOFT CELL), DEF LEPPARD, HENRY ROLLINS (BLACK FLAG), THE SCISSOR SISTERS, JAYNE COUNTY and MORRISSEY (THE SMITHS) would fervently attest that the PRODIGIOUSLY TALENTED LYRICIST and SINGER-SONGWRITER BRUCE WAYNE CAMPBELL, who went by the stage name JOBRIATH, was indeed far ahead of his time. TRAGICALLY ahead.
and that is UNFORTUNATE because his legacy is one of a PROMISING TALENT whose career was derailed and prematurely quashed by the OVERZEALOUS PROMOTION of his management and BITTER lack of support from the musical press and RAMPANT HOMOPHOBIA that marked that era. it should be mentioned that JOBRIATH was the first out GAY ROCK AND ROLL musician on a major recording label in a GLAM ROCK period where ANDROGYNY and hinted-at BISEXUALITY was the norm a la DAVID BOWIE, ELTON JOHN and MARC BOLAN of T. REX. it is one of the great FAILURES of modern culture that during this period it was considered HYPER-MASCULINE to take on FEMININE ATTRIBUTES when one was in fact HETEROSEXUAL, yet being HOMOSEXUAL and taking on those same qualities was considered REPULSIVE and seen as surefire CAREER SUICIDE. it should be remembered that ELTON JOHN didnt come out as being comfortable with his own QUEER IDENTITY until well into the late 1980s, no doubt i assume because he valued his career. in order to be a successful musician on a major label with widespread airplay, one had to play the game with a TOXIC HETERONORMATIVE CULTURE that could not handle or tolerate GENDER or SEXUAL POLITICS outside of the REDUCTIVE and CONSERVATIVE variety.
JOBRIATH was a VICTIM of such a cultural heritage and has become a sort of ARCHETYPE to such SOCIETAL MISALIGNMENT right down the line to the present. thus there is a need to revisit and reevaluate his example in the recent JOBRIATH A.D. (EIGHT TRACK TAPE, 2012) documentary that follows his many transitions from the NEGLECTED child prodigy BRUCE WAYNE CAMPBELL to the space clown JOBRIATH to the after hours piano man COLE BERLIN. he was no doubt a TROUBLED man with deep issues stemming from his having to compartmentalize his IDENTITY and PERSONA and be different things to different people, namely his DIVORCED PARENTS who were both TRADITIONALLY-MINDED and never recognized their son for who he was. ever. in fact, after BRUCE's passing from AIDS in 1983, his father DESTROYED all his personal effects (stage costumes and paraphernalia save one journal) attempting in essence to EXPUNGE all trace of him from the earth. it was a different time back then, yet somehow seemingly people want to return to that HATEFUL era.
one INTRIGUING thread that the film presents is the idea of the FAILED MARKETING CAMPAIGN conducted on his behalf. in ROCK AND ROLL there is this loose (often IMAGINED) concept of a MERITOCRACY at play whereby musicians elevate from the trenches of small clubs and bars after garnering a substantial INDEPENDENT following. once major label money is sprinkled on top of such demand then a true mutually beneficial partnership (of sorts) is born. JOBRIATH and his manager shorted that whole route and promoted his act not too DISSIMILIAR from an upcoming BROADWAY production, something he was familiar with as a former cast member of HAIR. with a play that sort of UBIQUITOUS promotion (TIMES SQUARE, subway, buses, etc.) makes sense both within a ROCK AND ROLL context it is a much dicier affair. people dont like being told what is AUTHENTIC or VITAL in music if it is not an established act already. it seemed such promotional efforts were DOOMED TO FAIL from the jump.
in the current cultural marketplace there are countless musicians, artists and actors that run the gamut of expression related to GENDER and SEXUAL IDENTITY. from NON-BINARY (SOPHIE, JANELLE MONAE, SAM SMITH) to TRANS (LAURA JANE GRACE, MINA CAPUTO, KIM PETRAS) and so on its a different, more INCLUSIVE world in some aspects at the current cultural moment. where they are the most SUCCESSFUL is when that part of their IDENTITY doesnt take over their PUBLIC PERSONA. it seems like if someone is a GREAT COMEDIAN and happen to be HOMOSEXUAL than audiences dont really care, but if their whole act is centered around being a QUEER STAND-UP COMIC then their prospects are relatively dwindled in comparison. at least that is how i see the dynamic played out nowadays. for JOBRIATH the publicity was so entrenched with his identity as a HOMOSEXUAL and not his PRODIGIOUS GIFTS as a SONGWRITER, LYRICIST and COMPOSER. which in retrospect was a MISTAKE. or maybe his career was DOOMED either way. again, just too far ahead of his own time.
JOBRIATH A.D. is a HEARTBREAKING film about how cultural blindspots can manifest themselves and render us all IMPOVERISHED for not seeing the GRACE and DIGNITY in each other's HUMANITY. BRUCE's gifts should have been given the opportunity to be CELEBRATED beyond a cult following decades later, but that is show business in a VILE, still-very-much HETERONORMATIVE AMERICAN culture. it makes you consider your own COMPLICITY in that enduring dynamic for sure. this film is definitely worth checking out.
the SECRETIVE figure of the much REVERED author J.D. SALINGER is as COMPLICATED and ORNERY as his most FAMOUS fictional creation HOLDEN CAULFIELD and the latter half of the 20th century that grew in his image. his 1951 novel THE CATCHER IN THE RYE (LITTLE, BROWN & COMPANY, 1951) was the product of a DISGRUNTLED and MISTRUSTED mindset and CONTRARIAN perspective that grew out of SALINGER's INTENSE experiences as a COUNTERINTELLIGENCE AGENT during WORLD WAR II. that sense of understanding the daylight between official rhetoric and witnessing the unadulterated HARSH realities of war. the success and universal praise of his book resulted in a NOTORIETY and CELEBRITY that he was neither prepared for nor wanted. his retreat from NEW YORK CITY, where he grew up a child of immense means and PRIVILEGE, to rural CORNISH, NEW HAMPSHIRE was maneuver meant to ensure both his PRIVACY and CREATIVE PROCESS. he wasnt a hermit as he was a part of the fabric of the SMALL TOWN, whose inhabitants were fiercely LOYAL to him. but to outsiders and national press with questions related CATCHER or CAULFIELD he had no time for.
thus there is the somewhat personally INTRUSIVE documentary SALINGER (THE WEINSTEIN COMPANY, 2013) released shortly after his death that attempts to contextualize his LITERARY CAREER and CULTURAL IMPACT / LEGACY as well as provide explanations for his lifelong sabbatical from the limelight. participants include fellow novelists TOM WOLFE, GORE VIDAL, E.L. DOCTOROW and ELIZABETH FRANK as well as playwrights STEPHEN ADLY GUIRGIS and JOHN GUARE, not to mention actors PHILIP SEYMOUR HOFFMAN, EDWARD NORTON, JOHN CUSACK, DANNY DEVITO and MARTIN SHEEN among others. probably most SIGNIFICANT are the many editors, confidants, lovers and peers that knew him in his earlier years that participated in the film, yet nobody seems to have a handle on the MERCURIAL figure. everyone was presented with a figure in command of himself to the point that he only revealed what he wanted to show and once one's usefulness or prying nature reached a point, were shut out on no uncertain terms.
it would appear every relationship was on his terms post-FAME. pre-FAME he was in love with OONA O'NEILL, daughter of REVERED playwright EUGENE O'NEILL, who left him for CHARLIE CHAPLIN while he was serving in combat during WORLD WAR II. for the rest of his life SALINGER was preoccupied with young women in their late teens and early twenties, roughly the same age of O'NEILL when they were together. it would appear SALINGER was not comfortable with women once they reached the stage of INDEPENDENCE and/or motherhood, which is interesting but SAD. its as if his emotional and psychological development was stunted or irrevocably WARPED after bearing witness to the unendurable HORRORS OF WAR. he had participated in the D-DAY invasion as well as later discovered a sub-camp of DACHAU called KAUFERING IV where the NAZIS forced the sick and dying to work before being exterminated during the HOLOCAUST. due to his proficiency in both GERMAN and FRENCH, SALINGER stayed on after the armistice to hunt down NAZIs and bring them to justice as a COUNTERINTELLIGENCE AGENT. it should be noted that throughout this intense period SALINGER was writing CATCHER. it is no hyperbole to say that the figure of CAULFIELD and SALINGER's own views towards femininity were rooted in his WARTIME EXPERIENCE. in a sense you can view FAME and the burgeoning CELEBRITY CULTURE of the period as a new confrontational front to be weary of resist at all costs.
its hard not to be intrigued by SALINGER the person. his life's narrative is one of INTENSE LITERARY AMBITION and punishingly BRUTAL personal disappointments. he lived a full life even if such was in the shadow of his fictional creations that were so adored, or in the case of three PSYCHOTIC maniacs, misunderstood, by many. SALINGER is worth checking out whether one is a fan of literature or not.
any retrospective documentary on the career of FAMED DIRECTOR QUENTIN TARANTINO in a post-HARVEY WEINSTEIN era is fraught to begin with. its this IMPENETRABLY DARK and SEEDY UNDERBELLY of the HOLLYWOOD infrastructure, that always existed, that effectively trades on SEXUAL ABUSE and ASYMMETRICAL POWER dynamics. TARANTINO was able to make UNCOMPROMISING motion pictures in part because he had WEINSTEIN and his CORROSIVE power maneuvers as his ultimate backer and imprimatur.
needless to say, it is more than DIFFICULT to look away from that LEGACY.
but the recent QT8: THE FIRST EIGHT (WOOD ENTERTAINMENT, 2019) documentary attempts to do just that, focusing on the AUTEUR approach and uncompromising vision to the humanity of his characters that made TARANTINO a first name WRITER / DIRECTOR of the same ESTEEMED echelon as MARTIN SCORSESE, ORSON WELLES, BILLY WILDER, INGMAR BERGMAN, JOHN HUSTON, PRESTON STURGES, JEAN-LUC GODARD, FEDERICO FELLINI and FRANCIS FORD COPPOLA that all came before him. attesting to such include various members of his longtime production staff and NOTABLE actors ranging from SAMUEL L JACKSON, MICHAEL MADSEN, TIM ROTH, ZOE BELL, CHRISTOPH WALTZ and KURT RUSSELL to JENNIFER JASON LEIGH, ELI ROTH, ROBERT FORSTER and LUCY LIU among others. much is made about his ability to write AUTHENTICALLY and IMAGINATIVELY from multiple perspectives with little to no filter for modern accountings of POLITICAL CORRECTNESS or the MERCURIAL whims of GOOD TASTE. his focus and objective is fidelity to the script, the characters and the choices of actors in bringing said narratives to fruition.
being the WRITER and the DIRECTOR, arguably the most INTRIGUING aspect of his scripts is his portrayal of both RACIALLY and GENDER DIVERSE characters. women feature as power brokers throughout his films, most notably JACKIE BROWN (MIRAMAX, 1997) and the KILL BILL (MIRAMAX, 2003-04) series, without much attention necessarily being attributed to such. almost as if this was a natural occurrence in his CINEMATIC UNIVERSE which is arguably the most ENLIGHTENED manner to do such. direct actions rather than FEEBLE, WELL-INTENTIONED sentiments and words about gender and RACIAL EQUALITY. same could be said about his portrayal of BLACK PEOPLE in his films. much has been said about his use of INFLAMMATORY language regarding RACE in his films, such decisions make him CONTROVERSIAL. its an INTERESTING dialogue that is continuing unabated to the present and i will admit i am unsure of where i stand on such. all i can say is that having them not employ such HARSH and UNFORGIVING language in the intense CINEMATIC SCENARIOS depicted by TARANTINO in his films would seemingly come off HALF-HEARTED and ROLLED BACK. just my opinion but i can see the validity of the other side of that argument shared by the likes of SPIKE LEE most famously.
all that being said, these first eight films in his FILMOGRAPHY will forever have the stain of WEINSTEIN on them as the audience is empowered to know the IMPOSSIBLE professional choices presented to key TARANTINO collaborators such as UMA THURMAN, ROSE MCGOWAN, ROSANNA ARQUETTE and DARYL HANNAH. either play ball with a PREDATOR or get blacklisted and watch your career drift away (dont believe me, just read any interview with SEAN YOUNG). UNFORTUNATELY for a film that was seemingly constructed to counteract the prevailing popular narrative of TARANTINO as the material beneficiary (over decades) of a professional relationship with a SERIAL SEXUAL PREDATOR whom he knew was SEXUALLY EXPLOITING his FEMALE CAST and STAFF, such is the real LEGACY of his work. he should have shielded and protected his co-workers. fought back. did something.
if this film really wants to talk LEGACY, his LEGACY will be one of SILENCE when it mattered most in real life. when he had leverage to execute change in a CORRUPT hierarchy of men. his MORAL FAILURE was in real life, not some fantasy world of his own creation. such is his ACTUAL LEGACY.
photo manipulation by nacrowe
most bands, whatever their AESTHETIC or scene affiliations, are involved on some level of paying homage to their own PUBLIC PERSONA. deep in there somewhere is a nugget of personality or marketing that separates them from their peers. for me the MELVINS HASTILY-EDITED tour documentary MELVINS: ACROSS THE USA IN 51 DAYS (IPECAC, 2015) is all about DISMANTLING whatever ROMANTIC notions you had left of the touring ROCK AND ROLL lifestyle.
shot on what has to be camera phones by various members and edited in the most RUDIMENTARY of styles with varying sound quality, this on the face of it is FILM VERITE gone HORRIBLE. it follows the band on their 2012 as they attempted to break a world record of playing 51 shows in all 50 states (and WASHINGTON DC) in 51 days. that sounds AWESOME in theory but what you find in practice is a BRUTAL, fiendishly FAST-PACED touring schedule that delivers them to CIVIC AUDITORIUMS, VFW HALLS, COMMUNITY CENTERS and TINY THEATERS the throughout the country. you get to see the firsthand the SKETCHY TRUCK STOPS and UNINVITING ROADSIDE RESTAURANTS along small FORGOTTEN faraway bastions of the continental UNITED STATES. which make you feel ISOLATED just watching it and questioning yourself over and over again: why do this to yourself? honestly, why?
and that is why this documentary is VITAL. this is not BOB DYLAN in '66 or THE ROLLING STONES in '72 or even LED ZEPPELIN in '77, this is rural AMERICA up close and UNADORNED. reminds me of my two trips to IOWA (don't ask) and how the minute i landed their i immediately felt a surge of REGRET and FEAR of being deserted unlike anything else i've experienced before or since. and that includes traveling in remote villages in AFRICA, SOUTHEAST ASIA and THE BALKANS.
there is nothing remotely SEXY or INVITING about this film, its all FRUSTRATION and huamn SUFFERING and that is why it is absolutely required viewing in my opinion. probably one of the more HONEST accounts of touring life i have seen in years if ever.
hindsight manipulates us all. a nearly universally CELEBRATED album like GREEN DAY's GEORGE W BUSH-era narrative paean to the domestic UNDERCLASS and UNDERREPRESENTED resistance, AMERICAN IDIOT (REPRISE, 2004), feels in retrospect almost INEVITABLE. at the time of its tracking back in 2003-2004, as depicted in the documentary HEART LIKE A HAND GRENADE (CRAZY COW PRODUCTIONS, 2015), this was hardly the case. the band had a rare mid-career miscue with WARNING (REPRISE, 2000) that saw them supposedly loosing a step with the POPULAR ZEITGEIST to a new crop of POP PUNK bands they essentially helped initiate (i.e. BLINK-182, NEW FOUND GLORY, SUM 41, GOOD CHARLOTTE, etc.).
not sure i wholly buy into that narrative, but that is the popular MYTHOLOGY surrounding the creation of AMERICAN IDIOT, which was REVOLUTIONARY and UNEXPECTED upon release and is arguably GREEN DAY's crowning achievement, even more so than their debut DOOKIE (REPRISE, 1994). part of such ACCLAIM was rooted in the fact that it was perceived to be a STRIDENT middle finger to the BUSH ADMINISTRATION and their REGRESSIVE political agenda. in the early 2000s SYSTEM OF A DOWN and RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE were on the outs and ROCK music was in a weird place in that it was attempting to recreate the past a la the backward-looking INDIE ROCK REVIVAL bands such as THE STROKES, WHITE STRIPES, INTERPOL, LCD SOUNDSYSTEM and the like. nobody, and i mean no one, thought that GREEN DAY would be the band to create something as AUDACIOUS and thematically COMPLEX as a ROCK OPERA that was likewise brazenly POLITICAL at a time of war. it really put everyone else to shame in retrospect and influenced the style and scope of their catalogue from their on out.
whats compelling about HEART LIKE A HAND GRENADE is how DETERMINED, COMMITTED and CONFIDENT band leader and main songwriter BILLIE JOE ARMSTRONG is in the studio. this was a major risk. GREEN DAY were considered relative LIGHT-WEIGHTS that in essence filled a psychic and industry VOID left by NIRVANA in the wake of their TRAGIC mid-90s implosion. in comparison to the SOMBER and POETIC directness of KURT COBAIN's lyrics and persona, ARMSTRONG was by comparison a more JOVIAL and UPBEAT character that wrote songs about the banality of everyday life. AMERICAN IDIOT changed all that in one swell swoop.
its just incredible that this recording process was documented. i have no doubt itll be parsed over decades from now by musicians inspired by ARMSTRONG's GALVANIZED response to a fucked political inflection point in AMERICAN history. lord knows what we will face in the next few decades in the wake of proto-fascist DONALD TRUMP. here's hoping he never returns to power.
THE STONE ROSES: MADE OF STONE (WARP FILMS, 2013) documentary is a INTRIGUING cultural artifact of sorts as it presents an insider's view of the LEGENDARY MANCHESTER ALTERNATIVE ROCK band's reunion in the early 2010s after nearly 15 years apart. in the history of BRITISH music, THE STONE ROSES were a bit of a TRANSITIONAL band between INDIE scene of the 1980s and what would become BRITPOP, especially as it relates to fellow MANCUNIANS in OASIS. LIAM GALLAGHER's brief cameo backstage at the first reunion finds him adamantly attesting that THE STONE ROSES are the greatest MANCHESTER band ever (which is saying something given that THE SMITHS, BUZZCOCKS, JOY DIVISION / NEW ORDER and THE FALL are from the northern city as well). their initial fall is the stuff of ROCK AND ROLL cliche, given that fighting their label and then management inevitably manifested in them turning on each other as well during the recording of their second album. for a brief SHINING moment in the early 1990s, especially their CELEBRATED gig at SPIKE ISLAND, the band was on top of the BRITISH music world and critical darling abroad in AMERICA. they basically set the table for OASIS, no question about it.
for me the most interesting part of this documentary is not the capstone 2012 performance footage of the band at HEATON PARK in MANCHESTER (mirroring their SPIKE ISLAND gig), but rather the more INTIMATE coverage of their initial rehearsals at remote home in WARRINGTON. it was during this rehearsal footage that you very much got a sense of the MUSICAL CONNECTION between the four players with all the unspoken nods, looks and grins that come with long embedded musical cues that manifest themselves physically and psychically with past compositions played to perfection in the present. the ENERGY is palpable. its that special ALCHEMY that only GIFTED musicians with a strong musical bond and chemistry bring to the table, which for the listener is nothing less than pure MAGIC. case in point is their rehearsal performance of "WATERFALLS." watching it you could feel their MUTUAL EXCITEMENT and ELATION.
i like to view that core SPARK as the central feature of this documentary. seeing how it ebbs and flows when outsiders and hangers-on and even technical difficulties come into the picture, such as their disastrous warm-up gig in AMSTERDAM when the drummer departed the gig pre-encore. this mirrored his similarly SPONTANEOUS departure from the band more than a decade before, spurring their demise as a band and creative entity. such would ultimately be the case a few years later when the band split again. i feel that just like JANE'S ADDICTION, these long stretches of indefinite hiatuses only make the inevitable reunion that much more POTENT and SPECIAL. my hope is that they do so with some shows stateside next go around.
they are definitely a SEMINAL band well worth checking out. IAN BROWN is a CHARISMATIC, ICONIC frontman and a BRITISH original. here's hoping they figure it all out again.
i feel like i joyously spend an INORDINATE about of my free time running around to small INDEPENDENT RECORD SHOPS in NEW JERSEY, places like STATION 1 BOOKS & VINYL in POMPTON LAKES, VINYL ADDICTION in NORTH ARLINGTON, REVILLA GROOVES & GEAR in MILLTOWN, LOFIDELIC RECORDS in BELMAR, PRINCETON RECORD EXCHANGE in PRINCETON and even JACK'S MUSIC SHOPPE in RED BANK. its all a part of a sickness i believe, a sickness to explore and discover new sounds. i feel strongly that music is a SOCIAL ACTIVITY in nature, as most of the TRANSCENDENT stuff i have come across was through close FRIENDS, FAMILY and knowledgable RECORD STORE OWNERS and CLERKS.
the decade-old documentary LAST SHOP STANDING: THE RISE, FALL, AND REBIRTH OF THE INDEPENDENT RECORD SHOP (BLUE HIPPO, 2012) really gets at the heart of the matter, providing a BRITISH perspective on the RECORD BUYING EXPERIENCE and its rollercoaster history throughout the decades. interview participants include countless stewards of SMALL RECORD SHOPS from across the island as well as NOTABLE ENGLISH musicians like PAUL WELLER (THE JAM), JOHNNY MARR (THE SMITHS), NORMAN COOK (aka FATBOY SLIM), BILLY BRAGG, CLINT BOON (INSPIRAL CARPETS), RICHARD HAWLEY (LONGPIGS) and NERINA PALLOT. in a sense, the history the RECORD STORE in the UNITED KINGDOM, is one of the environmental, technological and social forces that have disconnected the public from the VINYL LP, the CELEBRATED gold standard of global music collectors and enthusiasts. from early ROCKABILLY and ROCK N ROLL in the 1950s through the 1970s, the industry was on a skyrocketing trajectory to the point that PAYOLA and CHART MANIPULATION became the norm, SMALL RECORD SHOPS being the focal point of such underhanded activities. by the 1980s the COMPACT DISC was introduced and promoted as the new industry standard, with record companies even utilizing INFERIORLY produced VINYL to help push the transition forward. this coupled with SUPERMARKETS cutting in on the action, often with much wider marketshare than NEIGHBORHOOD RECORD SHOPS and at loss-leading pricing schemes, pushed more than 90% most into bankruptcy during the decade. the end of the 1990s wasnt much better as DIGITAL DOWNLADING and PIRACY became rampant and basically killed COMPACT DISC sales, which had been price gouging for nearly two decades at that point.
what saved the LOCAL RECORD SHOP was the return of VINYL as a sought-after CULTURAL ARTIFACT in the age of DIGITAL MUSIC and later STREAMING. STORES also diversified their inventories with RELATED PARAPHERNALIA like BOOKS, TICKETS, INSTRUMENTS and CLOTHING to supplement their revenue. some even use their space for live performances by local musicians. by 2012 when the documentary was filmed, the INDEPENDENT RECORD SHOP INDUSTRY was in fairly good shape, with record labels seeing them once again as partners and providing them with exclusive releases and workable margins to help ensure their longterm viability. i can only speak for my EXPERIENCE stateside, but their seems to be a healthy informal mutual support network between these INDEPENDENT RECORD STOPS. you can see such by way of how many EMPLOYEES of the recently shuttered NEW JERSEY cultural landmark VINTAGE VINYL of FORDS, a seminal RECORD STORE that had past in-store performances and signings by everyone from OZZY OSBOURNE, DESCENDENTS, TAKING BACK SUNDAY, ROB ZOMBIE, BOUNCING SOULS, TYPE O NEGATIVE, LESLIE WEST, SLAYER, JIMMY EAT WORLD, MY CHEMICAL ROMANCE, NEW FOUND GLORY, THURSDAY, QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE and THE SHINS among many others, still working at the other aforementioned local RECORD SHOPS. that expertise is still valued and HUMAN TOUCH still sought after by STORE OWNERS, which is HEARTENING.
its nice to know that in a world of ALGORITHMS and CURATED PLAYLISTS, there are still ways of discovering new art via ACTUAL, not simulated SOCIAL INTERACTION. for me that is the crux of the RECORD BUYING EXPERIENCE and what differentiates GREAT RECORD SHOPS from their IMMENSE DIGITAL COMPETITION.
honestly, before watching this documentary id never heard of the 1990s NEW JERSEY METALCORE band DEADGUY.
and thats not particularly surprising given the fact that when they were at their peak i was out of the country, more than that the hemisphere, given that my family as abroad in WEST AFRICA and the MIDDLE EAST for most of the 1990s into the early 2000s.
that being said, what drew me immediately to DEADGUY: KILLING MUSIC () was the fact that members of some of my favorite EXTREME METALCORE / POST-HARDCORE bands of the last two decades were interview for this film, from LAMB OF GOD, THE DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN and THE LOCUST to CONVERGE, EVERYTIME I DIE and BOTCH among many others. if DEADGUY has their collective imprimatur of QUALITY then i am all in on investigating and learning more about them.
whats interesting is that the band was part of the same collective northern NEW JERSEY scene that i participated in, just a decade and a bit earlier. this included cultural and educational entities like the late former INDEPENDENT record store VINTAGE VINYL in FORDS, RUTGERS UNIVERSITY (my alma mater) in NEW BRUNSWICK and 89.5FM WSOU out of SETON HALL UNIVERSITY in SOUTH ORANGE. when i attended RUTGERS, it was just after THURSDAY broke out, themselves influenced by the likes of LIFETIME, THE BOUNCING SOULS and DEADGUY before them, all stemming from the same NEW BRUNSWICK HARDCORE / PUNK ROCK scene.
according to the many interview participants, what seems to differentiate DEADGUY from their cohort of peers was their sheer INTENSITY and BRUTALITY. much energy and time from the film is devoted towards explaining the POWER and INFLUENCE of their most celebrated album, FIXATION ON A CO-WORKER (VICTORY, 1995), as well as its place within the broader national HARDCORE movement of the period. in essence, their sound and stage presence has been described as UNINHIBITED, CEREBRAL, UNHINGED, CATHARTIC, EXPRESSIVE and COMBATIVE in the film and to the uninitiated, they come off like the primeval PRIMAL SCREAM of BORED suburbanites seeking an IDENTITY and PURPOSE past the COOKIE-CUTTER EXISTENCE and DRUDGERY of approaching PROFESSIONAL CAREERISM and ADULT RESPONSIBILITY. as the film elucidates, its a rage and anger that is UNBRIDLED and UNCONFINED, rather than the more PERFORMATIVE and fashion-conscious HARDCORE of the period.
its just interesting that the band splintered while on their first national tour for VICTORY RECORDS, which was haphazardly planned and executed to the point that band essentially FRACTURED into two warring factions, which later manifested in the RECONSTITUTED DEADGUY and KISS IT GOODBYE. there is a long history of groups BREAKING UP on the road, especially in the INDEPENDENT circuit. it happens to the best of bands, just look at OPERATION IVY a few years earlier which DISINTEGRATED under similar circumstances. i cant imagine having to travel long distances in an era pre-smartphone and online mapping services. sounds like an absolute LOGISTICAL NIGHTMARE and INTERPERSONAL MINEFIELD. for such a singularly INTENSE band, its very much INTRIGUING that the financial and emotional GAUNTLET of the road is what ultimately DISMANTLED them.
at least 25 years later they are all able to laugh at themselves over the whole thing. im especially glad that they didnt succumb to the "getting the band back together" film cliche. just another CONTRARIAN decision much like the ethos of their catalogue in one group action.
notable DEADGUY: KILLING MUSIC interview participants include the likes of RANDY BLYTHE (LAMB OF GOD), BEN WEINMAN (THE DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN), JUSTIN PEARSON (THE LOCUST / DEAD CROSS), KEITH BUCKLEY (EVERY TIME I DIE), JESSE LEACH (KILLSWITCH ENGAGE), TREVOR STRNAD (THE BLACK DAHLIA MURDER), JACOB BANNON & NATE NEWTON (CONVERGE), SEAN INGRAM (COALESCE), STEVE AUSTIN (TODAY IS THE DAY), BRIAN COOK (BOTCH / RUSSIAN CIRCLES), DIC COYLE (GOD FORBID / BAD WOLVES), DUSTIN PERRY & DARYL TABERSKI (SNAPCASE) among other musicians from SNAPCASE, TOUCHE AMORE, DOC HOPPER, CABLE, BREATHER RESIST, SHAI HULUH, MONSTER MAGNET, THOUGHTS OF IONESCO, SAETIA and SWEET DIESEL as well as representatives of various INDEPENDENT POST-HARDCORE, EXTREME METAL, PUNK ROCK and HARDCORE record labels. thats a hell of a lot of community involvement from a band id never head of.