Sunday, January 30, 2011
Saturday, January 29, 2011
Robert Christgau), but the clues are tantalizing, starting with the title. August Darnell, Dr. Buzzard, Kid Creole, not to mention at an extensive curriculum vitae of studio session work, and did you know the guy has a master's in English? "Doppelganger" doesn't even begin to cover the teeming identities finding ways to coexist inside Darnell's tiny frame. And I'm telling you, the guy not only merits more attention, but positively rewards it, with horns and charging rhythms, melody and a pristinely clarified production, propelling it all, from the exuberant album kickoff "The Lifeboat Party" to the obligatory new wave cover gesture of "If You Wanna Be Happy" to the touchstone declaration of general purpose, "Call Me the Entertainer." There's even a leftfield meditation on dead rock stars, "Survivors" ("It happened to Jimi, it happened to Janis, it happened to Elvis [eliding toward Walrus] too / It happened to Vicious, and Frankie-uh Lymon, it can happen to me and you"). Oh, and here's another that would appear to signify intention, "Broadway Rhythm," with something to say about "integrated rock 'n' roll." And the lovely "Back in the Field Again," with very few twists and turns, just a brave and bittersweet avowal post-divorce that things are going to be all right again, maybe. It all closes on something called "The Seven Year Itch." As you may surmise, there's show biz all over the place here, stuffed into every nook. And if the whole never manages to cohere into anything greater than the sum of its mystifying parts, there's an awful lot of pleasure to be had attempting to piece it all together.
Friday, January 28, 2011
Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Writers: Mario Puzo, Francis Ford Coppola
Photography: Gordon Willis
Music: Nino Rota
Editors: William Reynolds, Peter Zinner
Cast: Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, James Caan, Richard S. Castellano, Robert Duvall, Sterling Hayden, John Marley, Richard Conte Al Lettieri, Diane Keaton, Abe Vigoda, Talia Shire, John Cazale, Al Martino, Morgana King, Lenny Montana, Salvatore Corsitto, Alex Rocco, Simonetta Stefanelli
I had some idea how contentious director Francis Ford Coppola can be, but I never understood until recently what a supremely embattled production this debut foray into the Mario Puzo material came to be. It was budgeted at under $3 million dollars, a paltry sum even then; bringing on the 31-year-old mostly unknown Coppola to make it was probably just more of the producers' efforts to conserve costs. (In a foreshadowing of the rest of his career, Coppola managed to end up spending over $6 million, although that's still not much—he has compared shooting some parts of it to a makeshift, on-the-fly UCLA film school project.)
Most of the fights centered on the casting. At the time, arguably the only "hot" actor associated was James Caan. Marlon Brando was in the most severe doldrums of his career, with a reputation for troublesomeness on set, and the rest—Al Pacino, Robert Duvall, John Cazale, Diane Keaton—were largely unknowns, certainly in Hollywood. Abe Vigoda was someone with almost no experience who showed up at an open casting call. But the problems were hardly confined to casting.
Sunday, January 23, 2011
In case it's not at the library.
Saturday, January 22, 2011
Friday, January 21, 2011
Director: Federico Fellini
Writers: Federico Fellini, Ennio Flaiano, Tullio Pinelli, Brunello Rondi
Photography: Gianni Di Venanzo
Music: Nino Rota
Editor: Leo Cattozzo
Cast: Marcello Mastroianni, Claudia Cardinale, Anouk Aimée, Sandra Milo, Rossella Falk, Barbara Steele, Madeleine Lebeau, Caterina Boratto, Eddra Gale, Guido Alberti, Jean Rougeul
Italian director Federico Fellini's 8.5th film (after seven features and a short, though IMDb would seem to count it a little differently) is a great big shaggy dog of a movie and arguably a critical point where consensus art film starts to lose any chance for a broader audience. I recall the first time I saw it finding myself completely impatient with it—it just seemed like so much meandering self-indulgent crap. More recently I'm more forgiving. I still think it's meandering self-indulgent crap, but observing it repeatedly and closely discloses how carefully crafted it is to be exactly that.
The story: an attempt in media res to make a film, a production bogged down in chaos. Director Guido Anselmi (played by a brooding, pained, masterfully controlled Marcello Mastroianni, by all appearances standing in for Fellini) has become increasingly lost in the details and his own messy personal life. A man generally introduced throughout as "the author" (played by Jean Rougeul), a writer brought in to help salvage the project and a kind of one-man Greek chorus, lays it out in the first 10 minutes: "You want to talk about the film?" he snidely says to Guido, above the pumping strains of Beethoven. "On first reading it's evident that the film lacks a problematic or philosophical premise, making the film a series of gratuitous episodes, perhaps amusing for their ambiguous realism. One wonders what the authors are trying to say. Are they trying to make us think? To scare us? From the start, the action reveals a poverty of poetic inspiration. Forgive me, but this might be the definitive proof that cinema is 50 years behind all the other arts. The subject doesn't even have the merits of an 'avant garde' film, but it has all the shortcomings."
Thus, you can't say you weren't warned.
Monday, January 17, 2011
If anybody ever figures out the secret to writing the perfect pop song, I think they are going to have to name it "Billie Jean" in honor of Michael Jackson's greatest moment. This song works on so many levels, not least that it's the purest and most sincere pleasure to hear, with that snaky, sinuous bass, the whisper-soft keyboard chords that bring it up, the tightly propelled mix generally, the rapscallion guitar break, and the spine-tingling cascading string flourishes that slash across the chorus like lightning (I guess that's actually keyboards at this juncture in history, and thank you Quincy Jones, for everything you did). This little production, full of complexities and textures, soars and swoops and dive-bombs and rockets back up. It don't stop till you get enough, to coin a term. At times I swear it belongs on a permanent play loop. No other song necessary, ever. Then there's the matter of Jackson's appearance at the Motown 25th anniversary celebration, where he took the stage and performed this song and introduced the world to the Moonwalk, which for me might be the single most riveting television moment in all of rock 'n' roll history. I cannot take my eyes off it any time I see it again; the whole thing in its pristine moment is endlessly spooky good. At one time, in the blinding flash of Thriller as it was just having its way with the pop charts, all the songs seemed pretty good. But it didn't take long to realize this was the real flashpoint, the one I couldn't actually get enough of and that could leave me almost short of breath from the exhilaration (or was that me dancing?). I suppose you could complain about the silly story the lyrics tell, or maybe Jackson's choked-off way of singing, which makes it harder to follow the general through line of the song as closely as you might like. Go ahead. Complain away.
Sunday, January 16, 2011
he is already busy working on the second. But we all know how Mr. Robert Zimmerman is occasionally prone to some stretchers. I'm just happy for what we got here, which is typical enough for Bob Dylan in terms of its capricious approach to the task of memoiring—skipping about from the period of his odyssey in which many of us are inordinately interested, the landing and early days in New York City in the early '60s, to a couple of others with marginally less draw: when he was recording the albums New Morning (1970) and Oh Mercy (1989). Over and out, done, more or less: 293 pages. What's much less typical from Dylan, and should probably be considered as surprising as it is appreciated, is the straightforward fashion in which he recounts the events. Where previously much of his life and background was murky and general, cloaked in deliberate if playful misinformation and almost sarcastic mythologizing—orphaned in the Dakota flatlands, taught to play guitar by Hopi Indians, a busker on the streets of southside Chicago (I actually made all those up, but they're not that far from the stories he used to spread about himself)—here he lays it all out flat, clean, and unadorned. There's more where that came from in the Scorsese documentary that followed in the year after publication of this book, but in many ways this is where the clean breast started. The change of heart it betokens had likely been in process for many years before that, going back (my guess) to his serious health scare of circa 1997. In many ways, however, and as happy as I am to have it and read it and get a clearer sense of the trajectory of his life and career, and I wouldn't have it any other way either, the end result is also a bit like the experience when one finally manages to cajole a magician who has just performed some astonishing trick into giving up its secret. It's good to know, on one level, but some of the wonder of it is inevitably rubbed away for good. Is this something Bob Dylan himself understands? Well, it did take him a long time to cough up even this one. And when did they say that next one (of three?) (and he's just about 70 now?) was supposed to come out?
In case it's not at the library.
In case it's not at the library.
Saturday, January 15, 2011
Friday, January 14, 2011
Director: Stanley Kubrick
Writers: Arthur C. Clarke, Stanley Kubrick
Photography: Geoffrey Unsworth
Editor: Ray Lovejoy
Cast: Keir Dullea, Gary Lockwood, William Sylvester, Douglas Rain
In case you ever need it for a trivia contest, the first line of dialogue in this movie is, "Here you are, sir. Main level, please." And it occurs 25 minutes in. That's the level of pure cinematic experience on which we are operating here, which in its totality is nearly as baffling as the overall effectiveness of this picture itself.
It's not easy to defend to detractors—because it's not hard to find endless examples here of the monumentally silly. From what are obviously actors in ape suits in the opening sequence (bombastically entitled "THE DAWN OF MAN") to the typical inability of science fiction films before 1990 to predict anything like the Internet or cell phones (the always popular video phone does put in an appearance but phone calls, even in outer space, are still made from phone booths, and there doesn't appear to be anything like voicemail) to no apparent changes in fashion since 1968 to the hackneyed-even-then computer gone amok to using a geometric figure as some kind of religious agent of evolution (a black monolith, really?) to the general incoherence of the narrative, this movie should not work. It should fail abjectly and miserably simply from being so painfully ham-handed.
Thursday, January 13, 2011
Like most people, I tend to prefer Carole King's work as a songwriter in the early '60s when she was a key part of the Brill Building brain trust that ruled the pop airwaves of the time. Usually co-written with her then-husband Gerry Goffin, her songs include "Will You Love Me Tomorrow" by the Shirelles, "The Loco-Motion" by Little Eva (who was a household maid and babysitter for King and Goffin), the infamous "He Hit Me (And it Felt Like a Kiss)" by the Crystals (produced by Phil Spector), "Pleasant Valley Sunday" by the Monkees in 1967—it's actually a long list. The album from which this comes, Tapestry, is entirely different, a creature of its mellow post-hippie times, gauzy and gentle and slightly burnt-out about things. But the truth is I didn't know any of this about her or the album in the summer of 1971, when you couldn’t turn on the radio and avoid hearing for long the strains of “It’s Too Late.” It always caught me up, made me genuinely sad, even tearful on some occasions. Its details were so right, opening with “Stayed in bed all morning just to pass the time,” its generalities provocative (“Something inside has died and I can’t hide”), its overwhelming conclusion impossible to refute: “And it’s too late, baby, now it’s too late.” The song captures an essence of giving up, which is likely why it struck so many deep chords at the time with me and, obviously, others. But in another way, “It’s Too Late” runs somewhat against convention. More than anything, it’s a song about giving up on a deeply felt connection, a person you have been living with, for no obvious or good reason other than “Now you look so unhappy, and I feel like a fool.” There is thus a good deal of deceptive complexity to it, which I think has contributed to making it so enduringly significant for me.
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
As far as top 40 fantasies of love go, it doesn't get much better than this—not least because it factors in just enough grit of the real thing, by implication the raw everyday friction and the making up and coming back together, denying and acknowledging them at the same time, that it manages to have its cake and eat it too, as it were, enabling it to resonate powerfully with anyone's experience. It bypasses the frontal lobes and goes directly to the brain stem, and tells it all the things it wants to hear. Then there's the matter of how just plain damn good it sounds. Al Green, of course, is a towering figure in the what-you-may-call-it, rhythm and blues, black, soul, urban fields of pop music. But let's put our cards on the table. There's good, there's towering, and there's this. I can think of few things more uncannily beautiful, understated, simple, and straightforward, driven by an uncomplicated drumkit and soothing bass, touched up by sweet flourishes of horns and strings and backing vocals, textured emotionally by upward bound chord shifts, and topped off with Green's uniquely sultry, laidback vocals, with all their strange sighs and hiccups and pauses, which may sound casual and tossed off but that's the deception of it. They are anything but. It's all focused sharply toward the single point of the lyric, which nevertheless manages to dance around itself artfully even as we know exactly what it's about at every step, and that is the deepest and most meaningful love felt for a lover and companion: " ... baby, since we've been together / Ooo, loving you forever / Is what I need / Let me, be the one you come running to ... Loving you whether, whether / Times are good or bad, happy or sad." I'm willing to wager relationships have survived with just these slender reeds on which to cling.
Tuesday, January 11, 2011
Well, I guess this is my favorite hit from the '50s—and if I say that with some bemusement, it's not because I don't appreciate the charms and attractions of the giants who tend to overtop Eddie Cochran, who died when he was just 21. In some cases, such as Chuck Berry, it's a matter of tending to like more the songs of his that weren't hits, as the more familiar tunes have been worn down to nubs. I almost can't hear "Maybellene" or "Johnny B. Goode" any more (and the more's the pity). On the other hand, I have always heard this and seem to like it more every time I do. This may be because I came to it first more or less through the bizarre filters of the Who, Blue Cheer, and T. Rex, none of whom got it particularly right. It may be related to the fact that, even with all its rockabilly signifiers, it's always struck me more as a Coasters type of song—it has that exasperated wiseass teen griping nailed down to fine shtick, notably in the flat booming intonations of the walk-on grown-up parts, e.g., "Now you can't use the car 'cos you didn't work late" or "I'd like to help you son but you're too young to vote" (and I love that he takes "my problem to the United Nations" but ends up talking to his Congressman). But in the end I think the appeal is all sonic, compressed expertly into a scant two minutes: the rolling bass that sets it in motion, the neck-snap guitar chords, the highly inflected yelping of the vocal, counterpointed by the wry, cartoony admonishments, and the way the sound of it opens and closes like a window on a soft summer day. At this point I don't think I'm ever going to get tired of it.
Monday, January 10, 2011
One more time around that twisty bend at the river: James Brown's most significant song not only heralded and completed his transition from accomplished rhythm and blues rave-up artist and professional entertainer nonpareil into the everlasting king and high priest practitioner of funk and the related arts, from which sprang mind-boggling swaths of worldwide popular music—Fela Kuti, George Clinton and the entire P-Funk army, Prince, Michael Jackson, King Sunny Ade, Dr. Dre, Chuck D, and Afrika Bambaataa are just a few who credit his huge influence—but it was also the moment that floored and flattened practically everyone who heard it. And listen, this was a career, with dozens of albums and no fewer than 44 top 40 hits. Me, I was a kid when this came along. What I remember is the respect in the voices of the disc jockeys when they talked about this song, and I don't think that was the payola talking. I didn't get it, but I listened, and over the years, and the decades, he's become an artist I still haven't grown all the way into. Is there a better example than this? "This is a hit!" and they're off, the entire band transformed at once into an overwhelmingly focused unit, tight, working it, irresistible. The horns flutter and pipe and go way down low and never stop moving; nor does that guitarist's wrist. I like the short, raw blast of the single version best—says here it was recorded in less than an hour on the way to a gig, and the master tape later speeded up to get it in the key they wanted. I like that. But there's nothing hurried or rushed about it, upbeat tempo notwithstanding, and across his catalog there are a good half dozen or more versions with their own unique features. I've been hearing this all my life, and I'm still hearing it.
Sunday, January 09, 2011
Edmund Lester Pearson began corresponding in the '20s and by the evidence enjoyed a long, close, and cordial friendship, each recognizing in the other something of a spiritual brother. Born only 10 years apart, both devoted themselves in the hours away from their careers—Roughead as a lawyer in Scotland, Pearson as a librarian in Washington, D.C., Massachusetts, and New York City—to their passionate avocations of pursuing the details of true crime cases. Pearson has his touchstone obsession with the Lizzie Borden case, while Roughead tended to be more catholic and wide-ranging in his appreciations, pushing back further into history, and not confining himself as much only to murder. Both are excellent, wry, and charming writers; fans of Roughead have included Henry James, FDR, and Toni Morrison. This collection of Roughead's work published by the "New York Review of Books" gathers up a dozen cases across the scope of his career—as he referred to them, "adventures in criminal biography." It provides probably the best starting point for his work, which is maddening in the duplications scattered across his now almost entirely out-of-print volumes (and which tend to command ridiculous and disappointingly high prices anyway). Here you will find the details of the case of Deacon Brodie, which inspired Robert Louis Stevenson's Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, of Madeleine Smith, a "trial of the century" nominee in the mid-1800s, and of Burke and Hare, early 19th-century serial killers in Scotland enterprisingly and systematically harvesting corpses for anatomists, a lucrative trade then. The motivations and the deeds are sadly timeless; very little reported on so breathlessly nowadays is anything that has not already happened one way or another centuries ago, and usually for the same reasons. As with Pearson, Roughead tends in some ways toward the ponderous, and occasionally can even become a bit of a scold, which I suspect is all just a way of maintaining distance from the mayhem in which he otherwise happily wallows. One is well-advised to keep a good dictionary on hand when reading him as his vocabulary, drawing on many Scottish idioms now largely lost, is as rich as it is apt.
In case it's not at the library.
In case it's not at the library.
Saturday, January 08, 2011
Elvis Presley album. They are out to change the world here, it's as plain and simple as that. And if they failed—only two years later they were getting routinely slapped around as sellouts, two more years out they appeared to be acting the part, and two years beyond that they were all but gone entirely, with nary a ripple on the surface of the water marking their departure, let alone their one-time presence—they did so as honorably as it's possible to do, leaving behind an indelible mark of which we have not yet seen even the edges. Compare this with the previous album, Give 'em Enough Rope, and the subsequent one, Sandinista, and all that followed, and it seems likely that we have another case of artists gone to the crossroads. Song by song, this is not that different from what's on Rope—yet there's something about it that's leagues and miles beyond. Partly it's the willingness to switch up on the musical styles—"Lost in the Supermarket" is sweet and wistful (and deceptively acerbic) in a way nothing of theirs had been before, "The Guns of Brixton" as dramatic and menacing and atmospheric. "Spanish Bombs" as swinging. And "The Right Profile" celebrates ... Montgomery Clift? Stagger Lee's in the mix too. And so it goes, up and down and across the four vinyl sides and full hour of this magnificent release. It's so good that it almost makes me sad that so little can or ever will compare to it, and that it's already happened and we won't see its like again. But I bravely wipe away my tears, and play again. LOUD.
Friday, January 07, 2011
Director: Jean Renoir
Writers: Jean Renoir, Carl Koch
Photography: Jean-Paul Alphen, Jean Bachelet, Jacques Lemare, Alain Renoir
Editors: Marthe Huguet, Marguerite Renoir
Cast: Marcel Dalio, Nora Gregor, Jean Renoir, Mila Parély, Julien Carette, Gaston Modot, Roland Toutain, Odette Talazac, Claire Gérard
It may be hard to imagine now what made The Rules of the Game so controversial in its time and place—Paris, 1939—but then it may not be so easy either to grasp the circumstances of that time and place: a European economy long mired in the doldrums of a global depression and pestilent politics, with the shadows of Hitler's Nazi Germany and Stalin's Soviet Russia creeping ever steadily across the landscape.
There's little question that it was controversial. Director Jean Renoir in an introduction to the film that appears on the Criterion edition and was shot more than 20 years after the initial release of this film, expresses his conviction that it's about a society "rotten to the core." He also notes that the aristocracy took evident exception to the events depicted, destroying seats at the premiere. One man evidently attempted to set the theater on fire. The ruling regime subsequently banned it. Ah, France. Renoir wryly notes that of all his films this was "clearly the biggest failure."
Thursday, January 06, 2011
This is virtually a no-brainer for a list like this, an easy and obvious pick. Not only does it have the merits of being a great rock song, propelled by Charlie Watts's claptrap drumming, that hits hard and brings a nasty subversive mocking punch, but it was also all over the place in the summer of 1965 when I first tuned in to AM radio in a big way as a 10-year-old. True enough, the thing was over my head, and honestly kind of gave me the willies. All that mumbling and speech slurring by Mick Jagger, the caustic sarcastic twist he works into the first lines and throughout just by dropping his voice slightly—why can't he enunciate, I thought, and be straightforward about the whole thing? And then there was the big fuzz tone of Keith Richards's commanding guitar hook, which confused me. I thought it was a saxophone for the longest time. So if I grew into the song slowly over the years, as my understanding and grasp of it deepened and ripened, it nevertheless had me in its visceral claws from the first seconds I heard it. It made my skin crawl, disturbed and quietly upset me, with the same effect that horror movies would have once Romero set the terms in the late '60s, as something that caused me a desperate uneasiness but from which I could not ever turn away. This is something that happened every day for most of that summer. And even if, in many ways, it sounds a bit childish to me now as so many of the favorite songs of my childhood do, it still retains a sultry, overweening dignity, it still rocks sweet and hard, and it can still get right under my skin.
Wednesday, January 05, 2011
There is something about this song almost perfectly comforting for me; a deeply personal favorite that has lurked in the background of my life for many decades now, continually burrowing in further and further and more times than I can say presenting itself entirely anew all over again. It's as good an example as you can find of the exquisite black pop music of its time, anticipating and already bleeding into the big disco moment on the horizon, and there's no end of comparative hallmarks nearly as good, before and after, by the likes of Al Wilson, Billy Paul, Al Green, the O'Jays, the Stylistics, Major Lance, Harold Melvin & the Bluenotes, the Chi-Lites, Skylark, Blue Magic, Roberta Flack, so on and so forth forever and seemingly ever. Originally released as a B-side to "How Could I Let You Get Away" (worthy in its own right, but with significant debts to the Stylistics and Chi-Lites), disc jockeys sussed it out and flipped that over to give this the airplay (back in a time when they could still do such things). It stands as absolutely one of the best, with all its various right elements positioned and deployed deftly: the heady air of romantic wistfulness, horns with a touch of Memphis, strings so sweet you get a cavity, evocative electric guitar touches, and words that tell a tender and painful story of enduring, unrequited love. Maybe that's what takes me apart: "There's always a chance, a tiny spark will remain / And sparks turn into flames / And love can burn once again." It puts me in mind of both divorce and falling in love all at once. And just at its most critical point, the cascading strings and responding horns come along and have a conversation about it, methodically sawing your heart into halves, quarters, pieces, shards. This guy is never going to give it up, is he? No, he's not.
Tuesday, January 04, 2011
One of the most audacious covers ever and a surprise hit that I think everyone can probably get behind in one way or another. (The only comparable moments might be the Pet Shop Boys covering U2's "Where the Streets Have No Name," but in that case it was the original that scored the hit, or maybe Matt "Cloverfield" Reeves covering Let the Right One In, but that's the movies, so no, neither one is even close.) Bob Dylan, still retrenching from his mid-'60s years on the road buffeted between the forces of loud electric rock and those of his would-be acoustic masters, released one of his quietest albums in years early in 1968, John Wesley Harding. It was uneven, though it carried some of his best material, and it featured a subdued little song with some inspired strumming called "All Along the Watchtower," which barely clocks in at two and a half minutes. Along came Jimi Hendrix, who plucked it as the standard-bearer (in terms of chart action anyway) for his magnum opus, Electric Ladyland. As a young 'un at the time I didn't even know Bob Dylan had anything to do with it. All I knew was the knack Hendrix immediately evinced for making a song soar, with his guitar playing, his singing, and his uncanny sense for dynamics and the textures of sound—most of which he figured out how to produce on an electric guitar. This drops into place with a mighty kick and walloping chords, reaching altitude fast and floating there, Dylan's melody alternating with spooky, thrilling noises and lyrical, thrilling guitar play. That I came to know it on an AM radio still seems beyond comprehension to me. Anyone who dared to wonder what's with that Hendrix guy, I could always point to this.
Monday, January 03, 2011
There's a one-page six-panel comic strip interpretation by Mary Fleener of this song that I wish I could reproduce here or even point to directly, but alas, it appears to be MIA on the Internets for the moment. At least a smaller version of the one I found in a newspaper and clipped and had on my wall for years can be found in the booklet accompanying the Star Time box set, which you want to get anyway if you have any interest at all in James Brown and don't already own. The strip (and the whole box set, for that matter) is about as perfect as the song itself. Done up in Fleener's trademark style, which draws self-consciously from a mix of cubism, art deco, and a '60s underground comix sensibility—Fleener herself labels it cubismo—it's all stark blacks and whites with sharp edges and triangles and energetic bursting perspectives, a match for Brown's music. Half the fun is the lyrical spellings themselves: "Wwaaaow!" she interprets the opening scream, one for the ages, which is more and less tarted up with gaudy reverb across different versions. "So GOOD ... so GOOD," in the second panel the presumptive singer is flat on the floor, clutching a pair of fishnet-stocking'd legs by the calves, "I GOT YOU!" The sax break in the fourth panel: "Bomp BOMP bap bap BOMP." Then the band in medium-long shot, on stage and necessarily in thrall to itself, surrounded by little words: "When ah HOLD you in mah aaaAHHHhrrms ... " And last panel, James Brown's face, sweating and insane, bracketed on either side by "SO NICE," underneath it one last scream, "I GOT YOU! Wwwaaow!" But reading about what somebody drew about what they heard when they heard this song is a pale imitation of the real thing. You can't even begin to imagine.
Sunday, January 02, 2011
In case it's not at the library.
Saturday, January 01, 2011
Anyone following along is aware that my countdown of 100 Hit Songs is approaching its endgame. It's been a fun project, so much so that I'm now planning a sort of companion piece—100 Other Songs, drawn from the much larger pool of songs that did not make the U.S. Billboard Top 40, 1955-present. That will start in a few months, probably late April, as I gather up the titles and spend time massaging a list into shape. You can't know the pleasures of useless list-making unless you have indulged it yourself, and of course I highly recommend that you do so beginning immediately.
Another project for this upcoming year, actually already begun: Friday considerations of critical-consensus movies drawn from the massive major list at They Shoot Pictures, Don't They?—now with paragraphing, even! According to the website, that list is actually due for another updating shortly, but I don't anticipate major changes at the top and will continue with the first couple dozen or so, before going off on random choices again for awhile (as always, stamina allowing). But I think I will probably be returning to that list—at the very least it's a terrific programming guide, generally a good exercise, and a project that promises to go on forever (just under 20 years, by my calculations).
As always, on this blog comments are welcome and invited. Please don't be shy.
Last, here's a few little movies lists drawn up from the past year. Seeing movies is what seems to most reliably preoccupy me nowadays, for better or worse. I couldn't begin to address books of any type or TV shows (certainly beyond the ID channel) or even pop music of the year. And note that there are gaps aplenty anyway in the 2010 movies list as it is (iceberg tip of still not seen, for example: Inside Job, Carlos, Dogtooth, Splice, How to Train Your Dragon, Enter the Void, The Runaways, Greenberg, Mother, Tiny Furniture). Educate me further in the comments if you like.
Favorite movies of 2010: The Ghost Writer, Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, The Social Network, Let Me In, Cyrus, The Kids Are All Right, Toy Story 3, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Exit Through the Gift Shop, Despicable Me
Favorite movies first seen in 2010: Au hasard Balthazar; Tokyo Story; 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days; I'm Not There; The White Ribbon; Avatar; talhotblond; Death Proof; To Be or Not to Be; A Serious Man
Favorite movies seen again in 2010: Mulholland Dr., Jackie Brown, Berlin Alexanderplatz, Fanny and Alexander, Pee-Wee's Big Adventure, Rachel Getting Married, Modern Times, M*A*S*H, Streetwise, Friends with Money