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.
March 1, 2007
I’m good with a sword but I’m hard to get along with, and I can’t hold my liquor – Yoko
If you like your foreign movies or that Samurai business specifically, you should definitely check out Twilight Samurai. A character driven and extremely compelling movie, Twilight isn’t a fight movie but a very subtle exploration of feudal Japan and the demise of the Samurai. This is not a movie about legendary fighters or the myth of the Samurai, but a ground level everyday exploration of life at the bottom of the Samurai food chain. It’s about a simple man (Seibei) with a shit job and a bum deal who loves his family and attempts to find happiness in spite of his hardships. To say much more would be giving away too much. Certainly this is a Samurai film but it’s unlike any other you ever seen. The reality of the Samurai world is explored with a central character who is Samurai but also works as a low level accountant. There are only two fights in the film, one none deadly and the other a miracle of character revelation and film making magnificence. This is a marvelous fucking film. Check it out.
February 22, 2007
February 16, 2007
I don’t often wonder what the current king of blue eyed soul thinks when he goes to bed at night. If this video gives any kind of insight into that unasked question however, it sure ain’t pretty. In the maturity challenged entertainment market of 2007, Timberlake probably gets more money for his film projects than Francis Ford Coppola. So his video – sorry, mini film – for “What Goes Around” is definitely slickly produced, expensive looking, totally money in all the ways you’d expect. Visually it’s gorgeous, and he’s gone and bought the best young talent he could fine, or perhaps he’s simply pressed a few of his famous friends into doing some cool shit with him. Except there is nothing cool about this. This video is a steaming pile of horse shit.
I’m not Stanley Crouch. I don’t think pop music, or any music, is required to be moral or moralistic. But even with his ghetto pass firmly in hand, Timberlake’s audience is almost exclusively teenage and younger girls and I wonder exactly why one would want to tell that audience that Justin Timberlake will kill them if they cheat on him. And that is the basic message behind this horrendously boring horror flick. That isn’t tension and foreboding building up, it’s pretty pictures with a totally predictable story arc. The unexpected violence and misogyny of the conclusion is the only surprise to the video, showing just how the deep the death/violence porn fantasias of a privileged white boy run. Movies like Larry Clark’s Kids and Bully, or the Jackass crew’s flicks ensure that you’ve always known this existed. It’s just funny to see it show up in what ought to be the saccharine sweet world of pop/R&B. I wonder if all the guys that participated in this thing sit around in a circle and jerk off to it.
And what of the other participants in this thing? I know Scarlett Johansson was trying to get away from playing ingenue along side dirty old man and having that carry over into her real life, but is the solution to that really to jump the movie star bullshit bandwagon? When she was sitting in bed with Timberlake after a night of super stylized yet safe sex and he said to her, “hey baby, want to be in my video,” did she not think to herself that there might be some Sophia Coppola laundry she ought to be doing instead. I mean even that would have to be more interesting work than this is.
Really the biggest crime of this video is simply how fucking bland it is. All that money, all the world as a personal stage, all the talent that money, matinee idol looks and man of the hour status will buy and what you produce is an infantile revenge fantasy that shows you have no more imagination than a thirteen year old boy? Might as well change into a green leotard and appear as Peter Pan for an encore. And it’s doubly (or triply, who’s counting?) offensive gracing an album on which Timberland pretty much converses with the aliens in breaking the mold of what a pop song ought to be. I guess this definitely answers the question of what end of this partnership the ideas come from.
I kind of like that MTV is getting back into the Music video business by playing them automatically on their website even if said website is still a heaping pile of slow loading, over saturated dog shit.
Somebody get No Doubt back together and pull Gwen Stefani back to this here rock before she’s too far lost in space to ever be reclaimed, although watching the video for Sweetest Escape it seems she’s already too far gone in her luxurious mad house to be saved. I mean, Gucci cabs in her video? Wow!
February 13, 2007
We went from too black and too strong to Sisquo and the damn Thong song – “Best Day, Worst Day”
For a guy named Killer, Mike sure is exuberant. He’s also angry, righteous, boisterous, thoughtful, brash and probably a little rash. All reasons to love him I assure you. The most obvious touchstone for Killer Killer is Ice Cube circa say 1992. Killer has got a conscience see. He sees all this stuff happening to and in black America and it pisses him off. But he likes to party too and make songs about the ladies. Actually, he’s unable to prevent his songs from slipping between categories. He’ll randomly begin to criticize some fake pastor on what ought to be a party track, or direct his ire at the women on what seemed to be a social commentary track. Whatever he’s doing though, Mike is compelling.
Shit, just last week a young nigga got shot, playing Superman, racing bullets in the parking lot – “Aye Oh”
He isn’t compelling for extraordinary metaphorical or word juggling skills, although he does occasionally deploy those as well. The Ice Cube comparison holds here as well. Killer says whatever is on his mind the directest way possible. he puts some humor into it and delivers every line, whether dissing Soul Train or lamenting rappers who’ve quit rapping for acting, as if it’s his last one. He’s got one of those big voices (think Big or Chuck D) that leave you completely convinced of whatever it is they are saying.
The problem with Killer being on the Contenders series is that he’s already made an album totally worthy of adulation. Killer’s Ghetto Extraordinary was delayed from release for so long that all the material he recorded for it went into the mixtape, The Killer. He released that in 2005 and you really must listen to it to get an idea of what he’s capable of. The entire mixtape is full of sharp, banging, raucous beats. There is psychedelic stuff that shows the Outkast influence, like the bouncy “My Chrome,” hard edged street beats like the unhinged energy of “Aye Oh” or the 808 propulsion of “Get Em Shawty,” and as it is a mixtape, there are also a couple of jacked beats including the awesome feat of turning 112’s saccharine “Cupid” into “A Dope Story.” Still there is an inescapable joy of life to the whole proceedings that keeps it fun to listen to, no matter how hard he’s going on any topic.
Killer Mike has been a part of the Outkast crew for a long time and he fell victim when Aquemini, the record label they started to release their own projects, fell apart. He’s on Big’s Purple Ribbon label along with some other folks you might have heard of (Bubba Sparxxx, Sleepy Brown) and some others you’ll soon be getting familiar with (Janelle Monae, Scar). The Killer is still my favorite Killer album/mixtape, but he released I Pledge Allegiance to the Grind, a street album (as he calls it) last year and it isn’t any lighter on righteous fury or good times. Check it all out, and check out the Killer Mike Primer below to get you started. One.
Dude murdered for his shoes, it was childish, but look how we remembered you. Came to your funeral in the same tennis shoes, too young and ignorant to see that our act of defiance caused your mother so much stress and crying – “You Don’t Want This life”
February 13, 2007
This is the first of what I hope will be a long and interesting series. Basically I’m going to write about everyone I think is a contender musically. Contender for what you say? To which I reply, a contender to make an album that stands the test of time, to impact in a meaningful manner the music of the future, to deliver a message of some worth, find popularity and reap all the rewards accompanied with success in the weird morass that is the world of popular music. Some of these people will have already accomplished some things and gained some fame. Others will be folks you ain’t never heard of yet. Some of them might have been stars at some point and fallen by the wayside. All of them will be people whose music touches me in some way and who I think have potential to impact the general public in a big way. Let’s get this show started. First up, the Killer.
February 9, 2007
You’ll be wanting to take the quiz and check out the video testimonials. Havidol.
February 5, 2007
GQ has been pimping this album pretty heavily, and for once, those snark happy, snappy dressing, music trend jumping folks were right. This album rocks, or rather purrs.
Like a breath of British air blowing through the speakers, this is a rather quiet affair for a rock album. It’s very English, brimming with restraint and evoking muscial traditions like the woozy Reggae swing of the Clash. That Reggae/Ska tinge comes through in the pacing of the tracks and through the influence of bass player, Paul Simonon formerly of the Clash himself. The other folks in this band you might have heard of are lead singer Damon Albarn (Blur, Gorillaz), Tony Allen (only Fela Kuti’s fucking drummer) and Simon Tong (the Verve).
So yeah, it’s a superstar affair and it’s kinda cool being able to pick out all the separate influences as you listen to the album. It’s like everyone is doing their own thing but somehow or the other it all meshes into this oh so smooth and pleasing whole. Albarn sings all quiet and British like about English weather, civil unrest and happiness in spite of it all. His voice never really rises above a murmur the entire album. The rest of the music is just as laid back. Tony Allen creates all these intricate little drum patterns switching things up repeatedly during the songs, seemingly veering into drum n’ bass on some of the tracks. There is no banging around here, this is not Audioslave. Even when the album peaks on the title and final track with an extended jam session; bass, guitars and pianos going at it, distortion here, noise experiment there, it never really rises to anything too frenetic. It’s moving sure, and damned good stuff, but this is an album so polite you could take it to tea with your mum.