November 20, 2007
This song is so underrated. I was at the grocery store yesterday with the ipod on random when this Kanye’s “Last Call” came on. Its almost thirteen minute length assures that it is often dismissed as an unearned egotistical moment for a man with no shortage of them, particularly as it comes at the end of his very first album. I disagree. “Last Call” is one of the greatest documentations of the hustle I’ve ever heard as a motivational track, frankly it bests “U Don’t Know,” “Hustlin” or whatever else you want to throw out there. This is where Kanye’s everyman personality pays off.
A perfectly lucid description of the successes and failures it took for his voice to ever make it to our ears, the song is so amazingly detailed and warmly narrated, you can’t fail to relate to it. Plus it isn’t filled with Jay-Z type bravado about always being the greatest and perfectly plotting the path. Kanye works, finds a little success, then a whole lot of nothing happens. He retires to the one bedroom with the Ikea mattress. He pushes again, finding detractors, meeting his idols, seeing success around the corner and we’re with him in all this. This shit is so fucking real you can’t help but love that moment at the end when he asks you to raise a glass for him.
I recently sat in an unfurnished room with a group of young men on the come up. It’s the same moment for them that Kanye’s track describes, that Rocafella moment, trying to get the glory, with nothing but heart and talent and the dream to keep you going. Young, unknown, unproven but sure of your own talent and putting in the kind of work that it takes to actually get to the top. Long nights, bad Chinese food, barely enough cash for the subway but hustling for the right gear to rock the show with. Setbacks and weak shows and retooling the whole thing so it works better, it’s a magical moment. Take a moment and enjoy it fellas. It’ll never be this way again.
November 20, 2007
Shout out to Kanye, someone I’ve long considered the most important man in hip hop and one of the most creative and honest forces out there right now. I’m appreciative of his being real and vulnerable and able to talk about real things in an age where 95% of the other artists out there are more concerned with how many endorsement deals they can get on and too busy trying to “keep it real” to even maintain coherence. Moments of extreme irrationality like Cam’ron’s statement on not snitching on a serial killer in his neighborhood on 60 minutes come from spending so much time obssesing about how you’re viewed and keeping to a code that you start to lose sense of what’s real and what isn’t. Somewhere between ninety and ninety-nine percent of today’s rappers are that way and Kanye stands out very tall for always being about himself and what’s important to him. The man’s mom dies and no one can doubt how important she was to him because he didn’t make a million songs about not loving a bitch, but wrote “Hey mama” and constantly praised and professed his love for her loudly and publicly. How many other rappers can say that? How many people period?
Strange, I didn’t even come to the computer to write this post. I was gonna write about a Kanye track and I guess ‘d had that bottled up. I’m going to wrap this up and start my post afresh.
My heart goes out to Kanye, wishing him strength in this moment and success in the future. Take the time you need to recover man. I can’t wait to see you in concert, but that shit will totally wait. Your music is amazing, your spirit apparent and no one will penalize you of all people for being human and taking the time to deal with your loss. You’re too talented to go away and we’ll be waiting whenever you return, if you do decide to take a break. Much love from a fan.
Edit: If you’ve seen the video of Kanye performing in Sweden or so, you’ve heard by now that he’s not interested in taking any time off. I can respect that. Bring it to New York fool. I got dollars in my hand waiting to see the hardest working man in showbiz. Chea, chea, we gon’ be there.
March 13, 2007
I saw Truffaut’s 400 Blows one evening hanging out with a friend. We were preparing for a night out, or just burning time as one frequently does. He had three movies at home from Netflix and without much else doing, we thought we’d check one of them out. I remember he had Terry Gilliam’s Brazil and perhaps some other Japanese flick but I don’t recall why we chose to watch 400 Blows. I hadn’t heard of it before and thus came with no expectations. My friend wandered in and out of the room, only partially attentive to the movie and I remember quite enjoying it. There was a short movie among the DVD extras that followed the central character further on in life and I watched, cringed at, laughed at and enjoyed that as well.
A little later on, someone asked what my favorite movie was and I heard myself saying, “maybe the 400 Blows.” It’s a year or two later and despite never having seen the movie again, that answer stands. When I was younger, before Netflix and my infinitely expanded education in cinema, the Godfather was my stock answer for that question. I still think the Godfather a a marvelous film but it is certainly no longer in the number one spot and I’m definitely less certain there need be a number one spot. I love movies, for their escapism, for the dream worlds they create, for allowing me to see bits of myself exploded into full and amazing characters, for their naive idealism and harsh depictions of reality, for puzzling and dazzling me, making me sad, happy, outraged, unable to contain myself; I fucking love movies. And so I appreciate each for its flaws and its strengths and its accomplishments, whatever those are. I love the Godfather for its tale of men in a man’s world, loyalty and honor and family, while killing people’s horses and shooting them through their glasses. I love Hitchcock and Clint Eastwood and early Eddie Murphy. I love thrillers and comedies, shoot em ups and art house flicks. I fucking love the movies.
And I love Truffaut, for his unhurried filmmaking, for giving me a character I saw so much of myself in and making him interesting and worthy of being watched, for doing an almost plotless movie in which we simply watch a character struggle and grow and be achingly human. A movie about a young who has a rough time of it at home and at school, 400 Blows follows our protagonist as he runs away from home and lives first with a friend and then wherever he can find. It does not span a great amount of time or come to any conclusions about humanity, it is simply a glimpse into one human life and it’s amazing. I just watched Truffaut’s Jules and Jim, again going into it with no real expectations and without even realizing it was another Truffaut film. It is very good although for me personally it doesn’t hold a candle to 400 Blows. There is less for me to identify with in these characters and their lives and choices I suppose. Yet the magic is there and many may prefer this to 400 Blows. This movie spans lifetimes, goes from comic to tragic with little warning of what is to come and invests in more than one single person. What can I say? I like stories about individuals best. Anyway, I’ve found another filmmaker whose oeuvre I must go check out more thoroughly and I really only wrote this post to say, “I fucking love the movies.”
March 2, 2007
There is a story in this mon’s GQ about the abduction and transportation of terror suspect Osama Nasr from the streets of Italy to Egypt. It is a thoroughly extraordinary spy story in which the CIA bungles what ought to be a pretty basic operation, although one of great questionable legality. In success or in failure, they would have raised the ire of the Italian government and their major mistake was in carrying out the operation in such an elementary manner that not the only the organization but the very operatives who carried it out were all readily identifiable by the Italians. Invisible these guys are not.
The story is important in its own right but what particularly got to me was the conclusion. Bob Lady, one of the CIA’s chosen fall guys for this mission talks about a time when ascending leaders would protect their employees as a way of securing their loyalty not only to the leaders themselves but to the organizations they work for. I can only think through the prism of the news that we read daily and the kinds of leaders portrayed in the popular media how in the America of today, such a thing seems to have become taboo. Corporations screw their employees without remorse, no one takes responsibility for anything they don’t have too, when blame is to be apportioned, the most convenient victim is led to the slaughter that everyone else might continue to live fat and pursue their own fucked up goals. You can see this from the way the Bush administration behaves (see the firing of effective workers who apparently weren’t subservient enough) to the endless corporate layoffs by CEO’s taking home paychecks that would cover payroll for several departments and if you’re like me, you can see it even in employers close to you on an every day basis.
I’m not a really big heal the world type person but I think one of the small things that would be really worthy for me or anyone is to correct these things when they fall in their hands. I expect to be a leader some day and many people I know will probably also be in those positions and a simple respect for your followers/staff/employees/whatever is something I’d really like to see return to management booths. Trusting people to take responsibility for their work and fuck ups, taking responsibility for yours, protecting your people when they are threatened for something they did while in your employ; all of these things seem really elementary to me and I don’t understand how it is so many people and organizations have come to abandon these things.
I hope the facts are tight and the journalism is sound on this story. The sequence of events is pretty thoroughly laid out and I know there has been a lot more of this story in other news channels but this is the first comprehensive story I’ve read on it.
February 22, 2007
February 9, 2007
You’ll be wanting to take the quiz and check out the video testimonials. Havidol.
January 25, 2007
I wonder what Hitchcock would think of a filmmaker like Park Chan-Wook. The master of suspense played many a dirty moral trick on the audience, making viewers complicit in violence that they might never have copped to desiring. For instance, if say in Psycho, you thought a character a bad person who deserved punishment, you felt somewhat dirty and not a little guilty when they character then gets murdered as if you’d wished her this horrible fate. Or perhaps you didn’t, but Hitchcock certainly set up dilemmas like that in many of his films and I think few people get away from them without feeling like accomplices to something dirty at least once or twice.
Park Chan-Wook isn’t nearly as subtle. Watching his vengeance series will make you complicit in more than peripheral ways. You’re going to be confronted full scale with a million queries aobut vengeance and it’s worth, society’s manner of addressing crime and providing retribution; and you aren’t going to come out feeling dirty, you’ll be bloody as a pig butcher at the annual pork roast.
Suffice to say that after decades of progressively more graphic, realist, brutalist and extreme cinema, we’re all more than a little desensitized. The depictions of sexuality in mainstream cinema may not have advanced quite as far as that of violence, but I certainly know it felt a little pornographic to be so delighted to see a hammer buried in someone’s head while I was watching Oldboy. Anyway, I don’t really have a point here. Just throwing out some surface thoughts on the matter. If you have any opinions, do share them in the comments.
And if you haven’t seen Chan-Wook’s trilogy and have the stomach for quite a bit of gore, you should definitely check them out. They are infinitely thought provoking, totally entertaining, masterful, masterful works with delightful black humor and totally engrossing stories. I didn’t care that much for the first one, Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, but Oldboy and Lady Vengeance are both must sees. That is all.